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Default November 18th, 2001: Calgary Stampede

November 18th, 2001

From Max Bell Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Attendance: 2,121

Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart

Jamie Knoble vs. Fit Finlay

We haven't had an opener yet that failed to get a PPV off to a good start, and this month wasn't the one to break that trend. I considered telling Knoble and Finlay to focus on delivering a true mat wrestling clinic, but decided against it for a couple of reasons. I couldn't allot them quite enough time to do a match of that type justice for one thing, and I also wasn't sure if that would be the best way to open a show. It was still a match with plenty of good technical wrestling on display of course, but Finlay also did some brawling and Knoble mixed in a couple of aerial spots.

I thought our finish was a good one. Finlay had him up in the air for his tombstone, but Knoble landed on his feet behind him and seamlessly put on a dragon sleeper for the submission. This was exactly what I wanted from this match. It got our show off to a good start, gave Knoble a win on PPV that should boost his credibility, and Finlay showed his selflessness in helping the younger guy get over without complaint.

Grade: B-

Sting cut a backstage promo on his match with Scott Steiner. He did a good job at playing to the Canadian crowd by reminding Scott that not only do Canadians play baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays have won two World Series, and did so a lot more recently than Scotty's Detroit Tigers won their most recent championship. He said that he hoped to beat Scotty in a fair fight, but if "Big Poppa Loudmouth" decided to play dirty, he wouldn't be afraid to pull out the big black bat and hit a walk-off home run that'd make Joe Carter proud. (Carter hit a home run to win the World Series for Toronto in 1993.)

This promo didn't introduce any new wrinkles into the storyline, but Sting did a nice job entertaining the fans while still hyping the match, which made for a tremendous segment.

Grade: A*
Alex Wright and Ernest "The Cat" Miller (w/Miss Jones) vs. True Heroes

As we learned not too long ago on Nitro, Wright and Miller actually work pretty well together. When combined with the documented chemistry between the True Heroes, it didn't come as a huge surprise that this was a very good match. I'd still say that the Heroes have had better matches with Sting/Booker T and the Jung Dragons, but it was a nice performance nevertheless. A lot of that was due to hometown boy Storm, because as good as Punk is even this early in his career, Lance is pretty clearly the better worker on the team at this point and one of the best technicians anywhere in the business today. His flawless technique made him the clear-cut standout of the match, and Miller looked all the worse in comparison. "The Cat" looked very out of place sharing the ring with these three guys, so it's probably a good thing he was the one to submit to the Heroic Finish. Even though Miller and Wright made for a surprisingly good duo, I think I'll be going in a different direction for Alex's tag title match.

Grade: B

We got a brief shot of Ric Flair making his return. He returned in typical grand Nature Boy fashion, stepping out of a fancy car and flanked by attractive women. The women were played by Alexis Laree, Allison Danger and Cheerleader Melissa from Wildside, though we didn't actually identify them since this was just a one-shot cameo. Nothing much to this; just a couple of minutes to establish that Flair's back.

Grade: C

Bobby Heenan interviewed the American Dragon backstage. Bobby was his usual entertaining self as he expressed his shock about Dragon beating Disco Inferno, but Dragon was the real surprise of the segment. The kid looked perfectly comfortable on the microphone, clearly and concisely stating that Heenan, Disco and a lot of others might have been surprised, but he wasn't. He might be young and inexperienced, but he was very confident in his ability and believed he was good enough to compete with anyone in WCW.

Disco walked into the camera shot, but he wasn't smiling or dancing or doing any of his generally silly stuff. He was supposed to talk about how his loss to Dragon had him so upset that he couldn't muster the enthusiasm to give the people what they wanted (what they wanted was to watch him dance of course, at least in his own mind.) I say SUPPOSED to because he was a mess here, stumbling over his words and rambling on nonsensically. As good as Danielson and Heenan were, Disco was equally bad. Whatever; the point is that Disco's mad about the loss and this story isn't over.

Grade: D+
Dustin Rhodes vs. Vampiro

Yes, this match actually happened this time. But even though the bell did ring and the match did occur, we weren't too concerned with trying to put on a quality match here. This was several minutes shorter than anything else on the card, and all of the focus was on advancing the story we're telling. It wound up being a good thing that I wasn't relying on this match to deliver, because Dustin and Vampiro did not work well together at all during the seven or eight minutes this thing actually ran. After narrowly avoiding a bulldog from Dustin, Vampiro rolled out to the floor and motioned to the back.

Father Isaac came out, but he wasn't alone. Yes, that's Mike Awesome wearing a mask very similar to the one Kanyon used when he was Mortis. Isaac led Awesome to the ring, and he made his presence felt immediately by grabbing Dustin and launching him with an Awesome Bomb. That resulted in a dq finish, but it was pretty obvious that Vampiro and Isaac didn't care.

Grade: C-

Vampiro and Isaac went back into the ring, and Isaac told Awesome that Dustin had not felt enough pain yet. Awesome renewed his assault on Dustin, and Vampiro grabbed the microphone from the announcer's hands. He congratulated Dustin for "winning" the match, but said that he probably wasn't feeling like much of a winner at the moment. Vampiro was great on the microphone tonight, getting across the sinister tone I was wanting as he talked about how meaningless Dustin's career had always been and would always continue to be as long as he rejected salvation. Then he handed the microphone to Isaac.

"Dustin, your stubbornness left us with only one option. In order to save you, first we have to break you. And that's where my newest reclamation project comes in. Until now you've known him as Mike Awesome, and he's adopted any number of different identities over the years as he struggled to find his calling. We have given him that calling. No longer will he answer to the name 'Mike Awesome', because he is now the blunt instrument with which we will destroy those foolish enough to resist us. He is...The Destroyer!"

The newly-dubbed Destroyer gave Dustin a final Awesome Bomb (henceforth the Destruction Bomb), and the trio walked off to the back to end the segment. We switched Awesome to an enforcer gimmick here, and based on the crowd reaction I think this new character is off to an above average start. Isaac joined Vampiro in doing a great job on the mic, but some goofy, overly exaggerated facial expressions dragged his overall performance down.

Grade: C+
Jerry "The King" Lawler vs. "King of Old School" Steve Corino

It was no secret when we brought him in that Jerry's on his last legs as an active wrestler. I knew ahead of time that asking for anything special between the ropes wouldn't be very wise, but that's not what this was about. I told Jerry and Steve to focus on telling a story in hopes that their intelligence could help to mask Lawler's physical limitations. I thought the story was just fine, with the wizened veteran trying to outsmart his much younger opponent just as he had during their tournament match on Nitro. But the story mirrored reality here. Lawler couldn't keep up with a man 23 years his junior, as he faded towards the end and Corino delivered the Old School Expulsion to redeem his previous loss.

Grade: C+

Ric came out to the ring, and the girls weren't with him this time because now it was time to get serious. This wasn't the limousine-riding, "Space Mountain" Nature Boy side of Flair; this was the intense, screaming, get out here so I can kick your ass side. He talked about how whoever had attacked him at Halloween Havoc had made a major mistake: they hadn't finished the job. Now he was back and there was going to be hell to pay. He didn't know who attacked him from behind, but whoever it was obviously wanted to make a name for themselves by trying to take out the Nature Boy. Well now he was going to give them a chance to do just that, because he was standing in the ring ready and waiting to kick some--we bleeped him at that point. Keep it kid-friendly, Ric! He was great here though. A lot of people associate Ric with the cocky promos, but I think he's at least as good when he works himself up into a rage like this.

After about 20 seconds of waiting, someone stepped out into the aisle and answered the challenge.

Based on the surprised reaction from the crowd, I don't think too many people were expecting this. Candido freely admitted that it had been him who attacked Flair at Halloween Havoc. He claimed it was nothing personal.

"I don't like you, Ric, but even though you disrespected my queen a few months ago, I don't hate you either. I attacked you for one reason: headlines. Your best days are long behind you, but the name Ric Flair still carries a lot of weight behind it. The CEO of our budding enterprise drew up the blueprint for our success, and the first major step was to announce our arrival as a force to be reckoned with by killing the legacy of the "Nature Boy" once and for all."

Candido's verbal delivery was solid here, but he was nervous at being involved in such a high-profile angle and you could see it in his face as he spoke. Flair sold it perfectly; he took his suit jacket off, threw it on the mat and dropped an elbow on it, which popped the crowd big.

"Look again, kid, because I'm still standing! You wanna kill the Nature Boy? Well come and take your best shot, punk, and after I take both of you to school I'll show your woman how a real man gets things done!"

Candido smirked at the challenge and said that they were way ahead of Ric. "The CEO" had drawn up a plan in case Flair showed up tonight. He didn't want them to finish Ric off tonight, but they were going to "send a message." With that Candido and TAKA walked the rest of the way to the ring. Flair took his Rolex off (great touch) and stood his ground, even holding his enemies at bay briefly, but eventually TAKA put him down with a springboard dropkick from behind as he was battling Candido. The two men put the boots to Ric from there as Sytch smiled from the floor, and Candido put the exclamation point on the angle by going to the top rope and dropping the New Jersey Jam.

Grade: B

Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. Jushin Thunder Liger {}

For the second straight month I told Liger and his opponent to go out and try to steal the show. Learning from the mistakes of last month, I gave them over twenty minutes so they could keep the crowd at a fever pitch rather than having to wrap up before they hit the crescendo. We all know how great Liger is but Chavo proved that he could absolutely hang with one of the best in the world. The two men pulled out all the stops, beautifully blending scientific wrestling, striking and aerial maneuvers. You could see that they were both lagging and fatigued by the time we got into the home stretch, but they delivered exactly what I had envisioned. This was hands-down the best cruiserweight match we've had, and one of the best matches we've had period.

The fans were definitely rocking as both men went back and forth in the closing minutes, each racking up multiple near-falls. Everyone thought it was over when Liger hit the koppou kick and the fisherman buster, and then again when Chavo paid tribute to his grandfather with the Gory Special, but the narrow kick outs continued to prolong the match. Chavo attempted to dip into uncle Eddie's playbook with a frog splash, but there was no water in the pool after Liger rolled out of the way. That miss allowed the champion to hit the running Liger Bomb and retain his title, but nobody really loses in a match this great.

Grade: B+

Arn had a brief interview with Heenan where they discussed the return of the original wrestling supercard, Starrcade, which this year will emanate from Japan on December 30th. I made the call to hold Starrcade in Japan this year the moment we agreed to terms with tv asahi to air Nitro and our PPVs. I know it's breaking from tradition and everything, but our television exposure there is just on a totally different level than what FX gives us in the US.

Grade: C+

AJ Styles was being interviewed about his future when Stacy Keibler interrupted. She said that his long-term goals, to pursue the cruiserweight title in addition to eventually using his UFS tag team title shot with Sting, were meaningless. He could've achieved all that and more with her there to lead him, but he decided to terminate their business arrangement.

"That's a decision you're going to regret, AJ. Together we could have gone all the way to the top of WCW, but you didn't want my help. That's your mistake, but not everyone in WCW is as stupid as you."

To the surprise of everyone, Kaz Hayashi attacked AJ from behind. Heenan fled as Hayasahi knocked AJ to the ground and put the boots to him. He delivered about a half dozen hard kicks to the ribs before Keibler led him away, pausing to laugh as she looked back over her shoulder at where AJ lay. Kaz didn't look too convincing during his sneak attack, but I have high hopes for his new run as a heel after hearing some of the boos he and Keibler got from the fans watching the video screen.

Grade: C

Rick Steiner vs. Rey Misterio Jr. {}

There wasn't any story building this match up, but there was still a decent amount of crowd heat when Steiner jumped Rey from behind as he was handing the US title to the referee. Rick had the opportunity to really launch his much smaller opponent around the ring with some suplexes and slams, and he spent a lot of time working Rey's back over. It wasn't really one-sided, but the match was set up where Rick would control things with a slow and methodical pace, but Rey would have sequences where he was able to pull off a dizzying series of aerial moves. Rick looked for his Steiner Driver several times throughout but Rey was always able to avoid it. Rick was less fortunate when it came to avoiding a springboard hurricanrana from Rey which ended a solid match.

Grade: B

You never know what you're going to get when you hand Scott Steiner a live mic. Sometimes he's shockingly coherent and sticks to the message, and sometimes he doesn't just go off the rails, but flies over them and into the clouds as he follows some train of thought that probably doesn't even make sense in his own mind. Tonight was the latter.

"Sting, you wanna step into the ring with the genetic freak? Well that just shows how stupid you are, just like all these damn Canadians! You have about as much of a chance as beating me as these Canadians would at beatin' the United States in a war! The only reason we ain't annexed this stupid country and made it another state is that there ain't nothing here worth taking! Canada, you can take your hockey and your Celine Dion and your maple syrup and shove it! And Sting, tonight I'm gonna take that baseball bat and use it to beat that makeup right off your oldass face so all these Canadians can see all your wrinkles! Holler if ya hear me! But not you, Canadians, because you ain't worth my time!"

Yeah. So that happened. It didn't make a bit of sense, but you have to say this much: when Scotty talks, people react.

Grade: A

Doomsday vs. The Natural Born Thrillers {}

I had a few things to worry about here. One, I had to hope my medical staff hadn't made a mistake by clearing Bryan Clark to return this quickly. Two, I had to hope there wasn't another injury sustained in another brawl between four guys who aren't exactly the smoothest workers in the world. Third, and maybe most importantly, I had to hope Adams and Clark wouldn't break out into an unplanned fight of their own.

I guess luck was on my side tonight, because all three of those concerns had a positive outcome. Clark looked fully fit during the match, all four guys came out of this wild brawl unscathed, and whatever issues Adams and Clark had on Monday didn't seem to be lingering. This match was kept relatively short, but that couldn't hide a lack of solid match layout, nor was it any less obvious that even a healthy Clark isn't very good in comparison to the other three. All of that said, it was actually a better match than last month. Maybe part of that was that we had a conclusive finish this time, as Clark was finished off with an impressive springboard clothesline from O'Haire.

Grade: B-

DDP joined Roddy in the Pit, and the two had a bit of entertaining banter before getting into the heart of the matter. Dallas said that he'd heard a lot of people say that that cage match with Scott Steiner was his last big shot at glory, and he'll never become champion again. But he was here to promise every single one of those doubters that he was going to prove them wrong, just like he'd proven them wrong when they said he was too old to leave managing behind and become a wrestler in the first place. It was only going to be a matter of time before someone else felt the BANG and DDP was champion again!

That would seem to be the end of the segment...right?

Wrong! Shane Douglas crashed the party, walking out and standing at the top of the aisle. He glared at both DDP and Piper and told them this lovefest was making him sick to his stomach.

"I am so beyond tired of listening to this garbage from you, Diamond Dallas Page! You always like to pretend that you're some great underdog that defied the odds and fought tooth and nail for everything you've got, but we all know that's a load of crap! You were given every opportunity under the sun. You decide you want to become a wrestler? No problem; Dusty Rhodes takes a liking to you for God only knows what reason, and with the support of the American Dream you get a job even though you don't know a damn thing about wrestling! Looking to catch your big break? No problem; your next door neighbor is the guy making the matches! The fans don't care about you? No problem; your wife can come out to the ring with you to make sure people don't leave to buy hot dogs or use the bathroom during your matches!

"You were handed everything, Page. And me? I had to fight for every single scrap I could get. When I came to WCW in the early 90's they forced me to carry a skateboard to the ring like a damn moron! When I went to WWF, Michaels and his cronies used their influence to make sure I never had a chance to succeed! So I carved out a niche for myself in the underground. People may credit Paul Heyman as some mad scientist genius, but the truth is that ECW succeeded because of ME! But wrestling in bingo halls and getting paid in checks that bounced half the time was something I should have never had to do. I should have been here all along, Page. I should have become the Franchise of WCW years ago, and I should have millions of dollars sitting in my bank account right now! But that didn't happen, and it's because of undeserving trash like YOU, Page, who became rich and successful not through skill, but through nepotism! I won't stand for it anymore! You say you're going to be a champion again? I say I'm going to send your talentless butt straight out of this company so I can take my rightful spot at the top, where I should've been for the last decade!"

Piper, DDP, Douglas: everybody was on fire here. Fantastic segment.

Grade: A*

Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T

This may not have been my original plan for the tournament final, but I couldn't complain too much about having this matchup close out the tournament. Mike and I talked about my dad at various points throughout the match, and I suggested that he would favor RVD here because even though Stu was known as a grappler, young athletic guys like Dynamite, Pillman and Owen were all big stars in Stampede. RVD used that athleticism here with kicks and flying moves, including a running somersault dive over the top rope that popped the crowd.

Booker was all about trying to attack the leg that had initially been injured by Mike Awesome and had continued to be a focal point in his matches since then. That was the idea behind the match at least, but I don't think they did the best job at telling that story. Booker did do a few leg spots, but it never really went anywhere. It was still a pretty good match, but I think it could've been a great one if they'd effectively told the story.

RVD hit a standing spin kick and a split-legged moonsault for a near-fall, but Booker got the knees up to block a Rolling Thunder attempt. He opportunistically hit the Book End and made the cover for the one...


...RVD gets a foot on the bottom rope to save himself! Booker complained of a slow count, then dragged RVD over near the corner and ascended the buckles for the Harlem Hangover. He took a moment too long up there, and he paid the price when Van Dam got up and caught him with a flying side kick. While standing on the top rope Van Dam gave Booker a roundhouse kick to the head that sent him tumbling down to the mat, and then he struck with the Five Star Frog Splash! Charles Robinson got into position and counted once...


...three times! RVD wins the first Stu Hart Classic!

Grade: B

My nephew Teddy, niece Nattie and I brought the trophy into the ring to present it to RVD. I didn't think Nattie or Teddy were ready to cut a live promo on this stage, so they stood in the background while I did all the talking. I got a little choked up and emotional when talking about the legacy of Stu Hart and I'm sure it hurt the promo, but I doubt anybody will hold it against me given the circumstances. Anyway, I told RVD that Stu would no doubt be proud to have seen this tournament in his honor, and to see a one of a kind athlete like him become the first man to hold the trophy. With that Nattie held the trophy out, and RVD accepted it with a smile.

Rob cut a brief promo, talking about how he never met Stu but he knew his reputation, and he called it an honor to win this tournament named in his honor in front of the fans he'd spent years of his life entertaining here in Calgary. Well that was the gist of it, though obviously it didn't sound quite like that coming out of RVD's mouth. He also talked about how this win guarantees him a world title match in the main event of Starrcade, the biggest show of the year. He promised that whether it was Sting or Scott Steiner as champion, he was going to use his one of a kind talent to put on a show like nobody else can, and then he was going to lead WCW into a new era as the world heavyweight champion.

Grade: B

Sting vs. "Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner (w/Midajah) {}

As this was Steiner's second straight program with an opponent in their 40's, many of the same concerns from the DDP title matches also applied here. Sting's declining physical skills hurt this match sure enough, and both of these guys were pretty low on stamina by the time the match was through. I anticipated both of those things, but a much bigger problem reared its head in this match: these guys don't work well together at all. The promos were great, but their in-ring timing was all over the place. Probably the only thing that saved this match was how popular and charismatic these guys are.

After Steiner used his power to dominate the middle part of the match, Sting came roaring back. He had Scott dazed with a bunch of punches, gave him several slams, clotheslines and a dropkick, and whipped him into the corner. After a trademark howl to the fans, he followed up with the Stinger Splash--but Steiner pulled referee Nick Patrick into the way for usage as a human shield. It was only minimally successful because Sting stayed on the attack, knocking Steiner to the mat and locking on the Scorpion Deathlock! Steiner tapped! But there was no referee of course. Sting kept the Scorpion Deathlock on, but that just made it all the easier for...

...Booker T to hit him in the back of the head with the world championship belt! He didn't stop there either, giving him a Book End onto the belt as well. He glared down at Sting before leaving the ringside area. Scott was surprised by Booker's interference, but was more than happy to pick the bones. He simply covered Sting and hooked the leg, and after Midajah did her part by slapping Nick Patrick across the face to wake him up, Steiner got the pin and retained the world title.

Grade: B

Show Overall Grade: B+
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