KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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WWE STARRCADE 2018 SPECIAL, WWE NETWORK
NOVEMBER 25, 2018
TAPED 11/24 IN CINCINNATI, OHIO
REPORT BY MIKE MEYERS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton
Elias was introduced in the middle of the ring as the announce team described tonight’s show as an homage to a Thanksgiving week tradition in sports entertainment, with no mention of WCW. Elias played some pleasing blues licks and riffs on his Fender acoustic electric guitar. Elias indicated that a very special man was going to walk with him tonight, and the crowd “woo’d.” Elias introduced Ric Flair, who made his entrance as Tom said that when you mention Starrcade, you have to mention the Nature Boy.
Flair had a mic in the ring, and indicated that he has been dying to Walk With Elias. Flair cited his match with Harley Race from 35 years ago, and said he was honored to be here tonight for the fans and with Elias. Elias started the transition from speech to music, preparing to perform a song from his new album, when the music of Nia Jax interrupted the introduction. On the ramp appeared Nia Jax, accompanied by Mickie James, Tamina, and Alica Fox. Flair chuckled and rubbed Elias’ shoulder.
The women entered the ring, and Jax said they wanted to Walk With Elias. Flair shouted, “I told ya! I told ya!”, and we infer that Flair had privately told Elias that his music would help him score with chicks. After telling a fidgeting Fox to “tune in,” Elias began his song “Elias’ Words.” The women and Flair nodded and clapped along with the song. Come the second verse, Jax began awkwardly shrieking lyrics into her mic. She handed it off to Fox, who shouted lyrics about wanting to dance, dance, dance. Elias stopped strumming, and the crowd booed these unwanted interjections. Jax said, “I turned down a record deal to sign with WWE!” Elias told Jax that she needs to do what she should have done three minutes ago: Shut her mouth. The crowd cheered, and Flair made a “sick burn!” face.
Elias said that he and Flair would like to bring four of their friends down to the ring. Sasha Banks’ music played, and out came Banks, Bayley, Ember Moon, and Dana Brooke. Elias and Flair exited the ring off camera, and the show transitioned awkwardly from a musical performance to an 8-woman tag match.
(1) NIA JAX & MICKIE JAMES & TAMINA & ALICIA FOX vs. SASHA BANKS & BAYLEY & EMBER MOON & DANA BROOKE
The bell rang and Moon started off against James. The wrestlers locked up and exchanged arm bars until James whipped Moon to the mat by her hair. James maintained a wristlock, but Moon kipped up and performed a single-arm handspring to reverse out of the hold and flipped James to the mat. James got to her feet and landed a roundhouse kick to Moon’s abdomen, doubling her over. James front kicked Moon, who was now becoming angry. Moon sprung off the middle rope and knocked James down with a high cross body into a pin for a two-count. Moon got to her feet first and dragged James to the corner and tagged in Brooke.
Brooke and Moon executed a double suplex to James as Tom rambled on about a different show on a different date with different wrestlers. Brooke pinned James for a two-count, which Tom could finally be bothered to acknowledge. Brooke whipped James back-first into the corner, then performed a gymnastics handspring toward her target and landed a reverse elbow. Brooke body slammed James, bounced off the ropes and splashed onto James for a pin and two-count. Brooke lifted James and dragged her to the corner in a front chancery, but while Brooke reached out to tag in Bayley, James was able to struggle free and scramble across the ring to wrap her arms around Tamina’s waist in a semi-scandalous fashion.
Bayley stood facing the opponents’ corner as the crowd began a “Bayley” chant. James officially tagged in Tamina (as hugging the buns isn’t recognized as a legal a tag in the WWE rulebook) and she slowly entered the ring. Bayley ducked a clothesline from Tamina and landed a few right hands until Tamina lifted a knee to Bayley’s stomach, dropping her to the mat. Tamina whipped Bayley into the corner and charged in with a reverse elbow. Tamina then whipped Bayley into the opposite corner and charged in again but this time Bayley slipped to her right and pushed Tamina into the corner. Bayley charged into the corner and hit Tamina with a knee lift, returned to the center of the ring, and charged again at Tamina. Tamina hoisted Bayley over the top rope with a back body drop, but Bayley landed on the ring apron and dropped down to the floor while grabbing Tamina and clotheslining her against the middle rope. Tamina was staggered and Bayley moved in to set up a suplex, but Tamina was close enough to her corner to tag in Jax. Jax climbed into the ring and combined forces with Tamina to double clothesline Bayley. The crowd booed Jax as she blew on her right fist like a smoking gun, still gleaning heat from her altercation with Becky Lynch.
Jax covered Bayley for a two-count. After lifting Bayley to her feet, Jax delivered a head butt which sent Bayley reeling into the wrong part of town. Jax followed and tagged James back in while pinning Bayley into the corner with her boot. James entered and kicked Bayley once, then ground her foot into Bayley’s face while tagging in Fox. Fox entered the ring and snap mared Bayley toward the middle and laid in a chin lock. Bayley thrashed and struggled in the hold while Tom explained the fascinating rules and stipulations of the unrelated Mixed Match Challenge tournament.
Bayley got to her feet and nearly escaped Fox’s clutches before being whipped back down to the canvas. The crowd was urging on Bayley, but Fox maneuvered her back into enemy territory and tagged in Jax. More boos from the crowd. Jax picked up where Fox left off and applied a rear chin lock to Bayley in the middle of the ring. Jax threw Bayley to the mat and ran to the opponent’s corner to knock Brooke and Moon off the apron to ringside. Meanwhile, Bayley got to her feet and delivered multiple forearms to Jax, who then effortlessly scooped Bayley up onto her shoulders. Bayley immediately wriggled off of Mount Jax and knocked Tamina off the ring apron. Jax charged at Bayley, but Bayley dodged and Jax’s momentum knocked James off the apron. Fox tagged herself in but couldn’t stop Bayley from tagging in the fresh Banks to the biggest pop of the match.
Banks knocked Fox down twice with clotheslines, and then a drop kick. Fox awkwardly fed her boot to Banks, who awkwardly held her hands out to accept the fed boot. Banks completed the awkward transaction by simply kicking Fox in the face. Fox fell back against the corner, and Banks charged with a double knee lift. Fox fell to the mat in a seated position, and Banks charged in again with the double knees. Banks violently yanked Fox out of the corner by her ankle into a pin, but Tamina leaped in to break up the count.
Moon, anticipating these shenanigans, had scaled her corner and landed the Eclipse on Tamina to a nice crowd reaction. Moon got to her feet and was met with a seated senton from James. James got to her feet and was met with a high cross body from Brooke. Jax knocked down Brooke with a clothesline, and Brooke rolled out of the ring. Jax charged at Banks in the corner but Banks moved laterally to dodge, while Bayley climbed the outside of the same corner and landed an elbow on the back of Jax’s neck.
Meanwhile, Fox had recovered from the quadruple knee attack and rolled up Banks for a pin in the ring, but Banks quickly reversed into a facelock submission which had Fox immediately tapping out.
WINNERS: Banks & Bayley & Moon & Brooke via submission
(Meyers’ Analysis: A reasonably fun overcrowded tag match, with nearly enough talent to go around. Jax continues to garner heat for her involvement with Lynch, and Fox continues to be a weak link in the ring.)
-Samoa Joe YouTube promo regarding A.J. Styles and their upcoming Starrcade Steel Cage Match
The Miz welcomed us to Miz TV, and to Starrcade. He cited historic Starrcade matches: Flair vs. Race, Valentine vs. Piper, Luger vs. Rhodes. Miz introduced his guests: Rey Mysterio, who entered wearing a neck brace as a result of Randy Orton’s chair attack, and United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. At this point, Miz seemed to transition from baby face to heel.
Miz indicated that he was happy to see Mysterio with his mask back on, and asked why he was here instead of at home healing. Mysterio indicated that Starrcade holds a special place in his heart – something Miz wouldn’t understand. Mysterio dropped some historic names, and when he got to Eddie Guerrero, the crowd erupted into an “Eddie!” chant. Mysterio expressed his intent to defeat Nakamura tonight to become United States Champion.
Miz turned the discussion over to Nakamura, asking how he felt about playing spoiler for the audience, should he defeat Mysterio. Nakamura indicated that he knows about Starrcade, but does not care about Starrcade, nor does he care about Mysterio. Mysterio hopped down from his bar stool to protest, but Miz said he hasn’t forgotten how Mysterio cost Team Smackdown the match at Survivor Series. Mysterio countered by pointing out Miz was the captain, and as such he is responsible for the team’s demise. Mysterio punctuated his retort by saying, “When my hand goes up, tu boca se calla!”
Miz, displeased, dismounted his stool and stood with his back to the camera with hands on his hips. As he paced around, Mysterio confronted Shinsuke, who had also risen from his stool. Miz interrupted to complain about Mysterio using his catch phrase on his own show. Mysterio turned his attention to Miz, and Nakamura attacked Mysterio from behind. Oddly, Miz yelled into the mic, “The match starts now!” as Nakamura tore Mysterio’s neck brace off and an official dashed into the ring. Nakamura backed off into a corner and the referee called for the bell to start the match.
(2) SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. REY MYSTERIO – United States Championship Match
Nakamura kicked Mysterio to the mat, and landed two knee strikes. Nakamura suplexed Mysterio face first onto the mat, then backed away into the corner to line up for the Kinshasa. Nakamura charged but Mysterio countered and rolled up Nakamura for a two-count. Nakamura missed one swinging kick but landed the second, sending Mysterio back to the canvas. Nakamura hoisted Mysterio across the top ropes in the corner delivered a running knee lift to Mysterio’s gut. On the apron, Nakamura scooped Mysterio up into a body slam position, but Mysterio grabbed hold of the top rope and landed on his feet back in the ring. He kicked a surprised Nakamura in the face, sending him to the floor. Mysterio bounced off the far ropes and knocked Nakamura into the barrier with a baseball slide under the bottom rope.
Miz approached Nakamura at ringside to offer assistance, but Mysterio scaled the corner and landed a seated senton onto the A-Lister. Back in the ring, Mysterio executed another seated senton to Nakamura. Back on his feet, Nakamura charged at Mysterio but Mysterio countered with a drop toehold, draping Nakamura over the middle rope. Mysterio motioned to the crowd, unhinged the bottom of his mask, and bounced off the far ropes but Miz grabbed his ankle to trip him face-first onto the mat. Miz proceeded to drag Mysterio out of the ring to retaliate for the senton, causing the referee to call for the bell.
WINNER: Rey Mysterio via disqualification.
As Miz and Nakamura conducted a heel beat down on Mysterio, Rusev’s music played and Rusev jogged down the ramp and fired Nakamura and Miz out of the ring. Lana appeared and declared a tag match.
(3) RUSEV & REY MYSTERIO vs. THE MIZ & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
The crowd chanted “Rusev Day!” as Rusev squared to face Nakamura. Rusev easily knocked Nakamura down with a shoulder block, and Nakamura slithered out of the ring onto the ramp to regroup with Miz. The referee called for the official start of the match, but Miz and Shinsuke were walking up the ramp, dismissing the challenge. Rusev and Mysterio rolled out of the ring and engaged their opponents, dragging them back into the ring. Mysterio and Rusev both got the upper hands on Nakamura and Miz, respectively, in opposite corners, before whipping their opponents into the center of the ring to collide with one another.
Mysterio drop kicked Nakamura, who rolled out of the ring. Rusev pointed skyward, and caught a running Mysterio to apply a head scissors to Miz, landing him on the middle rope. Rusev and Mysterio both signaled for the 619 against Miz, but Nakamura dashed back into the ring to intercept Mysterio with a big clothesline. The referee suddenly reappeared and decided to restore order and held Rusev back from aiding his partner while Nakamura executed Bad Vibrations to Mysterio in the corner.
Mysterio kicked out of a two-count and reached out toward Rusev, but Nakamura dragged him back to his own corner and tagged in Miz. A “Let’s go Rey!” chant resounded in the arena. Miz knocked down Mysterio in the middle of the ring and taunted Rusev, who came in through the ropes. The referee blocked Rusev from interfering while Miz pointed and laughed. Miz dragged Mysterio by his ankle back to the corner and tagged Nakamura back in.
Nakamura drove a boot into Mysterio’s throat and was backed off by the referee. Mysterio rolled outside, where Miz landed multiple blows to Mysterio‘s face. Miz rolled Mysterio back into the ring and held his hands innocently in the air as he ascended the ring steps. Nakamura covered Mysterio for a two-count. Nakamura locked in a hard front chancery in the middle of the ring while Rusev clapped and cheered on his partner. Mysterio battled out and kicked Nakamura in the face, stunning the U.S. Champion, and Mysterio began the long trek to his own corner to tag out. Nakamura grabbed Mysterio by the ankle, interrupting his journey, but Mysterio countered with an enzuigiri from his free leg. Mysterio flipped and tagged in Rusev, who charged in to face a simultaneously tagged Miz.
Rusev leveled Miz thrice with clotheslines, before smashing him in the corner and knocking him down again with a spin kick. Rusev went for the Machka Kick, but Miz sidestepped to dodge and attempted the Skull Crushing Finale. Rusev threw Miz off his back and knocked him down with an impressive looking front kick to Miz’s skull. Rusev covered for a surprising two-count.
The crowd began a “Rusev!” chant as Rusev stalked the face-down Miz. As Rusev began to apply the Accolade to Miz, Nakamura appeared on the ring apron. Rusev stood up and knocked Nakamura back to the floor, allowing Miz to resurface and deliver the Skull Crushing Finale to Rusev for a would-be three-count, but Mysterio jumped in to break up the pin. Mysterio arranged Nakamura and Miz such that they were both draped over the middle rope and delivered a 619 two-for-one special. Miz staggered into the center of the ring, allowing Rusev to land the Machka Kick for the three-count.
WINNERS: Rey Mysterio & Rusev via pinfall
(Meyers’ thoughts: This was a fun, if abruptly organized, tag match. The Miz started off as a fantastic baby face, but wrestled the match as a wretched heel. Does this show even count when evaluating his moral compass?)
•Listen to the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast “Thursday Flagship” with guest Sam Roberts talking Ronda-Charlotte-Becky, WM35 speculation
PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents the Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast with guest cohost Sam Roberts from the Not Sam Wrestling Podcast and WWE Kickoff Show panelist. They discuss the major happenings with Ronda Rousey-Charlotte-Becky Lynch this last week, Daniel Bryan’s heel turn, and their picks for the top matches at WrestleMania 35 for the major titles with a look at various realistic and wildcard options, and more.
(4) SAMOA JOE vs. A.J. STYLES – Steel Cage Match
An “A.J. Styles” chant was firmly established just before Styles made his entrance. Tom pointed out how peculiar it was to see Styles enter the ring without the WWE Championship, which led to an announcement of Styles getting his rematch for the title against Daniel Bryan at upcoming PPV, Tables Ladders & Chairs. The referee, who was preemptively wearing rubber gloves, called for the bell to start the match.
Joe struck first with a hard right hand, and followed up with four right jabs and an elbow to Styles’ forehead. Joe head butted Styles to the mat before attempting to drive Styles’ face into the cage, but Styles blocked and returned fire with punches of his own. Styles now led Joe face-first toward the cage, but Joe blocked, missed a chop, allowing Styles to land a chop cleanly across Joe’s chest. Joe responded with a bigger chop to Styles’ chest, sending him to the canvas.
Styles knocked Joe to the mat for the first time with a dropkick, and drove him into the corner with repeated shoulder thrusts. Styles landed punches and kicks to Joe in the middle of the ring before setting up for a suplex, but his opponent was too large and powerful – Joe lifted Styles into the air and face planted him to the mat. Joe then lifted Styles to his feet and whipped him face-first into the steel cage two times, and followed up with a splash against Styles who was pinned between the ropes and cage.
Styles chopped and head butted his way out of the corner, but Joe landed a monstrous reverse elbow that turned Styles inside out. Joe approached the cage door for the first time, thinking of escape, but Styles charged from afar. Joe caught Styles and planted him with an Alabama slam, then landed a hefty knee drop before covering for a two-count. Joe dragged Styles back to the edge of the ring and ground his face into the cage. We are visually reminded that it is 2018, as Styles has lost zero pints of blood from his forehead, although his selling might tell us otherwise.
Joe whipped Styles into the corner, splashed him with a reverse elbow, then landed a big enzuigiri that knocked Styles to the mat. Joe covered for a two-count. Joe got to his feet and again fired Styles face-first into the cage. Joe lined up to splash Styles again against the cage, but this time Styles dropped and pulled down the top rope, causing Joe to collide with the cage for the first time. Joe was stunned, allowing Styles to land multiple punches and kicks, including the spinning back fist and a sharp clothesline, dropping Joe to one knee. Styles bounced off the ropes and leveled Joe with a forearm.
Joe leaned against a corner to stay upright as Styles stalked. Styles charged and landed a flying forearm to Joe’s forehead. Joe, stunned, wound up in the middle of the ring, allowing Styles to mount the second rope and moonsault at Joe, delivering a sweet reverse DDT into a cover, but Joe kicked out at two.
Styles began climbing the corner of the cage, but Joe grabbed him by the belt. Styles reverse kicked Joe to create separation, sending Joe to the middle of the ring. Styles changed his plan of escape to a plan of attack – he turned around on the top turn buckle, and leaped toward Joe for a flying forearm but Joe caught him in a bear hug position, then launched Styles backward with an overhead belly to belly suplex.
Both wrestlers slowly got to their feet and made their way to the corner, where the exterior referee opened the cage door. Styles blocked Joe from exiting and the two exchanged blows. In the opposite corner, Styles landed a tornado DDT on Joe. Styles got to his feet first, and instead of escaping, set up for the Styles Clash, but Joe countered and catapulted Styles again into the cage. Joe super kicked Styles and landed a massive senton and covered for a two-count.
Joe lifted Styles up onto the top turnbuckle, but Styles deflected Joe with multiple blows to the head. Joe staggered to another corner, and Styles dashed in and chop blocked Joe’s left knee from behind. Styles charged at Joe, still in the corner, but Joe caught him and fired him into the canvas with an ura nage. Joe made his way to the cage door, but Styles blocked him and rolled Joe into the Calf Crusher. Joe managed to crawl to the ropes, but there are no rope breaks in this cage match, and Joe tapped out.
WINNER: A.J. Styles via submission
(Meyers’ Analysis: This was a basic brawling match inside a cage, where neither wrestler was required to shed blood. They teased being thrown into the cage as a big deal, but when it actually happened, there was no serious repercussion (e.g. bloodshed). A slow pace with nothing on the line had the crowd engaged, but never at a fever pitch.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: A full live show condensed into an hour-long network special was unavoidably disjointed. For fans who wish to see WWE house shows on the Network, this might function as a sneak preview. Definitely worth a watch if you want bonus content from top stars, but it felt as though this show was non-canon in the terms of main roster storylines.