In just a few hours, I’ll be celebrating a quarter century on Earth, and I’ve spent most of that time yelling “Wooo!” after a chop. As a Northeast Philly pauper, I’ve been blessed to attend so many wrestling shows, hosted by virtually every major company since 2002: TNA, ROH, CHIKARA, CZW, NXT, WWE. Before I drown myself in Budweiser and blow out the candles on my Jewish apple cake, here’s a fun look back on the 25 greatest shows I’ve witnessed.
25. WrestleMania 29
I won four tickets, and since it was only a few miles up the road at MetLife Stadium, I brought my little brothers and dad. We went to Axxess and met Jimmy Snuka, Jimmy Hart and Dusty Rhodes, in addition to a special meet-and-greet with a WWE Superstar before the event. Our minds raced at the thought of hugging AJ Lee or beating the shit out of Michael Cole. As we stood looking around for our special star, the P.R. attendant brought over a small Hispanic man in jeans and a T-shirt.
As much as I love my family, I learned that year that WrestleMania is only for friends. Due to the drizzling weather, my dad spent half the trying to buy my brother a blanket. Then he fell asleep during the end of it. I was happy he got to see his childhood hero Bruno Sammartino in person, though.
I can’t blame my brother for snoozing, of course, because the event itself was super predictable. Aside from the thrilling Undertaker/CM Punk match, the rest of the bouts were dull with zero suspense or surprises.
24. RAW December 17, 2012
Wrestledelphia Radio will probably never win a Webby, but at least I made it to the Slammys. Before it became just another episode of Raw, the awards ceremony featured surprise presenters and star-studded recipients. The Nature Boy returned after a lengthy absence, as did the New Age Outlaws. Plus, the Boogeyman popped up. While I don’t remember the actual matches, I do recall a massive monster (Big E) making his debut and laying out John Cena to end the night.
23. RAW May 12, 2003
My first Raw featured plenty of nostalgia: LOD made a shocking return to challenge RVD & Kane for the Tag Team Titles, and “Classy” Freddie Blassie made his last appearance, almost enduring a 3 Minute Warning beatdown until Stone Cold and the Dudleyz saved the Hall of Fame manager. Apparently, CM Punk wrestled in a dark match and Kevin Nash fought Chris Jericho in a main event I don’t remember.
22. WrestleMania 32
It was perfect timing for a trip to Dallas because my college roommate was attending Baylor for grad school, so we had a free crash pad and only a 90 minute drive to AT&T Stadium. We also had a much larger crew this year, which caused some transportation issues but nothing we Mania Vets couldn’t handle.
As soon as you entered downtown Dallas, WrestleMania banners engulfed the streets with flags of WWE Superstars waving from street light posts. A sea of wrestling shirts rumbled through restaurants and sidewalks, carrying “Woooos!” and “Yes!” chants in its tide. Even at John F. Kennedy’s memorial, on top of the grassy knoll, a man with a trombone ushered a New Day clap out of tourists.
As per WrestleMania tradition, we found the hotel where WWE hunkered down for the week. So after rounds and rounds of drinks, all delicious and high in ABV %, we stumbled into the heart of the city and mobbed the front entrance, asking valets who was coming out next.
Bayley, Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Stone Cold, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens and Shawn Michaels were just some of the stars we went batshit for. We also rode the elevator with Scott Steiner in one of the scariest rides of my life, and believe me, I’ve rode shotgun with Arielle.
Although WrestleMania 32 gets a bum rap for the mind-boggling booking and ass-numbing length, I enjoyed being a part of the 100,000 or so fans that congregated for our annual pilgrimage to piledrivers, pomp and circumstance. It’s that fraternity of fans and all the excitement and camaraderie surrounding the event which keeps me coming back.
21. Royal Rumble 2015
If the triple threat wasn’t the second greatest match I’ve ever experienced (the first is yet to come), then this wouldn’t have even made the list. I snuck away from Alabama (meeting Brooke Hogan in the Nashville airport) for this show, and by God, it’s been all downhill in my life since. I was laid off, fat and alone just 24 hours after Roman Reigns turned the City of Brotherly Love into a hellish cesspool of hopelessness.
20. Bound for Glory 2011
Just a few minutes from my dorm room, TNA presented its version of WrestleMania at the Liacouras Center at Temple University. I had fallen out of love with the company at the time, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness Hulkamania. It was my first time seeing him live, and the only time I’ve seen him wrestle. And yes, I got swept up in the fervor as he hulked up against the Stinger.
19. NXT’s Philly Debut, May 15, 2015
Capt. Roosh and I traveled to majestic Upper Darby to check out this hip new brand putting on great matches and showcasing unique characters. We were really only familiar with Kevin Owens, but grew to love Enzo & Cass, Bayley, Finn Balor, and Sami Callihan. The main event was a risk as Triple H announced Charlotte would face Sasha Banks for the Women’s Championship. In my teens, I’d probably sigh over a main event featuring the divas, but in a sign of how things progressed in such short time, I was ecstatic to see these phenomenal athletes wage war in front of a raucous, appreciative crowd.
18. CZW Dojo Wars 107
Calling the matches was a blast and put things in a whole new perspective. Rather than sitting for two, two-and-a-half hours, I was actively involved in the show, constantly in motion. Dojo Wars had built this rivalry between Kit Osbourne and Josh Adamsto a bloody boiling point, and it was a welcome challenge to match their intensity with my soundtrack. Of course, years from now I’ll only remember that Maxwell Jacob Feinstein was my commentary partner and that he trashed Mark for most of his time at the table.
17. Smackdown January 13, 2006
This was a very eventful show: Batista vacated the World Heavyweight Championship due to injury, Randy Orton subbed for Booker T and defeated Chris Benoit in the deciding round of a Best of 7 for the U.S. Title, Boogeyman bit off Jillian Hall’s mole. The coup de grace was Kurt Angle being the surprise entrant in the battle royal to crown a new champion, jumping from Raw and becoming a fan favorite in the process.
16. Lockdown 2009
The all-steel cage event was held on Temple’s campus, just a few months before I decided to go there. Although I was an avid IMPACT watcher, I wasn’t planning on attending until Mick Foley’s fantastic promo about Sting. The match didn’t live up to expectations, but afterward in the concourse, Bubba Dudley held up my T-shirt and autographed it.
15. House of Hardcore X
The Japanese Buzzsaw returned to the states, teaming up with fellow ECW legend Tommy Dreamer to face TNA comrades ECIII and Eric Young. It was my first experience of the HOH main event mantra: expect the unexpected. Chris Masters, Sandman, Pepper Parks and SABU all ran in, causing havoc and firing up the crowd. Earlier in the night, Dean Malenko gave an emotional speech about Eddie Guerrero as both men were inducted into the 2300 Arena Hall of Fame.
14. RAW August 24, 2015
It was the night after SummerSlam and I ventured to Brooklyn with Capt. Roosh, Jamie’s Boyfriend and Gupp for a random summer trip. It ended up being one of the best RAWs ever: The Dudleyz returned, Braun Strowman debuted, Ric Flair watched John Cena AA Jon Stewart, and Sting returned.
13. Money in the Bank 2013
We had about seven or eight of us tailgating beforehand so I only remember the main event. And what a main event it was: Christian vs. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. CM Punk vs. Rob Van Dam.
Returning to WWE after a six-year absence, RVD gained the most cheers even while sharing a ring with Punk and Bryan. Unfortunately, everybody ganged up on him once the bell rang. In a goosebump moment for ROH fans, Punk and Bryan cleared the ring for a brief face off.
This wasn’t just a human demolition derby – the company’s top two storylines for the rest of the year sprung amid the wreckage: Paul Heyman betrayed his client Punk by slamming a ladder into his skull and Orton retrieved the magical briefcase, leading him to become The Authority’s chosen champion.
12. GLOOW, November 16, 2002
You always remember your first.
Dad found out that pro wrestling was coming just around the block to the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory and got us tickets. I had been a huge fan for almost three years, but had never attended the matches. I was super psyched despite it being the Gorgeous Ladies of Outrageous Wrestling, something I had never even heard of.
I learned a lesson that day: indy wrestling can be way better than corporate wrestling. Two handicapped guys hit each other with canes. Moolah and Mae Young beat The Sound Guy and Commissioner Smoke in a ridiculous street fight. And to this day, my dad and I laugh about this obese monster named Psycho Bitch.
11. MaskedMania, April 27, 2014
Writing a weekly pro wrestling column for The Temple News was awesome. I got paid to write about my favorite hobby, had access to various stars and received press credentials to cover local events. The most exciting was Philly’s first ever lucha libre show, MaskedMania.
I had front row seats for a bunch of luchadores I’ve never seen before dazzle a heavily Hispanic and passionate crowd. Cassandro introduced me to the exotico experience, opening my eyes to what a performer can really do to entertain the audience.
10. House of Hardcore 22
“Broken” Matt Hardy fought Tommy Dreamer inside a steel cage, which contrary to its intention, invited Sandman and Brother Nero to interfere in the fracas. Earlier in the night, Tony Nese wrestled his last indy match before joining the WWE Cruiserweight roster, defeating Lio Rush in an emotional bout.
“I can’t say thank you enough,” Nese told the adoring crowd. He thanked Tommy Dreamer for giving him a chance, booking him on almost every of HOH’s 22 shows. He also thanked Bull James, Dan Barry and Matt Striker for helping him get this far in his career. And of course, he thanked Alex Reynolds, his friend and frequent opponent in HOH. Reynolds wiped tears from his eyes as Nese recalled how they came to the promotion together, and despite being unknowns in the industry, they gained a reputation through hard work and perseverance.
Nese embraced Reynolds, raising his arm in celebration…and then Reynolds superkicked him! “They could have had Shawn, but they settled for Marty,” Reynolds screamed at his prone friend, leaving the arena to thunderous boos.
9. ROH War of the Worlds, May 14, 2017
I spent most of Mother’s Day at the 2300 Arena covering the final night of the War of the Worlds 2017 tour. There were so many great matches: Cody vs. Kazarian, Kushida vs. Marty Scurll, Los Ingobernables vs. Bully Ray, Dalton Castle & The Briscoes, Roppongi Vice & Chuckie T vs. The Bullet Club.
8. Extreme Rules 2016
Capt. Roosh and I ventured to Newark, New Jersey for another wrasslin’ road trip as we couldn’t pass up AJ Styles challenging Roman Reigns for the title. We got a great bonus as the fatal four way between Cesaro, Miz, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn was another amazing match. But the show will be remembered for starting a new tradition of collecting abandoned, shitty fan signs such as “Reigns is a burnt Roman candle.”
7. House of Hardcore 18
Desperado finally came to his senses.
Although he was scheduled to be Tommy Dreamer’s corner man in the main event of House of Hardcore 18 last Saturday, Terry Funk walked to the ring after the second match to reveal his health prevented him. The 72-year-old wrestling icon, who underwent heart surgery according to Dreamer, told the raucous Philly crowd that he never wanted to leave the ring because he probably would never return. As Dreamer’s eyes welled up, his mentor thanked the ECW fans for all their support over the years and told them they’re the greatest in the world.
Funk’s retirements have become a running joke in the wrestling world, but there’s nothing funny about Father Time’s undefeated streak. If this was truly the last time The Funker appeared in a ring, then it was the perfect swansong for the hardcore Texan.
However, it did leave fans wondering as to how Dreamer would fend off “Broken” Matt Hardy’s entourage. Luckily, the Innovator of Violence had an extreme entourage of his own.
6. Royal Rumble 2004
This memory will always be tainted, like a good song that reminds you of your ex. Dad and I carpooled with Gooch and Helmet Man, pregaming at Chickies before the star-studded spectacle. This Royal Rumble had Goldberg, Angle, RVD, Cena, Scott Steiner, Chris Jericho, Big Show, Orton, Kane and a couple surprises. I wasn’t a Chris Benoit fan, so his win didn’t mean as much, but it’s pretty tough to watch in retrospect.
5. House of Hardcore 25
We weren’t sure if the Hardyz would be able to compete after WWE politics prevented “Broken” Matt from wrestling the night before in Jersey. However, Philly was blessed with a McMiracle as the Hardyz defeated Dreamer and Bully Ray, capping off a fantastic rivalry. Sami Callihan and Pentagon Jr. tore the house down in the main event.
4. TNA House Show, June 9, 2006
In a rematch from Unbreakable 2005, AJ Styles battled Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe in an epic triple threat. But for the main event, Team 3D and the New Age Outlaws had a brawl that never really finished, as dozens of chairs were tossed into the ring ala ECW. It was chaotic, and I loved it. My dad did manage to get us autographs from Gail Kim and Joe after the show.
3. WrestleMania 28
As soon as The Rock agreed to face John Cena the night after WrestleMania XXVII, I promised myself that I would attend that match no matter what. As a child of the Attitude Era, I was among the millions…and millions…of The Rock’s fans. I had never seen him wrestle live, and couldn’t miss his return. Furthermore, I loathed (and still do) Cena. It was the perfect opportunity to convince my friends that we should take the oft talked about trip to WrestleMania.
As sophomores in college, we all had part-time jobs and could afford to travel to Miami for the “Once in a Lifetime” battle. My friend Slap booked the hotel and plane ride, and I skipped class to order the tickets. We agreed to land in Miami on Friday afternoon so we could explore and party for two nights before Mania. The only issue was that we were underage. We were also losers because we didn’t have fake IDs.
But we did have a massive Pakistani man named Aizaz. Proudly wearing his Captain America T-shirt and a disarming smile, my vehemently vocal friend waltzed into a beer distributor, bought us a 12-pack and returned to the hotel as a true hero. The next day we ventured to Bayside where we watched the Final Four with mojitos before drunkenly stumbling over to the American Airlines Arena so I could relieve myself.
That fateful piss changed our lives as we looked over the guardrail and saw Mae Young in the backseat of a limo. Then we saw Vince. Ricky Steamboat, Jerry Lawler, Iron Sheik, the list goes on. We ended up outside the Hall of Fame ceremony! A tradition inside a tradition began…
As for the event itself, WrestleMania XXVIII ranks second on my list. Our seats were dead center above the ring, and our view of the stage was excellent. Our hearts skipped a beat as Shawn Michaels and Triple H tried to screw Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell. Our hard-ons deflated as Sheamus knocked out Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds.
Most importantly, my dream came true as The Rock defeated Cena in an epic encounter. When your adrenaline runs that high, you do whatever you can to get another taste.
2. WrestleMania 33
Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg for the Universal Championship is the greatest match I’ve ever witnessed. The crowd was amped – I stood the whole time afraid of missing the ending. These two mastodons charging into each other for five minutes was exactly the brawl we wanted 13 years ago. Thankfully, our lord and savior Brock Lesnar won the title and sent Oldberg back to the nursing home.
In the main event, well, the Deadman tipped his hat. Reigns was the most hated man in Orlando as soon as he walked out. The match had a few botches and slip ups, but the crowd didn’t care. We wanted Undertaker to bury the Big Dog once and for all. Unfortunately, Reigns battered him down with several spears, and after Undertaker told him he didn’t have the balls, Reigns put the final nail in his coffin. As Undertaker laid his attire to rest in the ring, goosebumps rose and eyes welled as I realized this was the end of an era, the end of an icon, the end of the greatest character in pro wrestling history.
1. WrestleMania XXX
Third time was a charm as WrestleMania XXX was the best event I’ve ever attended. My friends and I were riding the wave of the Yes Movement, and we knew that Daniel Bryan would finally overcome The Authority. But we had no idea how historic that night would be.
New Orleans was a blast. It was our senior year of college and we enjoyed spring break along Bourbon Street, finally of age. We also hung out with some of the guys at the bar across the street from their hotel: Sheamus, Pat Patterson, Tim White, and I even offered Harley Race a beer, but he was wheelchair-bound and had to return to his room.
I wasn’t in Dallas on that November day in 1963, but I was in New Orleans the night The Streak died. My eyes bulged out of my skull cartoon-style when the ref’s hand slapped the mat three times, and Brock Lesnar conquered Undertaker on the Grandest Stage. It felt like a funeral as the entire arena gasped and then stayed silent, wondering if we had indeed just watched Undertaker’s record go to 21-1.
Latest posts by John Corrigan (see all)
- Corrigan’s Corner: My 25 Favorite Live Events - June 1, 2017
- Q&A: Mandy Leon Craves ROH Women’s Championship - May 13, 2017
- Q&A: ROH World Champion Christopher Daniels Talks War Of The Worlds - May 12, 2017