WWE's rich history in New York City
As the global entity that WWE is today, many cities are visited by its Superstars and Divas. But there is still an aura about the biggest city in the world — New York City — that means something very special to WWE. And this “love affair” has been continuous for more than 50 years.
For as long as I can remember, when a Superstar or Diva got booked to appear in New York City, there was always an air of nervous anticipation and excitement on the individual’s behalf. They could not wait to get there to “show their stuff.” And when sports-entertainment was territorial in nature, if an individual was leaving one territory (NWA, AWA, etc.) to come into the northeastern part of the country to ply their craft, they simply said that they were “headed to New York.” Not WWE, not the northeast, but New York. The emphasis on those two words had more clout and respectability, and definitely meant something within the industry.
Certainly the “Big Apple” of WWE’s eye in Gotham is the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden. The sports and entertainment showplace is in its fourth incarnation, and through the years WWE has had many a magical moment in the fabled arena.
There was a time when WWE events were held on a monthly basis in The Garden. More times than none, New York area WWE fans knew that every four weeks they could be assured of star-studded events from top to bottom. Back then, when it was time for me to deliver the following month’s MSG event, the “double microphone” would lower from the ceiling, and the anticipation of the matches that were announced was only superseded by the reaction that was attained from The Garden faithful.
Big Apple WWE aficionados have witnessed any number of title changes in The Garden's ring. Since May 17, 1963, when Bruno Sammartino made “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers submit to the backbreaker to win the WWE Championship that coveted title has changed hands in New York City 12 times. Many other title changes involving the various other championships have happened there as well through the years.
Additionally, two major pay per view events were born in The Garden. On March 31, 1985, the very first WrestleMania took place, and Aug. 29, 1988, saw the birth of SummerSlam. Add in the other two signature PPV events (Royal Rumble and Survivor Series), New York City has hosted 11 “big four” pay per view events in its time.
A few WWE milestones took place in New York City, but outside of The Garden. On Jan. 11, 1993, Monday Night Raw debuted with its first episode taking place at The Manhattan Center. Then on July 4, Lex Luger was able to bodyslam the mighty Yokozuna on the deck of the USS Intrepid. Additionally, the weekly television program Shotgun Saturday Night emenated from various NYC locations during 1997.
Throughout the entertainment industry, there is a saying that “you haven’t made it until you’ve played The Garden.” Well, for more than five decades, WWE has made it, and continues to make it! And with the combination of its Superstars, Divas, and the support of the WWE Universe in New York City and surrounding area, the Big Apple will continue to shine brightly!