The WWF battles gutsy new shows for ratings glory |


The WWF battles gutsy new shows for ratings glory

''Battle Dome'' is just one of the series hoping to win over wrestling's coveted youth audience

Battle Dome

'BATTLE' DAMES Sure fan favorites (from left) Karen Ko, Bobbi Haven, and Angel (<!-- -->)

Can’t get enough of the WWF and the WCW? Stay tuned. A flurry of shows are mixing up their own bizarro combo of soap opera and body slams to tap into wrestling’s estimated 35 million weekly viewers. Here’s the rundown on three new kids who could crush the Rock, or simply get smacked down.

?BATTLE DOME (syndicated, check your local listings) Forget wrestling’s old school triple-spin pile drivers. On ”Battle Dome,” amateur athletes (”Challengers”) and a cast of pros (”Warriors”) play ten extreme games that could make Stone Cold Steve Austin shiver. Challengers, who compete for a slot in the year-end National Championships and a chance to win $10,000, must suffer through trials like G-Force (competitors dangle from a rotating bar as other players try to knock them off with medicine balls), the Rollercage of Fire (two players are locked inside a 25-foot flaming cylinder), and Ultimate Body Slam (players are launched at one another face-first until one is knocked to the mat).

”If you don’t come off with a broken something, you got off lucky,” says The Commander, a championship body builder and one of the show’s warriors. Young men are the target audience for all the manly theatrics – and the slutty sex appeal of the three non-competing female characters – but the ladies aren’t left out. ”There are some big, really good-looking men on our show, and a lot of women fantasize about being rescued,” jokes executive producer Stephen Brown. ”Isn’t that sexist?”

?THE XFL GAMES (NBC, debuts February 2001) Wrestling meets football in this league created by WWF mastermind Vince McMahon. ”Rest assured, the XFL will be 100 percent real football,” says NBC spokesperson Kevin Sullivan. But there will be a little tweaking. The game will be limited to a zippy three hours, the fair-catch rule will be eliminated, a 35-second play clock will be added, and half-time will be cut down to 10 minutes, sparing long-suffering football fans from ever sitting through an Up with People extravaganza.

But the biggest change will be in the behind-the-scenes access to the players, McMahon’s WWF trademark. Cameras will be tucked away in locker rooms, on the sidelines, and in the helmets of select footballers so fans can finally find out what the players are really saying in the huddle. The question is, do we really want to know?

?ROLLER JAM (TNN, Fridays, 9 p.m.) If you’re too young to remember roller derby, think of this show as wrestling on wheels. Two teams of five skaters (women skate in the first and third periods of the game, while men skate in the second and fourth) have six minutes to race around the rink while trying to elbow, kick, or punch the competition over the rail and into the audience.

The show has all the screeching hair-pulling of the 1950s version, while playing up the players’ personalities WWF-style. ”Viewers want larger than life characters, and they want to follow the relationships between them,” says creator Stephen Land. But these characters may be a little tame for viewers weaned on wrestling’s cast of wackos. Fans who check out know that New York Enforcer Lisa Bucchold’s day job is installing house arrest ankle bracelets on juvenile delinquents, and that Illinois Riot skater Brian Gamble has a Masters in Business Administration. How seriously can you take a body block from a guy who made the Dean’s List?