PUBLISHED IN THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR NOVEMBER 06, 1996
NEED TO KNOW: Vader vs. The Ultimate Warrior, Goldust vs. Razor Ramon, Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Mankind; Marc "The Wildman" Mero vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler; The Godwinns vs. The body Donnas; Barry Horowitz vs. Justin "The Hawk" Hawkins., Bob "Sparkplug" Holly vs. Bob Backlund, at Copps Coliseum tomorrow (Friday night). 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $22, $18, $16, $11 and available at the Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place box offices, or by calling 645-5000.
BY NICK KREWEN
He's big, beefy, ornery and mean.
On a good day, you probably wouldn't want to mess with VADER, one of the most intimidating forces currently working for The World Wrestling Federation.
An 11-time world champion who has held belts in four continents, the towering six-foot, 400-plus pound brute plans to make short work of the opponent he faces tomorrow night at Copps Coliseum in front of more than 10,000 frothing fans, crowd favorite THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR.
"Vader wants to win, and hurt somebody -- not necessarily in that order," Vader huffs and puffs down the line from his home in Boulder, Colorado.
"The Warrior has accomplished a great deal in wrestling, and the fans, they look at him as if he's some form of SUPERMAN. Superman or The Ultimate Warrior has never had to fight the man they call Vader. My reputation speaks for itself. My world titles speak for themselves. I've accomplished things in wrestling no other man has done. I'm gonna do one more thing: I'm gonna kick the living s--- out of the Ultimate Warrior.
"I'm not coming to Hamilton to look good or necessarily win. I'm just going to beat this man up and hurt him, and walk out of the ring."
While this may seem excessive and violent to some, it's just another normal routine in the bone crunching world of butt-kicking bullies, bodyslams and broken rules. Vader and the rest of the players of the W.W.F's self-proclaimed "New Generation" -- primped up pseudonyms such as THE UNDERTAKER, MANKIND and GOLDUST grapple regularly with the normally named SHAWN MICHAELS and BRET "THE HITMAN" HART -- pass themselves off as the best in family sports entertainment.
In the past, professional wrestling tried a "keep 'em guessing" strategy on its road to respectability. As rivalries were built and settled by a series of wristlocks and knuckle sandwiches, the question as to whether the sport is "real" or "fake" was shrouded in mystique. Today, it's no longer an issue.
When Vader is asked if his matches are improvised or staged, he chooses his words carefully.
"I don't know how to answer the question," he says. "The matches that I'm involved in aren't improv, and they're not involved in storylines. Like a lot of other sports, football, baseball and basketball, entertainment plays a large factor, as it has in our sport to some degree. Vader's fights....I'm not going to answer the question. I just met you. I don't know who you are. And I don't know if that's a question that should be asked."
While Vader may have his reservations, JAY ANDRANACO, W.W.F manager of media relations, is more forthcoming. While discussing the W.W.F's recent upsurge in popularity from the organization's headquarters in Stanford, Connecticut, he doesn't even refer to them as wrestlers.
"Having someone of The Ultimate Warrior's and Vader's magnitude coming in as characters, you can't top that," says Andronaco.
" Away from the ring, they're normal just like you and I, and have to pay bills and so on. When they are in the World Wrestling Federation, they are their character."
Andronaco says that the W.W.F's emphasis is more on providing sports entertainment than an entertaining sport.
"It's sport entertainment," he explains. "It involves both the greatest things in the world -- athletes and entertainment. And our guys do it the best."
How successful is the W.W.F? Andronaco reassures that weekly TV programs such as Monday Night Raw (shown locally on the new VR) and Superstars (broadcast Saturdays on both WUTV in Buffalo and CHCH-TV) are doing great business, broadcast in eight languages in 80 countries.
"For a Wrestlemania, we did over 400,000 buys, which is tremendous," crows Andronaco. " Our Monday Night Raw ratings have been 3.9 , which equals over two million homes. Arena attendance is probably up 30 percent. Our grosses and attendance are up tremendously."
Although he won't divulge any of the W.W.F's finances because the company is privately-owned, he does concede that the organization probably receives the biggest slice of an industry that generates an estimated $150 million annually.
There's even room for a local celebrity to get into the act. Over the past week, a rivalry has been brewing between SUNNY, the fetching manager of world tag-team title holders THE body DONNAS, and Y95 morning man JEFF LUMBY.
Tomorrow night at ringside, body Donna competitors THE GODWINNS will have a special guest manager to complement their hillbilly schtick.
Just in case you don't recognize him...
"I'll be wearing overalls," says Lumby.
©1996, 1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink
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