RETRO Review - In Your House: Canadian Stampede 1997

After just two episodes of Monday Night RAW (#215 and #216), we have arrived at our first PPV event!

IN YOUR HOUSE: CANADIAN STAMPEDE 1997

The Distraction On Twitch: AEW Brand Split Draft

JULY 06, 1997

Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Synopsis: The Hart Foundation faces Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust and The Legion of Doom. The Undertaker faces Vader, and more.

Rating Guide

10- Perfect, 9- Excellent, 8- Great, 7- Very Good, 6- Above Average to good, 5- Average, 4- Slightly below average, 3 or below: Poor

Each match starts at a 5 and slides up and down based on entertainment, execution, time, environment, reaction and stakes. The ratings are in no way an indication of a "star rating," which is a completely different system.

***

The program begins with three solid minutes of exposition, explaining everything about to happen. I don't mind the recaps, especially if you have new viewers, but I could do without being told that the audience might be cheering for the "bad guys". It's the same thing WWE does during their RAW After Mania broadcast and it's insulting. They could have left it at "shades of grey are creeping into the World Wrestling Federation, things are no longer black and white", but no, they had to take it the extra step.

The show, as you probably gathered, is taking place during the Calgary Stampede. Vince, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler are all dressed in "Western" attire. The King is wearing a comically large Cowboy hat, presumably mocking the festival.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) vs. Mankind 

Double Count-Out

5/10

  • Mankind comes out firing with multiple leg drops and a nasty looking double underhook DDT.

  • Commentary loves mentioning that Helmsley is "aristocratic". They support this assertion by reminding us that he is from Connecticut.

  • Mankind's search for acceptance and adulation is the story of the match.

  • Hunter tries to bail on the match, but Mankind catches up to him and delivers a Suplex on the ramp.

  • Jerry Lawler claims that the Mandible Claw gave him a throat infection.

  • Mankind has Helmsley on the ground and applies the Mandible Claw. Chyna punches Mankind and saves the match. The referee takes no action. Commentary says Jimmy Korderas didn't see what happened, but how else could you explain the sudden turn of events?

  • The match moves to the outside. Chyna hits Mankind with a Powerslam. Mankind's leg hits the stairs at an awkward angle. Helmsley then grabs a chair and hits Mankind in the knee. The referee has no control of this match and is seemingly always distracted.

  • Helmsley works the leg aggressively. They continue to effectively tell the story of Mankind not getting a fair opportunity.

  • Mankind fights back with two inadvertent low blows (comedy spots).

  • Mankind applies the Mandible Claw again, but Chyna grabs him and splits his legs between the ring post. Korderas is absolutely oblivious to everything. 

  • Shenanigans ensue on the outside of the ring and the two men begin brawling into the crowd and the Penalty Box. The match ends in a double count out.

  • This should have been a street fight from the get-go.

Video/Backstage Segment

After Mankind and Helmsley were separated, a pre-recorded pack show the WWF's involvement in the Calgary Stampede. Autograph signings and tug-of-war competitions take up the bulk of the time. Vince claims that the lineup to meet Bret was a mile long and that he signed every autograph, being sure not to miss a single person.

This video is followed up with a locker room interview with the Hart Foundation. Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupts and tries to attack Bret, but is held back by two officials. Bret tells Vince that he doesn't want to attack Austin with a 5-on-1 advantage. Claims that it would prove nothing and that he wants to settle the score in the ring.

Everything about this segment screams baby face. That said, with the event taking place in Canada, it does further their shades of grey narrative.

The Great Sasuke defeated Taka Michinoku

5/10

  • Before the match started, Mankind and Helmsley appear in the crowd, brawling. I like that they’re still fighting considering how their bout ended.

  • JR says "it looks like closing time at Cowboys bar last night, or should I say the start". I like the reference to a local establishment, particularly one that I've had the pleasure of visiting. It shows that they know more about the town than just its name. 

  • Officials lead the two men backstage, but they’re still fighting as far as we can see.

  • The crowd didn't seem interested in this match after the interruption. Credit to the competitors, however, as they did win them back.

  • Jerry Lawler says that Sasuke's fighting style reminds him of when Antonio Inoki fought Mohammed Ali, and how he would use his kicks as jabs.

  • Sasuke lands a gorgeous spinning back kick that lays out Taka, but he doesn't go for the pin.

  • Taka hits a powerful palm strike right to Sasuke's chin, a potential knockout blow, but also defers from pinning.

  • Sasuke's corner kicks crash violently into Taka's forehead. Michinoku looks legitimately dazed. Again, no pin.

  • Following a Springboard Plancha, Vince exclaims "what a Samurai Warrior this Taka Michinoku is!"

  • After no selling a belly-to-back Suplex and Michinoku Driver, Sasuke (slowly) hits a Tiger Suplex for the win. An anti-climactic ending to the match after it finally started to pick up momentum.

Backstage Brawl

Following the match, we're taken to the parking lot where Mankind and Hunter Hearst Helmsley are still fighting. Hunter is bleeding and goes head first into a school bus. He bounces back and breaks a shovel across Mankind's back. He proceeds to throw him into a pile of empty kegs.

I like the continuance of this fight, but why isn't Chyna getting involved? She had no problem inserting herself into the match, but now that it's done she does nothing. I can't fathom a logical explanation.

WWF personnel finally separate the men. I enjoyed nearly everything about this and wish we saw it more.

WWF Championship Match

The Undertaker (c) defeated Vader (w/Paul Bearer)

5.5/10

  • Vader's music is dope.

  • Undertaker lands a series of strikes in the corner to start the match. The commentary team is placing a large emphasis on his mental state after finding out that his brother could still be alive.

  • Vader is impressive during the more agility inclined sequences. He holds his own very well.

  • After Undertaker hits two big boots to the face, Vader fires back with a blatant, and I quote Sean Ross Sapp, "KICK TO THE PENIS!" The referee saw it all happen but Vince says that he made a judgment call not to stop the match. In a way, I suppose it's comforting to know that they've always played fast and loose with the rules of professional wrestling.

  • Vader takes far too long to set up the Vader Bomb. Boy Meets World was correct when they pointed that out.

  • Undertaker hits a Chokeslam from the second rope, another Chokeslam, and a Tombstone Piledriver for the victory. He retains the WWF Championship.

  • Paul Bearer throws a temper tantrum as he sulks back up the ramp.

  • I enjoyed this match. It was hard-hitting, the crowd was invested, and it didn't overstay its welcome. Nothing spectacular, but nothing offensive either. Normally I'd critique a Championship match more, but the fact that it was put together at the last minute and given what followed, I'll let it slide.

Main Event

Bret Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Brian Pillman and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldust, Ken Shamrock and The Legion of Doom

7/10

  • Farmer's Daughter performs O Canada in the ring prior to the match. The entire Hart Family, as well as Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, are sitting in the front row.

  • Bret and Owen's ovations were so loud you could barely hear the ring announcer.

  • The crowd is on its feet and reacting to every move.

  • Anvil squaring up with Shamrock and feigning kicks was hilarious.

  • I like that J.R. mentioned the non-family members' ties to Calgary. Pillman played for the Stampeders in the CFL, while Neidhart not only trained in the Hart Dungeon but won an Anvil Toss competition at the Calgary Stampede, thus earning him his nickname.

  • Pillman does little things in the ring that make him endlessly entertaining. On this night he went for a pin attempt on Shamrock, but while doing so grabbed his hand and made it look like he was tapping out. He then looked right into the camera and said "look, he's tapping out" while laughing hysterically.

  • The crowd chants "Austin Sucks" as Owen works him over.

  • There are lots of pin attempts, but they are almost always broken up by an opposing team member.

  • Austin slams Owen's knee into the ring post and then hits it with a chair. He smacks Bruce Hart in the face for good measure (he had it coming with the way he was lurking over the barricade all night). Owen is escorted to the back.

  • Bret and Austin are going at it now and it's clear that they're the two most skilled competitors in the match. Their moves are crisp, quick, and snug. Bret takes Austin to the corner and returns the favour. Austin is now injured and brought to the back.

  • There is a serious lack of Tag Match psychology as fighters are allowed back into their corners with almost no resistance. Shamrock is the worst of the bunch as he regularly has his opponents grounded and allows them to stand back up and make a tag.

  • Austin returns to the ring and puts Bret in the Sharpshooter. Owen follows suit and makes the save. 

  • The Hart Brothers begin interfering from the stands and a huge brawl breaks out outside the ring. Owen takes advantage and rolls up Austin for the 1-2-3.

  • This was a clunky ending, but the crowd got what they came to see. I could have done without the chicanery. The fight continues after the bell with Austin bringing a chair into the fold. He is quickly beaten down and handcuffed. He bends over and flips off the crowd as he walks to the back. An iconic shot from this feud.

  • The entire Hart family enters the ring to celebrate as we go off the air.

 

***

This was a fun show but it certainly doesn't qualify as required viewing. Keep visiting Fightful to see my recap/review of RAW #217 and the fallout of In Your House: Canadian Stampede!

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