WCW Starrcade 1997
It's finally here. The night that everything for the past year and a half has been building to. Over the last 36 hours, the nWo has made a big fuss about the referee for Hogan/Sting. The names of all the officials have been placed in a hat, and a name will be drawn during the show. All of the roster members not booked are sitting in the crowd to watch the show. There's also been a controversy about Kevin Nash: He won't be here to face the Giant tonight. Hope you didn't pay to see that match, folks!
Dean Malenko vs Eddie Guerrero WCW Cruiserweight Championship
This will be the 8th singles match up for these two this year. The wrestlers being in the crowd is weird. It was put over as they were fans before they were wrestlers, so they're here as fans tonight because Hogan/Sting is such a big deal, but it seems more like they're kind of losers who couldn't get booked and then had to buy tickets to the show. This crowd is hot as fuck. Dean shows more fire in the first 45 seconds than the prior 4 months. Man, I love when dudes try a rana and Dean just instantly powerbombs them. Such a satisfying splat. Dean follows that with an Alabama slam, which also had a very satisfying splat. The mat tonight seems extra stiff. Eddie works the legs, Dean kind of sort of works the mid section. A lot of high impact bumps from Eddie. He wins with the frog splash. Dean's best match in months. Title retained. It was a good call for Dean to drop the technical stuff in favor of high impact moves.
Scott Hall comes to the ring. He explains that Kevin Nash will not be here for his match tonight with The Giant. He says that Giant can just accept that he won via forfeit or something. Giant comes out, pretty chill about the whole thing. Hall attacks him for some reason. Giant powerbombs him.
Scott Steiner/Vincent/Randy Savage vs Steiner Brothers/Ray Traylor
Konnan was supposed to be in this match, but Randy Savage replaced him. Seriously, think about this: Randy Savage got put on STARRCADE the night of the show. In a match that involves Virgil. Scotty and Macho start, and they get pretty heated. And awkward. I'm very bothered by Virgil getting a match on this show while Rey Mysterio is sitting in the crowd like a pleb. Lmao, Dusty straight up says Virgil is one of the lesser talented guys on the team. Virgil is such an awkward bumper, which is not great for him since he takes a lot of bumps in this match. He got hit with just about every big move from all three of his opponents. Macho pinned Scott with the flying elbow.
TO THE MEAN GENE. JJ Dillon is out to draw who will be the ref for the main event. The name that was picked out: Nick Patrick.
Bill Goldberg vs Steve McMichael
Mongo randomly comes out to the Horsemen theme, but it sounds dubbed over, and I don't know why, because Mongo's theme isn't dubbed on any Nitros or when Sandman used it. This starts out on the aisle, Lmao, Goldberg literally picks Mongo up and carries him to the ring like a child. Goldberg gets a table out. Goldberg basically dominates Mongo. He seems more confident in his ability and strength in the ring. Just more comfortable in general than he was in his first few matches. I guess that time off TV was spent working on skills. Mongo gets knocked off the apron, landing on the table, which gets an ECW chant. Hold up, Mongo going through a table was a transition to get him on offense? Lol. Mongo can't get Goldberg up for the tombstone. Jackhammer for the easy win. That easily could have been half as long and done the same thing.
Raven comes to the ring. He's chosen not to wrassle tonight. He'll instead allow Saturn to finish off Chris Benoit tonight.
Chris Benoit vs Saturn
Benoit cuts an awkward ass promo where he stumbles over every other word. The gist was he's going to beat Raven's ass eventually. These brehs are going at it, brahs. Saturn's hair looks so fucking ridiculous. I wonder what the fuck he was going for. There is some awkward stuff in this. Saturn seems really off his game. The Flock gets involved, as they tend to do. Triple jump moonsault OUTTA NOWHERE. Saturn seems to be working the midsection. The Flock holds Benoit so he can do an Asai moonsault. Of course, Benoit moved, but there were 4 fucking guys and none of them caught Saturn. Eventually, The Flock hits the ring. Benoit fights them all off, but Raven hits him with a DDT. Saturn locks on the rings of Saturn for the win. Disappointing, no doubt, but not bad. Saturn was just not on his A game. Plus we've seen this happen for 6 weeks in a row.
Buff Bagwell vs Lex Luger
Speaking of seeing something for 6 weeks in a row. This is the 5th match they've had THIS MONTH. 3 on Nitro, 1 on Saturday Night. Let's look at Lex's trajectory this year: From being the top face when Sting wasn't around, actually defeating Hulk Hogan twice, once for the title, to being in a feud with Scott Hall where he was overshadowed by Larry Zbyszko, to a feud with Buff that he can't win any matches in. Buff is legit a B teamer still. He comes out to the B Team theme. Lex went from Hogan to a B Teamer in just a couple of months. There is a good chance he'll be feuding with Vincent next. Fuck this match. I'm not watching it again. Virgil keeps getting involved. There's a ref bump. Macho comes out and gets put in the rack. Scott Norton comes out and hits Lex with what appears to be Rick Steiner's dog collar. Buff wins again!
Curt Hennig vs DDP WCW US Championship
Speaking of things you...well, you get it. This is their 7th match since August. I guess that's not as bad as 5 matches in a MONTH, but still. DDP's decision to switch to jeans was so weird. Had a no DQ match, wore jeans to it like a good pro wrestler would, decided to just...keep wearing them. Ribs are still taped after 2 months. This feels just like their other matches, with some added rib work. Not particularly interesting. DDP hits a Kanyon Cutter OUTTA NOWHERE! New champion! BANG!
Larry Zbyzsko vs Eric Bischoff
Special Referee: Bret Hart
Nitro is on the line. Bret Hart, the hottest guy in the industry right now, is...a fucking referee for a non-wrestler and a retired guy. Bischoff is in surprisingly decent shape. Not like Vince or anything, but he clearly hits the gym and exercises. Bischoff throws some quick strikes and celebrates like he just scored a KO. They didn't phase Larry. Scott Hall is out there to give Bischoff-san guidance. Larry shoots for a double only for Bischoff to spin out and hit a head kick. Tenay is actually calling this a MMA fight. Bret Hart has his "I've made a huge mistake" face on something fierce. Larry gets fired up and just rubs Eric's face into the mat. Bret keeps reprimanding Larry and breaking holds, saying they were choke holds. Larry is a stretchin' that boy! All the distractions from Bret allow Eric to get a big flurry of strikes. A couple of them landed. Most of them were hilariously weak, though. It was a dang ol' Rope-A-Dope! SWERVE! Hall puts some kind of metal plate inside Bischoff's shoe. Eric kicks Bischoff, and the plate goes flying into the crowd. Bret just kind of stood there like, "...maybe I shouldn't have punched Vince...". Then he punches Bischoff and puts Hall in the sharpshooter. Larry chokes Bischoff out with his own gi belt, and Bret just kind of declared Larry the winner. WCW keeps Nitro FOREVER!
Sting vs Hulk Hogan WCW Championship
It's finally here. The biggest match in the history of professional wrestling. ARE YOU READY? #BigFightFeel. The biggest fight feel. Sting's entrance is as big of a deal as any Undertaker WM entrance, despite next to nothing going into it besides him just slowly walking to the ring. Minutes into the match, Hulk is dominating Sting. Just beating him around the ring like he was some scrub. Sting himself seems a little...distracted. I don't want to say he's fucked up, but you never know. For all the shots that Hogan throws, Sting just keeps bouncing up, and just one dropkick sends Hulk reeling to the floor. Lots of stalling and stooging to the fans from Hulk. Lol at the fan in the front row very clearly on camera saying "FUCK YOU" to Hogan. This really should have been a 5 minute squash from Sting, but at the same time, Hogan is basically the most S-Tier end boss dude ever, and Sting hasn't wrestled in a year and a half. What they're doing does make sense and is built well within the match itself, it's just...not what should have been booked. The story is all about Hogan throwing everything at Sting, but Sting being resilient and one big strike from him being equal to 10 from Hogan. Big boot! Leg drop! 1-2-3! Wait. Hogan just won? LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL. Sting kind of got his shoulder up, I guess, but that was clearly a 3 count. Bret Hart wouldn't allow the bell to ring, saying he "wouldn't allow it to happen again". The implication being that Nick Patrick just screwed Sting with a fast count or something, except it was a totally normal 3 count and Hogan just won the match clean.
Bret throws Hogan back into the ring, and Sting finally perks up and shows some fucking fire for the first time in the match. So much so that he almost jumped out of the ring on the Stinger Splash. Members of the nWo hit the ring. Sting gets rid of them. Scorpion Death Lock. Bret Hart calls for the bell. STING IS THE NEW WCW CHAMPION! The WCW roster hits the ring to celebrate. Fucking LOOOOOOOOL at Louie Spicolli being one of the first guys in the ring. For the first time since last Fall, Sting speaks...and it's something in Spanish about his mamacita.
Well, another WCW PPV that doesn't deliver, although it was better than the last few. It's kind of become wrestling lore that Starrcade 1997 should have been the nWo, and that this single show is the start of WCW's downfall. The truth is that there were clearly no plans for this to be the end of the nWo or Sting vs nWo angle. The nWo was at peak power coming into the show, and none of the losses change how they operated. The nWo wasn't going to be disbanded. They didn't lose any power. Sting coming back to dethrone Hogan and Larry beating Bischoff was A New Hope. Which means, logically, the Empire Strikes Back is coming up. And that's clearly what the plan was, as much as there were plans in the main event after this show, at least. It's pretty clear that all they had laid out was "the nWo fights back". Hall has his title shot, Nash and Giant were going to hook up, and the nWo had been without the WCW Championship and control of Nitro in the past. It didn't stop them. There is no reason to expect it to stop them now.
That's really the main issue I have with this whole thing. Yes, Sting/Hogan was booked very oddly, and the restarted portion of the match probably should have been the entire match, but it was clear that Sting winning the title wasn't going to be the end of the story. It should have been, but it wasn't, and it was also clear that they hadn't really planned much for 1998 in the main event scene. The coming nWo split hasn't been teased or set up at all. Goldberg still hasn't hit full speed yet. It's pretty clear that the plans for 1998 were to be pretty much the same thing as 1997, but with Sting wrestling again. This show only has an impact if you stop here and pretend there were no sequels.