STAMPEDE WRESTLING STU HART 50th ANNIVERSARY SHOW
(taped 12/15/95 in Calgary, Alberta)
by Robert O'Connor
Since we're smack dab in the middle of the world-famous Calgary Stampede as I write this, I decided to get in the spirit by reviewing some classic Stampede action. Yahoo, pardna! Actually, I'm from Toronto and this cowboy crap makes me want to gag every year...but I'M ON THIS TAPE and I'm nothing more than an egomaniacal lunatic with a keyboard, so here we go. This is a one-hour, edited local TV version of the show taped in the Corral, a small building right beside the Saddledome, in late 1995. Announcing duties were handled (or mishandled, one could say) by the long-time voice of Stampede Wrestling, Canada's answer to Gordon Solie (or maybe Harry Caray), the legendary Ed Whalen. Whalen was, of course, accompanied by his equally legendary toupee. He actually endorsed the company that made it in a Calgary phone book ad. Did they really want to display Ed Whalen's rug as the best example of their work? Before retiring earlier this year, Whalen was also a sportscaster and Calgary Flames hockey play-by-play man for Channel 7, the same station that aired this special. The first of several short interview clips aired, featuring Davey Boy Smith and Razor Ramon. Razor managed to finish an entire promo with one eyebrow raised. Beat that, Rocky. They showed Whalen coming out to a big pop. Alberta Premier (equivalent to a Governor, for you yankees) Ralph Klein said a few words about the Hart family over the house mic. Needless to say, the part where he was almost booed out of the building was edited out.
1. Chris Benoit vs. Louie Spicolli - They showed a hilarious picture of Chris from 1987. He wore his hideous, old blue tights with the white star on the back for this match. Pretty disappointing match. After some early matwork and basic exchanges, with a few stiff chops mixed in, Benoit used a baseball slide through Spicolli's legs and hit a nice German suplex for a near fall. Whalen just called it a "nice move." Moments later, he caught Spicolli climbing the ropes and nailed a top rope superplex for the victory. Awkward finish. The mat looked pretty hard, though, so the superplex must have hurt like hell. I seem to recall this being much better in person, so perhaps it was just edited poorly. The official program had listed Chris Benoit vs. 1-2-3 Kid (Sean Waltman) in a WCW vs. WWF match. Oh, what could have been...
They aired an interview with Tor Kamata, who did a Japanese heel gimmick in the original Stampede promotion.
2. Keith Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid - They showed a black and white picture of Keith, my one-time junior high substitute science teacher, circa 1979. His resemblance to the lead singer of Three Dog Night in the photo was downright scary. Keith was over big as a face, needless to say. The crowd popped big for his '70s style offense in the early going. Keith took a pretty nasty bump through the ropes to the floor and Waltman nailed him with a pescado, causing both men to collide with the announce table with a loud thump. Waltman hit his usual kicks and used a top rope frog splash for a near fall. He attempted another one, but Keith got his knees up and Waltman sold a leg injury. Keith worked his knee over and went for the figure-four, but Waltman surprised him with a small package for the win. Was Bret watching as his own brother jobbed cleanly to a member of the Kliq in Calgary? Hmm...
An on-screen graphic listed members of the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame, from 1948 to 1990. Members included Lou Thesz, Pat O'Connor, Edouard Carpentier, Gorgeous George (the original, that is), Argentina Rocca, Killer Kowalski, Johnny Valentine, and Stan Stasiak. Since I live in Calgary and have yet to locate the Stampede Hall of Fame, I'm assuming that it's in Stu's basement somewhere. That was followed by an interview with Angelo Mosca. After commercials, an interview with Owen Hart preceded his match.
3. Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon (WWF Intercontinental Title Match) - Razor held the I-C strap back then. Anywhere else at the time, Razor would have been the mega-face and Owen would have been the heel. Razor hit his trademarked fall-away slam and then clotheslined Owen over the top rope. Owen took a nice bump. Owen rebounded with a nice top rope missile dropkick. He always had the best one in the business, in my opinion. The match took a strange turn when Owen whipped Razor into the corner and the top turnbuckle snapped, causing the rope to fall off. Owen ad-libbed nicely by choking Razor with the rope. After some brawling on the floor, Ramon hit a backdrop suplex off the second rope and went for the Razor's Edge, when the 1-2-3 Kid ran in and dove at Razor from the top rope. Ramon side-stepped him and then gave him a stiff clothesline over the top rope to the floor. The match continued, with Owen scoring some very close near falls, but Ramon scored the victory with yet another small package. Good match. Both had their working shoes on.
More Hall of Fame members were listed, including Billy Robinson, Terry and Dory Funk, Andre the Giant, Harley Race, Fabulous Moolah, the British Bulldogs, Keith, Bruce, Bret, and Owen Hart, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Jim Neidhart, Hiroshi Hase, and Larry Cameron.
4. Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr. (with Makhan Singh a.ka. Bastion Booger) vs. Bad Company (Brian Pillman and Bruce Hart) - The Funks came down to strong heel heat. After some routine in-ring action, Terry took it to the floor. He stood a table up and rammed Pillman into it. Funk then suplexed Pillman through the table, drawing a "boy, oh, boy!" from Whalen. I'd still take that over one more "Oh my God!" from Styles. As the action returned to the ring and the Funks worked Pillman over, the camera cut to the front row (they did that a lot...why could that be?) and showed a handsome youngster screaming Terry's name. Definitely the highlight of the show. Anyway, the faces rallied and the action spilled back outside the ring for a while. Terry bladed at some point. The Funks were eventually DQ'd when Bruce hit Dory with a flying lariat and Terry made the save with a weak chairshot to his back. They continued to brawl at ringside for a few minutes. I'll never forget a bloody Terry and Pillman chopping the hell out of each other while crushing our knees by leaning on the guard rail. Ah, the memories.
They aired extended clips of the in-ring ceremony where Stu was presented a bust of his own head (which would actually freak me out more than anything) and said a few words (I assume) over the house mic. At least they didn't give him that Bret head that Hakushi used to carry around.
5. Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith - The Harts are 0-2 with one DQ win at this point. So...who do you think will go over here? Both men were driven to the ring on motorcycles by scary, rancid bikers. They showed hilarious stills of Bret and Davey Boy from 1982. Davey was already pretty roided up by then. This was about what you'd expect. Bret took two hard bumps into the corner and the turnbuckles survived. After some early matwork, they started hitting their usual spots. Bret hit a second-rope superplex and a nice piledriver. Davey Boy powered out of a Sharpshooter attempt, but Bret pinned him by reversing a roll-up. Once again, this seemed A LOT better in person. The edited TV version comes across as flat and uninspired.
Matches that failed (thankfully) to make the TV version were the sixty-something Dan Kroffat (the original, not Phil Lafon, who took the same name as a tribute) wrestling Jesse Helton to a no-contest, Rhonda Singh (a.k.a. Bertha Faye) defeating K.C. Houston, Makhan Singh defeating the Gothic Knight (a HUGE, roided-out local stiff who looks like Brian Pillman doubled), and the incredibly decrepit Cuban Assasin (not Fidel Sierra) and Jerry Morrow defeating King Lau and "Tigre Canadiense" Mike Anthony (of W*ING and EMLL fame.) Abdullah the Butcher and Shane (then Dean) Douglas were no-shows. Japan's Wally Yamaguchi was there taking photos and autographed my program. Yes, I admit that I marked out for the future manager of Kaientai.
This is available from...me? = ) I've seen hand-held versions listed by a couple dealers, but never the TV version. It's nothing special in the workrate department, but it does have sentimental and historic value, as it was one of the very first times that WWF and WCW wrestlers worked on the same show. It is pretty depressing to see Owen, Pillman, and Spicolli on the same show, though. So...in the mean time and in between time, that's it for another edition of Stampede Wrestling!...or something. We love you, Ed Whalen.