Chicago: The Best City, the Best Venue and the Best Fans in the Wrestling World

DiceContributor IJuly 21, 2011

There is Flair Country, the Hammerstein Ballroom and the old Sportatorium.

Hulk Hogan can die and still be reborn (and give useless promos) in Montreal. After last Sunday’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, IL, one undisputable fact is now clear.

The Allstate Arena is the best wrestling venue in North America, and with it comes the hottest crowd.

What’s the loudest pop you’ve ever heard?

For years, I would reference Aug. 9, 1999, as The Millennium Countdown ended and Chris Jericho debuted on RAW. In Chicago. Does it get much louder than that?

How about the first showdown between Hogan and The Rock? The dual chants of “Hogan” and “Rocky” from a smart Chicago crowd as both men slowly looked from side to side, in a spontaneous and electric exchange with the fans that is often imitated but never equaled.

If you ask me now, without a doubt it would be CM Punk’s HUGE win over John Cena at MITB.

This was a match, an event and a build-up (or rather one promo with huge Internet speculation) that will easily go down as one of the biggest stories in wrestling history, alongside Survivor Series 97, Flair entering the then-WWF as the “real world champion,” and the rise of the Austin-led Attitude Era.

Would this have been possible without a ruckus "hometown" Chicago crowd that elevated Punk and chased Cena from the building? We’ll never know for sure, but then again, "hometown glory" might not have as much to do with it.

Chicago is by far the epicenter of anti-Cena sentiment. Think of One Night Stand 2006, only with 15,000 strong.

This is the city that gave John Cena heat beyond belief at the 2006 Hall of Fame and then again the following night at WrestleMania 22, beginning a prolonged opposite world in wrestling where the babyface is jeered instead of cheered.

Let’s be honest. Cena is the biggest wrestler in the world, and the most appealing facet of his character is his steadfast, unwavering loyalty to his character in the face of utter rejection from half of the fans, or in Chicago 90 percent of them.

On Sunday night, vending lines were filled with beer touting adults giving purple-clad children the business.

New York is a legit wrestling city, but it is no Chicago.

And no disrespect to Undertaker-Michaels I or to Savage-Steamboat, but the truly greatest match in WrestleMania history still has to be Bret Hart and Steve Austin’s “I Quit Match.”

It ushered in and defined an era and a character and started the heel turn of the WWF’s greatest post-Hogan draw.

Bret Hart and Steve Austin have both said repeatedly that there is “something special about Chicago crowds,” with Austin boldly stating that the Allstate Arena was his “favorite place to work.”

Following Punk’s win, wrestlers from around the world young and old marked out like nobody’s business for the match, with Sean "X-Pac" Waltman adding “best building in the world” to his MITB response.

Even Cena admitted in a recent Tribune interview that nobody creates a live atmosphere like Chicago.

Chicago crowds get it. They know they are part of the experience. They are hell-bent on elevating the show and make the experience real. There is an unexpected feel.

At last year’s Night of Champions, they blew the roof off of the joint following Randy Orton’s title win. At MITB, Orton was greeted with a chorus of boos from a pro-Christian house.

But the fans are anything but fickle. And they don’t just cheer heels and jeer faces. They crave the intensity of the live experience and the unexpected.

To be frank, Chicago gets nowhere near the love it should. While Milwaukee, Baltimore and Little Rock, along with cities in Texas, Florida and Baltimore-DC get an abundance of PPV love, Chicago is only recently getting its share.

In the 12 years and From SummerSlam 1994 and WrestleMania 22, Chicago hosted only three pay per views. Recent history has been a bit more kind, with five supershows in six years, each one of them with a hotter-than-hell crowd. 

Twelve pay-per-views in all in 26 years of pay-per-view programming.

No doubt, the status of the Allstate Arena remains strong in Titan Towers, gaining nearly all local bookings over surrounding venues like the United Center and the UIC Pavilion.

Loyalty from the WWE is there, and the fans have been rewarded and in term rewarded WWE and its fans by elevating each event held there.

If the top brass were serious about rebranding and serious about building on strong momentum, capitalize on the reaction at MITB. Build up that Chicago crowd before the Dec. 26th RAW. Make the fans the fourth guy in the ring.  Talk it up as part of the event’s appeal.

Finally, give the city an annual pay per view event. If DC keeps Capital Punishment as an annual event, there is NO EXCUSE to not promote an annual Chi-Town Showdown. 

You are guaranteed a sell-out, a rabid crowd, a host of memorable moments and likely, if all the stars align, the loudest pop you will ever hear anywhere in the wrestling world.