Wrestling shows: memories, my favorite buildings and seats

So the other day, I attended the NXT house show down in Asbury Park, NJ at the Asbury Park Convention Hall. It was my second year in a row seeing a wrestling show there and I’ve gotta say…there’s probably no other place around here I’d rather take in a show!

I’ve been a wrestling fan now for well over 20 years, and during that time, I’ve been to Pay Per View events, Monday Night Raw, Smackdown tapings and plenty of non-televised house show events. I’ve attended shows at large venues like Newark, NJ’s Prudential Center, NYC’s Madison Square Garden, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ, the Nassau County Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum and have also hit small venues like the Grand Ballroom at NYC’s Manhattan Center, the Rahway Rec Center, the 23rd Street Armory in Philadelphia, the VFW Hall in Manville, NJ, the American Legion Hall in Dunellen, NJ and most recently, the Asbury Park Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ.

Needless to say, each of these venues are quite different from each other. When I was younger and was going to these shows for the first time, naturally I only really knew about the events at the large venues like the IZOD Center (then called the Brendan Byrne Arena), because that’s what was advertised all over WWF television. I saw my first house show with my friend Rich and his older brother Eddie. I can still remember the lights going out and the arena getting chilly as I got goosebumps and the hair on my arms stood on end when the Undertaker entered the arena. The main event was a WWF Title match where Diesel defended against Jeff Jarrett. And I’ll always remember walking into the arena that day and seeing Bret Hart sitting at a table off to the left, signing autographs and just marveling over how big he was — and mind you, he was one of the smaller guys of that period!

In college, I received tickets to attend Monday Night Raw for the first time from my (then) girlfriend and a group of us all made the trek from East Stroudsburg, PA all the way out to the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY…probably a good 2 and a half hour trip. Leave it to college kids to have 5 hours of free time to drive to and from a wrestling show! That was the show where Stone Cold Steve Austin destroyed Vince McMahon’s classic corvette with a cement truck and the team of Steve Austin and the Rock defeated the Undertaker and Kane in the main event. I also got to witness former WCW President, Eric Bischoff make his WWE debut as he was introduced to be Raw’s General Manager by Vince McMahon at a Raw tv taping from the IZOD Center.

As time has gone on, I’ve attended numerous other shows which I’m sure I can’t even remember all of them. I was at the King of the Ring in 2001 at the Continental Airlines Arena, where Kurt Angle dumped Shane McMahon on his head a few times while trying to belly-to-belly overhead-toss him through some glass panels which were part of the entrance way structure.

In 2004, I also made it to the No Mercy Pay Per View at the Continental Airlines Arena, which would have to be probably the worst night of wrestling I’ve been out to. The main event saw Undertaker lose a “Last Ride” match in which the object of the match was to shove your opponent into the back of a hearse and drive it out of the arena. JBL accomplished this feat by enlisting the help of Jon Heidenreich, who brought a chlorophorm-soaked rag to put out the Undertaker while Paul Heyman drove the hearse out of the arena.

I also witnessed the first Elimination Chamber which took place at the 2002 Survivor Series Pay Per View at Madison Square Garden where Shawn Michaels won the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time and Brock Lesnar lost the WWE Championship to Big Show when Paul Heyman turned on him. Also, “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner made his debut that night as the character he had perfected in WCW.

In 2009, I sat ringside at the Hell In A Cell Pay Per View at the Prudential Center in Newark, where Undertaker defeated CM Punk for the World Heavyweight Championship, Randy Orton defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship (a match I actually opted to go buy some merchandise and use the mens’ room during instead of sitting through the match) and the team of D-Generation X (Shawn Michaels and Triple H) defeated Legacy (Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, Jr.).

And finally, I was at the first NXT TakeOver event to take place outside of Full Sail University in Florida when WWE brought NXT up to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY and sold the place out with an amazing show from top to bottom. Jushin Liger wrestled in a WWE ring for the first time, the NXT Title was contested in a ladder match as Finn Bálor successfully defended against Kevin Owens and Bayley finally won the NXT Womens’ Championship by defeating Sasha Banks.

And though all these shows were all good times, I’ve found that my tastes have changed over the years. It used to be that I got a kick out of the announcement of “in 2 minutes, we will be going live to the USA Network and we want you all to be cheering and going crazy to open the show” no longer has the same spark that it used to. Truth is, I don’t really like that things stop happening while commercials are airing. I’ve also become quite the snob when it comes to where my seats are located.

I like taking pictures at these live events and if I’m not at a decent vantage point, I’d almost rather not go at all unless it’s a groundbreaking event like that first TakeOver: Brooklyn event. For that event, while I was happy to be inside the building for such a monumental event for that group, I absolutely hated my seats in the upper bowl.

When we attended Impact tv tapings at the Manhattan Center, I could have easily had ringside seats, but I wanted to sit first row of the balcony, almost in the same seats where Stu & Helen Hart sat all those years ago on an early episode of Monday Night Raw. For the record, there probably wasn’t a bad seat in the place, but our seats were AWESOME!

Madison Square Garden was recently renovated and new seating areas were installed directly above the 200 section of seats, called “bridges”, which give a truly unique unobstructed, bird’s-eye view of all the action. If I’m not sitting in the lower bowl section at the Garden directly across from the entrance ramp and stage, the bridges are the only other place I’d consider there.

Finally, when it comes to which one is my favorite venue to see a live show at, as I touched on above…hands down I’m gonna always say the Asbury Park Convention Hall, and it’s for a number of reasons. First, it’s such a small venue that not only is there not a bad seat in the house, but because it’s so small, the chance of sitting through a set of tv tapings in this builing is practically miniscule, so you’re guaranteed good action all night long without the “we’re gonna slap on a rest hold for the next 3 minutes while we take a commercial break” possibility. Also, because of those two facts, the chance for expensive seats (not being sold on the secondary market) is fairly slim. Also, for the amount of people the place holds, the staff tends to get the ridiculous long line of attendees inside fairly quickly. Plus, the amenities surrounding the building are plentiful, being on the boardwalk of Asbury Park (a revitalized shore town) there are numerous hang out spots to hit both before and after the show.

Next year, WWE is bringing a NXT TakeOver event the night before the Royal Rumble in Philly, so this may force them to not run Asbury Park a month later, which will sadden me. I truly hope they don’t completely nix the building and schedule another show a couple of months later. Unfortunately, also working against this posibility is yet another NXT TakeOver event in Brooklyn just before Summer Slam in August, so the NXT crew is definitely hitting the area over the next 12 months, I just really hope we don’t lose our Asbury Park house show in the process.

I do intend to get tickets for both TakeOver events, so if you’re interested in joining the party, hit me up with an email to: marc@marcstwocents.com and we can explore seating options and prices as the events approach. Just be warned: I’m not settling for garbage seats for these events.

That’ll do it for me today…this one is a bit long, so I appologize. It really started out as an “I want to write about the Asbury Park show” blog but took on a life of its own. I hope it was at least an entertaining read that brought back some fond memories of professional wrestling from over the years.

Thanks for reading.

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