Cheap Heat: Starrcade 1997

Got a decent amount of feedback about the A-Rod column, including some stiffly worded comments from Eric. Tune in next Monday for my response to him and a breakdown of what hopes to be an exciting trade deadline.


David Brashear reminds us all of the second worst episode of the Monday Night Wars ever, the nWo Nitro. This was second in dead-air only to the New Age Outlaws own Mankind and Chainsaw Charlie, which takes the title of worst hour of television on Monday Night ever.

Ken Anderson gives us his recap of the Great American Bash… a surprisingly good Pay Per View.

Phil Clark analyzes the wellness policy and plugs offsite instead of onsite, which is a quick way to get a visit from the Eric Szulcewski legbreak squad.

Trent takes some body blows, discussing the owning of Arturo Gatti this past weekend.

The Column

As is becoming my normal routine on Wednesdays, I found myself watching the Classic WWE On MSG show. I seem to consistently forget it’s on but always find it because MSG is comfortably nestled in between YES (Yankees) and SNY (Mets) on my dial. Oddly enough, I was really stretching to come up with a column for tonight and a perfect storm of circumstances led me to this. First, Brashear’s column got me thinking about the nWo, then the MSG show showed parts of late 1997 Raw, including a match between Owen Hart and Brian Pillman (about 20 days before Brian Pillman would die), Steve Austin stunning Vince McMahon (with Vince coming out as the owner for one of the first times), and Nation Rock getting pinned by Ahmed Johnson, and finally I ended up filling in Matthew Michaels on some of the high points of 1997 WWF; the WWF that was still trying to find its direction. This was the WWF that still had Bret Hart as the champion. It was the WWF that didn’t yet know who Mr. McMahon was. It was the WWF where Montreal hadn’t happened yet. It was the WWF that still had DX V1 on its way.

Most of all, it was the WWF flagging far behind a WCW that was still building toward what should have been the biggest, most memorable match since Hogan/Andre: Sting/Hogan at Starrcade 1997. In the past, I have said that Starrcade ’97 was the moment that sunk WCW. The funny thing is I didn’t remember just how awful the main event was until I watched it live again. I was over at a friend’s house to watch this back in my younger days and I remember seeing it live. That was the last time I viewed Sting/Hogan until about 2 hours before I wrote this column.

Find the match on Youtube, it’s there. I’m not going to link it here but go and search for “sting Hogan starrcade” and you will find the match. Watching it, I tried to remember what they had going into this main event. The nWo angle had been going strong for 18 months. Hulk Hogan, save for a 5-day interruption by Lex Luger, had held the WCW title since August of 1996. A 16-month title reign and 10 months of Sting lurking in the stands and ruining nWo plans at every turn. A Sting who had been silent, hiding, and brooding since February. The chips were set for Sting to walk in and win the belt. Finally… after months of build-up and the nWo running roughshod over the competition, the nWo was finally going to get their comeuppance.

But it didn’t exactly happen that way.

What ended up happening, after months of Sting single-handedly beating up the nWo and regularly taking out 10 guys at a time, he stepped in the ring with Hulk Hogan and got beat. Not just beat, but beat clean. They booked Sting to get owned by Hogan. Big boot, legdrop, home. What theoretically was supposed to happen was Nick Patrick, then still the “nWo referee” was supposed to execute a fast three count. Then newly acquired Bret Hart was supposed to restart the match and let Sting win as the now referee. Funny thing happened; Patrick didn’t fast count and single-handedly ruined the entire match. Urban legends exist that Hogan paid Patrick off to not execute the fast-count to protect Hogan’s character. As far as I know, that’s just conjecture.

Instead of blowing off the biggest feud in history with Sting winning, then having a celebratory night on Nitro followed by the patented “rematch clause” to give us a rematch (not to mention a ready made feud with Bret Hart), we instead got a clean win by Hogan, who got screwed by Sting and Bret. Hogan was the victim, and what should have been a cut-and-dry finish to blow off a year-long feud turned into a mess. Bret Hart restarted the match for no reason and then, shades of the Montreal Screwjob, he called for the bell when Hogan was in the Scorpion Deathlock/Sharpshooter without Hogan tapping out. So, not only did Sting get immediately discredited, but so did Bret Hart.

The next night on Nitro we were treated to JJ Dillon holding up the belt because of the disputed finish, which left no world title rematch until Superbrawl, where Sting STILL needed help from Randy Savage to win.

It’s weird, as I sit here typing about the build-up and finish of Sting/Hogan, I find myself getting mad about it all over again. I remember enjoying every minute of WCW Nitro up to Starrcade. I remember buying my first wrestling shirt ever, the nWo T-shirt. I remember buying my second wrestling shirt ever, the first Sting black shirt with the small white scorpion on it. I have a friend who got that scorpion put on his bicep. Both shirts still hold a spot in my bottom dresser drawer. The Sting/Hogan match holds a similar slot in my head to the Hogan/Andre match, except on the entire opposite end of the spectrum. Hogan and Andre I remember fondly. Hogan and Sting manages to make me pissed and sad at the same time; 10 years later. I wonder occasionally how WCW’s fate would have washed out if Sting beat Hogan, then went about beating down the nWo 1-by-1 and winning WCW back. I wonder what might have happened if there wasn’t a rematch and the nWo went after Bret Hart for interfering in the title match. I wonder what would have happened if the nWo kicked Hogan out for not getting the job done with Sting. I wonder what might have happened without the god-awful nWo Wolfpack. Without the Fingerpoke of Doom. If you watched back in those days, how would you have ended the nWo?

At least it makes me wonder. But then, I’m a wrestling geek.

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