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Months of Orton reign in forecast
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun


Over the past few weeks, Toronto's Air Canada Centre has played host to two of the biggest names in music, Prince and Madonna. On a recent visit to the arena, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors, I was surprised to find virtually no evidence The Material Girl or The Artist Formerly Known as Squiggle were coming to town.

Instead, as I entered the ACC concourse, I was greeted by a massive 30-ft. by 15-ft. banner that cast its shadow over the entire front entrance.

Summerslam, it read, is coming to Toronto.

The grappling game's popularity may be suffering south of the border but Canada is still a red-hot market for Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment.

The soldout Summerslam pay-per-view, which touches down in the ACC Aug. 15, is getting the type of treatment usually reserved for mainstream international sporting events.

Tourism Toronto has embraced the show as a major summertime attraction, the mayor is plugging it as a huge coup for the city and WWE wrestlers are booked solid for a weekend of fan festivals and fundraisers.

This level of attention is unprecedented in the U.S. -- part of the reason WWE brings its big shows to Canada so often -- but it's more than just the novelty of a Canadian-based PPV.

Not only is Summerslam the second-biggest event on the wrestling calendar, it's also going to be a crucial turning point for WWE. After two years of grooming Randy Orton for the top spot in the company, WWE bosses will finally give him the ball and let him run with it.

Much like The Rock, circa 1997, Orton is a third-generation grappler who is viewed as a future mega-star by the powers that be.

Just like The Rock, he got off to a shaky start with the audience but gradually developed into a phenomenal all-rounder, with particularly strong microphone skills.

And at Summerslam, WWE bosses will finally elevate him to a Rock-level main- event spot, hoping he'll catch fire as a top tier superstar.

The 24-year old is expected to beat Chris Benoit in the Summerslam main event to become the heavyweight champion.

He's not going to be a short-term transitional champ either.

The plan is for Orton to hold onto the title until Wrestlemania XXI next March, where he'll main event the biggest wrestling show in history with a match against his current Evolution partner, Triple H.

The Evolution breakup was teased on Raw a few weeks back, when Orton and The Game butted heads in a clever backstage vignette, foreshadowing the tension that will eventually drive them apart.

The question is whether Orton will remain a heel (bad guy), as currently planned, or if the positive fan reaction he has started to receive will force WWE execs to re-cast him as a babyface champion.

Triple H, who will remain a heel for the time being, will be battling fan favourite Eugene at Summerslam, turning up the heat on what's become this year's blockbuster feud.

Also at the Aug. 15 PPV, Matt Hardy and Kane will settle the score in a till-death-do- us-part match, a laughable gimmick that demands Lita marry the winner of the match.

With Hardy likely to take time off to recover from a growing list of knee injuries (torn MCL, torn meniscus and torn cartilage), it looks like a big red wedding could be in the works for Lita.

Shawn Michaels could make an unannounced appearance, doing a run-in to seek storyline retribution on Kane. Michaels was originally written out of the show to allow him to spend time with his wife, who is due to give birth this weekend.

It's possible the wheels will also be set in motion on a character makeover for Edge (Adam Copeland). WWE bookers have been pushing for changes to Copeland's gimmick, including a new entrance, new haircut and a possible heel turn.

Edge will face Chris Jericho and Batista in a three-way match for the intercontinental belt at Summerslam.

Rounding out the card, The Undertaker challenges John Layfield for the WWE title, Booker T and John Cena duke it out for the U.S. strap and Kurt Angle takes on Eddie Guerrero.


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