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TNA's show will finally air in Canada
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun
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TNA Wrestling is finally coming to Canada.

The fledgling grappling group struck a deal with Spike TV this week, which will not only bring it to almost 90 million American homes but will also give Canadian viewers their first regular access to TNA programming.

Starting in the fall -- when WWE leaves the network for NBC-Universal -- Spike TV will air TNA's flagship TV show in a Saturday night slot, following the hugely successful Ultimate Fighter series.

This will be TNA's first major TV clearance in North America and possibly the last chance to hit it big before its financial backers quit.

The group launched three years ago as a wrestling alternative to WWE, airing only on pay-per-view each week. When the company started piling up losses, TNA switched to a monthly PPV format and negotiated to pay for a weak TV slot on Fox Sports Net.

Limited exposure on FSN did little to increase the company's bottom line and, when the arrangement expired last month, TNA put its Impact TV show on the market.

Even with high production values and name wrestlers like Jeff Jarrett, Raven and Jeff Hardy, it proved to be a tough sell.

A Monday night slot with the less visible WGN network in Chicago was on the table but the company held out hope Spike TV would be willing to use replacement wrestling programming after WWE departed.

It was made official Thursday, although the deal with Spike has been a lock for several weeks, with TNA even putting Beatles-esque backwards messages in last weekend's pay-per-view.

- - -

HEBNER OUT: Senior referee Earl Hebner was released from his WWE contract this week. It's believed he was fired for being involved in unauthorized merchandise sales.

Hebner was the highest-profile ref in the history of North American wrestling, officiating most main events of the past decade. He was involved in huge angles such as Andre the Giant's title win over Hulk Hogan in the late '80s and the Chris Jericho-Triple H title swerve on Raw.

He was the referee for the infamous Montreal screw job, tricking Bret Hart out of the WWE championship on live TV in 1997.

Hebner's twin brother Dave, a senior agent for WWE, was also released from the company this week, apparently for his involvement in the same merchandise ring.

Brian Hebner (Earl's son) still works as a WWE referee on the Smackdown brand.

- - -

BAD GUY GONE: After two weeks of nonstop bad press, WWE has agreed to drop the Muhammad Hassan character.

UPN -- the U.S. TV network which carries Smackdown -- asked he be written out of the show completely this week.

The Hassan character was designed to play up anti-Arab sentiments in post-9/11 America, culminating with a storyline earlier this month which included imagery of a terrorist beheading and suicide bombing.

The pre-taped angle aired the same day as the first London bombing, sparking media outrage.

Hassan will face The Undertaker at the Great American Bash pay-per-view this weekend, at which point WWE is expected to drop the character for good.

- - -

LEGEND DIES: Lord Alfred Hayes, one of the few British wrestlers to make a big name for himself on this side of the pond, passed away Wednesday at age 77.


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