March 19, 2005
Fans, media enjoy Calgary presser
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun
WWE usually reserves flashy press conferences for major pay-per-view events. But this week, the WWE publicity machine rolled into Calgary to announce a Monday Night Raw TV taping is coming our way. The WWE media relations crew was in town all week, doing the proverbial 'shaking hands and kissing babies' routine in an effort to bolster interest in Wednesday's press conference at the Saddledome.
It obviously worked, because almost 200 fans descended on the Avison Young Club, along with local media and even some national heavyweights such as TSN and The Score.
The grapplers were even given the White Hat treatment by Tourism Calgary, which was a particular honour for Benoit.
"The city of Calgary and wrestling are synonymous throughout the world, which makes me that much more proud to say this is where I started," said Benoit, who trained in the legendary Hart family dungeon.
While media types tended to keep the questions simple and to the point, things are always more entertaining when rowdy fans have easy access to their favourite stars.
Batista, for example, received a gay marriage proposal, something the 6-ft. 5-in. 317-lb. monster never expected in ultra-conservative Alberta.
"You better make a good living," Batista laughed, before politely declining. "You're a good looking guy and all but I'm just not ready to swing that way."
WWE execs told the Sun they were delighted with the fun atmosphere, but as cliche as it sounds, the real winners were the fans. Not many sports franchises allow regular ticket buyers to sit in on press conferences, chat freely with their heroes and generally join in on the fun -- all for free.
A dream come true for Mike Neshine.
"Just to have the chance to meet Batista and Benoit is a dream," said the 17-year-old fan, who one day would like to follow in their footsteps and lace up his own wrestling boots.
One of WWE's strengths is the ability to make every event seem like a big deal. Wednesday's proceedings may not have been anything particularly unique -- the same act was repeated in Victoria and Edmonton the next day -- but WWE hyped it like Wrestlemania was coming to town. And the fans and media gladly went along for the ride.
In fact, the only person who seemed to be let down by the day's activities was A-Channel sports anchor, Rob Gibson.
"It's been a while since I've seen a wrestling press conference," Gibson said on Wednesday night's newscast. "So I was a little disappointed that no one got hit by a chair."
Oh well, maybe next time.
Raw arrives at the 'Dome May 30. Tickets go on sale today at 9.30 a.m.
IN THE CARDS: Eight matches have been confirmed for Wrestlemania 21, which takes place April 3 in Los Angeles.
It is expected an Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio match also will be added to the card, although Guerrero told the Sun this week his role was still up in the air.
WWE bosses are also considering having Brooke Hogan, Hulk Hogan's daughter, sing the national anthem at the event.
HART SET: WWE producers are working on a 2-disc DVD set, focusing on the infamous double-cross of Bret Hart at the 1997 Survivor Series. Screwed: The Bret Hart Story is expected to be released in late 2006.