Thirty years after hosting its first major televised wrestling show, the WWE held its last event at the Nassau Coliseum when Monday Night Raw emanated from the arena on May 25, 2015. While the Long Island landmark may not have had the prestige of Madison Square Garden, it was still home to some pretty unforgettable wrestling events (for reasons mostly good, but sometimes bad). In fact, I’ll tell you about six I saw in person!
First off, a few caveats; while I’ve been a wrestling fan for the majority of my life (which you’d know if you listen to my bi-weekly wrestling show Cheap Popcast), the cross-section of Nassau Coliseum shows that I attended all fell squarely during the Attitude Era (which is odd, since I’ve been to MSG shows as early as 1991 and as recently as 2013). So you won’t be hearing about the Mr. T-Roddy Piper WrestleMania 2 match from me, nor will I wax nostalgic about the creation of the WWE Divas Championship at The Great American Bash 2008 or even chat about the final Raw’s John Cena-Zack Ryder match. With that in mind, here’s the six moments I remember most.
6- The Phantom Stunner
If you wanted to know how big business was for the WWE during the summer of 1999, they nearly sold out the place with a show that advertised tapings for Shotgun Saturday Night and Sunday Night Heat. That’s it. No Raw, no Smackdown, just some B-show antics. However, this being the fast-paced “anything can happen at any time” crash-TV era, we were graced with a Stone Cold Steve Austin appearance as he cleared house after a Val Venis-Chyna King of the Ring qualifying match. Said house-clearing required Austin dish out stunners to a procession to referees. It’s kind of neat, but the moment became an all-time highlight when the stunner to Tim White was completely botched. Years before Maffew made them famous, I got to see my all-time favorite botch in person.
5- Vince Russo, WCW Champion
Any time I went to see WWE at the Coliseum, it was a big to-do. My brother and I would camp out the night before tickets went on sale, aiming to get tickets as close to the ring as possible. Sometimes, it meant braving freezing temperatures. One time, I camped out alone and had to hold it in for so long that I can’t ever look at the McDonalds across the street without dealing with PTSD. For this late 2000 episode of Monday Nitro, I got near-floor level seats buying tickets at the door. It was mostly a forgettable show (seriously, I didn’t remember that I had seen a Sting match live before WrestleMania 31 until I re-read the results today), but the lowlight had to be Long Island’s own Vince Russo booking himself into a WCW World Heavyweight Championship reign. I had actually defended David Arquette’s WCW Championship on message boards back in the day, but this awful move was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back that was my WCW fandom.
4- The Dethroning of Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart
As I talked about back in the Cheap Popcast backdoor pilot episode of Laser Time, Owen Hart was one of my favorite wrestlers. I wanted him to beat Bret Hart back when the feuded in 1994, and I was excited to see him forge his own path after Bret departed the WWE due to the Montreal Screwjob in 1997. Unfortunately, WWE dropped the ball in a big way. Owen’s first year on his own included a feud with DX where he barely won, and an ill-fitting membership with the Nation of Domination. Things were looking up for Owen when I attended a Sunday Night Heat-Monday Night Raw combo taping in March of 1999 (this set of tapings was best known for The Big Show and Steve Austin destroying the Titantron), as Hart and Jeff Jarrett were fresh off of successfully defending the tag straps at WrestleMania. The night started with X-Pac helping Kane recover after a handicap match gone wrong against the tag champs on Sunday Night Heat, with the storyline moving onto Raw where my two favorite wrestlers at the time lost their belts. Little did I know this would be the last time I’d be able to see Owen wrestle live.