Historically Speaking: The Grand Daddy of ‘em All

“Myth, memory, history-these are three alternative ways to capture and account for an elusive past, each with its own persuasive claim.” – Warren I. Susman

The Opening Chapter
The Grand Daddy of Them All. The Flagship. It was the original supercard and the precursor to all big-time events that followed after. It even predated WrestleMania by two years. It’s Starrcade, the NWA and WCW’s annual premier event. It was the event that closed up long-time rivalries and set up the seeds for a whole new year of vendettas. In its eighteen year legacy there was a multitude of high points and a series of best-forgotten low-points.

In honor of Starrcade’s last event being held seven years ago this month, it is only apropos to relive the event’s legacy one more time.

Closed-Circuit
Early NWA and WCW pay per views always had one unique thing about them – their yearly events always had some sort of subtitle or theme to help differentiate it from the previous year’s outing. Starrcade was no different.

1983: A Flair for the Gold
The initial Starrcade was built around Ric Flair’s chase for his second reign as NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Twenty-four years ago, Flair was considered the hot, young rookie chasing grizzled veteran champion Harley Race. It’s funny how the things changed in a scant quarter century. Flair was successful in his bid, as he pinned Race in a steel cage match to begin his legacy as a star in the business. The entire card was based on blowing off major feuds and storylines and featured other big-time matches. Other feature contests saw Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood beat Jack & Jerry Brisco for the NWA Tag Championship, and Roddy Piper beat Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in a vicious dog collar match. This match was the template for all other good dog collar matches to be based upon.

1984: The Million Dollar Challenge
The 1984 event featured one of the many chapters of the long-standing Dusty Rhodes-Ric Flair feud. Their bout was for Flair’s NWA World Championship and $1 million in prize money. Flair won the match and the money when special guest referee and famed boxer Joe Frazier stopped the match due to a cut on Dusty’s forehead. The Dusty Finish was alive and well here. This also showed then NWA seemed to ahead of the curve on using other sports celebrities, as the appearance of Frazier predates the celebrity-filled WrestleMania by a few months. The other two main championship matches saw Tully Blanchard defend the World Television Championship against Ricky Steamboat while NWA US Champion Wahoo McDaniel beat Superstar Billy Graham.

1985: The Gathering
The concept of The Gathering came about as the event was broadcast from both The Omni in Atlanta and the Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. The idea of broadcasting from multiple events would be also be lifted by the WWF a few months later for their WrestleMania 2 super show.

The card was stacked, with fifteen matches and seven championship bouts in all between the two locations. The main event was a continuation of the Rhodes-Flair NWA Championship feud, and this time around Rhodes came out the winner by DQ due to interference from The Andersons. Elsewhere on the show, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express continued their ‘80s dominance by winning the NWA World Tag Championship from The Koloffs, The Andersons kept their National Tag Championships against Billy Jack Haynes & Wahoo McDaniel, and Magnum TA beat Tully Blanchard for the US Championship in the infamous “I Quit” steel cage match. Other various defunct titles were also showcased, as Kruscher Kruschev beat Sam Houston for the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship and Buddy Landell got the National Heavyweight Championship from Terry Taylor.

1986: Night of the Skywalkers
As a side note, this was the first old-school NWA supercard I ever caught on tape so the event holds a special place for me. “Night of the Skywalkers” was indicative of the big scaffold match between The Road Warriors and The Midnight Express. The Road Warriors won the match but the real story to come out of it was the legit knee injuries suffered by Jim Cornette after taking a bad bump off of the scaffold. The injuries still nag Cornette to this day.

The advertised main event for the show was going to be the big-time blow off between Magnum TA and Ric Flair in a match that would send Magnum ideally into superstardom. Unfortunately, Magnum’s car wreck would derail all plans. Nikita Koloff was hastily turned face and inserted in Magnum’s spot. He and Flair would go to a double disqualification, an ending that would be crucified by today’s fans. Other high spots from the show saw The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express retain their World Tag Championships over The Andersons, Tully Blanchard beating Dusty Rhodes in a World TV Championship “first blood” match and Wahoo McDaniel victorious against a young Rick Rude in an Indian Strap match. Jimmy Valiant also beat Paul Jones in a “hair versus hair” match to finally blow off their years-long feud.

NWA Pay Per View
1987: Chi-town Heat
Starrcade ’87 was the NWA’s first foray into pay per view. They trimmed down the excess matches and instead presented a card with seven high-caliber matches. The NWA had also recently acquired Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation so this was also the blow off to a half-hearted invasion storyline. (Where have I heard that line before?) This event was a young Sting’s first national appearance, as he teamed with the Garvin & Hayes version of the Freebirds to go to a draw against Eddie Gilbert, Rick Steiner & Larry Zbyzsko. Other UWF influenced matches on the card saw Steve Williams defend the UWF Heavyweight Championship against Barry Windham while Nikita Koloff unified the NWA Television Championship with the UWF Television Championship when he pinned Terry Taylor.

The NWA portion of the card was also pretty stacked with the Rock ‘n’ Rolls beating Midnight Express in a scaffold match, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard over The Road Warriors in NWA World Tag Championship match and Dusty Rhodes defeating Lex Luger in a Title versus Career steel cage match for the US Title. Obviously that was one of many wrestling retirement stipulations that lasted. The main event was quite the let down as Ric Flair beat Ronnie Garvin in a steel cage match to win back the NWA World Championship. The story goes that Flair wanted to drop the belt and then win it back at Starrcade but no top level guys were willing to get the lame duck championship so Garvin was given the slot. And then no top heels wanted to job to Garvin knowing full well he was going to lose it soon afterwards so Garvin’s reign became almost non-existent on television.

1988: True Grit
On paper “True Grit” looked to be a very good card. There was the blow off to the Midnight Express storyline as Jim Cornette’s Midnight Express team of Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane beat Paul E. Dangerously’s “Original” Midnight Express of Randy Rose & Dennis Condrey. A young Rick Steiner won the NWA Television Championship from Mike Rotunda and earned quite a large pop for his victory. The other top matches saw the super team of Sting & Dusty Rhodes beat NWA World Tag Champions The Road Warriors by disqualification while Ric Flair pinned Lex Luger to keep the NWA World Championship. However the pay per view quizzically ended with a “Bunkhouse Stampede” battle royal, which was won by Junkyard Dog.

1989: Future Shock/Night of the Iron Men
Rather than the 1989 event featuring a card of blow offs and championship matches, it instead hosted two mini “iron man” tournaments where four singles stars would all battle each other in one-on-one matches to determine a true “iron man” while four tag teams would also battle each other to determine the promotion’s top team. Each win was scored a point total based on pinfall/submissions, disqualification, count out, draw or loss. The four singles wrestlers included Sting, Ric Flair, The Great Muta and Lex Luger, with Sting coming out victorious. The four teams included The Road Warriors, The Steiner Brothers, DOOM and The Samoan Swat Team, with The Road Warriors emerging as victors. The card was notable for the first Warriors-Steiners match and the Sting-Flair match that led to Sting’s removal from the Four Horsemen and the major turning point in the long-standing Flair-Sting feud.

1990: Collision Course
This was final Starrcade contested under the NWA banner before the promotion would be sold and turned into World Championship Wrestling. The card was bloated with tag team matches, as there was a eight team tournament contested throughout the event, amidst seven other non-tournament matches. The Steiners won the tournament, which featured teams representing eight different countries. Other featured contests included a NWA Tag Championship street fight between DOOM and Ric Flair & Arn Anderson and Lex Luger US Championship victory over Stan Hansen. The NWA was also brandishing a solid mid-card at this point as well, as Michael Wallstreet beat Terry Taylor and Bobby Eaton defeated Tom Zenk. The main event was the finale to the hackneyed Sting-Black Scorpion angle. Sting ended up pinning Scorpion in a cage match and unmasking him as Ric Flair to end the whole debacle.

WCW Pay Per View
1991: BattleBowl/Lethal Lottery
Once again, rather than being used as a flagship blow off show, Starrcade was again used as an event to air a new concept, this time Battlebowl and The Lethal Lottery. The entire card was comprised of “random draw” tag matches and show-ending two ring battle royal with all the night’s winners. Sting ended up winning the whole thing and earned himself a future World Championship shot.

1992: BattleBowl/Lethal Lottery
Apparently 1991’s BattleBowl event was deemed successful enough to be repeated again the following year. However this time the BattleBowl concept only took up half the card this time, as the rest of the show had marquee and championship matches, such as Masa Chono beating The Great Muta for the NWA World Championship and Ron Simmons beating Steve Williams in a WCW World Championship match. Shane Douglas & Ricky Steamboat also beat Brian Pillman & Barry Windham in a unified WCW/NWA World Tag Championship match and Sting pinned Vader to win the King of Cable tournament. Great Muta ended up winning the show-ending battle royal, last eliminating Windham.

1993: The Tenth Anniversary
At this point Vader was riding high as the monster heel champion of WCW. This event was supposed to headlined by Vader defending against Sid Vicious, but the infamous England scissors incident led to Vicious’ dismissal. Ric Flair was called upon to step in and save the show, which he did by beating the big man for the WCW World Championship. The undercard was full of quality championship matches. Sting & Road Warrior Hawk beat The Nasty Boys by DQ in a WCW World Tag Championship match, Steve Austin defeated Dustin Rhodes two-out-of-three falls for the United States Championship, Steven Regal and Ricky Steamboat went to a time limit draw over the Television Title and Rick Rude pinned “The Boss” in a “WCW International” Heavyweight Championship match.

1994: Triple Threat
By 1994 Hulk Hogan had invaded WCW, creating a weird mix of old WCW mainstays combined with Hogan and his buddies from the World Wrestling Federation. The end result saw a series of essentially WCW versus old WWF matches. Vader beat Hacksaw Duggan for the US Title, The Nasty Boys defeated Harlem Heat in a WCW Tag Title bout, Mr. T beat Kevin Sullivan and Sting pinned “Avalanche” John Tenta. Johnny B. Badd was victorious over Arn Anderson for the Television Title in a match where Anderson was the last minute substitute for Honky Tonk Man, who walked out of WCW just moments before the match was to begin. Jean-Paul Lavesque, the future Triple H, lost to then WCW rookie “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright. The main event was a let down, as Hogan defended the WCW Championship against long-time friend turned rival “The Butcher” (Ed Leslie).

1995: World Cup of Wrestling
Starrcade was again as used as a concept show in 1995, this time as a showcase of WCW talent against New Japan Pro Wrestling’s top stars. Seven singles matches between New Japan and WCW stars would determine who would win “The World Cup of Wrestling.” Sting beat WCW United States Champion Kensuke Sasaki to win the series 4-3. Sting did double duty on the show, as he also met Ric Flair and Lex Luger in a triangle match to earn a WCW Title show. Flair ended up winning the bout and then beat Randy Savage to win the WCW Title later in the evening. Savage had also wrestled earlier in the evening as he had beat Tenzan as part of the WCW-New Japan series.

nWo Era
1996
The new World order had come into existence by late 1996 and the formula of nWo main events on top accentuated by cruiserweight show stealers opening the card had already taken shape. Ultimo Dragon beat Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight Championship and Rey Mysterio, Jr., and Jushin “Thunder” Liger put on a clinic. Meanwhile The Outsiders defended their Tag belts against The Faces of Fear and Lex Luger beat nWo turncoat The Giant. The main event was another disappointment as Roddy Piper beat Hulk Hogan with a sleeper, but apparently the WCW Championship was not on the line so the win meant nothing in the long run.

1997
The 1997 version of Starrcade was meant to be the end-all-be-all of blow off super cards. The card was populated by WCW versus nWo matches. Logical booking said that the WCW stalwarts would steamroll over their new World order rivals and put this long-standing vendetta to bed. Instead the nWo team of Randy Savage, Vincent & Scott Norton beat The Steiner Brothers & Ray Traylor and Buff Bagwell beat Lex Luger. Diamond Dallas Page did win the US Title from Curt Hennig and Larry Zbyzsko beat Eric Bischoff for control of Monday Nitro. But the night all hinged upon the Sting-Hulk Hogan WCW Championship match that was over a year in the making. Logic and the storyline seemed to point to an easy victory for Sting. Unfortunately, the expected squash was not what happened, as muddled officiating with Nick Patrick and Bret Hart led to a tainted victory for Sting and ultimately the Championship being held up.

1998
The next year’s event featured more questionable booking in what seemed like a sure-fire event. The event was headlined by a Goldberg-Kevin Nash WCW Championship bout. Goldberg had been undefeated for over a year at this point and was riding high as WCW’s franchise player. The fans were still solidly behind the Goldberg phenomenon and now was not the time for him to drop the belt. Unfortunately Nash was the booker at the time and put himself over Goldberg on the company’s biggest show of the year. Goldberg never really recovered fully and the “finger poke of doom” a week later made the results even more obsolete.

Tangent aside, the rest of the card was made up of mid-card filler like Prince Iaukea-Norman Smiley, Saturn-Ernest Miller and an unannounced, unneeded Scott Norton/Brian Adams-Fit Finlay/Jerry Flynn tag match. The semi-mains featured Eric Bischoff going over Ric Flair and Diamond Dallas Page beating The Giant. The high points of the card were the opening cruiserweight bouts where Kidman beat Rey Mysterio, Jr., and Juventud Guerrera in a triangle match and then immediately pinned Eddie Guerrero for the Cruiserweight belt.

1999
Vince Russo was in charge of WCW as Starrcade ’99 rolled around. And in pure Russo fashion the card was loaded with too many matches featuring too many gimmicks and stipulations. The only real noteworthy event to come out of the cared was the main event featuring Bret Hart and Goldberg for the WCW Championship. Hart ended up winning the match but losing his career as an errant superkick from Goldberg gave Hart a serious concussion. He ended up forfeiting the Championship and ultimately retiring from the sport altogether after the match. In traditional Russo style, the rest of the results of the card didn’t matter weeks after the event as storylines and angles changed so fast that what happened here had no bearing later on.

2000
The final Starrcade took place in 2000, just a few months before WCW would be sold to the WWF. The card was twelve matches deep with a combination of old WCW mainstays combined with new Power Plant grads creating an interesting mix of talent. The main match was Scott Steiner beating Sid Vicious in a WCW Championship bout. Steiner was on a great streak as the monster heel champion that hadn’t been seen since Vader and was one of WCW’s best things in its dying days. Semi-mains included Kevin Nash & Diamond Dallas Page beating Power Plant grads Chuck Palumbo & Shawn Stasiak for the WCW Tag Championships and Goldberg defeating Lex Luger. The highlight of the show was the triple threat ladder match that saw 3 Count defeat The Jung Dragons and Jaime Knoble & Evan Karagias.

The Perspective
It’s funny how an event like Starrcade that predated WrestleMania by two years would end up with a name like “Starrcade.” That sounds like it could be a rock concert or another sporting event. I mean the name “WrestleMania” was sitting right there for the taking. I mean with Beatle-Mania and other “manias” that had swept the country it just seemed logical.

No matter its name, the NWA/WCW flagship event was the promotion’s bread-and-butter. When they needed a place for a big time blow off, they used Starrcade. When they needed to try out a new match concept, they used Starrcade. The event has become synonymous with the old World Championship Wrestling. We’ve recently seen WWE reintroduce The Great American Bash as a concept, could this December tradition be next?

For this week the vault is closed…

Linked to the Pulse
P.C. breaks down the upcoming TNA-New Japan Tokyo Dome show.

David B. breaks down the supposed World Class curse.

SK breaks down another classic episode of World Championship Wrestling.

Recent History
This is the section where I can ramble through my thoughts on this past week in wrestling, whether it be the television shows, pay per views, or any news that came out. Kinda like Vh1’s “Best Week Ever,” but this should be less annoying…hopefully.

I didn’t really pay attention to a whole lot of televised wrestling this past week. I had to look back to see what was on TNA and then remembered why I forgot it. Seriously that “feast or fired” suitcase crap was terrible.

I also had to look back to see what was on SmackDown! and then I remembered a former champion returned; that’s right, Funaki is back!

Chris Jericho is officially just another guy. After all that build-up he’s now fourth or fifth on the RAW faces pecking order and feuding with a commentator. Flair can still bring the promos though. I think after he retires he should just still get five or ten minutes a week to cut a long-winding, rambling, non-sensical promo, seriously.

I want more Yang/Moore-Miz/Morrison matches. A Royal Rumble Title rematch please? A tag match like that could rival The Rockers-Orient Express match from 1991’s event.

This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.

1993 – Jerry Lawler defeated Jeff Jarrett for the USWA Unified Heavyweight title
1996 – The Eliminators defeated the Gangstas for the ECW Tag Team title
1999 – Chris Jericho and Chyna pinned each other to become co-holders of the WWF Intercontinental title
1999 – Bret Hart defeated Goldberg for the WCW Heavyweight title
1999 – Jeff Jarrett defeated Chris Benoit for the WCW US Heavyweight title

1985 – Tarzan Tyler died in an auto accident

The Assignment
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Back when Nova was in charge of the WWE developmental system he implemented mandatory history assignments for the students of the developmental territories so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova created and apparently the best ways to get on-line prescriptions. I feel Nova had a great idea there and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but very entertaining.

I recently received an old Andre the Giant DVD from Blockbuster Total Access. It was a re-release of an old Coliseum Home Video feature Andre matches from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It looks to have originally been released in the late ‘80s as Lord Alfred Hayes does match introductions, and he and Gorilla Monsoon do most of the commentary. The matches show Andre back when he was much lighter on his feet and could move with some grace and agility. None of the matches are five star classics but are interesting on a curiosity level. I’m a mark for battle royals so seeing an 18 man battle royal featuring Andre, Hogan, Santana, Sheik, Orndorff, Adonis, Murdoch, Slaughter and others was fun. The best match on the card by far was The Wild Samoans-Andre/Jimmy Snuka Madison Square Garden main event. The idea of the top heel team versus to two top faces is still used today and so it was nice to see an older match using that formula. The final match on the disc is the Andre-Big John Studd match from WrestleMania I has Michael Cole and Tazz doing commentary, which puts this disc somewhere in 2003 or 2004. The two men riffing on each other and the match is almost more entertaining than the actual contest. This compilation isn’t much, and can probably be found for under $10 at a retailer, but I would recommend just picking this up as a rental, as the re-watch value isn’t that high.

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