Happy birthday Canada. Since it’s the birthday of my country, I thought I would re-post a review of one of the best WWE PPVs ever, Canadian Stampede from July 1997. My writing style was a bit different back then, but I think it’s a good read and a fun show to reminisce about.
This review was actually written back in 2007, but I’m guessing a lot of you haven’t read it. That’s why I’m happy to share it with you now.
Bret Hart was out for about two months with a knee injury. He and his Hart Foundation challenged any five wrestlers to a five on five match at Canadian Stampede in his hometown of Calgary. That set the stage for the main event here with the Hart/Austin rivalry being the main focus.
There’s no Shawn Michaels on this show because he got into a backstage fight with Bret Hart prior to this PPV. They never said where he was or why he wasn’t a part of this show. It’s just that after the fight he threatened to quit the company, so Vince basically told him to take some time off and he did that. As a result of that, he missed this PPV although he never really was advertised for it in the first place.
The Undertaker was supposed to defend the World Title against Ahmed Johnson. However, Ahmed got hurt during a brawl on Raw and Vader took his place. Nothing wrong with that since Vader was the much better performer.
This is the last two hour PPV in the history of the WWF. The next In Your House show, September 1997’s Ground Zero, would become a three-hour show, which would become the norm for every WWF show. Previously, the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, King of the Ring, Summerslam and Survivor Series were the only three hour PPV events.
From a personal perspective, this is one of my favorite shows as a proud Canadian. I am not anti-American in any way, but our country is ten times smaller so we always feel like the underdog. That’s why this storyline worked so well.
In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede
From The Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta
July 6, 1997
The opening video package tells us that we’re in a world of gray where there is no black and white. Basically the whole idea was about how Austin was good (even though he acted like a heel) and Hart was bad, which was the dominant story in the WWF in 1997.
The announcers are Vince McMahon flanked by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Chyna vs. Mankind
Hunter’s out first with Chyna. This is a rematch from the King of the Ring finals, which featured these two. The video package shows how contrasting these two guys are with Helmsley being an aristocrat while Mankind led a strange life. Mankind comes out to a nice ovation, which is nice to see because he was a newly turned babyface about a month before this.
Mankind comes out brawling, taking it to Hunter. He hits him with a legdrop, then does a double arm DDT and does the HHH pose. Running knee smash by Hunter, then he charges in and Mankind gives him a back body drop to the floor. Elbow off the apron by Mankind. “Look at the delts,” Vince says about the deltoids of Chyna. Yes, Vince likes muscles. Shocking, I know. They go back in, he gets a two count and then sends him out to the floor. Hunter runs up the aisle, so Mankind chases him and suplexes him onto the steel (what else?) ramp. Hunter slingshots in, but Mankind drops down to give him the Mandible Claw. Chyna decks him in the face right in front of the ref, who does nothing to her except talk to her. Mankind chases her, Hunter jumps off the apron and Mankind catches him with a fist to the gut. Outside the ring, he whips Hunter in, he reverses it and Chyna powerslams him legs first into the ring steps! Geez! Foley is nuts. Then Chyna argues with the ref, so Hunter uses a chair to Mankind’s legs. Refs are not only blind, but deaf as well. Chop block to the left knee. He works over the left knee some more, then pounds on him with fists in the corner. Mankind buckles when Hunter tries to throw him into the corner, so Helmsley dropkicks him into the knee. Figure four by Hunter. He grabs ropes during it until the ref finally sees it. Pedigree is countered by Mankind, he goes for a slingshot but Hunter pushes him off and Mankind bounces off the turnbuckle to land head first into the nuts of HHH. Running knee into the corner by Mankind. Spike piledriver by Mankind gets a long two count. Cactus clothesline sends both guys out to the floor. Chyna blocks the chair use by Mankind, the ref sees that and Hunter chairs Mankind in the leg. Then Chyna clotheslines him. Back in the ring, Mankind gets the Mandible Claw on while Hunter was crotched on the top, but Chyna breaks that up without the ref seeing. Mankind goes head first into the railing, then Hunter beats on him as they go into the crowd. The ref counts them both out.
Match Ruled a Countout @ 13:10
Post match, they continue to brawl into the crowd to the delight of all the fans around them. Finally, officials come out to separate them.
Analysis: ***1/4 This was much better than their King of the Ring match, which I rated at two stars. The pace was a lot better here thanks to the brawling that they did and you could also tell their chemistry was much improved. Solid match, though, and there’d be a rematch next month at SummerSlam as both guys really benefited from this feud. Their early 2000 feud was better, but this one really elevated both of them as well.
Backstage, Sunny and Honky Tonk Man are wanting you to call the Superstar Line. God, she’s so gorgeous. I never called the Superstar Line, nor do I really know anybody that did. I wonder how much they made off that thing or if they ever even made anything.
They show some footage from the weekend when the Hart Foundation and other superstars participated in some festivities. That’s nice.
Backstage, The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Owen Hart, the British Bulldog, Brian Pillman and Jim Neidhart) are about to be interviewed by Dok Hendrix when Steve Austin comes into the room and is held back by security. Bret says that they don’t want to fight Austin 5 on 1 back there. They want to do it 5 on 5 in the ring. This was brief.
Hey look, there are Mankind and HHH brawling through the crowd again. This eats up another couple minutes.
Taka Michinoku vs. The Great Sasuke
You can tell that Vince clearly knows nothing about these guys. Sasuke was pretty established as a great worker in Japan by this time while Taka was still young at 23 years old. This was basically the WWF’s answer to the cruiserweights (or light heavyweights as the WWF called them) that were in WCW at the time like Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Psychosis and others.
This was basically the debut of the two in the WWF at the time, so there’s no storyline or heel/face lines here. It was put on the show to have a good match basically. They lock up to start, then fight for position on the ground. Spinning back kick to the gut by Sasuke followed by a reverse chinlock. Headscissor on the mat by Sasuke, then Taka reverses to an armbar. Taka runs the ropes, bounces off and Sasuke nails him with a spin kick to the face. Half crab by Sasuke, but Taka gets the ropes. Hard slap by Taka, then a dropkick to the back of the head followed by a running seated dropkick. Taka charges in and gets thrown outside the ring by Sasuke via a back body drop. Sasuke goes to the top and hits a kick to the face although it doesn’t connect that well. More kicks by Sasuke in the corner, including some nasty spin kicks to the face and another knockout kick to the head. Vince is clearly overwhelmed by this. I love Vince’s announcing. Taka catches a kick and legwhips him down, then dropkicks him in the knee. Sasuke’s out on the floor, Taka charges in, jumps to the top and hits a springboard crossbody off the top. That was unheard of in the WWF at this time so it got a huge pop. German suplex by Sasuke is countered by Taka, who lands on his feet and hits a hurricanrana for two. Cradle gets two, backflip elbow by Sasuke and then a springboard moonsault out on the floor. What an awesome sequence. Back in the ring, Taka catches him with an overhead belly to belly suplex. Running knee in the corner by Taka, then a missile dropkick to the back. Picks him up and he drops him with the Michinoku Driver, but Sasuke kicks out at two. He’s hitting these moves so crisply it’s awesome to watch. Taka to the top, but Sasuke counters by dropkicking him in the chest. Springboard moonsault in the ring by Sasuke gets a close two count. Stiff powerbomb by Sasuke, then a bridging Tiger Suplex gets the pinfall victory. It’s called the Thunder Fire Bomb, says JR.
Winner via pinfall @ 10:01 – The Great Sasuke
Analysis: **** How do you have a great match in only ten minutes without the crowd knowing much about you? Watch The Great Sasuke and Taka Michinoku. It started off a bit slow, then it really picked up and the moves they did were perfect. Their timing was excellent, the pacing was perfect and they really won the crowd over. They would have a rematch the next night as well, although this one was the better of the two. Having the match in a wrestling hotbed like Calgary helped it a lot because the fans were more appreciative of it than some other cities might have been. It’s a shame that the Light Heavyweight Division never took off, although that’s not a surprise considering Vince’s love for big men. Love this match.
In the parking lot area, Mankind and Hunter continue to brawl. Hunter broke a shovel handle across his back while Vince went nuts about it. I guess he likes shovels. This was enjoyable time filler.
They play a clip from the “‘Cause Stone Cold Said So” tape to show what it means to open up a can of whoop ass. In other words, this is an Austin highlight reel.
Analysis: I remember getting that tape immediately when it came out. Good stuff. I also wonder if there are people reading this wondering what a tape is. I feel old.
They show us a clip from two weeks ago on Raw when Ahmed Johnson suffered a knee injury during a brawl, so he had to miss this match. Who could be disappointed by not having to watch Ahmed Johnson? That’s why he was replaced by Vader in this match.
Backstage, Paul Bearer is with Vader. He says Undertaker killed his own family and that his brother Kane is still alive although Undertaker hasn’t seen him in twenty years. They show a clip from January’s Royal Rumble when Vader pinned Undertaker after Bearer cracked Undertaker in the head with the urn.
Analysis: The build for Kane’s character was really well done. Bearer’s finest work.
WWF World Heavyweight Title: Undertaker vs. Vader w/Paul Bearer
Vader’s out first to some decent heat while Undertaker gets a huge reaction like always.
They start out with fists, then Taker gets a clothesline and a legdrop that gets two. He gets a splash in the corner. Already he’s stolen Hogan’s legdrop and Sting’s splash. Good for him. Undertaker gets his old school clothesline for two. JR tries to put Vader over by saying it’s a testament to his strength to get out of that while anybody else would be down, I guarantee you. Um, did he ever beat anybody with the clothesline off the top? Don’t think so. Vader comes back with his body splash thing, then Taker flies off the ropes with his cool looking spinning clothesline. Headlock by Vader slows things down, then he gets a shoulderblock. Undertaker boots him in the face once, then again to send him over the top to the floor. Vader whips him knee first into the steps and Undertaker takes it like a man. I love it when guys take that bump with the knees instead of the shoulder. It makes more sense to take it on the knees although it must be more painful. Undertaker strangles him on the top rope, then goes to the top with a beautiful top rope clothesline that makes Kane’s look bad. Hard uppercut to the jaw sends Vader over the top to the floor. That allows Taker to stalk Bearer, so Vader comes around and clubs him in the back and then Bearer beats on him with his shoe. Then he yells “murderer” at the camera, which is hilarious. I love the Bearer voice. Vader pounds away on him in the corner with fists, then hits a short arm clothesline. He climbs to the middle rope and hits a clothesline for two. Impressive looking suplex by Vader, then a big splash gets two. Neck vice slows things down although it looks really weak. The crowd goes nuts as Undertaker fights back with fists to the gut, but Vader comes back with a thumb to the eye and another clothesline. Vader works him over in the corner, but Undertaker comes back with fists of his own and a chokeslam is countered by a deliberate low blow. The ref saw it, yet there’s no DQ? Why? Who knows? Undertaker goes for a Tombstone, Vader counters and Undertaker lays on top of him for two. Whip into the ropes, Vader gets an elbow and then another running body splash. Vader goes up to the middle rope for the Vader Bomb, but Undertaker is up, punches him in the gut and chokeslams him off the middle rope for the one, two…no! Great nearfall there. The crowd is going nuts. Another chokeslam gets one, two and once again no. Undertaker signals for it and Vader runs right into the Tombstone for the three. Great reaction for Undertaker here. Just huge.
Winner via pinfall @ 12:38 – The Undertaker
Analysis: ***1/4 This was a great big man match although I would have liked it more if Vader got some more offense in. There weren’t enough nearfalls for him, which to me is what makes a championship match great. Still, the booking of the match was strong and it really made Undertaker look great because of the way he beat Vader. Two chokeslams and a Tombstone also makes Vader look awesome although they really didn’t do much with him after this. Very good big man match between two of the best big men ever.
Video promo telling us Summerslam is coming next month.
We get more clips showing us how much the Hart Foundation is loved in Calgary.
There’s a video package showing how there are all these gangs running wild in the WWF at this point. Then it focuses on Austin’s battle with the Hart Foundation. Basically, the match came about because Bret and the Hart Foundation challenged any five wrestlers to a five of five match at this show. These video packages were definitely not as crisp as they are today.
Backstage, Goldust, Legion of Doom, Ken Shamrock and Steve Austin talk about how they’re going to win the match. Everybody talks except Austin while Hawk says all he has to say is “What a Rush.” What a talker.
Some band named Farmer’s Daughter (I have no idea who they are either) sings the Canadian national anthem.
Goldust is out first, followed by Shamrock, then LOD and lastly Steve Austin to a mixed reaction, which was certainly a rare thing for him at this time. You can tell that he relished his role here just by looking at his face. Pillman’s out first. He’s the only one not actually related to a Hart although he trained with the family in Calgary, so he was considered part of the family. The Anvil is out next, he’s married to Bret and Owen’s sister Ellie while also being the father of Natalya. Bulldog’s out next with his wife Diana, who is Bret and Owen’s sister. Bulldog was the European Champion at this time. Owen Hart is out next with his two Slammy’s as well as his Intercontinental Title. They all get big pops, but nothing compared to Bret Hart, who got a Hogan/Austin level kind of ovation from the fans in his hometown. The reaction was well deserved because Bret was an incredible all-around performer in 1997. In his book, he mentioned how this ovation was as big as any he received in his career. Can’t really argue with that after hearing how loud it is in the Saddledome. He puts his trademark glasses on his mother at ringside. The whole Hart family is at ringside.
Jim Ross mentions all the cameras at ringside filming the documentary on Bret’s life. That would turn into Wrestling With Shadows, which would be a groundbreaking wrestling documentary.
Bret Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Brian Pillman and Jim Neidhart vs. Steve Austin, Goldust, Legion of Doom and Ken Shamrock
Austin and Bret start off pounding eachother with fists, which Bret wins by stomping on him in the corner. Crowd is going nuts, then Austin turns it around and gets booed. Whip in, clothesline by Bret, then a headbutt, atomic drop and another clothesline. Austin gets a low kick, then smiles about it. He puts him in the Million Dollar Dream, so Bret pushes off the ropes and rolls him up for two. That’s an ode to their awesome Survivor Series ’96 match. Austin misses his rope splash on the middle ropes, so Bret tags in Neidhart and Austin takes him down with a Thesz Press. Austin tags in Shamrock, who was still pretty new at this point. He was training at the Hart house during these days, so all the Hart’s were familiar with him I’m sure. He goes for an ankle lock on Neidhart, then Pillman breaks it up so he goes for an arm drag. Neidhart tags in Pillman. Hard whip in, then a backbreaker. I love how nuts Pillman is. This time Shamrock clotheslines him on the whip in and hits a belly to belly suplex. Here comes in Owen and here’s Goldust. Back bodydrop by Goldust, Owen comes back with an enziguri. While Goldust pounds away in the corner, the crowd chants “Austin Sucks” just to give you an idea of how over Austin was in these days. Tag in to Hawk, who slams Owen and then hits a legdrop. Another slam, then he goes up top and hits a top rope splash for two. Whip in, dropkick is dodged by Owen, who goes for a Sharpshooter and that brings in Animal to break it up. Bulldog comes in and he hits a delayed suplex. Running powerslam on Hawk, but Goldust breaks it up. Bret’s in now with Animal. Whip in, Bret kicks him in the face and gets a clothesline. Now it’s Goldust in there with Bret. Hart beats him down with an elbow to the back, and then hangs him upside down in the corner and all five guys stomp away at him. Team Austin comes in to break it up, but that’s unsuccessful. Owen’s in now with a backbreaker, then a charge in the corner misses and he hits the turnbuckle. Animal gets the tag, misses a clothesline and Owen hits a beautiful spinning heel kick. He follows that up with a missile dropkick, then a kip up to a HUGE ovation. He goes for a hurricanrana, but Animal counters with a stiff powerbomb followed by a spinning powerslam. He signals for the LOD clothesline, so Hawk comes off the top and clotheslines Owen down hard. Neidhart breaks it up and while everybody brawls Austin brings Owen to the corner and rams his leg into the post. Then he grabs a chair and beats him with that. Bruce Hart, sitting at ringside, tries to grab him, but Austin shoves him off. God, this crowd is so great as they chant “Austin Sucks” even more.
It’s Austin against Anvil now, which Anvil wins by putting him in the corner so all the Hart’s can beat him up. Meanwhile, Owen gets helped up the ramp by the refs. Pillman gets the tag in, Austin pounds on him and drops him with a Stunner. He goes for a cover, but Bret pulls him out and rams his legs into the post. Where’s the ref in all this? Who really knows? Then Bret beats on him with a fire extinguisher and slaps on the ringpost figure four move that I love so much! Animal ends up saving Austin, who crawls back to his corner to bring in Hawk, who is in there with Bulldog. This match is nuts. Bulldog crotches Hawk on the top rope while refs try to tell Austin to leave the ring, but he doesn’t go easily. Neidhart tags in to double clothesline Hawk, who then gets Animal in there. The two big guys do a test of strength, Neidhart wins that and Bret gets an elbow off the middle rope. Whip in, Animal holds on and kicks him in the face. Shamrock tags in, he goes for an ankle lock, but Pillman comes in to cream him with a clothesline. Bret headbutts Shamrock low, then Shammy gets up and whips Bret into the turnbuckle. Bret outsmarts him, then whips him into a Pillman boot and then out to the floor. Pillman chucks him into the announce table, then everybody starts brawling on the floor. Hawk goes into the steps. Back in the ring, Bret gets a Russian leg sweep for two on Shamrock. Bulldog gets tagged in, then beats him down and Shamrock counters with a low blow. How did the ref not see it? Again, I have no idea. Goldust is in next, he gets a bulldog on Bulldog. He goes for the Curtain Call only for Pillman to run in again to break it up. For some reason, Goldust goes up top, Bulldog crotches him and hits a sloppy looking superplex for one that Hawk breaks up. Here comes Austin limping back to ringside. Goldust tags him in while Bulldog tags in Hart and the crowd goes nuts again. I love these two working together. Bret takes the sternum bump in the corner, then Austin gets a suplex for one. Whip in, Hart counters with a neckbreaker and then gets a backbreaker. He follows that up with the elbow off the middle rope. Whip in, Bret grabs a sleeper that Austin counters with a jawbreaker that looks like a stunner for two. Bret takes him down, then goes for a Sharpshooter only for Animal to break it up with a clothesline. Austin gets a Sharpshooter on Bret only for Owen to limp his way down the ramp to break it up. It’s Owen against Austin now, which Austin wins by clotheslining Owen out to the floor. He beats on him out on the floor in front of the Hart family. He rolls Owen back in, then Bruce Hart chucks a drink on him. Austin thinks it was old man Stu, so he grabs him and then other Hart brothers jump the rail to beat on Austin. Bret comes around the ring to roll him back in. Austin tries to grab Bret, which allows Owen to roll him up in a cradle using the tights for the one, two, three.
Winners via pinfall @ 24:31 – Bret Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart and Brian Pillman
The crowd is going nuts as everybody continues to brawl after the match with Shamrock even chucking Bruce Hart into the steel barrier. They all start fighting in the ring including a lot of the Hart brothers from the crowd. Eventually, Austin’s team gets out of there thanks to security while the crowd continues to go nuts.
Analysis: ****1/2 Awesome wrestling match. Loved it ten years ago and I love it today too. It was booked in such a way that it didn’t go more than two minutes without something major happening. It was non-stop action from bell to bell. That’s what made it so much fun even when the lesser workers were in there. The parts with Bret and Austin were epic of course and it makes me wish they had a singles PPV match in Canada because it would have had an electric atmosphere. I liked the story of Owen being taken out, then Austin being taken out and then both of them returning to the ring to finish the match off. That really goes a long way in establishing that these guys are tough wrestlers in the eyes of the fans. It also set the stage for their feud, which would take place at Summerslam a month later.
With everybody celebrating, Austin comes back in by himself with a steel chair. He attacks Neidhart, then everybody beats on him. What a great atmosphere this was. It really did a lot for the Austin character because fans loved him for the way he would never quit. He gets cuffed by security, who takes him up the ramp. Then in one of the best visuals of the Austin era, he sticks up the middle fingers while in the cuffs. This was a classic moment.
The final three minutes of the show sees the entire Hart clan from Stu and Helen to Bret and Owen to all the kids of the family. What an awesome sight although it is sad to see Owen holding his son Oje in there knowing what would happen to Owen just two years after this. It was a very cool ending seeing the entire family in there and listening to the respect they got from the Calgary fans.
Analysis: Natalya and her future husband TJ Wilson aka Tyson Kidd were in the ring in that final scene. Both were teenagers at the time.
Three Stars of the Night
1. Steve Austin – He carried the main event because the other guys on his team weren’t close to being main eventers like he was. You could tell he relished the genuine heel heat he got too.
2. Owen Hart – They really did a good job of elevating Owen here by showing his toughness when he left the ring and then returned on the hurt leg to fight for his family. Getting the pin on Austin was huge for him here too.
3. Undertaker – The more I look back on this year the more I loved the 1997 version of the Undertaker. He was phenomenal all year and his performance with Vader was no exception.
For a final score, I’ll give it a 9 out of 10.
This is one of the best shows in the history of the WWF/E. The big reason is that because it was a two-hour show they didn’t water it down with crappy undercard matches. Far too often there will be PPVs where there are bad matches that are basically filler. I never understand it. If you put out a match to simply kill time then why even do it? If people are going to pay money to see a show then give them stuff that is worth their money. Canadian Stampede did exactly that with four above average matches that helped make this show one of the best ever.
They had matches featuring good wrestlers in every single match. It started out with a great brawl between HHH and Mankind that did wonders for both guys because it got sympathy for Mankind while adding an edge to the HHH character that was so bland. There was the Light Heavyweight (Cruiserweight) match between Michinoku and Sasuke that brought something different into the WWF at the time. Fans didn’t know how to react to the guys on their entrances, but by the time the match was over people were on their feet waiting to see what they’d do next. The World Title match was a great showcase of two of the best big man workers ever while the Undertaker was in his prime. Vader had better days before this, but he still stepped up to the challenge and really put Undertaker strongly by having him bust out two chokeslams plus the Tombstone to put him away.
Then there’s the main event. It didn’t feature the ten best workers in the company. It didn’t need to. The way it was booked and the way it was worked was masterfully done. You don’t need guys coming in to do their finishers. I don’t think there were many finishers the entire match. Every time there was a nearfall it was broken up almost every time. It served its purpose as a match because you believed as you watched that every single guy in the match wanted to win. That’s the basic principle of pro wrestling. Make people believe that you want to win. That’s why this match worked. Plus. all the hijinks involving Austin with the Hart family added to it.
Kudos to the crowd too. It was one of the loudest crowds I have ever seen.
John Canton – [email protected]