PPV REVIEW: WCW Starrcade 1997

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Event Poster
December 28, 1997
MCI Center, Washington, D.C

It's often said that of all the things World Championship Wrestling did in the mid-late 1990s to dethrone the World Wrestling Federation as undisputed kings of pro wrestling, the build up towards Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. Sting at Starrcade 1997 was one of their greatest accomplishments. 

Encompassing the formation of the New World Order, Sting's transformation into the mysterious 'crow' character, and a near 18-month build up which saw Hollywood Hogan and his nWo organisation running roughshod over the company Sting had long been the heart and soul of, all whilst Sting himself refused to compete and instead lingered in the shadows, the storyline had been executed to perfection.

So, when the company told you that Hogan vs. Sting was 'The Match of The Century' it didn't take too big a stretch of the imagination to believe them.

Now that the night itself was at hand, all they had left to do was finish the storyline off with a satisfactory ending.

Having done so good so far, there was surely no possible way they could mess up something so simple...

..Or was there?

Let's head to Washington and find out for ourselves, shall we?

It's The One We've All Been Waiting For 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Sting challenged Hulk Hogan for the WCW title
And so, the most anticipated show of the year began with a dark, haunting video package which did an excellent job of making Hogan vs. Sting feel like the biggest battle of Good vs. Evil since God banished Satan to the depths of hell.

Seriously, I know I've mocked WCW's cheesy, outdated video packages in the past, but give them their credit here, they got this one right.

The video led us to Tony Schiavone and our announce team for the evening, which also includes The American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Iron Mike Tenay.

As usual, the announcers built up the main event as a huge deal, and even went one step further than usual by showing us basically all the WCW wrestlers who were not on the card that night taking their seats at ringside.

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Sworn enemies Glacier & Wrath hanging out in the crowd together
The idea here was that Sting vs. Hogan was such a huge deal that everyone from Harlem Heat, Sonny Onoo, and Hugh Morrus to Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine and Ultimo Dragon were eager to sit through a whole PPV just to watch it, and that this was such an important occasion that once sworn enemies Glacier and Wrath were willing to put their differences aside and sit just a few rows apart from one another.

OK, so that little continuity error wasn't the greatest, but the whole thing was a nice touch to build up the magnitude of tonight's show.

As Dean Malenko's music hit for our opening match, Schiavone ignored that to tell us that an nWo press release had been issued, informing us that Kevin Nash would not appear for his scheduled match against The Giant.

World Championship Wrestling World Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Eddie Guerrero backs off from Dean Malenko
Over the past few months, Eddie Guerrero had enjoyed two phenomenal Cruiserweight Championship matches against Rey Mysterio Jr. at Halloween Havoc 1997 and World War 3 1997.

Tonight, he went at it in another title defence against former Champion Dean Malenko in a match which, though it wasn't on a par with Guerrero/Mysterio, was every bit as good as you'd expect it to be.

Given the best part of 20 minutes to simply let rip, champ and challenger worked hard to deliver a hard-hitting wrestling match with nary a dull moment in sight.

After working Malenko's leg for the duration of the match, Eddie landed a brutal frog splash onto the challenger's knee and put him away for the three count.
Your Winner and Still WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Eddie Guerrero 

Up next it was survey time as Scott Hall came out to do the 'How many of you came to see the nWo?' thing he'd just started doing.

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Scott Hall conducted a survey and got chokeslammed by The Giant
After reminding us that -as a reward for winning World War 3- he would get to face the winner of Sting/Hogan at Superbrawl in February, the nWo founder informed the D.C. crowd that Kevin Nash would not be appearing so The Giant could be declared the winner via forfeit.

Not surprisingly, this brought out the big man himself.

The Giant promised to be waiting for Nash when he eventually did return, then merely shrugged when Hall tried to attack him.

Giving the crowd something to cheer about, Giant then battered Hall, threatened to chokeslam him, but powerbombed him instead.

All credit to Hall here, he was an absolute riot in selling The Giant's offence and made the whole thing come off beautifully.

After that, Scott Norton and Vincent came out to help Hall to the back as the nWo B-Team music played. The two then returned to the ring for an upcoming six-man tag team bout.

Six-Man Match
Team nWo (Scott 'Flash' Norton, Vincent, and Macho Man Randy Savage w/ Miss. Elizabeth) vs. Team WCW (Ray Traylor and WCW World Tag Team Champions Rick & Scott Steiner w/ Ted Dibiase) 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Vincent wrestled in his first PPV match in years
Apparently, Konnan was supposed to be the third man for the nWo, but it was revealed that Macho Man Randy Savage had taken his place for this match against former New World Order man Ray Traylor and WCW Tag Team Champions The Steiner Brothers, with another original nWo member, Ted Dibiase, in their corner.

Speaking of Dibiase, his former lackey, Vincent was competing in his first WCW PPV match since joining the company the previous summer, and his first PPV match for any company since Survivor Series 1992.

I'm not, of course, including battle royals in that.

Anyway, as random as this one was, it was actually pretty decent in its own way.

The good guys spent the majority of the bout in control before it all broke down and Savage got the win with his flying elbow drop.
Your Winners: Randy Savage, Scott Norton, and Vincent 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Mean Gene Okerlund interviews J.J. Dillon
Afterwards, we got the obligatory Mean Gene Okerlund segment in which he urged us to call the WCW Hotline before introducing WCW Executive Committee Chairman, J.J. Dillon.

Dillon announced that, in the interest of fairness, the names of all the referees had been entered into a hat and one had been picked at random to determine who would officiate tonight's main event.

With eye-rolling predictability, the man chosen -at random, remember- for the task was, obviously, former nWo referee, Nick Patrick.

Bill Goldberg vs. Steve 'Mongo' McMichael 

At Halloween Havoc 1997, Bill Goldberg had interjected himself in the finish of Steve 'Mongo' McMichael vs. Alex Wright.

That has led to a scheduled match at World War 3 which never actually took place because Mongo had attacked Goldberg with a lead pipe backstage.

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Bill Goldberg beat Steve 'Mongo' McMichael
So tonight, we finally got the big grudge match, and it wasn't the typical squash match affair we all remember Goldberg specialising in during this phase of his career.

Instead, it was a competitive -though pretty bland- match which was so boring that at one point the fans stopped watching and started arguing among themselves.

Even a spot where Mongo fell like a sack of crap through a table (prompting a half-assed ECW chant) couldn't save this one from being the worst WCW PPV match of 1997.

Finally, Big Bill hit the jackhammer to pick up the win.
Your Winner: Bill Goldberg 

Post-match, Mike Tenay made a brief reference to Goldberg's undefeated streak, but it wasn't the big selling point that jr would later become.

Raven's Rules (No DQ)
Saturn vs. Chris Benoit 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Raven had Saturn substitute for him against Chris Benoit
For the past month, Raven had been avoiding Chris Benoit, either failing to turn up for their scheduled matches or sending one of his Flock to compete in his place.

Tonight was supposed to be the night that Raven finally manned-up to go one-on-one with The Crippler, but instead, Raven once again bowed out and had former TV Champion Saturn do his bidding instead.

Benoit, however, was adamant that he wanted Raven, and cut an awkward promo in which he tried to imitate Raven's cryptic style but instead sounded like he'd forgotten a poem he was reading out to his high school.

Thankfully, The Crippler was better in the ring than he was on the mic, and this became a decent effort, even though it did drag on in places.

Despite his best efforts, not even Benoit could fight off the entire Flock, and a DDT from Raven followed by the rings of Saturn brought this one to an end.
Your Winner: Saturn 

Ladies and gentlemen, Starrcade 1997 continues with our following contest.

Buff Bagwell (w/ Vincent) vs. Lex Luger 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Buff Bagwell bored the world to tears with Lex Luger
This was probably the most boring match in the history of professional wrestling. The fact that I'm still awake to write this recap is a miracle.

Lex Luger spent the bulk of the match fighting off both Buff Bagwell and Vincent, but just when it looked like he was ready to rack the former American Male, referee Billy Silverman got bumped.

Randy Savage then ran in to attack Luger but got racked instead.

Then Scott Norton came down and hit Luger with -of all things- Rick Steiner's dog collar.

Vicious then dropped Delicious over the Total Package, Silverman made the cover, and this one was over.
Your Winner: Buff Bagwell 

Yuck, that was horrible.

World Championship Wrestling United States Championship
WCW US Champion Curt Hennig vs. Diamond Dallas Page 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - DDP challenged Curt Hennig for the US title
Making up for the last couple of horrible matches, Curt Hennig and Diamond Dallas Page put on a tremendous show that was by far the best match on the card.

OK, so the competition for such an honour wasn't exactly high, but still, this was a compelling match with plenty to enjoy

After beating each other to the point of exhaustion, DDP landed the Diamond Cutter to win his first pro wrestling championship.
Your Winner and New WCW United States Champion: Diamond Dallas Page 

Out in the back, Eddie Guerrero spoke to Madden and Katz for WCW.com

Match for the Control of WCW Nitro
Eric Bischoff (w/ Scott Hall) vs. Larry Zybysko
Special Referee: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Larry Zybysko beat Eric Bischoff
In the wake of Survivor Series 1997, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart was pretty much the hottest commodity in professional wrestling.

Yet instead of capitalising on the outpouring of public sympathy for The Hitman by booking him in a high profile match at his first WCW PPV to make a tonne of money and establish Bret as the company's biggest babyfaces since Sting, the company instead had him make his first major appearance as a referee for a match between a non-wrestling executive and retired wrestler turned commentator.

Only in WCW, folks.

The match was being fought to determine whether WCW or the nWo would be in control of Monday Nitro, and it was a big pile of confusing garbage.

For the first five decades, Living Legend Larry Zybysko and karate black belt Eric Bischoff merely stalled, teasing that they might, just possibly, make contact with each other before the second coming of Christ.

After several eternities, Bischoff struck Zybysko with a karate kick to the head then got immediately pummelled by The Living Legend.

Larry spent the bulk of the bout in control, with Bret admonishing him at every turn for a variety of reasons, almost as though he was secretively on Bischoff's side.

The actual action was horrible, and came to a head when Zybysko tied up Bischoff in a Tree of Woe.

Whilst Bret told him off, Scott Hall attached a metal plate to Eric's foot.

Bischoff then regrouped and went to kick Zybysko with the loaded boot. Not only did he clearly miss, but the metal plate very clearly flew off the boot and very obviously soared across the ring.

Despite this, Zybysko fell down and pretended to be knocked out anyway.

The Hitman then turned on Bischoff and knocked him out, before putting Scott Hall in the Sharpshooter for good measure.

Larry then recovered and won the match, not by pinfall, submission, or any of the normal ways that a person wins a match, but simply by Bret Hart deciding that he was the winner and raising his hand.
Your Winner: Larry Zybysko (Nitro remains in the control of WCW) 

Post-match, the announcers explained this whole mess by saying that Bret had seen Hall load Bischoff's boot, but they said nothing about him seeing the metal plate fly off and obviously miss.

World Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship:
WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. Sting 

WCW Starrcade 1997 review -Bret Hart was involved in the main event
Competing in his first full PPV match since Bash at the Beach 1996 (excluding a brief appearance at Fall Brawl 96), Sting got an elaborate entrance the likes of which gave any of The Undertaker's more dramatic arrivals a run for his money and which genuinely gave this fan goosebumps.

Then he took off his trench coat and Tony Schiavone said 'look at his arms!' so we did.

Yet instead of looking ripped muscles -as Schiavone's tone of voice implied- the franchise player looked like he hasn't been near a dumbbell, nor the sun, since his last match.

In other words, Stinger looked like shit.

So too did the match.

We got about ten minutes of your typical Hogan main event before a very anticlimactic non-finish in which the champ merely dropped the leg on Sting and won the match.

It was such a strange, out of nowhere finish that the crowd greeted it with silence. Not Undertaker-Streak-Ending stunned silence but puzzled, head-scratching silence.

The head-scratching continued when we went outside to find Bret Hart preventing the timekeeper from ringing the bell and muttering something about something not happening again.

WCW Starrcade 1997 review - Sting beat Hogan for the title via weird botched finish
You see, the idea was that Patrick would do a fast count and Bret Hart -still with referee powers from the earlier match- would put things right to prevent another Montreal.

Except, Patrick never counted fast so Sting looked weak and Hart looked like an idiot.

Anyway, the match was restarted, and the worst WCW PPV of the year -if not the worst PPV of the year overall- was over thanks to a shitty looking Scorpion Deathlock.
Your Winner and New WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Sting

Post-match, the whole WCW roster somehow crammed into the ring to celebrate with the new champion in a moment which would have been a lot cooler had it not been for the crappy way the match ended.

And so that was that. 

Could WCW screw up what had been an otherwise perfect storyline?

Apparently so. 

An 18 month build up, all the hype of this being the biggest pay per view of all time, and what we got was a truly horrible effort that was painful to watch.

Still - this was World Championship Wrestling's most financially successful PPV ever, so for the company it was a hit, but you just know that nobody in their right mind would have paid money for Starrcade 1997 if they'd known what was actually going to happen at the show.

1997 events reviewed on Retro Pro Wrestling
  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 13
  7. WCW Spring Stampede 1997
  8. WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker
  9. WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell
  10. WCW - Slamboree 1997
  11. WWF - King of the Ring 1997
  12. WCW - Great American Bash 1997 
  13. WWF - In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede 
  14. WCW - Bash at the Beach 1997 
  15. WWF - Summerslam 1997
  16. WCW - Road Wild 1997
  17. WWF - In Your House 17: Ground Zero
  18. WCW - Fall Brawl 1997
  19. WWF - One Night Only 1997
  20. WWF - In Your House 18: Badd Blood
  21. WCW - Halloween Havoc 1997
  22. WWF - Survivor Series 1997
  23. WCW - World War 3 1993
  24. WWF - In Your House 19: D-Generation-X
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