This week Throwback Thursday revisits the 20th anniversary of the biggest Starrcade ever and one the most important shows in World Championship Wrestling history when we look back at…
Starrcade ’97, as found on the WWE Network!
For fans of the era there was no bigger match in all of wrestling than Hollywood Hogan versus Sting. Since the Fall Brawl event in September ’96 WCW had, in one way or another, been building to this match on this night. The build alone, week after week, month after month, was some of the finest TV WCW had ever done and was one of the many reasons WCW dominated the “Monday Night Wars” for as long as they did. In the end the angle drew a sell-out crowd of over 17,000 to the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. and produced a record gate ($543,000) and PPV buyrate (1.9) for WCW. To say expectations were sky high for Starrcade ’97 is certainly an understatement.
With all of the momentum and interest heading into this event it seemed like nothing could go wrong. And then the event happened. Konnan was a late scratch (due to a family emergency) as was Kevin Nash who (according to Bishcoff’s book) was legitimately hospitalized with chest pains in Phoenix, Arizona. As for Sting, he hadn’t worked in over 15 months and there was legitimate concern about Sting’s conditioning and whether Sting could go the distance and pull of what was required. But it would be the backstage politics and “creative control”, the stuff fans weren’t worried about when they payed their money to see the show, that turned the biggest event in company history into an utter disaster.
As for context, it’s nearly complete. Though secondary shows (Saturday Night, Pro, Main Event, Prime, and Worldwide) are currently unavailable on the Network the entirety of Monday NITRO as well all previous Clash of the Champions and PPV events are available now.
WCW Starrcade ’97 (WATCH)
Date: December 28, 1997 – Location: MCI Center, Washington, D.C.
Attendance: 17,500 – PPV Buys: 1.9 (<687,000 homes) Commentators: Tony Schaivone, Mike Tenay, & Dusty Rhodes – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Hollywood Hogan
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Curt Hennig
WCW World Tag Team Champions: The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott)
WCW World Television Champion: Disco Inferno
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Eddie Guerrero
The show opens with a video package setting up the main event showdown between Sting and Hollywood Hogan.
In the arena the pyro goes off and Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the show. Schiavone says there’s controversy over the referee for the main event and Tenay explains that a name will be chosen at random. We then see a host of WCW wrestlers sitting around the arena to watch the big show as Schiavone sells the fact they’re there as fans not talent. Dusty then gives one of his great “soliloquies” (if you weel) about destiny. Schiavone then informs fans that Kevin Nash is out for an unknown reason and that the big Giant/Nash match is postponed.
— WCW Cruiserweight Championship (WATCH – 4:20)
Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero(c)
Schiavone starts this match by telling Tenay that over 24,000 fans are in attendance but that’s just Tony being Tony. While the first part of this match is as good as it gets the commentators can’t stop talking about everything else but the match. This is a very good match that has the life sucked out of it thanks to the commentary. Behind the shoddy commentary Malenko and Guerrero deliver a physical, psychological battle for the Cruiserweight title that deserves better than it got here. In the end Guerrero’s repeated attacks on Malenko’s knee is the deciding factor. After a missile dropkick to the left knee Eddie hits the frog splash on Malenko’s knees for the win at 14:58 to retain the WCW Cruiserweight title.
WINNER and STILL WCW Cruiserweight Champion, Eddie Guerrero (Pin, 14:58)
Scott Hall comes to the ring next, wearing the “bogus” WCW World Tag Team title belt. Hall does the usual survey routine and says that he wrestles the winner of the main event. Hall then announces to the live crowd that Kevin Nash isn’t there and that Giant can tell everyone he won by forfeit. Giant comes to the ring instead and says that he forgives Nash for not showing up, that he wouldn’t want to wrestle himself either but that he’ll be around when Nash comes back. Hall attacks Giant but Giant fights him off, hits a big press slam, and levels Hall with a jackknife powerbomb. Scott Norton and Vincent come out and help Hall to the back before returning for the next match.
— “Six-Man nWo vs. WCW Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH – 31:49)
New World Order (Scott “Flash” Norton, Vincent, & “Macho Man” Randy Savage (sub. for Konnan)) w/Elizabeth vs. WCW World Tag Team Champions The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) w/Ted DiBiase, & Ray Traylor
The nWo come out minus Konnan and, without saying anything about it, Scott Norton points to the back and out walks Randy Savage. Though Vincent is in this one it’s not all bad. Though it’s painfully slow at times this match features some decent action, feeling more like a bad “Survivor Series” match than a traditional six-man tag. Late in the match The Steiner’s spike Vincent with the Steiner DDT before Scott hits Vincent with a super Frankensteiner but Savage breaks up the pin. Scott sets Savage up for a super Frankensteiner when Scott Norton lifts Steiner on his shoulders before dropping Scott with an Electric Chair. Savage hits the big flying elbow and the New World Order pick up the win at 11:07.
WINNERS are New World Order (Scott “Flash Norton, Vincent, & “Macho Man” Randy Savage (sub. for Konnan)) w/Elizabeth (Pin, 11:07)
After replays “Mean” Gene is in the aisle selling a WCW Hotline report about some “new faces” backstage for the show before bringing out J.J. Dillon who talks about the stakes of the big matches tonight. Dillon explains why the referee for the main event is such a big deal and explains that the names of the WCW referees were placed in a hat and there was a drawing. And wouldn’t you know who won the pony, as Jim Cornette says, Nick Patrick’s name was selected. Okerlund tries to play up the controversy of choosing Patrick but Dillon sees nothing wrong with it.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 53:16)
Steve “Mongo” McMichael vs. Bill Goldberg
This was, unbelievably, only Goldberg’s 9th televised match in WCW. It starts on the floor where Goldberg and “Mongo” brawl before Goldberg picks him up and carries him to the ring. Though the match is sloppy at times, with Goldberg even looking lost, Goldberg looks pretty good. For some reason Goldberg feels the need to put “Mongo” through a table, a spot that earns a small “ECW” chant. “Mongo” fights back but his back gives out. Goldberg simply grabs McMichael and hits a dangerous Jackhammer for the 1-2-3 at 6:00.
WINNER is Bill Goldberg (Pin, 6:00)
Raven comes out next and takes his usual position in the corner and talks about not conforming to WCW’s “corporate structure” and that he’s chosen not to wrestle tonight and allow Perry Saturn to finish “the destruction of Chris Benoit.”
Benoit comes out and tells Raven that he doesn’t see anything “through a veil”, that he rests “in reason” and “moves with passion”. Benoit says that there’s nothing he’s more passionate about than “inflicting pain on The Raven.”
— “Raven’s Rules” (WATCH – 1:03:38)
Chris Benoit vs. Perry Saturn (sub. for Raven) w/Raven, Kidman, Sickboy, Riggs, Lodi, & Hammer
This one starts out in a furry of action until Saturn slows things down, which is the gear this match stays in for the most part. Things pick up late when the fight hits the floor. When Benoit puts the Crippler Crossface on Saturn at ringside the rest of The Flock swarm to make the save. Saturn wipes everyone save Benoit out with an Asai Moonsault which gives Benoit the advantage. The Flock attack again which leads to Raven dropping Benoit with the Evenflow DDT. Moments later Saturn cinches in the Rings of Saturn and picks up the submission win at 10:51. After the match Raven kneels over Benoit before leaving.
WINNER is Perry Saturn (sub. for Raven) w/Raven, Kidman, Sickboy, Riggs, Lodi, & Hammer (Submission, 10:51)
After replays Schiavone tells us that “the remaining four matches here tonight will all be the turning point in the struggle that has been WCW/nWo, because all four matches pit WCW members against nWo members.”
— “nWo vs. WCW Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:21:03)
Marcus “Buff” Bagwell vs. “Total Package” Lex Luger
Since the December 1, 1997 edition of NITRO these two had fought four times on TV (including WCW Saturday Night) with Luger winning the first match by DQ and Buff the remainder by either DQ or count-out. Luger was out to settle the score while “Buff” was looking to humiliate Luger. Though this starts out fast this is, for me, the worst match of the night. A very dull, very boring match that doesn’t do anything to excite the fans. Eventually Vincent tries to get in the ring but ends up propelled into Bagwell instead and dumped over the top. Luger goes after Bagwell but the referee gets in his way and ends up knocked down. Luger slams Bagwell, fixes his hair, and lifts “Buff” into the Torture Rack when Randy Savage runs in to break it up. Luger Racks Savage until Scott Norton runs in and nonchalantly gloms Luger with what looks to be Rick Steiner’s dog collar. Norton drags Bagwell over Luger and the referee comes in to count the pin at 16:37.
WINNER is Marcus “Buff” Bagwell (Pin, 16:37)
— WCW United States Heavyweight Championship – “nWo vs. WCW Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:44:13)
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Curt Hennig(c)
The story here was DDP taking Ric Flair’s place after the nWo took Flair out yet again. DDP is o-v-e-r with this crowd in D.C. This is an entertaining, physical match that tells a good story but bores the live crowd to death. DDP takes the brunt of the punishment with Hennig going to town on Page’s injured ribs/back with a hope spot thrown in every now and then. This is yet another match where the commentators, at times, ramble on and on about everything other than the match which is beyond annoying this far into the event! Things pick up in the closing minutes with DDP trying and failing to make the comeback. When Hennig goes for the Hennig-Plex DDP reverses it into an armbar DDT. Moments later DDP, coming off the ropes, floats over Hennig and nails the Diamond Cutter to win the match and the WCW U.S. title at 10:55. This marked the end of Hennig’s lone WCW United States title reign at 112-days and DDP’s first (of an eventual two) WCW U.S. Heavyweight title win.
WINNER and NEW WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, Diamond Dallas Page (Pin, 10:55)
After replays we go to the WCWWrestling.com location where Mark Madden is interviewing Eddie Guerrero though we can’t make out much of it out.
Bret Hart comes out next to some of the worst entrance music you’ll ever hear as Dusty wonders if Bret is a “tweener” while Scott Hall leads Bischoff to the ring. For those wondering Bischoff’s original nWo music is overdubbed on the Network.
— “nWo vs. WCW Grudge Match” – If Bischoff Wins the nWo Wins NITRO; If Zbyszko Wins Scott Hall Must Wrestle Zbyszko at Souled Out ’98 (WATCH – 1:59:50)
Special Guest Referee: Bret “Hitman” Hart
“Easy E” Eric Bischoff w/Scott Hall vs. “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Aside from promos teasing which side he was on in the nWo/WCW war, this was Bret Hart’s long anticipated WCW debut. As a referee. A big “Larry” chant leads to a lot of stalling with Bischoff getting in a light punch/kick here and there between stalling. Soon enough Larry takes a head kick and freaks out on Bischoff. Between the commentators convulsing every time Bret Hart enforces a rule against Larry and Bischoff’s terrible strikes and horrid selling this match is a train wreck! When Larry ties Bischoff in the Tree of Woe Bret Hart pulls him away from the corner while Scott Hall places a metal plate in the toe of Bischoff’s gear which (of course) goes flying off into the crowd when he tries to use it. Larry sells that he’s been knocked out and “Easy E” wants Bret to raise his hand but Bret punches Bischoff in the face instead and then takes out Scott Hall with a Sharpshooter to a massive pop as Larry chokes Bischoff with “Easy E’s” black belt. When Larry turns around Bret raises his hand and the match is over at 11:12. The finish, like the match, makes zero sense. Well, whatever, it’s WCW!
WINNER is Larry Zbyszko (11:12)
In the ring Michael Buffer does his thing and Hollywood Hogan, with overdubbed music, makes his way to the ring.
Thunder and lightening fill the arena and we see the long-awaited return of the Starrcade ’83 laser show! On a single screen the lasers flash while a voice-over says “we look to the skies for a vindicator”. “The battle between good and evil has begun. Against an army of shadows comes a dark warrior, the purveyor of good with a voice of silence and a mission of justice. This. Is. Sting.”
Now, with all the fans looking up and the cameras panning the arena, everyone’s expecting an epic Sting drop from the rafters, as he’d been doing for months before this night. Instead, Sting just walks out of the back as if he’s been hanging with the boys, and Hogan, all afternoon. Just another one of the WCW wrestlers. He still gets a massive pop but it’s the first real hole in the bubble of the epic Sting/Hogan story and, ultimately, an omen of things to come.
— WCW World Heavyweight Championship – “nWo vs. WCW Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:19:03)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Michael Buffer
Sting vs. Hollywood Hogan(c)
This match is one of the most controversial matches in the history of WCW. What should have been a coming out party for the “crow” Sting turned out like every other heel Hollywood Hogan match in WCW. Instead of Sting making short work of Hogan and fighting off the nWo, or a dozen other ideas, this match toed the line as if Sting were just another babyface and not the second biggest star in all of wrestling, behind Stone Cold Steve Austin, in the winter of 1997.
After Sting gets a punch or two in to start the match, a dropkick every now and then, and a headlock this match is nearly all Hollywood Hogan, as if someone in WCW watched the Douglas/Bigelow match ECW’s N2R ’97 and patterned this match after it! Late in the match, after completely crushing Sting, Hogan hits a sloppy boot and then the big leg drop for a normal 1-2-3 at 11:20 and the crowd is not happy. Suddenly Bret Hart is at ringside preventing David Penzer from ringing the bell. Referee Nick Patrick and Hogan demand for the bell to be rung but Bret gets on the mic and says “I said it would never happen again and it’s not gonna happen again!” Hart tells Patrick the count was fast, though it wasn’t, before decking Patrick and tossing Hogan back in the ring to face Sting, who only now gets fired up. Bagwell and Scott Norton run in but Sting fights them off. Sting hits the ol’ Stinger Splash and then puts Hogan in the Scorpion Deathlock for the win at 12:54. This ended Hogan’s third WCW World title reign at 141-days and marked Sting’s fourth NWA/WCW World Heavyweight title win.
WINNER and NEW WCW World Heavyweight Champion, Sting (Submission, 12:54)
After the match the crowd goes nuts as the WCW wrestlers from the crowd and the locker room pour into the ring. Giant holds Sting in the air while the others applaud. Sting poses with the title as the fans roar before we see a slow-motion shot of Sting holding up the belt as the credits roll.
This event has not aged well at all. Aside from the opener this event falls flat match after match.
Though WCW had survived bad shows before this was the first time fans felt truly burned. The show proved that WCW, when push came to shove, simply couldn’t deliver on a promised result as the WWF had time after time. The “change” pushed so hard in this event never came to pass. In hindsight, Starrcade ’97 serves as the perfect microcosm for the downfall of WCW. The same political shenanigans and booking blunders that plagued Starrcade ’97 were the very same that would end up killing the company for good in 2001. While the beginning of the end had already commenced, Starrcade ’97 was the first real nail in the coffin of World Championship Wrestling.
If you’re already subscribed to the WWE Network you can relive this momentous WCW event or see it for the first time exactly 20 years later! Don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comments.
From all of us at WDN, have a happy and safe New Year’s with you and yours!
Thanks for reading – until next year, see ya at ringside!
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