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  Feb 9, 1999

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43,000 flock to WWF rasslin' extravaganza at the SkyDome

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Josh Dortono, 4, came all the way from Edmonton to give the Stone Cold salute. -- Rob Granatstein, Toronto Sun

  Josh Dortono flew in all the way from Edmonton for some hard-core, down 'n' dirty, foul-mouthed, raw rasslin' action.

Even before the action got under way, a pumped-up Josh jumped up on his SkyDome seat and shot his arms up and his middle fingers in the air -- the Stone Cold salute.

Josh is four years old.

His grandfather, Dave Dortono Sr. from St. Catharines, said he's not worried about what Josh is learning from the WWF: "He's seen it all already."

Last night at SkyDome, a roaring crowd of 43,000 fans saw it all -- and more -- at Monday Night Raw.

The fans went nuts as superstar after superstar strolled into the "War Zone" ring. Owen Hart, Val Venis, Mankind, Vince McMahon and, of course, the vivacious Chyna. All were there and in outrageous form, as were the fans.

While the card itself was a slammin' success, a few parents wondered whether the sex and violence of the new WWF has gone too far. Mat-mania in 1999 is sex, sado-masochism, and -- beyond everything else -- pushing the boundaries.

Posters of Sable (covered strategically in sand), $12 foam fingers of the Stone Cold Salute -- it never ends.

Doug Zehr, 38, brought his 10- and 16-year-old sons all the way from Trenton for fight night, but he said wrestling has changed from when he watched.

"For the younger viewers, I think it can be a bit vulgar," he said. "I think they can have the event without the gestures."

That includes the pelvis-thrusting, crotch-chopping actions that accompany Degeneration X's yell of "Suck It!"

Zehr remembers a cleaner era, even as recently as Hulk Hogan, when there was no swearing.

But the WWF claims the standard good-versus-evil doesn't sell. Its ratings were down and expectations were up.

With its sexier sell, wrestling has never been so popular. It's the top-rated show on TSN and No. 2 on the CANOE website.

"I'm not worried," said Debra Nurse, who brought three of her kids, including 13-year-old Steve, from Havelock. "They have their values already and they don't repeat what they hear here -- at least in front of us."

Jason Porisky, who brought his five-year-old son, Andre, from Oshawa said the sexy sell isn't a problem: "He's been raised good enough to know he can't raise his middle finger to everyone."

Still, the thrill never dies.

"As soon as you sit down it's the ultimate," said Andrew Burke, 16. "You get goose bumps you're so excited.

"Some kids may be here for the Jerry Springer-type thing," said the Mississauga native. "I'm here because I love it."