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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 9:16 p.m., Saturday, June 15, 2002

Screaming crowds greet the Rock

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Finally, the Rock has returned home. And — screaming crowds, posterized catch phrases, giant foam fingers and all — it's just as Chad Shiraishi imagined it would be all those years ago.

After facing Y2J at tonight's World Wrestling Entertainment's Tour of Defiance at Blaisdell Arena, Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock, thanks his family, friends and fans.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Shiraishi was classmates with The Rock, then just plain old Dwayne Johnson, during The Rock's brief time at McKinley High School in the late 1980s. Tonight, he was one voice in a chorus of 9,000 raucously welcoming The Rock back to Honolulu for World Wrestling Entertainment's Tour of Defiance at Blaisdell Arena.

"He was a quiet guy back in high school but I always new he was going to be something big," Shiraishi said. "In my yearbook, he just signed his picture 'someone special.' "

With The Rock facing Y2J in the main event, the sold-out show drew fans from every major island and every local demographic — seniors and children, nearly as many females as males. An hour before the event, scalpers had no problem selling $90 floor tickets for $200.

"It's a good, good day," said one "resale agent" who asked not to be identified. "Good, good money today."

After waiting eight years for the WWE to stage another event in Hawai'i, local wrestling fans were chomping at the bit, literally in one fan's case, for tonight's action. They came with homemade signs emblazoned with "Imua Rock" for their hero, and "You Suck" for the designated villains.

They flew in from around the state for the chance to see agitator Kurt Angle have his hairpiece removed by the nightmarish bump and grind of 350-pound Rikishi, bearer of the most noteworthy glutes this side of J.Lo.

They came to marvel at the best professional floppers not named Vlade Divac, to gasp sarcastically at every desperate shoulder thrown up just in time to beat the count, and to revel in the giddy joy of knowing exactly what comes next.

They came to call Y2J a mahu.

Some of their number were in rare form. Noticing Angle's muscular but acne-covered back, one fan yelled: "Hey, it's Ken Caminiti." Just before the main event, a 90-pound firestarter paraded a homemade sign that read: "Die Rock Die."

Kenneth Yap drove in from Mililani with a full accompaniment of immediate and extended family.

"It cost a fortune but, hey, it's kind of like a once in a lifetime thing," he said.

Yap said he was looking forward to seeing the Rock, but his real priority was the swimsuit challenge match between Torrie Wilson, Stacie Keibler and Ivory.

"I'm here for the cat fight," he said.

Kapolei High School students "Scuba" Steve Edelman and Sean Barnes came dressed as tag teamers Billy and Chuck, with buddy Brooks Barnell as flamboyant attendant Rico.

"It took us five days to put these costumes together," said Barnell, whose drawn-in porkchop sideburns started to dissolved midway through the evening. "We're fans."

But the biggest draw was clearly The Rock.

John Foster flew in from Maui to see exactly what The Rock was cooking. Nina Nuuanu looked like a limo driver waiting for a client as she held up her "Rock" sign long after the match was over. She said it was to call in her wandering family. But, hey, if The Rock needed a ride somewhere, "that would be nice, too," she said.

Shiraishi and his family sat within spitting, sweating and bleeding distance of his former classmate during tonight's bout. They cheered along with the crowd as The Rock hammed his way through the main bout and defended the crowd's honor against Y2J's post-fight "I hate Hawai'i" tirade.

"I remember some of the guys we used to hang out with would tag walls and stuff, but he didn't want to do that," Shiraishi said. "He knew he was going to make it big and he didn't want anything catching up to him.

"And, yeah, I guess he's pretty big now, huh?"