Stampede Wrestling from Canada produced some of the biggest stars of the modern era of wrestling such as all the Harts (well, Bret and Owen), Davey Boy Smith, and Dynamite Kid. Jake Roberts and many others passed through Calgary while coming up in the business. Stu Hart’s territory was famous as one of the toughest because of the long travel hours driving across central and western Canada. It appeared briefly on the WWE Network in the past week, but was taken down in the last few days due to rights issues with Bret Hart. I managed to sneak a peek at the June 16, 1979 episode of Stampede Wrestling even though I prefer to keep my wrestling post-1980 only. I keep reminding myself: this is 1979 here, the production values won’t be good. But I’ve seen footage from other promotions and it is better than this. Ed Whalen was the legendary host of Stampede for over a quarter century and he is on screen with no intro, no music.
The first match is a mixed 6 man tag with 4 little people, who are referred to as midgets because, again, it’s 1979. I do not understand the appeal of this, and we don’t get a graphic or anything telling us who these people are. It is actually Tom Stanton, Tiny Tim and Cowboy Lang vs Bull Ramos, Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy. Try and guess who the four little people are; they all have the name of movie characters or something close to it. I literally wrote “who cares” in my notebook because I am that invested.
Stu Hart is out now and cuts an eloquent promo about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Ok, maybe not but he mumbles everything so maybe it was subliminal? He tells us who is coming in a few weeks which isn’t much help for this show, but Andre the Giant is coming to Alberta and Stu does the WWF two inches better by declaring Andre 7 feet 6 inches tall. And there will be some sort of “WrestleRoyal” for $1,000 in Great Falls next Saturday, which I like because that’s the 2nd reference to Great Falls, Montana since I started this blog.
Now for the reason why I turned this on: Bret Hart vs Jim Neidhart is next. They are 22 and 24 years old respectively, and Neidhart looks almost totally unrecognizable without the ZZ Top beard. The match is joined in progress at the 10 minute mark, and I spent time thanking God after viewing this. There are not many bad Bret Hart matches from his prime, but this was an absolute chore to sit through and why I can’t watch 1970s wrestling unless it’s tippy top level guys involved. A lot of plain body slams back and forth. In a cringeworthy moment, Bret badly botches a sunset flip and they get up and carry on. A nice double underhook suplex for Bret gets a near fall. Then Bret wins with a pretty sudden rollup out of nowhere, and the two shake hands after the match. This was bowling shoe ugly, as JR would say. But to be fair, most footage from my early 20s is ugly too.
Bret cuts a post match promo and sounds like every NHL player you’ve ever heard in a between periods or postgame interview. It took him years to improve that part of his work as he was very stiff and awkward all the way up to the late 1980s.
At this point I stopped watching, and now it is gone. Farewell Stampede for now…I think I’ll stick to other promotions if and when you do come back. Especially if Bruce Hart is involved in some way.