Wrestlers put smack down on four-states

Hobie Brown

Slithering across the sweat-stained mat was a silhouette that in the dark unrecognizable.

The silhouette turned out to be a pile of worms, some of which were devoured by the figure underneath.

“I’m the Boogeyman, and I’m coming to get you,” the pile said.

Memorial Hall played host as the World Wrestling Entertainment brought its “Road to Wrestlemania” tour to Joplin on March 27.

The sold-out event allowed approximately 3,000 fans to see some of their favorite Smackdown superstars in action, as well as provide publicity for both WWE programming and the Wrestlemania 22 Pay-Per-View, which was held April 2 in Chicago.

“It was a pleasure to be here,” said Tony Chimmel, the Smackdown ring announcer.

The event included a street fight, a three-team elimination match for the tag team titles, a World Heavyweight Title match and a United States Championship match. A couple of the matches included wrestlers fighting against their Wrestlemania opponents.

The U.S. Championship match saw the current titleholder, Chris Benoit, defend against his Wrestlemania challenger, John Bradshaw Layfield. Layfield addressed the crowd, taking aim at Benoit’s friend, Eddie Guerrero, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame April 1 by Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and Eddie’s nephew, Chavo Guerrero, Jr, just months after his unexpected death.

Benoit responded to Layfield’s remarks, which had put the crowd into a frenzy.

“There is one thing that you’ll never take from Eddie Guerrero,” Benoit said. “Eddie will always be a champion.”

The card for the evening held seven matches and one special interview with WWE Hall of Fame member “King” Harley Race.

The results of the card are as follows:

• Mysterio pinned Finlay.

• Matt Hardy defeated Booker T via count out after the Boogeyman appeared.

• Bobby Lashley defeated Orlando Jordan.

• Tag Champs MNM defeated the teams of Paul London/Brian Kendrick and Sylvan/Animal.

• US Champion Benoit defeated JBL by submission.

• The Undertaker defeated the “World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry.

• WWE Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle defeated Randy Orton by submission.

The fans also played a pivotal part in the evening, responding to the negative remarks some of the “heel” wrestlers made and giving some heat of their own to the wrestlers.

During the Jordan/Lashley match, fans started chanting the name “Buckwheat” at Jordan, due to his hair resembling the Little Rascals character.

One unknown fan even made a Brokeback Mountain reference, yelling out “I wish I could quit you, Buckwheat.”

Many wrestlers who compete in the WWE have distinct athletic backgrounds. Some have been All-Americans in sports such as wrestling, football, track and field and other sports.

Some have played for the National Football League, and some have even competed in international competitions, such as the Olympics.

“I wrestled in the 1996 Olympic games and won the Gold medal with a broken neck,” Angle said.

Henry is a two-time Olympian, competing in the 1992 and 1996 games as a weightlifter and won the 2002 Schwarzenegger World’s Strongest Man competition.

After the event, many fans crowded the alley behind Memorial Hall to get one more glimpse of their favorite wrestlers as they drove away. The last car to leave, which included WWE agent Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Chimmel stopped to thank the fans for their support.

“Thank you for your generosity,” Chimmel said.

“We look forward to coming back to Joplin again.”

Smackdown can be seen at midnight Saturdays on KFJX Fox 14.

For more information on the WWE, visit their Web site at www.wwe.com.