A Moment in Time: WWF’s Big Event

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Brian Damage

We have the first ‘A Moment in Time‘ in a while today and we take a trip back in time and take a look at WWF’s ‘The Big Event’ show from August 1986.

The Big Event wasn’t a pay per view…nor was it even televised. What it was was a glorified house show and with little notice and not a lot of advertisement, the World Wrestling Federation was able to jam over 64,000 fans into Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Canada.

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The date was August 28th, 1986 and the WWF was scheduled to return to the Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens for a house show. A few months before the house show, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) approached the WWF about hosting a wrestling show at Exhibition Stadium (The home of baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays) The reasoning was simple, the WWF were regularly selling out the Maple Leaf Gardens every time the promotion came to town since 1984. It was promoter aka the fictitious WWF President Jack Tunney who helped organize the event.

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Jack Tunney and Vince McMahon began scrambling to load up what would have been a traditionally ordinary house show into a spectacle that would get people to attend. Promos with the WWF’s biggest attraction at the time Hulk Hogan began airing in the Toronto area. Hulkamania was at its highest point during this time and were banking on him to deliver fans.

Hogan was in the middle of a red hot feud during that summer with Paul ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Orndorff. What would have most likely been a non title match at the Maple Leaf Gardens was made into a match for the WWF title for the Big Event. According to Hulk Hogan himself, he felt like the WWF wouldn’t draw that big of a crowd for the event. The WWF was typically selling out the Maple Leaf Gardens with 16,000 fans, Hogan anticipated an extra couple of thousand for the Exhibition Stadium. That day Hogan said he was absolutely shocked at the turn out that he saw.

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Instead of 18,000 or even 20,000 fans, the Big Event got over 64,000 fans in attendance. The Big Event broke outdoor attendance records for a wrestling event in Toronto, only to be broken by Bruce Springsteen with 69,000. Even though the event took place in late August, the temperature that day reached just 60 degrees and by nightfall bottomed out at 48 degrees. Seating was also an issue as many reserved seats suddenly became unreserved causing fights to take place in the stadium. Some fans were forced to stand and watch the matches as their seats apparently never existed. About 200 fans demanded refunds and eventually got them.

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As for the action, the card was stacked with a total of eleven matches, highlighted by the Hulk Hogan /Paul Orndorff title main event. The Big Event with all of its problems with the chilly temperatures and seating fiascos was a major hit for the WWF and the city of Toronto. Another Big Event was talked about to take place in the same venue but never came to be.

The huge turnout for the show certainly gave the WWF confidence to place their biggest show…Wrestlemania in the Pontiac Silverdome just seven months later. Even though the Big Event was nothing more than a huge house show…it no doubt became the template for the World Wrestling Federation for years to come. What to do and what not to do.

It was indeed what it was advertised as, A Big Event.

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One thought on “A Moment in Time: WWF’s Big Event

  1. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling 2016 week 40 | Ring the Damn Bell

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