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  March 29, 1999



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WCW suitable for family viewing


Hitman
Bret Hart and the steel plate which KO'd Goldberg at the Air Canada Centre Nitro show. (Photo: Ken Kerr - Toronto Sun)
By PERRY LEFKO (with help from Ben Lefko) -- Special to Slam! SPORTS

  The WCW is suitable for family viewing. That's the opinion of this person, with help from my seven-year-old son, Ben, who accompanied me to the WCW's return to Canada on Monday March 29 at the Air Canada Centre.

About a year and a half ago, Ben and I went to the SkyDome to see a WWF show and I reported in Slam! how I was shocked about what I saw and how I didn't think it was appropriate for kids. Afterwards I received a slew of responses - both pro and negative - from people. Some claimed I was absolutely bang-on in my belief that the WWF has gone too far with some of its story lines and, in particular, its language. Others suggested I didn't know what I was talking about and I should have known better than to take a five-year-old to a wrestling show.

I even received a verbal lashing from a major figurehead of WWF Canada who thought he should have been apprised of the article before I wrote it, particularly when he supplied the tickets - which, in fact, he did.

My response was that, free tickets aside, I had no idea ahead of time that the WWF's live show was as x-rated as I discovered. He said the show is no different than what you see on TV. I countered by saying the language you hear on the WWF TV shows, particularly from the crowd, is not the same as you are apt to hear in person.

And I'm qualifying this by saying that was way before some stations or networks started airing visible disclaimers indicating the TV shows contain mature content and may not be suitable for a younger audience.

Ben and I don't watch nearly as much WWF on TV as we did because of concerns by my wife and I about the language. The slogan "suck it" has been banned from usage in our household, even though I'd be naive to think other seven-year-olds and older aren't uttering that at school.

The thing is, we have the right to limit it at our house. Insofar as the WCW is concerned, I don't consider it for the most part as questionable as the WWF. The language isn't as vile, the story lines and portrayals aren't as borderline, although I could make a slight argument for the one involving David Flair and attempts to seduce him.

What you see for the most part is wrestling as it was meant to be: athleticism and showmanship. The use of the middleweight and cruiserweights such as Ray Mysterio Jr., Kidman, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko are one area in particular where the WCW excels with its performers for their pure finesse and skill as opposed to big, brawny, long-haired guys pounding on one another.

Because I approve of the WCW, I took Ben with me to see the Nitro Show. Just so you'll know, the company promoting the event provided me with two complimentary tickets. I believe it's important to state that in lieu of what happened the last time I wrote a wrestling article and didn't say I was given freebies. By the way, the tickets Ben and I received were pretty good, but we had seats in two separate rows. Fortunately, we found two open seats side by side.

Now, on to the report.

We arrived about 15 minutes before the show and saw all kinds of notices about a film being shot - it was footage for the Jesse Venture Story - which proved to be the worst part of the whole experience. Before the action started, some actors did some scenes filmed in the ring. It seemed to drag on, which prompted one nearby patron to shout: "Hey, what happened to Nitro?" Another said, "This is what I paid to see? I paid to see this chump and I had to pay a service charge?"

The crowd was restless. They shouted "Go Leafs Go" (for the Toronto Maple Leafs) and "We want Bret (as in Bret Hart)."

A couple of matches of no consequence took place, further fueling the crowd's anxiety. Then they had appearances by Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Diamond Dallas Page and Ric Flair talking about a match that would involve all three.

"When's the wrestling going to start?" Ben asked me. "This isn't wrestling."

"What is it?" I asked him.

"Talking," Ben replied. "Talking wrestling."

Then came the first of many appearances by the Nitro Girls.

"What kind of wrestling is this?" Ben asked.

Rick Steiner and Scott Norton grappled in the next match. When Rick Steiner made a pose on his hands and knees, a patron shouted: "Scott, get into him doggy style." I considered that somewhat interesting. Ben didn't hear or didn't appear to notice, which is maybe a good thing.

He did, however, refer to Rick Steiner as "Mr. Fat Guy."

After another match in which Booker T. easily won, a patron two seats away from me started writing on the opposite side of his sign: "They took away my sign." Security scanned the crowd looking for signs that may refer to the WWF and promptly confiscated them. What I found most amusing, aside from the sign police, was that the guy who was writing about the confiscated sign asked people in the area if he had the proper spelling of the word "took".

Next came another Nitro Girls appearance, which prompted Ben to say: "Those are teenagers."

They're not, Ben, but I understand your concern.

He then said: "That's not wrestling, that's dancing."

Next came a match involving Canadian Chris Jericho, arguably one of the best personalities in the WCW. He has long blond hair, which he wears in a ponytail in the middle of his head, and an attitude. Jericho proclaimed his Canadian citizenship and drew a hearty applause.

"I became everything I am today in Canada, but now I live in the United States. Man, I'm glad I'm in the United States because Canada sucks." Naturally, Jericho's cheers turned to jeers as the crowd yelled: "Jericho sucks" and added: "We want Bret."

Ben turned to me and joined in the chant.

Finally, Bret Hart came out in his first appearance in Canada with the WCW. The crowd roared - including Ben - and you could see Hart was moved, almost to the point of crying. While the crowd noise made it almost impossible to hear him talking, he made some positive remarks pertaining to kids being at the show. One of his criticisms of the WWF is that it had become unsuitable for children.

Booker
Booker T and Chris Adams duke it out for the Television Title. (Photo: Craig Robertson - Toronto Sun)
Bret did Oh, Canada - talking the words slowly - and repeated his slogan about being The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be." He added: "I came to the WCW to earn a reputation, not to lose it." He stripped off his Calgary Hitmen hockey shirt, revealing a Maple Leafs shirt with the number 28 and the name Domi (as in Tie Domi) on the back.

His pleas for Goldberg, the rapidly-rising star of the WCW, prompted Goldberg to run out to the ring. Bret stood proudly and pointed to the big Leaf crest in the middle of his jersey and Goldberg suddenly charged full bore into him. Both wrestlers lay motionless for what seemed like an eternity before Bret emerged standing and revealed a shield-like metal protector affixed to his midsection. That explained what happened to Goldberg.

It was a great bit of theatrics.

But, then Bret expressed his displeasure with the WCW, its president Eric Bischoff, and announced: "I quit." Either he was continuing some great acting - some people believe he was merely setting the stage for a respite to heal a groin injury - or he's indeed leaving following a disappointing stay in the WCW after a bitter end in the WWF.

"What's he going to do, go back to the WWF, then quit and go back to the WCW," Ben wondered aloud.

After another Nitro Girls routine and an excellent tag-team match between Malenko and Benoit against Mysterio and Kidman, a large part of the crowd started yelling: "Take it off." Seems a blonde girl wearing a tank top had whipped the audience into a sexual frenzy. Ben asked me what was going on and I was at a loss for words.

More Nitro Girls, more "Take it off" chanting - coincidentally a sign about 12 rows behind the girl read "Weez All Trailer Trash" - eventually led to the main event and announcer Michael Buffer's trademark declaration: "For the thousands in attendance and the millions watching around the world, let's get ready to rumble."

The event between Hogan, Dallas Page and Ric Flair followed and spilled out of the ring towards the set long vacated by the TV announcers. Ben looked at me and said: "This isn't wrestling. It's watching the empty ring."

Some of the action wasn't visible on the jumbo TV screens, hence young Ben had to stand up on his seat - with me holding him - to see the action.

Midway through the match, a fight broke out in the stands. It didn't appear to be real, but had great theatrics. When the two combatants were removed by the security, the fans chanted: "Let them stay."

The Hogan-Page-Flair match ended somewhat disappointingly and it was time to go home.

I considered the show good in some ways, lacklustre in others, but at least I can feel comfortable taking Ben to another WCW event. Ben's opinion: "It was kind of better for kids 'cause they didn't say a lot of words and stuff, if you know what I mean and the food was good and the Air Canada Centre was pretty big. There were a lot of people there. I think it was exciting to go there. I can't think of anything else."

Enough said, Ben.