Friday, December 8, 2023

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1990)

Right here the Starrcade series drove temporarily off a cliff.....

Starrcade '90 - Kiel Auditorium - 12/16/90

I'm not sure what happened in 1990 that ruined the world, but both the WWF and especially the NWA spent that particular calendar year serving up a menu of dog crap a la mode.  Case in point, Starrcade 1990.  Man, what a difference a year makes.  While Starrcade '89 was no all-time classic, the NWA as a whole was at its apex in 1989, and suddenly with the new year they reset just about everything, crowned Sting their new top babyface (which made sense, he was super over), and had him feud with one of the stupidest mystery characters ever created in any medium, The Black Scorpion.  This nonsensical six-month angle climaxed at Starrcade '90 with a payoff in the same ballpark of stupid as the WWF's "Who Ran Over Steve Austin?" angle ten years later.

Look, the WCW logo is sinking.  Rather symbolic, don't you think?

On top of their flagship PPV being headlined by a World Title match involving an unknown challenger, the company decided to cram an entire seven-match tag team tournament onto this show as well, bringing the total number of matches to fourteen.  Fourteen matches on a three-hour PPV.  What was the object of said tournament?  A trophy.  Which teams would be competing?  The Steiners.....and seven other teams, mostly comprised of dudes no one's ever heard of.  Super.  I wonder who's gonna win.....

The show started out promisingly enough, with Bobby Eaton vs. Z-Man.  Pretty good little opening match with two guys who could work and had faced each other in tag matches numerous times.  Nothing mindblowing but this match did its job as the kickoff.

We then plunged into the tag tournament, with four mostly pointless, abbreviated matches that just cluttered up the card.  Konan & Rey Misterio Sr. vs. Chris Adams & Norman Smiley was the only standout of the opening round, but even that was too short and a little sloppy in spots.  The Russian team of Victor Zangiev and Salman Hashimikov had interesting amateur-style grappling moves but Zangiev's back hair was so long it was parted in the middle!  So all I could think of during his matches was "Jeezus, someone actually has to touch that furry creep??"  That match had an awkward ending, like the ref forgot he was supposed to count to three, so he hesitated and then counted anyway.  The other two first-round matches were either done in the blink of an eye or totally forgettable.  All of these teams were wrestling like they knew they only had 3-5 minutes.

Next up was a battle of former stablemates, as Michael Wallstreet faced Terry Taylor.  This felt like a free TV match on a WCW Saturday Night undercard.

For some reason, and despite Sid Vicious now being a Horseman, The Skyscrapers faced The Big Cat & Motor City Madman in a sloppy one-minute squash.  On the biggest PPV of the year which had thirteen other matches.

Moving right along, the Freebirds were next against Ricky Morton & Tommy Rich (subbing for an injured Robert Gibson).  Jeezus, this Freebirds-RNR feud lasted like eight months.  This match could've been decent had it gotten five more minutes.  I wonder if the wrestlers on this show were pissed that they had no time to do anything.
The tournament semifinals were up next, and both matches could've been really splendid, but they were alotted a total of six minutes.  Yes, TWO semifinal matches combined got about the same amount of time as a commercial break on the Syfy Network.  The Steiners vs. Konan & Misterio on paper is quite a contest, as is Muta & Saito vs. The Russians.  Both matches had innovative spots and pretty great mat wrestling.  But what in God's name is anyone supposed to do in a three-minute tag team match?  This tournament had no business on this show, and the Steiners were presented as so far above everyone else there was zero suspense about who was gonna win the whole thing.

Finally something interesting happened in Match 10, as Stan Hansen defended the US Title against Lex Luger in a Lariat Match (read: Bullrope Match).  This was a pretty enjoyable wild brawl hindered somewhat by the lame Touch All Corners rule.  They did a tricky finish where Luger got all four but was knocked into the referee in the process, and the second ref saw Hansen touch all four before the original ref woke up and reversed the decision.  Kind of a dumb finish, but this was easily one of the best matches on the show.

The Tag Team Titles were next as Doom continued their feud with the Four Horsemen, in this case Barry Windham & Arn Anderson.  I'm still confused why WCW feuded the heel Horsemen with the heel team Doom for several months.  Since neither team turned good as a result, I'm not sure what the endgame was supposed to be.  This was a fun Street Fight with crazy finisher kickouts, but once again, yup, you guessed it - too goddamn short.  Also how can you have a no-decision in a Street Fight??

The tournament final pitted the Number 1 seed and very obvious favorites The Steiners vs. The Great Muta & Saito.  I'd call this probably the best match of the night by default, as it had good wrestling from all four guys and a clean ending.  Just imagine what they could've done with fifteen minutes or more.  This tournament should've been held on a different show; Clash of the Champions perhaps.  When presenting the trophy, Legendary Wrestling Idiot Jim Herd referred to The Steiners as "my favorite super-heavyweights."  Uhh, Jim?

Once you know it's Flair, it's reeeeeally obvious.

The main event was the resolution to the months-long Sting vs. Black Scorpion feud which saw multiple impostors attack Sting only to later be revealed as decoys.  All the Black Scorpion vignettes featured the thinly-disguised voice of Ole Anderson, which was later recycled for the dreadful Shockmaster gimmick.  Evidently the booking team intended for the Scorpion to be revealed as pre-NWA Sting cohort Dave Sheldon (say it with me, "who?") before realizing that would be the stupidest idea ever.  So instead they went with the most obvious choice, the guy Sting just feuded with, Ric Flair.  Given who the Scorpion turned out to be, this match was pretty weak.  I found it quite plodding and heatless, and the character limitations really hurt Flair's performance since his selling and facials are among his biggest strengths.  To his credit though, Flair did work hard to wrestle a different style and not give himself away.  But then after Sting won the match, WCW's booking geniuses gave away the surprise anyway, by sending Windham and Anderson to attack Sting before Flair was even unmasked.  Then when the mask finally came off the cameras never got a clear shot of Flair's face, yet Jim Ross repeatedly shouted, "It's Ric Flair!!  OH MY GAWD, KING!!!"  Oh wait....  What a fucking terrible angle this was, on every level.  A spaceship entrance?  Really??  Although I shouldn't wonder when they actually booked a Robocop angle seven months earlier.

Only memorable part of the match right here.

Starrcade '90 actually had the ingredients to be a pretty good show.  Flair vs. Sting?  Check.  Decent opening match?  Check.  The Steiners vs. two accomplished Japanese stars?  Check.  A solid US Title match?  Check.  But aside from the dull main event nothing got enough time to be meaningful and the whole show felt like StarrcA.D.D. (Heh - get it?).  Pretty sad considering how goddamn good the NWA product was one year earlier.

Best Match: Steiners vs. Great Muta & Mr. Saito
Worst Match: Skyscrapers vs. Cat & Madman
What I'd Change: Get the tag tournament out of there.  It took up half of the fourteen matches, only the finals went longer than six minutes, and the trophy at the end meant nothing.  What is this an 80s WWF show?  Also change the ending of the Tag Title match so it gets restarted after the double pin.
Most Disappointing Match: Sting vs. Flair - Given how many good matches these two had I was shocked how flat this was.  I guess that's what happens when you handicap one of the greatest of all time with a character he isn't suited for.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Stan Hansen vs. Lex Luger
Overall Rating: 3.5/10

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