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WWE returning to Madison Square Garden for first show back in NYC

WWE’s first show back in New York City will be at its “home” – Madison Square Garden.

“Friday Night SmackDown” will be live from the World’s Most Famous Arena on Sept. 10. It is the building WWE felt its return to the five boroughs coming out of the coronavirus pandemic needed to be at.

“It’s just fitting for us to sort of go back there,” Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE executive vice president of global talent strategy and development, told The Post in a phone interview. “For me personally, I almost feel like it’s the stamp at the end of this long, dark hallway we were in of COVID and just everything else.”

It will be Vince McMahon’s company’s first show at the Garden since a live event in December 2019 and the first major pro wrestling show in New York City since touring halted last March. Tickets go on sale next Friday. WWE has a long history at MSG, dating to the 1950s when McMahon’s father ran the company.

“Being able to go back to Madison Square Garden, where in many ways it began, WrestleMania and the history there and everything else, it’s just the perfect place,” Levesque said.

Madison Square Garden hasn’t been a regular stop for televised WWE events or pay-per-views in recent years because of the expense to broadcast from there. The company ran both a “Raw” and a “SmackDown” from MSG in September 2019, the first time doing so since 2009. Levesque hopes this coming SmackDown is the start of WWE resuming a “reasonable manner of business” at the Garden on a regular basis.

“Hopefully that includes television and pay-per-views,” he said. “There’s no greater crowd than Madison Square Garden when it’s packed.”

Levesque had some of the biggest moment of his career at MSG, including his return from a career-threating quad injury on “Monday Night Raw” in 2002. He felt you couldn’t have timed his return any better than that and the reaction he received from the Garden crowd – “one of the loudest I ever heard” — made it even more special.

“It’s funny, at that time I remember that day ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and I talking about [it,]” Levesque said. “No matter what you’ve done or what you see or what you feel coming into it, there is always that moment of when my music hits, are they going to care? And to get that kind of reaction was very, very emotional. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

WWE
SmackDown at MSG in 2019
WWE/Rich Freeda

The company coming back to Madison Square Garden is part of its return to touring and having fans back in the arenas for its weekly television shows, starting with “SmackDown” on July 16. During the pandemic, WWE ran shows at its Performance Center in Orlando without crowds and then with virtual fans on screens as part of its “ThunderDome” setup in multiple venues in Florida. With a product that’s geared toward getting fan reaction, Levesque couldn’t overstate the importance of having them back.

“The difference is just night and day,” he said. “For our superstars, there is nothing greater than that moment of when their music hits and that crowd stands up and goes crazy and boos and cheers and gives the reaction that they are working so hard to get. That’s the magic of what we do.”

WWE
Paul “Triple H” Levesque
WWE

WWE’s talent got to experience some of that at April’s WrestleMania 37, which had limited-capacity crowds of 25,000 on each of its two nights at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. It will likely hit a different level for “SummerSlam,” which is set for full capacity at Allegiant Stadium – home of the Raiders — in Las Vegas on Aug. 21. Levesque, when asked if WWE is going to treat the card’s star power like a WrestleMania, said the company hopes to make the show “a spectacle” and ”as big as it can possibly be” with it being the first true large-scale event coming out of this pandemic.

John Cena, who currently has the No. 1 movie in the world with “F9”, said on “The Tonight Show” that he will definitely be back with WWE, but did not know when. When asked if this would be a good time to bring him back, Levesque said similar rules apply for Cena and The Rock – both of whom are rumored to be eventual opponents for Universal Champion Roman Reigns.

“No matter how busy they are, I know that anytime there’s an opportunity where you would say to them, ‘Hey, you could enter the ring in WWE and do this,’ there’s a part of them that goes, ‘Ooh, that sounds like a lot of fun,’” Levesque said.

It’s something he hopes WWE fans will be having once again alongside its talent both at Madison Square Garden in September and as the company starts touring.

“We do it all for them,” Leveque said. “There’s no other real reason. You’re doing it for that reaction. So to have that back, you can’t even really put it into words.”  

nypost.com

New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates NYPost.com, the celebrity gossip site PageSix.com and the entertainment site Decider.com.

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