Three dozen years ago today was one of three events in the history of WWE to be billed as the Showdown at Shea.
It enabled the WWE to use the outdoor venue known as Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Not only was this a baseball stadium that was home to New York Mets games, but it hosted New York Jets football games as well.
In 1975, Shea Stadium became the first stadium to ever be home to two baseball teams and two football teams all at once. The New York Yankees were performing renovations on their stadium, while the New York Giants used Shea while their stadium was being built in The Meadowlands.
The multi-purpose Shea Stadium was also known for pop culture. It was the site of the beginning of Beatlemania in the United States, becoming the first venue on their North American tour and holding concerts for countless other legendary bands.
Shea was revered as one of the more sacred venues to perform at, especially in the prime location of New York City. It was the perfect place for a wrestling event in the top American market.
Showdown at Shea was born in 1972 and took place every four years in Queens. The first rendition of the event had such legends as Gorilla Monsoon, Lou Albano, Chief Jay Strongbow, Jack Brisco and The Fabulous Moolah all competing.
The main event saw Pedro Morales and Bruno Sammartino take on one another for what was known at the time as the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship.
The recorded number of 22,508 fans got to see what is likely the longest championship match in WWE history. A bout that lasted a whopping 65:05 saw a draw due to hitting the designated curfew for the event.
Four years later, Showdown at Shea returned. It was on June 25, 1976 that 32,000 fans packed Shea Stadium to watch WWE return to the venue. This event had more of a feel of boxers facing off with wrestlers from WWE.
Two of the six matches for that night were done that way. One of them saw Chuck Wepner, a local boxer who had faced such great boxers as George Foreman, Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali in his career, lose to Andre the Giant via countout.
The event also saw Chief Jay Strongbow and Billy White Wolf defend their tag-team titles, as well as Bruno Sammartino defend the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship.
The final match on the night saw WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki face the legendary Muhammad Ali. The match was shown to Shea Stadium fans via closed circuit television from their bout in Japan.
The fight went 15 rounds, with Ali only landing four jabs in the entire fight and Inoki spending most of the fight attempting to take down Ali. The fight was deemed a draw, but both men ended up earning millions of dollars for this fight.
The last Showdown at Shea was in August of 1980. It saw Tony Atlas nearly become Intercontinental Champion, Chavo Guerrero Sr. nearly become the Junior Heavyweight Champion and Antonio Inoki defend his World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship, a title held by only one other man while it was recognized by WWE.
Bruno Sammartino also took on Larry Zbyszko in a memorable steel-cage main event. The team of Bob Backlund, who was WWE Champion at the time, and Pedro Morales took on The Wild Samoans and became the new tag-team champions.
Also, six and a half years before they would meet at WrestleMania III, Hulk Hogan faced Andre the Giant. Andre would be the winner this time around, winning with a body splash just a few minutes in.
As a Mets fan since I was born, I'm a bit upset at the fact that a Showdown at Shea never occurred during my lifetime. The last one in 1980 was years before I was born. Shea Stadium is no more, but it has the beautiful Citi Field right nearby.
The bases from Shea Stadium are still marked in the parking lot. With this year being the 50th anniversary of the Mets and WWE always looking for unique venues to hold events, why not pull a page out of the history books and return to Queens?
Shea Stadium may be no more, but Citi Field can be just as nice of a backdrop. The stadium will host the MLB All-Star Game next summer, and WWE is often in the area, having events in arenas in both New York City and nearby New Jersey.
MetLife Stadium is the setting for WrestleMania XXIX, but what's not to say that Citi Field couldn't make for a unique WrestleMania Axxess spot or a place to simply hold a house show? After all, this WrestleMania is being billed as both a New Jersey and a New York experience.
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