Rose's pro wrestling foray is a sad, sorry spectacle

April 06, 2000|By John Smallwood | John Smallwood,PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS

PHILADELPHIA -- There's something that smells bad about this.

There is no way to say this other than Pete Rose sunk to an all-time low.

Baseball's hit king increased his monetary assets Sunday night by letting a 400-pound Samoan wrestler named Rikishi Phatu rub his ample personal asset in his face.

While a lot of Philadelphians were tuning in to the championship game of NCAA Women's Final Four at the First Union Center, one of our adopted favorite sons was allowing himself to become the butt -- and I do mean that literally -- of jokes in front of a huge pay-per-view audience during the World Wrestling Federation's "Wrestlemania 2000" event.

We've already seen that "Charlie Hustler" would sell just about anything to make a buck, but I really didn't think that included his dignity.

Let's be clear about this: Rose let a 400-pound man, wearing a thong, rub his big, ol' gluteus maximus in his face for a sellout audience at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif., to laugh at.

This isn't a shot at wrestling. There is a huge audience for it, and WWF owner Vince McMahon does an excellent job of understanding who he is selling to and giving them exactly what they want.

This isn't a shot at legitimate professional athletes who like to dabble in the world of sports entertainment.

Reggie White, Kevin Greene, Mike Tyson, Karl Malone, Dennis Rodman, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Bill Fralic, Dick Butkus, Darryl Dawkins, Joe Frazier, Tommy Lasorda, Billy Martin, Bob Uecker, Lawrence Taylor and even the great Muhammad Ali have played roles in wrestling story lines.

But be realistic: Officiating a match, getting body slammed, being hit over the head with a briefcase or tossed out of a ring isn't anywhere near as humiliating as getting a butt rubbed in your face.

Rose kissed rock bottom -- and I do mean that literally.

Apparently, this was the culmination of three-year Wrestlemania story line with Rose playing a different stooge in each sequel.

Two years ago, Rose got in a tiff with a wrestler named Kane for berating the fans at the FleetCenter in Boston. Kane proceeded to choke-slam Rose in the middle of the ring.

Last year, Rose tried to extract his revenge by sneaking up on Kane while wearing a chicken suit. Kane saw through the deception and slammed Pete to the canvas again.

So Sunday night, after Kane and Rikishi won a tag-team match against D-Generation X -- a match in which Rikishi butt-mopped the face of D-X's female manager -- the guy in the chicken suit appeared again.

Kane was about to demolish the chicken man again when the real Rose came running into the ring with a baseball bat.

But before the man who passed Ty Cobb on Major League Baseball's all-time hit list could record his 4,257th hit, Kane turned around, grabbed Rose by the throat and once again slammed him, supposedly knocking him unconscious.

Rose was then dragged into a corner and set up to became a victim of Rikishi's signature move: the Butt-Face. The wrestler backed into Rose, who was sitting, bent over and shoved his butt cheeks into the wannabe Hall of Famer's face -- which certainly gave a whole new meaning to the term "suicide squeeze."

Perhaps I am overreacting. If Rose doesn't care that he had his dignity smeared over some guy's rear end for a few bucks, why should I?

As a sports fan, it disturbs me to see one of baseball's greatest players devolved further and further into the role of cartoon character.

Part of the romance of sports comes from being able to remember the retired legends at their greatest, the way they played the game and conducted themselves.

The images of Rose stretching a single into a double, throwing out a hip to get hit by a pitch to get on base, crashing into Ray Fosse to score the winning run in an All-Star Game, become kind of tainted when I think of a 400-pound guy waving his butt in his face.

Even the most ardent supporter of Rose has to be a bit saddened by that particular image.

I can almost see how McMahon's negotiations with Rose went.

"Hey, Pete, I'll pay you to be a celebrity guest at Wrestlemania."

"Sure, Vince, why not?"

"Hey, Pete, how much more for you to let the big guy in the red leather mask pick you up and body slam you?"

"Well, I don't know, Vince. How about double and you let me hawk some autographs outside the arena?"

"Hey, Pete, how much more to let the 400-pound guy sit on your head and rub his rear end in your face for a minute or so?"

"I don't know, Vince. I've played more baseball games than anyone in history. I'm a respected major-league legend even if the commissioner has conspired to keep me out of the Hall of Fame. How about triple?"

Actually, McMahon made a rare marketing mistake when he put Rose in a match with Kane and Rikishi.

The WWF has another wrestler called the Godfather. He enters the ring with an arm full of women known as the Ho Train and tells the crowd that "Pimpin' ain't easy." His signature move is the "Pimp Drop."

That's the guy Pete Rose should have been in the ring with. Because after Sunday night, it's even more obvious the Rose is willing to jump on board for the right price.

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