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  Feb 8, 1999

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

Wrestling too raw for kids?

  As wrestling fanatics get ready for one of the biggest events ever tonight at SkyDome, some are wondering if the rumbling show of sex and violence is suitable for kids.

For the first time, the World Wrestling Federation is tumbling into Toronto today with its popular Monday Night Raw event and, with 45,000 expected to show, it's being billed as the biggest and baddest of them all.

RING BARERS ... Mankind, above, and Sable, below, will be at SkyDome tonight for the televised WWF Raw show. Some fans say it's no place for children.
--Sun files
But some fans are warning parents to leave their kids behind, saying storylines with foul-mouthed heroes, medically enhanced beauties and back-stabbing bosses are too mature for the average seven-year-old.

"Wrestling is a lot different than it was 10 years ago," said Jay Barron, 22, who's been going to shows for 12 years. "The show isn't made for kids anymore, even though (they) make up the largest part of the audience. But, I guess it's no different than watching South Park."

In the past few years wrestling has become one of the biggest money-making shows on TSN. Tonight's event will be broadcast live on the network and is expected to break the viewership record set a month ago when 648,000 tuned in.

During tonight's show a gold record will be presented to WWF Canada as its CD featuring wrestlers' entrance songs is one of the country's best-selling recordings.

"Our fans eat, sleep and breathe wrestling and we're almost more popular than hockey in this country," said Carl DeMarco, Canadian WWF president. "It's like the best mix of a TV action series, a soap opera and a rock show. You just can't see a better show than this."

The price of success is a growing dependance on adult themes, including sado-masochism on stage and a new adults-only wrestling magazine with nudity and swearing. Sable, one of the buxom female stars of the WWF, is appearing in April's Playboy.

"People should know what they're getting when they come to see a show and what they're getting is their money's worth and much more," DeMarco said. "It's an experience like no other in sports or entertainment."

"I've been crossing off the days on the calendar," Barron said. "I can't wait to see Stone Cold." Stone Cold Steve Austin, the beer-guzzling, finger-brandishing anti-hero, is the most recognizable symbol of the nastier image of wrestling. Many of them will gladly greet him with his famous one-finger salute.

"If I was going to give the show a rating it would probably be AA. Kids under 13 really shouldn't go," Barron's brother Peter said.