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With the WWF having finally found their feet at 2 hours, things were starting to become quite enjoyable on Monday Night's. Sure, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart got into a fight backstage that saw Bret miss that night's show and Shawn the next few, but the drama and unpredictability of the show (at the time at least) would've felt fresh, even if the match finishes were the usual fare.
Canadian Stampede setup as an almost finally moment, given that Austin and the Hart Foundation had been at loggerheads for months it was an Austin match people actually wanted to see. The fact that Austin's character would've much rather have faced all five of them on his lonesome probably deflected away from the already awkward line-up he found himself alongside – the flagging Goldust as seemingly the guy joining Austin at the hip with Shamrock and the Legion of Doom. Still, in Calgary this was bound to be a big match, even if it could be said with near certainty that Austin's cohort would be booed heavily against the hometown heroe's (well, even if only 40% of them were actually Canadian).
The rest of the card, all three matches worth anyway, was a bit of a non-event going in. Taker vs Vader was a match of circumstance (a fill in after Taker's planned opponent – Ahmed Johnson – got injured yet again). Still, it did at least give them an excuse to get Taker and Bearer in the same place at the same time. As I've said before, it's hard to be massively critical given what comes of this storyline, but it isn't exactly the strongest at this point. Filling out the card was a rematch between Mankind and Hunter Hearst Helmsley and a Light Heavyweight bout between Taka Michinoku and The Great Sasuke – two of the six Japanese wrestlers who appeared on ECW's Barely Legal show.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) vs Mankind
The Mankind character is in a bit of a weird place at this point, as they've kind of worked out the actual Mankind gimmick is a bit of a dud and are essentially pivoting him towards a more Cactus Jack type role, even if it's not in name. Hunter continues to struggle along, just about getting over with a significant amount of outside help.
This was pretty good, Mankind is still up for killing himself (he said in an interview in the same month he was picking his spots better... which isn't technically wrong) - with an apron elbow and an insane spot where he charged into Chyna only for her to pick him up into an inch perfect scoopslam with his legs crashing off the ring steps. Hunter uses that as an excuse to start working the legs, Mankind rallies, the match spills into the crowd and... ends via double count-out.
We’re in a hockey arena, so they brawl into the penalty box, then out to the back. This actually spills out back into the arena before the bell of the next match, before culuminating in the middle of the show where they brawl outside into some beer barrels before Mankind back body drops Hunter onto some pallets. A bit like Chris Benoit vs Kevin Sullivan, if they just keep brawling.
Taka Michinoku vs The Great Sasuke
Regular listeners to the show will know I’m not exactly the most enamored with that style, so my review of this match somewhat writes itself. But, to start with the positives, two completely cold acts went out in front of a crowd that had never seen them before and won them over, and the athleticism on show was undoubtedly very impressive.
But… it did follow that usual light heavyweight format of a lack of selling and a general lack of pacing that to a point hasn’t really cleared itself up in the wrestling industry since. There were a couple of great spots, but they were so good you kind of wonder why they didn’t finish the match. Taka ran into a great spin kick early on, and sold it really well. There’s another gasp for the Michinoku driver, but the match ends quite tamely with a double underhook German suplex. A good match that won the crowd over, just not for me.
Vader (w/ Paul Bearer) vs The Undertaker for the WWF Title
It was… fine, I guess. The problem with Vader is that the difference between a great Vader match and an average one often isn’t the in-ring work, it’s the heat and the drama and the context surrounding it. Vader’s just so flat by this point it just doesn’t really work. This was fine, both guys worked hard doing the exact kind of match you’d expect them to, but it just never really clicked. They tried the Taker/Sid flipover spot but Vader just kinda… lost it. There was at least the surprise of Taker managing to tombstone Vader for the win. But not a classic, nor did it ever look like being one.
Goldust, Ken Shamrock, The Legion of Doom (Animal and Hawk) and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, Brian Pillman and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart”)
And so we’re here… this was some spectacle. We were in a hockey arena and this was the home team vs the away side, even Pillman, Neidhart and Bulldog were treated like hometown heroes and the heels, if we can call them that, were all over to one degree or another. The in ring action wasn’t actually all that brilliant, but you’d have to work really hard to notice!
We started straight away with Bret and Austin, which I liked – it didn’t really make sense to hold off on that battle and it gave the crowd something to get behind from the very start. With so many men in the match the crowd never really got time to get bored, even when the combinations in ring were less than stellar (Anvil and Animal, for example). Fortunately Owen did a lot of the heavy lifting, at least before he and Austin briefly disappeared from the match.
The crowd stayed with the match throughout as Austin returned and went back after Bret. Bret and Austin exchange sharpshooters before Owen comes out and breaks it up. Austin starts brawling at ringside with a couple of the Hart’s not involved in the match before Austin gets thrown back in the ring and Owen pins him via roll-up. The booking was pretty spot on here, the crowd likely would’ve cheered whatever but Austin being pinned by his to-be Summerslam opponent was more than solid. The show finished with basically all of the extended Hart family in the ring as a coronation to the first family of Canadian wrestling.
Score Rating: 8.5/10
Go Back And Watch: I’m not quite as high on this show as some, it being the best WWF show ever (at that point) seems farfetched, as there’s really only one match that’s anything above average. But it’s an easy two hour watch in front of a hot crowd. Recommended.