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  Feb 11, 1999



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

Hit Man to return at Toronto Nitro

Air Canada Centre to host four WCW house shows



By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Sports

 For Canuck wrestling fans, the wait is over. WCW has landed.

Toronto is now the Canadian home for World Championship Wrestling. Bob Hunter, the General Manager of the new Air Canada Centre sporting complex made the announcement at a press conference today attended by WCW superstars Bill Goldberg, Bret Hart and veteran wrestling announcer "Mean" Gene Okerland.

Bret Hart and Bill Goldberg at the Toronto Nitro press conference. (Photo: CANOE -- John Powell)
Hog Town will not only play host to a live Nitro broadcast on March 29th but WCW also let it be known that they plan on holding up to four more house shows here this year. The exact dates for these events are unknown at the present time.

"We are extremely excited today to be announcing our new partnership with World Championship Wrestling," said Hunter. "About a year and a half ago, when we started looking for a partner to bring premiere wrestling to Toronto in the Air Canada Centre we had to look no further than Atlanta and Turner Network Television. We looked for the best and found it quickly in WCW."

Canadian wrestling icon Bret Hart hasn't wrestled in Canada since quitting the rival World Wrestling Federation in 1997. He sees his return at the Toronto Nitro show to be a homecoming of sorts.

"I am really looking forward to being up here in Toronto. For me, it's been a long way to get back in Canada. This is my first match in Canada...well...since Montreal. It's kind of an important thing for me," said Hart who was stripped of the World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Title by federation owner Vince McMahon at Survivor Series '97 in Montreal. McMahon purposely called for the bell as Hart fought off a Sharp Shooter submission hold applied by challenger Shawn Michaels. The controversial ending still sparks heated debate amongst pro wrestling fans.

"It's very, very important to be actually wrestling in Toronto and to be able to perform in Canada," Hart said. "I do hope for a time when it won't be just Toronto. It'll be all across Canada and I know there's an effort being made to do that but if you had to pick one place to wrestle in Canada...it would have to be Toronto."

Though Hart himself would not confirm it, the rumors are that he will face Hollywood Hogan for the WCW World Title at the Nitro show.

The World Wrestling Federation has held a stranglehold on the Toronto wrestling scene since local promoter Jack Tunney severed ties with the pre-WCW NWA and aligned himself with the WWF. Except for a lone SkyDome house show in the early nineties and a few other spotty appearances, WCW hasn't had a live presence in the Toronto area. Alluding to the WWF's mature and raunchy style of showmanship (some course language and occasional nudity), "Mean" Gene Okerland took a shot at the competition promising fans a more wholesome wrestling show.

"I think those of you who have covered sports entertainment over the years realize that we're not the only game in town. As a matter of fact, our friends were just here this past week. But I do want to assure you and I think it's very important that the press knows, there's a difference in the product," Okerland declared. "We're going to be bringing family entertainment values to Canada. We're going to be bringing family entertainment values to the Air Canada Centre. Take a look at our television program on Monday night. You can take a look at THEIR television program on Monday night and believe me, there is a distinct difference."

Fresh off filming the sequel to Universal Soldier with action film star John-Claude Van Damme, former WCW World Heavyweight champion Bill Goldberg is excited at the thought of competing in Toronto for the very first time.

"I know Gene has run through all the particulars but I just wanted to make sure that everybody knows that we've been wanting to come up here for a very long time. It's our pleasure to have finally made it here and I hope you'll looking forward to a different show than you've seen," said the popular wrestling phenom and former NFL football player.

World Championship Wrestling is expecting over 17,000 fans to pack the live Monday Night Nitro show. Nitro is broadcast in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Hollywood Hogan, Randy Savage and Roddy Piper are also confirmed as participating in the event lasting from 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on March 29th.

Tickets go on sale for the Monday Night Nitro at Toronto's Air Canada Center this Friday, February 12th at 12:00 noon. Fans can purchase their tickets at the Air Canada Centre box office and meet Bret Hart and The Nitro Girls there. The box office is located in the Galleria, accessible from York and or Bay streets. Tickets can also be nabbed at all TicketMaster outlets or charged by phone. Tickets are $35.00, $25.00 and $15.00 (plus applicable service charges).

Look for exclusive in-depth interviews with Bill Goldberg and Bret Hart on SLAM! Wrestling some time next week.