WWE: Superstars Who Capitalized on Home-Field Advantage
With WrestleMania set to take place in The Rock's adopted hometown of Miami, it's clear that the People's Champ will have a decided home-field advantage over John Cena.
As teams in any sport will tell you, the importance of playing on your home turf in front of the millions... and millions of people screaming your name, can never be overstated.
Let's take a look at a few superstars who seized opportunity in their own backyards.
- Bull Nakano defeats Alundra Blayze for the Women's Title in Tokyo, Japan (November 20, 1994)
- Melina defeats Alicia Fox for the Divas Championship in Los Angeles at SummerSlam (August 15, 2010)
- Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder win the WWE Tag Team titles in Uniondale, NY (July 20, 2008)
- Matt Hardy wins the Hardcore Title in Raleigh, NC (April 24, 2000), loses the title in Charlotte, NC the next day.
- Chris Jericho briefly wins the Hardcore Title in Calgary (he's from Winnipeg, you idiot!).
Trish Stratus: Toronto, Ontario
After announcing that she would retire from WWE following Unforgiven 2006, Trish Stratus went one-on-one with reigning WWE Women's Champion Lita at the pay-per-view in her hometown of Toronto, Ontario.
While Lita came out to a dead silent crowd, Trish got a raucous ovation from the appreciative fans. She capped off her victory by locking Lita in the Sharpshooter, a move Good Ol' J.R. called, "as Canadian as Canadian gets."
Bonus Fact: Lita appeared twice that night, accompanying Edge, also a Toronto native, to the ring for his title defense against John Cena. Edge would lose in a match he helped to create: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.
Bonus Fact: Trish Stratus also beat Jazz for her second Women's Title in Toronto on May 13, 2002.
Santino Marella: Milan, Italy
Santino Marella made his WWE debut on April 16, 2007, when Vince McMahon selected an opponent out of the Milan crowd to face the late Umaga.
The crowd was immediately in Santino's corner, chanting the tune of "Seven Nation Army," the anthem for Italy's World Cup winning team in 2006.
After surprising the Samoan Bulldozer with a few punches and kicks, Vince McMahon stepped in to announce that the match would be "no holds barred."
Umaga quickly regained the advantage and looked ready to end things, but three hellacious chair shots from then-ECW Champion Bobby Lashley completed "The Milan Miracle" and propelled Santino to victory for his first Intercontinental title reign.
Bonus Fact: During Santino's second Intercontinental title reign, he lost the belt to native Brit William Regal in Manchester, England.
Kurt Angle: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Steve Austin and Kurt Angle first faced off at SummerSlam '01, where Austin intentionally disqualified himself to retain the WWF championship.
His "appreciation ceremony" the next night on RAW was interrupted when Kurt Angle, in an homage to Austin's infamous 1999 "Beer Bath" to the Corporation, drove a milk truck to the ring and doused the Alliance.
That set the stage for a back and forth that saw Austin throw Angle's gold medals into the Detroit River while Angle threaten to throw Austin off a bridge in Toronto if he didn't grant him a rematch.
The Olympic Hero made the most of his second attempt at Unforgiven, which emanated from the Mellon Arena in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
Angle reversed a Stone Cold Stunner into the Angle Lock for the victory and was mobbed in the ring by friends, family and fellow superstars as he raised the title in triumph.
Bonus Fact: Angle also won the World Heavyweight championship on the January 13, 2006 edition of SmackDown that took place in Philadelphia. As anyone from Pennsylvania will tell you, that is decidedly not the same.
Rob Van Dam: ECW
So this one is a bit of a technicality, as Rob Van Dam is actually from Battle Creek, Michigan. But honestly, has there ever been a more pronounced home field advantage than the one RVD enjoyed as he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract against John Cena?
From the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, haunted by memories of the original ECW, John Cena emerged amidst a sea of boos and signs proclaiming "If Cena Wins, We Riot" (a running theme, as we'll soon see).
Van Dam took Cena to the limit in that match (with a little help from an interfering Edge), eventually hitting the Five-Star Frog Splash while former ECW owner Paul Heyman made the three count.
Bonus Fact: Van Dam would lose the title less than a month later in a triple threat match on RAW. The match took place in Philadelphia, home of the original ECW.
Bonus Fact: On July 22, 2002, Rob Van Dam unified the Intercontinental and European championships in Grand Rapids, MI, a little over an hour drive from his hometown of Battle Creek.
Shawn Michaels: San Antonio, Texas
The feud between Sycho Sid and Shawn Michaels in 1997 had been at least two years in the making.
But the feud really got heated up at Survivor Series 1996, when Sid defeated Michaels for the WWF championship after attacking Michaels' manager and mentor Jose Lothario with a television camera during the match.
At the 1997 Royal Rumble, in Michaels hometown of San Antonio, The Heartbreak Kid got his revenge in a match that required two referees,
Michaels ultimately nailed Sid with a television camera, earning a measure of poetic justice before hitting Sweet Chin Music to start his second WWF title reign.
Ultimately, Michaels was forced to vacate the title about a month later due to injury.
Bonus Fact: At Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2009, also in San Antonio, D-Generation X won the WWE tag team championship from Chris Jericho and The Big Show in a TLC match.
Bonus Fact: Shawn Michaels was forced to vacate the World Tag Team title he won in 1997 with Steve Austin in San Antonio.
John Cena: Boston, Massachusetts
After suffering a herniated disk in his neck during a SummerSlam match against Batista on August 17, 2008, John Cena returned three months later at Survivor Series to face Chris Jericho, who had defeated Batista in a steel cage match for the World Heavyweight title three weeks prior to the event.
Cena came out to thunderous applause and the crowd erupted again when he was announced as being from West Newbury, less than an hour drive from Boston.
"From an awe-struck eight-year-old fan in the cheap seats at the old Garden," Michael Cole narrated, "to center stage with a much bigger task at hand, a much clearer perspective tonight."
As the match got underway, "Cena" chants echoed throughout the arena (the kind you don't hear so much anymore).
Showing obvious signs of ring rust and nearly getting counted out, Cena tried to fight back against Jericho's superior technical attacks which centered on Cena's surgically repaired neck.
Despite having his dreaded Five Moves of Doom blocked, and being trapped in the Walls of Jericho twice—once with a knee pressed against the back of his head—Cena reached the ropes, broke the hold and countered with a desperation F-U for a two count.
As Jericho continued to stifle every rally that Cena mounted, including breaking out of the STFU, he ultimately found himself hoisted onto Cena's shoulders and slammed to the mat for the three count and Cena's first World Heavyweight championship reign.
Cena capped off the night by embracing friends and family members seated at ringside, celebrating among the fans and snapping off a salute to the hometown crowd.
Bonus Fact: John Cena lost the United States title in Boston on October 7, 2004 to a debuting Carlito.
The British Bulldog: London, England
The real-life back story for this meeting is compelling in and of itself.
The late, great British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith had been married to Bret Hart's sister Diana since 1984, making the clash between brothers-in-law much more emotionally charged as Diana sat at ringside.
On top of that, the match also took place in London, England. Smith was actually billed from Leeds, about 200 miles north, but why get hacked off—as the Brits apparently say—over the details?
Smith came out behind London native Lennox Lewis (prior to his first WBC Championship win) who proudly waved the Union Jack as the crowd of over 80,000 fans nearly blew the roof off of Wembley Stadium.
Oddly, Bret Hart came out to an almost equal ovation (Canada is, after all, part of the Commonwealth).
For the next half hour, the two put on what Pro Wrestling Illustrated listed as the Match of the Year for 1992 and what has been named by WWE as the greatest match in the history of SummerSlam.
The back and forth was unbelievable, as The Excellence of Execution pounded his brother-in-law for what must have seemed like an eternity in the mind of Diana Hart-Smith.
After thirty minutes of pure ring poetry, Smith pulled out a victory over The Hitman. Their post-match embrace solidified the mutual respect they had for each other and the two stood with hands raised and Diana between them as SummerSlam '92 came to a close.
Bonus Fact: The British Bulldog defeated his other brother-in-law and co-tag team champion Owen Hart in Berlin, Germany to become the first European champion. Ironically, he lost the title to Shawn Michaels in Birmingham, England later that year.
Steve Austin: Texas
You can draw a line starting from Dallas, through Austin and straight to Stone Cold Steve Austin's hometown of Victoria, Texas.
Draw a line to the left, you'll be in San Antonio.
Draw a line to the right, you'll be in Houston.
No matter where you go in the Lone Star state, The Texas Rattlesnake has the upper hand.
At Wrestlemania X-7 in front of a record 67,925 fans jam-packed into Houston's Reliant Astrodome, a blood-stained Steve Austin stunned The Rock and the rest of the world by aligning himself with his arch-nemesis Vince McMahon.
After pummeling The People's Champion with several vicious chair shots, Austin sealed the win for his fifth WWF title.
Bonus Fact: On December 9, 2001, in the middle of his sixth title reign, Austin would successfully defend the WWF Championship against Kurt Angle before losing it to Chris Jericho in the same night.
The belt would be renamed the Undisputed WWF Championship and eventually the WWE Undisputed Championship. Austin would walk-out of the company on June 3, 2002 and never hold the Undisputed title.
CM Punk: Chicago, Illinois
At the Money in the Bank pay-per-view on July 17, 2011, CM Punk promised to do three things: Win the WWE Championship from John Cena, let his contract with WWE expire and walk away from the company carrying a title with a nearly 50 year legacy behind it.
And the hometown faithful in Chicago's Allstate Arena absolutely loved him for it.
Punk emerged from the behind the curtain to a wave of cheers and chants from the Second City, eager to make good on his word.
John Cena, on the other hand, was pelted with boos and disparaging remarks, including the familiar "If Cena Wins, We Riot" posters hanging from the upper deck.
The chaos that ensued took both superstars to their physical limit, including multiple reversals and finishers en route to what PWI called Match of the Year for 2011.
At the end of the night, the Straight Edge Superstar hoisted the title in victory just as he'd promised and made him the stuff of legend in Chicago.
Bonus Fact: Remember how Santino lost his second Intercontinental title to William Regal in England? William Regal lost that title to CM Punk two months later... in Chicago's Allstate Arena.
Bret Hart: Canada
Aside from the single most controversial finish in professional wrestling history, can you remember a time when Bret Hart lost in Canada? Me either.
Though he didn't win the inaugural Royal Rumble in Hamilton, Ontario, Bret Hart was the first entrant into the match and lasted longer than any other competitor (25:42).
According to the Internet Wrestling Database, from 1990 to 1997 (prior to the Montreal Screwjob), Bret Hart holds a 10-1 record wrestling for the WWF in Canada (the loss coming in Brandon, Manitoba while partnered with Hakushi in a tag team match against Jerry "The King" Lawler and Isaac Yankem).
Every Canadian holds at least some advantage in the Great White North. But until that fateful night at the '97 Survivor Series, Bret Hart defined home field advantage wherever a red maple leaf flew overhead.
Bonus Fact: The late Owen Hart held a record of 12-5 in Canada, including a victory in a 20 man battle royal. Two of his losses came via disqualification, and one via countout.
The night of the Montreal Screwjob, Owen lost the title to Steve Austin three months after breaking his neck with a piledriver.
That's a Wrap...
As is often the case with things like this, I'm almost positive I've left out someone's favorite superstar.
Like when the Hardys tasted their first tag team gold in Fayetteville, North Carolina, less than an hour from their hometown of Cameron.
Also, there are plenty of occasions other than the few scattered throughout this slideshow where home field advantage backfired, like when Beth Phoenix lost the Divas championship in her hometown of Buffalo, New York.
Feel free to discuss your favorite hometown moments in the comments.