When I was a kid I watched all the wrestling that I could, I still do we just have way more access today than in the 1980's. Growing up in the Maine my primary promotion was the WWF and watching the TV shows or the Coliseum Home Video releases the commentators always drilled home that Madison Square Garden was the greatest sports arena in the world where all the biggest matches and moments happened. I always wanted to got to MSG for a show, my buddy Jay and I talked about it for years and finally we did it in 2018. You can read about that trip here.
As a kid only the WWF ran shows at Madison Square Garden and as I got older I learned of the exclusive deal the WWF and The McMahon family had as the wrestling promoters of MSG. It apparently when back decades through different version of Madison Square Garden.
There have been 4 versions of Madison Square Garden, the first operated from 1879 to 1890, the second 1890 to 1925, the third 1925 to 1968 and the current version opened February 11, 1968. The first wrestling card promoted at a Madison Square Garden was on November 24, 1875.
Roderick "Jess" McMahon had been promoting wrestling since 1915 and became the first McMahon to promote wrestling at the Garden in 1925 at the 3rd incarnation. He would later partner with Toots Mondt running shows at MSG, and his son Vince J. McMahon would take over for his father in 1957 partnering with Mondt to promote shows.
Other promoters ran the Garden the McMahon and Mondt's Capital Wrestling Corporation would become the sole promoters in 1961.
Jack Pfefer & Pedro Martinez promoted at MSG and their show on November 14, 1960 would be the final show promoted at the venue until 2019 that did not have the name McMahon attached to the promotion.
Tony Marino defeated Miguel Torres
Red Grupe defeated Swede Hanson
Dixie Rebels: #1 & #2 (Mario Galento & Jerry Miller) defeated Luther Lindsay & Mr. Puerto Rico
Haystack Muldoon pinned Pampero Firpo
Bavarian Boys: Rudy Jacobs & Harry Wenzel defeated P.Y. Chong & Larry Simon
Karl Gotch defeated Jerry Graham by disqualification
Ricki Starr & Miguel Perez defeated The Fargo's: Jackie Fargo & Sonny Fargo
Bruno Sammartino wrestled Antonino Rocca to a 34:00 curfew draw
This was the last non-McMahon Family, WWWF / WWF / WWE show to be promoted at Madison Square Garden. From 1963 through 1988 the WWE ran monthly shows at the Garden until national expansion took their tour across the world. 1989 - 1991 averaged 8 shows a year and over the next several years the numbers would continue to decline to 2 shows in 2005. Citing the rising costs and fees of running the Garden WWE would run just 1 show a year, typically the annual post Christmas house show which began in 2011.
This is why MSG management ended their exclusivity deal with the WWE, as WWE was still running upwards of a dozen shows a year in New York City, just not at the Garden. This opened the door for other promotions to run The World's Most Famous Arena. In June 2018 New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor announced the G1 Supercard to be held April 6, 2019.
This date coincided with WrestleMania weekend with Mania being held at the Meadowlands and other WWE shows in the surrounding area with nothing booked at MSG. My friends and I bought tickets in July 2018 when they went on sale and were Garden bound for the first non WWE show to be held at the venue in 59 years. The show sold out within 16 minutes of the general on sale time.
It was a stacked card, however we all felt that the ROH portion was not as good as the New Japan portion of the show.
Oedo Tai: Kagetsu and Hazuki, & Jenny Rose defeated Hana Kimura, Sumie Sakai, & Stella Grey
Honor Rumble: Kenny King won outlasting: Minoru Suzuki, Cheeseburger, Beer City Bruiser, Sho, Shingo Takagi, Bushi, Yoh, Shaheem Ali, Rhett Titus, LSG, Ryusuke Taguchi, Will Ferrara, Chase Owens, Rocky Romero, Brian Milonas, Bad Luck Fale, Jonathan Gresham, Tracy Williams, Yoshi Hashi, PJ Black, Jushin Thunder Liger, TK O’Ryan, Vinny Marseglia, Delirious, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Colt Cabana, Hirooki Goto, King Haku, The Great Muta.
ROH World Television Champion: Jeff Cobb defeated NEVER Openweight Champion: Will Ospreay to win both championships
Rush defeated Dalton Castle with The Boys in 15 seconds, post match Castle beat up The Boys
Kelly Klein defeated Woman of Honor World Champion: Mayu Iwatani to win the title
New York City Street Fight: Flip Gordon and Lifeblood: Juice Robinson & Mark Haskins defeated Bully Ray, Shane Taylor, & Silas Young
Dragon Lee defeated Bandido & IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion: Taiji Ishimori to win the championship
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions: Guerrillas of Destiny: Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa with Jado defeated ROH World Tag Team Champions: Villain Enterprises: PCO & Brody King and Los Ingobernables de Japon: Evil & Sanada and The Briscoe Brothers: Mark & Jay to win both championships
British Heavyweight Champion: Zack Sabre Jr with Taka Michinoku defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi by submission
Kota Ibushi pinned IWGP Intercontinental Champion: Tetsuya Naito to win the championship
Ladder Match: Matt Taven defeated Jay Lethal & Marty Scurll to win the championship
Kazuchika Okada defeated IWGP Heavyweight Champion: “Switchblade” Jay White with Gedo to win the championship
While we were in New York City for Mania weekend Lucha Libre AAA held a press conference at Madison Square Garden that we attended announcing a show to take place September 15, 2019 on the main floor of MSG. However after poor ticket sales the show was moved the smaller Theatre at Madison Square Garden and it became a joint show with IMPACT Wrestling. During the press conference AAA CEO Dorian Pena talked about the July 24, 1994 show that AAA ran at the then called Paramount theatre and how excited they were to run the main floor.
Although located inside the MSG complex this is not The Garden. Originally called Felt Forum when it opened in 1968 when the Garden was sold out the overflow would watch the show via closed circuit in the Felt Forum. The name of the venue changed names many times over the years to what is is called now.
AAA was not the first wrestling promotion to run a show in smaller venue under the main floor of MSG. WCW: World Championship Wrestling held two shows there, the first April 13, 1993 and the second on June 30, 1996. NXT held one event in the venue on November 16, 2016.
On October 27, 2009 Hulk Hogan held a press conference at Madison Square Garden to announce the release of his new book, and representatives from TNA Wrestling were on hand to sign Hogan to a full time contract with the promotion.
After the G1 Supercard, WWE increased their presence at the Garden running both Raw & Smackdown live TV from MSG, the same week as the AAA card, and post pandemic have run TV and House Shows at the Garden.
Speaking of the Pandemic, prior to the world shutting down in 2020 at Wrestle Kingdom 14 January 4, 2020 NJPW announced their return to MSG with Wrestle Dynasty! The show was cancelled and has not been rescheduled.
Here are some other blog posts I wrote about Madison Square Garden
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April 14, 1993 WCW: World Championship Wrestling
Johnny B. Badd pinned Tex Slazenger
Maxx Payne defeated Steve Regal
Chris Benoit fought Ron Simmons to a no contest; Simmons was scheduled to win the match but the bout was stopped per order of the New York State Athletic Commission after Benoit hit a dive to the floor
Van Hammer pinned Vinnie Vegas
WCW/NWA Tag Team Champions: The Hollywood Blondes: Steve Austin & Brian Pillman defeated 2 Cold Scorpio & Marcus Alexander Bagwell
Rick Rude pinned Cactus Jack
WCW US Champion: Dustin Rhodes defeated WCW TV Champion: Paul Orndorff via disqualification
NWA World Champion: Barry Windham pinned Ricky Steamboat
Sting defeated WCW World Champion: Big Van Vader via disqualification when Harley Race interfered
July 24, 1994 AAA Lucha Libre Worldwide
Every match was contested in Best Two Out Of Three Falls format
Diamond Dallas Page & Louie Spicolli defeated El Bandido & Indio Valiente
2 Cold Scorpio, Heavy Metal & Tito Santana defeated Los Payasos (Coco Amarillo, Coco Azul & Coco Rojo) by DQ
Mascarita Sagrada & Octagoncito defeated Espectrito & Jerrito Estrada
El Hijo del Santo & Octagon defeated La Parka & Psicosis
Cien Caras, Konnan & Perro Aguayo wrestled Los Gringos Locos: Eddy Guerrero, Jake Roberts & Love Machine to a No Contest
June 30, 1996 WCW: World Championship Wrestling
Chris Benoit pinned Eddie Guerrero with a roll over and grabbing the ropes for leverage
WCW Cruiserweight: Champion Dean Malenko pinned Lord Steven Regal
Jim Duggan pinned VK Wallstreet
WCW US Champion: Konnan with Pedro Morales pinned Kevin Sullivan with a sunset flip after Morales hit an interfering Jimmy Hart with a headbutt
Rick & Scott Steiner defeated WCW Tag Team Champions: Harlem Heat: Booker T & Stevie Ray via disqualification
WCW TV Champion: Lex Luger defeated Arn Anderson via submission with the Torture Rack
The Nasty Boys defeated Public Enemy in a streetfight when Jerry Saggs pinned Johnny Grunge after Grunge fell into a table
Randy Savage pinned Ric Flair with a roll up and grabbing the tights for leverage; Bruno Sammartino was the guest referee for the bout; Flair initially won the match via pinfall after hitting Savage with a weapon but Sammartino spotted the weapon and had the match continue
WCW World Champion: The Giant defeated Sting via disqualification
November 16, 2016 NXT Live
No Way Jose defeated Roderick Strong
The Iconics: Billie Kay & Peyton Royce defeated Daria Berenato & Liv Morgan
Oney Lorcan defeats Elias Samson
TM-61: Nick Miller & Shane Thorne defeated SAnitY: Alexander Wolfe & Sawyer Fulton with Eric Young
Tye Dillinger defeate Eric Young
Bobby Roode defeated Cedric Alexander
NXT Women's Champion: Asuka defeated Ember Moon and Nikki Cross
#DIY: Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa and Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Samoa Joe and The Revival: Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson
September 15, 2019 AAA Lucha Libre Worldwide
Chris Dickinson & Mascarita Dorada defeated Dave The Clown & Demus
Josh Alexander, Michael Elgin & Sami Callihan defeated Drago, Faby Apache & Murder Clown
AAA World Cruiserweight Title #1 Contendership Four Way Match: Daga defeated Aero Star and Flamita and Puma King
Taya Valkyrie defeats AAA Reina de Reinas Champion: Tessa Blanchard to win the title
AAA World Tag Team Champions: The Lucha Brothers: Fenix & Pentagon Jr. defeated The Latin American Exchange: Ortiz & Santana
Brian Cage, Cain Velasquez & Psycho Clown defeated Los Mercenarios: El Texano Jr., Rey Escorpion & Taurus
Dr. Wagner Jr. defeated Blue Demon Jr.