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  Mon, Mar 18, 2002



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

Mat war grips fans

By JACK BOLAND and PHILIP LEE-SHANOK -- Toronto Sun


Almost 70,000 wrestling fanatics filled SkyDome last night to watch Wrestlemania X8, sport entertainment's biggest spectacle of the year.

And they got the show they wanted. The title fight was for the World Wrestling Federation's Undisputed Championship belt, won by Triple H over Winnipeg's Chris Jericho.

But the heart championship at WrestleMania X8 was an aging Hollywood Hulk Hogan, 48, grappling against The Rock, who, at 29, is the fan favourite of the future.

The match drew a record crowd for the SkyDome of 68,237. It also drew record profits. Tickets ranged from $25 to $600 for this year's event and the gate receipts exceeded $6.1 million, a WWF record.

Hogan ultimately went down to his younger opponent but, by the time the evening was over, the two heroes joined in partnership against evil in a perfectly scripted finish.

"This is a dream match," said Fumi Saito, 40, of Tokyo, editor of the Japanese magazine Weekly Pro Wrestling. "It's two different eras of wrestling coming together."

The meeting between the two most recognizable wrestling superstars of the past and present had fans on the edge of their seats.

"Hulk Hogan made wrestling. I grew up watching him," said Greg Chan, 19, of Burlington. "But the Rock is the next Hulk Hogan."

The deafening crowd cheered and booed the action, ooohing and aaahing every move. The smoke from the fireworks created a haze under the closed roof that didn't dissipate for more than half an hour.

At the end of the match, Rock and Hogan stood face to face. When Hogan extended his hand in friendship to the Rock, the crowd went crazy. But, as the Rock left the ring, Hogan's former partners, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, jumped into the ring and started beating on their defeated friend in a fit of rage over his loss.

The Rock returned to the ring and helped Hogan pummel his two new adversaries, knocking them over the top ropes of the ring.

"This match will be talked about for many years down the road," WWF Canada president Carl DiMarco said.



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