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Tuesday, May 22, 2001

SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column

Canadian shows could cure WWF woes

By FRANK WARSH -- For SLAM! Wrestling

  I grew up watching Billy Red Lyons telling me not to dare miss it. I prefer a wrestling match to a stunt show or a crotch chop. I cheer louder than my neighbours to the south, except when I'm forced to watch bikers, farmers or cowboys in the ring. I miss the Hart family with gold around their waists. My name is Frank, and I am a Canadian WWF fan.

Like many other Internet-active wrestling fans, I too am simply bored by WWF television week after week. Wrestlemania X-7 was probably the greatest PPV I have ever seen, and to see a company slide so fast and hard is almost disturbing. Like anybody else, I could give the standard reasons why WWF programming just hasn't been compelling lately (Austin's character has been destroyed, pointless feuds involving wrestler's wives, WAY too many minutes each week eaten up by a McMahon running his or her mouth, blah, blah, blah).

However, I would like to argue that the WWF has a fantastic opportunity to turn things around, that being RAW and Smackdown! coming to Canada next week in Calgary and Edmonton, respectively.

Ever since Bret Hart's epic rant about America on the RAW after Wrestlemania 13, Canadian fans have proudly demonstrated their own opinions about who should be cheered versus who should be booed, and who should be pushed versus who should just go away. In some instances, the Canadian crowd actually facilitated changes in the way wrestlers were received in the U.S.

Does anybody remember when Shawn Michaels was announced as the guest referee for Bret-Undertaker at SummerSlam 97? This was the kind of announcement that would get an American crowd jumping out of its seat. If memory serves me, RAW took place in front of one of the most rabid crowds ever in Halifax [Wrestlers rub Raw patriotic nerves], and Michaels' reception was anything but warm. Over the ensuing weeks, HBK went from being the "most charismatic" superstar to the "most controversial", and this was before the chairshot in that match that sparked the heel turn.

The Rock and Mankind slug it out on top of the cage while Ken Shamrock looks on at Breakdown'98 in Hamilton.
Still not convinced? Watch the cage match from Breakdown'98 (a PPV I happened to attend in Hamilton, Ontario), and remember that Mankind was a heel and Ken Shamrock was a babyface prior the event. I was one of the many thousands screaming "Shamrock sucks" by the end of the match, and Shamrock did not see the light of day as a face until six or seven months later. Canadian Lightning struck again during the Owen Hart-Steve Blackman match from Rock Bottom'98, held in Vancouver.

The point is that Canadian fans have their own definitive tastes, and possess the impressive ability to change the opinions of the much larger American fanbase. The shows in Alberta are a great chance for the WWF to book matches and stories they could never pull off in Texas or Utah...and make them stick. The crowd will ERUPT when Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho make their entrances, and a key win over HHH or Austin in a non-title match might finally put another babyface over as a believable main eventer. Edge and Christian will be very over with Canadian fans as well, and the crowd might just decide which one will be the face and which will be the heel when they do the inevitable breakup. Test and Val Venis could regain their status as contenders.

The possibilities go beyond the Canadian wrestlers. Albertans might, for instance, decide to make Grand Master Sexay the heel in his feud against the English language. Canadians could get Perry Saturn (deservedly) over for more than a scantily clad valet and a goofy hat. The crowning achievement of the crowd might be letting Chyna finally realize what we've really thought of her, in the three long and painful years she's been shoved down our throats.

After all, WWF fans have been crying for a breath of fresh air for the last two months...and that just can't happen under the yellow skies of New York or California.
Frank Warsh is from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and can be emailed at

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