The View From Down Here – A Personal Reflection on Starrcade 1997

STARRCADE 1997

Starrcade 1997 holds a special place to me. I was in my late 20s and it was the first WCW PPV that I personally bought. Now, I’d seen many others – almost all of them from the time we started to get WCW PPVs in Australia. What would happen would be a few of us would take the day off work (they aired Monday during the day here), go to the house of one of the guys and buy food and drinks while he shelled out for the PPV. It was a system we did with a few WWF PPVs as well – especially the Rumbles – but we enjoyed WCW more at the time.

Come August 1997 and my mate’s marriage broke down. The PPV parties were no more. Most of the guys drifted away from wrestling all together.

Well, Starrcade was building up. The long-awaited showdown with Sting and Hogan was on the cards. I wanted to see it. Desperately. So I found another couple of friends with Foxtel. They let me have access to their house and watch the PPV while they were both at work or on holiday (it could have been either as they both worked in retail and the post-Christmas sales would have kicked in, but there was also the Proclamation Day public holiday in there somewhere) in return for paying for it and cleaning their place. Done deal.

My first paid for WCW PPV. And the last one I ever bought. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This was hyped, if I remember at the time, as being the night the NWO got theirs after so long of beating down WCW. All it did was give me bad wrestling and too many crap finishes.

I still watched WCW, but from then on I waited for two weeks to a month when another mate would get a tape sent over from the US. I knew the results from watching Nitro, which I still watched. Right until the bitter end. The only thing I never saw was the last ever Nitro.

This is how I see – and, indeed, saw – Starrcade 1997. This is from the video I made of it way back when, by the way. I am watching it, noise bars and all, even as I type. Oh, I don’t do play-by-play. I’m too slow. I just write what I write.

The opening video package was well done. Had nothing to do with wrestling, just lots of wind and rain and blue light and stark music and me wondering why Sting never went into movies. I mean, if Hogan did, why not Mr Borden? He looked suitably impressive here.

We see wrestlers in the crowd watching and Dusty Rhodes tries to sound like he’s making the most important speech ever. Can I just say that at this point in time I liked Tony Schiavone as an announcer? This is even though my favourite ever announcing segment involves Schiavone being a moron when Ventura asks him if shooting an opponent would be legal if done outside the ring (Ultimate Warrior v Rick Rude when Warrior got the IC title back, if I remember correctly). I still love that bit. I digress.

We find that Kevin Nash isn’t here to face the Giant, and that the referee for the main event is apparently a mystery and a controversy.

Opening match: Dean Malenko v Eddy Guerrero. This why we watched WCW – the cruiserweights. Oh, sure the big guys were entertaining most of the time but we loved watching the little guys actually, you know, wrestle. But this was a little dull. It seemed they were going for a more technical match, not the spotfests we were used to. And a few botched spots? I don’t remember that, but there you are. I liked the match, a different, more power-based showing for the cruisers. Eddy wins by frog splashing Malenko’s leg (? really? look, I know he worked on the knee a bit, but that seemed odd; why not a submission move or something?) and retains the cruiserweight title. But a 20 minute opening match? WWE should be looking at this and saying: “Why the hell not?”

I should point out that the announcers talked non-stop about Hogan/Sting all through this match! We get it! It’s a big match! Now shut the hell up!

Scott Hall comes out and talks about Kevin Nash not being here. I never found these bits with Hall entertaining. He mentions that he fights the winner of Sting/Hogan at Superbrawl. Did that match ever actually take place? (Quick check says no – Hogan and Sting did the rematch thing.) He makes fun of the Giant, the Giant comes out and says stuff. The Giant says he’ll be in professional wrestling for a long time. Who woulda thought he’d actually be right? Giant then destroys Hall with the mother of all press slams and a powerbomb with authority. This is the Giant who should be the face in WWE, not the Knucklehead. End of segment. Next.

6-man tag. Scott Norton, Konnan, Vincent v the Steiners, Ray Traylor. Hang on, Konnan’s not here either, so we get Randy Savage instead! Well, I’ll take that one. This was a right mess. Vincent did most of the work for the NWO. Why? You’ve got a former champion and a legitimate strong man in there and you go for the Million Dollar Man’s lackey? Oh, and speaking of DiBiase, he’s apparently managing the Steiners – who are tag champs at this point – here. I don’t remember that. Like I don’t remember Miss Elizabeth being Savage’s escort when he was in the NWO, and yet there she is. Oh well. Savage pins Scott Steiner – now starting to look like the roided freak we all know and make fun of today – with the big elbow. Oh, and the match sucked, by the way, thanks for asking.

Chairman JJ Dillon comes out to talk about the referee. I’m going to use a phrase I think I first read in Scott Keith: sledgehammer of plot. We get it, okay? Oh, and ref is announced as Nick Patrick. Former NWO-er. But it’s all legit and above-board. Yessiree. No problems here, folks. Sledgehammer, meet plot.

Next: Bill Goldberg v Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael. Goldberg comes out like any other heel. He’s intense, he’s focused, he takes it to McMichael. One cool roll-through spot to a knee bar. Power moves. One awful spear, but I think that was Mongo who took it like a wuss. (I was a fan of Goldberg. Even in the WWE. So sue me.) One contrived table spot later, jackhammer, Goldberg wins. This was what is was. Nothing great, but it was fine while it lasted. A harmless waste of 8 minutes, and probably wouldn’t be out of place on the undercard of a B-PPV in WWE today.

Next: Raven v Chris Benoit (am I allowed to type that anymore?). No! Wait! Raven’s whingeing again. So…

Next: Saturn v Chris Benoit. My memory was that you could always rely on Benoit to bring a good match to the card in WCW. This blows that theory right out of the water. Isn’t it bad enough to have the NWO do run-ins in half their matches without the Flock doing it as well? This was confusing and crappy and Raven hit the DDT for Saturn to lock in the Rings of Saturn for the submission win. Bad match.

Buff Bagwell v Lex Luger. Okay, after all the run-ins in the previous match we get the same thing again, but with the NWO instead. A match made worse than the previous one by the fact that in the previous one at least Saturn and Benoit knew how to wrestle. Vincent comes down (he must be the best they’ve got), then Norton and Savage. One loaded punch from Norton and Bagwell pins Luger to win. Dull and bad match.

At least there’s no more talking between matches. Just match, match, match. Good.

Curt Hennig v Diamond Dallas Page. Despite the restholds in the middle and a crowd bored by it all, I did like this match at least a little. Watching the improvement of DDP over the years was actually something I enjoyed all the way until he managed to pull Goldberg’s best ever match out of him at Halloween Havoc in whatever year that was. After that he seemed to tread water, but that’s my view of it all. Good opening sequence, some nice stuff in the middle, the Diamond Cutter out of nowhere finishes it to give DDP the US Title. Again, was what it was, and a harmless enough outing.

Larry Zbyszko v. Eric Bischoff. Did I really type that? I paid money to see this? And this on a card with no Ric Flair, no Mexican cruisers, no Booker T, no Belfast Bruiser, no Lord Steven Regal (I still love watching old matches of those two stiffing the hell out of each other)? Christ, what was I on when I ordered this pile of crap? All right, the match. This has Bret Hart as special guest referee. If I remember correctly, this was his WCW PPV debut. And it was as a referee. He was a world champ not that long before, ‘screwed’ out of the title, huge signing, big jump to the opposition… and here he is ref’ing. Bischoff comes out with Scott Hall. Larry comes out ready to take us back to the 80s. Larry tries to do some proper technical wrestling, but is thwarted. Dull, dull, dull ‘match’. And the end was confusing as all hell. Bischoff got a loaded boot, kicked Larry, did not cover, so Hart decked him, Hall comes in, Hart beats him up and locks in the sharp-shooter, Larry wraps something around Eric’s neck, and somehow Larry won. WTF?

We get the overblown Buffer in-ring announcement for the main event. I miss those.

Hollywood Hulk Hogan v Sting. Sting has the most bizarre entrance music with some little kid soliloquising about shadows and darkness and crap like that, and thunder and lightning… and then he just strolls out. The match… oh yeah. Hogan completely destroys Sting. He looks like a loser. Completely. After a year of stalking the NWO from the rafters, full of rage and anguish, Sting looks like a glorified jobber! This is not what I paid money to see! My God, when I wrestle, I lose. I am a jobber. I never win. I will never even come close to a main event, semi-main, nothing, even in an indy Australian promotion. Yet I get more offence in a normal match than what I saw here from Sting. And Hogan is not a good wrestler. At all. Boring match. Hogan hits the big boot, leg drop, 3-count. Fast count? Well, the cadence was certainly faster than any other 3-count tonight, and it did seem a little bit quick, but an overturnable fast count? Really? Hart comes out, makes a veiled Montreal screw-job reference, decks Patrick, throws Hogan back in and takes on referee duties. Sting gets his first real offence of the match. Hang on, now the NWO comes in. Sting, who couldn’t fight off Hogan, fights them all off with ease. He locks in the Scorpion Deathlock, Hogan taps, new champion. The ring fills with wrestlers to celebrate WCW winning something. But I also notice a lot of rubbish being thrown. Crapcrapcrap.

Okay, what did we have here? 8 matches. I liked two, one was okay, the rest not so much. On paper, it should have been great (maybe apart from Larry/Eric). But the reality sucked. And the ending, while Sting won, left a sour taste in my mouth. I wasted money and had to clean a house for this!?

Now, it certainly wasn’t the worst PPV ever. Not by a long shot. Not when compared to Wrestlemania 9 (in which I liked maybe 2 matches), most of the Uncensored PPVs from WCW, and some of TNA’s outings. And the ending of Wrestlemania 9 made me want to put my boot through the television screen, so it wasn’t even the worst ending. It was just that it promised so much and delivered so little.

So, why is this a special one to me? This is the PPV where I stopped being a fan of WCW. I was already not really a fan of WWF/E and, really, only watched the Royal Rumbles religiously each year (even though 1999 – or whatever year Vince McMahon won it – almost destroyed that for me as well). I actually missed all Wrestlemanias from XII to 2000/16 because the product did not appeal to me. But after this fiasco, WCW was just another promotion. I lost all emotional investment in the product. After this I felt like my fandom had died.

But it was also what got me back into watching the local, independent product, to get my wrestling fix without being treated like crap by the promotions I was shelling out money for. And now, here I am, training my 40 year old arse off to try to keep up with the 20 year olds in the ring.

It was the Rock and Austin and WM17 that got me back into WWE. I enjoyed that and since then have been pretty regular with watching the PPVs, even if I have to wait for the DVD to come out to see them, and still watch them to this day. I watch TNA because I enjoy watching some of the wrestlers, even if the rest of the product is WCW-lite. I think I’m a fan once again, though not as intensely.

But this particular PPV… this sucked. And it sucked a little bit of the childhood joy still left in me for professional wrestling out of my system. Thanks, WCW. For nothing.

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