The MTV VMAs have a new home, and it’s none other than New York City’s legendary Madison Square Garden. MSG is the perfect venue for the iconic awards – it was dubbed “The World’s Most Famous Arena” by original owner William Kissam Vanderbilt upon its 1879 opening, and over the years it has lived up to that reputation as host to some of the most momentous events in music, sports and entertainment history.
The return of the VMAs to NYC is a no brainer – the show made its debut in 1984 at Radio City Music Hall, and its 2016 ceremony promises to be an epic homecoming worthy of The Garden’s hallowed legacy.
Tune in to the MTV VMAs on Sunday, August 28 to catch performances by Rihanna and some of the year’s hottest stars (check out which 2016 MTV Video Music Awards stars are on tour now). And stroll down memory lane with these 10 historic Madison Square Garden moments to get psyched for the big night.
1962 – Marilyn Monroe sings Happy Birthday to JFK
Marilyn’s coquettish rendition was the birthday wish heard ’round the world, and it tickled the president pink. After her performance JFK joked, “I can now retire from politics after having had ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”
1970 – New York Knicks win their first NBA championship
The Knicks were established in 1946 but didn’t nab their first championship until an epic 1970 home court victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. New York fans were more than pumped, and you can bet the energy at MSG that night was insane.
1971 – Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali in Fight of the Century
It’s called the Fight of the Century for a reason – both champs were undefeated going into the match, and while Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, it was Frazier who took the title by unanimous decision after a grueling 15-round punch-out. MSG was considered the boxing mecca of the world before Vegas became a dominant boxing destination, and The Garden hosted some of the biggest fights of the 20th century.
1972 – Elvis Presley performs four sold-out performances at MSG
The shows were his first – and last – in NYC. Elvis skirted the Big Apple for many years because he was reportedly unsure of how he would be received – he knew that rock and roll had changed since his heyday, and he was worried that hip New York audiences would think his music was square. His fears were unfounded – the crowds loved him, and today Elvis’s MSG performances are the stuff of legend.
1974 – John Lennon makes his final concert appearance
The beloved former Beatle made a surprise guest appearance at Elton John’s 1974 MSG Thanksgiving concert to perform a rendition of their chart-topping collab “Whatever Gets You thru the Night.” The following year Lennon went on hiatus to raise his son Sean, and he was assassinated in 1980 before having a chance to return to the stage. May he rest peacefully in strawberry fields forever.
1985 – First WrestleMania takes place
The WWE’s hugely popular WrestleMania became a hallmark of the ’80s, and it all started in 1985 at Madison Square Garden. The inaugural event was pretty epic – Hulk Hogan and Mr. T claimed a campy victory over “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff while guest referee Muhammad Ali and guest timekeeper Liberace looked on.
1990 – Andrew Dice Clay becomes the first comedian to sell out MSG two nights in a row
The Diceman cemented his status as comedy royalty with a pair of back-to-back sold-out shows in 1990. It was hardly a surprise – Dice Clay is a Brooklyn native, and New Yorkers love his brash, no-BS brand of comedy.
1994 – The New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup
The Rangers ended their 54-year championship drought in 1994 with a Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. New York erupted in celebration, while Canadians nursed their collective wounds (the broadcast was the most-watched television event in Canadian history at the time – sorry, Canucks).
2001 – The Concert for New York City benefits 9/11
One month after the heartbreak of the 9/11 attacks, New York pulled together for night of healing, commemoration, and fundraising organized by Sir Paul McCartney. The event generated more than $35 million dollars and featured performances by a who’s who of superstar entertainers including David Bowie, The Who, Eric Clapton, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Jay-Z, Destiny’s Child, and Adam Sandler.
2016 – Billy Joel sets record for most consecutive sold-out MSG shows
The Piano Man continued his “Greatest Arena Engagement of All Time” in 2016 with his 33rd consecutive sold-out MSG show. Joel began his Madison Square Garden residency back in 2014, and has said he’ll continue to play monthly shows as long as tickets keep selling out.
Catch the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards Sunday, August 28 at 9pm ET/PT on MTV, then get ready to see all the MTV Video Music Awards stars heading to a concert venue near you!