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Calgary home to fevered fans
Flames faithful showed love for both hockey and wrestling
By TJ MADIGAN -- Calgary Sun


I was sitting in the Rexall Place press box, scribbling some pre-Backlash notes in my pad when I heard it. At first, I thought I was imagining things because it was the last sound I expected to hear in the hallowed home of the Edmonton Oilers.

A small group of people in the 200 section had bravely begun the chant and -- just like the festive Who-ville melodies that enticed the Grinch to change his ways -- it started out low, then it started to grow.

"Go, Flames, go! Go, Flames, go!"

It quickly became an arena-wide cheer and while thousands of faithful Oilers fans tried to drown it out with a chorus of boos, the Flaming C battle-cry rang loud and clear, even on enemy soil.

It was the perfect kickstart to the weekend for Calgary wrestling fans, as WWE rolled into Edmonton for the big pay-per-view, then on to the Saddledome for Monday Night Raw -- all against the backdrop of the Flames' most successful playoff run in 15 years.

Tens of millions of viewers around the world tuned in to see the grappling action from Alberta but many of the more memorable moments, such as the impromptu show of support for Jarome Iginla and the gang, were seen only by those lucky enough to have tickets.

One of the highlights of the weekend came after the cameras stopped rolling on Backlash, when Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels decided to go at it verbally for the live crowd.

However unpopular Michaels may have seemed on the TV feed, it was a million times worse in real life. The Alberta fans' deep-rooted hatred for HBK was palpable and he didn't stand a chance against the hometown hero.

"I want you to go to the locker-room, pack your bags and get the hell out," Benoit hollered to a roar of approval from the 16,000-strong audience. "You screwed Bret Hart and you're not welcome here."

After Michaels was disposed of, Triple H stormed back out to the ring and, if ever there was a time I wish the cameras were rolling on the Crippler, this was it.

Benoit, who is often criticized for his lack of ability on the mic, was simply electric.

The wrestlers exchanged promos for a few minutes, with Benoit holding his own against one of the best talkers in the business, before he locked Triple H in the crossface and made him tap one more time for good measure.

By the time the crew rolled into Calgary the next night, Flames fever was in full effect. Even WWE executives openly admitted they expected a low turnout, since Raw was going head-to-head with Game 7 in the Flames-Vancouver Canucks series.

Luckily, Calgary fans proved they still love their wrasslin', showing up to the tune of 12,000 for the event.

The C of Red was out in force, with jerseys everywhere and Flames chants overpowering the action throughout the evening, most notably distracting Randy Orton in the middle of his monologue.

The award for homemade sign of the night goes to the guy in the front row, whose placard simply read "HHH Fears Oliwa."

Classic stuff.

Of the Saddledome antics that didn't make the airwaves, the highlight was a dark match with hometown boy Lance Storm beating Steven Richards. Storm was beaming from ear to ear as the Calgary crowd welcomed him back to the 'Dome, which ensures WWE won't be airing highlights since the former Impact Player is supposed to be a stuck-up bad guy right now.

The Sunday Night Heat pre-tape was headlined by a Shelton Benjamin-Rhyno match, which will air on Spike TV tomorrow night.

After the show went off the air, Edge and Benoit paid tribute to some of Calgary's wrestling legends (including Stu Hart) and celebrated their tag team title win over Ric Flair and Batista.


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