With stories of treacherous winter drives, and an even more treacherous basement dungeon in the Hart House, “No Class” Bobby Bass, Abdullah the Butcher (Lawrence Shreve), “Dr. D” David Schultz, and Bret Hart are this week’s roundtable guests on Tales from the Territories.
At the halfway mark of the show’s first season, Tales from the Territories is consistent with what it will offer: a fairly tame, nostalgic look back at tales from the good ol’ days of the pre-WWF dominated landscape. The show will work best for those who don’t know the stories told, or at least haven’t heard them in a while, and it also seems to be as much about getting the people involved a chance to get together and tell their tales.
Abdullah and Bret start things off by looking back on The Butcher’s arrival in Calgary, where Bret acknowledges that he was really scared of him as a young kid, but praised him for the money he drew for his father Stu. Schultz recalls his aversion to being called fake (with a clip of the famous slap across John Stossel’s head), and Bass tells of how Ed Whelan gave him the “No Class” nickname in an off-handed remark.
There are some practically requisite stories of Stu stretching out would-be wrestlers, and especially those who expected a bit of fun in the not-so-real world of wrestling. Schultz, meanwhile, speaks about declining invites to the dungeon, wanting no part of that legacy. Nobody in the episode talks about Stu without talking like Stu, each with an impression of his nasally, subdued drawl.
For all the fear that Stu could inspire, though, there’s a story of an “unlucky bugger”, according to Bass, who Stu caught trying to steal a car from the front yard. After, guess what, stretching the would-be thief out for hours in the house as punishment, the other side of Stu saw him offer the young man a job with Stampede and helping him do better than stealing cars.
There’s an extended telling by Bret of his brother Smith trying to get Andre the Giant to a flight on time, driving through Calgary like a madman. Not only do they miss the flight but, according to Bret, Andre held a grudge against Stu ever since that terrifying drive.
Shreve, born in Windsor, Ontario, recalls keeping the kayfabe of his character’s exotic lineage and made-up language up to the point of feigning difficulty ordering off of a menu in Calgary, until the waitress kindly let him know that he could order and she wouldn’t tell anybody that he could speak English just fine.
Schultz shares his stories of fans looking to get even with him in the parking lot, which is a staple of the Tales from the Territories episodes so far. Even Bret, at twelve years old — not wise to the business and terrified of the Butcher — got out of the crowd to stop Abdullah from attacking his dad and getting in some kicks. Abby saw who he was and gave him a pass, but laughs at being told by Stu back in the dressing room to let Bret have it if it happens again.
Bret’s stories about smartening up to the business are kind of cute, like a kid trying to sift through everything they know, and everything they think they know, about Santa Claus.
Another staple of the show is a few stories of ribs, and this one belongs to Schultz. He admits a mistake of leaving his coffee unattended in the dressing room, later drinking it up and feeling the effects of a spike of LSD. He couldn’t find out who did it, so he gets revenge on everybody – loading up a big batch of cookies, spiked this time with Ex-Lax.
There’s an extended description of so-called Mabel Parties: taking some wrestler from out of town to “Mabel’s” house, who was an attractive woman in on the rib and acting flirtatious with the target. A man playing Mabel’s husband would walk in toting a shotgun, shoot some blanks with some wrestlers falling down in character, and terrifying whoever wasn’t in on the joke.
Schultz, who at this point has the bulk of tales to tell, shares a story of navigating icy, snowy roads, with some suspect advice of letting go of the steering wheel when a transport truck is passing in the other direction (it worked for him, I guess). The others remember some very real, near-death moments either when in motion or when stuck in sub-zero temperatures inside a broken down car or van.
A final tale of Bad News Allen wraps things up, as he was trying to bump Schultz out of his spot as one of the top heels (according to Schultz, at least). Allen is fined and suspended time after time for using a fork, and he makes it worse by roughing up a longtime fan sitting front row by the aisle. Hart says that Allen’s extra additions first caused Ed Whelan to quit, saying it was all getting too violent, then led to Stampede being banned in big markets, and it led directly to Stu selling the business.
The legacy of Stampede Wrestling, according to those around the table in tonight’s episode, is as a training ground for some great wrestlers under Stu’s watch and as a place where you’ll leave with countless stories to tell, which makes it a fine addition to this series’ run of wrestlers and fans spending some time reminiscing.
Slam Wrestling’s Tales from the Territories story archive