Backlash booked for Edmonton
SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun
EDMONTON -- It was the kind of announcement a five-time world champion had to be a part of in the City of Champions. World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Booker T was on hand yesterday at the AgriCom to make it official - the WWE will bring the show Backlash to town, its first local pay-per-view event, set for Rexall Place Sunday, April 18 (5:45 p.m. start).
Tickets for the show go on sale Feb. 21 at 9:30 a.m. Ringside seats are expected to go for anywhere between $300 and $400, with purchasers allowed to take their folding chair home.
Booker T had an exhausting journey to get here - a trek from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with cancelled flights and missed connections that finally got him to town around midnight. No sweat, according to the master of the Spinaroonie who had fans waiting at the doors to the AgriCom at 6 a.m. to gain access to the interactive press conference.
Booker and the pumped-up fans weren't the only ones excited about the show that will air in 120 countries.
"Thank you for bringing Edmonton this birthday present. I can't think of anything better," Mayor Bill Smith told the raucous gathering before recalling his days "cleaning seats'' to earn free admission to wrestling at the old Sales Pavilion as a youngster.
Edmonton's long history of supporting professional wrestling was the key to bringing the city a pay-per-view show. The WWE (and earlier the WWF) has previously held two live episodes of RAW and one Smackdown! taping here, along with several house (non-televised) shows. The three televised WWE shows were all sellouts, with the 1999 Smackdown! taping drawing the former Skyreach Centre's largest attendance of the year with 17,520 spectators.
But the fans wanted bigger and better. WWE kingpin Vince McMahon told the Sun last August that he hoped to bring a PPV to Edmonton and the fans made it happen by launching a campaign with the company's office in Toronto.
"It started last May at a press conference when I told the fans that if they wanted a pay-per-view they had to write, call, e-mail and show us a sign. Well, they did it and they deserve it," said Carl DeMarco, president of WWE Canada.
"This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime situation for the fans which is why tickets are going to go really quick. It's going to have a different look than the traditional RAW and Smackdown! All the full-blown pyro, all the bells and whistles will be a huge factor. It's going to be a massive undertaking but it's going to be well worth it to deliver that to the fans.
"The vibe at a pay per view is like the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final. The intensity in the arena is a whole lot higher. Our superstars will be here loud and proud and eating a serious number of big Alberta steaks."
In the grand scheme of WWE productions, Backlash has proven to be one of the more significant PPV shows because it comes one month after wrestling's biggest event - Wrestlemania. This year's Wrestlemania will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York and features Edmonton's own Chris Benoit in the main event, so he may just be coming back to his home town with the heavyweight championship belt strapped to his waist.
"I know that Chris Benoit is going to come out on top at Wrestlemania 20 and at Backlash I'm going to be pushing for something new," explained Booker T (Booker Huffman). "We had a best-of-seven series a few years ago and I hope that Benoit and I can hook up one more time."
Diehards will surely get their fill of grapplin' action with the WWE travelling to Calgary for RAW the day after the Edmonton event, on April 19, and then to Kelowna, B.C., for Smackdown! the next night.
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