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  March 25, 1999

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Stampede Wrestling back with a bang

QUITE THE HUDDLE ... Dick Butkus Jr. (left) and Marvin (Big Daddy) Pope are more than ready to rumble as Stampede Wrestling returns April 2. The mad-hatter keeping the 'rasslers apart is guest referee Anthony McClanahan. -- DARREN MAKOWICHUK, Calgary Sun
By RYAN PYETTE -- Calgary Sun
  It took a sock to the kisser to bring back classic Stampede Wrestling.

But we're not talking about Mankind's disgusting 'Mr. Socko' here. We're talking a real-life, well-documented punch in the face.

When Calgary's Bret (The Hitman) Hart slugged World Wrestling Federation owner Vince MacMahon for disrespecting the departing champ, it triggered enough fireworks to defrost Stampede Wrestling from a 10-year deep freeze, Hart family-style.

"Beforehand, Vince had approached us about reviving Stampede Wrestling as part of a feeder system for the WWF," said Bruce Hart, Bret's older brother and a world-renowned trainer for most of today's ring superstars.

"After the Bret-Vince thing, the ties between us and Vince were pretty much severed. But we put some capital behind us and still figured, with all the popularity of wrestling today, the timing was right to bring Stampede back."

Only, this time, on the Harts' terms.

"Wrestling nowadays, you have two choices," said Bruce Hart. "You can watch the WWF, where it's all Jerry Springer crap with mostly mid-card talent, or you can watch the WCW (Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling), or as I call it, the Seniors Tour.

"Hulk Hogan's the Chi Chi Rodriguez of the ring, and Randy Savage is Hale Irwin.

"But it doesn't matter which one you watch, you'll get about three minutes of wrestling in a two-hour show, and a whole lot of useless yapping.

"With Stampede, we want to get back to giving the fans, and especially the young kids who are too young to watch WWF, interesting matches with great talent without compromising the entertainment value."

They're not wasting time. The first big show returns to the Stampede Pavilion, the longtime home of Stampede Wrestling, on Good Friday (April 2) at 7:30 p.m.

On the card, former WWF star and reigning WOW (World Organization of Wresting) champ Tatanka takes on Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart's look-alike 'cousin' Jason (The Sledgehammer) Neidhart. Also, ex-Stampeders defender Marvin (Big Daddy) Pope battles Dick Butkus Jr., who promises to put Pope in his patented finishing move, the Rip-aroni.

But current Stamps Anthony (The Wild Child) McClanahan and Jason Clemett promise to have something to say about that.

McClanahan will be the very-biased guest referee, and Clemett described his role at ringside as simply "the shenanigan man."

Of course, that infuriated Butkus' manager, Mark (The Shark) DeCarlo, and his band of bad guys in his 'Shark Tank' at yesterday's hype conference.

But luckily, before a ruckus broke out, DeCarlo settled his guys down by parading in some impressive-looking women from Misty's Pub.

The Hart family knows 'rassling's a dream world.

And their stars know they're living in one.

"I can't really believe I'm here,"said Jason Trimble, 23, a former Saskatoon Hilltops linebacker now 'rassling as evil Shark Tank member 'Moonlight Graham.'

"I watched this wrestling as a little kid, and now I'm involved in the rejuvenation of it, so it's a big thrill."

Thrilling enough to make former host Ed Whalen say: "It's gonna be a ring-a-ding-dong-dandy."