Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over ten years now and have reviewed over 5,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?
In Your House #16: Canadian Stampede
Date: July 6, 1997
Location: Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Vince McMahon
This is a show I’ve been waiting to get to for a very long time. Canadian Stampede is considered one of the best shows of all time and ran away with the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Award for show of the year. There are only four matches on the card, but even with so few matches the card is nothing short of stacked. Let’s get to it.
The opening video talks about how the company has changed to the point where you can’t tell who is good or evil anymore. Bret Hart had always been the epitome of a hero, but Steve Austin has driven him to the dark side. Those shades of gray that this story created were excellent.
All three announcers are in cowboy hats which only really works for JR.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Mankind
Before the match we get a video recapping the feud, including clips of sitdown interviews that Mankind did with JR, screaming about how no one has ever given him the chance to be loved. We also see some of Mankind’s home movies where he wanted to be a heartthrob named Dude Love. This was where the character of Mankind became more of a persona of Mick Foley instead of a standalone character, which would be greatly expanded in the future.
Mankind charges at the ring to jump Helmsley and drops him with a double arm DDT. He even throws in a mocking curtsey but walks into Helmsley’s facebuster. A backdrop puts Helmsley on the floor and Mankind drops an elbow off the apron for two back in the ring. Back up and a clothesline puts HHH on the floor again but he moves away before Mankind can drop an elbow from the middle rope. Mankind won’t let Helmsley leave and suplexes him down onto the ramp. The crowd is red hot here and completely behind Mankind.
Hunter takes his sweet time getting back in the ring and is immediately caught in the Mandible Claw but Chyna blasts Mankind in the head with a forearm. Chyna tells Mankind to bring it on but he’s still able to catch HHH diving off the apron. A distraction of the referee though allows Chyna to send Mankind knee first into the steps. HHH blasts the knee with a chair and Mankind is in trouble. They get back in and a chop block takes the knee out again and HHH hones in on it like a shark.
Some hard kicks to the knee have Mankind in trouble and there’s an elbow drop for good measure. A running dropkick to the knee takes Mankind down again and HHH follows it up with a Figure Four leglock. Somehow the referee can’t see Helmsley holding the ropes so Mankind punches his way out of the hold. Mankind takes him into the corner but the knee gives out. HHH’s Pedigree attempt is countered and Mankind falls head first between HHH’s legs to take over again.
Mankind gets two off a pulling piledriver and takes HHH out to the floor with a Cactus Clothesline. He picks up the chair but Chyna makes the save by pulling the chair away. The referee yells at Chyna, allowing HHH to get a chair shot to the knee. Then the referee yells at HHH, allowing Chyna to hit a huge clothesline to give Helmsley control again. Back in and HHH gets crotched on the top rope, allowing Mankind to put on the Claw, only to have Chyna pull him down and crotch him against the steel post. They fight to the floor again but this time go into the crowd for a double countout.
Rating: B-. Very solid opener here with the already hot crowd getting even more into the newly face Mankind character. HHH was rapidly rising up the card and becoming more and more hated every time he came to the ring. These two had incredible natural chemistry and would tear the house down almost every time they worked together over the years.
They fight into the crowd with Mankind taking over. It’s really hard to see what’s going on because of how tight the camera angles are but HHH can be seen getting a running start and diving at Mankind.
We look at the Calgary Stampede parade, an annual event highlighted by Bret’s appearance.
The Hart Foundation is in the back for an interview when Austin unsuccessfully tries to interfere.
Taka Michinoku vs. Great Sasuke
This is part of the Junior Heavyweight (soon renamed Light Heavyweight) division which was WWF’s answer to WCW’s incredibly popular Cruiserweight division. Before the match we see Mankind and HHH still fighting in the audience. Mankind takes over with some hard punches and a clothesline as the referees try in vain to break them up. They fight under a wall and there’s the opening bell for the match.
Sasuke throws some kicks to start but Taka backs away to avoid any contact. Instead it’s off to a wristlock but Taka grabs a leg to take him down. Lawler references Antonio Inoki vs. Muhammad Ali from back in the 70s for a comparison to this match. Sasuke takes Taka down with a headscissors and puts on an early chinlock. Taka counters into an armbar but charges into a BIG spinning kick to the jaw. An elevated half crab has Taka in trouble but he quickly gets to a rope.
Back up and Taka scores with a hard palm shot to the face and a dropkick to the back of the head puts Sasuke down again. Taka misses a charge and falls to the floor, only to sidestep a flying kick from the top rope, sending Sasuke crashing down to the floor. They both get back inside very slowly with Sasuke firing off some very fast paced kicks to the arms and a big one to the face to knock Taka out.
Vince wants the match stopped but Taka counters a kick into a dragon screw leg whip to put Sasuke down again. Sasuke bails to the floor and Taka hits a HUGE running dive out of the corner to knock the Great one out again. Back in and Taka gets two off a standing hurricanrana as the fans are having their minds blown by these big spots.
Sasuke sends him back out to the floor for an Asai Moonsault but Taka takes over back inside with a belly to belly suplex for two. Michinoku runs to the corner for a springboard missile dropkick to the back of the head. The Michinoku Driver only gets two on Sasuke but he pops up to dropkick Taka out of the air. A standing Lionsault press gets two and a powerbomb puts Taka down again. Sasuke hooks a tiger suplex for the pin out of nowhere.
Rating: B+. This was the WCW formula to the letter: take two guys and let them show off for ten minutes and pop the crowd with high spot after high spot. Really fun match here which introduced this style to the WWF crowd. The division would never reach the Cruiserweight level due to WCW having a far deeper talent pool and the best talent Mexico had to offer, but this was an excellent match.
HHH and Mankind are still fighting in the back, though they’ve now made it outside with Mankind backdropping his way out of a Pedigree onto some wooden crates. HHH is rammed into the side of a truck and referees finally break it up.
We recap the world title match, which was supposed to be a heel Ahmed Johnson challenging Undertaker but he was hurt before he could have the match. Therefore we have Vader taking Johnson’s place.
Paul Bearer is asked how he could accuse Undertaker of murdering his own family by setting a fire at their home as a child. This was the turning point of arguably the biggest storyline of Undertaker’s career. We get a clip of Vader pinning Undertaker at the Royal Rumble to give us a reason to think Vader could win.
WWF World Title: Vader vs. Undertaker
The champion pounds him into the corner to start and takes Vader down with a clothesline for two. Old School connects for two more as Vince talks about Bearer’s claims of Undertaker’s brother still being alive. His name: Kane. Undertaker whips him into the corner but Vader comes back by just running Undertaker over. The champion pops back up and hits a jumping clothesline for two. Vader grabs a huge headlock to slow things down
and Undertaker is in trouble.
Back up and Undertaker scores with a big boot to the jaw and clotheslines Vader out to the floor. The champion is sent knees first into the steps and has to endure being called a murderer by Bearer. Undertaker snaps Vader’s throat across the top rope and comes back in with a top rope clothesline for another near fall. An uppercut puts Vader back on the floor and Undertaker can go after Bearer, only to be clubbed down by Vader.
They head back inside with Vader pummeling Undertaker down in the corner again and getting two off a middle rope clothesline. A suplex and splash get the same and we hit the nerve hold on Undertaker. The Dead Man punches his way up but gets poked in the eye to put him back down. Vader pounds him in the corner again as the fans get behind the champion.
Undertaker comes back with rights and lefts of his own but Vader kicks him low to break up a chokeslam attempt. JR wants to know why that wasn’t a DQ, which is a very fair question. Vader powers out of a tombstone attempt and runs Undertaker over again. Undertaker sits up to avoid the Vader Bomb and hits Vader low as a little payback. A middle rope chokeslam gets two so another chokeslam and the tombstone retain the title.
Rating: B. More good stuff here as Undertaker is on a roll right now. Vader was just a filler but he was still big and strong enough to come off as a threat to the title. There’s something awesome about watching a huge man get thrown around like Undertaker was doing to Vader here and the match worked incredibly well.
We get a recap of the recent gang wars in the WWF, which saw Crush and Savio Vega split from Faarooq to form their own street gangs. This is awkwardly transitioned into the main event feud recap. We’ve been over Austin vs. Bret, the LOD is going after Owen/Bulldog, Pillman has been chasing after Goldust’s wife Marlena and Neidhart and Shamrock are both just kind of there. Bret has been promising to destroy these horrible Americans once and for all.
Team America says they’re ready to fight but Austin storms off without saying a word.
A Canadian band called Farmer’s Daughter sings O Canada.
The Fink (ring announcer Howard Finkel) introduces the Alberta Premiere and the Hart Family. Patriarch Stu gets a HUGE ovation.
Hart Foundation vs. Goldust/Legion of Doom/Ken Shamrock/Steve Austin
Most of the Americans are booed, but Austin is treated like a bunch of ants at a picnic. The Hart Foundation’s entrance on the other hand is a sight to behold, with each member getting a louder and louder ovation until Owen’s music stops. Bret’s reception is louder than everyone else’s and that’s before his music even comes on. The Harts are a unit, all clad in leather jackets and looking like they’re ready for war.
The match starts with the only possible combination of Austin vs. Bret. They slug it out with Bret taking over and pounding Austin down into the corner to send the crowd even further into a frenzy. Austin comes back with right hands and might as well be pummeling Santa Claus. Bret hits a headbutt and clothesline before raking Steve’s eyes across the top rope. Austin kicks Bret low to slow him down and stomps on him in the corner before slapping on the Million Dollar Dream. Hart climbs the ropes for a rollup for two, which is the same way he beat Austin at Survivor Series.
Bret drags Austin to the corner for a tag off to the raw power of Jim the Anvil Neidhart. Austin takes him down with a Thesz Press and right hands before bringing in Shamrock to easily kick Neidhart down. Pillman comes in to break up an ankle lock attempt so Shamrock takes Neidhart down with ease again. Brian comes in legally now to bite Shamrock’s face and fire off chops in the corner. A backbreaker puts Shamrock down again so Pillman grabs his hand and slaps the mat, claiming a submission victory in a funny bit.
Ken comes back with a nice belly to belly suplex and it’s off to Goldust vs. Owen. Goldust scores with a backdrop but Owen comes right back with an enziguri to take over again. The fans are all over Austin here, even though it’s Hawk in to beat Owen up. A top rope splash gets two but Hawk misses a dropkick, allowing Owen to put on a Sharpshooter. Anvil makes the save, only to have Bulldog come in with the delayed vertical suplex and the powerslam but Goldust makes a save.
Bret comes back in (crowd erupts) to face Animal and gets up a knee in the corner to slow Animal down. Off to Goldust who is immediately tied up in the Tree of Woe and quintuple teamed, drawing in the rest of the Americans for the save. Owen comes in legally but misses a charge into the post, allowing for the tag off to Animal. Owen is fine with that and hits an enziguri followed by a missile dropkick to fire up the crowd even more. Animal will have none of that and counters a hurricanrana into a powerbomb.
The Doomsday Device hits Owen but Anvil makes the save, drawing in all ten guys for a huge brawl. In the melee, Austin wraps Owen’s knee around the post and hits it with a chair before beating up Bret and Owen’s brother Bruce, who is sitting with the rest of the Hart Family in the crowd. Things calm down with Anvil vs. Austin as medics come out to check on Owen. Neidhart sends Austin into the corner for a big beating and Owen is being taken to the back.
Pillman comes in but gets dragged over to the American corner and taken down by a Stunner. Bret makes the save by wrapping Austin’s leg around the post and blasting it with a fire extinguisher. He throws on the Figure Four around the post until Hawk makes the save but the damage has been done to the leg. Austin is able to tag in Hawk but Bulldog crotches Hawk on the top rope to take him down again. Austin limps to the back again, leaving us with just four guys per team in the match.
Neidhart and Animal have a test of strength with Jim taking over and driving Animal into the Hart corner for a tag off to Bret. The original Hart Foundation (Bret and Neidhart) take over on Animal to give the crowd a nostalgia pop. Shamrock comes in again and grabs Bret’s leg but just stands there, allowing Pillman to sneak in with a clothesline. Shamrock grabs the leg again but Bret gives him a stern lecture from the mat, which actually makes Ken let him up. I wish I could make that up.
Bret sends Shamrock to the floor where Pillman throws him over the French announce table. Back inside and it’s Bulldog slugging Shamrock down in the corner to send the crowd right back into a frenzy. Ken hits him low, allowing Goldust to come in with a bulldog to the Bulldog, but Pillman breaks up the Curtain Call. Goldust goes up but gets crotched, allowing Bulldog to superplex him down.
Austin stumbles back out to the ring and it’s a double tag to bring in Bret vs. Stone Cold. Bret is sent chest first into the buckle and suplexed down for two, only to come back with a DDT. A backbreaker and the middle rope elbow are good for two and it’s off to a sleeper hold. Austin jawbreaks his way to freedom but has to have Animal save him from the Sharpshooter.
Now it’s Austin putting Bret in the Sharpshooter but Owen comes back out for the save. Owen comes in legally but gets clotheslined out to the floor and stomped against the barricade. Austin goes after the other Hart Brothers at ringside but Bret makes the save and sends Austin back inside so Owen can roll him up for the pin, sending the roof into orbit.
Rating: A+. Do I really need to explain this one? Not only is it a great match with everyone working very hard, but it’s a great story and the perfect way to blow off the feud. Austin could have been in there with any four guys, but the match ended perfectly and gave Owen a big rub in the process. Excellent match and the best multi-man tag match of all time.
The fight continues post match with the Harts cleaning house thanks to their brothers coming in to help out. The Americans are finally dispatched as the Harts are announced as the winners. Austin eventually tries to charge back in for one last swing at Bret but literally about 15 members of the Hart Family beat him down until security takes him away in handcuffs. Austin, ever the rebel, flips off the Calgary crowd behind his back as he leaves. A huge celebration with all of the Harts, including parents Helen and Stu, ends the show.
Overall Rating: A+. The worst match of the night was above average and continued an awesome feud. The rest of the show ranges from mind blowing to some of the best of all time. What more could you possibly ask for from a show running an hour and forty five minutes? Absolutely amazing show here and definitely worth tracking down if you’ve never seen it.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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