THE SPECIALISTS SPECIALIST - Nostalgia: Starrcade '97: Eddie vs. Dean, Sting vs. Hogan, Mongo vs. Goldberg
Jan 7, 2008 - 12:50:37 PM
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By Brian Hoops PWTorch.com Special Contributor
This week's look at wrestling nostalgia takes us back ten years to the single biggest PPV in WCW history, Starrcade 1997. This PPV was the pinnacle of success for WCW, achieving the highest buyrate in company history, the largest gate in company history however Starrcade 1997 would also be recognized as the beginning of the end for WCW. The story of the PPV is NWO vs. WCW and several of the matches were NWO vs. WCW with the biggest in company history the main event. In the main event, World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hogan of the NWO would defend the title against WCW's franchise, Sting. This match was 18 months in the making. The build up to the PPV was tremendous, however backstage politics and poor decision making from the same men who put together this PPV would prove to be the undoing of WCW. The show was held on December 28, 1997 and was attended by over 17,500 fans in Washington, DC. The buy rate was a phenomenal 1.90, nearly a full point over the 1996 Starrcade event which drew .95. WCW was the top promotion in wrestling in 1997 as the weekly TV ratings would attest. If you compared the Starrcade buy rate of 1.90 to the WWF December PPV, which drew a paltry .44; it was easy to see which company was on top. This PPV would set the course of events in motion to change everything in wrestling including which company would dominate wrestling in 1998 and beyond.
The broadcast team is Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes and Mike Tenay.
1. Champion Eddie Guerrero defeated challenger Dean Malenko via pinfall in 14:57 to retain the WCW World Cruiserweight Title. This was an excellent match. Malenko had requested weeks in advance to possibly miss this match as his wife was due to give birth to their first child. However, WCW forced Malenko to worl this show due to all the other no shows on the card. Match had great crowd heat and plenty of innovative moves and several near falls. Finish came when Guerrero hit the frog splash for the pin in 14:57.
Scott Hall came out to the ring to do his NWO spiel. He announced Kevin Nash was not in the building and would not be facing the Giant tonight at the PPV. After running down the Giant, the Giant came out and power bombed Hall. Nash was scheduled to face the Giant (Paul Wight, Big Show) and lose, but called WCW and claimed he had suffered a heart attack. Many in the company speculated at the time Nash no showed to avoid doing the job to the Giant.
2. In a six-man tag team match, team NWO defeated team WCW in 11:06 when Randy Savage pinned Scott Steiner. Team NWO comprised of Scott Norton, Vincent and Randy Savage. Savage was a replacement for Konnan, who no showed the event and Savage insisted he had to be the man to score the pinfall victory in this match and it had to be over either Rick or Scott Steiner. Team WCW consisted of Rick and Scott Steiner and Ray Traylor. Match was pretty basic with several near falls at the finish. Savage pinned Scott Steiner clean after an elbow off the top rope.
Next Gene Okerlund interviews WCW Commissioner J.J. Dillion and Dillion announces that heel/NWO referee Nick Patrick will ref the main event.
3. Bill Goldberg pinned Steve McMichael in 5:59. This match was supposed to take place at World War III but they did an angle at that show instead. Goldberg was only in the beginning stages of his push as WCW was still trying to figure out what they had in Goldberg. McMichael is introduced last and Goldberg came into the aisle to meet McMichael. Goldberg wanted revenge on McMichael from hitting him with a lead pipe at the WWIII PPV. Match was horrible as neither guy showed much offense and their selling was terrible. Goldberg finally won the match by pinfall after a jackhammer. The formula WCW used to get Goldberg over as a monster was short quick squash matches that didn't have a chance to expose his weaknesses. WCW should have stuck to that formula in this match.
4. In a Raven's Rules match, Perry Saturn defeated Chris Benoit in 10:50 when Saturn forced Benoit to submit to the Rings of Saturn. Raven was scheduled to wrestle against Benoit, however Raven gave a promo stating his contract said he didn't have to wrestle if he didn't want to, therefore Saturn would take his place against Benoit. They had been building up to Benoit vs. Raven for months and this was another obstacle for Benoit to overcome to get to Raven. Raven's Rules meant no DQ, so Raven's flock freely interfered in the match. Raven hit a DDT on Benoit then Saturn put Benoit in the Rings of Saturn and Benoit was knocked out. Match was good, but below the Guerrero-Malenko match.
5. Buff Bagwell defeated Lex Luger by pin in 16:36. I thought Buff was really coming into his own in his cocky heel persona, apparently he believed it also. Match wasn't very exciting, mostly posing, stalling, punches and kicks. Story of the match was Luger couldn’t be beat clean by just one man, so Vincent, Randy Savage and Scott Norton all interfered after a ref bump to knock Luger out. Norton pulled Bagwell on top of Luger for the pinfall at 16:36. Nothing special. Why was this match given the most time of anything on the show is beyond me.
6. Dallas Page pinned Curt Hennig to win the WCW U.S. Heavyweight Title in 10:52. This match looked good on paper and delivered. Once again it was NWO vs. WCW and it was for the WCW U.S. Title. Curt Hennig, the U.S. Champion, represented the NWO and Dallas Page represented WCW. Page was over with the crowd as most fans were new and saw Page as a cool, hip wrestler and not as the former AWA manager. Being best friends with Eric Bischoff also helps. The announcers did a poor job of putting over the career history of Curt Hennig and building up the importance of the match, as they were more interested in putting over the WCW vs. NWO feud. (Hennig was a former AWA World Heavyweight and Tag Team champion and former WWF Intercontinental Champion). Page was looking for his first wrestling title and this could have made a heck of a storyline. Page hit the Diamond Cutter out of nowhere for the pin in a good match.
7. In a match for control of Monday Nitro, Larry Zbyszko defeated Eric Bischoff by disqualification in 11:12. The special referee for this match was Bret Hart. Hart was one of the hottest wrestling commodities, coming off the historic WWF Survivor Series from only a month earlier, which got the entire wrestling world talking; and here he was debuting at a PPV as a special guest referee. Hart got virtually zero buildup and no acknowledgement from the announce crew, despite WCW just signing him to a huge contract and being a hot property. This was the second biggest mistake WCW would make on the night. Crowd was decidedly behind Zbyszko. Bischoff, despite not being a wrestler, was someone the fans easily hated and genuinely wanted to see get his butt kicked. Most of the first part of the match, Bischoff spent stalling for time. Zbyszko put Bischoff in several submission moves, but Hart kept calling for a break of the holds, trying to swerve fans that he was joining the NWO. In the end, Hart hit Bischoff and put Scott Hall in the Sharpshooter, showing his allegiance to WCW. I can't believe Bischoff wouldn’t get pinned in this match. I personally thought they should have done a hair vs. hair match and shaved Bischoff.
8. Sting defeated WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan to win the WCW Heavyweight title in 12:54 by submission. This match is the main event of the evening, and quite possibly the biggest match in WCW history. WCW had done everything right in the build up, promotion and marketing of the match, then did the exact wrong thing in the execution. This match would define the pinnacle of WCW and the beginning of the end of the promotion. Over 18 months ago, WCW had began the build up to this match when Hogan turned on the WCW and joined the NWO. Hogan turned heel and jump started the hottest angle in wrestling history. Hogan won the WCW World Heavyweight title in August of 1996 and held the title until a quick title change to pop Nitro ratings in August of 1997 and regained it 5 day later. If you take away those 5 days in August, Hogan had held the title for over 16 consecutive months. Hogan and the NWO had basically run over everyone in WCW, everyone except one man; the franchise of WCW; Sting. WCW and Bischoff to his credit, had pulled Sting off of TV, house shows and PPV's, and he only made brief appearances being seen from the rafters. He did not wrestle or speak and was only shown briefly. Fans saw Sting as the only man that Hogan and the NWO had not ran through and Sting was the only man that could stop Hogan and the NWO; in essence he was the savior of the company. Fans had been waiting to see Sting kick Hogan's butt for over 12 months and were obviously willing to pay for it by the 1.90 buy rate this PPV generated. Therefore, the only logical finish that WCW could give to the feud was Sting going over clean on Hogan right? Wrong. The match itself was nothing special with Hogan getting a lot of offense in during the match and Sting only getting a few minutes of offense which killed the crowd. The finish was a disaster. Hogan was concerned about Sting becoming more popular than him and convinced Bischoff to have a screw job finish that involved Bret Hart. Hogan hit a leg drop and covered Sting for a pinfall and the apparent victory. It was supposed to be a fast count by NWO heel ref Nick Patrick, but the count wasn't fast. This was to be a swerve at the Montreal finish at WWF Survivor Series. While Sting, the WCW hero just laid on the canvas after being pinned, Bret Hart came down to restart the match with the storyline being he wasn't going to let anyone else be screwed like he was. Sting hit Hogan with a Stingersplash and put Hogan in the Scorpion Death Lock and Hogan submitted. Sting became champion. The finish of the match was a major disappointment to fans as WCW failed to deliver what the fans wanted. Instead they tried to drag the Sting-Hogan feud out longer, but by the time the rematch rolled around and with the way Sting was treated in this match, any momentum Sting might have had began to die.
Summary: Business peaked with this PPV and the long downhill slide into bankruptcy for WCW had begun. Ultimately it was bad booking and poor decision making led WCW into bankruptcy and this PPV would embody what was the best and the worst of WCW.
What was built up to be the ultimate WCW vs. NWO grudge PPV was a disappointment with the main event the biggest disappointment of the night and possibly the year of 1997. The historical significance makes the PPV a can't miss, although only three of the matches are actually strong matches.
Next week we look at the 1993 WCW Clash of the Champions event, which was Clash of the Champions #22.
As always, your questions, comments and feedback are welcomed. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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