July PPV Countdown: WWF In Your House #16 (Canadian Stampede)

The Netcop Retro Rant for In Your House: Canadian Stampede. – Me and my big mouth. I make an offhand comment about this being the last great PPV before Wrestlemania XIV for the WWF, and I suddenly get deluged with e-mails asking for the rant on it. I’m not a machine, people. (Yes I am.)  But because I love each and every one of you equally (except CRZ), I figure I’d capitulate to my adoring public and finally do the long-awaited Canadian Stampede rant.   But first, the minor details: This was the last PPV to bear the “In Your House” moniker as the primary title and was the last two-hour PPV for the WWF, as all of them from Ground Zero on were given catchy names first and foremost and were three hours long. It was also one of the highest grossing shows of the year for the WWF, even with our shitty exchange rate.  (UFC also is discovering how much Calgary loves to spend money this weekend.)  It was also the last WWF PPV released on Coliseum Video before the changeover to WWF Home Video. I was actually supposed to be there live, but work intervened and I had to get left behind here in Edmonton to tape about 4 copies of the show at once. Everyone else did a road trip to Calgary and apparently had a great time (not that I’m bitter), (Yes I am.) including having drinks with Shawn Michael’s then-fiancée Julie and wardrobe chick Terri Fittipelli. The setup for this show came on the heels of Bret Hart’s massive heel turn…in the US. See, up here in Canada, his anti-US stance was interpreted as being an ultra-patriotic Canadian answer to the usual jingoistic American b------- that we’ve been swallowing in our own media and TV shows via the US for the past fifty-some years. Whereas the US had many people to represent them in wrestling, all Canadians ever had were the goofy Rougeaus (who were massively over in Canada), the lumbering Dino Bravo and the occasional flash of brilliance from Bret Hart. See, the US as a whole doesn’t really deal well with opposing points of view to interfere with it’s blissful xenophobia, so when Bret started going off about how fundamentally unfair the US justice and health care systems are and how Canada might actually have a better one, that was interpreted as the actions of a heel.  (And you’ve got ObamaCare now.  So Bret was right.)  But up in Canada, what we heard was someone actually standing up for us instead of making us the butt of back-bacon and maple-syrup type jokes, and a result, by the time Bret and family returned to Calgary for this show, they were literally national heroes. (I can’t overstate enough that they were literally NATIONAL HEROES.  It was crazy, especially now considering how apathetic the country and population in general is towards WWE these days.)  The United States as a whole didn’t really understand that because Steve Austin’s anti-hero was the prevailing trend at the time, which was kinda Bret’s whole point with his tirades against the eroding family values of the US to begin with, and in fact the cynicism built into the American mindset of Generation X and the greedy baby-boomers was such at that time that an all-American hero probably would have been booed out of the building anyway. Witness Kurt Angle. Sure, the Patriot worked in the short term as the foil for Bret Hart, but that wasn’t because people liked it, it was because they hated Bret. And the climax of all this was Bret’s triumphant return home, in what would end up being the last time that the real Bret, the Canadian hero and the man that I truly respected and would follow through almost anything, would show his face before life beat him down into insanity and a web of his own paranoia and self-loathing. I think this show stands as pretty much the best memory he could have gone out on, anyway. – Live from Calgary [dramatic pause], Alberta, Canada. – Your hosts are JR, The King and Mr. McMahon. – Opening match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Mankind. This is a rematch from King of the Ring where HHH went over Mick to win the crown, turning him face in the process. The crowd is AMPED, and as a result everyone cranks it up a notch for this show. And when Mick Foley cranks it up a notch, look the f--- out. If long play-by-play bores you, too bad, because I’m doing it for every match here. Slugfest to start, won by Mick as he hits a quick slam, legdrop and double-arm DDT. Zen (my roommate) sighting #1: He walks by the camera at various times in the night carrying very prominent signs. The first one is “Everything Zen”. (Not surprising.)  Mick tosses HHH and drops a Cactus elbow, adding a “bang bang” for fun, and to foreshadow his impending transformation. It gets two. He tosses HHH again, allowing HHH to head for the hills. Mick chases and they brawl on the ramp, with Mick getting a suplex there. HHH sunset-flips back into the ring, but gets caught with the Mandible Claw. Chyna saves him. Mick chases her and HHH nails him from behind, allowing Chyna to hiptoss him into the steps for that nasty spot he always does. HHH clips him for good measure as he climbs back in and goes to work on the knee. Figure-four (rope assisted) gets two. Mick breaks it and comes back. An accidental low blow gives us a double-KO. Mick is up first and hits the charging knee to the corner, then puts HHH in the Tree of Woe and drops an elbow on his nose. Pulling piledriver gets two. Cactus clothesline sends both out, where Hunter nails Mick in the knee with a chair, and when the ref is distracted with him Chyna adds a clothesline for good measure. Back in and Mick catches HHH with the Mandible Claw again as he tries a top rope move, but Chyna posts him to break it up. Mick chases her again, and HHH follows for a brawl on the floor, which ends in a double-countout at 13:09. Super hot opener and a great match to boot. **** (Sounds a bit high to me, actually.  They would do better later in the year.  I’d probably go ***1/2 or so now.)  That would be enough to make a two-hour show thumbs up right there. But I guess they were in an over-achieving mood tonight… – TAKA Michinoku v. The Great Sasuke. The idea was to push SASUKE as the light heavyweight champ, and Taka was just some jobber he brought along to make him look good. Funny how that one turned out. But first, Mick and HHH continue their brawl as they return from the dressing room and fight into the stands and the penalty box. Zen sighting #2 in honor of the match: “This is Workrate”. It was my goal in the pre-show planning session to make *the* definitive smart mark signs, and I think it worked. Feeling out process to start. Crowd seems a bit disinterested. Taka works on the arm but gets caught with a spin kick. Sasuke goes into a half-crab. Sasuke uses some stiff kicks, so Taka nails him and dropkicks him in the face, twice. KAIENTAI~! Sasuke backdrops Taka to the floor and follows with a tope. Both are down. Back in and Sasuke hits a viciously stiff kick combo, the last one right in the mouth, drawing the requisite “oohs” and “aahs”. Taka blocks a kick and legwhips him, then dropkicks him out of the ring and debuts the springboard plancha to a big pop. Beautiful camera work there. Back in and Taka reverses out of a german suplex and hits a rana for two. Sasuke comes back with a handspring elbow, sending Taka out. Quebrada (Asai moonsault) follows. Back in, Taka gets a belly-to-belly for two. Ohtani-like springboard dropkick gets the crowd going, and the Michinoku driver gets two. Taka goes upstairs and gets dropkicked coming down and a moonsault press from Sasuke gets two. Thunder fire bomb and tiger suplex finishes it at 10:00. Stars for everyone! We’re having a 2-for-1 special tonight! ****1/2 They would then proceed to TOP that match the next night on RAW, with Sasuke debuting the Space Flying Tiger Drop on North American TV, an event I was lucky enough to be there for this time.  (This was indeed crazy for the time.  Again, I’m probably a bit too high on the rating, but it blew away everything else on the show as far as pure work went.)  – Meanwhile, outside, Mankind and a bloody HHH brawl into the parking lot before finally being seperated. This would set up the cage match at Summerslam, and then finally their wild brawl at the MSG RAW that saw the return of Cactus Jack the first time. As a side note, Foley debuted another personality 8 days after this, as his alter ego Dude Love helped Steve Austin regain the tag titles from Owen & Bulldog in San Antonio. – WWF World title match: The Undertaker v. Vader. This was supposed to be Ahmed Johnson’s big breakthrough match after his heel turn, but (and here’s a shock) he was injured, so Vader took his place, thus actually promising to give us a GOOD match. Undertaker pummels Vader to start, and hits a stinger splash for two. Ropewalk gets two. Vader comes back, but Undertaker hits the flying clothesline for two. Vader goes to the headlock. Undertaker boots him out. They brawl on the floor and Undertaker goes to the stairs. He necksnaps Vader from the apron, however, and comes in with a clothesline off the top for two. An uppercut puts Vader on the floor again. Taker chases Paul Bearer (who has been screaming “Murderer!” all match in reference to the angle that introduced the Big Red You-Know-Who) and Vader jumps him. Back in and Vader boxes his ears. Flying clothesline from the second rope gets two. Splash gets two. They rest for a bit, and Undertaker mounts the comeback. Vader knocks him down again. Undertaker keeps fighting up and tries a chokeslam, but Vader kicks him low to block. Undertaker tries the tombstone, but Vader falls on him for two. Vaderbomb misses, and Undertaker returns the low blow and then CHOKESLAMS HIM OFF THE TOP ROPE. Awesome. Another chokeslam gets two. Tombstone finishes at 12:37. Crowd goes NUTS. Guess what? This earns worst match of the night honors…at ***1/2! When have you EVER seen that outside of Japan?  (Oh man, the WWF champion doesn’t even get to main event!  What a mid-carder.)  – Farmer’s Daughter sing “Oh Canada”. Zen and HSB got to hang out with them, too, lucky bastards. The Fink introduces Ralph Klein (Alberta’s premier and the only politician in the whole f------ country with the guts to stand up to Quebec) and the Hart family. – Cue the magic. – Main event: Goldust, Ken Shamrock, The Legion of Doom and Steve Austin v. Brian Pillman, Jim Neidhart, British Bulldog, Owen Hart and Bret Hart. Everyone from the US team gets SERIOUS heel heat. Steve Austin is nearly booed out of the building. The Hart Foundation is introduced one-by-one, with the ovation building with every guy, until the roof is nearly ready to blow off the place when Bret comes out. It gives me a lump in my throat to watch it. (This was probably the high point of Brian Pillman’s life, and I’m glad he got this moment before his death.  The look on his face when he get to play a straight babyface while basking in the ROAR of the Calgary crowd one last time is something to behold.)  Austin & Bret start. Oh, by the way, the announcer make mention of a little documentary being shot at ringside. Something about “wrestling” and “shadows” or something like that. Bret beats the hell out of Austin, drawing INCREDIBLE face heat in the process. The crowd literally boos Austin’s every move. I mean, literally, when the guys MOVES they boo him. Austin quickly gets the cobra clutch, and they do the reversal spot in the corner for two. Austin misses the rope run, and Anvil tags in. Austin gets the Thesz press and tags Shamrock in. Zen sighting #3: He gets my masterpiece, “What’s Kayfabe?” on screen for a good chunk of time, and then had it confiscated by Adam (of George and Adam fame) about 10 seconds later.  (Today of course no one would care about such a sign, but we were REBELS back then, dammit!)  Shamrock controls easily, so Pillman tags in. He uses a blatant cheapshot and gets CHEERED for it. I know wrestlers always say that they like playing a heel and riling up the crowd, but Pillman had a grin about 4 miles wide on his face the entire match because of the babyface heat he was drawing. Backbreaker gets two. Shamrock hits a belly-to-belly, and everyone tags out. Owen & Goldust go. Enzuigiri gets two for Owen. Crowd starts with a VERY loud “Austin sucks” chant, and Austin wisely plays off it for fun. Hawk comes in with a legdrop on Owen for two. Flying splash gets two. Owen quickly comes back with the Sharpshooter, but Animal breaks. Big heel heat. Bulldog comes in with a hanging suplex and powerslam for two. Bret & Animal go next, and Bret kicks his ass. Goldust comes in and gets his ass kicked, too. Then he gets caught in the corner and a mass-beatdown results and the crowd is rabid and I’m nearly standing up and cheering even now. Owen comes in and hits the post on a blind charge, but comes back with a leg lariat on Animal and a missile dropkick. Rana is reversed into a powerbomb and powerslam. The LOD hits the Doomsday Device fro two, and another brawl erupts. Austin posts Owen and smashes a chair into his knee, then takes a shot at Bruce Hart in the front row. Crowd lets Austin know how much he sucks as Owen heads to the back for medical attention. Austin gets pummelled in the corner to the delight of the crowd, but he fights free. Austin and Pillman go and a quick stunner ends that fight pretty quick. Bret bails him out and posts Austin, then smashes a chair into HIS knee and applies the ringpost figure-four as the announcers gasp in shock at the bloodthirsty crowd. Back in the ring, Bulldog crotches Hawk on the top rope for two. Austin heads to the back for medical attention, too. Animal & Anvil get into a test of strength. Anvil wins and the Harts double-team Animal. Bret gets caught in the corner, but Shamrock plays to the crowd and Pillman sneaks in and clotheslines him. Hey, Ken, you’re a HEEL here. Shamrock then gets caught in the Hart corner and sent to the floor, where Pillman gleefully launches him into the Spanish table. Pillman is just having the time of his life out there. Sadly, this would be the last great match of his career. It’s nice to actually see a smile on his face for an entire match, ya know? Hart gets the russian legsweep for two. Bulldog comes in and pulverizes Shamrock, but a low blow turns the tide. Ah, now you’re catching on, Kenny. Goldust comes in to clean up with a bulldog on Bulldog and the Curtain Call, but Pillman interferes again. Goldust goes aerial and gets superplexed down for two. Austin makes his return. It’s Bret v. Austin again, and Austin wins this round. Suplex gets two. Bret DDTs him and goes for the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM. Sleeper is escaped with a jawbreaker, and it gets two. Bret comes back and gets the Sharpshooter, but Animal saves, and the crowd is PISSED. Austin does his own version, and Owen returns now to make the save. Austin clotheslines him out to the floor and they fight there. Austin takes a shot at fomer referee Wayne Hart, and they end up brawling as Wayne jumps the railing. Bret comes over and nails Austin for hitting his brothers, then rolls him into the ring. Austin has some choice words for Bret, which lets Owen roll him up for the pin at 24:30. Like you need to ask what this gets. ***** – In a glorious end to the whole thing, the entire Hart family clears the ring of Team US, and then Austin makes another go at it with a chair and gets the s--- beat out of him 10-on-1. That’ll learn ‘im. The Harts continue the beating until security finally gets in long enough to arrest Austin and drag him back to the dressing room in handcuffs. Austin flips off the crowd behind his back as the Harts celebrate, end of show. The Bottom Line: Some quick match puts the average match rating at a little over ****. 4.19 stars, to be somewhat exact. That means there were no matches on this card that were anything under “f------ awesome” in layman’s terms. If this show had any sort of long-term historical significance it could very well be considered the greatest PPV ever. I still think it got screwed over in the 97 RSPW awards in favor of the sentimental favorite ECW show, but that’s life. At any rate, it’ll always hold a special place in my heart, and if nothing else will serve as a reminder that all-too-brief time in 1997 when Bret Hart was motivated again and happy. It also provided a brief window when Canada could express it’s own unique form of patriotism, because sometimes heroes still do exist, even if they do get screwed over in the end. Canada won’t forget him, though, even if Vince wants to. Strongest recommendation. (As a bonus, here’s the RAW from the next night, via my 24/7 rant) The SmarK 24/7 Rant for Monday Night RAW – July 7 1997 – Live from EDMONTON, ALBERTA! My first ever live RAW, although you’d probably have to be looking really closely to see me. – Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. – This show, and the Canadian Stampede show from the night before, absolutely represented the pinnacle of Bret Hart’s hero status in Canada. You wouldn’t even believe how over Bret was all night long. – And of course we start out with none other than Bret Hart, wearing an Oilers jersey to really suck up full force. Bret gives a pretty famous speech here, thanking us for letting him be our hero and how he loves to leave the US. He clarifies that he’s not anti-American, he’s pro-Canadian. Although playing the gun control card in Alberta doesn’t go over too well, because it’s the Texas of Canada. He promises to regain the WWF title for the fifth time at Summerslam. In retrospect, I wish he wouldn’t have. Next up, Owen Hart, who is readying to defend the Intercontinental title against Steve Austin in another match that kind of changed the face of wrestling forever. British Bulldog also joins us, and we get a rousing Canadian national anthem on the TitanTron. Which allows Steve Austin to run in and lay them all out with a chair to a big heel reaction. Like they weren’t having the time of their lives with this stuff. – Taka Michinoku v. The Great Sasuke. Sasuke was still being pushed as the great white hope of the light heavyweight division here, although that would quickly change. Brian Christopher joins us on commentary to really amp up the annoyance. Taka attacks to start but gets kicked to the floor, and Sasuke quickly gets a tope con hilo. Oh man, he’s totally ripping off the Undertaker. Back in, Taka tries to work on the arm and they go the mat for two, where Sasuke reverses to an anklelock. Taka makes the ropes, so Sasuke puts him down with a spinkick combo and Taka bails to regroup. Taka pops backin with a missile dropkick to put Sasuke on the floor, but he blows the somersault moonsault and then does it again. Well, it popped the crowd so I’ll forgive it. Taka suplexes him back in, but Sasuke reverses to a german, which Taka flips out of and into a belly to belly for two. Michinoku Driver and Taka goes up, but whiffs on the moonsault. Sasuke tries a Lionsault, but Taka dropkicks him in mid-move. Taka charges and gets dumped, and Sasuke follows with the SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP. This is about as far from Tommy Rogers v. Bobby Fulton as you can get, yo. Back in, Taka reverses a suplex, but Sasuke gets a bridged german suplex for two. Crucifix powerbomb finishes at 5:45. Taka gets basically written off a jobber by the announcers, but he’d be back and Sasuke wouldn’t. Highspot extravaganza, although still really short. *** – Savio Vega v. Crush. This is the official start of the Gang Warz period, as Crush and Savio introduced their posses the week before. Interesting that DOA were mostly the precursor to Undertaker’s 2000 revamp. Savio attacks Crush to start, but gets booted down and pounded, as the crowd makes Crush into the defacto babyface early. Backbreaker and Crush holds it as a submission move, but Savio comes back with a leg lariat to put Crush on the floor. This triggers a showdown between the factions, and back in the ring Crush comes back with a bad clothesline to put Savio out. DOA attacks him for the DQ at 2:21. * Just storyline stuff. – Meanwhile, Paul Bearer continues to insist that Undertaker’s brother, Kane, is still alive. And Undertaker is a murderer. A MURDERER! Man, who knew that silly idea would last 11 years and counting? – [Blur] Tag team tournament finals: Faarooq & D-Lo Brown v. Owen Hart & British Bulldog. Love that blurred graphic. Winner faces Steve Austin and a partner of his choosing next week for the tag titles. Steve insists that Mankind will never be his partner because he’s an earless freak. Owen hiptosses D-Lo to start, but gets elbowed down. Over to Bulldog, so Brown brings Faarooq in and we get a posedown. Bulldog with a powerslam and clothesline, but D-Lo gives him the cheapshot as you get a pretty good shot of Zen with a “Lawler’s Hardcore” sign at ringside. The Nation works Bulldog over in the corner, but he comes back with a faceplant. D-Lo cuts off the tag and suplexes Bulldog for two, then goes to the chinlock, but Bulldog fights out and then runs into a knee. Back to the chinlock and Owen gets suckered in to break it up, allowing more shenanigans from the Nation. Faarooq with his shitty powerslam for two, but a splash hits the knees and D-Lo has to cut off another hot tag. Brown chokes Bulldog out and pounds him down for two, but Bulldog escapes the Dominator and it’s hot tag Owen. Leg lariat for D-Lo and Faarooq and the crowd is losing it, especially when Pillman attacks Kama with the Canadian flag. They all brawl on the floor and Owen beats the count at 6:49 to win the tournament. Weak finish that really dragged a hot match down. Mankind (with an Austin 3:16 shirt) comes out and promises to see them next week in a funny bit. Kind of neat seeing uber-heels Owen & Bulldog wrestling a total babyface formula here and popping the crowd the whole way, but it worked. **3/4 – Meanwhile, a pissed-off Austin gives his thoughts to Vince McMahon, and when Vince finishes with “Thank you for joining us”, Austin tells him to shut up. That’s the kind of touch that made him a superstar. – Steve Austin v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Some doofus at ringside has a sign that says “Hunter: Future World Champion”. Yeah right, Nostradamus. And I suppose he’ll marry Vince’s daughter and take over the promotion after that, too, because that’s about as likely. Lockup to start and Hunter gets all in Austin’s face, so Steve decides to out-wrestle him. Austin offering a formal bow is great. Austin starts working the arm, so HHH goes to the eyes and slugs away, forcing Austin to fire back and interrupt his wrestling exhibition. Hunter bails and Austin follows to dump him on the railing, then offers another bow. This one was weird because we (the crowd) really WANTED to cheer for Austin, but it just wasn’t the right place for it. Back in, Hunter with a rollup for two, but Austin flattens him with a lariat for two. Austin with the facelock as we take a break, and return with Austin going for a superplex, as Vince puts forth my theory about the crowd wanting to cheer for Austin but being afraid to. Weird, I’m thinking like Vince now. And yet I don’t have a creepy childhood neurosis about getting beat up by muscular men, so that’s good. Hunter stomps away in the corner and adds the kneedrop for two. Austin comes back with an atomic drop, but walks into a clothesline, as the crowd now starts cheering for Hunter to overcompensate. Austin comes back with the Thesz Press and clotheslines Hunter out of the corner, but Chyna trips him up and draws a face pop. Hunter grabs a chair, but Mankind runs out to save his buddy and take the chairshot in his place, and KICK WHAM STUNNER ends it at 6:15. This was pretty good, with the weirdest crowd dynamic you’ll see outside of Goldberg v. Lesnar. *** Austin, impressed with Mankind’s moxie, offers him a spot as his tag partner, and turns on him after a hug. DTA, Mick, DTA. Mankind promises that drastic measures will be taken next week and he’ll never be the same again. Gotta say, given that buildup it should have been Cactus Jack introduced to the WWF as the payoff. – Eric Shelley v. Brian Christopher. Shelley is representing all of Canada, according to ring announcer Sunny, which doesn’t say much for us. Christopher attacks after offering the handshake, but Shelley monkey-flips him and goes to the armbar. Christopher comes back with the Stroke and a northern lights suplex, but Shelley gets a bad rollup for two. Dropkick puts Christopher on the floor and Shelley tries to follow with the highspot, but splats on the floor and looks stupid in the process. Back in, Christopher with the missile dropkick while Lawler does Polish jokes about Ivan Putski. Shelley comes back and misses a corner splash by a mile, allowing Brian to finish with an inverted DDT and flying legdrop at 3:45. Shelley was pretty awful here. *1/2 They were trying to do a “WWF-ized” version of the cruiserweight division with storylines and heels, which shows how they didn’t get what made it work for WCW in the first place. – More with Steve Austin, as he promises that if he doesn’t win the title from Owen Hart at Summerslam, he’ll kiss Owen’s bare ass right there in the ring. – Bret Hart v. Goldust. Bret attacks on the floor, and into the ring for an atomic drop and clothesline, but Goldust slugs back. A slam is reversed by Bret for two and he whips Goldust into the corner and works the back with a backbreaker, then hangs him in the Tree of Woe. Goldust bails as DOA heads down to ringside now. The Hart Foundation also joins us and we take a break. Back with Goldust and Bret brawling on the floor, and back in Bret drops the elbow for two. Russian legsweep gets two. Goldust slugs back as this drags on, and we hit the chinlock. And now LOD & Shamrock head down as Goldust gets the lariat for two. And back to the chinlock. Much of the match has been taken up by people looking menacing, which I’m sure works great for TV but isn’t exactly enthralling viewing. Bret comes back with a suplex for two and then blocks a sunset flip for the pin at 7:24. ** And we’re out.