MSG: The real wrestling Mecca
JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling
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If there is one arena that wrestling can call its most historic location, it
may just be the site of this year's Wrestlemania, Madison Square Garden.
The famous arena, which is the home of hockey's New York Rangers and
basketball's New York Knicks, "MSG" has been somewhat of a sacred ground for
those who have had the privilege of being able to work there, comparable to
Yankee Stadium for baseball or Montreal Forum for hockey.
The current MSG is actually the fourth incarnation of the building. While
this building, which has been used since 1967, is located on 33rd St.
between 6th and 7th Avenues, the first two buildings were located on
the block between 26th and 27th Avenue, between Madison and Park Avenues.
The third MSG, meanwhile, was located on 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th
St. As it was remembered in the book East Side,
West Side: Tales of New York Sporting Life, 1910-1960 by Lawrence S. Ritter, "... for
decades the Garden was identified mostly with boxing and wrestling."
There is a certain aura about MSG and the wrestling background the building
possesses. For many wrestlers, the chance to wrestle at MSG is a career goal
they set for themselves, if not a lifelong dream. "Because I started in
Japan, I had a reverse philosophy than those who start in the States, and
their dream is to wrestle in Japan. Mine was to wrestle in Madison Square
Garden," said the late Rhonda Sing in an
interview with SLAM! in 2001.
As far back as most can remember, MSG has been the centrepoint of World
Wrestling Entertainment. No matter the incarnation of the company, whether
it was the WWWF or WWF, the Stamford, CT company has been the primary
resident of the Garden when it comes to putting on wrestling extraveganzas.
Those who were in WWE relished the opportunity to perform in the Garden.
Captain Lou Albano, a mainstay in the pre-WWE days, recalled his experiences
at the Garden in a 1996 conversation with Whatever Happened To
... ?. "In those days, we had the Garden TV going on," he said. "While it was going on, we
sold out the Felt
Forum, which is now called the Paramount ... five thousand people. Then, we
would sell out upstairs, and we did it every month. Bruno had like, I forget
how many ... like twenty sellouts in a row."
For wrestlers that were not with the company, however, opportunities to hit
the mat at MSG were few and far between. Harley Race, a man who spent
the vast majority of his career with the National Wrestling Alliance, told SLAM!
readers during a chat session about the few chances he had to wrestle at the
Garden. "Wrestling in MSG up through that era, it was the only chance to get
to be at the Gardens was to wrestle Backlund or Graham. Both those matches I
thought were excellent," he said. "My first time in MSG to a sellout wasn't
bad either. Later I wrestled Hogan in the Gardens and that was sold out
This year, over 40 wrestlers will be wrestling at Madison Square Garden.
Only one of them--Shawn Michaels--has previously fought at a Wrestlemania that emanated from
Jon Waldman has been with SLAM! Wrestling since 2000 and has been with the
site since it's return to the 'net one year ago. To read articles from Jon's
original tenure with the site (aka Jon Waldman Version 1), feel free to visit
his website at www.jonwaldman.com.