One of the most unique and exciting things about pro wrestling is the crowd participation. A pro wrestler must ‘get over’ with the fans or their career is doomed. Superstars hone their gimmick, mic skills, and in-ring moves based on the crowd reaction. The parts that resonate with the crowd stick, and the other bits are left behind. This means the crowd has more power than any other sport’s spectators. If a football team plays a boring style but wins, they’ll be boring until they lose.
An even more interesting fact about wrestling crowds is their ability to ‘hijack’ an event. Watch the first WWE Raw after a WrestleMania to see this in full force. That first Raw belongs to the crowd. It has the feel of a festival with a very ‘loose’ crowd chanting and singing over the action.
In fact, the most entertaining part of John Cena is how much the crowd boos him. This planet may be pretty crazy to live on, but to see the crowd boo Cena means the world makes a little more sense to me and I take comfort in that.
But not all of these cities are created equal. As the WWE tours North America and beyond, we get to see the vast differences in preference. Chicago and Philadelphia love the bad guys but when you move between the coasts, is far more traditional. The deep south has always been the home of ‘rasslin and Ric Flair and Canada is known as ‘bizarro’ land. Japanese audiences are much different than their Western counterparts, enjoying the technical aspects of the sport and demanding a harder-hitting style.
Just like a crowd making or breaking a career, they can equally influence the enjoyment of an event. Hogan versus The Rock in Toronto is a perfect example of a crowd taking an average match and turning it into a classic, while dead crowds can suck the life out of a PPV that could have been so much more.
But enough chatting, let’s throw these cities into a battle royal and see whose the last one standing!
This state seems to have that magic ingredient when it comes to producing superstars. The Von Erich Family, The Funks, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and Steve Austin are some of the many special talents to come out of the Lone Star State.
We’ve also seen some classic matches in the Cowboy state featuring their own home-grown talent. WrestleMania 25 had a classic matchup between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, and no one could forget the incredible WrestleMania X-Seven. The WWE recently called this their greatest PPV ever. I’m not sure if I agree with that, but the pop Steve Austin’s entrance received from his local fans brings chills to this day.
14. California dreamin’
While Portland and Seattle have a poor reputation for being too laid back, their nearby neighbors to the sunny south have no problem bringing the energy. The fun ‘n sun atmosphere as well as the close proximity to so many celebrities adds a unique element to the Californian events.
LA’s six consecutive SummerSlams and Santa Clara’s whopping 76,976 WrestleMania XXXI crowd have put this state in the WWE history books, with plenty more great events to come.
Although Dwayne Johnson is actually from California, he attended the University of Miami and his alter ego is billed from the steamy Floridian City.
Miami has a sexy party vibe that lends a great energy to WWE PPVs. It’s a city that feels grown-up, loose and wild. It’s an out of control feel that’s perfect for an over the top pro-wrestling card.
And let’s not forget Orlando, as they hosted a whopping 74,635 at WrestleMania XXIV in their oddly named Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Former home of WCW, Atlanta was the perfect foil to those yankees up north in the WWE. Ted Turner would use Georgia as his home base as he gave the WWE its stiffest competition ever. The Georgia Dome saw one of WCW’s greatest moments as their home-grown talent Goldberg defeated the immortal Hulk Hogan.
Considering the wrestling history of Georgia, it seems strange that the WWE has been reluctant to bring their major events down South. Atlanta took it upon themselves to campaign for a WrestleMania in 2009, eventually hosting the mediocre 27th edition in 2011 (not the city’s fault of course). Atlanta brought a massive crowd of 71,617 and the WWE unfortunately gave them one of the worst main events in ‘Mania history. The crowd did the best with what they were given, but couldn’t help but laugh at the lame Cena/Miz botch.
The WWE almost seemed to be trolling Atlanta when they initially gave them a double-countout as a finish. As usual, The Rock came in at the last minute to try and salvage a weak PPV finish.
The WWE has a chance to make it up to Atlanta with the upcoming 2015 Survivor Series.
WrestleMania III is when it truly clicked. WrestleMania I had the celebrities, WM II had Hogan versus a monster (King Kong Bundy), but the third edition refined it all. The advertised attendance figure of 93,173 showed the world that pro wrestling was truly a phenomenon. From Vince McMahon’s opening introduction of soul legend Aretha Franklin, to the bodyslam heard ’round the world, the entire event felt special.
The blue collar state of Michigan definitely appreciates wrestling and the WWE has shown their appreciation by giving Detroit so many of their biggest PPVs.
Montreal fans were already volatile and passionate before the infamous Screwjob. The hockey-mad fans have no problem booing even their own team if they’re upset with a performance. It makes for a fascinating energy.
Since that dark day in ’97, the atmosphere towards the WWE has forever changed. To see their prodigal son Bret Hart betrayed obviously didn’t sit well with the Canadian audience, and will not be soon forgotten. Shawn Michaels played with their anger to perfection in 2005 on Raw. He started off masterfully by singing his version of the Canadian anthem, goading the crowd into an absolute frenzy. This was broken by Bret Hart’s screaming guitar intro, bringing an incredible pop. But alas, it was yet another screw job from Michaels to Montreal.
While able to dish out heat, the city shows love to the legends of the business. Look up Hogan’s long ovation in Montreal, or Austin’s WWE return at No Way Out 2003 for some happy moments in Montreal.
Like Philly and New York, Boston has a very tough and ‘raw’ feel to their crowds. Boston is so tough that they’ll actually boo their own hometown athletes like John Cena.
Check out Scott Steiner versus Triple H at Royal Rumble 2003 for a good example of the Beantown crowd. This was when the WWE went temporarily insane, not only signing Steiner but trying to pass him off as a babyface. It obviously didn’t work out, and the crowd let them know. Steiner looked exhausted and put on an especially mediocre performance. They even ripped off the Hart-Austin bloody submission finish, with Triple H having to help the gassed Steiner put his own move on. The crowd saw right through the lame match and booed the crap out of the entire debacle.
Boston is tough, smart, and doesn’t take any crap.
The Japanese love their wrestling intensely and rightfully deserve a place on this list. They do enjoy a slightly different flavor however. Their strikes are incredibly stiff and the flashy stuff like gimmicks and storylines are seldom used. The fans are respectful and love the technical side of the sport. They consider pro wrestling so similar to MMA that they’ll even feature mixed martial arts matches on the same card.
Japan has been a great alternative for North American talents as well. It can be used as a training ground for those on the rise and an extra payday for those on the downslope of their careers.
If you want to see something really strange, check out an early Hulk Hogan match in Japan where he busts out moves that would make even Bret Hart proud!
7. St. Louis
St. Louis has a rich history in pro wrestling. Their Mid-Missouri Wrestling Alliance guaranteed many Missourians grew up wrestling fans and even featured future WWE superstar Randy Orton (among others). Because of the NWA’s massive presence in St. Louis, they even created their own Hall of Fame, featuring legends such as Ric Flair, Dick the Bruiser, Harley Race, and Rocky Johnson.
This ‘rasslin lovin city has continued their great tradition by continuing to bring great numbers to PPVs year after year.
Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, Ole Anderson, Bob Backlund, Nick Bockwinkel, Verne Gagne, X-Pack, Jesse Ventura and BRROOCKKKK LESSNNARRRR all hail from this amazing wrestling city. Maybe it’s the lack of major sport success that drives their love for wrestling, or perhaps it’s their close proximity Canada. Whatever the case, Minnesotans love wrestling.
They were also the host of the first ever Monday Nitro episode at the Mall of America. If not for this strange wrestling venue, we would never get to see the incredibly un-immortal Pastamania!
On a much more serious note, Minnesota also hosted the Eddie Guerrero Raw tribute episode after his tragic death in Minneapolis. It wasn’t his hometown of El Paso, but it felt right as the Gopher State has always respected the highest-calibre wrestlers like Guerrero.
Bret Hart versus The British Bulldog in front of 80,000 was truly epic, but the UK fans don’t need a hometown hero to tear the roof off the place. The Brits, with their football fandom, have perfected the art of being a large and awesome crowd. In fact, those Raw-after-WrestleMania crowds that hijack the show with their chants usually contain a large percentage of Europeans. The pilgrimage for WrestleMania weekend brings in the most passionate fans who give it an incredible festive feel.
The time difference makes it tough to hold a major PPV in England, but it’s definitely not impossible. A start time of noon on the West Coast is 3 pm on the east and 9 pm in the UK; perfect for a Saturday or Sunday event.
WrestleMania in London!
A tough crowd with brains. The WWE showed their ignorance with the Royal Rumble 2015 booking, but really screwed it up by trying to pull that atrocity in Philly. As soon as Bryan was quickly dumped the boos began. The fans saw the writing on the wall as Reigns entered late and started cleaning house, booing even louder. The sad attempt to build heat with aging heels Big Show and Kane beating on Reigns wasn’t believed for a second, as the crowd chanted “we want refunds”. Luckily, The Rock made a surprise return to prevent a possible riot.
Perhaps Philadelphia taught the WWE a lesson that night. It was obviously their plan to have Reigns win at WrestleMania 31, but the terrible reception Reigns received at the Rumble caused a fantastic swerve at WrestleMania 31.
If you find the darkest times of the WWE fascinating (like I do), be sure to check out the truly awful King of the Ring 1995. This card got so bad the Philly crowd started chanting “ECW!” Not a great time to be Vince McMahon.
3. New York
The house that Bruno built. MSG is a place so cool no one minds the ridiculously short entrance ramp.
In the territory days, New York was home for the McMahon promotions. Vince Jr. stayed true to New York when he first introduced his live show RAW. Those first few seasons in front of a rowdy crowd in the intimate Grand Ballroom in Manhattan set the tone for the eventual Attitude era. The tough New York crowds are not afraid to boo anyone they please and tend to bring out the best in performers.
The pop Cena received for his return at Royal Rumble 2008 was incredible. And the boos that followed when they remembered they hated him was even better.
Chris Jericho said it best: Hogan versus The Rock with no volume is an average match, but add the sound of the crowd and it becomes one of the greatest of all time.
Hogan explained the backstory of the match (believe what you will). Initially, the WWE had the two rehearse the bout weeks ahead of WrestleMania. The story was to play out with Hollywood as the Heel and Johnson as the returning hero. Of course, once the ‘bizarro’ Canadian fans got ahold of this match, their nostalgia turned it on its head. Hogan apparently communicated to The Rock that he could ‘fix it’, and called the match from then on. Breaking down the match will reveal very little actual ‘wrestling’, but the story told was incredible, and the crowd had more than an equal part in it.
Wind the clock back to 1990 for another electric face versus face match elevated further by the Toronto crowd. Hogan versus Warrior was an incredible matchup of two good guys in a time when it was rarely done. Again, the entertainment was provided in large part by the frenzied crowd. With a combined move-set of nine, these two behemoths relied completely on their ability to connect with the crowd. Having this match in a lesser city could have killed it.
Toronto is the home of some incredible moments, but it doesn’t quite have the body of work of a certain American city.
The living embodiment of the IWC. No city boos John Cena like Chicago. And you can’t blame them, they’ve had to deal with him ever since he debuted to Kurt Angle’s open challenge in their city. The crowd is almost always hot and is extremely wrestling-savvy. The punch-for-punch “BOO” and “YEAH” during the Punk/Cena MITB match was fan perfection.
Chicago saw and could fully appreciate some of the greatest WWE moments. They knew how big a deal Chris Jericho was and gave him a proper hero’s welcome for his WWE debut. And could there have been any better place for WM 13’s incredible double turn of Austin and Hart? Chicago was the perfect place for the rise of the heel.
Vince McMahon recently dropped some great news. He stated that even though the weather isn’t great in late March, he is considering a WrestleMania return to Chi-town. If wearing a jacket is all it takes to bring the biggest WWE event to the greatest wrestling city in the world, then put on yer darn coats, cuz it’s clobbering time!
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