We'll get the full-meal deal
Expect the complete WWE experience at the Saddledome tomorrow
By TJ MADIGAN --
The WWE product may be pretty weak these days but Calgary could still be in line for a great show when the wrestling tour de force rolls into town tomorrow night.
While Red Deer, Saskatoon and Lethbridge have been getting watered-down house shows, tomorrow's Smackdown at the Saddledome will be the full-scale WWE experience.
We can look forward to PPV-quality matches, pyro and light displays, major storyline developments and a three-hour extravaganza which will be beamed to millions of TV sets around the world.
Not only that but with ratings plummeting to new lows under the Hulkamania regime, expect the WWE to really go the extra mile to create some must-see TV.
The action kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with the WWE 'Velocity' tapings, three or four mid-card matches to be recorded for Saturday night TNN.
The crowd will then be asked to observe a minute silence and 10-bell salute in memory of the late Davey Boy Smith.
After that, it's Smackdown! all the way, although exactly what we'll see after the opening fireworks is anybody's guess.
With the WWE writing team booking shows on a week-to-week basis, it's unlikely even Vince McMahon has a set plan at this stage.
The central storyline of the night is expected to revolve around Hollywood Hulk Hogan and his pending feud with Vince's on-screen character.
Being Hitman country, they'll set up an angle to play off the venomous heel heat McMahon will receive from the Calgary fans.
The Canadian audience still vividly remembers the Montreal screw-job, so despite weak attempts to vilify the Hitman on Confidential last week, arena-wide chants of "You screwed Bret" will probably make it onto TV.
Elsewhere on the card, Triple H might just be booked in a rematch with Calgary's own Lance Storm.
Storm's solid performance against the Game last week, not to mention the hometown factor, could (and should) lead to the second week of a decent push for the former Impact Player.
The biggest problem will be keeping the Saddledome crowd from backing their local favourite. During a recent Canadian match, the appreciative audience was firmly behind Storm, despite his pleas of "Come on guys, I'm trying to be a heel here!" Considering the reaction he got at the WWE press conference in Chinook Centre last week, it'll be interesting to see what Storm does to turn his home-town support against him.
On a somewhat lighter note, we could see the debut appearance of the Hurricane's secret stalker. Jamie Knoble is expected to fill the role (Rey Misterio Jr. was considered a possibility but will be saved to debut as a babyface instead). With just four weeks until their expected King of the Ring showdown, tomorrow would be the perfect time to reveal Knoble as the Hurricane's secret nemesis.
Other feuds expected to be furthered in Calgary include the Kurt Angle vs. Edge hair wars, the Tajiri/Kidman/Torrie love triangle and the McMahon-led assault on Randy Orton (who's sure to be popular with the female portion of the crowd, not to mention with Billy and Chuck.)
Oh, and speaking of the heterosexually-challenged duo, there should also be some progress on their tag team title fiasco with Rikishi and Rico. It's unlikely but if the WWE writers do decide to grace us with a title change tomorrow night, the tag straps are the most logical switch.
Chris Jericho, D-Von Dudley, Trish Stratus, Maven and Test will also perform key segments. The Rock, however, is still taking time off after his Scorpion King promotional tour and needless to say, won't be appearing.
Since Smackdown is a taped show, it'll be a little more relaxed than the Raw event that came to the city last year.
There's room for mistakes and there are sometimes re-shoots of the same match or angle, although the WWE generally tries to record the show live-to-tape (timing it as if it were a live broadcast, to make it easier for the post-production team).
The matches and storyline ideas for the show will be tossed around in morning booking meetings, before being finalized and formatted tomorrow afternoon. Most of the backstage vignettes will be filmed earlier in the evening but appear on the Titantron throughout the event as if they were live.
Saddledome Smackdown will air on The Score at 5 p.m. Thursday (south of the border, it goes out an hour later on UPN). It'll be shown in the UK on Saturday morning and in Europe and Australia over the weekend. If you haven't got tickets yet, some extra seats were released late last week, so you still have a chance to get a good vantage point for the WWE's first jaunt to Calgary since the brand extension took place.