The Furious Flashbacks – WCW Starrcade ’99
Posted by Arnold Furious on 04.14.2007
The first show I’ve ever reviewed twice…lucky me.
The Furious Flashbacks – WCW Starrcade ’99
The first show I’ve ever reviewed twice…lucky me.
When I started doing tape reviews back in 2001 my first three tape reviews featured each of the “big 3”. My first ever tape review was King of the Ring ’98, followed by ECW’s Heatwave from the same year and this show, the only WCW show I had on tape at the time. Because it was only the second tape review I’d ever done the ratings are appalling. Like 4 ½ stars for Benoit/Jarrett or 2 ½ for DDP/D. Flair or 3 ½ for Bret/Goldberg. Even if the PBP isn’t that bad the ratings are way off. Mainly because the original ratings were done as marks out of ten in attempt to be different then converted to snowflakes at a later date.
Anyway at this point in time Vince Russo had taken charge of WCW and was steadily running the company further into the ground. His Crash TV booking resulted in slightly improved TV audiences thanks to people tuning in just to see what crazy thing he’d do next. Meanwhile the PPV buyrates were in the toilet because no one wanted to see Russo’s ADD addled TV shows and pay for them. He rarely let matches go longer than 10 minutes because he felt the audiences didn’t have the attention span to watch something that long and would tune out. Yeah, PPV, Russo. They’ve already bought the show. They’re not going anywhere. If there’s one thing that Russo has always failed to understand it’s that TV ratings been jackshit for wrestling. Yeah, it helps with making money because advertisers want a part of the show if people are watching but if no one wants to buy the PPV’s because the build up for them is lame then the company won’t make any money. Russo’s response to such complaints are usually to bitch about how Turner’s billion dollar industry wouldn’t let him do his bullshit soap opera storylines because of Standards and Practices. The show was getting progressively worse but WCW had thrown all this money at Russo to come and fix their company so they had to stick with him. At least until the numbers came in for Starrcade. 0.32 was the buyrate. The disastrous 1995 Starrcade (an actual good show but with a poorly booked World Cup of Wrestling showcasing Japanese talent) did an embarrassing buyrate but even that wasn’t this low. Russo had managed to engineer the worst Starrcade buyrate of all time. 1999 wouldn’t maintain that record however as the 2000 Starrcade did about a third of that.
I miss the old 18 Video Standards Council rating thing with the countdown clock on it. Used to get me excited when I was a kid watching 18’s and 15’s. It was like something interesting was about to happen. Like Sid powerbombing someone to the Earth’s core.
We’re in Washington DC. Hosts are Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan and Scott Hudson. Yeah, they offloaded Mike Tenay, the best PBP guy they had, and replaced him with Hudson because he fitted a demographic or something. Incidentally this arena holds about 18,000 people. Tonight’s attendance is 8,582.
Disco Inferno/Lash LeRoux v Big Vito/Johnny the Bull w/Tony Marinara
Disco and Lash were feuding over the cruiserweight title until Marinara started messing with Disco because he owed his family (IE mob) money. So Marinara has now brought in his hired goons (hired goons?) to beat Disco up for him. Lash comes to his defence because of professional respect. Amazingly Vito is a nine year pro by this point having advanced from wrestling as Skull Von Crush in ECW. He’s the only guy still employed in the big leagues. Johnny Stamboli aka Johnny the Bull is currently working around the world having experience in AJPW and CMLL. Back in 1999 they both looked very green but nothing like Lash LeRoux was. It’s coming to something when the mediocrity that is Disco Inferno is the most accomplished wrestler in a tag team match. Once again I’d like to point out that the best wrestler in this match is standing around at ringside. Of course WCW never let him wrestle because he looked too small so he went to ECW and tore it up there instead. The crowd is surprisingly lively despite this running every cheap piece of formula in the book. I think the idea is that although WCW really sucked they’d done a fair job of making Starrcade into a big event over the years. So the live crowd is hot regardless. Vito’s selling in this one is horrendous btw. Like missing with a splash and then bouncing back up before back bumping it. I know they say it’s ok to oversell as a heel but there are limits to that. Lash goes to the break dancing before he and Stamboli manage to fuck up a clothesline. Johnny jumps onto the ropes and falls off. Oh boy. Disco frogsplashes him but Vito saves with a big elbow drop. Lash takes an accidental Last Dance off Disco in a horribly contrived spot. Disco looks like even more of an idiot for focusing on Johnny while Vito DDT’s Lash for the pin at 9.38. *. Meh. By the numbers opener but the crowd was into it so that has to count for something.
POST MATCH the Italians body bag Disco and carry him out of the arena. Body bag? Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, the WWF.
PROMO TIME – Chris Benoit. I usually don’t like scripted promos appearing in the middle of a PPV out in the ring but Benoit accepted the US title from Scott Hall. Basically he forfeited because he was drunk, again. The original idea was a great one. They had Benoit v Hall in a ladder match to get Benoit over by beating Hall in a match he helped to make famous. Benoit decides to issue an open challenge for later.
Cruiserweight title – Evan Karagias (c) w/Spice v Madusa
Madusa looks WAY better than at Mayhem, which is a relief. Less makeup caked on and slightly less tarty clothing. They’re still trying to replicate the Chyna push the WWF had in an attempt to copy directly their success and get some female audience. Evan is one of those wrestlers who sucked dick to get a push (I’m presuming) because he has literally zero talent whatsoever. Other than looking like a boy band reject. This match suffers really badly from timing issues as a result. Because he has none and Madusa can’t be carrying the guy. Chyna’s push worked because she was working with some very talented men. Evan isn’t talented in any way. Literally every move in this looks like crap. Including Evan getting a jacknife pin that Madusa was meant to bridge out of but they fuck it up and she’s down for three. Then Madusa fucks up a powerbomb. Evan was supposed to get his head up there. They go outside so Madusa can stand around before Evan hits a bad looking dive. Spice jumps on the apron. The idea is that Spice is the least attractive and the least interesting of the Nitro Girls so they give her an angle. She low blows Evan who DOESN’T NOTICE. HAHAHA. Nothing down below, sir? Madusa finishes with the German suplex and wins the cruiserweight title at 3.31. HAHAHA. What a joke belt. -*. In another bit of WWF copy cat booking Madusa ends up with a mini version of herself much like the WWF did with Chyna and The Kat. Considering how “creative” Russo was supposed to be he sure stole a lot of WWF stuff. Hell he probably came up with that in the WWF in the first place but that doesn’t mean you just do it again.
BACKSTAGE Norman Smiley shits himself when a producer gives him a hand cue to end his interview and he screams. “I’m a coiled spring”. He warns everyone not to make any sudden moves. Okerlund points out he just soiled himself. At least Smiley was having fun under the Russo regime.
Hardcore title – Norman Smiley (c) v Meng
Screamin’ Norman has a bunch of plunder and a football uniform. Meng just leaves the ring and shoves his cart of plunder into Smiley. This being a hardcore match pretty much everything is plunder shots with the bonus of Smiley screaming. Meng starts no selling head shots. More screaming. Tony talks about the psychology being that eventually if you scream enough that maybe your opponent will stop kicking your ass. The catering area gets destroyed. Looks like no one was eating. Norman gets slammed through a table but dodges a cinder block. Smiley fails with a fire extinguisher so he runs away. Fit Finlay runs in to attack Meng and Brian Knobbs is out there too. Finlay bashes Meng with a chair but he no sells that. Knobbs with trashcan lid shots and Meng no sells them too. Knobbs has the Starrcade sign but eventually Finlay knocks Meng out with a lead pipe. Smiley is lying in the ruins of the catering area still and he pops up from under a tablecloth to get the pin at 4.28. ½*. No real match to speak of but Smiley was hilarious in his reactions.
BACKSTAGE, er, ELSEWHERE David Flair gets sent a gold crowbar. He strokes it and shouts a lot.
ELSEWHERE Dr Death and Oklahoma prepare for tonight. “Boomer Sooner”. The Misfits grab Oklahoma in a nonsensical moment. What happened to Dr Death? He was stood right there!
ELSEWHERE Jim Duggan is quizzed by Mike Tenay as to who his “true blue American” tag team partners are. He was in the midst of an angle where he was the janitor.
Revolution (Shane Douglas/Dean Malenko/Perry Saturn/Asya) v Jim Duggan/Varsity Club
The Varsity Club was an interesting one. They originally disbanded in 1989. Russo must have been looking through some old NWA tapes for inspiration and realised he had all these guys on the books. The line up is Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotunda and Rick Steiner. All of them were most recently wrestling as heels. Keep that in mind. Because it’s Vince Russo they have added a cheerleader in Kristina Laum (ECW’s Kimona Wanalaya). I believe they named her Leia Meow. Well, she certainly used that name after this angle died in about a month. Hudson is more interested in her than the match. So am I to be honest. The match is pretty straightforward as Duggan goes it alone and takes a beating as a result. Eventually the Varsity Club get bored of not being tagged and come in to clean house. Asya gets singled out for a thrashing. The Varsity Club promptly turn on Duggan. Swerve. Seems they’re out for themselves. Duggan is left unconscious and Shane Douglas jumps in there for the first time to get the pin at 4.52. DUD.
BACKSTAGE the Misfits have Oklahoma trapped in a small cage. That’s if anyone cares. I know I don’t.
Vampiro v Steve Williams
Ah, the cavalcade of crap continues. This would be the fifth consecutive bad match on this card. Oklahoma is in that shark cage at ringside. He’s has a mic so he’s calling PBP. Dr Death is way past his best by 1999 and Vampiro stinks. Oklahoma’s constant sound bite chatter is irritating but at least I can’t hear Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson as a result. This match is brutal. The selling is inconsistent, the striking is poor and the wrestling is nonexistent. Doc, seemingly forgetting he’s the heel, hits a few shoulderblocks and celebrates. “CHOP, CHOP, CHOP. You’re gonna have to do something else Doc I’m getting tired of sayin’ chop” – Oklahoma. It’s a parody but in a way it’s even smarter than that because it’s mocking the old timers that do very little, especially in WCW, and expect to get over. One of the Misfits jumps in there and Doc clotheslines him. He’s the heel right? More Misfits and this is now 4 on 1 for the faces. They have no fucking clue what they’re doing out there so they? Vampiro comes back with a kick because Doc was distracted by a punk band. Charles Robinson makes the mistake of pissing Doc off and gets laid out for the DQ at 5.02. -**1/2. Truly terrible throughout complete with booking everything against the heel. It was a total clusterfuck mess.
Vampiro v Oklahoma
Oklahoma has to spend five minutes wrestling Vampiro because Doc lost. They won’t let him out of the cage though. Oklahoma decides to do his own PBP. “Business is about to pick up” – Tony. The problem with all this is they’re acknowledging they’re inferior to the WWF by spoofing their announcer. The WWF took shots at WCW too but they aimed at targets like Goldberg and Hogan. The Misfits attack Oklahoma because Vampiro can’t even beat an overweight writer. Vampiro uses the Rock Bottom and in come the Misfits again! The crowd boo’s. Oklahoma gets a beating off five guys. Nail in the Coffin and that’s it at whatever. -***. That would be SIX bad matches in a row and Vampiro’s second trip into negative stars in one night. Impressive.
BACKSTAGE Curt Hennig and Creative Control with Vincent and La Parka have a word with Russo off camera. That’s it. Nothing important happens.
ELSEWHERE there’s friction between Harlem Heat and Midnight. That Midnight sure has big fucking thighs. Stevie blames all the problems on Midnight and walks off.
Creative Control/Curt Hennig w/Vincent v Booker T/Midnight
Because Stevie backed out this is now 3 on 2 but this is a #1 contendership match for the tag titles. So why have Hennig in there anyway? Plus Stevie already did this angle where he walked out on Booker the previous year. The faces isolate one of the Harris Brothers. Pretty sure it’s Ron Harris but I have no idea whether he was Patrick or Gerald. Hennig v Booker is actually quite good but we only get snippets of that. Don tags in but Booker axe kicks him. Midnight gets the tag and punks Vincent (sorry, Shane now) off the apron. Midnight would be WCW’s third attempt to recreate the success of Chyna following Asya and pushing Madusa against guys. Stevie Ray comes out here but Booker tells him to get lost. Watching the Harris brothers drop elbows is painful. Hit or miss it’s always bad. Booker gets the tag but the referee is busy with Stevie Ray. Booker cleans house anyway. Hennig strolls in with a foreign object but somehow Nick Patrick impartially misses it and the crowd miss the pinfall because of all the brawling that’s going on elsewhere at 7.53. It’s Don that pins Booker in the end. ¼*. Seven in a row.
CLIPS – Seven’s debut before he turned back to Dustin Rhodes after dumping the gimmick a few seconds into it. Seven looked like a GREAT gimmick though. Quite why they lost confidence in it before it even started is anyone’s guess.
BACKSTAGE Mike Tenay talks to Dustin. He looks camper as Dustin than as Goldust. He says letting Dusty Rhodes go was bad business. Jeff Jarrett attacks him to kickstart to Bunkhouse brawl.
Jeff Jarrett v Dustin Rhodes
This actually starts out pretty well because it’s an energised brawl and both guys are really feeling it. Say what you like about Jarrett and the push he received during the Russo run in WCW but he at least tried very hard to make it work. Hudson tries to bring the Tenay-esque information bomb but doesn’t quite cut it. Why not just get Tenay to do this spot? Rhodes gets a bullrope to continue the connection between his present persona and the American Dream persona of his father. His vest/jeans combo makes him look a lot like his old man too. Dustin pulls out the cocaine and throws it in Jarrett’s eyes. Man, he won’t get to sleep tonight! Dustin with a belt whipping and the referee gets some too for getting in the way. He duct tapes the referee to the ropes for some unknown reason. Why would he do that? It’s no DQ anyway and the referee wasn’t causing him any problems. He’s only out there to count the pin and now no one can win. Jarrett goes low and Dustin only has himself to blame. That brings out Curt Hennig and the heels give Dustin a 2 on 1 beatdown. That really screws with what they’d been doing beforehand. Still it was about 6 minutes of a good match so that’s halfway to getting something going. Jarrett goes to a long sleeper to put the final nail in the good match coffin. Hennig’s inconsistencies in helping out has gotten really annoying. Why doesn’t he just full on help Jarrett if it’s no DQ? But no, he just interferes from time to time. Dustin sets up the kick in the nuts and lays out Hennig for good measure. The referee gets pulled out by Hennig and now he’s back in there so Rhodes kicks him in the balls too. They brawl out to the entranceway with Hennig interfering again. Dustin bulldogs him on the floor but that gives Jarrett enough time to climb the ladder match ladder and kebong's Rhodes with the guitar for the pin at 11.22. **. It was fine until Hennig came out there and then it started getting very patchy. They should have just let it go. But then letting wrestling get over by itself has never been Vince Russo’s style. Everything has to be a schmoz or a screwjob. At least this breaks the seven match streak of actual bad matches. This was ok.
BACKSTAGE David Flair goes nuts and attacks a fluffy toy with his crowbar. At least he has a personality now. He’s now moved up from wrestling Kim Page and elevated himself to working with Dallas.
ELSEWHERE DDP calls D. Flair a rat bastard and says he’s going to use the crowbar on David tonight.
Crowbar on a pole match – Diamond Dallas Page v David Flair
Just booking the match itself is stupid, DDP is so far out of Flair’s league it’s not even funny, but booking a gimmick match between them is even dumber. Effectively this would be another no DQ match. Russo booked more hardcore than ECW does now. Flair comes out with the gold crowbar thus eliminating the need to get the one off the pole and he bashes DDP with it. Charles Robinson points out he has to get the other one down. But why bother? DDP gets to lie around for a few minutes selling the ribs while David walks around twitching. Robinson starts the match again after going to call it after two minutes of nothing. David beats on the ribcage for the entire match with Page attempting fluke comebacks to no avail because his ribs hurt. Tony seems impressed that David can now do the very basics of wrestling. Well if he’s going to call himself a wrestler he might as well do SOME wrestling. He still looks incredibly green. David decides he wants the other crowbar too but stops off to slap the Figure Four on DDP. Flair gives up on it to get the other crowbar but DDP ducks it and hits the Diamond Cutter for the pin at 3.55. *1/4. For David Flair that’s practically MOTY though.
POST MATCH Daffney makes her debut by running out and diving across David’s body to save him from a further beating. Nice butt. She has a killer smirk as well. Dirty. I appreciate it.
Sting v Total Package
Or Lex Luger if you’d rather. This is for Elizabeth’s contract. If Sting wins she’s free from Luger’s evil machinations. Sting is a full blown babyface again now. Before coming out here Sting wants to see Liz’s mace and gives her a new can that’s “super high octane”. Luger starts fast and whoops Sting from pillar to post but spends too long jawing at Liz and lets the Stinger back into it. Liz puts some slaps in for babyface assistance. Double clothesline spot gives them a break after the hard 3 minutes of work. “Clothesline-o-mania” shouts Tony. Liz jumps in there with the mace and goes to spray Sting but its silly string because he did the old switcheroo. Hey, Sting not being a total dumbass. This would be new for the new millennium. Luger looks beaten and has no response for all Sting’s trademark action. Tony points out that they were fighting for Liz’s freedom, which is now totally irrelevant because she’s turned heel again. Stinger Splash a few times. Scorpion Deathlock but Liz comes in with the baseball bat. Sting scares her off but she pulls out the most vicious shot of her entire career by blasting Sting in the jaw with it. That draws the DQ at 5.25. DAYUM! ¼*. Nothing match with some nice character development for both Sting and Liz.
Powerbomb match – Kevin Nash v Sid Vicious
This is so horrible I can’t even recap it again. It’s a shame that during the build up they don’t show all of the “you’re half the man I am, and I have half the brain you do” promo. That was a real red letter Sid promo. This match is all punching and teasing powerbombs. This is also no DQ because it can only end with someone hitting the powerbomb. So another hardcore match basically making it practically every match on the card. How hard is this to do anyway? Someone powerbombs someone else and that’s the match. No one has to count lights for this finish. It’s real simple. Sid works the back but the ref gets bumped. Sid manages the powerbomb but the referee doesn’t see it. Out comes Jeff Jarrett to bash Sid with the guitar. Nice work from Jarrett kicking the remains of the guitar out of the ring. This, btw, would be a hint towards the reformation of the nWo. Something we were all waiting for. *slow clapping*. Nash struggles back up and goes for the powerbomb but his back hurts so he can’t do it. So he just tells the referee that he powerbombed Sid and the referee believes him and awards him the match. DUD. Words fail me. Wait, -* for not being able to book a finish.
BACKSTAGE Benoit says the invitation of fighting for the US title is still open.
US title – Chris Benoit (c) v Jeff Jarrett
So Jarrett is out here again. Jarrett enters into his second energised brawl of the evening. Benoit hits a backbreaker to keep Jarrett grounded. Superplex from Benoit and that gives him ample time to retrieve the ladder. Jarrett dropkicks it onto him. It falls in a good position, hanging under the ropes, for Jarrett to slam him on it. Benoit is busted by his eye. Ladder is set up and Benoit goes to climb but Jarrett picks him off and dumps him on the ropes. Lots of blood across Benoit’s face and that has become a focus. They do seem to be just setting the ladder up in the corner and then running the other guy into it. Jarrett tries to dump him into the ladder but they can’t get that right. Eventually Benoit gets his foot through the ladder and Jarrett pulls it over on top of the champ. The ladder gets set up again and Jarrett is tied up in it. Benoit climbs the other side but Jarrett shoves it over with his leg strength. That was neat. The ladder falls across Jarrett’s leg. Both guys climb and Benoit gets punched off because he’s bloody. Benoit goes up again but Jarrett shoves him off into the ropes. The WCW ring is so small that any time the ladder goes over it’s into the ropes. Jarrett goes up and Benoit shoves him over. Benoit goes up and this is starting to get creatively slim. Benoit goes up and Jarrett missile dropkicks the ladder away and THAT looked cool AND got a big pop. The ladder flies out of the way and Benoit just drops straight down. Great visual. This is the 5th ladder match in WCW history. They really shouldn’t have run #4 just a month before this but that’s Russo for you. He gets an idea and it can’t wait. Benoit forward rolls under the ladder and dropkicks the ladder into Jarrett’s face. Benoit goes up but wants to inflict more damage rather than grab the title. His shoulder brushes the belt on his way to doing the Flying Wolverine. Crowd goes nuts and gives him a big standing ovation as he goes up to pick off the belt at 10.14. ***1/4. Tony calls it “match of the year” to my amusement. Bret-Benoit anyone? It’s kind of sad when a half decent match finally shows up it gets MOTY thrown at it. I way over rated this the first time out because I’d not seen a ladder match that I really liked in some time. The lack of tension or excitement really hurts this in retrospect though.
CLIPS – Bret Hart being attacked on Nitro, which is another set up for the nWo revival. Bret lies down for Kevin Nash with a knee injury. For once Russo actually pre-planned something and it’s about to go completely tits up.
BACKSTAGE Bret Hart cuts a generic promo about how he’ll walk in and out the best.
WCW title – Bret Hart (c) v Goldberg
Bret does his best to walk Goldberg through an actual good match even if it means holding him on the mat in a headlock for extended periods to make sure the crowd are feeling it before they go someplace else. Goldberg gets out and hits a shoulderblock and there’s the pop. Make them wait for it and they’ll pop. As long as you don’t make them wait too long. Press powerslam from Goldberg and that looked bad to start with but improved. Goldberg with a couple of crappy clotheslines and Bret should really have taken back over after the powerslam because Goldberg knows dick all about pacing. Goldberg goes for a kneebar but Bret counters into the Sharpshooter only for Goldberg to power out of it. That was fun. Ref gets bumped. Oh geez. Can’t you just book a straight up match. New referee is out here so I think Billy Silverman might have gotten legitimately hurt there. Hey, someone getting hurt with Goldberg around? That NEVER happens because he received all the training he required before being rushed into the ring. Goldberg with a big boot. Bret should have controlled the pace of this more. Every time Goldberg is in charge this is no fun. New referee gets bumped. Goldberg misses a spear and hits the buckles. Bret grabs his legs and hooks up the Ringpost Figure Four but Goldberg fails to grab the foot so Bret lands on the back of his head. That’s probably a concussion anyway. Bret holds his head and covers his eyes. Third referee is out here but this match has now gone completely to hell. Bret, knowing he’s hurt, picks off Goldberg’s leg and works it over. Bret works the Figure Four and Goldberg appears to have a cut on his head. Goldberg isn’t feeling cooperative and refuses to go over on a legsweep before punching Bret in the head. Part of Goldberg’s problem is he gets all worked up and stiffs people. Referee #3 gets bumped. Goldberg stiff kicks Bret in the neck. That’s the one that practically ended his career. Spear. Bret must be seeing stars because he doesn’t look right AT ALL. Out comes Roddy Piper in a referee’s shirt. Bret clips the knee and slaps on the Sharpshooter. Piper strolls in there and rings the bell at 12.10. Bret looks confused because Russo just booked Montreal AGAIN. **. Solid enough but the booking really dragged down the story they were trying to tell. Crowd ends up booing at the finish and I can’t say I blame them.
The 411: One good match and two decent ones don’t make for a great show. Especially when there are so many matches. The card was stacked like an early Wrestlemania with too many short bouts and assorted crap. Thirteen matches is way too much for a three hour PPV and as a result most of it didn’t get enough time to development. The ladder match was cut short, both in time and emotionally, at 10 minutes and the main event struggled to achieve anything with its 12 minutes. Of course the real monster down side is that Bret Hart sustained a concussion during the main event that turned into post concussion syndrome. It ended his career. He’s been on the shelf ever since. That in turn tanked the nWo 2000 angle, which was supposed to turn the company around. In a company already badly lacking in terms of main event guys they needed Bret Hart healthy and his injury caused them another problem on top of the many they already had. Keep in mind that during the course of 1999 WCW lost a frankly shocking $15M. This is during a period where the business is booming and wrestling is huge. But don’t worry. WCW would be able to turn it around in 2000 right? Stay tuned folks. Stay tuned.