PPV REVIEW: WCW Starrcade 1991 - Battlebowl - The Lethal Lottery

WCW Starrcade 1991 - Event poster

December 29, 1991,
Norfolk Scope in Norfolk, Virginia

Growing up as a kid in the UK,  my access to early 90s WCW was limited to the brief number of Disney tapings that aired on ITV on Saturday afternoons.

To be honest, I don’t remember anything about those shows apart from the fact that they inexplicably made me the biggest fan of Ice Train.

So it’s been fun to go back and watch WCW from its earliest days. Even when the shows suck (as many of them did), I’ve enjoyed seeing so many of the things the company did back then which I’d previously only ever read about.

Battlebowl/Lethal Lottery is one of the things I’ve been looking forward to the most.

Well, kind of.

On paper, the idea of wrestlers “randomly” being thrown together in teams to compete for a space in a main event battle royal sounds like an idea that really appeals to me, though something tells me that this is one of those times when the idea is way better than the execution.

Still, there’s only one way to find out for sure, so let’s head down to Starrcade ‘91 and figure out whether this thing was any good or not.

Welcome to Battlebowl

There was nothing fancy about tonight’s opening. 

A basic video package ran down some of the bigger names in tonight’s event as a voiceover reminded us that we’d see 20 tag teams drawn at random.
WCW Starrcade 1991 - Tony Schiavone & Jim Ross called all the action


Cameras then cut to the Norfolk Scope Arena which looked genuinely cool, especially as it seemed to be packed.

As the camera panned down, Jim Ross welcomed us to the show before he and Tony Schiavone explained the Battlebowl rules:

The ten teams who won their matches would compete in a two-ring battle royal.

Wrestlers would be dumped from one ring into the next then out on the floor until there was one man left in the school ring.

They would then go at it to determine a winner.

Honestly, that sounds way more complicated than it needed to be, but since this was the brainchild of the same Dusty Rhodes who gave us the Bunkhouse Stampede nonsense a few years earlier, it was hardly surprising.

WCW Starrcade 1991 - Eric Bischoff, Missy Hyatt, and Magnum TA draw the Lethal Lottery pairings

The announcers then sent it to Eric Bischoff who was standing by with the ever-lovely Missy Hyatt and former US Champion Magnum T.A. Who was our commissioner for the evening.

A huge black curtain then lifted to reveal the entire WCW roster standing on the stage as pyro exploded in front of them. 

Bischoff, Hyatt, and Magnum then drew the first two tag teams, putting Michael 'P.S' Hayes together with Tracy Smothers against Jimmy 'Jam' Garvin and newcomer Marcus Alexander Bagwell

Hayes looked annoyed about having to team with Smothers, though whether that was because he had to team with long-standing 'Young Pistols revival Tracy Smothers or because he had to fight his own partner I couldn't say. 

What I could say is that while Hayes looked upset, Garvin himself looked super excited. 

Lethal Lottery Match #1
Michael 'P.S' Hayes & Tracy Smothers vs. Jimmy 'Jam' Garvin & MArarcus Alexander Bagwell 

WCW Starrcade 1991 - Tracy Smothers squares off against Buff Bagwell

Making his PPV debut, Marcus Bagwell spent the first few minutes stalling around with Tracy Smothers.

The two would lock up, hit a basic sequence, stall, and repeat, making for quite a boring start to the match.

Eventually, things picked up with Bagwell and Garvin making frequent tags while Smothers did all the work for his team.

Inevitably, Hayes finally tagged in and we got a Freebirds showdown which consisted of him and Garvin locking up a few times and hitting an arm drag each before Hayes got a two-count from a roll-up on his opponent. 

More lackluster action continued until all four men ended up in the ring. 

At that point, Hayes accidentally struck Garvin and the two argued while Bagwell caught smothers coming off the top rope with a couple of knees and put him away with a fisherman's suplex.

That put an end to a pretty underwhelming opening match that could have easily been five minutes shorter.
Your Winners: Marcus Bagwell & Jimmy Garvin 

Up next, Missy, Magnum, and Eric drew Dangerous Alliance teammates Stunning Steve Austin and Ravishing Rick Rude as partners against Van Hammer and Big Josh
WCW Starrcade 1991 - Eric Bischoff, Magnum TA, and Missy Hyatt


The camera then stayed on the trio for far too long as they stood around awkwardly doing nothing. While they did that, it gave me a moment to reflect on how WCW wasn't even trying to convince anyone that these drawings were "random."

Seriously, two partners "randomly" facing off in one match and then two more partners being matched up in the second one?

Yeah, sorry WCW, you're going to have to try harder. 

Stunning Steve Austin & Ravishing Rick Rude (w/ Paul E. Dangerously) vs. Van Hammer & Big Josh

This was technically better than the last match from an actual wrestling standpoint, but it still wasn't very interesting or entertaining. 
WCW Starrcade 1991 - Rick Rude prevents Van Hammer from making a tag to Big Josh


Seriously, the sole highlight here was when Big Josh stomped on Rude's belly but Rude showed that he was impervious to it because his abs were rock hard. Josh struck Rude twice more in the abs but to the same effect. It was basically a "headbutting The Samoans never works" thing, except with Rick Rude and his abs. 

It was fun, but when that's the best thing in the match, it doesn't say very much.

To the surprise of no one, the Dangerous Alliance members won when Rude hit Van Hammer with the Rude Awakening.
Your Winners: Steve Austin & Rick Rude 

More names were drawn next. I won't say much about these drawings unless anything legitimately interesting or unusual happens, which so far hasn't happened.

The Natural Dustin Rhodes & Richard Morton vs. El Gigante & Larry Zybysko (w/ Madusa) 

Again, things got marginally better here, but mostly because it was funny to hear Larry Zybysko barking orders at El Gigante and the giant Argintian completely ignoring him.
WCW Starrcade 1991 - Larry Zybysko & El Gigante vs. Richard Morton & Dustin Rhodes


This wasn't a great match by any stretch, but Zybyso, Dustin Rhodes, and Richard Morton could all go, and helped guide Gigante through a service contest. 

It all ended when Gigante got fed up with Zybysko and shot him into a double dropkick from Dustin Rhodes and Richard Morton, sacrificing his own place in the Battlebowl for the sake of taking out Big Bad Larry.
Your Winners: Dustin Rhodes and Richard Morton

As the stars for the next match were introduced, Larry and Richard Morton made their way to the back and got into a minor shoving contest. 

Bill Kazmaier & Jushin 'Thunder' Liger vs. Diamond Dallas Page & Mike Graham

For those paying attention, this was Diamond Dallas Page's debut PPV match. He was still super green here, so trainer Mike Graham was paired with him to help him out. 
WCW Starrcade 1991 - Bill Kazmaier watches on as his partner Jushin Liger squares off against Mike Graham


Graham was a solid wrestler but he had all the personality of a neglected toilet brush which was a shame because he wrestled most of the match for his team.

Fortunately, Jushin 'Thunder' Liger was here with his awesome mask and helped make this one marginally more entertaining than it might have been.

I'll be honest with you, I'm finding this show kind of dull so far, but at least we're already an hour in.

Liger and Kazmier won when the latter hurled the former on top of Page for the three count.
Your Winners: Bill Kazmaier & Jushin Liger 

Before the next match, we got a commercial for the upcoming Superbrawl PPV which had me excited because, as I think I've mentioned before, it's one of my favorite WCW events.

WCW Champion Lex Luger (w/ Harley Race) & Arn Anderson vs. Terrence Taylor & The Z-Man

Tony Schiavone called this the best tag team match of the night so far and I have to say I agree with him.
WCW Starrcade 1991 - The Tailormade Man wrenches the arm of The Total Package

One of the few matches to hold my attention from start to finish, this one featured Arn Anderson and Terrence Taylor as the standout performers while Lex Luger played his part well and Z-Man (other than falling flat on his fooking arse at one point) was OK too.

After a genuinely good effort, the world champion took out Taylor with the Attitude Adjustment Piledriver for the win.
Your Winners: Lex Luger & Arn Anderson

With five matches down and five to go, JR looked at those men who had made it to Battlebowl before Tony Schiavone expressed how eager he was to see The Steiners face each other.

Up next, Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker was drawn as Cactus Jack’s partner for a match against Ricky Steamboat and Todd Champion, but Abdullah The Butcher took exception to that and destroyed Parker in the dressing room.

I can’t explain why, but I found that completely random attack to be hilarious.

Abby and his boobs then made their way out to tag with his buddy Cactus but the WCW referees stopped him and sent him to the back.
WCW Starrcade 1991 - Abdullah The Butcher destroys Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker


As he got to the entranceway, Abby met Buddy Lee who was trying to make his way to the ring so he attacked him for a second time while screaming like crazy.

Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat & Todd Champion vs. Cactus Jack

All that left Cactus to go it alone against his opponents.

He started off with Ricky Steamboat and the two had a genuinely enjoyable back-and-forth together that made you wonder how good a straight-up singles match could be between them.
WCW Starrcade 1991 - Todd Champion gets the better of Cactus Jack


Even when Todd Champion got involved, Cactus was good enough to keep this match entertaining

As the out-numbered Cactus continued to hold his own, Sarge crawled painfully to the ring to the point that the fans were genuinely starting to get behind him.

He propped himself up on the corner, only for Cactus to tag him in and then literally hurl Sarge's lifeless body into the ring where he mounted a valiant babyface-style powerup, only to be immediately taken out by a Ricky Steamboat crossbody.
Your Winners: Ricky Steamboat & Todd Champion

Honestly, I enjoyed the heck out of that. Cactus wrestling Ricky Steamboat was great and the whole stuff with Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker honestly had me laughing my ass off.

Sting & Abdullah The Butcher vs. Flyin' Brian Pillman & Bobby Eaton

This was a chaotic mess of a match in the best possible sense.
WCW Starrcade 1991 - Bobby Eaton works over Sting


Abdullah The Butcher came down grinning like a lunatic and even extended his hand to Sting, only to immediately turn on him and beat him down with that stick he always carried. 

Fortunately for Sting, his opponent, Brian Pillman, actually came to his rescue and attacked The Butcher, only for Bobby to even the score.

Once in the ring, this became a unique match where Sting basically wrestled a one-on-one match with Bobby Eaton while Abby kept attacking him and Pillman kept coming to Sting's aid and beating up Abby even though it was to the detriment of his own team. 

It wasn't great from a technical wrestling standpoint, but it was a good little story that ended when Cactus Jack came down and accidentally whacked Butcher with The Big Weird Stick of Doom.

Sting then got the cover, the count, and the fall.
Your Winners: Sting and Abdullah The Butcher

Post-match, Abby and Cactus brawled to the back.

Rick Steiner & The Nightstalker (w/ Diamond Studd) vs. Big Van Vader & Mr. Hughes

The Diamond Studd had originally been drawn as Rick Steiner's partner, but he had a sling on, so he was replaced by The Nightstalker (Bryan "Adam Bomb" Clarke), which makes you wonder why the injured Studd was included in the drawing in the first place.

WCW Starrcade 1991 - Vader prepares to smash Rick Steiner's face in

Not caring who his partner was, Steiner entered into a strong performance with Vader that was a lot of fun to watc until Mr. Hughes got in the ring and dragged everything down to a snail's pace.

Things got even worse when The Nightstalker tagged himself in. Steiner either didn't realize or didn't care that a tag had been made and headed to the top rope. '

Stalker encouraged him, but he was so busy looking at The Dog Faced Gremlin that he didn't even notice Vader running towards him with a Belly Bump of Death. 

Steiner then hit Hughes with a bulldog and made a cover, but the official refused to count because Steiner wasn't the legal man. 

Vader then splashed right onto 'Stalker's head and pinned him, but Steier kept his cover on Hughes and thought he'd won the match too.

It was a cluttered finish that spoiled what was otherwise a decent little match.
Your Winners: Vader & Mr. Hughes

Another Superbrawl commercial followed, after which it was back to the action. 

Scott Steiner & Firebreaker Chip vs. Johnny B. Badd & Arachnaman 

Arachnaman = Brad Armstrong in a purple and yellow Spiderman costume. Somebody came up with that and thought it was a good idea to put it on TV. 

I'm honestly shocked that I can't find an entry on Wrestlecrap about it anywhere.

WCW Starrcade 1991 - Firebreaker Chip works over Archnaman's arm

Anyway, this was the only match that featured four babyfaces, but the crowd didn't really care about that and only came alive whenever Scott Steiner got involved.

That was a shame, really, because you could tell that all four men worked as hard as they could but the match fell completely flat, probably because the audience had no time for matches involving such low-rent indie gimmicks as a fake Spiderman.

To be honest, I don't blame them, especially given how dumb the spider looked. 

At one point, he and Firebreaker Chip crisscrossed the ropes, Chip made a tag to Steiner then slid outside and Steiner just watched Armstrong as he ran back and forth between the ropes like an idiot.

Honestly, it looked like that goofy spot some wrestlers used to do on Saturday Morning Slam

Thankfully, Steiner eventually put everybody out of our collective misery by pinning ArachnaGoof following a big power slam.
Your Winners: Scott Steiner & Firebreaker Chip

At last, we got our final tag match of the evening.

Ron Simmons & Thomas Rich vs. Steve Armstrong & PN News

This started decently enough, dragged down in the middle, and then picked up towards the end as Ron Simmons predictably got the win for his team.
WCW Starrcade '91 review - Ron Simmons & Thomas Rich vs. Steve Armstrong & PN News


To be honest, most of these tag team matches were way too long for what they were and the show felt so repetitive that by the time this match happened, Starrcade 1991 had pretty much drained the life out of me. 

Thank goodness there's only the Battlebowl match left to go:

Battlebowl Battle Royal
Featuring: Jimmy Garvin, Marcus Alexander Bagwell, Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Bill Kazmaier, Jushin 'Thunder' Liger, Dustin Rhodes, Richard Morton, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Ricky Steamboat, Todd Champion, Mr. Hughes, Vader, Sting, Abdullah The Butcher, Thomas Rich, Ron Simmons, Scott Steiner, Firebreaker Chip

I'm not one of those fans that write off all battle royals before they even get started. Just because it's a lot of brawling doesn't mean it can't be entertaining.

Fortunately, this one was pretty decent but was hampered somewhat by the fact that the wrestlers kept forgetting they were supposed to throw people into the second ring rather than to the arena floor.

That part of the match was good enough, but it was when Sting and Lex Luger ended up as the final two men that things really hotted up. 

At that pointk we got an exciting brawl that ended when Sting dumped Luger to the outside,
Your Winner: Sting

Post-match, pyro exploded as Sting celebrated before Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone signed off for the night.


Man, am I glad that one was over. 

Truth be told, Starrcade 1991 wasn't entirely terrible. 

The Anderson/Luger vs. Zenk/Taylor match was solid and that whole thing with Cactus Jack, Abdullah The Butcher, and poor old Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker was entertaining, but the rest of it was too mediocre to make it a truly good show. 

Honestly, this all felt like it was done more to set up various storylines than to actually be what was supposedly WCW's flagship show of the year.

About half way through, the amount of uninteresting stuff made me completely zone out and it was a chore to get through the rest of the event. 

Hopefully things pick up soon as, despite having never seen early 1990s WCW before I began this blog, I hear the company really had a great year in 1992.

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  1. Arachnaman had nothing on the Toxic Turtles in the WWF in 93.😀