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Starrcade Countdown: 1997

The Netcop Retro Rant for Starrcade 1997

- Live from Washington, DC

- Your hosts are the usual Idiots.

- Yes, it's a WCW blitz as I desperately try to catch up on my tape orders before the Christmas mailing rush. (2011 Scott sez:  I actually used to make a pretty good supplemental income from tape trading, and I was one of the lower-level guys in the scene.  Netcop Busts did well for me.  Of course now everything is on YouTube and torrents so it’s fairly trivial to find the old footage, but it was fun while it lasted.)  In this case, in a neat bit of synchronicity, I did a Rant on Fall Brawl 96 earlier tonight, which was Sting's exit from WCW for more than a year. And now here's a rant on Starrcade 1997, which was Sting's return. Thank Nate Pardue for this request...

- We start with the idiocy right away as the Idiots discuss who the referee for the main event will be, as though anyone watching, you know, cares. And by the way, Kevin Nash isn't here for the co-main event against the Giant. D'oh! (2011 Scott sez:  You know, I don’t think we ever found out for sure what his final story was.  At the time he was claiming heart problems that turned out to be acid reflux, and I know later he changed it to something else.  Pretty sure it was just a case of jobberitis.  Can you imagine now someone throwing a shit fit because they didn’t want to do a job?  First of all, who would even give a crap about wins and losses anymore?  Second, Vince would fire anyone short of Cena, Undertaker or HHH who pulled that shit and probably tie them up in court for years afterwards.) 

- Opening match, Cruiserweight title: Eddy Guerrero v. Dean Malenko.

Wow, what happened to Eddy. He was drawing mega-heat here, much moreso than anything else he's managed to draw since against Dean or with the LWO. (2011 Scott sez:  Boy, the Latino World Order.  That was really, uh, something.)  This is one big-ass crowd, it should be noted. Eddy trashtalks Dean while hiding behind the referee until Dean attacks. Big pop for Dean as he beats on Eddy. To tell the truth, I don't even remember what the storyline here was, if there was one. The announcers are too busy talking about the rest of the card to bother to relate it. It just goes to show the WCW mindset when 40 or 50 WCW wrestlers are comped front row seats while the fans are relegated behind them. (2011 Scott sez:  To be fair, the fans were probably comped too.  They were giving away a ton of tickets at that point.)  Disco Inferno was stuck near the entranceway, it should be noted. There's too much stalling and resting going on here. This should have been a huge highspot-fest to fire the crowd into a frenzy for the rest of the card. Cute bit as Eddy kisses Dean's foot to try to buy time. Eddy gains control and works over the leg. Innovative spot: Eddy has Malenko laying on the apron with his leg hanging down, so he stands on the apron, slingshots into the ring and hits Malenko, then slingshots back out and hits his leg on the way down. We're still talking about Sting and Hogan. You know, guys, presumably the viewer has already BOUGHT THE SHOW so there's not much need to keep hyping it. Meanwhile, Dean is making a comeback and they fight over something on the top rope but the spot ends up pretty messed up. Eddy keeps after the leg, dropkicking the knee and then frog-splashing the knee...for the pin? That was pretty out-of-nowhere and quite the downer to start. Match was okay. **3/4 Guerrero would get squashed by Ultimo Dragon the next night, rendering the match pointless. (2011 Scott sez:  Still don’t know what happened here that made this match such a disappointment.  You’d think Eddie Guerrero v. Dean Malenko opening STARRCADE would be a slam dunk, but they just didn’t deliver.  Maybe Eddie put too much pressure on himself, like when he opened Wrestlemania against Rey?) 

- Hey yo, Scott "Alka" Hall is out for a gab session in place of the Giant-Nash match that was promised for weeks. (2011 Scott sez:  Remember when PPVs used to get more than two weeks of hype at a time?) Survey time, you know the drill. You know, the Missing Nash mystery was never explained to anyone's satisfaction, especially considering the importance of this show and the emphasis put on the match by WCW's hype machine. You'd think that a match between Hall and Giant would be a suitable replacement, or, you know, ANY MATCH, but instead Giant comes out to yak in response to Hall's yakking. But Hall won't shut up so Giant beats the crap out of him and walks off.

- Scott Norton, Vincent & Gonnad v. The Steiner Brothers & Ray Traylor.

Gonnad (2011 Fuad sez:  HO HO, KONNAN IS NOT VERY GOOD WRESTLER AT THAT POINT, SO HE IS GONNAD INSTEAD!) isn't there tonight either (something in the airline food, I guess) so Norton offers up a suitable replacement...Randy Savage. This would be the source of the famous "Will Job For Food" sign written for Traylor. This was a pretty pointless choice of match. (2011 Scott sez:  Considering the PPV payoff for being on this show, I don’t begrudge these guys a giant paycheque for working a meaningless six-man.  Well, Randy Savage hardly needed the money, but this was probably the biggest payoff that Mike Jones was ever gonna see.)  Everyone in this thing is dressed in black and white. Stalling a-go-go. Finally Scott gets decked by Norton and jumps right into Big Poppa Pump in Peril. Vincent's purpose in life seems to be standing on the ring apron and making hand signals. (2011 Scott sez:  He should have set up an autograph table at ringside while he was out there doing nothing.)  Big brawl erupts and the faces clear the ring so we start over with Rick against Norton. Vincent comes in against Traylor and gets whupped. Where's Bobby Heenan to make off-color remarks about prison guards and black men when you need him? Vincent is playing the Heel in Peril as the Steiners slaughter him for quite a while before he's able to tag Norton back in. Why does the nWo keep tagging Vincent back in? Rick Steiner cleans house and they go for the top rope DDT but Norton breaks up the pin. Vincent takes a frankensteiner off the top and then Savage does his five seconds of wrestling by breaking it up and hitting the big elbow for the pin on Steiner. That's TWO wins for the heels on the big blowoff show, it should be noted. 1/4*

- Mean Gene brings out JJ Dillon. There is too much talking on this show. They make a big deal out of who the referee is to make sure there's no controversy, even though the only reason anyone ever makes a big deal about the referee is when there will be controversy. So now we get to hear about the referee for the rest of the night.

- Bill Goldberg v. Steve MacMichael.

No pyro entrance for Goldberg, no pop, no trademark mannerisms. And he's a heel. One year later and he's main-eventing. Life is weird. We get a brawl in the aisle to start and Goldberg just picks him up and tosses him into the ring. This is a 30 second squash if it's held today. Goldberg actually sells some stuff and then tosses Mongo out and they "brawl" on the outside. Back in and Goldberg pounds on Mongo, verbalizing a lot. Ugly spear (improperly sold by Mongo) gets no reaction. Goldberg goes out and sets up a table but Mongo blocks the slam onto it. So Mongo leaves the ring and makes sure to get back up onto the apron right beside where the table is set up, and Goldberg knocks him off through the table. Geez, how fake can you get? Jackhammer and we're done, thankfully. DUD Tony notes that this will go down as his biggest victory. Hee hee. The heels are now 3 for 3 on the biggest blowoff show of the year.

- It should be noted that WCW did a total reset of Goldberg's history after Souled Out, basically starting from scratch and beginning the current era. So the above match never happened, in terms of WCW history.

- Raven v. Chris Benoit.

Raven comes out first and says that he's decided not to wrestle tonight, so Saturn will take out Benoit instead.  (2011 Scott sez:  Raven had appendicitis and WCW knew about it and advertised him for this show regardless.  Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen!) 

- Saturn v. Chris Benoit.

Benoit shows why he never gets mic time by rambling for no reason in particular before the match, allowing Saturn to attack him. Benoit beats the crap out of Saturn in retaliation, and a slugfest erupts. The Flock comes out of the crowd and takes out Benoit, including a shooting star press off the apron by Kidman. Saturn is still (slowly) recovering from a knee injury at this point, and is still (slowly) learning to wrestle singles. A moonsault hits Benoit's knees but still gets a two-count. Saturn is going at a very slow pace. Benoit seems to be trying to speed up the tempo by sheer force of willpower, but no go. Lots of resting and cheap heel tactics from Saturn, who is bearing no resemblance to the well-rounded wrestler he eventually became. (2011 Scott sez:  Saturn became well-rounded?  Was that before or after he started talking to the mop?  And keep in mind this was original written before the Radicalz even jumped ship.)  Benoit takes a Michinoku driver and then begins the comeback, knocking Saturn out of the ring and applying the Crippler crossface on the floor. The Flock swarm on him and try to hold him for a Saturn quebrada, but he moves. Back in the ring and Benoit suplexes Saturn and goes for the swandive, hitting it 3/4 of the way across the ring, and the FLOCK IS IN AGAIN! Dammit, this booking ruins any chance of a good match. Raven with the DDT and Saturn applies the World's Shittiest Submission Move for the win. MAJOR bad heat from the crowd over this one. Not "boo, you're a bad person" heat, but "this match was a waste of our good money" heat. *1/2 The heels are now 4 for 4 on the biggest blowoff show of the year. (2011 Scott sez:  I’m pretty sure this match was much better than I’m giving it credit for here and I was just grumpy about the annoying booking and Benoit doing a totally unneeded job at that point.  The match was probably in the ***-***1/2 range in actuality.) 

- Buff Bagwell v. Lex Luger.

This would be the usual from Flexy Lexy for the first little bit, then Buff fetches Vincent from the back for moral support. Doesn't help much as they go to the outside and get beat on by Luger. Back in the ring and Vincent's interference allows Buff to take control with the usual kicking and choking. Yawn. Crowd is dead, and proceeds to go into duelling chants that I can't decipher to amuse themselves. Lots of sweeping overhead camera shots to distract from the resting. This thing is just going on and on and on and it's all Bagwell chinlocks. Luger makes a comeback but takes a sleeper. C'mon guys, I've been on cold medication for a week now and I'm too sedated already to be able to sit through this garbage without falling asleep. Finally Luger makes the superman comeback with the CLOTHESLINES OF DEATH! Then the ATOMIC DROPS OF DEATH! Must be a special night - he usually only does one of those sequences. Vincent goes to the top and Luger fires him off and gets him in position to interfere later. Weak-ass ref bump and of course now Luger gets the TORTURE RACK OF DOOM! Cue Randy Savage, who gets beat on too, then finally Scott Norton runs in with Rick Steiner's dog collar and KO's Luger, giving Bagwell the win. Gee, and it only took three guys to do it. DUD Liz bounces down to help Savage, which ALMOST tempts me to add 1/2* to the rating. The point of this match was supposed to be to elevate Buff, but it was negated the next night when Luger destroyed him on Nitro in the rematch. *sigh* (2011 Scott sez:  As noted on the blog before, they eventually backed into a Bagwell babyface turn via his neck injury that almost elevated him to a main event guy AGAIN before they fucked it up by turning him heel again right away.)  The heels are now 5 for 5 in the biggest blowoff show of the year.

- US title match: Curt Hennig v. DDP.

Hennig is noticeably pudgy here. Good wrestling sequence to start as they fight over a headlock. Hennig goes to work on the ribcage, which has been taped forever. Very very boring segment as Hennig kicks and stomps the ribs. The crowd gets bored and goes back to dueling chants. DDP escapes a devastating chinlock and a slugfest erupts. DDP pulls out a pescado to elevate this past DUD. Hennig gets posted (as per his contract -- one ballshot to the post per match) but it doesn't lead to anything. They exchange some weak pinning combos and Hennig goes for the Perfectplex but DDP escapes with something that looks like an attempt at an armbar but doesn't really come out that well. DDP comes off the ropes, hits the Diamond Cutter out of nowhere, and wins the US title to FINALLY wake up the crowd. Match sucked shit, though. (2011 Scott sez:  I can see how this would be a major style clash, actually.  DDP is of course a meticulous pre-planner and Hennig is someone who seems like he would prefer to go with the flow, so it probably didn’t work out too well.)  1/2* This is, it should be noted, the first win for a babyface on this show.

- Larry Zbyszko v. Eric Bischoff.

And thus begins the WCW career of Bret Hart. If Bischoff wins, the nWo gets Nitro. Scott Hall is the second. If Zbyszko wins, he gets a match with Hall at Souled Out. It's pretty disgusting that Bischoff gave himself the lead-in to the World title match. Either Bischoff was dying his hair back then, or he's gone seriously grey in the past year. (2011 Scott sez:  He later admitted that he was dying his hair since the 80s.)  Stalling to start, and Larry is the master. It's like Severn v. Shamrock all over again. Seriously, that match was both guys circling each other for 30 minutes, too. Bischoff bails for some advice from Hall, who thinks the crane stance is worth a try. Finally Eric gets a kick in and Larry goes down, then pops up and takes him down. Special referee Bret Hart keeps breaking Larry's holds, teasing a heel turn. It's hold, break, hold, break, hold, break. Bischoff bails and Larry sends him shoulderfirst to the post. Uncle Eric does take a nice bump to the steps. Tony comes to the conclusion that Bret is nWo, which of course indicates that he's not. Bret blocks a Larry shot, and Bischoff gets another kick in, then punches away. This "match" is so sad. Zbyszko just waits it out and Bischoff punches himself out. Larry goes back on the offense and ties Bischoff to the Tree of Woe, which allows Hall to load up the goofy sparring boot with a foreign object. Then, in the defining moment of this farce, it goes flying into the crowd when Bischoff kicks Zbyszko and no one notices. Sure. Then, for no real reason, Bret decks Bischoff and Hall and puts Hall in the Sharpshooter, drawing the biggest pop of the night. No decision rendered, although Bret raises Larry's hand for some reason. What an absolute farce. I hope everyone looking forward to seeing Flair destroy Bischoff this year is reading and realizing that IT WON'T HAPPEN. (2011 Scott sez:  I was correct.  At least Flair and Bischoff managed to mend fences and work together in TNA years later.)  We'll call this -**

- WCW World title match: Hollywood Hogan v. Sting.

After a year of increasingly dramatic entrances, Sting simply walks out. Okay, here's how the match *should* have gone: Sting beats the crap out of Hogan for three minutes, stinger splash, scorpion deathlock for the title. Period. Sting should have not sold a single move. But instead, what we get is the complete opposite. Hogan dominates right away, beating on Sting while jawing with the fans. Sting dropkicks Hogan out of the ring and....stands there. No plancha, no following him. Again, Hogan gets dropkicked out of the ring and Sting just stands there, allowing Hogan the chance to stall and further kill the already dead crowd. Hogan graciously allows Sting a side headlock and some rights before taking over again. Hogan beats on Sting outside, nailing him with the belt and crotching him on the railing. This is the guy who's been running like a coward for more than a year, it should be noted. Back in the ring, and it's the big boot and legdrop...for the pin! Ah yes, the infamous "fast count" which was actually slow. (2011 Scott sez:  Hulk Hogan actually BRIBED the referee in real life to fix the count for him.  This was a real thing.  No wonder Bret didn’t trust referees.)  Bret Hart prevents the bell and tosses Hogan back in, and Sting hits two stinger splashes while the nWo attacks. They get cleared out and Sting slaps on the Scorpion Deathlock for the submission in just about the more underwhelming World title match I've ever seen. The ring fills up with wrestlers to celebrate the meaningless victory, which was overturned a week later en route to Sting being totally buried and essentially ending his career as a main eventer. DUD for the match and minus 1 for the mega-screwjob in a match that needed a clean win, for a total of -*

The Bottom Line:

Astonishly enough, this show actually got positive reviews from some people at the time. Looking back now, it was HORRIBLE. This was a show that they were building to for 18 months, and only two of the babyfaces went over in a situation where EVERYONE is supposed to go over. I had the peak match at **3/4 and the last few matches were just mind-bogglingly bad. This show, overall, was an abject lesson in how NOT to do a major PPV, from the non-sensical booking to the boring matches to fiascos of the final two matches and just about anything else you can think of connected with this show. I gave it a bad enough review the first time I saw it, but looking back on what happened to the major players after this show, I can actually give it a WORSE rating now then I did then! How could anyone possibly screw up an easy thumbs up this badly? Well, it's WCW. Go fig.

Strong recommendation to avoid.