Starrcade 1991: The Lethal Lottery
Welcome to Starrcade 1991! Since we last left off, the major development is that Rick Rude defeated Sting to win the United States Championship at Clash of the Champions with an assist from Lex Luger. Rude made his WCW debut by joining Paul E. Dangerously to form the Dangerous Alliance, and Sting was their immediate target. That feud would go on for sometime.
WCW had screwed up the last two years by doing experimental formats instead of a standard supercard, so they naturally decided to try another experimental format. This is the first ever Battlebowl, a random drawing tag team competition followed by a two ring King of the Hill battle royal. Follow that? Let's take this piece by piece.
What does the winner get? Nothing. A ring. So why should we care? We shouldn't. Anyway, here are the twenty teams and the matchups for the first round:
According to legend, they actually did draw the teams randomly rather than gimmicking it. I have no idea, but I really wouldn't put anything past the guys running the company at this point. Let's get to the action:
Video package to start, highlighting that WCW's top 40 stars will compete tonight. Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone, our hosts for the night, start off by explaining the rules. It takes awhile.
Eric Bischoff, Missy Hyatt, and Magnum TA draw the names to determine the teams for the first match.
Michael Hayes and Tracy Smothers vs. Marcus Bagwell and Jimmy Garvin
Intrigue right off the bat here with Hayes and Garvin on opposite sides. Also, the Freebirds and the Young Pistols had several matches over the course of this year. Given that all that's on the line is bragging rights, is there really any reason for Garvin and Hayes to fight each other here? Bagwell and Smothers start. Lots of stalling. Hey, it's a Freebirds match, even if they're on opposite teams. Bagwell gets a few takedowns. Smothers runs the ropes and get Hip Tossed, then Dropkicked, then Arm Dragged. Smothers should tag out, but he doesn't because him and Hayes don't like each other. Bagwell tags out to Garvin. Garvin struts and gets cheap shotted by Smothers. Garvin Dropkicks Smothers to the apron, and then kicks him in the face, knocking him off the apron and into the guardrail! Smothers offers Garvin a handshake, but then tries to kick him. Garvin catches his foot and hits a Back Suplex. Garvin wrings the arm and tags in Bagwell, allowing him to hit a Double Ax Handle from the top rope. He goes to work on the arm. Smothers finally tags in Hayes. He gets a Back Elbow and struts.
Hayes goes to work on Bagwell's arm and tags Smothers. Bagwell works Smother's arm. He slams Smothers and tags in Garvin. Garvin tags in Hayes. Freebird vs. Freebird. The crowd wants to see this. Lots of stalling and posturing. Hayes get a roll-up for two. And then they both strut to their corners and tag in Bagwell and Smothers. Smothers misses an Elbow Drop and Garvin tags in. He wrings the arm and tags in Bagwell, who hits a top rope Crossbody. All four men hit the ring and we get a brawl. Hayes decks Smothers and they argue. Meanwhile, Bagwell hits a Fisherman Suplex for the pin at 12:45.
Result: Marcus Bagwell and Jimmy Garvin by pinfall.
Analysis: **1/2. Fun match. Not a ton of action, but Hayes and Garvin did a really good job of working the crowd and keeping them interested.
Steve Austin and Rick Rude vs. Van Hammer and Big Josh
I think I know which team is going to win this match. Austin and Hammer start out. Paul E. Dangerously is accompanying his guys to ringside. Hammer slams and Suplexes Austin to start. They mat wrestle and Austin tags in Rude. Rude gets heat on Hammer. Austin tags in and hits a Gordbuster. Rude tags in and the heat segment rolls on. Hammer manages to tag in Big Josh, who comes in hot and knocks Rude down with a Clothesline. Big Josh slams Austin and Rude's heads together and they roll outside to regroup. Austin tags in and gets dropped on the top rope and Clotheslined. Rude gets a cheap shot on Josh and tags in. He hits an Ax Handle from the top. Austin and Rude tag in and out, both working on Josh. Josh eventually tags in Hammer, who hits a Powerslam on Austin. He follows that with a Back Suplex and Shoulderblock. Rude gets a blind tag and hits the Rude Awakening for the pin at 12:56.
Result: Steve Austin and Rick Rude by pinfall
Analysis: **. Standard tag match, but with too many restholds for my tastes.
Larry Zbyszko and El Gigante vs. Dustin Rhodes and Richard Morton
JR points out that Gigante doesn't really speak any English, putting him and Zbyszko at a disadvantage. Zbyszko and Rhodes start. Dustin outwrestles Larry to start. Morton tags in, as does Gigante. Morton immediately tags Rhodes back in. That was pretty funny. El Gigante slams Morton. That might be the first move I've ever seen him execute. Zbyszko continually yells at Gigante and then tags back in. He works on Dustin. Gigante yells at Madusa, drawing the biggest pop of the match. Dustin tries his Bulldog finisher but gets slammed. Gigante tags in. Larry yells at him for not going after Rhodes and then slaps him! El Gigante slams Zbyszko, who then gets hit with a double Dropkick and is pinned at 5:54.
Result: Dustin Rhodes and Richard Morton by pinfall
Analysis: *. Not much there. Fun interactions between Zbyszko and Gigante, though.
Mike Graham and Diamond Dallas Page vs. Bill Kazmaier and Jushin Liger
First pay-per-view match for DDP. Also the PPV debuts of Liger and Graham. Graham and Liger start. Graham applies an arm wringer and Liger flips his way out of it, impressing the crowd. Graham is technically sound but doesn't have much personality. Liger hits a Headscissor and tags in Kazmaier, billed as the "World's Strongest Man." Unsurprisingly, Kazmaier overpowers Graham. Graham proceeds to tag in Page. Page is Graham's opposite: lots of personality but not much ability in the ring at this point. Kazmaier throws Page all around the ring. He misses a Splash from the second rope, although he impressively managed to jump 3/4 of the way across the ring. Liger tags in. Liger hits a Spinning Heel Kick on Page, who tags in Graham. Liger runs circles around Graham with fast-paced offense. Kazmier tags in. He drops DDP with a Clothesline. Graham tags in. Neither is having any success against Kazmaier. Liger tags in and gets Graham in a Mexican Surfboard. Graham gets a takedown and applies a Boston Crab. That's followed by a series of pinfall reversals. Kazmaier and Page both tag in. Nothing really happens, and Liger and Graham tag back in. Liger hits a series of kicks to the ribs and tags in Kazmaier. Liger tags back in. Graham misses a corner charges and tumbles over the top rope to the floor. Liger comes over the top with a Somersault Plancha! Back in the ring, Liger hits a second-rope Moonsault. Page tags in and Kazmaier Military Presses Liger onto Page for the pin at 13:08.
Result: Bill Kazmaier and Jushin Liger by pinfall
Analysis: ***. Good match with a lot of nice spots by Liger.
Lex Luger and Arn Anderson vs. Terrance Taylor and Tom Zenk
Zenk and Anderson start. Anderson rolls outside and gets sucker punched by Taylor. Zenk controls the early portion with fast-paced offense. Anderson tags Luger in and gets worked over by Zenk. Zenk makes a tag to Taylor, who works on Luger's arm. Luger gets a Military Press, but Taylor responds with a Snapmare and Swinging Neckbreaker. Taylor gets a Sunset Flip, but Anderson tags in and catches him by surprise. Taylor takes Anderson down with an elbow and hits a Vader Bomb. Zenk tags in. He hits the ropes, but Harley Race trips him and Anderson drops him with a DDT. Taylor breaks up the count. Heat segment on Zenk ensues. Zenk teases a few comebacks but keeps getting shut down. Eventually, Zenk tags Taylor. Taylor drops both guys. He hits a Gutwrencher Powerbomb on Luger, but Anderson breaks the pin up. Taylor goes to the ropes, but Anderson cheap shots him from behind, allowing Luger to hit the Attitude Adjustment Piledriver for the pin at 10:25.
Result: Lex Luger and Arn Anderson by pinfall
Analysis: ***1/4. Solid match. All four of these guys could go. Enjoyable heat segments and comebacks in every combination that they tried.
Ricky Steamboat and Todd Champion vs. Cactus Jack and Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker
They show the announcement that Parker is teaming with Cactus. Abdullah the Butcher flips out that he's not teaming with Cactus and destroys Parker, ramming him into a locker. Abdullah comes down and tries to act as Cactus' partner, but the referees send him to the back. Parker crawls out to try to get to the ring, but Abdullah beats him with a giant stick. This is very entertaining to watch. Meanwhile, Cactus has to wrestle a handicap match. Cactus and Steamboat work an entertaining segment with their predictable clash of styles. Steamboat tags in Champion so he can stink up the ring. Lots of Chinlocks and Bearhugs follow. Meanwhile, Parker is still crawling down the ramp. Cactus throws Champion to the floor and hits a second-rope Elbow Drop to the floor. Parker has made it to the other ring! He's making progress. Him crawling to the ring is far more entertaining than watching Todd Champion wrestle. Cactus goes up top and gets caught with a shot to the stomach. Cactus tags in Parker and throws him over the top into the ring. Steamboat tags in and hits a Flying Bodypress from the top rope for the pin at 7:48.
Result: Ricky Steamboat and Todd Champion by pinfall
Analysis: *. A singles match between Cactus and Steamboat would have been really fun. Unfortunately, Champion was involved too.
Sting and Abdullah the Butcher vs. Brian Pillman and Bobby Eaton
Abdullah jumps Sting on his way down the ramp and beats him with his stick. Pillman makes the save and goes after Abdullah. Eaton hits Pillman, which allows Abdullah to thrown Pillman off the ramp. Eaton and Sting make it into the ring, where Eaton works on Sting's leg. Eaton tries a charge and gets Backropped over the top onto the apron. Sting follows that with a diving Clothesline. Eaton takes over and works on Sting. Abdullah takes a pencil from the announce table and jabs Sting in the throat with it! Pillman saves Sting, despite the fact that he's on the other team. Again, if there were something real on the line then that wouldn't make sense, but who cares about winning this thing? Pillman gets in and SLAMS ABDULLAH! He hits a top rope Splash. Pillman won't tag to Eaton, so Eaton tries to tag Abdullah. Obviously can't do that. Sting tries a Tombstone and botches it horribly. Could have really hurt Eaton there. Cactus shows up and tries to attack Sting but gets Dropkicked out of the ring. Sting comes off the top rope and hits Eaton with a Body Press for the pin at 5:55.
Result: Sting and Abdullah the Butcher by pinfall
Analysis: **3/4. Really entertaining match. That was what they were going for tonight: craziness. Both teams hated each other and spent as much time fighting themselves as the other team.
Meanwhile, Cactus and Abdullah brawl. Security tries to break it up and they get beat down too.
Rick Steiner and The Nightstalker vs. Big Van Vader and Mr. Hughes
They actually drew Diamond Studd as Steiner's partner, but he's injured, so Nightstalker replaces him. Nightstalker is Bryan Clark. For such a unique name, Nightstalker doesn't seem to have any gimmick. He's just a big guy in generic tights. Vader doesn't have his mask tonight for some reason. He doesn't look very cool without it. Steiner and Vader start. Vader impressively kicks the crap out of Steiner. JR says Vader was a #1 pick by the Los Angeles Rams, which isn't true. He was picked in the third round. Steiner Steinerlines Vader, which is an impressive visual. Steiner tries to Suplex Vader from the apron to the ring, but needs to bounce him off the top rope to do it. Hughes tags in and wrestles in sunglasses. Steiner Backdrops Hughes! Hughes is clearly 300+ pounds here. He slimmed down later. German Suplex by Steiner. Steiner tags in Nightstalker, who goes up top. He sort of hits a Diving Shoulderblock, knocking Hughes back to the corner. Vader tags in. Meanwhile, Steiner hits the Steiner Bulldog on Hughes. Nightstalker is watching this happen, so Vader drops him with a huge Clothesline. Vader hits a Splash for the pin at 5:05.
Result: Vader and Mr. Hughes by pinfall
Analysis: *1/2. A few impressive moves by Steiner, but not much else.
Scott Steiner and Firebreaker Chip vs. Johnny B. Badd and Arachnaman
Alright, and now we have one of the worst gimmicks in the history of professional wrestling. Arachnaman is Brad Armstrong in a Spider-Man suit. They changed the colors, but he looks just like Spider-Man. So much so that Marvel Comics threatened to sue WCW and they dropped the character shortly after this. Johnny B. Badd works on Chip with a series of punches. Chip comes off the top rope with a Body Press. Arachnaman tags in, as does Steiner. Alright, this is probably about to get ugly. Arachnaman's Spidey Sense starts tingling knowing Big Poppa Pump is about to kick his ass. Scott throws him around the ring until Badd tags back in. The crowd is crazy into Scott here. He slams Badd in various ways and then tags in Chip. In comes Arachnaman! And he goes on offense! Arm Wringer! Hammerlock! Unfortunately he tags Johnny B. Badd back in after that. Scott comes in and Steinerlines Badd. Double Underhook Powerbomb! That one had some stank on it. Arachnaman gets back in. He and Chip proceed to trade some really boring offense. Badd tags in and runs a heat segment on Chip. Arachnaman runs the ropes for awhile, and then Steiner tags in and kills him with a Steinerline. A huge Belly to Belly Suplex gets the pin at 11:16.
Result: Scott Steiner and Firebreaker Chip by pinfall
Analysis: *3/4. I perversely enjoyed watching Scott beat up Arachnaman. Other than that, not much here.
Ron Simmons and Thomas Rich vs. Steve Armstrong and PN News
This match is clipped on the tape and I can't find the full version anywhere. Probably not much loss, it doesn't look great from the highlights. Simmons and Rich get the win after Simmons hits Armstrong with the Spinebuster. With that, we have our final qualifiers for the battle royal.
Battlebowl Battle Royal
The participants are: Jimmy Garvin, Marcus Bagwell, Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Dustin Rhodes, Richard Morton, Bill Kazmaier, Jushin Liger, Lex Luger, Arn Anderson, Todd Champion, Ricky Steamboat, Sting, Abdullah the Butcher, Big Van Vader, Mr. Hughes, Scott Steiner, Firebreaker Chip, Ron Simmons, and Thomas Rich.
To reiterate the rules: There are two rings. In the first stage of the match, the goal is to throw your opponent into the second ring. Once guys get thrown into the second ring, they fight in there and participants are eliminated by being thrown over the top rope. The match proceeds until there is one man left in each ring. Then the two fight each other, with the winner being the man who throws his opponent over the top rope. Winner wins the prestigious Battlebowl Ring.
We get things started with twenty men in the ring. Twenty men in one ring is a lot. Kazmaier gets thrown over the top by Vader and Hughes, but he's not eliminated because he wasn't thrown into the second ring. Would it be an advantage to be the first man thrown into the second ring? You would just get to hang out there for awhile and rest. Vader and Steamboat fight out on the ramp. They get back in the ring and Vader throws him over the top onto the ramp. Dustin Rhodes and Arn Anderson are fighting down on the floor. Thomas Rich gets thrown into the second ring. So he can just hang out there for awhile. Sting and Luger pair off in the corner. Good that he's finally getting his hands on him. The crowd loves that. Really should have been the main event of this show. Bagwell gets thrown into the second ring. Hughes throws Firebreaker Chip into the second ring. Then Liger and Morton both end up in ring two. Didn't see how it happened.
Liger hits some awesome offense. Unfortunately, he hits Morton with a Body Press and they both go over the top rope and are eliminated. Hughes gets thrown into ring two. Thomas Rich gets eliminated off camera. Vader is beating on Rhodes on the floor. Anderson and Steamboat get into ring two. No one knows why. Champion goes into ring two. Camera didn't catch it. Garvin is in there two. Abduallah and Austin are next. They're starting to spill over fast now. Garvin gets Backdropped out. Kazmaier goes into ring two. Voluntarily, it appeared. Simmons gets thrown into ring two. It's down to just Sting, Rude, Vader, and Luger in ring one. Sting and Rude get it on. They both tumble into ring two. Vader dominates Luger. The crowd isn't as into Vader beating on Luger as I thought they would be. Firebreaker Chip gets eliminated. Luger throws Vader into ring two. He's the last man standing in ring one and gets a long rest. Steamboat chops Abdullah over the top. Anderson goes up top, but gets Dropkicked to the floor by Dustin Rhodes. He's out. Ron Simmons Clotheslines Mr. Hughes out and goes over as well. They're both gone. Steamboat and Sting double Clothesline Vader out. Marcus Bagwell gets thrown out. I think it was Rude.
Alright, we're down to four in ring two: Sting, Rude, Austin, and Steamboat. They pair off, faces and heels. Austin and Steamboat go at it while Sting works on Rude. Rude double-crosses Austin and Clotheslines him out. Steamboat gets thrown out, skins the cat, and eliminates Rude with a Headscissor. Rude runs back in and hits Sting with the Rude Awakening. Looks like Rude pulled Steamboat down and eliminated him too. So we're down to Sting and Luger. Sting is out of it, Luger is rested. Luger cockily beats on Sting. He throws Sting between the ropes to the ramp. Race tries a cheap shot on Sting, but he blocks it and knocks out Race. Luger throws Sting off the ramp into the guardrail. Sting counters Luger and slams him into the guardrail. They go back in the ring and Sting stomps Luger as the crowd goes crazy. Race gets into the ring and gets Suplexed by Sting. Sting misses a Stinger Splash, but narrowly stays in the ring. Sting hits a One-Handed Bulldog. He Clotheslines Luger, who hands onto the top rope. Sting hits the ropes and dumps Luger to the floor to win the Battlebowl at 25:10.
Analysis: ***. Pretty good battle royal. They definitely made the right choice having it come down to Sting, Rude, Austin, and Steamboat and then Sting vs. Luger. This leads in nicely to Sting vs. Luger for the title at SuperBrawl.
Sting celebrates his victory. Ross and Schiavone speculate about a future matchup between Luger and Sting. The credits roll and Starrcade 1991 is in the books.
Overall: An okay show. Obviously, it's a waste of Starrcade for the show to have this kind of gimmick instead of a supercard. I'd much rather have seen Sting vs. Luger, Steamboat vs. Rude, Austin vs. Simmons, and the Steiners vs. Cactus and Abdullah or Anderson and Zbyszko. But we got some pretty good tag matches and a solid main event, so I won't complain too much about the show. Sting beating Luger is a good way to continue to build the anticipation for their match, and we'll get the payoff at SuperBrawl in February.