Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WCW Starrcade 1996

I debated between watching this show and the 97 version for today's slot and after a bit of personal reflection, I opted to go with this one and save the 97 show for next month. This had "less" stuff going on compared to that other one and I wanted to watch a Starrcade that wasn't complete shit for once. And while this might not be great, it was at least good enough... but that's jumping ahead here.

J-Crown champion Ultimo Dragon defeated WCW Cruiserweight champion Dean Malenko in a great, fast-paced opening contest to win the title and add to his belt collection that is laughingly called a "J-Crown." Seriously, the guy carries around eight titles (now nine with the Cruiserweight title) and it's called a crown. Holy balls.

But in all seriousness, this was a fun little match. Dragon was a spectacle in the way he moves around and I almost forgot how good and quick moving Malenko used to be. All in all, good way to open a show, which is nice.

Akira Hokuto (Japanese Joshi with bad make-up... sorry, that' just how I see it, folks) defeated Madusa with help from Sonny Onoo in a rather... underwhelming match. Don't know much about Hokuto, but I hear she was good back then. Maybe this was an off day because they're in a WCW match or something, I don't know. For some reason, I couldn't get into this one.

Jushin "Thunder" Liger defeated Rey Mysterio Jr. in another fast-paced and enjoyable little match with two small guys moving fast and flying high. Watching this match is more like watching a spectacle of athletics than a genuine fight, but I can't say I didn't enjoy this one. This was fun to watch, so that's a thumbs up in my book.

The only sour thing was the lack of crowd enthusiasm... which I can't blame if I had to sit through three matches where the Japanese folks got one over the local American talent... even though Rey is Mexican, but whatever...

Jeff Jarrett defeated Chris Benoit in a no-disqualification match that featured Arn Anderson DDT'ing Jarrett while Kevin Sullivan cracked Benoit with a wooden chair. This whole match came about because Jarrett is paired up with Debra, who's married to Mongo, who's a horseman just like Benoit, who's also paired up with Woman, who is Sullivan's ex-wife and... and... maybe I should just stop before it gets too depressing... and depressing is all I got out of this match, so...

WCW World Tag-Team Champions The Outsiders (Hall and Nash) defeated The Faces Of Fear (The Barbarian and Meng, a.k.a. Haku) to retain the titles. Setting aside that this is over 20 years after the fact, I doubt there was anybody who thought the Outsiders were threatened by Barbarian and Meng in any way, shape, or form. Not to mention, the Outsiders is part of the nWo; a heel faction. The Faces of Fear were part of the Dungeon of Doom; a heel faction. Who do you root for? The cool bad guys or the lame bad guys despite the legit toughness of both guys?

Eddie Guerrero defeated Diamond Dallas Page in the U.S. Title Tournament finals with some unwanted help from the Outsiders to win the vacant title. The previous champion, Ric Flair, had a shoulder injury, which forced him to surrender the title. Despite the nWo assist, Eddie would actually never join the nWo and would even partake in a title defense against Syxx (a.k.a. X-Pac) at the only nWo Souled Out PPV event the following month. Tainted finish aside, this was a pretty good back and forth match between two talented wrestlers. It also happens to be the last good match to take place on this card.

Lex Luger defeated the Giant (a.k.a. Big Show) in what is perceived to be the first major loss taken by the nWo. The Giant would bolt from the group soon afterwards, setting up the main event angle for the upcoming nWo Souled Out PPV event... that he would lose. Anyway, how do I put this kindly? Ah yes; this was a thing that happened.

And in the main event - a match that featured run-in galores, to say nothing of two senior citizens long past their prime - Rowdy Roddy Piper defeated WCW World champion Hollywood Hulk Hogan via submission with a sleeper (the arm dropped three times, earning Piper the win) in a non-title match. Despite this being a non-title match, the announcers treat this win as a big deal, when in reality, it's actually not that big of a deal. But hey, Hogan got beat. I'm sure that means something, somewhere.

This match - much like the Jerry Lawler vs. Roddy Piper match at KOTR 1994 - was more sad to watch than it was mockable. Never mind the hooplah over a non-title match that felt like a big time title match (and points goes to Piper for producing a contract that DIDN'T give him a title shot, thus looking like a tool when he won) - this was two old guys long past their prime moving at about half the speed of the youngsters early on. Age shouldn't be a determining factor - it ultimately depends on the individual - though, if this were a real sport, none of the barely mobile old-timers would be allowed at ringside, let alone allowed to compete in wrestling matches.

Starrcade 1996 represents the standard formula that would define WCW Pay-Per-Views for the rest of its hot period; some fast-paced and excited wrestling action in the undercard topped by a main event featuring big stars who can't quite pull it off the same way they could before. And while Hogan and Piper would eventually main-event a couple more PPVs, to say that any of them were within the realm of "good" would be a big fat lie. Oh well, at least the undercard showed promise and gave us a glimpse of performers who would eventually main event pay-per-views in the next decade... just not for WCW.

For what it's worth, it's not a great show by any means, but there's enough good stuff in the undercard and even some perversed intrigue in the main event that makes it a fairly good show that would set the standard for WCW shows to come. Unfortunately, this would ultimately be the last GOOD Starrcade PPV, as starting with next year's edition, the quality starts dipping further.

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