WWF: Tumble in Tacoma
Seattle Times staff reporter
TACOMA - Vince McMahon, the shrewd mastermind behind the phenomenon that is the World Wrestling Federation, turned into master critic for a few moments last night at the Tacoma Dome.
McMahon, chest and biceps bulging beneath a designer suit, introduced his WWF signature television program, "Raw is War," by insulting the people of Washington state.
"You've got lousy weather and all you do is grow a bunch of apples!" McMahon seethed through the microphone from inside the wrestling ring. The 16,000-plus wrestling fans who spent as much as $50 for a ticket laughed and jeered the WWF boss, enjoying the fighting words more than recoiling from them.
In truth, the weather in the state was quite sunny, and beer, pretzels and nachos - not apples —were in abundance. The WWF returned to the Tacoma Dome for its annual visit, with last night's event the first of two in Tacoma.
While last night's show was a live broadcast (except on the West Coast) of "Raw," tonight's event is a taping of "WWF Smackdown," the highest-rated program on the UPN network. "Raw" is the most-watched cable TV show in the nation, and has been on a regular basis for several years.
There were the screams for the Hardy Boyz and Lita, a threesome known for acrobatics, and boos for vilified heels like Kurt Angle and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Angle, a real-life wrestling gold medalist in the 1996 Olympics, said he has to keep trying to find ways to make the audience angry with him, because many fans have grown to like his clean-cut hero persona.
"It's hard to fool the fans," Angle said. "I'm a funny guy in general. I have to be cynical and aggressive. People want to be entertained, and they get into a fantasy world with us every week."
Among wrestling fans, last night's event had some historical significance. It was the first time in months that a match took place between wrestlers from what was once the WWF's arch-rival, World Championship Wrestling. Since McMahon purchased WCW in March, effectively eliminating his competition, WCW performers had gradually begun to appear more often on WWF shows.
Finally, as the story line went, a WCW title match took place to the disdain of many who attended last night.
WCW stars Booker T and Buff Bagwell were featured in the main event that closed last night's show. Neither character won the match, as Austin and Angle ran into the ring and pummeled Booker T (without much power to their kicks and punches), calling for a disqualification.
Clearly this act won over the crowd, many who were unhappy to see WCW become more of a part of the WWF. A fight in the seats drew as much attention as the pseudo-fight going on in the ring.
"They're low-quality," Ron Hopper, a fan from Longview said of the WCW athletes.
"We're here to cheer for the WWF guys. Their show was canceled because they suck," Hopper's brother Sam added.
Still, WWF competitors said they welcomed WCW superstars into their organization.
"I think all the WCW guys are respectful, showing deference to the right people," said Raven, who is known as Scott Levy when out of his wrestling character. "The fans are going to be excited to see it."
Said Debra, who is Austin's wife in reality and carries that role onto the TV screen: "I think it's great for our fans (working with WCW). You never know who's going to pop in or pop out. We have more women to work with, and we can entertain more."
José Miguel Romero can be reached at 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org.