wrestling / Columns

Top 7 WWE Moments In Philadelphia

March 15, 2024 | Posted by Steve Cook
WrestleMania 15 Steve Austin Image Credit: WWE

Philadelphia is one of the best pro wrestling cities in the world. Many independent wrestling promotions have called Philly home through the years and found periods of success. Extreme Championship Wrestling is still one of the first things any wrestling fan of a certain age thinks of when they think of Philadelphia. Jim Crockett Promotions had more popularity in Philadelphia than any other Northeast city they tried to run during the 1980s, and WCW would maintain that for most of their run. Of course, the company we know today as World Wrestling Entertainment has been running Philadelphia throughout its existence, and has always treated Philly as one of their top markets.

With WrestleMania XL coming to Philadelphia, I think now is as good a time as any to look back at the best WWWF/WWF/WWE moments to take place in the City of Brotherly Love. I promise this is the only time I’ll use that phrase.

7. SummerSlam 1990 (August 27, 1990)

I admit to having a soft spot for this show, as the build to SummerSlam 1990 is the first bit of professional wrestling I remember watching. You never forget your first, and things like Hulk Hogan getting squashed by Earthquake on the Brother Love Show and Ravishing Rick Rude promising to take the WWF Championship from the Ultimate Warrior just like he’d done with the Intercontinental Championship still stick out in my mind to this day. Not that I got to see this event live, because I was six years old and my parents had no interest in forking out the money. I was a sad little kid at the time, but in retrospect I totally get it. Heck, not being able to see the PPVs made them even more special back then. You’d see the pictures on television and be like “OMG I WISH I HAD SEEN THAT!”

I did end up finally seeing it and reviewed it for this very website back when I thought I could review all of the major WWE PPVs. Not sure what I was thinking, but that didn’t last long. This was definitely an eventful show, in addition to Warrior beating Rude in a cage & Hogan coming back against Earthquake we had two major title changes. The Texas Tornado beat Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Championship and the Hart Foundation beat Demolition to re-claim the Tag Team Championship. As Gorilla Monsoon would have said if he was on the call, HISTORY HAS BEEN MADE IN THE SPECTRUM! I’m a bit surprised more Spectrum moments didn’t make this list, so I’ll take this opportunity to give a shoutout to legendary PRISM announcers Dick Graham & Kal Rudman.

6. Royal Rumble 2004 (January 25, 2004)

This is the awkward part of our romp through wrestling history where we have to mention people we might feel funny talking about here in 2024. (Frankly, that list is getting longer & longer as the years pass. Pretty soon I might not be able to talk about anybody without feeling funny.) Oddly enough, I’m writing this part of the column on March 14, 2024, the twentieth anniversary of WrestleMania XX. Chris Benoit won the World Heavyweight Championship that night in Madison Square Garden, and he earned his way into that match by winning the Royal Rumble match in Philadelphia.

This was a pretty solid show overall. The Rumble match delivered, Triple H & Shawn Michaels had one of their better matches against each other, and Eddie Guerrero beating down Chavo Guerrero Jr. & Sr. was a satisfying conclusion to that feud. Definitely better than the 2015 Royal Rumble that also took place in Philly, which succeeded at annoying the fanbase.

5. Undertaker’s last match in front of an American live crowd (July 14, 2019)

Sometimes history takes place and nobody involved is aware of it. That happened at Extreme Rules 2019, which somehow was the first Extreme Rules show to take place in Philadelphia. Considering that Philly is the home of hardcore & ultraviolent wrestling, you would have thought that WWE would have brought Extreme Rules to Philly more often. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they didn’t. The standards for “extreme” are lower in places like Tampa & Columbus than they are in Philadelphia. And to be fair, Philly usually got higher PPVs on the pecking order so I doubt they were complaining too much.

The main event saw Seth Rollins & Becky Lynch teaming against Baron Corbin & Lacey Evans in a match that sounds like a fever dream here in 2024. Like, what? Then Brock Lesnar cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase & beat Seth to probably wake up the crowd before sending them home. The most memorable thing took place in the PPV opener, as Roman Reigns teamed with the Undertaker to defeat Drew McIntyre & Shane McMahon. I remember dreading this match, as Undertaker’s last few matches were subpar and he really needed a good showing to avoid further embarrassing himself and hopefully end up going out on a high note. He had that good showing in Philadelphia. Roman was on top of his game, as were Drew & Shane. They did all they could to make Undertaker look good, and the Deadman had an extra spring in his step on this night.

What nobody knew at the time was that this would be Undertaker’s last match in front of a live audience in America. He would wrestle on one more Saudi Arabian show and have a Boneyard Match with AJ Styles before calling it a career. At least for now, as we all know that wrestlers aren’t truly retired until they truly rest…in…peace.

4. Reigns Beats Sheamus (December 14, 2015)

Roman Reigns was earmarked to be WWE’s top star from the moment he debuted. He eventually got there as Tribal Chief of the Bloodline, but there were several bumps in the road during the mid-2010s when he was the Big Dog of World Wrestling Entertainment. As much as WWE wanted Roman to be the undisputed king of the people, the people weren’t buying it.

There were occasions when they did, and this night was one of those occasions. Sheamus had ruined Reigns’ first reign as WWE Champion by cashing in the MITB briefcase and beating him 5 minutes after winning the title. Kind of an awkward way to go about that, but it worked thanks to Sheamus & the assorted McMahons around at the time being so hateable. It was easy to root for Roman against those shitheels. Heck, it got over in Philadelphia, one of the tougher crowds to foist that sort of thing on.

Unfortunately, the Triple H Royal Rumble win & boring WrestleMania main event set Roman back to square one with the people. For a moment, it felt like things were on the right path.

3. WrestleMania XV (March 28, 1999)

WrestleMania XL will be the second WrestleMania to emenate from Philadelphia, with the first taking place right in the heart of the Attitude Era. It was headlined by two of the biggest attractions of any era, Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Rock. Given this, you would think that WrestleMania XV was obviously the biggest & best WWWF/WWF/WWE event to ever take place in Philly, right?

Then you look at the rest of the card, and you remember that 1999 wasn’t exactly known for classic wrestling matches. Outside of Austin/Rock, it’s not really a lineup that screams “WrestleMania”. Mankind, the third wheel in the main event picture during early 1999, had a dull match with Big Show. Undertaker hung Big Boss Man from the roof of Hell in a Cell in one of the worst editions of that match. Pete Rose wore a chicken suit and attacked Kane. D’Lo Brown & Test became a tag team for one night. Just a lot of weird stuff going on here. Honestly, the most memorable event of this show other than Austin vs. Rock was Bart Gunn getting knocked out by Butterbean. We also saw Gorilla Monsoon for the last time prior to that fight, serving as one of the judges at ringside. His judgment was not required.

WrestleMania XL could be tremendously disappointing and still out-do WrestleMania XV.

2. Stasiak Beats Morales (December 1, 1973)

Pedro Morales had been World Wide Wrestling Federation Champion for 1,027 days, which sounded a lot more impressive back when I was learning about this stuff in the 1990s. I couldn’t imagine anybody approaching a thousand days as WWF Champion…even if Hulk Hogan had done it during the 1980s there weren’t too many Hulk Hogans out there. Times have changed, and now if you don’t hold a top singles title for at least a couple of years you’re a failure. I don’t make the rules.

The early history of the championship is a fairly simple one. You had the vastly popular Bruno Sammartino on top for years until he needed a break. Morales was deemed the next in line, as like Bruno he had a strong ethnic appeal in the Northeast. They didn’t want to split the crowd and have people boo either Bruno or Pedro, so Ivan Koloff beat Bruno for the championship and lost it to Pedro three weeks later. Ivan probably wasn’t the first guy to be considered a transitional champion by promoters, but he’s one of the better examples of one. Pedro had a good run, but eventually the promoters were ready to go back to Bruno as champion. They still didn’t want people to have to choose between Bruno & Pedro, so Stan Stasiak beat Pedro in Philadelphia and lost the championship to Bruno nine days later at Madison Square Garden. This was the first time the title changed hands outside of MSG, which spoke to Philadelphia’s status in the WWWF pecking order as a solid #2 behind New York City. (Please don’t tell Philadelphians I said they were #2 to NY in anything.)

Stasiak has largely been forgotten by modern wrestling fans. His son Shawn also got in the business, having a brief run with WCW & the WWF in the late 1990s & early 2000s. Stan didn’t have the staying power of Koloff or “Superstar” Billy Graham, who was the WWWF’s next heel champion and got a longer time with the strap due to his appeal. Stasiak was retired by the time of the Rock & Wrestling boom period, and passed away in 1997 without much fanfare. You can find some footage on YouTube, but not nearly as much as other men to hold the championship. His title victory wasn’t even captured on video.

Stasiak was a 6’4 270 pound rulebreaker that utilized the heart punch as his finishing move. He wasn’t the flashiest wrestler out there, but he got the job done. For nine days, Stasiak was on top of the wrestling world. Not very long, but still longer than a lot of people get.

Honorable Mention: King Mabel! (June 25, 1995)

This event has gone down in history as one of the worst WWE pay per view events of all time, and it’s hard to argue against that considering that our own Kevin Pantoja gave it a 1.0. Hopes that Shawn Michaels would put on a show in the tournament were dashed when he fought Kama to a time limit draw in the first round. Savio Vega wrestled four times…I’m not saying Savio was a bad wrestler or anything, but he never needed to be working four times a night. Bret Hart making Jerry Lawler kiss his own stinky foot was funny, but not enough to save this disaster. The most notable thing that happened here was some fans chanting “ECW” and gaining Vince McMahon’s attention.

I must say that when I was eleven years old, Mabel seemed like a threat to any singles championship. The dude was immense, had a size advantage on almost anybody. His garbage bag ring attire as part of Men on a Mission didn’t help his cause, and adding purple and gold to it after becoming King didn’t make things any better. He also had zero chemistry with the WWF Champion at the time, which led to a pretty awful SummerSlam main event with Mabel & Diesel. 1995 was not a great time to be a WWF fan, to say the least.

1. Michaels & Mankind Play Mind Games (September 22, 1996)

Overall, Mind Games wasn’t a tremendous step up over KOTR 1995. Other than the appearance of some ECW wrestlers at ringside during the opening match, there wasn’t much worth noting on the show prior to the main event. Fortunately, that main event was one of the best matches of the era, and one of the best matches to ever take place in the city of Philadelphia. Which is saying something since most of ECW’s history took place there, NWA/WCW was competitive in the city during the 1980s & 90s, and countless independent promotions have held countless numbers of shows there. It’s a lot of stiff competition, but the effort Shawn Michaels & Mankind put forth on this night rates with any of them.

Michaels had some great matches while WWF Champion, but many wrestling fans still didn’t see him as somebody tough enough to be champion. This match with Mankind, who everybody saw as tough whether they liked him or not, was big in making Michaels seem more legitimate and not just the pretty boy he was marketed as. As for Mankind, hanging with one of the top wrestlers in the business established him as someone who could be in that main event category in the WWF given the right presentation. Mankind would receive more title matches in the future and eventually become a three-time WWF Champion. There were a lot of moments that got him there, and this was certainly one of them.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up at [email protected] or on the social media with thoughts, comments or suggestions. Until next time, true believers!