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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: December 13, 2017

Escape the pressures of the holidays with the drama of WWE

Written by: Ray Routhier
Wrestler Sami Zayn may be flying high here, but who knows what'll happen when he competes during the WWE Live Holiday Tour's stop at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday. Below, Montreal native Sami Zayn. Photos courtesy of WWE

Wrestler Sami Zayn may be flying high here, but who knows what’ll happen when he competes during the WWE Live Holiday Tour’s stop at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday. Below, Montreal native Sami Zayn.
Photos courtesy of WWE

Body slammed for the holidays?

Pro wrestling has been so popular for so long, and so ingrained in our cultural consciousness, that now it’s become a treasured part of the holiday season. Trim the tree, light the lights, bake some gingerbread and then go watch some grapplers tossing each other out of the ring.

The WWE Live Holiday Tour will be at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland Saturday with some two dozen big-name wrestlers. The same wrestlers fans see on TV will be in Portland, with holiday cheer in their hearts and destruction on their minds.

One of the wrestlers on the card, Montreal native Sami Zayn, is looking forward to driving down to Portland a day early and taking in some sights. He’s heard the area has some beautiful coastal scenery and great food.

But once he steps into the ring, he won’t be a starry-eyed tourist, he’ll be the brash, loud-mouthed, arrogant cuss fans have come to loathe. In wrestling, it means you’re doing your job well if people hate you.

Wrestler Sami Zayn will be grappling for you holiday enjoyment, when the WWE Live Holiday Tour comes to Cross Insurance Arena in Portland Saturday.

Wrestler Sami Zayn will be grappling for you holiday enjoyment, when the WWE Live Holiday Tour comes to Cross Insurance Arena in Portland Saturday.

“What we do is take people on a journey, help people forget about life for a while. We give them people they want to cheer on and people they want to slap in the face,” said Zayn, 33. “And it’s rewarding for us, as athletes, to be able to do things we do in the ring.”

Yes, pro wrestling is not a real competitive sport, like baseball or football. It’s more theater combined with sports. But the flying through the air, the incredible kicks, the tossing of 250-pound humans around like basketballs — that’s really happening.

And the passion, from both fans and wrestlers, is real. Zayn, for instance, wrestled for small, independent wrestling outfits in Quebec for about a decade before getting his shot at the big time with the WWE about five years ago.

On the independent circuit, he wrestled for very little money in bars, garages, comics stores and community centers. He’s wrestled in front of 20 people, in a rec center in rural Quebec, and in front of more than 100,000 people last year at WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Zayn grew up wanting to be a hockey player or a wrestler. He remembers watching Hulk Hogan, clad in yellow and posing his sculpted body, and just being in awe.

“I remember watching with my dad and seeing Hulk Hogan, drenched in sweat and blood after the fight of his life,” said Zayn. “I loved every aspect of it, the athleticism, the drama, the theatrics.”

Zayn never played organized hockey, partly because of the expense and the time demands, and by his teen years he was focused on wrestling. He was lucky enough to find an indie wrestler willing to train him. Then he put in his dues.

The event in Portland will feature a championship match between AJ Styles and Jinder Mahal, a three-way championship match between Bobby Roode, Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin, and a tag-team championship between The Usos and Benjamin & Gable. There’s also a women’s championship “Fatal Five-Way” match with Charlotte Flair, Naomi, Natalya, Carmella and Tamina.

Zayn thinks the continued appeal of wrestling lies in its combination of escapism and athletic feats of daring.

“At the end of the day, it’s characters and stories; it’s the same reason people go to the movies,” said Zayn. “People need a little break from reality, which can be pretty tough sometimes.”

WWE Live Holiday Tour

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Cross Insurance Arena, 1 Civic Center Square, Portland
HOW MUCH: $15 to $95
INFO: crossarenaportland.com

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