Thursday, December 21, 2023

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1999)

This right here is one of the worst wrestling shows I've ever seen.....

Starrcade '99 - MCI Center - 12.19.99

By late 1999 the wheels were fully off the WCW wagon, and the company decided to steal away the WWF's two head writers, Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, in the hopes that their supposed magic could save WCW.  The problem was of course that without Vince McMahon and others as filters for Russo's wacky Crash TV style, there was no magic.  Instead Russo and Ferrara made a bad product even worse, and it was reflected in this parody of a flagship PPV.  Abbreviated matches, gratuitous run-ins, nonsensical finishes, it was all plainly on display at Starrcade '99, one of the worst PPVs I've ever had to endure.

It should be noted this was the third consecutive Starrcade held at the MCI Center, and their attendance dropped from 17,500 in 1997 to 16,000 in 1998 to 8600 in 1999 (to 6600 in 2000).  Yeesh.

The Mamalukes faced Disco Inferno & Lash Leroux in a watchable tag match to open the show.  Vito and Johnny the Bull had pretty crisp offense, but their mob gimmick was pretty goofy.  This was inoffensive, which is more than I can say for basically the rest of the show.

The next ten matches were assorted piles of puke, starting with Madusa vs. Evan Karagias for the Cruiserweight Title.  This was in the era when intergender matches were fairly common, and watching them now is pretty uncomfortable.  Madusa won in 3:30 after Evan's valet Spice turned on him.

Next was the Hardcore Title match between Norman Smiley and Meng.  Late '99 WCW involved numerous attempts by Vince Russo to out-WWF the WWF, and the newly formed Hardcore division was one of those.  Sadly WCW's HC division consisted almost entirely of comedy matches.  This was mildly amusing but ultimately pointless.  Smiley retained after Fit Finlay and Brian Knobbs knocked Meng out with a lead pipe.

One good match out of thirteen.  What are the odds?

Shane Douglas's Revolution stable was next, against Jim Duggan and three mystery partners, who turned out to be the reformed Varsity Club.  Yes, in 1999 WCW trotted out a midcard stable from a decade earlier.  This match was wretched (as was Shane's over-the-top commentary) and ended with the Varsity Club turning on Duggan, allowing the injured Douglas to get the pin.  However the VC continued beating up members of Revolution all the same.  Ok then....

More bad comedy followed as Vampiro took on Steve Williams, with Oklahoma (you remember, Ed Ferrara doing a tasteless one-joke Jim Ross impression) locked in a cage.  If Vampiro won, he'd get five minutes with Okie.  Williams got himself disqualified after five minutes of brawling, leading to a three-minute Vampiro-Oklahoma match that was apparently No DQ?  They oddly gave Okie a lot of offense in this match (Oh wait, Ferrara was one of the bookers, of course), until The Misfits (yes, the punk band) got involved.  This was crap.

And so was our next match, Curt Hennig and Creative Control (Don & Ron Harris) vs. Booker T and Midnight.  This was supposed to be a six-man tag but Booker and Stevie Ray were about to start feuding, so Stevie mostly sat this one out.  The match was shite regardless.  Also it was sad how far out of their way WCW went to take cheapshots at the WWF during this period.  The Harris brothers were renamed Patrick and Gerald, and the former Virgil went from being called Vincent to Shane.  Methinks Russo should've spent more time trying to make WCW watchable and less time making fun of his former company, who at this point was kicking WCW's ass on a weekly basis.

Jeff Jarrett wrestled the first of two matches against Dustin Rhodes in a Bunkhouse Stampede (read: Hardcore Match) that saw Curt Hennig interfere repeatedly.  Since Jarrett was billed as "The Chosen One," ordained by the as-yet-unseen authority figure as WCW's next big star, the announcers mentioned "The Powers That Be" (Vince Russo's unofficial name) about 700 times during this bout.  Jeezus H. Christ.  Oh, also the announcers kept talking about Dustin going by his real name instead of using the Seven "gimmick."  Hey dickheads, we know wrestling's fake, but you're not supposed to actually present it as a work.  If the announcers and the wrestlers all acknowledge on-air that it's fake, why are they all fighting each other?  This amounted to eleven laborious minutes of forgettable, generic brawling.

Still it was a masterpiece compared to the DDP vs. David Flair Crowbar on a Pole Match (Russo apparently loved anything hanging from a pole, because this era was full of dumb crap like this).  Flair whacked Page with the crowbar before the bell to at least give himself a chance, but DDP wrapped this one up in just under four minutes.
Somehow WCW even managed to botch a Sting vs. Lex Luger match on this show.  Luger had been officially and inexplicably renamed The Total Package even though everyone already knew him as Lex Luger (That'd be like Triple H being rebranded The Cerebral Assassin).  The whole point of this match was that Elizabeth had dumped Luger and joined Sting, but tried to screw Sting over anyway.  Sting caught her and ordered her out of the ring, but instead she cracked him with a baseball bat to draw a DQ at 5:31.  Luger then beat the tar out of him and left.  Absolute crap-o-rama.

Things kept going from bad to worse, as WCW rekindled one of the worst-drawing feuds in WWF history, Kevin Nash vs. Sid Vicious.  Their Powerbomb match featured seven minutes of poor wrestling which ended after the ref got bumped (thereby missing Sid's powerbomb on Nash), after which Jeff Jarrett ran down and broke a cardboard-like guitar over Sid's head, after which Nash woke the referee and simply told him he'd powerbombed Sid.  The ref took Nash's word for it and called for the bell.  What is going on??

In spite of WCW's best efforts a decent match broke out in the semi-main slot, as Jeff Jarrett answered Chris Benoit's US Title Open Challenge (Scott Hall was the scheduled opponent but was out with an injury).  While this was a tad repetitive, Benoit and Jarrett made the most of their allotted ten minutes and delivered a solid free-TV quality Ladder Match.  Benoit won after a diving headbutt off the ladder.  The announcers called this a Match of the Year candidate, which made me laugh.

The main event pitted WCW Champion Bret Hart against frenemy Goldberg.  Sigh.....Watching this match again actually hurt my brain with how preposterous it was.  I'm beginning to think Vince Russo actually hated the pro wrestling industry and did everything in his power to kill it.  This match went okay for about three minutes and then there was a ref bump on the outside.  Then a few minutes later there was another ref bump on the secondary official.  Then a third official ran in, and he got bumped a few minutes after that.  Finally the scheduled guest referee Roddy Piper sauntered to the ring, watched Bret apply the Sharpshooter, and instantaneously called for the bell, recreating the Montreal Screwjob (because that finish is so goddamn satisfying).  Both Bret and Goldie sold outrage as Piper took the WCW Title and walked out of the ring with it.  Yup, the referee prematurely called a submission and then attempted to steal the Championship, apparently.  Bret followed Piper to the entranceway and Piper reluctantly handed him the strap.  Then the show ended.  I wish I could've sat in on the booking meeting for this show.  God for-fucking-bid we just have a wrestling match on a wrestling PPV.  Fuckin' hell....

The kick that killed a career

Essentially Starrcade '99 was like the height of Russo Era-WWF except a thousand times worse.  Nothing made sense, in the most violently stupid way possible.  As I recall, the following night the WCW Title was held up and they gave away the Starrcade main event as a rematch on free TV, Bret won with the help of Hall & Nash, and those three along with Jeff Jarrett (him again) formed nWo 2000.  But thanks to an overly stiff kick by Goldberg at Starrcade, Bret suffered a severe concussion and had to forfeit the Title two weeks later.  And the new nWo disbanded.  Oh, and the US Champ Benoit quit the company at the end of January.  So Starrcade '99 had no consequences at all except in ending one of the greatest careers in the history of the business.  Jeezus this show was an ordeal to sit through.

Best Match: Chris Benoit vs. Jeff Jarrett
Worst Match:  Take your pick.  I'll go with the Revolution-Team Duggan debacle
What I'd Change: Slip some eyedrops into Vince Russo's coffee so he'd be on the bathroom floor all night in a fetal position and someone with an iota of competence could book this show.  Also, where was Eddy Guerrero?
Most Disappointing Match: Bret Hart vs. Goldberg
Most Pleasant Surprise: Ya got me...
Overall Rating: 1/10

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