AEW has changed the wrestling landscape with a mixture of different tactics. In addition to having some very entertaining wrestling, they have also done a nice job of tying their current product back into wrestling history. Some of these things have been flat out copies, but others have been a bit more subtle than that. This week, as AEW approaches probably their biggest Dynamite ever, they are dipping back into history again, whether they realize it or not.
This week, AEW is presenting its Grand Slam event in New York City at Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium. The show will feature probably set AEW’s all time attendance record and will feature an absolutely stacked card. Already announced are Kenny Omega vs. Bryan Danielson, Britt Baker defending the Women’s Title against Ruby Soho, the Cody Rhodes vs. Malakai Black showdown, Sting in action and a CM Punk interview. That’s one of the biggest cards ever, and then there is Rampage on top of the whole thing. All of that alone is an amazing card, but then there is the historic aspect of it as well.
Grand Slam will take place on September 22, 2021, or a mere twenty four years to the day that Monday Night Raw made its Madison Square Garden debut in New York City. That show was a bit later into the show’s life than Grand Slam will be for Dynamite, but it still might be the most important edition of the show in history. Today we are going to take a look at the show and what it meant for Monday Night Raw and the WWF going forward, as it really did change the company’s path forward in a great way.
There were a lot of huge moments on the show, but we’ll start with the biggest of them all: Stone Cold Steve Austin Stunned Vince McMahon for the first time ever, giving us the all time hilarious sell from McMahon, as he kind of fell over Austin and then….I guess you would say shook like a fish out of water. As you probably remember, this was the first of roughly 18,374 Stunners to McMahon over the years, but there was a bit more to it than that.
Austin taking McMahon out was the culmination of the Summer of Stunners, as Austin had Stunned just about every authority figure he could get his hands on, including Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter and Jim Ross. The fans were rallying behind Austin like no one had seen since the days of Hulk Hogan and they knew there was no stopping him from taking over the wrestling world.
What makes it even more interesting is that the Mr. McMahon character had not come out yet. Instead, this was still Vince McMahon, the same person who had been doing commentary for the company since before anyone could remember. This was one of the final pushes towards bringing Mr. McMahon out and with Montreal less than two months away, it was the makings of a perfect storm, with Austin pushing McMahon further over the edge but being right there waiting on the new boss.
So how do you follow that? Well in this case (as in immediately thereafter) it’s with a falls count anywhere match between Dude Love and Triple H. The two had been feuding for months and it was time for the final blowoff in the World’s Most Famous Arena. Triple H, with Chyna, was ready, but Love popped up on screen to say not so fast. Love was a lover instead of a fighter and wasn’t ready to face Triple H in this kind of a match. He knew someone who was though, and brought Mankind into the Love Shack. Mankind knew that he could hurt Triple H, but there was someone he knew who could do it even better.
Mankind then brought out Cactus Jack, who said that it was the darkest day of Triple H’s life because this is Madison Square Garden and Mrs. Foley’s little boy is coming home. BANG BANG! What followed was one of the best hardcore matches (or matches in general) that Monday Night Raw has ever seen as these two beat each other all over New York. Jack finally put Triple H away with a piledriver through a table on the stage in a famous ending. What makes it even more amazing: they had an even better version of nearly the same match over two years later at Royal Rumble 2000.
In addition to the big angles (and the opening of a tournament to crown a new Intercontinental Champion), there was a show long theme throughout the night: the Garden itself. There is no secret to the fact that Madison Square Garden is the ultimate holy ground for the WWF, with the tradition continuing to this day. The company makes a big deal out of appearing in the venue and that was certainly the case here again.
Throughout the show, various classic Garden clips and moments were shown as the arena itself was treated as one of the biggest characters on the show. It was the WWF playing off of its history and that is something they do as well as anything else. These clips and moments made the fans feel like they were watching something special, which is exactly what the company was going for on that night.
The entire show was a huge event which felt like the company had spent months setting everything up. They had put in the work leading up to the event and then blew everything off in a show that almost felt like a pay per view level show on Monday night. It is not something that you can do every week, but the setup and execution were both near perfection, making it as much of a success as the show could have been.
That brings us back to Dynamite, which has put in a good bit of work of its own in recent weeks. Between the debuts of CM Punk, the instant classic that was All Out, and the fallout from the pay per view and you have all the makings for another great show in front of the biggest crowd AEW has ever seen. That is the kind of thing that you do not get to see every week and I’m excited to see what is happening.
What makes things even more interesting is that the Monday Night Raw in Madison Square Garden felt like both a culmination and a beginning, as you could see things coming to a conclusion while also setting up something huge for the future. That is the sign of good storytelling and made fans want to keep going rather than just see where things were wrapping up.
The same thing is true of Grand Slam, as AEW has set things up for their special event and I’m curious to see where things go from here. Dynamite has become almost must see wrestling TV these days and that is a feeling you do not get to have very often. It makes these special events feel that much bigger and now I want to see what AEW is going to do with Grand Slam, both the Dynamite and Rampage editions. They know they are in a special spot and now they are going to deliver on it.
AEW has come a long way in just a few years and it feels like they are on the verAge of something big. I have no idea if this is going to lead to something in the same vein as the glory days of Monday Night Raw, but right now the best of Monday Night Raw is still pretty lousy. Dynamite does not have to do much to look good, but they are going above and beyond to do just that. Now it could be time for a boom, like Dynamite.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
Keep up with the LATEST WRESTLING RUMORS! Click here to sign up for the exclusive Wrestling Rumors daily newsletter, delivered right to your inbox.