WWF In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede Review!
Updated: Aug 12
Canada is Bizzarro Land. That's right isn't it?
At least, this is what we have been told countless times by WWF Commentary teams throughout the years. However, here, during this PPV show, Canada's allegiance to their beloved Hart Family, caused the WWF to do some very on-the-fly booking.
Heading into this PPV, The newly reformed Hart Foundation had been pushed as heels throughout all of their programs, stemming from the double-turn during the Brett and Austin match at WrestleMania 13. However, no matter what the Harts did, or how hard the heels did heel, Canada would not boo their home town heroes. So rather than fight it, the WWF embraced it, plastering the show with imagery of the hated becoming the heroes, and explaining how the heroes of Austin, Goldust, Shamrock and The Legion of Doom, though faces in America, would become the hated in Canada.
The first PPV to emanate from Calgary in company history, taped during the enormous Calgary Stampede rodeo, it would be interesting to see how this unique dynamic would translate over 20 years later...
Match #1- Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Mankind Ended w/ Double Countout
A rematch from the previous months 1997 King of the Ring final, we start with an excellent video package as the newly crowned King of the Ring himself - Hunter Hearst Helmsley - and his valet Chyna make their way to the ring, highlighting the feud between he and Mankind. We get a recap of the final and how it was Chyna’s interference that proved the deciding factor, as well as the disparity between aristocratic Helmsley, and out of his mind lunatic Mankind. Foley in his promos here was just scintillating, from asking if he could have admittance to Helmsley’s house of pain, to replying to Chyna’s invitation to kiss her ass with the timeless classic “Lucky for you, I’m a good kisser!”
Mankind explodes into Hunter, almost immediately hitting the Double Arm DDT, but he doesn’t pin him, Mankind doesn’t want it over that quickly, he wants Helmsley to suffer, so simply mock bows at him. He follows it up with the Cactus Elbow from the apron, but Hunter manages to kick out at 2.
After taking his typical back bump over the turnbuckle post and avoiding Mankind attempting to come off of the top rope, Helmsley attempts to bail back up the ramp, but the pair brawl as Foley catches him, with Hunter taking a nasty bump on the steel ramp from a Suplex.
Foley then takes an awful looking bump with Helmsley whipping him toward the steel steps on the outside, before Chyna attempts to Spinning Scoopslam him onto the aforementioned steps. Unfortunately with Chyna not being able to see the steps, and with Foley in no control of his body, his legs slam sickeningly into the steps - unnecessarily dangerous!
From there, Helmsley targets the knee, taking advantage of Mankind’s excellent selling. Foley won’t quit however, and powers out of the Figure Four Leg Lock and a Pedigree attempt, the latter of which results in an inadvertent low blow. Mankind hits a Piledriver, but Helmsley kicks out before Foley Clotheslines them both out of the ring, allowing Chyna to get involved again, levelling Mankind with a Clothesline. She then interferes again to stop a Mandible Claw attempt, before Helmsley and Mankind brawl into the crowd for a Double Count Out.
Though an undoubtedly upsetting end to what was shaping to be an excellent match, it makes sense as we continue through the show.
Match Rating: 7 stars
We cut to a video package explaining about the Canadian Stampede and what it actually is. It also acted as an explanation as to why the very heelish Hart Foundation would be going into this match as firm faces - the adulation of the thousands of fans as the Harts drove past really is staggering, especially toward Bret who they treat as some sort of Messiah.
Speaking of the Harts, Dok Hendrix is backstage with the Foundation asking them what would happen if they lost on their home turf. Before Bret can formulate a response however, Steve Austin attempts to jump the five members of the Foundation but is held back by Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson. Bret calls off his boys from going after Austin by saying he doesn’t want 5-on-1, he wants 5-on-5 because that’s when they’ll get the job done.
Match #2 - The Great Sasuke def. Taka Michinoku
Taka Michinoku and the Great Sasuke are out to start their Light Heavyweight Division Exhibition Match, but the bell is delayed as we instead pan to the crowd where Helmsley and Mankind continue brawling, the former now opened up.
Finally the match begins with some tentative early exchanges before Sasuke gains an advantage, attempting an Arm Bar, before Taka comes back by working the shoulder of Sasuke.
The pair put their foot on the gas so to speak, launching into each other with some stiff kicks, before Michinoku gets some serious air time as Sasuke Back Body Drops him out of the ring, which he follows up with a Martial Arts Kick from the top rope to the outside.
Back in the ring, and Sasuke flattens Taka with a Kick, but Michinoku targets the knee with a Dragon Screw Leg Whip and a Dropkick. Sasuke powders, but Taka comes flying out of the ring at him with a Springboard Crossbody, to the obvious delight of the crowd who pop big! Michinoku is on fire now, countering out of a German Suplex and landing on his feet, before hitting a Hurricanrana. Sasuke will not be out down however, and hits a Handspring Back Elbow with Taka rolling to the outside, and following that up with Springboard Moonsault off of the second rope to the outside.
Michinoku, who’s done nothing but smile throughout this match, ducks a Clothesline and hits a Release Belly to Belly and a Michinoku Driver, which Sasuke kicks out off at 2. Rallying, Sasuke takes Taka out of the air with a Dropkick, hits a Thunder Fire Bomb, a second Springboard Moonsault and a Bridging Tiger Suplex for the victory.
What. A. Match. A great 10 minute sprint that showed exactly what the Light Heavyweight Division could and should have been. The pair put on a clinic that the Alberta crowd absolutely adored and my only negative, if any, is that I would love to have seen it go longer, especially on a PPV with only 4 matches.
Match Rating: 8 stars
We cut to the back now and Helmsley and Mankind are still brawling. Helmsley breaks a shovel over Mankind, before his Back Body Dropped onto a set of pallets after attempting a Pedigree. Finally though, with Hunter’s eye pouring with blood, we seem to reach the end of the brawl with the referees managing to break it up.
The commentary team throw to a video package from 2 weeks ago on RAW, where Ahmed Johnson did what Ahmed Johnson did best and injured himself during a brawl between the DOA and the Nation of Domination. Though not unexpected, this injury was particularly inconvenient as it cost Johnson his title match with Undertaker at this show, adding to the growing catalogue of stop/start pushes Johnson would have stymied by injury.
His spot was filled by Vader, and we throw to an interview with Vader and his manager, an oddly ginger Paul Bearer next. Hendrix asks him how Bearer can look himself in the mirror after accusing the Undertaker of killing his entire family. Bearer laughs this off by saying looking in the mirror is the best thing he does every morning. He then goes on to say that it will be deja vu tonight, referencing Vader’s defeat of Undertaker at that year’s Royal Rumble. It was also a match that saw Paul Bearer come off of the apron in ungainly fashion and clonk Undertaker on the head with the urn in a completely unprecedented spot I don’t think Bearer will be repeating in a hurry. He then repeats the word deja vu before sticking his nose in the air and stalking out of shot. I might actually love this man.
This of course would all lead to fantastic debut of the Undertaker’s ‘brother’ Kane in October of that year at the Badd Blood show.
Match #3 - The Undertaker (c) def. Vader
[WWF Championship Match]
The Undertaker dominates the early going in this match, getting 2 counts with an Old School, a Legdrop and a Leaping Clothesline. The intermittent cuts to Bearer hiding at ring side and shouting random words at the camera is a real highlight throughout this match.
Vader uses his power to get a foothold in the match, but two Big Boots send him to the outside. However, Taker takes an uncomfortable looking bump, knees first into the steps at ringside. Bearer takes the opportunity to ruffle the hair of the Champion and yell ‘Murderer!’ at him a few times before tottering away as Undertaker gets up. This would come back to bite Bearer as Taker Clotheslines Vader out of the ring before confronting his ex-manager, until Vader comes to his aid with a clubbing blow to the back of Taker’s head. Bearer then takes off his shoe and beats Undertaker with it, before walking smugly toward camera smiling, then shouting murderer again.
The Mastodon sets about dominating the champion, hitting a top rope Clothesline of his own and continuing to club at the Champion with Strikes and Clotheslines. A Splash only gets him a 2 count, and Undertaker begins to rally. He goes for a Chokeslam, but Vader hoofs him in the plums, which the referee inexplicably misses. The pair then mess up a Tombstone spot, with Vader attempting to reverse into one of his own. Luckily, the pair are able to hide it with a pinfall attempt, with Vader kicking out at 2.
Vader stands atop the ropes in preparation for the Vader Bomb, but he spends an astronomical amount of time pandering to the crowd, allowing Undertaker to take his turn to lamp Vader in the baby Vaders, before hitting a second rope Chokeslam that gets a near fall, followed by another Chokeslam that gets an equally near fall. Vader however doesn’t have enough left in the tank to kick out of a Tombstone Piledriver, and Undertaker covers for the victory, retaining his Championship.
A good match, slightly botchy and one-paces, but after what must have felt like a millennium of working with immobile giants like Kamala, Bundt, Yokozuna and Mr. Hughes, working with Vader must have been a dream come true for Undertaker.
Match Rating: 6 stars
After a video package highlighting the feud between our two teams, especially that between Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin, we find Dok Hendrix backstage interviewing the American team. He interviews each member in turn, giving each time to speak - the disparity between Ken Shamrock’s soft spoken promo and Animal’s bellowed one is hilarious - but when it comes Austin’s turn to speak, he simply stalks off and leads the way to the ring in silence. Seemingly the time for talking has gone.
Prior to the match, we are treated the Canadian National Anthem and The Fink then points out some of the more distinguished members of the audience, including Stu and Martha Hart, who are given a welcome worthy of royalty.
Match #4 - The Hart Foundation def. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldust, The Legion of Doom & Ken Shamrock
[10-Man Tag Team Match]
As the American team enter the ring, they are given a rousing reception, a lot bigger one that you might expect with them being perceived as the heel team. Even Austin, feuding with their beloved Bret, is apparently that over that only half the crowd can find it within themselves to actually boo him.
Then the Hart Foundation come out.
The noise level as each member emerges is absolutely astronomical, up there with any pop I’ve heard in Wrestling; it completely drowns out the commentary team . Each member from Pillman to Bret is given the same treatment, giving you the impression that we are about to see something incredibly special!
After a brief stare down, Austin and Bret start, with the latter stomping a mud hole in the Rattlesnake. At this point you notice the fact that the camera is shaking from the sheer volume of noise from the crowd - it is absolutely astounding.
It is such a strange dynamic with both team wrestling heel. Hart drags Austin’s head along the top rope and Austin delivers a lusty blow to Hart’s nether regions, but neither is booed. The crowd are just at fever pitch for the entire match. After our brief Austin and Hart opening we see Neidhart and Shamrock, the former laughing when Shamrock misses a kick to the head before being slammed in the side of the head by a second one, however Pillman is in to break up the attempted Ankle Lock soon after. Flyin’ Brian then antagonises Shamrock by pinning him and lifting his arm and down shouting “He’s tapped!” then mounting him and slapping him the face, though I don’t know how wise that is with a man nicknamed The Most Dangerous Man in the World!
All the members of the Foundation get their early moment in sun, with Bulldog getting the chance to hit a Stalling Vertical Suplex and a Running Powerslam on Animal before the first brawl of the match sees Goldust pummelled by all 5 members of the Hart Foundation. A second follows in quick succession as The Legion of Doom hit Owen with the Doomsday Device but Neidhart breaks up the pinfall. The brawl culminates in Austin wrapping Owen’s leg around the post and smashing it with a chair, despite attempts at being held back from Bruce Hart in the crowd, and is eventually chased off by by Bret. Not only does this draw an “Austin sucks!” chant from the crowd, but also takes Owen out of the match as he leaves for the back supported by officials.
Pillman eats a Stunner after having his arse exposed by Austin, but Bret saves the day again by wrapping Austin’s knee around the ring post in retribution for Owen, hitting it with a Fire Extinguisher and locking in a Figure Four Leg Lock around the post. Unlike Owen however, Austin refuses to go to the back with support from the referees, instead limping there under his own steam.
Shamrock twice has Bret in position for a submission but delays too long both times. The first time he is levelled by a Clothesline from Pillman, the second he allows Bret to his feet and assumes the fighting position - very strange thinking here from Shamrock, especially as Bret re-establishes control very quickly afterwards.
Pandemonium breaks out on the outside with Shamrock sent over the Spanish Announce Table, and Hawk sent crashing into the steel steps. Back in the ring and Austin returns to the fray to receive the hot tag from Goldust, and Davey Boy rags in Bret leading to another rage-filled encounter between the pair, the commentary team selling the knee injury even if Stone Cold isn’t! The Rattlesnake does Stun his way out of a Sleeper Hold but can’t capitalise and is saved from the Sharpshooter by Animal.
Austin locks in a Sharpshooter of his own on Bret, but he is saved by a returning Owen, who limps the entire distance of the ramp to save his brother whilst his team mates just stand there - why couldn’t they have saved Bret? There literally hasn’t been a clean pinfall or submission yet!
To the outside, and Austin is set upon by the Hart brothers at ringside before hell breaks loose once again. In the madness that ensues, including Kevin and Bruce Hart entering from the crowd, Owen manages to roll up Austin for the pinfall victory. However, the continued brawling means it’s hardly acknowledged for the longest time!
Eventually, the teams are separated and the American team are led from the arena as the Hart Foundation celebrate. However, Austin quickly returns with a steel chair and it takes the entire Hart Foundation and what feels like the entire Calgary Police Force to subdue him, put him in handcuffs and lead him up the ramp, the whole time Austin flipping off the crowd with his hands cuffed behind his back.
The last parting shot of the PPV is the entire extended Hart Family, which apparently numbers in the hundreds, making their way to celebrate inside the ring. An amazing closing image to what was a thoroughly enjoyable show!
Match Rating: 8 stars
This PPV really is excellent, but not only that, it stands the test of time, which is a real litmus test for shows as a whole.
There's not a bad match in this collection, with the brutality of the Mankind and Hunter match under pinning the vast majority of the 1st half of the show, coupled with the athleticism and pace of the Taka Michinoku and Great Sasuke encounter and the big match feel of the main event. To put a 10-Man Tag Team match in your main event and to still have it go over like it and have it still talked about today as an excellent match 20 years later is not only a testament to the star power in the match, but also a nod to the booking nouse shown to put The Hart Foundation in the main event, have them be faces in Canada and to put them up against the most over man in America in Steve Austin.
You cant talk about this show however, without talking about the crowd. So often it is said that a crowd can make or break a show, and nowhere is that truer than in Calgary, Alberta Canada. They were at level 10 from the very off, and didn't dip below that for the entirety of the show, reaching a fever pitch during that main event, where their noise and stamping of feet physically shook the cameras. The dimension they added to this show should certainly not be overlooked.
Sure, you can argue that the Vader vs. Undertaker match was a little sloppy and a little slow, but it is still a really enjoyable match, and certainly one of Taker's better after the string of opponents he had been given in the recent past. Paul Bearer stood out as a real gem in this match, not only adding comedy and story-line to proceedings, but doing it in a way that wasn't overbearing and where the interference didn't become incessant and frustrating.
A period of great change was arriving at the WWF's door after this PPV. Summerslam the following month not only saw Bret Hart regain the WWF Championship, the Championship he would then later drop in the infamous Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997, but also saw Steve Austin legitimately break his neck courtesy of a botched Sit-out Piledriver from Owen Hart. We also had the iconic assembling of DX, the mass exodus of The Hart Foundation after the Screwjob, minus Owen, and the tragic death of Brian Pillman less than 3 months later. It was certainly a trying time for the WWF, one they would emerge from as a completely different beast...
Matches You Need To Check Out: The Hart Foundation vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldust, The Legion of Doom & Ken Shamrock, The Great Sasuke vs. Taka Michinoku
Matches You Need To Avoid: n/a