A month and a half ago I started reviewing the 15 greatest shows I’ve ever seen as a way of celebrating my 15th year of being a wrestling fan. Now we come to the greatest show I’ve ever seen and that’s WWF In Your House Canadian Stampede which took place 6th July 1997 in the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. Now a little back story about this show for me. This was the first PPV I ever saw, just a week or two before I remember being allowed to stay up late to watch TV on a Friday night I skimmed the channels and came across Owen Hart vs. Goldust vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley on Raw is War, what a crazy match to have as your first but from the second I saw it I was hooked. I watched that Raw and saw adverts for this show so I set up my VCR to record, I was young had school and couldn’t stay up till 4 in the morning to watch the show. I watched it and loved it and I’ve been hooked ever since. Now you can say that really effects my point of view but this show won Show of the Year in 97 and is still seen as one of the greatest shows ever. So let’s start this. We have Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, who has the biggest cowboy hat ever, on commentary I miss this trio so much. On the free for all Michael Hayes introduces the team and calls JR “Good Old JR” and Vince calls him the same, I find it funny since he was actually the youngest in that team. Now I’m not covering the Free for All match as I didn’t watch it when I first saw it and I don’t count it as part of the show but it was the New Blackjacks vs. the Godwinns and it was OK, for the crazy moustaches the Blackjacks had.
Opening video: Did you ever notice that the opening videos in 1997 were so serious, mostly in black and white with a serious announcer commentating it. The video picks out that everything will be backwards tonight as the heels, the Hart Foundation, will be cheered since they’re in Canada.
Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst-Helmsley w/Chyna: This was when Hunter copied so much of Ric Flair and when Chyna looked more like a man, she briefly looked like a woman and now looks like a gorilla. We get a video package highlighting the King of the Ring finals where Hunter beat Mankind, who looks to have taken a beating in that match. Hunter has revealed on his DVD that WWE wanted him to wear the crown and cape, he hated it and that’s why he broke them both on Mankind. Oh even the Fink has a cowboy hat, you got to love WWE when they put on a gimmick everyone follows. Match starts quickly with Mankind attacking, he gets the whip in the corner & bulldog spot something that’s used more no. Mankind hits the Double Arm DDT, a move no one has ever picked up really. Hunter gets his facebuster but Mankind throws him out after and follows with his elbow off the apron. JR brings up Cactus Jack early, bet many weren’t happy about that. Hunter flies over the top when thrown into the corner. Mankind gets a suplex on the ramp after Hunter tries running away. Hunter goes for a sunset flip gets put in the Mandible Claw and Chyna punches him over the refs back. Hunter reverses an irish whip and Chyna powerslams Mankind into the steps and Hunter uses a chair on his leg, it’s spots like this that probably destroyed Mankind’s leg. Mankind enters but is clipped in the leg and starts the attack on the leg. I’d like to note a much smaller Hunter here. Hunter tries to whip Mankind but he falls over from the pain, a nice spot. Hunter gets a Figure-4 and what I like is that the position of the camera has you looking into Mankind’s face and when he points out that Hunter has the rope it just looks awesome. Hunter goes for the pedigree but is sweeped out, he kicks off Mankind who bounces off the corner and lands on Hunter’s crotch. Hunter does the Flair corner spot but hangs himself and Mankind gets an elbow drop. Mankind gets a great piledriver for a near fall. We then get Mankind’s clothesline where both go over the top. Chyna gets a clothesline that floors Mankind, fun note Mankind was the only guy who would happily sell for Chyna and that helped make her look good when she started. Chyna then pulls Mankind into the post, tons of interference from her which was usual at the time. The two then fight into the crowd and we get a double count out. Bit of a weak finish but the fight continues through the crowd and it was done to set up the cage match the next month, the finish also didn’t upset the fans one bit. Tons of refs out but they continue to fight into the back where we lose them. We get a promo from the Hart Foundation backstage during which Steve Austin comes in and is slightly held back by Jack Lanza & Pat Patterson, it looked like he was drunk and his buddies only had to slightly hold him back.
The Great Sasuke vs. Taka Michinoku: This match promises to get a “What a Manoeuvre” from Vince. Before the match starts Hunter & Mankind continue fighting in the crowd, Hunter is bleeding. I loved this I thought it really put over how much they hated it each. We lose them again and the match starts. A fan has a sign that says “This is Workrate” compared to WCW at the time it sure was. I believe this was Sasuke’s USA debut, he was meant to be on ECW’s Barily Legal but missed the show, Taka was on that show. Mat wrestling to start and they work a crossarm breaker until Sasuke gets a spinning back kick to the gut. Taka runs off the rope and Sasuke gets a sick sounding spinning kick to the face. Taka grabs a kick and open hand slaps Sasuke, then hits two dropkicks to the head. If the fans weren’t into this they were after that series. Sasuke launches Taka over the top and then does his diving kick of the top to the floor, don’t know why he did that as I imagine that hurt him as much if not more. Sauske gets a series of kicks ending with a spinning back kick to Taka when he was seated in the corner, looked really stiff. Taka gets a dragon screw and we get Taka’s beautiful springboard plancha where he leaps to the top rope and then out. Taka shoulder blocks Sasuke who then does a cartwheel elbow to counter followed by an Asai moonsault when Taka falls outside. Taka gets a snapping belly to belly suplex for a near fall. Taka does a running kick to the corner which has him float over and gets a springboard dropkick. Taka gets the Michinoku driver for a near fall. Taka jumps off the top but is hit with a dropkick. We get the Fire Thunder Bomb and a very light Tiger Suplex from Sasuke for the win. Really good match here but that last suplex didn’t look impactful at all, he would have been better pinning from the bomb. After we cut to outside were Hunter and Mankind are fighting but they’re finally separated.
Undertaker (c) vs. Vader w/Paul Bearer for WWF Title: This match was meant to be Ahmed Johnson challenging, I’m glad we didn’t see that. We get a promo from Vader & Paul before the match, I love Paul Bearer and his promos he was so great I think he was underrated in terms of promos. We get highlights of the Royal Rumble where Vader beat Taker. Paul ends the promo saying “Deja Vu Hendrix, Deja Vu”. Did you know Vader was meant to be WWF champion once? In 1996 the original plan was for him to lose to Shawn Michaels at Summerslam, which he did, but then beat him at Survivor Series (Sid won the title) and to have Vader lose it back at the Rumble but Shawn hated working with Vader and stopped it. As Vader enters Vince yells “Vader Time!”. I loved the Winged Eagle belt that Taker has, probably the best looking title ever. Taker attacks from the very beginning. Taker hits a Stinger splash, maybe he was hoping one day he’d face Sting as well. We get Old School which would likely be Middle School at that time. JR mentions Vader’s history in Japan, he’s so full of knowledge and so missed right now. Taker gets his jumping clothesline, he got great height with it. Vader reverses Taker on the outside into the steps, I think he wanted to fly over but he just slammed his knees into it. Paul yells “Murderer”, this was when Paul was accusing Taker of killing his family and Kane would debut as a result, a fan actually has a sign that says “Murderer” as well. Taker gets a top rope clothesline when he gets back in. Vader finally gets the advantage after getting a clothesline from behind. Vader hits a second rope clothesline, Paul goes crazy when there isn’t a 3. Vader gets the dreaded nerve hold! The fans get up and go crazy when Taker starts righting back but he’s cut off by a clothesline. Taker gets a choke but is low blowed before he can slam him but there’s DQ here, Taker somehow gets him up on his solid but Vader reverses and they end up on the mat with Taker pinning him for 2. Vader goes for the Vader bomb, Taker gets a low blow and chokeslams him off the ropes in a great stop. One thing I like is how Taker’s pins would be very high almost like he was going for the cross armed pin without the arms. Taker gets another chokeslam for a 2 and then follows with the Tombstone for the win. I really liked this match, very solid and the fans loved Taker and were really into it.
Hart Foundation (Brian Pillman, Jim Neidhart, British Bulldog, Owen Hart & Bret Hart) vs. Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust & Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal): I never liked how they never acknowledged Pillman as an official hart Foundation member. We get a backstage promo from the USA team were everyone talks apart from Austin who walks away showing he really didn’t care about them. Pillman was my first favourite wrestler and considering I got in around June 1997 and he passed away in October 1997 it says a lot about him, in fact my L.R.K.P tattoo stand for 4 people and the L is for Pillman. Is it just me or did Neidhart do nothing when he wasn’t involved with the Harts? We see Stu and Helen in the crowd, of course Bruce has to get involved dressed like he should be in Top Gun. The fans were pretty indifferent to the USA team but they hated Austin. The fans go crazy when Pillman comes out, they would get louder as each guy came out and went insane when Bret came out however they really didn’t care for Neidhart that much well when compared to Pillman & Bulldog who sandwiched him. It’s sad to think out of this version of the Hart Foundation only the original duo is still alive. We get everyone standing off with someone, Bret & Austin just stand there talking while the others get out they barely move and as soon as the bell rings they’re throwing punches which Bret wins and the fans go crazy. Austin gets a sneaky low blow to get Bret off him. Austin gets the Million Dollar Dream, Bret runs off the ropes just like at Survivor Series 1996 but Austin let’s go this time. Austin gets an iffy Lou Thez press on Neidhart and tags in Shamrock, I actually think Shamrock was pretty good when you compare him to other MMA fighters who got into wrestling and even just in general. Pillman’s in his 4 Horsemen type tights, he gets tagged in and gets the advantage. Shamrock gets a Belly to Belly, which would become his finisher but they both just tag out to Owen and Goldust. Owen gets the Enzuigiri, he was one of the guys who really made that move big. Hawk is tagged and hits a really weird top rope splash. Bulldog comes in and does his hanging vertical and then the running powerslam but Goldust breaks it up. Animal and Bret now in, just an odd combination to see don’t know what it is about it but it’s odd and it doesn’t last long leading to Goldust and Bret. Goldust is put in the tree of woe in the Hart’s corner and everyone just throws blows at him. Owen gets his spinning heel kick and missile dropkick on Animal. Animal reverses Owen with a powerbomb and then gets a powerslam, Animal liked power! We then get the Doomsday Device, Austin then “injures” Owen’s leg sending him to the back and Austin fights Bruce, not a fan of him. Austin gets the Stunner on Pillman but Bret gets Austin and attacks his leg with a fire extinguisher and his figure-4 on the post sending him to the back and making it 4 on 4. We get the backbreaker & elbow from the original Hart foundation. We get the Bret chest bump in the corner, Shamrock just stands there holding Bret’s leg and then does nothing which was random. Shamrock gets a low blow on Bulldog, something I really didn’t expect to see. Lots of Dusty Rhodes references when Goldust is in, why change his entire gimmick if you’re just going to admit he’s the Dreams son? Bulldog gets a shaky superplex on Goldust, he barely got it over. Austin comes back down and gets tagged, a repeated Bret chest bump. Bret gets his backbreaker and elbow combo, something many picked him apart from after he retired but he did the same with Flair’s matches. Animal breaks the sharpshooter and gets major heat. Owen then comes back. Bruce tries starting a fight again this leading to the Hart brothers jumping the rail and Owen school boying Austin for the win, they all continue fighting but security breaks it up and the Hart’s get the ring to themselves leading to the now famous after show celebration with all of the Hart family getting into the ring. I really liked this match but the problem is that no one wanted to work full blown heel it seemed and to be fair it was a problem they couldn’t get over, while the Hart should have worked face that night it would make little sense when they work heel all the time after. But after saying that it really didn’t hurt the match much at all, it got plenty of time which is should have with so many guys in there. And the fans just ate this up and made everything feel special in there.
Overall: I was shocked to realise how short this show was, it barely reached 2 hours and I think that’s something WWE should think about doing. This show only had 4 matches and was incredible. Look at last night’s Money in the Bank PPV, you could have just put the 4 matches announced out there and given them time and it’d probably be a good show but they have to add so many unadvertised matches that no one cares about, no Ryback I don’t care now and I won’t care anytime soon so get off. Anyways I really liked how they didn’t over do the matches it was just 4, they each got enough time and were all good to fantastic matches. WWE are suffering from having too much time right now and with going to 3 hours that will only get worse, maybe go back to 1997 and see how you can do a “B Show” PPV and this probably overshadowed a lot of PPV’s to come that year.