Sunday, July 1, 2018

WWF In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede

Happy Canada Day, everybody. Let's celebrate by watching what may very well be Bret Hart's last crowning moment in the WWF. The Canadian Stampede In Your House PPV eminating from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Context is required for those who wasn't watching WWF television in 97 or just aren't familiar with wrestling in general, but this show took place during a time when Bret Hart, once beloved fighting champion, turned on American wrestling fans for cheering anti-hero bad guy types like Steve Austin and booing honest good guys like him. As a result, you had this weird dynamic where Bret Hart (and his brother Owen, his brother-in-laws Davey Boy and Jim, and family friend Brian Pillman) were booed in the United States, but cheered everywhere else.

And then there was Canada, who not only bought into what Bret was selling, but actually cheered him on as an actual honest-to-goodness Canadian hero. And the Hart family was treated as the closest thing to wrestling royalty as you can get within this Canadian territory. So when you had this show in Calgary, the home of the Harts, just guess how people reacted to these guys.

Anyway, on with the show... the final two-hour In Your House PPV event, as the next IYH event would be three-hours; the standard running time for wrestling PPVs until the WWE Network came along and now PPVs are marathon shows... but I digress.

Your commentary team comprises Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler, all decked out in cowboy attire complete with hats. It's about as goofy as you think it is.

Your opening contest is a match between Mankind and He of the Three Hs (accompanied by that Chyna person) that ended in a brawl and a subsequent double-countout finish. I'm assuming this is perhaps their earliest encounter and if that's the case, then it's pretty interesting on the historical basis alone. That's probably not the right word for it... but I watch this match and it's a good match. And I'm watching this match thinking, "I don't know if I've ever seen a bad match between these two."

Whether it was the steel cage and NYC street fight they would have later that year or the street fight and Hell In A Cell matches in 2000, whenever HHH and Foley were paired up in a match, it was really, really good stuff. This was vanilla good; it'd get better as we move along, but it's nice to see the origins of what would've been as lasting a rivalry as Rock-Austin.

The Great Sasuke defeated Taka Michinoku. This was WWF's early attempt to jumpstart their Light Heavyweight division to counter WCW's highly praised and excellent Cruiserweight division. And this was certainly a good way to kick it off, even if they fumbled it later on. But this match ran about ten minutes, it was a nice little match with two quality stars, the pacing was nice with a slow start that eventually picked up, and I had a lot of fun with this one.

WWF World Champion Undertaker defeated Vader with two chokeslams and a Tombstone Piledriver to retain the title. A good match between two big guys beating the ever loving piss out of each other, although I kinda wish Vader got a little more offense because it seems like Undertaker was a bit too much for him. Still, it took two chokeslams and a Tombstone to put the big man down, so even in defeat, Vader looked strong and so did Taker. Good stuff.

In the main event, Hart Foundation comprising Bret Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, and Brian Pillman defeated the anti-Hart Foundation comprising Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, the Legion of Doom, and Goldust in a one-hundred man tag-team match that feature a rabid Calgary crowd cheering on the Harts while shitting on the non-Harts... well, almost. Austin gets a bit of a pop because he's just that good, but still gets enough heat and stuff. There's a lot going on and a lot to take in, but at one point, both Austin and Owen are taken out of the match briefly before they eventually come back, then Austin gets into a scuffle with the Harts at ringside, and then everything falls into chaos before Owen rolls up Austin for the win.

I watch this match in amazement because it's actually quite compelling in a way. Like I said, there's a lot of stuff going and yet it never gets too overwhelming. It's a simple story of the righteous and honorable family taking on and eventually defeating the rebellious housers who spit on the very values they stand for. And even when he's down, he doesn't go down without a fight, managing a few licks in before being taken away in cuffs, flipping the birds with hands behind his back.

And then all the kids and the patriach of the family come in. It's a picture perfect family photo worthy of such majesty. In a way, this would be the peak of the Hart family; the highest their stock would ever go before everything went to shit.

Jim Neidhart went nowhere and faded away before giving birth to Nattie. Brian Pillman would eventually be found dead a couple months later. British Bulldog would lose the European title to Shawn Michaels and fall into a downward spiral before eventually passing away. Owen Hart would lose the Intercontinental championship to Steve Austin in a match that saw Owen give Austin a piledriver that almost ended his career and leave Owen stuck in the midcard before a stunt gone wrong took his life. And Bret Hart... well, you know.

Canadian Stampede is one of the truly great WWF pay-per-views and I don't say this because it's home territory or anything. This was a two-hour PPV event with only four matches on the card and all of those four matches were varying degrees of awesome with vastly different styles. Whether it was a big man match, a Japanese-style match, a feud-building opening contest with lots of ref bumps, or the big Hart family moment, this covered all the bases it aimed to cover, it kicked ass all over the place, and it was a very easy, very quick watch.

Good show.

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