Happy Saturday Everyone!
We continue the trend of one match shows this week with WCW Starrcade 1993, as Ric Flair Vs Vader is amazing and the rest of the card is…less so. However, hopefully there’s SOMETHING on the undercard that makes it worthwhile (I think there is to be fair).
If you’d like to see the card, you can do so by clicking below;
The event is emanating from Flair Country, Charlotte, North Carolina on the 27th of December 1993
Calling the action are Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura
We get a great opening video package showing Ric Flair fighting all of his classic foes but then it turns into a package of Vader mauling people in order to show just what Flair is up against tonight.
Tony and Jesse are both suited and booted for tonight and send to footage of Vader and Harley Race arriving earlier, with Vader rocking a Ribera Steak jacket. We then see footage of Vader working out, as they are almost making this feel more like the build-up to a big boxing match rather than a wrestling Main Event.
We then get to see Ric Flair at his home with Mean Gene Okerlund, as Flair says goodbye to his family before jumping in the car with Mean Gene to the arena. Flair and Gene’s acting is both really good here as they sell the enormity of the bout tonight, and really put Vader over as an opponent.
Pretty Wonderful (Pretty Paul Roma and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff) w/ The Assassin Vs Too Cold Scorpio and Buff Bagwell w/ Teddy Long
Scorpio and Bagwell had briefly been Tag Champs in 1993, whilst Pretty Wonderful would win them in 1994. Teddy gets voted as manager of the year prior to the bout starting, which I think might have come down to it being both a fan vote and Teddy being probably the only babyface option. Still, good for Teddy.
Scorp and Bagwell are a good babyface tandem, with Scorpio being the better worker but Bagwell having good babyface fire. Bagwell was a decent wrestler until his neck injury in 1998 really did a number on his work rate. Roma and Orndorff are good Heels as well, so this would feel like a natural fit for a tag feud, and they start it hot with the Heels going for the jumpstart only for the babyfaces to fend them off.
Things settle down following that, with the babyfaces doing the old Rocker technique of working Roma’s arm over with arm wringers and whatnot. Orndorff gets it as well, with the crowd chanting “Paula” at him for good measure, as this has been a solid slice of tag action so far. Giving Bagwell and Scorpio the extended shine works perfectly with the southern tag team formula that the fans of the Carolinas would recognise and like, and the Heels do a good job selling and stooging for it all.
Eventually the Heels cut off Bagwell and start working some heat, with Bagwell selling that well. Roma has an imminently punchable face, so he does a great job as an unlikeable Heel beating on the babyface, whilst Orndorff had been wrestling for quite a while prior to this and knows what he has to do. The Heels end up missing attacks on a downed Bagwell though and that leads to Scorpio getting the hot tag.
Scorpio looks good running wild and heads up top for something, but Roma stops him coming off the top with something, which leads to Roma and Bagwell fighting out on the floor. The ref is distracted by those two fighting, which leads to The Assassin loading up his mask and head butting Scorpio to give Orndorff the three count.
WINNERS: PRETTY WONDERFUL
This was a solid tag team outing, and the Heels were getting the big push in 1994 so their win made sense
Ric Flair and Mean Gene, complete with police escort, are on their way to the arena and are continuing to talk about the Main Event later. Flair is quite subdued here in order to give the situation gravitas. It’s good acting on his part and really adds an air of importance to proceedings.
Awesome Kong (not that one) w/ King Kong (not that one) Vs The Shockmaster
Awesome Kong is a generic big dude who teams with King Kong as The Colossal Kong’s. The Shockmaster had famously fallen on his fooking arse upon his debut, so by this stage he was basically a bumbling comedy character. Both of The Kong’s attack Shockmaster before the match can even start, as this match resembles Giant Haystacks Vs Big Daddy. Ironically Shockmaster got decent work in the UK in between WCW and WWF stints because we like big blokes wrestling over here. Shockmaster ends up fighting back and slams Kong for the quick win.
WINNER: THE SHOCKMASTER
Too short to rate, but what we got wasn’t good. Shockmaster might have pinned King and not Awesome there by the way, so either the wrong Kong wrestled the match or the match graphics people had the wrong Kong listed. It’s WCW, so both are easily believable
Tony and Jesse inform us that Davey Boy Smithisn’t here tonight and that Rick Rude will wrestle The Boss instead later on.
Meanwhile, Ric Flair and his motorcade arrive, as the announcers even state that Flair is more popular in the Carolinas than Bill Clinton. I’m thinking Ric Flair was more popular than Bill Clinton in many places to be honest. I can just picture Christopher Hitchens scoffing at the very notion that William Jefferson Clinton would enjoy greater popularity than the Nature Boy!
WCW World Television Title
Champ: Lord Steven Regal w/ Sir William Vs Ricky Steamboat
Regal had defeated Steamboat for the belt back at Fall Brawl, so Steamboat is getting a chance to win it back tonight. Steamboat hurts his arm early on here, so Regal targets it with his usual technical acumen, with Steamboat even backing into the corner at one stage to try and think of a way to avoid getting the appendage worked over. They work this one at quite a leisurely patient pace, with them seemingly not wanting to go all out and instead build the match up gradually, which suits the way Regal likes to work as he was usually better in longer more psychology based matches.
Some of the technical wrestling and counter wrestling in this one is great fun, as they trade holds with one another and everything looks believable. I’m not sure everyone will like it as it’s notably light on any bombast, but if you want to see two dudes grappling one another and simulating what a realistic technical wrestling battle would look like then this match will be your jam. The only criticism you can throw its way is that Steamboat doesn’t really react with the urgency you would expect when informed of the time ticking down.
Things do start picking up a bit when we get the three minute call, as Steamboat starts throwing some chops. However, Steamboat makes the mistake of going after William and ends up eating a Regal dropkick outside of the ring. Regal slows it down again back inside the ring because a draw will see him retain, meaning he doesn’t need to force the issue here. At the 60 second call we get Steamboat trying to pick up the win with some pin attempts, whilst Regal tries to run out the clock. Steamboat kicks away at Sir William and then heads up top with a cross body, but Regal manages to dodge it and the time limit expires.
15 MINUTE TIME LIMIT DRAW (REGAL RETAINS)
Good wrestling here, although they kind of telegraphed the finish after a certain point and Steamboat should have probably upped the tempo a little sooner. Still a decent outing though as the mat wrestling was really on point
Tony and Jesse ponder what Ric Flair is thinking, with Jesse stating that retirement isn’t so bad.
Shanghai Pierce and Tex Slazenger Vs Cactus Jack and Maxx Payne
Pierce and Slazenger would end up becoming The Godwinn’s in the WWF. Jack and Payne were set for a push and Tag Title win in 1994. Pierce and Slazenger’s music would end up being used by Hector Garza during the Monday Night War I believe. Jack and Payne get a decent reaction for their entrance, showing that there was some decent potential in this pairing.
Tony and Jesse have pretty fun chemistry together actually, with Jesse teasing Tony about a Hooters Girl at ringside. I think Tony himself has said that he just let Jesse be Jesse and added what he felt was required from a play by play perspective, which was something Jesse clearly enjoyed. They play off one another well and it’s a good pairing.
Jack and Payne actually do some nice tandem offence here, as they work this as a proper tag match for the most part instead of it being the brawl you might expect it to be. Payne ends up missing a splash in the corner though and that leads to the Heels working some heat on him for a bit. That doesn’t go on for long though and Payne soon gets a suplex on Pierce and tags in Cactus.
Cactus gets a good pop for the Cactus Clothesline on Pierce and then ends up getting back body dropped over the top onto Slazenger by his own partner in a cool double team that a wacky tag team of wild men should use. Payne gets a good pop for a big double clothesline on the Heels and then brings in Cactus for the Double Arm DDT on Pierce for three.
WINNERS: CACTUS TO THE MAXX
This felt more like a TV match than a pay per view offering, but Payne and Jack got themselves over so it accomplished what it needed to
Mean Gene is on the interview podium, where he hypes up the WCW Hotline and then brings in Kyle Petty, who drives cars for a living. This show is in the south so they both know and/or care who he is, and to be fair he cuts a decent promo where he talks about what retirement might mean for Ric Flair.
Two out of Three Falls for the WCW United States Title
Champ: Dustin Rhodes Vs Stunning Steve Austin w/ Col. Rob Parker
This is a rematch from Halloween Havoc, and actually made WWE’s best matches from Starrcade DVD that came out a few years ago so hopefully it’s a decent outing. Austin had been part of The Hollywood Blondes with Brian Pillman earlier in the year but they got split up far too soon and now he’s back working as a singles Heel.
They are literally colour coded here, with Austin wearing black trunks and Rhodes wearing white, just in case we didn’t know who the villain and hero are. They do some nice stuff on the mat to start, as both men were mechanically sound at this stage in their careers and were both seeking that additional ingredient in order to set them off to stardom.
Austin gets frustrated at Rhodes continually getting the better of the early exchanges, with the fight eventually spilling out to the floor where Austin gets flung into the front row in a very impressive bump. That’s something he wasn’t going to be taking that often following the Owendriver in 1997 that’s for sure!
Austin eventually manages to cut Rhodes off and works some heat, with Rhodes selling that well and doing some good stuff like swinging wildly to get across that he’s dazed but still full of fighting spirit. Parker gets involved and causes distractions when it looks like Rhodes might be beginning to fight back, whilst Austin squanders chances to win a fall by making loose of light covers when he manages to get Rhodes down.
Like the Regal Vs Steamboat bout, this match has the feel of a genuine contest between two wrestlers who trying to out wrestle the other, and it makes any successful offence that lands from either man feel all the more earned. Some of the punches in this one in particular look great, with the punches themselves being well delivered and the selling of them being on point from both men. Sadly the first fall has a pretty lame end, as Rhodes flings Austin into Parker and Austin ends up going over the top rope, which was a DQ in WCW at the time.
Steve Austin 1 – 0 Dustin Rhodes – Over The Top Rope DQ
Rhodes throws Austin into the ring post following that and Austin comes up bleeding, as the lights in the building start going haywire for whatever reason, leading to both men fighting in the spotlights. Oh WCW, things just never worked out for them. They go home pretty quickly after the lights come home, as Austin counters the 10 punches in the corner into a pinning hold for three and the belt, as the replay shows he had hold of the trunks.
Steve Austin 2 – 0 Dustin Rhodes – Pin
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: STEVE AUSTIN
Kind of an abrupt ending but the match itself was fun for the most part
Jesse thinks that Rick Rude will be a different prospect for The Boss tonight as he has had time to prepare for this match when he wasn’t able to prepare for their previous bout.
WCW International Heavyweight Title
Champ: Rick Rude Vs The Boss
The International Title came about because WCW had a deal with the NWA that fell through, which meant they couldn’t call the NWA World Title by that name any more. As a result, they created the fictitious WCW International board of directors and had them sanction the belt so that they could keep using it. They wouldn’t end up unifying the International Title with their main singles Title until 1994, by which point the International Title idea was well beyond played out. The Boss is Ray Traylor/Big Bubba/Big Boss Man, although the WWF would soon force WCW to change his name via legal threats.
Interestingly the siren that opens up The Boss’ theme would get recycled for Scott Steiner’s theme in 2000. Boss had previously worked in the Carolinas during the Jim Crockett Promotion’s days, so he gets a decent pop for his entrance. The Hooters girls have to pretend they don’t like Rude, but COME ON, just LOOK at that bloke! We get our first Michael Buffer appearance of the night for the introductions here, and he’s doing it a bit more low key here, which I kind of prefer to the bombast he would usually display during the nWo days.
The Big Gold Belt certainly looked good on Rick Rude, and he would probably have gotten to do a big feud with Hulk Hogan at some stage had he not injured his back in 1994. Rude takes a back body drop at one stage in the early going where he gets so high up in the air I’m surprised he didn’t come down with icicles sticking to him. The Boss looks decent on offence here, and Rude bumps and sells for it well. It never really feels like a World Title level match, but it’s a solid outing for the most part and the crowd responds well to The Boss.
Boss takes pretty much all of the match, with Rude spending the majority of it selling and getting bounced around. Eventually though Boss misses an attack on the ropes and that gives Rude a momentary opening to catch Boss with a sunset flip, which is surprisingly the finish. I thought Rude would work a bit of heat there but they just had him win it.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: RICK RUDE
There was nothing especially wrong with that, but it was odd to see Boss dominate for so long only for Rude to just quickly catch him for the pin. I guess that worked it that way in order to try and give Boss some credibility as a Main Eventer by clobbering one of the two World Champions for the majority of the bout, but I actually think a more standard back and forth match might have helped him more, as he kind of looked like a doofus getting pinned like that OUTTA NOWHERE when he’d dominated for so long. It’s one of those matches and finishes that doesn’t really help anyone
Rude gets out of there, probably happy that Boss didn’t break his arm and then fling him off a rickety wooden bridge down into a river.
The commentary team hype up SuperBrawl IV, an event that didn’t end up getting an official VHS release for whatever reason. Tony then gives Jesse props for looking good in his suit, which leaves The Body a little flustered.
WCW Tag Team Titles
Champs: The Nasty Boys (Knobbs and Sags) w/ Missy Hyatt Vs Road Warrior Hawk and Sting
Hawk and Sting were a pretty decent Super Team that could be plugged into a Title match like this. Sting had actually wrestled against Hawk at the 1988 Starrcade event when The Road Warriors had taken on Sting and Dusty Rhodes. Looking at them they make sense as a duo though with their face paint. Road Warrior Animal was taking a break from wrestling due to a bad back at the time and I don’t think he’d be back until 1996.
Missy’s pink outfit is both slutty and also kind of elegant in its own trashy way. She looks less trashy here then she eventually would when she went to ECW to manage The Sandman. This one has decent crowd reactions, with Hawk probably being the most over guy in the match. Sting and Hawk get the elongated babyface shine to start, with both of the babyfaces taking it in turns to bump The Nasty’s around for a bit. The Nasty’s sell it well and the babyfaces look good on offence, with Hawk even busting out a dropkick at one stage.
Eventually Hawk ends up running into the ring post and Sags adds a chair shot for good measure whilst the referee is distracted by Missy, leading to the cut off. Well I’m glad it didn’t take much in order to cut Hawk off at least. Once Hawk is down he does the minimum amount of selling required for what he’s doing to actually count as selling, and the crowd gets behind him whilst Knobbs and Sags work over his arm and shoulder. Sags even busts out a cross arm breaker at one stage, although it’s applied so loosely that even CM Punk could probably escape from it.
Hawk pretty much makes his own comeback before getting the tag to Sting, who actually has to wait for The Nasty’s to get back up from Hawk’s carnage before he can do his hot tag segment. Sting does look good once he actually has some people to attack though. The Nasty’s try and flee following that, but the babyfaces chase them down and fling them back into the ring where Sting finds knees waiting for him on a top rope splash when he goes after Knobbs. That leads to a second heat segment on Sting.
If I had to choose two teams to do the extended Midnight Express/Rock ‘n’ Roll Express double heat/double hot tag formula, it probably wouldn’t be these two if I’m honest. Sting sells well whilst getting worked over, but the match peaked with the first hot tag and every moment it goes on for after that is just unnecessary. The match just drags on and on at this point, with the crowd heat dissipating. Whose bright idea was it to give these two teams 30 minutes to work with?
Sting actually forgets to dodge a Knobbs knee drop off the second rope at one stage, but Knobbs is polite to repeat the spot and Sting actually gets his boot up this time to block it. Hawk comes in to help out without a tag and that leads to Sting finally making the second hot tag, which the crowd responds to at least. Hawk runs wild, and can barely power slam Knobbs at one stage. How can you be this tired Hawk you just spent 15 minutes standing on the apron?! The challengers get the DOOMsday Device on Knobbs but Missy breaks up the pin for a lame DQ finish.
WINNERS: THE ROAD SCORPIONS BY DQ (THE NASTY BOYS RETAIN)
This went on for far too long and became incredibly dull after a certain point. They had a fine 15 minute tag match but then decided to do nearly 15 minutes more wrestling after that point and then had the temerity to not even do a pin fall finish. They should have just let The Nasty’s walk out after the hot tag rather than torturing us with that second heat segment on Sting
The Nasty Boys and Missy Hyatt run for the hills following that with their belts still intact.
Mean Gene is on the interview podium, where he also complements Jesse for his choice of suit, and then hypes up the hotline. Well that was a load of nothing.
Lucha de Apuestas for the WCW Title
Vader’s Belt Vs Flair’s Career
Champ: Big Van Vader w/ Harley Race Vs Ric Flair
Vader was originally supposed to face Sid Vicious for the Title here, but Sid ended up having a bloody brawl with Arn Anderson at a Blackburn hotel which led to him getting the sack from WCW. With a lack of any real sort of alternative Main Event to present, WCW decided to go back to proven commodity Ric Flair, having him put his career on the line in order to give the match some spice. The fact the match is taking place in traditional JCP ground of Charlotte, combined with Flair working as a face, gives this a feeling of the early Starrcade events.
Scott Keith once described this match as watching someone take on The Undertaker on WrestleMania 2000 for the N64 on the highest difficulty level, and I honestly couldn’t think of a better description if I tried. Vader just utterly dismantles Flair for large periods of this, with Flair finding it close to impossible to get a foothold of any kind. It works a treat because Flair isn’t a big strong power babyface like Sting or a psychotic brawling one like Cactus Jack, so it makes sense that he’d be on the defensive a lot more than they would be when taking on a monster heel like Vader.
Flair’s selling is great and the crowd reacts whenever it looks like he’s going to do anything. This is actually a pretty gutsy match structure in some ways, especially in front of a hometown crowd like this, as Flair isn’t even close to an all-conquering hometown hero here. Instead he gets whomped continuously and has to keep rolling outside of the ring to save himself. It’s a testament to how over Flair was in Charlotte that they could work a match like this and the crowd still sticks with him throughout it all. It also continuously amazes me that Flair supposedly thinks he was an awful babyface, as his performance here is spot on and everything it needs to be to make this story work.
Vader is so good as the unstoppable monster heel too, being constantly believable both with his offence and the occasional moments where he’s required to sell. I do think there is some sentiment out there that this isn’t that good of a match (And we may even see that in the comments section) and guys have tried to copy it over the years to differing levels of success (Bam Bam Bigelow and Shane Douglas especially in ECW) but I personally think they tell a great story and the work is really strong from both men. All three men (Because Race is great as the heel manager at ringside) really play out their roles perfectly and they have the crowd in the palm of their hands as a result. It should shock no one that Flair is bleeding from the mouth at one stage, as Vader is throwing BOMBS out there.
Race gets his cheap shots in when the opportunity allows and throws in some smack talk for good measure, which makes you feel like the crowd just can’t wait for Flair to pop him. Flair finally manages to put Vader down with some punches and he wastes no time going after the leg, letting some of his heel character come out by hitting Vader with a chair whilst Race squabbles with the ref. Man, the pop for that was incredible. He may be a dirty cheat, but he’s THEIR dirty cheat and they love him for it! Flair continues to throw punches at Vader, and even bites him at one stage. I love how Flair is using every trick he knows, despite being a face, because his career is on the line and he needs to, and the Vader/Race tandem are so dislikeable that you don’t begrudge him it.
Flair keeps trying for the Figure Four and eventually gets it, which leads to the crowd having kittens as a result. Vader manages to make the ropes, but his legs are hurting and it’s slowing him down a bit. That plays into a good near fall, where Vader is slow to climb the ropes for a moonsault and that allows Flair to dodge it and make the pin. Vader kicks out of that, at just the same time that Race is coming off the top with a head butt, leading to Vader taking it instead. The ref decides that it serves the heels right and throws Race out of the ring for a big pop, which leads to Flair chop blocking Vader and rolling him up for the three and the gigantic reaction from the crowd.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: RIC FLAIR
I’m going Full Monty for this one. I could nit-pick certain aspects of it, mainly the Race head butt, but you can explain that as the ref using his discretion due to Race ultimately hitting his own man and thus getting what he deserved, thus no further punishment being required. Wrestling is the ultimate morality play at the end of the day, so I’m alright with the face overcoming uneven numbers in such a manner
Flair does the big celebration following that to really sell the moment, and it really does come across as a big deal. The WWF was a lot more cartoony at the time, so Flair winning the big Title match and then doing the big celebration definitely gave this show a different feel to the team full of Doinks we were getting on the other side (that was actually a thing they did at Survivor Series).
Even Jesse has to give Flair credit for that one.
Eric Bischoff is with Vader, who is very angry and destroys the locker room as a result.
Flair has to come back out again for a curtain call as the fans haven’t left yet. Now THAT’S being over!
Mean Gene is with Flair and his family. Flair puts Vader and thanks both the fans and his family. Sting and Ricky Steamboat come over as well to give props to the new Champion.
They did everything they could to push the Main Event as a big deal, which is what you should do, but it was almost at the expense of the rest of the show at points and there is such a thing as over egging the pudding sometimes. However, thankfully for WCW the match delivered and then some, so in the end it was justified and you couldn’t watch this show without thinking Ric Flair was a legendary figure whilst also thinking Vader was a big scary dude.
There wasn’t really anything awful on the undercard aside from The Kong Vs Shockmaster bout, and at least that was short. The rest of the card was good or passable, with the semi-main going way too long but without being technically awful. Overall you don’t really need to watch anything in here other than the Main Event, but the card is mostly watchable.
Mildly recommended show