The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – Stampede Wrestling Reboot Pilot!
I kind of love that even the Network is snarking on the show before you even get a chance to watch it, calling it an “ill-fated attempt” in the description of the show!
So this was originally broadcast on 04.02.99, when the Attitude Era was in full swing and Bruce Hart thought to himself “Hey, there’s lots of people making lots of money with no wrestling ability and lots of dick jokes. I’ve got both of those!” and thus the man who never learned the phrase “Just let it fucking die already” decided to relaunch Stampede for about the 15th time. True, no one can really know his real motivations or thoughts, because that would require asking him a question and then paying attention to him for more than 10 seconds, but I can only surmise from his fossil records.
Also, this is hosted by Mauro Ranallo, which was mind-blowing at the time because most of us in the Venn diagram of “Western Canadians” and “Nerdy wrestling fans” only knew him as the heel manager he played in Al Tomko’s All Star Wrestling as a teenager, and yet here he was suddenly as a serious lead commentator.
Also, RSPW fucking HATED this show at the time.
Taped from Calgary, AB, aired on The A Channel! Oh man, so many memories. That one became City TV in Edmonton, I think. Back when TV channels were a thing.
Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo & Mark Kennedy.
Achem Albrecht v. Badlands Bill Rogers
And yes, what better way to kick off a new era than BRAKUS in the opening match? And he wants a title match with Tatanka! Albrecht overpowers Rogers and yells at the crowd a bunch. He gives Rogers some chops in the corner where the cameraman makes the mistake of doing a tight shot on it so you can see a 300 pound German bodybuilder throwing chops like an 8 year old girl. Rogers comes back with some dropkicks that are no-sold by Albrecht, and a bulldog gets two. Another try is no-sold by Albrecht and he hits a DDT, but picks him up at two. Another one finishes at 4:13. This was super, super simple and immediately not what anyone wanted out of the new old promotion. ½*
Crazy Horse Eddie Mustang v. Dick Butkus Jr.
Dick Butkus is a name that’s so Bruce Hart that Bruce himself was probably pissed that he didn’t come up with it. Butkus Jr. looks kind of like Low Ki and beats on Mustang with simple stuff while his manager wanders around ringside. Mustang is basically playing a drunken Calgary idiot in the front row of an AC/DC Bon Scott-era cover band concert yelling at them to play more “Shoot to Thrill”. But as a babyface. Also he works in his shirt and jeans and wrestles like a guy play-wrestling in a bar fight. Mustang hits Butkus with some chops in the corner and finishes with a running stunner at 3:13 aired and this was fucking awful. DUD
Red Thunder v. Principal Richard Pound
Yes, it’s Dick Pound. There was, of course, a “hilarious” backstory behind Bruce Hart coming up with that name in order to humiliate someone from his personal life but I can’t recall the details. Pound works on Thunder and goes up to finish, but Thunder counters with a superplex for the pin at 2:00. Crowd popped big for the finish and Pound got decent heat, so of course Bruce pushed the shit out of him. *
Marvin Pope v. H. Ivy Thompson
Pope is a former Calgary Stampeder, which you can tell because he’s dressed in full football gear for this. Meanwhile, do we even need to get into a guy named “H. Ivy”? Pope destroys him with really simple shoulderblocks and a neckbreaker to finish at 1:30. Just a squash. ½*
Pistol Greg Pawluk v. Dirty Dick Raines
Yup, it’s our third “Dick” of the show. Pawluk pounds on Raines with forearms in the corner, but misses a blind charge and Raines goes up with a seated senton for two. Pawluk backflips out of the corner and elbows Raines to the floor, then follows with a flip dive to earn what is the first ever MAMMA MIA from Mauro. Back in, Pawluk with a flying forearm and belly to belly for two. Oh, and the ref’s name is J. Edgar Hooper. Raines uses a foreign object and suplexes Pawluk for two. He tosses Pawluk and gets heat from Ed Whalen at ringside, but sadly doesn’t milk that for more. Raines with a suplex back in for two, but Pawluk comes back with a rebound lariat and finishes with a backslide at 5:26. And before we can even get his celebration, they immediately cut to a commercial. Best match of the show easily. ***
Black Heart v. Kenny Johnson
Hey, we were just watching Johnson do jobs on the terrible Winnipeg Superstars tapings in 1992! And now he’s sporting the dreaded skullet. Black Heart is a masked guy who does an inset promo with a southern hick accent. Johnson tosses him and then slugs away in the corner, but charges and hits boot. Black Heart with a release powerbomb as Mauro tells us that he’s the same Black Heart from the 80s who did battle with Davey Boy Smith and Chris Benoit. What the fuck is he talking about? Benoit and Davey weren’t even in the promotion at the same time! Davey was long gone to the WWF before Benoit was even in the sport. Black Heart with a piledriver for two but picks him up, and then adds another one for the pin at 4:35. We already got that finish at the beginning of the show! ½*
North American title: Tatanka v. Jason Neidhart
We’re joined in progress with Jason holding a chinlock and then tossing Tatanka for some abuse from Jim, who is apparently Jason’s cousin. I can neither confirm nor deny that relationship but I’m gonna call bullshit because it sounds like it. Back in, Tatanka with a cross body for two. Neidhart goes to a surfboard and goes up, but Tatanka slams him off the top and makes the comeback. Many chops are thrown and that gets two. Neidhart tries to run Tatanaka into the Anvil, but of course screws it up and Tatanka finishes with the Wig Wam Bomb at 6:30. We learn afterwards that this was actually the third fall of a 2/3 falls match and it was joined after two falls. This was just a match. ½*
Given that this was 38 minutes total on the Network, they crammed way, WAAAAAAAY too much into this hour. They had three episodes’ worth of matches taped and just edited it down to nothing, completely missing the boat on what people actually wanted out of their TV wrestling shows in 1999. It was a total nostalgia freakshow that didn’t feature anyone people were nostalgic about, instead of concentrating on the new style of fast-packed work with guys like Pawluk (who they spent the entire match comparing to Dynamite Kid) and the next generation of Harts. As it is, it’s not fair for the Network to snipe at it like they did, because this did OK and stuck around for a year or so, producing talent like Johnny Devine and Scott D’Amore and Tyson Kidd in the process. It’s totally watchable, if laughably stupid and misguided most of the time, but not the worst thing you’ll see on the Network by far.