Bidding Farewell to The IZOD Center

IZOD Center

Craig Wilson

Since January of this year the Izod Center, known to many as Meadowlands Arena, has been closed and is likely to be demolished in 2018. Today, Craig looks at the wrestling history of this arena.

Work began on the venue in 1977 for the venue that was to play host to the New York Nets basketball team and the venue finally opened in 1981, with a concert from Bruce Springsteen.

Since then the venue has played host to many WWE events with one of the most important early moments coming in October of the centre’s first year with Bruno Sammartino originally retiring with a victory of George ‘The Animal’ Steele.

It quickly became a regular venue on the then WWF’s 80s houseshow circuit and will soon join the original Boston Garden, New Haven Coliseum, the Capital Center, Philadelphia Spectrum and the Pittsburgh Civic Arena as being nothing more than a pile of rubble. A sorry demise for a venue that has hosted more than a few memorable moments in WWE history.

In the run up to Wrestlemania III, several Piper’s Pit segments were filmed at the Meadowlands which featured the first signs of tension between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, which led to their iconic match featuring the slam that was heard around the world.

Later that same year, the new tag team of Demolition debuted with Randy Culley – better known as Randy Culley – portraying Smash. He was later replaced by Barry Darsaw, who is best remembered in the role. In fact, it was Culley being obviously Moondog Rex that forced the WWE’s hand in finding a replacement for him.

In 1989 the Meadowlands played host to the year’s SummerSlam extravaganza which saw the tandem of Hulk Hogan and Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake overcome Macho Man Randy Savage and Zeus in the main event and, on the undercard, The Ultimate Warrior defeated Ravishing Rick Rude to regain the Intercontinental title.

It was before that match, however, that one of the show’s most memorable moment took place. During a backstage segment, Mean Gene Okerlund was interviewing Rude and his manager Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan when the SummerSlam sign fell, causing Okerlund utter the word “fuck”.

It was 8 years until SummerSlam returned to the venue in an event that saw the special guest referee Shawn Michaels cost The Undertaker his title in a match with Bret Hart that led to the pair’s Hell in a Cell match at Badd Blood. The Izod Center would also host the 2007 SummerSlam, 2001 King of the Ring, Extreme Rules 2004, No Way Out in 2012 and Extreme Rules 2014.

At the 2007 SummerSlam, the WWE announced that the millionth fan in attendance at the venue was recorded that night in the arena; a banner now hangs from the rafters of the arena to that extent.

The Axxess for Wrestlemania 29 was held at the Izod Center – with the actual event taking place at the MetLife Stadium, but the Izod Center did get to host Raw the night after.

It was announced that SummerSlam 2015 was to be held at the venue, the WWE’s 28th installment of the show. However, on 15 January of this year the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority voted to shut down the venue and have the Prudential Center acquire hosting rights to events scheduled for the arena over the next two years. Until it’s demolition the venue will remain empty.

A sad demise for a venue that has played host to many WWE shows and a number of important and historic moments. For fans of the WWE, particularly those who grew up watching the show in the 80s, it will be a significant loss.

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