With the impending announcement of Met Life Stadium hosting WrestleMania 35, fans are no doubt reminded of WrestleMania 29. But New York City has been a part of WrestleMania‘s history since the very beginning. What better city to host the event meant to be the intersection of wrestling and pop culture?
March 31st, 1985, in front of 19,121 fans at Madison Square Garden, the world saw pro wrestling move one step closer to sports entertainment. WrestleMania I was a celebration of the biggest superstars the WWF had to offer and some of the biggest names in pop culture. Cyndi Lauper, one of the biggest celebrities in the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection“, Muhammed Ali, and Mr. T were major parts of the event. Lauper accompanied Wendi Richter to the ring for her Women’s Championship match. Ali was the special guest referee in a match pitting Mr. T and Hulk Hogan against Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper. Liberace was the special guest timekeeper. One of the most iconic images in the history of the WWF is Liberace dancing with The Rockettes. Besides the above-mentioned names, the card also featured Andre The Giant, Junkyard Dog, and The Iron Sheik.
While the show had its ups and downs, it was a success. Vince McMahon and the WWF would build upon the success by hosting WrestleMania 2 in three separate venues. The Nassau Veterans Memorial Colisseum was one of those host venues. While the arena is in Uniondale, New York, it was close enough for the WWF. About 20 miles east of New York City proper, fans got to witness four matches live. Joan Rivers, Ray Charles, and Cab Calloway were among the celebrities at the Coliseum. The matches featured Mr. T and Piper again, as well as “Macho Man” Randy Savage and George “The Animal” Steele. Jake “The Snake” Roberts and George Wells battled one another, and Don Muraco took on Orndorff. Many consider WrestleMania 2 as the worst Mania of all time, and it lacked WrestleMania I’s historic significance.
March 20th, 1994 saw the WWF return to New York City for WrestleMania X. Little Richard and Burt Reynolds arguably secure WrestleMania X the top spot for best celebrity facial hair. In terms of in-ring quality, WrestleMania 2 and WrestleMania X couldn’t be further apart. The first match aired from Madison Square Garden on this night was a battle between brothers. Bret Hart took on Owen Hart in a match widely considered the greatest opening match in WrestleMania history. The card also featured a ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Title. Yokozuna defended the World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions. After defeating Lex Luger, Yokozuna would drop the belt to Bret Hart.
The first WrestleMania in New York City after the name change to WWE was WrestleMania XX. This WrestleMania holds an interesting place in WWE history. The opening match featured Big Show and, in his WrestleMania debut, John Cena. The night included a match between Chris Jericho and Christian that was spectacular. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin acted as special guest referee in a less spectacular match between Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. As the crowd knew the two competitors were leaving the company, the fans reacted very negatively towards this match. The fact that the two didn’t touch for minutes to start the match didn’t help their case. After two great matches, fans saw Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit end the night as champions. Due to Benoit’s actions later in life, one of the most iconic images in WrestleMania history has been practically erased from the company’s history.
The most recent WrestleMania in the New York City area was at MetLife Stadium. With a live attendance of 80,676, WrestleMania 29 was the WrestleMania debut for The Shield. The trio defeated Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show. This show also featured the last match in The Streak. For the fifth year in a row, The Undertaker put on the best match of the night, put on the best match of the night. This time, he defeated CM Punk. The card also featured a rematch between John Cena and The Rock. With Cena winning this time, many saw this as a passing of the torch. The night also featured performances by Living Colour and Diddy.
New York City has hosted five WrestleManias and is about to get its sixth. The WWE currently has one of the most talented rosters in history and has a deep bench in NXT. With the bright lights of the Big Apple shining, will this Showcase of the Immortals live up to the hype? We’ll have to wait until 2019 to find out.