Sunday, November 19, 2017

WCW/nWo Starrcade 1998

WWE recently announced the return of "Starrcade" as a live event in Greensboro... so why not celebrate the occasion by spending a week revisiting old Starrcade events from the WCW days... because I haven't seen any of the NWA era shows beyond brief snippets here and full-length matches in compilations there... though, for the sake of fairness, I might look at one of those along the way because that'll be fun to experience.

Unfortunately, today's foray into Starrcade revisitation is the show from 1998... the one that some would argue was the first bullet in what would eventually be the downfall of a once prominent wrestling organization... though others would argue that first bullet came the year prior, but we'll go with this one since the aftermath was slightly more damaging.

Also, this was my first-ever Starrcade... so it seems somewhat appropriate to start with this one.

WCW Cruiserweight champion Billy Kidman defeated Rey Mysterio and Juventud Guerrera to retain the title. Rey Rey still has his mask at this point, Kidman is in the cutoff jeans and wifebeater get-up, and Juvy is part of the Latino World Order... because Eddie Guerrero believed everyone needed a world order for some reason. When Kidman is pinning Juvy, Eddie rolls them over while the ref isn't looking, only for to roll them back and allow Kidman to retain. Then Eddie chastises his fellow Lucha folks and challenges Kidman to a match right then and there...

Kidman beats Eddie to retain the title... and I enjoyed this match far more than the three-way, even with the Rey Rey outside interference.

Norman Smiley defeated Prince Iaukea in a rather ho-hum match. This is Norman Smiley pre-Screaming Crybaby Hardcore Legend phase and pre-NXT trainer... and as far as Prince Iaukea... I probably spelled the guy's name wrong, which shows how much I remember or care about that fellow. Fortunately, my lacking of care is justified by the "BORING" chants from the audience... the audience from 1998... Oops.

Perry Saturn defeated Ernest "The Cat" Miller and probably deserved a lot better than what he got here. Cat has some semblance of personality, he has some nice dance skills, and he's a multi-time karate champion or something... but good lord, his wrestling matches were on another level entirely. Clearly, Normal Smiley and Prince Ikea have nothing on The Cat... or something.

Brian Adams & Scott Norton defeated Fit Finlay & Jerry Flynn in a forgettable tag match. Brian Adams is the former Crush, Scott Norton does the powerbombs, Jerry Flynn does lots of kicks and has no relation to Jerry Lynn other than their very similar names... and Finlay is Finlay. Not much to work with here, so let's move on.

WCW World Television champion Konnan defeated Chris Jericho to retain the title... meh.

Next up we have Ric Flair making his long-awaited return to the ring after a hiatus that involved lawsuits, countersuits, and other legal bullshit that has been well documented elsewhere and because we need something related to real life spats to get people interested, we have Ric Flair vs. Eric Bischoff and if Flair wins, he becomes WCW President for 30 days... because that's a title you can actually win rather than a position to be filled by hiring the right person, but whatever; as we all know...

Disclaimer: Vince Russo had nothing to do with this show. And the one time he did have something to do with Starrcade... well, wait and see.

So what happens here should have been a no-brainer: Flair makes his big return, beats the shit out of Bischoff, and finishes him with a figure-four to win the match. It's easy, it's straightforward, and it makes people happy to see this beloved wrestler come back in top form. I know this works because WWE did that kind of match in 2003, when Stone Cold Steve Austin came back from his walkout distress period and had a match with Bischoff that was completely and utterly one-sided and everyone was happy. That's an example of the kind of match people who bought the PPV should've had with Flair and Eric.

What happens instead is this; Flair beats up Eric for a bit, hits him with a figure four, then Curt Hennig gives Bischoff an international object to whack Flair, Bischoff scores the pinfall, and the crowd JUST FUCKING DIES. You know who else died? Teen me watching this at the time, because how do you build up to the ultimate comeback match of a much beloved figure like Ric Flair and then have him LOSE the comeback? It's not like I was a big Flair fan or anything, but even I knew this should've been Flair's big comeback... and it didn't happen.

And what makes this match even more worthless is that Flair and Bischoff would have a rematch the following night on Nitro, where Flair beat the shit out of Bischoff before making him submit to the Figure Four. So rather than put THIS match on a PPV people actually paid for and give them their monies worth, they slap the match on free TV for the sake of a meager ratings pop. I don't know if it worked, but it wouldn't have mattered since the following week would feature... well, I'm jumping ahead here, aren't I?

Diamond Dallas Page defeated the Giant in Giant's last WCW match of any significance before losing a match on Nitro to Kevin Nash and eventually jumping ship to WWF, being dubbed multiple monikers before settling with Big Show.

Kevin Nash defeated World champ Goldberg following a distraction from Bam Bam Bigelow and a cattle prod attack from Scott Hall, thus ending the 17x winning streak of Goldberg. (Fast forward ahead, aren't you glad WWE didn't do anything equally stupid with Asuka's 500-plus day long title reign and ungoing undefeated streak? I'd imagine they'd find a way to fuck the latter up sooner or later, if they haven't already... but I digress.)

I can't recall my initial reaction to the streak ending beyond mild surprise it would actually happen. I couldn't even begin to tell you if I had wanted that streak to end, but one thing was certain; Goldberg's streak coming to an end would've been a big deal... or at least, it could've been if they had a clue. Instead, it was brushed aside and a week later, we got the Fingerpoke of Doom.

I watch this match today for the first time in years - might've popped up on one of those compilation discs or something - and my mind shifts to the what ifs? What if the streak had continued? What if somebody else ended the streak? What if the streak ended in a way that didn't come off as a total farce? What if, what if, what if?

When you're more entertained by the what ifs than the end result, then there is something seriously wrong here.

I'm not going to break into an essay on why this was one of many fatal blows to WCW during its final years; there's a whole book on the subject that has you covered there. However, there's still the match itself and again, my mind drifts to the possibilities rather than the harsh reality. Perhaps it says something about the substance (or lack thereof) of the match where there's nothing to really hook me. Going into this, this had the feel of a Goldberg World title match; some big moves trade and Goldberg seemingly unphased at times.

Starrcade 98 is a mixed bag of good and bad, but the bad is so colossal and massive that it dwarves any goodwill built in. And even the good is only just good and not THAT good. 

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