As many of you are aware, WWE Network is pretty packed with all sorts of content. And as you may also know, we here at Place to Be Nation love long term, in depth projects. So, as part of this initiative, JT Rozzero, Chad Campbell, Jason Greenhouse, Brad Woodling & Dan McGinn are starting in 1975 and are planning to watch the entire offering of the WWE Network chronologically. They have plotted their course and after watching each program, they will share their thoughts, notes and recommendations with our readers. So, settle in and enjoy this epic ride through wrestling history!
Stampede Wrestling 11/12/78
Run Time: 47m
Fighting Hara & Gerry Morrow vs. Cuban Assassins
Danny Babbage vs. John Foley
Big Daddy Ritter vs. Patty Ryan
Bret Hart & Keith Hart vs. Castillo Brothers – International Tag Team Titles
Kasavubu vs. Alo Leilani – North American Heavyweight Title
JT: The tag team title match was pretty fun with some really good selling by Bret Hart and focused work by the Castillos. The hot tag to Keith was good and the crowd loved it. Bret’s punches are really on point at this early stage of his career. We get the visual pin by Keith but there referee was tied up and the match rolled on. The interference from Norman Frederick Charles III was well executed and the brawl on the floor was pretty heated, especially with the fans imploring the Harts to get back in the ring. Alas, they did not and the Castillos are our next champions.
Chad: Slim pickings but I will go with the Hart brothers vs. The Castillos. The work on Bret was good and it was a good countout finish to protect Bret and Keith but give the heels the victory. I liked the crowd realizing what was happening and then freaking out. The joined in progress style may make the best match award tough on these Stampede shows.
Jason: The North American Heavyweight Championship match between Kasavubu and Alo Leilani was fun, but I have to go with the Hart brothers tag match here. Bret and Keith did some excellent team work against the Castillos. I enjoyed the finish with Norman Fredrick Charles III getting involved setting up a future six-man tag.
Dan: I too will go with the tag match pitting brothers against brothers and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I pick a Harts’ match in this spot. It had tons of exciting action and the fans were just dying to see the Hart boys pick up the vacant straps. Bret’s selling of the knee injury was supurb and you can really tell that he has the fundamentals down even this early in his career. The Castillos also played their roles well too and were the perfect adversaries for our heroes. The melee outside the ring only added to the wonderful chaos and it was awesome to see them payoff the earlier interview segment with Norman Frederick Charles III. A shocking defeat for the Harts – not the last surprising finish we’d see on this night – but I see better days for Stu’s boys. You “bet your sweet patootie” as Ed Whalen would say!
Brad: A title change on a count-out! Quite the finish in the tag match, and it’s the best of the bunch for this episode. I’m also partial to Big Daddy Ritter’s work in his match with Patty Ryan but its hard to top Stu coming out to defend his sons post-match and laying some big punches in on Norman Frederick Charles III.
JT: Ed Whalen wins just for the way he laid down next to John Foley after his match. Vogueing while conducting an interview is a baller move. He was great the whole night and really owned the whole broadcast.
Chad: Bret Hart did a good job selling the leg and showing some fire. Really only him and Ritter impressed me on this show and Ritter’s in ring work still left a lot to be desired. That gives the nod to Bret in Stampede show 1.
Jason: As this is the first time I’ve watched a full episode from this promotion, I’m going with announcer, Ed Whalen. He put over all talent involved in the episode in great detail and had some great one-liners along the way. Him laying down on the canvas to get a word from John Foley as he was in pain from Danny Babbage’s figure four sold the deal for me. An honorable mention goes out to Big Daddy Ritter. More on him in a minute…
Dan: I thoroughly enjoyed Ed Whalen on commentary. His cheesy expressions were top notch and I look forward to hearing more of them down the road. From “Sweet Patootie” to “Old Cement Head,” you just can’t sleep on the announcing on these shows. Kudos also go out to Patty Ryan’s absurdly gross blade job and Ritter’s striped suit in the last segment.
Brad: Big Daddy Ritter had a presence to him here and he’s my pick. His work at the end of the show to set up the next title feud was exemplary. Great heel stuff from the future JYD.
JT: I was impressed with the star presence of Big Daddy Ritter. As soon as he popped up on the screen he felt bigger than anyone else we have seen. Busting open Patty and than dancing around and mocking him while the crowd booed him was good heel work. His post match promo was tremendous too and I love that he came out again for another chat with his dapper suit on. He tops that by stomping away at the new champ. I definitely left this show a BDR fan.
Chad: Big Daddy Ritter is not someone I would associate with being a heel and he is never a great worker, but he worked the cut of Ryan well and looked confident and established in his heel promos and was able to garner some legit heel heat from the Calgary crowd. That shocked me and I look forward to him interacting with the Hart brothers.
Jason: Easily, Big Daddy Ritter. I’ve heard so much about his work here, but that didn’t do any justice. Watching the future JYD working heel was better than I expected. From busting open Patty Ryan and showing no remorse, to a great post match promo, this was a side of Ritter that delivered big time and had me wanting more.
Dan: Alo Leilani won the title! I couldn’t believe it. I thought he was as dead as disco after losing that second fall. He was just getting mauled alive by Kasavubu and they made it sound like he was a huge deal earlier when he got involved in the Babbage fight. I figured this was an easy title defense before moving on to the “Pride of Yugoslavia” but I was sorely mistaken. They even jobbed him out after the match was over. Alo won the bout despite only getting a few chops in plus a rollup that folded the ex-champ up like an accordion. Not exactly what I was expecting but certainly a hot way to end the program.
Brad: Probably the frantic pace of the hour long program. We had a lot of stuff crammed into one episode here and Ed Whalen was fantastic in moving things along and keeping the viewer informed.
JT: The lack of real coherence in making this feel like a TV show was disappointing to me. It felt closer to some of the house shows we watched than the frenetic, episodic TV of WCCW. Sure we get post match interviews and narration from Ed, but it felt more like a general series of matches than anything else.
Chad: This was my first time watching Stampede footage and it felt really disjointed overall. Everything felt like some short snippets but with the joined in progress nature and the quick promos, something about the overall presentation of this show felt flat for me.
Jason: Yes, this was the late 70s, but the production work was very sloppy. There was no graphics stating who was involved in the matches and the camera work seemed like it was done by a five year old kid.
Dan: Fighting Hara really sucks. Just awful. I would have preferred to see that clip of the Sly Stallone/Terry Funk movie “Paradise Alley” than watch him on my TV screen. He was such a load and cost his team dearly in our opener. If you get beaten on for 20 minutes and your partner is kicking ass after the hot tag, don’t ask to be tagged back in just to get pinned on a bodyslam. Yikes! Also the jump cuts and basically losing the feed right after the three count set the tone for several technical glitches for the rest of this show.
Brad: While I knew about them in advance, it’s hard to stomach all the clipping done with the Stampede television show.
JT: Pretty great that the opening graphics announce who the promoter of the territory is; “Sweet patootie”; I really like the look of the ring and hall that they are in here, nice and bright; Some of the strikes to the midsection by Hara to one of the Assassins were super weak looking; The referee in the opener is quite slow in his counts; “There was a little hanky panky in there”; Morrow was pretty active while on the apron and timed his attempts to help Hara well; Morrow also had a nice hot tag segment but why the hell would he tag Hara right back in after he took a long beating? Dumb move led right to the loss; Norman Frederick Charles III looks like Damien Sandow’s angry drunk uncle; Ed Whalen’s look screams “70s newsman”; Sounded like Whalen said “Cesspool, England”; Babbach and Foley was fine but just really felt two old guys putting on an exhibition until the “step lock” finish; Nice selling by Foley during Babbage’s post match interview; Patty Ryan’s blood soaked comeback was pretty fun; Keith enters the ring like a generic video game character; “That God damned Norman Charles”; Interesting we only really see the last fall of the NA title match; Leilani showed some nice fire in his comeback and wake the crowd up big time by winning the championship and that win totally caught me off guard
Chad: I wonder if this is the first time that patootie was mentioned in the first 30 seconds of a wrestling show. Whalen gives us some quick stats and differentiates his announcing style immediately to refrain a more technical aspect than the emotionally charged summons of Bill Mercer that I have gotten acquainted with. Hara as an upstart babyface given his dickish nature as a stablemate of Tenryu’s Revolution group in the 1980s is an interesting contrast. The Assassins have some pretty obvious cheating tactics. This is one of the rare matches where we don’t even get a hot tag as the finish occurs with the Assassins gain the win. Norman Frederick Charles III gives a quick promo against the Hart brothers and finishes by saying HI MOM. How polite. I can safely say I have never seen Babbage or Foley wrestle before. In fact, Babbage has hardly any info online about him at all. However, both competitors look like my uncle and dad getting into their high school singlets after Thanksgiving dinner and grappling around the living room. Babbage executes a figure four variation to pick up the victory. Whalen hops on the mat to get an interview with Foley. He gets so annoyed with Foley when he calls the leg lock an illegal hold. Cool, we get an early look at JYD here. These Stampede matches joining in progress can be sort of jolting with this being the first show I have seen. JYD as a heel is something. Ryan is a bloody mess. Big Daddy Ritter gives us a heel promo afterwards and is getting some nice heat. Whalen says that the fans are feeding peanuts to the manager cage. We get quite the camera angle of a dark nothing. We come in right at the end of the second fall. Leilani gets a big pop for winning the North American Heavyweight match but the clips we saw were dreadful. Ritter’s suit was amazing and the best development on the whole show.
Jason: Heel Big Daddy Ritter AKA Junkyard Dog was so out of context, but fun to see for the first time. He left Patty Ryan a bloody mess and his post match promo was fun. Speaking of Ryan, the blood left over from him on the canvas during the Hart’s tag match was a nice touch. The Cuban Assassins are a couple of scary looking dudes. Ed Whelen referring to one of them as “old cement head” made me chuckle. Keith Hart had the line of the episode with his, “that God Damn Norman Charles interfering again.”
Dan: Such a bright ring with absolutely no frills whatsoever. It was a white canvas with bright white ropes with absolutely no aprons to speak of. It is the anti-MSG, which looks like it’s filmed inside a dark, smokey closet in our earlier WWWF shows. Boy the refs stink at preventing interference in those territories. The Assassins had “Twin Magic” down long before the Bellas made it annoying. I loved Charles’ comment relating Bret Hart to a wounded horse in his interview. Danny Babbage is the inaugural winner of the prestigious “McGinn’s Mustache of the Night” award and there was stiff competition on this program. Ritter remains unbeaten in the territory and is made to look like a star. It was odd for me to see Bret Hart wearing Terry Taylor’s trunks. I will gladly give up my place on this panel if you can tell me what the jubilant Castillo said in his post-match interview. In doing very brief research, I discovered that Kasavubu died suddenly in 1982 at the age of only 26.
Brad: Ed Whalen’s Tony Clifton-esque look – a classic one of the 70s – was awesome. Getting down on the mat to interview Foley after his match was a nice touch. I always enjoy these older crowds as well, and man did it look cold for the wrestlers given how bundled up some of these guys were. Loved Keith Hart’s rambling promo after their loss, where he seems to just be making stuff up on the fly and then somehow it comes together to set up a future 3-on-3 match. I thought I lost my feed when they were trying to show the cage hanging – just a washed out mess of darkness. I give a pretty big pass to old school wrestling TV given production limitations but that whole shot was weirdly bad. The finish to the NA title match was well done, you’ve got a big guy beating on the challenger but then is tripped up right into a situation where Leilani can use leverage for the pin.
Consensus Best WWE Network Match to Date: Ric Flair vs. Kerry Von Erich (Christmas Star Wars, WCCW 12/28/82)
Consensus Worst WWE Network Match to Date: Ivan Putski vs. Baron Von Rashcke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)
JT: This is a pretty loaded card on paper with two big titles matches to close it out, but the ring work is all fairy bland and there doesn’t seem to be too much story progression tied in. In many ways it felt more like a house show, especially coming off watching WCCW, which is very episodic in nature. The highlights were Big Daddy Ritter and the selling of Bret Hart but nothing else really popped. I was also really surprised by the big title change but without knowing much of these characters the emotion was lacking for me. Ed Whalen was great on commentary and easily the highlight for me here. We will see how things for develop and this was a fun snapshot of the time period but as an episode of TV it was definitely lacking. Final Grade: 2.5/10
Chad: I was excited to watch some Stampede but the redeeming quality from show one was that is was only cool to see some guys like JYD and Bret this early in their career. Everything else left me cold overall and I hope Stampede improves in subsequent episodes. Final Grade: 2.5/10
Jason: It was a nice treat seeing a young Bret Hart and heel JYD. My first impressions of this promotion are mainly positive. Minus the poor production, there seems to be a lot of good feuds going on with a lot of good characters, especially on the heel side. I look forward to diving into this promotion some more along the way in this adventure. Final Grade: 4/10
Dan: Production value and some loads in the ring notwithstanding, I did enjoy watching something new to get us off the WCCW train for a few stops. Thank you WWE Network! It was awesome seeing JYD and the Harts in a different light during a much simpler time. Ritter was a stud and I can now see why folks talk about him being bloated and way past his prime when he joins WWF and certainly by 1990 in WCW. Things like that will get me excited for future Stampede installments but they have to pick up the technical aspect and in-ring work in order to get better grades from me. Not horrible Stu, but you can do so much better. Final Grade 3/10
Brad: This is a perfectly acceptable sampler of Stampede Wrestling with fun commentary and a lot of different matches to keep the hour moving. Couple in seeing future stars like JYD and Bret Hart and it’s an easy first foray into the territory. Final Grade 4/10