Throwback Thursday: WCW Starrcade 1998
Maybe this is where it started. Maybe this is the first day WCW took a down turn. Maybe this is the one day we can point to and say, “this was the beginning of the end.”
With the WWE recently running the first Starrcade-branded show in seventeen years, we revisit one of the most controversial iterations of the legendary pay-per-view.
Tony Schiavone dubbed it the “Granddaddy of Them All” when he opened WCW’s Starrcade 1998 from the MCI Center in Washington D.C.
“In a city where the fate of the world is decided on a daily basis, the fate of WCW, the nWo, and the world title, that has been in existence since 1905, will be decided at the MCI Center. Welcome to the Granddaddy of them All. Ladies and Gentlemen, Starrcade 1998 is on the air!”
Schiavone was joined by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and “The Professor” Mike Tenay. The card had some serious star power, as Goldberg was putting his streak, and his World Championship, on the line against Kevin Nash; Ric Flair was facing Eric Bischoff with the Presidency of WCW or something on the line; and Diamond Dallas Page was taking on The Giant, because The Giant cost DDP the US Championship.
The Cruiserweight Championship would be defended when Billy Kidman took on… more on that later. Norman Smiley and Prince Iaukea had a match because of reasons. There was a tag team match that had zero impact on the tag team division. Perry Saturn faced The Cat (Ernest Miller) because, once again, reasons.
Konnan (yes, the very same leader of LAX on Impact Wrestling) faced Chris Jericho (lead singer of Fozzy; I think he wrestled for someone else, too) for the Television Title. By my count, ten either Hall of Famers or soon-to-be Hall of Famers were on the card.
The Cruiserweight Championship
The show began with its best match. Kidman defended his Cruiserweight Championship against Juventud Guerrera and Rey Mysterio Jr. It was a well-fought match with near falls coming every 30 seconds or so, it seemed.
Let’s give a little background. The cruiserweight division was dominated by a faction called the Latino World Order; leading this rogue faction of luchadors was Eddie Guerrero. Guerrero had just had a falling out with Rey, leading to Rey leaving the group. The LWO was guaranteed a spot in this match, so when Rey left the group, Juve was brought in.
Before we get to the action, it is worth noting that this is one of the first times Rey was billed from San Diego, California. Apparently, the change wasn’t told to Schiavone, who still referred to him as being from Tijuana, Mexico.
The match featured what you would expect from the likes of these three. The action was definitely eye popping in moments; dropkicks, head scissors and hurricanranas were the moves du jour for this contest.
The biggest move came late in the match. With both Juve and Rey on the outside, Kidman ascended the turnbuckles and hit a beautiful Shooting Star Press from the top rope to the floor on the outside. It looked as impressive as it was athletic.
As Kidman pulled Juve into the ring, out came the leader of the LWO, Eddie Guerrero. The ref was distracted with Eddie long enough for Juve to guillotine Kidman on the top rope. Juve would go for a Sunset Flip, but Kidman countered into a pin attempt.
As soon as this happened, the ref left Eddie, mid-conversation, to check on Rey, selling a knee injury. Eddie rushes into the ring and throws down Kidman. Juve goes for the pin, but making the save is Rey. A kick to Juve broke the count, and it came with so much force that Kidman was able to roll through and pin Juve to retain the belt.
Post-match, Guerrero was burning with rage. He would go on for over three minutes on the mic, verbally berating Juve, Rey, and “that pretty boy” Kidman. This led up to him challenging Kidman to a match right then and there.
The Cruiserweight Championship: take II
As good as the first match was (rated 4.5 stars by Dave Meltzer), the second one was almost as good. Eddie and an exhausted Kidman told a great story in the ring, and the added elements of Juve, very much in the LWO camp, and Rey, who openly helped Kidman, made it all the better.
About halfway through the match, Eddie decided to take off one of his boots. I guess since it had a steel toe, bouncing it off Kidman’s skull could have been advantageous. He would do just that, but only once. As he was going to clock him with it a second time, Rey got his attention, and Eddie chucked the boot at his longtime friend.
Kidman played the exhausted guy really well, and Eddie was a master at being the heel as he was for most of his career. The match ended when Eddie’s bodyguard got involved. He distracted Charles Robinson enough that Juve could push Kidman, crotch first, onto the turnbuckle. Eddie would go up for a high-risk move, and this time it would be Rey who would do that to Eddie.
Eddie would knock down Juve on his way to the testicle/top rope meeting. He would fall in the perfect spot, and Kidman would nail another beautiful Shooting Star Press to retain the Cruiserweight belt.
The next thing shows how far apart the WWF and WCW truly were. They aired a video package hyping tonight’s main event. This video package was without dialogue, and the images were set on clouds rolling through the sky. They didn’t look particularly ominous either. It was as if someone spent an entire day looking up at partly cloudy sky. I think I could have made better with Windows Movie Maker back in 1998.
Has anyone heard of these guys?
The next contest was between Norman Smiley and Prince Iaukea. I wish I could give you some background as to why this match took place. I wish I could tell you anything about these guys. Iaukea was once a former TV Champ. Smiley is apparently a submission guy who has been around the world.
In the 11:31 during which the match took place (which was longer than the main event of the evening), this was all that was said by the three men on the commentary team. Most of the time this match was going on, Schiavone, Tenay, and Heenan talked about the matches coming up at the end of the show.
That is a shame too. While this match was not great, it was still watchable. Smiley was over with the crowd. While Iaukea fell short, and was dominated in most of the match, there was no mention of him, other than he was a former TV Champ. Smiley got some love, albeit between hearing how “pumped” the guys were about Goldberg and Nash.
Smiley won the match by submission. WCW obviously did not care about this match, and neither should we. The worst part was, it showed exactly why people left WCW. The undercard was treated as a chance to hype the main event, rather than being treated on its merits. Iaukea and Smiley deserved better.
Scott Hall wants 1998 to end already
The next segment was something I am not quite sure what to make of. Scott Hall came out with no music, no announcement by either Dave Penzer (WCW’s main ring announcer) or Michael Buffer (the big match announcer), and donning nWo Wolfpac colors on his Outsiders shirt.
The promo he cut reflected a lot of WCW stories of the time, blurring the lines of kayfabe and reality. When he mentioned Kevin Nash, the crowd cheered, which speaks to how over the nWo was.
“I ain’t the smartest guy in the world, but I ain’t got nothin’ to prove to Kev. I ain’t got to prove nothin’ to you. There is only one guy I got to prove somethin’ to, and he’s 6’6”, more handsome than ten movie stars, and his name is Scott Hall. So, I can’t wait to kiss 1998 goodbye, ’cause I guarantee you, 1999 is my year.”
Sorry Mr. Hall. It was not.
Here comes another video package in the clouds – I would really like to know why. There was no lightning, there was nothing to indicate this was more than someone daydreaming over a time-elapsed camera. Could it be this was made to look like a dream because it was a dream match?
The following contest featured Perry Saturn – before The Flock gave him purpose, before he found his soul mate in a janitorial closet – taking on Ernest “The Cat” Miller, who had Sonny Onoo as a manager. The Cat was a three-time karate champion. He was working angles on the mic similar to what the Miz has perfected. If there was ever a match that screamed “middle of the hour time filler on Thunder”, this was it.
It was largely unremarkable. The Cat played the timid heel. Saturn seemed genuinely disinterested with the whole thing. It did see Onoo accidentally kick Miller, who returned the favor on purpose (if no one screamed “Oh no” when Onoo did that, it was truly an opportunity lost for human kind.) Saturn would win the match with a Death Valley Driver.
After this match, we saw Mean Gene introduce Ric Flair in all his sequined robe glory.
“Meeeeeeeeean, WOOOOOOO, by God Gene, WE HAVE FIN-ALLY ARRIVED! WOOO!”
Mean Gene interviewed Flair, saying the Four Horseman have been banned, and that the nWo black and white could be at ringside. Flair said that tonight Bischoff was going to get his ass kicked. He would then describe, in gruesome detail, what he would do to the man in charge of WCW. It was a classic Flair promo, complete with seven WOOOs.
Backstage, Scott Steiner and Buff Bagwell entered into Konnan’s locker room. It took Lex Luger to keep Konnan from going after the two muscle bound men. Who would have guessed this would be the case?
Because reasons: take II
The next match was a tag team match. Brian Adams and Scott Norton with Vincent (formerly known as Virgil), clad in nWo black and white came down to the ring. During the entrance of their opponents, apparently Tony Schiavone got a note from the WCW Championship Committee. That note said the main event between Goldberg and Kevin Nash will be a no disqualification match.
Who is the WCW Championship Committee? Why are they adding stipulations to matches an hour before it starts? Wouldn’t it make more sense to do this, oh, I dunno, a week or two before on Nitro? But given that all Schiavone, Heenan, and Tenay have talked about is this match, it might have gotten more airtime this way. They completely walked over the entrance of Fit Finlay and Jerry Flynn.
As Finlay and Flynn came down, they were playing heels. The nWo were playing heels. Mind you, this is not for the tag team championships; it was just the nWo, and not even two high ranking guys in the nWo, having a match.
At the time, Scott Norton was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and he was billed as such early in this match. He was built like a tank, which allowed the nWo to dominate most of this match.
The line of the show came when Bobby Heenan said he wished Norton a happy holiday season. Heenan said he got a response but he wasn’t sure he could physically do that to himself. Schiavone, not missing a beat, said he could.
The match had such little crowd reaction it was hard to tell when they built towards a predetermined spot or a signature move. Jerry Flynn landed some quick kicks, but he was taken out by Brian Adams. Finlay chased him from the ring, giving Norton the opportunity to hit a powerbomb and win the match. I have watched that match three different times and still do not know the point of having it on the biggest pay-per-view of the year, other than it was featured two members of the nWo.
He was so bad he was good
Mean Gene is back on the ramp. Now he is interviewing Eric Bischoff. In the dictionary of life, if there is a picture of the word douche bag, I imagine it is Eric Bischoff and how he looks during this interview. He proceeded to say hi to everyone in DC, including Bill, Hilary and Chelsie. Say what you will, he cut one hell of a promo on Flair. Eric bragged that WCW pays for his Lear Jet and his limos. Maybe that is why WCW went broke.
We were enjoying the Gift of Jericho long before we knew we had it
Changing gears, it is hard to believe Chris Jericho has been a must-see wrestler for over 20 years now. They showed a replay on the broadcast of Jericho mocking Konnan and his win of the TV belt. Even back on December 14, 1998 (the show the replay came from), you can see the same Jericho you saw most recently. Sure, the hair is shorter, and the list is longer now, but it is the same character, as over then as he is now.
The following match is for the WCW Television Championship. Coming out first is the challenger, with his bodyguard Ralphus, the self-proclaimed leader of the Jerichoholics, “Lionheart” Chris Jericho. Two things to note here:
- Jericho has physical possession of the belt and wore it to the ring.
- Ralphus looks like an older version of Kyle Gass from Tenacious D, or a younger version of Willard Scott, or the fat guy who drinks one too many at the bowling alley and brags how he came one strike short of a 300.
Jericho would cut a promo before Konnan came out and well:
“I am the man of the hour, the man with the power, the man too sweet to be sour. I am the women’s pet, the man’s regret, the man with the voice, the Jerichoholics choice. The Choice of the Jerichoholics to be the greatest Television Champion of all time. And for God sakes Baby Huey (referring to Konnan) show some fashion sense, show some je ne sais quoi, like Ralphus and myself. Pull up your pants because your drawers are hanging out, daddy-o.”
Holy crap. A young Stacy Keibler is in the audience! If that wasn’t her in the crowd, she may have a doppelgänger.
Enter Konnan, representing nWo Red and Black, and dancing his way to the ring. Konnan took the mic and gave a Spanglish promo that I don’t know if he fully knew what he was saying. I am glad he has slowed it down in Impact.
This match was physical and both men met the barricade around the ring at high velocity. Konnan could move in his younger days, and we all know Jericho could go. Konnan would send Jericho chest first onto the steel steps. Jericho would hit a lionsault. Konnan would whip Jericho into the ropes and roll through and clothesline him. Jericho would use the belt to his advantage. Konnan slammed Jericho and rolled through into a bridge pin. Jericho couldn’t lock in the Liontamer. Konnan could lock in the Tequila Sunrise. Konnan won.
This was probably the most entertaining, albeit short, match of the night. For those of you who know Konnan as simply the mouthpiece of LAX, look up his work in WCW. He was a damn decent wrestler.
Instead of the highlights of a jammed packed match, we see Lee Marshall interviewing The Giant for WCW.com. The Giant gets offended and tells Mr. Marshall he will dominate DDP.
Let the beating commence
For the third match in a row, we hear some form of the nWo music. This time it is Eric Bischoff. The reaction he got was heat on nuclear proportions. The last time I heard boos like that, DeShone Kizer threw an interception in front of the Dawg Pound.
Penzer introduces Flair, who has pyro (the first one in the show with pyro during his entrance) and a look in his eyes like a fat kid who is watching Cake Wars.
Bischoff tried to run, but The Nature Boy caught him. The beating began. Flair was beating him down good, and based on what I have read about how he felt about Bischoff, I don’t know how many of the punches, kicks, chokes, and knife edged chops were pulled.
Bischoff began griping about his knee. Li’l Naich (referee Charles Robinson) didn’t seem too concerned. Bischoff would finally get one kick in and knock him from the ring. Flair got cut, somehow. Bischoff was in control for about 7 kicks worth (maybe a minute) of time. Three low blows later and Eric might have thought about canceling his dinner plans.
Flair would knock down the ref (read: out) and proceed to show Bischoff why he was the “Dirtiest Player in the Game.” Flair unleashed more punishment on the crotch of Bischoff. With the ref down, Flair locked in the Figure Four.
The fans were eating this up. When the fans love something in WCW, one of two things happen. It either is done to the point of nausea, or killed right when things were good. This is the latter. Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect) comes running down the ring and puts some brass knuckles on the fist of Bischoff. One punch to the skull of Flair later, and Flair is out.
As Charles Robinson’s right hand contacted the canvas, the boos grew exponentially. Bischoff got the win, and we all hated him for it. Never has a 13-time World Champion (since there have been only 4 ever) been treated with such ongoing disrespect.
It strikes me as odd that a match they gave such a buildup to, both in the shows leading up to this show and during this show, got such a short run time. At 7:08, it was one second shorter than the Perry Saturn match for the shortest on the card.
Redemption thy name is Diamond Dallas Page
I am really beginning to dislike the nWo theme song. It plays again as The Giant comes down to the ring. He is facing Diamond Dallas Page in this match. It will not be for the United States Championship as that Champion is Bret Hart.
I forgot DDP came out to Nirvana. That is so fitting. Looking back, Page deserved better than the run he got in the WWE. As Page made his way through the crowd, you can see The Giant just sitting on the top turnbuckle like an overgrown gargoyle. It is almost comical.
DDP landed a bunch of offense, but one clothesline by The Giant ended that. I guess rules don’t matter in WCW either, as Page blatantly used a trashcan on The Giant. It didn’t do much, but still. Foreign objects must be ok.
The Giant (it is getting harder and harder not to refer to him as the Big Show) manhandled Page. For another case of WCW nonsense. Take this one liner from Mike Tenay:
“Let’s face it. He should still be the United States Champion (referring to DDP). Bret Hart stole that belt.”
Bret left for WCW and the whole screw job thing, we all know this. So why would you make a guy who was riding crowd support like a champion surfer riding the waves on the North Shore at the King Kamehameha Classic in Hawaii, a heel? Why make Bret Hart, a Hulk Hogan-esque super babyface a bad guy? Maybe my description there has a clue…
There are very few things more impressive looking than The Giant hitting a running powerslam on someone. It just looks like the perfect combination of power, pain, and spectacular strength. When the man he hit it on is six feet six, it looks so much more impressive.
Back to more WCW nonsense. Page used a rake to the eye. There was no disqualification. Page went all Mike Tyson on The Giant’s nose. The bell did not ring. Both men use blatant chokes, and no bell was rung. A trash can and steel steps were used, and no bell.
During a kick out, after a Diamond Dream (a float over DDT), The Giant would kick out with such a force, DDP would go airborne and land on the referee. By land, I mean he basically was sat on top of him. The referee might have died.
For the second match in a row, we would get a run in that would cost someone. So, to recap, outside forces were used in both matches for the Cruiserweight Championship, Sonny Onoo had a hand in costing The Cat his match, Vincent was there for his nWo brothers, and Curt Hennig helped Eric Bischoff. This is the eighth match on the card. Six have featured “dusty finishes”. Spoiler alert, we will go 7/9.
In this run-in, U.S. Champion Bret Hart comes to the ring with a steel chair. We would swing the mighty piece of metallic mayhem at DDP. The Master of the Diamond Cutter would duck, and The Giant would take a concussive blow to the melon.
DDP would low blow the Hitman. The Giant who has Undertaker-like resiliency, shook it off. DDP would land two flying clotheslines/shoulder blocks. He would try for a third, but land in the choke slam grip. A low blow (once again, no bell) would not help. The Giant would put DDP on the top turnbuckle, but the choke slam would be turned into a Diamond Cutter and get him the victory.
After the match was over, we were teased with a potential confrontation between DDP and Bret Hart, or DDP and The Giant. Neither happened. Either one, or both, could have furthered the storyline for the next set of shows. Instead, DDP’s music played and the segment panned to the crowd.
Finally… but for all the wrong reasons
Another cloud promo. I feel like I am beating a dead horse here, but someone please tell me why?
The entrances for the main event took over five minutes (5:05 from the first wolf howl until the bell rang). Goldberg stopped to sign an autograph. The event staff that escorted him to the ring looked as intimidating as some cub scouts. The arena was so smoky, thanks to Goldberg’s pyro, visibility was rough early on.
Only 50 seconds after the bell rings, the two lock up. The first punch was thrown just short of two minutes in. In the first three minutes of the match, there was two-and-a-half minutes of walking around and posing for the crowd. Welcome to the main event scene of WCW.
For the fourth time in the show, Heenan screwed up the number on Goldberg’s streak. Five minutes into the match and the arena is still as smoke filled as a Nashville Honky Tonk during happy hour.
Goldberg got his spear. When I say he got his spear, I mean he was kind of horizontal and flew into Nash. It was a botch. Nash answered with a low blow. There is the no DQ clause. Nash couldn’t put him away with a sidewalk slam. Both guys looked out of place in this match.
The ref was counting down Nash as he choked Goldberg on the second rope. Was he going to disqualify Nash if he didn’t let Goldberg up? Was he not told it was no DQ? Did WCW know what they were doing? Knowing the history, I am going to go with no.
Disco Inferno is here. For a while before this show, he had been trying to prove himself worthy of being in the nWo Wolfpac. He came down, got brought in the hard way by the former Atlanta Falcon, and was met with a spear.
Now we see the Beast from the East, Bam Bam Bigelow. How many times did he switch between WCW and ECW? Seems like Bam Bam was all over the place. Bam Bam was once the most feared dude in wrestling, on this night, Goldberg no sold several shots, and dumped him over the top rope like yesterday’s leftover lasagna that had begun to grow hair.
Then it happened. It looked like a small army was removing Bigelow from ringside. Over the camera’s built in microphone, you heard that chilling noise of a cattle prod being fired up. It was jammed into the chest of Goldberg, by none other than Scott Hall.
For one, what was WCW thinking? An electrical charge, no matter how minute, into someone’s chest could lead to death. Whether it was real or not is irrelevant. Secondly, what was WCW thinking? A cattle prod to knock him down? Is Goldberg too good for a good ol’ fashioned mob beatdown? Is he too good for a pair of knuckles, a kendo stick, a steel chair, a ladder, cheese grater, kitchen sink, or something? They had to go out and get a fancy cattle prod.
After the tazing, which judging by the way Goldberg was still moving and could still sell a wrestling move, was faked, Nash hit the Jackknife Powerbomb. Nash is the new World Champion. Goldberg now sits at 173-1. The show ends with the nWo Wolfpac standing tall. And that, while maybe too sweet, is never cool.
Do you remember watching Starrcade ’98? What did you think of it back then? Let us know in the comments below!