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Going Old School: Starrcade ’83

January 17, 2008 | Posted by Matt Adamson
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Going Old School: Starrcade ’83  

Before I get started on the actual review of the original “Granddaddy of Them All”, I wanted to set up the next few reviews I do in hopes that you check them out as well. This is the first of a series of reviews I’ll be doing on the Starrcade shows. The biggest show of the year in the NWA and later WCW. So, I’ll be going from the beginning with the 1983 edition here, and stopping after the 1995 edition.

Something else I thought I might try to explain to the masses is the name of my review column. “Going Old School” was designed to obviously focus on the old school of wrestling, but the question is; what is “old school”? Well, my thought is that realistically, “old school” is something that dates back from a period far enough back in time to where anybody alive today that cannot vote would not have been alive when it happened. So, as I write this review, that puts us at November 1989 being the latest “old school” date. However, such isn’t always the case, and there can be a major shift in the way things work in a particular genre of entertainment making anything before that time considered “old school”. So, with that in mind, “Going Old School” will focus primarily on reviewing wrestling from before 1989 (that is always increasing as time goes on and those who can vote were born later), but when I do a series of shows, I will go as far as the Summer of 1996, when the N.W.O. kick started what would eventually become the “Attitude Era” and the wrestling landscape would take a dramatic turn. I hope that helps explain things a bit.

If there are any shows from prior to 1989 that you’d like to see reviewed, please drop me an email. If I have the show on tape, I’ll gladly review it. If I don’t, I’ll gladly except donations. I have a heck of a lot of stuff, so chances are that if it’s a show, I have it.


November 24th 1983 has been considered one of the most important days in the history of professional wrestling since that day for a variety of reasons. The wrestling card presented that night would be simply stellar and would feature one of the most important matches of the last decade in the main event. However, the real reason for this shows importance is that it would be the first super card to be broadcast live on Closed Circuit television, which was the Pay Per View of the time. Fans would visit their local arena’s and theaters and pay to watch the event like one would watch a movie. This was a year and a half prior to WrestleMania, which would be the WWF’s first venture into close circuit. Essentially, this event was the test to see if wrestling on Closed Circuit and later Pay Per View was a worthwhile endeavor. This show proved that it would be. This review is of the original broadcast of the show, of which I have a copy. It’s hard to come by in its complete form.

November 24th 1983 from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina in front of a crowd of 15,447 fans.

Starrcade ‘83 – Flare For The Gold

Your hosts are Bob Caudle and Gordon Solie. Tony Schiavone and Barbara Clary are doing interviews.

The Assassins vs. Bugsy McGraw & Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones

I’m not 100% sure, but considering all timelines for The Assassins, this is likely to be the Jody Hamilton (the original Assassin, the one who many of you readers would know from WCW as Paul Orndorf’s manager) & Roger Smith version of the team, but Hercules Hernandez could be in there instead of Smith. The quality of this video isn’t that good. Smith didn’t amount to terribly much. Soon after this he would head off to Memphis as Dirty Rhodes. McGraw was a mid-card wrestler whose career was mostly spent in Florida. He didn’t amount to much on the national level, but did have a decent career in Florida and Mid-Atlantic. Jones on the other hand saw success in many different territories including Central States and Mid-Atlantic where he would be each of their top champion. Ric Flair and Harley Race have both written about him in their books.

The Assassins are with Paul Jones, who was still capable in the ring at this time, but was an amazing manager and wrestling is better off having him in that role, he was tremendous at it. Not a lot can be expected from this group. None of them were ever mat technicians like Steamboat or Flair, but they did what they had to do. One thing about this match that really stuck out as a negative was McGraw. His punches were sloppier than Lita’s and his overall technique was very sloppy and uncalculated. Jones has a lot of energy throughout the match, which really shines, but his energy gets the better of him when he botches a simple rollup. Jody Hamilton (original Assassin) seemed to control a majority of the match, which would draw out a punchy kicky style. A little too much punch and kick for my tastes. The match ended when Hamilton (I think) rolled McGraw up for the pin. The Assassins did what they could with McGraw. Jones saw too little of this match, which is a shame, and what little time he did see he wasn’t on his game.

Winners: The Assassins
Match Rating: ¾*

Tony Schiavone is in the dressing room. He claims it’s the first time dressing room interviews and segments had happened in professional wrestling. This is absolute bull as I recall seeing a Mr. Moto interview from the dressing room on a tape I have that had to have been from the 50’s. Chalk that up to the awesome overstatements in the career of Tony Schiavone.

Johnny Weaver & Scott McGhee vs. Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin

Kind of a mish-mash of wrestlers here with Weaver and McGhee as the baby faces. Weaver was beyond his wrestling career a good four years by this point, having been a commentator for some time. He was, of course, a tremendous wrestler over the 60’s and 70’s where he was a top name in Mid-Atlantic and Florida. McGhee wrestled in Florida most of his career, topping the card there for a time. He was also Barry Windham’s tag partner early in Barry’s career. They held the Florida Tag Titles for a time. McGhee hadn’t been in Mid-Atlantic long before this event and would soon leave for Portland, where he would team with a young Curt Hennig to win the Pacific Northwest tag titles. Sullivan and Lewin were out of Florida where they were a part of a stable that included the two, Nancy Sullivan (later Nancy Benoit), Billy Graham, Jake Roberts, and others. Lewin was known in Florida as Purple Haze. They were one of the coolest stables ever. That idea needs to be recycled. Lewin of course was the Detroit badass that was supposed to take down The Sheik, but was never able to pull it off.

Lewin and Sullivan are with Gary Hart. McGhee looked to be very capable in the ring, but the match never got going for long enough to showcase his abilities, which is a real shame. Lewin is the letdown of the match as he relies on restholds for damn near the entirety of his time in control. That’s also a major gripe because of the duo, Lewin spends about 80% of the time in the ring, while the more entertaining Sullivan is relegated to standing on the apron. Sullivan does look good when he is in. Weaver spends even less time in the ring than Sullivan does, but despite his age he is still able to get around the ring well. Some of the better aspects of the match are the inclusion of tag psychology by Sullivan and Lewin in which they attempt to cut the ring in half and make frequent tags. The end is also a nice touch as the referee is tending to a fallen McGhee when Lewin comes off thetop onto Weaver’s arm, which is being held by Sullivan. This allow the heels the win and a beat down ensues with Lewin taking a spike to McGhee. The crowd wanted those two dead after the attack. Angelo Mosca attempted a save, which ran the heels off. It was a standard tag match, but lacked the passion and a lot of the believability.

Winners: Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin
Match Rating: *¼

Barbary Clary is out with some fans. She just doesn’t work for wrestling. In fact, she reminds me a lot of the celebrity guests of WrestleMania 2, but just a tad better.

Tony Schiavone is in the dressing room with Harley Race. Race says he’d rather be anywhere than Greensboro (a little heel heat there). He says he’s getting insight on Flair’s shortcomings from his friends. Considering he’s sitting there with Greg Valentine, Jack and Jerry Brisco, I’d assume he was talking about them.

Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah The Butcher

Carlos Colon is, of course, the legendary Puerto Rican wrestler who many would consider the Hulk Hogan of wrestling in Puerto Rico where he was a 26 time World/Universal Champion. He was just off his most successful period where he (unofficially) won the NWA title from Ric Flair earlier in 1983. He is also the father of former WWE star Carlito. Abdullah The Butcher is one wrestler than just about everybody should know. He was spending a lot of time traveling the globe at this time, splitting his time between Puerto Rico and Japan. Abdullah had become the first ever WWC Universal Champion only a year prior, which is part of what led to this feud in the first place. One thing that might surprise some is that Abdullah was around 25 year into his career at this time and he’d wrestle for another 23+ years making his one of the longest careers in the history of professional wrestling. This match is billed at this event as being banned in Puerto Rico.

If there is ever a match of two that seem like opposites on paper, but having a strikingly similar style in reality, this would be a good example of such a match. Lots of back and forth blows early in the match set the tone for what to expect throughout. Once Colon finds and object in Abdullah’s hand, the match changes focus and I’m beginning to see that the commentators and announcers have left out of piece of crucial information about this match. It must be anything goes as Colon just goes to town in front of the refereeon Abdullah’s head (which was just as scarred then as they are now. Apparently you can scar something enough to where you can’t scar it anymore.) which opens him up. The ref becomes unconscious, adding to the drama of the match. Eventually Colon gets Butcher in a figure hour, but HUGO SAVINOVICH interfered and nails Colon. This allow Abdullah to get the pin. If you ever wondered where to find some Hugo Savinovich before he was a WWE Spanish commentator, here ya go. A fun little brawl with lots of drama and emotion, but it just comes up a little short on everything else.

Winner: Abdullah The Butcher
Match Rating: *

Schiavone is with Angelo Mosca, who is supposed to be the referee for the Tag Title match. He talks some about Mark Lewin attacking him with a spike. Scott McGhee is slumping next to him and is an absolute BLOODY MESS! Mosca says Ric Flair is ready.

Barbara Clary is out with some more fans who are picking Ric Flair to win the title in the main event. Anybody else noticing a trend of these interviews?

Wahoo McDaniel & Mark Youngblood vs. Bob Orton Jr. & Dick Slater

A classic stereotype battle here, but Crockett would be the better man and not book it as such. Orton and Slater are Harley Race’s hit men during this time, which is actually what set up the main event. They were paid a sum to put Flair out of action so Race didn’t have to wrestle him. Wahoo and Youngblood are some sort of guardians of Ric Flair, upholding the top baby faces honor I suppose. This was really a great storyline and one that we don’t really see much of anymore. I think part of that has something to do with most of the baby faces of today not being the types of guys worth standing up for.

Right before this match gets going, in one of the more humorous moments of the night, the ring announcer goes to introduce Dusty Rhodes but the sounds cuts out. Really classic and one of those things that was part of the learning process that the NWA did with this show to ensure that when McMahon ran WrestleMania that it would go off perfectly.

This match has all the makings of something great. You have three guys who are naturals in the ring. Wahoo, who (wow, read that out loud) was taking a time out from his chasing the U.S. Title, was in his prime here. He was just on the verge of tremendous feuds with Roddy Piper and later Magnum T.A. Slater is one of the most underrated wrestlers ever. I really mean it, because he was great to watch in the ring. He had all the tools and used them near perfectly every time I ever saw him wrestle. Orton would have the same underrated stigma attached to him if not for the rise of his son to the top of the WWE ladder where the world would get to see Bob Orton Jr. and recognize him as a legend in the ring. The match starts out with great back and forth action from Slater and Youngblood. Great cheating tactics by Slater and Orton as they try and get Youngblood disqualified when Slater is carried out over the top rope by his own momentum (throwing your opponent over the top rope was a DQ in the NWA in those days). Tremendous stuff from Orton as he plays the fear card perfectly. Youngblood is in for a really long time, but he has several opportunities to tag Wahoo, but doesn’t. This kind of this always makes me feel less sympathetic when he gets beat down later.

Wahoo spends far too little time in the ring during this match. Slater and Orton just spend the majority of the match beating down Youngblood and playing pitch perfect heels in the process. These two would be great for today. They have something that edgy and rebellious feel, but nothing is too over the top. Superplex by Orton on Youngblood win the match for the heels. Very entertaining match where Slater and Orton ran the show and made it quite the entertaining little affair. After the match, the heels take turns beating on Wahoo’s arm. His absence through most of this match as well as the subsequent beat down afterward lead me to believe he might have had a legit injury and were preparing to kayfabe him some time off to heal.

Winners: Bob Orton Jr. & Dick Slater
Match Rating: ***¼

Tony Schiavone is in the dressing room yet again, but this time with the man himself, Ric Flair. He talks about being prepared for the match with Race and thanks those who are behind him. Speaking of people being behind him, Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat are there and talk a little about their match with the Brisco’s. I really like how this event was really given the big event feel.

Barbara Clary is with Dusty Rhodes in the crowd and the sound guy HATES DUSTY RHODES. He still isn’t coming through. I guess NWA had to do the dirty work. I find this all totally hilarious, that the most outspoken and boastful wrestler of that time was silenced. LET’S DO IT AGAIN!

TV Title: Title vs. Mask: The Great Kabuki © vs. Charlie Brown

If Brown beat Kabuki within 15 minutes of the 60 minute time limit, Brown would win the TV title, but the mask of Charlie Brown was on the line for the full 60 minutes. Kabuki was a Japanese wrestler who had success in All Japan and in various NWA territories. He was important enough in Jim Crockett promotions to have them bill The Great Muta as The Great Kabuki’s son, because Kabuki was the original wrestler to blow mist. Kabuki’s popularity in the states was at it’s peak here, and may have been matched during his time in World Class Championship Wrestling which would come almost immediately after this event. Charlie Brown was Jimmy Valiant in a mask. The beard was in full force and it was one of the worst kept secrets in the history of wrestling. People say Ric Flair was obviously the Black Scorpion at Starrcade 1990, but this here was ridiculous. You just have to see this to fully understand. He uses the “Boogie Woogie Man” dance and everything, hiding all of nothing of his true identity.

It amazed me as this match progressed just how much Brown dominated. He dominated from the early part of the match outside the ring to the very end. He even had some time to entertain the crowd with his dancing, which can be quite funny all things considered. The Sleeper must be Brown’s finisher because he seems to go back to it at every single opportunity. Speaking of overdoing something, Kabuki has Brown in the Claw for what feels like and eternity. A glimpse of excitement happens when Brown starts a comeback but my hopes and dreams of this being an entertaining match were shattered when he gets put back in the Claw. The end is just a horribly botched moment when Kabuki goes for god knows what and Brown moves and Kabuki falls and Brown hit’s a cheap looking elbow for the win. Not a lot of fun. Commentators don’t know the official match time, but say that it might have been within the 15 minutes. I’ll save you the effort of wondering and say that indeed Charlie Brown won the NWA TV Championship here.

Winner and NEW Champion: Charlie Brown
Match Rating: ¾*

Caudle and Solie bring in some radio guy. They talk about Flair being the most likely to win. Well, for a 3 hour plus show they sure are being repetitive.

Schiavone is with Orton and Slater who talk about collecting the bounty that Race put on Flair’s head which was what led to the main event. The idea was to put Flair out of commision so race didn’t have to face him as he had avoided him for as long as he could. Slater spends some time talking about Race’s history as champ with the 7 title wins. Race enters the conversation threatening Flair. He says he knows Flair better than Flair knows himself. Says he’s going to go for Flair’s neck.

Barbara Clary iswith Rhodes and the microphone/sound is actually working. He challenges the winner of the main event and hopes it is Race.

Dog Collar Match: Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine

This is one of the most famous matches in the history of the NWA. Piper had recently turned face when he saved Gordon Solie from a beat down by Don Muraco. By this time Piper had already won and lost the U.S. title. An interesting fact: Piper beat Ric Flair for the U.S. title the first time he won it, and Greg Valentine the second time. The first win of Piper would actually make him the first ever NWA undisputed U.S. Champion as the San Francisco territory, which held the other U.S. title would close down during Piper’s reign. He lost his second U.S. title 7 months prior to this event to Valentine and the two had been feuding since that time. This would be the culmination of their feud, a genuine payoff for the fans. Valentine was amidst his third and final reign as U.S. champ. He had launched this feud when he gave Piper a cake with a Dog Collar inside. It is stated by the commentators that this was the first ever Dog Collar match. It may have been the first ever televised Dog Collar match, but I know that Portland Wrestling had a couple of Dog Collar matches in 1979 and 1980 involving “Killer” Tim Brooks, Piper and “Playboy” Buddy Rose. I’m fairly certain that Piper took this idea to Mid-Atlantic.

Piper gets the biggest pop of the night up to this point. Like I stated before, Valentine is the U.S. champ and the commentators are selling this as a title match, but it wasn’t. The match revolves around creative use of the chain which both do fantastically. They use it in many different and creative ways, but it never gets absurd. Interesting thing to note is that Piper now lives in Portland and Valentine in Seattle, a true regional rivalry in the wrestling ring. I love it. Valentine goes after Piper’s ear hard, which would lead to Piper legitimately losing part of his hearing in one ear. Piper sells the ear attack well and looks to have lost equilibrium. Sadly this would be the result of the actual injury sustained by the repeated blows. Piper looks very smart in the ring despite this problem. Piper gets the pin after beating Valentine with the chain repeatedly. See, this is how it works. You make the match about the chain and the chain makes the match. Whatever happened to this theory. Now you have a cage match where a sledgehammer is what makes the match. I’m dumbfounded. Afterward, Valentine chokes Piper out with the chain and it is sold beautifully by Piper. The match was just a brutal beat down and both show up with their working boots on. If you want to see brutality that would have people talking like the Mankind vs. Undertaker Hell In A Cell did 15 years later then check out this match.

Winner: Roddy Piper
Match Rating: ****¼

Schiavone is with Flair and Wahoo. Flair talks about Wahoo and how he will get revenge on Slater and Orton. He also talks more about being prepared. Are you bored yet? Even considering it’s Flair, they couldn’t possibly have driven this fact home more times than they did. Wahoo gets a little mic time and he talks about Flair being prepared, that he will win the title and that he is behind him 100%. I swear I’ve heard this somewhere before.

Barbard Clary is with Don Kernodle. He talks about Steamboat and Youngblood and Flair taking all the gold. I would have loved it if the Steamboat and Youngblood vs. Kernodle and Slaughter feud had went on through this time. What a tremendous series of matches.

World Tag Team Championship: Jack & Jerry Brisco © vs. Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood

Jack and Jerry Brisco were right at the tail end of both of their careers at this point. At least as it pertained to the ring. Jerry Brisco of course was one of McMahon’s Corporation Henchmen during the late 1990’s along with Pat Patterson. Jack Brisco was a former NWA World Champion. Ricky Steamboat of course needs little introduction. It was still 5+ years from his World title win in 1989, but by the point Steamboat had held the U.S. title once and the World Tag Titles 4 times with Youngblood. He was an incredibly successful and savvy wrestler. Youngblood was not only toward the end of his career, but also his life as he would die less than 2 years after this event while on a tour of Australia. This period that he teamed with Steamboat would be his career peak. The match and feud were set up when, then baby faces, the Brisco’s turned on Steamboat and Youngblood during their feud with Slaughter and Kernodle.

Angelo Mosca is the special guest referee for the match. He isn’t exactly the quickest guy around, so he’ll likely slow down the pace, which is a shame. Youngblood has such an interesting style. His punches are way over the top and the match is a little uneven when he is in the ring, but it’s excusable, because he is in there with some serious talent. Seeing Jack Brisco and Ricky Steamboat in the ring together on opposite sides is truly a dream match for me, even today, 20 years after first having seen the match on the Best of Starrcade 1983-1987 VHS tape. Jack Brisco’s execution is tremendous during this match, as is Steamboat’s. Everything is so crisp when they are in together. Jack Brisco sells a Steamboat Suplex like a Lightning Strike. Great match, only hindered by some unevenness when Youngblood is in the ring. Youngblood is actually the one to get the pin on Jerry after getting press slammed onto him by Steamboat. After the match is over, the Brisco’s attack but Mosca makes the save once again. What a guy! The crowd is absolutely NUTS about the result. These kind of reactions have gone the wayside since the advent of the Internet, for which I can’t complain about or I wouldn’t be writing this review now would I?

Winners and NEW Champions: Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood
Match Rating: ****

Schiavone is in the dressing room talking about Flair and that the match is just moments away. Charlie Brown is there and is finally announced as the new TV champ. It only took an hour to get that one to the fans. Piper then comes in and gives one of the greatest interviews of his career when he lays down the classic line to Valentine, “problem is, you’ve got one ear to go.” Fantastic! Steamboat and Youngblood follow and talk about winning the title for the 5th time. Best interview segment of the show.

Barbary Clary is with Dusty Rhodes and a harem of ugly ass women. He cuts a standard Dusty promo. I’d rate it about a D+ for a Dusty promo.

Back to Schiavone who is with Valentine. He talks about the Dog Collar match and about mid-way through the interview, his blade job reopens and runs down his face. Very cool.

Then, the throw a little more wasted time into the mix, some guy gets in the ring and sings the Star Spangled Banner in the pitch black. He sings, “at the ramparts we watched”. Just a little off there. The guy was just horrible. About 15 seconds before the end of the song the lights come back on. Yikes! I can’t believe I didn’t just fast forward that disaster.

World Heavyweight Championship: Steel Cage Match: Harley Race © vs. Ric Flair

This match would mark the end of the dynasty period for Harley Race. He had held the World Title 7 times to this point and it would be his final reign (it was actually 8 reigns, but the NWA at the time wasn‘t recognizing one of his exchanges with Giant Baba). He would go on soon after this to the AWA where he would feud with Rick Martel for a while and eventually to the WWF where he would wind down his career before coming back to WCW in 1990 a tattered version of his old self. Ric Flair was a 1 time champion at this point, having lost the title to Race in June earlier that year. He would go on years later to say that this was the most important match in his career. This is the passing of the torch between Race and Flair.

Hilarious light show during the entrances. I guess this type of thing was top notch technology at the time. People would laugh it off as a joke today. The match with the entrances is given a real “big match” feel. Gene Kiniski is the special guest referee. Another guy to slow down the pace. Flair is very methodical early on, making smart moves. Lots of mat work w/ Flair in control. Classic wrestling is so fun when the people doing it are as good as these two. Race works the head and neck like his life depends on it. Great psychology, setting him up for his finisher, the Piledriver. Flair takes punishment for the majority of the match. It gives that element of sympathy for him and then there is the almighty comeback. After Flair is opened up, Solie utters a great line saying, “Flair is gonna come out of there looking like a piece of raw hamburger.” Indeed sir, he is. This is the kind of descriptive commentary that made Solie a legend. Flair gets in a token figure four. The match ends when Flair comes off the top rope (yes, he did actually succeed at this at one point) and hit’s a flying body press on Race for the win and his second title. The following celebration is the stuff of legends as the baby face locker room empties and Flair is a god. Something that came to mind at the finish of the match was that Flair has been going for that moment his entire career since that moment. That flying body press has eluded him ever since, which in retrospect makes that moment that much more special and makes Flair career a seriously impressive bit of storytelling. A tremendous match that would be the centerpiece for the entire career of the greatest professional wrestler in the history of the business.

Winner and NEW Champion: Ric Flair
Match Rating: ****

The 411: Starrcade ‘83 is one of the best examples of why I love old school wrestling. This show had a tremendous big event feel that was highlighted by 3 of the best matches of the early 1980’s. It would be a pivotal moment of change in wrestling that would usher out the old and bring in the new. While the most important parts of this show are available in various compilations, this show should be seen as a whole. It still is one of the most important events in the history of wrestling, and it’s a damn good show to boot. I give this show a very high recommendation.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  9.5   [  Amazing ]  legend

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