Starrcade 1989: Future Shock
The NWA had a good year overall in 1989. Their main event scene was hot, featuring great performances from Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Lex Luger, Sting, Terry Funk, and Muta. Starrcade 1989 looked like it could be a banner show. They had lots of options: blow off the long feud between Terry Funk and Ric Flair? Pit Flair against Lex Luger in a rematch from the previous year? Pull the trigger on the big Flair vs. Sting match and put the title on Sting? Even Flair vs. Muta would be a reasonable option.
Instead, they choose to do something totally different. In an experiment, the show would feature two Round Robin tournaments: a singles tournament featuring Ric Flair, Sting, Luger, and Muta and a tag tournament featuring the Steiner Brothers, the Road Warriors, Doom, and the New Wild Samoans. There was a points system for the matches: 20 points for a pin or submission win, 15 for a count out, 10 for a disqualification, 5 for a time-limit draw, and zero for a loss. The team and individual with the most points at the end of the night would win. Their reward? Nothing. Just a trophy. This is one of the first signs of real incompetence from WCW, and there were certainly more to come.
So, to recap the events from Halloween Havoc to now: Flair blew off his feud with Funk by beating him in a classic "I Quit" Match at Clash of the Champions in November. The Steiners won the tag team titles from The Freebirds. Arn Anderson returned and reformed the Four Horsemen with Flair, Ole, and Sting. Let's get to the show:
The Steiner Brothers vs. Doom
The Steiners are recently crowned tag team champions and a big deal here. Doom consists of Ron Simmons and Butch Reed, still masked and unidentified here Scott starts out against Simmons. He gets a quick near fall off a Powerslam. Rick tags in and we get some stalling. Rick hits a big Belly to Belly Suplex. The Steiners tag in and out, controlling the match. JR and Cornette continually put over how "innovative" the tournament is and note that the crowd is "late arriving." Doom is managed by Woman and "Nitron," who is Tyler Mane. Mane would later play Sabertooth in the first "X-Men" movie and Michael Meyers in the Halloween remakes. Not a ton happening in this match. Doom is now in control and works over a pretty basic heat segment. Scott hits a Belly to Belly Suplex and tags in Rick. Rick hits a big Steiner Line and a Powerslam. The PA announcer announces that there are under two minutes left in the match. Nitron grabs Rick's leg as he hits the ropes, so Rick Clotheslines him. All four men brawl on the floor and Rick sneaks back into the ring to win by count out at 12:24.
Result: Steiner Brothers by count out
Analysis: **. Basic tag match. They can't afford to go all out because they both have two more matches to wrestle tonight.
That's 15 points for the Steiners and zero for Doom. Two more matches to go for each team.
Lex Luger vs. Sting
Funk is commentating the singles matches with JR. They brawl on the floor to start. Back in the ring, Sting hits a Slingshot Splash from the apron for two. He follows that with a series of Clotheslines. All Sting to start. They brawl on the floor again. These matches have 15 minute time limits. Sting counters an Inverted Atomic Drop with a Clothesline and applies an Armbar. Sting goes for a Crossbody, but Luger catches him with an Inverted Atomic Drop. Luger keeps control with some boring offense. Sting makes him comeback with punches, but Luger shuts it down with a Powerslam. He tries the Torture Rack but Sting escapes. Sting makes his comeback with two minutes left. Sting charges Luger an applies a choke. That was kind of a strange spot. They roll to the floor with one minute left. Sting Clotheslines Luger into the ring, but Luger comes down on top. He grabs the ropes and gets the pin at 11:31.
Result: Lex Luger by pinfall
Analysis: **1/4. Not terrible. A little slow, but once more both guys have two more matches tonight and need to conserve their energy. The time-limits add some drama, even if they're obviously not accurate.
Luger scores 20 points, Sting is awarded zero for his loss.
The Road Warriors vs. Doom
Reed and Animal start. They exchange power moves. Animal misses a charge, hits the post shoulder-first, and falls to the floor. Doom takes over with a dull heat segment. Reed hits a second rope Elbow Drop. Most impressive move of the match so far. Hawk makes a hot tag to Animal. He hits a Powerslam. Cheapshot results in Reed going for a Piledriver, but Hawk hits a second rope Clothesline for the pin at 8:31.
Result: Road Warriors by pinfall
Analysis: 1/2*. Boring.
Road Warriors take the lead with 20 points, Steiners have 15, and Doom has zero.
The Great Muta vs. Ric Flair
Muta is still undefeated. He comes out hot, hitting kicks, a tumbling elbow, and an Elbow Drop. They trade chops. Inverted Atomic Drop from Flair. Kneebreaker. Figure Four! Quick start here. Buzz Sawyer and the Dragon Master charge the ring but are stopped by Arn and Ole Anderson. Muta hits a Backbreaker and goes for the Moonsault, but Flair gets his knees up. Flair cradles Muta for the pin at 1:55. Wow. That's Muta's first NWA loss.
Result: Ric Flair by Pinfall
Analysis: 1/4*. Good action for that two minutes that it lasted. This could have main evented the show. Instead, it's a two-minute match. See what's wrong with this tournament format?
Flair and Luger tie for the lead at 20 points, Sting and Muta both have zero.
The Steiner Brothers vs. The Road Warriors
First meeting and one of the only. Scott and Hawk start. Hawk hits an Enziguri early. A better booked show would have featured these guys in the sub-main event. Rick tags in and gets hit with a big clothesline by Hawk. Animal tags in for a Double Back Elbow. Rick gets a Clothesline for his own. Rick follows it with a Belly to Belly Suplex. Scott tags in and is Military Pressed by Steiner. Scott takes over with a series of Suplexes. Hawk hits a nice Gutwrench. Scott botches a Belly to Belly from the top rope and drops Animal on his head. Hawk tags in. He applies a Bearhug. Animal tags in and continues to control, but all four men end up brawling. Scott gets hits with a Back Suplex/Flying Clothesline combination. Hawk bridges for a pin, but Scott pops his shoulder up to get the win at 7:27.
Result: Steiner Brothers by pinfall
Analysis: *1/2. Decent, but slow. This is definitely a match that would have befitted from a storyline and more time.
That gives the Steiners 35 points, Road Warriors 20, Doom and Samoans zero. Notably the Samoans have yet to wrestle a match. Also, Doom is now mathematically eliminated from winning the tournament.
Sting vs. The Great Muta
Re-match of their excellent contest at the Great American Bash. Basic stuff to start: chops, headlocks, the like. They run the ropes and Sting levels Muta with a Clothesline. Atomic Drop from Sting. Sting tries the Scorpion Deathlock but Muta gets the ropes. Muta rolls out and gets his chest sensually massaged by Gary Hart. That was a little strange. Muta takes over with an eyerake. He gets Sting down and applies the Cattle Mutilation! That's unexpected. Sting manages to roll out of it and takes over with punches. Military Press from Sting. Sting applies a chinlock. Just when things were picking up. Muta drives Sting into the corner. Muta hits a Rib Breaker. He misses a Moonsault but lands on his feet and drops Sting with a kick to the face. Muta goes up top, but Sting hits a Dropkick. Sting Superplexes Muta for the win at 8:41.
Result: Sting by pinfall
Analysis: **1/2. Decent, but not nearly as good as their previous matches. Two losses in a row really kills Muta's heat.
This gives Luger, Sting, and Flair 20 points each and Muta zero. Muta is mathematically eliminated from the tournament.
The New Wild Samoans vs. Doom
The New Wild Samoans are Rikishi and the Tonga Kid. Here, they're going by Samoan Savage and Fatu. They were last-minute replacements for The Skyscrapers after Sid suffered an injury. My tape clips most of this match. Everyone brawls in the ring. Samoan Savage collides with Doom #2 and he covers him for the win. According to Wikipedia, this ran 8:22. As long as Sting vs. Muta and 8x as long as Flair vs. Muta. Oy.
Result: New Wild Samoans by pinfall
Analysis: 1/4*. Too heavily clipped to really judge, but I'm guessing what we missed wasn't very interesting.
This gives the Steiners 35 points, the Road Warriors 20, and the Samoans 20. Doom is out after scoring zero points.
Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger
My tape clips this to five minutes left, which means the first ten minutes are gone. When we pick up Luger is stomping Flair. Big Military Press from Luger. Luger tries to Suplex him, but Flair reverses into a Suplex of his own. Flair gets a backslide for two. Luger shoots Flair into the corner and Flair does the Flair Flip. Luger catches him with a Clothesline as he comes off the top. Flair gets a Sunset Flip for two with two minutes left. Flair goes to the top but gets thrown off. Flair comes back with a Back Suplex and applies the Figure Four. Time expires. Wikipedia says it ran 17:15, but they announce fifteen minutes. Both men are awarded five points.
Result: Time Limit Draw
Analysis: **. What we saw wasn't bad.
This gives Luger and Flair 25 points each, Sting 20, and Muta zero.
The Steiner Brothers vs. New Wild Samoans
Wild Samoans control early as Scott plays Ricky Morton. Rick keeps trying to help out, but it just distracts the referee and allows the Samoans to double team. Scott hits a Frankensteiner with one minute left in the match. Rick gets in and pounds the Samoans, but the referee didn't see the tag. The Steiners get disqualified because Rick is in the ring illegally. Wikipedia says this went 14:05, but my tape showed less than five minutes.
Result: New Wild Samoans by Disqualification
Standings: Steiner Brothers 35, New Wild Samoans 30, Road Warriors 20, Doom zero. Road Warriors need a pinfall victory in the final for an outright win.
Lex Luger vs. The Great Muta
We're clipped to Muta hitting a Handspring Elbow. Muta manages to apply the Muta Lock, but Luger gets out. Muta is really working the leg after Luger was in the Figure Four earlier. Lex starts his comeback with a Clothesline. He blocks a Sunset Flip attempt. Luger hits a Powerslam and goes for the Torture Rack, but his leg gives out. He gets up and Muta... Mists him for the DQ. What? That made no sense at all.
Result: Lex Luger by disqualificaiton
Analysis: **1/4. Pretty good match before the terrible finish.
Luger leads with 35 points, Flair has 25, Sting 20, and Muta zero.
The Road Warriors vs. The Wild Samoans
Road Warriors need a pin or submission to win. Hawk and Fatu slug it out early. Animal tags in and hits a Powerslam. They follow that with a very sloppy and confused exchange. Things continue to be ugly during a Wild Samoans heat segment. Hawk makes a comeback and hits a Flying Clothesline for the win at 5:18. Road Warriors win the tournament.
Result: Road Warriors by pinfall
Analysis: 1/4*. Really sloppy and boring.
Final Standings: Road Warriors 40 points, Steiners 35, Wild Samoans 30, Doom zero.
Ric Flair vs. Sting
Okay, so here are the scenarios: if Sting wins by pin or submission, he wins the tournament. If Flair wins by pinfall, submission, or count out he wins the tournament. If they go to a time limit, Luger wins. If Sting gets disqualified, Luger and Flair would be tied and wrestle a tiebreaker to determine the winner. Got all that?
They're friends here, both being members of the Horsemen. This being wrestling, we all know that's not going to last. Sting controls early with basic wrestling moves. Flair bails out, but Sting runs him down. They fight on the floor. Back in, Sting hits a Backslide for two. Flair gets back in it with a series of chops. Outside Flair sends Sting into the guardrail. The JR and Funk both notice Flair's unsportsmanlike behavior. Flair gets a roll-up for two and argues with the referee. Sting starts to Hulk Up, but Flair blocks a Sunset Flip attempt. Flair chops Sting, but he no-sells. Sting flips out and hits the Stinger Splash, followed by the Scorpion Deathlock.
Flair gets the ropes. He makes his way to his feet and hits a Kneebreaker. Flair applies the Figure Four. Sting manages to get the ropes. He struggles to his feet and is hit with another Kneebreaker. Flair hits a Splash to Sting's injured leg. He follows that up with a Figure Four attempt, but Sting counters into a Small Package for the win at 14:55.
Result: Sting by pinfall
Analysis: ***1/2. Nice match. Would have been much better with a real build and story, but that could be said of every match at this show.
Flair seems pissed. Arn and Ole make their way down to ringside. We're all expecting them to turn on Sting, but instead they congratulate him on the win. Sting wins the tournament with 40 points. Luger is second with 35, Flair 25, and Muta zero.
Overall: Not a very good show. Too many matches featuring the same guys. Too many guys getting left off the show: No Pillman, no Funk, no Midnight Express, no Freebirds. They dumped this format the next year in favor of a single-elimination tag team tournament. Unfortunately, every Starrcade between here and 1996 features some kind of gimmick as the center of the show. This is really the first major sign of WCW's tendency to overdo gimmick matches and not book logical wrestling. Not the worst show, but definitely not a good way to end the year.