Throwback Thursday – NWA Starrcade ’87: Chi-Town Heat
There are few wrestling events that are as historically significant or with as strange a backstory as Starrcade ’87. 28 years ago today the first NWA/JCP PPV took place in Chicago, Illinois. To mark the occasion Throwback Thursday on WrestlingDVDNetwork.com takes a look back at Starrcade ’87: Chi-Town Heat as seen right now on the WWE Network.
JCP was on the verge of true national expansion when a series of mistakes, from re-formatting TV to guaranteed contracts, began to weigh the promotion down. With the purchase of Bill Watts’ UWF and moving Starrcade out of the Carolinas working against them, Vince McMahon counter-programmed Starrcade ’87 with the inaugural Survivor Series. At a time when only one PPV event could be offered per carrier, per day McMahon leveraged access to WrestleMania IV to sway all but three carriers (two in the Carolinas, one in San Jose, California) to show the WWF PPV over JCP. What was to be the greatest night in NWA/JCP history turned into a bloodbath.
Context is slowly growing. As of this writing several late summer and early fall editions of NWA World Championship Wrestling have been uploaded to the Network.
NWA Starrcade ’87: Chi-Town Heat
Date: November 26, 1987
Location: UIC Pavilion, Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 8,000 – Buyrate: 3.30 (<20,000)
Commentators: Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone
Interviews: Missy Hyatt, Bob Caudle, & Jack Gregory
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Ronnie Garvin
NWA United States Heavyweight Champion: Lex Luger
NWA World Television Champion: Nikita Koloff
NWA World Tag Team Champions: The Four Horsemen (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard)
NWA United States Tag Team Champions: The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane)
NWA Western States Heritage Champion: Barry Windham
UWF Heavyweight Champion: Steve Williams
UWF Television Champion: Terry Taylor
UWF Tag Team Championship: The Sheepherders (Luke Williams & Butch Miller)
After a brief introduction from Ross and Schiavone we go to the ring for the first match of the night.
— “Six-Man Tag Team Match” (WATCH)
Sting & The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes & Jimmy Garvin) w/Precious vs. Eddie Gilbert, Rick Steiner, & Larry Zbyszko w/Baby Doll)
This one is a UWF match and is but a sliver of what made Bill Watts’ territory so great for so long. In the end Michael Hayes can’t quite close the show with a sunset flip when the time limit expires at 14:08. A solid, underrated opener, this match brings the hot Chicago crowd to their feet. It is also the earliest Sting match available on the Network as of this writing.
NO WINNERS declared (Draw, 14:08)
Afterward, we get a short introduction to Missy Hyatt before it’s back to the ring for the next match.
— UWF Heavyweight Championship – “Champion vs. Champion” (WATCH)
Barry Windham(NWA Western States Heritage Champion) vs. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams(UWF Heavyweight Champion)
The push for realism was at the expense of everything entertaining about a pro wrestling match, and the Chicago fans hated it. After Williams suffered an inadvertent low blow, Windham, to the ire of the Chicago fans, refused to take advantage of it. Minutes later Windham takes a nasty bump to the outside which Williams, still fiddling with his bishop, takes advantage of, rolling Windham up for the 1-2-3 at 6:05 to retain the title.
WINNER and STILL UWF Heavyweight Champion, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams (Pin, 6:05)
— “Non-Title Skywalkers Scaffold Match” (WATCH)
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) vs. The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane)(NWA United States Tag Team Championa) w/Jim Cornette & Big Bubba Rogers
The first “Skywalkers” match was an awe-inspiring event that helped make the home video of Starrcade ’86 the best selling pro wrestling VHS to date. This one, however, is far from awe-inspiring. After dispatching of Stan Lane, Gibson and Morton dispose of Eaton to win the match at 8:37. The most memorable moments of this match occur after the it when Big Bubba scales the scaffolding only to get hit in the groin while Ricky Morton swipes the big man’s hat and jacket.
WINNERS are The Rock and Roll Express (Robert Gibson & Ricky Morton) (Escape, 8:37)
After the match, as the ring crew disassembles the scaffolding, Bob Caudle conducts an agonizingly long interview with Jimmy Garvin to fill time. This is rough.
— “Championship Unification Match” (WATCH)
Nikita Koloff(UWF Television Champion) vs. Terry Taylor(NWA World Television Champion) w/Eddie Gilbert
This unification match is a solid back and forth match with above average psychology and a decent story. The finish sees Taylor and Gilbert collide on the ring apron before Koloff connects with the Russian sickle for the 1-2-3 at 18:28. It wasn’t long after this that the UWF was killed off for good.
WINNER and NEW Unified World Television Champion, “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff (Pin, 18:28)
After a replay we’re back to the ring for the next title match of the evening.
— NWA World Tag Team Championship (WATCH)
The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) w/Paul Ellering vs. The Four Horsemen (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard)(c) w/J.J. Dillon
The Road Warriors were the hottest tag team on earth and fans everywhere, especially in Chicago, were pining for Hawk and Animal to tear Arn and Tully apart to take the straps. After referee Tommy Young was knocked out of the ring Animal back drops Arn over the top rope leading to The Warriors hitting the Doomsday Device on Anderson while new referee Earl Hebner counts the 1-2-3 at 13:10. Tommy Young, however, reverses the decision due to the top rope violation and gives the match to the Horsemen on a DQ which enraged the Chicago crowd.
WINNERS and STILL NWA World Tag Team Champions, The Four Horsemen (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) w/J.J. Dillon (Disqualification, 13:10)
As the ring crew erects the steel cage we see Jack Gregory interviewing Magnum T.A. about the remaining matches followed by Bob Caudle interviewing the unified TV Champion Nikita Koloff who tosses the UFW title to the ground. After this, Caudle interviews J.J. Dillon about the upcoming cage matches.
— NWA United States Heavyweight Championship – “Steel Cage Career vs. Title Match” (WATCH)
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes vs. “The Total Package” Lex Luger(c) w/J.J. Dillon
The main angle going in to this one was the 90-day suspension, sold as a career killer, Rhodes faced if “The Dream” didn’t take the title. Luger, who won the title from Nikita Koloff on July 11, 1987, was a part of the Horsemen by now and a rising star in the NWA. While the match is solid it is far from the classic JCP needed it to be. Dillon tosses a chair into the ring but Rhodes uses it to lay out Luger with a DDT for the pinfall at 16:23 for the first and only U.S. title of Rhodes’ career and ending the 138-day reign of Lex Luger.
WINNER and NEW NWA United States Heavyweight Champion, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes (Pin, 16:23)
— NWA World Heavyweight Championship – “Steel Cage Match – To a Finish” (WATCH)
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/J.J. Dillon vs. “Hands of Stone” Ron Garvin(c)
Ron Garvin defeated Flair for the NWA World title in Detroit at JCP’s debut at Joe Louis Arena on Sept. 25, 1987. Though Garvin was roundly panned as World Champion, Garvin’s matches with Flair were stiff, physical, psychological master classes. Starrcade ’87, however, while decent and stiff, is not one of the better Garvin/Flair battles due to the lack of time the match was given. In the end Flair blocks a Garvin leap frog and drives Garvin’s head into the center post of the cage for the pinfall at 17:39 to win the 5th recognized (6th overall) NWA World title. After the match we see a replay as Ross and Schiavone discuss the outcome and its historical significance before the event abruptly ends.
WINNER and NEW NWA World Heavyweight Champion, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/J.J. Dillon (Pin, 17:39)
Between CCTV, PPV, and live attendance, less than 30,000 people saw Starrcade ’87 as it happened while Survivor Series was seen live by well over 370,000 people. While the main event and the tag title match (despite the “Dusty finish”) are bonafide classics the rest of the card is hit and miss. After four largely classic Starrcade events JCP not only dropped the ball they picked it up and handed it to the other team. While JCP would have many highs after this night they were never able to recover from the mistakes and missteps of Starrcade ’87: Chi-Town Heat. Less than one year later JCP would be no more.
That all for this week’s TBT on WDN – thanks for reading. Are you a WWE Network subscriber? Then check out Starrcade ’87, see it for yourself and let us know what you think below.
From all of us here – we wish you and yours a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
Until next week, see ya ringside.