As we prepare for WrestleMania XXXV in just 25 days, many memories come to mind as it relates to Mania history. Many of those moments have taken place in the NY surrounding metro area and as we prepare for more of those special moments on April 7th, lets take a look back at WrestleMania’s rich New York history.
On March 31st, 1985 World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly Federation) and it’s owner Vince McMahon pushed all their figurative chips to the middle of the table with an investment into an event that would surely break WWE financially had it failed. The inaugural WrestleMania took place in the world’s most famous arena Madison Square Garden, and it would be far more than just another wrestling special. The 1st installment of Mania would serve as a launching point for WWE to become the world’s number one professional wrestling organization. WWE Champion Hulk Hogan headlined the event with film & TV superstar Mr. T going up against Mr. Wonderful and Roddy Piper in WM’s first main event. The co-main event of the evening saw Andre The Giant put his career on the line vs. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan family member Big John Studd who would put $15,000 on the line in a body slam challenge. These mega matches along with appearances/participation by the greatest boxer to ever live Muhammed Ali, World Series championship manager Billy Martin, music superstar Cyndi Lauper and many others crossed over to the main stream audience and created the spectacular we now know to be the Superbowl of pro wrestling. It’s hard to argue this event should have taken place in any other venue, as the iconic MSG proved to be the most appropriate place for the biggest event in wrestling history.
The next year, WWE would try something they haven’t tried again since. They would try to re-create the original WrestleMania Superbowl environment in 3 separate venues on the same night. Nassau, NY, Chicago and Los Angeles would all host WrestleMania 2. The New York portion of the show on April 7th, 1986 would feature last year’s main event participant ‘Mr. Wonderful’ vs. Don Muraco in the opening match. From there, WWE Intercontinental Champion ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage would defend against George ‘The Animal’ Steele, and the main event of the New York third of the show would be Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T in a boxing match. This year’s show would also include celebrities like Joan Rivers and legendary boxing champ Joe Frazier. Though this event is not considered one of the greatest WM’s ever, it is remembered for one of the most iconinc renditions of “America The Beautiful” in the history of sports, done by the amazing Ray Charles.
After an 8 year absence from MSG and 9 year absence from the New York area, ‘the showcase of the immortals’ returned to Madison Square Garden on March 20th, 1994 in front of 18,065 fans. This is widely considered one of the best Mania’s ever featuring Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels in the first ever pay-per-view ladder match for the undisputed Intercontinental championship, the final WrestleMania appearance of the legend Randy Savage, and two WWE World Championship Matches featuring Bret Hart, Lex Luger, and Yokozuna. That being said, in many people’s opinion including this writer, the 10th installment of WrestleMania’s greatest moment came in the very first match when a young & tremendously talented Owen Hart defeated WWE Hall of Famer and big brother Bret Hart just hours before ‘The Hitman’ would go on the win the WWE Championship.
In March of 2004, WrestleMania returned to NYC for it’s 20th anniversary featuring a World Heavyweight title triple threat match with Triple H defending the title against HBK and Benoit, the return of the Undertaker vs. Kane, and one of the greatest most entertaining talents in history Eddie Guerrero retaining his WWE title against the Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle. In addition to that, the 16-time world champion Ric Flair and his Evolution teammates Randy Orton & Batista fought the Rock & Sock Connection in a match that would be the most electrifying man is sports entertainment’s last until 8 years later.
April 7th, 2013 is a night that will be remembered for CM stealing the show nearly ending the Undertaker’s WM winning streak, a rookie by the name of Fandango defeated multiple time World Champion Chris Jericho, and Triple H surviving a career threatening no hold barred match vs. Brock Lesnar. This night would be most recognized however, for a WWE Championship WrestleMania rematch. One year earlier in his home town of Miami, Florida The Rock returned after a 8 year absence to defeat John Cena, but 12 months later in the home of the NY Giants & Jets Metlife Stadium, John Cena would even the score, defeating the ‘People’s Champ’ for the WWE World title in front of 80,676 fans.
In 25 days, the biggest event in the history of pro wrestling returns to the NY Metropolitan area and is shaping up to be another blockbuster. WWE has been criticized for it’s less than impressive booking, and rightfully so. That being said, WWE always steps it game up at WrestleMania time. With Becky Lynch going after the Raw Women’s title and Kofi Kingston hopefully on his way to his moment of glory as WWE Champion, April 7th, 2019 has the potential to be another great day in WrestleMania history. Time will tell if Wrestlemania’s return to the New York area will live up to the hype.
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