Friday, February 01, 2008

WWE — the sweatiest ticket in town, by Richard Smart - The Japan Times - 1st February 2008

The hard-punching, head-crunching stars of World Wrestling Entertainment are in Tokyo mid-February for the WWE Royal Rumble tour. OK, so this spectacle — currently known as "sports entertainment" and televised to millions worldwide — has its naysayers. After all, when midgets get the living daylights kicked out of them by 2-meter-tall blokes who make Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday look like chubby Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymor Hoffman, it's safe to say that what you are watching is not 100 percent for real.

But that is just the point. Around 15 years ago Vince McMahon — the owner of WWE and, at least in character, the organization's version of J.R. Ewing from the TV series "Dallas" — announced that the WWF (as it was then called) was fixed. And so, on with the show.

Since then, American wrestling has gone from absurdity to absurdity. Of the current roster of "Superstars" (wrestlers to those not caught up in the WWE hype), two stand out as particularly strange.

The Great Khali is a 217-cm, 190-kg giant who perhaps more than any other wrestler personifies the freakish standards of the WWE. The catch? He has a growth hormone disorder that is causing his head and hands to expand while eating away at his legs. Now at age 35, he is not likely to see his 50th birthday.

Then there's Hornswoggle, otherwise known as "Little Bastard." At 128 cm and 54 kg, his main story line revealed that he is Vince McMahon's bastard child. A few months ago, in one of the most surreal matches of all time, Hornswoggle fought the Great Khali.

Add to these wrestlers the diva Candice Michelle, veterans such as Triple H and Shawn Michaels — fresh from the "Royal Rumble" pay-per-view event, and undoubtedly carrying fresh grudges and new story lines — and a crowd whose pack mentality and eccentric behavior is any sociologist's wet dream, and you have an event so surreal that it just might be worth going to see.

WWE Royal Rumble Tour arrives at Ariake Coliseum on Feb. 11 and Nippon Budokan on Feb. 12. Tickets cost ¥3,000-¥20,000 and are available from all regular ticket outlets.

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