World Wrestling Entertainment shows Albuquerque fans that they are still on top of the sports entertainment business.

Some things never change.

The superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment cruised through Albuquerque this past Friday and showed a small, raucous crowd at the Pit that a minor name change has done nothing to hinder the quality and intensity of the world’s most popular brand of sports entertainment.

For more than half a decade, the World Wrestling Federation and the World Wildlife Fund have been trying to obtain exclusive rights to the initials ‘WWF.’ A recent court decision awarded the rights to the World Wildlife Fund, thus leading the way for the professional wrestling company to “get the ‘f’ out” and rename their highly popular genre of sports entertainment.

Hence, the WWE was born.

The name change meant little Friday night in Albuquerque. Wild-eyed fans arrived at the Pit early and often, hoping to get a glimpse of their heroes as they entered the building. To many, this was only half the fun.

Some fans were able to get an autograph and a handshake. Others were content with just a wave and a smile from a distance. Excitement was in the air.

Despite the absence of advertised headliner “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the show itself was a solid one. It was apparent that the wrestlers who did show were determined to make up for the absence of “The Texas Rattlesnake.”

The crowd roared with satisfaction as the lovely ring announcer, Lillian Garcia, started the show by singing the National Anthem. From there, the drama would unfold.

The arrogant, besmirching Englishman, European Champion William Regal teamed with the wholesome Molly Holly to battle 130 pound Spike Dudley and Women’s Champion Trish Stratus. WWE diva Jacqueline would preside as the special-guest referee.

This match-up had both Regal’s and Stratus’s belts on the line. Regal and Molly made it clear to the crowd they were not impressed with them. The fans retaliated by booing relentlessly. Late in the match, Molly shoved referee Jacqueline. Jacqueline responded by shoving Molly to the ground. Trish seized the opportunity and rolled up Molly for the pin. Regal and Molly left the ring shaking their heads to a chorus of boos.

The deep bass of Matt Hardy’s theme song echoed throughout the arena as he sprinted to the ring to face off against “Latino Heat” Eddie Guerrero. This was by far the most entertaining match of the evening. While most female spectators seemed to be rooting for Matt Hardy, their male counterparts seemed loyal to Eddie Guerrero.

The wrestlers themselves sensed the rift in the crowd and fought that much harder to win them over. At one point, it seemed they would be willing to battle in the stands as Guerrero flung Hardy into a loose ring-barricade. The barricade broke and nearly hit ten to twelve spectators in the front row.

The crowd went wild! Finally, Guerrero was able to get the upper hand and hit his famous “Frog Splash” and pin Hardy for the 1-2-3 victory!

Jacqueline was the referee for the next match, between Justin Credible and Crash Holly. Again, Jacqueline would be a major factor. Crash took the microphone from the ring announcer, stared down Jacqueline and called her a “typical woman” because she can’t decide if she wants to be a referee or a wrestler.

Boos rained down on Crash from every female in the arena, to which Crash just smirked and let the microphone fall to the ground. That comment would be Crash’s undoing as Credible covered Crash after a “Super Kick.”

Crash tried to get a foot on the rope to stop the count, but Jacqueline kicked it away and counted 1-2-3. The female patrons in the stands screamed with satisfaction!

Next, the unpopular Steven Richards battled Goldust, the gold-and-black painted misfit from Hollywood. Goldust was able to dominate this match. Richards was distracted by an obnoxious fan when Goldust clothes-lined him and hit the “Curtain Call” for the win.

In the last match before intermission, the 7-foot-4- inch, 500-pound Big Show took on five-time WCW Champion Booker T. The monstrous Big Show towered above 6’3″ Booker T. as they grappled to start the match. Booker T. used his quickness to overwhelm Big Show and was able to connect on an “Ax Kick” that took him to the ground.

Instead of covering him for the pin, Booker T. pointed to the crowd and did his famous “Spin-a-rooni” back spin dance for the fans. Flashbulbs lit the building as Booker celebrated. Unfortunately, Big Show recovered and grabbed Booker by the neck, setting him up for a choke-slam. Booker fought his way out of it and was able to disorient Big Show and roll him up for the pin!

The vomit-drinking Tommy Dreamer battled the mysterious Raven. The match was uneventful until Dreamer, who’s forte is to shock the crowd by doing disgusting things, decided he was thirsty and grabbed a drink from a fan in the first row and drank it. This was just enough of a distraction for Raven to pull Dreamer back in the ring and use his signature move, “The Raven Effect,” to get the win.

In a match that involved two relatively unknown wrestlers, D’Lo Brown was able to hit his signature “Sky High” to defeat the obnoxious and semi-crazy Shawn Stasiak, who hails from the uncharted planet Stasiak.

“The Next Big Thing” Brock Lesnar, made his way down the Pit ramp slowly and confidently as his deep, almost morbid theme song played. This monster of a man has yet to lose a match. It was up to Bradshaw, the beer-drinking Texan, to end this unbeaten streak.

It was not to be. Lesnar dominated the wily Texan. Finally, Lesnar lifted the 250-plus-pound Bradshaw over his head and executed a “Front Face Pancake,” and got an easy 3-count. Lesnar rose to his feet, smiled deviously, flexed his massive pectoral muscles and walked slowly up the Pit ramp into the darkness.

Crowd favorite Rob Van Dam took on the mysterious and downright mean WWE Undisputed Champion, The Undertaker, in the main event of the night. Fans relentlessly booed as Undertaker paced the ring. Referee Earl Hebner tried several times to take the WWE belt from ‘Taker’ so the match could begin.

The Undertaker toyed with the much smaller Hebner, lifting the belt above his head, just out of reach the frustrated referee. Finally, with an evil smirk, Undertaker threw the belt at Hebner. More boos rose from the crowd.

When the match finally began, Rob Van Dam took charge, using a variety of aerial assaults on the disoriented Undertaker. It looked as though ‘Taker’ had finally met his match.

However, Undertaker was able to recover after a miscalculation by Van Dam and seized the challenger by the neck and violently choke-slammed him to the canvas. Instead of covering the dazed Van Dam, Undertaker left the ring and grabbed a steel chair, intending to punish his challenger into submission.

Fortunately, Van Dam was able to recover before Undertaker could batter him with the illegal weapon. Van Dam kicked the chair from his hands and knocked him to the canvas. Van Dam grabbed the folded chair and ran at the slowly rising champion, intending to use the chair to execute his finishing move, the VanDaminator. However, Hebner grabbed the chair and distracted Van Dam. Undertaker took advantage by kicking the chair into the challenger’s face and pinning him for the victory.

The Undertaker quickly left the ring, knowing that he had come close to losing his cherished championship belt. Van Dam finally rose to cheers from the crowd, long after the champion had left the arena. Van Dam proceeded to walk back up the Pit ramp, high-fiveing all of his fans. It was a great gesture on his part and a great way to end the evening.

Overall, it was an exciting event that all fans of sports entertainment would have enjoyed. If there had been concerns that the WWE’s name change would affect its product, they were dismissed early.

New name. Same attitude.

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Mario R. Lara