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Wednesday, May 19, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Snohomish County entertainment
By J.J. Jensen
EVERETT Wrestling's so cool.
Where else can you legally see two cape-clad grown men act like superheroes as they engage in fisticuffs with a pair of French sympathizers or a buxom blonde get spanked by her former beau for meddling in his business?
Look no further than World Wrestling Entertainment, which brought offbeat shenanigans and bone-crushing brawlers in its inaugural visit to the Everett Events Center as part of its "RAW Live" tour.
Though the event was well short of a sellout, the sparse but raucous gathering of several thousand got a full dose of the WWE experience and made a case for the company to return to the arena for a pay-per-view event or one of its nationally televised programs, such as "RAW" or "SmackDown!"
Justin Gunderson, 28, of Lynnwood showed up dressed as former WWE champion Bret "The Hitman" Hart.
Gunderson was by no means the lone diehard fan at the event, as others came dressed as former stars Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Hulk Hogan. Meanwhile, novices to the spectacle quickly joined in the chants with veteran fans.
Within seconds of the show's start, fans showered the cocky and underhanded announcer-wrestler "Coach" Jonathan Coachman with a chorus of insults as he made his way to the ring. Moments later, when wrestlers Sylvain Grenier and Rob Conway of Montreal interrupted the national anthem, the events center quickly erupted in chants of "USA!"
When wrestler Trish Stratus referred to Everett's women as "skanks" and Batista called the city a "dirt pile" and "hellhole," ladies and gentlemen alike along with young children and senior citizens responded with single finger salutes.
Fans also were quick to show support for their favorites. Some carried signs declaring they were Christian's "Peeps" and Chris Jericho's "Jerichoholics." Others whipped the building into a frenzy of stomps and claps when it appeared Chris Benoit, the fan-favorite world heavyweight champion, would lose his title to the 7-foot monster Kane.
Wrestlers, as has been the case for decades, played to the crowd's emotions.
Garrison Cade, a known "heel," or bad guy, used a foreign object when the referee wasn't looking to knock out his opponent, "adult-film star" Val Venis. Meanwhile, Batista illegally held on to the ropes for leverage to pin former collegiate wrestling star Shelton Benjamin.
The "baby faces," or good guys, also got in their shots.
The luscious Lita used one of her signature moves to knock out the smack-talking Trish, and "special wrestler" Eugene hit the brown-nosing Johnny Nitro with a low blow. Benoit, along with Victoria, the women's champion, also successfully defended their championship straps.
Many agreed Everett's ready for more big-time wrestling.
"We see a lot of the same arenas, so it's cool to come to an arena you're not familiar with, especially a nice one like this," said Coachman, the announcer-wrestler.
"It's not superbig, like the big 20,000-seat arenas. We like playing these better because it's more of an intimate crowd and our crowds are so enthusiastic. From what I understand, the people here are pretty proud of this building and being out of Seattle and on their own."
Now, said Brad Asche, 37, of Everett, Snohomish County just needs one more attraction.
"These fans like hockey, wrestling and NASCAR," he said. "So far they've done two. If we get NASCAR, we're set."
J.J. Jensen: 425-745-7809 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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