The SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade 87

Just for a change of pace this morning, let’s do an old school PPV rant instead of an Observer Flashback.

The SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade ’87: Chi-Town Heat: Glory Bound – 11.26.87

So this was of course Jim Crockett’s first big attempt to break into the PPV market, which was immediately scuttled by Vince McMahon with the creation of the Survivor Series on the same night Even two subtitles couldn’t save this one. Given I haven’t watch this one in forever, and only the home video version at that, I figured it might be worth giving it another look on the Network to see if Meltzer’s hatred of this show is justified.

Live from Chicago, IL.

Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Jim Ross

Eddie Gilbert, Larry Zbsyzko & Rick Steiner v. Sting, Jimmy Garvin & Michael Hayes

Sting was very young and fresh out of the UWF at this point, but rapidly gaining popularity. Ross immediately loses cred by declaring the arena to be “jam packed, standing room only” when the entire side of the arena opposite the hard camera is clearly empty to start the show. Steiner immediately starts throwing clotheslines on Sting, but he gets tossed and Sting follows with a dive and back in for a missile dropkick as the babyfaces clean house. There was actually various stuff going on storyline-wise, as Sting & Steiner were former UWF tag champions and had recently broken up, leaving Gilbert & Steiner as the team instead. Steiner gets worked over by the future Freebirds, so it’s over to Larry Z as I’m terrified of a sequence with Michael Hayes where they avoid touching each other for nine minutes. In fact, Hayes does come in and moonwalks and showboats after one elbow, so I was close. Gilbert bumps around and clowns for Sting, who is clearly the star of this match every time he gets involved. Garvin with a sunset flip on Steiner for two, but he gets caught in the corner and triple-teamed as the ring announcer calls out 7:00 and the finish becomes obvious. Gilbert with a backbreaker for two and Steiner pounds away in the corner. Rick was looking like a GI Joe figure come to life at that point and frankly I’m shocked that Vince never grabbed him around this time. Rick throws a nice powerslam for two misses a blind charge off that, but it’s time for Larry to stretch it to the time limit with the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DISCOMFORT. Nothing says excitement like Larry Zbyszko working a hold on Jimmy Garvin! Thankfully it’s hot tag Sting right away, but the heels quickly cut him off and Gilbert tosses him over the top behind the ref’s back. Steiner with a sleeper, but Sting runs him into the corner to break and it’s hot tag Hayes. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and a donnybrook at the same time, a rare combination indeed. Hayes bulldogs Larry for two in the chaos and then everyone just kind of wanders back to their corners with 1:00 left as the heels cut off Hayes and casually work him over again. Steiner with an awesome belly to belly out of a bearhug, just powering him over, but Hayes cradles Gilbert for two and time expires at 15:00. This had moments and was hot for the first 5:00 or so, but that’s where they should have ended it because it meandered from there and the ending in particular was a mess. **

Meanwhile, Missy Hyatt tells us about the great match we saw and then throws it back to the announcers again. And you thought today’s interviewers were useless.

UWF World title: Steve Williams v. Barry Windham

The overdubbing monster strikes again here, as both guys get generic rock music. I know Windham would have been using “La Grange”, for example, at this point. Windham had been kind of transferred to the UWF following the Crockett buyout and this is the payoff of his involvement there, although it never led to anything afterwards. They do some mat wrestling to start and end up on the floor as the crowd is already losing patience. Back in, Doc with a backdrop suplex, but Barry powers him over with a gut wrench suplex. Doc grabs a headlock and Windham suplexes out, but Doc hangs on and the crowd is still bored. Ross is like “Gee, both men are cautious, wouldn’t you say?” So then they do a leapfrog spot and Windham accidentally headbutts him in the groin. Doc is like…

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…but Windham is too much of a pussy to go in for the kill, and he lets Williams take a breather and disturbingly play with himself in the corner to recover. I know everyone was wondering just what was in those pictures of Baby Doll at that time, but there’s a time and place, Steve. So Williams tosses him and brings him back in with a side roll out of nowhere for the pin to retain at 6:50. What a shit match that was with a stupid finish to boot. ½* Thankfully that title was mercifully put down by Crockett immediately after this, since it was apparently they weren’t gonna both unifying it or doing anything meaningful with it.

Scaffold match: The Midnight Express v. The Rock N Roll Express

We don’t even get the fake version of “The Chase” for this! It’s some totally unrelated super-shitty fake rock instead. And they also cut out Ricky Morton’s “Boogie Woogie Street”, which I’m pretty damn sure that WWF owns the rights to because it would have been part of the WCW assets. Big Bubba wisely waits until Robert climbs and then lays out Ricky with the Bubba slam (to the man who was born to take it!) and the Midnights beat on Robert up top. Luckily, Morton steals the tennis racket and climbs up to save his partner, who is somehow already bleeding. Given both teams were right in their primes at this point, I really wish they would have just done a straight tag team match so we could have one for posterity. Eaton uses “salt” (not Mr. Fuji’s Racist Salt, I assume) and the Midnights take over on Gibson for a bit as these poor guys try to navigate a narrow scaffold and still do spots. Stan Lane ends up climbing down for some reason and Morton slugs away until he falls. So Bobby goes it alone with his tennis racket, but the RNR push him over and he falls off at 10:25. They tried hard, I’ll give them that, but I just hate this stipulation match in any form. **1/2 Afterwards, Cornette sends Bubba up there to take care of Morton, but Ricky actually goes “Hey, what’s that over there?” and then punches Bubba in the nuts to make his escape.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes recap the events of the evening, and Hayes waits patiently while Garvin goes on a motor-mouthed rampage of a promo, and he’s literally unable to get a word in. How is Garvin able to go without oxygen for that length of time? You can see Hayes getting more and more annoyed trying to get his shit in while Jimmy keeps talking. That had to be some kind of a rib on him.

World TV title: Nikita Koloff v. Terry Taylor

This is to unify the NWA and UWF versions of the title, and this match was getting love from Bryan and Vinny lately and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to watch this show again. Taylor is immediately overpowered by Koloff and he’s got no idea what to do with him. So he tries a wristlock and Nikita casually reverses out and goes to work on the arm while Eddie Gilbert critiques the refereeing job of Earl Hebner from ringside. Taylor finally tries punching his way out and that doesn’t work either, and finally Taylor bails for advice from Eddie Gilbert. That advice? “If you go to the WWF and they offer you a choice of gimmicks, for the love of god don’t pick the chicken!” If only he had listened. Back in, Koloff pounds away and tosses Taylor again, but he misses a blind charge and Taylor rolls him up for two. Koloff goes back to the arm, but finally Taylor just pokes him in the eyes, only to get armbarred again. Apparently steroids can strengthen your corneas as well. Who knew? Nikita takes him down with the Russian Hammer choke, but the Sickle misses and now Taylor finally goes on offense at 12:00 in. So now Taylor and Gilbert take shots at the injured arm on the floor and Taylor drops a knee for two. The announcers question why Taylor is working the left arm when Nikita uses the right one for the Sickle, which is a nice touch. Nikita fights back with a suplex and pounds away in the corner, but Taylor takes him down with an atomic drop for two. Koloff rolls him up for two but Taylor runs away, like a CHICKEN you might say, and that allows Gilbert to clip Nikita from behind with a chair. This gives us the classic sequence of Taylor using a figure-four and cheating ludicrously with the help of Gilbert until Hebner catches them. It just never doesn’t work! Finally Koloff goes after Gilbert, and Taylor charges in, collides with his manager, and Koloff finishes him with the Sickle at 18:56 to unify the belts. Very good stuff, building and building as Taylor had to figure out what the hell to do with the guy, and the announcers foreshadowed the finish as well, noting over and over that Nikita only needed one Sickle to put him down and that Taylor didn’t hurt the correct arm to stop it. *** Dave hated the match in the Observer at the time, but I liked it once it got going.

NWA World tag titles: Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson v. The Road Warriors

They couldn’t even overdub “Iron Man” with the WWF theme, it’s just more super-generic crap rock. So this is the match that killed Chicago for about a decade afterwards. Arn immediately goes up and Hawk just casually presses him off the top rope and dumps him on the floor. That’s a great spot. Arn tries to overpower Hawk and gets nowhere, so it’s over to Tully. He too gets mauled and press-slammed, and Hawk dropkicks him for two. Tully goes up and Animal catches him with a powerslam for two. The Warriors double-team Tully and batter him in the corner, and finally Arn comes back in to try with Animal. Hawk comes in and tries another press-slam on Tully, but this time Arn takes out his knee and the champs take over. Hawk gets trapped in the corner while the Horsemen work the knee, and Tully gets a figure-four. Arn comes in and works a knucklelock on the mat, but Hawk gets his knees up and makes the hot tag to Animal. It’s BONZO GONZO and Tommy Young gets taken out by Hawk accidentally, and then they hit the Doomsday Device on Arn for the pin and the titles at 13:25 with Hebner counting. BUT WAIT! Young recovers and declares that Arn got tossed over the top, so it’s a DQ and the Horsemen retain. It’s like, Dusty couldn’t even just have the Warriors win by DQ or something, they had to fuck the fans out of the title change they’d waited years to see. **3/4

US title: Lex Luger v. Dusty Rhodes

If Dusty loses, he’s out of wrestling for 90 days. Yes, 90 WHOLE days. Maybe Zack Ryder lost one of these matches and that’s why he’s at home for months at a time? Like seriously, Dusty could have lost this one and done his stupid Midnight Rider shit for three months and then returned without having to put himself over the guy they were grooming to be the big star for the next decade. Even at the time I never got why this needed to be a cage match. Aside from Dusty loving to book cage matches on every show. Luger’s music is replaced by something that sounds like a generic version of “Kickstart My Heart”, a song that was still 3 years away at that point. This is really some low-grade overdubbing, even by WWE standards. Although checking the WON for this show, apparently they had to change all the music because it was being produced for home video and would have cost too much to use the normal themes for that purpose, so who knows what Crockett had on here originally. We get some stalling to start and Dusty slugs away before trying for the dreaded WEAVERLOCK, but Luger makes the ropes. Lex misses an elbow and Dusty goes to the armbar as the announcers point out that Luger issued this challenge because Dusty is a LEGEND and the onus is on Luger to beat him. And they keep saying “Dusty’s career is on the line” but it’s only 90 days. Dusty works an armbar in dull fashion until Luger finally rams him into the cage to escape the offensive onslaught and gets two off that. Luger tries to power Dusty into the torture rack, but some things are beyond even the greatest in the sport, and he has to awkwardly dump Dusty into the corner instead for two. And then we get an endless armbar until Dusty makes the comeback with the WEAVERLOCK. “The physical punishment here has been horrendous!” JR notes. I’ll say. JJ Dillon takes out key-keeper Johnny Weaver and tosses a chair into the ring, which Lex slowly goes to pick up, allowing Dusty to belly flop in with a DDT of sorts onto the chair to win the title and save his career at 16:30. DUD And then GOD FORBID that Dusty actually drop that title to Barry Windham a few months later, as he was stripped of it instead.

NWA World title: Ronnie Garvin v. Ric Flair

I’ve become much more open-minded to Garvin in recent years, so I’m willing to give him a chance here. The crowd is not, as they chant “Garvin Sucks” while he throws chops on Flair to start. Garvin works the arm and pounds away in the corner, setting up the GARVIN STOMP for two, but Flair takes over with a cheapshot and JR diplomatically notes that you can’t train against a shot to the junk. Flair drops a knee for two and goes to work on the leg, and then goes to the figure-four. Garvin fights out of that, but Flair tries to send him into the cage a few times, unsuccessfully. And of course Garvin is able to do it and Flair is bleeding. They fight to the top in a callback to Garvin winning the title in Detroit, but Flair has learned this time and stays away. Flair goes up this time and gets slammed off, and now Garvin gets a figure-four as they’re working a really weirdly paced and awkward match here. Garvin releases for some reason and works on the knee for a bit, then goes up with a flying bodypress that gets two. Backslide gets two. Flair gets run into the cage again and Garvin just batters him with stiff chops, goes up again, but this time the sunset flip gets blocked by Flair for two. Hands of Stone gets two, but Flair finally runs Garvin into the cage and pins him to regain the title at 17:40 as the crowd goes NUTS. I dunno what was with Flair tonight, but it was slowly paced and meandering, although the chops were great. **1/2

The Pulse

Kind of a shitty show, actually, especially considering that Crockett’s back was against the wall with the Survivor Series in direct competition. It was actually even worse than I remember it, and they kind of deserved to go downhill in 88 if that was the best they could come up with. Recommendation to avoid.