Yes, I’ve finally managed to get around to this after many weeks removed from the 80’s list.
As always, these are just my own personal picks. This isn’t supposed to be some sort of objective list or anything. If I leave out a match that you think warrants inclusion, then please feel free to put it down in the comments section below. As with previous lists, I’ll be listing the matches in chronological order.
So without further to do, let’s get to it!
Barry Windham and Flyin’ Brian Vs Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas
We start out with a tag team clinic from the 1992 event, as a fired up Steamboat and Douglas look for revenge on Windham following a vicious chair attack. This really is utterly superb tag wrestling, with a fantastic shine from the babyfaces followed by a gripping double heat segment from the heels. The fact both teams were trusted to be given enough time for two heats is a testament to how skilled all four of these wrestlers were when it came to tag team wrestling.
Despite becoming somewhat a figure of fun in his latter career, Douglas was excellent as the fresh faced and determined young babyface under the wing of the veteran Steamboat, and his selling is on point here. It helps that Windham and Brian truly commit to their role of villainous bastards. The crowd hate them so much that they cheer a very un-babyface like moment from Steamboat when he drills Windham with a chair mid-match.
Everyone plays their role exactly as it needs to be played here and the standard tag team formula is executed to perfection. If you like your old school tag team wrestling, then this is definitely a match you need to see, as it will deliver everything you want and more.
Big Van Vader Vs Sting
Has there ever been a bad match between these two? The closest would be their match at Slamboree 1994, and that’s mainly because Sting spends the majority of the match sulking over the reactions of the cynical Philly crowd rather than the match itself being actively bad. This is another great match in the storied rivalry between the two, with the added bonus that Sting is actually allowed to win this one as well.
Yes, Sting often spent the majority of his time looking up at the lights when he battled Vader, but this at least helped make Vader a convincing monster. Sting actually employs a tad more strategy to this match than he normally would, with his goal being to systematically wear Vader down, rather than charging full bore at him like he had in previous contests. This gives the match an engrossing chess match feel in the early stages, as Sting tries to find a way to break Vader down.
Eventually though the match delivers what we love from Sting/Vader matches, that being Vader giving Sting an absolute shellacking before Sting starts introducing insane power moves onto his much larger foe. Sting even hits a big DDT from the top rope at one point, as he tries everything he can to finally keep Vader down for the count. If you want to know why so many people felt Sting deserved a spot in the Hall of Fame, then matches like this would be a good place to start.
Big Van Vader Vs Ric Flair
Blog of Doom head honcho Scott Keith summed this match up best with the following;
“This is like watching someone fight Undertaker in Wrestlemania 2000 with the difficulty set on Hard.”
I personally can’t think of a better description of this match. Flair gets absolutely walloped here, but he defies the odds by continuing to survive as Vader brutally and mercilessly pummels The Nature Boy in front of his own hometown. The reaction from the home crowd for every Flair hope spot is incredible, as you can almost feel their desperation and elation. This is how you book a Monster Vs Gutsy Underdog match, as Flair never gives up and just keeps pushing as hard as he can to get a foothold in the match.
When Flair finally gets Vader down and drills his leg with a chair, the building roars its approval as the fans start to believe their hometown hero might just be able to come out of the contest with Vader’s WCW Title. Many others have tried to recreate this match (Most notably Shane Douglas and Bam Bam Bigelow at ECW November to Remember 97) but they have invariably come up shot when put up against this wonderful slice of storytelling. If you want to know why so many wrestling fans hold both of these men in such high esteem, then this would be a great match to watch. Vader is an impeccable monster and Flair is a superb babyface fighting from underneath.
Chris Benoit Vs Jushin Liger
A match between Chris Benoit and Jushin Liger usually means lightning fast technical and counter wrestling, hard hitting strikes and super smooth execution, and this match here is no exception. The only issue you could have with this match is that it’s structured for Liger to get pops for his high flying, but the Nashville crowd have no interest in cheering for the man representing Japan in the inter-promotional “World Cup” tournament between WCW and New Japan, with them instead cheering for freshly Horsemen joined heel Benoit. Despite this, the match is still a brilliant technical wrestling exhibition, as both men are supremely talented on the mat and are happy to showcase it here.
Shinjiro Ohtani Vs Eddie Guerrero
This match was also part of the “World Cup” tournament between WCW and New Japan. The difference here is that Ohtani is not only heel by circumstance but openly plays up to it as well. This allows him to draw genuine heel heat from the crowd, even though he was a practical unknown amongst casual American wrestling fans going in to this show. Ohanti really had a unique charisma, even dating back to his early days in wrestling, and it comes across here.
It shouldn’t be discounted how good Eddie is in the babyface role here though, as he sells well throughout the contest and has such sympathy when Ohtani is putting him through his torturous paces. Watching this match made me sad that Ohtani didn’t get more of a chance to work for WCW, as he really was super talented and I think he could have legitimately been a big part of the Cruiserweight Title scene. I would have certainly loved to see him take on the likes of Billy Kidman, Juventud Guerrera and Dean Malenko during their respective title reigns.
Ultimo Dragon Vs Dean Malenko
A year after 1995, Starrcade played host to some more WCW Vs Japan matches, with Jushin Liger taking on Rey Mysterio, Akira Hokuto facing Madusa and Ultimo Dragon putting his eight belt J Crown Title up against Malenko’s WCW Cruiserweight Title. The inter-promotion feel to the bout gives it additional interest for the crowd, who are firmly behind WCW representative Malenko as he tries to claim the eight belts.
As you would expect from two such proficient technicians, the technical wrestling on display is excellent here, with Malenko adding in the odd explosive throw or suplex for good measure, whilst Dragon also brings some stiff kicks to the party as well. I watched this match quite a lot in my younger days, and as a result I’ve developed a real fondness for it over the years. The closing near fall segment really is something to behold, as both men trade a multitude of victory attempts and leave the crowd breathless by the bouts conclusion.
Dustin Rhodes Vs Stunning Steve Austin (Starrcade 1993), Big Van Vader Vs Jim Duggan (Starrcade 1994), Koji Kanemoto Vs Alex Wright (Starrcade 1995), Jushin Liger Vs Rey Mysterio Jr (Starrcade 1996), Juventud Guerrera Vs Rey Mysterio Jr Vs Billy Kidman (Starrcade 1998), Chris Benoit Vs Jeff Jarrett (Starrcade 1999)
Thanks to you all for reading and I hope you all have a great festive period!