Off the Ropes: WWE superstars amaze Arkansas fans

Martin Downey, Features Writer

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(10/24/02)

All day Friday I could hardly sit still. I knew I had a whole weekend of wrestling memories to make. It turned out that I made more than I ever expected to.

I started out Saturday by going to a non-televised WWE event in Texarkana, Ark. The event was held at the Four States Entertainment Center. From the mud-covered walls,it looked as though the only entertainment they had ever seen there was rodeos. I arrived early so I could meet Al Snow, who was signing autographs before the show. Once I got my autograph from the head “Tough Enough” trainer, I headed to my seat. I went with the cheap seat, which put me at the end of an arena that favored an oversized high school gym. One thing was for sure: I would truly appreciate No Mercy from the beautiful Alltel Arena the next night after being at Texarkana’s first ever WWE event. Goldust was also signing autographs and walked by the bleachers as Adam, a friend of mine, and I were sitting there. We impersonated him and made him laugh. I think it was Adam’s highlight for the weekend, maybe the year.

The wrestlers put on a good show despite their surroundings and the crowd was pumped the whole night. The main event was a warm up match for No Mercy with Ric Flair taking on Rob Van Dam. RVD won with his patented five-star frog splash and posed all over the ring for the crowd.

Earlier in the day WWE diva Jacqueline was at a Books-A-Million signing autographs. While I was there I had the privilege of talking to the WWE’s Developmental Talent Manager and former wrestler, Tom Pritchard. He shared some insight with me about No Mercy and the WWE in general.

With the Hell in a Cell match the next night Pritchard predicted that it would be the best match of the pay-per-view. “I expect Brock to shock everybody,” said Pritchard. “I think Brock knows he has to make a good showing. I think Taker doesn’t want to go out the way Brock wants him to.”

The other main event of the card was Kane vs. Triple H. Pritchard also had comments for it. “I think it will be closer than people think. Kane wants to come back and get a little more stock and Triple H wants to keep his stock at that level and get a little bit better as well,” Pritchard said.

As for the WWE’s future as a whole Pritchard said, “I think there is going to be a little lull, but then we will pick up business as we always do.”

Sunday morning Mary, my girlfriend, Goldust fanatic Adam, and I started bright and early. We went to a hotel close to the arena in hopes of finding wrestlers. When we got there we immediately saw Eddie Guerrero in the parking lot. Our luck was just beginning. Guerrero got into his car with Chris Beniot. Adam and I just stood there and stared until we realized that they must have been waiting for someone. We bolted into the lobby only to find Edge at the front desk. With this much luck in the first minute, we decided we weren’t going anywhere.

We sat in the hotel and met Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley, Eric Bischoff, Matt Hardy and Lita. Ric Flair passed by too, but he said he was late and quickly hopped in his stretch limo. Mary and I went to make a phone call down the hall and then we saw him. Stalking down the carpeted walkway with the same intense grimace on his face as he walks to the ring, was Triple H. Behind “The Game” was his real life girlfriend Stephanie McMahon. Triple H said something about being late as he walked by. Mary complimented the “Billion-Dollar Princess” as she was walked by and she shook her hand.

After all this excitement there was Arkansas’s first ever pay-per-view to attend still. We had seats close enough to the entrance that RVD’s fireworks scared me half to death.

No Mercy kicked off with Chris Jericho and Christian taking on Booker T and Goldust. This match had an unexpected twist when the second rope broke. Jericho cheated to win and retained his title along with Christian.

Next, Torrie Wilson defeated Dawn Marie and RVD repeated his previous night’s task of beating the 16-time champion Ric Flair. Jamie Noble then beat Tajiri in a nice cruiserweight match.

Then it was time for the Raw Championship to be defended. With help from Ric Flair and a sledgehammer, Triple H managed to come out on top once again, despite being choke slammed through a table.

The best match of the night, in my opinion, was next. Kurt Angle and Chris Beniot took on the team of Edge and Rey Mysterio. This match was back and forth the whole way and had the crowd on the edge of its seat. Angle made Edge tap out after 22 minutes of action and quite possible the best tag team match I have ever seen.

After this was a short women’s match where Trish Stratus retained her title over Victoria. It was the customary beer/bathroom break match before the main event.

Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker then battled inside the Hell in a Cell. This 27 minute blood bath was brutal. The Undertaker took it to Lesnar like no one had before, but “The Next Big Thing” was just too much for the Taker. Lesnar reversed the tombstone piledriver into his signature F-5 for the victory.

After the match we made our way back to the hotel. We met John Cena, who flirted with my girlfriend, and announcers Tazz, and Michael Cole. Then the perfect end to a great weekend arrived.

A big white limo pulled up and out came The Undertaker. There were fans standing around in awe as the legend limped through the crowd with a large bag of ice on his hand. It was obvious that he had real injuries from his match and wouldn’t be signing autographs. That didn’t matter though. The crowd stood around in silence as he was checking in at the front desk.

Then as he started to walk off to his room the small crowd of fans broke out into applause. In wrestling winning isn’t everything.

It is the admiration a wrestler earns from the audience for entertaining every night and putting their body at risk to do this.

That is what it is all about, and The Undertaker personified that as he thanked the crowd and limped down the hall without a belt, but with respect.