Monday, March 19, 2018

My Madison Square Garden Adventure

March 16, 2018 was the day my lifelong dream finally came true.  It was the day that Jay and I attended a show at Madison Square Garden, the world's most famous arena!

Back in December 2017, after the last Garden show, I was talking to Jay and we agreed that after 24 years of talking about going we needed to stop talking and take action, so we did.  We picked up tickets that we thought would be decent, front row of the balcony on an aisle near the entrance.  Jay used his points and booked us a hotel nearby and in February I bought us train tickets, $400 spent ensured we wouldn't be backing out.

Thursday March 15th after dropping my daughter at school I headed south to New Bedford, Mass where Jay has called home for eight years. I got there about noon thirty just as Jay was waking up from working the night shift.  After he gathered himself we headed to a place he'd wanted to try but hadn't for some reason The Dog House.

We had actually tried to go a few years back but it had been closed.  In side they have counter service and a few tables.  The place is very clean and the staff was super friendly.  They have a decent sized menu but all I wanted to try was the hot dog and burgers.  The dogs were all beef and served in the side split roll, they were good.  The burgers there are made daily from fresh never frozen meat.  I got cheese, mayo, tomato, pickles, and red relish on mine and it was excellent.

After grabbing some snacks and sodas we headed back to Jay's to watch night six of the New Japan Cup on NJPW World.  Sanada defeated Toru Yano and Zack Sabre Jr defeated Kota Ibushi to advance.

Once Amy got home we went to dinner at DNB Burgers in New Bedford.  They have been talking about this place since they opened how fantastic it is, they even dine there weekly, and I must say it lived up to the hype.  What was funny to me is that they both commented that it wasn't as good as usual, but I enjoyed it.  The hand cut herb fries and onion rings were fantastic.  The meat used in burger was delicious on it's own.  I'll go again.

Friday morning we got up at 5 am to make the drive to Providence to catch out 6:45 am train to Penn Station.  The train ride was uneventful and took about 3.5 hours, we had some good views along the way through Connecticut.

We arrived in New York we were underground and walking out of Penn Station we found ourselves directly across from Madison Square Garden.  There it was essentially the first thing we saw and it was glorious.

We walked to our hotel and checked out bags and then headed out on the city.  First stop was at the Houdini Museum at 213 West 35th  Street on the fourth floor of the building.  The building is not marked at all and there is no sign designating that the museum is there.  I asked the door man and he confirmed it was on the fourth floor.

The place isn't very big, but it is very awesome!  We were given a tour by Nick Padilla who works there and is a magician himself.  He explained in great detail all the items they have on display, the significance and history of each of them as well as showed us a few magic tricks.  The museum itself is free and I think is a hidden gem of New York City.

Next the stopped at Gray's Papaya for a couple hot dogs.  Jay's plan was to each small portions and graze at a lot of places.  We only got hot dogs they use Sabrett frankfurters grilled with toasted buns and when you ask for mustard apparently it's spicy brown, which is cool, they cost only $1.

Jay wanted to go to Ripley's Believe it or Not he'd been to one before, this was my fifth odditorium.  At $30 though it was the most expensive one I had been too.  It was really nice and quite large it just seemed to keep going.

We took in the sights of Time Square; seeing where the ball drops on the New Years, all the big video displays I've seen on the news, TV, movies, and ect.  It was all really cool for like 20 minutes.  Then you notice the odd people in character suits, the pan handlers, hustlers, and vagrants.  It's just one big giant tourist trap.

I don't really have a reason to go back the Times Square unless Kate and I go to a play.  There is still a lot of New York City that I want to explore; Central Park, Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, and more.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Midtown Comics which was just ok for me.  We also passed a street vendor selling records and he had Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II, which was pretty random and cool.  Sadly he wanted $40 and wouldn't budge or else I would have that in my collection.

We checked into the hotel to relax a spell, I took a shower in their amazing large stall shower.  The water pressure was great and they supply Paul Mitchell Tea Tree shampoo and body wash.

We headed over to the Garden and Penn Station to find some dinner.  After much deliberation and searching we located and settled on Shake Shack.  I got a cheeseburger with bacon and shake sauce, it was tremendous!  They press the burgers so they get caramelized and crispy and the cheese is all gooey and melty and the bacon is thick and cooked perfect.  I don't know what the shake sauce is but it's so good.

We entered the The Garden and headed up the eight floors to our seats.  The venue is round so you can walk all away around the concourse, which we did check out the food options and these displays of historic events at The Garden.  Talking to one of the ushers, he was a fellow wrestling fan, he said on the main concourse on the sixth floor they had a WrestleMania one display.

We headed straight down and sure enough found this awesome display featuring posters of the event, a program, "Rowdy" Roddy Pipers boots, Hulk Hogans trunks, and more.  Around the ceiling was a timeline of sorts, not in order, featuring great moments and a couple were wrestling related.

When I was a kid watching WWF or now watching old footage all the big matches took place at Madison Square Garden.  It's always been sold to me as being the world's most famous arena and that anyone who is anyone wants to have their Madison Square Garden moment.

There is always this iconic shot of the showing the a wide shot of the crowd and the very recognizable circular ceiling, it's the first thing I think of when I think of the garden.  From our seats I was able to take a picture of this scene and it's something that I will always cherish.

Let's get to the matches!  We were treated to a pay-per-view caliber line-up but house show caliber matches.  A few unadvertised names appeared, and matches changed, but no huge surprises.

Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Kevin Owens with Sami Zayn by disqualification

This was supposed to be AJ Styles and Nakamura vs Owens and Zayn but after the faces were in the ring the heels jumped them from behind injuring Styles making it a singles match.  Owens was DQ'd when Zayn ran in attacking Nakamura.  Styles came out with a chair making the save on Nakamura from the double beat down.

Cedric Alexander pinned Drew Gulak with lumbar check

This is a candidate for match of the night.  This was also Drew Gulak's Madison Square Garden debut, which was really cool to see someones Garden debut in person.

Asuka submitted Mandy Rose with Paige with the Asuka Lock

Asuka had been advertised and then her name was pulled from the card after she challenged Charlotte Flair on SmackDown.  So it was a surprise when her music kicked on and she got a huge pop from the crowd.  Match was more competitive than I thought it would be, but in the end Asuka tapped her out with the Asuka Lock.

Bray Wyatt pinned Matt Hardy with Sister Abigail

Fantastic entrances by both, match itself was ho-hum.  Possibly because they have been fighting each other for months in standard one on one matches. Hopefully the match at the Hardy Compound will be better.

Four Way Match: Raw Tag Team Champions: The Bar: Cesaro & Sheamus defeated New Day: Kofi Kingston & Big E with Xavier Woods, The Club: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson and Titus World Wide: Titus O'Neil & Apollo with Dana Brooke

Originally a three way match they added The Club, I was really hoping to see The Revival in this match.  Match was decent but there was no way the Bar was going to lose the titles.  If they weren't in a program with Braun I thought maybe I'd finally see my house show title change.  I think Kofi was pinned after a Brogue kick.  Post match The Club called New Day nerds and got beat up for it.

Triple Threat Match: Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman defeated Braun Strowman and Kane pinning Kane with an F5

Big pop for Strowman, bigger pop for Lesnar.  Not going to lie I got chills when his music hit and he and Paul Heyman walked out.  Since his return in 2012 Lesnar has only wrestled 47 matches, that's only 4.2 matches a year so to actually see one in person is pretty special.  Match lasted longer than I expected, was actually pretty high impact with Lesnar hitting a bunch of suplexes.  Strowman using the stairs on Lesnar and Lesnar taking Strowman out with chair shots to the back before he finished Kane with an F5.

The Bar ran out attacking Braun post match.  They tried to put him through a table but Braun ended up putting Cesaro through it with his powerslam.

Triple Threat Match: Raw Women's Champion: Alexa Bliss with Mickie James defeated Sasha Banks & Bayley

The second contender for match of the night had these three tearing it down like they have in the past.  Bliss got the cheap roll up with a handful of tights to retain.  Post match Nia Jax came out to a big pop.  She confronted Bliss in the ring who tried to blame Mickie for her comments on Raw on Monday.  Jax bear hugged Bliss until Mickie tried to break it up and ate a Samoan Drop for her troubles.

John Cena & Nikki Bella defeated Elias & Sonya Deville after both hit their finishers and a double pin

Elias opened with some singing, it was received well until he insulted the crowd.  Cena and Nikki came out to a big reaction.  This match was completely predictable especially the finish.  There was no doubt that Cena & Bella were going to win.

Finn Balor, Seath Rollins, & Roman Reigns defeated Intercontinental Champion: The Miz and the Miztourage: Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas when Reigns pinned Miz with a spear

This match was better than I thought it would be, once again though the finish was obvious so it took me out of the action.  They should of have Miz get a cheap unexpected pin and then the faces could have hit all their finshers to send the crowd home happy with an unpredictable finish.

Whenever the matches his a lull I would just look up at the ceiling and think I can't believe I'm at Madison Square Garden.  When the show was over they announced that WWE would be returning to The Garden in July with Ronda Rousey and tickets are on sale at the box office now.  I was shocked at the number of people that were lined up to buy tickets after the show and they had 8 - 10 windows open too!

We tried to find a convenience store to buy snacks and drinks but couldn't find out.  We ended up hitting up this late night deli called the 876 Market Deli and I got a sandwich: turkey, provolone cheese, mayo, tomato, pickle, salt & pepper on a bulky roll.  It was fantastic and only $4.75!

Getting back to the room for the night we hooked Jay's laptop to the TV to watch some of night seven of the New Japan Cup tournament.

Saturday morning before heading to Penn Station I grab my wife a couple fresh bagels.  Then Jay wanted to get a breakfast sandwich at Shake Shack because he figured if the burgers were so good so would be their breakfast.  When get there just after 9 am we found out you could get burgers so that's what we did.  I got me a double with cheese, bacon, & shake sauce.  It was flipping amazing!

The train ride back to Providence took 4 hours instead of 3.5 and we made three more stops than we did on the way down.  We spent just 24 hours in the city and I feel we made the most of it.  I got home about 5:30pm even with stopping to grab her a Jimmy Johns in Waltham, Mass.

With that checked off the list I'm not really sure what my new number one is, it's going to take me sometime to figure out.

Thanks for reading, please leave a comment, read my other posts, and like my blogs Facebook page and while you're at it check out my weekly podcast Podcast of 1,000 Holds on the Nerdy Legion Podcast Network. 

Later Readers!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In Defense of World Championship Wrestling

WCW – World Championship Wrestling, a name forgotten by some, a joke to others, and unknown to the younger crowd.

Mention WCW to a wrestling fan and you’re likely to hear about the nWo, David Arquette winning the world title, and how they were so bad they got bought by Vince McMahon. You won’t hear about how they destroyed the WWF for years on end and almost put them out of business. You won’t hear about the amazing feuds like DDP vs Macho Man, Chris Jericho vs Dean Malenko, Sting vs. the nWo, or Booker T. vs Chris Benoit.

If you watch documentaries you’ll hear former WCW wrestlers trash the failed company, the same wrestlers who fought for its survival. Things at WCW definitely ended on a sour note and the company wasn’t putting out the same great content they were years earlier, but does it deserve this type of reputation? No… no it does not.

Those wrestlers trashing WCW, they’re under contract with the WWE now. It’s in their best interests to suck up to the boss.

All the jokes, mockery, and references to WCW being second rate to the WWE is WWE propaganda. There’s a quote, “History is written by the victors” and Vince McMahon’s actions proves this quote true. Getting beaten by WCW so bad that he nearly lost his business made McMahon bitter. The WCW wrestlers who were absorbed into the WWE were all dumped on and made to look inferior. The legacy of the WCW isn’t embraced; instead it’s mocked with an occasional DVD being released for the die-hard fans. I assure you, if DDP wasn’t hosting the Best of Nitro, it wouldn’t be nearly as positive as it is.

There is no WCW wing in the WWE Hall of Fame. The WCW website on contains jokes at WCW expense, not a celebration of the great wrestling and entertainment they once provided. Little to no merchandise is made, and even the WWE Network has been slow to embrace the Nitros that beat Raw in the ratings.

And it’s a travesty.

Did WCW have some bad wrestling? Sure.

Did they do some incredibly stupid gimmicks? Sure.

Did they misuse some of their talent? Sure.

And you can ask those questions about any wrestling organization including the WWE and ECW, and answer “sure” to every single one of those questions.

Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly mocked WCW concepts, angles, and decisions.

The Triple Cage- I still can’t understand why this gets so much flack. It was an amazing looking structure that actually seemed scary. After Mick Foley took his fall and survived, the Hell in the Cell lost its mystery and danger. When you looked at the triple cage, you knew someone falling off that would most likely die. And say what you want, that is why we like those gimmick matches. It’s the danger that gets us excited.

Chamber of Horrors- I’m a huge fan of battle royals, but let’s be honest, the wrestling sucks. You can tell the hits are weak, the wrestlers can’t tell a story when surrounded by ten other people, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch.

WCW decided to have this cage match with a ton of wrestlers which was basically a battle royal. Inside the cage, they put an electric chair, and the goal was to electrocute an opponent. Obviously, it wasn’t a real electric chair, but it was a fun gimmick for Halloween Havoc in the early 90’s when things were quite cheesy.

So, the wrestling sucked, and then Abdullah the Butcher gets mistakenly electrocuted by Cactus Jack. Abdullah did an excellent job selling the electrocution, but people tend to mock all the fireworks, smoke, and sparks that occurred. However, if you watch the match, you’ll see the crowd was really into it and popped huge when the electrocution occurred. If it was so corny and bad, they certainly weren’t complaining.

The question I always want to ask the critics is, what were they supposed to do? Actually electrocute him or simulate a real electrocution, which is disturbing and uneventful? The sparks and fireworks really got the point across that it was an electrocution, but not in a way to make the kids in the audience cry.

Some might say the match should have just never occurred, but I disagree. The match was fun, the crowd loved it, and it was memorable. I saw the match as a kid and I thought it was great.

Robocop- The Robocop movie was originally rated X. It took a lot of effort to cut it down to a hard R rating. Still, for whatever reason, the movie was marketed towards kids. I had a comic book, toys, and even saw the movie at the ripe old age of five. And you know what? I friggin loved it.

In the early 90’s, wrestling was also marketed towards kids. Someone got a bright idea to cross promote Robocop with WCW. Robocop was the good guy, who saved Sting from the Four Horsemen and sent them running.

Watch the video sometime and watch the crowd’s reaction. The WWE would kill for a reaction like that today. Cheesy? Sure. Was it for adults? I don’t think so. It was a fun little segment, and is memorable and enjoyable. Had Robocop wrestled, I might feel differently. But saving Sting? That was awesome.

The Shockmaster– This was simply a blooper. It was just another cheesy early 90’s gimmick that no one would remember had he not tripped over a beam in the floor.

The Ultimate Warrior- I was never a fan of the whole mystical Warrior. The Warrior had begun this sort of transformation during his last run in WWE, and he was a full on wizard in WCW. There was a lot of smoke, disappearing, and showing up in mirrors. Despite not being a huge fan of that version of the character, it was all pretty cool looking. They built his match against Hollywood Hogan up to be the biggest rematch in history and I was following along each week anxiously anticipating the day I’d get to see the match.

I heard the match was a dud, and years later, when I watched it, I concurred. It’s a horrible match, full of missed spots, and bad decisions. The Warrior was rusty, and it was a huge let down. No amount of magical powers could save that match.

But was The Ultimate Warrior in WCW a bad thing? No way. It got a lot of people excited and was entertaining to watch. I’ll never forget the camera focusing on a Warrior sign at the end of Thunder prior to his debut on Nitro. I marked out like crazy.

They didn’t deliver on the match, and WCW should have immediately booked a rematch. I think the Warrior would have been better and maybe some of that chemistry would be back.

Sting Being Set on Fire- For whatever reason, this has been brought up a lot recently. Here’s the deal, following Mick Foley’s Hell in a Cell fall, everyone was trying to have big, memorable falls in both WCW and WWE. None of them were nearly as impressive nor shocking as Foley’s. Being set on a fire was a desperate attempt at having that crazy memorable moment. It failed.

But was it really that bad? Was it worse than Hawk drunkenly falling off the Titan Tron? No way. And say what you want, but having a person with a known addiction problem act like a drunk and fall off the Titan Tron is in much worse taste than Sting being set on fire.

Also, remember, the WWE was home to the Inferno Match where people were set on fire. I also recall a crew member being hit by lightning inside of the arena by Kane.

Goldberg Losing- Quick, name a winning streak in professional wrestling, MMA, or any sport that ended and people were happy with how it ended? You can’t.

Two things happen during winning streaks. At first people are excited and love it, then it gets old and everyone starts rooting for someone to beat them.

Goldberg was an amazing, unstoppable force. Everyone loved Goldberg at first. He had a great look,
was powerful, and fun to watch. I’ll never forget the excitement of him winning the US Title and then the World Title.

People forget that not too long after he won the title, the fans were beginning to turn on Goldberg.

The streak had become old, and WCW had to start pumping Goldberg chants in over the PA system.
Don’t get me wrong, Goldberg was still popular and the streak could have gone on another three or four months easy. But when Goldberg lost, I felt like it was time. I also felt like someone cheating him out of the win was a great idea. He still looked powerful, and the only way someone was able to beat him was to cheat. Should Kevin Nash have been the winner? I don’t think so. I feel like Hogan should have won, thus setting up a Goldberg vs. Hogan super fight.

Here’s the deal though, Goldberg had to lose sometime. Putting over a new or young talent would have hurt Goldberg. Having him cleanly lose to established talent would have hurt Goldberg. Having him cheated out of the title was the smartest move they could have made, second to letting the streak run a bit longer.

Goldberg vs. Hogan on Nitro- This was one of WCW’s biggest title fights ever. People tend to criticize it because WCW aired it on Nitro for free. The thought is: WCW could have made huge money on a PPV match, which is probably true. But as a fifteen year old with no job and no way to order PPV, I was thrilled it aired on Nitro. Remember, there was no YouTube. I would have to wait six months till the PPV came out on VHS to see the match.

WCW sold out the Georgia Dome. They had massive ratings, and got millions to turn over to Nitro. It was a fantastic way to have brand exposure and show new viewers the excitement and level of sportsmanship that WCW offered. They were also rewarding their own loyal fans with the match of the century for free. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Growth of the nWo- The nWo started off with two, then became three, and then became like thirty. Let’s look at the benefit of having that many members.

1. The beatdowns looked amazing.

That’s all I got.

However, a fact that commonly gets left out is Eric Bischoff’s plan for the nWo was to spin them off into their own wrestling organization. It was going to be Smackdown vs Raw, but ten years earlier. In order to start a wrestling organization, you need main eventers, mid carders, and jobbers. The nWo had them all.

The problem is, that plan never came to fruition and you were left with a glob of nWo members with nothing to do. Eventually the Wolfpac splintered off, and that was fantastic at first. I loved the Wolfpac. But then you had side jumping and mergers, and Hollywood nWo then Hollywood Wolfpac and things got way out of hand.

David Arquette Winning the World Title- Should this have happened? No. But was it really as bad as people make it? No.

WCW was struggling. Arquette winning the title got WCW a ton of press, which is always a good thing. But it made the title look weak and insignificant, which was not good.

I tend to think of Arquette having the title as not much worse than Lawrence Taylor main eventing Wrestlemania, or any other celebrity taking up a spot on a pay per view robbing a real wrestler of a valuable pay day.

I won’t sit here and try to justify something I don’t believe was right. I do however believe that too much emphasis is put on this one event. Arquette didn’t ruin WCW, it was already going downhill at that point. It was a desperate act by a writer (Vince Russo) who viewed belts as props and nothing more, which is no different than the way the WWE views their belts today. They just know not to put the title on a celebrity thanks to WCW trying it first.

Vince Russo Winning the World Title- We’ve already established that to Russo, belts were just props. They weren’t to be held in high regard.

Russo was speared out of the cage thus winning the belt by accident. It wasn’t a bad way to give an undeserving person the title, but Russo should have never been in the ring to begin with. It was a joke.
Then again, Vince McMahon also won the world title, which was also a joke.

The Million Dollar Man bought the World Title, but nobody complains about that devaluing the title.

Cruiserweights like Rey Mysterio won the World Heavyweight Title, but nobody mentions how that makes all the heavyweights look.

I’m just trying to say, belts should be respected, but they aren’t always.

Vince Russo Killed WCW- I have a love/hate relationship with Russo. I think he’s got some incredible ideas, but he’s so full of himself and he gets in his own way.

Russo didn’t help WCW, that’s for sure. His choices for champions (we’ll talk about that later) were not good. His attempt to outdo the shock value on WWE pushed into cheesy and stupid territory at times. But he did not kill WCW.

WCW was still profitable and was pulling in good ratings when it was sold. The reason it was sold was because Time Warner merged with AOL, who were not interested in pouring money into a pet project of Ted Turner. They did a fire sale, and ditched the company and all its responsibilities in one quick transaction. Had AOL not come in, I believe WCW would still be here today.

Stuff I cannot/will not defend:

  • Judy Bagwell on a forklift
  • “Insert Noun” on a Pole Matches
  • The Mysterio Demasking
  • Vince Russo on TV
  • Oklahoma
I’m not here to point out or speculate on why WCW failed, but I do want to comment on what I feel was their biggest mistake- Jeff Jarrett.

I like Jeff Jarrett. I’m a Memphis wrestling fan, so it’s one of those things that comes with the fandom. I liked his feud with Chyna, and I thought he was a great Intercontinental Champion. His defection to WCW in 1999 was pretty big, and was only going to work to his advantage. I say this because; I don’t think he would have ever been a main event player in the WWF. I don’t think he should have been a main event player in the WCW either.

Jeff is good on the mic and in the ring, but he doesn’t have that “it” thing. I was never able to buy into his championship runs in WCW. TNA was easier because of the lack of mainstream talent, but WCW in 1999? I don’t think so.

Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Sting, Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page, and Jeff Jarrett. Jeff Jarrett’s name doesn’t fit with the others, and Piper and Hall never even won a World Title.

Vince Russo loved Jeff Jarrett. That is why Jarrett was champion. Not because it was right for business or because he was most deserving, Russo, for whatever reason, thought Jeff Jarrett would take WCW to a new level. He was dead wrong.

I’d argue that Jeff Jarrett’s title reigns devalued the World Title more than David Arquette’s. At least no one took Arquette’s for being serious.

When we look back at retro wrestling, we tend to focus on the WWF glory days of the 1980's or the Attitude Era of the late 90's. We tend to forget about that other guy, who actually put on just as good of a show, and sometimes an even better one. I didn't spend much time giving anyone a reason to watch WCW, but I hope I was able to debunk some of the reasons not to. If you are a wrestling fan and have never watched WCW, give it a shot. You might be surprised by the quality of the product, especially when compared to wrestling today.