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L.A. Hulkster heaven
By SCOTT ZERR - Edmonton Sun


Hulk Hogan confronts Muhammad Hassan
- photo by Jason Clevett

LOS ANGELES -- Spotlights, red-carpet entries and old-fashioned marquees. And just so World Wrestling Entertainment could truly put its stamp on a Hollywood-themed night, there were eardrum-popping fireworks, dropkicks, monkey flips, top-rope somersaults and even a Crippler Crossface.

Indeed Wrestlemania XXI was right where it belonged at the Staples Center.

Taking nothing away from New York City, Seattle, Toronto or any other previous home of the WWE's annual super-sized extravaganza, Wrestlemania and Hollywood are a perfect fit.

The WWE guys just don't bother with stunt-men. They do their own thing, like Edmonton's own Chris Benoit rising to the top of a 10-foot ladder and swan-diving his own head into a sprawled-out Kane. Forget the Oscars. That was an award winner with this sold-out motley crew.

As funnymen Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider looked on from the front row (the guy who played the evil Terminator in T2 was also present at a pre-show shindig), Benoit had his bid for a guaranteed title shot wiped out by a chair shot from Toronto boy Edge.

The second contest of the night, the "Money in the Bank" Ladder match, was the show stealer it was expected to be.

But nothing to that point - or anything else to come - would upstage the return of Hulk Hogan one night after being inducted into the WWE's Hall of Fame.

The Hulkster, who received a 10-minute standing ovation at the Universal Studios Ampitheatre, was greeted by thunderous applause for his in-ring appearance.

Fans lined up around Staples Center by mid-morning, wanting to see the arrival of their favourite superstars.

Like the wrestlers themselves, there were all shapes and sizes waiting for the doors to open. Some wore Lucha Libre masks, other were the spitting image of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin or Hogan.

They came from around the globe - Japan, England, Germany, Australia, a handful of Canucks and a couple from Dublin decked out in green and white Celtic jerseys.

"This is the greatest live show on Earth. It's the experience of a lifetime," said Kevin Cooke, who brought along his girlfriend Karen Doherty.

Cooke had promised her the trip to Hollywood if they were still together after he and friend attended last year's Wrestlemania in New York.

"I'm going to enjoy every minute of it," said Doherty. "We've been counting the days and it's so much better when you get here. All of our friends are watching this on TV at home at 2 a.m."

The couple were bound to have their fair share of friendly disagreements during the show.

He's a fan of the heels (bad guys) like John Bradshaw Layfield and Triple-H, while she was rooting for faces (good guys) John Cena and Batista.

Meanwhile, WWE Canada officials were delighted with the interest Edmonton fans are showing in the Smackdown! TV taping May 31 at Rexall Place. Ticket sales have hit the 5,000 mark - well ahead of most Smackdown! shows.

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