March 6, 2003
Stampede of stars
By TJ Madigan -- Calgary Sun
The last time WWE touched down in the Saddledome, Chris Jericho didn\'t storm back to the locker-room after he lost his match to Brock Lesner.
Instead, Y2J stayed in the ring and completely broke character, giving an emotional tribute to Calgary\'s rich wrestling legacy and loyal fans.
Just a few months earlier, The Undertaker, who was supposed to be playing a heel, took the mic at the Calgary Smackdown tapings and told a worldwide TV audience he was honoured to perform in a city with so much wrestling history.
Quite simply, Calgary is universally recognized as one of the world\'s wrestling capitals.
It\'s not just a North American thing.
I spent most of my life living in Europe yet I\'ve always been familiar with the Hart family, the Dungeon, Stampede Wrestling and the proud wrestling heritage of a Western Canadian city I had never actually set foot in.
Unfortunately, for many newer fans, the legacy seems like little more than a myth.
After all, the majority of the modern-day followers were introduced to the business at a time when Atlanta and New York were the only wrestling headquarters worth mentioning.
Even since then, the balance of power has shifted almost entirely to the top floor of Titan Tower, leaving Calgary with a lot of respect but little hope for impacting the future of the grappling game. Until now.
While the rest of the world has been focusing its attention on flashy start-up groups such as NWA and WWA, Calgary has slowly but surely been building an eclectic group of talented young performers with the potential to put Calgary back on the map.
The revived Stampede Wrestling is one of the key breeding grounds for the next generation of stars. From high-flying cruiserweights to monster heels, the company has developed a hot stable of young workers, including much of the talent from the short-lived Mat Rats franchise.
Teddy Hart and Harry Smith, arguably two of the most impressive young workers in the world, tore the house down in their showcase match on the WWE\'s Tour of Defiance and are almost guaranteed a future in the big-time.
TJ Wilson, another superstar in the making, has been scouted for a slot in Japan, while Dave Swift, Apocalypse and Nattie Neidhart are other names to watch.
Outside of Stampede, the other up-and-comer on the Calgary scene is Hybrid Wrestling Coalition, a start-up group booked by Bad News Allen and operated by David Thomas and the \'alternative\' Razor Ramon, Rick Titan.
Rapidly approaching its first birthday, HWC trains its entire roster in a rougher Japanese style and presents a grittier and more realistic in-ring product than what most people are used to seeing.
\"Bringing New Japan to the New World\" is the group\'s claim, as they combine a stiff NJPW ring style with the entertainment aspect of American (read: McMahon) wrestling. The fusion of styles makes for an interesting and aggressive live show.
Charlotte Webb and Natasha Griffin, the group\'s top female charges, defy North American wrestling logic by churning out show-stealing performances and often having more violent confrontations than their male counterparts.
Rick Vain is the top babyface within the HWC ranks, with a variety of stars-to-be such as Gary Williams, Vinnie Fever and Johnny Devine rounding out the lineup.
HWC is just two weeks away from its next big card, scheduled for Jan. 18 at The Palace nightclub.
The show will be headlined by a battle between Vain and Williams, with the aforementioned ladies heading up the undercard in a no-disqualification brawl.
Meanwhile, the next Stampede Wrestling event takes place Jan. 10 at the Ogden Legion of Doom, headlined by Hot Shot battling The Bulldog, and the 6-ft. 9-in. Karnage (fresh from his Bunkhouse Battle Royal victory last month) slated to take on the 380- lb. Juggernaut.
You can see for yourself the talent and infrastructure is there.
The Calgary scene, which was virtually forced underground when the bottom fell out of the indie business, is ready to explode once again. It\'s already producing tomorrow\'s superstars -- but could Stampede or HWC realistically soar to WWE-like success in their own right? In all honesty, it\'ll be an uphill battle for either grappling group.
Vince McMahon controls the perception of wrestling in North America and he\'s wisely conditioned the public to believe pro-wrestling is WWE and vice versa.
It\'ll be darn near impossible for any new promotion to make its mark in such a monopolized market, but if someone\'s going to do it, I wouldn\'t count out the Calgary crew just yet.