Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lords of the Ring - The Sunday Mail (Sunday Extra) - 16th July 2000

It starts as a sound bite in one corner of the stadium a rhythmic chant invoking the arrival of a man so famous that, just like Madonna, he no longer needs two names.

Goldberg. Goldberg! Goldberg!! They scream as others join, stamping their feet on the bleachers until 10,000 punters are caught in the moment, seduced by the biggest thing to happen to pro wrestling since Hulk Hogan.

Goldberg, a 190cm, 120kg mountain of a man who attacks opponents like the gridiron player he once was, is widely believed to earn tens of thousands of dollars every time he steps into the ring.

And Goldberg along with arch rivals Kevin "Big Sexy" Nash and Jeff Jarrett, is heading our way, as a master promoter Paul Danity brings the World Championship Wrestling juggernaut to Australia.

Well-schooled in the art of taking a punt, Danity is a shrewd operator whose longevity in the promotion game means that he knows exactly what he's doing bring the relatively unknown soap opera that is WCW to Australia.

"This deal has taken nearly two years to stitch up" Danity says.

"The only thing I can compare it to was trying to get the Rolling Stones to Australia."

"But it's worth it and on a personal level, I can't remember the last time I was so excited about bringing an act to Australia."

But why is Danity , a man not usually given to passionate outbursts of enthusiasm, so pumped?

To begin with despite the fact that WCW is a fairly low-profile sport in Australia compared to the giants of football and cricket, Danity's well-oiled research covered Australia's licensee agent for Kevin Nash has sold $10 million of Big Sexy's merchandise in the past 12 months.

Danity believes there is a huge, untapped market for pro wrestling in Australia and there's no doubt WCW is big business - wherever it plays in the world.

Since it was taken over by media mogul Ted Turner in 1988, WCW has become a law unto itself, a multi-million-$-making machine with its monolithic HQ in Atlanta Georgia.

And while Australian fans are conversant with some of the bigger names soon to arrive here, what they probably don't know is how tough it has been for every one of those wrestlers to get here.

The road to WCW fame begins at the Atlanta HQ, where at one time 100 to 150 wrestlers contracts are under contract.

Sharon Sidello (WCW's vice president of international development) is moving into dangerous territory here - there's the fine line between what's real and fake in the ring. WCW is remarkably coy about exactly what goes on in the matches and the wrestlers themselves don't take kindly to the merest suggestion that what they do isn't 100% bonfide.

During a live satellite link-up with GB, JJ and KN last week to promote the upcoming tour, all three wrestlers bristled when asked the big question is wrestling real.

"I'll tell you what." Goldberg growled, "let's you and me get in the ring and I'll show you what's real and what's not."

"I've seen them when they come out of those matches and, yes they're hurting".

They have bruises, they do bleed and they do get injured".

You can't fake falling off the top rope on to a mat with a sickening thud, you can't fake a headlock."

WCW kicks off its four-date Australian tour in Brisbane on Saturday, October 7, at the Entertainment Centre at Boondall.

Tickets go on sale this Friday through Ticketek 131 931.

The Brisbane event will feature GB, SV, KN, JJ and several other big WCW names yet to be announced.

Brisbane is the first place outside the US where filming will take place and be beamed via satellite back to the US as part of WCW's regular programming.

Media Man Australia Profiles

Paul Danity

Ted Turner