In Your House: Canadian Stampede
July 6, 1997
Saddledome, Calgary, AB
As the summer of 1997 rolls along, we head north of the border for the last two hour In Your House PPV, the renowned Canadian Stampede. This show is regarded by many as one of the greatest shows of all time, despite only having four matches on the card. I think its safe to say its definitely the best PPV of the year at the very least. Our main event tonight will see the traditionally heel Hart Foundation taking on a five man team led by their rival Stone Cold Steve Austin. I say traditionally heel since we are in Canada tonight. Since turning heel, Bret has made a point to only rip on his American fans, and as such the Hart Foundation is still treated like royalty in the land of the Maple Leaf, whilst Austin is a despised punk. Also tonight, the Undertaker continues to be a fighting champion as he puts his WWF title on the line against Vader. Oh also, after returning for our last show, Shawn Michaels is back off camera, having been sent home after getting into a locker room fight with Bret Hart. We've got a hot crowd on hand tonight so let's get to it. And as always don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @Mpmcc91
After a solid opening package to kick off the show, focused on the Hart Foundation vs Stone Cod rivalry, we head into the arena. Our announce team for the evening is Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler, and they get us underway.
Mankind vs Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Chyna Our opening contest is a rematch from last month's King of the Ring finals. Of course, Hunter was victorious on that night, partly due to the assistance of Chyna, so Mankind is out to redeem himself here. Mankind has fully turned face at this point, and has also been campaigning to be Steve Austin's due tag partner to hold the tag titles, a search the Rattlesnake had been forced to embark on due to Michaels being taken off TV as I previously mentioned. So far Mankind has been unsuccessful in those attempts however. Anyway this match is pretty decent, much better than the aforementioned King of the Ring clash between these two men. There's plenty of Chyna interference as usual, but it fits in with Helmsley's character and doesn't detract from the flow of the match. The two men put on a stiff war which goes all around ringside. Hunter is in control for most of the early going, but Mankind has his spots of momentum as well. In the end, both men just decide to hell with it and keep brawling on the outside until they are both counted out at 13:14. Obviously that means this feud is continuing, which is no issue here, as this was the rivalry both men needed - for Hunter to legitimise him some more coming off the King of the Ring victory, and to get over Mankind's face turn. Good stuff here despite the non-finish. Post-match they brawl through the crowd into the back.
After that match we get a video package looking at the events of Stampede Weekend, which is a huge deal up in Canada. Bret Hart was a special guest in the festivities and is treated like the legend he is. We come back to the show with the Hart Foundation in the back. Steve Austin comes in looking for a fight, but Bret holds his boys back, wanting it to be five on five tonight.
Great Sasuke vs Taka Michinoku Our next match marks the first appearance of the Light Heavyweight division on PPV. Of course, the division does not actually exist yet, but the plans are the motion as the Great Sasuke is being groomed to be the face of the division once actually implemented. He's brought Taka along with him from Japan to put on what is pretty much an exhibition match to establish Sasuke, although it doesn't really end up like that in the long run. Taka was supposed to be an afterthought here, just a guy to be stuck in there with Sasuke, but he ends up stealing the spotlight with his impressive speed and agility. The match is very good and very different to what the promotion was offering at this point in time. There are tons of near falls and fast paced offence, with manoeuvres never seen before in a WWF ring being busted out. In the end its Sasuke who picks up the win, putting Taka away with a tiger suplex at 10:00. As it would turn out, Sasuke would win a rematch against Taka the following night on Raw is War, but then be gone from the company. Taka on the other hand would be signed to a long term contract and go on to become the man around whom the future division would be built around. Funny how things turn out. Very good stuff, making this show two for two so far.
We now cut to an area outside the arena where Mankind and Hunter are still brawling like crazy. These guys despise each other and have a very hot rivalry at the moment. From there we get a recap of the Taker rivalry, which initially involved Ahmed Johnson before he was injured and Vader was thrown in as a substitute. We then cut to Vader, who is joined by the now blonde Paul Bearer. Bearer speaks about Taker killing his own parents, which is part of the secret he was using to blackmail the Phenom with on our last show. Bearer also mentions Taker's brother, a mysterious individual named Kane.
Undertaker (c) vs Vader w/Paul Bearer Alright, we last left things off with the Undertaker defeating Faarooq at the King of the Ring to retain his title, whilst being under the influence of the blackmailing Paul Bearer. As that show was going off the air, Taker was confronted by Ahmed Johnson, who ended up hitting a Pearl River Plunge on the Phenom. This led to a tag match on Raw is War pitting Taker & Ahmed against D'Lo Brown and the returning Kama Mustafa of the newly reformed Nation of Domination (that same night Faarrooq fired Savio and Crush along with the rest of his flunkies for distracting him in his title match). During that match, Ahmed cemented his heel turn by assaulting Taker once more and officially joining the Nation of Domination in the process. Yes the same faction that has been trying to take him out for the past year. So Ahmed was supposed to challenge Taker here, but since this is Ahmed Johnson we are talking about, he was injured prior to this show. Also of note is the fact that Taker has grown sick of Bearer's blackmailing, so he fired him as his manager since our last show. Taker would attack Bearer when he spilled the beans about the Phenom causing a fire in his childhood that killed his parents and brother. Taker would end up saying that it had been his brother who started the fire, but he had been unable to put it out. Taker would once again get his hands on Bearer heading into this show, but during said beating, Bearer proclaimed that Taker's brother Kane was indeed alive. Anyway, Vader was just thrown into this since he was still being managed by Bearer at the time, but his time as a heel is coming to an end soon enough. At least this is bound to be a better match than Taker/Ahmed was ever going to be. The match is very good (as is the trend tonight), with the two putting on a solid brawl that is better than their last encounter back at the Rumble. At no point do you really expect Vader is going to win this, but he was thrown in at the last minute so you can't really fault him or the bookers there. Bearer has a prominent present at ringside, tormenting his 'murdering' former superstar throughout the match whilst Vader and Taker throw out some strong power offence on one another. Vader shows tonight that he can still go despite becoming something of an afterthought of late, whilst Taker in this time period is always good with the right opponent. In the end, Taker hits the tombstone piledriver on the Mastadon to pick up the win at 12:39 to retain his title. The issues between Taker and Paul Bearer are far from over however. Good stuff here.
We now get a video package highlighting the activities of the Hart Foundation over the weekend here in Canada. These guys are royalty tonight. From there we get a recap of the events leading to this match before we hear from Austin's team who are all set to do battle. Its main event time and this crowd is pumped.
Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust & Legion of Doom vs Bret Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart & Brian Pillman This match was set up at our last PPV when the Hart Foundation laid down an open challenge to any five men to take them on in Calgary at this show. Of course the first man to jump to the challenge was Stone Cold Steve Austin who's issues with the Hart Foundation have been well documented to this point. After all it was Austin who in storyline had taken Bret out a few months back to begin with. True to his Don't Trust Anybody demeanour, Austin wanted to go at this one alone, but was forced by WWF President Gorilla Monsoon to find partners for this match. At one point it looked as though Michaels and Sid were going to join Austin's team, but those plans were changed with neither man being on TV at the moment, with Sid in fact gone for good now. Eventually the men listed above would join in the war, but Austin made it clear that they would only be together for the match and then he would be going his separate way again. I should also mention that Owen is still I.C champ, Bulldog is still European champ, and Austin is one half of the tag champs without a partner here. So to the show at hand, we kick things off with the Canadian National Anthem being performed before Austin's team make their way out to the ring individually, Austin in particular getting some huge heat - and loving it! The Hart Foundation members enter next, also individually, and the pop is deafening for all of them. The moment Bret comes out last it is as though the building is about to explode. One of the greatest ovations of all time. And from there we get under way, an incredible ten man tag to cap off what has been a great night thus far. This is really the culmination of the Austin/Bret feud, as from this point on Austin will move into a feud with Owen, whilst Bret sets his sights on the WWF title once more. We see that during this match as Owen and Austin have a few sequences where they are going at it to set up a future rivalry, with Austin destroying Owen's leg at one point. Austin and Bret is definitely the focus here though, but having said that all the people involved in this match get their chance to shine. Its particularly cool to finally get the chance to see Pillman in the ring after having been out of action ever since being brought into the company last year. The match is just a wild war throughout, with wild brawl spots in there. In the end Owen scores the roll-up on Austin amidst the chaos to pick up the win for the Foundation to a huge pop at 24:31. The ovation is deafening once more as the Hart family members at ringside get into the ring and celebrate with the Foundation after another post-match brawl gets back under control. Stu and Helen get in there as well and the crowd are loving it. A nice moment for the entire Hart Family in Calgary as we go off the air, following a truly great multi-man main event.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a very good show. Sure there were only four matches, but when you have a card like this with no match below three stars, there's simply no way not to praise it. The main event is a fitting end to the Austin/Bret rivalry that has carried the promotion for the entire year, and even heading back into late 1996. Undertaker picks up another solid victory to continue his title reign, whilst Vader also shows he still has what it takes to go. We got something very different in the Light Heavyweight match and the opener was also a solid match to further a burgeoning midcard rivalry. This PPV shows that even with a depleted roster, Vince had what it took to fight back against WCW. A very good show, and probably the last truly great moment of Bret Hart's WWF tenure.
Three Stars of the Night: 1. Bret Hart - one of the last truly 'great' nights in this run for the Hitman
2. Steve Austin - worked great as a heel tonight in front of the pro-Hart crowd
3. Owen Hart - tough picking just one guy from the main event, but Owen gets the props, did a good job setting up his future feud with Austin during the match. Cool to see him get the big pin as well
FINAL GRADE: 9 out of 10
ALL TIME PERFORMANCE TALLY: What I do here is add the three stars of the night with each review so as to keep track of who we can say overall is the greatest PPV performer to any given time. First place scores 3 points, second 2 and third 1. The list is put together from all the shows I have reviewed thus far.