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Fantasy Island

World Wrestling Federation "Raw is War!" guides Silicon Valley to its inner badass at the San Jose Arena

By Mary Spicuzza

THE DEAFENING blasts, flashing lights and smoke churning from dry ice machines almost pulled my companion and me away from the concession stand at the live World Wrestling Federation takeover of the San Jose Arena last Monday night. But we had more pressing matters at hand, namely waiting behind a charming man sporting a "Poontang Pie" T-shirt as we chirped with excitement at the opportunity to drink Budweiser through a straw while joining a live broadcast of cable's number-one-rated program, "WWF Raw is War!"

"This is how the girls in Texas always drank beer," my gal pal, a Kentucky native and confessed fan of classic '80s WWF, says, happily sucking down some cold Bud. "This way it didn't mess up their lipstick."

She then launches into fond childhood memories of Saturday mornings spent watching her former favorite pro-wrestler smack his foes with folding chairs. Meanwhile I feel like a complete fraud, never having even watched WWF, a show condemned by my amateur wrestling champion father as a form of blasphemy. A deeper feeling of inadequacy and pure cultural illiteracy takes over as a woman in tiny zebra-striped spandex pants and a large matching hat struts past carrying giant signs proclaiming her devotion to the sport.

Thank goodness my companion doesn't seem to notice my discomfort. Her green eyes glisten as she remembers what made the childhood idol her favorite.

"He wore these tight pants," she smiles innocently.

We may have missed the official opening festivities waiting in line behind an 8-year-old boy ogling a buxom wrestling groupie featured in the souvenir program, but our long Bud-
supported wait did help us catch what allows the WWF to grapple its audiences into submission. It's all about the show outside the ring. And it's sure to make Spartan Stadium's new XFL professional football team, part of an up-and-coming WWF-inspired league, a success.

Don't get me wrong--I love melodrama as much as the next girl. And the professional wrestlers promise plenty of it. The Undertaker and Kurt Angle duke it out over whose motor bike is bigger and better, rival wrestlers' girlfriends scratch and claw at each others' hair and clothes, and alliances are made and broken with the help of behind-the-scenes glimpses and MTV-inspired video clips. As long as large, thick-necked men--cartoonish whether dressed up as superheroes or sporting Speedos and a full-body waxed look--grab each other and acrobatically thrust each other to the ground, there will undoubtedly be debate over whether pro-wrestlers are true athletes or pure phonies. Pro-wrestling seems to be a testosterone-laced soap opera, complete with buff badass heroes and goody-two-shoes villains, sledgehammers and fake blood.

But what makes going to the WWF feel like a trip to Fantasy Island is the surreal role-playing crowd. Sweet little tikes join in with the crowd as they cheer against meat-headed Triple H and his girlfriend, Stephanie, chanting "Stephanie swallows!"

"Stephanie swallows what, Mom?" a little girl a few rows down asks.

A round, bespectacled boy cheers for Stephanie, one of the main leather-pants wearing Jezebels of the evening, bravely defending her honor despite many hand-drawn signs questioning her chastity. Nearby a skinny kid who screams "I collect comic books!" mutters different wrestlers' names under his breath, clearly well-read in the entire WWF melodrama.

My companion and nearby fans cheer for the sinister-looking Kane as he pummels some clean-cut goody-goody. Despite the initial knee-jerk Catholic guilt reaction (Wait! Jealous Cain killed his innocent, pure-hearted brother Abel in the Old Testament!), I find myself rooting for bad boy Kane. He brings out the inner badass--Kane wouldn't get bullied by uppity types or shoved around in line trying to buy a soft pretzel with spicy mustard.

Slurping down the dregs of my beer, I finally feel at one with the crowd, at peace with my dark side, and even confident enough to chat with the young man sitting in front of us, Matt.

"You don't usually watch this, do you?" he asks suspiciously.

Okay, so some are better role-players than others. But as far as the actual wrestlers, I still know a 13-year-old girl who could take them all down.

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From the July 13-19, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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