The SmarK Rant for WCW Starrcade 92–12.28.92

The SmarK Rant for WCW Starrcade 1992 – 12.28.92

Tonight! The 10th annual Starrcade ’92! Well, at least they understand the concept of an anniversary. Oh, also, the graphics in the opening video package have Barry Windham and Brian Pillman mixed up. Because they apparently look SO MUCH alike.

Live from Atlanta, GA, drawing 8000 people and a 0.5 buyrate.

Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jesse Ventura. They immediately throw to Eric Bischoff (on behalf of the WCW magazine), who announces that Rick Rude herniated a disc in his neck and he’ll be out for two months, so Steve Williams gets the World title shot instead tonight. Lemme tell ya, this was only the third or fourth PPV I had ever ordered, and I was PISSED at spending $25 (or my dad’s $25, whatever) and losing the match I was actually wanting to see. Frankly I’m shocked that Watts didn’t plug his son into the spot instead.

Bill Watts & Hank Aaron are out to present Sting with last year’s Battlebowl ring, and will present tonight’s winner with a ring as well. Hopefully Bill and Hank didn’t have any awkward conversations, especially considering how their relationship ended up.

Battlebowl qualifier: Van Hammer & Dan Spivey v. Cactus Jack & Johnny B. Badd

The Network version of this omits all the entrance music for the match and just kind of plays one long generic music track instead. Weird. Van Hammer has apparently gone from headbanger to Kerry Von Erich’s much more flamboyant doppleganger. I mean, I SUPPOSE that “gay cowboy” is a demographic that needed representation as much as anyone else, but I don’t see it working for Hammer. Hammer with a slam and legdrop on Jack for two to start, but Badd comes in with armdrags and a rana for two. Over to Spivey for a slugfest with Jack and he hits a lariat out of the corner. Over to Hammer and Spivey cheats to gain the advantage on Badd and tries to encourage Hammer over to the DARK SIDE. Dan with a Bossman slam and Hammer gets his own, lamer, slam for two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Jack gets a hot tag and slugs away on Spivey, and an ugly bulldog gets two. Badd has sadly disappeared and is unable to provide backup for him, and Hammer hits Jack with a shoulderblock for two. Badd comes in to save, but hits Jack by mistake, and Hammer cradles for the pin at 6:44. Yeah, take the two guys who are over and job them in the opener, great booking. Just a match, and it dragged even at that length. *1/2

Battlebowl qualifier: Dustin Rhodes & Big Van Vader v. Kensuke Sasaki & The Barbarian

Things you can do to amuse yourself during this show: Watch Tom Zenk’s facial reactions in the babyface dressing room during the drawings. That man was getting ZERO TV time and obviously wanted to make sure he was seen. He’s not even wearing his gear tonight! Everyone else at least put up the pretense of being ready. I suppose if you squint the one team kind of looks like the Hell Raisers. Vader and Barbarian THROW DOWN to start and neither guy is selling, so Barbarian slams him and Vader doesn’t sell that either. They continue their Mean Guy Showdown, but Vader hits him hardest and takes over in the corner, and Jesse is all about that. Over to Dustin, who actually teams up with Vader for a Hart Attack that gets two. And then Barbarian immediately dumps him on his head with a backdrop suplex for two. Sasaki comes in and he actually beats on Dustin as well, but goes up and Dustin dropkicks him on the way down. Vader goes up and flattens Sasaki, then follows with a powerslam for two. The guys are working a tad snug here, as the kids say. Sasaki fights back and suplexes Vader, and it’s back to Dustin and Barbarian. Dustin makes his comeback and hits a lariat for two, then fights off Sasaki and rolls up Barbarian for the pin at 7:00. I should note that this was the second schoolboy finish in a row tonight. And even though Dustin was completely into the idea of teaming up with Vader and being an asshole heel here, Vader turns on him anyway and leaves him laying. Well, you know what they say about mess with the bull and all that. This match was GREAT. ***

Battlebowl qualifier: Barry Windham & The Great Muta v. 2 Cold Scorpio & Brian Pillman

Scorpio controls Windham with armdrags to start, so he brings in Muta and it just occurs to me that we could have had Muta v. Scorpio on PPV and that’s a thing they never made happen. And then Muta does an amazing sequence with Pillman where he just looks like the biggest star in the world. Pillman and Windham slug it out with chops, but it’s back to Muta for a spinkick that puts Pillman down and immediately fires up the crowd again. Muta beats on Scorpio, who comes back with a legdrop out of the corner, but Muta kicks him to the ramp again. Scorpio slingshots back in with a somersault splash, but Windham plants him with an Implant DDT and Muta finishes with the moonsault at 7:00. Match lost steam quickly, but the finish was DEADLY. **1/2 And then Scorpio has the balls to kick out at 3.1 and argue with the ref! Dude, you got hit with the two most devastating finishers in wrestling at the time, LAY THE FUCK DOWN.

Battlebowl qualifier: Sting & Steve Williams v. Erik Watts & Jushin Liger

So, uh, one of these guys is way out of his element here. Like, holy shit the brass balls on Cowboy to be booking his idiot son with these three. Liger and Sting do some gymnastics and Doc comes in for the more direct approach. Over to ROOKIE SENSATION Erik Watts, who tries some armdrags on Doc and Williams is like “Fuck off”. And then the beating starts, but Liger gets a blind tag before Erik can take more punishment. So Doc just blasts Liger with a lariat as well for two. JR actually points out that Williams would never be able to face Liger in Japan, which is a nice touch and plays up the “dream match” aspect even more. Sting comes in with a body vice into a slam for two, but Liger gets a sunset flip for two. Williams comes in again and drops Liger on the top rope. Sting with a clothesline for two, but misses the Stinger splash, so Williams has to come in and beat up on Liger some more to pick up the slack. Over to Sting with the half-crab as the Sting-Doc team actually shows some good teamwork. Liger tries a sleeper and Doc escapes with a backdrop driver and Jim Ross just thinks this is the best thing he’s ever seen. Sting with a suplex on Liger for two, and back to Williams, but Watts gets the hot tag and everyone boos him. Erik slugs away and unleashes the historic WORST DROPKICK IN HISTORY, flopping on the ground like a fish in the process. “He didn’t get all of it” Jim Ross notes in an understatement for the ages. Erik tries a crossbody and Doc puts him down for good with the stungun at 9:10. Erik was like the equivalent of whoever was teaming with Koko B Ware on a WWF syndicated show in the 80s here – Koko may have held his own against the stars for a few minutes, but you knew as soon as the job guy tagged in, it was over. **1/2

NWA World title: Masa Chono v. The Great Muta

Muta was actually the IWGP champion at this point, which JR mentioned in passing earlier but would have been a huge deal had this been in Japan. They trade headlocks to start and Muta bails as the crowd just goes SILENT already. Back in, Muta with an abdominal stretch, but Chono reverses. So then they trade cross-armbreakers on the mat and no one has any idea what’s going on there. And then Muta goes to a headscissors on the mat as they’re just having the worst match possible for this big show crowd. They continue having the most pedestrian match humanly possible, trading HOLDS and more HOLDS on the mat as Jesse and JR are so bored that they’re doing schtick like “I wonder if they call it a Boston crab in Japan?” That is when they’re not talking over each other. Muta kicks Chono to the floor, which is almost a bump, I guess, and Muta takes over with the handspring elbow back in the ring. Muta goes up and misses the moonsault, jamming his knee in the process, and Chono starts working on that to take over. Finally Chono wears him down and Muta misses another moonsault, and Chono immediately gets the STF out of nowhere for the submission at 14:50. Well at least it had a clean finish. ½*

Jim Ross announces that they’re already vacating Rude’s US title and they’re doing a tournament on WCW Saturday Night to crown a new champion. Jesse is outraged by this.

WCW World title: Ron Simmons v. Steve Williams

By this point it was patently obvious what a failure Simmons had become as champion. But regardless, was Steve Williams REALLY the best option they had available? Was Steve Austin not in the building? Or why not just do the Vader switch here since he literally won the title the next day! They trade a stunning array of forearms and armbars for the first 5:00, before Simmons finally wins the power battle and bulldogs him for two. Ron works the arm for a bit and goes up, but Doc sidesteps him and takes over. Williams works on the leg with a leglock and a legbar and these last two matches are just killing this show dead. Simmons fights back and Doc slams him for two. Back to the leglock, and Doc does a pair of chop-blocks to the knee, but Simmons makes the comeback with the spinebuster and his own chop blocks. They fight to the floor and both guys are counted out at 14:55. What was that even supposed to be building towards? Williams was going back to Japan and Simmons was losing the title right away. * And then Williams attacks Simmons after the non-decision, so the ref reverses the decision and declares Simmons the winner by DQ. Jesse rightly points out how stupid this is. Oh wait, I also have been informed by the official referee that my one star rating has been REVERSED, and now the match is a DUD.

NWA/WCW World tag team titles: Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas v. Barry Windham & Brian Pillman

Pillman starts with Douglas and gets a sunset flip for two, but Douglas fights back, so Pillman chokes him out on the ropes. Shane tries a rollup, but Pillman blocks, so Shane dropkicks him out to the ramp and the champs double-team Windham for good measure. The heels bail and regroup, and it’s Windham against Steamboat next. Ricky chops him down and brings him to the corner for some double-teams, and Douglas hits the chinlock. Barry suplexes out of it, but the Dragon tags back in and necksnaps him, then clotheslines him to the floor after stopping to give Pillman a cheapshot. Jesse notes that he suspected Steamboat had it in him all along. Douglas slams Windham on the ramp and then Steamboat tosses him back in, and a neckbreaker gets two. Nice bumping from Barry here, even as his motivation was dying off. Douglas hits the chinlock, but Barry escapes with a jawjacker and it’s over to Pillman, who rams Shane into the mat and pounds away in the corner to take over. Nice subtle spot as Pillman whips Douglas into the corner, where a nicely timed Windham back elbow awaits, but Shane dropkicks Pillman over the top and into the railing. Douglas goes up, but stops to jaw at Windham in ANOTHER sharply-timed spot, and Pillman dropkicks Douglas to the floor in a great bump. And so the challengers take over, as Windham puts Douglas down with a headbutt and they double-team him in their corner.

Douglas continues dying for my entertainment, as Windham is really getting into it now and tosses him for a spectacular bump. And then STEAMBOAT runs over with a CHAIR and blasts Windham with it! Douglas wants the tag, but cheaters never prosper because Pillman cuts him off with a backdrop suplex for two. Back to the heel corner, as Windham comes off the top with a fistdrop and follows with another backdrop suplex for two. Pillman continues the beating for two. Windham tries a suplex and Douglas reverses, and he falls into the hot tag. Steamboat chops everyone, but gets powerslammed by Windham, who follows immediately with a backdrop suplex. And with the ref distracted, Pillman tosses Steamboat over the top and Windham introduces him to the post. Steamboat’s selling here is just off the hook. He fights back in with a flying chop, but Pillman fires right back and then takes him down with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors for two. Dragon keeps fighting back on Windham and rams him into the mat, selling like he’s been shot in the gut and has 10 minutes to live the whole way, and it’s another hot tag to Douglas. He slugs both challengers down, and Windham brawls with Steamboat out to the ramp. Pillman charges at Douglas, but walks into the belly-to-belly and Steamboat trips up Windham and prevents him from saving, as the champs retain at 20:00. I have no idea where my low original rating came from, because this was a fucking awesome tag match with hard work from everyone involved and crazy subtle stuff going on for repeat viewings. Plus Steamboat getting the shit kicked out of him to draw the heat is always amazing to watch. ****1/2

King of Cable tournament finals: Sting v. Big Van Vader

This show was just all over the place in terms of focus, as earlier in the evening Sting was presented with the Battlebowl ring as though THAT was the highest honor in wrestling, then we had two different World title matches in the middle of the show, and now Sting is competing in the “King of Cable” finals and I guess THAT’S supposed to be the big focus. It’s like Office Space, where there’s 8 different managers above you in a corporation and you have no idea which “incredibly important idea” you’re supposed to be concentrating on. Not that I speak from experience or anything…cough cough. Sting slugs away to start and Vader shrugs him off and slams him. Sting gets frustrated and tries a quick Stinger splash, and Vader was WAITING for him and just flattens him. He follows with a press slam onto the top rope and Sting immediately needs to regroup. Jesse thinks that maybe Sting should just take the countout and come back to win Battlebowl later. That’s actually quite smart. Sting fights back, however, with a pair of enzuigiris and a german suplex, and a clothesline to put them both on the floor. He follows with a pescado onto both Vader and Race and the now the crowd is alive. Back in, Vader misses a charge and Sting tries another splash, but Vader catches him AGAIN. Maybe, I dunno, don’t try that move? But then Sting keeps coming with a DDT and they go up for a top rope DDT that gets two. Sting with the Scorpion, but Vader makes the ropes and bails. Sting attacks him outside and misses a THIRD Stinger splash, this one hitting the railing as a result. Back in, takes over with a short clothesline and hits his own Stinger splash, which gets two. Vader with the backdrop suplex and a splash for two, and we hit the chinlock. And then Vader just CRANKS him with a forearm to cut off the escape and put him down for two. What a bastard. Sting keeps fighting with a backslide for two and dodges a Vader butt splash, but Vader just slugs him down again to cut him off. Sting with a backdrop suplex, but Vader was too heavy and ends up on top for two. Jesse: “That’s gotta be depressing as hell when you do the move and the other guy is up first!” Vader clobbers him in the corner and Sting is the valiant babyface who keeps his hands up but is clearly overmatched. What a great touch. They fight to the top and finally Sting just pokes him in the eye out of desperation and Vader goes down. Vader keeps clobbering him in the corner but Sting is not going down and indeed Vader runs out of gas eventually. Sting then makes his comeback and puts him down. Samoan drop gets two, and Sting goes up with the flying splash for two. Sting goes after Race and gets caught from behind as a result, and Vader chokeslams him and goes up with a flying splash of his own. Sting misses his cue there, so he goes up again and this time Sting catches him with a slam for the pin and the tournament win at 17:00. What a match! These guys were pretty much having the pinnacle of heavyweight American wrestling at this point, even if no one knew or cared what the “King of Cable” was supposed to represent. ****3/4

You’d think this would have been the optimal place to end the show…but no.

Battlebowl finals

We’ve got Van Hammer, Dan Spivey, Dustin Rhodes, Vader, Barry Windham, Muta, Sting and Steve Williams. Like seriously, how much more anticlimactic can you get for the finale? Vader and Sting immediately brawl down the ramp and everyone else is just a whole lot of nothing, with guys like Windham, Muta and Doc all working their third match of the evening. Like, the entire body of the match is like watching the middle 20 minutes of the Royal Rumble, when there’s too much deadwood in the match and you’re waiting for the big star to come out and clear the ring but it never happens. Van Hammer and Spivey get thrown out around 6:00 in, and Vader and Sting both go over the top at 7:30. You’d think this was leading to the logical Windham v. Rhodes final, but you’d be WRONG. The final four of Windham, Rhodes, Muta and Doc is just four guys doing stuff and no one in the crowd caring. Williams and Rhodes both go over the top at 11:00, leaving Windham v. Muta in a bizarre end to a bizarre show. Windham with a superplex and he tosses Muta, but Muta skins the cat and dropkicks Barry out for the win at 13:30. This was like something that should have been the dark main event for the faithful fans who stuck it out until the end, just a complete pile of nothing.

The Pulse

What a strangely organized and booked show. The Battlebowl matches were pretty fun and the Sting match and tag title match were GREAT, but the two World title matches nearly killed the show. It’s a thumbs up, but this was the show that pretty much ended Bill Watts’ run as Executive Vice President.