For the first time in ten years, RAW and Smackdown both emanate from the birthplace of Sports Entertainment, Madison Square Garden.
For years, WWE considered MSG their ‘home’. Part of the reason why WWE consider it their home arena is that there’s just something special and magical about the place. Whenever WWE held a TV show or a PPV there, fans knew that something special and memorable would happen. They would sell the arena out weeks in advance, just to see what might happen. WWE have held three Wrestlemanias’, three SummerSlams’, three Survivor Series and two Royal Rumbles there, which tells you how highly regarded MSG is to WWE. So many iconic and memorable moments have happened there, narrowing it down to just five is damn near impossible. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you view my writing), I’ve managed to find five memorable Madison Square Garden moments.
This article is going to describe five memorable moments that have happened in Madison Square Garden. As always, picking five is really hard, so I will have doubtless forgot one, or included one that you think shouldn’t be on here. These are just my opinions, so by all means come find me online and tell me what a horrible writer I am, and how I should never write again (which someone keeps suggesting on Twitter. I love Wrestling Twitter). For those that stay, here are Five Memorable Madison Square Garden moments.
5. Kane unmasks for the first time- Raw, June 23rd 2003
This was huge in 2003. For years, people had wondered what Kane’s face looked like under the mask. They had heard the stories of how horribly scarred he was after an awful fire in his childhood (in kayfabe terms. None of it actually happened). In early 2003, Kane was feuding with World Heavyweight Champion Triple H. He had already had several opportunities at HHH’s world title and had come up short every time. Triple H agreed to give Kane one more opportunity at his title, but only if Kane agreed to put his mask on the line. Kane agreed, and fan anticipation shot up at the thought of Kane potentially losing his mask.
The match itself was fine. It was standard early Noughties Triple H fare. Kane came agonisingly close to winning the belt, but interference from Evolution proved too much for the Big Red Machine, and HHH retained the belt, forcing Kane to unmask.
I’ll admit, the reveal wasn’t that great. Kane unmasked, revealing an awful haircut and a dirty face. He chokeslammed Rob Van Dam, his partner at the time, and that’s how RAW ended. In the long run however, it gave the Kane character a much-needed boost, as he then went on a rampage on RAWs afterwards. He would put the mask back on in later years, and then unmask again, with none matching the intensity and the shock of the original moment.
4. Jimmy Snuka splashes Don Muraco off the top of a cage – October 17th, 1983
In a world full of thumbtacks, barbed wire and Cracker Barrel hardcore matches, this might seem tame but back in 1983, this was shocking to not only WWE fans, but wrestling fans worldwide. This had never been seen before, and it had the crowd in Madison Square Garden shocked.
Back in 1983, Snuka and Muraco were winding down their feud for Muraco’s Intercontinental Championship. As was customary for singles titles feuds at the time, the last match was inside a Steel Cage. Muraco managed to retain the belt, which really annoyed Snuka. Incensed, he dragged Muraco back inside the cage, laid him out and then proceeded to climb to the top. Fans watched in amazement, wondering what was going to happen. To the shock of everyone in attendance, he then jumped off the top of the cage and delivered a Superfly Splash to the prone Muraco. The crowd, which included a young Mick Foley, went ballistic, amazed that something that good had happened.
You could argue that this moment was the catalyst for years of reckless stunts in cage matches. Every top of the cage dive can be traced back to this moment here. Mick Foley in later years would go on to say that this moment is what would motivate him to become a professional wrestler. Although Snuka’s name might have soured in recent years, this is still one of wrestling’s greatest moments.
3. John Cena returns in the Royal Rumble match – Royal Rumble 2008
This was a truly shocking moment. On a personal note, 12-year-old me lost his mind when John Cena came out at Number 30. No-one expected him to come out so soon after his injury, so Madison Square Garden went nuclear as he made his appearance.
For those that don’t know, in October 2007 Cena had suffered a serious pectoral injury which was supposed to have ruled him out for six to eight months. Cena, being superhuman, was back in four months, looking better than ever. Wrestlers and fans in the arena were shocked as Cena went mad, eliminating Carlito, Chavo Guerrero and Mark Henry is quick succession. Cena would go on to eliminate Triple H to win the Rumble match in a result no one expected.
The cheers Cena got in MSG were the loudest Cena got in years, Although the crowd quickly soured on him, as fans often do with John Cena, the pop he got was the best one any WWE superstar had received in years. The storyline that followed might have been muddled, but everyone can agree that the reaction Cena got when he was Number 30 in the Royal Rumble was nothing short of incredible.
2. The first Elimination Chamber – Survivor Series 2002
This is significant for two reasons. One, it was the first ever Elimination Chamber match, one of the best WWE creations in recent history. Two, it was where Shawn Michaels would win his final World Heavyweight Title, in an image that has lingered in the brain of this writer for years.
The participants for this were World Champion Triple H, Shawn Michaels, RVD, Kane, Booker T and Chris Jericho. Triple H had been feuding with most of these people throughout most of 2002, and Eric Bischoff put all six in the Chamber in the hope of finally settling the score. Michaels was the sentimental favourite for this match, although RVD and Booker T had their fans too.
The match itself was excellent. It had several memorable moments, including people getting thrown through pods and RVD hitting a Five Star Frog Splash off the top of the pod and onto Triple H’s throat, which looked brutal on screen, so god knows how much it hurt HHH. In the end, it came down to Michaels and Triple H, the two long-time friends/rivals. After countering a Pedigree, Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music, got the three count, and became the new World Heavyweight Champion. The image of a bloodied Michaels holding the World Title whilst confetti rained down from the ceiling is one of the best images in wrestling history, and one that lingers long in the mind after the match.
I know this isn’t a singular moment, but for what it did for the wrestling business, it had to be included. This was the birth of Sports Entertainment and it enabled Vince McMahon to fully expand his company into the vast empire we have today.
Wrestlemania was created by McMahon to combat Jim Crockett Promotions and its annual Starrcade events, which began airing in 1983. Unlike Starrcade, which relied on just wrestling, McMahon went all out to promote Wrestlemania, by having celebrities such as Muhammed Ali, Cindy Lauper, Liberace and Mr T appear at the event. The wrestling itself was average, but it wasn’t just about the wrestling that night. McMahon promised entertainment, and that’s what he gave the fans. If this hadn’t been a success, then wrestling might look very different today.
Madison Square Garden not only held Wrestlemania 1, it also held Wrestlemania 10 and Wrestlemania 20, both of which were sell-outs, and both of which held amazing matches. The fact that we have had 35 Wrestlemanias is a testament to how McMahon’s gamble in 1983 paid off. If it hadn’t, then who knows what might have happened to WWE. WWE’s PPV success can all be traced back to Wrestlemania 1, the night in which Vince McMahon Jr changed the wrestling business forever.
As said at the start of the article, because WWE have held events at Madison Square Garden for over 50 years, there are literally hundreds of moments that could be classed as memorable.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @Bannister007. Thanks for reading!