What the World Was Watching: Starrcade ’95

Note the typo on the video cassette box, which says “1996” instead of “1995.”  I guess this goes in the “because WCW” category?

Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, and Dusty Rhodes are doing commentary and they are live from Nashville, Tennessee.  Heenan appears to have put aside his complaints about working with Dusty, which drove him from WCW Saturday Night earlier in the year.

Opening World Cup Contest:  Jushin Liger (w/Sonny Onoo) (3-2) beats Chris Benoit (11-2-1) after a hurricanrana at 10:28:

Even though Benoit is a member of the Four Horsemen he has not had a lot of screen time in the group because he was fulfilling some New Japan obligations near the end of the year.  The Nashville fans do not appear to be clued into the angle, booing Benoit and Liger even though Benoit is supposed to play the babyface role because he is representing WCW.  They eventually catch on and start rooting for Benoit by the end.  This is a good opener, with each man exchanging some quick strikes to start, which leads into a middle period of submission wrestling.  Benoit almost finishes Liger with a superduperplex, but a flying headbutt eats canvas.  After recovering from a sit out powerbomb, Benoit executes some rolling Germans and appears to have Liger beat after a powerbomb and flying headbutt.  However, Kevin Sullivan comes to the ring to cause havoc on the Horsemen and when Benoit gets refocused, Liger catches him with a sloppy hurricanrana to put New Japan up 1-0 in the World Cup.  There was very little psychology here, but it was a hard-hitting contest that got the pay-per-view off to a good start.  Rating:  ***½

Gene Okerlund interviews Eddie Guerrero, who is angry that Sullivan interfered in Benoit’s match.  During the promo, someone almost comes into the locker room through a door behind Guerrero and they suddenly close it.  Guerrero delivers a stumbly promo about how he is excited to be at Starrcade and that he is going to do his best to put WCW ahead when he faces Shinjiro Otani later.

World Cup Contest (New Japan Leads 1-0):  Koji Kanemoto (w/Sonny Onoo) (2-0) defeats Alex Wright (55-9-3) after a roll up at 11:43:

Schiavone takes a dig at the now-defunct Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion, telling Heenan that “no one wrestles in the Smoky Mountains” when Heenan says New Japan’s stars went there to become acclimated to the United States two weeks before the pay-per-view.  The first eight minutes feature lots of starts and stops, with both men taking powders when the other gets an advantage with strikes.  Kanemoto hits a tiger suplex, but Wright’s foot is in the ropes to break it.  Kanemoto follows with a moonsault but decides to lift Wright’s shoulders up, which nearly costs him when Wright hits a German suplex for a near-fall.  Wright also hits his older finisher of a reverse flying body press but Kanemoto kicks out.  Wright continues to hit big moves like a missile dropkick and superplex but that is not enough to put away the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.  Kanemoto catches Wright with Snakes Eyes and quickly rolls him up for a hard-fought win.  After a slow start this picked up some good steam at the end.  The finish was weak, though.  Rating:  ***¼

Okerlund says that a WCW star was recently offered a lot of money.  Find out the story from Mark Madden by calling 1-900-909-9900!

Sonny Onoo tells Okerlund that New Japan is aiming for a sweep.  Okerlund says that if New Japan wins two more matches there will not be any others for the World Cup, so WCW must have a contingency plan like substitute bouts for the UFC in case that happens.

World Cup Contest (New Japan Leads 2-0):  Lex Luger (w/Jimmy Hart) (17-3) beats Masahiro Chono (w/Sonny Onoo) (3-0) via submission to the Torture Rack at 6:40:

Luger gets a nice pop when he comes out, which he relishes in after being a bit player for the first three-quarters of the year in the WWF.  Longtime fans remember this match less for the in-ring action than the commentary banter as Dusty goes nuts after Schiavone calls Chono’s Mafia kick.  Dusty says the move has nothing to do with the Mafia and proceeds to add ethnic names to random moves – “He just caught him with a Sicilian elbow!” – and then Heenan piles on for comedy gold.  This battle of men in black trunks goes slowly, with three rest spots in less than five minutes.  Chono applies the STF, but Luger makes the ropes and proceeds to yell out in pain when Chono adds more strikes.  However, a Chono dive off the top eats elbow and Luger racks him to a big pop and to give WCW its first World Cup win.  Rating:  *

Okerlund interviews Sting.  He says pride is up for grabs when he faces Kensuke Sasaki because Sonny Onoo will never buy WCW on his watch.  As far as the triangle match goes, he says he will do what he has to do tonight.

World Cup Contest (New Japan Leads 2-1):  Johnny B. Badd (Television Champion w/Kimberly) (52-5-3) beats Masa Saito (w/Sonny Onoo) (2-0) via disqualification when Saito tosses Badd over the top rope at 5:49:

Kimberly shows a new look, ditching her dress look for a cheerleader-like attire and doing cartwheels down the entrance way and in the ring.  Onoo immediately complains about her presence, causing Kimberly to cut a weird promo where she says she is not an American geisha and questioning Onoo’s manhood.  If that was in TEW, the match would start with an overness deficit.  Saito was fifty-three by this point, so expectations were low for this match.  The grizzled veteran gives it a good go, though, by engaging in a chop off to start and pulverizing Badd with power moves.  He does not sell three Tutti Fruttis, with Badd peeved over that.  When Onoo hops on the apron, Badd engages and Saito tosses him over the top rope in an awful finish.  After the match, Saito teases an attack on Kimberly until Badd makes the save and stands tall.  Until the finishing sequence this was exceeding expectations.  Rating:  *½

Okerlund interviews Lex Luger and Jimmy Hart.  Hart says that Kevin Sullivan interfered in Chris Benoit’s match earlier because he has a short fuse.  Luger gives a killer promo about how all three participants in the triangle match demonstrate excellence in WCW and that he is going to win it all.  He adds that Hart is not going to accompany him to the ring for the triangle match.

World Cup Contest (Series Tied at 2-2):  Shinjiro Otani (w/Sonny Onoo) (1-0) defeats Eddie Guerrero (18-4-4) after rolling through a hurricanrana at 13:43:

After two slogging bouts with heavyweights the cruisers wake up the crowd in the fifth match of the World Cup.  Guerrero folds up Otani like an accordion with a powerbomb and hits a brutal brainbuster for near-falls.  Otani recovers with his Flair flip-springboard dropkick move and a springboard plancha to the floor.  After slowing things down, Otani floors Guerrero with a German suplex and springboard spinning heel kick.  However, Guerrero catches the Japanese star with a super hurricanrana for a near-fall.  Splash Mountain – with Otani wiggling his legs in a desperate attempt to escape – wakes up the crowd and the battle spills to the floor, with Guerrero slamming Otani on the concrete and executing a springboard reverse flying body press.  Otani reverses a suplex to the floor and appears to kill Guerrero with a springboard missile dropkick to the back of the head.  Never a quitter, Guerrero fights out of a full nelson and hits a desperate hurricanrana, but Otani rolls through and both men roll into several pinning combinations until Otani prevails.  The crowd HATES the result, a testament to how Guerrero was awesome at fighting underneath.  Rating:  ****¼

Okerlund interviews WCW Champion Randy Savage, although Okerlund fails a basic math test when he tells Savage that if he fails that Sting will have to win the World Cup for WCW.  Savage says he is under pressure to beat Hiroyoshi Tenzan, but he is up to the task.  He tells Okerlund to tell Hulk Hogan that he is in the zone.

World Cup Contest (New Japan Leads 3-2):  Randy Savage (WCW Champion) (23-6) pins Hiroyoshi Tenzan (w/Sonny Onoo) after a flying elbow drop at 6:53:

Unlike the other New Japan talents, Tenzan never made an appearance on WCW television before the pay-per-view.  This appears to be a battle of the neon colors as both have them scattered on their tights.  Savage reverts to his “Beat me up all match until I hit the big elbow” formula, making for a poor match that offered little of redeeming value.  It does not help that the ending was botched as Savage cannot suplex Tenzan into the ring from the apron.  Why would WCW book their champion to get destroyed like this?  Just another bad decision in Savage’s awful title reign.  Rating:  DUD

Heenan messes up the announce table with his comedic antics because he is nervous over the outcome of the World Cup.

Call 1-900-909-9900 to find out about a big meltdown that is affecting the wrestling world!

Ric Flair tells Okerlund that he is going to style and profile in the triangle match.  He reminds Sting and Lex Luger that to be the man they have to beat the man.

World Cup Contest (Series Tied at 3-3):  Sting (43-2-1) defeats Kensuke Sasaki (United States Champion w/Sonny Onoo) (4-1) via submission to the Scorpion Deathlock at 6:52 to win the World Cup for WCW:

Sting carries the American flag to the ring to raise the nationalist vibes of this final World Cup match.  WCW has undersold Sasaki’s taking the title from Sting in Japan, never playing footage of the title change.  The horrible booking of this show means that this match cannot go a long time because Sting has to be in the triangle match immediately following this one.  That makes this World Cup finale nothing more than a basic TV match.  Even the announcers sound bored calling it.  After some hard hitting action, Sting refuses to submit to Strangle Hold Beta, or maybe he does, and the referee misses it as the referee lines up facing Sasaki, baffling the Japanese wrestler.  Sasaki then applies the Scorpion Deathlock, but Sting powers out, bulldogs his opponent, and ties him up in the Scorpion to win the World Cup.  After the match, WCW’s team pour into the ring to congratulate Sting.  Rating:  **½

Okerlund puts over WCW’s victory in the ring as Sting and Lex Luger celebrate with the trophy.  Okerlund says he hopes this becomes an annual thing like the Ryder Cup.  And thankfully it did not!

A video package hypes the triangle match.

Triangle Match to Decide Who Wrestles Randy Savage for the WCW Championship:  Ric Flair beats Sting and Lex Luger when Sting and Luger get counted out at 28:03:

Win-loss records are not included because this is a multi-man match and only counts against overall records versus singles records.  WCW opts for the tag variant of a triangle match versus the mini-tournament it did at Fall Brawl ’94, so one man stands on the apron the other two wrestle.  And before the match gets started the weird booking of the evening rears its head as Sting makes an entrance for the second time in fifteen minutes.  Color is also absent from this match as every participant wears black trunks.  Flair and Sting wrestle the first ten minutes, with Flair taunting Luger so he can cheat behind the referee’s back.  Dusty makes an astute observation that Luger should be charged for a seat since he is not doing anything.  That changes when Luger comes into the ring to potentially break up the pin after a superplex and gets tagged when Flair knocks Sting into his corner.  Flair is dominated but intelligently refuses to tag out because doing so means he is ineligible to win, and he eventually finds a way to cheat and hurt Luger’s left knee with a chair.  He adds a low blow for good measure after taunting Sting.  Flair applies the figure-four, which Luger turns and gets a second wind.  Cornered and running out of options, Flair tags Sting to force the friends to face off.  Things are tentative, angering fans since the match slows to a crawl, until Luger starts unloading.  A dull one-on-one bout ensues, with Sting missing a second Stinger’s Splash until the referee gets bumped when Luger puts Sting in the Torture Rack.  Flair takes out Luger’s knee and tosses Sting over the top rope, waking up the referee and getting him to count both participants out of the match.  Sting looks like he is going to beat the count, but Luger holds onto him and prevents him from re-entering the ring.  This was a master class in Flair cheating, featured some fun strategy, and the only thing that drags the match down is the poor Sting-Luger portion near the end.  The good outweighed the bad, though, to help it get into *** territory.  Rating:  ***

After the bell, Sting walks away from an injured Luger that wants his help as Jimmy Hart comes into the ring to talk to Flair.

WCW Championship Match:  Ric Flair (w/Jimmy Hart) (19-7) defeats Randy Savage (Champion) (24-6) to win the title after Arn Anderson interferes at 8:41:

Michael Buffer gives a long ring introduction, which should anger Savage because he is the fresher man.  The crowd is having none of Savage’s efforts at being a babyface, booing him when he rips off his shirt and throws it in Flair’s face.  A minute into the match, Paul Orndorff shows up in the aisle in a neck brace, but he plays no role in the outcome as Doug Dillinger talks him back to the locker room.  Flair focuses his attack on Savage’s injured arm in the early going until Savage escapes a sleeper and makes a comeback, which the crowd rejects.  Hart tries to toss Flair his megaphone, only to have Savage hit Flair with it instead and, according to Flair’s book, blade Flair without his permission.  Savage hits the flying elbow drop as Flair bleeds all over the ring, triggering interference from the Four Horsemen as Hart runs possibly the best interference from a manager ever to keep referee Nick Patrick from turning around.  Savage tosses Brian Pillman off the top rope onto Chris Benoit but he fails to account for Arn Anderson, who hits him with a foreign object and helps Flair secure the world title for the twelfth time.  That gets a massive pop from the Nashville crowd.  The match was mediocre, but the crowd’s reaction at the end enhanced the finish.  Rating:  **

After the match, Pillman whips Savage with the world title several times.  Flair is supposed to be interviewed but due to his bleeding he cannot cut a celebratory promo.

The Last Word:  WCW put on a lot of bad pay-per-views in 1995 and the quality of the wrestling and lack of wacky or stupid stories made this their best effort of the year.  Still, the card was a weird mix of matches as the World Cup took a backseat to the triangle match, but the triangle match required Lex Luger and Sting to wrestle twice and then Ric Flair had to wrestle a second match right after he won the triangle match.  It is not surprising that the buyrate for the pay-per-view was the worst of the year since it happened on a Wednesday and WCW did little to promote the New Japan wrestlers on Monday Nitro or WCW Saturday Night.  Oh, and things got weirder after the show went off the air as Kensuke Sasaki was screwed out of the United States title when he wrestled the One Man Gang.  Gang pinned Sasaki with the 747 splash, even though Sasaki was trying to kick out.  The match was restarted at the event with Sasaki winning.  However, WCW only recognized the first match and later aired it on Saturday Night.

Attendance:  8,200 (6,018 paid)

Buyrate:  0.36 (-0.24 over previous year)

Up Next:  WCW Pro for December 30! (Last column of the series!)

My second book was recently published on Amazon, chronicling WCW action from January to September 1995 before the debuted of Monday Nitro.  The book includes reviews, angle breakdowns, win-loss totals and breakdowns, and other relevant information about the period.  You can buy it in ebook or paperback format.