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  Mar 27, 1999

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WWF fans all in a Rage
By GREG OLIVER -- At WrestleMania
 PHILADELPHIA -- If WrestleMania XV is the Ragin' Climax, then the Rage party Saturday night was a disappointing night in the sack.
 The combination of a little of Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul (and Chocolate Salty Balls), Gerry Brisco and Pat Patterson in dresses, Sable wearing next to nothing, and the hottest WWF stars, and you would think that you would have a recipe for a smokin' time. And you probably did for the hour that Rage was on live on USA Network and TSN.
 Unfortunately for the fans on hand, they didn't get nearly as close to the WWF superstars as they might have liked. Most of the night was spent hanging around doors, waiting for them to open to see who is inside. A few WWF superstars mingled and signed autographs, but with about 4,000 on hand, it would be tough to please everybody.
 "We got gypped," said Jim Decker Jr., 16. His dad, Jim Sr., agreed. "I was under the impression it would be more personal." Both wished that the wrestlers had mingled more. The $80 price tag for each ticket was too much, they said.
 Stacy Rollins, 22, compared the event to going to a WWF show. At Rage for $80, she hardly got a glimpse of her favourites. At a WWF show, she has paid $100 for a ticket, and actually touched some wrestlers.
 Her friend Tammy Crowe, 25, said that 4,000 people were simply too many, and that she understood why the wrestlers wouldn't come out into a crowd that big. The WWF had promised that only a limited number of tickets would be sold, but 4,000 people is a small house show crowd.
 For Michael Hand, 21, the $80 also wasn't worth it. "Hunter Hearst-Helmsley was about a foot in front of us before the mob happened," he said.
 In fact, given the access that the media was, one felt almost guilty slinking out of the media room into the main room -- the stars had stopped to chat with the media, but not the fans.
 Some observations from around the Rage party:
  • An incredible variety of fans, all creeds, colours and ages, some dressed to the nines, some dressed to shock mom, some dressed as their favourite wrestlers. Wrestling reaches everybody.
  • The WWF found good use for old props -- Mr. McMahon's wheelchair, Slammy statues, the Deadly Game head and Undertaker crosses were a few of the decorations around.
  • The party was sponsored by Chef Boyardee, and they had quite the spread of food on hand -- and whatever was made by the Chef had one of their distinctive cans beside it.
  • Rocco Rock of Public Enemy mingled with the crowd and had 'Rock' crossed out on the back of his Philadelphia Flyers uniform.
  • Ivory walked through the crowd and no one noticed.
  • Terry Taylor, one of the WWF bookers and co-host of Sunday Night Heat, signed for a while. Some fans asked 'who is that?' while others yelled 'Red Rooster' and 'is he signing in red?' Other commentators like Michael Cole, Kevin Kelly and Dok Hendrix signed for fans.
  • Despite interviewing The Rock (for the third time), The New Age Outlaws, Ken Shamrock (second time), Jerry Lawler (had to tell him about my Lawler AWA World Champion t-shirt) and talking to Edge (again), the highlight for this writer was meeting, and having my picture taken, with soul legend Isaac Hayes.
  • An autograph line would have been good, to make sure that almost every fan went home with at least one autograph. Too often at these events, the wrestlers only pop out to visit with the VIPs, and there were a couple of those areas set up.
  • One fan did such a good impression of The Rock -- including a loud shirt -- that he was invited back to meet his hero and his family, including Rock's dad Rocky Johnson.
  • Lost kids, crying kids, sick kids, children on their dad's shoulders to see what was going on -- it was an all-ages event (kids under 14 had to be with an adult) that probably went on too late and was waaaaay too expensive at $80.
  • Still, all and all, it was a start. One can only hope that next year's pre-WrestleMania event has a little more for fans to do -- maybe some interactive games, posing for photos, computer and video games -- more like the NHL or Major League Baseball do with their All-Star weekends.

 Check in Sunday morning for the New Age Outlaws and Ken Shamrock running down their WrestleMania matches for SLAM! Wrestling.

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