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  July 20, 1999

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

TNN jumps into ring

By PAT ST. GERMAIN -- Winnipeg Sun
Yeehaw! Buckle up, buckaroos.

The Nashville Network's grabbing the bull by the horns this fall, with rodeo bull riding, rollerjamming and body-slamming Extreme Championship Wrestling action, all aimed at bringing a young male audience to the country channel.

Championship Rodeo arrives in September, and Florida Sundogs rollerjammer Denise Loden promises more spills and thrills when Rollerjam, which debuted this January, returns Aug. 27.

"With the higher speeds you're going to get a lot harder falls, harder impact on the hits, which creates more excitement for the fans," Loden says.

But "rasslin" is the main event. TNN is jumping on that lucrative bandwagon, along with TNT's World Championship Wrestling and its rival pay-per-view show WWF Raw, which has a UPN spinoff in WWF Smackdown! starting next month.

TNN, however, promises its ECW soap opera will present a kinder, gentler -- dare we say more artistic? -- form of ring brutality featuring its star and "Human Suplex Machine" Taz, best known for his Tazmission choke hold.

The big fella -- at five-foot-nine, Taz weighs in at about 250 pounds -- told TV critics in Pasadena this week that the ECW doesn't ask its wrestlers to pull dangerous stunts such as the high-flying entrance that killed Canadian wrestler Owen Hart this spring.

Taz and ECW's showman owner Paul Heyman say the show will be less violent than WWF and WCW, with more athletics and "storylines" that won't veer toward lewdness.

"The fans that we have are very educated fans, and it's very hard to fool them or insult them," Taz said via a satellite transmission from Ohio.

Heyman, who got a laugh when he mused the ECW's shows might be "considered art," -- and an even bigger laugh when he answered a question aimed at Taz by saying his champ is "an eloquent spokesperson and not just some dumb jock who walks around with a tan body" -- slams the WWF and WCW as "semi-pornographic, pseudo hardcore, non-athletic soap opera instead of being an in-the-ring product where the storylines are based around the alleged competition."

World Wrestling Federation chairman Vince McMahon was to have his say last night: a Smackdown! party set in a UPN wrestling ring, along with his stars Big Boss Man, Ivory, Triple H and Big Show.

Winnipeg Sun TV writer Pat St. Germain is at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif.