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   Sun, June 29, 2003



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J.R. has love for Canadians
By TIM BAINES -- Ottawa Sun


Passion for wrestling runs through Jim Ross' veins.

Watching Owen Hart tumble to his death from a scaffold is a night Ross, a legend behind WWE's microphone, will never forget.

"It was the saddest day of my life ... Owen died right in front of my eyes." said Ross, who still has a fondness for Owen's brother Bret. For that matter, Ross has an affinity for several Canadian wrestlers and this country's wonderfully supportive fans.

"Bret was to WWE like Wayne Gretzky was to the NHL," said Ross. "There's a kinship between wrestling and Canada and it's been passed down for generations. The work ethic of the Canadian athletes we've hired has been absolutely amazing.

"Some of the greatest wrestlers I've ever seen are Canadian -- Mad Dog Vachon, Pat Patterson, Whipper Billy Watson, Billy Red Lyons ... Angelo Mosca. If wrestling has a legitimate Hall of Fame, completely by-partisan, there would be tons of Canadian athletes in it. Chris Benoit may as good, pound for pound, as anybody I've ever seen."

But it's not just the Canadians that make Ross believe WWE has a bright future.

Ross, also WWE's senior VP of talent, says there's a new generation of stars ready to step into the shoes of icons like Shawn Michaels.

"Randy Orton's a third-generation wrestler. We're counting on him to be a huge star," said Ross. "Then there are guys like Brock Lesnar, Charlie Haas, Shelton Benjamin and John Cena. Those kids are what the future's about.

"As the head of talent here, I'm much like a player personnel director. It's incumbent on me to recruit athletes who are extroverted. We look for wrestlers with high character. Sometimes we misread ... it's like making a bad trade that doesn't work out.

"I'm not a big size guy. The King (Jerry Lawler) would say, 'J.R., you've always said that size doesn't matter.'

"But you don't have to be a physical giant. We don't measure a guy's arms. You don't have to be a freak of nature to be a wrestler. But you have to be a good character. Shawn Michaels is a forerunner of the notion that talent and charisma can overcome size."

- Kane is just about as hideous looking as we imagined he might be when he was brought into WWE. Kane lost a match to Triple H on RAW ... and the stipulation was The Big Red Machine would have to remove his mask. What we saw were bruises, scars and a bizarre hair cut. Freddie Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street has nothing on this guy. Geez, even Dr. Isaac Yankem, an earlier alias in the careeer of Kane (Glen Jacobs) was a hunk in comparison.

- Attention, you maggotts, Sgt. Slaughter is back, if only for one night. The Sarge teamed up with The Hurricane to take on and lose to La Resistance.

- Goldberg needed just 26 seconds to beat Rodney Mack. Looks like the wrecking machine is back!

- Mick Foley took some bumps after an emtional tribute to him during RAW. Randy Orton tossed Foley down the stairs.

- WWE has cut its ties with Rowdy Roddy Piper -- again. According to WWE: "On Tuesday, June 24, Piper appeared on an HBO program and revealed disturbing facts about his own personal drug use. Piper stated that he used drugs for many years while working in professional wrestling and that he does not like the person that he becomes when he actively performs as a professional wrestler. In view of WWE's inability to reach agreement on a contract and to assist Piper from engaging in any self destructive behavior, the WWE is ending any further discussions with Piper regarding a contract. The WWE sincerely hopes for Piper and his family that Roddy can find happiness." On the HBO show, which was taped before Piper returned to the WWE, Piper said: "This business has a hell of an entrance plan but it's got no exit plan." Asked about his recent return to the ring, he went on to add, "I'm not going to make it to 65. Let's just face facts guys."

- Look for Zach Gowen and Stephanie McMahon to face The Big Show in a handicap match. If the Gowen team wins, the one-legged wrestler gets a Smackdown! contract.