Philadelphia: The epicenter of innovation

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July 12, 2013

On Sunday, one of WWE’s most awe-inspiring and thrilling contests, the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, makes its home in a city that is no stranger to inventiveness or high-risk wrestling: Philadelphia. If ever there was a setting custom-made for Money in the Bank — and this year’s blockbuster lineup in particular — it’s The City of Brotherly Love, which has arguably helped reinvent the mat game more than any other place on Earth.

From its proudly callous crowds to the well-documented rise and fall of Extreme Championship Wrestling to the many smaller organizations that sprouted there in the 2000s and served as stomping grounds for today’s top Superstars, Philadelphia is not only home to a truly hardcore fan base — it might also be considered wrestling’s epicenter of innovation.

“I think Philadelphia is very influential and very important, and you still see its fingerprints in wrestling today,” said Antonio Cesaro, a participant in the World Heavyweight Championship Contract Money in the Bank Ladder Match.

The symbolic ties between Philly and this Sunday’s pay-per-view are numerous, and the list only begins with the most glaring example: the widely anticipated return to WWE of Rob Van Dam. The Human Highlight Reel, who will be competing in his first WWE match in four years, helped elevate ECW from a revolutionary regional outfit to a national player in the late 1990s. In an exclusive interview with this week, the Michigan-born RVD stopped just short of calling Philadelphia an adopted hometown.

“It’s one of my top home away from homes,” Van Dam said. “When I walk around on the streets there, people recognize me. They think I’m from Philadelphia, because I was there so much and because I’m so associated with Philadelphia through ECW.”

Although RVD may be the Superstar who is most synonymous with The City of Brotherly Love, he is hardly the only ring warrior competing this Sunday whose career rose to prominence within city limits.

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