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Star gazin'
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Edmonton will feel the backlash from Wrestlemania up close and personal, as the city is set to play host to its first major wrestling pay-per-view. Carl DeMarco, president of WWE's Canadian division, sounded even more excited than usual as he ran down the latest developments in a phone interview with the Sun this week.

"We're doing a major press conference Feb. 4 at the Rexall Centre," DeMarco said.

"The mayor of Edmonton will be there, Booker T will be there and we're inviting all fans in Alberta to come along, too."

At the press conference, DeMarco will announce Backlash, the first Raw brand PPV of 2004, will take place in April in the Rexall (formerly Skyreach) Centre.

"The fans have spoken loudly and clearly they want televised events," he said. "And this is the first pay-per-view after Wrestlemania, which is a huge coup for Alberta's wrestling fans."

DeMarco also addressed Sun reports the following night's edition of Monday Night Raw will be taking place at the Saddledome.

"Yes, I think it's safe to say we'll be in Calgary the next day."

The 'Dome show will be broadcast live to millions of homes around North America and aired internationally to millions more on tape delay.

DeMarco's confirmation of the back-to-back shows is great news for wrestling followers in the province, who haven't seen a TV-quality live event in almost two years.

WWE traditionally ran TV tapings in Calgary and Edmonton each May but, last summer, the company switched those events to Eastern Canadian cities.

Analysts wrote it off

as an effort to move live events to stronger markets. Attendances were declining in regions where wrestling was a regular fixture but WWE shows in less-saturated markets, such as Halifax, were selling out in minutes.

Company insiders maintained the hiatus was just an effort to give the province a breather before bringing the big guns in 2004. With Backlash and Raw heading our way, it looks like they were telling the truth.

Financially, the timing couldn't be better. With the loonie gaining on the greenback, this could turn out to be one of the most profitable Western Canadian stints in company history.

Given the less than stellar ticket sales at

previous events -- there were around 10,000 empty seats at a 2002 Saddledome house show -- execs have a right to be concerned but DeMarco anticipates a strong showing from the province's grappling lovers.

"I'll honestly be surprised if it doesn't sell out," he said. "It's a rare opportunity to see this kind of event in person and it may not happen again for a long time."

The lineup for Backlash won't be established until after Wrestlemania (and the card for the Calgary show won't be announced until the day it takes place) but with Chris Benoit set to transfer to the Raw roster in the next few weeks, I expect the Edmontonian to be featured prominently.

In fact, if WWE is genuinely planning on having Benoit take the world title from Triple H (as some rumours suggest), there'd be no better place to give him the big win than his hometown.

Most of the big names should be headed to town, including Steve Austin, Eric Bischoff, Evolution, Rob Van Dam and Calgary's own Lance Storm.

Ticket details and on-sale dates will be announced Feb. 4.