Thursday, December 28, 2017

WCW Starrcade 1997

Last month, I did a week's worth of wrestling musings covering seven different Starrcade events. One of the events I contemplated looking at for this period was Starrcade 1997, a somewhat important WCW event in that it was the culmination of a year-long build up to the eventual confrontation between Hollywood Hulk Hogan and the Man Called Sting. I have never watched this show. Never got the opportunity to do so.

So here we are... twenty years after the fact, I finally get around to watching this in all its glory... and I instantly regret it.

Cruiserweight champion Eddie Guerrero defeated Dean Malenko to retain the title in a pretty awesome match. It's always nice to go back and watch these older PPVs to not only enjoy some of Eddie's best work in his early days, but also as a general reminder of how much of a great, intense wrestler Malenko was back in his prime years. Honestly, if you haven't seen much of Dean Malenko, you should check out the older WCW PPVs or find some matches on Youtube if you can. Wasn't much in terms of flash, but he had that aura of a fierce competitor despite his somewhat smaller stature. That's not something you can say about a good majority of the "Cruiserweight" workers these days.

The match Kevin Nash and the Giant that was supposed to take place here never took place because Kevin Nash isn't in the building. Maybe he had heart problems, maybe he didn't want to lose so he took the night off... or maybe he tore his quad or something, but whatever the case, we no get the match. Instead, we get Scott Hall coming out to talk for a bit before Giant shows up and beats the poor guy up.

Scott Norton, Vincent (a.k.a. Lonely Virgil), and Randy Savage (subbing for the MIA Konnan... because that's the best use for Randy Savage) defeated The Steiner Brothers & Ray Traylor (a.k.a. Big Boss Man, Big Bubba Rogers, That Guy Who Made Fun Of Big Show's Daddy, etc.). The only reason this exists is so that these guys can get a big paycheque... can't complain about that, actually. I can complain about watching this match... which is just awful and boring.

Goldberg defeated Steve "Mongo" McMichael to continue his "Streak" thing. This is before Goldberg had any sort of gimmick other than beat people up. As such, he's not a beloved figured, but just some guy people don't care for.

Next we have Raven vs. Chris Benoit... except we don't have Raven vs. Chris Benoit because Raven doesn't feel like wrestling, so he's sending out Perry Saturn to replace him. Kind of a low blow to promise Raven finally having to wrestle Benoit at the Grandaddy of them all, only to not wrestle and send one of his flunkies.

As such, after about ten minutes of violence and interference, Perry Saturn defeated Chris Benoit in a pretty decent match... but I'm just bored at this point.

Buff Bagwell defeated Lex Luger with some trademark nWo interference. This went over fifteen minutes. Five of it was a chinlock. It sucked. It was supposed to make Buff a big deal. It didn't work. And I'm not even taking into account the rematch that took place on Nitro where Luger destroyed Buff. I haven't seen that one, though. No desire to do so.

Diamond Dallas Page defeated United States Champion Curt Hennig to win the title in a pretty satisfying match, as for the first time tonight, WCW not only has its first win over the nWo, but the fan favorites that people actually care about finally got a win on this show. It's honestly not a GOOD match; it's just a satisfying match that woke me up a bit. That's how bad this show has gotten.

Larry Zsybiko defeated Eric Bischoff in a match to determine the fate of Nitro. Larry's win means we get an extra hour of WCW Nitro, while Bischoff winning would've meant more nWo Nitro... As a sort of self-inflicted punishment, I sat myself through the entirety of that one nWo Nitro show before watching Starrcade and while I'm saving my full thoughts on the show for a future musings, I will say that it was not a fun time. So suffice it to say that I was rooting for Larry - despite this show being 20 years ago. And make no mistake - if you watch any old episode of Nitro where people are chanting for Larry, it isn't because of his illustrious and tenured wrestling career; it's because he saved the world from suffering more nWo Nitro.

Oh, and Bret Hart was guest referee... because we really needed a special guest ref for this great contest between a television executive and a retired wrestler. Man, what a great start for Bret's WCW career. No wonder he's so pissed these days.

WCW World champion Hollywood Hogan defeated Sting with a legdrop to retain the title. Despite claims that crooked referee Nick Patrick fast-counted Sting, it was, in fact, a normal pinfall count no quicker than any other three-count by a non-crooked referee. And then Bret Hart shows up and restarts the match because I guess he could do that, Sting hits Hogan with the Scorpion, and Bret counts that as a submission... or something. I suppose if I were following WCW programming at the time, I would've been more disappointed and let down by the year-long wait, hype, and anticipation for this eventual encounter.

Instead, I'm watching this years after the fact, having been oblivious to the whole build, only hearing about the match and seeing snippets of it here and there. Watching this as a match in its own little bubble, it was the typical Hogan match with some nWo run-ins and tons of bullshit tossed in for good measure. In the bigger picture, it can be underwhelming to see what was WCW's most anticipated match-up in that time end up being the proverbial fart in church.

As far as the conspiracy theories go and whether I believed the ref was paid off by Hogan or if he simply fucked up... honestly, I don't think it would've mattered one way or another. If this match were to have been done right, it would've been Sting dominating, Hogan in fear, and then eventually dethroned to give WCW that one crowning moment... and then somewhere down the line you can have the competitive rematch. But instead, it was another Hogan match featuring a guy who hadn't wrestled a match since 1996. And it went about as well as you expect.

There's no two ways about it; this is a terrible show. Forget the fact that, save for one or two matches here and there, it's been a virtually one-sided affair with the bad guys winning left and right. And even with the few babyface wins, only the DDP/Curt Hennig match comes close to giving people a feelgood moment. All the wrestling matches were either mediocre or just outright atrocious. And it would've been fine if the main event delivered the goods, but it didn't; it just delivered more bullshit in the form of a bullshit ending that left a sour taste in people's mouths.

An absolutely horrible show that I'm thankful I missed the first time around.

Fuck this show.

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