The SmarK Rant for WCW Starrcade 1996 – 12.29.96

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The SmarK Rant for WCW Starrcade 1996 – 12.29.96

It’s actually been 15 years since I did this one, so let’s give it another look.  This was almost literally a one-match card as far as buildup goes and I remember very little of the undercard, even watching all the Nitros leading up to it on the Network.

Live from Nashville, TN

Your hosts are Tony, Bobby & Dusty

Cruiserweight title v. J-Crown: Dean Malenko v. Ultimo Dragon

They trade submission attempts on the mat to start and Malenko takes him down with a wristlock, but Dragon survives a backdrop driver and takes him down with an STF. Dragon bails to the apron and Malenko dropkicks him to the floor, but Dragon suckers him in and hauls him to the floor, then follows with a dive.  Back in, Dragon with a suplex for two, but Dean gets a sunset flip for two.  Release german suplex gets two.  Dean works on the leg while the announcers discuss the “Ultimate Dragon / Ultimo Dragon” naming issue, and I believe he just started coming out as Ultimo Dragon from then on.  Dean with a kneecrusher and then a dropkick to the knee on the way down in a nasty combo, then back to a kneebar on the mat while once again Mike Tenay shares tales of “The Orient”.  Is it eternally 1937 for Tenay?  Dragon fights back with a leg lariat and a powerbomb for two.  They trade tombstone attempts and Dean hits that for two.  The crowd goes NUTS for that near fall and Malenko goes for the cloverleaf, but Dragon makes the ropes, so Dean powerbombs him for two.  Both guys hit the floor off a bodypress attempt and Dragon kicks him off the apron and follows with the quebrada, and back in for a fight on the top.  Dragon misses the moonsault and hurts his knee, and Malenko gets the cloverleaf in the middle, but he goes after Sonny Onoo and Dragon cradles for two.  Malenko with a BRAINBUSTAAAAAAH but it only gets two.  That looked vicious.  They do a crazy reversal sequence and Dragon hooks him in a Tiger Suplex to finish at 18:30 and unify everything.  Well, temporarily.  That last 10 minutes was something else.  ****1/4

WCW Women’s title finals: Madusa v. Akira Hokuto

Lee Marshall is on break from doing Nitro parties in order to do commentary here.  Because he’s a women’s wrestling expert, you see, even though he can’t pronounce Hokuto’s name.  Thankfully Nick Patrick has now recovered enough from his crippling neck injury to cease wearing the brace, and I guess that joke hit the wall by World War III anyway.  Hokuto chokes away in the corner and takes her down with a Sharpshooter, but Madusa makes the comeback with her usual crappy offense.  Hokuto chokes her down again and goes to work on the arm, but Madusa comes back with something vaguely like a DDT.  Did Madusa have all her talent transplanted out when she got her boobs done?  Another crappy DDT gets two and then she tries a powerbomb and falls back on her own ass, and THEN nearly kills poor Hokuto with a ridiculous attempt at a german suplex.  Neither of these ladies has got anything going tonight.  Finally Madusa tosses her, but Onoo comes in and hits her with the American flag, allowing Hokuto to finish with a Snow Plow to win the title at 7:08.  Just a big mess.  *  For those wondering, Hokuto was the only champion, retiring a couple of months later along with the title.

Meanwhile, Roddy Piper gives a promo about Hogan that is basically a string of pop culture references with absolutely no connection to reality or each other.  I’ll have what he’s having.

Jushin Thunder Liger v. Rey Mysterio

Liger controls with a suplex to start and beats him down with a headbutt, then faceplants him and just spikes him with a powerbomb.  Rey fights back with a rana to the floor, but Liger suplexes him off the apron and Rey just splats with a flat back bump to the floor.  No wonder his body is wrecked these days.  Back in, Rey tries a missile dropkick and gets swatted down, allowing Liger to hook him in the Romero special.  Rey escapes and gets a german suplex, and a standing moonsault for two.  Springboard moonsault gets two.  Rey tries another springboard and Liger dropkicks him out of the air for two.  Liger with another german suplex for two.  He takes Rey down with a legwhip and follows with a koppo kick in the corner and Dusty just thinks this is all the funniest thing ever.  Rey comes back with a headscissors to put Liger on the floor and follows with a springboard moonsault with some impressive hangtime.  He guillotines Liger with a legdrop on the way back in, but that only gets two.  Springboard senton misses and Liger hits a diving headbutt for two.  Back to the top as Liger blocks a rana and puts Rey down with a kick, then finishes with the Liger Bomb at 14:14.  That was kind of anti-climactic.  Liger was coming off a friggin’ brain tumor so it wasn’t quite the crazy spotfest you’d expect, but it was still really good.  ***1/2

So all this kowtowing to New Japan on this show led to Liger winning the J-Crown from Ultimo Dragon a week after this, but not the Cruiserweight title, because reasons.  I just don’t understand what the payoff for WCW’s guys all losing was supposed to be.

Jeff Jarrett v. Chris Benoit

Jarrett was supposed to be the big babyface in Nashville, but Benoit gets the big reaction here.  They trade headlocks on the mat and Benoit just bitchslaps him, then beats him down and unloads on the mat.  Jarrett makes a fired up comeback and slugs him down, but that just makes Benoit mad and he stomps a mudhole in the corner.  And then JARRETT gets pissed off and they throw down again!  Outside the ring, Woman distracts Jarrett for a moment, and Dusty has advice ready:  “You never get distracted when some lady on the corner grabs you for a second!”  Bobby just concedes defeat on that one and moves on.  Back in, Benoit pounds away and tries a superplex, but Jarrett fights him off.  Luckily, Woman pulls Benoit out of the way of a charging JJ and he tosses Jarrett with mustard on it.  They fight on the floor and Jarrett is FIRED UP tonight, taking the chops and dropping Benoit on the railing. Back in, Benoit catches him with a sleeper, which turns into a chinlock.  Thankfully he uses the ropes for leverage, but Jarrett escapes with a backdrop suplex.  Small package gets two.  JJ goes up and lands on a boot, and Benoit gets two. They slug it out in the corner and Jarrett comes back with a dropkick for two, and suplexes him on the top rope.  Jarrett tries the figure-four, but Woman breaks it up and now we get Arn Anderson out in Jarrett’s corner.  They brawl on the floor again and now the Dungeon of Doom tries to kidnap Woman, while Kevin Sullivan breaks a chair on Benoit and Arn turns on Jarrett with a DDT, but Jarrett lands on top of Benoit for the pin at 13:48.  Clearly they had no finish and just threw everything but the kitchen sink out there instead.  Great match up until the nonsense at the end, with Jarrett going toe-to-toe with Benoit the whole way.  ***3/4  All the stuff was even more annoying because it went nowhere and everything just kind of got dropped a few months later.  The match does get extra points for Bill DeMott getting kicked square in the junk by Woman, though.

Steve McMichael cuts a confusing promo, blaming Benoit for losing (“He was served up like a dead man on a silver platter and you still couldn’t beat him!”) and calling all the fans “zipperheads”.

WCW World tag titles: The Outsiders v. The Faces of Fear

Meng quickly beats up Hall, who comes back with the bulldog for two.  Nash comes in and hits the usual on Barbarian, but the Faces regroup and there’s CLUBBERING, TONY!  Nash stupidly rams their heads together and pays the price, but Barbarian misses an elbow and Nash comes back with Snake Eyes to take over.  Hall comes in and gets caught with some clobbering again, and Barbarian puts him down with a big boot for a slow two from Nick Patrick. So I guess Hall is the face-in-peril?  Meng with a piledriver for two, and Barbarian with a powerbomb for two.  Tony makes a good point in that Patrick might be slow-counting, but the Faces are taking too much time between covers anyway.  Barbarian with another big boot but he’s not legal.  Finally Nash gets a cheapshot from the apron and Syxx chases Jimmy Hart to the back, but Barbarian ends up getting a Vulcan nerve pinch on Hall anyway.  Hall fights out of that and gets a hot tag to Nash as the dynamics of this match are all messed up.  Barbarian loads up the KICK OF FEAR, but it misses and Nash powerbombs him to finish at 11:48.  That was a major clunker.  *1/4

Hollywood Hogan cuts his rebuttal promo to Piper, and at least you can make sense of what he’s saying.

US title tournament finals: Diamond Dallas Page v. Eddie Guerrero

Eddie takes him down with some armdrags to start while Dusty clarifies the battle of the finishing moves:  “If DDP was to catch him with the Diamond Cutter out of the froggy splash, it would be a squished froggy.”  DDP tosses Eddie and beats on him outside, but Eddie slingshots back in with the senton for two and controls with the armbar.  The crowd is dead so Dusty and Tony have another amusing exchange about scalpers, as tickets for the show were going for upwards of $200 each outside the building, which was unheard of for a WCW PPV.  So Tony is bragging about how scalpers are charging so much because it was sold out early, and Dusty is AGHAST.  “Scalping’s not legal, Tony!”  Tony:  “Well, that’s not my problem.”  You tell ‘em, Tony.  This would seem to be BEGGING for a Brain rant, but he’s disappeared at this point.  Page takes over and pounds away for two and a suplex gets two.  He goes to the abdominal stretch, and Heenan explains the psychology of cheating while applying the hold, noting that you need to pull on the MIDDLE rope because that gives you more leverage due to the upward force.  That’s why he’s the Brain.  Finally the ref catches DDP and breaks it up, allowing Eddie to get a rollup for two.  Everything is technically good but they’re having a hell of a time getting this crowd into it.  Page works him over in the corner, but misses a charge and hits the post, allowing Eddie to make the comeback.  Eddie with a suplex for two, but the froggy splash misses.  Page with a powerslam for two and he goes up, but Eddie crotches him and brings him down with an atomic drop for two.  Backslide gets two.  Diamond Cutter is reversed to another backslide for two.  Dusty is FLUBBERGASTED by this near-fall.  They collide and Eddie lands on the floor, which brings out the Wolfpac, and Hall drops Page with a Razor’s Edge to set up the frog splash for the pin and the US title at 15:30.  Well, that’s what he gets for turning them down, I guess.  They tried hard but the crowd just wasn’t into it.  **1/2  The nWo continues being jerks, beating up on Eddie 3-on-1 as the crowd BEGS for DDP to make the save, but there is no joy in Mudville tonight.  Syxx steals the belt to kick off ANOTHER of the exact same storyline they just ran.

Lex Luger v. The Giant

They do the epic lockup battle, but Luger slugs away and grunts in the corner, so Giant puts him down with a clothesline.  Giant works on the back, allowing Lex to do his favorite combination of laying around and yelling in mock pain with every blow.  Play to your strengths, I always say.  Giant slowly beats on him, but Luger does a well-timed comeback before trying a slam that backfires on him.  Giant drops an elbow to take over again, but misses a blind charge to give Luger another hope spot.  Back to the Giant’s dull offense, but he misses a horrifyingly bad dropkick, which looked more like a killer whale trying a flip out of the water but hitting its head on the burning hoop, and Luger makes another comeback.  Neckbreaker gets two, but the ref gets wiped out.  Nick Patrick joins us to take over, and he kicks Luger in the knee when he tries the rack.  And then Sting heads out as the crowd goes INSANE, and he whispers something in both guy’s ear and leaves the baseball bat. Through the magic of technology, I can now reveal that he told Giant “I’ll see you in the WWF in 20 years, I’m mean assuming people are still crazy enough to still be paying us to wrestle in 2015”, and told Luger “You should look into this Jesus thing, people forgive you for all kinds of crazy shit.”   Luger gets the bat first, destroys Giant with it, and gets the pin at 13:23 to a giant reaction.  It was what it was.  **  The announcers astutely point out that Giant’s nWo backup was Syxx and Nick Patrick, which isn’t exactly the A-listers.  There was a certain logic to Giant winning the title shot in November and then getting passive-aggressively dumped from the nWo as a result, although it rendered the initial heel turn completely pointless.

Not For The WCW World Title Even Though All The Advertising Sure Made It Seem Like It Was:  Hulk Hogan v. Rowdy Roddy Piper

They slug it out in the corner and Piper sends him running / power-walking, but Hogan uses his cheating powers to take over in the ring.  Piper comes back with a clothesline and Hogan takes another walk to get advice from Ted Dibiase.  That advice?  “I know Virgil is cool about the racial jokes, but you might want to tone it down a bit.”  Sadly, he didn’t pay attention to that one.  Piper works a headlock and Tony is all “CAULIFLOWERED EARS MEAN TRADITION!”  Yeah, and disgusting broken cartilage, yuck.   So they do another messy brawl to the floor as Hogan tries to run away, and Piper whips him like a dog with the belt as they do all the shortcuts and smoke and mirrors they need to.  And it’s back to the floor as Hogan cheats again to take over and goes to the abdominal stretch.  Piper fights back and Dibiase sort of trips him up as they somehow manage to mess that spot up, before Piper gets an ugly small package for two.  Piper is just horribly out of shape and completely blown up here.  Luckily he still knows how to be a babyface main eventer because the actual body of the match is all Hogan as far as carrying goes.  Hogan finally tries the legdrop and misses, and Piper makes the comeback as the nWo joins us for their next run-in, in this case the Giant.  Some idiot fan runs in and gets hauled off by the police while Piper escapes the chokeslam, and he finishes Hogan with the sleeper at 15:34. Piper escapes the nWo and celebrates while everyone on commentary kind of awkwardly avoids the whole question of whether the title was on the line or not.  *1/2  Hogan and the Outsiders decide to officially blame the Giant for dropping the ball on that one.

The Pulse

This was actually a HELL of a show before all the nWo run-ins started dragging the second half down a lot.  I really wish they had kind of staggered the matches better, instead of doing all the New Japan stuff to start and then ending with four straight nWo-centered matches.  Still, strong thumbs up for this one, main event aside.