Thursday, December 14, 2023

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1994)

This Starrcade......this is not my kinda Starrcade.....

Starrcade '94 - Nashville Auditorium - 12/27/94

1994 was the year WCW evolved....into the WWF of the 1980s.  Eric Bischoff had taken the reins the year before and urgently hoped to make the company profitable, and as fate would have it he was able to sign Hulk Hogan in the summer of '94.  This of course immediately brought WCW mainstream attention and lapsed fans from the 80s began watching wrestling again.  The unfortunate side effect of all this was the annihilation of the historic WCW culture.  Gone was the emphasis on athletic, scientific wrestling and simple angles.  In their place were the over-the-top characterizations, convoluted heel turns, and rudimentary brawling of the WWF circa 1988.  Hogan had so much pull he populated (polluted?) the roster with all his old WWF pals, and the in-ring product became a less entertaining version of everything Vince had more adeptly presented a decade earlier.  And you thought Black Saturday was bad.  On the bright side though, at least Bobby Heenan was on color commentary, even if he and Tony Schiavone had zero chemistry together.

The opening match for the US Title pitted Jim Duggan (who infamously defeated Steve Austin for the belt in under a minute - good call on that one Eric) against the man who by all rights should have main evented this show, Vader.  The match was actually better than I expected.  Probably the best Duggan match I've ever seen, which isn't saying much for him.  The first half or so was pretty hard-hitting, then it settled into a plodding second act before ramping back up toward the end.  They recycled the Starrcade '92 finish where Vader came off the top and got powerslammed to the mat, but this time Harley Race interfered to distract the official.  Vader then won with a wheelbarrow slam which Duggan took pretty poorly.

The unexpected standout of the night was Alex Wright vs. a young blueblood character named Jean-Paul Leveque.  From a mat wrestling standpoint this was quite good.  Sadly it went about five minutes longer than it needed to, and there wasn't really anything at stake.  It's so weird to see Triple H in a WCW ring.  This was technically a good match but little more than a showcase for two young dudes.

It's Triple H vs. Berlyn!!

The TV Title was on next, as Johnny B. Badd defended against Arn Anderson.  This wasn't too shabby; both guys could work and they gelled fairly well.  It's criminal that the only reason Arn got on this show was due to the original challenger, the Honky Tonk Man, being injured.  Hogan's spray-tanned fingerprints were all over the WCW product at this point and it was ugly.
The last four matches on this show ranged from bad to unwatchable, starting with Harlem Heat vs. the Nasty Boys.  This 17-minute-plus bout featured the usual awkward brawling from Knobbs & Sags while Booker and Stevie Ray attempted to get a good match out of them.  They almost succeeded for a little while; had this been an 11 or 12-minute match it might've worked, but after the initial wild brawl stuff it settled into a pretty dull affair.  Eventually Sherri Martel got involved and Harlem Heat was disqualified, capping off an instantly forgettable tag match.  Where were Marcus Bagwell & The Patriot on this show, by the way?  They were the Tag Champions after all.

The descent into madness continued with Kevin Sullivan vs. Mr. T, a pointless and brief special attraction match.  This amounted to three minutes of unimaginative brawling until Dave Sullivan showed up in a Santa costume and whacked Kevin from behind to cost him the match.  Wait, Kevin Sullivan's supposed to be the heel right?

The semi-main event was Sting vs. Avalanche (or Earthquake as he would've been known had Vince McMahon not owned that name).  Yeesh, even the exceptionally talented Sting couldn't drag a good match out of Avalanche.  This felt like it lasted eons while the 400-pounder rehashed all his old dull offense from his WWF days.  Eventually Sting did a Hulk Hogan-type comeback and had the match won till Kevin Sullivan interfered to draw a DQ.  Then Hogan made the save.  Once again this felt like a bad Saturday Night's Main Event match.

Finally we arrived at the main event, the WCW Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Brutus "The Butcher" Beefcake.  Good. Lord.  This was awful.  Think of any generic Hogan match from the 80s against any lower-echelon opponent.  Those were all masterpieces compared to this.  Beefcake looked terrible, like an in-shape sixty-year-old (despite being only 37 - Jesus, I had no idea he was that young at this point), and moved even worse.  Nothing about this match was fun.  For some reason Hogan was allowed to whack Beefcake with a chair three times in full view of the referee without being disqualified.  Man that guy's got clout.  Toward the end both Avalanche and Sullivan tried to interfere, only to get knocked off the ring apron by Hogan, before he landed the legdrop for the win.  Randy Savage, making his WCW PPV debut, came to Hogan's aid after the bout, thus reuniting the MegaPowers.  Are we gonna redo everything from 1988-1990?  This ranks highly among the worst PPV main events of all time.  One last thing, Jimmy Hart inherently doesn't work as a babyface manager.  His character is by nature annoying, so he naturally draws heat.  Plus what did Hogan need a mouthpiece for?

Look, it's the WWF babyface locker room in 1992...

If there's any doubt how much Hogan reshaped WCW in his own image, think on this.  Of the seven matches at Starrcade '94, six either featured or were scheduled to feature at least one of his old WWF buddies.  Jim Duggan, Honky Tonk Man (who was replaced by WCW franchise player Arn Anderson - think of how twisted that is), Nasty Boys (true they were in WCW before Hogan showed up, but still), Mr. T, Avalanche, and worst of all Brutus Beefcake in the main event of the company's flagship PPV, in 1994.  Their new slogan should've been, "WCW - If You Want Good Wrestling, Look Somewhere Else!"  After three inoffensive opening matches, this show drove off a cliff.  I mean that literally; Hogan hooked a semi rig up to the Nashville Auditorium and drove the entire building into a fucking ravine.

Best Match: Alex Wright vs. Jean-Paul Levesque
Worst Match: Hulk Hogan vs. The Butcher
What I'd Change: Cancel the show.  Just tell everyone there's a blizzard and the show's off.
Most Disappointing Match: I couldn't have had lower expectations going into this, so actually nothing disappointed me.  There is that I guess.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The first three matches were watchable, so there's that too.
Overall Rating: 2/10

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