PPV REVIEW: NWA/WCW Starrcade 1989 - Future Shock

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Future Shock Event Poster

December 13, 1989
The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia

Starrcade 1989: Future was the last PPV of the 80s and the first professional wrestling show this fan ever owned on VHS.

Today we’ll be reviewing the Network version simply because I don’t own a VHS player anymore, but I mention this because I remember getting the video as a kid and being tremendously bored by it.

The concept deviated from the normal pro wrestling card featuring blow-offs to feuds and title matches. Instead, it featured two round-robin tournaments to crown both the Wrestler of the ‘90s and the Tag Team of the 90s.

Essentially, every singles star in the tournament would wrestle every other singles star and every tag team would wrestle every other tag team to score points.

At the end of the night, whoever had the most points would win.

It sounds like an interesting idea, but even just writing this introduction I can’t help but feel as though this would be the sort of thing best spaced out over several weeks rather than crammed into one show where the repetition of seeing the same wrestlers over and over again would get very dull very quickly.

Still, it’s been the better part of two decades since I last watched Starrcade ‘89, so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember.

Let’s head down to the Omni in Atlanta to find out, shall we?

Please Stand for the National Anthem 

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Garry Michael Capetta
Our show tonight began with a quick opening video highlighting the competitors in our two iron man tournaments.

In the singles tournament, Sting, Lex Luger, Ric Flair, and The Great Muta would be competing for glory while The Road Warriors, Doom, The Skyscrapers, and The Steiner Brothers would be looking to stake their claim as being the tag team of the 90s.

The video was done in futuristic style because, you know, this was FUTURE SHOCK!

Live in the arena, Garry Michael Capetta welcomed us to the show before asking us to rise for the playing of the American National Anthem.

A military brass band did the honors in fine form while other suitably attired military personnel held the US flag aloft.

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Jim Cornette, Jim Ross, and Terry Funk called the action
Breaking Down the Action

With that over, Jim Ross tried his best to get us excited about what was to come and introduced us to Terry Funk and Jim Cornette.

Funk was apparently here to analyze the action in the singles tournament, while Jim Cornette was there to talk about the tag team as.

Funk let us know that each match had a 15-minute time limit meaning that the wrestlers would be wise to try and get pins thick and fast while Cornette focussed on the points system:
  • 20 points for a win via pinfall or submission
  • 15 points for a win via count-out
  • 10 points for a win via DQ
  • 5 points for a draw.

Honestly, we haven’t even gotten to the first match yet and this already seems needlessly complicated.

Let’s Meet the Contestants 

WCW Starrcade 1989 - The Road Warriors with Paul Ellering
Before we went any further, all four teams in the tag team tournament stood on the stage to be introduced.

Despite there being some particularly strong rivalries, especially between Doom and The Steiner Brothers, the teams were happy to just stand next to each other for this over-the-top introduction, complete with pyro.

Of note here is the fact that it became clear that nobody had bothered to tell the guys doing the opening video that The Skyscrapers were no longer in this thing.

Jim Ross told us that they’d explain *exactly* why Sid and Dan Spivey had been replaced, to which Jim Cornette helpfully elaborated by saying that it was due to -and I quote- “an unexpected happening.”

Well, that clears that up then.

They had been replaced by The Wild Samoans instead.

Tag team Match 1
Doom (w/ Woman & Nitron) vs. WCW World Tag Team Champions The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner)

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Woman w/ Nitron
True story: 

When I was a kid watching this video in the early 90s, I was convinced that Nitron was Kevin Nash.

It’s only now that I look back and realize that Woman’s bodyguard looks nothing like Big Sexy. 

Turns out it was actually Tyler Mane, who not only later teamed with Nash (as Vinnie Vegas) but is now best known as an actor who played Michael Myers' in Rob Zombie's Halloween remakes. 

He was a big fella though, and got involved multiple times in a strong opening contest that went right down to the wire.

Scott Steiner spent most of the match getting beat up by Nitron and the mysterious masked duo of Ron Simmons and the late Butch Reed, only for Rick Steiner to get back into things at the last minute and narrowly pick up a win via count-out.

This was a much more exciting match than I remember it being and was a good start to the show.
Your Winners Via Countout (earning 15 points): The Steiner Brothers

WCW Starrcade 1989 - The Great Muta w/ Garry Hart
Up next, Garry Michael Capetta introduced us to our four singles wrestlers.

They were: 

World Television Champion The Great Muta (with Garry Hart).

The man voted ‘most popular wrestler of the year’ Sting.

United States Champion Lex Luger.

World Heavyweight Champion Nature Boy Ric Flair.

Singles Match 1
Sting vs. WCW United States Champion Lex Luger

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Sting puts a hurting on Lex Luger
This was another decent effort with both men smashing the crap out of each other all the way to the final moments.

With about 20 seconds left on the clock, Luger got the pinfall by grabbing onto the ropes for leverage.

It was a disappointing end to an otherwise solid encounter.
Your Winner by pinfall (earning 20 points): Lex Luger 

Moving on...

Tag Team Match 2 
Doom (w/ Woman & Nitron) vs. The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal w/ Precious Paul Ellering)

This wasn’t the greatest match on the card.

Sure, it started off pretty hot, with both teams demonstrating how powerful they were and showing that in terms of strength alone, they were fairly evenly matched.

That made from some fun spots in the early going, but then it kind of just fell into something that wasn’t bad, but just wasn’t very interesting.

In the end, one of the Doom
Boys looked to piledrive Animal only for Hawk to come off the top rope with the match-winning clothesline.
Your Winners (earning 20 points): The Road Warriors 

Woman was furious.

Singles Tournament Match 2
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair (w/ Ole & Arn Anderson) vs. NWA TV Champion The Great Muta (w/ Garry Hart)

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Ric Flair locks the Figure Four on Great Muta
Honestly, one of my all-time favorite things about WCW was hearing Garry Michael Capetta introduce ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ The Great Muta.

Before the two locked up, we got a shot of Norman The Lunatic (Mike Shaw) dressed up as Santa Claus. He didn’t do anything except for wave at the camera, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

The actual match was incredibly frustrating.

It started off in fine form with Muta using his speed to get the better of the Nature Boy.

Things were looking good, and if it had gone on it could have easily been a Match of the Night contender.

Instead, Buzz Sawyer and The Dragon Master ran down for a brawl with The Andersons.  

Amidst the resulting fracas, Muta lept off the top with a beautiful moonsault but got a face full of knees.

Flair then rolled him up and this one was done in about five minutes which was very disappointing when you think how good it could have been if it’d been given time.
Your Winner (earning 20 points): Ric Flair

Somewhere in the arena, a lady added Flair’s points to the scoreboard.

Tag Tournament Match 3
WCW Tag Team Champions The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner) vs. The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal w/ Precious Paul Ellering)

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Hawk and Animal confer in the corner
It’s the irresistible force meeting the immovable object,” said Jim Ross as this one got underway.

I think it’s the insensible force meeting the illiterate object,” quipped Jim Cornette.

Honestly, it was funnier than I’m making it sound.

The match was OK, but the crowd didn’t really want to cheer or boo one team over the other so what you got was essentially a bunch of moves played out to near silence.

In the end, they did the whole German Suplex double-pin deal with Animal suplexing Scott but Steiner lifting his arm at the last second to score the 20
Your Winners: The Steiner Brothers (earning 20 points)

Honestly, only on a show like this could a match between the two hottest teams of the time be so disappointing.

Singles Tournament Match 3
NWA TV Champion The Great Muta vs. Sting

This was certainly one of the best matches on the card up to this point but, to be honest, the bar hadn’t exactly been set very high.

Both men worked hard and wrestled extremely well, but with an apathetic crowd it didn’t quite come across as the epic encounter it could have been.

After a solid effort, Sting picked up his first points of the tournament courtesy of a top rope suplex.
Your Winner: Sting (earning 20 points)

Offering a respite from the action, JR, Cornette, and Funk analyzed the scores so far, with the latter two offering their picks for the winners.

In singles action, we had a three-way tie with everyone but Muta on 20 points and Funk predicting a tournament win for Luger, while the tag team competition saw Cornette’s pick of the Steiners ahead of the Road Warriors by 15 points, Doom on zero, and The Wild Samoans yet to compete.

Tag Team Match 4
Doom (w/ Woman & Nitron) vs. The Wild Samoans (Fatu & The Samoan Savage w/ Sir Oliver Humperdink)

After a lackluster show, I didn’t expect that I’d get into this one as much as I’d did but it turned out to be a reasonably good heel vs. heel tag team match with some solid action.

OK, so it ended when Fatu and Butch Reed knocked noggins and Oliver Humperdink pushed his man on top of a fallen Reed which was a little underwhelming, but that aside this wasn’t bad at all.
Your Winners: The Wild Samoans  

Up next, a rematch from Starrcade 1988.

Singles Match 4
NWA US Champion Lex Luger vs. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair 

WCW Starrcade 1989 - US Champion Lex Luger prepares for battle
This was an excellent match that was almost as good as their aforementioned clash at the previous year’s Starrcade.

The only problem was that Flair and Luger spent the first half of the match clearly pacing themselves with armbars and chin locks galore, making it pretty obvious that they were working their way to a time-limit draw.

Fortunately, things picked up in the second half as the two stars gave us a quality match which got the crowd fully invested for the first time all evening.

Even if the eventual draw was inevitable, the actual match was golden.
Time Limit Draw (Flair and Luger both earn 5 points)

01.45.32 - SCOREBOARD 

A ‘tween-match look at the scoreboard revealed that Sting was still in with a chance of winning the whole contest but The Great Muta now stood no chance.

Tag Team Match 5
WCW Tag Team Champions The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner) vs. The Wild Samoans (Fatu & The Samoan Savage w/ Sir Oliver Humperdink)

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Fatu & The Samoan Savage faced The Steiner Brothers
Coming down to the ring for their next match, Rick and Scott randomly plucked two kids out of the crowd to hold their titles.

By this point in the card, the crowd had finally seemed to wake up and get involved, but sadly the wrestlers weren’t all that eager to do anything out of the ordinary.

This was a passable, by-the-numbers tag team match with the Samoans cutting off Scotty Steiner from his brother until Rick finally had enough and stormed in to clean house.

During the match-ending mele, a battered Scott threw his opponent over the top rope and got disqualified, a disappointing end to an underwhelming match.
Your Winners via Disqualification (earning 10 points): The Steiner Brothers 

If Rick and Scott were to win the tourney, they now needed Hawk and Animal to either lose or win by DQ.

Singles Match 5
NWA TV Champion The Great Muta vs. NWA US Champion Lex Luger 

WCW Starrcade 1989 - The Great Muta vs. Lex Luger
After getting his legs destroyed by Flair in his last match, Luger hobbled to the ring and sold the leg like a trooper.

Naturally, that meant an easy target for Muta, who by this point had but one little scrap of his trademark face paint remaining, barely clinging on to his cheek.

What we got then, was 14 minutes of Luger essentially taking the babyface role and making the occasional brief comeback in between many periods of Muta working over his leg.

It was a logical story and made perfect sense, but it didn’t exactly make for compelling viewing.

In the end, with one minute remaining, Muta cut off Luger’s final comeback by blowing mist in his face and getting disqualified.

If they were going with that as the finish there was probably no need to give us fourteen minutes of leg locks.
Your Winner via Disqualification (earning 10 points): Lex Luger 

Up next, the finals of the tag team tournament.

Tag Team Tournament Final
The New Wild Samoans vs. The Legion of Doom

With it all on the line, the tag team tournament ended not with a bang but with a whimper.

This was a rather unremarkable match in which nothing much happened until Hawk battered one of the Samoans with a top rope clothesline.

If you never see this match in your life, you won’t be missing much.
Your Winners: The Road Warriors

The Road Warriors were now your Iron Men in the tag team division and had won the whole tournament. Not that they got much of a celebration outside a brief moment of congratulations from Rick and Scott.

Singles Tournament Final 
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs. Sting

WCW Starrcade 1989 - Sting vs. Ric Flair
Having faced each other in a good match at Clash of the Champions I, Flair and Sting had later been allies and even teamed up in the main event of Halloween Havoc 1989.

Tonight, they put on another good match in which babyface Flair reverted to his natural heel role.

I’ll be honest, I’d mentally checked out of this show some time ago but Sting and Flair were so good together that they sucked me right back in with a solid main event that made the crowd come alive in a way that they hadn’t all night.

After a good seesaw battle, Sting pulled out a roll-up victory on the world heavyweight champion.
Your Winner: Sting

Sting’s win meant he had won the whole tournament and he got a better celebration than the Road Warriors, with fireworks erupting as Flair’s allies The Anderson’s congratulated him.

They Are Iron Men

WCW Starrcade 1989 - The Road Warriors won the tag team tournament
Fittingly for a team who had used Black Sabbath’s Iron Man as their theme for so long, Hawk and Animal finished the show by giving an interview to Gordon Sollie about their win in the Iron Team tournament.

Boasting about being the Iron Men, Hawk and Animal declared that they’d gone out and won not only for themselves but, of course, for the Atlanta fans.

Sollie then promised us a word with singles Iron Man winner, Sting, but the Stinger took so long getting up to the stage that the credits started to roll.

As such, we got the weird production tail of credits and music playing while we heard Hawk stalling for time by talking about how much more effort they put in than your standard football player.

Sting and Flair then finally made it to the stage, but by this point, the whole thing was such a mess that it was almost impossible to hear what either of them had to say.

OK, I’ll admit it, Starrcade 1989: Future Shock was a better event than I remembered it being.

I remember being completely bored by every single match and not enjoying it one bit, but that wasn’t the case here.

Though there were a lot of underwhelming matches on the card, and though the repetition of seeing the same wrestlers over and over again did get tiresome, there were a few decent matches on this card.

Granted, none of them had stood the test of time as all-out classics, but Sting vs. Flair was at least a good performance that’s worth tracking down. 

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  1. I remember being excited for the concept of this PPV but then totally disappointed when I saw the results. I eventually rented the tape a year or more later and was again disappointed.
    It was odd to have so much match filler and then some really short matches.

  2. I know what you mean. I really hoped my memory had failed me and that the card was actually nowhere near as boring as I thought it was when I was a kid.
    Like I said in the review, it was actually better than I remembered it, but not by much.

  3. The Steiners beat the Road Warriors but the Road Warriors are the real winners. Huh?