Alright, RetroView fans, we’ve finally made it to the big one. Today we look at the conclusion of one of WCW’s biggest and best storylines ever told. Unfortunately for us WCW fans, the conclusion, which should have been simple to tell, is an absolute mess. That’s right; today, I am talking about WCW Starrcade 1997. Headlining the biggest event in company history is Sting versus Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship.
But, with the build from the formation of the nWo to this point, more than just the World Title was at stake. This was built as the moment that would either save WCW or be the final nail in their nWo spray-painted coffin. After a dramatic opening video complete with rain, an abandoned building, and Sting lurking in the shadows, we cut to the arena. Immediately, announcer Tony Schiavone tells us…
“Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to the biggest night in the history of our grand sport.”
Joining Schiavone on commentary is Dusty Rhodes and Mike Tenay.
The trio discusses the nWo’s concerns as to who will referee the main event. Something JJ Dillon will take care of with a random draw out of a hat for who will referee the match. Both Rhodes and Tenay agree about the magnitude of the main event. Rhodes delivers the goods, talking about how destiny has brought Sting and Hogan here tonight. All three are great at building up the magnitude of the main event.
WCW Starrcade 1997
WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match
Eddie Guerrero © vs. Dean Malenko
Now, this is how you open your biggest show of the year. Two of the greatest in-ring technicians, in their prime, fighting for a championship. Both men are all business as they make their entrance. Chain wrestling begins the match, but before long, Dean Malenko levels Guerrero with a series of right hands. The crowd erupts when Malenko counters Guerrero’s attempt for a head scissors take over into a vicious powerbomb.
After a series of counters by both men, we get a stalemate. The crowd gives both men a raucous ovation in appreciation. From this match turns into a great game of one-upmanship, both men shining within their element. Guerrero is fantastic as the heel, even kissing Malenko’s feet in an attempt for mercy. Malenko, always the stone-cold killer, pulls off every move with extra intensity.
Guerrero sets up his eventual victory by placing Malenko’s knee between the ring and the metal steps and then dropkicks the steps into Malenko’s limb. The injured knee continues to hinder Malenko. Guerrero wins after a dropkick to the knee from the top turnbuckle is followed by his patented frog splash.
Winner – Eddie Guerrero
Before we get to the next match, the nWo music begins to play. None of the announcers are happy about this, referencing the nWo’s recent takeover of Nitro. Scott Hall saunters down to the ring, and Schiavone ponders if he’s going to update everyone on the status of Kevin Nash.
Hall takes his usual survey, but this time it’s pretty even for both groups. He then tells the audience Nash won’t be there tonight.
This news brings out the Giant, who was scheduled to wrestle Nash. The Giant tells Hall he will eventually get his hands on Nash and that he’s the real Giant. Hall attempts to attack the Giant but is quickly met with a full-body press then jack-knife powerbomb. Finally, the Giant calmly leaves an unconscious Hall in the ring.
WCW Starrcade 1997
Six-Man Tag Match
Scott Norton, Vincent, Macho Man Randy Savage vs. The Steiner Brothers & Ray Traylor
It’s weird that Macho Man is relegated to a six-man tag match with two of the nWo’s bottom-tier guys. One would think a huge event like this; Savage would be in a high-profile match. If only WCW had just recently acquired a legendary Canadian wrestler….Originally Konnan was supposed to be in this match, making it even crazier that Savage wasn’t even scheduled on the show. Savage and Scott Steiner begin the match.
The nWo team holds the early advantage, focusing their attack on Steiner’s back. Steiner eventually fights his way out of the attack with a full-body press of Savage. This brings everyone in the ring, and the WCW trio cleans the house. After regrouping, the nWo brings in Scott Norton, WCW counters with Rick Steiner. Steiner pulls off an impressive power slam on the massive Norton before tagging in Ray Traylor. When Vincent tags in, WCW takes full control.
All three WCW guys get their licks in on the nWo’s weakest member. Eventually, all hell breaks loose, and WCW looks to have it won twice. Once, after the Steiner’s hit their double team DDT from the top turnbuckle. Then after Scott Steiner hits a Frankensteiner on Vincent from the top turnbuckle, both times an nWo member stops the three count.
The nWo gets the win after Norton denies Scott Steiner’s next Frankensteiner attempt allowing Savage to hit his elbow drop for the win.
Winners – Team nWo
Next up, we get our first Mean Gene WCW Hotline plug. He talks about the new faces in the WCW locker room, but you have to call in to find out who. Next, Okerlund brings out WCW official J.J. Dillon to talk about what’s on the line tonight for WCW. Dillon then announces that Nick Patrick was the name randomly selected to referee the main event.
Bill Goldberg vs. Steve Mongo McMichael
This is a match early in the streak of Goldberg, and he comes out sans the security and pyro that became a staple of his entrance. Mongo enters second, and Schiavone mentions how this should have happened at World War 3. Goldberg meets Mongo down the aisle way, and the two start “throwing leather,” as Dusty Rhodes eloquently puts it.
When they make their way ringside, by making their way, I mean Goldberg carries Mongo to the ring, Goldberg sets a table up outside the ring. The two hit each other with power moves and have a surprisingly competitive match. Goldberg eventually knocks Mongo off the ring through the table, eliciting a small contingent of ECW chants. After a failed tombstone pile driver attempt by Mongo, Goldberg gets the win in just under six minutes.
Winner – Bill Goldberg
Up next is a Raven’s Rules match between Perry Saturn and Chris Benoit. Saturn gets the win after an assist from Raven in the form of his Even Flow DDT.
Lex Luger vs Buff Bagwell
It’s the next nWo versus WCW match, and Bagwell makes his way out first. Bagwell comes in with a 3-0 record against Luger, something Schiavone equates to count outs and disqualifications. Luger comes out and, as the norm during this WCW run, receives a loud ovation from the crowd. Tenay makes note that Luger is determined to get a clean victory over Bagwell.
This is your basic Luger vs. Buff match. Both men use their power to impressive results. They both have great physiques, and they tell a solid story of Luger trying to shut Bagwell’s big mouth. The finish comes when Bagwell’s nWo mates Savage and Norton interfere on his behalf. Unfortunately, their assistance allows Bagwell to get a tainted victory with the use of Rick Steiner’s dog collar.
Winner – Buff Bagwell
WCW Starrcade 1997
WCW United States Championship Match
Curt Hennig © vs. Diamond Dallas Page
This was originally supposed to be Hennig versus Ric Flair, but an injury kept the Nature Boy from competing. Hennig comes out first, and I have to reiterate, Hennig being in the nWo just never fit in my opinion. Diamond Dallas Page enters and is met with a thunderous “DDP, DDP, DDP” chant. It’s pretty cool to see his emergence as the People’s Champion in WCW.
Both bring such a different approach to the ring, but the contrast in styles work well together. Hennig has the technical acumen, and Page the consummate brawler. It’s quickly apparent that Page’s injured ribs are Hennig’s focus. Hennig even throws Page into the steel steps on the outside after the fight spills ringside. Page plays the never say die hero so well. He takes a ton of punishment but never gives up.
When he starts his comeback, which includes a brief scuffle in the crowd, the audience gets behind him even more. Hennig gets a great near fall after countering the Diamond Cutter by holding onto the top rope. Page gets the win when he’s able to hit a Diamond Cutter out of nowhere, much to the delight of the audience and our WCW announcing trio. This is DDP’s first major singles championship, and he celebrates it with the people.
Winner – Diamond Dallas Page
Control of WCW Monday Nitro on the line
Larry Zbyszko vs Eric Bischoff w/ Scott Hall
Special Guest Referee Bret Hart
Hart comes out first, and the crowd erupts. Bischoff comes out next, complete with a smug grin on the most punchable face in pro wrestling. Finally, Zbyszko comes out to the Monday Nitro theme. A boisterous “Larry” chant comes from the crowd.
Zbyszko looks to be in great shape for not having wrestled for years. Bischoff lands a quick right hand and celebrates like he knocked his opponent out. Bischoff and his martial arts approach keeps Zbyszko at arms reach early on.
Side note: Re-watching this and keeping an eye on Hart, you can just tell how uninterested he is as a referee.
Finally, Zbyszko gets his hands on Bischoff, quickly taking him down and applying a bevy of submission holds. Hart’s continued stoppage of Zbyszko’s submission holds for being chokeholds raises the ire of Zbyszko and the WCW announcers. However, Bischoff eventually gets control with a flurry of kicks.
This is met with even louder “Larry” chants from the crowd. With Bischoff landing a plethora of kicks and punches, it becomes apparent that Zbyszko was rope doping him. Finally, an exhausted Bischoff finds himself the victim, a standing suplex and swinging neck breaker.
When Zbyszko attempts to put Bischoff in the tree of woe, Hart pulls him away. The brief distraction allows Scott Hall to insert a metal plate inside of Bischoff’s karate shoe. Which is then followed up with a head kick by Bischoff. Hart realizing the shenanigans lands a hard right hand on Bischoff before putting Hall in the sharpshooter. Hart’s choice to align with WCW elicits the loudest reaction of the night. The match ends with Hart raising Zbyszko’s hand in victory.
Winner – Larry Zbyszko
WCW Starrcade 1997
WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match
Hollywood Hulk Hogan © vs. Sting
With DDP’s win, the WCW announcers head into the main event full of confidence. The traditional three bell ring brings in Michael Buffer. The world’s most famous ring announcer does a fantastic job hyping the match, telling the fans…
“We are going to witness the most anticipated match in the history of professional wrestling.”
Hollywood Hogan makes his entrance; first, the overly cocky champion walks out to a chorus of boos.
Side note: Heel Hogan is the best
Now it’s time for Sting’s entrance, and this is where my first complaint comes in. The camera pans up to the rafters, the promo with a child’s voice describing Sting plays, and a light show is presented. This is all great, but Sting simply walks out from the locker room. I mean, he had been coming down from the rafters for over a year, and WCW chose to have him just walk out on the grandest stage of them all. No grand entrance here, just the most basic entrance ever; talk about a disappointment.
However, the in-ring stare down between the two legends is great. It’s an iconic shot capturing the gravitas of the situation. Hogan shoves Sting before throwing his bandana in his face. After a collar and elbow tie-up, Sting lands the first punch of the match. Hogan’s reaction to the punch elicits a “Hogan sucks” chant from the crowd.
Nefarious means gives Hogan the early advantage; the whole time, the nWo leader trash-talks Sting. The early assault is halted by a dropkick from Sting. Regrouping, Hogan rolls to the outside to gather his composure. A pair of dropkicks sends Hogan back to ringside again. Once again, he gathers his composure, trash-talking the ringside fans the entire time. Hogan thinks he steals the momentum back with a vertical suplex, but Sting immediately pops up from the move.
WCW Starrcade 1997 – Hogan vs. Sting
However, Sting’s momentum is quickly forgotten when Hogan once again takes control. The fight spills to the ringside, where Hogan hits Sting with his own baseball bat. Sting misses a Stinger Splash on the guardrail before Hogan racks him on it. A few minutes later is where things get a bit dicey. Hogan hits his patented big boot, then leg drop, before making the cover.
Referee Nick Patrick makes the three count, a regularly timed three count. As the announcers and crowd are stunned by this, the camera cuts to Bret Hart, who is stopping the timekeeper from ringing the bell. Proclaiming it was a fast count, we hear Bret make mention…
“He’s not going to let something like this happen again.”
Hart then physically forces Hogan back into the ring and restarts the match. A fired-up Sting hits a Stinger Splash, bringing out Norton and Bagwell; they are dispatched easily before Sting hits a second splash. Sting then locks in the Scorpion Deathlock, and Hogan submits to end WCW Starrcade 1997.
The crowd erupts, Bret hands Sting the belt, and the WCW roster enters the ring in celebration.
Winner – Sting
During the very first time I watched this, a 13-year old me went crazy celebrating with my friends. Watching it now, it just feels like a blown opportunity to put one of the final nails in the nWo storyline. A convoluted ending to what should have been a simple hero’s victory for the man called Sting.
Alright, folks, next time we enter WCW 1998 and the second Souled Out pay-per-view.