Originally established by Stu Hart in 1948, the Calgary based promotion ‘Stampede Wrestling’ was for nearly 50 years one of the main promotions in western Canada and the Canadian Prairies and boasts an alumni that features the likes of Bret Hart, Rick Martel and The Dynamite Kid. Today Brian looks at the factors that made the promotion such a success during its heyday.
Vince McMahon is synonymous with the destruction of the territorial system in professional wrestling. A system that had been in place for many, many years before he decided on expanding his World Wrestling Federation nationally in the early 1980’s. While McMahon certainly can shoulder some of the blame….it must be noted that many of these territories were run out of business by themselves.
Whether it was greed, lack of trust, lack of vision into the future…etc…many promoters shut their doors for good over their own bad decisions. McMahon just fed off the weak and eventually became a global power. This piece is no way defending Vincent Kennedy McMahon….just looking stating some necessary facts. One perfect example of this, was the territory that dominated most of western Canada…Calgary Stampede Wrestling.
Calgary Stampede was founded and run by wrestler/booker Stu Hart from 1948 until its demise in 1984. Stu not only controlled pro wrestling in the region for all those years…he trained many of its talent on the roster. The promotion thrived for several years…but as the old saying goes…”All good things must come to an end” and it did in such a violent manner.
The demise of Calgary Stampede Wrestling can be traced back to over 30 years ago…on a cold night in December of 1983. The place was the Ogden Auditorium in Calgary, Alberta Canada. A venue that Stu Hart had ran many of his wrestling shows. The Booker during this time was Stu’s son Bruce Hart. A wrestler himself, who was somewhat of a visionary to take Calgary Stampede in a whole new direction. Under Bruce’s leadership…Calgary Stampede went from the more traditional wrestling catch as catch can style to a more gritty, violent style.
Bruce Hart liked “color” aka blood and wasn’t shy in having matches end up in bloody brawls. The younger generation of fans (Who Bruce Hart was targeting) might have loved this new aggressive style of booking…but not all were enamored with it. One of which was none other than Calgary Stampede’s long time announcer Ed Whalen. Whalen was the voice of Stampede Wrestling for nearly 30 years and aside from the Hart family themselves…was the one constant of that territory. Ed Whalen had become increasingly disgruntled with the direction of the promotion to a more bloody style. He didn’t feel in many ways, that such a violent style was appropriate for the families that came to watch the shows week in and week out.
It all finally came to a head on December 2nd, 1983….the night that virtually killed this once strong promotion. On this particular night….the main event pitted Davy Boy Smith, Bret Hart and Sonny Two Rivers against Bad News Allen, The Stomper Archie Gouldie and Archie’s kayfabe son Jeff Gouldie. During the course of the match, Bad News Allen turned on his partners the Stomper and his son Jeff Gouldie.
Bad News Allen viciously attacked Jeff Gouldie outside the ring where he used his piledriver maneuver several times on the young wrestler on the concrete floor and into the stands. Allen then got on the microphone and announced his hatred for the Stomper and his son and wished that his attack on Jeff Gouldie led to his death. The match and the attack afterwards led to a riot within the stands of the Ogden Auditorium which reportedly led to some injuries involving fans. One of which was reportedly a female fan who was knocked over and trampled on.
The kayfabe violence had suddenly become all too real and it lead to the veteran Ed Whalen legitimately quitting Stampede Wrestling while still on the air. The riot also caught the attention of Calgary’s wrestling and boxing commission. Upset from the real life violence spurned by the event…the commission suspended Stu Hart’s wrestling license for approximately six months.
With Calgary Stampede Wrestling no longer allowed to put on shows in Calgary…Stu Hart lost a lot of his core audience and revenue. Hart would begin to run shows at an Indian Reservation outside Calgary’s city limits. By this time, Stu Hart’s promotion was hemorrhaging money. In August of 1984, Hart sold all his interests in Stampede Wrestling to Vince McMahon and the WWF. Calgary Stampede Wrestling…was no more.
The man behind the violent angle that ultimately led to the promotions downfall…Bruce Hart…attempted on his own to revive Calgary Stampede Wrestling in 1985 and again in 1999…but both ventures failed to captivate fans like the original Stampede Wrestling.