May 6, 2003
WWE RAW fans cheer heroes
By STEPHEN PEDERSEN - The Halifax Herald
RAW came to Halifax Monday night in the Metro Centre. Ten thousand fans raised the roof. A dozen bum actors in tight pants danced a ballet of pulled punches, floated through the air off the corner ropes, landed on the canvas like wrecking balls, and executed a stunning repertoire of grimaces, groans and agonized contortions of face and feature as they battled for bragging rights.
Yet all those punches to the head, kicks in the groin, elbows to the jaw made not a single sound.
Did the fans buy it? You bet. They roared and cheered and called the villains nasty names, and raised a wall of bristol board signs that ranged from the relatively innocent RAW is Jericho to the jingoistic We Hate the USA.
Mind you, the cast of characters, roughly divided between Good Guys and Bad Guys, and including characters called The Hurricane and Maven and Stone Cold Steve Austin (the giant of the good guys), don't kid about when they dive off those posts and slam into the floor, or when they literally fly over the top rope to crash into a helpless opponent they have just thrown out of the ring - as Hurricane did to Chris Jericho. That is very real. And sometimes they break their necks.
What confuses the script is that a Good Guy like The Hurricane, who stuck out his hand at the start of his match to Chris Jericho, who is a bad guy, didn't win his match. You see, Jericho is from Winnipeg, and this is Canada, so the fix was in. The crowd both loved and hated it.
There's a lot of good-natured snarling of cross-border insults. Like the two guys who interrupted Trish Stratus, a diva, as she sang O Canada for the live telecast on TSN of RAW to taunt us about our economy and our Armed Forces. The thing about it was, one of the bad-mouthed Yankees was Rene Dupres, and he's from Moncton.
Well, there's nothing wrong with that. It's all theatre.
The Best Actress award has to go to diva Victoria who beat up diva Jacqueline. That match, after all the heavy banging and thumping, was a symphony of light and quicksilver. The divas are small, extremely fit, and quick in their armpit arabesques. When they get thrown out of a helicopter they bounce when they hit the deck.
Victoria gets the nod for Best Actress not for her wrestling but for her intense support of Steven Richards in his match with Maven. He got the worst of it after a whirlwind of hurtling abs and pecs, but Victoria showed her anxiety and her hate for Maven with the passion of a jilted Greek queen.
The highlight of the night, which saw the televising of not one but two shows - one taped for Sunday Night Heat, the other the live broadcast of RAW - was the negotiations between Stone Cold Steve Austin and foul-mouthed and manic Eric Bischoff.
Last week Bischoff was demoted from his position of general manager of RAW by WWE CEO Linda McMahon for his unprofessional conduct in a little scandal involving Trish Stratus.
McMahon appointed Austin to be co-general manager and Monday night, in the first episode of the new regime, they clashed over Bischoff's firing of announcer Jim Ross. Austin wanted him back.
Champions were chosen. Chief Morley took Bischoff's part against Jerry (The King) Lawler as Austin's champion. Lawler won and Bischoff fired Morley for embarrassing him in public.
You can see how tangled things can get on RAW. But the fans are the ones who love it. They don't care a fig for the fakery. They love the chance to call bad guys names, to roar approval for the good guys, boo unpopular decisions and chant two-syllable profanities - especially at Bischoff.
The show itself is loud, and thunderous with explosions and flashes of light and though you often can't hear exactly what the people in the ring are telling you even with their microphones, all the fans know what is going on anyway.
As 20-year-old wrestling fan Adam Nied, an addict to the spectacle since the age of five, put it, "Wrestling is soap opera for guys."
That pretty well sums it up.