Tales from the Territories – Stampede
By Dave Newman on 6th November 2022
I haven’t been watching this series, with all reports indicating it isn’t a patch on Dark Side of the Ring, but the collection of interviewees for this episode piqued my interest, so let’s see how it goes.
Interviewees are Bret Hart, David Schultz, Abdullah the Butcher and “No Class” Bobby Bass.
Abby pays respect to promoter Stu Hart and calls the Hart kids crazy. Bret calls Abby the first big heel sensation of Stampede and incredibly scary.
Schultz loved Stampede so much that he wanted to move up there permanently and become a Canadian citizen.
Bobby Bass got his nickname from Ed Whalen after heeling on Cowboy Lang with Len Denton.
Bret recalls a wrestling clinic in the city of Calgary where some of the amateurs were smart with Stu about being a phoney pro wrestler, so he stretched the coach on the mat to show he was as real as anyone they’d ever meet.
The Dungeon is detailed as Bret could walk past Jim Neidhart being turned into a pretzel for hours on end while passing to do his laundry. Schultz refused to ever go down there and testifies that Stu could hurt you as soon he touched you and didn’t discriminate as to who he stretched. Abby is emotional even today over Stu not being around. He jokes over never getting his last cheque (Bret: “I’ll look into it.”).
Stu was very imitable. Ernie Ladd could do a pitch perfect impression of him without having even met him.
Someone tried to steal Stu’s car one time, but couldn’t get off the driveway with the snow, so Stu dragged him out of the car, brought him in the kitchen, gave him some rough justice, then called the kid’s parents to collect him and got him working honestly as an usher at the matches.
A lot of stars came into the territory, like the Funks and Andre the Giant. Andre never came back again, though, after Smith drove him to the airport in a total joyride, chased by the police with how fast and recklessly he was driving. It actually ruined the relationship between Bret and Andre and Stu and Andre for a while, although they made it up in the WWF.
Abby kept kayfabe by imitating foreign language from movies and pretending he couldn’t speak any English, but a waitress in a nearby restaurant saw through it.
Schultz’s daughter was almost kidnapped from school because he was such a nasty heel. His car was set on fire and someone went to throw a rock on it one time, so he hit the guy with the rock and his brother with a hockey stick out of the back of it.
Bret recalls an angle where Abby bloodied Smith and Stu came to save him, leading to a match between them. Bret was allowed to sit by the timekeeper’s table with his best friend, where he kicked Abby three times on the outside before he turned around and gave him the look of death but nothing else because he knew he was one of his kids. Stu said backstage that he should “kill the sons-of-bitches!”.
Bret was especially scared of Archie “The Stomper” Gouldie because he said that he’d come up to the Hart House and rip it apart brick by brick, then drag Helen out and piledrive her on the interstate, which they actually have the clip of him saying with a hilarious B-roll reenactment. One Saturday, Archie came to the house for his pay and Bret was fretting, but he saw Helen and him sharing niceties. He kinda didn’t want them to because he’d heard Archie say all these terrible things about him and “broken” his father’s arm, which Stu wore a gimmick cast to sell for weeks, leading to moments where the postman or milkman would come to the door and Stu would have to scramble to find it to put it on to keep kayfabe. Bret could tell the cat was out of the bag at that point.
Ribs were prevalent. Schultz left his coffee unattended in the locker room, a cardinal sin, and came back to someone seemingly having put acid or LSD in it, which they recreate the effect of by distorting his audio. Schultz paid the boys back by having his wife make chocolate chip cookies with laxatives in for them. He double-bluffed them by claiming he’d had a bad stomach all night after too so they didn’t suspect them. This led to it being topped by horse laxative being the next thing added into the mix the next time. Bret realises that he was one of the people that ate them (“I thought it was the hot dogs!”).
Another rib was the “Mabel” rib, where the wrestlers would sell newcomers like the Great Antonio on there being a married woman who was up for some action (actually a girl in on the rib) while her husband was out of town and setting them up. To the bedroom, where the action would be about to begin as the “husband” would burst in through the door with a shotgun, firing blanks, and running off the scared wrestlers to the hilarity of the boys. Antonio was especially scared and called the RCMP, who knew what the deal was and would let him sweat a bit.
Travelling in the winter was potentially deadly. A lot of guys went in a van together, so if there was an accident there was a number affected by it. An old man stopped and saw they were broken down one time, with Bret asking for assistance, but he drove off when he saw these other guys who looked like convicts emptying out.
Bad News Allen is the final focus of the episode. Schultz was annoyed that he was trying to take his spot. Bret was frustrated that he was so stiff, because his main training was in Japan where you worked as hard as possible. Allen would be suspended for using forks and weapons by the commission and head back to Japan for more “meat chopping” matches. This leads to the story of the famous angle where heels Allen and Gouldie aligned with one another eventually, with Archie’s “son” Jeff, actually a rookie from Tennessee, being part of their team. Allen turned on Gouldie, tied him up and then gave Jeff a piledriver on the floor to start a blood feud. Bret expected they’d make nothing but money because it was perfect, but Allen used the fork on Archie and then hit an old man at ringside who had hit him in the leg. Ed Whalen was so disgusted that he shut it down before they could draw a dime.
The next night, at a show in Edmonton, Bad News caused a riot and hit a fan with a chair multiple times. That led to Stu losing his license and Bad News being suspended in Edmonton too, so they were effectively down their two biggest towns. It killed the territory and led to Stu selling up to Vince McMahon but not receiving a penny. He got the territory back and had a few more years, but it ended at the end of the eighties.
In the eulogy of the territory, Bret says that where it didn’t end well financially there are a lot of great wrestlers that came out and came through it with stories aplenty to tell, and he thanks the production team for reuniting him with the guys he’s with for this round table session. The guys say he should start up another territory in Calgary, then Abby pays off the joke about the cheque earlier in the episode by saying he doesn’t really want it… he’ll take cash.
The meltdown: A bit disappointing, very low key and quiet, with a focus more on the sixties and seventies, whereas the later days, as recounted in Dynamite Kid’s book, is where the really crazy stuff happened. Best bit could’ve been extended with the creative differences with Bad News and the effects of that, although it would be better if Allen was still around to say his side.