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TJ Ring repeat
Smackdown brand makes yet another visit to Calgary


We reported it here a few months ago and now the WWE has formally announced it\'ll be stopping in Calgary during its trek across Western Canada this summer. The Up Close and Uncensored tour -- not nearly as cool or edgy as the name implies -- will touch down at the Saddledome Aug. 2 for an evening house show featuring the Smackdown grappling crew.

Edmonton will be getting a similar show the following night before the tour rolls on to Vancouver for the more important Raw and Smackdown TV tapings on Aug. 4-5.

The Saddledome event will mark the third consecutive time the Smackdown brand has come to town, which from an in-ring standpoin is definitely a better deal than a Raw show.

Then again, while the work rate and overall product will definitely be easier on the eyes, it\'s been a long time since Calgary has seen some of the big Raw names (Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair spring to mind) and it might have been a better idea to alternate the rosters from visit to visit, especially when you look at the gradual decline in ticket sales.

The live Raw show in 2001 was a near sellout at the \'Dome. When WWE did a Smackdown TV taping here last summer, about a fifth of the arena was curtained off. When the WWE returned for an afternoon house show in October, the stands were completely empty and even the floor area was laced with vacant seats.

Granted, an internationally televised mega-event is always going to sell better than an under-promoted house show but when the biggest stars in your company are performing in front of 10,000 empty seats, something\'s gotta give.

WWE executives decided not to run television tapings here this year but are supposedly scouting Calgary as a potential location for a pay-per-view in 2004. I have a feeling a large and lively crowd at the Saddledome on Aug. 2 could sway that decision in the right direction, so if you do decide to fork out $40 to see the Smackdown stars in the flesh for the third time in 14 months, here\'s what you should be ready for ...

Like I said, we\'re pencilled in for a house-show experience, so for anyone who isn\'t familiar with the terminology, get ready for a heavily-diluted version of what you see on The Score each Thursday. There\'ll be no fancy lights, pyrotechnics, Titantron ramps or TV cameras. As a general rule, anything that doesn\'t happen on TV doesn\'t happen, period, so we won\'t be seeing any major swerves or title changes either. Instead, it\'ll just be a wrestling ring, a couple of spotlights and 15 to 20 faces you might recognise.

Of course, the absence of TV cameras can sometimes be a good thing since the WWE gets to pander to the local audience without fear of storyline repercussions. For example, on the last WWE visit to Cowtown, Edge and Christian were reunited for a one-night-only tag match while Lance Storm and Chris Jericho got to work as babyfaces in their adopted home town.

In terms of the lineup, the WWE wasn\'t able to confirm a card at press time but most of the Smackdown roster is on the house show booking sheet, so I\'d expect to see Brock Lesnar, Matt Hardy, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Big Show, Rhyno and maybe even the Undertaker as the big names coming to town.

While Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper are technically Smackdown property and could theoretically appear, don\'t get your hopes up. They virtually never do untelevised shots and will probably skip the Alberta dates in favour of flying directly to Vancouver for the Smackdown tapings the following Tuesday.

Kurt Angle is another huge name that could be reserving a seat on the flight to Calgary -- he\'s slated to be back in the ring in a matter of weeks -- but after all the medical scares Angle has been through in the past few months, I\'m expecting him to work a limited schedule for the rest of the year.