Happy new year! Well, the day has finally arrived; today marks the end of our 1997 timeline. It sounds like a cliché to say that all previous Meanwhile, in WCW posts have been building towards this one, but they really have. This week WCW reached its zenith by presenting Starrcade 1997, the highest grossing pay per view the company ever produced. The show featured the culmination of an 18 month storyline involving Sting and Hollywood Hogan. So, for the final time, let’s get down to business in this week’s Meanwhile, in WCW…
- Diamond Dallas Page stole the US Title from under Curt Hennig’s nose. After Hennig took a spill to one side of the ring against Bobby Eaton, Page casually wandered out to ringside, picked up the title and walked to the back without anybody in the ring noticing. As you can imagine, Hennig was less than amused after the match when he realised his belt was missing.
- The two most important parts of this match turned out to be completely redundant. Hennig was in possession of his belt at Starrcade and the knee injury he was selling was a non-factor in his match with Page at the PPV too.
- Attention hotline fans; someone in the world of wrestling has been forced to retire.
- Chris Benoit was attacked by The Flock, again.
- Larry Zbyszko was on hand to cut a brilliant promo which gave the impression of him still being an active wrestler because he seemed to be up for fighting anybody and everybody. The Living Legend addressed online rumours about a double-cross and stated that he has no intention of lying down for Eric Bischoff at Starrcade. Larry also claimed that East E is being thrown to the lions – if he does say so himself – because Hogan and co. have used up all of his political stroke and no longer have a use for him.
- We finally got some clarity regarding the stipulations for this match. We’ve always known that should Bischoff win then the nWo will get control of Nitro. However, the prize for Zbyszko – other than keeping Nitro as a WCW show – is a match with Scott Hall at Souled Out in January.
- Eddie Guerrero took a cheap shot at Dean Malenko with a steel chair. Just as Malenko had forced La Parka to submit to the Texas Cloverleaf, Eddie entered the ring and cracked Dean on the back with the Parka’s chair. After the lucha skeleton had recovered he tried to buddy up with Eddie, only to get nailed as well.
- Goldberg told Mean Gene that Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael will be leaving Starrcade on his terms; unconscious. After he flattened Renegade in a matter of seconds he called out Mongo, who was not shy in accepting the challenge. Security just about kept them apart.
- First nWo, and then WCW guys surrounded the ring for the main event between Ray Traylor and Scott Hall. After Konnan put Hall’s foot on the rope to prevent a three count, Rick Steiner did the same for Traylor. This was enough to spark a big rumble to end the show.
- Dean Malenko defeated La Parka
- Bill Goldberg defeated The Renegade
- Ultimo Dragon defeated Psychosis
- Eddie Guerrero (c) defeated Rey Misterio Jr. to retain the WCW Cruiserweight Championship
- Curt Hennig (c) defeated Bobby Eaton to retain the WCW United States Championship
- Chris Benoit defeated Saturn by DQ
- Booker T defeated Yuji Nagata
- The Steiner Brothers (c) defeated The Public Enemy to retain the WCW World Tag Team Championship
- Ray Traylor vs. Scott Hall ended in a Double DQ
We have arrived at the big one. Before we get into the Starrcade that was, below is the Starrcade that could have been. Before all the injuries and no-shows, these were the advertised matches for the biggest show in company history:
- Eddie Guerrero (c) vs. Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight Title
- Konnan, Scott Norton & Vincent vs. The Steiner Brothers & Ray Traylor
- Goldberg vs. Steve McMichael
- Raven vs. Chris Benoit
- Buff Bagwell vs. Lex Luger
- Curt Hennig (c) vs. Ric Flair in a steel cage match for the US Title
- The Giant vs. Kevin Nash
- Hollywood Hogan (c) vs. Sting for the WCW Heavyweight Title
Obviously – and especially with WCW’s stacked roster – not everybody can be on every show. With that said, our notable absentees from the planned card include Macho Man Randy Savage, Scott Hall, Rey Mysterio Jr, Diamond Dallas Page, the TV Title and the Tag Titles. Yet, Vincent made it onto the card…
To the actual show and before the matches began the commentary team of Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes and Mike Tenay (I know, no Bobby Heenan) had some news for us. Firstly, there’s been some complaining from the nWo about who will referee the main event, so JJ Dillon will pick a random referee out of a hat later in the show. Also, we learned that Kevin Nash would not be appearing on the show. No further information was given, just that he wouldn’t be there. Also, we saw loads of WCW guys who were not booked on the show sat at ringside. The seating plan saw Rey Mysterio Jr having a ball next to Hugh Morrus and Alex Wright having his ear talked off by James Vandenberg and Mortis.
Eddie Guerrero (c) defeated Dean Malenko to retain the WCW World Cruiserweight Championship
This was good, solid and all those other words to describe a match that wasn’t bad just not as good as it should have been. Eddie targeted Dean’s knee and aimed his Frog Splash onto it for the clean win.
Scott Hall came to the ring next to inform the live crowd that Kevin Nash would not be appearing on the show, which did not go down well. Hall then asked for a referee to come out and declare The Giant the winner by forfeit in an ‘okay, you won but we didn’t want to win anyway’ fashion. A surprisingly calm Giant then came out and said that he is a patient man and will get his hands on Nash at some point. Hall then decided to throw his toothpick at the big man and give him the thrashing of a lifetime. However, in true Mr Burns vs. Homer Simpson style, The Giant no-sold Hall’s feeble looking offence. Hall was about to taste the Chokeslam until The Giant opted to give him a Jacknife Powerbomb instead. So I guess this little angle was the substitute for the advertised match then. During his promo, which he was milking in order to fill time, Hall made reference to the WCW Title match he still has up his sleeve for SuperBrawl in February. This is the first time this has been mentioned by anyone since the Nitro after World War 3, Hall having won the opportunity at the November PPV.
Randy Savage, Scott Norton & Vincent defeated Ray Traylor & The Steiner Brothers (w/ Ted DiBiase)
Norton and Vincent came out first, followed by their opponents. No explanation was given for Konnan’s absence before Macho Man was introduced as his replacement. This was the kind of match we are used to seeing on Nitro, only slightly longer. Vincent took the brunt of The Steiner’s more dangerous looking double team moves before Macho Man scored the win over Scott with his elbow drop.
Mean Gene came out to plug the WCW Hotline. Apparently there were some new faces backstage. He was probably talking about The British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart.
Chairman of the Executive Committee, or whatever his title is, JJ Dillon came out to join Mean Gene. Dillon said that he had conducted a random drawing and that the referee for the main event between Sting and Hollywood Hogan will be Nick Patrick. This raised eyebrows with Gene who mentioned Patrick’s past indiscretions but JJ is satisfied that Patrick has been keeping his nose clean enough recently to warrant the benefit of the doubt.
Goldberg defeated Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael
Goldberg met Mongo in the aisle to start this one. It lasted longer than Goldberg’s usual one minute squash matches but most of the offence was still his. While Mongo did get a few flurries going, this was all Goldberg. To pad out his high impact power moves, Goldberg utilised his leg grapevine thing and Mongo teased falling through a table at ringside, which he did eventually crash through following a collision on the apron. Goldberg hit the Jackhammer for the win.
Saturn defeated Chris Benoit in a No Disqualification Match
If you’ve seen any Nitros from November or December 1997 then you’ve seen this match. Raven cut a promo saying that he didn’t feel like wrestling so Saturn took his place. Benoit did his best to hold his own against the interfering Flock until first Riggs and then Raven himself struck the telling blows to allow Saturn to apply the Rings of Saturn.
Buff Bagwell defeated Lex Luger
Again, if you’ve seen any Nitro from around this time then you’ve seen this match – literally. However, this was much longer and thus much worse than it’s numerous previous incarnations. Most of the match was a rear chin lock until Vincent and Macho Man were unsuccessful with their interference spots while the referee was down. Scott Norton was successful in landing his chain-wrapped fist on Luger’s face though, which gifted Bagwell another cheap win over The Total Package.
Diamond Dallas Page defeated Curt Hennig (c) to win the WCW United States Championship
This was a largely disappointing and uneventful match that ended abruptly after Page connected with a Diamond Cutter out of nowhere.
Larry Zbyszko (WCW) defeated Eric Bischoff (nWo) in a Control For Monday Nitro Match
This was actually good fun to watch, although it did drag a little in the middle. Larry wore his old gear and still looked in pretty good shape while Bischoff went topless and wore karate pants and kick pads. The basic story of the match revolved around guest referee Bret Hart and what side he was on. Hart admonished Zbyszko on several occasions while appearing to let Bischoff away with similar infringements. However, after Scott Hall had placed a foreign object under one of Bischoff’s kick pads, Hart decked Easy E and Hall for their cheating antics to a massive pop. The crowd made even more noise when The Hitman applied the Sharpshooter to Hall as Zbyszko choked Bischoff with his karate belt. I can only assume Bischoff verbally submitted because there was no pin or obvious tap out. Another theory would be that Bischoff was disqualified due to Hall’s interference. Either way, it may not have been obvious as to why, but Zbyszko won all the same to mean Nitro remains a WCW show.
Sting defeated Hollywood Hogan (c) to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
18 months of television built towards this one match, and what a disappointment it was. After a really cool entrance, the mysterious and mythical aura Sting had built for the last year and a half melted away like the face paint peeling from his face. After a decent opening minute or so the match dropped down to Hogan’s pace and never recovered. After around ten minutes of dull ‘action’, Hogan hit his famous leg drop for the 1-2-3. However, before the bell could ring Bret Hart burst onto the scene to grab the time keeper’s hand just as he was about to ring the bell. The Hitman, who had just revealed himself to be a babyface, decided Nick Patrick’s perfectly acceptable count was fast. Still a licensed official for the evening, Hart decked Patrick, ordered the match restart and took over officiating duties. Sting was then able to thwart interference from the nWo to make Hogan submit in the Scorpion Death Lock to win the WCW Title in very controversial circumstances. This was not unlike what happened the last time Bret Hart appeared on PPV. The show ended with the WCW locker room filling the ring to celebrate with the new champ. As an aside, the first four guys that made it to the ring to celebrate with Sting were Lex Luger (obviously), The Giant (of course), The Renegade (really?) and Louie Spicolli (why?).
After a right royal fuck up in the closing minutes of Starrcade’s main event i.e. Nick Patrick was supposed to do a fast count but for some reason he did not, making it look like Hogan won fair and square before being screwed by Bret Hart, did WCW redeem themselves or just make things even worse on Nitro? I think we all know the answer to that question…
Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff were, justifiably, pissed off at the previous evening’s events. Their case, which was pretty solid, was that Nick Patrick was the assigned official and he called for the bell after Hogan had pinned Sting, thus Hogan won. Hogan stated that he is open to suggestions as to how JJ Dillon and co. will rescue WCW from such an embarrassing situation. Bischoff ended by demanding that Dillon “fix this”. JJ then appeared a little later to state that the result from Starrcade stands and that Sting is the WCW Champion. However, having spoken to Sting, Dillon said that the champion was willing to resolve the situation by defending the title on Nitro against Hogan. Bischoff then came out and accepted. Very little was made of the non-existent fast count. The picture being painted is that if you are in the nWo then Hogan was screwed, if you’re in WCW then it was ‘controversial’ but with no explanation as to exactly why.
To that match and, well, it was only half a match. Nitro went off the air just as the action was heating up. Ironically, this ‘match’ was shaping up to be way better than Hogan and Sting’s Starrcade bout. Scroll down to the ‘Dirty Sheets’ section to hear how this rather controversial broadcasting decision went down with viewers.
In Other News From Nitro –
- We heard from Bret Hart and, now that he is definitely a babyface, he was awarded an appropriately loud reaction from the live crowd. The Hitman says that doubts over his allegiance were justified because he wanted to take a closer look at the situation in WCW before taking a definitive stance. He said that last night’s events were “justice” and that the nWo are “scum” and compared them to Vince McMahon… without directly saying it of course. Hart went on to say how much he is looking forward to competing against the likes of Sting, Lex Luger, The Giant etc. He ended by cutting a promo on Hogan. He said that Hogan ran away from him once before, but this time he cannot run and he cannot hide. This was a really good promo and the crowd reacted well to it.
- Ric Flair came out shortly afterwards to put over DDP, Sting and, begrudgingly, Hart. However, The Nature Boy was upset that The Hitman did not mentioned him in his promo about the guys he is looking forward to facing. Flair mentioned Hart’s sideline as a columnist for the Calgary Sun newspaper as a segue to quoting another journalist; Dave Meltzer. Flair read a quote that essentially named The Nature Boy as the greatest wrestler ever.
- Goldberg’s winning streak is now a thing. It was briefly mentioned in passing by Mike Tenay at Starrcade, but his match with Glacier on Nitro was put over as a bout between the two best win/loss records in the company. Despite Glacier’s star having fallen from grace many months ago, this was just his third one-on-one defeat and all of them have been relatively recent, believe it or not.
- We saw a couple of new champions crowned. Ultimo Dragon surprised everybody by defeating Eddie Guerrero cleanly for the Cruiserweight Title. Later, Booker T captured his first singles title be taking the TV Title from Disco Inferno. Stevie Ray was on hand to celebrate with his brother.
- Chris Jericho’s long overdue heel turn is in motion. After being easily defeated by Curt Hennig, Jericho threw a tantrum and smashed ring announcer Dave Penzer’s chair off the ring post.
- Lex Luger got a win back against Buff Bagwell, who was gloating about his win at Starrcade prior to the match.
- Scott Hall came out, did his survey shtick and left.
- Bobby Heenan got some heat from Tony Schiavone after grovelling to Eric Bischoff last week. Apparently Heenan begged to be allowed to do commentary on nWo Nitro last week for the betterment of WCW. Schiavone wasn’t buying it but because Bobby is a weasel he got himself onto a seat and did some colour commentary as if nothing had happened. Moving on…
- Chris Benoit took another beating from The Flock only this time his former Horseman stable mate, Steve McMichael, came to his rescue. Prior to this, there was an unfortunate quote from Raven – in hindsight of course – about Benoit being psychologically damaged.
- Bill Goldberg defeated Glacier
- Chris Benoit defeated Hammer
- Ultimo Dragon defeated Eddie Guerrero (c) to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship
- Diamond Dallas Page (c) defeated Mortis (w/ James Vandenburg) to retain the WCW United States Championship
- Booker T defeated Disco Inferno (c) to win the WCW Television Championship
- Curt Hennig (w/ Rick Rude) defeated Chris Jericho
- Lex Luger defeated Buff Bagwell (w/ Scott Norton)
- Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting ended in a No Contest
“I’ll be here in professional wrestling for a long time”
- There is speculation surrounding Nick Patrick’s supposed fast count at Starrcade. Just how does a referee of Patrick’s experience botch a fast count? The prevailing theory is that he didn’t botch anything, rather Hogan changed the finish mid-match and Patrick didn’t dare go against The Hulkster’s wishes. Thus, to any sane person it looked like Hogan pinned Sting fair and square.
- Turner Broadcasting received a record number of complaints for ending Nitro in the middle of the Hogan vs Sting rematch. Apparently, the plan is to air the entire match on the debut episode of Thunder. This makes no sense, because between these two shows is another episode of Nitro.
- Kevin Nash pulled out of Starrcade the day before because he thought he had suffered a mild heart attack. In all likelihood it was probably severe indigestion but couple that with Nash’s paranoia regarding heart issues due to his father dying from a heart attack and you can, almost, understand his situation. On the other hand, most people are of the opinion that he just didn’t want to job to The Giant.
- Konnan also missed the show, with Macho Man taking his spot in the six-man tag. K-Dogg’s reason was entirely understandable as his girlfriend went into premature labour. Unfortunately the baby was stillborn. In order to persuade Savage to substitute for Konnan, the finish of the match was changed because Macho Man wanted to win. This did not please Scott Steiner, as I’m sure you can imagine.
- While he did appear on the show, Raven did not wrestle despite being advertised. However, WCW were aware that he might miss out and had already positioned Saturn as plan B. Raven has been suffering with an inflamed pancreas and is said to have lost around 20lbs, hence why he has been absent from TV in the lead up to Starrcade. He is said to be on the mend, but this show came too early for him.
- Dean Malenko was very nearly another no-show. Apparently he had asked months ago for time off because his wife was due to give birth around the time of Starrcade, but he was booked and advertised for his match against Eddie Guerrero regardless. Rather than risk another match falling apart, WCW chartered a private jet to pick Malenko up before the show and take him straight back home after his match. Malenko’s wife actually gave birth on Christmas night, but it would have been a shame for him to waste the already booked private jet!
- The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith paid $150,000 to buy himself out of the remaining 32 months of his WWF contract. He has now signed for WCW and is free to debut on TV immediately. However, he will be unable to wrestle for a while due having recently undergone knee surgery.
- Bret Hart bumped into Dave and Earl Hebner at an airport recently. He was courteous to Dave…
- Alex Wright was backstage at Starrcade and even appeared on camera briefly. He is on the mend after suffering an aneurysm a few weeks ago. All signs point to him being able to make a full recovery, it’ll just take a bit of time.
- Remember a few weeks ago when Sting appeared in the rafters and within a few seconds he was stood atop the entrance? Well the Sting in the rafters was Jeff Farmer aka nWo Sting. Yes, a fake Sting was used but it was the fake Sting, which is kind of cool.
- As mentioned in previous weeks, WCW have so far been reluctant to use ‘The Hitman’ nickname for Bret Hart due to the WWF’s fondness for suing them. Well, Hart actually contemplated a move to WCW back in 1992 and in preparation trademarked the nickname, the jacket, sunglasses and basically the whole gimmick. Thus, wherever Bret Hart goes the Hitman character follows.
- I mentioned last week that Jacqueline’s contract has expired without renewal. Apparently she refused to take part in an angle where Miss Elizabeth would have attacked her from behind, thus WCW were not in a rush to offer her an extension. This is the same Jacqueline who was booked to go over Disco Inferno and physically attack several other male wrestlers, who willingly sold for her…
- Ted DiBiase is said to be considering an in-ring comeback. Like many others, he has been claiming on a Lloyds of London insurance policy that prevents him from ever wrestling again following a neck injury. However, if he buys himself out of the policy (which will cost him over $400,000) he’d be free to wrestle again. Ted is 44 years old at this point in time.
- Ric Flair is expected back in January and is scheduled to feud with Bret Hart.
- Ultimo Dragon captured the Cruiserweight Title on Nitro largely because WCW wanted him to defend it against Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger at NJPW’s Wrestling World show on January 4th. This is what Wrestle Kingdom was called before it was Wrestle Kingdom. WCW pulled the plug on the title being up for grabs at the last minute, meaning only Liger’s J Crown was on the line. Liger retained, which tells you why WCW decided not to put their belt on the line.
- Scott Hall and Kevin Nash have signed contract extensions that reportedly will see them with WCW until 2003. Yeah, right…
If you like Terry Funk, large boxes and chainsaws then you will love the December 29th 1997 episode of Raw. Also, Goldust was dressed like a giant baby, so there was something for everybody.
Raw 3.6 – 4.65 Nitro
You can read all previous ‘Meanwhile, in WCW’ posts here
If you would like to continue to follow the WCW timeline 20 years removed, without actually watching three hours of Nitro each week on the WWE Network, then we have your back. Jamie covered every episode of Nitro from 1998 in our previously published ‘Monday Night Wars‘ series.