While our fair state hasn't had too many proud sports moments over the past few years, there's one fact that can't be denied: We love our pro wrestling.
This weekend, John Cena, Randy Orton, and the rest of the WWE Superstars will pass through the Target Center on the "Road to Wrestlemania" for an evening full of suplexes, body slams, and RKO's outta nowhere.
While Minnesota has been responsible for producing some of the greatest pro wrestlers in history, we've also hosted a number of incredible moments that helped shaped the direction of sports entertainment forever. Before Super Cena and his magic jean shorts roll into town, we wanted to look back on five of the greatest moments in Minnesota pro wrestling history.
AWA WrestleRock rumbles at the Metrodome
Back in the sping of '86, the American Wrestling Association packed 23,000 fans in the Metrodome to see megastars like the Road Warriors, Scott Hall, and Curt Hennig do battle in an event that was the AWA equivalent of WWE's Wrestlemania. Country legend Waylon Jennings performed a mini-concert immediately following the final match, and overall WrestleRock was considered a success.
The most important thing to come out of this, however, was the epic music video released to help hype the event. Similar to the "Super Bowl Shuffle," AWA's "WrestleRock Rumble" featured a star-studded lineup of wrestlers like Shawn Michaels, Larry Zybszko, and Sheik Adnan El Kaissey rapping about just how hot WrestleRock was going to be, while bad Vegas celebrity impersonators inexplicably showed up randomly throughout the video.
The highlight comes at 2:40, when 60-year-old Verne Gagne himself gets on the mic, unleashes his flow on unsuspecting viewers, and refuses to even try to hide the fact that he's reading off of a piece of paper. While AWA would sadly fold a few years later, the "WrestleRock Rumble" and Gagne's dope lyrics will live on forever thanks to the power of the internet.
WCW Monday Nitro (AND PASTAMANIA!) runs wild on Mall of America
One of the biggest turning points in wrestling history happened in 1995, when World Championship Wrestling launched Monday Nitro and officially kicked off the famed Monday Night Wars. Mall of America hosted the debut episode, which featured Ric Flair, Sting, and Hulk Hogan himself, live in the mall rotunda in front of wrestling fans and confused mall enthusiasts alike. It also featured a ton of promo for the Mall of America's newest attraction, Pastamania, which was Hulkster's ill-fated restaurant that died a swift death only a few months later.
The show included a shocking appearance by former WWE Superstar Lex Luger, and also featured Hogan telling his opponent that he was going to give him "a dose of his Hulkaroos," in what can only be called the most confusing threat in Italian dining history.
Jesse "The Body" Ventura returns to the ring
At the peak of its popularity in the late '90s, WWE was attracting major celebrities who were looking to get in on the action. But none were more buzz-worthy than the recently elected governor of Minnesota, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Ventura had been known for his loud mouth and louder fashion sense back in the '80s as an in-ring performer and commentator, but had traded in his pro wrestling past for making change in the political arena here in his home state.
In 1999, "The Body" stepped through the ropes one last time when he refereed the main event of WWE Summerslam at the Target Center. While the match featured Hall of Famers like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, and Mick Foley, Ventura was clearly the man everyone came to see, and proved that our politicians were not to be messed with.
In late 2000, Extreme Championship Wrestling hosted one of its final pay-per-view events at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. In very ECW-fashion, the sold-out crowd was treated to tables, chairs, and bloodshed in the ring that night, but the highlight came when Minnesota's own Jerry Lynn won the world championship in the main event. While Lynn's reign was short-lived, and ECW would never again visit Minnesota before closing up shop in 2001, that night we showed the wrestling world that St. Paul was (and is) the most surprisingly hardcore city in the Midwest (except for maybe like Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Shakopee, and Wisconsin Dells).
Raw is Eddie Guerrero
Possibly the most tragic event in WWE history took place on November 13, 2005 when Eddie Guerrero was found dead in his motel room in Minneapolis as a result of acute heart failure. Later that day, WWE filmed Raw at Target Center, but transformed it into an Eddie Guerrero tribute show. The traditional storylines of good versus evil were put on pause, allowing all of the wrestlers to pay their respects to the fallen Guerrero. The show was incredibly emotional, and is considered to be some of the most powerful television ever produced in wrestling.