wrestling / Video Reviews

Going Old School: Starrcade ’87

February 3, 2008 | Posted by Matt Adamson
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Going Old School: Starrcade ’87  

November 26th 1987 was supposed to be the biggest night in the history of the NWA. They were taking a venture into the world of Pay Per View with their biggest show of the year. The WWF had already made the leap into Pay Per View land more than once and wanted to dominate the market so when the NWA announced that they would run their first Pay Per View on Thanksgiving, Vince McMahon and company took action and nearly ran this show into the ground. The very first Survivor Series went head to head with Starrcade on Pay Per View that night and a majority of cable companies opted to run Hulk Hogan rather than Ronnie Garvin. The cable companies in the end saw that this resulted in lost revenue and persuaded the WWF to not run Pay Per Views on the same day that the NWA was. So this wasn’t exactly an issue after this (though WWF would run Royal Rumble ‘88 for free on USA opposite NWA Bunkhouse Stampede on PPV on the same night, killing the buys there as well) , but it was no way to kick off a new era.

November 26th 1987 from the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois in front of a crowd of 8,000 fans.

Starrcade ‘87 – Chi-Town Heat

Hosts: Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone

Six Man Tag Match: Larry Zbyszko, Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner vs. Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin & Sting

Six man tags are usually interesting when it comes to dynamics and considering who is involved and when it takes place, this one is indeed interesting. Zbyszko was on a brief hiatus from the AWA that didn’t go much farther than him winning the Western States Heritage Title two months after Starrcade at the Buckhouse Stampede. Rick Steiner was relatively new to wrestling. He had spent some time in the UWF (referring to the Mid-South version from this point on) and was here as the company was soon to close, as were Eddie Gilbert, Sting and Michael Hayes, who was beginning his first significant period after the end of the original Freebirds. Jimmy Garvin was coming off his greatest success, when he main evented dates on the Great American Bash tour against Ric Flair. I should also note that the INCREDIBLY HOT Precious is with Garvin. I still hate that guy for ravaging my dreams of her.

Sting was actually a heel prior to this but he turned on Gilbert and Steiner and this match was born. He looks quite uncomfortable in the ring at this point in his career, but it wouldn’t be too long before he grew considerably. The match is a wild chaotic six man tag and starts with a great pier sixer. For an opener it doesn’t get much better. It was designed to engage the crowd and get them fired up. That is exactly what it accomplished. It kept a moderate to fast pace with a few slow period that kept it from really being an excellent little match. It’s still quite good. The time expires as Hayes tries to pin Gilbert w/ a sunset flip. Fun match, but why they booked a draw for this match is a mystery to me. Just have the baby faces win and everybody is happy.

Winners: Time Limit Draw
Match Rating: **¼

UWF Heavyweight Championship: “Dr. Death” Steve Williams © vs. Barry Windham

The UWF was as good as dead at this point and this very well may be the final defense of that promotions top title. Jim Ross, as you’d expect, is having multiple orgasms as he calls this match, as he does with all Williams matches. Windham was a recent addition to Jim Crockett Promotions having spent the early years of his career in Florida, but since Florida was belly up, he found work in the Carolina’s. The idea behind this match may have been to showcase the UWF, because there is no back story to this one whatsoever.

The two start off with some really solid amateur work, with lots of good reversals, but it wasn’t what the crowd wanted to see. They are both apparently baby faces as there is a lot of sportsmanship. Mid-way through this match, one of my all time favorite moments in wrestling happens. If you have read any of my reviews, you may know what it is, and if you’ve read my reviews AND seen this match, you know. THE GREATEST NUT SHOT IN THE HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING happens when Williams goes for a leapfrog, but fails to get enough air & Windham’s head hits Williams square in the nuts. Now, typically a nut shot is a worked piece to add to a match, but fans, THIS IS REAL. Williams spends a majority of the remainder of the match and some time afterward massaging his genitals. It’s absolutely hilarious. Windham tries to help Williams get through the agony, which in turn cost him the match as Williams won with a roll up. Williams leaves holding his junk. Match was boring as hell, but extremely entertaining. A cool thing to note is that this match would play a roll later in Windham’s career at Clash of the Champions XXI in fall of 1992. He would be in a tag match where Steamboat gets hit in the nuts by Dustin Rhodes. Rhodes is trying to help his friend while Windham is all “I’ve been here before dude, hit him in the nuts again!” That match is also one of my favorites.

Winner: Steve Williams
Match Rating: **

Scaffold Match: The Rock and Roll Express vs. The Midnight Express

There isn’t much to say about a scaffold match, but by this time it wasn’t a very original concept. It had been used by a couple of the remaining territories of the NWA, including World Class who used it at their 4th Parade of Champions. This is without a doubt the worst meeting between these two as the scaffold basically limits every possible thing that could be good about these two teams. This version of The Midnight Express is the Eaton and Stan Lane version, which is my favorite version of the team. See that? I used the word “version” three times in one sentence. Yay me!

The Midnight’s are with Big Bubba Rogers and Jim Cornette. This match is more interesting that the original scaffold match, but not as important. Gibson and Morton work really fast and get the match going, but it isn’t a whole lot different than the original. There was punching, kicking, powder and a tennis racket. It is a bit faster, especially Robert Gibson who looks like he may have spent some time working on scaffolding in a construction job as he seems to be unaffected by the height and the space limitations of the match. Lane falls first while hanging, followed by Eaton. Rogers goes up, but is caught by the Midnights and Morton does a great “Hey, look over there” routine and hits Rogers right in the junk. BONUS! Match was entertaining, but severely limited.

Winner: The Rock and Roll Express
Match Rating: **¼

NWA/UWF Television Championship Unification Match: Nikita Koloff (NWA)© vs. Terry Taylor (UWF) ©

If it isn’t enough evidence to indicate that the UWF is folding that nearly the entire roster of the UWF is on this card, surely this unification match would be. Terry Taylor had won the title in September from a very young Shane Douglas. Koloff had won the title from Tully Blancard in August of that year. Aside from them both holding Television titles and wanting to win the other, there really isn’t much of a back story to this one. Nothing against Taylor, as I’ve always appreciated watching him in the ring, but it’s sad to see Koloff, who wrestled Flair in the main event of the previous Starrcade having to wrestle Terry Taylor over the TV title.

Taylor is with Eddie Gilbert. Koloff works the arm and dominates for much of the match. Taylor has a heel demeanor, which is a bit unusual. He would really get the heel thing down well until the York Foundation in 1991. Taylor tries to go blow for blow with Koloff but loses nearly every time until late into the match. Once he gains control he keeps it and the match improves dramatically. The variety increases but psychology is piss poor. Taylor gets into climax mode and puts Koloff in a figure four. One problem… He didn’t really work the leg. The match just doesn’t work for me. Not enough consistency in the decisions made and while the execution is good, there is rarely a reason that a specific move is used. Russian Sickle by Koloff gets the three and the UWF TV Title.

Winner and UNIFIED champ: Nikita Koloff
Match Rating: **

World Tag Team Championship: Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard © vs. The Road Warriors

The Road Warriors always seemed destined to be the World Tag champs, but the title had somehow eluded them over several title changes since their arrival in the NWA. Since this match was in their home town of Chicago, it seemed only natural that this would be the big moment that they would finally pull it off. Arn and Tully had won the titles two months prior from the Rock and Roll Express. Since this was the age of the Horsemen the show was being billed as the Horsemen’s chance to take all three major titles in the NWA. This was the first of three matches to determine whether or not that would happen.

It comes as no surprise that when the Road Warriors control the match that it is a power match. It’s incredibly one sided with the Warriors dominating for much of the match until Hawk gets his knee worked on and sells the leg briefly, allowing The Horsemen to take control. Once they gain control the match takes a sharp turn for the better as they lay into Hawk in their corner. They try all the tricks. Arn distracts the ref while Tully belts Hawk in the leg with a chair. Great tag psychology, work the body part and keep the ring cut in half. Very few can say they knew how to do that as well as Arn Anderson. Animal throws Arm over the top rope while the ref is still down. New ref in and The Road Warriors hit a Doomsday Device and Animal gets the pin and the titles. Wait! Not exactly, in a classic Dusty Finish, Tommy Young wakes up and says he saw it all (meaning he saw Animal throw Arn over the top rope, which was a DQ in the NWA.) So he reverses his decision and awards the win to the Horsemen by DQ. Great match, terrible ending. I’m not totally against the Dusty Finish, but if you want to piss off 8,000 fans, this is how you do it. The fans show their appreciation to Dusty and call “bullshit”.

Winners: Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard
Match Rating: ***

Unites States Heavyweight Championship: Lex Luger © vs. Dusty Rhodes

Dusty didn’t really have the wherewithal to see that he was a ways past being relevant and hanging up the boots for good. Realistically Rhodes should have hung ‘em up in the summer of ‘87. He was the booker, so he could do what he wanted, but the choice to put himself in with a young Lex Luger should have been to push Luger. Luger was still quite green, but just starting to reach his potential and needed a push to get over the hump into the main event without looking like a fool. Let’s see how that works out.

The stipulation of the match is that if Rhodes loses he can’t wrestle for 90 days. Nice! A guy can wish can’t he. It sure would have made Bunkhouse Stampede a little more interesting. Johnny Weaver is holding the key to the cage to keep it away from the Horsemen. Ok, right there should have been a hint to the entire NWA fan base that Dusty Rhodes thought we were all a bunch of morons. Johnny Weaver vs. Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair. Yeah, that’ll go over well, not to mention it just smells of obvious. The match is one of the most boring of the entire Starrcade’s so far and that’s being polite. Really only one or two come close. Rhodes uses an armbar for an extended period, then Luger does the same. Are they just trying to waste my time? The only redeeming quality to this match is when Rhodes works the arm in order to prevent the torture rack, which Luger actually sells later when he has difficulty getting Rhodes up. Of course, getting Rhodes up SHOULD be tough even with the arm at full strength. I’d say they were covering something up there. After the torture of what seemed like hours of rest holds, Dillon hits Weaver with a chair & throws it into the ring to Luger who goes to grab it and basically stops over it waiting for Rhodes. Rhodes, a little behind FINALLY hit’s a DDT on Luger on the chair and gets the pin. Boring match, poor finish and the wrong result. What the hell were they thinking? Oh right, Rhodes was the booker.

Winner and NEW champ: Dusty Rhodes
Match Rating: *

World Heavyweight Championship: Ronnie Garvin © vs. Ric Flair

This has to be among the strangest periods of Jim Crockett Promotions in the history of that company. Ronnie Garvin won the World Title from Ric Flair in September in Detroit in a pretty good match. Garvin wasn’t the first choice (that would be Magnum T.A. before his accident), but he ended up being the one who got the chance. During his two months as champ, the fans were bored and by the time this show came, plenty had gone to cheering for Flair to win and put them out of their misery. Why they didn’t just leave the title on Flair and figure out something else is a mystery to me. They probably just wanted to add a title reign to the resume of Ric Flair. I guess if Rhodes thought the same way I do, we’d be watching 15 time World Champion Ric Flair wrestle on Raw. That wouldn’t have been such a bad decision, but then again, almost nobody watched this show.

The match is more or less Ric Flair carrying Garvin to a passable match, but the match never reaches anything beyond passable. Maybe Garvin was just phoning it in, because it certainly isn’t anywhere near the match where Garvin won the title. Flair does a great job of working Garvin’s leg and gets him in the Figure Four to make it count. Garvin also gets in a figure four. Besides the 1984 main event, this was the worst Starrcade main event up to this point. It was half-assed and didn’t accomplish anything except giving Flair the title when he used Garvin’s momentum to slingshot him into the cage for three. These two demonstrated in September that they were capable of so much more. This was very disappointing.

Winner and NEW champ: Ric Flair
Match Rating: **½

The 411: This is the first Starrcade to have no matches that I would say are required viewing. Each of the previous four shows had between 1 and 3 matches that reached that coveted **** mark. This one only once cracked the *** mark of mediocrity. The Windham vs. Williams match is worth checking out for a laugh, but nothing more. Not a good first PPV for the NWA. I can’t recommend this one at all, unless you want to see them all.
Final Score:  5.0   [ Not So Good ]  legend

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Matt Adamson

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