The Two Sheds Review: Starrcade: The Essential Collection

THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne
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Long before Vince McMahon got the idea of holding a certain super show called Wrestlemania, Jim Crockett Promotions and the National Wrestling Alliance came up with a super show of their own, and in November 1983, Starrcade was born, headlined by Harley Race defending the NWA World title against Ric Flair.

A few months ago, the powers-that-be at World Wrestling Entertainment decided to honour the major show of their former rival with a three disc set entitled Starrcade: The Essential Collection.

The collection begins with a fifty minute documentary looking back at the events that lead up to the creation of the show. It makes for interesting viewing to hear from some of the brains behind the event, as well as the lesser lights who made sure the show went off without a hitch.

As the documentary moves on, we also hear about some of the greatest matches. Jim Cornette tells us how he suffered a severe knee injury falling off a scaffold. Magnum TA tells us of the car crash that ended his career.

But while this documentary makes for great viewing, there is one massive surprise. In the segment which discusses the events that lead to JCP moving Starrcade from November to December because of the WWF’s Survivor Series and the various threats made to the cable television companies, Vince McMahon is portrayed as the villain of the piece, which is surprising when you consider that this is a WWE production.

Of course, this set isn’t just about what went on behind the scenes. If, like me, you’re a fan of television list shows, you’ll love the countdown of the top 25 matches in Starrcade history;

25) 1996: Roddy Piper versus Hollywood Hulk Hogan. This was at a time when the New World Order were running rampant in WCW, and Roddy Piper came to WCW’s aid against his erstwhile foe. While this wasn’t a five star classic, this was still one of those matches that had a certain aura about it, and that’s what made it entertaining. As expected of these two, there was more brawling than wrestling, with small amounts of interference from Ted Dibiase at ringside, before The Giant came out and tried to choke slam the rowdy one. Piper countered by biting the future Big Show’s nose, and after Hogan dealt with an invading fan, Piper locked in a sleeper hold to get the win. He then saw off the attack of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash before escaping from the ring, and although he’d won the match, he hadn’t won the title, this being a non-title match.

24) 1989: Sting versus The Great Mute in the Iron Man Singles Tournament. I have fond memories of this one, mainly because Starrcade 1989 was one of the first wrestling videos I ever brought. These two also had a storied rivalry, which only added to the occasion, and even though it’s a relatively short match, it’s a great example of the chemistry these had. In short, it’s a great little wrestling match, with the Stinger getting the win after a superplex from the top rope.

23) 1992: Barry Windham & Brian Pillman versus Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Shane Douglas for the Unified World Tag-Team Championship. Jim Ross described this as an underrated tag-team match, and he was right. Overshadowed by the Battlebowl, this would be considered something of a dream match these days, given the pedigree of those involved. Seeing Pillman against Douglas was great, with the exchanges between Pillman and Steamboat even better. Windham also put in a great performance, better than a heel than he ever was as a baby face. This great match ended when, as Steamboat and Windham brawled on the ramp, Douglas took Pillman down with a belly-to-belly suplex off the ropes to get the title retaining pin for his team.

22) 1998: Goldberg versus Kevin Nash for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Goldberg went into this one with his massive winning streak, and he was the hottest thing in WCW at that time. It’s a relatively short match, the kind of match that was best to display Goldberg’s high intensity game, with tons of power moves from both men, especially Goldberg,  and a somewhat screwy ending, with Bam Bam Bigelow and Disco Inferno running in for failed attacks, before Nash’s erstwhile partner Kevin Nash hit Goldberg with a cattle. A jack knife power bomb later, and Nash had stopped the streak and won the World title. A good match, but for me this match was overshadowed by the finger poke of doom a few days later.

21) 1991: Battlebowl Battle Royal. This was one of those crazy concepts that WCW used to come up with. It involved two rings, and a ton of crazy rules, until one man from each ring are left to compete against each other. I’m not going to go through the exact rules. You’ll have to look them up on Wikipedia or something. This one involved notable stars such as Ron Simmons, Ricky Steamboat, Steve Austin, Scott Steiner, Lex Luger, Big Van Vader, Dustin Rhodes, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Sting, and Firebreaker Chip. I’m left wondering just how this one made the final 25, because as battle royals go it’s not that good, and not that exciting, mainly because of the over complicated rules. The final two men were Luger and Sting. Luger was able to dominate early on, mainly because Rick Rude had taken the Stinger down after he’d been eliminated, but it wasn’t long before the face painted one staged a comeback, and not even the attempted interference of Luger’s advisor Harley Race stopped Sting from dumping Luger over the top rope to win the Battlebowl. If this was meant to be WCW’s answer to the Royal Rumble then they failed miserably.

20) 1993: Dustin Rhodes versus Steve Austin in a best of three falls match for the WCW United States Championship. Long before Goldust and Stone Cold became stars of the Attitude era, Rhodes and Austin battled over WCW’s secondary title. A very intense match up saw some great action between these two, with liberal amounts of interference from Austin’s manager Colonel Robert Parker. Indeed, it was Parker who caused Rhodes to lost the first fall. As Parker stood on the ring apron complaining, Rhodes took a stunned Austin and threw him over the top rope at Parker, earning himself an immediate disqualification, because throwing someone over the top rope was illegal in WCW at the time. So while Parker was being helped backstage, Rhodes attacked and bloodied Austin during the rest period. There was then a momentary light failure, before Austin countered Rhodes’ punches in the corner by rolling Rhodes up and getting the pin with a handful of tights, winning the match 2-0, and the United States title in the process. Nice stuff.

19) 1987: The Road Warriors versus Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard for the NWA World Tag-Team Championship. I’ve always regarded Anderson and Blanchard as one of the best teams ever, certainly on a par with their opponents, and although the future Brain Busters did a good job of isolating Hawk at one point and working over his leg, the Warriors had the most offence, dominating with their power moves. The ending was somewhat controversial. After the referee took an accidental hit and lay on the floor at ringside, Animal back dropped Anderson over the top rope. They then took Double A down with the Doomsday Device, and a second referee made the count. The Warriors thought they’d won the titles until the first referee came back into the ring and awarded the match to Anderson and Blanchard via disqualification, having seen Anderson go over the top rope. A somewhat surprising outcome, considering this was in the Warrior’s home city of Chicago. Good match though.

18) 1996: Rey Mysterio Junior versus Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Did anyone say dream match? This is an exceptional match between two of the best cruiserweights ever, mixing great technical wrestling with great high flying moves. These two were clearly made for each other, and it’s just a shame that this match was kind of short, clocking in at ten minutes or so, with the man from the Orient getting the win with a Liger Bomb. Definitely one I could watch over and over again.

17) 1987: The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express versus The Midnight Express in a scaffold match. This is the Stan Lane/Bobby Eaton combination of the Midnights here, with Big Bubba, the future Big Boss Man, as Jim Cornette’s bodyguard. Bubba attacked Ricky Morton before he could climb up the scaffold, leaving Robert Gibson to face Lane and Eaton alone, until Morton recovered, grabbed Cornette’s tennis racket, clobbered Bubba, and made his way up top. So, as can be expected, not much actual wrestling on the scaffold, mainly brawling, with Lane, closely followed by Eaton, falling to the ring below to win the match for Morton & Gibson. But that wasn’t the end of things, as Cornette ordered Bubba up to the scaffold, but a quick low blow from Morton soon dealt with him. Well, I’ve never really been a big fan of scaffold matches, but at least it was better than the Elevation X match in TNA a while back.

16) 1988: Ric Flair versus Lex Luger for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. For some reason Lex Luger gets a ton of bad press for his perceived lack of talent, but back in his day he was one of the best around, especially during his first run in the NWA. This is a great example of Luger at his best, a thirty minute plus match in which both champion and challenger take each other to the limit, and then some, in an excellent wrestling match, with a red hot crowd virtually baying for blood, Flair working over Luger’s left leg for extended periods, and Luger looking like he was going to win the title when he had Flair in the Torture Rack, only for his injured knee to give way, giving Flair the opportunity to get the title retaining pin. Boy, was this good.

15) 1995: Eddie Guerrero versus Shinjiro Otani. A match from the “World Cup of Wrestling”, which saw stars from WCW and New Japan competing against each other. This was one of many WCW pay-per-views I watched on German television channel DSF, because WCW pay-per-views were never broadcast in merry old England. A solid, good old fashioned wrestling match, with both guys putting in a good performance. I haven’t seen much of Otani, but the guy impressed the hell out of me, and came out on top, pinning Guerrero with a roll up after reversing his hurricanrana attempt.

14) 1988: Dusty Rhodes & Sting versus The Road Warriors for the NWA World Tag-Team Championship. Another example of why Hawk and Animal were so damn good. They may not have been the most technical of wrestlers, but they were the best they were at what they did, and this match against the veteran Rhodes and the up-and-comer Sting was great. A far more even match-up than the Warriors/Horseman contest, Sting and Rhodes looked like they were going to get the win after the Stinger took Animal down with a body block off the top rope, only for Paul Ellering to stop the count by pulling the referee out of the ring, earning his team an immediate disqualification. Rhodes and Sting managed to get a bit of payback afterwards though, ending this tremendous bout.

13) 1992: Sting versus Big Van Vader in the King of Cable tournament final. The rivalry between these two was awesome, certainly on a par with Sting’s other great feuds. The chemistry these two had was second to none, which resulted in numerous great battles, and although this one wasn’t for the World title, this certainly ranked among their best. Despite being outweighed by nearly two hundred pounds, the Stinger was able to match power with the big man, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, despite outweighing Sting by nearly two hundred pounds, Vader was able to match speed and agility with the Stinger, and after over fifteen minutes of hard hitting action, Vader went to the well once too often. Having taken Sting down with a big splash off the second rope, instead of going for a pin Vader decided to go for another splash, this time off the top, and as he came down Sting caught him in a power slam, getting the pin immediately afterwards. This is certainly one match you can watch over and over again.

12) 1983: The Brisco Brothers versus Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat for the NWA World Tag-Team Championship. Younger wrestling fans may only remember Gerry Brisco as Vince McMahon’s stooge, but he was actually a very good wrestler as well, certainly as good as his former World Champion brother Jack. It’s another good old fashioned match here. Steamboat and Youngblood looked tremendous, while the Briscos were more than able to keep up with their younger counterparts. The challengers emerged victorious in this one, with Steamboat press slamming Youngblood onto Jack Brisco for the winning pin. Enraged by their loss, the Briscos then attacked special referee Angelo Mosca, and the new champions, before Steamboat and Youngblood recovered enough to clean house. A very entertaining match, and another great example of tag-team wrestling.

11) 1985: Dusty Rhodes versus Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. In the same year that Hulk Hogan and Mr. T were headlining the very first Wrestlemania, The American Dream and The Nature Boy were headlining the third Starrcade with a good old fashioned 80’s style wrestling match. The rivalry between these two was quite storied, with Flair’s buddies Arn & Ole Anderson having attacked Rhodes prior to this event, injuring his left leg. Rhodes dominated for the most part, working over Flair’s right leg before busting him open. Flair came back in the last few minutes, taking advantage of a Rhodes mistake by working over his injured wheel, but not even the vaunted figure four could put the challenger away. Rhodes made a brief comeback, but as the referee took a snooze at ringside, the Andersons came running into the ring for the assist. Arn was sent packing, but Ole took Rhodes down. This didn’t stop the Dream for long though, because after a second referee came into the ring, Rhodes got the roll-up for the title winning pin.

10) 1997: Eddie Guerrero versus Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. On the same show that Sting made his return to take on Hulk Hogan, the future Radicals partners put on a show stealer that once again proved just why WCW’s cruiserweight division was the hottest thing in the company at the time, even hotter than the New World Order. These two had such great chemistry, and it showed here as they matched each other hold for hold and move for move, making for great viewing. Guerrero was brutal at times, and at his heelish best as he worked over Malenko’s leg. The man of a thousand holds did well to come back, but the victory went to Guerrero, coming off the top rope with a frog splash to get the pin that saw him keep the title.

9) 1989: The Road Warriors versus The Steiner Brothers in the Iron Man Tag-Team Tournament. While the four top singles stars were battling it out in the singles tournament, the top four teams were battling it out as well. Of course, this was back when Scott Steiner wasn’t a lumbering hulk, and could actually move quite freely around the ring. This was by far the best match of the tag-team tournament, and it’s a shame that it was kind of short because of the tournament restrictions. So after nearly ten minutes of hard hitting action, Animal lifted Scott up as if he was about to back suplex him, while Hawk came off the top rope with a clothesline. Animal kept hold of Scott, and as the referee made his three count, Scott raised his shoulder at the last moment, while Animal’s remained on the mat, giving the victory to the brothers.

8) 2000: 3 Count versus Jamie Knoble & Evan Karagias versus The Jung Dragons in a ladder match for a contract for a WCW Cruiserweight Championship match. I never liked 3 Count. I always thought that their best work came when Tank Abbott was their comedy groupie. But I have to admit that the action in this one was pretty damn good, equally ranking alongside the WWF ladder matches of the time. There’s no stand-out performances here, as they’re all as good as each other, with some inventive use of the various ladders, and some crazy bumps, with both Shane Helms and Shannon Moore grabbing the contract at the same time to get the title shot.

7) 1989: Sting versus Ric Flair in the Iron Man Singles Tournament. This was the final match in the singles tournament, and pitted Horseman against Horseman, with both men needing a win to clinch the tournament. It’s another example of how two wrestlers can have such great chemistry. These two would go on to have such a great rivalry over the years with some classic matches, but for me this one ranks as one of the best, with Flair doing all he can to put the young star away, and getting more and more frustrated when he’s unable to do so. As the time limit neared, Flair looked to lock in a second figure four, only for Sting to counter with a roll-up to get the pin, winning the tournament in the process, ending a great match.

6) 1983: Greg Valentine versus Roddy Piper in a dog collar match. I’ve heard so much about this match over the past twenty years, I’m glad that I’ve finally got the chance to see it. No fancy dan technical stuff here. This is nothing more than a fight, a brutal, bloody battle between two men going all out to maim each other, and it certainly lived up to all the hype. Given the way that these two were going at it, you got the impression that these two really couldn’t stand each other, and after what seemed like an eternity of brutality, Piper got the pin after once again using the chain as a weapon. Valentine was none too pleased though, attacking Piper after the bell, using the chain to choke the rowdy one over the ropes.

5) 1986: The Road Warriors versus The Midnight Express in a scaffold match. This is the Dennis Condrey/Bobby Eaton version of the Midnights in this one. This one took a while to get going, mainly because Condrey and Eaton were so reluctant to climb up to the scaffold. Eventually they made it to the top, and used the old powder in the eyes trick to get the upper hand, before the Warriors came back and bloodied both of the Midnights. Eventually both teams moved to underneath the scaffold, with the Warriors knocking them both down for the win. Bump of the match goes to Jim Cornette, who seriously injured his right knee falling off the scaffold. Ouch!

4) 1997: Sting versus Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. This had the best build-up to any match in WCW history. Sting, who hadn’t wrestled for eighteen months, was regarded as WCW’s last hope against the tyranny of Hogan and the New World Order. The multi-coloured, blonde haired, sun tanned, howling, smiling Sting had gone, to be replaced by the plain black-clad version with the white face paint, the man who stood up in the rafters looking down. This is perhaps Hogan’s best match during his WCW career, even better than his early encounters with Ric Flair. As for Sting, he looked tremendous, as if he’d never been away, and all of these ingredients made for a great match. You also had a controversial ending. After Hogan had taken Sting out with the leg drop of doom, and the referee had made the count, special referee Bret Hart ordered a re-start after clobbering, and despite the attempts of some of Hogan’s NWO cronies, Sting soon locked in the Scorpion Death lock to get the submission win.

3) 1993: Ric Flair versus Harley Race in a steel cage match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The main event of the very first Starrcade was dubbed “A Flair for the Gold”‘ and was a good old fashioned grudge match. Race had put a bounty on Flair’s head in an attempt to stop him from getting another title match, which was the reason this was held inside a steel cage. The action is hard hitting and brutal at times, as both men used the cage to bust the other open. It was old school action at it’s very best, lasting nearly thirty minutes, with Flair getting the title winning pin with a body block off the top rope. Awesome stuff.

2) 1985: Magnum TA versus Tully Blanchard in a steel cage I quit match for the NWA United States Championship. This is another one of those matches that has attained legendary status over the years. This was another of those matches were it seemed as if those involved actually hated each other. It began as a normal wrestling match, but as soon as they started using the cage as a weapon things got dirty, and it wasn’t long before both men were busted open, Magnum from the head, Blanchard from the head and left shoulder. This was just as brutal as the chain match two years before, and even the referee took a few hits. In the end, Magnum used a piece of a wooden chair that Blanchard had brought into the ring, gouging it into his head, and as the blood poured down his face, he said the words that everyone wanted to hear. You know, you just don’t get drama like that these days.

1) 1993: Ric Flair versus Vader for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, with Flair’s career on the line as well. It seems more than apt that a Ric Flair match made it to the top of this list, because while Hulk Hogan may have been considered Mr. Wrestlemania, then Flair could certainly be considered Mr. Starrcade. Vader is at his brutal best, pounding on the Nature Boy with such power it’s scary, as well as showing the agility of a man half his size. Flair is great at playing the underdog, mounting numerous comebacks, but always falling to Vader’s superior size and strength. Eventually Flair was able to sustain an attack long enough to take the big man off his feet, and it wasn’t long before Flair locked on the figure four leg lock. Vader managed to get to the ropes. The big man soon mounted a comeback, and after interference from Vader’s manager Harley Race backfired, Vader still looked like he was going to win, until Flair grabbed one of his huge legs, took him down and got the pin to win the title. This match, without a doubt, deserved it’s number one spot.

In conclusion –  well, it took me a while, but I finally made it to the end, and it was worth the effort. This is a tremendous collection, a fitting tribute to professional wrestling’s first super show, and to the wrestlers and the matches that made it great. We may remember WCW for all the wrong reasons these days, but this collection gives us plenty of good memories as well. If you haven’t got this already, then go out and buy it ASAP. You won’t be disappointed.