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Wrestling retail
Catering to the grappling fan, a store with 'Attitude' opens in Niagara Falls

By JACK BOLAND -- Toronto Sun

  Get ready to hit the mat and flex a little muscle digging into your wallet. The new World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Superstore -- smackdown in the heart of Niagara Falls -- was unveiled yesterday to the roar of tumultuous fans eager for a taste of the ring.

The huge 4,000-ft, two-storey merchandise and amusement funhouse promises to rival Niagara Falls as the new seventh wonder of the world.

WWE Canadian president Carl DeMarco beamed as he talked about the huge shop and its stunning, new attraction -- a breathtaking, stomach-dropping 220-ft ride known simply as "The Pile Driver." Riders can pay $9 (or $7 US) to be dropped from the largest turnbuckle post in the WWE. The ride, located partially in the store, ascends a bright yellow pole three times before taking its final drop. The pole itself is crowned with the world famous WWE logo.

"At least 14 million tourists show up at the Falls each year, including our Canadian, U.S. and international fans," said DeMarco. "You can imagine the attraction The Pile Driver is going to become."

From high atop the pole, riders are temporarily suspended, getting a spectacular look at one of the greatest wonders in the world -- the Falls -- before plummeting back down 22 ft below.

Fans weren't the only ones eagerly anticipating the ride.

WWE wrestler Val Venis or the "Big Valbowski" was on hand at the store's ribbon cutting ceremony to declare he was going to petition to get the ride called "The Money Shot," his favourite wrestling move.

DOING 'SPINNEROONIES'

Inside the store, grappling fans will be doing "spinneroonies" when they see all the merchandise they can gather up in their 24-inch pythons.

The store is filled to the rafters with everything from Hulk Rules T-shirts ($30), miniature WWE "Attitude" stuffed bears ($11.49), real leather gold-plated wrist belts ($54.99) and even shot glasses ($6.39).

But the pen-ultimate trophy in sports merchandising history being sold at this unique store is the Championship Belt, worn by the likes of Intercontinental champion wrestler Chris "Wolverine" Benoit who, along with Venis and WWE diva Trish Stratus, was on hand yesterday for the official opening.

Lindsay Braunsar, 18, of Brampton tried modelling one of the Women's Championship replica belts, going for a stone-cold $350.

"I don't have the money right now, but I'm coming back to get it later," said Braunsar, who came down for a few days with her friends.

Another big fan who received a treat of a lifetime was 26-year-old Eric Dell of nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Wolverine posed with the wheelchair-bound young man and even let him wear the real Intercontinental belt.

"I came in here and bought $140 worth of Undertaker gear, but this is unbelievable," said Dell. "It is awesome meeting him. My arms are still tingling from holding him."

Most of the WWE merchandise has only been sold at events like Fan Axxess before Wrestle-mania X8, or RAW, held in Toronto earlier this year. Traditionally, fans have purchased memorabilia off the Internet.

Some of the fans who managed to ride up the pole admitted they were a little nervous, especially with the menacing storm clouds overhead.

"When you look over, you can see yourself in the reflection of the building," said Line Gervais. "I couldn't even hear my screams as I dropped."

As fans hooted for bodacious Trish Stratus and applauded Benoit and Venis, each wrestler was immortalized in concrete while placing their hands in cement tablets. They'll be fitted into the front Walk of Fame walkway outside the store,

Shoppers will be treated to guest appearances from other wrestlers, whose visits will be announced in advance.

As a Russian-made hydrofoil boat jetted media and fans across Lake Ontario, everyone enjoyed the presence of Trish Stratus, who did a best cruise ship director imitation.

"If this hydrofoil boat was mine, it would be called Stratusfaction Guaranteed," said Stratus.

In the fall, fans won't be left disappointed -- their favourite wrestlers will be back in town when the WWE will present "Smackdown."

The new WWE Superstore is located on Clifton Hill and can be reached at 905-354-SLAM.


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