WCW Starrcade '98 Preview
WCW Starrcade '98
RIC FLAIR vs. HARLEY RACE AT STARRCADE '83
WCW calls Starrcade the "Grandaddy of them all."
That's because before WrestleMania, before the Great American Bash, before
the Royal Rumble, before Halloween Havoc, there was Starrcade.
The brainchild of Jim Crockett Promotions, Starrcade brought together some
fine wrestlers for a supercard on U.S. Thanksgiving night, 1983.
And it has become the oldest running supercard on the North American
wrestling calendar. This year's Starrcade is number 16 in the series.
I'll recap the previous 15 here, and look forward to this year's event.
Jim Crockett was one of the most influential promoters in the National Wrestling
Alliance. Starrcade was created to feature his wrestlers, and a few wrestlers
from other major NWA promotions.
Back in '83, wrestling was made up of small territories, owned by promoters
or families that had been in the business for years. While promoters didn't
necessarily get along, there was some cooperation between them.
And it was that cooperation that Crockett used to present a great Starrcade.
Well, that cooperation and his own powerful roster.
Harley Race, Abdullah the Butcher and Carlos Colon all travelled to Crockett's
territory to take part in the card. Crockett nearly got a hot young AWA star
to take part. That star was Hulk Hogan. But Hogan couldn't make it -- he
had a prior commitment in Japan.
The 1983 card was broadcast on closed-circuit television. It was headlined by
a cage match pitting NWA World champion Harley Race vs. Ric Flair.
Flair was the hottest young wrestler in the NWA at the time, and Crockett's
top wrestler. He had held the NWA belt once before, from
September '81 until June '83.
The Starrcade contest with Race was
typical of NWA main events in those days: it was solid
and exciting. Both men delivered a great cage match.
Flair won, starting his second reign as NWA World
champion. It was the first time the NWA title changed hands inside a
cage. Another fantastic match (and my personal
favourite of the night) was the dog-collar match between
Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine. This was the hottest
feud of the year, with Piper the overwhelming choice of
the fans. I hesitate to use the word "classic" to
describe any match, but this one qualifies. Piper
whipped Valentine's ass in what people today would call
a hardcore contest. Another highlight of Starrcade '83
was an NWA World tag title match that saw champions Jack &
Jerry Brisco lose to Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood.
Starrcade '83 caught the attention of wrestling fans the world over.
In fact, it was carried on closed-circuit television in Japan.
Following up on the initial success would prove tough, but Crockett
managed to do so in 1984, despite losing many wrestlers to the surging WWF.
The WWF was once a friendly rival: it was friendly no more.
Still, Crockett managed a good card in '84. Headlining
it was NWA World champ Ric Flair, who was now the promotion's
cowardly and heelish top man. Flair battled Dusty Rhodes
for the title in a contest dubbed a "million dollar
challenge". The guy that won got the cash. Special
referee for the bout was boxing legend Smokin' Joe Frazier.
Flair won the bout when Frazier stopped the match due to
a cut on Rhodes' forehead. The idea was that Dusty was
far from done, and that Frazier's inexperience as a
wrestling referee allowed Flair to save his title and
pad his bank account at the same time. Poor Dusty. The
card also featured rising star Tully Blanchard, who
retained the TV title in a great match with
Steamboat would be gone by the time Starrcade '85 rolled around.
In fact, Steamboat was in the WWF. It was typical of the flow of talent
at the time -- and of
the challenge the NWA faced. The NWA struggled to hang on to wrestlers and
popularity as the WWF rose. In order to hype Starrcade '85, Crockett held
it in two locations, Atlanta and Greensboro. The idea was that
while fans saw the event live at one venue, the fans at
the other location would watch it on a closed circuit
screen. This would rotate every match. Both arenas had
a solid match to headline the show. In Atlanta, NWA
World champ Ric Flair defended the title for the second
straight Starrcade against Dusty Rhodes. And for the
second straight Starrcade, we wouldn't get a clean finish.
Flair fell into some trouble late, so Arn and Ole Anderson
rushed the ring after the referee was knocked down.
In the melee, Rhodes cleared the ring and somehow managed
to pin Flair. The title was later handed back to Flair
when it was ruled the presence of the Andersons meant
"The Nature Boy" was disqualified. Just months later, Flair, the
Andersons and Tully Blanchard formed The Four Horsemen. The main
event in Greensboro was a US title "I Quit" cage match between
Blanchard and Magnum TA. Blanchard's valet
Baby Doll threw a chair into the ring. Magnum broke off
a piece, and threatened to gouge out Blanchard's eye
unless the man gave it up. He did.
It was two venues again for Starrcade '86. The NWA was
starting to hurt from the WWF's aggressive promotional
practises. At this point, the WWF was already a year into
pay-per-view (and big paydays), and the NWA was still a
year away. Headlining the Atlanta portion of the card
was an NWA World title match between champion Ric Flair
and reformed commie Nikita Koloff. It was a great contest
that ended in a double-DQ. Koloff had recently turned
fan favourite following the near-fatal car crash that took
rival Magnum TA out of wrestling for good. The fans in
Atlanta refused to cheer even a nice commie like Koloff,
so Flair drew most of the positive heat during this one.
The main event in Greensboro saw Dusty Rhodes lose the
TV title and a first blood match to Tully Blanchard. It was a
screwjob: Tully was cut, but the ref was down. Tully's manager, J.J.
Dillon, wiped the blood off Tully's forehead and sealed the cut with
Vaseline. Dusty was then cut, and the referee awarded the win to Blanchard.
Yet another screw-job loss for Dusty.
The Road Warriors beat The Midnight Express in a scaffold match.
Road Warrior Hawk went into the match shortly after breaking a bone
in his leg. He wrestled anyway. Express manager
Jim Cornette fell from the scaffold at the end of the
contest, injuring a knee.
Starrcade '87 brought a change in location.
For the first time in the event's five year history,
Starrcade was not held in whole or in part in Greensboro.
This card was the NWA's first venture into pay-per-view.
It was also a disaster. The WWF, far more popular and
powerful at this point, flexed some muscle and ran the
first Survivor Series ppv the same night. Most cable
operators went with the WWF, leaving the NWA high and
dry. This was just one more nail in the coffin of Jim
Crockett Promotions, and demonstrates the ruthless tactics
the WWF used to try and monopolize the sport. Anyway,
the actual card wasn't bad. Ronnie
Garvin went into Starrcade as NWA World champ. He
defended against former titleholder Ric Flair in a cage.
This was Flair at his absolute physical peak. The Nature Boy put
on a great show and beat Garvin to start his fifth NWA
Starrcade '88 brought more changes. There was a new owner -- Ted Turner.
And there was a new time of year for Starrcade -- December.
The new ownership came about because Turner was looking to save wrestling
on his WTBS Superstation. He bought the promotion in November '88 from a
struggling Jim Crockett. The '88 Starrcade got a lot of attention as the
first major event for the new regime. It was one of
the better Starrcades. The post-Christmas date for the
card shows just how much room the NWA was forced to
give the more powerful WWF at the time. After five
years of Thanksgiving Starrcades, the Survivor Series took
over the holiday, and the NWA didn't have much choice in
the matter. The main event featured NWA World champ Ric
Flair against surging challenger Lex Luger. The Nature
Boy prevailed by pinfall, taking advantage of Luger's
weakened leg. Another match of note saw the once-again
mean Road Warriors fighting Dusty Rhodes and upcoming
star Sting. It was obvious in 1988 that Sting was the
future of the promotion that would become WCW. The Warriors
lost by DQ in a match that drew a lot of heat. US champ
Barry Windham defended the title against Bam Bam Bigelow
in a good contest.
In 1989, the card was nicknamed "The Night of The Iron Men" and featured
two round-robin tournaments. In the singles division,
we got Ric Flair, Sting, Lex Luger and The Great Muta.
The tag division saw The Road Warriors, the Steiners,
The Samoans and Doom. The premise was simple: you would
wrestle three times this night against each opponent.
You were awarded points for wins, no points for loses.
I don't remember the scoring system, but you got more
for pins and submissions than you did for disqualifications
or countouts. Anyway, what this all meant was that you
got this as your card: Lex Luger vs. Sting, Ric Flair vs.
The Great Muta, Sting vs. The Great Muta, Ric Flair vs.
Lex Luger, Lex Luger vs. The Great Muta, Sting vs. Ric
Flair, the Steiners vs. Doom, The Road Warriors vs. Doom,
the Steiners vs. The Road Warriors, The Samoans vs. Doom,
The Samoans vs. the Steiners and The Samoans vs. The Road
Warriors. Not bad, huh? Some of the matches were
rushed a little. After all, the NWA had
three hours to present 12 matches. In the end, Sting
prevailed as The Iron Man, and The Road Warriors became
The Iron Men. It was great. Unfortunately, the NWA
dropped the format. I guess it put too much focus on a
handful of wrestlers, and left the rest of the promotion's roster
at home twiddling their thumbs. Still, a great card.
The 1990 card happened as the owners of the NWA name were
embroiled in a dispute with the people who ran Turner's
wrestling organization. In another month, the promotion
would officially adopt the name WCW. Maybe the NWA
braintrust wasn't happy with the entertainment-style
wrestling that the promotion was presenting. There sure
were some stupid angles going on at the time.
One headlined this event. NWA World champ Sting had been attacked time
and again over the preceeding two months by a mysterious
masked man who called himself The Black Scorpion. Sting
was the victim of this man's vendetta. It was cheesy:
I once saw The Scorpion go up in a puff of smoke. Anyway,
Sting met The Black Scorpion in a cage to settle the
score here. It was a forgettable match that saw Sting
win and unmask The Scorpion as Ric Flair. Spare me.
For more details on this, visit the WCW Hall of Shame, featured at
This card also saw the one-time-only Pat O'Connor Memorial Tag
Team Tournament. The Steiners prevailed in the finals,
beating Team Japan, The Great Muta and Masa Saito. A
number of other "international" teams took part, including
a Canadian team made up of Danny Johnson and Troy "Mantaur"
Montour. Konnan and Rey Mysterio Sr. were the Mexican
reps. Tournament matches were short and bad.
WCW did much better in '91 than at the previous
Starrcade. This card gave us the first ever BattleBowl
competition. The concept was simple. Forty wrestlers were
"randomly" drawn into 10 tag matches, and the
winning teams advanced to a two-ring battle royale. It was
great, with just one flaw: the last two guys in the battle
royale should have had to fight it out in a pinfall-finish
match. As it was, Sting won the whole contest by dumping Lex
Luger over the top rope. That's a pic of Lex being lifted over the
top. Earlier in the card, there
were some dandy matches. One saw Sting draw Abdullah the
Butcher as a partner. They fought Bobby Eaton and Brian
Pillman. It was wild. Abby attacked Sting, who was then
assaulted by Eaton. Pillman wound up helping Sting, who
was supposed to be his opponent. Another good one saw
Rick Steamboat and Todd Champion advance after beating
Cactus Jack and Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker. Parker was attacked
by a jealous Abdullah the Butcher, who wanted to team with
his friend, Jack. Anyway, this format was changed slightly at
Starrcade '92, and then made into its own card in '93.
It was brought back in a lesser form at Slamboree '96.
But none of the other BattleBowls were as good as the
first one. What a crazy night. Yo, Bischoff, bring it back!
The 1992 Starrcade was the only one done under Bill Watts.
As the WCW executive vice-president, Watts did a lot to
lead the promotion in a new direction. Some of the things
he did (like outlaw top rope moves) were annoying. But
he brought a real old-style rough 'n ready feel to WCW,
and I think he helped the promotion gain a little ground
on the WWF (at least with wrestling purists). Anyway,
if Watts made one mistake in his
brief tenure as WCW leader, it was to push his greenhorn
kid Erik into the main events. Erik Watts may have had
a lot of raw talent, but raw was all he seemed to be.
Watts was one of 16 men in the 1992 BattleBowl. And it
was in a match teamed with Jushin Liger that Erik
threw the saddest dropkick in wrestling history.
I don't know how opponents Sting and Steve Williams kept
from laughing. This pic doesn't do it justice. If you
have the tape, check it out. (Again, the whole Erik Watts thing
is featured in my Hall of Shame.) Anyway, The Great Muta went
on to win BattleBowl in '92. It wasn't as good a BattleBowl
as the one a year previous, but it wasn't too bad. A fun night
This 1993 card marked Ric Flair's return as WCW's top man after
two-and-a-half years. Flair had left the promotion in
the summer of '91 and went to the WWF. He returned
to WCW in early 1993, but was out of the WCW World title
picture until Starrcade. Big Van Vader was the WCW
World champ, and Flair was supposed to retire if he
didn't take the belt here. Watching the contest, it's
obvious that Flair was in good shape, but it was Vader who
was in his prime. Vader wrestled stiff, a hallmark of his style at
this point in history. But this was to be Vader's last
match as WCW champ, ending his 18 months on top of the
promotion. Flair regained the title and did an interview
after the card in which he displayed uncharacteristic
emotion. He was obviously happy to be home in WCW and
must have felt some vindication becoming the champion
again. Unfortunately, by the next Starrcade, he'd have
to make room for Hulk Hogan.
Was the 1994 card the worst-ever Starrcade? Given the main event,
a poorly wrestled match between WCW champ Hulk Hogan and
the terrible Brutus "The Butcher" Beefcake, I'd have to
say yes. Hogan's no wrestling technician, but Beefcake
makes him look brilliant. The idea behind this main
event was that The Beefer had turned on The Hulkster (at Halloween Havoc),
and it was revenge time. Couldn't they have done it on
their own time? Terrible. Needless to say, Hogan won.
But the fun didn't stop there. WCW wasted Sting in a
match with Avalanche. Sting won, of course. Another
brutal contest saw Mr.T beat Kevin Sullivan. Good gawd,
people paid money for this...
In 1995, WCW made a recovery, of sorts. This Starrcade
featured a triangle match that would send either Ric
Flair, Sting or Lex Luger into the main event to fight
WCW champion Randy Savage. As it turned out, Flair won.
He did so by countout, sneaking up and nailing Luger as The Total Package
held Sting in the torture rack.
Flair then took on Savage, and took the title. But the
best part of the show had to be mixing of WCW talent
with wrestlers from New Japan pro wrestling. It was sort of
like reliving the long-gone (and missed) WCW/Japan Super Show. The
one problem? In hyping the event, WCW was accused by
some people of coming across as anti-Japanese. Still,
fans were treated to a seven match series featuring
Lex Luger vs. Masa Chono, Masa
Saito vs. Johnny B. Badd, Chris Benoit vs. Jushin Liger,
Eddy Guerrero vs. Shinjiro Otani, Sting vs. Kensuke
Sasake, Alex Wright vs. Koji Kanemoto and Randy Savage
I don't know why, but I can forgive WCW for giving us
Roddy Piper vs. Hollywood Hogan as the main event in 1996.
Sure, each man was well past his prime when this
event took place. But what the hell, I enjoyed seeing
Piper back at Starrcade for the first time since '83. He threw a
dropkick!!! And it was better than anything Erik Watts ever
tried. Piper and Hogan didn't put on
a wrestling clinic, but the
match did feature Hogan's first clean job since WrestleMania
in 1990. As it turned out, this started a bit of a trend.
Hogan would lose to Piper, Lex Luger and Jacques Rougeau (!) in
the next year. The undercard of Starrcade '96 featured some strong
contests, as Eddy Guerrero won the US title in a tournament final
match against Diamond Dallas Page. Jushin Liger and
Rey Mysterio Jr. put on a great match which meshed the
Japan junior style with the lucha approach.
The 1997 Starrcade had potential to be one of the best cards in WCW
pay-per-view history. There was a certain electricity about this one.
If you were watching a year ago, you probably remember the hype surrounding
the main event. Sting was making his comeback after 15 months on the
sidelines and in the rafters. He was WCW's phantom; a seemingly
unstoppable force who was coming back. His opponent was WCW champ Hollywood Hogan.
Considering the hype that surrounded this one, fans were expecting nothing
short of Sting squashing Hogan. Well, the match progressed nicely, when
all of a sudden, Hogan dropped the leg on Sting and got the three-count.
A clean three count. What a stunner. Immediately following this,
Bret Hart (making his WCW ppv debut as a referee) came to ringside and ordered
the match restarted, saying Sting was robbed by a quick pin.
Sting quickly put Hogan in the scorpion deathlock and won the match and
title. It was pretty confusing. I've heard that the Hogan pin was somehow
botched. There were rumours of miscues and double-crosses. I don't know what
happened, but I do know this: the match ruined 15 months of build-up, and
helped kill Sting's heat. Anyway. Earlier, Hart was referee for the Eric
Bischoff vs. Larry Zbyszko match. Zbyszko prevailed after Hart clocked
The Bisch. Buff Bagwell scored
one for the younger generation of stars by beating Lex Luger. And how can
you complain when WCW gives us Dean Malenko vs. Eddy Guerrero? Guerrero won.
Anyway. This year, we get a bit of a surprising main event. Well, surprising
given the events of the last several months.
The Starrcade main event is WCW's biggest match of the year (or at least,
it should be). After the '97 card, there was talk of a slow build-up to
Hogan vs. Hart this year. Well, Hogan has "retired" and Hart spent most
of the year as Hollywood's heelish ally.
A year ago, no one knew how far Goldberg could go. Well, he's been WCW
champ for several months now. And with Hogan gone, Kevin Nash has taken
over as the most influential wrestler backstage. Nash is said to be booking
this card. So, there's a good chance that we'll see Goldberg's winning
streak end at Starrcade.
Other matches include the much-hyped Ric Flair vs. Eric Bischoff contest.
Flair's recent "heart attack" and Bischoff's cowardly attack on Flair's
family have been widely criticised because they play on a terrible real life
problem: heart disease. I usually moralize about these types of angles
(I was openly critical of Scott Hall the drunk and Steve Austin the
crucified.) Somehow, the Flair angle strikes me as less offensive.
It was just this kind of
angle that was the stuff of legend back in the old days when wrestling
was real (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) and fans defended their heroes to the
death -- especially when those heroes were defending their families.
Let's hope we get a chance to watch Flair and Bischoff put on an
We also get to see Diamond Dallas Page take on The Giant. Expect Dallas
to win, especially if The Giant is leaving WCW, as WrestleManiacs is
reporting. For the cruiserweight title, Billy Kidman is set to take on
Juventud Guerrera and Rey Mysterio Jr. in a triangle match. Kidman is
reportedly hurt, and may not make the card. Konnan defends the WCW TV title
against another man who may be leaving the promotion: Chris Jericho. And
for some reason, WCW is wasting Perry Saturn in a match against Ernest Miller.
Of course, other matches are promised. We may see Bam Bam Bigelow vs.
Anyway, given the men in the main event, this could be one of the most
memorable Starrcades in years.
Enjoy the card. And enjoy the holidays. I'm scheduled to be your
Starrcade pay-per-view reporter. My friends WheezerŠ, Red and the Maddog
are playing with the idea of coming over to watch.
And that should mean some strange observations.
Anyway, I leave you with one last Starrcade item to chew on. I enjoyed
it a great deal.
This rather ambitious effort was sent in by BFPisBuff@aol.com.
He calls it...
'Twas the night before Starrcade
'Twas the night before Starrcade, and in the MCI Center,
Not a wrestler was rasslin', the fans could not enter.
The ropes had been placed on the ringposts with care,
In the hopes they'd help spring Mysterio into the air.
Scott Hall and Goldberg were relaxing in the bar,
Asking Santa for matches that wouldn't be rated sub-par.
The old guys like Piper were all telling stories,
And tales of the days of their WWF glories.
When out on the entranceway there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
I ran to the main arena, I had to see this;
I knew it was a sight the WWF wouldn't miss.
The lights of the building shone down on Al Snow,
He glittered, and sparkled, and gave off a glow.
But lo, what was that, could it be a mirage?
The new JOB Squad of WCW, with its whole entourage!
With a right hand man, so stern and demandin',
I knew in a moment it must be Chris Kanyon.
Quicker than Goldberg squashes, his screams, they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called members by name:
"Now Ciclope! Now Chavo!
Now Scott, Steve, and Brad Armstrong!
On Smiley! On Disco!
On Alex Wright with your dong!
To the middle of the ring, go for your win!
Because you see boys, your push is about to begin!
Just improve those mic skills, because right now they are meek!
Silver King, don't let people be fooled by your physique!"
They clamored and lumbered into the ring to await their new gift,
But then came Eric Bischoff, with the stroke of his pen so swift!
So all of a sudden, the boys just took flight!
I couldn't believe it, Villano soared like a kite!
And then, oh dear lord, that was my house on TV,
And Chris Benoit and Raven were laughing with glee.
As I turned off the TV, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Lizmark Jr. came with a bound.
He was dressed in his suit, that shiny one you know,
And his mask was all covered with ashes and snow.
There were lots of masks in his over-the-shoulder sack,
And it looked like the weight just might break his back.
Not a smile in sight, he was wearing a frown,
It looked to me like he wanted to leave Turnertown.
He was sad and disheartened; a typical Luchadore.
(But when you job to Hacksaw Duggan, you get sad much more.)
He spoke not a word, but went straight to the tree,
Putting new pushes and gimmicks around haphazardly.
And turning to me, he broke a small grin,
And with a grimace he left the way he came in.
He sprang to the roof, gave the others a hail,
And away they all flew like the Fox comet tail.
But I heard him exclaim, as they drove out of sight,
"HAPPY STARRCADE TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD FIGHT."