The SmarK Retro Rant for Stampede Wrestling Classics Volume 3: High Flyers!
– Your host is Ed Whalen. He introduces us to flyers of the past and present. Brace yourself, he warns.
– World Mid-Heavyweight title: The Great Gama v. Dynamite Kid. Gama was the founder of uber-heel group Karachi Vice in Stampede, and was a pretty solid worker, albeit one with a penchant for stalling like a mofo. Kid overpowers him, but eats knee and gets put in the dreaded VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DEATH. We’re JIP after about 10:00 of stalling by Gama, sez Ed. Kid seems to stop cooperating for a second, turning a kneelift into an awkward takedown that goes into a kneebar, before heading up for a missile dropkick. He pounds away, HARD, and tosses Gama. You have to think Benoit extended his own career by about 10 years because he didn’t bring Dynamite’s foul temper along with everything else he borrowed from his style. They brawl at ringside and Kid brains him with one of the solid plastic chairs that Stampede used. Gama blades. Back in, Kid starts chopping but gets caught with a cheapshot. They do a tombstone reversal spot, won by the Kid, and he ties Gama in the Tree of Woe before Leo Burke runs in for the weak DQ at 5:01. Cheap finish, but Dynamite was just beating the hell out of Gama. **
– Dynamite Kid v. The Cobra (George Takano). Cobra is a Japanese guy playing a Pakistani guy. Hey, it’s no stupider than Yokozuna, a Samoan guy playing a Japanese guy. JIP at 10:00, as Cobra misses a dramatic charge, and Kid starts working the leg. Of course, just to mess with my head, it’s the RIGHT leg. Half-crab, but Cobra escapes. Kid drops him with something dangerously close to a backdrop driver and lets loose with VICIOUS chops. I mean, the kind that rattle your teeth from 15 feet away. Cobra bodypresses him for two, and he tries a victory roll, but Kid blocks for two. They collide for the double KO, but Cobra covers for two. Small package gets two, suplex and elbowdrop get two. Kid fights back with more incredibly stiff shots, but Cobra mulekicks him down and hits a senton. He goes up and misses another one, so Kid then goes up and hits him with a missile dropkick and unloads the chops again. What a bastard. That gets two, and Cobra stomps him down and piledrives him for two. Side salto gets two. Butterfly suplex gets two. They head out, and when Cobra tries a suplex back in, Kid’s manager JR Foley does the old hook the foot routine and Kid gets the pin at 7:10. Didn’t like the finish, but the match was jaw-droppingly stiff at times and 15 years ahead of it’s time for North America. ****
– Davey Boy Smith v. The Cobra. And now he gets the other half of the Bulldogs. Smith was in his in-between period, once he discovered steroids but before he discovered he REALLY REALLY liked steroids. We’re JIP about 20:00 in. Smith reverses a piledriver and overpowers him, but they do an RVD-ish reversal sequence before Smith clotheslines him for two. They slug it out, won by Smith, for two. He hits the chinlock. Cobra bails and comes back in with forearms and a kneedrop. He goes up with a senton from the top (this is like 1980 here, remember), but Smith is in the ropes. Davey comes back with an elbow and no-sells a dropkick, and we get the double-KO. Someone f*cked up there. Cobra gets two, then goes up for a splash with Davey Ã‚Â¾ of the way across the ring, and misses. Not for lack of distance, though. Smith gets the delayed suplex for two. Running powerslam goes for naught because Cobra lands in the ropes. So Smith goes the brute force route, tying up Cobra in the ropes and banging away on him. Sadly Davey makes the same error he always does, making a blind charge at the ropes and then crotching himself when Cobra moves. Cobra goes nuts with a flurry of strikes, but Davey catches a quick crucifix for the pin at 7:30. Cobra did a great job carrying the young Davey Boy. ***
– The Great Gama v. Robbie Stewart. We’re JIP at 10:00 or so. Stewart is a Scottish kid who didn’t amount to a hill of beans in this mixed up world. Maybe he had a bit part in Trainspotting, who knows? Robbie gets a piledriver and a flying elbow for two. Suplex gets two. Gama does some stalling. They slug it out, and Gama bails again. Back in, Stewart dodges him, but gets caught with a cheapshot and a kneelift. Gama works on the neck, but gets dropkicked and bodypressed for two. Gama tosses Stewart (with help from a sympathetic evil referee) and suplexes him for the finish via Cobra sleeper at 6:40. Nothing special. *1/2
– Phil LaFleur v. Rotten Ron Starr. This is the same LaFleur who later teamed with Doug Furnas. Ed explains the story about how he used to be known as Dan Kroffat as a tribute to the original Kroffat. LaFleur gets a spinkick for two. Gutwrench backbreaker gets two. Now THAT’S a cool move. Small package gets two. Monkey flip and he goes up, but misses a splash. Starr gets two. Starr gets a gutwrench for two, but LaFleur comes back with a dropkick. Starr keeps pounding. Ref is bumped and LaFleur gets the devastating abdominal stretch, but Gama and Cobra both run in to set up a later tag match that we don’t see here. It’s a wash at 3:47. Bleh. Ã‚Â½*
– The Great Gama v. Chris Benoit. We’re JIP at 10:00. This is from 1988, and it’s Benoit’s first shot at the Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight title. I always find it funny that people talk about Benoit needing to “pay his duesÃ¢â‚¬Â when he’s been in the business far longer than anyone currently in the WWF outside of Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. Benoit drops an elbow, and gets a running version. Sharpshooter (a year before Sting “debutedÃ¢â‚¬Â the move in the US) but Gama pulls the tights to break. Abdominal stretch, but Benoit breaks and Gama throws himself over the top rope in a clever attempt to draw a DQ. Evil ref Jurgen Hermman buys it, too, but luckily senior referee Wayne Hart is at ringside and immediately overrules the bad decision. Gama gets a suplex for two, and hotshots him. Gama drops some knees and goes up for a flying version, which gets two. Gama hammers him down and gets the cobra sleeper, but Benoit fights out. Back to it, but Chris is still alive. They tumble out and Gama puts the boots to him. When they head in, Benoit gets a quick sleeper, but recently-turned Johnny Smith jumps on the apron and throws powder at him. It hits the wrong guy, of course, and Benoit bodypresses Gama for the pin and the title at 4:53. Benoit & Smith would spend the next year trading the title every couple of months, until the promotion folded in 1989. **
– Keichi Yamada v. The Cuban Assassin. Yup, that’s Jushin Liger, also in his rookie year. We’re JIP at 10:00 as Cuban plays “hide the weaponÃ¢â‚¬Â. Ed helpfully explains the dynamic behind how that particular tactic works, because Calgarians need that sort of thing explained, I guess. Backdrop gets two for the Assassin, and a drop suplex gets two. Cuban Assassin is actually neither Cuban nor an Assassin. Discuss. Legsweep gets two. Yamada gets tossed and assualted on the apron. Back in, elbow gets two. Back out he goes, and and he eats table for good measure. Back in, Cuban puts the boots to him for two. Lariat gets two, and Cuban hits the chinlock. Yamada finally gets some offense with a pair of spinning forearms and a missile dropkick for two. Snap suplex and a headbutt get two. Clothesline sets up a top-rope splash for two. Cuban takes a breaker, so Yamada tries a pescado and goes SPLAT. It’s a countout win for the bad people at 6:17. Mostly a squash, albeit an energetic one. *
– The Great Gama v. Hiro Hase. Gama pounds him down for two. They tumble out and brawl as Ed notes that it’s no-DQ. This would be right after Hase got unmasked as Viet Cong #2 and beaten up by the Karachi Vice. Back in, Gama keeps pounding him with forearms and gets two. Suplex onto the top reinjures Hase’s ribs. Hase comes back and goes up, but gets crotched. Atomic drop and Gama goes up, but now Hase superplexes him. Roundhouse kick and Northern Lights suplex set up a somersault senton. Butterfly suplex and another backdrop suplex that looks close to a backdrop driver, and Gama gets the f*ck out of Dodge. They brawl on the floor, but when they head back in Makhan Singh runs in for a quick Karachi Krunch that sets up the cobra sleeper, but now Pillman runs in and kicks the crap out of Gama. A big brawl erupts, and tag team warfare is imminent for a later date. **1/2
– Brian Pillman v. Garfield Portz. Kind of an interesting story behind Mr. Portz, as he was the storyline son of ex-Stampede star Jeff Portz (although with Bruce Hart booking you never know if it’s legit or another Wacky Wrestling Relationship like Makhan Singh’s endless supply of illegitimate relatives) and aped Davey Boy Smith’s act almost as blatantly as Benoit aped Dynamite Kid. In fact, he did it so well that the AWA grabbed him up soon after as Scottie McGhee, which is certainly a better name than “Garfield PortzÃ¢â‚¬Â. After a minor push he was on the fast track to the WWF (since everyone who had a body from the AWA was going there) but he suffered a mysterious stroke in 1989 that left him in pretty bad shape, and retired from the business completely. I have no clue what he’s doing now. This is early in Pillman’s career, of course. Portz drops a knee for two, and tosses Pillman. Pillman is apparently just back from giving anti-drug speeches. Truth is truly funnier than any cheap laugh I could go for there. Snap suplex and legdrop get two for Portz. He gets this sort-of STO-looking thing for two. Piledriver is reversed, as Pillman comes back and gets a beauty dropkick. Flying forearm gets two. Leg lariat and legdrop get two. Tombstone and Pillman goes up for the flying splash, but it’s Gama as usual for the DQ at 5:58. Quite solid before the dumb finish. **1/2 One thing with Stampede, though Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the dumb finish always set up a rematch the next week.
– Owen Hart v. Johnny Smith. This is, again, just after Johnny’s big heel turn. The pre-match interview is included, as Diana Hart makes an impassioned plea to Johnny to turn back for the sake of his brother/cousin Davey Boy. Remember what I said about Wacky Wrestling Relationships? They never could quite decide how Davey & Johnny were related. Johnny is sick of Davey getting all the respect in the family (man, how deluded is THAT guy?) and he goes off on Diana for stealing Davey away from the Smith family. But once he starts trashing the Harts, Owen comes in to defend his sister’s honor. Makhan Singh then destroys Owen with a chair. And away we go. Owen gets a dropkick and monkey flip, and Johnny begs off. Smith comes back with a tombstone, which is reversed by Owen. Owen goes up, but stops to nail Makhan instead and thus gets beaten up for his efforts. Back in, Smith gets a shoulderbreaker and kneedrop, and he pounds away. Powerslam gets two. Owen reverses a whip and hiptosses him to come back, then drops a knee. Owen’s PISSED, and he suplexes Smith for two. Gutwrench gets two. Backbreaker gets two. Another one sets up a Boston Crab, but Makhan yells insults at Owen until he lets go, at which point Johnny rolls him up and Owen reverses for the pin at 6:05. Owen still rules. **1/2
The Bottom Line: While not the best of the series, this certainly offers a neat look at the early career of Jushin Liger, Hiro Hase, Chris Benoit and others. Plus the good is REALLY good here, especially Dynamite’s stuff.
Next up: Volume 4, The Bizarre & Unusual. Three words: Jason the Terrible! Be there!