The SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade 89 – 12.13.89

The SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade 89 FUTURE SHOCK! – 12.13.89

I don’t know why this one is hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles lately but let’s get it redone so you’ll kindly shut the hell up.  Which I mean in the nicest way possible.

To this day I’ve never understood the point or thinking behind this show, taking a super hot main event scene in WCW and running a pair of round robin tournaments with no stakes and overly complicated scoring.  Man, someone should rebook this shit.

Live from Atlanta, GA, drawing a disappointingly empty 6000 people and a so-so 1.3 buyrate.

Your hosts are Jim Ross, Jim Cornette & Terry Funk, immediately back into Uncle Terry mode after his retirement.

Might as well not drag this out.  OK, so first up, I’d scrap the Iron Team tournament.  There were no stakes to it, the matches were all forgettable, and it was generally a waste of time.   Second, if we must have the Iron Man tournament, don’t put Lex Luger into it.  He was being built up as the top guy again and they had to jump through booking hoops to keep from beating him, so why even use him?  Put Terry Funk in his place, since the whole YEAR was built around Sting & Flair v. Funk & Muta anyway.  Instead of Clash 9 being his retirement match, put it off until here and have him vow to win the tournament or retire.  Bam, there’s some stakes.  Plus he can do jobs for everyone else and not give a shit about it, so that poor Muta doesn’t have to be the whipping boy of the tournament.  With the tag tournament gone it frees up a bunch of matches so that you can have Luger defending the US title against someone, plus the Steiners defending the tag titles against Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (in my fantasy world they ignore the coke thing and hire him anyway) and maybe the newly evil Midnight Express doing something.  There you go, Starrcade rebooked.

This is definitely the PPV version on the Network because we get the national anthem and everything, including Gary Capetta introducing everyone in the tournaments.  The Wild Samoans are suddenly subbing for the Skyscrapers due to Sid Vicious blowing out a lung at Clash 9.

THE TEAM OF DOOM v. The Steiner Brothers

OK, playing “guess that ripoff” here and it sounds like “Welcome to the Jungle” has been overdubbed for the Steiners.  Doom is using the music later given to Ron Simmons and I think was correct at this point.  Scott starts out with the mysterious guy who we’ll call “Ron Simmons” for the sake of simplicity, and powerslams him for two.  Scott charges and hits knee, but puts him down with the Steinerline and it’s over to Rick as the camera side crowd is EMPTY.  Apparently there was a giant traffic jam preventing everyone from getting to the arena on time, but it was still embarrassing for the supposed biggest show of the year to be that sparse, like it was a Smackdown taping or something.  Doom #2, who we’ll call “Butch Reed” for the sake of simplicity, comes in and rakes the eyes of Rick and pounds on him a bit, but Rick powerslams him for two.  Scott grabs a headlock on Reed and they trade atomic drops, which Scott turns into a rollup for two.  The Steiners work the leg for a bit and Rick goes to a chinlock.  Scott gets a backbreaker for two, but he misses a clothesline and bumps to the floor while Nitron and his disturbingly tight pants lay in the beatdown.  Why not just wear wrestling tights?  Especially with his skinny legs.  Reed stomps Scott down and out of the ring and we get more abuse from “Monday” Nitron, as Reed gets two.  Scott cradles for two, but Reed stomps him down some more to set up a double backdrop and some “blatant” choking.  Cornette is like “What would non-blatant choking be?  It’s a pretty blatant act no matter how you’re doing it!” More double-teaming from Doom and they toss him over the top rope behind the ref’s back, but Reed suplexes him back in and Scott falls on top for two.  Finally Scott reverses a piledriver and hits a belly to belly and the timer is already ridiculously off, as Capetta is calling “two minutes left” at 11:00.  Rick gets the hot tag and powerslams Simmons for two, then throws him out and stiffs both Doomers with clotheslines.  Doom regroups and double-teams him, but Nitron trips up Rick and he goes out and attacks, and they all brawl on the floor, but Rick beats the count at 12:25 for a countout win and 15 points.  I’m impressed they’re already doing lame finishes in the FIRST MATCH.  An OK match that completely fell apart at the end.  **1/4  I don’t know what happened with Reed and Simmons in the early part of 1990 that they finally got their shit together as a team, but I’m glad it eventually happened.

Next up, the Iron Man competitors are introduced.

Sting v. Lex Luger

Sting and Lex battle for the attentions of the fans and Lex loses that battle, so he decides to walk out.  Sounds about right.  Sting immediately chases him back in and slugs away, but he charges Lex and misses, landing on the apron.  Lex goes after him, but Sting clotheslines him from the apron and slingshots in with a splash for two, as Lex takes a comedy bump on the rebound and lands on the floor.  So at 2:00 we’re suddenly “five minutes gone” in the match.  Am I in some weird time-dilation bubble here where the clock runs incredibly fast?

NO I DON’T WATCH DOCTOR WHO, so don’t even start sending in excited e-mails where we discuss it.  Back off, nerds and British people.  Or British nerds, the worst of the lot.

Back in the ring, Sting keeps up the assault and slugs away in the corner, but Lex takes him down with an atomic drop, then stops to point to his head to indicate intelligence, at which point Sting quickly clotheslines him down again.  If I was teaching classes to young wrestlers, and god knows I should be, I’d always stress NEVER to do that!  Also, never turn your back on your opponent while arguing a two count with the referee, because you’re gonna get rolled up!  Sting works the arm and blocks a blind charge with a boot out of the corner, and a dropkick gets two.  To the top, but Lex catches him with another atomic drop, and crucially this time he does NOT point to his head to indicate intelligence.  In fact this allows him to hit a THIRD atomic drop as we hit the 10:00 mark at 6:33.  Man this match is just flying by!  Lex punts him in the ribs a few times, although he’s no Pat McAfee, and they fight to the floor.  Back in, Lex gets two and rakes his face on the ropes, but Sting comes back as we get the 12:00 call at 8:00.  I feel like they’re just gonna start calling 10:00 before the bell even rings.  Lex tries the rack and Sting flips out of it, so Lex keeps pounding on him while time is “running out”.  Sting makes the comeback and charges him for a clothesline on the ropes, but then suddenly pulls up and chokes him instead.  That looked like a Trickster dodging a move in WWE Champions.  And I bet anyone else who plays that infernal game just yelled at their screen in anger.  They end up on the floor and fight on the apron, then awkwardly tumble into the ring over the ropes, and Luger gets the pin with his feet and hands on the ropes at 11:40 for 20 points.  What the FUCK was that ending?  Match was every Luger-Sting match you’ve ever seen in your life with hot action to start and then not much to finish.   **1/2

THE TEAM OF DOOM v. The Road Warriors

Wait, so Simmons and Reed are disguised by their masks, but we can somehow tell who Hawk and Animal are despite their facepaint?  Hawk overpowers Reed, but then Simmons comes in and they shoulderblocks to no effect, so Hawk powerslams him instead.  Animal goes to a chinlock and sure enough, 5:00 are elapsed despite my stopwatch reading 2:30.  I can only assume there’s some kind of chroniton particle buildup in Atlanta causing this time distortion issue.  Hopefully Geordi can reverse the polarity on the deflector shields to deal with it.  Perhaps with a clever metaphor to explain it.

Exactly!

The mysterious “Ron Simmons” powerslams Hawk and goes to a chinlock with help from Woman, although I can’t imagine her extra pound of pressure on the feet having any effect whatsoever.  I’m no scientician but I’m pretty sure physics doesn’t work that way.  Reed gets a couple of back elbows for two and holds onto that chinlock, and sure enough we hit 10:00 at 6:50.  So at least the timer is reliably out of whack.  Consistency is all I ask.  Hawk fights out of the chinlock and makes the tag to Animal, and he better hurry because there’s only 7 minutes left!  Powerslam gets two and it’s BONZO GONZO, but Reed tries a piledriver and Hawk hits him with a flying clothesline and puts Animal on top for the pin at 8:33 for 20 points.  A complete snooze.  *  Also, with zero points, Doom is already eliminated from contention less than an hour into the show, which is another reason why this idea was STUPID.

Ric Flair v. The Great Muta

Flair has the Andersons with him, with Arn fresh out of the WWF, and the upcoming storyline twist had to be pretty obvious at this point.  Muta storms him with kicks to start and hits the handspring elbow in the corner before dropping the power elbow, but Flair gets fired up with chops and hits an atomic chop and kneecrusher.  Figure-four already, but Gary Hart’s crew runs in and the Andersons cut them off.  Muta goes up for the moonsault, but it misses and Flair cradles for the pin at 1:52 to get the 20 points and end Muta’s undefeated streak of nearly a year.  Nothing to this one and we just move right on without even selling the significance of anything that happened.  ½*

The Road Warriors v. The Steiner Brothers

See now this should have been the finale of the tournament instead of making us sit through 3 straight Samoan matches.  Scott goes for the leg, but Hawk hits him with an enzuigiri and then Rick comes in and Hawk clotheslines him for two.  Animal comes in with a shoulderblock on Rick, but he hits a belly to belly for two.  Hawk with a press slam on Scott, but Rick breaks it up at two, so Hawk hits a big boot for two.  Back to Animal, but Scott suplexes him for two.  Animal catches him with a clothesline out of the corner and Hawk comes in with a Canadian backbreaker, and then deadlifts him into a gut wrench suplex for two.  They fight to the top and Scott gets a belly to belly off there, nearly dropping Hawk on his head, so Animal quickly tags in and goes to the bearhug.  Warriors double-team Scott in the corner with some stuff, but Rick can take no more and they all brawl.  Warriors hit a version of the Doomsday Device on Scott, but Scott lifts his shoulder and gets the pin at 7:33 for the 20 points.  This was an OK hoss fight that was actually one of the only matches from this show to get voted into the “Essential Starrcade Collection” by fans when that DVD came out.  It’s a pretty good DVD, by the way.  **1/2  Anyway, even though the Warriors doing clean pinfall jobs happens about as often as Halley’s Comet, none of this is allowed to sink in, and we move onwards at a million miles an hour.  JR didn’t even have time to put over how the Steiners are REAL brothers and not fake brothers like some other brother teams in wrestling!

Sting v. The Great Muta

They trade full nelson attempts to start and Muta gets a mule kick in the corner and goes to a headlock, but Sting gets a monkey flip and follows with a suplex for two.  Sting goes for the Scorpion and Muta makes the ropes and bails to the floor.  Back in, Muta rubs the fingers into Sting’s eyes to take over and drops the elbow, then goes to a beautiful bridging double chickenwing.  Sadly the crowd is already dead for this match.  Sting fights out of this and slugs away with AMERICAN RIGHT HANDS and a press slam for two.  Sting drops his own elbow for two, but Muta chokes him out in the corner, just another generic midcard fella.  How did they fuck up Muta so badly in such a short amount of time?  Muta goes up and misses the moonsault, but recovers with a spinkick to put Sting down again.  He goes up to try again, but Sting crotches him to set up a superplex for the pin at 8:40.  This was actually the best match of the show by far to this point.  ***  So Sting gets 20 points and Muta is eliminated.

The Wild Samoans v. THE TEAM OF DOOM

OK, so the Samoans are taking the place of the Skyscrapers, but in turn, this is not the Samoan Swat Team, because Samu quit the promotion and so we’ve got Fatu and Tama, aka the Samoan Savage.  And they would be a real brother tag team, not like those other fake brother tag teams in wrestling.  Even though they’re not billed as brothers.  Fatu gets slammed by Reed to start, but comes back with a powerslam.  They trade headbutts, but on the racial stereotyping scale that’s a stalemate.  Good to know, for science if nothing else.  Simmons gets a powerslam, but Tama no-sells it and goes up for a flying splash that misses.  Simmons slams him for two and Reed comes in to stomp away, as JR notes “they giving no quarter and asking for none.”  OK there Cowboy Bill, take it down a notch.  Reed with a neckbreaker on Tama for two.  Where’s the hyperactive time calls from Capetta now?  We’re 5:00 legit into the match, he should be excitedly screaming that we’ve got a minute left!  Doom double-teams Tama in their corner and Reed drops an elbow for two.  And now, at 5:50, they call the 5:00 mark!  This show is finding new and innovative ways to drive me crazier than I already am.  Tama with a sunset flip for two and he blocks a bulldog from Reed, but Simmons cuts off the tag.  Doom continues double-team in the corner, but Fatu gets a “hot” tag as the crowd does not give a shit and they all brawl.  Fatu collides with Reed, however, Humperdink pushes Fatu over for the pin at 8:32.  So not good.  ½*  So Doom finishes with zero points, which literally led to nothing in terms of consequences.  In fact, they got title matches a few weeks after this.  Real talk:  Doom were already mathematically eliminated from the tournament before the match, so why not be creative and have them just go out and deliberately get DQ’d seconds into the match, so they can screw over the other team and not even give them a chance to get the 20 points?  Plus as a bonus if you beat them down hard enough, you further screw up their chances of winning the tournament.  Anyway, it’s now Steiners leading with 35 points, then Warriors and Samoans with 20 each and Doom finishing with the goose egg.

Lex Luger v. Ric Flair

Finally we get a match with some heat from the dead Atlanta crowd, as this was clearly a bigtime match that the world was ready to see again with the reversed heel-face dynamic.  So of course Flair had to turn heel right away to put it right back where it started again.  We get the big stall from Luger to start, but Flair takes him down with a headlock and Lex reverses to his own.  Lex uses the hair to keep him down, and Flair gets all fired up, so Lex hides in the ropes and the crowd is REALLY pissed at him for some reason tonight.  Man, this clearly should have been the main event of the show instead of this stupid tournament, this was HOT and the crowd wanted badly to see it.  Flair destroys him with chops and Luger runs away from it instead of doing his usual Flexy Lexy no-sell, so Flair backdrops him out of the corner and Lex hides again.  Flair hits him with another chop, but Lex kicks him in the back and goes to work on it.  Flair fires back with a butterfly suplex for two, however, and goes to work on the arm.  Luger takes him down by the hair, so Flair wallops him with a chop and goes back to the arm.  Lex tries to clothesline out of that, so Flair counters with another chop and goes to the arm again.  You can tell both guys are feeding off the crowd and they know how much people wanted it.  Flair takes him down with a hammerlock, and Funk notes that a man is like a table, with four different limbs to work on.

Man I’ve been waiting FOREVER to work that one in somewhere and I’m kind of shocked this show was the one that gave me the chance.

Luger drops Flair on the top rope to break the hammerlock as they make the 8 minute call at 10:50, so now we’re somehow going BACKWARDS on the time calls.  Goddamn it, Geordi, what did you do?  Time to reverse the polarity again!

What?  That doesn’t even make any sense!  They don’t even HAVE bathtubs in the future, except for the one time Riker and Troi were getting it on in Insurrection.  Maybe go back to stalking Dr. Brahms and leave the metaphors to the experts.

Jerk.

Luger drops elbows on Flair and works on the neck, then follows with a press slam as we have 5:00 left at 12:30.  Lex chokes him out on the ropes and puts the boots to him as Ross notes that Lex might try a piledriver soon, although we’ve never seen him do so before.  Well maybe he just needs someone to teach it to him!  Flair fights back with a backslide for two and unleashes more chops, but we get a Flair Flip and Lex clotheslines him on the way in for two.  At this point we legit hit the 15:00 mark, by the way, for those keeping track.  But there’s 2:00 left.  Flair gets a sunset flip for two, but Lex slugs him down, then misses an elbow.  They slug it out and Flair gets a backdrop suplex and goes for the figure-four, but Lex hangs on until the time expires at 17:00 for the draw.  So both guys get 5 points.  Hell of a match here and I really wanted to see a full version of this heel Luger v. face Flair match as a result.  ****  Keeping in mind of course that I’m quite admittedly biased towards both guys, especially the 1989 versions, so your mileage may vary as far as enjoyment of the match goes.  So it’s 25 points each for Flair and Luger, 20 for Sting, and nothing for Muta.

The Wild Samoans v. The Steiner Brothers

Maniac Scott kidnaps some poor little kid from ringside on the way by and sits him down in the corner to hold his tag team belt.  And then he grew up to be legendary Hall of Famer Dick the Bruiser.  The Steiners make fun of the Samoan rituals and Rick manages to pull one of Fatu’s braids out and chases them to the floor.  Some idiot at ringside tries to start a fight with the Samoans and Cornette notes that the police officer standing there literally saved the guy’s life.  Back in the ring, more stalling, and they finally start doing stuff 5:00 into the match.  Scott with a clothesline on Tama for two, but then we get more stalling as they claim a hairpull.  Rick comes in and we get some miscommunication between the Samoans, and Rick encourages them to fight it out, but they hug it out instead.  So Scott comes in and misses a dropkick, allowing Tama to go to work on him.  Fatu drops him on the railing and Scott is face in peril.  The Samoans work on Scott with bearhugs and Fatu gets two.  Rick comes in and allows the Samoans to do more double-teaming behind the ref’s back, and Fatu goes back to the bearhug again, but Scott fights out, so Fatu powerslams him for two.  We have 2:00 left at 12:00, so we’re back to the fast stopwatch again, by the way.  Scott fights back with a backslide on Fatu for two, and then he hits the miracle Frankensteiner, but Tama cuts off the tag.  Scott gets a sunset flip for two and Tama misses a splash with “1:00” left, but Rick gets the hot tag and destroys the Samoans with clotheslines as Scott backdrops one of them over the top rope.  At this point the time seemingly expires, but the ref calls for the over the top DQ despite clearly not watching when it happened.  Kind of a shit finish but the match ended up with really good work and heat after all the stalling.  ***   So the Steiners finish with 35, the Samoans have 30, the Warriors have 20 and Doom has nothing.

Lex Luger v. The Great Muta

So much like Doom, Muta is mathematically out of the tournament.  Remarkably, Lex is still selling the leg injury from the Flair match, so kudos to him.  I should note that Lex has changed trunks for every match, going from neon green in the Sting match to powder blue in the Flair match to classic red here.  Meanwhile Muta can’t even be bothered to reapply his makeup between matches.  No reason not to be stylish!  No wonder they took the TV title off him soon after this, with that kind of lack of dedication on his part.  Luger tries a leapfrog and lands on his bad knee, and Muta immediately attacks that.  Luger bails to the floor to escape, but Muta keeps after it and beats on him with leg kicks on the floor.  Back in, Muta works the leg with an anklelock, and we’re back to the wonky fast time calls again, as 3:00 is announced as 5:00.  Maybe the timekeeper is Spock, sending secret signals to Kirk?  Something something The Wrath of Tony Khan.  Muta works the leg some more and hits the handspring elbow in the corner, then back to the mat for another leglock.  Lex finally rakes the eyes to break and drops elbows on him for two.  But then Muta takes out the leg again and goes to the Indian deathlock, forcing Luger to make the ropes, while JR brings up Funk losing the World title in Toronto with that very hold.  What a dick.  I bet he wouldn’t pull that shit with crazy Terry Funk from July.  Lex fights back out of the corner, but Muta hits him with a wicked spinkick and draws a babyface reaction from the crowd.  Lex fights back with a clothesline, still selling the leg, and slugs away on Muta with time “running out”.  Backdrop out of the corner and Lex dumps Muta to the floor, but Muta comes back in with a sunset flip for two.  Lex with a powerslam with “one minute” left (at 11:00) but Muta loads up the green mist for the DQ at 11:49, thus giving Lex 35 points to finish the tournament.  This was a pretty good match too.  ***1/4

The Road Warriors v. The Wild Samoans

The Warriors need to win this one by pinfall, but I doubt they had anyone explain that to the crowd.  Animal immediately no-sells a piledriver and clotheslines Fatu,a and then Hawk comes in and beats on Tama.  Tama gets an ugly takedown, but Hawk no-sells it anyway and follows with a dropkick for two.  Animal comes in and powerslams Fatu, not even going down for the move, and then they manage to fuck up a piledriver or something and both guys just fall to the mat in a heap.  Poor Cornette trying to cover for this stuff is something to hear.  Tama comes in and chokes Animal on the ropes and then goes to a chinlock.  Tama tries a pump splash and misses, and Hawk gets the hot tag, but they have another embarrassing collision and Hawk finishes off a Samoan with a flying clothesline at 5:53 to win the stupid tournament.  This meant nothing and led nowhere and they would have been better served having the Midnight Express in there to continue their momentum.  DUD

Iron Man finale:  Sting v. Ric Flair

So if Sting pins Flair, he wins the tournament, and Flair can pin Sting to win, or also win by DQ and countout.  Basically anything else, Luger wins.  Fair enough.  Sting grabs the headlock, but Flair bails to escape.  Back in, Flair tries a hammerlock and Sting takes him down for a leglock.  Flair powers out and puts Sting on the top rope to create some separation, as they say, and they fight over a wristlock.  They trade leapfrogs and Sting gets the press slam, and it triggers the heel instinct in Flair as they get into a shoving match and Flair backs off to the floor again while slowly getting ready to turn.  Back in, Flair tries a hiptoss and Sting turns it into a backslide for two as they actually call 5:00 at 5:00!  It only took until the final match of the night, too.  Flair decides it’s time for the chops to slow this punk down, but he still can’t get that hiptoss, as Sting reverses to his own and follows with dropkicks for two.  Finally Flair has had enough and takes Sting to the floor and sends him into the railing, and Terry Funk is like “AHA!  I KNEW IT!”  Flair snaps the neck on the top rope and brings him back in with a suplex for two, and an abdominal stretch rollup gets two.  Flair stops to yell at the ref, and then cradles Sting for two.  Delayed suplex gets two.  Flair runs him into the corner a few times to work on the back, and follows with a butterfly suplex for two.  Sting comes out of the corner with a clothesline for two, however, and Flair runs away again, but he catches Sting with chops out there, which Sting no-sells.  At this point we add an extra minute and they do the 10:00 call at 11:00.  Back in, Sting tries a sunset flip, and Flair punches him in the face to block and lays him out.  Flair teases a suplex to the floor, but Sting reverses to his own and that gets two.  Flair with more chops, and Sting just gets all worked up and slugs away in the corner and gets the hiptoss and clothesline for two.  Stinger Splash sets up the Scorpion, but Flair quickly makes the ropes and comes back with the kneecrusher and NOW WE GO TO SCHOOL.  Sting also makes the ropes quickly, but Flair goes back to the knee and drops a knee on it.  They do the pinfall reversal sequence as Sting gets the backslide for two with one minute left.  Actually it’s already at 15:00.  Flair takes out the knee again and takes his time this time, working on it a little extra to make sure with 30 seconds left.  And now we go to school again, but Sting reverses to the cradle for the pin and wins the tournament at 15:54.  Another great Flair-Sting match to throw on the pile.  ***3/4  And then of course the Andersons run in and tensions are teased, but they offer him congratulations and bring him into the Horsemen soon afterwards.  Can’t see how THAT could go badly.

And the Road Warriors do an interview with Gordon Solie to wrap it up.

Hey you know what, divorced from the disappointment of the show in 1989, this was a pretty easy thumbs up show.  Yeah, it didn’t really do much to pay off the greatness of the year at the time, but as something to watch out of context on the WWE Network, it’s a damn good show and I really enjoyed it! TAKE THAT, HATERS!

And that wraps up 1989 here on the blog, finally.