WWF Takes Over Montreal

Credit: http://slam.canoe.ca/SlamWrestlingArchive/aug4_mtl.html


The scene was set. The WWF would begin their spectacle in the Montreal Molson Centre at 7:30 pm, but the fans were coming out of the woodwork as early as noon. At St-Charles Park in Dorval, Quebec, the crews were present by ten. Setting up the tents for the raffle, the auction, and the free food. Inflating the rides for the kids. Cleaning up the baseball field where the CFCF-12 Hot Dogs would play against a local team, well, a local team supplemented by, among others, Jacques Rougeau, Pierre Oulette, Jesse James, and Billy Gunn. And of course, making sure that everything was perfect in the executive tent - the three director's chairs for picture-taking, the tables, chairs, and working markers for autographs, the cooler full of bottled water and various other beverages, even the flow of air so that the mammoths wouldn't get too hot.

The people started to arrive at about eleven. You could tell what they were here for, if nothing else than by their garb. People adorned their chests and backs with pictures of Steve Austin, catch phrases, crotch chops, and men from the Dark Side. They surrounded the baseball field, looking for superstars, they lined up for the raffle and for the food, and they got in line for the autographs and pictures.

Jacques Rougeau arrived just before noon. He spent some time chatting with the fans, mostly the kids, then he did a promo for CFCF-12 for the event. People started to chant "Rougeau, Rougeau!" He promised a tag team victory that night.

The people who arrived in the first of two limousines would have something to say about that. The limos had some difficulty maneuvering through the very enthusiastic crowd, and it took about twenty minutes to get them from the car to the tent, five metres away.

From the second limo came two men I initially didn't recognize - it turned out to be Val Venis (with a ponytail and in street clothes), and the very-hyped but seldom seen Toronto-born Edge. I don't think anyone else recognized them, either, but they would, eventually. The first limo caused much more hysteria, as from its depths emerged the World's Most Dangerous Man and the New Age Outlaws.

Ken Shamrock was wearing a tank top and a pair of shorts - and his muscles were very, very evident - and the New Age Outlaws were geared up in a casual version of their ring attire. There were lots of shouts as they made their way to the tent and crotch chops were everywhere.

Shamrock, Edge, and Venis would sign autographs and the New Age Outlaws sat on the outer two of the three chairs, so that the kids could sit in the middle and get their picture taken.

Considering the fact that their plane had landed less than an hour before, and that they'd be wrestling later that night, the wrestlers were great, especially with the kids. Of course, to a certain extent, they tried to stay in character, with the Outlaws trying to get the crowd going with the various now-famous chants of DX, Edge trying to stay fairly quiet, and Val Venis impressing the ladies. Ken Shamrock, whose no-nonsense ring persona doesn't really have much of a gimmick that can be seen outside of the ring, had only one real chance to get psyched, and that's when Owen Hart, his opponent at the last pay-per-view as well as that night, crawled under the tent and surprised the fans. Even in his home-country, he was welcomed with the chants that were made famous originally by Shawn Michaels and eventually by Jason Sensation - "Nugget, Nugget!"

Other wrestlers who would arrive later include Jacques' Quebecers partner, Pierre Oulette as well as Scorpio.

The Road Dog was especially nice. He was respectful, calling older men "sir". When asked what Shawn Michaels' chances were of returning to DX, his response was "He doesn't fit. His shoe size is too small." Of course, he couldn't go twenty minutes without saying it to somebody, so he got the crowd riled up by demanding they "give two words to Joanne Rougeau," the organizer of the event. Everyone helped him shout "Suck it!"

When the Outlaws were asked about Billy's 'brother,' Bart Gunn, they both had something to say. Billy Gunn claimed he was "in jail," and Jesse James said he was "knocking some tough guy out." The Outlaws also confirmed that they'd love to have the Outsiders back in the WWF and that they've spoken to Hall and Nash, who apparently indeed want to be back. Billy Gunn only had one rule about having your picture taken with him, which he made crystal clear: "It costs money to sit on my lap."

When asked if he'd be seen at Monster Gym later that day (he had a gym T-shirt), he claimed he "doesn't work out." It would be pretty hard to justify that when you see him in person; he's built.

I had a chance to get a few words with Owen, Edge, and Val Venis.

I think the fans will be happy to know that all three athletes are locked up in contracts for a long time (Owen, three years; Edge, five; Venis, five), and are bound to receive increased exposure in the future. When asked who they liked to work with, they all offered one name in common: Jeff Jarrett. When Owen Hart was asked to comment about his recent experiences in the WWF and his plans for the future, he had this to say:

"I had always liked wrestling my brother, Bret. He's a great wrestler. Shawn Michaels, too, I've always had a good match with. As much as I didn't like DX, they have decent people to work with Hunter Hearst Helmsley and some of those guys. Ken Shamrock, as much as we have a big rivalry, he's a top talent and a good wrestler to fight against. I have about three years left on my contract, and yeah, I guess I'll renew. I would like to abbreviate my workload, because I'd like to take care of my family a little more than I have in the past few years."

Owen on working Canadian dates as a heel wrestler:

"I love coming to Canada. Most of the time, no matter what I do, I still get cheered and it's nice to come to Canada. I still wrestle the same style and break the rules and do what I've always done, but I get cheered for it. You can't dictate to the crowd. They can cheer for whoever they want. There is always a silent minority who will cheer for the opposite side just to get attention, it seems. They're entitled, they bought a ticket, they can cheer for whoever they want."

Val Venis, who's been wrestling since he got out of high school, had this to say about starting out: "I started professional wrestling the summer after I graduated high school in the country of England. I did England, Ireland, Scotland, the whole United Kingdom." He had nothing but good things to say about his stint, so far, in the WWF, and had these wise words to say when asked about the athletes in the WWF: "I like working with Jeff Jarrett, Brian Christopher; every single one of them is great. Damn good athletes. They wouldn't be there if they weren't."

One of the most interesting aspects of Edge, to this reporter, is his persona as a jaded youth who spent time on the mean streets of Toronto. When asked about his character, more specifically how much of the Edge character was his own idea, he answered: "I have input, which is good. We collaborated. If you don't feel comfortable with what you're doing, then it's not going to work. It's like that with everyone."

All in all, everyone had a great time, and the wrestlers were truly good sports about it.

Making my way from the airport park to the arena for that night's festivities, I noticed that the shirts were everywhere - nWo Hollywood on Sherbrooke street, nWo Wolfpac on St-Catherine street, Austin 3:16 and SCU on De Maisonneuve, WHO'S NEXT on Rene Levesques, and S*CK IT on Stanley. The city was being taken over by wrestling fans.

I can remember, a few short years back, when the WWF would arrive in town with a house show main event of Hulk Hogan against the Undertaker or the Ultimate Warrior, and they could barely draw five or six thousand fans to the majestic Montreal Forum. Only a short while later, in the new Molson Centre, wrestling is so popular that a twenty-two thousand seat arena in a small market is not only packed, but sold out way in advance. Tickets for the November 8th house show went on sale during the show, and less than half of the tickets were left the morning after (if you think the 8th is a typo, you are mistaken - the WWF will be putting on shows in Montreal and Ottawa in the same day).

The show, itself, was great, especially by house show standards. The show matched the Toronto version from the day before very closely, and that show has already been covered at SLAM! Wrestling. The only minor changes to this show were that instead of fighting Pierre, Edge made the save when Tiger Ali Singh attacked the referee of his match after his pin, and the Quebecers were added to the Outlaws/Nation match, which was a triple threat match (same result). Other notables: Jason Sensation did an incredible job with the crowd, Owen Hart got the most heel heat and not a single cheer (except from this reporter), Undertaker received less noise recognition than I've ever seen at a live venue, and degeneration-X proved as popular as Steve Austin at this event.

The whole day was great, for the kids and for the adults, and the show and pre-show festivities are a testament to the incredible job that Titan Sports is doing in the wrestling business today.



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