Just because I’ve been a wrestling fan for a long time and the fact that I do review WWE DVDs all the time doesn’t mean I didn’t pay attention to other companies throughout the years. Whether it was WCW or ECW or other federations that have come and gone, or happened to stick around, I’ve always watched whatever was on simply because more wrestling to me was good wrestling. From 1983 until 2000, NWA and then WCW ran a Pay-Per-View event that would send the year out with a bang. Some of the greatest names in wrestling history have had some of their most memorable moments on the stage that focused on new horizons and elevating performers into the stratosphere. This…is Starrcade!
Every year the two main promotions of WCW and WWE would put on their PPVs every couple months and over time, there would be one every single month. While WWE would put on it’s biggest show of the year at the end of March or in early April with WrestleMania, WCW would wait until the end of the year to let everything hang out and send off all that happened in the past twelve months with a fantastic finish. Maybe they didn’t necessarily consider it to be the PPV to end all PPVs every year, but it always had the biggest feel about it and just seemed to stand out above every other one. Such great matches including names like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, the Road Warriors, the Midnight Express, and so many more have taken center stage at Starrcade and left us with lasting memories for all time. Sure we may have seen those names before, but just always seemed like the place you wanted to win it all.
One of the things that made Starrcade so special to me was when it decided to hold the Lethal Lottery. The names of forty wrestlers would be thrown into a hat and then selected at random to make up teams of those you’d never expect to see in the ring together unless it was to beat the hell out of the other. Teams would face off against one another in order to win the match and the right to participate in the BattleBowl match later in the evening. It would consist of two rings full of the winners and be fought under battle royal rules. When a wrestler got eliminated from the first ring, then they’d go to the second ring. If they were eliminated from the second ring then they’d be out completely. The last man remaining in the first ring and that from the second ring would then face off to see who the final winner would be. It may sound like a complicated night, but it was a lot of unpredictability and just a ton of fun.
Other Starrcade events that didn’t have the Lethal Lottery would see a bevy of awesome matches that are all put together here in a collection that tells some great stories from year to year. The brutality of matches like Harley Race versus Ric Flair or Magnum TA versus Tully Blanchard is in all of their bloody glory here showing us the violence of days gone by. Insane gimmick matches are displayed so that the courage and craziness of teams like the Road Warriors and the Midnight Express can be seen for everyone to experience. Bill Goldberg’s phenomenal undefeated streak finally came to an end at Starrcade, even though the help of many nWo members and a cattle prod were used by nefarious means. The United States Title, the Tag Team Titles, and even the World Heavyweight Title (most prestigious title of them all) would be defended and even change hands as goosebumps filled the arms of all the fans watching in attendance and al over the world.
So many matches and moments that changed the course of professional wrestling happened at different PPVs and some may even be more important then those collected in this set. But not many of them happened with the same feelings then those that took place at Starrcade.
~ December 29, 1996: The Match Of The Decade “Rowdy” Roddy Piper Vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan – Starting with this match is not the way to promote Starrcade in any way at all so maybe it’s a good thing that WCW is no longer around. This match is without a doubt one of the worst I’ve ever seen and it is probably only in this collection because of the magnitude with it being Piper versus Hogan. It’s boring, dull, and just about any other synonym you can think about to describe it.
~ December 13, 1989: Iron Man Singles Tournament Match Sting Vs. The Great Muta – Things get better from that first match debacle by showcasing a fun match with Sting and Muta. Even though this match is quite short, they deliver an entertaining bout that comes around with a rather unexpected and abrupt finish. Not much can be said here because they both have a nice advantage during the match and end up losing it before a pinfall cuts it way too short. Perhaps it was because of it being in the middle of a tournament that it wasn’t given the time it deserved.
~ December 28, 1992: Unified World Tag Team Championship Match Barry Windham & Brian Pillman Vs. Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas – I love this match. Windham was never one of my favorites, but the guy really knows how to deliver a beating and it is evident here from the way he and Pillman beatdown Steamboat for more then half the match. Pillman, Steamboat, and Douglas have always been high on my list and they continue to do so with this showing. What a beautiful story this match tells as it is straight up good guys versus bad guys with everyone doing whatever it takes to persevere. The match has a lot going for it and just is great from bell to bell, but there are a few moments you need to watch out for and one in particular…the chairshot from Steamboat to Windham is right up there with the chairshot heard ’round the world (Dreamer to Raven). It is just cringe-worthy nuts!
~ December 27, 1998: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match Goldberg Vs. Kevin Nash – Goldberg had his ungodly undefeated streak going here and had won the United States title in the process and now held the Heavyweight Title to go along with everything else that was working for him. So many people were sick of him at this point though that Nash was getting a better response from the crowd then he was. Much like the Piper/Hogan match (but not NEARLY as bad), this wasn’t really much of anything. They trade a few moves and big shots here before the interference begins and Goldberg’s streak is broken by a cattle prod and a drunken man. Goldberg was already a huge star and someone else could have shot up immediately by stopping his streak clean but no, it’s given to Nash and in a dirty way.
~ December 29, 1991: BattleBowl Match – This is the one and only appearance in this set of anything dealing with the Lethal Lottery. It may have been cheesy, but that was one of my favorite things from WCW because of the unexpected tag teams we might see. Sort of like the way random match-ups would happen during the Royal Rumble. The rules were that forty wrestlers were chosen to form random tag teams and would then have a match with another team in the somewhat tournament. The winners would advance to the BattleBowl match which was a big battle royal. Two rings would be side by side and battle royals would go on in each ring simultaneously with the tag team match victors. The lone remaining wrestler in each ring would then face off in a match to determine the overall winner. Even more odd is that it’s a double elimination meaning that once thrown out of the first ring; you simply move to the second ring and try to survive it.
Included in this match is: Jimmy Garvin Thomas Rich, Marcus Bagwell, Abdullah The Butcher, Jushin Liger, Bill Kazmaier, Jimmy Garvin, Steve Austin, Dustin Rhodes, Vader, Ricky Morton, Mr. Hughes, Lex Luger, Firebreaker Chip, Scott Steiner, Ron Simmons, Ricky Steamboat, Sting, Arn Anderson, and Rick Rude. As if battle royals aren’t hard enough to recap as it is, now we’ve two rings full of guys getting thrown out left and right so it’s difficult to keep up. It’s fun while it lasts though and eventually it boils down to Sting and Luger duking it out as the last two guys in the match. The short little match between those two is good, but after a long night of matches, they just don’t have all that much left and this would be more to set up a later feud then anything.
~ December 27, 1993: 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match for the WCW United States Championship Dustin Rhodes Vs. Stunning Steve Austin – A couple of things are weird here for me. It’s hard taking Dustin Rhodes seriously because of the Goldust gimmick and the insanely horrible “Seven” deal he did in WCW for a while. Then there’s Austin who was just coming out of the Hollywood Blondes tag team and actually had hair here which just boggles the mind. Oh and besides all that, this just seems like a strange match to have in this set but watching it may tell a different story.
Ok, so watching it didn’t help because it seems like one of the most pointless 2 out of 3 falls match that I’ve ever seen. The action isn’t all that bad, but all of it is delivered by Dustin and he’s the one that ends up losing here. Not only that but he lost two straight falls and neither one was really a clean finish. Let’s throw on top of that a power failure during the second fall which causes the match to go almost all black and you’ve got the worst addition to this collection by far.
~ November 26, 1987: NWA World Tag Team Championship Match Road Warriors Vs. Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard – Alternate commentary for this match is available with Todd Grisham and Road Warrior Animal. Being in Chicago, the crowd is insane about the Warriors and Animal makes note of that during the alternate commentary. It is insane hearing the pop they get and it continues throughout most of the match while the Horsemen get hell from the fans. Tully and Arn dominate this match which of course makes for the really hot finish as the Warriors come back much to the delight of the crowd. But the ending is just genius even though it kind of sucks.
This was back in the time when it was illegal to dump a wrestler over the top rope because it would result in a disqualification. As things are going nuts near the end, the referee of course gets bumped making way for some all out shenanigans including Arn Anderson being tossed over the top and to the floor. Blanchard ends up being the victim of the Doomsday Device, but another referee saw Anderson get dumped which disqualifies the Warriors. Oh My God, but the crowd is as pissed off as you would have seen the ECW crowd had Cena won at One Night Stand in 2006.
~ December 29, 1996: Rey Mysterio Jr. Vs. Jushin Thunder Liger – Rey may not be on my list of favorites, but the guy deserves credit for his talent and the risks he takes. Liger deserves even more for his raw ability and the advancements he brings into every single match he’s a part of. Rey is a lot smaller here to which may sound hard to believe but compared to today, the guy was really tiny. You just can’t go wrong with both of these men in match together because they keep things quick paced and high flying with a lot of great spots. Maybe it’s because I didn’t see an overly huge amount of his matches, but I don’t recall Liger ever being this brutal and vicious. There are times during this match that Rey should be dead by how hard Liger slams him to the mat but the little fella just keeps getting up and flying around.
~ November 26, 1987: Scaffold Match Rock ‘n Roll Express Vs. The Midnight Express – Here is a match-up that would have been just fine without any type of gimmick whatsoever because both teams are awesome and need nothing but to perform to their utmost ability and we’d have a classic! Needless to say that even with the addition of the scaffolding; both teams give it their all and make for a nice tag team match that has a big step up in the tension department thanks to the soaring to new heights.
~ December 26, 1988: NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match Ric Flair Vs. Lex Luger – This match is a non-disqualification match so they are allowed to do as they please here. Luger is not a wrestler that I’ve ever really cared for no matter if it was in WCW, WWE, or in the nWo. His skills in the ring just seem so ploddy and limited while his promos are usually full of nothingness and spoken with a voice that is so monotone that my insomnia could be cured. Sure he put on the occasional good match and this happens to be one of them, but I’m happy it’s the only one in the entire set.
A pretty good story is told here by these two even though it appears as if Flair is leading the way at all times. Luger keeps up using his strength to his advantage while bringing out the occasional high-flying move or even one that’s a tad more technical. Show all the technicality you want Luger because your finisher is “the rack” which is simply ripping your opponent almost in half. Flair works on the legs as usual because he wants the figure four locked in and wants it to work quickly once it is applied. Not a bad match here and I didn’t even realize it was thirty minutes long until after all was over which is strange because most Luger matches have me checking my watch every five seconds.
~ December 27, 1995: Eddie Guerrero Vs. Shinjiro Otani – Having only seen this match thanks to Viva La Raza, it does get better every time I see it now. One thing is certain and its that this match is fantastic. Guerrero and Otani display great moments of technical wrestling while also just destroying each other with great move after great move. Powerbombs, brainbusters, flying bodypresses, and even some submission moves are thrown in here. It sure as hell didnt take long for Eddie to make a name for himself in WCW.
~ December 26, 1988: NWA World Tag Team Championship Match Dusty Rhodes/Sting Vs. Road Warriors – I vaguely remember being told stuff about this feud here and there to know that the Road Warriors gone heel here by turning on Dusty and trying to become the most evil bad guys imaginable. If memory serves, there was even a time when they tried to blind both Dusty and Sting by gouging their eyes out or something. Anyway, there appears to be a lot of bad blood here and it fails miserably at making this any type of exciting bout. It’s kind of weird because something happened here that is way before its time and it is having a match full of wrestlers that no-one really wants to be against. Even though the Warriors are meant to be the heels here, it is obvious that the crowd supported everyone involved except maybe for Paul Ellering.
~ December 28, 1992: King Of Cable Tournament Final Match Sting Vs. Big Van Vader – Sting was still going very strong here a few years before his disappearance and reemergence as the Crow. Sting displays some serious power here in going toe-for-toe with Vader and at times lifting him up in the air like he’s a cruiserweight. Both men just destroy one another with huge moves, high-flying splashes, and some seriously vicious punches that would break your nose in an instant if even one hit you. For being the early nineties, there are some things done here that just made my jaw drop open and my eyes widen. At one point, Sting goes up to the top rope and delivers a DDT to Vader from the top which just makes my brain explode because it should have killed him. Then there are those trademarked Vader punches that make me believe Sting’s ribs should just be beaten into powder.
~ November 24, 1983: NWA World Tag Team Championship Match Brisco Brothers Vs. Jay Youngblood & Ricky Steamboat – Kind of a basic tag team match that sees both teams gain advantage at different points and ends up with an “on fire” finish. There is a good pace throughout and some nice moves delivered by both that keeps it exciting throughout.
~ November 28, 1985: NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match Dusty Rhodes Vs. Ric Flair – Good God this match is just a mess and a half. Having watched Dusty Rhodes mostly as a kid and during his time spent in WWE, I never caught anything that he did outside of the polka-dot fun-loving era. This match just seems not rushed so to speak, but thrown together. Flair is doing all his normal stuff and working on making it a great match but Dusty looks quite sloppy and then the end is such a mess that I could have done without all of this.
~ December 28, 1997: WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko – While usually Id enjoy anything from these two as is evident with their matches from ECW, this one wasnt nearly as good. A lot of stalling and just overall boring moments in the match make it long and dull. It seems to drag on halfway through and even though it was cool seeing them in the ring together; but this wasnt the best way to start up their feud again.
~ December 13, 1989: Iron Man Tag Team Tournament Match Road Warriors Vs. The Steiner Brothers – Ahhh, before Scotty went all insane on the err, working out (?) and could barely move around the ring. This is a pretty hard-hitting match with four guys that really know how to brawl and every single one of them can throw out one hell of a clothesline. A good bit of back and forth action but it’s actually pretty short and doesn’t get much momentum going before all is said and done.
~ December 17, 2000: Ladder Match for a Contract for a World Cruiserweight Championship Match 3 Count vs. Jamie Knoble & Evan Karagias Vs. Jung Dragons – Back in the days of WCW, this little feud here was one of my favorites ever. All of those involved with these three teams were some of the most entertaining wrestlers to watch in all of the company because they put their bodies on the line and left nothing behind after stepping into the ring. Essentially this ladder match is a huge spotfest that sees people flying through the air, crashing down on top of ladders, makeshift scaffolding made out of multiple ladders, and a lot more. I only wish that Jamie Knoble (Noble) was given as much freedom today in the WWE where the Cruiserweight division has become virtually dead.
~ December 13, 1989: Iron Man Singles Tournament Match Sting Vs. Ric Flair – Interesting bit of history here as the stipulations for winning the match were really weird. Flair could win the whole tournament by pinfall, submission, or even countout. The only way Sting can win is by pinfall. And if the match ends up in a draw, then Lex Luger takes home the tournament victory. Alrighty then.
Flair was rolling along beautifully at this point in his career and Sting was in his prime so this was going to be a great match no matter what. The time limit of the match is fifteen minutes and of course it goes down to the final seconds, but both men get in so much offense that it seems like an hour long match. I certainly don’t mean that in a “boring” type way but in a “that was just great stuff” kind of way.
~ November 24, 1983: Dog Collar Match Greg Valentine Vs. Roddy Piper – Valentine is the United States champion at this time but the title wouldn’t be on the line here. It’s also not one of those chain matches where the four corners need to be touched but can be won by a pin or submission. This match is truly quite slow but watching it means you are witnessing two vicious beatings being handed out. Piper ends up getting busted open big time and there is just blood everywhere. With an ending that is kind of un-awe inspiring but a hell of a brawl, this match gets a middle-of-the-road thumbs up.
~ November 27, 1986: Scaffold Match Road Warriors Vs. The Midnight Express – Alternate commentary is also available here with Todd Grisham and Road Warrior Animal. I remember watching this match for the first time ever on the Road Warriors / Legion of Doom DVD release from a few years ago and it’s not a classic for good wrestling, but more visual memories then anything. The scaffolding looks like it is made out of toothpicks and it is high as hell so I’m not sure how they got any of these guys up there. As a match, it kind of sucks as a whole but it’s still kinda enjoyable to watch.
~ December 28, 1997: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match Sting Vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan – At this point, Sting had not been in the ring for a year and a half. He had disappeared for a while, started painting his face black and white, dressed himself all in black, and started hanging out in the rafters. The nWo was running amuck throughout WCW and constant speculation was going on whether or not Sting would eventually join forces with them, but then he started threatening them all and especially Hogan which lead to this match. Honestly though, the match is God awful. Sting was probably concerned about ring rust and it’s certainly obvious because he looks horrible. Hogan adds nothing to the equation and the ending was botched beyond all belief. But the crowd was into it (at least the start and finish) and it made for a really big time moment in someone finally stopping the nWo.
~ November 24, 1983: Steel Cage Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship Ric Flair Vs. Harley Race – It is rather difficult for me to elaborate on how good this match is because it is just technically and executionally (I know that’s not a word) brilliant. Both Race and Flair work on wearing down one another to deliver the final blow allowing them to get the pin or submission. I mean it’s not just battering each other back and forth in the hopes that they can tire the other out. It isn’t a bunch of nonsensical moves thrown together in hopes of scoring a fluke pinfall. Both men just put together a wonderful match that I would kill to see on any PPV nowadays.
~ November 28, 1985: Steel Cage “I Quit” Match for the NWA United States Championship Magnum TA Vs. Tully Blanchard – So I’m probably going to get hell about this, but I don’t really find this match as being as epic as so many before me have. This would be the first time I’ve ever seen it yet many recaps and reviews of it have passed before my eyes with nothing but gushing over how phenomenal it was.
Sure it’s good and there is a lot of history to it, but it could have been better. Ok, maybe that’s not even true but it’s just not all that much to me. Watching Magnum slam Blanchard repeatedly in the face with the mic after every time he refused to give up was great and the blood helped the tension of the match, but it wasn’t anything life altering.
~ December 27, 1993: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match with Ric Flair’s Career On The Line Ric Flair Vs. Vader – This may have been fifteen years ago when Flair was still able to hold his own with anyone, but watching this match was just amazing. Vader dominates to start which is expected because of his size and power. That comes into play throughout the match but there are those moments when Flair is able to counteract Vader’s power with his own strength and versatility. Meanwhile, Flair’s old arch enemy Harley Race and gets involved a lot here which makes for a nice historic touch. I loved the game plans that both men had here as Vader just tried to overpower Flair and beat the ever living hell out of him. Flair worked on the big guy’s legs to get the figure four on which almost seems like an impossibility anyway considering the size of Vader’s “ham hocks.” A great match that tells a really good story and needs to be seen.
The event is shown in 1.33:1 Full Screen format and everything looks pretty good even though some of the matches are twenty-five years old. Those from the eighties and even early nineties have a slight bit of grain, but not enough to really bother you any.
The event is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and like with the video, some of the older footage has a bit of echo but nothing that should really bug you. Crowds and music surround the room through all speakers while the center speaker brings the commentary to life.
None per se. But the first disc includes a fifty-minute documentary about the history of Starrcade, featuring comments from Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Harley Race, and several others.
I’m sure I’ll get hell for this, but that’s alright because hate mail and ridicule is nothing all that new to me. Starrcade did produce some really great matches during its run and almost every one of those is presented here in this set. For those I am grateful and can see myself checking them out in many repeated viewings. Others may have delivered some historic moments but they came at the expense of the match’s quality which just bothered me because collections like this should include matches that are worth watching. If you want to have a big time moment like Piper versus Hogan or Goldberg’s streak ending then include it only in the documentary portion. Don’t give me a match that is just straight up crappy when something else could have been slotted in its place. The documentary is really good and I loved seeing the rundown through the origins of the PPV and into the history of all that Starrcade brought over its eighteen years of existence. The matches were also very good but one out of every three or so could have been left off or shown only in highlights because they do not deserve to be in this set.
Bah! Oh well, not every single DVD set from WWE can be brilliant in terms of match quality and replayability. Starrcade: The Essential Collection is great for about seventy percent of the matches and the documentary, but without any special features and a good overflowing handful of crappy matches things could have been better.
WWE Home Video presents Starrcade The Essential Collection. Featuring: Ric Flair, Sting, Lex Luger, Kevin Nash, Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, Magnum TA, The Great Muta, Harley Race, and many more. Running time: 540 minutes on 3 discs. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: January 13, 2009. Available at Amazon.com