Thursday, 8 April 2021

PPV REVIEW: WCW Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Event Poster
December 26, 1988 
Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, Virginia

It had been five long years since Ric Flair had defeated Harley Race in the main event of the first ever Starccade back in 1983. 

That event had been historically important for being the first ever Starrcade event, but this, Starrcade 1988: True Gritt was equally as important for being the first Starrcade promoted under the WCW banner.

Once again, Flair was in the main event competing for the title (as he had been for all of the previous installments) only this time, his opponent was The Total Package Lex Luger.

Flair and Luger had a number of memorable matches during the late 80s/early 90s, but this, this match here tonight, is widely regarded as the best of the bunch. 

With that being said then, let's not waste any more time as we head down to Norfolk, Virginia for a little True Gritt.







Welcome to Starrcade: True Gritt

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Tony Schiavone & Magnum TA - The Mustache Men Ride Again!
We began tonight’s event with a typically 80s-style introduction featuring clips of tonight’s stars with sound bites of various wrestlers talking about their big feuds.

Ric Flair, for example, wanted Lex Luger to shut his mouth here tonight at Starrcade...Wooo!

We then went live to the arena where fans were hyped to see the National Wrestling Alliance even though this was technically now a World Championship Wrestling show.

Tony ‘The Mustache’ Schiavone then welcomed us to the show and introduced his broadcast partner for the evening, Magnum T.A.

Magnum talked about how happy he was to be part of the event even though he couldn’t compete while Tony reminded us that ‘all five NWA titles’ would be decided on the show.

From there, we went to commentators Jim Ross and Bob Caudle who were, to quote Ross, ‘pumped’ for the action.

National Wrestling Alliance United States Tag Team Championship
NWA US Tag Team Champions The Fantastics (Tommy Rogers & Bobby Fulton) vs. The ‘Games Master’ Kevin Sullivan & Dr. Death Steve Williams

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Kevin Sullivan & Dr. Death vs. The Fantastics
Built as a battle of speed (The Fantastics) versus power (Steve Williams & Kevin Sullivan), this lengthy tag team match started well, with Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton having the full support of the crowd behind them.

The longer it went on though (and it did go on for ages), the more it started to drag and the more this fan in particular started to lose interest.

Sullivan snd Williams cut Rogers off from his corner and worked him over for a while until the inevitable hot tag that saw the crowds come alive.

Admittedly, this was the most exciting part of the match, though unfortunately for The Fantastics, a spirited comeback wasn’t enough.

Sullivan and Williams overpowered their opponents and, when Williams made the cover, referee Teddy Long awardees them the match despite Rogers kicking out at the last possible moment.
Your Winners and new United States Tag Team Champions: Steve Williams & Kevin Sullivan

Post match, the obligatory match recap went down before Schiavone and Magnum T.A ran down the rest of tonight’s card.

The Original Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey & Randy Rose w/ Paul E. Dangerously) vs. The Midnight Express (Sweet Stan Lane & Beautiful Bobby Eaton w/ Jim Cornette)

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Jim Cornette
For those keeping track at home, this was the first appearance of Paul E. Dangerously on an NWA/WCW PPV.

The future ECW leader has arrived in the NWA with the original Midnight Express of Loverboy Dennis Condrey and Ravishing Randy Rose, immediately going after the then-current version of the team in Sweet Stan Lane, Beautiful Bobby Eaton and their manager, Jim Cornette.

That had basically turned Cornette’s side into babyfaces who were out tonight to prove that they were the better incarnation of the Midnight Express.

This was a solid and entertaining match though again it was very long. That may not be a bad thing in itself, but you do have to wonder who was sat backstage saying ‘you know what we need immediately after a long, 20-minute tag match? Another long, 20-minute tag match!’

To be fair, this was the better of the two, with the outside shenanigans of Jim Cornette (who had grown an all-new sense of confidence and bravado since turning face) and Paul E. adding to the fun.

Sweet Stan and Beautiful Bobby dominated the first portion of the match until Eaton got beaten up by the original Midnights for a while.

This continued for ages until finally, Dennis Condrey blasted his rival over the head with Dangerously’s epic 80’s cellphone and made the cover.

Teddy Long saw the phone and decided he was having none of it.

In the resulting argument, Lane and Eaton got the better of their rivals and won the match.
Your Winners: The Midnight Express (Jim Cornette’s version)

Afterwards, Condrey, Rose, and Dangerously beat up on their enemies until Eaton recovered and started swinging Cornette’s tennis racket like he was Pete Sampras.

The Varsity Club Celebrate

Backstage, The Varsity Club gloated to Magnum TA about how they’d traded a ‘moron’ like Rick Steiner for the superior Dr. Death Steve Williams and this has led them to gold tonight.

Williams and Sullivan boasted about their big win earlier before Mike Rotunda promised to finish off Steiner once and for all when they met for the TV title later on in the broadcast.

The Russian Assassins (Russian Assassin #1 & Russian Assassin #2 w/ Paul Jones) vs. Ivan Koloff & The Junkyard Dog

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Teddy Long checks over The Russian Assassins
If the Assassins lose, they must unmask and Paul Jones must retire.

Though the crowd were clearly into Junkyard Dog and the somewhat recently turned Ivan Koloff, there’s no escaping the fact that this was easily the worst match on the card so far.

OK, so it wasn’t awful or anything, but it was sloppy in parts and fairly uninspiring.

The end came when JYD hit one of the Assassins with an atomic drop. The masked man wandered right into a Russian Sickle from Koloff and was covered for the pin, but Paul Jones slipped an International Object inside the other Assassin’s mask. The man with the loaded mask then broke up the cover by head butting the back of Koloff’s noggin and that was that.
Your Winners: The Assassins

As a shark cage was slowly lowered in readiness for our next contest, Jim Ross and Bob Caudle recapped all the action thus far.

National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship
NWA World Television Champion Mike Rotunda (w/ Kevin Sullivan) vs. Rick Steiner

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Mike Rotunda vs. Rick Steiner
Kevin Sullivan must be suspended in a shark cage

Mike Rotunda had held the TV title most of 1988, capturing the gold way back in January of that year, but tonight his reign would come to an end after a long and reasonably good match with his former friend turned down, Rick Steiner.

Early on, announcer Jim Ross suggested that the best way for Rotunda to win was to take advantage of Steiner’s less than stellar intellect and confuse him. Although Rotunda chose not to take such an approach, confusion would play a role in the finish.

Steiner planted his opponent with a suplex only for Dr. Death (who had appeared at ringside) to ring the bell, confusing both Steiner and Rotunda.

Referee Tommy Young came out to confer with Teddy Long about what had actually happened, and in the resulting confusion, Steiner got the better of his nemesis and pinned him to bring his year-long reign to a close.

There will no doubt be people watching today who dislike this match, but I think as long as you don’t watch it through the filter of the modern product, it was a good effort.
Your Winner and new NWA World Television Champion: Rick Steiner

After more post-match analysis from Magnum and Tony, it was onto our next title match.

National Wrestling Alliance United States Championship
NWA US Champion Barry Windham (w/ James J. Dillon) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ Sir Oliver Humperdink)

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Bam Bam Bigelow faced Barry Windham
After the amateur influence of our previous match we got a change of pace next as Bam Bam Bigelow took on Barry Windham in a battle of the big men.

Make no mistake about it though, this was more than your average power battle. It was a hot match with a lovely crowd and two men who were more agile and talented than their large stature would have you believe.

Bigelow was excellent here as the fan favourite, but reigning champion Windham was no slouch either. Together, they worked hard to deliver a great match that was made all the more special thanks to Jim Ross’ emotionally-charged commentary.

After over 15 minutes, both men toppled to the outside and the match was declared over when Windham was the only man to beat the ten count.
Your Winner via count out and still US Champion: Barry Windham

Ok, so it was a disappointing finish, but everything before that was good stuff indeed.

Every Dog Has His Day

Out in the back, Rick Steiner played up his ‘I’m a bit slow’ gimmick in an interview with Magnum TA.

Every dog has his day, said Steiner, and today was the day for the Dog Faced Gremlin.

National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship
NWA Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Sting & Dusty Rhodes

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Road Warrior Animal breaks Dusty Rhodes' face
The Road Warriors
were technically playing the roles of heels here after attacking both Dusty Rhodes and Sting on WCW programming but it wasn’t really all that effective as they still had an audible fan base in the crowd.

The match was intense and as hard-hitting as you might expect any match involving Hawk & Animal to be, but it wasn’t anything special.

If you’re a fan of the Road Warriors and their demolish-everything approach to pro wrestling then you’ll probably like this one, otherwise you’re not going to miss much here.

The end came when Sting had Animal pinned only for Paul Ellering to break up the fall, leading to a disqualification.
Your Winners via DQ: Sting & Dusty Rhodes (Road Warriors retain)

Finally, after a few more words from Schiavone and Magnum T.A, it was onto our main event.

National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair (w/ James J. Dillon) vs. Lex Luger

WCW / NWA Starrcade 1988 - True Gritt - Ric Flair and JJ Dillon
If Ric Flair gets disqualified he loss the title

If you’d told me once upon a time ago that I’d happily sit through a 30 minute Lex Luger match and actually enjoy it, I would have called you crazy. Yet here we are, 30 minutes after the opening bell rung on the Starrcade ‘88 main event and I have to admit, I enjoyed every moment of it.

Sure, you could argue that this was basically every Ric Flair main event you’ve ever seen, and you’d have a valid point, but this was still good enough to be completely enthralling and was made all the more impressive that there was nary a rest hold in sight.

After coming incredibly close to capturing the gold on numerous occasions, Lex Luger’s legs gave out from under him (the result of much Flair offence). The champ landed on top of the challenger and , using the ropes for leverage, scored the cover, the count, and the fall.
Your Winner and Still World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair

Afterwards, Luger argued with Tommy Young about Flair having his foot on the ropes but the official insisted that since he hadn’t seen it, there was little he could do about it.

Lex Luger is Done

Finally, we went backstage where Ric Flair gave an impassioned interview to Magnum T.A in which he claimed that Lex Luger was done and wouldn’t get another title shot. This would obviously prove to be nonsense, as The Total Package would be challenging Flair for years to come.

All that was left then was for the announcers to recap tonight’s action and put over a then-unnamed pay per view that was set to take place in February 1989.

That PPV would turn out to be the Chi-Town Rumble ‘89 which we’ll review in a few weeks here on Retro Pro Wrestling.







Starrcade ‘88: True Gritt was a pay per view which ran just shy of three hours and yet featured just seven matches, meaning each one got significant time.

Each one was different in its own right and each one had something to enjoy about it, with only the Road Warriors vs. Sting & Dusty Rhodes match failing to impress this fan.

Highlight of the night went to Flair and Luger, though if you like old school pro wrestling you should find much to enjoy about this one.

1 comments:

Sting and Dusty should have won the belts

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.