wrestling / Columns

The Magnificent Seven: 7 Live Event Memories

December 24, 2018 | Posted by Mike Chin
Live Hardy Boyz WrestleMania 33

The Magnificent Seven—at least under my authorship—is coming to a close. I’m closing in on five full years of writing this weekly column, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. Time marches on, though, and while I still have some column ideas I never got to, I’ve reached a point in life where I have too many competing priorities to keep up this column at a level of quality that I feel it deserves. I do still plan to hang around 411mania as an occasional contributor, but as a weekly columnist, I’m winding down.

So, I’m wrapping up with a two-part salute to my favorite wrestling memories. I originally conceived of my last column as one, stand-alone piece dedicated to my personal favorite wrestling memories. However, as I compiled the list, I quickly found it nearly impossible to separate the bias of those moments that were so special to me because I was there personally to experience them live, versus others that were more objectively great, even if I only watched them through a TV screen, or didn’t see them as they were actually happening.

The decision followed to handle this sign-off in two parts—this week focused on my personal live event memories, and next week is focused on moments I wasn’t there for. Of course, the nature of these lists is entirely based in my personal opinion, but I nonetheless invite you to chime in in the comment section if you were at the same shows, or if you have your own memories you wanted to share.

#7. The Return of The Hardy Boyz, WrestleMania 33

Any time you get to attend a WrestleMania is special, and I had the pleasure of going to 33 as part of my honeymoon trip, capping several days of amusement park fun in Orlando. It was a rush to get into the stadium; even sitting in the nosebleed seats, it’s a spectacle to take in a crowd that size, and know you’re watching a show that will be of historical significance.

WrestleMania 33 wasn’t a bad WrestleMania, but it also wasn’t a great one. Still, if I narrow it down to a single significant moment, it would have to be the rush of adrenaline when the Hardy Boyz music played. I can’t claim to be a hardcore fan of the team, but as someone who had been watching wrestling for about thirty years and dug their Broken gimmick in Impact Wrestling, it was a tremendous surprise to see them come to the ring as I rose to my feet and began chanting, “Delete!” with the masses. The match to follow was fun, and the Hardyz winning WWE tag team gold in 2017 was pretty wild, but that entrance was an unforgettable moment all unto itself.

#6. Winning a Drawing, King of Trios 2012

I haven’t attended very many independent wrestling shows, but without a doubt the most memorable experience I’ve had of this type was going to Chikara’s King of Trios tournament in 2012, held in a high school gym in Easton, PA. I discovered the joy of being able to meet wrestlers at shows like this, including Tommy Dreamer, the Powers of Pain, Sean Waltman, Marty Jannetty, and my favorite conversation with a wrestler when I got to talk to Tatanka for a few minutes.

It was a three day event, and at the final show, I’d thrown a few bucks at a raffle to win an autographed poster from the show. I’d had enough fun that it seemed like a harmless way to support Chikara’s business, and I didn’t have any illusions I was likely to win. I don’t know how many tickets were sold or what my odds were, but in the end, I heard the numbers on one of my tickets called and had the opportunity to jog to the ring, collect my signed poster, and raise it like a championship belt to the applause of the crowd.

It’s a kind of silly, totally personal moment, but highlighted for me some of the old school charm of an indie event, to have these oddball opportunities to get in on the action and feel like a winner yourself coming out of a pro wrestling show, in a way that a big time show put on by a company like WWE can never quite replicate. All that, and the King of Trios shows were a fun spectacle in and of themselves, highlighted by a very good last match.

#5. CM Punk Wins, SummerSlam 2011

From 2011 to 2013, I found myself on the west coast for work obligations in August, and able to attend SummerSlam at the Staples Center in LA with relative ease. I had been in live attendance for multiple PPVs by 2011, including a WrestleMania (we’ll get to that) and a number of B-PPVs that had come to Baltimore where I was living at the time, but these were my first times attending SummerSlam shows, and I was particularly excited in 2011 when I was all in on WWE’s Summer of Punk angle.

In retrospect, it would have been much more exciting to have been in Chicago for the Money in the Bank PPV where CM Punk had his much more iconic match with John Cena a month earlier. Nonetheless, going into SummerSlam, there was a palpable sense of tension around the question of whether WWE would really run with Punk on top, or return to the status quo with Cena beating him back at the second biggest show of the year.

Despite not being a classic, despite having a wonky finish, and despite the moments to follow when Kevin Nash got involved and permanently threw the push of Punk’s career off course, I’ll always remember the rush of Punk scoring the pin fall victory at this show. I was too far back to see that Cena’s leg was under the rope, and hadn’t expected that that was going to be the finish of the match. Nonetheless, it was an electric moment to take in with the live crowd, before things quickly went south.

#4. House Show, Utica, NY July 1993

Of all the shows on this list, this is certainly the one I remember with the least clarity. You’ll notice that, otherwise, the entries on the countdown focus on the last ten years, because in adult life and with some disposable income, I was able to attend more major shows and even travel out of town for them. As a kid growing up in Upstate New York, in a family that wasn’t going to spend a lot on wrestling tickets, the only shows I attended up through high school were local house shows, and even then it was usually on those rare occasions my dad could win radio call-in contests to score a pair of free tickets for us to go.

1993 was not an objectively great year for WWE, but it’s a year I remember fondly for solidifying my life-long fandom. It’s the year I started buying wrestling magazines, the year I started watching not only WWE, but also WCW, and the year I became a huge mark for Bret Hart and his underdog champion storyline.

I remember the weight of disappointment when my dad didn’t win tickets to this show, and the jealousy I felt because my best friend did have plans to go with his family.

1993 was also one of the last summers I took childhood swim lessons, in part because I was pretty bad at swimming. My father looked on with disgust as I swam at the municipal pool, if anything, having regressed from the previous summer. So it was that out of a combination of seeing how much I loved wrestling and how much he wanted me to do better at swimming that we struck up a deal—if I could swim fifteen consecutive strokes, he would buy tickets to the show.

I think my dad expected me to rise to the occasion, but even with that motivation, and some improvement in my form as I got re-acclimated to the water, I still couldn’t quite make fifteen. I suspect that he bought the tickets already, going into that last swim lesson before the show, but he didn’t tell me that. On the drive home, he informed me that he would take me to the show, but on the condition that I still owed him the fifteen strokes.

I don’t remember much by way of specifics of the show or the swimming to follow (though I know that I did subsequently make good on my end of that deal). What I do remember was the joy of attending that particular show, loving wrestling more than I ever had before, and even spying my best friend and his family across the way, in their own section of the nosebleed seats. In writing this article, I looked up the results online and it was mostly squash matches in service of a TV taping for syndication. Nonetheless, I’ll always remember it as one of the best nights of my elementary school years.

(Note: the video above is not from the same show, but in lieu of being able to find footage from it, it does capture a show from a similar era in the same venue.)

#3. Daniel Bryan Wins, SummerSlam 2013

There’s a lot of overlap between this moment and the CM Punk victory at SummerSlam 2011. In each case, it was my favorite underdog from the roster at the time capping a hot summer angle by scoring the upset win over John Cena for the WWE Championship in the main event. In each case, those positive vibes got cut short via a Money in the Bank cash in that set up a less glorious fall for the star in question.

The moment of Bryan beating Cena outranks Punk’s win in this countdown for a better match with a clean finish. Moreover, while we can debate the merits of The Authority, the aftermath of the match did see Triple H and Randy Orton each make overdue heel turns and set up an intriguing wholesale shift in the main event scene.

And getting to chant “Yes!” and throw my arms in the air with 17,000 other fans? That’s one of the most fun memories I’ll ever have as a wrestling fan.

#2. Seth Rollins Cashes In/The nWo vs. DX, WrestleMania 31

I roadtripped to WrestleMania 31 with my fiancée over spring break during my second round of grad school. I was excited to go to WrestleMania, but have to admit I wasn’t all that excited about the actual card for this show—in particular what felt like an inevitable coronation for Roman Reigns when he beat Brock Lesnar, and a lukewarm Sting vs. Triple H match that felt years past being all that relevant or having any hope of producing a great match.

While WrestleMania 31 isn’t a candidate for the best ‘Mania of all time, I’d argue it’s on the very short list of ‘Manias that most outperformed expectations. Nothing on the card disappointed, the show was smartly structured to open with its most exciting and objectively best matches to get the crowd rocking with a seven-way ladder match and Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton.

From there, we got Sting vs. Triple H, with surprise run-ins from the New World Order and D-Generation X. There’s a level on which these guest appearances were silly and not entirely logical to the larger storyline. However, as a someone who was a teenager for the Monday Night War and always dreamed of these two factions going at it, this was a nostalgic love letter to my past fanhood.

Then there was the main event. The first iteration of Lesnar-Reigns was far better than any to follow with the two working a fash-paced, smash-mouth match. Still, there was the dark cloud overhead that so few of us really wanted to see Reigns go over, but just the same it would feel kind of deflating to end WrestleMania with Lesnar still world champ (kind of like how WrestleMania 34 closed out). Option C worked out brilliantly here for not only Rolllins stealing the title feeling like the most fresh and satisfying outcome available, but also the sheer electricity of a mid-WrestleMania main event Money in the Bank cash-in. It was the stuff off fantasy booking—a looming possibility, but surely one WWE was too conservative to actually deploy. But there we were with the second truly shocking surprise of the show, and the kind of moment I expect I’ll always be proud to say I was there for live.

#1. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 25

In 2008, I moved three hundred miles away from family, friends, and any home I’d known for a new job opportunity. I’d wind up staying at that job for six years and building a new community there, but those first months were a lonely. Living alone and looking for some “comfort food,” I took a deeper dive into my wrestling fanhood, including investing in wrestling DVDs, reading Bret Hart’s memoir, and ordering more PPVs than I ever had before.

WrestleMania 24 weekend, I was more excited for ‘Mania than I had been since I was a kid, and I momentarily considered an impromptu road trip down to Orlando, doing the math on the driving necessary and if I could make the trip and not have to miss more than one day of work.

Cooler heads prevailed that year, and I didn’t go, but I did reach out the childhood best friend I’d bonded over wrestling with as a kid, and suggested that we should travel to Houston for WrestleMania 25.

Fast forward a year, and I was much more comfortably situated in my new life, but no less excited to hop a plane and fly halfway across the country to Texas for the first time. I’d paid out for a full-on WrestleMania travel package, including checking out Axxess and going to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony headlined by Stone Cold Steve Austin.

At the risk of hyperbole, it was one of the best weekends of my life—a complete escape from my day-to-day life, and a complete celebration of pro wrestling and friendship. It was a near perfect mix of nostalgia and living in the moment because there I was, on one of those rare occasions in life when I could say with complete honesty that there was literally nowhere in the world I’d have rather been.

I don’t look at this iteration of WrestleMania as a particularly good one on the whole—the world title matches in particular were underwhelming, and the women’s battle royal was a farce even by ‘Mania battle royal standards. There was, however, The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels.

I would have loved my first WrestleMania experience even if every match had turned out to be a clunker. Being there to experience an all-time top five ‘Mania match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in person completed the weekend, though, biting on near falls with 70,000 other fans and drinking in two of the best in the business in one of the best showcases either had ever put on.

Feel free to weigh in in the comments about your own live event memories and check back next week for my final edition of the Magnificent Seven.

Read more from Mike Chin at his website and follow him on Twitter @miketchin.

article topics :

The Magnificent Seven, Mike Chin