Published Online: September 3, 2003
Published in Print: September 3, 2003, as Media

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Wrestling for Readers

The Weekly Reader has tag-teamed with the much-maligned World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. to promote reading.

The venerable educational publisher is mailing to 98,000 high schools and middle schools posters of WWE superstar Gregory "The Hurricane" Helms, a hulk clad in superhero garb who is portrayed as giving reading a massive thumbs- up.

The Hurricane is one of the pumped-up, loud-mouthed performers on the WWE's televised, no-holds-barred "RAW" wrestling show. (Another wrestler recently acted out an attempt to burn his opponent with gasoline during one episode.)

Mia Toschi, a spokeswoman for the Weekly Reader, said she realizes the publication's relationship with WWE—formerly the World Wrestling Federation—could have "some negative connotation."

But, she said, "our feeling is, if we can get kids to pick up a book," the partnership is worthwhile.

She emphasized that Weekly Reader Inc. did not rush into the ring with WWE, which has its headquarters in the same city, Stamford, Conn.

"Last year, there was a question—be careful how you say this—whether or not it would be a good partnership," Ms. Toschi said. "We were very careful not to have women wrestlers showing their midriffs. We wanted a good image of a wrestler."

Indeed, the Hurricane is portrayed as a good guy in the soap opera of professional wrestling. He is an all-rounder, skilled at mat wrestling and "high flying"—making risky leaps from the ropes of the ring onto his opponents, said WWE spokesman Gary Davis.

The Hurricane posters are offered free to teachers and librarians at getreal.wwe.com.

The posters also have been packaged in WWE videos released last month, such as "Bad Blood" and "Brock Lesnar: Here Comes the Pain."

Andrew Trotter

Vol. 23, Issue 1, Page 10

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