Originally created 11/27/98

Wrestling is hot ticket -- and ready for a comeback



For proof that these are indeed strange times one needs to look no further than professional wrestling.

Earlier this month ex-wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota.

Now "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan wants a shot at the Oval Office.

Rebounding from an early '90s slump, professional wrestling is a boon for cable programming, beating out network "legitimate" sports like Monday Night Football for audience shares.

So the world turns and World Championship Wrestling returns to Augusta tonight at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center hotter than ever.

But don't get too excited and start chanting "Goldberg," the wildly popular chrome-domed ex-University of Georgia football star who's taken WCW by storm, because he won't be in Augusta.

Friday's main event pits Diamond Dallas Page (DDP for short) against Bret "Hitman" Hart for the WCW United States Title.

Diamond Dallas, resting up at his Atlanta home, discussed in a telephone interview the current surge of pro wrestling, Mr. Ventura's governorship, Hulk Hogan's presidential bid and his own political ambitions.

Diamond Dallas, whose given name is Page Falkinburg, has an opinion on just about everything, which he delivers in a rapid-fire soliloquy.

"I didn't give a **** about politics until now," said the wrestler, who started out in the grappling business as a color commentator and then became a manager.

Mr. Ventura's election tells Diamond Dallas anything is possible. "He's the most-known governor in America," he said. "Can you name 10 other states' governors?"

As for Hulk Hogan's presidential campaign, Diamond Dallas thinks he's serious and not just pulling off a publicity stunt.

Perhaps paving the way for a political future of his own, Diamond Dallas does charity work, including an event promoting the value of reading scheduled Dec. 8 at American Pie on Roswell Road in Atlanta.

He pushes the importance of reading, in part, because he is dyslexic and struggles daily with the learning disability. "I'm getting better, but I still suck as a reader," he said.

Also, a book about his life, Positively Page, written by longtime friend Larry Genta, is in the works.

Wrestling has taken off again, Diamond Dallas said, because there's been an attitude adjustment in the industry. Nobody denies that professional wrestling is staged anymore and the wrestlers consider themselves entertainers more than athletes.

"It's not like the fans don't know," said Diamond Dallas, who said he was disappointed about a recent NBC expose on wrestling. He said the tone of the show, Exposed! Pro Wrestling's Greatest Secrets short-changed wrestling fans. "They talked down to the wrestling fan, like they are morons," he said.

It exposed all the tricks of the trade, but didn't focus much on some of the realities he said. For instance, with large men bruising each other's large egos, some of wrestling's feuding is real, Diamond Dallas said.

"Tempers do flare," he said. "Nobody wants to get showed up."

And the pain incurred from full-contact scrapping is real too.

After a hard-fought battle with the undefeated Goldberg, "I couldn't even lift up my arm," said Diamond Dallas, who goes to a variety of physical therapists to work out the damage.

"In the ring, I give it everything I got, because I know it will get fixed on Tuesday," he said.

Kent Kimes can be reached at (706) 823-3626 or feature@augustachronicle.com.

The card

  • Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Diamond Dallas Page
  • Lex Luger and Rick Steiner vs. Stevie Ray and Brian Adams
  • Booker T. vs. Chris Jericho
  • Meng vs. Wrath
  • Scotty Riggs vs. Alex Wright
  • Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko vs. Dave "Fit" Finlay and Mike Enos
  • Kidman vs. Disco Inferno
  • * card is subject to change

    Wrestling

    What: World Championship Wrestling

    When: 7:30 tonight

    Where: Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, 601 Seventh St.

    How much: $15, $20, $25

    Phone: 724-2400