Over the past few years one of the big stories in sports is the decline of the New York Knicks. However, the Knicks aren’t the only organization that calls Madison Square Garden their home who is facing a decline. I’m of course talking about the WWE. The WWE has always considered Madison Square Garden to be their number one arena, whenever they want to have a huge show they know Madison Square Garden is the place to do it. But the WWE’s product has gotten worse and worse over the past five years. Currently they have Kevin Federline feuding with their World Champion. So I thought I would reminisce about my favorite WWE matches that have taken place at Madison Square Garden. Obviously there will be some missing because I haven’t seen every match that has taken place at Madison Square Garden.
October 17th, 1983 – Bob Backlund vs. The Masked Superstar
This match was overshadowed by another match on the card (see the next entry) but was still very good too. Bob Backlund was the current champion and was taking on The Masked Superstar with some old school booking surrounding the match. Previously the Masked Superstar had supposedly injured another wrestler when he used a neck breaker on his opponent. Throughout the match Bob Backlund worked over the Masked Superstar’s arm so that he could lock in his finishing submission move the Crossface Chicken Wing but eventually The Masked Superstar hit Backlund with the neck breaker. The Masked Superstar then took Backlund outside the ring and hit the neck breaker on the concrete and Backlund was counted out. The announcers went on about how Backlund shouldn’t even be able to walk but he managed to get back to his feet and chase off the Masked Superstar.
October 17th, 1983 – The Magnificent Muraco vs. Jimmy Snuka
It’s not very often that an Intercontinental Title match overshadows a World Title Match but on this card that was the case. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka took on the Magnificent Muraco and the match would result in one of the most classic moments in pro wrestling history when Jimmy Snuka did his splash from the top of the cage onto The Magnificent Muraco. But what many people might forget is that Snuka didn’t even win the match. The match was very back and forth but late in the match Snuka had the advantage. He head butt Muraco and Muraco fell over and his momentum carried him right through the cage door for the victory. Snuka then brought Muraco back into the ring and then did his famous splash off the top of the cage.
January 23rd, 1984 – Hulk Hogan vs. Iron Sheik
I was never much of a Hulk Hogan fan and find a lot of his matches be kind of dull but a few of his matches have to make the list just because of how big a deal they were. The Iron Sheik had recently won the title from Bob Backlund but now had to defend the title against a new up and comer named Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan defeated Iron Sheik to win his first World Title and Hulkamania was born.
March 31st, 1985 – Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper (Wrestlemania I)
This tag match was another one of Hogan’s matches that you can’t leave off just because of how big a spectacle it was. In 1985 Vince McMahon decided he wanted to put together a show that was special. He wanted a show that would be the biggest event of the year, like the Super Bowl for wrestling fans. That’s when he created Wrestlemania and Hulk Hogan teamed up with Mr. T to take on Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper in the main event. It wasn’t the best match of the night from a wrestling standpoint but it put Wrestlemania on the map.
October 24th, 1988 – Randy Savage vs. Andre the Giant
During Andre the Giant’s career Vince McMahon didn’t want to put the World Title on him. He was a big attraction without having the World Title so he didn’t need it. However he wanted Andre the Giant wrestling against his champions so it would be a big match. So they constantly had to find ways to make the World Champion retain the title without pinning Andre the Giant cleanly and making him look bad. During Randy Savage and Andre’s first encounter Savage was counted out. So Andre the Giant won the match but Savage wasn’t pinned so he kept the title. In this rematch there was a stipulation that if Savage was counted out he would lose the title to Andre. This ensured us the match wouldn’t end the same way as the first match. However, there was a second stipulation that allowed them another way out. The stipulation was that if either manager left their corner their wrestler would be disqualified. At one point Bobby Heenan left his corner to distract Randy Savage so Andre the Giant was disqualified. Thus, Savage won the match and retained the title but Andre was never pinned.
October 24th, 1988 – Rick Rude vs. Jake Roberts
“Ravishing” Rick Rude was one of the biggest heels in the late 80’s. He would often brag about his own good physique while berating the fans for being a bunch of sloppy pigs. Rude also wore tights that often had different pictures stenciled on them. During a feud with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Rude had a picture of Roberts’ wife stenciled on his tights and Rude would tell Jake’s wife to leave Jake and be with a real man. This led to a match at Madison Square Garden where the winner had to use their finisher on the other wrestler. Early in the match Jake the Snake went for his DDT but Rude slipped out of it. Rude went for his finisher the Rude Awakening later in the match but Jake escaped. Finally Jake the Snake hit Rick Rude with the DDT and then took his snake from his bag and laid it on top of “Ravishing” Rick Rude.
January 23rd, 1989 – The Rockers vs. Brain Busters
Before the high flyers like the luchadores or X Division wrestlers started popping up there was the Rockers. Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels were a significantly smaller team than the other tag teams but their rapid fire tagging and high flying ability made them one of the most exciting tag matches to watch. They would jump from the top rope; do double team maneuvers they even had one move where one would slam the other on top of the opponent. Unfortunately this match ended like most Rockers matches. Vince McMahon was enamored with wrestlers who were large and therefore he was never willing to put the titles on the smaller Rockers teams. So most Rockers matches would start with them being dominated by the larger team then one of them would make a hot tag to the other and he would clean house. The Rockers would then do a series of exciting moves only to have the bigger team cheat to pull out the win.
August 26th, 1991 – Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart (Summerslam 1991)
The match between Mr. Perfect and Bret “the Hitman” Hart at Summerslam 1991 might be my favorite match on this list. Not only was it a great match but it was between my two favorite wrestlers. Both Hart and Perfect were known as great wrestling technicians. Mr. Perfect lived up to his name as he was nearly perfect in the ring. Bret Hart also lived up to one of his nicknames “the excellence of execution” because his execution of wrestling moves was flawless. The match started off with some slow wrestling holds but built up as the match went on. In the end Mr. Perfect dropped a leg to Bret Hart’s midsection which Bret countered into his finisher the Sharpshooter. Mr. Perfect actually wrestled this match with an injured back and it would’ve been even better if he had been healthy. The match was also for the Intercontinental Title and was Bret Hart’s first title as a singles wrestler on his way to becoming a five time WWF World Champion.
November 30th, 1991 – Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair
In 1991 Ric Flair jumped ship from WCW to WWF. Vince McMahon then had the easiest feud to book lay right in his lap because he had probably the two biggest wrestlers of all time on his roster and they had never wrestled in the past. Unfortunately Vince kind of botched the potential for the match but the match did take place in November of ’91. At this point Hulk Hogan wasn’t the cripple he is now so the match was pretty good. Still not a five star match but the excitement around the match was amazing.
March 20th, 1994 – Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart (Wrestlemania X)
At the tenth Wrestlemania Bret Hart took on his younger brother Owen Hart who had turned heel because he was jealous of Bret getting so much attention. The match between Owen and Bret was strangely the opening match even though it was both the best match of the night and the longest match. Bret would wrestle again at Wrestlemania X in the main event and capture the WWF World Title but that match was only half as long as his match with Owen. Owen Hart upset his older brother when Bret Hart went for a Victory Roll that was countered by Owen Hart for the pin. Since Owen defeated Bret but Bret won the title later in the night it would lead to a classic Steel Cage match at the following Summerslam for the World Title.
March 20th, 1994 – Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania X)
Bret vs. Owen Hart was the best and longest match at Wrestlemania X but just barely. In 1991 Razor Ramon had won the Intercontinental Championship but Shawn Michaels had never been pinned for the title. So Shawn Michaels showed up one day with his own Intercontinental Title saying it was the real Intercontinental Title. What resulted was a match where both Intercontinental Titles would be hung from the ceiling and the winner was whoever climbed the ladder to capture both titles. The match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels was the first Ladder Match seen in the WWF and believed to be the first ladder match in the United States. The innovative match was exciting and Shawn Michaels’ leap off the top of the ladder would become as memorable as Jimmy Snuka’s leap off the top of the cage years earlier. The end of the match came when Shawn Michaels set up the ladder on top of Razor Ramon’s fallen body, thinking that the ladder would hold him down. Shawn started to climb the ladder but Razor Ramon was able to knock the ladder over. Shawn Michaels fell into the ropes and got tangled in them while Razor Ramon set the ladder back up, climbed it and captured the titles.
September 22nd, 1997 – Brian Pillman vs. Owen Hart (Monday Night Raw)
In 1997 the Intercontinental Title was vacant so a tournament was formed to decide the new winner. Brian Pillman and Owen Hart were booked to wrestle each other even though they belonged to the same faction, the Hart Foundation. The two didn’t want to wrestle so Pillman came to the ring with his arm in a sling and forfeited the match. We all knew Pillman was faking it because there had not been any reports of him being injured. The commissioner confirmed what we already knew when he threw Pillman a microphone and Pillman caught it with his supposedly injured arm. Owen and Pillman were forced to wrestle the match. At first the two wrestled a match at half speed and weren’t taking it seriously, They did series of moves at half speed and whenever one of them put a submission move on the other the wrestler receiving the move would yell in agony even though the wrestler doing the move barley had the move locked in. It was clear they were just toying with us. Then Brian Pillman’s manager hit Owen from behind with a purse and acted as if Pillman did it. Owen Hart then threw Pillman into the steel steps and then what started as a playful joke turned into a very heated wrestling match. Unfortunately we never got a clean finish. The match ended when Goldust interfered and gave Owen Hart the win by DQ.
September 22nd, 1997 – Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (Monday Night Raw)
This match featured not only a classic match but also a classic interview. Triple H was in the ring waiting for Mick Foley to come to the ring for their Falls Count Anywhere Match. At the time Mick Foley had a split personality. He had wrestled in the WWF as both Mankind and Dude Love. While Triple H was waiting in the ring Dude Love appeared on the big screen and said he was going to interview Mankind. Mankind then came onto the screen and Dude Love asked Mankind if he wanted to wrestle the match against Triple H. Mankind said that he loved hardcore matches but that he had a friend who liked them even more. A third personality of Mick Foley, Cactus Jack, then appeared on the screen. The crowd popped because they had seen Cactus Jack before in WCW and ECW and he was notorious for hardcore matches. Cactus Jack and Triple H would then have probably the best No DQ match on free television in the WWF’s history. The match ended on the ramp when Cactus Jack was lying on a table. Triple H stood on the table and was about to deliver his finisher the Pedigree when Cactus Jack reversed the move into a pile driver through the table.
March 14th, 2004 – Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XX)
One of the best moments in wrestling history came at Wrestlemania XX. Triple H defended his title against Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit. The match was fantastic but what occurred afterwards was heartwarming. Chris Benoit was known as possible the hardest working and best technical wrestler in pro wrestling for a long time but was never given the World Title due to his lack of interview skills and his size. But finally after nineteen years of working his butt off he finally won the top title in the wrestling industry. He climbed the turnbuckles and raised his belt in victory then climbed down and turned around to see his best friend Eddie Guerrero standing there in front of him. Eddie Guerrero had been Chris Benoit’s oldest friend and their careers had gone on the same path from Japan, to ECW, to WCW, and now the WWF. Eddie had also never received the World Title until a month earlier. The two had finally reached their goal. They hugged in middle of the ring and wept.