Rock Star Gary reflects on…NWA Starrcade ’88

Live from Norfolk, VA

Airdate: December 26, 1988

Attendance:  10,000

Hosted by Tony Schiavone, Magnum T.A., Jim Ross, and Bob Caudle

Will the NWA, now under the Turner umbrella, introduce a new champion? Or will they maintain the status quo? Let’s find out!

Match 1 for the NWA US tag team titles: The Fantastics (champions) versus the Varsity Club


  • Supposedly Jim Herd could be overheard saying “Sheepherders? Bushwhackers? Ah, who cares? We’ve got Dr. Death!” Somehow putting Dr. Death with Kevin Sullivan makes sense.
  • Right off the bat, Fulton mounted the second turnbuckle, delivered a Thesz press, and got 2 on Sullivan.
  • Rogers tagged in and gave Sullivan a back drop.
  • Once again, Jason Hervey from The Wonder Years was in attendance. I’ll forego the Missy joke this time.
  • Shortly after, Williams reversed a cross-corner whip from Fulton but came up empty on his follow-through.
  • The Fantastics then gave Williams a double monkey flip.
  • Upon missing a clothesline, Williams gave Fulton a military press slam with numerous reps.
  • He then destroyed Fulton with a clothesline. Well, not quite like that.
  • After regrouping outside the ring, Fulton returned and grazed Williams with a dropkick.
  • Rogers then joined him as the Fantastics delivered a double dropkick sending Williams between the ropes to the concrete floor.
  • When Williams returned to the ring, he gave Fulton a belly-to-back suplex but missed a dropkick.
  • Rogers tagged in and dropkicked Williams.
  • Sullivan tagged in, and the Varsity Club double-clotheslined Rogers.
  • Sullivan then tried another clothesline, but as Rogers ducked, he sailed over the top rope to the concrete floor.
  • When he returned to the ring, he gave Rogers a back drop; however, Rogers landed on his feet and dropkicked him.
  • Sullivan then baited Rogers into the Varsity Club corner, but Rogers gave them a Fulton-assisted double noggin knocker to escape.
  • The Fantastics then gave Williams a cross-corner whip followed by a double back drop.
  • While Fulton distracted referee Teddy Long, Sullivan nailed Rogers.
  • With Rogers on the apron, Williams gave him a delayed vertical suplex for 2.
  • After a tiny bit of miscommunication, Rogers took down Williams for 2.
  • Sullivan tagged in but fell victim to an inside cradle for 1.
  • Shortly after, Williams applied a bear hug to Fulton until a poke in the eye broke the hold.
  • Rogers then gave Sullivan a cross-corner whip but ate boot on his follow-through.
  • As Sullivan mounted the top turnbuckle, Rogers caught and slammed him down to the mat.
  • He then mounted the top turnbuckle but hit feet on the way down.
  • Williams tagged in and gave Rogers a short-arm clothesline.
  • Afterward, Sullivan delivered a clothesline to Rogers, but Fulton made the save.
  • Upon giving Rogers a knee to the midsection, Sullivan tagged in Williams who then gave Rogers a leg drop followed by a guillotine using the top rope.
  • After a head butt, Williams got 2.
  • Rogers came back with a dropkick, but Sullivan tagged in, prevented the tag, and slammed him.
  • After a pair of double stomps, Sullivan got 2.
  • He then attempted a vertical suplex, but Rogers blocked it and delivered one of his own.
  • Hot tag Fulton.
  • After Fulton gave Williams a back drop, all four men were in the ring.
  • At the fifteen-minute-mark, Fulton gave Williams the ten-punch count-along.
  • But by the time he reached nine, Williams countered with an inverted atomic drop.
  • Fulton came back with a sleeper, but as Sullivan came in, Rogers applied one to him as well.
  • Fulton attempted another Thesz press, but Williams countered with a stungun.
  • 1-2-3.

Rating: ***1/2

Summary:  Really good opener as the Varsity Club showed they would not lose to the pretty boy tag team. Speaking of which, the dynamic had run its course in wrestling by this point.

After the match, Tony calls it an upset, and then he and Magnum preview the battle of the Midnight Express.

Match 2: The Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette) versus the Original Midnight Express (w/ Paul E. Dangerously)


  • Since the Original Midnight Express left the AWA, how did Dangerously make a first impression in the NWA? Well, he destroyed Cornette and his men (aired 11/5, taped 11/2) of course.
  • As the match began, Corrnette’s men gave Dangerously’s men a double back drop. Sue me; both teams have the same name.
  • Then again, please don’t sue me.
  • After Gary Michael Cappetta’s official introduction, Cornette’s men then gave Condrey a double suplex from the apron into the ring.
  • They then cross-corner whipped Rose and followed with a cross-corner whip of Condrey into Rose.
  • After Lane nailed Condrey sending him down to the concrete floor, Cornette WALLOPED him in the back with the racquet. That would have been a home run in any ballpark.
  • In protest, Dangerously rang the bell to no avail.
  • Back in the ring, Condrey attempted a ten-punch count-along, but Lane countered with an inverted atomic drop.
  • Meanwhile, Cornette antagonized Dangerously mercilessly to the Norfolk faithful’s delight. Somehow I didn’t think Cornette as a babyface manager could succeed, but it works beautifully here.
  • Cornette’s men then executed their drop toehold/elbow drop combo to Rose.
  • After a back elbow, Eaton nailed Rose sending him to the concrete floor. Cornette then walloped HIM with the racquet.
  • Again, Dangerously rang the bell out of protest.
  • While Eaton distracted referee Teddy Long, Lane rammed Rose face-first into the ring post.
  • Upon ducking a pair of clotheslines, Lane delivered a cross body block to Rose for a 1-count.
  • After ramming Condrey into the top turnbuckle, Eaton mounted said turnbuckle and delivered the big elbow.
  • Shortly after, Eaton gave Condrey a bulldog.
  • Lane tagged in and gave Rose a back elbow.
  • Rose then gave Lane a cross-corner whip, tried a monkey flip, but got rebuffed.
  • Eaton then gave Rose a cross-corner whip but came up empty on his follow-through.
  • As Condrey distracted Long, Rose gave Eaton an atomic drop on the concrete floor.
  • After Rose gave Eaton a cross-corner whip, he whipped Condrey into him.
  • With Eaton on the concrete floor, Rose mounted the second turnbuckle, leaped, and nailed him.
  • Back in the ring, Condrey gave Eaton a short-arm clothesline.
  • While Condrey occupied Long’s attention, Dangerously nailed Eaton then scampered away from an enraged Cornette.
  • Back in the ring, Eaton came back with a swinging neckbreaker.
  • Rose tagged in, clotheslined Eaton, and got 2.
  • Rose then attempted a piledriver, but Eaton countered with a back drop.
  • While Lane distracted Long, Rose mounted the second turnbuckle and nailed Eaton as Condrey held him.
  • After a Condrey powerslam, Rose tagged in, and Dangerously’s men attempted a Rocket Launcher but missed.
  • At the fifteen-minute-mark, Lane got the hot tag.
  • After giving Dangerously’s men a double noggin knocker, Lane delivered an enziguri to Rose.
  • As Lane made the cover, Eaton and Condrey distracted Long.
  • Meanwhile, Dangerously came into the ring and HAMMERED Lane with the cellular phone. Back then, cell phones didn’t fit in your front pocket.
  • As he attempted to place Rose atop Lane, Cornette came into the ring and nailed Dangerously.
  • Long tried to count the pin but discovered the phone in the ring.
  • While Rose argued with Long about the phone, Cornette’s men gave him the double goozle.
  • 1-2-3.
  • Cornette’s men won.

Rating: ****1/2

Summary: Excellent tag team match that had the Norfolk faithful on the edge of its seat for over fifteen minutes.

After the match, Condrey wallops both Lane and Eaton, and Cornette with the racquet. Rose then nails Cornette with the phone.  As Rose holds Cornette, Dangerously hits his nemesis in the midsection with the phone. Finally, Eaton gets ahold of the racquet to chase Dangerously and his men away. The beatdown following the match adds a ½* to the match rating.

Back in the locker room, Magnum interviews the Varsity Club.

Match 3: The Russian Assassins (w/ Paul Jones) versus the Junkyard Dog & Ivan Koloff


  • Should the Assassins lose, they must unmask and Jones must retire. I hope Jones set aside quite a bit in his 401k from Turner.
  • After taking Russian Assassin #1 down to the mat, JYD delivered his customary head butts.
  • He then gave #1 a cross-corner whip that led to a shoulder-first bump to the ring post.
  • After a clothesline, JYD got 2 thanks to a foot on the bottom rope.
  • #2 tagged in, and Ross took a “victory” shot at him because #2 was portrayed by Jack Victory.
  • Afterward, a right by JYD sent #2 over the top rope to the concrete floor.
  • As Koloff tossed #2 back into the ring, JYD got a 2-count because Jones pulled #2’s leg under the bottom rope.
  • Koloff tagged in, and he and JYD gave #2 a double back elbow.
  • Upon hitting the Russian hammer, Koloff got a 2-count.
  • #2 came back by giving Koloff a cross-corner whip, but he ate boot on his follow-through.
  • Koloff then mounted the second turnbuckle and hit the Russian sickle on #2, but #1 made the save.
  • Speaking of #1, he tagged in but ate a back elbow from Koloff.
  • Koloff then gave #1 a sunset flip, but #2 distracted referee Teddy Long.
  • JYD tagged in, and he and Koloff delivered a double clothesline to #1.
  • After a snap mare, JYD missed a diving head butt.
  • As Koloff distracted Long, #2 held JYD while his partner came off the top turnbuckle. Unfortunately for the Assassins, he hit his partner instead of JYD.
  • #1 tagged in, gave JYD a cross-corner whip, and kicked him in his ample midsection. Lard is NOT your friend, JYD.
  • The Russian Assassins then attempted the Russian missile, but JYD evaded it.
  • Koloff tagged in, nailed each Assassin, and then hit Jones as he had jumped up on the apron.
  • Koloff and JYD then whipped the Assassins into one another.
  • When #2 leaped over JYD, he ran into Koloff who then knocked #1 down to the concrete floor.
  • After JYD gave #2 an atomic drop, Koloff delivered the Russian sickle.
  • Jones then gave a foreign object to #1 who promptly put it in his mask.
  • As Koloff covered #2, #1 delivered a diving head butt knocking Koloff into the middle of 1991.
  • 1-2-3.
  • The Assassins won. Jones was happy to hear from this guy.

Rating: *

Summary:  Did you really think that Koloff and JYD would win given those stipulations? Tell ‘em, Al!

Match 4 for the NWA World TV title: Mike Rotunda (champion w/ Kevin Sullivan) versus Rick Steiner


  • Similar to Clash II, Sullivan was locked in a shark cage during this match.
  • Rotunda and Steiner brawled at the onset until Rotunda sought refuge outside the ring.
  • According to Ross, Steiner dedicated this match to his mother. Aw.
  • After a leap frog by Rotunda, Steiner delivered a Steinerline.
  • As they traded holds on the mat, Ross shilled Chi-Town Rumble on February 20. I can’t wait to reflect upon that show.
  • Rotunda then countered a side head lock into a side salto. Did he get fries with that too?
  • He then missed an elbow drop.
  • After Rotunda missed a clothesline, Steiner hit a cross body block for 2.
  • As the Norfolk faithful chanted “Syracuse sucks,” Rotunda tossed Steiner between the ropes to the concrete floor.
  • At the ten-minute-mark, Rotunda joined Steiner outside the ring and guillotined him using the steel railing.
  • As Steiner got up on the apron, Rotunda guillotined him using the top rope. Effective!
  • He then gave Steiner a baseball slide to send him back down to the concrete floor.
  • Upon Steiner’s return to the ring, Rotunda gave him a back drop then applied a rope-assisted rear chin lock.
  • After giving Steiner a back elbow, Rotunda delivered an elbow drop for a 1-count.
  • He then hit Steiner with a clothesline.
  • Steiner then tried a sunset flip and got 2.
  • At the fifteen-minute-mark, Rotunda missed a dropkick to a chorus of barks.
  • Steiner then countered a slam with an inside cradle for 2.
  • He then reversed an Irish whip and hit another Steinerline.
  • Next, he gave Rotunda the ten-punch count-along followed by a back drop.
  • Meanwhile, Williams came to the ring.
  • After a powerslam, Steiner got another 2.
  • He then hit the belly-to-belly suplex, but Williams rang the bell to interrupt the count.
  • Since the time-limit was within the last five minutes, Long thought it had been reached.
  • Regardless, Tommy Young came to the ring, asked Cappetta if he rang the bell, and conferred with Long.
  • Sullivan’s cage was lowered as Sullivan argued with Young.
  • The match restarted as Steiner sent Rotunda directly into Sullivan causing him to fall to the concrete floor.
  • Long and Young both counted 1-2-3 for Steiner.
  • The roof just came off the Norfolk Scope as the crowd went APESHIT!

Rating: ***1/2

Summary:  Great story told here as the recently-dismissed Steiner gets his comeuppance against the Varsity Club by beating Rotunda for the TV title.

After the match, an ecstatic Steiner made two victory laps around the ring as Long awards him the belt.

Tony and Magnum then review the match as we see the replay.

Match 5 for the NWA US title: Barry Windham (champion w/ JJ Dillon) versus Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ Sir Oliver Humperdink)


  • After Bigelow reversed an Irish whip, he gave Windham an Atlantida.
  • Upon seeking refuge outside the ring, Windham returned and gave Bigelow a belly-to-back suplex.
  • However, Bigelow no-sold it.
  • Shortly after, he gave Windham a gorilla press slam.
  • Again, Windham escaped the ring to seek advice from Dillon.
  • Back in the ring, Bigelow gave Windham the ten-punch count-along which resulted in a Windham flop.
  • Afterward, Bigelow gave Windham a standing dropkick that sent Windham over the top rope to the concrete floor.
  • He then delivered a head butt followed by a thrust kick.
  • After a vertical suplex, Bigelow got 2.
  • Windham came back and tossed Bigelow to the concrete floor.
  • At the ten-minute-mark, Bigelow hit a springboard splash for 2.
  • Upon giving Windham a military press slam, Bigelow mounted the top turnbuckle but missed the diving head butt.
  • Windham responded with a lariat.
  • He followed with a belly-to-back suplex and gave Bigelow the ten-punch count-along.
  • Next, Windham dropkicked Bigelow between the ropes to the concrete floor.
  • He then joined Bigelow and rammed him face-first into the ring post.
  • Back in the ring, Windham applied the claw, but Bigelow made the ropes.
  • At the fifteen-minute-mark, Windham slammed Bigelow, mounted the top turnbuckle, but missed the big elbow.
  • After ducking a clothesline, he then gave Bigelow a cross body block that sent both wrestlers over the top rope to the concrete floor.
  • Upon ducking a haymaker, Bigelow gave Windham an atomic drop that sent him shoulder-first into the ring post.
  • Bigelow charged but hit the post himself.
  • Referee Tommy Young then called for the bell.
  • Windham won by countout.

Rating: ***

Summary:  Since Bigelow was more or less tied to New Japan, he wasn’t laying down here. From what I could see, the Norfolk faithful saw Bigelow as a WWF guy so most of them rooted for Windham.

Back in the locker room, Magnum interviewed the NEW World TV champion—Rick Steiner. To say Steiner’s elevator doesn’t reach the top floor would be putting it mildly.

Match 6 for the NWA World tag team titles: The Road Warriors (champions w/ “Precious” Paul Ellering) versus the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes & Sting


  • All four wrestlers brawled at the onset until Rhodes and Sting dropkicked the Road Warriors between the ropes to the concrete floor.
  • After Cappetta completed the introductions, Sting delivered a dropkick to Animal following a leap frog.
  • Rhodes tagged in and gave Animal a bionic elbow.
  • Shortly after, Hawk stomped the bejesus out of Sting. A young Steve Austin must have really enjoyed that.
  • Regardless, Sting delivered a powerslam followed by an elbow drop to Hawk.
  • Animal tagged in, gave Sting a military press slam, and then guillotined him using the top rope.
  • Remarkably, Sting no-sold it and gave Animal a pair of clotheslines.
  • As Animal sought refuge outside the ring, Sting mounted the top turnbuckle and hit a tope in the aisle. Amazing!
  • Similar to what transpired at Clash IV, Rhodes tagged in and rammed Animal’s leg into the ring post.
  • Hawk tagged in, got suckered by Rhodes, and almost fell victim to Rhodes’ figure-four leg lock; however, Animal made the save.
  • While Animal baited Sting to distract referee Tommy Young, Hawk stuck his thumb into Rhodes’ damaged eye on the concrete floor. Ick!
  • Back in the ring, Hawk gave Rhodes a standing dropkick.
  • He then nailed Rhodes until the latter began Dreaming up.
  • Rhodes then gave Hawk a dropkick. Wow! Twice in one match? Unfathomable!
  • Shortly after, Hawk applied a sleeper to Rhodes.
  • On the other hand, Rhodes used a jawbreaker to counter.
  • Sting tagged in and gave Animal a face plant.
  • After Animal reversed a cross-corner whip, Sting floated over and dropkicked him.
  • He then followed with a Stinger splash and Scorpion death lock, but Hawk made the save.
  • All four men were in the ring.
  • Behind Young’s back, Hawk tossed Sting over the top rope to the concrete floor.
  • Immediately, Sting mounted the top turnbuckle, hit a cross body block to Animal, and should have gotten the pin.
  • Instead, Ellering basically mugged Young in order to interfere.
  • Young called for the bell disqualifying the Road Warriors.

Rating: **1/2

Summary:  While this seemed like a blockbuster on paper, the execution didn’t live up to the billing. Due to the Turner buyout, blading became an absolute no-no. Since Rhodes bled profusely due to the spiking incident, ultimately he was fired. I wonder if/when we’ll see the “American Dream” again.

After the match, while Rhodes holds Ellering, Sting gives Hawk an enziguri.

Tony and Magnum then analyze the previous match via instant replay.

Match 7 for the NWA World title: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (champion w/ JJ Dillon) versus the “Total Package” Lex Luger


  • If Flair gets disqualified, he will lose the title.
  • After Luger gave Flair an Irish whip, Flair stopped to style and profile. It earned him a clothesline over the top rope to the concrete floor.
  • Six-time NWA champion Lou Thesz was shown in the crowd.
  • After a leap frog, Luger gave Flair a powerslam.
  • He then gave Flair a gorilla press slam for a 1-count due to Flair’s foot on the bottom rope.
  • While working on the arm, Luger gave Flair a cross-corner whip that resulted in a shoulder-first bump by Flair.
  • After chasing Flair around the ring, Luger gave Flair another cross-corner whip for a second shoulder-first bump followed by a Flair flop.
  • Luger then countered a hip toss with one of his own.
  • As Flair came back, he chopped Luger without effect.
  • When Flair left the ring, Luger joined him and wrapped his arm around the steel railing.
  • He then rammed Flair shoulder-first into the ring post. That’s a nice twist to the usual head to the pole that resulted in blading.
  • After a leap frog, Luger clotheslined Flair and got 2. Young actually slid out of the ring to count the pinfall from the apron.
  • With Flair on the apron, Luger delivered a vertical suplex to put him back in and got another 2.
  • He then missed an elbow drop.
  • Afterward, Flair tossed Luger outside the ring, joined him, and made him taste the steel railing. It must have tasted like the Key West at Fellini’s.
  • Upon chopping Luger, Flair gave him a second helping. Waiter, can you please give the guy with zero percent body fat a turkey nut burger?
  • Back in the ring, Flair delivered a knee drop followed by a double stomp.
  • After no-selling more chops, Luger applied a sleeper, but Flair countered with a belly-to-back suplex.
  • He then attempted the figure-four leg lock, but Luger countered with an inside cradle.
  • Do we have a new champion?
  • 1-2-NO!
  • Upon giving Luger a snap mare, Flair mounted the top turnbuckle, got caught, and received a superplex.
  • Can Luger win the title here?
  • 1-2-NO! So close.
  • Luger then hooked the figure-four leg lock, but Flair made the ropes.
  • As Luger pummeled Flair in the corner, Young got too close and caught an elbow from Luger.
  • With Young down, Flair tossed Luger over the top rope to the concrete floor. SNEAKY!
  • Luger immediately mounted the top turnbuckle, hit a flying body press, but Young was out of position.
  • As Young finally got into position, Luger got 2.
  • He then countered a hip toss with a backslide for another 2.
  • Next, Luger gave Flair the ten-punch count-along followed by a cross-corner whip that resulted in a Flair flip.
  • With Flair on the apron again, Luger suplexed him in and got yet another 2.
  • He then gave Flair gorilla press slam #2 followed by another powerslam.
  • As Luger signaled for the Torture Rack, Dillon got up on the apron to distract him.
  • With Young distracted by Dillon, Flair grabbed a chair and nailed Luger in the knee with it.
  • Flair then went to work on the knee causing Luger to shout a profanity.
  • At the twenty-five-minute mark, Flair delivered a knee drop to the knee.
  • He then hooked the figure-four leg lock as the Norfolk faithful chanted “LU-GER.”
  • Luger reversed the hold, but Flair escaped.
  • Flair then gave Luger another knee drop to the knee and mounted the top turnbuckle.
  • Again, Luger caught and slammed him down to the mat.
  • After Flair tossed Luger outside the ring, Luger popped right up on the apron.
  • When Flair attempted to guillotine him using the top rope, Luger no-sold it. This is getting a bit ridiculous.
  • After gorilla press slam #3, Flair came back and tossed Luger outside again.
  • Luger then used a sunset flip to return and got 2.
  • Flair then tried to deliver a flying forearm but bounced off Luger instead.
  • Luger then delivered another round of the ten-punch count-along.
  • At the thirty-minute-mark, he gave Flair a cross-corner whip, hit a clothesline, but only got 2.
  • Luger then delivered powerslam #3 and applied the Torture Rack.
  • Unfortunately, his leg buckled, and Flair landed on top of him.
  • With some assistance from the second rope, Flair pinned Luger to retain.

Rating: ****1/2

Summary:  While this was certainly Luger’s best match, his constant no-selling irritated me and affected the quality of the match.

After the match, Luger argues with Young about the use of the ropes to no avail.

Back in the locker room, Magnum interviews Flair with Dillon. According to Flair, Luger will NEVER wrestle him again for the World title. Care to bet on that one, Ric? Nevertheless, he finished the promo with “you (Luger) are history, and I…am the champ.” During the promo, Cappetta prepped the Norfolk faithful for the Bunkhouse Stampede. While not shown, JYD won the match.

Tony then refers to Flair as “Mr. Starrcade.”

Conclusion:  Hands down, this is the best wrestling show of 1988. With two ****1/2 matches and other good ones, this show is an 80s wrestling fan’s dream. With no blood but great wrestling action, gather the whole family and tune into this show on the WWE Network ASAP.

See you for WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event XIX!

Rating: 1.80

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