WWE TLC 2012: Looking at WWE Shows in Brooklyn in Years Past

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WWE TLC 2012: Looking at WWE Shows in Brooklyn in Years Past
photo from wwe.com

WWE's 2012 edition of its TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view will be held in Brooklyn's new arena and home of the Brooklyn Nets, Barclays Center.

CM Punk and Ryback will battle for the WWE Championship. Bodies will smash through tables. Ladders will bend around flesh.

The event marks a debut of sorts for WWE in the New York borough. Although Brooklyn has a good deal of WWE history, it hasn't been home to a wrestling event of this size, and WWE has largely ignored the area for two decades.

The only thing Brooklyn about the WWE in recent years has been performers that hail from the borough like JTG and The Brooklyn Brawler.

With the construction of the Barclays Center, WWE has come calling once again.

Not everyone in Brooklyn was happy about the new stadium. Ask a member of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a group that protested the center's construction.

WWE, though, must be thrilled to have yet another arena to fill, yet another market to tap into.

Before the company was the global entertainment juggernaut that it is now, it was Vincent J. McMahon's World Wide Wrestling Federation. WWWF was a wrestling territory that didn't extend far from the state of New York.

It returns now, a massively different company setting up shop in a borough that is undergoing a monumental change thanks to the Nets' arena.

WWE is far more famous for the shows it has put on at Shea Stadium and at Madison Square Garden, but Brooklyn has its own understated history with pro wrestling.

 

The 1960s and '70s

WWE put on regular shows in Brooklyn during this time period. Audiences then were measured by the hundreds.

Wrestlers performed in venues like St. Mary's Auditorium, Franklin Lane High School, St. Anselm's Auditorium and St. Rocco’s gym. Today it's hard to imagine the WWE title being defended in a Brooklyn high school, but Bruno Sammartino did just that against Baron Mike Scicluna on June 1, 1966.

According to thehistoryofwwe.com, at Brooklyn's Notre Dame Hall in 1979, the people responsible for setting up the wrestling rings didn't show up on time. The wrestlers had to fight on gym mats, the tag team champions included.

Men like Johnny Rodz, Ivan Koloff, Larry Zbyszko and Manuel Soto worked several Brooklyn shows during these two decades.

Chief Jay Strongbow & Billy White Wolf defended their tag titles in January and February of 1977.

Chief Jay Strongbow (photo from wwe.com)

On Nov. 26, 1979, WWE put on a show at St. Mary's Auditorium. Like most WWE shows in Brooklyn, it was untelevised and seen by a small crowd by today's standards.

Bob Backlund and Tito Santana won their respective matches. The Iron Sheik, known then as Hussein Arab, defeated Ted DiBiase.

In total, seven Hall of Famers performed that night.

For Brooklyn wrestling fans, seeing a collection of stars like this was a regular occurrence.  In the late '70s, WWE put on several shows a year in the city's second-largest borough.

 

The 1980s

For much of the decade, the pattern for WWE shows was much the same as it was in the '70s.

WWE's big names, midcard wrestlers and also-rans bodyslammed each other in small Brooklyn auditoriums and high school gyms. The early '80s saw several shows a year come to Brooklyn.

The main difference was that the stars had changed.

Tag teams such as The Moondogs, Rick Martel and Tony Garea as well as Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito entertained Brooklynites several times a year.

Hulk Hogan beat Tito Santana on March 16, 1980. In December 1982, Japanese sensation Tiger Mask defeated Mr. Fuji at St. Rocco's Gym.

Ken Patera, Pat Patterson and Sgt. Slaughter were among the other big names that sweated and grunted in Brooklyn rings.

Hulk Hogan in 2009

WWE was booming.

The star power of Hulk Hogan and the creative mind of Vincent K. McMahon (who had taken over the company by 1982) led to the company achieving unparalleled success.

For Brooklyn, that at first meant tons of shows, but would soon lead to an exodus from the borough.

 

1989-present

When WWE expanded to a national and eventual global power, places like Yeshiva R'tzhad School were no longer big enough to host its shows.

WWE sought out football stadiums and basketball arenas instead.

The company was no longer limited to the Northeast, either. It now put on wrestling shows in places as far away as Brussels or Israel.

WWE's presence in Brooklyn was now virtually non-existent. WWE continued its strong relationship with Madison Square Garden, but Brooklyn wrestling fans didn't see much action.

It's taken an arena the size of Barclays Center to entice pro wrestling's biggest company back.

Who knows who will walk out of that arena with the WWE title or if Dolph Ziggler will pounce on a fallen World Heavyweight Champion, but the one certainty about TLC 2012 is that it allows WWE to reintroduce itself to Brooklyn.

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