March 6, 2004
Pete's night
WWE's marketing geniuses induct Rose into Hall of Fame
By TJ MADIGAN - CALGARY SUN

Click here for SLAM! Wrestling's 'WrestleMania XX' section.

Pete Rose will finally be inducted into the Hall of Fame next weekend but it won't be the ceremonious occasion baseball fans imagined. In a genius marketing move, Vince McMahon announced Rose will be the first ever 'celebrity inductee' in the WWE's Wrestling Hall of Fame, set to be honoured alongside a bevy of wrestling legends at an exclusive reception next weekend.

McMahon is playing up Rose's controversial battle with MLB bosses over his exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame due to gambling allegations during his active career, a rumour Rose recently confirmed in his autobiography.

The gimmick has bought WWE a ton of free publicity for next weekend's Wrestlemania, with media heavyweights such as Fox Sports, The New York Times, TSN and ESPN picking up the story.

Rose's wrestling celebrity stemmed from a guest appearance at Wrestlemania XIV in 1998, when the baseball great invoked the wrath of Kane and wound up getting tombstoned in the middle of the ring by the Big Red Machine. The angle went over in such a big way Rose slipped into the role at two subsequent 'Manias and even spoofed the rivalry in an ad for a WWE pay-per-view.

The Hall-of-Fame ceremony will take place next Saturday, Wrestlemania eve, at the New York Hilton, where Kane will formally induct Rose -- and probably give him a chokeslam or two. Rose will also appear at Wrestlemania.

The other, more serious, Hall-of-Fame inductees are Jesse (The Body) Ventura, Bobby (The Brain) Heenan, Harley Race, Don Muraco, Tito Santana, (Superstar) Billy Graham, Sgt. Slaughter, Big John Studd, Greg (The Hammer) Valentine and Junkyard Dog.


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PEOPLE'S HYPE: The Rock will be at Raw in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday to add some punch to the WWE's go-home show before Wrestlemania. The People's Champ kept his promo short last week to build anticipation for his first big speech on Monday's episode, where he'll hype his 'Mania tag-team match with Mick Foley against the Evolution trio of Randy Orton, Ric Flair and Batista.

With no clear headline match for 'Mania, The Rock and Sock's tilt with Evolution is the most obvious choice to put as the main event. The other possible finishers are either set to have a heel winner (Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg) or lack the established star power needed to close out the biggest show of the year (Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero).

A Rock-centred end to the night would also be a shrewd business move to capitalize on the Great One's presence, since the show will be his last 2004 ring appearance due to Hollywood commitments.

The Undertaker vs. Kane is the other consideration for the big Wrestlemania finale.

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HOT TICKET: Around 7,000 tickets were snapped up in just 24 hours for the Backlash pay-per-view, which is set to go down at Edmonton's Rexall Place, on April 18. Those are solid first week sales, especially when you consider the last few WWE house shows in Alberta barely sold a fifth of that figure.

At press time, there were still floor seats available for the Monday Night Raw taping in Calgary the following night but ticket sales are said to be steady. The numbers aren't spectacular enough to warrant a second TV taping in the city. The Smackdown event on April 20 will now be recorded at Prospera Place in Kelowna instead.

WWE will be running two untelevised Smackdown brand house shows in the province that same weekend, with a show in Lethbridge April 17 and in the Medicine Hat Arena the following night.

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ALBERTA BOUND: With the exception of his trip to NYC for Wrestlemania, Goldberg is spending the entire month of March in Wetaskiwin, shooting his festive action-comedy movie, Santa's Slay. The movie will hit theatres this winter.


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