Classic Wrestling Review: Starrcade ’93

(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)

Starrcade

December 27, 1993

Independence Arena

Charlotte, North Carolina

There isn’t too much news to cover. I already discussed the changes to the Starrcade main event in my Battlebowl review (See that review for more details.), so I won’t dwell on that. However, there is one issue I want to discuss before I begin. WCW released Davey Boy Smith because of legal issues stemming from a bar fight. He was supposed to face Rick Rude for the International World Title on this PPV. WCW replaced him with the debuting Big Boss Man, who entered WCW under the name, The Boss. He made a surprise appearance on WCW Saturday Night to answer Rick Rude’s open challenge and beat him in a non-title match. He initially appeared in his same outfit from the WWF. Between the look and the name, WCW would get into legal trouble and Boss Man would have to change his gimmick within a few months. (We’ll get to that soon enough. I’m not sure why he didn’t simply revert to his Big Bubba Rogers name like he eventually does.)

The show opens with black and white photos from Ric Flair’s childhood and clips from various Flair promos. They show newspaper clippings about Flair’s plane crash and show footage of Flair’s many title wins. Then, the video transitions into an image of Vader screaming and clips of Vader destroying jobbers. (They include Vader breaking Joe Thurman’s back, which is kind of poor taste.) The footage then accelerates until the Starrcade logo appears on the screen.

Tony Schiavone welcomes everyone to Starrcade. He says it’s the 11th one and the 10th Anniversary. (Somewhere, Vince McMahon is confused by that statement.) Tony introduces his broadcast partner by saying he’s the man he still believes is Jesse the Body Ventura. (Was he expecting him not to be Jesse?) Then, they talk about the card and the emotions before showing footage of Vader and Harley Race arriving at the building. Vader emerges from the car in sweats and a Ribera jacket. Some fans chant his name, so Vader says he likes this kind of party. They also show Vader working out in the ring and doing a lot of grunting.

However, Ric Flair hasn’t arrived at the building yet, so they sent Mean Gene to his house. Gene waits patiently while Ric says goodbye to his wife, Beth, his sons, David and Reid, and his daughter, Ashley (Charlotte). The limo driver takes Ric’s bags while he hugs Reid and Ashley, so Gene tells him he will see him outside. Beth gives him one last hug and kiss and then Ric joins Gene in the limo. They talk about how worried Ric’s family is, but Flair says he knew what he was getting into when he signed the contract. Ric says he has to prove to himself that he’s the man he thinks he’s been his entire career.

Pretty Wonderful (w/ The Assassin) vs. 2 Cold Scorpio & Marcus Bagwell (w/ Teddy Long)

The team of Pretty Wonderful is Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff and Pretty Paul Roma. The most recent incarnation of the Horsemen came to a merciful end after Roma had been teasing a heel turn for weeks. He finally cemented his turn by attacking Erik Watts after a match. (Wouldn’t that be more of a face turn?) Now, he’s teaming with Orndorff, which is a much better fit for him. Before the match, Gary Juster of WCW Magazine presents the Manager of the Year award to Teddy Long. (Long only became Scorpio & Bagwell’s manager a few months ago. How is he the manager of the year? They say the fans voted for him, but I call foul.) Teddy accepts the award and thanks his team and the fans before telling everyone, “Peace!” Then, the two teams immediately begin brawling.

Nick Patrick manages to restore order and Roma and Bagwell begin the match. Bagwell keeps getting the advantage, so Roma complains about hair-pulling. Then, Scorpio & Bagwell take turns working over the arms of both Orndorff & Roma. Orndorff tries to fight back, but Scorpio answers with agile reversals and a head scissors. Scorp & Bagwell double team Roma and Scorpio splashes him right on his head before continuing to work the arm. Eventually, Pretty Wonderful take control with a ref distraction and illegal swapping before double teaming Bagwell. However, Roma ends up missing a flying splash and both men tag their partners. Scorpio cleans house with dropkicks and suplexes before hitting a flying axehandle. The match then becomes a brawl, with Bagwell and Roma fighting on the floor. The Assassin tries to interfere and Scorpio punches him, but the Assassin answers by loading up his mask and headbutting Scorpio. Orndorff then seizes the opportunity to cover for the win.

This was a solid but unremarkable match. The action was good and there was a decent story to the finish, but it wasn’t thrilling. Roma’s complaining to the ref was amusing at times, so some parts were entertaining. Also, I like that Tony and Jesse put over the fact that the winner could get a tag title shot. WCW was always good at trying to attach meaning to some of the filler matches. This established Pretty Wonderful as viable contenders, so it did its job.

Winners: Pretty Wonderful (11:45)

Then, they go back to Mean Gene and Flair in the limo. Gene says he doesn’t think the reality has set in for Flair. He tells him this could be the last time Flair will take a limo to the arena. Ric says he can’t second guess himself because he loves being part of this sport. Gene points out that if he wins, Flair will be World Champion for the 11th time, but if he loses, it will be the last time he heads to the ring. Ric says he doesn’t want to think about that and then he calls Gene one of his best friends. He also says he’s glad to have the opportunity to be with him. He tells Gene to be more upbeat, but Gene is worried. Flair tries to reassure him and then tells a story of a fan asking him who will say “Woo” if he’s gone. Flair said that no one but him will ever say “Woo.” (I like these segments. It makes this match feel more important. I also like the small detail that Flair is constantly gripping one of those stress balls in his hand throughout the segment. He’s not overly-animated like usual. It sells how nervous he is.)

The Shockmaster vs. Awesome Kong (w/ King Kong)

I’m not sure why this match is happening on a PPV. I’m also not sure who thought this would be any good. Both Kongs come to the ring and the commentators point out during this match that the Kong in the ring has “King” written on his tights. (This match is so unimportant that the Kongs couldn’t even remember who was supposed to be in it.) Both Kongs jump the Shockmaster to begin and double team him. Tony points out that the bell hasn’t rang so it’s not a DQ. The ref finally restores some order and makes one of the Kongs leave.

Kong splashes Shockmaster and then whips him around the ring, but Shockmaster surprises him with a boot and a clothesline. He then hits a cross body and a slam for the quick win.

I think what happened was referee, Randy Anderson, told the wrong Kong to leave the ring, so they rolled with it. This was pointless and bad, but they kept it short. They’re still trying to make Shockmaster look strong despite being a comedy character. I’m not sure what WCW is trying to do with him. This isn’t a match that belongs on PPV, especially not Starrcade. At least it was a quick victory. I guess you could say that Shockmaster—shocked the monkey. (Yeah, I can hear you groaning from here.)

Winner: Shockmaster (1:34)

Tony talks about Terry Taylor winning a dark match over the Equalizer. (How much money did Taylor pay Tony to mention that on air?) Then, Tony talks about the U.S. Title Match and the International Title Match. He mentions that the Bulldog isn’t there, but the Boss is. Jesse and Tony talk about the Boss getting a surprise victory over Rude on WCW Saturday Night, but Tony is interrupted by the announcement that Flair has arrived at the arena. Jesse jokes that it looks like Bill Clinton is arriving, but Jesse says Flair is more popular in this town than Clinton and has more money. Ric and Gene exit the limo and Gene tells some people to get Flair’s bags. He then shakes Ric’s hand and wishes him luck.

TV Title Match: Lord Steven Regal (c) (w/ Sir William) vs. Ricky the Dragon Steamboat

These two have been feuding off and on for a few months. It’s one of the few feuds with a long build. I like that they’re developing it over time. (There are a few things that WCW is doing right at this time.) The commentators even do a good job of talking about everything that has happened so far. During the entrances, Steamboat gets a great reaction since this is his hometown. He’s wearing his dragon outfit, so Jesse jokes that Ricky could run on water like the lizards on TV. (Tony has no idea what Jesse is referencing.) During Regal’s entrance, Tony says that it’s Boxing Day in the U.K. (He’s wrong. Boxing Day was the day before this PPV.) Jesse jokingly asks if that’s the day when neighbors go and box in their backyard. Tony surprisingly says he’s right and says it’s a day of sport where people settle their differences. (Is Tony being serious!? Did someone pull a rib on him and tell him that’s what it is? That’s not even remotely correct. It’s the day after Christmas where you give out Christmas boxes to the less fortunate and poor.)

Regal stalls for a bit to begin the match, but then they grapple into the ropes. Steamboat sells that he may have hurt his arm, so Regal attacks it. They trade arm holds, but Ricky arm drags and hip tosses Regal before they do a criss-cross sequence. Steamboat surprises him with a sunset flip, an enziguri, and a flying chop, all while Regal keeps trying to grab a heel hook. Steamboat then works Steven’s arm, but Regal fires back with European uppercuts. They end up fighting to the floor and William tries to interfere. He ends up luring Steamboat into a trap and Regal takes control. He starts cutting off Ricky’s comebacks to eat up time. He also tries bailing outside to stall when Steamboat shows signs of life. Ricky follows and gives Regal and William a double noggin’ knocker before attempting a flying cross body. He misses and then tries another pin, but the time expires.

There was some good technical wrestling and good storytelling, but the match never fully got out of first gear. It felt surprisingly fast for a 15-minute draw. It didn’t have time to ramp up to a good pace towards the end like these matches usually do. I like the story of Regal retaining his title by utilizing the time-limit. It’s a good heel tactic, but this match kind of fell flat. They’ve had better matches.

Winner: Time Limit Draw (15:14 I guess WCW is playing a bit loosely with the time.)

Tony then says he’s concerned about Ric Flair because Ric wasn’t as animated as he usually is. Jesse says that retirement isn’t that bad. Flair could lose and go out in style. Jesse then compares it to Michael Jordan retiring in the prime of his career. (That’s a more fitting analogy than he realizes because none of Flair’s retirements seem to stick either.)

Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne vs. Tex Slazenger & Shanghai Pierce

Cactus developed a friendship with Maxx as his supposed spiritual advisor, which led to them becoming a tag team. It’s a good pairing that produces some surprisingly fun matches. I think it’s a better fit for Maxx than singles bouts and it’s something different for Cactus to do now that his feud with Vader is essentially done. (They will still have occasional house show matches, including a rather infamous one in early ‘94, but I’ll get to that soon enough.) During the entrances, Tony talks about how Slazenger & Pierce have won maybe half their matches, but they’ve been hot as of late. (I somehow doubt that.) Then, Jack & Payne make their entrance and both seem pleasantly surprised by their good reaction. Jesse jokes that he’d like to see both Maxx and Cactus’ moms. (He must have realized how that sounded because he starts talking about a Hooters girl at ringside instead.)

Shanghai and Maxx start the match and trade shoulder blocks before Maxx slams him. Then, Tex and Cactus enter the match and trade punches until Jack rams Tex’s head into the corner and grunts. Jack & Maxx begin double teaming Tex and work on his arm to set up Payne’s finisher. Pierce tries to save his partner, but the double teaming continues, including a nasty double clothesline to Tex’s face. However, Maxx misses a corner charge and Pierce returns. They fight back and forth until Maxx hits a surprising sunset flip and tags Cactus. The match then becomes a brawl and Jack takes Pierce to the floor with a Cactus Clothesline. He also slingshots Tex over the ropes and Maxx back drops Jack onto him. Then, Maxx locks Pierce in the Payne Killer, but Tex breaks up the hold. Jack & Maxx have to fight off some double teaming until Pierce accidentally hits his partner. This opens the door for Cactus to hit a Double-Arm DDT for the win.

This is another match that didn’t feel PPV-worthy, but it did a good job of establishing Jack & Payne as a team. They looked impressive and hit a few cool moves. It wasn’t a bad match, but it was short and didn’t set the world on fire. It also didn’t have much of a build. However, the crowd seemed to like it, so it wasn’t a total waste. They like Cactus & Maxx and that’s a good sign for the team. They will have some fun matches on shows after this and I’m looking forward to covering them.

Winners: Cactus & Maxx (7:48)

Next, Mean Gene talks about the WCW Hotline and plugs an opportunity for fans to vote on whether or not all title matches should be 2 out of 3 Falls. (You can hear someone in the crowd yell, “No.”) Then, he introduces NASCAR driver, Kyle Petty. Gene brings up Kyle’s father retiring from NASCAR and compares it to Flair possibly retiring. Kyle says his father is just like Ric because racing is all he’s ever known. He then says when you put that all on the line—you put it all on the line. (Well said, Kyle.) He also says his dad hasn’t been the same since retiring, so he hopes Flair doesn’t lose. Gene then tells Kyle he has a long career ahead of him, just like Flair will if he wins. Kyle laughs (Send for the man!) and says he would hate to think that he would have to retire if he lost a race. Gene then plugs the hotline one more time and sends it back to ringside.

2 out of 3 Falls Match for the U.S. Title: Stunning Steve Austin (w/ Col. Parker) vs. Dustin Rhodes (c)

These are another two guys who have been feuding off and on for months. However, Austin did take some time to deal with Brian Pillman. He defeated Pillman in a match at Clash of the Champions. The commentators blame Colonel Parker for breaking up the Hollywood Blonds and they might have a point. Austin is now firmly part of Parker’s group of wrestlers known as the Stud Stable and this is only the beginning of a long feud that Dustin Rhodes will have with that group. Cappetta announces that this will be 2 out of 3 Falls with 30-second rest periods in between. (I guess Vince was watching this show when he decided to start doing those types of matches on RAW every week.) During the entrances, Jesse jokes that he thought Richard Petty’s son was Tom Petty, not Kyle. Tony then talks about The Natural Dustin Rhodes, so Jesse jokes that you can’t call the Hooters girl natural. (Tony cracks up laughing at the joke.)

The two men grapple and reverse through some mat holds before trading knockdowns. Austin keeps regrouping on the floor and eventually drags Dustin out with him, but Rhodes whips Steve over the rail. Austin offers a handshake in return, but he receives a punch instead. However, Austin answers with a cheap shot and uses Parker to continually distract Rhodes. They end up colliding with each other and Austin gets some near falls, but he misses a diving knee. Dustin answers with the Flip, Flop, & Fly and a lariat, but Parker distracts him. Rhodes responds by throwing Austin at Parker, but Austin goes over the ropes and the ref calls for a DQ. (First Fall: Austin) Dustin attacks despite the rest period and rams Austin into the post. He comes up bleeding and they continue the fight, but the lights stop working. (Jesse jokes that it’s a dark match, but the lights return fairly quickly.) Then, Dustin attacks Austin’s cut and goes for ten-punches in the corner, but Austin rolls him up with a handful of tights for the win. (Final Fall: Austin)

There was a bit too much stalling for my taste and the match never found a good rhythm. However, it was nice to see them break from the formula by having the match end in only two falls. There was some decent action in this, but it was kind of disappointing for these two. I am glad to see Austin get another singles title, but it might be time to move on from this feud. They don’t have quite the chemistry you would expect them to have.

Winner: Steve Austin (2-0, New Champion) (23:56)

Tony and Jesse recap the night and talk about the remaining matches. Tony talks about the Boss already having the momentum because he beat Rude in a non-title match. Jesse says that Rude is a World Champion and he prepares for his opponents very well. Then, Tony talks about how Rude beat Flair for that world title, so he’s a big time player.

International World Title Match: Ravishing Rick Rude (c) vs. The Boss

The Boss is wearing an all black outfit because I guess he thinks that makes it different enough to keep the WWF off his back. (He would be wrong.) He also has a theme with sirens at the start, so I almost expected Scott Steiner. Rude gets booed out of the building during his entrance, but Jesse takes a moment to make another reference to the Hooters girl liking Rude. Rick then grabs a mic and tells everyone to shut their mouth, open their eyes, and give some respect to the undisputed World Champion. (Jesse is proven wrong because the Hooters girls all boo Rude.) Then, Michael Buffer does the introductions and makes sure to point out Boss’s black uniform. (See, even WCW wants you to know the difference. On a side note, this is a feud we kind of got in the WWF in 1990, but Rude left the company before it went very far. They teased it for a short time.)

They yell at each other and grapple around the ring a couple of times, but Rude takes solace in the ropes. He ends up giving the Boss a cheap shot, but the Boss answers with a big back drop and a boot. He also whips Rude around the ring and slams him. Rude then bails, so the Boss follows and slams him again on the floor. Then, he hangs Rude on the ropes and attacks him with punches and palm strikes until Rude breaks free. Boss then locks Rude in a bear hug, but Rude bites him. They fight back and forth until Boss misses a running knee attack on the ropes and Rude hits a sunset flip for the win.

That finish came out of nowhere. I’m not sure why they had an abrupt ending. I don’t think it made either man look that strong. The match never had a chance to get any momentum. There was some decent action and they looked to be building to a good match, but we will never know. The poor timing killed what could have been an otherwise nice bout. The pacing of this match becomes even more questionable when you realize how long the next match is. (Show pacing was always an issue for WCW.)

Winner: Rick Rude (9:08)

Tony then plugs SuperBrawl IV and talks about how Starrcade started it all. Then, he stops to admire Jesse and tells him he’s a good-looking man. (This again? I’m really starting to wonder about Tony.) Jesse uncomfortably tells him not to say it too often.

Tag Team Title Match: Sting & Road Warrior Hawk vs. The Nasty Boys (c) (w/ Missy Hyatt)

Hawk has had a few new tag team partners since Animal went on the shelf with a back injury. He’s mostly been teaming with Kensuke Sasaki in Japan as the Hellraisers, but now he’s teaming with Sting in WCW. Tony and Jesse talk about how Sting & Hawk are an impressive pairing that might possibly be unbeatable. Then, Missy Hyatt leads the Nasties to the ring. She’s wearing a sheer pink dress and carrying a whip, so Tony calls her nasty. (I guess she can’t hold a candle to Ventura in Tony’s eyes.) Buffer does his introductions and calls Missy the nastiest first lady of wrestling. He also says the Nasty Boys are from somewhere in or around New York City. (Do the Nasties not know the exact location or are they simply homeless?)

Sting and Knobbs start the match after some stalling. They brawl and Sting sends the Nasties to the outside to regroup. However, Hawk press slams Sting onto them. Then, Sags enters the match and taunts Hawk into tagging. The Nasties try to double team him, but Hawk hits a double clothesline. Sags also tries luring Hawk into a trap, but Hawk fights back and he and Sting work over both Nasties. Unfortunately, Hawk hits the post on a missed corner charge and the Nasties use a ref distraction to hit him with a chair. Missy even slaps him and she hits pretty hard. Hawk eventually fights off some double teaming and Sting cleans house. The Nasties tease leaving, but Sting & Hawk bring them back to the ring. Eventually, Knobbs surprises Sting with a knee and a flying splash before the Nasties start double teaming again. They both put Sting in and abdominal stretch and Sags then hits a pumphandle slam, but he legitimately throws out his back. (You can tell he’s in bad shape the rest of the match.) Knobbs has to carry the rest of the match. Sags occasionally comes in for a move or two, but he’s hurting. Sting makes a comeback and hits a Stinger Splash before attempting a Scorpion Deathlock. However, Missy gets involved again and Sting kisses her. Sting & Hawk then hit a Doomsday Device on Knobbs, but Missy interferes again and Nick Patrick calls for the bell.

This match should not have gone this long. I don’t understand the pacing of this show. If they had split the time between the last two matches better, it might have made a positive difference. The Nasties controlled too much of this match and Knobbs offense was quite sloppy. (He nearly hurt Sting a couple of times.) It also didn’t help that Sags was legitimately injured in the match. There was some decent action and storytelling, but they needed to chop about 10 minutes off it. (On a side note, Missy Hyatt had a wardrobe malfunction during this match. It was edited off the network. People in the WCW office would blow up a picture of the incident and put it on the office wall, which led to Missy suing WCW and leaving the company in early ‘94.)

Winners: Sting & Hawk (by DQ) (29:11)

Next, Mean Gene makes a backhanded compliment about Ventura’s suit and then plugs the hotline again. (He’s gotta make that money!) He also talks about the thrill of being part of his first Starrcade before sending it back to Tony and Jesse.

Career vs. Title Match for the WCW Title: Ric Flair vs. Big Van Vader (c) (w/ Harley Race)

Vader grunts and poses on his way to the ring and then tells Ventura to get comfortable because he’s going to hurt Flair slowly. Then, Flair makes his entrance and the reaction is so loud that you can barely hear Ventura speak. Jesse points out that Ric doesn’t have Fifi with him. (His wife is backstage. He’s not going to parade his mistress around in front of her. Then again, I wouldn’t put it past him.) Buffer does his introductions and calls Vader a former three-time WCW Title holder. (I’m pretty sure he’s not former yet. Way to spoil the ending, Buffer!) He then hits his signature line while Vader jaws with Ventura again.

Vader shows off his power early by shoving Flair around, so Ric tries to outsmart him. However, Vader keeps the advantage. He nails Flair with headbutts, punches, slaps, and clotheslines while taunting him. Ric answers with chops, but they’re ineffective. They end up fighting to the floor and Vader press slams Ric onto the rail, but Vader crashes when he misses a splash. Ric fires back with chops and sends Vader into the post, but Harley Race attacks him. Then, Vader suplexes Flair into the ring a couple of times and sends Ric into the corner for the Flair Flip. The attack continues until Vader misses a diving splash and Flair hits a few flying axehandles. (Don’t let anyone tell you Flair never hit his top rope move. He hit quite a few in ‘93. He apparently only hits it when he’s a babyface.) Unfortunately, Vader cuts off his comeback and we see that Ric is bleeding from the mouth. Vader continues the assault and Race interferes again. Ric tries to fight back, but Vader maintains control even when he misses some moves. Finally, Flair starts attacking the leg and even uses a chair while the ref is distracted. This continues until Vader surprises Ric with a boot, but Vader misses a moonsault and hurts himself. Flair covers and Harley tries to interfere, but he accidentally hits Vader! Then, the ref sends Race out of the ring and Flair hits some chops, only for Vader to answer with an avalanche attack. The problem is, Vader’s knee nearly buckles. Flair pounces on the opening with a chop block and rolls up Vader for the win.

This was a great match. It had good intensity and storytelling. Vader looked like a monster and Flair played the babyface in peril perfectly. This is a textbook example of how you book a smaller guy against a larger one. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand. The only gripe I have is the roll-up at the end was a little sloppy, but it doesn’t detract from the match. This was a great main event for an otherwise lackluster show.

Winner: Ric Flair (New Champion) (21:18)

Fireworks explode as Flair celebrates with his belt and he heads backstage. Tony and Jesse recap the night and say they have Gene and Eric waiting backstage for a celebration. The fans continue cheering and chanting while they cut backstage to an angry Vader throwing a fit. He punches the lockers and tips them over while yelling he wants his title. Eric Bischoff tries to get a word, but he leaves in fear. Meanwhile, Flair comes back out for an encore and poses for the crowd.

Mean Gene is backstage with Flair’s entire family, including his oldest daughter, Megan. (Conrad Thompson’s future wife.) They put up plastic on the walls in case of a champagne celebration, but that never happens. Flair then joins them and Gene points out his bloody lip. Flair sings Vader’s praises and talks about having his family there. He becomes emotional, so he takes a moment to regain his composure. Gene asks Beth for her thoughts and she says she’s delighted. Then, Sting joins the celebration and congratulates Ric. He says he’s had his battles with Flair and calls Ric amazing. Steamboat also shakes his hand says history has been made. He says it’s a great honor to be in Flair’s presence. Gene then asks Flair for his thoughts, so Ric says he’s been very fortunate. Then, they start playing the Starrcade theme, so Gene wraps it up and says goodnight.

The Good:

– Flair/Vader was awesome.

– The Flair/Gene segments were good.

– I like the team of Cactus/Maxx.

The Bad:

– The rest of the card was underwhelming.

– Some of the matches didn’t belong on PPV.

– The Tag Title Match went too long.

– The show was paced poorly.

Performer of the Night:

I have to give it to Flair. The match was great and he did a good job of selling his nervousness in the segments with Gene.

Final Thoughts:

This was a one-match show. That match was outstanding, but it wasn’t enough to save the rest of the PPV. It felt like WCW put all of their effort into the main event and not enough into the rest of the card. This is supposed to be their biggest show of the year, so there should be more than one match that feels important. Thankfully, the early parts of ‘94 are surprisingly good, but then things take a turn for the worse.

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My next review will be Royal Rumble ‘94. Look for my review next Saturday!

 

Written by Paul Matthews

I am chronologically reviewing all the pre-network era WWF/WCW/ECW PPVs from Starrcade '83 to WrestleMania 30. Join me on this journey every Saturday!
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