Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1998)

And now for the night WCW cut Goldberg's legs off......

Starrcade '98 - MCI Center - 12.27.98

And I thought Starrcade '97 was bad.  Jeezus, that was a magnum opus compared to this disorganized mess.  1998 was the year WCW really started collapsing under its own weight.  The top stars had so much control over their characters that nothing involving them made any sense, and when one homegrown star somehow managed to surge in popularity certain egos went out of their way to hobble him (Hmm, that sounds familiar).  We were at the height of the nWo Wolfpac run, which involved the heel nWo faction feuding with the vaguely babyface nWo "red & black" team comprised of Kevin Nash, Lex Luger, Randy Savage, Konnan, and the formerly huge babyface star Sting (How badly was Sting's mystique damaged by his association with this stupid group?).  So let's examine this shitshow....

Things started out okay with a double Cruiserweight Title match.  First it was Billy Kidman vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Juventud Guerrera in a crazy fun opening match.  Kidman and Mysterio attempted to stay allied but that was short-lived.  Guerrera had recently joined Eddy's LWO (Yet another nWo offshoot - Christ) so he was a cocky heel here.  Lots of high-risk moves and innovative pin attempts.  All three guys did a great job of selling exhaustion by the end to make the Cruiserweight offense mean something.  Eddy got involved toward the finish but his interference backfired and Kidman retained.  Once again the Cruiserweights got more time than any other match, which is pretty shocking.

The Cruisers continued to be the one bright spot in WCW.
They followed up this match by having Eddy challenge Kidman to a bonus Title match, and Kidman accepted (What a dumb move).  This was a decent followup match but it lacked a proper first act since Kidman was selling the effects of the previous bout.  Rey and Juvi each tried to help their guy.  Eventually both guys got crotched on the top rope thanks to their respective enemies, Eddy fell to the mat, and Kidman hit the shooting star press to retain.  This was a solid pair of Cruiserweight matches to kick off the show.

The next four bouts really had no business on the biggest show of the year.  Norman Smiley vs. Prince Iaukea was a pretty nice display of fluid European wrestling, and Smiley's silly dance bit was fairly over.  But the crowd didn't care about the match itself and there was nothing at stake.  I guess this was just a Smiley showcase, but it went longer than it should have given its role on the card.  This got more time than the main event for God's sake!

What followed was a bevy of throwaway free TV matches.  Perry Saturn vs. Ernest Miller was heavy on comedy and not much to look at.  I'm not sure who thought Miller was a good in-ring talent.  Brian Adams and Scott Norton vs. Fit Finlay and Jerry Flynn was dull and instantly forgettable.  Chris Jericho vs. Konnan for the TV Title never got out of first gear except for a couple of decent high spots.  Jericho already looked fed up and ready to leave WCW, and I was never all that impressed with Konnan (Oddly WWE overdubbed Jericho's WWF entrance theme here for Network purposes.).

Ric Flair vs. Eric Bischoff was reasonably entertaining and certainly an improvement over Bischoff's 1997 match.  Flair mostly beat the tar out of Eric except for a brief stretch in the middle which of course included a Flair blade job.  Flair had the match won with the Figure Four until Curt Hennig handed Bischoff a set of knux.  This wasn't a good match but sadly it's one of the highlights of this calamity of a show.  Also, in what universe is a Bischoff win good booking here?

Diamond Dallas Page vs. The Giant was almost a carbon copy of Luger vs. Giant from SC'96, except Paul Wight was a hundred pounds heavier and not at all motivated this time (This was Wight's final WCW PPV).  This was pretty excruciating to sit through.  Just full of plodding offense and miscues, including a twisting DDT spot the guys messed up on the first try and immediately went for again.  DDP at one point had Giant covered and actually placed Giant's hand under his own chest for a power kickout.  Bret Hart unsuccessfully attempted to help The Giant but it backfired when DDP ducked a chair shot.  Why in God's name would they not have booked DDP vs. Bret for this show??  Ya know, since Bret was the US Champion?

Now for the half-assed main event.  Amazingly Goldberg's music for this show on the WWE Network is the original WCW version.  I swear they overdubbed it for Starrcade '97.  This match reminded me of Goldberg-Rock in 2003 where almost nothing happened in 13 minutes.  There was a lot of posturing and not much actual wrestling.  Things started to pick up near the end when Goldie hit all his big moves (minus the spear/jackhammer), and then everything got ruined by multiple run-ins, followed by Scott Hall's infamous cattle prod spot.  All this nonsense allowed Nash to hit the powerbomb for the win, the WCW Title, and the end of Goldberg's streak.  To be fair, the crowd went apeshit for Nash's win, which shocked me.  That stupid Wolfpac faction was way over I guess.  But long-term this was horrid booking.  Goldberg was the company's biggest homegrown draw by far - the only guy they had as hot as Steve Austin - and they unceremoniously cut short his streak and Title run, damaging him irreparably.  Like Sting the year before, Goldberg's aura was never the same after this, and the company insanely never gave him another WCW Title run.  Once again egos got in the way of good business.

Of all the people to end Goldberg's streak.  Christ....

The following week of course was the Fingerpoke of Doom episode of Nitro, during which Tony Schiavone spoiled Mick Foley's WWF Title win, leading to about 400,000 viewers switching over to RAW.  Nitro would never beat RAW again.  Watching Starrcade '98, I wonder if the announcers could sense that the company was going off the rails.  After the Halloween Havoc overrun fiasco there must've been some sense of an impending fall.  Sure it took two more years for the company to die, but WCW was really beginning to come apart at the seams.  Like SC'97 this show illustrated how badly mismanaged WCW was, except by the end of 1998 they were losing in the ratings more often than not.  There's almost nothing on this show worth going out of your way to see.

Best Match: Billy Kidman vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Juventud Guerrera
Worst Match: Brian Adams & Scott Norton vs. Fit Finlay & Jerry Flynn - What was this doing on a Starrcade show??
What I'd Change: Christ, where was half the locker room?  No Sting, no Luger, no Savage, no Bret, no Booker T, no Scott Steiner.  The roster on this show was bizarrely thin.  Other than that, the main event of this show should've been Hogan dropping the Title to Goldberg after months of building to that.  Goldie's Title run was a sloppy mess.
Most Disappointing Match: Goldberg vs. Kevin Nash
Most Pleasant Surprise: I guess that Flair vs. Bischoff wasn't totally unwatchable
Overall Rating: 2.5/10

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