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Get ready for Raw stories
Direction for WWE's new season will begin with tomorrow's show in Calgary
By TJ Madigan - Calgary Sun


Calgary grappling fans will be getting Raw tomorrow night, as the WWE's flagship TV show rolls into town for a live broadcast from the Saddledome. The action will begin around 5:45 p.m., with a few 'dark matches' -- in-ring tryouts for emerging young talent, not recorded for TV.

After that, the cameras will roll on Sunday Night Heat, a series of B-level bouts that will be broadcast on Spike TV's wrestling compilation show next weekend.

Then, at 7 p.m., it'll be lights, cameras, (fireworks, steel chairs, hot babes) and action, as the two-hour fix of Monday night mayhem kicks off from Cowtown.

The show will be beamed live to millions of homes across North America (viewership in the U.S. alone typically sits around the five million mark) and will be watched on tape delay in more than 100 other countries.

With such a massive worldwide audience (Raw is translated into 13 languages for international consumption), the show could easily be the most watched event emanating from Alberta this year.

The experience of a TV taping is usually a big enough coup for local fans but the timing couldn't be better for Calgary, since tomorrow's show will mark the start of WWE's new season.

The company generally claims Wrestlemania is where each wrestling year begins and ends but, in reality, the storylines from 'Mania continue through until Backlash, the April pay-per-view in which all the loose ends are usually tied up.

Long-running rivalries (such as the three-way tussle for the world title and the war between Mick Foley and Randy Orton) didn't come to a head at 'Mania but WILL be settled for good at Backlash, which goes down at Edmonton's Rexall Place tonight.

This means the Monday night crew will come to Calgary with a clean slate, ready to start a new batch of battles that will take them through to Summerslam and beyond.

Essentially, the direction the product will take for the remainder of 2004 will be set in motion at the 'Dome tomorrow night.

What that direction will be is anybody's guess -- most WWE wrestlers won't even find out the specific plans until pre-production meetings tomorrow afternoon -- but the more talked-about ideas include a Shawn Michaels heel turn on Chris Benoit and a feud between Lita and Trish Stratus for the women's title.

As for Calgary's Lance Storm, the poor guy just can't seem to catch a break. Ticketmaster lists him as one of the stars of the event but since WWE bosses just turned him heel again, I have a feeling they'll keep him off the show to prevent a situation where their newest bad guy gets a crowd boost of Hulk Hogan proportions.

Canadian audiences are notorious for backing their local stars, even when it completely contradicts the current storyline, so unless Storm figures out a way to put the Flames out of the playoffs (or something equally as devious), the Saddledome crowd will be firmly behind him.

Triple H is technically booked on the tour but he may not appear in Calgary, even though he'll be backstage at the event.

The Game is being written out of storylines to allow him to shoot his movie debut in L.A. next month and a loss at Backlash tonight could be the company's preference for his final appearance.

Same goes for Mick Foley, who is planning to take a break from the squared circle for a few months and could easily twist a blood-soaked loss in Edmonton into a reason for disappearing from the spotlight.

Steve Austin is a big name that definitely won't be showing up at the 'Dome, despite being advertised as one of the show's main attractions. Contract negotiations between Austin and WWE owner Vince McMahon finally broke down Friday, when the two sides couldn't come to terms over who owns the rights to the 'Stone Cold' moniker.

Austin has severed all ties with WWE and is already in negotiations to work in Japan with Bill Goldberg.

The marquee names guaranteed to be at tomorrow's show will be Benoit, Michaels, Orton, Eric Bischoff, Ric Flair, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Jericho, Edge, Kane and Randy Orton.

Second-tier seats were still available at press time and WWE is expected to release an extra batch of tickets, which were originally held for production purposes, this afternoon. Raw will air live on TSN.