PPV Review: WCW Starrcade 1996

WCW Starrcade 1996 Review - Event poster December 29, 1996
Nashville Municipal Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee

By the end of 1996, the landscape of World Championship Wrestling looked much, much different than it had only 12 months earlier. 

Gone was the Red and Yellow All-American Hulk Hogan who competed in horrible and goofy gimmick matches like Uncensored's Tower of Doom. Gone was fresh-faced babyface Sting, and gone too were the kind of cheesy angles like the Parker/Martel wedding that would have still looked out-of-place even at the height of the World Wrestling Federation's cartoon era of 1995.

In their place, we had a dark, mysterious Sting, lurking in the rafters after his loyalties had been questioned one too many times by WCW's top stars. From his perch on high, the company franchise player -taking his cues directly from 1994 movie The Crow- stalked a very different Hulk Hogan, one who had turned his back on WCW at Bash of the Beach 1996 to become the ultra-arrogant heel leader of the New World Order, taking his gang of renegades forward in a product that was edgier, grittier, and yet still very much a WCW product.

Tonight, the newly renamed Hollywood Hulk Hogan would get into the ring to see out the year in a heavily hyped main event bout against former rival Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Here's what went down when Hogan, Piper, the nWo, and WCW all collided at the company's final show of the year, WCW Starrcade 1996.

Two Legends Reunite 

WCW Starrcade 1996 Review - Dusty Rhodes, Tony Schiavone, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan
Tonight's show began with the customary video package, this one reminding us just how huge, how historic tonight's main event between WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hulk Hogan and challenger Rowdy Roddy Piper really was.

Though choosing to call tonight's match a 'reunion' of two of pro wrestling's biggest stars may have been odd, this was nonetheless a compelling hype video which set the tone nicely for the rest of the show.

Following this, Tony Schiavone, The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan all gave us their own take on just why tonight's match was so monumental, with Heenan reminding us that Piper was the one guy Hogan had never truly defeated.

From there, it was on to our opening contest.

Title Versus Match (NJPW J-Crown & WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Both on the line)
J-Crown Champion Ultimo Dragon (w/ Sonny Onoo) vs. WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko 

WCW Starrcade 1996 Review - Ultimo Dragon defended WCW Cruiserweight title and NJPW J-Crown against Dean Malenko
Both Champions had enjoyed stellar performances on PPV in 1996, particularly against Rey Mysterio Jr. so it was no surprise to see them go at it in another classic Cruiserweight contest here at Starrcade.

Though some may have enjoyed both men's matches with Mysterio over tonight's bout, that's to take nothing away from what was a solid encounter between two very gifted wrestlers that only got better the longer it went on.

After a building up towards a dramatic finale full of jaw-dropping near falls, the end came when Ultimo Dragon hit a tiger suplex on Dean Malenko and hooked him in for the three count.
Your Winner and Still J-Crown Champion and New Cruiserweight Champion: Ultimo Dragon

Skipping the usual Mean Gene 'tween-match stuff, we went straight to our next contest:

World Championship Wrestling Women's Championship Final
Akira Hokuto (w/ Sonny Onoo and Kensuke Sasaki) vs. Madusa 

WCW Starrcade 1996 Review - Akira Hokuto faced Madusa for the WCW Women's Title
After a tournament to determine a new champion which had apparently been held mostly on WCW Saturday Night, Madusa had, quite inevitably, reached the final.

So too had Japanese star Akira Hokuto, who came to the ring in some truly mad and yet insanely awesome gear that was part angel, part Japanese Warrior Woman and part, erm, gas mask.

Sadly, Akira's outfit was the only part of this contest which was awesome.

Whilst I'm sure this match had its fans, I'm sorry to say I'm not one of them.

Sure, it wasn't terrible by any stretch, but there was certainly nothing -outside of the occasional high impact clothesline- to get excited about.

After a so-so encounter, Akira got knocked to the outside, where she was tended to by real-life husband, Kensuke Sasake.

This distracted referee Nick Patrick long enough for the devious Sonny Onoo to run in and level Madusa with her own American flag.

This was enough for Akira to get back in the ring, plant Madusa on her head, and win the match.
Your Winner and New WCW Women's Champion: Akira Hokuto 

Post match, Sonny Onoo jumped for joy at having his second champion of the evening, not that Kensuke Sasake was all that impressed with his immoral methods.

The NJPW star was clearly upset at Onoo's use of the American flag as a weapon, though his wife seemed too happy with her win to have even noticed.

Hot Rod Speaks 

WCW Starrcade 1996 - Mean Gene Okerlund and Rowdy Roddy Piper
After the announcers showed us Diamond Dallas Page being interviewed for wcwwrestling.com, we went back to the locker room, where Mean Gene Okerlund was standing by ready to interview Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Okerlund reminded Piper that he had said he was wrestling tonight not for WCW, but for himself.

Piper responded to this by basically losing his mind and yelling at the top of his lungs about limousines, icons of pro wrestling, and having six kids to feed.

This was basically the sound of a man taking a bunch of crack and screaming at a camera. Madness.

After Piper hopped off camera to prove that he hip he had received surgery on -and which was attacked by the NWO at last month's World War 3 PPV- was fine, Mean Gene sent us back to ringside for our next match.

Jushin 'Thunder' Liger vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. 

As this one got underway, Tony Schiavone told us that Jushin 'Thunder' Liger hadn't been seen in WCW since last year's Starrcade, so I'm guessing that time he faced Konnan at Slamboree 1996, was just a dream.

Speaking of which, Mike Tenay -who always joined in on commentary in these types of matches- told us that this was a dream match, but as dream matches go, this one was somewhat underwhelming.

Again, much like the women's match, it wasn't bad by any stretch. It certainly had its moments, and whilst neither man seemed to have brought their A-game, it's worth mentioning that Liger and Rey Mysterio at their worst are still better than many lesser wrestlers' best.

So what we got was fine, with the odd moment of brilliance thrown in for good measure.

The end came when Liger hit the Liger Bomb to pick up the win, building momentum for his upcoming Tokyo Dome match against Ultimo Dragon for all the belts.
Your Winner: Jushin 'Thunder' Liger 

With that, it was on to our next match.

No Disqualification Match:
Chris Benoit (w/ Woman) vs. Jeff Jarrett 

WCW Starrcade 1996 - Jeff Jarrett faced Chris Benoit in a No DQ match
A theme was starting to develop here, in which matches which looked like they should have been awesome turned out to be woefully underwhelming.

The No DQ rule barely came into effect, and any time that it did would have been better explained as two bitter rivals throwing the rule book out of the window.

The actual action itself was mediocre at best, and the ending was both confusing and dumb.

After endorsing Chris Benoit as a member of The Four Horsemen only a few months earlier at The Great American Bash 1996- Arn Anderson came down towards the end and blanked The Crippler, moving around ringside to take a stand and watch the action.

The Enforcer didn't even budge when Konnan and Hugh Morrus came down to try and, I don't know, gang rape Woman or something.

Anderson instead DDT'd Jarrett on the outside, which meant the camera missed Kevin Sullivan entering the ring and smashing a wooden chair over Benoit's head.

Jeff Jarrett rolled back into the ring, got the pin, and this mess was over.
Your Winner: Jeff Jarrett 

In the aftermath, Mean Gene tried to get words first with Anderson, then with Jarrett, and finally with Benoit and Woman.

When they all ignored him and moved off to the back, Gene was left to settle with Steve 'Mongo' McMichael and Deborah as his guests.

In a reasonable promo, Mongo lambasted Benoit for being unable to cut it against Double J.

His wife then took over the mic and said that whilst Jarrett was Horsemen material 'those other two, Chris and Nancy' were not.

The look on Mean Gene's face when Deborah dropped Woman's real name live on air was priceless.

The blonde beauty finished her mic time by telling us that we all wished we could be with her, but that she only had eyes for Mongo, so happy new year to us.

With that, Gene sent us back to the announcers, who went over the ending to the last match one more time before randomly switching to questioning where Sting's loyalties lay.

This gave us a vignette about Sting's transformation into the recent mysterious Crow Sting, and finally into the arrival of the nWo for our next match.

World Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Champions The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash w/ Syxx) vs. The Faces of Fear (Meng & Barbarian w/ Jimmy Hart) 

WCW Starrcade 1996 - Scott Hall of nWo Outsiders
Though not the greatest bout of all time, this did pick up the slack a little bit, with Meng & Barbarian doing all they could to dethrone Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.

Not that they were ever going to stand a chance with Evil nWo referee Nick Patrick as the official.

Patrick continuously hampered the Faces of Fear's efforts throughout this reasonably entertaining match, then counted a quick pin when Nash power bombed The Ballbearing to get the win for his team.
Your Winners and Still WCW Tag Team Champions: The Outsiders 

Afterwards, Hall and Nash looked on furious, as though pissed off at Meng and Barbarian for forcing them to actually put some effort into their match.

From there, it was off backstage, where the nWo had a response for Roddy Piper.

Hogan is Ready for Piper 

WCW Starrcade 1996 - Vincent, Ted Dibiase, Elizabeth, and Hollywood Hulk Hogan - NWO
Flanked by Vincent, with a bored and pissed off looking Miss. Elizabeth standing by, Ted Dibiase held the microphone (and the WCW title) for Hollywood Hulk Hogan to cut a promo about tonight's match.

Hogan ranted about how he had hoped that Piper had seen sense and gone home, but no, the Champion had seen 'one of Piper's six, snot-nosed kids running around trying to bum a quarter for a coke,' so he knew that Hot Rod was in the building.

Compared to some of the lunacy that was such a hallmark of Hogan's babyface promos, this was actually pretty lucid, to the point, and well done.

World Championship Wrestling United States Championship Tournament Final
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Eddie Guerrero 

If you recall, Nature Boy Ric Flair had won the US title from Konnan back at Bash at the Beach 1996, only to get injured and forfeit the belt whilst The Giant carried it around as though it was his.

To crown an actual new champion, WCW held a tournament, with Diamond Dallas Page and Eddie Guerrero reaching the final.

Tonight, in a rematch from their previous meeting back at Halloween Havoc 1996, Page and Guerrero would go at it to finally determine a new champion...

WCW Starrcade 1996 - Eddie Guerrero won the WCW US title
... and nobody cared.

Whilst technically this was a fine bout, the live audience just wasn't into it. When they were, it was only to cheer on Page, who was still playing the heel here despite being well on his way to the big babyface turn that would change his entire career.

After some good back-and-forth action, both men collided in the ring, with Dallas collapsing into the canvas and Eddie taking a tumble to the outside.

At this point, Hall, Nash, and Syxx made their way out, the latter two distracting the referee whilst the former hit the ring and drilled DDP with the Outsider's Edge as retaliation for Page refusing to join the New World Order.

Unaware of what had happened, Guerrero hit a frog splash and, one three count later, became the new United States Champion.
Your Winner and New WCW US Champion: Eddie Guerrero

Following the match, the Wolfpac trio returned to the ring and took out Eddie, with Syxx stealing his newly won US title.

A clip then aired promoting the upcoming nWo Souled Out PPV.

If you hadn't had enough of the New World Order yet, you were in luck, as we got more next.

The Giant vs. Lex Luger 

WCW Starrcade 1996 Review - The Giant faced Lex Luger
Facing off against The Giant in this rematch from their world title fight at The Great American Bash, Lex Luger was insanely over with the live crowd, receiving what was, by far, the biggest pop of the night up to that point.

Yet whilst the crowd certainly came alive for Luger in the opening moments, they would soon go back to sleep as The Giant took charge and led the way through a tedious, slow-paced encounter that was a chore to watch.

Thankfully, things picked up towards the finish when Luger regained control and went for the pin, only to be physically thrown up in the air by the force of The Giant's kick out.

Naturally, this knocked the referee out, prompting the dastardly Nick Patrick to rush in and take his place, even going so far as to kick Luger's leg to prevent a Torture Rack attempt.

Having none of it, Luger chased Patrick away but was then attacked by Syxx, who promptly fled at the sight of Sting.

The mysterious grappler left his bat in the ring, had a private word separately with both men, and then left.

One low blow and a strike from the bat later, and this one was over.
Your Winner: Lex Luger 

The crowd went absolutely insane for Luger, as the announcers told us that, by being the first man to beat somebody from the nWo, Luger had accomplished something huge.

Whether Piper would be able to top that feat by toppling Hogan was something we were about to find out in our next match.

Icon vs. Icon
WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hulk Hogan (w/ Ted Dibiase, Vincent, and Miss. Elizabeth) vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper 

I can't recall why the title wasn't on the line here, though I'm not sure it matters.

Nor did it really make a difference that Vince and Elizabeth went to the back in the early going.

What did matter, was that this match was good. Really good. Better than any so-called 'smart' fan may have told you.

This was basic old school from start to finish, with both men proving that it really was possible to do more with less.

Heck, at one point, Piper had Hogan in a headlock and the two got more mileage out of it than if they'd done a hundred submissions in one sequence.

No, this wasn't a technical wrestling masterpiece, but it was a good, old school grudge match that this fan seriously enjoyed.

The Giant ran in for the finish, but Piper saw him off and put his sleeper hold on Hogan to win the match.
Your Winner: Rowdy Roddy Piper 

Afterwards, Hall and Nash came down to revive Hogan, who then had it out with The Giant.

The Giant was pissed that nobody was there to watch his back, but Hogan was more concerned with telling everyone that The Giant had dropped the ball.

Hogan then called for the belt and posed to end the show as though he had won the match.

And so that was the end of World Championship Wrestling's most historic year - the one where Hogan turned heel, the nWo formed, and things were sure to never be the same again. 

Yet despite having one of their hottest years on record, WCW went out of 1996 on a whimper rather than a bang. 

Whilst some may blame the company's over-reliance on the New World Order gimmick for this show's poor quality, that simply isn't the case. Even when the men in black and white were nowhere to be seen, many of the matches simply disappointed, creating a true let down of a show. 

Thankfully, 1997 would get a lot better, though not right away. 

Next time, we'll go all otu of sequence to review the first Clash of the Champions of 1996 before gettting on with 1997 events.  Be the first to check out those reviews by following Retro Pro Wrestling on Twitter, or the brand new Facebook page

Missed any of my WCW 1996 PPV Reviews? Here's the full list: 

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  1. Why couldn't they just have Piper win the belt to make the PPV matter and just drop and t back to Hogan at SuperBrawl? Hogan vs Giant as nWo vs nWo would have made a perfect angle for the Souled Out main event with the title shot on the line to get there. Would have been better in my opinion.