Thursday, November 30, 2023

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1984)

The classic inaugural Starrcade was followed in 1984 by a.....not so classic one....

Starrcade '84 - Greensboro Coliseum - 11.22.84

The NWA's sophomore Starrcade effort was rather a far cry from the original, with eleven matches crammed into a three-hour format, and precious few of them memorable.  On paper the top-billed bouts looked solid but unfortunately nothing was given enough time, and some of the booking was questionable at best.

I'm just gonna get this out there: I know Gordon Solie is right up there with Jim Ross as the most respected wrestling announcer ever, but I've always found his style pretty bland.  He never seemed emotionally invested in the matches, and he drastically overused the phrase "There's no question about it."  Legit, on this PPV he says that phrase 3-5 times per match.  If there's no question about anything, why even bring it up?

The opening match, Mike Davis vs. Denny Brown had decent enough wrestling but it was too short, and the finish with Mike Brown pinning himself after a back suplex was so confusing even the ring announcer and Gordon Solie called it wrong.  Next up was Brian Adidas vs. Mr. Ito (Mystery Toe?), which had promising action but only went four minutes.

The first standout of the show was Jesse Barr vs. Mike Graham.  This was easily the best thing so far, and possibly the best match on the card.  Really strong mat wrestling and reversals, and Barr had some great heel moments like quick hair pulls and stepping on the ropes momentarily to gain leverage.  Barr won with a schoolboy while hooking the tights.

How was this not a four-star classic?

The next few matches were various degrees of forgettable.  Assassin & Buzz Tyler vs. Zambuie Express; Manny Fernandez vs. Black Bart in a Brass Knuckles Championship match (which was odd since I didn't see any brass knuckles, unless they were under their fist tape); and Jimmy Valiant vs. Paul Jones in a pretty awful Tuxedo Match, which Valiant kicked off by tying Paul Jones by the neck to the top rope - not very heroic there, Jim.

The next big match was Ron Bass vs. Dick Slater.  These former allies had a pretty nondescript brawl but the crowd was electric for this.

Then we had Ole Anderson & Keith Larson vs. Ivan & Nikita Koloff.  This was fairly dull, with the babyfaces working over Ivan for almost the first ten minutes.  Nikita finally tagged in late in the match and relied mostly on bearhugs until the heels finally won using a foreign object.

On paper the next match, Tully Blanchard vs. Ricky Steamboat, should've been far and away the show stealer.  Sadly this was not as good as you'd think.  The match started out hot until Steamboat's kayfabe rib injury caught up with him.  Tully worked the ribs for a while and once Steamboat came back Tully stalled a lot.  The last few minutes were heated but a little slow, and Tully won with a foreign object right in front of the referee.  A lot of reliance on hidden weapons on these old NWA shows, huh?

After a nothing US Title match between Wahoo McDaniel and Billy Graham, we finally got to the main event: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes for the NWA Title.  This was very enjoyable until Dusty got rammed into the ring post and started bleeding.  They managed to cram a lot of good stuff into the first ten minutes, but the match came to a screeching halt after the bladejob, as guest ref Joe Frazier kept checking Dusty's cut and eventually stopped the match.  This was pretty nonsensical given that about four previous matches featured blood and not one of them was stopped, and Dusty's cut wasn't much worse than any of the others.  Terrible finish to an otherwise solid match (though 12 minutes is pretty paltry for the main event of a major show).

Joe Frazier: Most squeamish referee ever.

So Starrcade '84 doesn't win any Major Show of the Year awards.  It's hard even picking a standout match because nothing exceeded 2.5 stars or so.  There were just way too many matches and not enough time for any of them.  Plus the main event finish was about as unsatisfying as any major Title match I can remember.

Best Match: Jesse Barr vs. Mike Graham
Worst Match: Jimmy Valiant vs. Paul Jones
What I'd Change: Cut some of the fat and give more time to the matches that mattered, and for God's sake have Flair win with a hook of the tights or something if you need to protect Dusty.
Most Disappointing Match: Tully Blanchard vs. Ricky Steamboat
Most Pleasant Surprise: Jesse Barr vs. Mike Graham
Overall Rating: 4/10

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