wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Pro Wrestling Shows I’ve Attended

April 28, 2021 | Posted by Steve Cook
Sheamus Royal Rumble

One thing I’m looking forward to here in 2021 is the opportunity to attend live wrestling shows again. Even before the pandemic hit, it’s been far too long since I got a chance to go out to the matches. Seems like I always have other stuff going on, like a job or a writing thing. Once these major companies get up and running again, and make their way towards the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, I’ll do whatever I can to be there and enjoy some pro wrestling alongside my fellow wrestling fans.

Assuming, of course, that we beat this pandemic thing and live wrestling shows with big crowds becomes a safe endeavor again. We’re getting close!

Today, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the best wrestling events I’ve attended live. If you’re reading this, you probably have some special live memories of your own. These are my most magnificent…

7. MWA Royal Engagement 2005

September 2005, Continental Inn, Lexington, KY
1. Chad “2 Badd” Allegra (AKA Karl Anderson) vs Cassidy Riley
2. Tuffy & Country Cousin Jeffro vs The Spoiler & “Legendary” Larry D w/ Playmate Spade
3. The Patriot vs “Showtime” Eric Young w/ “Gentleman” Jim Chadwick
4. Handicap Match
Lord Humongous vs “The Monster” Abyss & “Lone Wolf” Bobby Blade
5. Jerry “The King” Lawler & “Wildcat” Chris Harris vs “Dirty” Chris Hayes & “Playboy” Scott Hayes
6. Chuck E. Smooth, “Honest” Donnie Green, & Ray “The Bear” Steele vs Done Deal (Dick Dalton & KC Kaos) & Justen Idol w/ “Mr Everything” Maxx Sledd

The MWA (Mountain Wrestling Association) was a fed based in Central Kentucky with a loose association & overlap in talent with Cincinnati’s Northern Wrestling Federation. I attended several NWF shows at flea markets & bars back in the day, but this was the only MWA show I was able to make it to. It was a pretty big one too, as Jerry Lawler was making a rare wrestling appearance in one of his old CWA/USWA markets. He came out to the Raw theme song at the time, which after the third or fourth time they played it he said he heard enough of it on Monday nights.

That drew most of the house, though there were some interesting names on the undercard as well. Chris Harris & Abyss were local guys that had already become featured wrestlers in TNA. Eric Young & Cassidy Riley weren’t regulars in the area to my knowledge but were also TNA regulars. At this point Young was getting noticed by fans for his work with Team Canada and would be getting his own stuff started pretty soon. “Lord Humongous” there was also known as Trytan in TNA. Not sure on the identity of “The Patriot” on this show.

Chad Allegra was working as a top heel in Cincinnati’s Northern Wrestling Federation, so it was interesting to see him here working as the babyface in a pretty darn good opening match. He would later go on to big things as Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson in New Japan, WWE & all across the world. “Legendary” Larry D made it to Impact Wrestling some fifteen years or so after this show, and right now he’s in the best shape of his life.

I remember this being a pretty fun show with a heated crowd. Unfortunately for the MWA, the Continental Inn was closed down pretty shortly after this event and I don’t think they ever got another Lexington venue. So I don’t think they capitalized off of bringing Lawler in as much as they had hoped. I do know that wrestling the King was a career highlight for the Hayes brothers, so there was at least that.

6. IWA Mid-South An IWA Homecoming

September 16, 2004, National Guard Armory, New Albany, IN
1. Mickie Knuckles d. Tracy Brooks
2. Steve Stone d. Danny Daniels
3. CM Punk d. Claudio Castagnoli
4. Corporal Robinson d. Rollin’ Hard
5. Matt Sydal NC Nate Webb
6. Eddie Kingston & Blackjack Marciano d. Matt Sydal & Nate Webb
7. JC Bailey d. Cash Flo
8. Arik Cannon d. Ian Rotten
9. Alex Shelley & Roderick Strong d. Chris Hero & Nigel McGuinness
10. Bryan Danielson d. AJ Styles
11. Petey Williams d. B-Boy

This was the very first independent wrestling show I attended, which I heard about via a commercial on TNA Impact. At least I noticed it, but not too many other people did. I don’t think there were more than fifty fans in attendance, which was apparently a pretty common theme for IWA in this time period. Ian Rotten would bring in some great talent and produce some very long wrestling shows, but there weren’t many fans in the chairs surrounding the ring.

Punk was already a big indy star by this point, but Claudio was still mostly known as Chris Hero’s student and was on his way up. You could see some potential there, but I’d be lying if I said I saw the athletic marvel that he would become. Kingston was quite the talker even back then, even if there weren’t many fans to get heat from, dude was still getting heat. I was only somewhat familiar with the American Dragon at that point, as I’d only seen a couple of ROH DVDs. He lived up to the hype I’d heard about him against AJ Styles. Poor Petey & B-Boy had quite the task following them around midnight. Oh, and my girl Tracy was there too! So that was a highlight.

It was a pretty loaded night of action, part of a Ted Petty Invitational weekend that brought in even more stars to shows further northwest. Apparently those shows drew better.

5. TNA Lockdown 2011

April 17, 2011, U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio
Brother Devon d. Anarquia
1. Max Buck d. Amazing Red, Brian Kendrick, Chris Sabin, Jay Lethal, Jeremy Buck, Robbie E & Suicide
2. Jesse Neal & Shannon Moore d. Douglas Williams & Magnus, Crimson & Scott Steiner and Eric Young & Orlando Jordan
3. Mickie James d. Madison Rayne
4. Samoa Joe d. D’Angelo Dinero
5. Matt Morgan d. Hernandez
6. Jeff Jarrett d. Kurt Angle
7. Sting d. Mr. Anderson & Rob Van Dam
8. Christopher Daniels, James Storm, Kazarian & Robert Roode d. Abyss, Bully Ray, Matt Hardy & Ric Flair

A lot of people never liked the whole idea behind Lockdown. “Every single match inside a steel cage? They must be mad!” Me, I was always a fan because it stood out. Could it have been done better? Sure. Ideally, you’d have a card full of feuds with matches that dictated taking place inside of a steel cage. TNA never quite got there, but the event did produce a lot of good memories over the years and became one of the things the promotion was most known for.

Even if 2011 wasn’t exactly the highpoint of my interest in TNA, it was still pretty exciting to have Lockdown in Cincinnati. It was exciting to finally see Sting wrestle in person. There aren’t many top American wrestlers of my time as a wrestling fan that I haven’t seen wrestle in person, and Sting was one of the few names on that list until 2011. The main event Lethal Lockdown match wound up being Ric Flair’s next to last match, so that’s a cool thing to look back on. I remember the Jarrett vs. Angle match being really fun.

Really, the only downside I can think of off the top of my head is Madison Rayne getting jobbed out in thirty seconds. Other than that it was a pretty enjoyable evening. We had great seats too, first row in the club seats. Could put our feet up, which is always a plus.

4. WCW Monday Nitro

March 15, 1999, Firstar Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
1. Meng d. Jerry Flynn
2. Rick Steiner d. Brian Adams
3. Rey Mysterio d. Billy Kidman
4. Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko d. Barbarian & Hugh Morrus
5. Stevie Ray d. Horace Hogan
6. Disco Inferno d. Konnan
7. Booker T d. Chris Jericho
8. Hollywood Hogan & Kevin Nash d. Ric Flair & Goldberg

In a recent column inspired by WWE sending people their items in bin bags, I compared 1999 WCW to hot garbage. It really wasn’t the best of times for the promotion, as the wheels were coming off and it was obvious who would end up winning the Monday Night War. Early 1999 saw them still running with the NWO vs. Ric Flair angle, though things got turned on their heads at Uncensored when Flair & Hollywood Hogan did a double turn in a cage match. It didn’t make much sense given everything leading up to it, other than Flair always wanted to work heel & they could use the excuse that he had gone mad while serving as WCW’s President.

The night after Uncensored, Nitro was in Cincinnati. I was up in one of the luxury boxes via my dad’s employer, which was the local sponsor for the event. So there’s a pretty good chance that I’m viewing this even through rose-colored glasses, but this was one of the better Nitro episodes of the year. As far as random tag team main events go, it was hard to find four bigger stars in WCW at the time than Hogan, Nash, Flair & Goldberg. Booker & Jericho had a good match in what would be one of Jericho’s last Nitro matches before moving to the WWF. It was Rey Mysterio Jr. & Billy Kidman that stole the show, with Rey defeating Billy for the WCW Cruiserweight Title in what was the best match I saw live for many years. Meltzer gave it ****1/4, so I feel comfortable in saying that.

We also got to go to a meet & greet featuring Konnan & Saturn before the show. Both of who couldn’t have looked less excited to be there. Even at the time, I understood their plight so I couldn’t get mad about it. It wasn’t the best work environment of all time. There were still moments of excitement for young wrestling fans.

3. WWE vs. ECW Head-to-Head

June 7, 2006, Nutter Center, Dayton, Ohio
Shelton Benjamin d. Carlito Caribbean Cool
Matt Hardy d. Jon Bolen
Jimmy Wang Yang d. Tatanka
1. Rob Van Dam d. Rey Mysterio
2. Mickie James d. Jazz
3. Big Show won a battle royal
4. Edge d. Tommy Dreamer
5. John Cena d. Sabu

Remember when people were really excited about WWE bringing back ECW as a brand? The first One Night Stand PPV went over huge, along with the Rise & Fall of ECW DVD, and everybody was convinced there was money in a WWE-backed ECW. There was some money in it, just not as much as WWE & fans were hoping for. Plus the small matter of WWE’s ECW not being exactly what old ECW fans wanted, while not being able to draw in their own audience.

Before all that stuff muddied the waters, there was some fun to be had. ECW got a second One Night Stand prior to debuting as a series on SyFy, and WWE presented a live USA special four days prior to the PPV to help build it up. I missed out on attending ECW shows back in the day, so this was as close as I was going to get.

For a one-off that seemingly got booked around the last minute, the stars on this show were something else. The Shelton/Carlito dark match was pretty darn good. Dusty Rhodes made an appearance before the show to cut a promo hyping his DVD set, which was definitely a welcome surprise. Speaking of surprises, John Cena vs. Sabu wasn’t something I ever expected to see at the time, so that was pretty awesome even if the match was short & led to a schmozz between the two feds.

The absolute highlight? Being six rows away from Terry Funk punching Mick Foley on the outside of the ring. As Matt Striker would say, I was marking out, bro. It was interesting later on reading Foley’s book about the feud, where he talked about how he thought his promo afterward didn’t get over at all with the audience. I thought it did, but he was obviously expecting some other type of reaction. Poor Mick expected a lot of things back then that didn’t quite go his way. We all did. This, however, was a good evening at the matches.

2. ROH Redemption

August 12, 2005, Montgomery County Fairgrounds, Dayton, Ohio
1. Ace Steel d. Delirious, Matt Styker & Sterling James Keenan
2. Colt Cabana d. Spanky
3. BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs d. Chad Collyer & Nigel McGuinness
4. Austin Aries, Roderick Strong & Matt Sydal d. Jimmy Rave, Alex Shelley & Abyss
5. Low Ki NC Jay Lethal
6. Matt Hardy d. Homicide
7. James Gibson d. CM Punk, Christopher Daniels & Samoa Joe

My best friend & I attended every ROH show held at the Fairgrounds (affectionately known as “The Oven” for its lack of air conditioning in the summer months.) from February 2005 through April 2010. Even though Dayton was considered one of ROH’s B markets, it was still part of the Third Anniversary Celebration, the Fifth Year Festival & Bryan Danielson’s Final Countdown Tour. Some of the early ROH vs. CZW build took place in Dayton, as did the BJ Whitmer vs. Necro Butcher no rope barbed wire match. It was a great time to be a wrestling fan, and each of those shows had something I remember fondly.

None more so than Redemption, which was the next-to-last show of the Summer of Punk. CM Punk had signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment, where after a few bumps in the road he would become one of the biggest mainstream wrestling stars of the early 2010s. At first, it seemed like Punk would put over ROH Champion Austin Aries on his way out, but Punk wound up winning the strap, turning heel and promising to take the championship with him to WWE. Fans were shocked, appalled and entertained during the next two months while Punk defended the championship against various ROH wrestlers and held on each time by the skin of his teeth. This all seemed to be leading to the August 12-13 shows, which took place in Dayton & Chicago Ridge, Illinois. Surely Chicago would be the site of Punk’s ROH farewell, and he would either drop the title there to Colt Cabana, or in a four-way the night prior in Dayton involving Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels and James “Jamie Noble” Gibson.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t a huge Punk fan at that point. Too many people fed me too much hype about the guy that he couldn’t live up to. He got there later on, but in 2005 I was part of the anti-Punk brigade. I was pretty excited to see the guy lose the ROH Championship in person, even if Gibson would have been my third choice to do it. Nevertheless, it was one of the great moments of my live wrestling fandon. There was some other good stuff on the show too, like Low Ki vs. Jay Lethal & Matt Hardy getting booed against Homicide, but it was all about seeing that no-good Punk lose the championship.

And who doesn’t like seeing a title change in person?

1. The 2012 WWE Royal Rumble

January 29, 2012, Scotttrade Center, St. Louis, Missouri
Yoshi Tatsu d. Heath Slater
1. Daniel Bryan d. Big Show & Mark Henry in a cage match
2. Beth Phoenix, Natalya & the Bella Twins d. Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox & Tamina Snuka
3. Kane DCO John Cena
4. Brodus Clay d. Drew McIntyre
5. CM Punk d. Dolph Ziggler
6. Sheamus won the Royal Rumble Match

Some shows don’t age well. I went to this show with some of my fellow offtheteam.com message board posters, and we all called into the 411 on Wrestling to tell Larry Csonka & Greg DeMarco how great everything about it was. Which it certainly seemed at the time. A few factors played into my enjoyment of the show. For one, wrestling shows are always better live and in person. Unless you just have the worst seats of all time, or the fans around you are just intolerable, you’re going to appreciate the wrestling more live & in person than watching at home. Also, it was the Voodoo Penguin’s birthday, and we had spent the weekend drinking at a casino. So I was in a pretty good mood at the time.

It’s fun to watch wrestlers’ careers evolve. Bryan & Punk were both on that IWA Mid-South show I talked about earlier, and here they were defending WWE world championships on a major show. Pretty amazing. Speaking of careers evolving, Drew Mac was here doing the job for the Funkasaurus in about a minute, and now he’s one of WWE’s top guys. You never know where the next big stars are going to come from, or just who they’ll be.

The Penguin & I re-watched the Rumble match in 2020 for a podcast. We didn’t enjoy it quite as much the second time around. Does that matter? From a critical perspective, sure. From a personal perspective? Absolutely not. I still got to attend a Royal Rumble live, which is pretty amazing for a guy from Kentucky.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share some of your best live wrestling memories down in the comment section, or shout at me on the Twitter! I’m sure many of you have been to much bigger shows than I, given my location in the US. Heck, you New Yorkers or Chicagoans could probably put together a Top 100 if you had to.