Big Apple Blues: WCW’s Venture Into Madison Square Garden in 1993

Brian Damage

New York City…the Big Apple….the city that never sleeps..etc, etc..this was the largest market in the world and a place where professional wrestling has thrived under the McMahon family. Other promoters have attempted to crack into the New York market and failed for various reasons. Verne Gagne and the AWA, Jim Crockett Jr and many others simply tried and did not succeed to be a player in New York’s thriving marketplace.

While it was one thing to promote a wrestling show in and around New York City, it was quite another to actually book a card at the world famous arena known as Madison Square Garden. The Garden, after all, was the McMahon’s house and he had it locked down tight. That is until around the early 1990’s, when Vince McMahon was dealing with various scandals involving sex and steroids. Apparently, with all of McMahon’s attention to his trial for steroid distribution, his exclusive deal with MSG had apparently lapsed. This lapse led to Ted Turner and WCW to make their move.

WCW was able to book the Paramount Theater which is a part of MSG well in advance for a WCW show. The Paramount Theater aka the Felt Forum was a much smaller venue than the main Garden arena that could seat about 4,000 plus people. Many times, when the WWF ran shows there, the Garden would sell out and MSG would open the theater up to allow the overflow of fans to watch the matches from in the theater. WCW felt that they couldn’t sell out a 19,000 seat building considering they were practically non existent in the market, but the Paramount Theater was smaller and more intimate.

On April 14th, 1993, World Championship Wrestling held a card at the Paramount Theater. Unfortunately for them, the show was nowhere near a sell out. The show drew around 2,900 paid, with an additional 600 tickets that were comps. The top Ticket prices were 25 dollars for ringside seats and the cheapest being 11 dollars. In total, WCW drew a gate of about $47,000. The total would be high for WCW around that time, but management was looking to make much more than that in New York.

The complete card and results were as follows:

Johnny B. Badd defeated Tex Slazenger.
– Maxx Payne defeated Steven Regal.
– Chris Benoit and Ron Simmons fought to a double countout.
– Van Hammer defeated Vinnie Vegas.
– NWA and WCW World Tag Team Champions The Hollywood Blonds (Steve Austin and Brian Pillman) defeated Marcus Alexander Bagwell and 2 Cold Scorpio to retain the titles.
– Rick Rude defeated Cactus Jack.
– WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Dustin Rhodes defeated WCW World Television Champion Paul Orndorff by disqualification to retain his title.
– NWA World Heavyweight Champion Barry Windham defeated Ricky Steamboat to retain the title.
– Sting defeated WCW World Heavyweight Champion Big Van Vader by disqualification. Vader retained the title.

As disappointing as the gate was for WCW, the fan reaction to the show was much worse. After a couple of sub par matches, it was announced that Ric Flair who was heavily advertised for this event in an interview segment was not going to make it. The reasoning was that Flair had flight issues and couldn’t get out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Once that announcement was made, the fans in attendance quickly turned on the show and began chants like “We Want Flair” and “We Want Refunds.” All the babyface wrestlers were booed heavily and in some cases, a few fans exited the building while matches were still taking place.

Former AWA promoter and a big enemy of Vince McMahon…Verne Gagne was invited to the show and sat ringside while the fans ripped apart the show. WCW management was left embarrassed by all aspects of the event. You would figure that the debacle that was this show would scare WCW off from returning to NYC. That, however, was not the case at all.

WCW would book another show at the main arena of MSG for November 26th, 1994. The show would be headlined by Hulk Hogan returning to MSG to defend the WCW title against ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair. That show, however, never took place and was cancelled. The WWF, which got itself and its dealings with MSG back on track, had a ‘right for refusal’ stipulation in their contract with the Garden and exercised it against WCW. The WWF, instead put on their on house show at the Garden which saw Diesel defeat Bob Backlund for the WWF title.

Eric Bischoff and WCW would try their hand yet again at the Paramount Theater at MSG at the height of the company’s popularity. The show had an attendance of 3,587 and the results were as follows:

Chris Benoit def Eddie Guerrero
Dean Malenko def Lord Steven Regal
Jim Duggan def V.K. Wallstreet
Konnan def Kevin Sullivan
Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner (DQ) Harlem Heat
Lex Luger def Arn Anderson
The Nasty Boys def Public Enemy
Randy Savage def Ric Flair (guest referee Bruno Sammartino)
The Giant (DQ) Sting

While it did much better than their initial outing at MSG’s theater in ’93…it still was somewhat disappointing considering their popularity at the time. WCW would never venture back to the Garden after 1996. Times change and things are certainly different nowadays with promotions like Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling and AAA placing their footprints on the main arena of Madison Square Garden.


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