Going Old School: Starrcade '89
Posted by Matt Adamson on 02.08.2008
If you think WrestleMania's have been blown by poor booking, you haven't witnessed Starrcade '89.
For the six years prior to December 13th 1989, the event called Starrcade was a huge spectacle, a showcase of the best the NWA had to offer. 1989 had been one of the greatest years of the NWA, producing 4 of the promotions greatest matches ever and putting on one of, if not THEE single greatest Pay Per View event ever. So, with Starrcade looming, their biggest event of the year, what does Jim Crockett Promotions decide to do? Scrap the tradition of Starrcade and hold two one night round robin tournaments. One for Tag Teams and one for Singles wrestlers. The result? Indifference. It would shape the way Starrcade was viewed forever as it went from being the showcase event of the NWA to being the NWA’s version of the Royal Rumble or Survivor Series. It was a dark day for wrestling, and a darker day for us fans as we had to be reminded of just how good this show could have been. The NWA was nowhere close to being short on talent, but only 4 teams and 4 singles competitors worked this show. Needless to say, in the ticket booth and on the TV this show tanked and has long since been forgotten.
December 13th 1989 from The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia in front of a crowd of 6,000 fans.
Starrcade ’89 – Future Shock
Hosts: Jim Ross & Terry Funk
Before I get going on this review, due to the nature of the show and the repetitive nature of a round Robin Tournament, I’m going to go ahead and introduce the participants and give my usual history lesson before I get to the matches, but first, here is how the tournament works: Each team or wrestler faces each of the others one time. The scoring is as follows:
20 Points = Victory by pin fall or submission
15 Points = Victory by count out
10 Points = Victor by disqualification
5 Points = Draw
Here are the participants:
Tag Team Tournament
The Steiner Brothers – Rick and Scott hadn’t been teaming for even a year at this point but had already made an impact. They were the current World Tag Team Champions and seemed nearly unstoppable at this time. They were currently feuding with Doom, at the request of woman who had turned on Rick and Scott a couple months prior. They had recently ditched Missy Hyatt.
Doom – Doom are managed by Woman and a big muscle man named Nitron. Nitron would wrestle in WCW later as Big Sky. If you don’t recognize either of those names, don’t sweat it, he didn’t mean anything aside from being big and being a goon for Doom. Doom were Ron Simmons and Butch Reed still under masks at this point. Their feud with the Steiners was one of the most fun feuds of late 1989. A match at this show was important regardless of its lack of long term importance.
The Road Warriors – The Road Warriors were nearing the end of their NWA run here before heading off to the greener pastures of Stamford by Summer 1990. They had spent the last few months feuding with the Skyscrapers, who were supposed to be in this tournament but due to an injury to Sid, they were replaced by the next team.
The Wild Samoans – Originally supposed to be the Skyscrapers, the Wild Samoans were put in this tournament as their replacements when the above mentioned injury happened. I’m convinced it was truly last minute as the results of the tournament seem more realistic to the Skyscrapers current push. The Wild Samoans are Fatu (known to most as Rikishi) and Samoan Savage. They were the Samoan Swat Team with a name change.
Ric Flair – It feels strange, but Ric Flair is the #1 baby face in the NWA at this time, coming off a couple of HOT feuds with Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk which produced what I consider to be 3 of the top 5 matches ever. The Horsemen were recently back together after some time apart and things had just added a new member in a promising youngster named Sting.
Lex Luger – Luger was still a heel for a few more days after this event. He was pretty well the most hated wrestler in the NWA at the time due to his cocky attitude. He had feuded with Brian Pillman over the last couple months and turned out some great matches. His U.S. title reign had been long and impressive.
Sting – Sting was the rising star whose popularity was bursting at the seems. He had been TV Champ early in 1989, trading the title with The Great Muta in a series of tremendous matches. He had just become a full fledged main eventer and everybody knew that this could be his time. This tournament was really about the changing of the guard from the 80’s to the 90’s and let me say that it was very symbolic of how things would go.
The Great Muta – The Great Muta was a large part of the awesomeness that was the NWA in 1989. He and manager Gary Hart were just awesome. Muta had feuded with Sting for much of 1989, but just felt bigger than life. Muta and the other three wrestlers in this singles tournament were hands down the best wrestlers that were active in the NWA at this time.
The Steiner Brothers vs. Doom
Everything about this match is terribly awkward. Doom is way off their game. I’m not quite sure if it’s the time limit or that they were gearing up for a long night of what seemed to be getting buried. Not a great way to open the show. Steiners look hasty in their work and nothing really makes sense. Brawl on the outside of the ring with the time limit close to expiration and Rick sneaks in to get the count out win. Not a lot of fun and a poor way to kick things off.
Winners: The Steiner Brothers by count out (15 points)
Match Rating: *1/2
Sting vs. Lex Luger
This is a pretty big match, but the crowd still doesn’t care. Lex stalls a bunch and Sting uses quite a few rest holds. Nothing means much of anything. It’s almost as if somebody back in the locker room gave a pep talk that went something like this, “Alright, you have three matches tonight, you know which one’s are important so save your energy.” Sting and Luger were certainly convinced by this kind of talk. The ending of the match is terrible as Luger falls from the outside of the ring in on top of Sting and uses the ropes for the pin. Ugh. Match was sub-par on so many level and was no doubt phoned in. I think I’d probably hate having to work 3 matches on the same night.
Winner: Lex Luger (20 points)
Match Rating: *1/2
The Road Warriors vs. Doom
Yikes! Well, besides the awful clip job, which I’m thankful is there. This match is just a mess. Match comes in as The Warriors are kicking some Doom ass all over the ring. There is really no method and absolutely no selling whatsoever going on. Even the ending is messed up as on member of Doom is coming going for what may or may not end up being a piledriver, which allows Hawk to come off the top with a clothesline for the three. Basic bury job, which just has me confused seeing how things would soon go for Doom. Why would they kill their momentum at this show? It all just looked so bad.
Winner: Road Warriors (20 points)
Match Rating: ½*
The Great Muta vs. Ric Flair
Muta is with Gary Hart who at this time was at the top of his game. Hart was just awesome during 1989 with Muta. He was a bastard in the strongest sense of the word. Muta was undefeated in singles competition at this time. Match is a squash and ends quickly when Buzz Sawyer and Dragon Master come down, but are halted by the Horsemen. Muta goes for a moonsault but is blocked by Flair who rolls him up for the pin. Way too short, especially considering what it could have been.
Winner: Ric Flair (20 points)
Match Rating: *
The Road Warriors vs. The Steiner Brothers
This is a bit of a tag team dream match at the time, and is face vs. face. It’s cool knowing this first time match would never happen again. Sadly it might have ended up happening in TNA during this last year if Hawk were still alive. That’s just how TNA rolls. Warriors actually use some tag psychology. Match could have been much longer and if it had been, would have been much better. Match ends when The Road Warriors turn a doomsday device into a Belly to Back Suplex, but Scott lifts his shoulder while the ref counts Animals down. Steiners get a fluke win. I’m not a hater of that finish but it’s a terrible way for such an epic encounter to end.
Winner: Steiner Brothers (20 points)
Match Rating: ***
The Great Muta vs. Sting
If there was any question as to the future of the Great Muta in the NWA, it came during this tournament and I think this match was the ultimate indicator. Sting gets the pace going fast, but Muta says, “oh yeah?” and goes even faster. It’s a fun match, but nothing like their previous encounters as it is just entirely too short. Muta misses another moonsault, and turns around an goes for another but gets crotched on the ropes. Sting hits a superplex for the pin. I think it’s safe to assume that Muta was booked on a flight to Japan.
Winner: Sting (20 points)
Match Rating: **1/2
Wild Samoans vs. Doom
This is a horrid little match that was killed by an equally as horrid finish. I don’t know whether it was botch or not, but it looked horrible. One member of Doom collides with Fatu and Fatu falls unconscious on top and gets the three. If that was supposed to go down that way, shame on everybody involved. There is nothing here and it saddens me.
Winner: Wild Samoans (20 points)
Match Rating: BOO!
Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger
Well, I guess you could call this a rematch from the Great American Bash and Starrcade of 1988. The only difference? It can’t hold a candle to either of those matches or either of the matches that would occur between the two in 1990. Not that it’s bad, but the time limit just killed this one. It was a decent enough match that was getting really hot by the time there were 3 minutes left. Flair had worked the leg some during the match, but Luger didn’t sell it anywhere near as well as he had in their other matches. Once Flair gets Luger in the figure four the time winds down and we call this one a draw. Too bad we couldn’t get the big match here. This tournament killed 12 matches. That has to be a record.
Winner: Time Limit Draw (5 points each)
Match Rating: **3/4
Wild Samoans vs. The Steiner Brothers
More Rikishi doesn’t have me all that excited. The time limit actually enhances this match some as the drama kicks in as time winds down. Scott does manage a beautiful Frankensteiner in this one. I’d have to say its one of the better ones. I think my favorite is from Havoc ’90 against the Nasty Boys. That was top notch. Anyway, shits going down as a brawl breaks out and Scott throws one of the Samoans over the top. The ref doesn’t see that one, but he sees Rick do the same and calls for the DQ. I think that was botched by the referee. Pretty sure Scott’s was intended to be the one called.
Winner: Wild Samoans by DQ (10 points)
Match Rating: **
The Great Muta vs. Lex Luger
It’s a sad thing that this match had to happen in this tournament setting. It was a good little match hampered by the time restrictions. I would have loved to see more of this match. Surprisingly fast pace that both were able to maintain throughout. Sadly the end wouldn’t fare quite as well as it could have when out of nowhere, Muta blows the mist in the face of Luger drawing a DQ at near the expiration of the time limit. This match had potential but logic was just thrown out the window in the end in favor of Luger being in the race in the end.
Winner: Lex Luger by DQ (10 points)
Match Rating: **3/4
The Road Warriors vs. Wild Samoans
This match is a decider for the tag team tournament. Thank goodness we’re finishing things up here. I’d have to say that the tag team portion of this tournament was an almost unparalleled failure. This match is shockingly short and it doesn’t even take a minute for both teams to be blown up. Not a good sign, but thankfully it was short as Hawk got the pin after yet another Flying Clothesline. A bit of a downer for the finale, but it could have gone longer. The win here gave the Road Warriors the tournament win as well.
Winner: The Road Warriors (20 points)
Match Rating: ¼*
So, this is how the tag team tournament broke down:
This is just about the perfect match to finish off this show. Considering any of the singles matches could have, it’s a good thing they picked the most logical option for the last match. This match was billed as Sting’s chance to prove himself as a Horsemen. Of course this could only be done in a match that wouldn’t cost Flair his title. Match was great with a lot of working the leg by Flair and a lot of action throughout. The pace stays pretty fast as they are getting a lot into the 15 minute limit. Both get their finishers and there are a great deal of fantastic reversals. Flair goes for a second Figure Four, but it is reversed into an inside cradle for the 3 count. Sting wins the match and the tournament, but the Horsemen are on their way down. I was expecting an attack on Sting at this point, but it turned out they all celebrated together and Sting got to leave the arena in one piece. Due to the time limit this match was unable to develop into what it could have become, but it was still a fabulous match and the only redeeming aspect of this show.
Winner: Sting (20 points)
Match Rating: ***3/4
To close things out here is the final singles tournament tally:
The 411: This show was a huge bomb at the time because it meant almost nothing. It holds up even worse by today’s standards. Having a showcase event without a single title match is a huge mistake, but it wouldn’t be the last time Starrcade would have this problem. You’d think that after the abysmal turnout and buyrate that they would have learned their lesson, but that wouldn’t be the case. We would have to watch 3 more gimmick laden Starrcade’s before things began to turn around. Thankfully this wasn’t the best of them. There is no reason to see this show and I recommend that you actively avoid it. You won’t be sorry.