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WWE wannabes try out in Ottawa
By STEPHEN DEAN JOHNSON - SLAM! Wrestling




OTTAWA -- Andy Warhol coined the phrase "Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." On Tuesday, the 27 wrestlers who attended a WWE tryout were hoping their fame will last longer than 15 minutes.

Following a supershow combined with Raw on Monday in Montreal, the Smackdown brand house show rolled into Ottawa's Scotiabank Place on Tuesday. More importantly, the WWE was also holding open tryout. Potential wrestlers had to apply online via the WWE website for the chance to attend the Ottawa tryout. There were over 15,000 applicants, which was eventually cut down to just 27 wrestlers. Most of the attendees were Ontario and Quebec independent wrestlers, but one applicant came from as far away as South Africa.

The wrestlers were put through their paces by Booker T, Fit Finlay, and Steve Keirn. Booker T quickly established that attending the tryout did not guarantee success. Speaking with the wrestlers he stated, "Some of you sent in resumes saying you were 6'1" when you are really 5'8". You need to be truthful. Also, if you say you have been in the business for 10 years, I am expecting it will look like you have been in the ring for ten years."

The first step of the tryout process was the promo. Wrestlers were given one minute to explain who they were, who was their favourite wrestler, and why they should be in the WWE. Certain wrestlers were completely comfortable in front of the camera while others would have a hard time appearing on a local cable television show. The atmosphere was further heightened as local media was filming and taking photographs.

After the promo segment, wrestlers were tested for their physical fitness. Steve Keirn, WWE road agent and retired pro wrestler, pushed the attendees through a series of 100 squats followed by running a set of arena stairs. Not all of the applicants were up to the physical challenge. Steve Brown who wrestles under the moniker, "World Renowned" Steve Brown, slipped while running the stairs, badly hurting his knee and making it impossible for him to continue with the tryouts. "I've been wrestling for five years and have been watching the WWE all my life. I thought this was my opportunity and am disappointed it has to end like this," said a distraught Brown.

Carl DeMarco, president of the Canadian arm of the WWE was realistic about finding the next Shawn Michaels or John Cena. "We are looking for someone with passion, charisma, attitude and a certain look. The tryouts were open to everyone and there were over 15,000 applicants," he said. "Only a select few were invited to the tryouts. Out of this group, we may invite one or two wrestlers for further training. In this business, you have to constantly prove yourself."

The physical challenge of squats and stairs were followed by the attendees demonstrating their in-ring ability. Wrestlers were paired up and Keirn barked out a series of moves. The participants were given approximately two minutes of ring time to impress the WWE brass. After the singles action, Booker T organized a mass tag-team event giving the wrestlers a further opportunity to make an impression.

At the end of the wrestling demonstration, Keirn explained what he was looking for from the attendees. "I am not looking for the average guy next door. He or she needs to be somebody you would pay money to see. Some indy guys may come thinking they are ready but everyone is on a learning curve. We may pick one or two to send to our developmental school."

Once the tryouts were finished, many of the participants attended the Smackdown show dreaming of becoming the next Batista or Booker T.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We'll have more on the WWE tryouts in Ottawa in the coming days, including thoughts from some of the participants.

Stephen Dean Johnson grew up in Saskatchewan on a steady diet of Stampede wrestling. He currently lives in Ottawa, but was not one of the 27 trying out for a WWE deal. He can be emailed at srider@sanfranmail.com.