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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

TSN puts headlock on wrestling rights


By GLENN COLE -- Toronto Sun
  They chanted Owen Hart's name.

There were some squeals of delight when Val Venis walked to the stage clad in a towel, accompanied by the Toronto Argonauts cheerleaders.

A breeze whipped around the building as The Undertaker made a long walk from his limo.

And the crowd booed mega-mayor Mel Lastman.

"I guess the mayor is not that popular in Toronto," Hart said with a laugh before more than 2,000 wrestling fanatics yesterday at the SkyDome. They were on hand for the signing of a five-year deal between the WWF and The Sports Network, as well as the hyping of tonight's wrestling card.

Starting this fall, Monday Night Raw, a two-hour wrestling show that averages 487,000 viewers per week and is one of TSN's top-rated shows, will start just before 9 p.m. on Monday nights with a rebroadcast at midnight. In the winter, it will replace NHL hockey on TSN, which lost NHL rights to CTV Sports Net. Raw also will be shown at 9 p.m. this Monday.

"We've been working on this deal for two years," said TSN president Rick Brace, who was dwarfed by the wrestlers on hand. Word is TSN wanted to keep Raw away from its cable network rival, a situation that was advantageous to the WWF's bargaining position..

"It's a good deal for us," WWF Canada president Carl DeMarco said. He also hinted strongly that a Raw show would be held at the SkyDome in 1999.

As for the card tonight, the Undertaker will make another bid to wrest the heavyweight belt away from Steve Austin in a triple-threat bout that also features Kane.

"I have nothing against Steve Austin," the Undertaker, a 6-foot-10 phenom from the dark side, said of his tag-team partner. "But he has one thing that I want and that's the title belt. If I don't win it here, I'll win it at SummerSlam (Aug. 31 in New York)."

Meanwhile, the popular Calgary-born Hart will face Ken Shamrock in a submission match.

"They call Shamrock the most dangerous man in the WWF," Hart told the crowd. "I'll show you who it is. It's not Shamrock ... it's Owen Hart."

Venis, making his Toronto debut, will battle Kurrgan. Edge, a Toronto-born performer, wrestles for the first time in front of his home-town crowd when he meets the Pierre of the Quebecers. In another feature bout, Rocky Maivia puts his intercontinental strap on the line against Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

Bell time is 8 p.m.