Bring back Starrcade!

Gone are the days when the granddaddy of them all was thrust
upon our television screens during the holidays. Gone are the days when WCW, or
Jim Crockett Promotions prior to 1988, hosted a spectacular wrestling card that
normally finalized long-lasting feuds. Gone are the announcing days of Tony
Schiavone, David Crockett, Bob Caudle, Gordon Solie, Jim Ross, Dusty Rhodes,
Larry Zbyzsko, and Bobby Heenan.

Let’s reflect upon what Starrcade brought to us.

In 1983 Dusty Rhodes unveiled the concept Starrcade with the
coming out party for “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. On June 10 Harley Race beat Flair
for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Vowing never to lose the title
again Race placed a $25,000 bounty on Flair. “Cowboy” Bob Orton, Jr. and Dick
Slater collected the bounty by injuring Flair’s neck causing a temporary
retirement. However, Flair wasn’t finished with Race and a championship match
was signed for the inaugural event at the Greensboro Coliseum on November 24.
Flair won the title in a steel cage match where Gene Kiniski was the special
guest referee. Without a doubt, a true wrestling historian should have this
match in his/her collection.

It should be noted that Starrcade
’83: A Flair for the Gold
was held on Thanksgiving night and available only
through closed-circuit locations since pay-per-view television did not yet
exist. Other notable matches from the event included an extremely bloody dog
collar match between “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and an
NWA World Tag Team bout between Ricky Steamboat &Jay Youngblood versus Gerry
& Jack Brisco. In addition to the cage match check out the dog collar match
for its pure violence.

In 1984 Starrcade returned to Greensboro and was dubbed The Million Dollar Challenge. “The
American Dream” Dusty Rhodes challenged NWA World Champion Ric Flair for $1
million. “Smokin’” Joe Frazier was the special guest referee this time. As one
would expect in a blood feud Dusty was busted open pretty badly, and in the end
Frazier halted the match due to blood costing Rhodes the million bucks. The
undercard included:  Denny Brown defeated
Mike Davis for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight title; #1 Paul Jones beat “The
Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant in a tuxedo street fight loser-leaves-town
match; and Tully Blanchard defeated Ricky Steamboat to retain the World TV title
and win $10,000. Seek this show out if you haven’t seen it.

Starrcade ’85: The
Gathering
holds a sentimental place in my heart. It was the first
spectacular bestowed upon my markdom. While I didn’t make it to a
closed-circuit location to see the show my parents bought me the VHS tape for
$39.95! This event emanated from both Greensboro, NC and Atlanta, GA. The main
event was a rematch for the NWA World title between Rhodes and Flair. The Four
Horsemen had just formed between Ole & Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and
Flair. For those unfamiliar with the original incarnation, the other Horsemen,
by hook or by crook, did everything necessary for Flair to maintain the “10
pounds of gold.” Via a Dusty finish due to Horsemen interference Flair retained
his title albeit it was announced nine days later on TV. Other notable matches
included: the legendary “I Quit” match between Blanchard and Magnum T.A. where
Magnum won the US title; The Rock’n’Roll Express defeated Ivan & Nikita
Koloff to win the NWA World Tag Team titles; Jimmy “The Boogie Woogie Man”
Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively (Ron Garvin) defeated the Midnight Express
(with Jim Cornette); Buddy Landel (with James. J. Dillon) won the National
title; and Krusher Khruschev (Barry Darsow) won the Mid-Atlantic title.
Definitely check this show out for some old school ‘rasslin’ entertainment.

My only memory from Starrcade
’86: Night of the Skywalkers
is seeing the Road Warriors standing upon a
scaffold 2-3 stories up launching pumpkins to the pavement trying to scare the
willies out of Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express. Not to be outdone by the
WWF and its 3 locations for WrestleMania 2, Starrcade again emanated in both
Greensboro, NC and Atlanta, GA. For those who watched World Championship
Wrestling on TBS at 6:05pm ET in 1986 just about everyone was chomping at the
bit for Magnum T.A. to win the big gold belt. Unfortunately his day would never
come as Magnum suffered serious injuries in a car wreck prior to the event and
was forced into retirement. Instead Nikita Koloff, feeling sympathy for his
fallen former adversary, turned babyface and faced Flair for the title.
However, success was not to be for Koloff as Flair retained the title. The
undercard included:  the aforementioned
scaffold match which the Warriors (with “Precious” Paul Ellering) won albeit
with Hawk hiding a recently broken leg; Valiant beat Paul Jones in a hair
versus hair match; and The Rock’n’Roll Express retained their NWA World Tag
Team titles against Ole & Arn Anderson. The only redeeming match from this
show would be the R&R/Andersons match.

By the time Starrcade
’87: Chi-Town Heat
rolled around Jim Crockett Promotions had absorbed both
Championship Wrestling from Florida and the UWF (formerly Mid-South)
territories and begun running shows nationally on a regular basis. This time the
event took place in Chicago, IL. Flair figuratively-speaking poked Dusty in the
ribs and stated that rather than losing the World title at the event he’d
rather win it. Therefore, Rhodes needed to create not only a challenger but also
a lame duck champion for Flair to beat. The only babyface willing to perform this
task was Ron Garvin. The problem with the lame duck champion started after
Garvin won due to heels’ unwillingness to job to Garvin. Crockett and Rhodes
resolved the problem by putting Garvin on “sabbatical” until Starrcade. It
didn’t help as Flair (with James J. Dillon) won the NWA title for the fifth
time with solid crowd approval. Other notable matches included:  Dusty Rhodes beat “The Total Package” Lex
Luger (with James J. Dillon) for the US title; Steve “Dr. Death” Williams
defeated Barry Windham in a UWF title defense; Nikita Koloff beat Terry Taylor
to unify the NWA and UWF TV titles; and the team of Tully Blanchard and Arn
Anderson (with James J. Dillon) defeated the Road Warriors by DQ. As one could
see the burying of the UWF took place on this card as well as an unthinkable DQ
loss by the Road Warriors in their hometown. To put it mildly Dusty’s booking
ideas weren’t always home runs. Check out this show if you’ve not seen it
though.

Beginning with Starrcade
’88: True Gritt,
the event was moved to December due to significant
politicking on the part of Vincent K. McMahon of the World Wrestling Federation
(WWF). In March 1987 the WWF hosted WrestleMania III which boasted a huge PPV
buyrate. In November McMahon created the Survivor Series and ran the event on Thanksgiving
opposite Starrcade ’87. Cable companies were coerced to show Survivor Series
based upon the dangling carrot of WrestleMania IV. Meanwhile Jim Crockett
Promotions fearing bankruptcy due to overspending and overexpansion was sold to
Ted Turner who changed the name to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in
November 1988. So on December 26 in Norfolk, VA Lex Luger challenged NWA World
Champion Ric Flair for the title but lost. The undercard included:  The Midnight Express (Stan Lane & Bobby
Eaton with manager Jim Cornette) beat the Original Midnight Express (Randy Rose
& Dennis Condrey with manager Paul E. Dangerously); Rick Steiner won the
World TV title from Mike Rotunda (with Kevin Sullivan) in a brilliantly-booked
underdog upset; and Sting & Rhodes defeated the Road Warriors. I recommend
seeking out this show for the Flair-Luger match.

Many WCW fans conclude that 1989 was one of the greatest
years by any wrestling promotion. Ric Flair took over booking duties and booked
a classic three-match series with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Additionally he
booked a heated blood feud with Terry Funk. While both feuds remain legendary
they were both blown off before Starrcade
’89 Future Shock
. Therefore, on December 13 in Atlanta, GA WCW held a
one-night Iron Man tournament for both singles and tag teams. The single
participants included Flair, Sting, Luger, and Muta while the tag team
participants involved The Road Warriors, The Steiner Brothers, Doom (Ron
Simmons and Butch Reed), and The Wild Samoans. While Sting won the singles
tournament the Road Warriors won the tag team tournament. Although this is a
concept show, seeing Flair, Sting, Muta, and a motivated Luger in their primes
should be worth your time.

Starrcade ’90:
Collision Course
can be summed up in 2 words—Black Scorpion. While Sting
dominated as the #1 babyface throughout the second half of 1990 the Black
Scorpion was his main adversary. The unfortunate situation facing WCW was that
they didn’t have anybody to actually BE the Black Scorpion. With promises of an
upcoming NWA World title reign Flair stepped between the ropes in a steel cage
match under the disguise to face NWA World Champion Sting. Ultimately, on
December 16 in St. Louis, MO Sting won, unmasked Flair, and capped off one of
the worst booked feuds in wrestling history. The undercard contained the Pat
O’Connor Memorial International Cup Tag Team Tournament which the Steiners won;
Luger won the US title from Stan “The Lariat” Hansen in a Texas Lariat match;
and Doom (with Teddy Long) fought Barry Windham and Arn Anderson to a no-contest
in a street fight. A no-contest in a street fight? Who booked this crap? It was
Ole Anderson but not for long after this show. I cannot recommend this show in
good conscience.

Starrcade ’91: Battlebowl
The Lethal Lottery
presented a random tag team tournament followed by a
battle royal of the winning teams using two rings on December 29 in Norfolk, VA.
However, matchups were not so random. A perfect example included the Fabulous
Freebirds (Michael P.S. Hayes and Jimmy “Jam” Garvin) on opposite sides of a
tag team match. In the battle royal the winner of the first ring met the winner
of the second ring for the title of Battlebowl champion. Luger and Sting won
their respective rings, and Sting ultimately won the Battlebowl ring. By virtue
of this victory he laid claim to a title shot against Luger (with Harley Race) at
SuperBrawl II. Personally I’d skip this one and pick up SuperBrawl II.

Starrcade ’92: Battlebowl The Lethal Lottery revisited
the Battlebowl concept on December 28 in Atlanta, GA. Prior to the battle royal
Shane Douglas and Ricky Steamboat retained the NWA and WCW World Tag Team
titles against Barry Windham and Brian Pillman; Sting beat Vader to win the
King of Cable tournament; Simmons retained the WCW World Heavyweight title by
defeating Steve “Dr. Death” Williams (subbing for an injured Rick Rude) by
disqualification; and Masahiro Chono beat the Great Muta to retain the NWA Heavyweight
title. In spite of his loss the Great Muta won the Battlebowl ring earning a
rematch with Chono. Check out that King of Cable tournament final as Sting and
Vader always put on a good show.

Similar to the 1990 event, Starrcade ’93: 10th Anniversary can be summed up in two
words—lost opportunity. Sid Vicious was penciled in as the winner of the WCW
World Heavyweight championship match at this event. In fact pre-taped Worldwide
footage of Sid wearing the belt had to be scrapped. So what happened? An
altercation between Sid and Arn Anderson while overseas in England cost Sid
both his title shot and his job in WCW. With promises of booking duties on
December 27 Flair was substituted for Sid and had a legendary yet brutally
violent match with Vader (with Harley Race) capturing the gold for the 11th
time. Other notable matches included: “Stunning” Steve Austin (with Colonel Rob
Parker) defeated “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes for the US title; Rick Rude retained
the International World Heavyweight title against The Boss (Ray Traylor); and
Sting and Road Warrior Hawk beat the Nasty Boys (with Missy Hyatt) by DQ.
Vader-Flair is worth seeing just for the brutality and seeing Flair win the big
one in his hometown of Charlotte, NC.

Starrcade ’94: Triple
Threat
was fueled by Hulkamania. In June 1994 Hulk Hogan signed with WCW
and captured the WCW World title the next month at Bash at the Beach. At
Halloween Havoc he “retired” Ric Flair but was ambushed by former friend The
Butcher (Ed Leslie aka Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake) and the Dungeon of Doom. On
December 27 in Nashville, TN Hogan faced The Butcher for the title and prevailed.
The undercard included:  Vader won the US
title from “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan; “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright pinned Jean-Paul
Levesque; Johnny B. Badd beat Arn Anderson to retain the World TV title; Mr. T.
defeated Kevin Sullivan; and Sting beat Avalanche. I’d skip this one unless you
want to see a very green HHH here; although Hulkamaniacs may enjoy this one
thoroughly.

With Starrcade ’95:
World Cup of Wrestling
WCW decided to run another concept show–WCW versus
New Japan Pro Wrestling on December 27 in Nashville, TN. In theory it made for
excellent and competitive matches but in reality it did not produce enormous dollars.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage was WCW World Champion coming into the show and would
face the winner of a triangle match between Flair, Luger, and Sting. Flair
would win said triangle match and then defeat Savage for his 12th
World title. Other notable matches included:  Jushin Liger beat Chris Benoit to put NJPW up
1-0; Koji Kanemoto defeated Alex Wright to put NJPW up 2-0; Luger beat Chono
and Johnny B. Badd defeating Masa Saito to even up the series; Shinjiro Ohtani
beating Eddie Guerrero to put NJPW up 3-2; Savage defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan to
even up the series again; and Sting beating Kensuke Sasaki to win the series
for WCW 4-3. I enjoy tournaments such as these, and this show gave me lots of
entertainment value. Your mileage may vary though.

Starrcade ’96 saw
Hulk Hogan return to WCW’s biggest PPV; however, Hogan joined and captained the
rebel organization New World Order (nWo)at Bash at the Beach. After Hogan faced
former ally Savage at Halloween Havoc “Rowdy” Roddy Piper returned to WCW for
the first time in 13 years to confront Hogan. At this time Hogan had regained
the WCW World title, but there were plenty of questions as to whether or not it
was on the line here. Nevertheless, on December 29 in Nashville, TN the two
legends fought, Piper came out on top, but didn’t win the title. The undercard
included:  Ultimo Dragon won a
championship unification match between the J-Crown and the WCW Cruiserweight
titles; Liger defeated Rey Mysterio, Jr.: The Outsiders (Kevin Nash & Scott
Hall) successfully defended their WCW World Tag Team titles against the Faces
of Fear (Meng & Barbarian); Eddie Guerrero won the previously vacant US
title from Diamond Dallas Page (DDP); and Luger defeated the Giant (Big Show).
This show doesn’t do much for me personally; however, for historical value,
check out Hogan/Piper then search out The War to Settle the Score for an even
better match.

While WCW tried to showcase Piper versus Hogan in 1996 as
the biggest matchup in its history they would top themselves with an extensive
storyline to book Sting versus Hogan at Starrcade
’97
. The nWo continued running roughshod over WCW throughout 1997; nonetheless,
Sting changed his appearance and frequently repelled from the ceiling to battle
the nWo as WCW’s savior on PPV and Monday Nitro. Hence, on December 28 in
Washington, DC Sting would successfully win the WCW World title albeit in
extremely controversial fashion. At this point in the Monday Night War the WWF
turfed Bret Hart via the Montreal Screwjob, Meanwhile in his first act as a WCW
competitor Bret Hart played a unique role as a referee at the event. Referee
Nick Patrick was assigned to the match and was told to fast count Sting’s
shoulders; however, the count appeared to be fair yet WCW played it up as fast.
Seeing an outright injustice The “Hitman” overtook refereeing duties for this
match, restarted the match, and counted the submission by Hogan while in
Sting’s Scorpion Deathlock. Other notable matches included:  Eddie Guerrero won the WCW Cruiserweight title
over Dean Malenko; Bill Goldberg defeated Mongo McMichael; DDP beat Curt Hennig
for the US title; and Larry Zbyszko defeated WCW President Eric Bischoff for
the rights to Monday Nitro. In my eyes the World title match was poorly
prepared, poorly produced (Sting neither repels from the ceiling nor from the
rampway?), and had a poor outcome. Sting should have dominated the match, won
the title, and made Hogan look so bad that the nWo would renounce him as a
member and its leader. This show had so much promise along with a huge buyrate
that WCW should have paid off the nWo storyline but ultimately failed. I’d only
watch this show for historical purposes as it is a lesson on what not to do for
a wrestling promotion.

Starrcade ’98: Who’s
Next?
presented a conundrum for me. While not documented anywhere I believe
the big dollar names (minus Kevin Nash) had fulfilled all of their PPV dates in
1998. In my opinion Halloween Havoc was stacked for the buyrate without regard
to contract status. Case in point being the star power (Jerry Flynn?) for this
event was way down compared to previous years; therefore, the show comes off as
extremely lackluster in spite of the main event. Said match pitted WCW World
Champion (don’t call me Bill) Goldberg versus “Big Sexy” Kevin Nash on December
27 in Washington, DC. Goldberg was 173-0 (kayfabe) coming into the matchup
while Nash had risen to the top by winning the World War III 60-man battle
royal in November. Nash won the title here and ended Goldberg’s undefeated
streak but not without controversy. Scott Hall interfered on Nash’s behalf and
shocked Goldberg with a cattle prod. While the paid crowd was thirsty for a
Goldberg loss I believe the crowd wasn’t as ecstatic about Nash as champion. Oh
well, the fingerpoke of doom took care of that, right? Other notable (and I use
the term loosely here) matches included: Billy Kidman defeated Rey Mysterio,
Jr. and Juventud Guerrera in a triangle match; Billy Kidman subsequently answered
a challenge from Eddie Guerrero and won; Konnan beat Chris Jericho on Jericho’s
unceremonious path to leaving WCW; and Eric Bischoff defeated Ric Flair. To
quote John McEnroe: “Are you serious?” The sympathetic babyface loses to the
boss on the biggest show of the year? Oh yeah, Flair won the rematch the
following night on Nitro. The cart before the horse always works, right? Good
job, WCW! Seek out the Goldberg loss and avoid the rest at all costs.

Starrcade ’99: The
Battle to End the Millenium
can best be described by the NEW (Where’s
Howard Finkel when you need him?) President of WCW—Vince Russo. Story over
substance was Russo’s plan; hence, the outcomes of the matches on this card
told only part of the story between the combatants. The main event presented
the pure definition of story over substance with Bret Hart retaining the WCW
World Heavyweight title over Goldberg via a recreation of the Montreal Screwjob
on December 19 in Washington, DC. Despite being triumphant the victory was
bittersweet for Hart as he sustained a severe concussion due to an errant
Goldberg superkick. The undercard included: Madusa won the WCW Cruiserweight
title over Evan Karagis (talk about title devaluation); The Revolution (Shane
Douglas, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Asya) defeated “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
and the Varsity Club (ahem…under what rock did Sullivan get these guys and did
he think he was helping to book Starrcade ’89 instead of ‘99?);  Jeff Jarrett played double-duty in beating
Dustin Rhodes in a Bunkhouse Brawl match then losing to “The Crippler” Chris
Benoit in a ladder match for the US title; Sting defeated The Total Package
(Lex Luger) by DQ thanks to subsequent interference by Elizabeth (her initial
interference backfired when Sting had given her a can of silly string prior to
the match; DDP defeated David Flair while defending the honor (<cough>)
of Kimberly in a crowbar on a pole match; and Kevin Nash won a powerbomb match
via a phantom powerbomb. Yes, Nash was sly enough to convince the referee he
had powerbombed Sid when he actually hadn’t. This show is completely forgettable
minutes after watching it, so please avoid.

Unfortunately for WCW, Starrcade
2000: Unedited! Unpredictable! Unreal!
became the last granddaddy of them
all. At the time WCW was for sale by AOL-Time Warner and had not yet been
purchased by the World Wrestling Federation. Russo was long gone but match
quality remained a serious problem for WCW at this point in its existence. On
December 17 in Washington, DC the main event featured WCW World Heavyweight
Champion Scott Steiner defeating Sid Vicious when Vicious passed out while in
the Steiner Recliner. Other notable matches included: a six man ladder match
between 3 Count (Shane Helms and Shannon Moore), the Jung Dragons (Yun Yang and
Kaz Hayashi), and Jamie Knoble and Evan Karagis (3 Count won); Lance Storm
defeated “The Cat” Ernest Miller; Mike Awesome beat Bam Bam Bigelow in an
ambulance match; General Rection (Hugh Morrus/Bill DeMott) defeated US Champion
Shane Douglas by DQ; The Insiders (DDP and Kevin Nash) beat The Perfect Event
(Chuck Palumbo and Shawn Stasiak) to win the WCW World Tag Team titles; and
Goldberg defeated Lex Luger in spite of interference by Buff Bagwell. Did this
show really occur? If so I don’t remember it too well so feel free to skip it.

While Starrcade mimicked the month of March by coming in
like a lion and going out like a lamb memories of this event will not be
forgotten. Win or lose, wrestlers such as Ric Flair, Sting, Lex Luger, and
Goldberg can give credit to Starrcade for providing pivotal moments in their
careers. During Starrcade’s existence while most people considered WWE’s
WrestleMania to be the hottest show of the year, the end of the year
spectacular hosted by Jim Crockett Promotions initially and WCW thereafter had
proven, in most cases, to truly be the granddaddy of them all. Thanks for the
memories, Starrcade!

For more information on me please visit http://rockstargary.com.