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   August 23, 2014



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'Taker Crossword -

WM X8: The biggest show anywhere
By DREW MCANULTY -- Ottawa Sun


 TORONTO -- Along theatre row, the marquee lights are flashing, advertising such blockbuster productions as The Lion King and Mamma Mia.

 But of all the stage shows in this neck of town, none could compare to the one at SkyDome on Sunday night, where more than 68,000 fans shelled out a combined $6 million for the hottest ticket in town.

 It was the Super Bowl of pro wrestling, Wrestlemania, the ultimate theatre of the absurd.

 It was drama, slapstick, high camp and rock concert all rolled into one.

 It was the human condition on display within the confines of the squared circle -- where the lines between good and evil blur and the act becomes inseparable from the actor, all delivered to a driving rock beat.

 And tonight, in the continuing soap opera that is the World Wrestling Federation, it comes to the Corel Centre for a taping of the popular Smackdown!, which will air Thursday.

 The WWF has been called many things -- vulgar, crass, violent, sexist -- but rarely dull. The lines are scripted, the punches are rehearsed, but then so are those in any Hollywood movie. Yet they fail to hit the mark as often, or generate the kind of following, the WWF can boast.

 Perhaps it\'s the interactive nature of the beast. Crowds are not only encouraged, they are expected, to become involved in the matches. Handmade signs let them express their feeling and allegiances, while their chants can help determine the direction of a match -- try that some time with the NAC Orchestra.

 On Sunday night the call went up, \"Blood! Blood! Blood!\" and a behemoth by the name of Undertaker responded by splitting open the scalp of \'Nature Boy\' Ric Flair. Here it is the audience, not the critics, that is out for blood, and they usually get what they want.

 High on flash and low on substance, it is engineered for easy pop culture consumption, the menu constantly changing so it never grows tiresome.

 Take for instance the most current storyline that has seen master thespian \'Hollywood\' Hulk Hogan, a legend in the world of pro wrestling, pass the torch to The Rock. For the great unwashed, this is their Gielgud stepping aside for Olivier.

 A good guy turned heel turned good again, Hogan is the dying lion nobody wants to put down. But inevitably his time is near, and when at the end of the match Sunday a shot of his sunken, aging face was splashed on the giant screens that ringed SkyDome, his was the face of Shakespeare\'s Lear, the most tragic of all kings.

 But unlike legitimate theatre, in the WWF the curtain never really falls.

 Every ending is merely an excuse for a new beginning, where even Lear can find redemption.

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