The SmarK Retro Rant for Stampede Classics Vol. 5: Epic Battles!
– Okay, we’re at the end of the run for the Stampede Wrestling tapes, and they picked the absolute best for last here, putting all the best matches and angles on this one tape, and the result is astonishingly great.
– Dynamite Kid v. Davey Boy Smith. Case in point, it’s the battle of the Bulldogs right off the bat. This was 1980ish, when both weighed 200 pounds combined and Smith was greener than Kermit the Frog, but at least he cared about his craft then. Kid tosses Smith, allowing Foley to get his shots in. Back in, Kid clobbers Smith and drops a knee. He goes up, but gets slammed off and cradled for two. Both down, and Smith rolls over for two. Kid gets a backbreaker, but apparently the knee was injured earlier. Davey gets a tilt-a-whirl slam for two. Sunset flip gets two. Kid pounds him down again and snaps off an elbowdrop for two. Clothesline and kneedrop, but Davey gets a crucifix out of nowhere for the pin at 4:22. But wait! It’s evil ref Sandy Scott, so Dynamite simply clocks him and blames it on Davey Boy, prompting a reversal of decision after the fact and thus saving Kid’s title. Goofy finish there. **1/2
– Bruce Hart v. Dynamite Kid. We’re in the second fall of a 2/3 falls affair and Kid is up 1-0. Same sequence from the last match starts, as he tosses Hart and Foley gets shots in. Hart grabs Kid from the apron and rams him into the turnbuckle, allowing Kid to take his usual dramatic bump, and then takes an even MORE dramatic bump off a cross-corner whip before Bruce ties up the match with the running clothesline. Third fall: Bruce drops the leg and pounds away. Another legdrop and a piledriver get two. Kid fires back, but Hart goes low and drops an elbow for two. Hart delivers a kneedrop so stiff that he breaks the Kid’s nose, and they start potatoing each other like 9th graders as a result. Pretty funny to see Kid lose his temper like that and Bruce casually hit him right back. Kid drops a headbutt and goes up, but misses. Bruce goes up, and also misses. Okay then. Kid starts dishing out the vicious crossface forearms, but Bruce comes back with a backdrop suplex. They collide and Kid recovers with a full-nelson, but Hart pushes him over and gets the pin at 7:10. But wait! Once again, Sandy Scott rears his ugly Scottish head, as he insists to the in-ring NWA referee that Kid’s foot was on the ropes. While Bruce argues the legitimacy of that, Dynamite figures “what the hellÃ¢â‚¬Â and suplexes Hart, and gets another pin at 8:17, which makes HIM the winner. *** Hart has finally had enough and gives Sandy an ass-whooping, which the crowd of course digs.
– Bret Hart v. Bad News Allen. This is not the semi-famous ladder match. Allen attacks before the bell and pounds away with a pair of hiptosses. Bret gets his own and backdrops Allen out of the corner, which sends him scurrying. Bret pulls him in and pounds him with forearms and an elbowdrop. Bret uses the old bootlace rub, but Allen discombobulates him before missing a blind charge. My new goal in life is to honor the Almighty Luke by working some form of “discombobulateÃ¢â‚¬Â into every rant. Allen gets tied up in the ropes, but comes back with a headbutt. We’re clipped to him missed a kneedrop as Bret comes back with a bodypress for two. They slug it out, and Bret dropkicks him to the floor and follows him out for the no-contest at 5:24. They really should have put the ladder match here. *
– Bret Hart v. Davey Boy Smith. Still in Stampede, this time from 1987 while both guys were on loan from the WWF. Bret is playing heel because it was a different climate in wrestling then Ã¢â‚¬â€œ fans cheered and booed who they were conditioned to, and Canadian fans cheering heels because they were Canadian was a relatively rare thing. Besides which, the British Bulldogs were crazy over as babyfaces up here back then and Stu would have been insane to waste that kind of money-drawing opportunity. Bret hits a chinlock, but Davey powers out, and runs into a knee. D’oh. Bret hammers him in the corner, but gets dropkicked. Bret comes back with an elbow, but Smith sunset flips him for two. Bret nails him and goes up, but misses an elbow. Smith clotheslines him and drops him on his head, then pounds away in the corner. Delayed suplex gets two. Bret bails and gets retrieved by Smith, who uses a fisherman’s suplex for two. Bret bails again like a good heel, really making sure to get ALL of the audience good and pissed off at him, but Smith tosses him back in again. Davey goes up with a kneedrop off the top and a splash for two. Bret bails again, and this time a pissed-off Davey Boy pays off the subplot by gorilla-pressing him and walking through the audience, back to the ring. Slingshot splash back in hits knee, however, and Bret pulls out a chain to KO Smith and buy some time. Davey does a gory bladejob and Bret dropkicks him. Backbreaker gets two. The crowd is just DYING to see Davey make the comeback. Piledriver gets two. Smith presses him crotch-first onto the top rope in desperation and finally makes the superman comeback as the crowd is just going insane for the guy. Bret’s corner bump gets two. Sleeper, but Bret nails the ref and goes for the chain again. Dynamite comes in to save, but the Bulldogs get caught holding the chain and it’s a DQ at 10:04. This would, naturally, lead to a chain match between Bret & Davey Boy soon after. God I loved Stampede. ***
– Elimination match: Duke Myers, Dynamite Kid, Great Gama, Hubert Gallant & Danny Davis v. Bruce Hart, Bret Hart, Keith Hart, Davey Boy Smith & Mr. Hito. Little bit of everything on this tape, no? The faces work on Gama in their corner, but Myers goes after Keith. Keith monkey-flips him and we’re cruelly clipped to 30:00 with Bruce, Hito, Davis, Keith and Gallant all gone. Duke drops an elbow on Bret for two. Gama works him over with kneedrops for two, and a suplex gets two. Dynamite comes in and they clothesline each other, then collide for a double KO. Kid gives him an awesome, Maven-like dropkick and Myers drops elbows for two. Gama follows in suit and he gets two. He goes up with a kneedrop for two. Another one misses, but Kid smartly charges in to cut off the hot tag. Myers chokes Bret out and drops an elbow, and Gama drops a knee for two. Bret’s sunset flip on Gama is stopped by Kid. Bret fights him off, but Gama comes in and joins the fight. The ref escorts Kid out, and Bret backdrops Gama over the top to eliminate him (battle royale rules also applied). It’s suddenly BONZO GONZO as everyone brawls, and Smith catapults Kid into Bret’s boot. Same for Myers, as it’s turned into a wild texas tornado match. Bret piledrives Kid, and the heels meet in the center against their will, and that’s enough for them, as they take a walk back to the dressing room at 9:42 to make Bret & Davey your survivors. Interesting to note that none of the elimations were by pinfall or submission Ã¢â‚¬â€œ everything was DQ, countout, or over-the-top. That’s an impressive way to book a total bullshit screwjob finish while still keeping the fans happy. ***
– Street fight: Owen Hart v. Dynamite Kid. This is from the dying days of the promotion in 1989 when even Bruce Hart had given up and was letting Bulldog Bob Brown do the booking. You could tell that he was booking because he played color commentator and put himself and son Kerry Brown over Benoit & Wellington to win the tag titles, when he was obviously more than 60 years old and could hardly move. Dynamite clotheslines Owen for two, but gets whipped into the turnbuckle and missile dropkicked. They brawl out and Owen piledrives him on the concrete. Keep in mind that Dynamite was nearly crippled at this point as it was. Back in, Owen goes up with a fistdrop for two. Elbowdrop gets two. Ref is bumped and Johnny Smith runs in to beat on Hart with a tombstone. It gets two. Kid goes up with a flying headbutt for two. Owen fights back with a dropkick and then goes up for a flying elbow, which gets two. Kid wants help from Johnny again, but this time it backfires and Owen gets the pin at 5:53. Nothing special, but this was basically the end of Dynamite’s career in North America and the end of Stampede Wrestling, so it’s worth a look. **
– Owen Hart v. Bad News Allen. This is back from the highpoint of Stampede in 1987, and it’s the blowoff to those Stampede TV reviews I was doing WAAAY back when, where Allen was calling Hart a chicken every week and alleging that Owen was ducking him. Owen gets a somersault senton for two. He dropkicks him and goes up with an elbow for two. Neckbreaker and back up for a legdrop that gets two. Allen headbutts him down, but Owen atomic drops him for two. He pounds away and gets two after a suplex. Boston Crab, but Allen powers out. Owen gets a backbreaker for two. Allen bails, but Owen stops him and gets a tombstone, then goes up and hits knee. Allen slams him and goes up (slowly), but gets slammed off. Owen follows with a missile dropkick, but Allen blocks a monkey flip. Owen comes right back with a bodypress, but then dives after Makhan Singh like an idiot and the match breaks down completely at 7:35. Owen was so awesome in those days. **1/2
– Strap match: Bad News Allen v. Archie “The StomperÃ¢â‚¬Â Goldie. Okay, THIS is the match I was referring to in the first tape when talking about Stomper. This match is not notable for the match itself, but for the angle that set it up. Stomper & Bad News were longtime blood enemies, until the entrance of Archie’s son Jeff into the wrestling business mellowed Stomper out and made him offer a truce with Allen to end the feud. Allen agreed, but they were attacked by the heel group du jour, and Jeff Goldie decided to make his wrestling debut as part of a six-man match. If I’m messing up the details, it’s because it was a long time ago, but that’s the general idea. Anyway, Bad News & Stomper helped train Jeff for his debut, and when the match happened Stomper ended up playing face-in-peril for most of the way and got beat up by the heels. However, before he could make the tag to Bad News, Allen suddenly betrayed him, revealing that he had orchestrated the whole thing. While the heels continued pounding on Stomper, Bad News took Jeff to the floor and piledrove him several times, breaking his neck and thus ending his career after his first match. The message was basically “I can’t get to you, but I can get to your familyÃ¢â‚¬Â. Is that great shit or what? So then the REALLY awesome part came later in the show, as a bloodied Archie Goldie was interviewed by Ed Whalen, and he proceeded to give the sympathetic babyface interview of a LIFETIME, maintaining a really quiet and introspective tone of voice, as he talked about raising his son and wanting to see him succeed in his footsteps, only to have that ripped away from him by Bad News Allen over some petty grudge from years before. The payoff line, “My son may be retired now, but I’m still here I’m still hereÃ¢â‚¬Â, is so emotionally delivered that it will send chills down your spine if you’ve never heard it before. Without even yelling, screaming, or threatening violence (or even raising his voice) you can tell Goldie is angrier than anyone has ever seen him before and there’s gonna be a huge can of whoop-ass opened on Allen if he’s dumb enough to sign a match. But at the same time he manages to mix in guilt and regret over having used his son like that and costing him a career in wrestling as a result. This is quite simply one of the best babyface promos I’ve ever seen, showing range and emotion far beyond anything most wrestlers are even capable of doing. Unfortunately, the blowoff match doesn’t live up to the hype, but then nothing would be able to, really, short of Allen getting his own neck broken. Anyway, Stomper drags him into the ring to start and they brawl out again right away, with Stomper going low a few times. In the ring, Stomper chokes him out, but Allen clotheslines him. Allen pounds the shit out of him to draw blood, and drops the leg. Allen keeps hammering him mercilessly, but Stomper gets pissed and makes the superman comeback. He starts unloading on Allen, who bails and it’s a no-contest at around 5:00. Disappointing. *
– Lumberjack match: Bret Hart v. The Stomper. Then for a swing completely to the OTHER side of Stomper’s personality, I present the buildup interview to this match, where Bret challenges him to a lumberjack match and Stomper responds with a deranged heel interview where he talks about what a moron Bret is, because he’s been all over the US competing in lumberjack matches and getting his ass kicked for years, and he LOVES it. “I LOVE lumberjack matches! I love them!Ã¢â‚¬Â Has to be heard to be appreciated how insane he sounds. Bret pounds away in the corner and then stomps. Stomper returns the favor and gets two. Clipped to 7:00 as Bret is bleeding. Stomper keeps pounding to work on the cut and gets a clothesline for two. Big stomp gets two. Piledriver gets two. He keeps working the pinfall attempt until Bret finally gets pissed and starts firing away on him. Stomper starts bleeding and a disgusted Ed Whalen pulls the plug at 5:16. No finish shown. ** Man, I love Ed Whalen to death, but his editing jobs bugged the SHIT out of me and everyone else who watched on a regular basis.
– Mask v. Mask: Jason the Terrible v. The Zodiak. And what better way to end the tape than with this? We get yet another A-1 Zodiak promo to set this up, and would turn out to be his last. We pick things up as Zodiak gets his DDT finisher, but Jason no-sells it. He comes back with a powerslam and goes up, but Zodiak crotches him. Apparently Jason has BALLS OF STEEL, because he no-sells that too, headbutts Zodiak back down to the mat, and finishes with the flying headbutt after a brisk 1:16. DUD Zodiak is unceremonioiusly unmasked, and Ed’s closing line, a non-chalant “I don’t know himÃ¢â‚¬Â, completes the burial of poor Barry O. He would be formally acknowledged as Barry Orton the next week, once he had left the territory for good.
The Bottom Line:
If you’re looking for Stampede, THIS is the tape to get out of the set. Great matches, great angles, and the semi-historic unmasking of the Zodiak make this my absolute favorite out of the set and one that’s well worth watching again and again. There’s nothing really bad in the standard sense of the word here Ã¢â‚¬â€œ everything is either packed with action or blood or big names or a great setup angle. It’s stuff like this that reminds me why I love watching and writing about wrestling so much.