(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: WWE IYH Canadian Stampede 1997 10-Man Tag

wwe canadian stampede 1997 bret hart steve austin

As I’ve said many times before, 1997 was largely a fantastic year for quality pro-wrestling around the world, including WWE. Even if profits weren’t always the best, the in-ring quality and memorable moments were plentiful throughout the calendar year.

Most of what I’ve looked at for 1997 so far has been matches known for the quality of in-ring wrestling. But today it’s something different. This match is remembered more for its atmosphere and its emotion than anything else. But given how important and memorable it was and still is, I figured it was time to revisit this iconic classic almost twenty-five years after it happened.

Today we revisit the legendary ten-man tag match between The Hart Foundation (Bret, Owen, Neidhart, Bulldog, and Pillman) vs. Austin, Shamrock, Goldust, and The Legion of Doom from WWE In Your House: Canadian Stampede.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

The main feud in WWE in 1997 was the one between Bret and Austin. At WrestleMania 13, the two of them competed in the greatest match in ‘Mania history. But it wasn’t just an iconic match; something rare happened towards the end: a double turn. Austin and Bret switched sides simultaneously with Austin becoming the hero and Bret becoming the villain. But their feud wasn’t as cut and dry as that. Bret became a villain in the United States but remained a babyface hero everywhere else. Bret became an anti-American heel that condemned the US, its politics, and its fans, while at the same time being the same hero all over the world and ESPECIALLY here in Canada. Bret’s reputation didn’t suffer here when he turned heel; in fact, in some cases, he became an even bigger hero after all of this. To really hammer this point home, WWE held one of their In Your House PPVs in Calgary, Alberta. Calgary was the home of the entire Hart wrestling clan as well as the former Stampede Wrestling. Calling the Harts local celebrities was an understatement; they were heroes to Calgary and pretty much all of Canada as well.

As for Austin, he was working his way up the card. His feud with Bret continued with the two of them trading moral compasses and fan allegiance wherever they went. Austin was less the anti-authority Stunner machine here and more an angry wrestler frustrated with Bret’s constant whining and condemnation of all things American.

There were other factors at play here as well. Bret had been out with a knee injury for a few months prior and his then-true arch-nemesis Shawn Michaels wasn’t around following their famous and very real backstage fight.

Then, of course, there’s the omnipresent dynamic between Canada and the US. Wrestling has a long tradition here and had many hotspots over the decades like Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. Many of the most iconic wrestlers of the last thirty years have been Canadian including the Harts, Edge & Christian, Jericho, Trish Stratus, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and many more. Personally I never saw this match live (I started watching wrestling regularly a few years afterward), but I’ve read Bret Hart’s autobiography many times and several of my friends that did see this match have lauded it as one of the best matches to ever take place on Canadian soil.

The match

This match originally took place on July 6th, 1997. It was rated ****1/4 out five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and ****1/2 by TJRWrestling’s John Canton.

The Americans come out first and they all get mild reactions except Austin, because, Austin. Then out come the Foundation members one by one. Pillman’s out first and a good chunk of the crowd jump to their feet for him. Neidhart comes out next and he gets an even bigger reaction than Pillman. Not to be outdone, Bulldog comes out next to ‘Rule Britannia’ and the crowd’s even louder, and then the same for Owen.

And then…there’s Bret.

At first I thought something was wrong with the audio and the second note of his famous guitar riff lagged or something. But no, the crowd absolutely lost their minds when Bret appeared. The crowd reaction to him was godly. It was like Austin at Backlash 2000 or Hogan’s return in 2002.

After some icy stare-downs, the bell rings and the match starts with Bret and Austin brawling. Bret punches Austin into a corner and lands some stomps and my God are these fans cheering loudly. But then they immediately shift to booing as Austin rakes Bret’s eyes and then flips the crowd off. Bret gets whipped into a corner but bounces out and lands a clothesline. He lands another one following a Manhattan drop but Austin somehow lands a low blow without the referee seeing it. Austin stomps a mudhole on Bret and then locks in a Million $ Dream. But Bret does the Piper corner counter and flips into a bridge for a two-count. Austin places Bret on the second rope and charges but Bret escapes and tags Neidhart. Austin ducks Neidhart’s clothesline and lands a Lou Thesz press and follows with punches. In comes Shamrock who gets some fans chanting his name as he squares off with Neidhart. Neidhart smiles as he ducks one kick but can’t avoid a second one and goes down. Shamrock goes for an ankle lock but Pillman saves Neidhart. Shamrock lands an armdrag on Neidhart but Neidhart elbows out. Shamrock counters a hiptoss into a rolling leglock but Neidhart escapes and tags Pillman. Pillman gets armdragged as well but he escapes via biting and clawing which makes the crowd cheer wildly. Pillman follows with a backbreaker for a one-count and sends him into a corner but Shamrock hits first with a clothesline. After Shamrock lands a belly-to-belly suplex, both wrestlers tag out and in come Owen and Goldust.

Owen gets some early corner punches but Goldust counters a corner whip and lands a back body drop. Suddenly Owen lands an enzuigiri out of nowhere and pins but only gets a two-count. Hawk tags in as the crowd chants ‘Austin sucks’ and lands a gutwrench suplex followed by a leg drop for a two-count. Hawk follows with a fist drop and a top-rope splash but only gets two once again. He sends Owen into the ropes and jumps for a dropkick but Owens holds onto the ropes to avoid it. Owen goes for a sharpshooter but Animal stops him so Owen tags Bulldog. Bulldog lands a vertical suplex and follows with his running powerslam finisher. One, two, Goldust breaks up the pin. Now Animal and Bret tag in and Animal powers Bret into a corner. He sends Bret into the opposite corner and charges but Bret kicks him first. Bret follows with a clothesline and Animal tags Goldust. Bret wins a test of strength and hits various strikes. Then he hangs Goldust in the tree of woe in his team’s corner. All five members of the Hart Foundation beat Goldust up with the crowd’s full support. Then Goldust’s teammates come to help him, leading to a full-on brawl.

Owen tags in, lands a backbreaker, and sends Goldust into a corner. Goldust hits hard but manages to sidestep to avoid Owen’s charge, which causes Owen to hit the ringpost shoulder-first. Animal tags in and lands some kicks, but when he whips Owen into the ropes Owen counters with a wheel kick. Owen follows with a diving shotgun dropkick and kips up seemingly no worse for wear. Animal reverses an Irish whip and Owen goes for a Frankensteiner but Animal counters that with a powerbomb. Animal follows with a swinging powerslam and signals Hawk for the Doomsday Device. Doomsday Device connects. Neidhart saves Owen. Another wild brawl ensues. Austin takes advantage of the mayhem and smashes Owen’s knee into the ringpost. Then Austin grabs a chair and swings it on Owen’s knee. That causes Bruce Hart to stand up from ringside and attack Austin but Austin shoves him aside easily. Bret saves Owen and the rest of his team drag Owen to their corner so that Neidhart can tag in.

Neidhart and Austin are legal in the ring as Bret and Bulldog check on Owen. Austin lands some kicks to stop a test of strength but runs into a bear hug from Neidhart. Neidhart distracts the referee allowing the rest of the Hart Foundation to beat up Austin. Shamrock tries to save Austin but the ref orders him back. Meanwhile, Austin fights out of these four-on-one odds like a valiant babyface and then goes after the now-legal Pillman. All of Austin’s allies take turns punching Pillman and then Austin hits him with a Stunner. But before he can pin, Pillman rolls to the ropes and Bret catches Austin’s leg. Bret avenges his brother by smashing Austin’s knee into the ringpost. Bret then smashes a fire extinguisher into that same knee and locks in the corner Figure-4 leglock. But Hawk makes the save.

Bulldog and Hawk lock up as the legal men and Hawk slams Bulldog. Hawk goes to the top rope but bulldog cuts him off and crotches him on the top rope. Hawk kicks out at two as more referees check on Austin. Neidhart tags in and hits a double clothesline alongside Bulldog as Austin leaves for the backstage area, turning this into a four-on-four match.

Animal tags in and he and Neidhart to the Greco-Roman test of strength. Animal gets the upper hand at first but the crowd wills Neidhart on and he overpowers Animal. Bret tags in and hits a classic Hart Foundation backbreaker/elbow drop combo but Animal kicks out of a pin. Bret goes for a back body drop but Animal kicks him first and tags Shamrock. Shamrock teases some submission hold but Pillman clotheslines him first. Bret uses that to head-butt Shamrock’s abdomen but Shamrock then reverses an Irish whip into a corner. Bret does his patented forward corner bump and Shamrock teases another submission. Then he decides not to and taunts Bret to get up. Bret out-grapples Shamrock and smashes Shamrock’s face into Pillman’s boot. He throws Shamrock outside and Pillman throws Shamrock into the announce table. More chaos ensues at ringside as Pillman and Neidhart throws Hawk into the steel steps.

Back in the ring, Bret lands a Russian leg sweep on Shamrock and covers but Goldust breaks it up. Hawk pulls Pillman off the apron and Bulldog comes in to save Bret from Shamrock. Bulldog unloads with corner strikes and the crowd erupts in even more cheers. But then Shamrock hits a low blow and tags goldust. Goldust whips Bulldog into a corner and follows with a bulldog on Bulldog. Goldust teases his finisher but Pillman makes the save. Goldust goes to the top rope but Bulldog crotches him like he did Hawk earlier. Bulldog follows with a huge superplex and pins but Hawk makes the save. And here comes Austin hobbling back down to the ring. Austin tags in and so does Bret! They brawl and Austin beats up Bret. He whips Bret hard into another corner and Bret takes a nasty forward bump. Austin gets a two-count off a suplex and goes for a back body drop but Bret counters with a swinging neckbreaker. Bret follows with a backbreaker and an elbow drop but only manages a two-count so he locks in a sleeper hold. Austin counters with a Stunner and pins but only gets two again. Bret avoids a spinebuster and goes for a sharpshooter but Animal clotheslines him. Now Austin locks in a sharpshooter on Bret but here comes Owen from the back. Owen hits Austin to save his big brother and then he tags in. Austin kicks Owen to block a back body drop and clotheslines him out of the ring. Austin stomps on Owen against the barricade but as he turns around Bruce throws something at Austin. Austin retaliates by going after Stu Hart, which prompts more Harts to attack Austin. Bret sneaks up and throws Austin into the ring where Owen is waiting. Owen rolls Austin up. One, two, three! There’s the match! The Foundation wins in Calgary!

Winners after 24:31: The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, The British Bulldog, and Brian Pillman)

Post-match, there’s even more chaos than before (I don’t know how that’s even possible), with over twenty people in the ring. Various officials, Harts, and possibly even some random fans, all swarm the ring to restore order. Austin and his teammates eventually leave to allow the Hart Foundation to celebrate, but Austin changes his mind. Austin grabs a chair and hits Neidhart in the back as hard as possible. Austin is arrested and led backstage, but he flips off fans as he does so. After that, Stu, Helen, and many other Harts all join the Foundation in the ring for a massive celebration in front of an elated Calgary crowd.


This was an exciting match. It had a frenetic pace with decent action and a few interesting overlapping stories, all unfolding in front of a nuclear crowd. Once again, the crowd’s reactions and their effects on the atmosphere were critical in elevating a match into something more special. By no means would I call it anything elite or exceptional in terms of wrestling, but it was still fun. It was another example of WWE providing the local audience with fanservice. Except this time it wasn’t cheap fanservice, but deeply emotional and cathartic fanservice that really tugged on fans’ heartstrings.

I didn’t go into this match expecting a technical marvel; it featured ten wrestlers and under 30 minutes of wrestling so it was clear they were going to keep things simpler in the ring. Instead, it was all about emotion. Through this match, WWE gave a perfect example of the simplest yet smartest business practice in wrestling: striking an emotional chord to sell a ticket. Austin and his team were all reviled here by the simple fact that they existed. On the opposite side, the Harts were adored here and the fans poured their emotions into everything the Foundation did. Because of that, it was easy for the Harts to maintain the crowd’s favor and for the heels to take them for an emotional ride by doing whatever was necessary to win.

In the end, the actual wrestling and the moves didn’t really matter here. It was all about the story and the moment. Fans rallied behind the Foundation even more once Owen was injured since it became more of an underdog story. And when the same happened to Austin, it served the story even more by evening the odds. Of course, both of them came back in the end to re-establish the imbalance (with Austin) and then regain order (with Owen).

That said, there were a few things with this match that hampered it from being truly exceptional. First, there was the ending, which came out of nowhere. For a match that was so built on emotion and squeezing every drop out of the fans, that closing sequence was a letdown. Second, there were some moments of dead action, especially from Shamrock. I don’t know what was going on in his head, but he seemed lost in the ring. It looked like he kept changing his mind on his strategy and wasn’t confident in what direction he wanted to go in. those precious moments during which he just stood there made the match come to nearly a complete stop and just made no sense at all. Lastly, there was blatant chaos and interference. It was like the opposite of today’s WWE product in which anything can cause a DQ. Here, nothing caused a DQ. It was never explained that this match had special rules or anything like that. And yet, there were blatant low blows and interference from members of the Hart Family but all of it was allowed. I get that these things were done to garner further heat but, come on, there has to be some semblance of established rules, even in the most fanservice-heavy of matches.

Final Rating: ****1/4

This match was carried by its emotion and the fan reaction more than anything else. The entrances and the post-match celebration with, as Chris Jericho described it, “65 Hart brothers”, were more iconic than anything that took place between the bells here. Austin and Bret had a better match at WrestleMania 13, even if the crowd there wasn’t as loud here.

But as I said before, this was never meant to be some game-changing contest with innovative offense and wrestlers changing expectations of what was expected of wrestlers. Instead, it was meant to be fanservice, and it excelled at that. This match and the wrestlers involved capitalized on the Canada-vs.-US storyline and gave the fans exactly what they wanted to see. The fans wanted to see Bret and his (extended) family reign supreme in front of the same crowd that followed their family for decades prior. And even though that story was told through simplistic actions and basic moves, it was enough to send this crowd home happy.

Sometimes, that’s all that’s really needed.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.