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  July 14, 2001



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Stampede needs shot of wrestling


By BRET HART -- SLAM! Wrestling
 What's missing from the Stampede this year?

 Have you noticed?

 It's something you can't quite put your finger on.

 The cotton candy is sweet. The food is tasty, especially the little donuts.

 The kids are having a great time on the rides.

 The rodeo is still a rootin' tootin' good time.

 The events and competitions still have that friendly spirit.

 The midway is tons of fun.

 Stampede breakfasts abound.

 The big concerts are back.

 So what is it that's missing at the Stampede this year?

 Wrestling!

 It wasn't all that long ago that my dad used to proudly put on his biggest show of the year at the Stampede.

 All of wrestling's superstar champions came up and loved being in the parade, even if they did have to wake up at five in the morning, which I don't think they would have done for anyone but Stu.

 Gene Kiniski, Lou Thesz, The Funks, Harley Race. And how about the 500-lb.-each McGuire twins and the one and only Andre the Giant!

 Andre loved to wave his huge hands at all the little kids lining the parade route and I don't know about you but to me a genuine giant in a cowboy hat is a sight I'll never forget!

 Maybe there are those who would rather forget the Stampede Wrestling "float" (usually a ring placed on some jury-rigged trailer pulled by a panting old Caddy that had long outlived its intended lifetime) with midgets and giants and wrestlers of all sizes and colours crowded aboard (silently praying the whole thing would just hold together) while smiling with looks that said, 'don't worry, be happy!'

 It's a mixed blessing my parents have been out of the wrestling business for some time now -- but I do miss the old days, especially during Stampede. From your cards and letters I know I'm far from the only one who yearns for the era of Abdulah the Butcher, Archie the Stomper, even The Dynamite Kid.

 Alas, we can't go back.

 The WWF, who had run most of the family-owned promotions out of business by the 80's, including my father's, is now the only big game around, having bought out WCW, which includes the entire National Wrestling Alliance archive going back almost 100 years.

 It is my sincere hope that as far reaching a marketing machine as the WWF is, it will make these classic matches available to an even bigger audience than the one that enjoyed them in the first place -- as only the WWF can do. Or, the WWF can choose to rewrite history by locking these great moments away in a vault, never to be seen again.

 With the blood, sweat and tears of so many careers whose last remnants are now in their hands, I hope the WWF will show some honour and respect for wrestling's history, but I'm dubious. For example, with wrestling being synonymous with the Stampede for nearly 40 years, you'd think that's when the WWF would have brought their show to Calgary.

 Perhaps they had some other motivation for coming here in May. Personally, in my opinion, I think it was in horrible taste and there are at least four Hart siblings who agree with me.

 To each his own.

 Walking by the pavilion the other day, I could still feel the magic of all the great wrestlers and fans who made those big Stampede wrestling days a unique and special era.

 Thanks for the memories. And thank heaven for videotape.

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