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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Stampede set for return to TV


By TYLER MCLEOD -- Calgary Sun

Greg "Pistol" Pawluk, the Pacific Heavyweight champ. - courtesy Stampede Wrestling
Whoa, Nellie! Saturday mornings just got a whole lot more exciting.

"You've tried the rest, now return to the best," Bruce Hart laughs.

Yes, all is right with weekend television now that Stampede Wrestling is back.

It returns at noon tomorrow on channel 8 with a card taped last spring at the Stampede Pavilion and resumes taping its weekly instalments there next Friday for air on A-Channels across the Prairies.

Bruce Hart, now commissioner of the franchise his father Stu started in 1948, explains how the show has changed in its decade-long absence.

"The formula, I guess, is the old Stampede Wrestling. It'll be much the same format."

Stampede Wrestling's blueprint has always stood apart from other wrestling shows because they innovatively included wrestling in their weekly broadcasts.

"The Stampede format's been copied by all the others. Years ago, the WWF had what we call 'squash matches,' " Hart explains. "The guy gets beat in 30 seconds and then they had 20 minutes of talking."

Which isn't to say pro wrestling's evolved all that much since.

"If you watch two hours of Monday Night RAW, you'll only see five minutes of in-ring activity. Half of it's a rehash of what happened last week and the rest is whether the Undertaker's going to possess somebody's soul," laments Hart.

"We'll have our share of off-the-wall types, but I think you'll see more wrestling than you do on WWF."

Stampede Wrestling has been touring committedly for the past year, barnstorming rural areas (the "whistle stops," Hart calls them) and allowing them to evaluate the talent on hand.

"We're looking forward to unleashing all this new mayhem; we've got some pretty hot talent."

Gorgeous George, Jake Roberts, Honky Tonk Man, Andre the Giant and other illustrious names from Stampede's history must now give way to Dirty Dick Raines, Jason "Sledgehammer" Neidhart, Cyborg and Greg "Pistol" Pawluk.

"Some of the guys who have a lot of charisma are guys like this Crazy Horse Eddie Mustang. He's actually a hell of a wrestler -- a Pan American Games silver medalist," Hart ventures. "He's kind of doing a rebellious, half-deranged Axl Rose rocker type. He's been one of the big attractions on the road."

Hart says Hotshot Johnny Devine is a more physical version of Shawn Michaels and there are some promising villains afoot.

"Tiger Khan is a more streamlined and obnoxious version of the Great Gama. There's this other guy who is actually a school principal who became a wrestler," Hart says.

"Principal Pound is his name and he embodies all the contemptible elements of a pompous, arrogant, overzealous, self-righteous administrator.

"One of his things on the road was berating the audience for being underachieving deviants and social miscreants."

But wait, there's a malfunction at the junction. Whose this Mauro Ranallo guy behind the microphone and why isn't he, you know, Ed "Ring-a-ding-dong-dandy" Whalen? Looky here, Mr. Hart, fans demand Uncle Eddie and ...

"We have one segment called Mat Classics we think Ed will host. It will be two or three minutes of guys like J.R. Foley or Archie "Stomper" Gouldie or Dynamite Kid," Hart says.

Next Friday's event (tickets at Ticketmaster) will kick off a tournament to decide the new British Commonwealth Champion -- a title held by the likes of Gama Singh, Dynamite Kid and the Harts -- Owen, Bruce, Bret and Keith.

While the Harts continue to operate their prestigious wrestling camps, not all of the wrestlers on the Stampede circuit were trained in The Dungeon. Hart says they are recruiting in the States, Europe and Japan.

Nevertheless, some of the most esteemed members of the Hart legacy are still very active.

"A lot of the guys we developed in the '80s went on to be pretty big talents. Some of the guys are still on top -- like Chris Benoit and Jericho. Davey Boy Smith's back and Bret, of course," Hart lists.

"I know guys in the ECW who have approached us, like Rob Van Dam, Taz, Lance Storm and Sabu. They all seem open to the possibility of coming up here some time."

Hey, you just never know who might surface when Stampede Wrestling relaunches.

"The Cuban Assassin-types and the Great Gama-types -- there's a ton of them still lurking around out here," Hart teases. "I wouldn't say on a regular basis ... but there's a few who aren't that old. You might see Keith. I'm not planning on donning the tights again, but you never know."

One thing's certain, though, a Stampede Wrestling ring cannot remain Hartless for long.

"You know, Bret's got kids, and Keith and I do, who are probably just a few years away. My nephews have a lot of talent.

"There's pretty much a dozen or so in the new generation coming up. There's going to be more than ever."

So you see, folks, in the meantime and in-between time, that's NEVER it for another edition of Stampede Wrestling.