IN YOUR HOUSE XVI: CANADIAN STAMPEDE
July 6, 1997
TAKA Michinoku . . . makes a memorable first impression on the WWF by nearly having his brains scrambled by Sasuke.
Brian Pillman . . . shows that anyone even loosely affiliated with the Harts can do no wrong in the eyes of the Calgary fans.
Steve Austin . . . looks like he’s having the time of his life going back to being a full-blown heel after becoming the most popular wrestler in the WWF.
MANKIND vs. HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY
Although this isn’t as good as it is heated, it’s still good, and it’s a big improvement over their King of the Ring finals from the month before. They pick up the pace significantly, and both of them show some great intensity. There are some smart touches thrown in, such as the ways that they protect the Mandible Claw. Foley gets it twice, and both times it’s thwarted because Chyna intervenes, rather than HHH doing anything. It’s also fun to watch HHH work over Foley’s leg, and, Mick is very good about selling it. Even later in the match, he’s still noticeably slower when he charges for the Cactus clothesline. HHH takes a couple of big bumps as well, such as the corner bump to the floor, and his reaction to the elbow while he’s hung up in the corner is over the top in a good way. The only real marks against the match are the count-out finish, which could have been executed a lot better (considering the segments that would air later on in the broadcast that showed them still fighting), and a couple of spots that come off a little too goofy, the main one being Foley’s headbutt while HHH was prone. But, all things considered, those are relatively minor issues. ***
THE GREAT SASUKE vs. TAKA MICHINOKU
It’s probably not a coincidence that both men are making their WWF debut in Calgary, given Stampede’s reputation as a melting pot of international talent. The match itself isn’t anything amazing, it’s nowhere near the level of the trios match from ECW’s Barely Legal PPV that both of them were involved in, but, they do a good job of making a good impression in front of a crowd that’s mostly unfamiliar with them. Neither of them holds back when it comes to strikes, although TAKA’s front dropkick to a sitting Sasuke doesn’t look nearly as good as Tajiri’s, and TAKA’s dive makes the crowd lost its collective mind. Once again, it’s only the finish that really makes a bad impression. TAKA’s Michinoku driver looks like it kills Sasuke, but, once he kicks out, he counters TAKA with a dropkick and then casually does his Fire Thunder bomb and finishes TAKA with a Tiger suplex. The combo that Sasuke does is fine, but, the Michinoku Driver deserved a longer sell job, and it should have taken something bigger than a simple dropkick to the midsection to set it up.
THE UNDERTAKER © vs. VADER (WWF World Heavyweight Title)
The best compliment for this match is that it’s an improvement over UT’s title defense against Faarooq from the month before, but, that’s about the extent of it. There are some nice moments here, but, it just never feels like they’re really telling a story and trying to take the match somewhere. After a hot start where UT tees off on Vader with some fists, he never shows that sort of fire again, although his strikes still look good. At one point Vader sends UT into the stairs, and he takes the bump on both knees, but, he never sells as though his legs are bothering him, and Vader doesn’t do anything else to try to work them over. The closest that they really come to doing anything resembling storytelling comes when Vader kicks UT low to escape the chokeslam, and later on when Vader is going up for the Vader Bomb, UT hits his own low blow, and then chokeslams him. It’s a nice idea, but, it’s completely self-contained. And that’s just how this match is. It’s clearly not a bad match Vader was still the best big man in the business, even though he was on the way down, so there are moments here to appreciate, but, they just don’t seem to find their grove and make this into a cohesive match.
BRET HART/OWEN HART/DAVEY BOY SMITH/JIM NEIDHART/BRIAN PILLMAN vs. STEVE AUSTIN/KEN SHAMROCK/GOLDUST/ANIMAL/HAWK
This is similar to the HHH/Mankind match, in these sense that it’s more heated than it is good, but, the work (and the heat) is head and shoulders above anything from the opener. It certainly helps that the match itself is more or less wall-to-wall action, which is easy with so many people involved, and the action flows quite smoothly. The few times that the match truly breaks down with everyone brawling allows for something notable to happen, such as Austin taking Owen out of the match by attacking his knee with the chair, and also later on when Bret returns the favor by attacking Austin’s knee with a fire extinguisher and using his ringpost figure four.
The way that the match is structured also allows for everyone involved to have something to contribute, even the lesser workers. Neidhart feeds well for Shamrock, to allows him show off his stuff, and LOD bump Owen around in their usual ways. Pillman doesn’t have much to do from a work standpoint, but, damn if he isn’t the most entertaining guy in the whole match (which says a lot with Austin going full blown heel like it’s still ‘96), between his mocking of Shamrock, bumping for Austin, and being the only member of the Hart Foundation team to really cheat (and still get cheered like crazy for it). The only thing that was really missing from the match was an extended heat segment on one of the Harts, especially with such a rabid crowd. It seemed like the match was headed that way when Owen takes a shoulder bump into the post, but he quickly takes over when he catches Animal with his spinning kick, a minute later Animal surprises him with a powerbomb and LOD does the Doomsday Device for a near fall. But, Owen getting saved triggers the first brawl which leads to Austin taking Owen out of the match.
The only real mark against the match (and even this really isn’t a bad thing) is the suddenness of the finish. It certainly seems odd to see Owen of all people getting the pin on Austin, although the finish itself with the roll up is morbidly appropriate considering the finish of their SummerSlam match. Owen and Austin pull it off flawlessly, with Austin being distracted after going after Stu and fighting with Bruce, and Owen takes advantage and gets the pin. But, considering the fact that Bret would be challenging UT for the title the following month, it seems odd that they went with having Austin lose instead of having Bret win. There was no reason why Bret couldn’t have forced Goldust to submit to the Sharpshooter, and have Owen return to the match to brawl with Austin, and use that to set up their IC Title match. Then again, the match, the aftermath with the family celebrating, and really the entire show was designed as a tribute to the entire Hart family. Bret was already a made man, so it wasn’t like he needed to be the one to win the match for his team. Even with the IC Title around his waist already, it gives Owen a little rub to pin Austin.
If not for Shawn Michaels setting a ridiculously high bar with the Foley match from Mind Games, then, this would be the best IYH match from the original series by a decent margin. And, this does have a couple of things over the Mind Games match, such as a much better booked finish and aftermath, as well as a molten crowd, which is saying a lot when any crowd is being compared to the fans in Philly during ECW’s heyday. ****1/4
Conclusion: Conclusion: It may not be the best main event, but, overall, this is definitely the best overall IYH event. Only the UT/Vader match didn’t really deliver, and even that’s not really a bad match.