Going Old School: Starrcade '91
Posted by Matt Adamson on 02.18.2008
When a neat idea goes horribly wrong.
By the time Summer of 1991 had rolled around, word was getting out that Ric Flair was on his way to the WWF. This threw a wrench in WCWís plans. Still, as Starrcade was getting closer they had a surprisingly strong roster. With names such as Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, Cactus Jack, Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Dustin Rhodes, Brian Pillman, Bobby Eaton, Ricky Morton, Vader, Lex Luger, Jushin Liger, Diamond Dallas Page, The Freebirds and The Steiner Brothers, youíd think they could turn Starrcade into one of the most memorable Pay Per Views ever. Imagine the first meeting between Liger and Pillman when Liger won the Light Heavyweight title being at Starrcade, or Sting winning the title from Lex Luger before Luger started to phone it in. Imagine if we had gotten a mildly changed Superbrawl II for this Pay Per View instead. I know that Superbrawl II is one of the greatest PPVís WCW ever did, so why not push those programs here. They were already well into the booking to not consider any of them too early. So, leave it to Dusty Rhodes to screw everything up. In my opinion, the angle booking from Halloween Havoc 91 through Clash of the Champions XVII in November and on to this show was some of the strongest WCW had seen in a couple years as the days of the Dangerous Alliance were just kicking off and it was brilliant. The angles were meaningful and things were recovering from Flairs absence quite nicely, but Rhodes decided to scrap all those plans for just one night and turn Starrcade into yet another gimmick called ďBattleBowl: The Lethal LotteryĒ. The concept sounds good; names are drawn at random making tag teams who battle one another to earn a spot into a two-ring Battle Royal called Battle Bowl. There are two MAJOR problems with this concept. 1. This is NOT the kind of thing you want to try out at the biggest show of the year and 2. The lottery was actually legit, and nobody had any clue as to who they would be wrestling with or against going into this show. They learned their lesson and fixed the lottery for the next year they did Battlebowl, but this one was truly random, and while its quite the curiosity, it completely ruined the biggest show of the year.
December 29th 1991 from The Scope in Norfolk, Virginia, in front of a crowd of 9,000 fans.
Starrcade Ď91 - Battlebowl: The Lethal Lottery
Hosts: Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone
Eric Bischoff, Missy Hyatt and Magnum T.A. (always nice to see him) are on the stage to draw the names for the tag matches. All the wrestlers involved in the Lethal Lottery are standing on bleachers set up on the stage. They draw Michael Hayesí name first and weíre offÖ
Michael Hayes & Tracy Smother vs. Marcus Alexander Bagwell & Jimmy Garvin
Well, right off the bat the legit lottery gives us a surprise, Freebird vs. Freebird here. It should be noted that the Freebirds are actually baby faces at this point, a rare moment indeed. Smothers is just HORRIBLE in this match and completely kills it with over-stalling. He stalls for several minutes before finally locking up with Bagwell who actually makes good use of the little time he has in the ring with Smothers. He wrestles a smooth and fast paced match. Too bad what would become of his later in his career. He had real in-ring promise here. When Garvin is in the match really gets fun, but it doesnít last long enough, Smothers had already wasted too much time stalling. Good teamwork by Garvin and Bagwell. Bagwell gets some good mat work in with Hayes, which was surprising. When Hayes and Garvin are in together, they basically screw around a whole bunch and do their usual shtick without hardly making contact. Smothers misses an ugly top rope splash. I donít remember Smothers wrestling in WCW much after this. I would have fired his ass as soon as he got back to the dressing room after this mess. Bagwell hitís a clean looking Fishermanís Suplex for the pin and a spot for he and Garvin in Battlebowl. This could have been a good match if Smother hadnít have been a HUGE asshole and made a mockery of himself and everybody else in this match.
Winners: Marcus Bagwell & Jimmy Garvin
Match Rating: *¾
Rick Rude & Steve Auston vs. Van Hammer & Big Josh
Well, what you have here are three good talents with one of the worst Iíve ever seen on a Starrcade show. Hammer was just awful. He was an awkward lumbering fool through the entire match. Austinm and Rude were gold, but arenít able to pull a good match out of Hammer, who was likely booked to dominate because thatís exactly what he does. Rude and Austin are able to dominate due to their familiarity with each other in the Dangerous Alliance. Itís a shame that Rude and Austin were used like this on this show. Imagine if we could have seen Steve Austin vs. Ricky Steamboat for the TV title and Rick Rude vs. Dustin Rhodes for the U.S. title. Heck, switch those two matches around and you STILL have two promising matches. Rude awakening gets Rude and Austin a spot in Battlebowl. Well, at least weíll be seeing them again.
Winners: Rick Rude & Steve Austin
Match Rating: **
Larry Zbyszko & El Gigante vs. Dustin Rhodes & Ricky Morton
It looks like a repeat scenario, but with even worse implications. El Gigante may very well be the worst wrestler ever to receive a push as big as he got. He was awful and incapable of putting on a match that even registered as passable. Those who complain about the Great Khali today (Iím actually one, but watch El Gigante has changed my feelings on Khali) have no idea just how bad it could actually be. Zbyszko stalls a lot and bosses Gigante around, which pisses him off and he turns on Larry. Double Dropkick on Zbyszko gets a three and Battlebowl spots for Morton and Rhodes. Well, so far Battlebowl has the best possible choices from the matches weíve seen. This match is one of the worst Iíve seen on a Starrcade. Not a good way to use Rhodes and Morton. Yeah Dusty, you screwed up even your sons match here. Nice work.
Winners: Dustin Rhodes & Ricky Morton
Match Rating: ½*
Mike Graham & Diamond Dallas Page vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Bill Kazmeier
The Lethal Lottery rears its ugly head as Liger makes his WCW Pay Per View debut in one of the most disappointing possible ways teaming with a guy who is completely incapable of putting on a decent match. DDP is also making his PPV debut as a wrestler. Sadly, the only one who has any sense of improvisation in this match is Liger, but it doesnít help anything. Much of the match is these guys just standing around not knowing what to do. Graham isnít prepared for anything, and shows it by taking a Liger huricanrana and basically making it look just awful. Kazmeier is totally lost in this match. Iím convinced he is afraid of taking a bump, because not only does he not bump, he barely ever even leaves his feet. He looks like a complete fool and should never have set foot in a wrestling ring. Once they all finally get comfortable, we get some redemption when Graham and Liger are in for the second time but its not enough to save this match. They get in some very good mat work and Liger hitís a moonsault to wake up this corpse of a crowd. Kazmeier Gorilla Presses Liger onto DDP for the pin. This match exposes just how horrible an idea this was.
Winner: Jushin Liger & Kazmeier
Match Rating: *½
Lex Luger & Arn Anderson vs. Terrence Taylor & Z-Man
Ah, at last, a match that actually has some promise. Luger is with Harley Race, who made him much more interesting during this part of his career. Its nice to finally get to a match with Arn Anderson, who is in my opinion, the best tag team wrestler ever. He is actually capable of improving a tag team match and it shows here. Lots of good stuff by Taylor as he takes it to Luger. He manages to keep the pace, as do the rest to make this match the first interesting on of the show. Absolutely no stalling in this one, which is fantastic. It really brings out just how awesome these guys were. It was almost as if they were enduring the previous matches on the TV backstage and were as disgusted as I am, and decided to give their best. You canít go wrong here considering the circumstances. Lots of action and great execution by all four, and Taylor, despite assuming baby face pops because of his teaming with the only baby face in the match, still wrestles like a heel. Luger and Arn do a fabulous job of cutting the ring in half and show excellent teamwork. Match is over when Luger hitís a Piledriver on Taylor and covers for three. Wow! Very good match that looks even better considering the garbage weíve been subjected to prior to this.
Winners: Lex Luger & Arn Anderson
Match Rating: ***¾
Ricky Steamboat & Todd Champion vs. Cactus Jack & Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker
As soon as Parker is announced, Abdulla The Butcher gets up and starts destroying him in the locker room. Once heís practically killed Parker, he comes down to the ring to be Jackís partner, and Jack is pleased. However, the refereeís stop him and send him back. This is wildly entertaining stuff. Once Butcher gets back to the curtain, Parker comes crawling through the curtain and Butcher destroys him again. Parker would spend the rest of the match crawling like a cowboy in the desert in search of water toward the ring. The match in the ring is nothing, and never really gets going. Cactus does some solid bumping, but nothing he wasnít capable of doing on a nightly basis. It is cool to see Steamboat and Foley wrestle. I donít know if they had many other matches. Once Parker finally makes it down, Cactus tags him. Steamboat with a High Cross Body for the pin. Not a terrible match. It didnít try to do anything too flashy and kept the focus on the hilarious Butcher/Cactus story arc.
Winners: Ricky Steamboat & Todd Champion
Match Rating: **
Sting & Abdulla The Butcher vs. ďFlyiníĒ Brian Pillman & Bobby Eaton
Look, Iím a fan of Abdulla The Butcher, especially after what just happened, but dammit if heís a fish out of water in what could have otherwise been an awesome match. Butcher starts by attacking his partner, Sting as soon as he gets to the ring. Pillman makes the save and this match becomes as they say, a disaster. Happily, its about as entertaining a disaster as it gets. Did I mention they havenít even gotten inside the ring yet? Eaton save Butcher next and the brawling finally spills into the ring. This match is proving to have an interesting dynamic that we really never see. Butcher is relentless on Sting. There are burst of fast paced action, but it is never maintained. Pillman actually manages to Body Slam Butcher, which is cool to see. Eaton tries tagging Pillman, but Pillman doesnít want to wrestle his friend Sting, and has basically given up trying to win the match. Cactus Jack comes down to attack Sting, but Sting manages to avoid his aggression and hitís a High Cross Body on Eaton for three. Very unique and interesting match. There is nothing quite like this that Iíve seen. Butcher and Cactus start fighting after the match and take it all the way to the back. That was fun.
Winners: Sting & Abdulla The Butcher
Match Rating: **¼
Rick Steiner & The Nightstalker vs. Big Van Vader & Mr. Hughes
Mr. Hughes is Lex Lugerís body guard and is accompanied by Harley Race. Vader was yet to be pushed as the monster he would be come summer 1992. Nightstalker wasnít supposed to be on the show, but when Scott Hall (known as the Diamond Stud here) was injured, he became the replacement. Solid power match when Steiner and Vader are in there together, but they drop the ball when they have a suplex exchange and it looks awful. The match is quite sloppy when Steiner and Vader arenít both in there. Big Cat and Adam Bomb arenít exactly known for their ability to call a match. Big splash by Vader on top of Nightstalkers head looks like it could have crippled him, but it gets the three and he isnít crippled. Poorly executed match, seems like the course of the day.
Winners: Big Van Vader & Mr. Hughes
Match Rating: *
Scott Steiner & Firebreaker Chip vs. Johnny B. Badd & Arachnaman
Arachnaman is Brad Armstrong in a Purple and Yellow Spiderman costume. The match is actually decent, but it never really got going and Armstrong looked a tag bit uncomfortable. Lots of good power stuff from Steiner and speed from Armstrong. Steiner hitís a perfect Belly to Belly Suplex on Arachnaman for three. What a fun match! Too bad it didnít go anywhere. The action itself was quite good and they adapted decently well, but it didnít mean enough from a storytelling standpoint to be worth checking out.
Winners: Scott Steiner & Firebreaker Chip
Match Rating: **
Steve Armstrong & PN News vs. Ron Simmons & Thomas Rich
Well, this match is doomed out of the gate. PN News was one of the sloppiest and unskilled wrestlers on the WCW roster at this time. It was pretty, but it wasnít entirely PNís doing. The match was really nothing to watch. Simmons looked good, and when he was in with Armstrong things actually got watchable. The problem with the match is that itís boring as hell. Spinebuster by Simmons on Armstrong gets three and Simmons and Rich move on to Battlebowl.
Winners: Ron Simmons & Thomas Rich
Match Rating: *¼
The rules to this baby are a little confusing and actually killed what might have otherwise been one of the best Battle Royals ever, considering the talent involved. First, all 20 wrestlers start in Ring One. The objective is not to throw your opponent out of the ring to the floor, but rather over one side of the ring into the second ring. Those thrown into the second ring are then engaged in a second Battle Royal where they must throw their opponents out to the floor. The winner of Ring One does not have to go into Ring Two, but once Ring Two has a winner, the two meet and the last one left in the ring is the winner.
As a refresher, here are the participants: Big Van Vader, Marcus Alexander Bagwell, Jimmy Garvin, Dustin Rhodes, Bill Kazmeier, Jushin Thunder Liger, Steve Austin, Richard Morton, Todd Champion, Abdulla The Butcher, Firebreaker Chip, Thomas Rich, Ron Simmons, Ricky Steamboat, Mr. Hughes, Scott Steiner, Lex Luger, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson and Sting. That is quite a lot of talent right there.
The match runs much like a typical Battle Royal, but when somebody is thrown to the outside from Ring One they are still in the match, but confused the worst wrestling crowd Iíve ever seen. The crowd is literally like a church congregation during a sermon. They are practically sleeping. The match does have its moments, like some great psychology from The Dangerous Alliance, where Arn and Austin keep Sting occupied and away from Rude for most of the time in Ring One. Thomas Rich is the first out of Ring One into Ring Two and Liger and Morton are the first two out of Ring Two when they go over together. The excitement of church actually picks up to Pentecostal levels when Sting finally gets his hands on Rude, and they eliminated each other into Ring Two. Luger and Vader are the final two in Ring One. Luger clotheslines Vader into Ring Two to win Ring One and get a rest.
The pace of things picks up once Ring Two is the focus of the match. Wrestlers start getting eliminated in quick succession until it was down to Rude, Austin, Steamboat and Sting. Damn, thatís a great bunch. It basically turned into a tornado tag. Rude ends up clothes lining Austin out. Then almost immediately after that, Steamboat throws Rude out, and Rude pulls Steamboat out from the outside leaving Sting in as the winner. Then things go downhill. Its now down to Luger and Sting, but Rude isnít finished and hits Sting with a Rude Awakening. He lays there and sells it like death as Luger approaches. Much of the rest of the match is spent on the outside, which is a terrible plan for a Battle Royal since the idea is to throw your opponent over the top rope to the outside. You canít exactly pull that off if you are already outside of the ring. Eventually they get back into the ring and Sting throws Luger over the top for the win. This entire thing was so hard to follow that it wasnít terribly fun to watch. The end was ruined by Luger and Sting spending too much time outside. Aside from those two gripes, from what I could tell it was a decent Battle Royal, but slightly irritating to watch.
Match Rating: **¾
The 411: This show has not aged well. When I watched it originally when it aired live, it was exciting because there were angles that mattered and things were surprising. Now, its just a curiosity and nothing more. Beyond a single viewing, this show is terrible and I cannot recommend that you check it out. In my opinion this was the low point for Starrcade and the following years had nowhere to go but up. Donít waste your time with this one and go get some fresh air.