We take a random trip down memory lane to the In Your House series and today we are in “The Heart of the New West” Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede was the fourth pay-per-view the WWE had hosted at the time and was well received, drawing an attendance at the Canadian Airlines SaddleDome of 12,151 making 228K at the gate and an additional 60K in merchandise. This would break all revenue records at the time. The fans were pumped up on July 6, 1997 to hear Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon call this short card. The feature match had the feuding self proclaimed, “Canadian Hero” Brett Hart, leading a team of Owen Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Brian Pillman and The British Bulldog, facing off against Stone Cold Steve Austin and his group of outcasts. (Goldust, Ken Shamrock and the Legion of Doom). It was an interesting PPV as the rest of the world viewed The Hart Foundation as a Heel faction but in their home of Canada they were viewed as Baby Faces.
The opening vignette, done in black and white, is well put together and does a good job recapping the events that led to Canadian Stampede. The Narrator starts by telling us “We no longer live in a world of black and white, but gray rather”. He goes on to have some cool lines like “renegades receive a heroes embrace”, as the video shows Stone Cold pounding Steve-weisers. The video shows us Brett’s heel turn, including the iconic shot of Austin bleeding profusely as The Hitman applies the Sharpshooter at WM13, the creation of The Hart Foundation and the events leading to today. The segment ends with the Canadian Stampede logo flying through the dessert and pyro on the entrance stage. The crowd is popping as Vince introduces the event. Check these outfits out.
The first match on the card we see a future WWE Hall Of Famer and a already inducted WWE Hall Of Famer square off. The 2013 inductee, Mick Foley, as his Mankind persona, will meet the founder and producer of NXT and current executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative at WWE, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Hunter would be joined, by his real life girlfriend at the time, “The Ninth Wonder of the World”, Chyna. Who would of thought that these two men would combine for a total of 17 Heavyweight Titles. Foley with four, if you count the TNA Title, and Triple H with 13, which is third all time, behind Flair and Cena. Oh, hindsight.
The 1997 King of the Ring winner, Hunter Hearst Helmsley enters the arena first, accompanied by Chyna, to a negative response. We see a vignette that compares Triple H’s “Blue Blood” upbringing to Mankind’s, which includes a clip from the early Dude Love promos Foley made as a teen. They are worth a look for any fan of the business. The video goes on to show highlights from there King of the ring match, that was full of outside interference from Chyna, in which Mankind took blows from both the Scepter and the Crown and a Pedigree through an announce table. Most likely the Spanish one. Mankind is on his way down next and I can’t forget how deranged and creepy I thought this was a kid. I Mean the dude would yank his own hair out for fun.
Triple H waste no time going for Mankind as soon as he hits the ring but he doesn’t take long to get back in the fight. Mankind hits the double armhook DDT and taunts Hunter with his own curtsy. The bumps are hard early and don’t slow down one step throughout. Mankind sends Helmsley over the top rope and hits his famous elbow drop from the apron. They continue up the ramp where Hunter takes a solid suplex and JR calls Mankind “The Prime Minister of Parts Unknown,” something I noticed and enjoyed. The crowd is really popping at this point and they are really into it early, understandably so. Mankind goes for an early finisher, The Mandible Claw, but this is where we get our first interference from Chyna. This leads to his really first offensive move of the match, Irish whipping Mankind to Chyna for the scoop slam into the steel stairs. Vince is quick to point out that Mankind hit his lower, left leg on the stairs. A statement that would prove to be Triple H’s work for the match. He waste no time going to work on the leg of mankind, a chair shot amongst other ways.
After some wear down, Hunter applies a figure four and uses the ring ropes for leverage behind the refs back, in perfect heel fashion. The ref breaks the hold after he catches Hunter in the act. This leads to Mankind countering a Pedigree with what Jim Ross calls an “inadvertent low blow. The King Continues with “now Chyna wont be happy about that”. Now there is a rib I am surprised Stephanie didn’t edit out. Mankind hits a brutal looking pull piledriver that shows exactly why the move isn’t in use much today. A double clothesline from Mankind sends both men over the top rope for yet another hard looking bump. Mankind soon goes for a chair shot of his own but Chyna interrupts giving way for Helmsley to counter with a chair shot to Mankind’s injured leg. He goes for a second attempt that the referee foils but leaves a moment for Chyna to land a jarring clothesline on Mankind. Back in the ring Mankind counters Triple H’s attempt at a highspot and locks in the Mandible Claw. Only to have it spoiled by Chyna grabbing the leg and hitting a spread eagle low blow into the ring post. The match continues outside and into the crowd and before long, and obviously not ten seconds, we hear the bell sound. As the fight continue through the crowd we hear Howard Finkel announce a double count out. Soon thereafter Mankind slams Hunter in to the home team’s, The Calgary Flames, penalty box. Helmsley comes out of the box spotting some crimson on his face and the brawl continues with referees and Chyna in the mix until they can be separated.
Going into this match and watching Foley perform, I was expecting the hard bumps to fall on Mick. After watching it back i can say that Hunter took the hardest ones here but Foley didn’t disappoint. This match was amazing and watching it back I can see why these two Superstars went on to have the careers they did. It’s a shame things turned out the way they did with Chyna because she was also great here. I wish I could I have started this segment with TWO current Hall of Fame inductees and one future inductee.
There is a quick promo next for the Calgary Stampede that is taking place the same weekend as the Canadian Stampede. “The Greatest Outdoors Show On Earth”, The Calgary Stampede is a ten day, annual rodeo festival that the WWE modeled this event around. The promo shows the annual parade, which featured Miss Calgary 1997 Diana Smith, The wife of The British Bulldog, and The Hart Foundation. Doc Hendrix, in his best FM radio DJ voice, would tell us that Brett Hart spent the whole day signing every last autograph. Bruce Pritchard would confirm this, on his podcast Something to Wrestle, saying that it was in fact true because someone never cut the line off and Brett didn’t want to disappoint someone who had waited. We also get to see a few bits of the Tug ‘O’ War match versus the local Calgary fire department. The only thing about this that I liked is they didn’t put the firefighters over on this charity event and beat them. This promo ends with The Hitman making an appearance at the Calgary Stampede to a great pop, of course. This leads us to Doc Hendricks, AKA Michael P. Hayes, interviewing The Hart Foundation.
Stone Cold would interrupt the interview at the start and be held back by Pat Patterson. Brett Would say “what’s it gonna prove if we beat up Steve Austin back here. It’s gonna prove he got beat up 5 on 1. That’s not what we want, we want 5 on 5.” This was different, as Brett has been a Heel in recent months in the WWE but would try to be made out as a Face in this promo.
The next match would start by Vince saying “some of the greatest athletes you’ll ever feast your eyes on, the light heavyweight division”. The match would feature The Great Sasuke squaring off against Taka Michinoku. This was an interesting match as it was different than what the WWE was accustomed to. This was a way to promote what would be a new title, The Light Heavyweight Championship. They really wanted Taka here but Michinoku felt like he owed one to Sasuke, as he was the owner and founder of Michinoku Pro Wrestling where Taka had gotten his start, so he came along for this match but would be gone soon after. The WWE would send Undertaker, Sunny and Chris Candino to Japan as part of the deal with Sasuke for a short tour. Enough of the setup and back to the mat.
Taka Michinoku would enter the arena first and The Great Sasuke would follow. When Sasuke enters Howard Finkels say “and also from Japan”. I found that entertaining as most of the commentary in this match is, as it is something different than what they normally call. The biggest take away from the commentary is that it seemed as only Jim Ross would know the names of the different moves used in this match.
The debut of these two Superstars is interrupted before it can begin as it is revealed that Hunter Hearst Helmsey, with Chyna still in hand, and Mankind still continue to brawl from the back and through the crowd. Hunter still wearing a “Crimson Mask”. This is another spot, like the lightweight guys, that is not familiar territory for the WWE at the time and is something, in my opinion, they acquired from watching ECW’s gaining steam.
After the interruption ends, the bell sounds and we are off to a slow start, but soon picks up and doesn’t miss a beat from there. After a few early 2 counts, off from some roll maneuvers, we get our first pop from the crowd with a nice roundhouse kick to Taka’s chest. The crowd is starting to really feel the match after some dropkicks, on Sasuke from Taka, that leads to a counter that sends Michinoku to the outside. The first big highspot comes when, off the top turnbuckle, Sasuke hits the face of Taka with, as JR would say, “a Martial Arts kick”. I expected a “what a maneuver” from Vince here to no avail. We get some more quality back and fourth that leads, to what I think is the biggest pop of the match, a springboard pancha from Taka off the top rope to the outside. Then we see our first false finish after Michinoku hits a hurricanrana on Sasuke. The next highspot would be a springboard moonsault from Sasuke off the second rope on the outside. More Pop. His momentum wouldn’t last long after a missle dropkick from the top turnbuckle is landed by Taka. He would follow up with a devastating Michinoku Driver, his finish, but would only get another two count. Michinoku would soon find himself in trouble when his highspot is countered with a dropkick to the midsection. The Great Sasuke would follow up with a “Razor’s Edge” type powerbomb and would get the three with a double armhook suplex/pin combination.
This match would show the level of the product that came from Japan at the time and that they still continue to produce until this day. I was entertained throughout the entire match and the high spots were amazing. The brutal kicks these two men took to the face were either amazing works or extremely dangerous. The crowd loved the match, as did I. This bout between The great Sasuke and Taka Michinoku is must see “Sports Entertainment”.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Mankind are at it again and this time outside in the back lot. Mankind bangs Hunter’s head off a bus before Chyna could grab hold of his arms. Helmsley soon unleashes a few punches on Foley that don’t appear to be pulled. Hunter would throw Mankind into some beer kegs before breaking a shovel over his back. They would find them self on top of some solid wood boxes and Triple H’s Pedigree would be countered. Mankind would ring Hunter’s head off a bus one more time before he is taken away by Gerald Brisco. The segment would end with a nice shot at Helmsley’s bloodied face. The way they continued this fight through the show was well done and would set them up for a steel cage match at SummerSlam 1997.
Vince and the boys would explain to use how Ahmed Johnson was originally supposed to get a Title shot here but succumbed to a knee injury in a tussle between the Nation of Domination and the biker gang themed, D.O.A. Vince was really pushing the gang angles here as they would be ever present in the coming months. I always liked Ahmed as a kid and it seemed like the company did too. Its a shame he was so injury prone.
Next we get a Vader promo where Doc asks, a strawberry blonde, Paul Bearer about the allegations of Undertaker killing his parents. Some strange shit I know. Bearer would go on about Taker murdering his whole family and some other nonsense about a mirror. This promo is the and goofy storyline is the only downside I found to this whole event thus far. We are introduced to the events leading to this match starting at The Royal Rumble. This is where we see Bearer betray The Undertaker with an urn shot to Taker’s head. Vader would land the Vader Bomb next and get the three count.
The challenger, Vader, makes his way down the aisle, accompanied by Paul Bearer first. This is the first real heat we are hearing here as Vader enter the arena and ring. The crowd goes nuts though when the bell sounds and The Heavyweight Champion, The Undertaker’s theme begins to play. This is a classic Taker entrance with the smoke, slow walk to the ring and purple lights. I found myself enjoying the whole mystique it presented, just as much as I did as an eleven year old watching this. When The Phenom hits the stairs and raises his arms “making” the lights come on, Vader has a truly spooked look on his face. Bearer is shown cowering in fear as Taker hands the title over and the bell sounds.
The Undertaker is first out of the gate with his lariat punches, a big clothesline and a leg drop, of the Hulk Hogan variety, for our first two count. The Deadman hit a big splash soon after that draws a positive reaction from the fans. Take goes to the top rope for his famous tight rope chop that if I don’t see in a Taker match, I am definitely disappointed. Another two count. Vader starts to gain some momentum after a splash, that Undertaker does his trademark sit-up from, but Vader is all over him with punches that are certainly making hard contact. It is been said by many Superstars that Vader didn’t pull his punches and when he hit you, he hit you. We see a sidehead lock applied by Vader next that is the only dull spot in the match and was probably used to regain their breath. The crowd rally behind Taker and he wiggles free and misses a big boot, that Vader still sells. I think he realized he had missed because he lands the next one and it sends Vader crashing over the ropes to the outside.
Vader reverses Undertaker’s Irish whip to the stair and Paul Bearer is done being scared and is now talking trash. We get some good back and forth but the crowd is electric and committed to the fight anfter Taker comes off the top rope for a clothesline. Another two count. For a 400 plus pound man, Vader takes another hard hump off an uppercut that sends him over the top rope and crashing to the outside. We get another trademark Undertaker move next, His backflip ring exit. He goes after Paul Bearer with his patented slow walk but Vader uses it to his advantage to blindside Undertaker. As the ref is telling Vader to re-enter the ring, Bearer goes to work on Taker with his shoe. Jim Ross would say “if the heel don’t get him the smell would”. Good ole JR. Vader and Bearer are getting great heat at this point when Vader hits a Vader Bomb for his first false finish. As Undertaker starts his rally back the camera is visibly shaking and the noise is at an insane level. Vader goes to work with some more of those big punches but Taker counters and is unloading some of his own punches. Watching these punches one thing is for sure, Undertaker didn’t sell a punch like Vader did, most likely because there was nothing to sell with Vaders, as they were real. The Phenom goes for a chokeslam but Vader counters with a low blow kick. Vader comes off the rope but is scooped into the Tombstone position. The spot next is a botched reversal from Vader on the Tombstone that ended up looking better than what the original called spot would have. The place is again shaking as Vader is on the ropes for another Vader Bomb but Taker lands a low blow of his own and that sets up for a chokeslam off the second rope. 1,2… kick out. Another chokeslam and another false finish that has the crowd on their toes. We see the “Throat Slit'” from The Undertaker with his thumb next and we get a successful Tombstone Piledriver on Vader this time and the classic Undertaker cover for the pinfall. This was another great match on the card and it didn’t disappoint at all. Vince tells as Taker is celebrating that we may see Undertaker’s brother at SummerSlam. I usually enjoy the bad matches, as its always fun to point out flaws, but this match, along with the PPV so far, have had few if any. Maybe the main event will have some…
There is a quick clip of more praise, from the Canadian fans, for the Hart Foundation along with more talk of a mile long line to meet Brett. Next is a quick promo vignette show the gang-style warfare, that has been present at the time. It starts, “The events surrounding the squared circle of late have made chaos and mayhem” an continues to show the feud between Crush’s DOA, Farooq’s Nation and the Savio Vega led, Los Baricuas. It would end with “nothing pales in comparison to the feud between Steve Austin and The Hart Foundation”. They hype the Canadian versus USA angle here, rightfully so as it created great crowd heat, and show the event leading to this match. Another great promo.
Doc has a quick spot with Austin’s stable were every gets some microphone work in. But when the mic comes to Stone Cold he just walks out and Finke introduces us to The Farmer’s Daughters, who will be singing the Canadian National Anthem. The Farmer’s Daughters best charting song was titled “Cornfields and Cadillacs”. By the title alone I’m sure it’s terrible. This was well done as it created heat with the people tuning in in the States. We are introduced to The Premier of the Providence of Alberta, Ralph Kline. No idea here. Next are The Hart Family matriarch and patriarch, Stu and Helen. The place pops for the Founder of Stampede Wresting, a promotion that was a Canadian staple until Vince bought it in 1985.
Goldust makes his way to the ring first and receives mostly boos from the crowd. Ken Shamrock, who’s next, receives some decent pop but the Legion of Doom get an even better response from the fans. But when we hear that glass break and Stone Cold Steve Austin enters the arena for the first time, the place is on fire with heat from the crowd. As he hits each turnbuckle the temperature surely rises. As Brian Pillman enters, waving his arms to pump the crowd, the buzz starts to gain. As Vince would say, “The Big Nasty Rhyno”, Jim Neidhart enters next and as each member enters the arena the rumble grows and grows in anticipation of their hero, “The Hitman”. European Champion The British Bulldog, With Miss Calgary in hand, follows and Owen Hart is next, with his Slammys in hand and his IC belt around his waist. When the high pitch squeal of Brett Hart’s music comes on the place is electric.. This kind of response you will be hard pressed to find and is something you should watch as a wrestling fan. They make their way to the ring led by Brett, as they waited on the ramp for each other. Brett would put his glasses on his mother, a nice gesture from the heel.
Austin and Brett are on the ring first and are having a nice stare off. Here we hear JR mention that there are camera crews filming ringside for an upcoming Hitman documentary. This would go on to become Wrestling With Shadows. I would recommend this to any fan of from wrestling at the time as it offers some inside going-ons of the time. Brett would have to pick his spots in this fight as he was recovering from knee injury and his first one would set the pace for the fight. Austin lands some blows and is soon stomping a mudhole in the Hitman. If you listen carefully, you can hear Austin say “Fuck Off” to the Canadian fans. The crowd is giving the heat right back.
Everyone gets a chance to make an in ring appearance next, as the tags are spread around to give all the guys some spotlight. They go back and forth here shifting momentum and the crowd is reacting to every move, be it a suplex or a knee to the midsection. When Pillman comes into the ring we hear Jim Ross mention his run with the CFL team, The Calgary Stampeders. Every move Pillman does in the match is some kind of cheat tactic. Be it an eye rake, spiiting in someones face or breaking up a pinfall. He does an amazing job selling the fact that he is “The Loose Cannon”. We get some more hot tags and momentum shifts. The crowd delivers their first dose of “Austin Sucks” chants that rumble the place. The first gang fight breaks out after the Hitman hangs Goldust in his corner and the boys go to work with their boots. When the fight breaks out the crowd is on their toes and the place is electric. The crowd is in this match 100 percent and erupts once again when Owen nails the missle dropkick from the top and does a kip up. His hype is cut short when the Legion of Doom about take his head off with the vicious Doomsday Device. Anvil stops the count ans our second gang fight breaks out. Austin is going to work on the knee of Owen, as he is pelted by ten dollar beers from the fans, when Bruce Hart grabs him from the crowd and exchange blows. The crowd heat is at an all time high and the “Austin Sucks” chants are in full effect.
Owen is led to the back as the match continues. Austin hits his first Stunner on Pillman soon after but Brett grabs his foot and leads him to the ring post were he goes to work with a fire extinguisher before applying a hanging figure four. The referees soon force Austin to the back and the back and fourth continues with some pop and nothing really worth noting, except a Powerslam from Davey Boy of the top turnbuckle that looked jarring. He gets the 2 as we see Austin limp back. We get a double hot tag next from Brett and Austin. The pair go back and fourth before Hart has the Sharpshooter applied and Animal breaks it up. This has the place shaking again. I cannot emphasis enough how much the crowd was into it. Must see stuff here. Austin applies a Sharpshooter of his own when we see Owen Hart limp back out to save his brother. Owen makes the hot tag but Austin sends him tumbling outside with a clothesline over the top rope and landing in front of his family. The top comes off the place when Stone Cold grabs Stu Hart but Bruce interrupts and is soon over the barrier brawling with Steve. Another battle breaks out as Austin gets back in the ring. But Owen makes the roll up, using Austin tights and keeping them Heels by doing so, ang gets the three. At this point the place just explodes. There is another tussel with all member in the ring, Hart family included, before the police break it up. Austin goes ballistic before he is cuffed and escorted out. The show goes off air with a nice moment of all the Hart family in the ring. This would be a highlight of the family as they are all here at this time.
This way an amazing PPV and was record breaking in all revenue. Dave Meltzer would rate the event high with the matches receiving 3,4,3.25 and 4.25 star ratings. I actually agree with Dave here, but think the last match could of gotten a 5 based of crowd heat alone. I would highly suggest watching this event.
Next week we will be taking a look at Badd Blood: In Your House that took place on October 5, 1997 with Shawn Michaels taking on the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match!