TJR Retro: WCW Starrcade 1997 Review (Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting) by John Canton

The 1997 edition of WCW Starrcade was arguably the most important show in the history of World Championship Wrestling. It was also an event that served as a reminder as to why WCW ended up dying just over three years after this show even though they were ridiculously successful at this point in time. Bad booking decisions killed them and there’s no greater example of that then this event.

I remember there was a lot of excitement going into the show. It took place on December 28, 1997 when I was 17 years old and I had a bunch of friends come over to watch it because we didn’t have school the next day because of Christmas break. The reason for the anticipation was Sting. He didn’t have a match for a whole year. He had some contract that allowed him to not wrestle for a full year until this show. The guy didn’t talk either, but we saw him wreak havoc against the evil New World Order for about a year before this. He also morphed into that darker Crow-like gimmick instead of being an excitable surfer looking dude with blonde hair. Putting him over strong seemed simple. But this is WCW – they couldn’t even get simple things right.

In addition to the Sting story, there was the Bret Hart factor. I’m Canadian, so Bret was a God to me and my friends. We loved the man. I had just started reading about wrestling online about two months before this – right after Bret was screwed out of WWE. You would think that WCW would capitalize on that by putting Bret in a match at this show, have him get some big win and give him some momentum. Nope. He was only a referee at their biggest show of the year. Only a referee? What the hell!

This was the most requested WCW retro review that there’s been in the last few months. I can understand why. To be honest, I’m not sure if I watched the show other than that live viewing 19 years ago. As I look at the undercard now, I only remember a few things from it. What I’ll do is go over the matches like usual, but also add in some news from the Wrestling Observer at the time because there were so many interesting backstage stories from WCW back then.

For those that didn’t watch WCW, just remember that Starrcade was WCW’s version of WrestleMania. It was placed at the end of the year as a culmination of the biggest stories of the year. This really was the biggest show in WCW history at the time. I’m not just saying that to sell you on it. It’s the truth.

It’s fine if you want to skip some of the match results, but please stick around for the conclusion of the main event because I have included comments from some of the guys involved in the main event and have plenty of thoughts on my own.

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WCW Starrcade

December 28, 1997

From the MCI Center in Washington, DC

The opening video package focused on Sting and Hollywood Hogan. It was about how Sting was lurking in the shadows, but tonight he “seeks the ruin of one man.” It’s a pretty weak video package, but it was 1997 and WWE was better at them.

Announcer Tony Schiavone called it “the biggest night in the history of this grand sport.” He noted Sting vs. Hogan is 18 months in the making, which is true. He announced 24,000 fans, which is bullshit. Real number was apparently 17,500 people. The other announcers with Schiavone are Mike Tenay and Dusty Rhodes. It was surprising that Bobby Heenan wasn’t announcing this show, but they made the call to put Dusty there. They talked about how the official for the main event will be drawn from a hat.

They showed members of WCW wrestlers in attendance at the show with shots of Harlem Heat, Rey Mysterio, Disco Inferno, Glacier, Hugh Morrus and others. The idea is they are so into this show that they want to be in the crowd to see what might happen.

It was also announced that Kevin Nash will not be there to face The Giant. More on that later.

WCW Cruiserweight Championship: Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko

A good choice for the opener. Eddie was the heel champion at the time. Malenko was really aggressive early on as he hit a running dropkick for two followed by a suplex. Eddie went for a headscissors, but Malenko countered to a Powerbomb and then a spinebuster by Malenko got two. Powerslam by Malenko got a two count. Guerrero left the ring to take a break. Back in the ring, Guerrero clipped the knee of Malenko. Snap dropkick by Eddie. He did a good job of playing to the crowd and getting booed. Malenko came back with a front suplex onto the top rope to slow down Guerrero and a Malenko clothesline earned a two count. A guy in the front row was on a cell phone pointing to the camera a lot. Not a lot of cell phones in 1997, so good for him. After a leglock, Malenko whipped Guerrero into the ropes, tossed him into the air and Guerrero bumped on his stomach. Dusty was rambling on about how big the main event is. Guerrero pleaded for timeout and even kissed Malenko’s boot, but Malenko came back with a dropkick. Guerrero seized control with shoulder tackles, but Malenko sent him face first into the top turnbuckle. Malenko with a belly to back suplex gets two. Nice spot on the apron with Guerrero snapping Malenko’s head against the top rope. Guerrero worked on the knee of Malenko again. Eddie dropkicked the ring steps into the left leg that was against the ring post. Back in the ring, Eddie nailed a Powerbomb for two. Malenko with a counter into a back suplex move for two. Backbreaker by Malenko gets two. With Malenko seated on the top rope, Guerrero wanted a hurricanrana, but Malenko was able to shove him off to get out of it. Huge Powerbomb from Malenko. Guerrero fought out of the Cloverleaf. Eddie with a shoulder attack to the knee and then a missile dropkick to the knee. Guerrero up top and he hit a Frog Splash to the knee of Malenko. Eddie covered for the win after 14:57 of action.

Winner by pinfall: Eddie Guerrero

Analysis: *** This was a good match with some nice psychology where Guerrero worked over the knee and Malenko fought back from it. They had better matches in WCW, ECW and possibly WWE as well although I don’t remember if they had great matches in WWE since Malenko retired soon after he got there. It was pretty interesting to see how many Powerbombs they did. There were three total, which is weird because there were other guys in WCW with that as a finisher. They just didn’t have much of a story going into the match although it was easy to see their roles with Guerrero working as a crafty heel. I liked the intensity by both guys and they had a competitive match, but it just wasn’t as good as what we had seen from them.

Scott Hall of the New World Order walked out for a promo. There was a “McMahon Fears Steroids” sign in the crowd. That’s creative.

Hall said that being in DC for the holidays is just too sweet. He did his survey bit asking if you’re there to see WCW (lots of cheers) or the NWO (cheers for them too). Hall said he knows everybody wants to see Hollywood beat Sting (crowd booed) and said that at Superbrawl, he gets to wrestle the winner. Hall said that Kevin Nash is not there. If you have a problem, meet him “down there” and said “you know where.” Hall said to tell The Giant to just tell everybody that he won.

The Giant (Big Show) made his entrance. He said he’s a patient man that will be in professional wrestling for a long time. That turned out to be true! The Giant said one day Kevin Nash will find out that he (The Giant) is the one true giant. The Giant said he had another message for Nash. Hall punched him, so The Giant gave him a headbutt and Giant gave him a huge Gorilla Press Slam. Crowd loved that. The Giant dropped Hall with a Powerbomb, which was Nash’s move. The Giant’s move was The Chokeslam. The Giant left to cheers from the crowd.

Analysis: It was a good segment to replace the match although it probably would have been better to just do Giant vs. Hall since Hall didn’t have a match on the show. The reason Nash wasn’t there was because he had a legit heart problem and they feared he might have had a heart attack. Others thought it was just Nash’s away of avoiding doing a job because it was reported in the Wrestling Observer that Nash was supposed to lose.

(More to the story. Here’s how Eric Bischoff explained Nash’s situation in his book “Controversy Creates Cash”:

“This was our first experience with a personal issue of Kevin’s that had plagued him from time to time. His dad died of a heart attack when he was very young. At the time of Starrcade, Kevin was getting to the age where his father had passed away, and I think in his own mind, he was afraid he might follow in his footsteps. So from time to time, when he had a little heartburn or a funny feeling in his chest, he would overreact. That Saturday when I arrived in Washington for the PPV, I got a call that Kevin was in a hospital in Phoenix and undergoing tests for a heart attack. Because of some of the stunts that Kevin and Scott had played in the past, my first reaction was that it was Kevin’s way of not having to show up for work. But I picked up the phone and eventually found out that Kevin truly was in the hospital undergoing tests. As angry and disappointed as I was, it was a legitimate scare.”)

The next tag match was supposed to be the NWO’s Scott Norton, Vincent (Virgil) and Konnan against The Steiner Brothers and Ray Traylor (Big Bossman). No Konnan with the NWO guys. After five guys went out there, Randy Savage was the partner of Norton and Vincent. Savage had his ex-wife Miss Elizabeth with him.

Analysis: Konnan missed the show because his girlfriend at the time gave birth to a premature child. If you don’t remember, the reason they called him Vincent was a shot at WWE since he was known as Virgil there. Virgil was Dusty Rhodes’ real name, so WCW fired back with the Vincent name as a shot towards Vince McMahon. As for Elizabeth, I thought she was hotter here than in her WWE days. She was showing more skin in these outfits. Plus, she seemed to be more engaged in the action here.

Randy Savage, Vincent & Scott Norton (w/Elizabeth) (NWO)vs. Rick Steiner, Scott Steiner & Ray Traylor (w/Ted Dibiase) (WCW)

Scott Steiner was still in the black hair look and he was really jacked at this point. Cheap shot by Norton led to Savage working on Scott on the apron. Norton hit a Samoan Drop followed by a backbreaker as the heels worked over Scott Steiner. Savage with a double axe to the back of Scott. Scott came back with a double underhook suplex as well as Gorilla Press Slam on Savage. All six guys started brawling with the WCW guys cleaning house against the NWO guys. Norton went at it with Rick, which was a battle won by Rick with a powerslam for two. Traylor worked over Norton with some punches. Vincent got in there and Traylor dropped him with a spinebuster. Traylor with a back suplex into a slam on Vincent. Scott with a belly to belly suplex on Vincent. The crowd wasn’t into the match at all as the heels worked on Vincent for a few minutes. Norton with a clothesline on Traylor. Vincent tagged in to do a collision spot with Traylor as the guys on the apron tried to wake up the crowd. Rick Steiner tagged in with clothesline and body slams for everybody. Rick put Vincent on his shoulders, so Scott gave him a DDT off the top. Norton made the save on the pinfall. Scott nailed a Frankensteiner on Vincent, but Savage made the save. Scott with a belly to belly suplex on Savage. Norton put Scott on his shoulders and dropped him down with an electric chair drop. Savage went up top with a flying elbow smash off the top rope on Steiner for the win at the 11:06 mark. The Savage elbow drew the biggest reaction of the match.

Winners by pinfall: Randy Savage, Vincent & Scott Norton

Analysis: *1/2 That was a poor tag match that was done in a way that wasn’t normal for a tag match. Instead of the heels working over a face for much of the match, it was backwards with the faces working over the heel Vincent. Why build a match that way? It just didn’t make sense to me. Scott Steiner got in a lot of offense in, which is explained further below. Savage was the biggest star in the match, so it’s easy to understand why he was the one that got the pinfall.

(More to the story. This is from the Wrestling Observer (available in the archives at wrestlingobserver.com) after Starrcade:

“The company wanted Randy Savage to fill the spot, and in negotiations to get him to fill the spot literally a few hours before the show was going on the air, had to agree to change the originally planned finish of The Steiners & Ray Traylor going over. To get Savage to agree, the finish was changed to where Savage got to score the pin using the elbow off the top on Scott Steiner. This left Scott Steiner visibly livid to the point he had major words with booker Terry Taylor and they tried to alleviate him by letting him do so many big moves at the end for saves before doing the job, although he still wasn’t happy at all.”)

Gene Okerlund did an interview with JJ Dillon, who was on the on screen authority figure for WCW. He spoke about who the referee is for Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting, so they picked the referee by draw out of a hat. Dillon said Nick Patrick is the referee. Dillon said that Patrick is an excellent referee.

Analysis: There was history with Patrick as the New World Order referee in the past, so that’s why this raised concerns.

Bill Goldberg vs. Steve McMichael

This was early in Goldberg’s run, so he didn’t have a special intro with fireworks. They brawled in the aisle a bit and then Goldberg brought him into the ring. Sloppy sidewalk slam by McMichael. Goldberg with a shoulder tackle that barely grazed him. Goldberg punched him in the ribs when McMichael jumped off the top ropes. There is no crowd reaction to this. Goldberg applied a leg bar submission. Goldberg with a shoulderblock. Goldberg with a really sloppy Spear that didn’t look good. Goldberg set up a table outside the ring. Goldberg picked up McMichael, but couldn’t slam him through a table. Dropkick by Goldberg knocked McMichael outside the ring. McMichael stood on the apron in front of the table, which was dumb so Goldberg punched him and McMichael went through the table. Barely a reaction except for a few fans chanting “ECW” for it. Back in the ring, McMichael was on offense even after the table bump. Poor psychology. McMichael couldn’t pick him up because he finally decided to sell. Goldberg with the Jackhammer for the win at 5:59 mark.

Winner by pinfall: Bill Goldberg

Analysis: 1/4* This was a bad match. Goldberg wasn’t really known for having good matches anyway and McMichael was one of the worst performers in this era as well. They just didn’t have any chemistry. The table bump was awful. Why do it in a regular match when it barely meant anything? There wasn’t much of a reaction to anything here even when they tried to get the crowd involved. Goldberg’s match finishes got better when he did the spear before the Jackhammer.

Raven did a promo saying that his contract states he can choose where he wrestles and when he wrestles. He said he’s not wrestling.

Analysis: The real story is that he was dealing with an inflamed pancreas and wasn’t healed yet. Raven was a cheap heel that did this kind of thing often.

Raven’s Rules: Perry Saturn (w/Raven) vs. Chris Benoit

Benoit’s the face here with Saturn as the heel. Raven’s Rules basically meant Hardcore Match where anything goes. Schiavone said “rousing ovation” for Benoit even though it was pretty mild. Benoit was aggressive early on with chops and kicks in the corner. Saturn with a head arm suplex. Billy Kidman was on the apron, so Benoit knocked him down. Benoit sent Saturn into the barricade. Sick Boy attacked Benoit from behind. Kidman hit a SSP off the apron onto Benoit on the floor. Saturn hit a neckbreaker for two. Saturn hit a springboard moonsault for two. No reaction for that cool move. Saturn hit knees to the ribs a couple of time. When he went for it again, Benoit got a rollup, so Saturn came back with a clothesline. A brainbuster gets two. This crowd doesn’t care. Benoit with a clothesline and then he bumped too. Saturn hit a sitout slam. They went to the floor, but Benoit was met with Flock members. There were five of them. Saturn hit a moonsault that took out his buddies while Benoit was able to move. Back in the ring, Benoit with a clothesline and then a snap suplex. Benoit connected with the flying headbutt on Saturn across the ring. Benoit took care of Kidman, Riggs, Lodi and Sickboy, but Hammer hit Benoit in the back. Raven hit his DDT. Saturn applied the Rings of Saturn submission for the win after 10:50 of action.

Winner by submission: Perry Saturn

Analysis: ** That was what you’d call an overbooked match where they had too many guys involved. It’s easy to see why they would have Saturn get the win since Benoit had to fight off Raven’s Flock and having him win wouldn’t have made sense Benoit was one of the best workers in the world at this time. This was one of his worst PPV matches because normally he could tell a great story in the ring. It just wasn’t possible with the way this match was set up. Raven ending it with the DDT worked because it was really cheap and also led to the finish. It was a way to put over Raven’s finisher. On the positive side, it built up Benoit’s story with Raven, which led to Benoit beating Raven at the next PPV.

Buff Bagwell (NWO) vs. Lex Luger (WCW)

Luger was aggressive early with a Gorilla Press and a clothesline that sent Bagwell to the floor. Vincent walked to the ring to support Bagwell. They battled outside the ring with Luger tossing Bagwell into the guardrail a couple of times. Luger with a hard whip into the corner and then he punched Vincent while he was on the apron. Bagwell took control. His offense wasn’t much other than punching and choking. Bagwell punched him in the back. Luger with a boot to the face followed by a clothesline to no reaction. Bagwell applied a chinlock as I started to yawn watching this. The announcers talked about the crowd being lined up outside for seven hours before the show. Is that why they’re so dead? After Luger hit a clothesline, Bagwell with a double axe to the back. Clothesline by Bagwell. Oh no here’s another chinlock. The crowd is asleep. Wake them up. Rhodes said the fans were “electric” as they made almost no noise. Bagwell with a sleeper. Luger with a back suplex and then he got the knees up to block a splash. Luger started his comeback with a back body drop, three clotheslines, an atomic drop, then another atomic drop and he punched Vincent off the apron. Luger with the forearm shot to the head of Bagwell. Luger with a sloppy suplex. Vincent was on the top rope, so Luger tossed him into Bagwell. Luger knocked Vincent out of the ring. Bagwell kneed Luger in the back, which led to Luger bumping into the ref Billy Silverman and knocking him down. Luger with a powerslam. Luger did the Torture Rack to Bagwell, but there’s no ref there. Randy Savage attacked Luger in the back and then Luger came back with a slam on Savage. Luger with the Torture Rack to Savage. Scott Norton went into the ring so slowly, kicked Luger and punched Luger with a dog collar belonging to Rick Steiner. Norton put Bagwell on Luger, he woke up the ref and Bagwell covered for the win after 16:36 of “action.”

Winner by pinfall: Buff Bagwell

Post match, Elizabeth ran down to ringside to help Savage.

Analysis: 1/2* Holy crap that was bad and they got nearly 20 minutes! What a boring match. I would have fallen asleep watching this if I wasn’t writing about it and I’m not even tired. Luger’s a power wrestler that was very slow unless he was with a good opponent while Bagwell was always just average in the ring. Once again I need to make the point that they gave this match 17 minutes, which was way too long. I get that they were trying to elevate Bagwell because he was a young guy at this point, but he wasn’t very good. The goal seemed to be to get Bagwell a cheap win, which they did. The problem is that it was such a forgettable match.

WCW United States Championship: Curt Hennig (NWO) vs. Diamond Dallas Page (WCW)

This should wake up the crowd a bit because Page was one of the best faces in WCW at this time. They did some mat wrestling early on with neither guy really getting the advantage. Page did a hair whip like move. Hennig bumped over the top to the floor after a punch. He was such a great athlete. Hennig took control by driving Page throat first into the top rope. Hennig kicked Page out of the ring and he tossed him into the steel steps. Hennig stomped away on the back and taped ribs of Page. Hennig with a boot to the face followed by a clothesline for two. There’s a “Steve Austin is the real icon” sign in the crowd in support for the WWF’s rising star at the time. Good point! Page with a jawkbreaker to get out of a chinlock, then they slugged it out and Hennig took another bump over the top after a punch. Page with a slingshot cross body block, then into the crowd and then back to the ring with Page crotching Hennig against the post. Hennig slipped out of a Diamond Cutter attempt to get a two count with his feet on the ropes. Clothesline by Hennig gets two. Page took him down with an armbar. They each nailed a punch and staggered down. Back to their feet, Paige countered a whip into the ropes with a Diamond Cutter for the win at the 10:52 mark. Really good reaction for the finish.

Winner by pinfall and New US Champion: Diamond Dallas Page

Page celebrated the win by walking into the crowd with the US Title.

Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid match with a good finish since they finally booked a face to get a clean win with Page winning the title. The crowd was into it as much as I would have thought. It would have been better if they gave this match 3-5 more minutes while the Bagwell/Luger match got less time. This was clearly the bigger match that was also for a title after all. Hennig’s overselling of everything was so fun to the watch. The fact that he would bump to the floor after a punch was pretty cool even at this stage in his career. Page did a good job of selling for most of the match. From a storyline standpoint, you would think that the NWO guys would try to help Hennig since he’s holding a title, yet he was out there on his own with no help.

The great Bret Hart walked out in a black shirt and jeans to be the referee for the next match. Good ovation for him. I always thought it was stupid that he wasn’t in action on this show. The story going in is that he might be a part of the NWO, but we didn’t know for sure.

The story going into Bischoff vs. Zbyszko was that Nitro was up for grabs with the idea that if Bischoff won then the NWO gets control of Nitro. If Larry wins then he gets Hall in a match at the next PPV, Souled Out.

Eric Bischoff (w/Scott Hall) (NWO) vs. Larry Zbyszko (WCW) with Bret Hart as the referee

This was Bischoff’s first match while Larry (I’d rather type that than Zbyszko) was retired by this point, but he was a legendary wrestler. Bischoff was 41 years old in pretty good shape and had a karate background. Lots of heel stalling tactics by Bischoff. Bischoff nailed a standing side kick leading to a celebration. Larry took him down in the middle of the ring. Larry wit h a sleeper. Bret made him break it because he said it was choking. Larry with a leg scissors hold around the throat with Bret making him break it. The announcers ripped Bret for it because they thought he was favoring Bischoff. Larry with a standing figure four leading to Bischoff getting to the ropes and then falling to the floor. When Larry wanted a punch, Hart pulled him back and Bischoff nailed a kick to the face. More punches and kicks from Bischoff in the corner. The crowd was chanting for Larry. Bischoff was winded from doing all that offense. It was the rope-a-dope strategy. Larry with a suplex followed by a neckbreaker. Larry put him upside down in the corner, but Bret pulled him off. Hall put a steel object into the boot of Bischoff, but then when Bischoff did his kick on Larry the object went flying out so it wasn’t even placed in there properly. Everybody could see it in the air. Bischoff wanted to celebrate with Bret, so Bret punched him in the face to knock him down. Hart with punch, atomic drop and clothesline to Hall. Hart with a Sharpshooter leading to a huge ovation. Hall was tapping out. Biggest ovation of the night at this point. Larry choked Bischoff with a belt around the neck. Hart just raised Larry’s hand so that was the end of the match with no official ruling at the 11:24 mark.

Winner by referee’s decision: Larry Zbyszko

There was no clear ruling on the finish. It may have been a disqualification, but it’s not like they announced that. They just announced Larry as the winner.

Analysis: -* Yes that’s minus one star. The story they were trying to tell made sense, but the execution of it was poor. It was a unique match because Bischoff didn’t really know how to take bumps the right away, so there were a lot of awkward moments. The crowd really loved seeing Hart put the Sharpshooter on Hall. Why not just do a Hart vs. Hall match on the show at some point? It would have made a lot of sense. Bischoff getting his ass kicked was what the people wanted, but it could have been accomplished in a better way.

They did the big introductions for the main event with Michael Buffer saying it was “the most important match in the history of wrestling.”

The WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan made his entrance to the NWO theme song. Hogan was 44 years old at this point.

Sting made his entrance by walking down the aisle. He was 38 years old. I remember there was a big discussion from people about how he might enter since he did so many entrances by repelling down from the ceiling. That’s why it was weird that he would just walk down the aisle. This was Sting’s first televised match in over a year.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship: Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting

The crowd was definitely alive for this one. Typical heel Hogan match with taunting early on. When Sting nailed a punch, the crowd went wild for it. Hogan with a corner clothesline as well as the dreaded back rake. The “dreaded” was sarcasm there. Hogan missed some elbow drops and Sting nailed a dropkick that sent Hogan to the floor. Back in the ring, Sting nailed two more dropkicks that sent Hogan to the floor again. Hogan was doing over the top heel selling. There’s Schiavone with the clichéd “Sting has never looked better” line. Sting with a headlock. Hogan came back with a lefty clothesline. Then Hogan taunted the crowd. Hogan with a suplex, but Sting no sold it and did chop towards his crotch. Hogan did an eye poke and then he dumped Sting to the floor. Hogan hit Sting in the back with his own bat and then Hogan sent him into the post at ringside. Sting tried a comeback on the floor with a Stinger Splash, but Hogan moved, which sent Sting crashing into the steel barricade. Back in the ring, Hogan with an atomic drop. Hogan hit his patented big boot to the face and then he posed to the crowd. Hogan hits the leg drop, the count goes one…two…three. WHAT THE FUCK! That was my initial reaction then and 19 years later I have the same thought. The count by ref Nick Patrick wasn’t fast. It was at a regular speed consistent with his other counts. Sting did kick out right after the three count. More on that later.

Bret Hart showed up at ringside to prevent them from ringing the bell. Patrick told them to ring the bell. Hart told Patrick it was a fast count and then Hart punched Patrick. Hogan tried to leave, so Hart sent him back into the ring. Hart jumped into the ring as a referee since he was a ref earlier.

Sting hit Hogan with a Stinger Splash. Bagwell and Norton went into the ring, so Sting knocked them out of the ring. Stinger Splash again. Crowd was cheering for this a lot. Sting slapped on the Scorpion Death Lock submission. He pointed at Bret. Sting sat down on the move similar to Bret’s Sharpshooter and Hogan submitted. Hart called for the bell, so Sting wins the WCW World Heavyweight Title via submission at the 12:53 mark.

Winner and New WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Sting

Analysis: *1/2 That match was an example of what was wrong with WCW. They spent over a year building up this match, then they finally get there and they can’t even book the right finish that everybody wants to see. They shouldn’t have even wrestled that long. It would have been better if they went about 5-7 minutes total, have much less of Hogan’s shitty offense and have Sting beat him convincingly. Instead, we got this mess. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Hogan match. I almost forgot how brutal his offense was. Sting’s offense looked okay. He didn’t look as good as he did in his prime, but he did fine. I’ll have more thoughts on the finish at the end.

Post match, Sting jumped in the arms of good friend Lex Luger and The Giant. The ring was full of babyface WCW wrestlers as Sting held up the WCW Title. The announcers tried to put this over as a huge moment. The crowd was cheering a lot as Sting held up the WCW Title in the ring. Sting said something into the camera in Spanish. No idea. The crowd kept cheering. Schiavone said “The NWO can bite us” to end the show.

Analysis: At least they did a good job in making the celebration a big deal. It still felt awkward after what happened in the match.

 

REACTING TO THE MAIN EVENT

That Hogan/Sting finish was so bad. Honestly, one of the worst match finishes in the history of wrestling and this is during “the biggest match in wrestling history” according to WCW. Let’s not pretend like the company died because of this because 1998 was still a good year for them, but this was an example of the bad decisions they made that ultimately led to their downfall after they were doing so well.

So what happened? I did some research to get some quotes from some people involved in this.

Here’s what Eric Bischoff said on Ric Flair’s podcast about the match last October.

“What had happened over the course of a year is he hadn’t been working out. He wasn’t engaged. He’d show up, he’d do his thing, he would do it very well, it was great, he’d get on a plane the next morning, he’d disappear, and we wouldn’t see him for a week. But at the end of our first meeting talking about where things were going, when it was over, Hulk and I both looked at each other and go, ‘man, we can’t go there. He didn’t get ready for this.’ It didn’t feel to us that this was a priority. Hulk Hogan takes the heat for this, ‘you changed the finish – you didn’t want to do it’, B.S. That was my call. Right or wrong, it was my call.”

He could be right and that it was his call, but Hogan had creative control and could make the decision if he wanted to. Since Hogan’s a notorious liar and Bischoff has shied away from the truth at times too, it’s hard to know who really decided it.

Then there’s referee Nick Patrick. I was able to find this 2010 interview with him where he didn’t really answer it.

“I believe what had happened was that I got conflicting stories about what they wanted me to do.  I had one faction telling me they wanted one thing from me.  I had another faction telling me they wanted another thing from me.  So I kind of split it down the middle.  Now I remember exactly the scenario.  So that’s what happened out of that deal.”

That sounds like a man avoiding a question. It sounds like he was told to do the fast count, then convinced not to do it and then we got what they did. He should say whether he was told not to do a fast count even though that was likely the original plan. Instead, he’s talking about factions. Bizarre.

Here is Sting talking about the incident from last year at a speaking engagement in the UK.

Sting talks about "Starrcade"

It sounds like it was something that was frustrating for him to have to go through, but after all these years he probably doesn’t care about it that much. It seems to me that he was hinting that Hogan had the finish changed, which is what makes the most sense.

Here’s more info from Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer (available in the archives at wrestlingobserver.com) following the event. It’s lengthy, but it shows how complicated this whole thing was.

The story was scheduled to be that since Hogan was doing the job, he’d dominate on offense. Since Nick Patrick was going to turn heel as a ref (in a role that was originally designed for Earl Hebner however WCW either never made a strong enough effort to contact Dave and Earl Hebner or they turned down the offer but it’s obvious that was what the original role in this match was booked for), he had to play it straight the entire match. After a lackluster match, which even saw “boring” chants two minutes in, Hogan delivered his foot to the face and leg drop finish. At this point the plan was for Patrick to deliver a fast count and have Sting still kick out before three, but Patrick would rule it as a pin, leading to Bret Hart’s avenging the wrong done to him at Survivor Series and getting the match re-started and taking over as ref leading to Sting winning with the scorpion submission in the middle. A funny thing happened. Patrick didn’t count fast. Why is a bigger mystery than the weird gravitational pull from the alignment of the stars that resulted in Kevin Nash, Royce Gracie and Hunter Hearst Helmsley all coming up injured within days of each other just prior to all having to suffer either symbolic worked or realistic beatings. You can mistime a ref bump. You can blow a move. But how do you blow a fast count? The only reasonable answer to this is Hogan changed the spot in the ring and Patrick didn’t want to cross Hogan because of all the power he wields even though the plan was different. Coming off the Hart-Michaels deal which has been the catalyst for everything in the business since, is Bischoff, Hogan and nobody else, perhaps Sting, decided to do a non fast count when there was supposed to be a fast count an angle (is your head spinning yet), but that doesn’t make sense either because why did they have the announcers sell it as a fast count the next day so hard when it wasn’t and if that was the case the guy who got screwed and made a fool of would have been Hart, who if anything, this company wasn’t trying to portray in that matter after the last company did? Sting did try to kick out but Hogan didn’t sell it by flying off, giving the first assumption some more validity. I’d say coming in the wake of the Hart-Michaels deal that the most likely scenario is that Hogan, who no doubt was negotiating for all he was worth as far as getting whatever he could out of doing the job, apparently was able to manipulate the finish into appearing that he actually won the match cleanly and he was screwed by Hart, which wasn’t the idea the fans were supposed to have. On TV the next night, they didn’t even acknowledge the original story wasn’t executed in the original manner, trying to sell the entire show that Patrick gave a fast count and Hart wouldn’t stand for it. By all appearances, Hogan pinned Sting pretty much clean (he did hold the tights but that’s a normal heel finish). Hart then came out and prevented the ref from ringing the bell, punched out Patrick, who told Hart he had counted three trying to say he’d never let a ref screw a wrestler like that, playing off the Survivor Series finish (amazing how one finish can be the backbone of the top angles in two promotions at the same time), and got in the ring to take over as referee. As both Marcus Bagwell and Scott Norton failed in run-ins, teased by having a similar run-in finish cost Lex Luger his match with Bagwell, Sting clamped on the scorpion after signalling that the hold was almost a tribute to Hart by the eye contact made, and Hart ruled it was a submission and called for the bell.

That’s a lot to digest, huh? I think it’s funny because Meltzer was reporting the story as best he could, yet was also wondering what the hell WCW was doing. Earl Hebner? That would have been hilarious if they were able to get him, but WWE kept him around.

I was going to find Hogan’s comments on this whole mess, but the man spews a lot of bullshit all the time, so what’s the point?

 

My Take On The Main Event Finish

It’s pretty simple: Put Sting over clean! It’s not that hard. This show did the biggest buyrate in WCW history and was the biggest show they ever did a lot of ways, yet they messed up the finish all because of ego. Who cares if you have to put a guy over, Hogan? It’s a f’n wrestling show! This story was built up for over a year. All Hogan had to do was take the pin, Sting wins clean and people celebrate. Then you can do whatever the hell you want to do after it’s over in the weeks and months ahead. Instead, Sting is made to look like an absolute idiot, Bret Hart is out there saying it’s a fast count when it wasn’t and they did this huge celebration that led to a lot of shoulder shrugging by the viewers because it was so cheap.

This was one of the easiest match finishes to book in the history of wrestling. It was also one of the most important match finishes in wrestling history. That’s why you have to get it right. While somebody like Hogan could say something like they got the same end result anyway with Sting winning, that’s not the point. It’s about doing things the right way. Look at Hogan ten years earlier beating Andre the Giant in the “biggest match ever” at that point. If that was a cheap win it wouldn’t have meant as much as it did. If you tell the story the right way the pay off is great. If you tell the story in a bad way people are going to bitch about it 19 years later. We don’t want to bitch about it, but that’s what we have to do in this case.

I know Bischoff said it was his call because Sting wasn’t in great shape. I’m not sure if I believe that, but Eric’s always been close with Hogan, so he’s going to side with him on the matter. Sting definitely wasn’t as big (in a muscular sense) as he was during his peak early 1990s years. Despite Bischoff’s claims that Sting wasn’t in great shape, he more than looked like a credible wrestler.

Like I said earlier, this match result did not kill WCW. Business was great over the next year. It was decisions like this that hurt them a lot because they continued in the months and years ahead. Too bad that guys like Hulk Hogan were marks for themselves so much that they couldn’t lay down to put somebody over clean for a title win. At least Hogan did it with Goldberg in July of 1998. In that case it was just a television match and they didn’t benefit from the PPV audience. Even when they did things right, they couldn’t get it totally right. That’s WCW in a nutshell.

The moral of the story? I’m sure there’s a few, but this is an example of why it’s bad to let a wrestler have creative control. It’s not going to end well, brother.

 

Final Thoughts

It gets a 2 out of 10 for me.

This was an awful show. They kept showing guys in the crowd like Rey Mysterio, Booker T, Ultimo Dragon and others that should have been on this show because they were some of the best guys in the company yet they’re out there while Vincent of all people is in a match. What a joke.

Who decided to give Bagwell vs. Luger the most time of any match? That was a bad decision. I’m starting to wonder if I did fall asleep.

The crowd reactions were pretty telling. They didn’t seem to care about much on the show until the main event. There were a few other times where they gave positive reactions, but it was pretty rare.

This was a bad show. Don’t watch it again unless you want to waste three hours of your life. Just don’t do it.

To check out my other retro reviews click here now. The others I’ve reviewed were SummerSlam 1994, Backlash 2000, December to Dismember 2006 and Invasion 2001. I have reviewed many PPVs over the years, but this is more of a random thing. I’ve already done all the WrestleManias and almost all WWE PPVs in the past 7 years as well as many of them from the 2000s as well.

I’m not sure what the next review is, but when I pick a WCW one it will be better than this. I’m open to ideas for reviews, so feel free to suggest one below.

John Canton – [email protected]

Twitter @johnreport

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