So, word on the internet is that MSG is unhappy with WWE over the fact that WWE is no longer running TV and PPV from the Garden, despite the fact that WWE stopped running both years ago.
For decades, Madison Square Garden and WWE have been synonymous. The Garden was WWE’s home when they were in New York, many great moments in WWE history, including the first WrestleMania, took place in the Garden. For years, the thought of WWE going somewhere else in New York City to do TV or PPV was like the Queen of England staying at a Holiday Inn instead of Buckingham Palace when she was in London. In fact, no other wrestling promotion could get into MSG during the prime years of their relationship, including WCW, though some promotions ran in a smaller venue attatched to the Garden.
However, over the years, WWE’s use of Madison Square Garden has become less cozy. WWE slowly stopped running TV and PPVs from the Garden. In 2009, WWE chose Houston as the host for WrestleMania 25, which should have happened in MSG, but even when WWE went back to New York for WrestleMania 29 in 2013, they chose MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for WrestleMania and Madison Square Garden was used for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. In fact, the last WWE PPV to happen in the Garden was in 2011 when WWE ran Survivor Series from the Garden. WWE still runs the Garden, but only for house shows, which aren’t televised, though being on the Garden card is still considered a huge honor and thrill for any wrestler.
So what happened? The biggest reason has been the Dolan family, who owns Madison Square Garden and most of the teams that have their home games in the building, as well as several minor league teams, Radio City Music Hall, and some theaters in New York and LA, have raised the cost of running TV out of the Garden to a pretty prohibitive one and aren’t offering much in return except prestige.
Why? Short answer is that it is extremely expensive to operate in New York City and the Madison Square Garden Company not only has Madison Square Garden to operate, but the teams that make their home there, as well as the theaters and Radio City Music Hall and the cost has to be made up somewhere. WWE paid the money because there weren’t many viable options and because there was a sense of loyalty to running shows in the Garden.
The other reason things cooled was the emergence of the Barclays Center. The completion of the Barclays Center in 2012 meant that WWE had alternatives in New York if they wanted to run a show IN New York City, as opposed to going to New Jersey. Yes, Barclays wasn’t as prestigious as Madison Square Garden, but it also meant WWE wasn’t going to have to spend a fortune just for the prestige of doing a show there either.
Unfortunately, the Madison Square Garden Company didn’t seem to realize that an alternative arena meant that they could no longer count on WWE shelling out the money to run TV out of the Garden. Instead of playing ball and competing for WWE’s business, the owners ignored the issue until it was shoved in their faces when Barclays was the venue chosen for the WrestleMania 35 weekend fun and games instead of MSG, which is closer to MetLife Stadium than Brooklyn (if my rough knowledge of NYC geography is correct), or RAW 25, which was done at Barclays and the Manhattan Civic Center. While having part of RAW 25 at the Civic Center made sense since it was the home of the first RAW, the snubbing of Madison Square Garden was a surprise to many.
Problem is that, even when it was shoved in their faces, MSG’s reaction was not to do a rethink but to try and put pressure on WWE to come back, seven years after the last WWE PPV in the arena. Mexico’s AAA organization has a hold on MSG for a September event, though WWE has a right to tell MSG that they don’t want it to happen due to an agreement with the building going back decades. Problem is that it doesn’t look like WWE’s going to protest, especially since they’re going to be doing a house show at the Garden in July that’s going to feature The Undertaker.
However, there is a way to save the WWE/MSG relationship, but it requires that MSG play ball and act like they are actually interested in keeping WWE’s patronage instead of assuming it’ll always be there or trying exert pressure on WWE to come back, when they’ve pretty much already moved on, by bringing in a rival promotion. If MSG is really serious about wanting to be the home of the WWE again, they’re going to have to work for it because while WWE continues to say its home turf is the Garden, the reality is WWE’s found a new home in Brooklyn.