Wrestling’s greatest arenas: Rosemont Horizon

After posting my piece on Madison Square Garden being the greatest wrestling arena of all time, I received many messages from readers wondering where I thought other arenas ranked. Rosemont Horizon, Greensboro Coliseum, and the Cow Palace were just a few of the venues that were asked about. And while all were great, I still think MSG holds the crown. But just for fun, I plan on taking a look at other arenas over the next few weeks. From there, we can collectively see where they rank. For now, let’s look at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois (sometimes it’s listed as Chicago to give that big-city feel. And nowadays, it’s called the Allstate Arena):

 

  • Site of WWE’s first-ever pay-per-view, The Wrestling Classic (11/7/85)
  • Hosted 3 WrestleManias (2, 13, 22). No other arena held more.
  • Once crowned 3 new WWE Champions in one night (10/7/07: Randy Orton, Triple H, then Orton again)
  • Hosted Survivor Series 1989, Judgment Day 1998, Backlash 2001, No Mercy 2007, Judgment Day 2009, Night of Champions 2010, Money in the Bank 2011, Extreme Rules 2012, Payback 2013, and Payback 2014.
  • Hosted WCW Spring Stampede 1994
  • Site of Mr. McMahon saying, “You’re fired” for the first time to Stone Cold (10/18/98)
  • Site of 6 WWE Title changes, the second most in history
  • Site of Christian’s debut (10/18/98)
  • Hosted 21 episodes of Monday Night Raw, 11 episodes of SmackDown, and 1 Nitro
  • Memorable matches:

Stone Cold vs. Bret Hart, WrestleMania 13
Edge vs. Mick Foley, WrestleMania 22
John Cena vs. CM Punk, Money in the Bank, 2011
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, Extreme Rules 2012

J.J. Dillon on Eric Bischoff

Much of my recent conversation with WWE Hall of Famer J.J. Dillon can be found in the new WWE 50 book. The portions that didn’t make the book, however, will be published here over the next few weeks. For now, enjoy this bit about Dillon recalling his days working with Eric Bischoff.

 

How did you end up in WCW after your stint in WWE?

J.J. Dillon: I went to WCW in October 1996. I had been high profile, and it would’ve been difficult for Eric Bischoff not to hire me. How would he explain to the higher-ups at Turner that I was on the market, but wasn’t hired? So I did get hired. There were two ways that Bischoff could’ve looked at me. First, he could’ve looked at me as somebody who had spent his life in the business and had just spent seven-and-a-half years working with Vince McMahon at a high level, and somebody that could’ve been a resource he could tap into. Or the other way Eric Bischoff could’ve looked at me was as a threat, who would quickly realize how inept he was. He truly was someone who knew nothing about the wrestling business and was very inexperienced. I never had a good relationship with him. From the very first time I met him, all he talked about was putting Vince out of business and wondering how much longer Vince could hold on.

 

What was the atmosphere like at WCW?

J.J. Dillon: WCW kept increasing the production budget; it was a runaway freight train. And there was nobody from a wrestling mindset above that could look over Eric Bischoff’s shoulder and know whether what he was doing was making sense or not. And obviously it wasn’t because he had no clue. He would walk in and look at quarter-hour ratings and he would want something dramatic to happen in every quarter hour, and you can’t do that. In old-school vernacular, it would be called hotshot booking. You could do that short-term, but you can’t give a steady diet of that because eventually it will burn you out, and that‘s what happened in WCW. They won the battle for all those weeks, but as they were doing so, they lost the war because their production costs went crazy and there was nobody second guessing anything. Bischoff basically had a blank checkbook because he was spending somebody else’s money and as long as the ratings were there, they thought all was well.

 

And they never did establish live events, they basically couldn’t run live events. They basically were never profitable in pay-per-view for the same reason because everything was geared toward television ratings. Meanwhile, Vince was controlling his production costs, he was still doing good business in live events and through that whole Monday Night War, he was still profitable in pay-per-view. Bischoff’s big picture in terms of running the company was a whole different philosophy and there wasn’t anybody at WCW that could realize what was happening. They only saw the ratings.

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Madison Square Garden really is the mecca of wrestling arenas

There’s something about July 12 for WWE and Madison Square Garden. The two have come together to produce many memorable shows on this date. In 1963, MSG hosted the fledgling WWE, who featured a main event of Bruno Sammartino successfully defending his WWE Title against Hans Mortier. Two years later on the same date, Sammartino defeated Bill Miller to once again retain his title. And in 1986, Sammartino teamed with Tito Santana to defeat Adrian Adonis and Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage in a Steel Cage Match. (Side note, it’s pretty amazing that Sammartino main evented MSG for more than two decades.)

Sammartino’s presence aside, MSG has truly proven itself as the premiere arena in all of sports-entertainment. Of course, there are other legendary venues. The Dallas Sportatorium, Rosemont Horizon, Cow Palace, and Greensboro Coliseum immediately come to mind. But while these arenas certainly are elite, none have the resume of MSG. Let’s take a look:

  • Home to the first-ever WrestleMania (1985)
  • Home to the first-ever SummerSlam (1988)
  • Hosted 3 WrestleManias (I, X, XX). No other arena held more.
  • Hosted 3 SummerSlams (1988, 1991, 1998)
  • Hosted 3 Survivor Series (1996, 2002, 2011). No other arena held more.
  • Hosted 2 Royal Rumbles (2000, 2008). No other arena held more.
  • Hosted the 2013 WWE of Fame ceremony.
  • Site of 12 WWE Championship title changes, more than any other arena.
  • Site of Stone Cold delivering his first Stunner to Mr. McMahon (9/22/97)
  • Hosted 12 episodes of Monday Night Raw and 6 episodes of SmackDown.
  • Hosted some of wrestling’s most memorable matches, including:

Bruno Sammartino vs. Buddy Rogers, May 17, 1963
Pat Patterson vs. Sgt. Slaughter, April 21, 1981
Jimmy Snuka vs. Magnificent Muraco, Oct. 17, 1983
Hulk Hogan vs. Iron Sheik, Jan. 23, 1984
Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, Aug. 26, 1991
Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, March 20, 1994
Cactus Jack vs. Triple H, January 23, 2000