WCW Starrcade 1992 Review

WCW Starrcade 1992 Review - Event poster

December 28, 1992
The Omni, Atlanta, Georgia.

WCW Starrcade 1992 was the tenth installment of the company’s longest-running marquee event. It was also the last World Championship Wrestling Pay Per View with Cowboy Bill Watts in charge. 

Watts' 1992 run as Executive Vice President had delivered one ill-received decision after another, whether it was banning moves off the top rope or pushing his underprepared offspring into prominent spots on the card. 

Still, if you ask me, the worst thing Bill Watts did while running WCW was to invest so much in trying to present pro wrestling as a legitimate sport that it made for confusing viewing. 

Take his obsession with tournaments. 

As I'll probably note later in this review, I don't recall a single PPV or Clash show from 1992 that didn't feature some kind of tournament or competition. 

While I get that they can be a useful storytelling device to explain why two wrestlers would want to fight each other, every additional tournament only diluted the importance of the last to the point that it was tough to know what -if anything- actually mattered.

Take tonight, for example:

Two world title matches. A King of Cable tournament final. The Battle Bowl tournament. Even more title matches, all presented as being equally as important. 

Having said all that, I'll go on record right now as saying that Starrcade 1992 was one of the better events in the series' history, if only from an in-ring standpoint. 

Here's what went down:

Welcome to Starrcade ‘92

And so, the 10th annual Starrcade got underway with a video montage of title graphics from previous events. 

This led all the way up to tonight's proceedings, at which point the video shifted its focus to some of the evening's featured attractions.  

Not only would we see the return of the Battle Bowl tournament, but also no less than five title matches, making for a crowded and confusing card. 

WCW Starrcade 1992 - Jim Ross makes his last WCW PPV appearance with Jesse Ventura

Anyway, Game Show Voice Over Guy then introduced us to our announcers for the evening, Jim Ross & Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura.

The duo also ran down tonight’s card, with Ventura noting that this was his first time calling a Starrcade event.

Wrapping up, the duo passed us on to Eric Bischoff for the following important announcement.

Ravishing Rick Rude is Injured 

Coming to us from the WCW Control Room with a WCW Magazine special report, Bischoff announced that Rick Rude was hurt and would be out for around seven weeks.

WCW Starrcade '92 - Eric Bischoff announces Rick Rude's injury in a WCW Magazine Special Report

That meant he could no longer challenge Ron Simmons for the WCW title tonight. As such, Dr. Death Steve Williams of all people would be taking his place.

I don't mean anything against Williams, but I can think of at least five WCW stars who would have been a more logical replacement. 

Sting Gets His Battle Bowl Ring 

After a quick look at the heels and faces hanging out in separate locker rooms ahead of Battle Bowl, we next went to Tony Schiavone, who was standing by in the ring with top dog Bill Watts and baseball legend Hank Aaron.

Starrcade '92 Review - Hank Aaron presents Sting with a Battle Bowl ring

Watts noted that the winner of each year’s battle bowl would win a special, Super Bowl-style ring.

Since this was an idea they’d just recently come up with, Sting hadn’t received a ring for his win the previous year.

To correct that, The Stinger came out to receive his prize from Aaron.

While I generally like the idea of this segment, it wasn’t very interesting and achieved nothing other than to remind us Sting was also in this year’s competition and was looking to win.

Time for the Lethal Lottery

Before Sting, or anyone else for that matter, could win Battle Bowl, we turf had to get through the Lethal Lottery, a tag tournament in which “randomly selected teams” would compete for a spot in the Battle Bowl battle royal.

Starrcade '92 Review - Larry and Missy draw the lethal lottery

Missy Hyatt and Larry Zybyzsko were on hand to tell us that they’d be drawing the teams tonight.

However, since the first two teams had already been picked back at Clash of the Champions 21 in November, we’d see them in action first.

Lethal Lottery - Match 1
Van Hammer & Dangerous Dan Spivey vs. Cactus Jack & Johnny B. Badd 

Almost 10 minutes into the show, the bell rang and we finally got underway with our opening contest, a fair effort that featured decent wrestling but drew barely a modicum of heat.

On the whole, that may be because there was nothing to really care about, no genuine cause for animosity other than “Tag Team Partners Who Don’t Like Each Other Due The Natural Laws of Heels, Babyfaces, and All Things Kayfabe.

That simply wasn’t enough to get the crowds invested in what was otherwise a relatively solid match.

In the end, Johnny B. Badd decided he’d had enough of trying to coexist with Cactus Jack and punched him out, allowing Van Hammer to roll up The Man From Truth or Consequences for the pin.
Your Winners: Van Hammer & Dan Spivey 

As the victors left via separate paths, we returned to Zybysko & Hyatt for the next Lethal Lottery drawing.

The teams they drew were…well, it was these guys:

Lethal Lottery - Match 2
‘The Natural’ Dustin Rhodes & Big Van Vader (w/ Harley Race) vs. Kensuke Sasaki & The Barbarian 

This may have been another match with no major backstory, but at least Big Van Vader and Dustin Rhodes had a little recent history from their clash in the King of Cable tournament.

WCW Starrcade 92 - Barbarian and Big Van Vader square off

What’s more, Vader and The Barbarian instantly added interest, the two villains shaking hands as a sign of respect before clobbering the hell out of each other to determine who the bigger, stronger badass was.

Combined with some strong contributions from  Rhodes and Kensuke Sasaki, this resulted in a better-than-expected match that didn’t go long enough for this fan’s liking:

In the end, Barbarian inadvertently knocked Sasaki off the apron and was rolled up by Rhodes for the win.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 2 matches in a row with a roll-up finish.
Your Winners: Dustin Rhodes & Big Van Vader 

Post-match, Vader feigned a nod of respect for his partner before walloping him with a big fat clothesline.

Kitted out in a tuxedo (presumedly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the event) Starrcade ‘84 headliner and Vader’s manager then jumped on The Natural before he (Race), Vader, and Barbarian all left together.

Hey, quick side note:

Remember when Dusty Rhodes used to do commentary in the mid-late 90s and it would always sound like he was calling Barbarian “Ball Bearing?

Those were good times.

Ahem, OK, side note over. Let’s get back to the show.

Jim Ross told us about the upcoming SuperBrawl III before he and Ventura discussed whether Vader’s attack on Dustin Rhodes was an attempt to keep The Natural out of Battle Bowl.

Barry Windham & The Great Muta vs. Brian Pillman & 2 Cold Scorpio

At this point, I should point out that a number of the wrestlers we’d seen so far would also be competing in non-tournament matches later on in the show.

WCW Starrcade 92 - The Great Muta puts a hold on 2 Cold Scorpio

I’ve obviously never been in charge of a major wrestling promotion, but I don’t think I’d be adding tag team tournaments to my cards if my roster was so thin that half of them had to pull double duty.

Two of the men competing twice tonight were Barry Windham and Brian Pillman.

Now a fully-fledged heel, a pre-Hollywood Blondes Pillman had formed what would prove to be a short-lived alliance with Windham.

The two were scheduled to challenge for the tag team titles together later on in the show, but first, they had to compete against one another in our third solid match in a row.

Other than a brief exchange, Windham and Pillman mostly avoided any conflict that would hinder their chances of success later in the show.

Instead, they mostly mixed it up with The Great Muta and  2 Cold Scorpio in another match that was too good to be as short as it was.

In fact, of the three matches we’d seen so far, this was easily the best of the bunch.

The end came with a win for Windham and Muta when the former destroyed Scorpio with an enormous DDT and the latter finished the job with a big-time moonsault. 
Your Winners: Barry Windham & The Great Muta

Moving swiftly on, Missy and Larry drew our final combatants for the Lethal Lottery.

Lethal Lottery - Match 4
Sting & ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams vs. Erik Watts & Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger

Despite the booking problems and the disorganized card, Starrcade 1992 was turning out to be one of the best Starrcades ever from an in-ring perspective, especially with another quality Lethal Lottery tag match.

WCW Starrcade 92 - Jushin 'Thunder' Liger

This one kicked off with a fantastic exchange between Sting and Jushin Liger, both men demonstrating some excellent wrestling before inviting their respective partners to join the fray.

Sting and Williams in particular worked well together here, eventually isolating Liger from his corner and wearing him down.

Of course, Erik Watts eventually got the hot tag, saving his partner from defeat and going right after Dr. Death.

At one point, it even looked as though he was in with a chance of winning as he somewhat clumsily attempted to get Williams in an STF.

Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Williams got to the ropes to break the hold, then dropped Watts throat-first across the ropes on the opposite side of the ring to claim the cover, the count, and the fall.
Your Winners: Sting & Steve Williams 

With all the Lethal Lottery matches out of the way, Ross and Ventura ran down the list of participants who had earned a place in the upcoming Battle Bowl battle royal.

This was followed by Tony Schiavone & Larry Zybysko giving us some pre-match analysis ahead of this next clash.

National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Masa Chono vs. The Great Muta

By the fall of 1993, World Championship Wrestling would be out of the National Wrestling Alliance altogether making this the last NWA title match to take place on a WCW show.

WCW Starrcade 92 - Great Muta vs. Masa Chono

The match certainly presented a sharp contrast to the four action-packed matches we’d seen so far, with Muta and Chono spending the majority of their time on the mat.

The change of pace didn’t exactly light the crowd on fire, but even if they did spend the majority of their time trading submission holds, it was still at the very least an interesting watch.

I read somewhere that Bill Watts had told Chono and Muta to tone it down so as not to outshine WCW’s performers. 

Whether that’s true or not I could say,. What I can -and will- say is that this was by no means a bad match.

Different? Yes.

Amazing? No.

Ultimately, it came across as a reprieve from the action, giving the fans a chance to catch their breath before the pace picked up again.

As for the winner? It was Chono, thanks to the STF.
Your Winner and Still NWA Champion: Masa Chono 

Heading back to the announce table, Ross and Ventura noted that a number one contender for Rick Rude’s US title would be determined by Bill Watts’ favorite thing in the whole world:

Yep, another tournament.

Seriously, I don’t think there was a single WCW show during Watts’ run that didn’t feature some kind of tournament match.

More seriously, Jim Ross also noted that if Rude wasn’t healed by January 3rd, he’d be stripped of his title.

WCW Starrcade 92 - Rick Rude, Jesse Ventura, and Jim Ross

This brought out an understandably irate Rude. 

Decked out in denim, the Ravishing One lashed out as his doctor for ruling him unfit to compete, then accused WCW of conspiring against him, vowing that they would never take his title.

As you might expect, this was great stuff from Rick.

World Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship 
WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ron Simmons vs. ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams

As the two combatants made their way to the ring, Ross noted that they had previously faced each other on the football field in ‘79 and ‘80.

WCW Starrcade 92 - Ron Simmons

Naturally, then, Williams and Simmons incorporated as many football tackles as they possibly could into a match which got off to an underwhelming start but gradually got better the longer it went on.

Things began with Dr. Death offering a sincere handshake which the champion was reluctant to accept.

When he did, Williams didn’t do the usual trick of pulling him in and attacking. Instead, he simply backed away, ready to start the match on even ground.

Not that he played fair for very long. Eventually, the challenger began throwing his opponent around by the hair, marking a shift in the intensity and storytelling of the match.

The two battered each other and attempted to wear one another down, each man getting more and more aggressive and determined with every passing minute until things spilled to the outside.

There, the champ and challenger got so carried away brawling that they were both counted out

This didn’t stop Steve Williams, who continued to attack Simmons, even jumping off the ropes and driving the champion’s face into the canvas.

It took a handful of referees to pull Dr. Death away, after which the decision was changed from a double count out to a disqualification victory for Ron.
Your Winner and Still WCW Champion: Ron Simmons 

Another SuperBrawl III commercial followed, after which Schiavone and Zybyzko previewed our next match.

World Championship Wrestling Unified World Tag Team Championship 
WCW Unified World Tag Team Champions Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat & Shane Douglas vs. Barry Windham & Shane Douglas 

Honestly, WCW’s title scene had become so confusing and Bill Watts had booked so many tournaments in 1992 that I’ve completely lost track of which belts were actually unified here.

WCW Starrcade 1992 Review - Shane Douglas has Barry Windham in a headlock

I think it was the world and US. Though don't quote me on that. 

What I do know for sure, is that Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas came down to Steamboat’s amazingly terrible theme from the WCW Slam Jam album.

I suppose it’s a testament to The Dragon’s untouchable appeal as a babyface that the crowd didn’t boo him out of the building every time this song played.

Taking charge right from the outset, Steamboat and Douglas controlled the early part of the match, frustrating opponents as Windham and Pillman struggled to gain an advantage.

Those frustrations threatened to rekindle an animosity between the challengers which lingered from their earlier encounter in the Lethal Lottery tag match.

Once the two did seize control, however, they were very much on the same page again, cutting Shane Douglas off from his partner and attempting to destroy him.

Steamboat eventually rescued his partner only to suffer the same fate as him at the hands of Windham & Pillman.

The longer it went on, the more compelling this fantastic championship match became until Douglas wrapped it up by catching Flyin’ Brian coming off the ropes with a big ol’ belly-to-belly.
Your Winners and Still Unified Tag Team Champions: Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas

Before the next bout, Jim Ross told us that Sting’s strategy for winning his King of Cable match with Vader was simply not to get beat for 15-20 minutes so that Vader would get tired and thus be easier to beat.

I suppose that’s not the worst strategy.

King of Cable Tournament Final 
Big Van Vader (w/ Harley Race) vs. Sting 

What did I tell you about all these tournaments?

I feel like I want to write a “Best and Worst of 1992 WCW” just so I can include tournament overkill as the worst. 

WCW Starrcade '92 Review - Vader mauls Sting in the King of Cable tournament final

I might even be tempted to include this bout as one of the best.

I always know a match is really good when I find myself physically jolting out of my seat or wincing during a particularly painful-looking or exciting spot.

That was the case here as Vader lept up and crashed down in an attempt to crush his rival’s chest, only for Sting to move out of the way so that Big Van landed with a painful, ass-first thud on the canvas.

It was at that precise point that I realized I’d been completely absorbed by this match from the very beginning.

Not without good reason, either.

The best part about this match is that Sting and Vader made you believe they wanted to win it more than anything.

They weren’t “sports entertaining,” they weren’t putting on a show, they were fighting with all they had in a genuine, perhaps even desperate, attempt to beat their opponent.

Of course, being much larger, Big Van Vader spent much of the match doing that better than Sting, the former throwing the latter with some brutal offense, obliterating Sting into a helpless shell of a human who survived purely on defense alone. 

Even Sting’s victory came as more of a “right place, right time” moment rather than a deliberate and effective offensive strategy. 

Catching Vader coming off the top rope and slamming him to the mat for a three-count only enhanced Sting’s role as the underdog in this match while making Vader look like an indestructible force whose opponent simply got lucky.

It was tremendous.
Your Winner and King of Cable: Sting 

Post-match, Jesse Ventura presented Sting with the King of Cable trophy.

WCW Starrcade '92 Review - Sting cuts a promo after winning the King of Cable tournament

Accepting the award, the battle-weary grappler admitted to getting his butt kicked but promised to become our two-time Battle Bowl winner.

Rings are Important 

Elsewhere in the arena, Tony Schiavone wouldn’t stop bragging to Larry Zybyszko about interviewing NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, who had earned a ring as part of a winning Green Bay Packers squad at the first Super Bowl in 1967.

To prove he wasn’t making it up, Schiavone cut to the interview in which Hornung spoke candidly about why every football player’s goal was to gain a Super Bowl ring and insisted that the same would be true of the Battle Bowl ring.

Wrapping up the interview, Hornung’s closing statement declared that every wrestler would be gunning for a Battle Bowl ring because whoever had it would be considered the best in the business.

While I appreciate the effort to legitimize and elevate the Battle Bowl concept, this was a dumb way to go about it.

If winning Battle Bowl meant you were the best in the business, what on earth is the point in having a world title.

“Congratulations, you’ve earned a shot at the World Heavyweight Champion next week!”
“Nah, no thanks. I’m going to wait until December and hope that Missy Hyatt pulls my name randomly out of a hat. Then I’m going ALL THE WAY TO BATTLE BOWL, BABY.”

Ahem. Let’s get on with the main event, shall we?

Battle Bowl Battle Royal
Featuring: Dan Spivey, Dustin Rhodes, Van Hammer, The Great Muta, Barry Windham, Steve Williams, Big Van Vader (w/ Harley Race) Sting

The fact that there were only eight men involved meant that this battle royal was much easier to follow than your typical crowded-ring scenario.

WCW Starrcade '92 - Battle Bowl

Of course, WCW being WCW, they somehow messed that up in the early part of the match by showing three different camera angles simultaneously.

From what I could follow, this was certainly one of the better battle royals of the early 90s.

Even before the match officially began, Vader dove out of the ring via the middle ropes to pick up where he left off with Sting.

Meanwhile, back in the ring, the other six kicked off a reasonably decent brawl that saw Van Hammer thrown over the top rope first:

Though he may have been eliminated, Hammer could at least now add “Starrcade Main Eventer” to his resume.

Moments later, Sting (who had now made it back in the ring) ejected Dan Spivey before he and Vader spilled over the top rope simultaneously and continued fighting.

Ultimately, it all came down to Muta and Windham, who gave us a decent bit of wrestling before Muta saved himself from elimination by skinning the cat and sending Big Bad Barry to the outside with a well-placed dropkick.
Your Winner and Battle Bowl Champion: The Muta

As Muta celebrated, we went back to the announce table where Jesse Ventura and Jim Ross recapped the biggest stories of the night and urging us to catch the next chapter of those stories at SuperBrawl.

With that, Jesse and Jim signed off.

It would be Ross’s last appearance on a WCW PPV. 

A few months after Starrcade 1992, he would be wearing a toga in Vegas.

Buy The Complete History of Starrcade - Vol 1 on Amazon

WCW Starrcade 1992 was a frustrating show, to say the least. The actual matches themselves were all of a high standard, with only the NWA title match falling short thanks to the change of pace. 

However, the creative decisions, the cluttered and disorganized card, and all those feckin' tournaments certainly knocked it down a peg or two from being an all-out, A-Star show. 

As frustrating as it was, however, the in-ring action was some of the best World Championship Wrestling had presented all year, making it a worthwhile watch.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

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