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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Wrestling fans pack Forum for WWE pay-per-view

TAMPA — Jeremy Rachlin, 10, didn't let his age dissuade him from lobbying for a spot on the WWE's live pay-per-view Battleground broadcast Sunday night at the Forum.

Jeremy, of St. Petersburg, and friend Fernando Paya, 11, brought along a sign that read: “Tag me in Jimmy!”

It was a plea to professional wrestler, Jimmy Uso, who appeared on Sunday's card with twin brother, Jey Uso, in a bid for the WWE tag-team championship vs. The Wyatts.

Joel Rachlin, Jeremy's father, said he paid for Sunday night's excursion because Jeremy made the honor roll at school.

“I don't mind the WWE, but 'Impact' is too violent,” said Joel Rachlin, who reminisced about past wrestling heroes such as Bruno Samartino.

Jeremy and Fernando said they were most looking forward to the night's main event, a “Fatal 4 Way” match pitting four wrestlers against one another for the WWE heavyweight title.

The boys, two of thousands of people who waited outside The Forum for gates to open, predicted that champ John Cena would prevail.

Manuel Perez, 41, of Spring Hill, spoke to his son via cellphone in front of a crowded WWE merchandise booth. Perez's 8-year-old son, Aleczander Perez, was vacationing in California, but wanted a souvenir.

“I've been a wrestling fan since I was 7,” said Perez, who attended the event with several friends. “I'm looking forward to the four-way title match. I'm hoping Roman Reigns takes it. I just like his whole character and how he carries himself.”

The WWE billed the heavyweight title match as “a particularly unfair stipulation for (Cena), as he can theoretically lose the match without ever being pinned.”

Jose Cruz of Orlando was looking forward to that happening. Cruz and friends Carlos Aponte and Aaron Salmon, also of Orlando, bought their tickets online several months ago. Tickets prices ranged from $25 to $400, according to information from the WWE.

To illustrate his love of wrestling, Cruz wore over his shoulder a large white championship belt valued at $400.

“We're starting to go to more” wrestling shows, Cruz said. “But this is my first pay-per-view.”

The trio said they plan to attend a WWE “SmackDown” show in Orlando on Tuesday.

Sunday's card at the Forum also featured a Divas Championship Match, featuring women wrestlers, a 20-man battle royal, and longtime WWE star Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt.

Sunday's event marked the first WWE pay-per-view from Tampa in over three years, The Forum said.

Longtime friends Scott Oakes and Scott Bombard, both of Venice, wore matching T-shirts that read: “I Am The Tag Team Champions.”

Both predicted that Cena would retain his heavyweight title and that Jericho would prevail over Wyatt.

Oakes and Bombard said they bought tickets for just under $100 each.

The seats were just off the floor “in the first section of bleachers,” Oakes said.

Both men said they were wrestling fans as youths, but lost track of “sports entertainment” for several years.

“Then, my wife got me tickets to 'Monday Night Raw' a few years ago,” Bombard said.

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