WCW: Starrcade 1997

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WCW: Starrcade
December 28, 1997
Washington, DC
MCI Center

The current WCW champs are as follows:
WCW World Champion: Hollywood Hogan (8/9/1997)
WCW U.S. Champion: Curt Hennig (9/15/1997)
WCW World Tag Team Champions: Rick & Scott Steiner (10/13/1997)
WCW World Television Champion: Disco Inferno (12/8/1997)
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Eddie Guerrero (11/10/1997)

Your hosts are Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, and Dusty Rhodes.

Tony proclaims tonight as the “grandest night ever” for WCW. They discuss who the referee will be for the Hogan versus Sting main event. JJ Dillon has decided that he will put the names of WCW officials into a hat and will draw a name at random. Yes, folks. This all-important decision has now been left up to pure chance. WCW midcarders who aren’t awesome enough to be on this card are shown sitting together – face and heel alike – in the audience. Tony says they are all waiting to see Hogan versus Sting. Unfortunately, they will have to sit through the whole show to get there. Dusty cuts an impassioned (which is a word that is now a synonym for Dusty) promo about Hogan versus Sting and why their match is why wrestler put the tights on and train like they do.

No mention of Bobby Heenan’s absence yet. Not sure if they are quickly trying to get everyone to forget about him weaseling out to the nWo last week on Nitro or what. However, there is a mention of Kevin Nash’s absence. Our esteemed commentators only know that he is not here to face the Giant and they have no more information than that. Word on the street was that Nash received what he believed to be a mild heart attack when he heard the news that he would be jobbing to the Giant tonight. You got to hate when that happens.

  • WCW Cruiserweight Champion Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko

Now comfortable in his heel turn, Eddie cheapshots Dean to start and pays for it with a flurry of punches. Malenko counters Eddie’s run up the ropes hurracanrana with a sick powerbomb for two. Dean powers Eddie up out of that for a spinebuster. Eddie runs into a powerslam for another two count. Eddie lets his Latin temper flare up and dares Malenko to come at him, but then cowers out to the floor to stall. He finally picks his moment to clip Malenko’s knee and succeeds. Eddie doesn’t really work the knee that much – he just wants to ground Malenko. Dean blocks a suplex with a series of knees and hangs Eddie out to dry on the top rope. Now Malenko has Guerrero grounded with a headscissors until he rolls into the ropes. Dean whips Guerrero into the ropes and then hoists him in the air. Eddie begs off and kisses Malenko’s boot, so Malenko gives him a dropkick in the face. Malenko stomps Eddie’s hands out of a knucklelock. Eddie tries to come back with a Tornado DDT, but Malenko shrugs him off and launches Eddie into the corner for a back suplex. Cover gets two. Eddie lands on the apron out of a suplex and snaps Dean’s neck BACKWARDS on the top rope. Now Eddie goes to the leg and works it across the apron. To do further damage, he sticks Malenko’s leg between the steel steps and the ringpost and then dropkicks the steps into his leg! OUCH! On the way back in, Guerrero stares daggers at Ultimo Dragon in the audience. SPOILER ALERT! He just so happens to be the guy who takes the cruiserweight belt away from him the next night on Nitro. Powerbomb by Eddie gets two. Eddie tries a neat victory roll, but Dean counters with a wheelbarrow suplex for two. Malenko counters an armdrag of sorts with a nice backbreaker for another two-count. Looks like Guerrero wanted to block a Top-Rope Gutbuster into a Top-Rope Hurracanrana, but Dean shoves him off and neither move works. Another crazy hard powerbomb by Malenko sets up for the Texas Cloverleaf, but Eddie kicks Dean away. Guerrero misses a low dropkick to the knee and falls out to the floor. On the way in, Eddie shoulderblocks Malenko in the knee and then follows up with a missile dropkick to the knee. FROG SPLASH TO THE KNEE! It’s over. (14:58) It did feel like they were in low gear and not totally at the top of their game, but they still managed to put on a good match. ***¼

Scott Hall comes out for the survey. Hall says he is very interested in the outcome of the Hogan versus Sting match since he’ll be facing the winner at Superbrawl VIII. He explains Kevin Nash’s absence to the live crowd by telling them if they have a problem with him not being here, they can take it up with Big Kev “down there”. With all that being said, Hall calls for a referee to head down to declare the Giant the winner or whatever. And no, that’s not lazy writing from me. Hall really did describe it that way. Instead, the Giant comes out (hey look, no more cast!) and says he plans on being in wrestling for a LONG time (man of his word) and will meet Kevin Nash in the ring someday. He then proceeds to beat up Scott Hall and gives him a powerbomb to send a message to Nash. When you have friends like Kevin Nash who don’t bother to show up at the biggest show of the year and then lets you get beat up in his place, who needs enemies? AMIRITE?

  • The Steiner Brothers & Ray Traylor (w/Ted DiBiase) vs. Scott Norton, Vincent & Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth)

Konnan was originally scheduled to be the third member of the nWo B-Team here, but Savage makes it the nWo A-B Team tonight to bring this match up a notch. Scott and Savage begin to start. After Scott throws Savage around out of tie-ups, Scott gets caught on the wrong side of town for a bit. Norton is just the most useless and unsafe wrestler in this match botching a Samoan drop. In comes Savage, he telegraphs a backdrop and receives a couple big slams. The WCW guys clear the ring so that the Steiners can do their dog bit. Traylor tries to make the best of it, but he’s clearly not involved. Once the dust settles, Norton and Rick square off. He slams Norton around and tags Traylor. Big spinebuster to Vincent and Traylor tags in Scott. He delivers the Spinning Belly to Belly Suplex on Vincent. The WCW guys continue to abuse Vincent for a while. The DFG even bites on Vincent’s head a little bit. Vincent escapes over to Norton for a tag. I’m wondering if Savage isn’t hurt or something. Rick gets a hot tag and plows through everybody. As Traylor heads to the floor with Norton and Savage, Vincent gets the always nasty STEINER DDT for 1-2-NO! Norton breaks up the pin. He even receives a FRANKENSTEINER out of the corner, but Savage makes the save this time. Scott tries to give Savage the same treatment, but Norton walks over and puts Scott on his shoulders for an electric chair drop. That puts him in position for the MACHO ELBOW for the win. (11:05) Randy Savage is the man. He antagonizes WCW wrestlers standing in the front row in the aisleway just to stir the pot a little. Lots of bombs thrown around by the Steiners and that’s about it story-wise. *½

Gene Okerlund welcomes out JJ Dillon to find who will be the referee for the Hogan versus Sting main event. Thanks to JJ’s bright idea of picking a ref’s name out of a baseball cap, Nick Patrick’s name has been chosen. Gene wonders if that is such a good idea with that man’s history over the past year, but JJ sticks to his guns.

  • Bill Goldberg vs. Steve McMichael

Goldberg takes Mongo to the ring following a brawl in the aisleway. He finds a table and leans it up against the ringpost. Mongo controls with a side slam, but Goldberg comes back with a shoulder tackle for a pair of twos. Down on the floor, McMichael avoids having his head smashed on the table and beats Goldberg back into the ring. Mongo gets caught coming off the second rope. Goldberg grabs a leg roll into a kneebar. Once he releases the hold, he starts doing his infamous posing. Crowd could not care less about this match. Goldberg hits a Spear and sets up the table. He presses Mongo up from inside the ring to put him through the table, but Mongo grabs the top rope and falls back on Goldberg for a one-count. What ends up happening is, Goldberg punches McMichael off the apron down through the table. Big whoop. Ordinarily, Goldberg would just pin the man. Mongo fires back and tries the MONGO SPIKE (tombstone), but his back gives out. JACKHAMMER! Chalk up another victory. (6:00) This was six minutes too long. ½*

  • Raven’s Rules: Chris Benoit vs. Perry Saturn

Raven refuses to wrestle and makes Saturn put an end to this issue with Chris Benoit which should have ended a long time, says Raven. Even though you could see this one coming, we’ve already seen TWO instances of bait and switch on this show. Benoit gets on the mic and tells Raven that there’s nothing he’s more passionate about in life than inflicting PAIN. Yikes. Benoit starts off hot with the chops and stomps. Saturn fires back with a head and arm suplex, but Benoit stops him with a leg whip. Kidman tries to jump Benoit and gets knocked off the apron. To the floor they go, Saturn takes a hard whip into the guardrail, but Sick Boy springboards off the guardrail and wipes out Benoit. Kidman then SSPs off the apron on Benoit. Raven just stands over Benoit and does nothing. Back in, Saturn wears down Benoit with a chinlock. Double-jump moonsault on Benoit seems to hurt Saturn more than Benoit. That gets two. Saturn sits down on a chinlock to take another page out of Sabu’s playbook. Saturn cuts off a comeback and delivers a Juvi Driver. Benoit stops Saturn up top and they head back to the floor where Benoit applies the CRIPPLER CROSSFACE. He can’t win on the floor even in this type of match. The Flock come over and swarm Benoit. They hold him while Saturn tries an Asai Moonsault, but Benoit ducks and the Flock get wiped out. Back inside, Benoit hits the snap suplex and the Swandive Headbutt. The Flock attack once again and Benoit is able to stop them. Raven then enters the ring to go nose to nose with Benoit. As Benoit grabs Raven by his leather jacket, Hammer drills Benoit from behind so that Raven can drop him with the EVENFLOW DDT. Without Arn Anderson around, is there a better DDT in wrestling? With Benoit KO’ed, the RINGS OF SATURN is enough to secure the win. (10:49) How do you have a below average ten minute match with Benoit? I remember Saturn being a better worker than this. Maybe he doesn’t get good until later into 1998. Then again, maybe I’ve been wrong all this time. Maybe he’s really just a better tag wrestler. Anyways, the finish at least gives Raven and his Flock more legitimacy with so many recent losses under their belts. *½

  • Lex Luger vs. Buff Bagwell

Buff takes his sweet time getting into the ring. Luger is all kinds of dominant to start causing Bagwell to call for Vincent backup. Bagwell takes the low road and dumps Luger on the floor for some ringside violence, but it backfires and he eats the ringpost. In the ring, Vincent distracts Lex and Bagwell goes to the eyes to take control. Lots of choking going on here. He tries working the back and neck, but keeps things DULL. Luger mounts his comeback with an atomic drops and nails Vincent off the apron. It looks like he wants the Torture Rack, but keeps on working over Bagwell. Vincent gets tossed off the top onto Bagwell and then sent back out to the floor. The ref backs Luger off Bagwell allowing Buff to knock Luger into the ref. Lex hits the powerslam and applies the TORTURE RACK, but Randy Savage sprints down to the ring to break up the hold. MVP OF THE NIGHT. He wants to slam Lex, but Luger doesn’t go for that and slams Savage back. TORTURE RACK to Savage. Scott Norton appears and nails Lex with his fist wrapped in what appears to be Rick Steiner’s dog collar. Norton puts Buff on top of Lex and picks up the ref to wake him up enough to count the pinfall. (16:34) I think they may have overestimated Buff’s improvement as a heel worker in 1997. His character is most definitely defined now, but he needs help working this long of a match. Lex might not be the guy to get him to that next level because nowadays, he’s all selling and 3-4 moves comeback. *

  • WCW U.S. Heavyweight Champion Curt Hennig vs. Diamond Dallas Page

This was originally scheduled to be a Flair versus Hennig cage match, but got swapped in the last week or so. They claim Flair reinjured his ankle, but who really knows with all the politics that were going on at the time. It feels like this card is intentionally weak to make sure nothing overshadows the main event. DDP tries going for the Diamond Cutter early and Hennig slides out to safety. He’s too smart for that. Back in, Hennig goes to the eyes and puts the boots to DDP’s ribs. DDP puts a stop to that and takes down Hennig with a headlock. Hennig gets punched out to the floor and yanks DDP’s neck down on the top rope to take back control. He sends DDP into the steps and pounds on the bandaged lower back. Back inside, Hennig wears DDP down with a chinlock and cheats using the ropes. James Vandenberg is sitting next to Alex Wright in the crowd. Weird. DDP escapes with a jawbreaker and punches Hennig out to the floor for a pescado. In the ring, DDP pulls Hennig’s balls into the ringpost. Time for the DIAMOND CUTTER, but Hennig blocks by hooking the ropes. He falls on top of Page and covers him with his feet on the ropes for 1-2-NO! DDP tries to get a quick pinfall on Hennig, but Hennig stops all that with a clothesline. DDP blocks the HENNIGPLEX by twisting out of the move and driving Hennig down to the mat. Both men punch each other down, but then DDP lands the DIAMOND CUTTER in the middle of the ring out of nowhere for the win and his first of two U.S. title victories. (10:53) The strongest match since the opener, but that still isn’t saying a whole lot. DDP just did what he usually does. My question though is why is Hennig applying a chinlock when the taped ribs are right there? Is that some sort of weird psychology I’m just not getting? GO FOR THE RIBS, DUDE. Just feels kind of lazy otherwise. **

  • Special Referee: Bret Hart – Larry Zbyszko vs. Eric Bischoff (w/Scott Hall)

If Bischoff wins, the nWo get complete control of Monday Nitro. If Zbyszko wins, he gets to face Scott Hall at the next PPV. Bischoff wears his leather jacket out to the ring with no shirt. I’m reminded of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I imagine a similar conversation happening backstage. Just replace duster with leather jacket and LAUGH:

Mac: WHY ARE YOU WEARING MY DUSTER WITH NO SHIRT?
Dennis:
Because it’s the perfect combination, do I really have to explain this to you bro?
Mac:
YES! Explain it to me.
Dennis:
Are you kidding me? Black, leather duster. Tough, muscular dude. Underneath it, inside of it. Very sexual.

Anywho. Bret Hart – the biggest “get” for WCW since Razor Ramon and Diesel – has arrived. He’s been very coy and borderline aloof since appearing in WCW the past two weeks. Is he nWo? He didn’t show Bischoff any love when he agreed to be the special referee for this match. Is he really WCW? If you think he is WCW, it means his allegiance more than likely does lie with the nWo. Who knows!

By the way, what do you do with a guy like Bret Hart right now? With Sting and Hogan clearly the main event, you can’t logically get him involved there. He isn’t needed. If he really is a part of the nWo, who does he face from WCW? I’m not saying the special referee idea is the best idea for him, but honestly I don’t know what you do with a Bret Hart right now. He really doesn’t need to be in the nWo at all either. It doesn’t make any sense for the Bret Hart character. He left a company that was being overrun by a couple of douchebags who bucked tradition and tried to devalue everything that Bret Hart and his family stand for. So then Bret’s going to come over to WCW to join the nWo – a group that stands for the exact same things that Bret Hart was defending against and leaving behind in the WWF? If anything, Bret Hart should be the SAVIOR of WCW. He should be joining the good fight; the nWo is already too top heavy of an organization as it is.

Larry Z wears his signature gear for the match while Bischoff is oiled up armed with kickboxing gloves and wearing a black gi like he’s a member of Cobra Kai. Bischoff connects with a few shots on Zbyszko to start. Very tentative beginning to this fight. Larry Z doesn’t just pounce on Bischoff and eat him alive. Zbyszko gets in some open hand slaps and Bischoff retreats to the corner complaining about them. Bischoff avoids a shoot and kicks Zbyszko in the head. Larry Z sells the kick, but gets pissed off and charges Bischoff in the corner. He takes Bischoff down and rubs his face on the mat until Bret breaks it up. Bret forces Larry Z to break up a sleeperhold as well since he thinks it’s a choke. He does the same thing with a headscissors making our esteemed commentators wonder about Bret when he said he would call it down the middle. Zbyszko applies a standing figure-four and Bischoff finds the ropes. To the floor we go, Larry Z runs Bischoff into the ringpost and the steps. Back inside, Bischoff sneaks another head kick on Larry Z. Over in the corner, Zbyszko plays the rope-a-dope game and wears out Bischoff. Larry Z pounds the back and lands a suplex. He follows up with a swinging neckbreaker before putting Bischoff in the tree of woe. Scott Hall gets up on the apron and Zbyszko punches him down. While Bret tries to get Zbyszko out of the corner, Hall puts a steel plate inside Bischoff’s kickboxing shoes. I don’t know what they’re called. Bischoff kicks Larry Z in the head again and the plate goes flying across the ring. Pretty sure Bret saw all of that. Bischoff is so proud of himself to have knocked out Larry Z. He wants Bret to declare him the winner, but Bret PUNCHES ERIC BISCHOFF DOWN. Hall doesn’t stand idly by. He gets in the ring and goes after Bret only to receive some punches and the inverted atomic drop to set up the clothesline. SHARPSHOOTER to Hall! The crowd has just lost their minds. Hall taps out until he passes out. Meanwhile, Zbyszko is back up and choking out Bischoff with his own belt. When he lets off Bischoff, Bret lifts Zbyszko’s arm and declare him the winner via DQ, I assume. (11:12) Was Bret Hart being a special referee for this match the BEST idea? Probably not, but again I ask what do you do with him? Since the day after Survivor Series, the nWo had said that Bret Hart had joined their crew. With him being so coy, the special referee spot creates some doubt as to which side he will favor. If they had stuck with Bret being a positive force against the nWo for WCW, we may remember Bret’s run here much more fondly than we do now. Unfortunately, 1998 is just riddled with bad decisions by WCW. As far as “wrestler versus boss” matches go, Vince McMahon has the edge on Bischoff like you wouldn’t believe. ¾*

  • WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting

While Hogan’s entrance is normal, they replay the monotone-voiced child describing the purpose of Sting’s metamorphosis we heard back at the last Clash show over a very LAME 1980s-style light show routine. Sting doesn’t descend from the rafters, he doesn’t do anything spectacular. He slowly walks to the ring – wearing his duster and ball bat in hand – to stand face to face with Hogan. Once the bell starts, Sting stands still keeping his eyes on Hogan while he circles the ring and interacts with the fans. Hogan controls to start with his cheap heel offense, but Sting dropkicks him out to the floor where Hogan hogs more of the spotlight jawing with the fans. Back inside, Sting fights away a headlock and dropkicks Hogan out to the floor for more of the same. Back in, this time Hogan escapes a headlock and clotheslines Sting down. He delivers a suplex, but Sting NO-SELLS. Hogan thumbs him in the eye and tosses out Sting for some ringside violence. Hogan gets whipped into the guardrail, but avoids the Stinger Splash causing Sting to crash into the steel. Hogan atomic drops him onto the guardrail and then brings Sting back inside for an inverted atomic drop. Big Boot and the LEGDROP connects. Hogan covers for the three-count. WHAT. Bret Hart is magically there to prevent the timekeeper from ringing the bell. He mumbles on the house mic something about not letting this happen again and claims there was a fast count, but there was no such thing. Hogan did have the tights though. He does at least have that working in Sting’s favor, but there was no fast count. The hysterical thing is that the Nick Patrick finish was actually sped up on the Starrcade VHS release. Bret Hart decks ref Nick Patrick and throws Hogan back into the ring. Sting is now all fired up and ready to go now. Bret Hart takes over for the ref duties since he’s under the impression he’s referee for the night and not just one match. Sting delivers a pair of Stinger Splashes while fighting off Buff Bagwell and Scott Norton. As Hogan collapses to the mat, Sting applies the SCORPION DEATHLOCK and soon enough Hogan shakes his head to submit. (12:51) Afterwards, every conceivable WCW wrestler comes out to the ring to celebrate with the Franchise. TONIGHT IS OUR NIGHT, says Tony. Certainly the easiest main event match ever to book and they completely failed. Sting should have destroyed Hogan in 3-5 minutes tops. I do agree that Sting didn’t need to squash Hogan flatter than a pancake, but this didn’t need to be 80-90% Hogan. People wanted to see him finally get his butt kicked and the only thing they got that was even remotely satisfying was Sting leaving DC as the world champ. Will we ever know the truth behind this match? Probably not. I don’t think Sting would lie about this match almost twenty years later. However, I doubt he will put himself in a position where he will tell us what truly went on behind the scenes. To be honest, he probably doesn’t really know. The only person who knows for sure is Hulk Hogan and you probably can’t get that man to tell the truth about what he ate for breakfast – let alone backstage shenanigans from 1997. ¾*

Final Thoughts: Don’t quote me here, but this might be the worst WCW PPV ever. Great American Bash 1991, Starrcade 1994, Uncensored 1995, almost anything from the year 2000 – all bad PPVs, but these shows didn’t have year-long builds behind them. I understand that the whole allure of the show was Sting/Hogan. Booking that feud though could have been completed in five minutes at a Wendy’s. Sting and Hogan is not a complicated feud. There wasn’t a ton of twists and turns here. The whole reason it is remembered as fondly as it was and sold so well as it did was because Bischoff showed patience and allowed this feud to swelter until you came to the great blow-off. There wasn’t a ton of subtext to Sting and Hogan and there weren’t “shoot comments” being cast around like there was over in the WWF where they had much better main event feuds in 1997.

To be a little bit sympathetic, Terry Taylor did take over for Kevin Sullivan in the late summer as head booker, but you have guys not even showing up here for your biggest show of the year! You have several bait and switch changes. Randy Savage should not be in a throwaway six-man, Scott Hall should have subbed for Kevin Nash to face the Giant, Ric Flair should have been on the card or at least on the show in some capacity (especially if his injury isn’t legitimate), Buff Bagwell should not be given fifteen minutes with anybody, and Lex Luger should not be wrestling Buff Bagwell. It’s like they took everything that WCW had been building to that was great in 1997 and made it suck. Is it conceivable that Hogan ensured that the booking on this show would be so dull that his match wouldn’t appear quite so bad in comparison? I would believe it.

This was supposed to be the “grandest night ever” for WCW and they completely dropped the ball because of politics and nonsense that has nothing to do with giving the fans exactly what they paid to see. Thumbs down for Starrcade 1997. Just a terrible December for PPVs. While the WWF was going through a serious rough patch, WCW had no excuse for this show to turn out the way it did.

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