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Stampede still a ring-a-ding dong dandy!


By DAVID VEITCH -- Calgary Sun

It was like the return of an old friend.

An old friend who jumps off the high rope, kicks you in the chops, then takes your limp, toothless carcass and pile-drives it on a concrete floor when the referee is not looking ... but an old friend nevertheless.

Yes, Stampede Wrestling is on the air again, every Saturday at noon on The A-Channel.

Judging from yesterday's inaugural broadcast, it's not better than ever. Aside from new faces, new graphics and a new theme song -- goodbye orchestral overture; hello hair metal -- Stampede Wrestling is the same as ever, which is good news for all those tune into wrestling to watch, well, wrestling, and not soap-opera plotlines or bulbous, gravity-defying boobs. Old-fashioned isn't always a bad thing.

Yesterday's show was akin to watching the first episode of a new series, when character development is still in its early stages. The villains have yet to build up their resumes of nefarious schemes, most of which will surely run along the lines of: Distract ref; hit good guy over the head with a folding chair.

You'd have to watch a John Waters movie to find characters this eccentric: Crazy Horse Eddie Mustang, a harmonica-blowing Neil Young-wannabe in tights, and my personal early favourite, Principal Pound, a former school principal (supposedly) who walks around with a strap and administers his own brand of corporal punishment ... with emphasis on the word "punishment." Great stuff. I'd join his fan club any day.

Alas, the managers are all pimp suits and hot air. At this stage, not one seems capable of reaching the heights of weasel-dom attained by the immortal J.R. Foley.

As well, some of the schtick is long passed the best-before date. The fact villain Tiger Khan riles the crowd by acting like some super-nationalistic East Indian -- he has a hold called the Calcutta Clutch -- still leaves the unsavoury taste of racism in one's mouth. This sort of stuff should have been retired with The Great Gama.

New host Mauro Ranallo does an admirable job but, let's face it, no one can fill the big, big shoes of Ed Whalen, whose Whoa Nellies, Ring-a-ding Dong Dandys and Malfunction at the Junctions are sadly missed. He may return to host the Mat Classics segment, which unearths archival footage from the Hart family vault. It's a nice touch, reminding audiences of a time when Stampede Wrestling was an unassailable institution. Now it's a David, competing against the Goliaths that are the WWF and WCW. I know which one I'm rooting for.