Memories of WWF shows in Boston: Squash matches, black barricades, and Orange Line mayhem

Atlee Greene, the author behind the Midnight Logic wrestling and MMA blog, recently ran two excellent posts about his first wrestling card at the old Boston Garden and attending WrestleMania XIV in 1998, which was at the TD Garden, the arena that replaced the original Garden.

Reading about Greene’s remembrances brought back a bunch of memories I had about going to the monthly WWF house shows at the old Garden in the 1980s and 1990s:

  • The crowds got into the Boston Garden through two cramped turnstile areas on either end of the building (one was next to the box office and the other was situated against an old Strawberries record store). I remember going to a matinee show that was sold out, and a cop got on a bullhorn to tell people without tickets to get out of the building.
  • Looking back, it’s amazing how many squash matches we watched in the Garden in the early 1980s. Generally, four out of eight or nine matches usually involved jobbers, which sounds crazy today. Then again, this practice kept Pete Doherty and Mac Rivera employed.
  • If you catch any Garden matches from the ‘80s on YouTube, you’ll see that the ringside area was not surrounded by modern steel barricades, but by these black, wooden barriers.
  • I’ve noted in a prior post how at just about every show during intermission, kids would hit the ringside floor area and put on their own matches, which the crowds got into with cheering before police eventually shooed the kids away.
  • At the end of the shows, fans would jam into the Orange Line subway stop near the arena, and each side of the platform would try to out-shout the other with an old Miller Lite ad slogan. “Tastes great!” one side yelled. “Less filling!” the other platform responded. Sometimes the latter line was replaced with “Fuck you!”
  • My friends and I often took the subway back to Malden, MA, where we would wait for a ride home. One night after a show, my friend, Diamond Dave, started cutting a loud Ultimate Warrior promo in the parking lot (and Dave had Warrior face paint on, too). Sure enough, a police cruiser pulled up, and the cop suggested we get the hell out of Malden.

A runner-up incident didn’t occur in Boston, but instead at the Worcester Centrum in 1989 at my first WWF TV taping. Tons of fans brought signs with them hoping to get on camera, and there were these two kids a few rows ahead of us with poster boards. The problem was that even after the matches started, these young tools still stood up with their signs, blocking our view.

My friend, Ron, kept yelling, “Sit the fuck down!” and one of the kids flipped him off. So Ron, who was wearing a leather jacket with small spikes in it, stood up and literally growled at them – which ended any further problems that night.

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12 comments

  1. Pingback: Following Bruno, now Ultimate Warrior is heading into the WWE Hall of Fame | Boston Garden Balcony
  2. Joe Lowry

    Hey you should do a piece on the old “Bedlam from Boston” Wrestling show. Remember that one? A Masked Killer Kowalski was the champion. The used to have great shows at The Local IBEW 103 Hall….

  3. Anonymous

    Lemme do some reasearch as to who the ring announcer was. I know who your talking about. Always wore a tuxedo…I will do some research on it…

    Joe Lowry

  4. Anonymous

    Some other favorite memories..the wooden folding chairs they used for the ringside & floor seats throughout the arena…Charlie Daniels (the tall black guy) was always in attendance helping with the wrestlers entrance and exits from the ring….the old black wooden barracades (previously mentioned in the other blog). I remember fondly one of the first Boston appearances of Brett Hart and Jim Neidhart (The Hart Foundation) and Brett slamming into the barracade from the ring apron. The thunderous boom could be heard all the way to Somerville!! The crappy sound system they used in which you could barely hear Hulk Hogans “Eye of the Tiger” ring entrance theme….Roddy Pipers bloody performance against Bruno Sammartino inside the cage back in 1986. Of course we all remember the posters of the 1986 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears he put up prior to the bout. Bob Backlunds never ending and countless victories over King Kong Mosca..which seemingly were always in the summertime….The hush and then roar from the crowd when Andre The Giant would duck thru the entranceway and then make his way to the ring. He truly was a giant!!! Bob Backlunds one and only return title shot against the Iron Sheik in early January 1984. It was two weeks later Hulk Hogan won the title at New Yorks Madison Square Garden….Backlund and Muracos “one hour time limit” draws were always a crowd snoozer!!

  5. Anonymous

    Oh yeah, the guy who had the knitted cap also used to sweep the ring in between matches to clear away the debris. I miss those days. The roar of the crowds were so deafening. I remember going home from the matches and my ears were still ringing. One of my faovrite matches is when Fugi and Saito defended their tag belts against Ivan Putski and a last minute partner. I wanna say it was Jay Strongbow, I could be wrong. (There is a website dedicated to all the results of arena matches in 1980s probably can find it there) Anyways, they pinned Fugi/Saito and the crowd erupted I mean exploded. But they reversed the decision. And when Putski had to give the title back, he gave the referee the finger. It was so outta character at the time. But my ears were not right after that night. Remember the Masked Superstar when he performed his kneckbreaker on Arnold Skoaland in his match against Bob Backlund? I remember him on the stretcher; I have pictures of that. Also, for some reason it was rare that you saw the evil alliance managers (Wizard, Blassie or Albano) at the Garden. If they were there then you knew something was up..Good Stuff!!

  6. Anonymous

    J.Cee – awesome job with the blog. Your blog has brought so many memories back to me. Do you remember waiting in the old boston garden as the wrestlers mades there way from parking garage to the dressing room?. The excitement of the fans as they can see afar who was coming in? I remember Killer Khan had to be rushed to the dresssing room as he was taking on Andre the Giant in their infamous Mongolian Stretcher match. Or the time I patted Don Muraco on the shoulder when he came to town to take on Pedro Morales and he took a swipe at me…I see the banner ad on top of the blog shows the old program of Muraco and Backlunds cage match from December 1981. I recall that day specifically as it was a snowy day in Boston. I remember Backlund winning the match and when Muraco had to retreat to the dressing room, I ran over to loge 1 (where the wrestlers made there entrances) and I swiped Muracos forehead so I could get some of his blood. Heck, I was a kid and this was pre HIV Days….I could go on for hours….or how the ring announcer would announce the matches for next month thus sometimes already giving away the ending of the matches that night. If Backlund was taking on Muraco that evening and the following month he was defending against Muraco in a return bout, then you knew that night that (a)Muraco was not winning the title that night and (b) that Backlund was not gonna pin Muraco that night…so funny. How about The Duke of Dorchester and his “boston only fued” with Swede Hansen? Every month he would face Swede Hansen in a return bout…too funny….Lets chat some time…

    Joe Lowry
    Quincy, MA

    • bostongardenbalcony

      Thanks for the kind words. I certainly do remember seeing the wrestlers go by from the private garage to the arena. That was one weird set-up the old Garden had. After the Muraco cage match with Backlund, I remember Muraco getting pelted with garbage being thrown from the balcony as he went right under us into the dressing room entrance. You used to be able to tell when the Garden matches were about to end because the cops on detail at ringside would suddenly get up and be ready to escort the wrestlers to the back at the right moment. Anyone remember the little old guy who wore the knitted skull cap who was always walking around ringside and sometimes took the wrestlers’ jackets back? By the way, J. Cee doesn’t write the blog, although he certainly has a ton of good comments on my posts.

  7. J.Cee

    True, there were 3 or 4 preliminary matches per show, and though it might seem tedious from a fan’s perspective, try to reflect on the amount of energy it expended from the fans to scream at the referee or any given wrestler among the colorful bunch, so that by the time the semi-main event came along, then the audience was more even keeled to the show at hand and not barking like a neighborhood dog at everying in motion. Old school wrestling was a catharsis for the thrills & frustrations of everyday life, and sometimes the persona of a squash match elicited outbursts from fans who may or may not behave that same way outside of the arena. Kinda like the Whinner Line on WEEI or Howie’s Carr’s Chump Line.

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