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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

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WIRTB Review: Starrcade 1998

By Speed on the Beat (@SpeedontheBeat)

What? Don't act like you didn't expect this one. I'm Speed on the Beat and this is Was It Really That Bad Review, where I take the good of OSW Review and mix it with the bad of the AVGN to review the crap so you don't have to a la the Nostalgia Critic. Mouthfuls of text aside, it's WCW Week on EOTR and there's a lot of crap that could be reviewed. However, one PPV, smack-dab in the middle of classic WCW and craptastic WCW has eluded my views. That is, of course, until now. So, break out the "GOLLLLLDDDDBERRRRRG" chants for someone who wasn't named Skip in a past life and let's go through Starrcade 1998.

Spoiler Alert: Goldberg loses. But, you already knew that. I'd hope.

We open with our typical late-1990s WCW opening: grainy as hell with effects that scream their age even in 1998. Tony Schiavone hypes things up by saying that everything will be decided tonight. The fate of the WCW, the WHC, the NWO, probably whether or not Obama really is some sort of Tarot Card-based Antichrist sent back in time by Donald Trump to attempt to assure a Trump victory in November 2016. Ya know, simple shit. You've gotta "love" Tony Schiavone; everything is always the most important event to happen in WCW...until the next one. With that sort of forward thinking, it's no wonder there are but traces of WCW left in 2016 WWE...aside from--well, aside from a lot.

We learn that, ahead of tonight's match between Ric Flair and Eric Bischoff, the Four Horsemen have been banned from appearing at the MCI Center (read: what the Verizon Center was called before MCI bit it). We also get a plug for a WCW/nWo crossover with...QVC? Yep, that was a thing. Then again, WCW teamed with Swoll and Master P, so are you really that surprised?!

Our first match of the night is a cruiserweight championship match between Billy Kidman, Juventud Guerrera and Rey Mysterio. All this and the crowd still doesn't want to give a damn. See, this is why people call the DMV home of some of the shittiest wrestling crowds. It's ironic considering how many legends have traveled through these areas. 

But, I mean, some pockets of the DMV can be home to those "let's make ourselves part of the show" crowds, with some legit smarks intertwined, topped off with marks and casuals who'll cheer for JAAAAAHHHHHNNNNNN CEEEEENAAAAA even when he's no-friggin'-where to be found! So, the criticism makes sense. Anyway, back to the match. It's your typical cruiserweight match, in that it's got spots, spots, more spots, some great moments of real psychology and then back to spots. It's not a bad match. But, the crowd really can take a viewer out of it. It's not Wrestling Classic bad, but it's close.

Rating: Not my own. I'd probably give it more along the lines of a 3.5 to a 4.

(Ed. Note: On that, hat tip to the always amazing Larry Legend for schooling me a bit on how The Wrestling Classic really went down, since he had some of the OG tapes of the event. The crowd wasn't as out of it as they seemed and had some loud-ass moments--most of which are muted by the Network's version of the event. However, I'm pretty convinced that the Starrcade '98 crowd was legitimately on some bullshit, through and through.)

Kidman gets the win and Eddie Guerrero is like "eff that." So, he challenges Kidman for the title right then and there. It's a slower match, but overall? It's still watchable. Is it one of Kidman's best? No. Is it one of Eddie's best? Eh...no. But, for what it is, it's a nice little match. Kidman gets the win, again. The crowd should've gone bonkers, considering the Daniel Bryan-esque nature of the matches and the fact that Kidman is an underrated underdog. But...nope.

When your best matches aren't getting the crowd hyped up, what should you do? Well, probably switch the card around and give people a match that'll be remembered for, at the very least, the rest of the night. What does 1998 WCW do? They give us Prince Iaukea versus Norman Smiley. This is a far cry from, even, 1997's edition of Starrcade. At least 1997's had Hogan versus Sting and, well, a lot of crazy-cool shit. This year we get Norman Smiley and Prince Iaukea. The crowd's field of damns was obviously barren, considering this match had folks tuning out even more. Norman got the win, but no one cared (sorry Norman).

After an art-imitating-life promo from Scott Hall, we get Ernest Miller versus Perry Saturn because...I don't really know. I guess because filler? Ernest Miller has some cool heel moments (gotta love the eye rakes). But, the rest of the match? Eh...couldn't y'all have just done this one on, say, WCW Saturday Night or something? We give grief to WWE for often not using everyone on a card, but WCW tried to use just about anyone. And for what? You still got a meh match in front of a wack crowd and wasted minutes that could've been given to just about anything else.

Oh, yeah. Perry Saturn won.

Anyhow, Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair do a paint-by-numbers set of promos and we get Lex Luger holding Konnan back on a rap beef-esque tip. 

Next, we get Brian Adams (you may remember him as Crush or "Crush, brah" if you're an OSW Review fan) and Scott Norton (you may remember him for being great in Japan and kind of "ehhhh" in America) versus Fit Finley (pre-Hornswoggle, so he's still considered to be more than a comedy act by most of the audience) and Jerry Lynn. The crowd's still dead with no real reason to wake up. The match is technically sound--mostly--but is like eating Top Ramen. You go through with eating it most the time because you have to, not because you want to--unless you're a kid. However, I doubt even the kids are enjoying this one. 

We get another Bischoff promo (and they said that Vince--McMahon and Russo--put himself in the limelight too much) and then we're off for our next match. Konnan and Chris Jericho (with RALPHUS!) are squaring up for the WCW TV Title. Ok, first sign that this one's off: Jericho comes in wearing the TV Title. There's no real explanation given other than heel tactics, I guess(?). But, at least, we get more Ralphus! The wrestling gawds are shining down on us, for GAWDKING RALPHUS! is involved tonight. And then Konnan wins in lackluster fashion to retain/regain the title. 

Look, I know I'll probably get blocked by Konnan and called a smarky-marky loser with no friends and a 600-pound girlfriend who beats off to WWE tapes, but Konnan sucked in this match. Jericho bumped like a boss. Konnan just looked like "oh, ok. Lemme go get my paycheck."

Then? Well, now, we get BISCHOFF VERSUS FLAIR!!! The match starts off hot with Bischoff getting nuclear heat. But, Flair being Flair, he knows how to handle things, kicks ass, takes names, and gets Eric Bischoff's bisch off. Oh, wait...none of that happened! Why? Ummm...I don't know. Bischoff got the win after Curt Hennig gave him brass knuckles. 

Bis(c)h whet?

So, we get Flair painted to be a super sympathetic face and the payoff is...Bischoff winning because reasons. Again, I've gotta ask:

So after that clusterfuck, we get The Giant versus DDP. We also just got our first SOTB WIRTB F-Bomb of the Year. Stay tuned. Considering my lineup this year, there's a lot more where that came from. Now, this match? It's a nice little David versus Goliath thing going for it. DDP has The Giant (soon-to-be-known-as The Big Show) and a very heel Bret Hart double teaming him. DDP also tries to Diamond Cut the hell out of The Giant several times to no avail. We see DDP get all technical and counter things that he should counter and see both DDP and Giant get psychological in the ring. Granted, yes, in a DvG match, the psychology is already there since the Goliath is usually a mountain to the Davids' molehill. But, still! The ending of the match, DDP countering a chokeslam into a Diamond Cutter had me doing something along the lines of this:

From there, we go to the finale of tonight's festivities. The crowd, naturally, goes friggin' bonkers for Goldberg and attempt to eat Kevin Nash alive. It's a NO DQ match for the WCW WHC! Everything's going pretty well, considering, so far. And then, WCW Booking takes hold. After Goldberg and Nash beat the crap out each other, nWo comes out and tries to intervene. You know that, at this point, Goldberg's Streak is over. But, to their credit, everyone involved still does a great job.

And then Scott Hall tasers Goldberg (fast forward to the 2:39-ish mark).

Now, to Goldberg's credit, he (apparently) wanted to legitimately be tasered by Scott Hall. Which, in itself, is pretty friggin' badass. However, the way everything played out--mainly Kevin Nash being as over as he was (even after heeling the fuck out)--was kind of weird. Would I've put Nash to end the streak? Eh...I mean, he was pretty over--heel, face, or tweener. And the fact that it took a stun gun to take out Goldberg was pretty badass. Actually, yeah...I probably would've picked either Hall or Nash to end The Streak.

So, I'll be honest. I used to crap on this match. A lot. It used to be the sour patch of "ugh" that made me hate this PPV. Now that I've gone back and watched it? It's actually one of the bright spots of this PPV. Was Starrcade 1998 really that bad?

Yeah. But, not for the reasons many think. It was a boring PPV that felt like a glorified house show versus WCW's WrestleMania. To top it all off, this PPV set up what became one of the real death knells of WCW: The Fingerpoke of Doom. You go through all this crap, all this boredom, and end Goldberg's Streak and for what? Hulk Hogan regaining the WCW WHC and remerging the nWo? Fuck that shit. I would've been fine with Starrcade 1998 being boring and featuring The End of The Streak if any of that actually meant something! Instead, you take all that and give us this?


Better yet?

I would say "do better, WCW," but we all know that that wasn't in their cards. 


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