Monday, December 11, 2023

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1991)

Another Starrcade experiment thrown at the wall that didn't stick....

Starrcade '91 - Norfolk Scope - 12/29/91

I'm really not sure what the higher-ups at WCW were smoking when they invented the Battlebowl concept.  I'd like to think there was some variety of substance abuse going on, but who the hell knows?  Evidently having learned nothing from the box office disaster that was Starrcade '89, WCW went with another "tournament" format for the 1991 edition.  Only this time the card would consist entirely of mongrel tag teams decided at random, competing so both members could enter a main event two-ring battle royal.  The winner of that would get a future WCW Title shot.  What a convoluted way to establish a number-one contenter.  And what if Lex Luger had won this?  Ugh.  So of the eleven matches on this show, ten involved pairs of partners with no chemistry and in some cases little or no tag team expertise facing other such pairs.  Few of these matches had any kind of story to them either, except in rare cases when two enemies were forced to team together.  Wow, did this get monotonous fast.

The first four matches sorta blurred into each other and were varying degrees of lackluster.  Marcus Bagwell & Jimmy Garvin vs. Tracey Smothers & Michael Hayes was noteworthy only for the anticipation of seeing the Freebirds fight each other, which barely even happened.  Rick Rude & Steve Austin vs. Van Hammer & Big Josh was a case of two big stars on one side and two gimmick-saddled utility guys on the other.  Also, in what wrestling universe did the 5'10" 220-pound Matt Osborne qualify as "big?"  More like About Average Josh.  Dustin Rhodes & Richard Morton vs. Larry Zbyszko & El Gigante was pretty awful; anything involving the future Giant Gonzales is by definition a turd.  The story here was Gigante not being able to understand Zbyzsko's instructions and eventually getting fed up and attacking Larry.  Pretty bad stuff.  Things picked up a little in Match 4 as Jushin "Thunder" Liger & Bill Kazmaier faced Mike Graham & Diamond Dallas Page.  The Graham-Liger exchanges were intriguing but with no heat between them there wasn't anything to get invested in.


Finally in the middle of the show we got a few memorable bouts.  For starters, WCW Champ Lex Luger & Arn Anderson faced Terrence Taylor & Tom Zenk.  This is more like it.  The match was entertaining from start to finish and had some nice conflict with Taylor slowly turning babyface.  Ricky Steamboat & Todd Champion vs. Cactus Jack & Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker was fun just for the Steamboat-Cactus interactions (Did they ever have a singles match together?), but not much going on besides that.  Abdullah the Butcher attacked Parker during his entrance, which meant Cactus wrestled almost the entire match by himself.  The most unexpectedly good match was Sting & Abdullah vs. Bobby Eaton & Brian Pillman, a wild battle where Sting and Pillman worked together despite being on opposite teams, and Abdullah was just trying to kill Sting the whole time.  Chaotic but enjoyable.
After that the card fell into pretty dreary territory for the remaining four matches.  Vader teamed with Mr. Hughes vs. Rick Steiner & The Nightstalker.  This was decent while Vader and Steiner were fighting, but beyond that there wasn't much to like.  Next up was Scott Steiner & Firebreaker Chip (Just about the least badass name ever) vs. Arachnaman & Johnny B. Badd.  The problem here was that despite the strong action throughout, the match was impossible to get into with no issues between any of the four babyfaces.  The final tag match pitted Ron Simmons & Thomas Rich vs. Steve Armstrong & PN News, an insufferably dull and overlong bout that ended mercifully with a Simmons spinebuster on Armstrong.

The winners of each tag match were entered into the confusingly structured Battlebowl, where the object was to throw your opponents over the top rope, into the second ring.  The winner of Ring 1 would then get a rest period while everyone in Ring 2 threw each other over the ropes to the floor.  The winners of each ring would then face each other one-on-one, until one guy tossed the other out of the ring.  Only problem (besides the nondescript brawling and rapid-fire eliminations toward the end) was that Lex Luger (Ring 1's winner) only had to be thrown out once, despite never having been eliminated from Ring 1.  In a double-elimination format, shouldn't Sting (Ring 2's winner) have needed to toss Luger into Ring 2 before throwing him out to the floor?  Also the Sting-Luger stuff was fairly boring due to Sting having been attacked by Rick Rude just before the finals.  This was no Royal Rumble, that's for sure.  As I said before, what a confusing way to establish a top contender for the WCW Title.  Did Vince Russo come up with this?

How does a match with these four dudes go wrong??

Starrcade '91 was a pretty awful show from a company clearly being mismanaged to death.  There was no shortage of good talent on the WCW roster at this point, but no one got a chance to shine or deliver noteworthy matches due to the impractical structure of the show.  This was the first Starrcade event without Ric Flair, and his absence was pretty glaring.  But it didn't have to be that way, if WCW would've just assembled a lineup of meaningful bouts around the various feuds that were going on at the time.  In pro wrestling, simple is usually better.  Not surprisingly, nary a match from Starrcade '90 or '91 made WWE's Best of Starrcade compilation a few years ago.

Best Match: Lex Luger & Arn Anderson vs. Terry Taylor & Z-Man
Worst Match: Ron Simmons & Thomas Rich vs. PN News & Steve Armstrong
What I'd Change: Create a separate PPV called Battlebowl (which they did in 1993) and keep Starrcade as your flagship PPV.  This format would be like holding a Royal Rumble plus a bunch of qualifying matches on a WrestleMania show.
Most Disappointing Match: The Battlebowl - Aside from a few big moves this was about as nondescript and forgettable as such a match could be.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Sting & Abdullah vs. Eaton & Pillman
Overall Rating: 2.5/10

Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Facebook and YouTube!


No comments:

Post a Comment