WCW Starrcade ’97 20th Anniversary Retrospective: Sting vs Hogan [December 28th, 1997]

WCW's greatest success and greatest failure.

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May 27, 1996. The day professional wrestling and sports entertainment changed forever.

In the middle of a normal broadcast of WCW Monday Nitro, during a match between Mike Enos and Steve Doll, descending down the stairs in the audience was Scott Hall, better known at that point as Razor Ramon. Ramon had just jumped ship from the World Wrestling Federation to World Championship Wrestling. What was different than all of the previous wrestlers whom had defected from the WWF to WCW; this was presented as unexpected. It was presented as unscripted. It was presented as real.

Scott Hall took the microphone from ringside and said, “You know who I am… but you don’t know why… I’m here.”

How to Change Wrestling in Three Minutes by Scott Hall

Two weeks later, Hall was joined by Kevin Nash, the WWF grappler formerly known as Diesel. From there, Hall and Nash became known as “The Outsiders” and would wrecked havoc upon the entire WCW roster.

Fast forward to WCW Bash at the Beach in July 1996. The Outsiders faced off against Lex Luger, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Sting.

Hall and Nash had promised they would be joined by a “third man” at Bash at the Beach.

That third man was Hulk Hogan.

After nearly two decades of being the quintessential babyface in wrestling, The Hulkster dropped the leg on Randy Savage, and told the fans to stick it, brother.

“HULK HOGAN HAS BETRAYED WCW!”

This was the formation of the New World Order of professional wrestling.

Together Hogan, Hall and Nash caused even more chaos all over WCW. No one could stop the nWo. Not Lex Luger, not Ric Flair, not Arn Anderson, not even Randy Savage. The nWo marched on and found their strength in numbers, recruiting the likes of Ted DiBiase, Syxx, Vincent, Scott Norton and more.

There was one man the nWo wanted, but didn’t know if they could get.

The Franchise of WCW, Sting.

In an effort to recruit Sting while simultaneously fooling the WCW roster, the nWo hired a Sting impersonator, portrayed by Jeff Farmer. Shortly before the 1996 Fall Brawl PPV, this fake Sting was shown exiting the nWo’s limo and attacking Lex Luger. At Fall Brawl, Fake Sting participated for team nWo in WarGames, only for the real Sting to make an appearance and destroy his doppelganger.

Before leaving the cage, Sting turned to Luger, Flair and Anderson and asked them, “Is that good enough for ya? Is that proof!?”

A few weeks later on Nitro, Sting appeared to once again dismantle Fake Sting. Gone was his trademark colorful makeup, replaced now with black and white grease paint. The nWo made one last attempt to recruit Sting, who said he “may or may not be in your price range.”

The end of one era is but the beginning of another….

Sting then uttered the most famous words of his career; “The only thing for sure about Sting… is nothing’s for sure.”

Sting did not say another word for over a year.

Decked head to toe in black and white, The Icon ascended to the rafters of the building Nitro was taking place in each week. This character has became known throughout the years as, “Crow Sting,” due to it’s similarities to Brandon Lee’s character Eric Draven from the 1994 film, The Crow. His motive was never clear. He was simply keeping watch over WCW and the nWo.

A vigilant eye

At Uncensored in March of 1997, Sting descended from the rafter, baseball bat in hand. It was on this night, Sting made his intentions clear. After disposing of the nWo, Sting pointed his bat at the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, Hulk Hogan.

Down from the heavens….

Without saying a word, Sting set-up one of the most important matches in World Championship Wrestling’s history.

In November of 1997, it was made official.

It was WCW vs the nWo. Good vs evil with the WCW World Championship on the line, live from the MCI Center in Washington DC at WCW Starrcade.

Sting vs Hollywood Hogan.

This was the biggest match of either man’s career.

And it failed.

Our 20th anniversary retrospective of WCW Starrcade: Sting vs Hogan leads us to the show itself. The heralded, “grand-daddy of them all,” WCW Starrcade.

Airing live from the MCI Center in Washington DC, Starrcade took place in front of sold out crowd roughly 17,500 fans, and the biggest buy rate in wrestling history to that point, a 1.9 (about 800,000 fans purchasing the pay per view for $39.95).

Fun Fact; The MCI Center had opened just 26 days prior, on December 2nd, 1997.

After eighteen months of anticipation, the time had finally come. The nWo storyline was at long last culminating with the biggest show in the company’s history. It was time for WCW to put up or shut up. It was time for Hollywood Hogan and Sting to lace up their boots and deliver the performance of lifetime.

Spoiler alert, they didn’t.

For years, the finish and aftermath of the main event has often been attributed to being the beginning of the downfall for WCW. Despite once again turning a profit, many fans and critics alike feel as though the quality of WCW’s programming fell dramatically in 1998. Regardless of where the downfall began, the company is dead so it’s somewhat of a moot point now.

Dead company or not, it still is extremely fascinating and important to wrestling history to dissect WCW’s death. Thus, I’m making it my job here to determine if the main event of this legendary show is the catalyst for the stagnation and monopoly of North American pro wrestling we have been suffering through for the last seventeen years.

Let’s not beat around the bush any longer; it’s main event time! Ladies and gentlemen, it’s WCW Starrcade 1997!

These people had no idea the significance of the event the were viewing, did they?

The show opens an amazing, iconic video package. We see Sting sulking around on what seems to be the roof of an abandoned building. As the raindrops fall and roll off his trenchcoat and paint covered face, we see images of broken mirrors fade to clips of Hollywood Hogan. The phrase, “He watches from the shadows flashes on to screen, as we then see Sting trample on a crumpled up photo of Hogan, and then reaches for his solid black baseball bat.

WCW’s production values were always inferior to the WWF, but this video is as good as anything the Fed was producing at the time.

“He’s witnessed the ruin of an empire,” flashes next, followed by, “Now he seeks the ruin, of one man.”

Batman?

A close up on Sting’s face zooms into the Starrcade logo in his eye, which fades to a shot of the crowd and Tony Schiavone welcoming us to the show!

The lights, the pyro, the set, the video package; all of it gives me goosebumps. This opening is great!

Our commentators tonight are Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Tony and Mike inform us that JJ Dillon has ruled that the referee for the Sting/Hogan match (previously slated to be Bret Hart before the ending of Nitro on Monday) will be randomly assigned.

Tenay looks so happy to be there.

We then see members of the WCW roster who are not booked in a match on this show are seen sitting in the crowd. It gives the impression that this show is so important, that the roster’s jobs depend on it. Good stuff.

Disco Inferno, the current TV champion, is just chilling in the audience next to a masked Mortis. Nice.
Match #1: WCW World Cruiserweight Championship – Eddie Guerrero (c) vs Dean Malenko

I am so excited for this. As Malenko makes his entrance, the commentators tell us that Kevin Trash won’t be here tonight. Good. Shame he didn’t miss the following year’s Starrcade.

Malenko out first; no vest, no words, no facial expression. The Ice Man indeed. Guerrero out second, with his amazing knock of “Low Rider” by WAR. He has the Cruiserweight title draped over his shoulder, which today would send geeks on Twitter into a blind rage about “disrespect” or some crap like that.

As the bell rings, Eddie is taunting Dean, using Charles Robinson as a shield. This distracts Dean long enough for Eddie to nail him from behind, starting us off hot. Some great mat wrestling between the two leads to Dean hammering away at Eddie’s face with some great looking punches. The two men exchange blows in the corner, before Dean nails a single leg dropkick for a two count.

Near fall!

Eddie gets the upperhand with some well timed reverses. He heads to the top rope for a hurricanrana, but Malenko counters into a powerbomb! Dean-O rolls up Eddie for a two, then lifts him up and MURDERS HIM with an Alabama slam! Some more grappling leads to Dean nailing a powerslam for another two. Latino Heat is getting pissed off, slamming the mat. He then runs out of the ring on his knees.

Let me repeat that; HE RUNS OUT OF THE RING, ON HIS KNEES. AMAZING. THIS MUST BE PRESERVED IN GIF FORM.

Guerrero heads for the hills, but eventually breaks the 10 count only to immediately slide in the ring. He slinks in while Dean has his back turned, only to chop block him from behind. Eddie stomps and twists Dean’s face for some good heat. Malenko blocks a suplex attempt, and drops Eddie on the top rope, gut first. Clothesline gets Malenko another near fall.

Stinko Malenko hammers away at the future Latino Heat.

Malenko throws Eddie high in the air and just drops him down. Guerrero begs off Malenko, who says to hell with you and kicks Eddie right in the mush. Tenay then mentions Malenko has an added incentive to win this match, as his wife had given birth to their first daughter on Christmas night.

Guerrero powders out again, but slowly saunters back as the two men start from square one with a test of strength. Eddie charges the Ice Man into the corner, but Malenko counters into a belly-to-back suplex for yet another near fall. Guerrero counters a suplex attempt, by dropping Malenko’s neck on the top rope. Eddie then stomps on his neck and the wraps Malenko’s knee around the post. He wedges Dean’s knee between the post and stairs, which Eddie dropkicks, seemingly destroying Malenko’s vertical base.

In the ring, Eddie slaps an odd submission on Dean, but quickly gives up and decides to just powerbomb him instead. Guerrero goes for another hurricanrana, but Dean just throws him away and pins Eddie for… a two count! Shocking, I know.

ANOTHER near fall!

Malenko then hits a backbreaker, but hurts his knee in the process. Eddie ascends the top rope, Dean cuts him off however, and drops Eddie facefirst down on the mat. Roll up by Malenko for two. BIG powerbomb from Dean wakes the crowd up. The Man of 1,000 Holds goes for the Texas Cloverleaf, but Eddie kicks him in the injured knee. Guerrero goes for a baseballs slide into the knee, but Malenko moves. Guerrero ascends the ropes again, and dropkicks Dean’s knee from the top. Eddie goes to the top one final time, as he nails the frogsplash for the three count and the victory!

FROGSPLASH!!!

A very good opener, though I can’t help but feel the wrong man won. On the biggest show of the years, ya gotta put some babyfaces over. Honestly, you could put this on and WWE pay-per-view today and it would totally fit in.

The nWo music hits, making me think I’m watching Nitro again. Scott Hall walks out, wearing the WCW World Tag Team Championship. It’s amazing to me that they couldn’t find a place for SCOTT HALL on the card for Starrcade. Talk about an oversight.

That face when you get paid twenty-five grand to put on a belt, a t-shirt and take a powerbomb.

Hall grabs a mic and does his usual shtick. The only difference is that WCW won the survey for once, though Hall doesn’t acknowledge that (total pro). Hall reports to the crowd that Kevin Nash won’t be there tonight. He doesn’t give a reason, because you can’t say “pot brownies” on television. Hall awards the match to the Giant on Nash’s behalf.

Suddenly out walks The Giant, looking annoyed. Giant calmly walks in as Hall begs off. The 7’4″, 500 lb. monster (WCW’s bio for the man, not mine) picks up the mic and forgives Nash for his absence, saying he wouldn’t want to wrestle himself either. He also claims he is patient and that, “I’ll be here in professional wrestling for a long time.” Well, wouldn’t ya know who won the pony. Giant says he’ll be ready for Nash when he does come back.

Hall throws the toothpick in Giant’s face and throws some punches. But Giant ain’t having none of that shit and headbutts, press slams, and then powerbombs Hall all the way to hell! The powerbomb instead of the chokeslam was an obvious message to Nash. This was a fun segment, though it would have been nicer of WCW to just have these two men wrestle instead of this cop out.

A clear message has been sent.
Match #2: Scott Norton, Vincent and “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs The Steiner Brothers and Ray Traylor

It’s amazing to me that Vincent was booked on this show and NOT Scott Hall.

Norton and Vince help Hall to the back after the powerbomb, immediately heading back to the ring. This caused the nWo B-team music to play for three uninterrupted minutes. Vincent’s gear is just jeans, and nWo shirt, elbow pads and wrist tape. Bush league.

Dave Penzer announces their partner as Konnan, but he is nowhere to be seen. The commentators put over the disorganization of the nWo.

The Steiners, DiBiase and Traylor all make one big entrance. Scott Steiner is in the middle of his transition to Big Poppa Pump. His mullet is gone and he has sprouted a goatee, but it’s all still black. Traylor is also huge. I’ve been watching Raw is War from 1998 lately and Ray Traylor is a full hundred pounds heavier here than he was as the Boss Man in the WWF.

Norton and Vince signal to the entrance way and Randy Savage makes a surprise entrance. Yes, RANDY SAVAGE WAS NOT BOOKED ON THIS SHOW.

“I’m not booked.” – Dennis Stamp

VINCENT AND KONNAN WERE ADVERTISED; SCOTT HALL AND RANDY SAVAGE WERE NOT. I CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW THIS COMPANY WENT UNDER.

Savage in the nWo didn’t ever work for me. The black and white color scheme really killed the creativity of his gear.

Savage and Scott Steiner kick things off… very slowly. Macho is about 40% bald at this point. Also, Scott and Rick are still rocking the mismatched boots, I love that. After two minutes, Savage and Scott finally lock up before exchanging slaps. Savage drops Steiner over the top rope, then chokes him in a double team move with Vincent. Norton is legal now and give Scott a big Samoan drop, followed by a backbreaker. Savage gets the tag and gives Scott’s back an axe-handle off the top. Savage goes for a back body drop, but Scott reverses into a big tiger bomb. Gorilla press slam from Steiner leads to all six men brawling in the ring, before the WCW team clears the ring and stands tall.

What a motley crew of wrestlers this match has.

Scott finally tags in Rick, who immediately gets his ass kicked by Scott Norton, but manages to get the upperhand with a powerslam for a two. Steiner tags in Boss Man to a surprisingly big reaction. Big clothesline to Norton for an even bigger reaction. Doesn’t last, as he is triple teamed in the corner. Virgil tags in and gets a big spinebuster for his troubles. He probably asked Traylor for $20. Vincent then throws some of the worst punches and kicks you’ll ever see. He truly is terrible. Traylor throws him down on the mat and tags in Scott, who happily suplexes Vincent, then slaps him in the head. Traylor back in, scoop slams Vincent then tags Rick, who headlocks Vince to kill the crowd.

More tag team chaos ensues until Norton tags Vincent in as he and Boss Man do a damn double down. Traylor sits up like Kane and tags in Rick who fights off all members of Team nWo, scoop slamming all of them while simultaneously waking the crowd up.

The Steiners hit a double team top rope DDT on Vincent and it looks so fucking COOL.

LOOK AT THIS

Sadly it’s not the finish as Norton makes the save. Scott hits a Frankensteiner on Vince but Savage breaks up the count this time. DiBiase hops on the apron, distracting the ref. Scott hits a t-bone suplex on Savage then goes for another Frankensteiner. Norton however grabs Scott from behind and puts him on his shoulders, then executes an electric chair. Savage hits his atomic elbow for the three and the win. Team nWo is victorious. Dusty and Tony put over the momentum this gives the nWo tonight.

This was way better than I expected, to be honest. That top rope DDT spot was sick!

Mean Gene Okerlund is standing by and plugs the WCW Hotline. 1-900-909-9900. Gene brings out JJ Dillon, the Chairman of WCW’s executive comity. He talks about the unity of the WCW roster and announces that NICK PATRICK HAS BEEN RANDOMLY SELECTED TO BE THE REFEREE FOR STING VS HOGAN.

Him?!??

YES, THE FORMER NWO REFEREE HAS BEEN RANDOMLY ASSIGNED AS THE REF FOR THE BIGGEST MATCH IN COMPANY HISTORY. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!?!?!?!??!?!!

Match #3: Bill Goldberg vs Steve “Mongo” McMichael

This is going to be the greatest match of all time.

It’s worth noting that in a year’s time, Goldberg will have gone from the third match on the card here to the main event. Goldberg is out first with no security or pyro. Also worth noting he is still being called “Bill Goldberg”, at this point. Mongo out next, being as awesome as always. I love Mongo, he’s so damn fun to watch.

BILL BILL BILL BILL

Goldberg meets Mongo in the aisle as the two men brawl. Bill throws Mongo into the barricade as they continue to brawl to the ring. Goldberg just lifts Mongo and carries him to the ring like a baby. Goldberg props a table on the ring post, remember that. The match finally enters the ring, as McMichael clobbers Goldberg in the corner. Irish whip leads to Mongo hitting a sidewalk slam for a two count. It’s odd to see Goldberg on defense so much this early into the run. There was no “streak” yet, he was just simply undefeated.

Goldberg ducks a clothesline and hits a shoulder tackle on Mongo for a two count. Bill tosses Steve out of the ring and hammers away at his back. He tries to ram Mongo’s head into the table (which is obviously already halfway cut in half) but McMichael blocks it. Mongo rams Bill’s head into the apron, then tosses him into the ring. Mongo then CLIMBS THE TOP ROPE, but Goldberg nails him in the stomach. Goldberg then very awkwardly applies a knee bar on Mongo. I mean really awkwardly, somehow Mongo landed on his head AND feet. That moves was way too complicated for these two clumsy men to execute properly.

Flying shoulder tackle from the Falcon to the Bear.

Goldberg eventually gives up on the knee bar and throws Mongo into the ropes, then shoulder checks him off his feet. He sends Mongo into the ropes and the hits a terrible spear for A TWO COUNT. Goldberg gets the table and sets it up right in front of the ring. He lifts Mongo, but McMichael counters into a two count before Goldberg can toss him out. Back to their feet, Goldberg gives Mongo a DROPKICK out of the ring. Jesus.

Mongo the repeatedly spears Goldberg through the ropes in front of the table, before Bill knees him in the face. And stunned McMichael gets punched in the face and falls through the table! Goldberg retrieves Mongo from the outside as Mongo NO SELLS the table. What in the blue hell!? McMichael calls for the tombstone, but his back gives out (hooray, selling). Goldberg hits the jackhammer for the three count and the victory! Bill is somehow bleeding from the head.

Down goes Mongo!

This started as so awesome, got really bad, got really good again, then fell off a cliff. This match was like a relationship that you *think* is going to be one that will lead to marriage, but then after about a year you realize, “Hey, maybe this ain’t so great.”

I’m bad at analogies.

Match #4: Raven’s Rules Match – Perry Saturn vs Chris Benoit

So this was being advertised as recently as Nitro on Monday as being Chris Benoit vs Raven. Raven saunters out with no music, which is really awkward. He grabs Penzer’s mic and sits in the corner, saying he wouldn’t conform to WCW rules and corporate structure. Raven also claims that his contract includes freedom to choose when, where and who he wrestles. He the announces that tonight he is choosing NOT to wrestle. Yet another person advertised for this show that didn’t have a match. Only in Atlanta. Raven also says that he has chosen Saturn to be his replacement in this match.

Perry Saturn makes his entrance, with his siren music that doesn’t have a drum beat behind it yet. It’s JUST sirens. Kill me. Saturn, state of your hair, mate. It’s just a tuft of balding hair on the top of his skull with the sides of his head shaved.

Just shave it, Perry.

Benoit out next. He still is normal-sized and had longish hair, so I can watch him without constantly thinking about the grizzly murders he would commit years later. To me, there’s something about WCW Benoit that is just different enough from WWF Benoit that makes these rewatches easier, I dunno.

Benoit grabs a mic and says, “Quote the Crippler, no more. I don’t look at reality through any veil, nor do I see the truth through any veil. It is what it is, things are as they are and I am who I am. When I rest, I rest in reason. When I move, I move in passion. And there’s nothing that I feel more passionate about than inflicting pain on the Raven.”

Dusty Rhodes then says, in the most deadpan manner possible, “Well, he laid that out.”

I fucking lost it with laughter.

I can in fact confirm, he laid that out.

Saturn charges Benoit and gets chopped. Benoit then beats the crap out of Saturn, with chops, kicks and punches.

I won’t lie, Benoit moves too fast for me. I’m not going to do a move-for-move here, just the basic outline. Saturn cuts off Benoit with a suplex and slows the pace, thank God. It doesn’t last, as  Benoit catches Saturn’s leg for a dragon screw. On the outside, Flock members Sick Boy and Kidman attack Benoit. Kidman hits a shooting-star-press off the apron on Benoit, which was really neat to see. In the ring, Saturn cinches in a headlock in an effort to catch his breath. Suplex to Benoit, followed by a big springboard moonsault. Both men are down so it take a while for Saturn to get the cover and when he does, Benoit gets a foot on the rope.

Perry hits a couple of knees to the gut of the Crippler. He goes for a third, but Benoit counters it into a pinfall for a two count. That was actually awesome! Saturn cuts him off with a lariat for a two count of his own however. Brainbuster from Saturn for yet another two count followed by a chin lock. Benoit ducks a lariat and catches Saturn for a sunset flip and yet another two count. Benoit knocks ol’ Perry off his feet with a lariat as both men are down.

Big clothesline to the Crippler!

Back on their feet, the two men takes turns with punches, kicks and chops. Saturn hits a nail in the coffin on the Crippler and slits his throat, signaling the end. Perry climbs the top rope, but Benoit cuts him off and sends Saturn to the outside. Chris attempts a baseball slide, but Saturn catches him and goes for a clothesline that Benoit reverses into a crossface on the outside. Riggs, Kidman and the rest of the Flock come out of the crowd and break up the submission however. Saturn attempts a springboard moonsault on the outside onto Benoit, but the rabid wolverine moves and Saturn takes out the entire Flock instead.

Benoit pulls Saturn back into the ring and nails him with a clothesline that turns Saturn upside down and inside out. Snap suplex, followed by Benoit slitting his throat and signaling for the end. He climbs to the top nails the diving headbutt about three quarters of the way across the ring. The Flock attacks Benoit before he can make the cover. Benoit manages to fight them off until Raven gets in the ring and hits the Evenflow DDT on Benoit. Saturn locks in the Rings of Saturn and the referee calls for the bell. Saturn wins by ref stoppage as the Flock stands tall. Match ends with Raven looking disapprovingly at Benoit.

This is an expensive ass DDT.

This was a fun match, but at times just felt like dudes doing a bunch of moves. The highest paid guy in this segment was Raven who did one move. Ahh, WCW.

Match #5: Lex Luger vs Marcus “Buff” Bagwell

Bagwell is out first to the nWo-B-Team music, for some reason. This match is fourth from the top, I think you can consider Bagwell a main event guy. Luger is out next as Tony reminds us that Luger was WCW World Heavyweight Champion only four-months ago. Now, he’s just a guy. This is actually a pretty fun storyline, with Bagwell claiming to be the “New Total Package.” It’s also fun foreshadowing of the formation of Totally Buff, which will take place three-years later at, well… WCW Starrcade!

So five minutes after Bagwell’s music hits, they lock up. The referee has to separate the two. Luger spits on Bagwell and Buff takes a bump for it, which is awesome. Luger hits a hip toss, scoop slam and gorilla press on Buff, before hitting him out of the ring.

Stall, Buff, stall!!!

Bagwell walks up the aisle and calls for Vincent to join him at ringside. So far, VINCENT has had more screen time than anyone else on Starrcade, the biggest show of the year. Bagwell stalls to get back into the ring, because this is WCW and it is mandatory that you stall at least once per match if you are over 235 pounds. Buff nails Luger in the gut and begins to build some momentum before tossing Luger outside. Luger makes a comeback however, as he throws Buff into the guardrail.

In the ring, the announcers have given up on this match and begin talking about Sting. Vince hops on the apron and Luger knocks him off. The distraction allows Bagwell to gain control again. Bagwell just does a bunch of moves and yells at the crowd. The crowd spots HACKSAW JIM DUGGAN sitting in the crowd and start chanting, “USA USA USA.” They also chant, “BOOKER T BOOKER T BOOKER T,” which is really cool.

Buff sends Luger into the corner, but Lex gets a boot up. Buff cuts him off and locks in a chin lockkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkwafomrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrea;;aerngjefognmrekjngvkjntgkjb;tndbn’nebb

Oh, sorry. I fell asleep on my keyboard.

Even the damn production team gets board, as they get a wide shot of the crowd.

Even the director got bored….

Luger gets a two count on a roll up out of nowhere, but Buff knocks him off his feet with a lariat. Bagwell then locks in another goddamn chinlock. My face is itchy from the beard I have grown during this match.

Lex finally mounts a comeback, but then Buff grabs Luger in a SLEEPER HOLD. AHHH.

Luger fights out of it though, thank God, and hits a back suplex. Bagwell is to his feet first, but Lex cuts him off and then punches him, followed by a back body drop that wakes up the crowd. Three clothesline and two atomic drops lead to Vincent hopping on the apron, but Lex knocks him down. Luger nails Buff with the forearm and calls for the torture rack. He… doesn’t give him the rack. Vincent climbs the top rope, but Luger throws him off onto Bagwell. Lex sends Virgil out and goes back to work on Bagwell.

Lex grabs the ref out of frustration, allowing Buff to jump into them and bumps the ref. Lex hits the powerslam and then locks in the torture rack. Randy Savage runs out of the back and attacks Luger, because why the fuck not? Luger press slams Savage and proceeds to lock Macho Man in the rack. SCOTT NORTON THEN COMES FROM THE BACK AND KNOCKS LUGER OUT WITH RICK STEINER’S DOG COLLAR. BAGWELL PINS LEX!

This broke me.

FUCK THIS SHOW. FUCK THIS MATCH. FUCK ALL YOU PEOPLE. THIS WAS HIDEOUS.

me @ this match
Match #6: WCW United States Heavyweight Championship – Curt Hennig (c) vs Diamond Dallas Page

Hennig out first with his “Hennig Bulge” in full force. Seriously, once you notice it, you can never unsee it. I also love the fact that, despite being in the nWo, Hennig is still rocking his trademark blue singlet. He don’t give a shit. Page out next, wearing his cleanest pair of dirty jeans. His ribs are also taped. Page’s rib injury is one of those famous wrestling injuries that just never seemed to heal; like Bob Orton’s are or D-Lo Brown’s chest.

If you love lock-ups, you’ll love this match.

Lock up followed by Page immediately rolling up Hennig for a two. Page then quickly tries for a Diamond Cutter, but Hennig powders out of the ring. Hennig pokes DDP in the eyes and begins to mount offense. Page reverses a headlock into a wristlock, then transitions back into a headlock. Perfect battles Page into the corner and begins chopping. Hennig goes for an Irish whip, but Page reverses it and catches Hennig out of the corner with a headlock take down into a two count. See Bagwell, this is how you do goddamn headlocks.

Hennig fights back to his feet, sends Page into the ropes but DDP counters the back body drop attempt by yanking Hennig back by the mullet. Page punches Perfect over the top rope and goes to the outside to bring Curt back in, but Hennig crushes Page’s throat on the top rope. Hennig then targets the injured ribs, eventually kicking Page out of the ring. The two brawl on the outside, as Perfect sends DDP into the steps. Back in the ring, Curt rips away at the ace bandages on Page’s ribs.

Hennig rams Page’s skull into the apron.

The pace slows as Perfect grabs a headlock. The announcers get bored and start talking about why Alex Wright is sitting next to James Vandenburg. Page eventually fights back to his feet and delivers a jaw breaker to Hennig. DDP and Hennig then trade blows back and forth before Page gets the better of him and again punches him out of the ring. Page then hits a beautiful dive to Hennig on the outside and sticks the landing on his feet. Impressive.

Air-Yoga!

Page tosses Hennig into the crowd, before quickly putting him back into the ring. Page yanks Perfect’s balls into the ring post. DDP goes for a Diamond Cutter but Hennig hangs onto the ropes. Perfect gets a two count. Curt Hennig argues with the ref allowing DDP to roll him up for a two count. Page rolls up Hennig in an inside cradle, Hennig kicks out, hits a clothesline for a two count. Curt goes for the Perfect-plex, but Page drives Hennig face-first down into the ground. Both men punch each other in the face as hard as possible and take a bump from it. That was awesome.

On their feet, Hennig sends page into the ropes, but Page catches Hennig with a Diamond cutter from outta nowhere! 1-2-3 and DDP is the new US Heavyweight Champion! The crowd loses their minds, and the commentators put over the victory as a huge swing of momentum for WCW.

Page exits through the crowd and holds the belt high above head.

Page’s crowd celebrations are the reason he is the REAL People’s Champion. When the hell did The Rock go through the crowd?

This match was basic, but it was also really good. These men are experienced professional wrestlers and the crowd was super into both of them. Hella good stuff.

Cut to the WCW Internet Booth, as we see Mark Madden interviewing Eddie Guerrero. I have no further comment on this.

Match #7 : Eric Bischoff vs Larry Zbyszko – Special Guest Referee: Bret Hart – Winner Gets Control of WCW Monday Nitro

Bret Hart out first and judging by his music and reaction, you’d never guess that this man had the potential to be the biggest star in this company. He still has a look of enthusiasm on his face. Trust me Bret, that’ll fade. One of the stories of this match is that we don’t know whose side Bret is on.

“Ain’t so bad here…yet….”

Bischoff is out next and his entrance theme is dubbed out with generic butt-rock on the WWE Network for some reason. It was on Nitro, so what gives?! Easy-E has Scott Hall with him here. Bischoff is shirtless, wearing a traditional karate gi with his black belt proudly displayed. What a mark, lol. Credit to Bischoff, this match predates Vince McMahon’s first match by five months. Larry Zbyszko is out next to the WCW Monday Nitro theme and has PYRO. CAUSE IF ANYONE NEEDS PYRO, IT’S LARRY ZBYSZKO. Oh, another stipulation here is that if Larry wins, he wrestles Scott Hall at the January pay-per-view, Uncensored.

LARRY IS HERE GET HYPED

Bret tells Larry to trust him and that he’s going to call this down the middle. This match deadass should be called, “Battle of the Dad-Bods.” The crowd chants Larry’s name as the bell sounds and we’re underway.

Bischoff is shadow boxing and throws some punches, while Larry smiles. Eric lands a punch and celebrates like he won the Super Bowl. Great stuff. Eric, state of your hair, mate. It’s like a junior mullet. Eric heads outside to recieve instruction from Hall, who tells him to do the Karate Kid crane kick. Larry gets frustrated and slaps Eric twice as Easy-E heads to the corner. Bischoff then, to his credit, knocks Larry off his feet with a roundhouse to the head. Zbyszko quickly gets back up and looks pissed.

Larry Zbyszko then says, “fuck it” and rushes Bischoff into the corner and begins beating the crap out of him.

He rubs Eric’s face in the mat, but Bret pulls Zbyszko off of Bischoff. The announcers get frustrated at Bret for DOING HIS JOB CORRECTLY. LARRY WAS CHEATING AND BRET STOPPED HIM. HOW DARE HE!? Larry “The Living Legend” catches Eric in a sleeper that Hart again breaks up, calling it a choke. Short arm-scissors takedown on Bischoff, who sells by screaming and flailing his legs. Hart, yet again, forces a break.

Bret doing his job? HOW DARE HE!!!

Larry and Bret go nose to nose, as I think about what a cool match that would have been at one point. Larry gives Eric a scoop slam and then applies a standing figure-four, but Bischoff gets to the ropes. Zbyszko targets Easy-E’s knee as Eric screams bloody murder and rolls outside. Larry comes after him and rams him into the ring post. Zbyszko gets back in and argues with Hart. Larry briefly goes outside, throws Eric into the stairs, then gets back into the ring.

Larry yanks him inside and goes to punch Eric in the corner, but Bret grabs his fist before he can follow through. At this point, the commentators are fully convinced Bret is with the nWo. The distraction of Bret allows Eric to sucker-kick Larry out of the corner. Bischoff hammers away at Zbyszko in the corner with punches and kicks. The crowd chant, “LARRY” again as Bischoff has straight up wore himself out. Zbyszko asks for more, but Eric is too weak. Larry gives Bischoff a big suplex as you can see giant welts on Eric’s back. Probably from the stairs and they look brizutal.

Swinging neck breaker on Bischoff, followed by Larry hanging Eric up in the tree of woe. Hall jumps on the apron but Zbyszko punches him off. Once again, Bret Hart pulls Larry back, allowing Hall to stuff Eric’s weird karate boot with a steel plate. Bischoff kicks Larry in the head, but the steel plate goes FLYING THIRTY FEET INTO THE CROWD. OH MY GOD, THAT IS AMAZING. HOW DID THEY NOT GET SUED!? Bret is dumbfounded by the kick that has knocked Zbyszko out.

Not Pictured: A hunk of metal that flew into the crowd and no doubt killed a small child.

Bret then goes to raise the hand of Bischoff as a sign of solidarity but SWERVE, he knocks Bischoff out instead. Hall gets in the ring and Bret knocks him on his ass followed by the SHARPSHOOTER! THE CROWD LOST THEIR DAMN MINDS HERE. Back on his feet, Larry chokes Eric with his own black belt. Bret then raises Larry’s hand and Zbyszko wins by TKO. Larry celebrates as Bret reties his tennis shoe.

I’ll give him credit, people love Larry Zbyszko.

This match… actually wasn’t that bad. I would expect a lot worse from Eric Bischoff, a forty-two-year-old untrained executive, but he did fine. The biggest thing I noticed in this match is that all four men involved were having a lot of fun. When the performers are having fun, I as a viewer have fun.

Main Event: WCW World Heavyweight Championship – Hollywood Hulk Hogan (c) vs Sting

Here we go, guys. All night long, all three commentators have been saying this is the biggest, most important match in WCW history. And goddamn, if that ain’t true, I don’t know what is. This match has had eighteen-months of build, eighteen-months of anticipation. This is something every fan had wanted to see since the moment Sting told WCW to “stick it” in September of 1996. This is the big one, for all of the marbles, if you will.

Michael Buffer always made things feel important.

Michael Buffer is doing the ring introductions, same as he did for every WCW pay-per-view main event. Buffer’s presence adds an element of importance other matches on this show didn’t have. You can see referee Nick Patrick pacing behind him almost as if he’s nervous.

Hollywood Hogan is out first, interesting considering he is the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He’s by himself; no member of the nWo accompanying him, which is rare for this time. Hogan and Patrick go face to face, as you can see Hogan visibly say the word, “Nah.”

Now for this next part, I highly suggest watching this entrance in the dark. Maybe a small light on next to you. The glow of your television should be the brightest thing around you.

A deep, slow stringed instrument begins to play, as lightning and thunder crashes all around. We see a large screen, high above the crowd with images of scorpions being projected onto it.

Lazers are cool.

A child’s voice is heard with the following monologue:

“When a man’s heart is full of deceit…
It burns up, dies…
And a dark shadow falls over his soul…
From the ashes of a once great man, has risen a curse…

A wrong that must be righted…
We look to the skies for a vindicator, someone to strike fear into the black hearts
of the same man who created him… The battle between good, and evil has begun…
Against an army of shadows, lies a dark warrior…

The prevailer of good…
With a voice of silence…
And a mission of justice…
This is Sting.”

For the first time in eighteen-months, The Franchise of World Championship Wrestling makes his entrance down the aisle.

This is as epic as any Undertaker entrance ever. Fight me.

Very different from typical WCW, the announcers stay silent. Hogan is not his normal, cartoonish self. Instead, he is focused, staring a hole into Sting.

Sting has returned to save WCW from the New World Order. Will he succeed?

Sting and Hogan stare at each other. The bell sounds and Hogan pushes Sting away. Hollywood removes his bandanna at Sting, who retaliates by slapping Hogan. Tony and Tenay question whether ring rust will affect Sting’s performance in this match.

Perhaps the most iconic stare-down in WCW history.

The two men lock horns and Hogan takes Sting into the corner, going for a punch, but Sting blocks and hits one of his own. “Hogan Sucks” chant echos through the building. Hogan pulls Sting in with a demand of a test of strength but Hollywood kicks him right in the gut to begin his beat down. Hogan clobbers at Sting while yelling, “Come on, hero!”

Hogan hits a slam and goes to drop an elbow three times, but Sting rolls out of the way of all of them. On his feet, Sting lands a dropkick and sends Hogan to the outside. Hogan saunters back into the ring and we’re back at square one as Hogan goes for a side headlock. Sting sends him off the ropes but Hogan knock him down with a shoulder tackle. On their feet, Hogan goes into the ropes and Sting leapfrogs him, followed by two consecutive dropkicks, the second of which sends Hogan out again. The Stinger now grabs a side headlock. Patrick asks Hogan if he submits, Hollywood responds with, “I’ll never give up.”

Word.

Hogan powers out, but Sting takes him down with a shoulder block. Back on his feet, Hogan clotheslines Sting, taking him down. Big suplex to Sting, who no sells it, immediately stands up and tells Hogan to suck it. Hulk begs off and Sting unloads on him in the corner, but gets a poke in the eye, cutting him off. Hogan shit cans Sting outside and rams him headfirst into the World Title. Hogan then hits Sting in the back of the head with a baseball bat which somehow ISN’T a DQ. OKAY. Sting gets sent shoulder first into the ring post. Hogan grabs an nWo shirt and taunts Sting with it.

Wouldn’t it be funny if that WASN’T an nWo shirt?

Eventually, Sting fights back and sends Hogan into the guardrail ribs first. Sting charges in with a Stinger splash, but Hogan moves out of the way and Sting hits hella hard. Hollywood lifts Sting up and crotches him on the guardrail. Ouch. Hogan puts Sting back into the ring and hits an atomic drop. I should mention, due to the stoic character Sting is portraying, he isn’t verbally selling anything. You think it’s not that big a deal but not hearing grunts and screams can really diminish the impact of a move. Makes me glad he quickly went back to a version of the character that could show emotion. As great as Crow Sting was for the past eighteen months, it’s seemingly very limiting in-ring for someone as animated as Steve Borden. I dunno, food for thought.

Hollywood chokes Sting with his foot in the corner.

Hogan nails the big boot on Sting. He signals for the legdrop; which would no doubt end the match.

Hogan hits the legdrop on Sting and makes a cover…

1

2

3

Hollywood Hogan pinned Sting clean in the middle of the ring in the main event of Starrcade 1997. Eighteen-months of build have all just gone down the drain.

The hero of WCW… has failed.

BUT LET’S JUST PRETEND THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN REAL QUICK, ‘AIGHT?

Hogan beat Sting, clean as a sheet. Yikes.

So, Bret Hart is now at ringside and prevents David Penzer from ringing the bell to end the match. Bret grabs a mic and says, “I said it was never going to happen again, and it’s not going to happen again.”

He of course is referencing the Montreal Screwjob from one month prior, where Bret Hart was screwed out of the WWF title without his consent.

Hart yells at Nick Patrick for making a fast count, but Patrick says it was a normal three count. AND IT FUCKING WAS. BUT THAT DOESN’T STOP BRET FROM KNOCKING HIM OUT. Now I will say, Nick Patrick’s sell of the punch is the funniest goddamn thing I have ever seen in my life. It makes the six+ hours of my life I dedicated towards writing this all worth it.

Nick Patrick is the best bumper in the business.

Hart chases down Hogan and throws him back in the ring. Hart, acted as an official earlier in the night, which means he is allowed to take Patrick’s place in officiating this match. Wow, that actually makes sense. I feel shocked.

Sting fires the fuck up and makes the greatest comeback of his career. Scott Norton and Buff Bagwell hit the ring but are quickly disposed of. Two Stinger splashes followed by the Scorpion Deathlock. Hogan SAYS YES AND GIVES UP. HART RINGS THE BELL.

STING HAS DEFEATED HOLLYWOOD HOGAN AND HAS WON THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THIS WORLD. KINDA.

This, while tainted, is cool.

Lex Luger and The Giant hit the ring, followed by the rest of the WCW roster. Both babyfaces and heels alike come together in the middle of this ring. For the first time since Bash at the Beach 1996, WCW stands tall… together. As one. United against the same cause. On this night, the biggest star in the wrestling world was Sting. The biggest company on planet Earth was World Championship Wrestling. The WWF didn’t matter. Steve Austin didn’t matter. Hogan didn’t matter. The nWo didn’t matter.

All that mattered was WCW and Sting.

And it was tainted.

Even if just for a night, Sting was the biggest star in the world.

The story of what exactly happened in the main event of Starrcade 1997 has often been debated and the “real” explanation is something we may never know. Several rumors and theories have been presented, here are a few:

Hogan Bribed Nick Patrick – This is the most popular and commonly believed story, and for good reason. The theory is that Hollywood Hogan (wanting to give the impression that he had Sting beat) PAID referee Nick Patrick a high sum of money to not count the 1-2-3 in a fast cadence as had previously agreed to. The reason this is so popular and believed is that it sounds like something Hogan would do. We have dozens of examples of Hogan not losing to an opponent clean. The Hulkster knew his star power, and used his political stroke and power to look strong, even in defeat. Now, do I personally believe this? No, I don’t. It sounds too obvious. It sounds too fake. The Sopranos are more likely to have this story in a season finale than this happening in wrestling. Even with Hogan involved.

Eric Bischoff Changed the Plans – This one is a rumor within a rumor. Eric Bischoff has gone on record of saying that one of the issues with this match was Sting’s physical condition. Steve Borden has openly admitted the year he spent out of the ring, his personal life was in shambles, and he wasn’t in the greatest place mentally. Bischoff’s exact quote is that when he saw Sting in his gear on the day of Starrcade, “He looked like he hadn’t picked up a weight in months.”

To be fair, his arms did look a bit flabby. Regardless, the rumor is that upon seeing him, he said, ” Hey, lets screw this Sting guy!” He then allegedly instructed Nick Patrick to NOT fast count as previously discussed. Now, do I believe this one? Hell no! Quite frankly, this one is really stupid and has never been reported anywhere reputable.

Nick Patrick Simply Forgot to Fast Count – THIS is the one I believe holds the most water. Nick Patrick is a somewhat polarizing figure in wrestling history. Despite being a prominently featured referee for the better part of two decades; he’s terrible. You ever see him slap the mat? It’s infuriating. Not to mention, Patrick is notorious for blowing spots. I truly believe that Nick Patrick simply forgot to perform a fast count. Now, the residual effects of this match should not be solely blamed on Patrick. But that doesn’t change the fact the he should take some blame on this. Or, better yet, MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T DO THIS SPOT.

Is THIS MAN really to blame for this? Did he just make a simple mistake?

The aftermath of Hogan vs Sting is felt by many to be the beginning of the end for World Championship Wrestling. Personally, I don’t think so. WCW turned a profit and were selling out 20,000 seat arenas on a weekly basis the following year in 1998. The main event of Starrcade 1998 of Kevin Nash vs Goldberg is far more to blame for the death of WCW.

So, what should this match have been? It’s simple; Hogan kicks Sting’s ass for five minutes, Sting makes a comeback and fights off the entire nWo one last time, locks in the Scorpion Deathlock, and Bret Hart rings the bell after Hogan taps out clean.

IS THAT SO HARD!?

I think the biggest causality of the Starrcade ’97 main event is Sting. For eighteen-months before this show, he was the biggest star in wrestling. After this show? He was just a star. I wrote a whole article about Sting’s descent, if you’re so curious.

This is a result of the botched finish of Starrcade 1997.

Oh, one more thing. Some may consider this a controversial opinion, but I believe it holds water…

The nWo should have ended at Starrcade.

Yes, I know the nWo were still extremely popular and making money hand over fist, but the STORY had ran it’s course. They had controlled WCW and beat the story like a drum. We were told continuously that NO ONE could stop the nWo. But Sting (in theory) did!

Sting should have killed the nWo definitively.

If the nWo storyline concluded on this night, it would have spared us the nWo Hollywood vs nWo Wolfpac feud from the next year. Imagine how nice that would have been.

All of the hype, all of the promises and all of the logic that had been put into the build for this show, was effectively shot in the ass because of this show.

WCW Starrcade 1997 is the biggest show in WCW’s history. And save for a few good matches, it failed in its mission. If I were a WCW fan who paid for this show and got what we got here, I’d have been pissed. And I would have been even more pissed when WWF WrestleMania XIV the next year more then delivered on their promises and mission.

1,184 Days after Starrcade 1997; Vince McMahon appears on WCW Nitro, announcing the WWF buyout.

The biggest failure of Starrcade was that it killed most, if not all, of WCW’s credibility.

WCW let their fans down. And THAT folks, was their undoing.

Twenty years later, and it’s still so depressing.

Oh, what could have been….

 

29 COMMENTS

  1. Sting also looked underwhelmed and underprepared for his match. Compare his physique to 18 months prior despite the positive gimmick change. Its been knows since that his personal life was suffering via divorce and he’d developed substance addiction. This was all conveniently masked during the 15 months prior of not wrestling and doing run ins/coming thru rafters.

    When he turned up at Starrcade paler and losing the physique under the trench coat, Hogan changed course (although , in my opinion, he should have stuck the course).

    They did eventually get it right 2 months later at Superbrawl where Sting defeated Hogan in a good match for the vacant WCW title. I think Savage did interfere for Sting but it was a cleaner finish where Sting ended up spray painting WCW on Hogan’s body. This is what should have happened at Starcade.
    However too little too late.

  2. Hogan paid off Nick Patrick to count normal instead of fast. That count was the beginning off the end of WCW. Sting to this day has too much class to say even a single word about being backstabbed by Hollywood

  3. One of the most hyped matches ever.one of the best but the botched finish was a low point otherwise it could’ve been the best match in WCW history and a top 10 match in all of wrestling history. Either way it was one of my favorites!!

  4. Nash and Hogan talked about changing wrestling but all they did was show why you don’t let the talent run the show. Took how long from Hollywood Hogan to doors closing?

  5. The very thing that saved WCW(Hogan) heel turn, killed it by not putting Sting over clean. The fans deserved to win that through their hero, when they didn’t they turned the channel to Austin and WWE for good.

  6. Sting should have kicked Hogans ass for the first few minutes until Hogan regained the momentum with a low blow or cheating somehow. Sting can do the comeback until the nWo distract him and then Hogan hits the leg drop and the commentators sell it like it’s all over and then Sting kicks out at 1 (or 2 if you don’t want to kill the move) . Sting hulks up and Stinger Splash, Scorpion Death Drop and then the nWo interfere only for Sting to fight them all off. Hogan begs off,Scorpion Deathlock and Sting wins.

    Same result with no controversy, no screwed up count and no need for Brets involvement at all. Plants the seeds for nWo splitting up with Hogan blaming them for not helping him retain.

  7. Did it not bother anybody else that Sting’s jacket was hanging off of his right shoulder slightly during his entrance? Still bugs me to this day.

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