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  May 1, 2000



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

HWF puts on quite a show


By ALEX RISTIC -- SLAM! Wrestling

LONDON, ON -- While the Meltdown 2000 card was decided upon weeks ago, that didn't stop promoter Mark Anderson, with help from Charlie McDonnell, from running around like a rabbit, putting the finishing touches at London's Ice House in the late afternoon on Friday, right as the Hardcore Wrestling Federation's roster started working out in the ring.

The talent was gearing up for a big night, attendance was 1,560 people when all was said and done (a good number for an independent promotion), and they took their preparations seriously. New to the stable, Ryan Harmon -- a protégé of Leo Burke, known as Slade in the promotion -- was practising for his debut match against the Anarchist, while others waited outside the ring to plan their spots. Almost every HWF wrestler was in attendance, and by the end of the night, almost every one got involved in one way or another.

The night would not only be filled with the possible future grappling stars of tomorrow, but of a veteran-laden card, with The Bushwackers, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, and the Iron Sheik. It would be an easy night for most of them, wrestling friends of old (in the case of Beefcake and Valentine, squaring off, one-on-one), talking backstage, and selling autographed pictures of themselves.

Those who would benefit most would be the young guns, the ones on the HWF roster who would get plenty of attention from those in attendance, who came to watch the stars of yesteryear. They would also take away something better: The experience of having worked, or watched some players who made it to the big leagues.

"I've only done a couple of shows with the veterans," said Mark Miller, The Custom Made Man. "Wrestling Honky Tonk Man, you just learn so much. The best person I learned from was Tito Santana when he came down (Santana didn't appear on the card, and was replaced by Jake 'The Snake' Roberts). Within two days he told me a lot of things about psychology in the ring."

While there's a lot of respect for the veterans, there's also a lot of desire to strut one's stuff, and the Notorious T.I.D. is one who's jumping for some of the young guys to get a bigger share of the spotlight.

"Between all of them there's probably over 150,000 years of experience that will be in that ring tonight. But it's a great place for the young guys to showcase all their talents too. I kind of feel sorry for the old guys, in a way, because they've got to go on after me."

The gathering of established veterans and uprising talent also presented much in the way of media coverage, with yours truly, The LAW, WOW magazine, and a various assortment of the local media. HWF promoted this show well. It looked to be a good night.

It's 6:30 p.m. now, and the fans are starting to move toward the ring, with the various veterans selling their wares near the entrance to floor seats. The Iron Sheik is setting up, and talks to everyone that comes his way.

"(Wrestling) is still the number one sport in the world," said the former WWF champ. "It's still one of the most popular sports in the world, even more than football -- people watch wrestling. Compared to the old days, Bruno Sammartino, The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, it's different, but it's still the number one sport in the world."

Many fans in attendance seemed to be as excited as the Sheik. Placards were present everywhere, along with the distinctive glare of flash photography. And there were still those backstage, excited to make their debuts, including an unnamed new valet for the Anarchist, who had mentioned it was her first time being involved, and that she was nervous.

The matches started, and the crowd popped for their favourites, and booed the heels, just like normal, except that it feels like a big time show, not necessarily in looks, but it feels that way. Much preparation went into the event, booking ring legends, tons of dough on advertising, bringing in new talent, and new valets as well. Not to be outdone in this equation was the crowd, a good mix of youths as young as five to adults over 75 -- and they were loud.

While matches are going on inside the Ice House, the veterans have gathered outside the building, to talk of old times. Beefcake and Valentine, much like their WWF years, were close, followed by a just-arriving Roberts. The Sheik and Roberts embrace, much like friends who haven't seen each other in a long while, and all start talking of days gone by.

Fan favourites like L'artiste, Gord Rease, Ebony X-press, and Roberts got the most cheers, while the biggest boos came for Eric "The Director" Young, Slade and The Hollywood Hunks. High spots included the triple threat, cruiserweight match, which involved high flyers J. Kronus, L'Artiste and Rease. The highest spot of all, and one that looked unintentional, was T.I.D.'s match against Magnus Van Steele, for the the promotion's heavyweight title, when a ladder broke apart, much to the chagrin of the match participants.

Afterward, knowing who pays for the bread and butter, the young ones stick around, well after 60 minutes from the final bell, to relax, chat with fans, and sign multiple autographs. The show is over, their work done, the roster gathers at a local watering hole, talking about the night's experiences, and waiting for the next event.