WCW PPV Flashbacks: Starrcade 1990 - December 16, 1990

WCW Starrcade 1990: Collision Course
December 16, 1990
Kiel Auditorium
St. Louis, Missouri

Welcome to Starrcade 1990. Sting has dominated WCW throughout 1990, so it's only fitting that he would be featured in the main event of the biggest show of the year. His opponent? The mysterious Black Scorpion. Scorpion has been tormenting Sting for months and now Sting will finally get his hands on him inside a Steel Cage. It's Mask vs. Title, so the Scorpion has to unmask if he loses.

Once again, Starrcade will feature a tournament. Last year, it was the Iron Man and Iron Team round robin tournaments. This year, it will be the Pat O'Connor Memorial International Cup Tag Team Tournament. Pat O'Connor was a legendary singles wrestler who held the NWA Championship for two years. He was also one of the owners of the St. Louis Wrestling Club, which promoted wrestling shows in the Missouri/Iowa/Kansas area during the territory days. He died in August of 1990, so this tournament is in his honor. It will feature eight teams representing eight different countries. The participants:

1) Team USA: The Steiner Brothers

8) Team South Africa: Sgt. Krueger and Col. DeKlerk

4) Team Mexico: Rey Misterio and Konan

5) Team United Kingdom: Chris Adams and Norman Smiley

3) Team Soviet Union: Victor Zangiev and Salman Hashmanov

6) Team Canada: Troy Montour and Danny Johnson

2) Team Japan: Mr. Saito and The Great Muta

7) Team New Zealand: Rip Morgan and Jack Victory

Why is a tag team tournament being held to honor a singles wrestler? Not really clear. I like this as a concept, but just like last year it really doesn't belong on the biggest show of the year. Let's get to the action:

Legendary promoter Sam Munchnick, one of the founders of the National Wrestling Alliance, starts the show with a tribute to Pat O'Connor and an ode to the sport of professional wrestling. A very nice way to kick off the show. Munchnick is one of the most important people in the history of professional wrestling and it's a real shame that many current fans, most of whom get their view of wrestling history from WWE, have no idea who he is.

The Z Man vs. Bobby Eaton

Eaton is receiving a singles push now that his tag team partner Sam Lane has left the company. Z-Man (Tom Zenk) is billed as on a 35 match winning streak. A few weeks after this he would defeat Arn Anderson to win the Television Championship. In case you're wondering, Arn has had the TV Title for almost a year now and hasn't defended it on a PPV. This is a fun match and a good choice for the opener. Zenk hits some high-flying offense to start and then locks in a Hammerlock. Eaton gets out and gets caught with a pair of Dropkicks. Eaton locks on a Wristlock. He tries to Suplex Zenk from the apron to the ring, but ends up getting Suplexed on the ramp instead. Zenk follows that with a dive over the ropes. Back in the ring, Eaton hits a Bulldog. He hits the Alabama Jam off the top rope, but follows it by missing a charge into the corner. Zenk gets a Dropkick for two. Eaton counters a telegraphed Backdrop with a Swinging Neckbreaker. He goes up top and tries a dive, but ends up eating a Superkick. Zenk proceeds to miss a Missile Dropkick from the top rope. Eaton cradles Zenk with a Small Package for the pin at 8:45.

Result: Bobby Eaton by pinfall

Analysis: ***. Good opener. Eaton was known as a tag wrestler, but he could go in singles too. Same with Zenk.

Tournament Quarterfinal: Team USA (The Steiner Brothers) vs. Team South Africa (Sgt. Krueger and Col. DeKlerk)

Col. DeKlerk is actually "Flyboy" Rocco Roc from the Public Enemy and is, as far as I know, not South African. Krueger is Matt Borne, the original Doink the Clown. Also not South African. The "South Africans" enter to an intimidating theme song and wear military fatigues. This is actually a very fun squash as the Steiners obliterate both men with Steinerlines and Suplexes. Notably, Rocco tries a Somersault Plancha to the outside and gets caught and slammed by Rick. Scott gets the pin after the Frankensteiner at 2:12.

Result: Steiner Brothers by pinfall

Analysis: **. Fun squash. The Steiners were absolutely amazing in this time period.

Tournament Quarterfinal: Team Mexico (Rey Misterio and Konan) vs. Team United Kingdom (Norman Smiley and Chris Adams)

The Rey Misterio in this match is the uncle of Rey Mysterio Jr, who would start tearing up WCW about five years after this match. Konan is Konnan. This is before his run in the WWF as Max Moon. He'd make a much greater impact a few years after this in WCW as a United States Champion and member of the New World Order. Chris Adams is a classic technical wrestler who spent most of his career in World Class Championship Wrestling down in Dallas. Norman Smiley is best known for his comedy run as Hardcore Champion in WCW in the late 1990s, but is also a great mat wrestler. Suffice it to say this is an interesting match.

Misterio and Smiley start with a mat-wrestling sequence. Adams tags in and hits a monster Superkick to knock Misterio to the floor. Konan tags in and exchanges takedowns with Smiley. Adams tags in and applies a Chinlock. Adams Superkicks Konan into a German Suplex by Smiley. Good work from Adams and Smiley. They're very fluid. Konan hits a Reverse Suplex off the top rope for the pin at 5:29. That kind of came out of nowhere.

Result: Mey Misterio and Konan by pinfall

Analysis: **1/2. Good clash of styles. Abrupt ending and short, or it could have been really good.

Alexandra York, who is played by Terri Runnels, is interviewed in the back. She introduces Michael Wallstreet, played by Mike Rotunda. This is the York Foundation, a group of upper-class wrestlers. They relied on advanced computer technology to tell them how beat their opponents. Tonight, the computer says that Wallstreet is going to beat his opponent, Terry Taylor, in 8:32.

Tournament Quarterfinal: Team Japan (The Great Muta and Mr. Saito) vs. Team New Zealand (Rip Morgan and Jack Victory)

Mr. Saito is a former WWWF Tag Team Champion alongside Mr. Fuji. Jack Victory is actually from New Jersey, but he and Rip Morgan had been portraying a tag team known as the Royal Family, billed from New Zealand, for some time at this point. A year ago, Muta was Television Champion, undefeated, and wrestling in the singles tournament. This year, he's part of a tag tournament that no one really cares about. Shame they screwed that up.

Muta outwrestles Victory to start and hits a Flying Clothesline from the top rope to the outside. Lots of punching and kicking from Morgan and Victory. Saito tags Muta back in and the match improves significantly. Saito tags in and goes for a Sharpshooter, but Victory breaks it up. Morgan gets a Back Suplex and Victory tags in for a double elbow. Morgan misses and elbow and Muta tags in. He hits the Handspring Elbow in the corner. Muta hits a German Suplex and bridges for the pin at 5:41.

Result: Mr. Saito and Muta by pinfall

Analysis: *1/2. Not much there. Muta is the only guy in the match who could work, and he spent most of the match on the apron.

Dangerously interviews Muta and Saito. Saito cuts a good promo about how they are going to win the tournament.

Tournament Quarterfinal: Team USSR (Victor Zangiev and Salman Hashimikov) vs. Team Canada (Troy Montour and Danny Johnson)

The Russians were both competitors in New Japan, and rivals. Not clear if they were ever a tag team before tonight. As far as I can tell, this is the only appearance for either man in America. Neither "Canadian" even has a Wikipedia page, so it's fair to say that they're probably two jobbers. Obviously, the Russians are the heels here. The Cold War might be winding down at this point, but wrestling always runs years behind the times. The Russians wrestle a very entertaining shoot-style that the crowd doesn't understand. Lots of takedowns and submissions. The "Canadians" are completely worthless. Haskimikov pins Montour after a Belly to Belly Suplex at 3:54.

Result: Zangiev and Hashimikov by pinfall

Analysis: **1/4. Good, innovative stuff by the Russians. Shame they didn't have better opponents here. Looking forward to their match with the Japanese later.

Okay, so we're through the first round of the tournament. The Steiners will face Team Mexico and Team Japan will face Team USSR. I have to admit I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed those first round matches.

Michael Wallstreet vs. Terry Taylor

Amusingly, Terry Taylor would take Rotunda's place in the York Foundation when Rotunda left for the WWF shortly after this show. The York Foundation supercomputer says that Wallstreet will win at 8:32, so we get a countdown in the corner of the screen during the match. Really showing off those cutting edge graphics. This match is basically all mat wrestling and stalling. Both guys are quite talented as mat wrestlers, but the lack of action in this match is pretty depressing. Wallstreet wins the the "Stock Market Crash" (a Samoan Drop) at 6:13. Man, he beat the computer's projection.

Result: Michael Wallstreet by pinfall

Analysis: *1/2. Nice mat wrestling, but too slow for my tastes.

The Skyscrapers (Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey) vs. Big Cat and Motor City Madman

Not really sure why the Skyscrapers are back to tagging up here. Big Cat is Curtis Hughes, future bodyguard of Shane Douglas, Triple H, and Chris Jericho. Motor City Mad Man is Mike Moore, who had a run in World Class and never really amounted to much. Anyway, this match is a pure squash and the Skyscrapers get the win with a Double Powerbomb in just 1:01.

Result: Skyscrapers by pinfall

Analysis: Dud. Pure squash.

Dangerously interviews the Skyscrapers. As you would expect, they rant and rave incoherently.

The Fabulous Freebirds vs. Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich

The Freebirds broke Gibson's leg a few months ago and this is the culmination. Gibson is out on crutches to accompany Morton and Rich. That's his first TV appearance since they put him on the shelf. Typical formula here: Faces start out hot until Morton makes a mistake and gets cheapshotted. Freebirds work a heat segment on Morton, really stretching him with various restholds. Morton manages to roll Garvin up for the pin at 6:13.

Result: Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich by pinfall

Analysis: *1/2. Uninspired formula match.

The Freebirds turn on their manager, Little Richard Marley, and beat him down. Morton and Rich make the save and the Freebirds bail. However, this means they left Gibson alone at the top of the ramp. Gibson gets assaulted by the Freebirds until Morton and Rich realize what's going on and chase them off. Better segment than match.

Tony Schiavone interviews Stan Hansen about his Bullrope Match with Lex Luger.

Tournament Semifinal: Steiner Brothers vs. Misterio and Konan

Konan manages to get Rick down and apply an Inverted Indian Deathlock. Rick escapes and tags in Scott. Scott hits a Powerslam. Rick and Scott hit the Steiner Bulldog and Konan tags in Misterio. Scott counters a Headlock with a T-Bone Suplex. Rick tags in and hits a Powerbomb for the pin at 2:51.

Result: Steiner Brothers by pinfall

Analysis: **. Fun for the short time it lasted. Would have been nice if there was time for a real match, but the format of the card doesn't really allow that.

Tournament Semifinal: Great Muta and Mr. Saito vs. Team USSR

The nationalist crowd isn't sure whether to cheer for America's former enemy or current one. Great amateur wrestling and suplexes by the Russians. Hashimikov gets a takdown and Boston Crab, but gets kicked in the head by Muta. Saito applies a Sharpshooter. Muta and Hashimikov both tag in. HUGE Belly-to-Belly Suplex by Hashimikov! Wow. Saito catches Zangiev with a Clothesline and a Back Suplex for the pin at 3:08. Damn, that's the last we'll see of the Russians.

Result: Great Muta and Mr. Saito by pinfall

Analysis: *3/4. Another match that could have been great if it had gotten any time.

Schiavone interviews Doom and Teddy Long.

Texas Bull Rope Match for the NWA United States Championship: Stan Hansen (c) vs. Lex Luger

Luger and Hansen will be attached at the wrist by the bull rope. You win by touching all four corners, no pinfalls or submissions. Luger controls early with Clotheslines and a Body Slam. Hansen fights back and whips Luger with the rope. They slug it out and head to the floor. Hansen gets the better of it as they head back into the ring. Luger levels Hansen with a big Clothesline. He gets the first two turnbuckles but gets Suplexed by Hansen. Hansen hangs Luger over the top rope. Hansen gets the first three turnbuckles, but Luger hits a Clothesline. Luger throws Hansen to the floor and they fight outside. Luger slams Hansen into the ring post. Back in the ring, Luger hits a pair of Legdrops. Luger gets three turnbuckles. He manages to get the fourth, but his lunge knocks down the referee. Hansen blasts him with his boot and hogties Luger. A second referee runs in and Hansen touches all four corners, but the original referee wakes up and awards the match to Luger at 10:13.

Result: Lex Luger by four corners (new NWA United States Champion)

Analysis: ***. Good brawl. Better than their match at Halloween Havoc. Crowd was really into Lex.

JR interviews Luger, who yells about winning the title back.

Street Fight for the NWA World Tag Team Championship: Doom (c) vs. Arn Anderson and Barry Windham

Flair was originally scheduled to compete in this match, but has pulled out due to an injury. Hmm. All four men brawl on the ramp. Anderson whips Simmons with a belt while Windham and Reed battle in the ring. Simmons gets the belt and beats Anderson with it. Doom are accompanied by an unknown large man. Windham gets slammed into the ring post and blades. He fights back with a Back Suplex on the floor. Anderson whips Simmons and chokes him with the belt. This is really violent. Seems like a real fight. Anderson blasts Reed with a chair on the floor while Windham uses the belt on Simmons in the ring. Simmons hits a HUGE Spinebuster on Windham. Simmons hits a very impressive Military Press on Arn. Simmons goes up top and gets hit with a low blow by Windham. Windham hits the Superplex for two. Reed comes off the top rope with a Shoulderblock on Anderson. Windham hits a DDT. Simmons drops Anderson with a chair shot.

Reed Piledrives Windham. Incredible pace here. Windham cradles Reed with a Small Package at the same time Simmons covers Anderson for a double-pin at 7:19.

Result: Draw

Analysis: ****. One of the best short matches I've ever seen. They just went all out from the very beginning. Absolutely brutal. Blood, weapon shots, stiff work. Not crazy about the finish, but I understand it. As with every other match on this card, I wish they had more time.

Tournament Finals: Steiner Brothers vs. Mr. Saito and Great Muta

Muta drops Scott early with an Enziguri. Rick tags in and gets hit with a Spinning Back Kick by Muta. He responds with a big Steinerline. Saito tags in. Rick gets a Dropkick and crotches Muta on the top rope. Muta hits the Handspring Elbow on Scott in the corner. Scott follows with a Belly-to-Belly Suplex. Nice pace here. Rick tags in and applies a Headlock, but ends up getting Suplexed. Muta tags in and goes to work on Rick. Muta throws Rick outside and blasts him with the ring bell. Saito stretches Rick as the heat segment rolls on. Muta tags in and is hit with a Steinerline. Scott tags in and goes house on fire. Northern Lights Suplex. Tiger Bomb! Saito breaks up the count. Saito tags in and hits a Side Suplex. Spike Piledriver by Muta and Saito! Saito applies a Sleeper Hold, but Rick tags in (I think) and comes off the top rope for a Sunset Flip to get the pin at 10:52.

Result: Steiner Brothers by pinfall

Analysis: **1/2. Something was missing from that match. Rick didn't sell the heat segment very well and the ending was very abrupt. It's not at all clear that Rick actually tagged in before the pin.

Tony Schiavone interviews Rick and Scott, who are presented with a massive trophy for winning the tournament. It's literally taller than either of them.

Steel Cage Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Sting (c) vs. The Black Scorpion

Once again, if Scorpion loses he has to unmask. Dick the Bruiser is the referee. Scorpion enters first, followed by three more Scorpions. Interesting. Then a spaceship/pod thing descends from the ceiling and another Scorpion comes out. Then the Scorpion voice comes over the PA and says that this is the real Scorpion and the other four are simply "messengers." Alright, then.

Sting hits the ring and we're ready to go. So here's what we know about the Scorpion: He's a bit shorter than Sting, White, and has blonde hair. Also, he's obviously Ric Flair. As in, the fans are chanting "Nature Boy" 30 seconds into the match. The opening segment of the match is very generic, as Sting feels out the Scorpion and Scorpion tries not to reveal his identity. This makes sense psychologically, since Sting doesn't know who he is wrestling. But it also makes for a very boring match. Scorpion fights back with a Clothesline and a Gutwrench Suplex. Scorpion then goes for a dirty pin with his feet on the ropes. Well, that makes it a little obvious. Scorpion follows that with a chinlock, putting his feet on the ropes for leverage. Sting breaks out and hits a Military Press.

Sting tries a Crossbody but misses and hits the cage. Scorpion puts Sting into the cage. Scorpion gets a Piledriver for two. Sting fights back with his one-handed Bulldog. Sting Splash! Sting goes for the Scorpion Deathlock, but Scorpion escapes. Sting puts Scorpion into the cage and removes the mask to reveal...that he's wearing another mask underneath. Nice tease there. Sting puts Scorpion into the cage again, then goes up top for a Crossbody Block and gets the pin at 18:31.

Result: Sting by pinfall

Analysis: **1/2. Not a terrible match, but the storyline clearly overshadowed it. Flair was forced to work very generically to try to conceal his identity. Basically, this is the worst match Sting and Ric Flair could possibly have had at this point.

All four Scorpions charge the ring and get beat up by Sting and Dick the Bruiser. Windham and Anderson hit the ring and beat up Sting. The Scorpion gets a chair and wails on Sting with it. Ricky Morton, Terry Taylor, and Tom Zenk try to climb into the cage but are stopped by the Horsemen. The Steiners run in with bolt cutters and get into the cage. Sting manages to unmask the Scorpion, revealing to the five fans who hadn't figured it out that he's Ric Flair. Starrcade goes off the air as Jim Ross rants and raves about how dastardly Ric Flair is.

Overall: Decent show that was let down by the booking. The tournament was a fun concept, but trying to dull a full card plus a tournament was a mistake. Having 14 matches on the card meant none of the matches got the time that they deserved. Also, the crowd didn't care about anyone in the tournament other than the Steiners. The other matches ranged from bad to great. Really a mixed bag.

And the main event. I don't hate the Black Scorpion concept. The idea of someone from Sting's past messing with him and Sting not knowing who it is was interesting. The goofy voice and cartoonish magic tricks were definitely a mistake. Going into the angle without knowing who was going to be under the mask was probably the biggest mistake of all. A mystery angle is only as good as its reveal, and they didn't have one here. At its core, this storyline undermined the brand WCW had built in 1989: the adult alternative to the WWF. The WWF did wrestling for casual fans and kids better than anyone possibly could have at this point in time. Trying to compete with them on that front was a waste of time, because WCW couldn't possibly beat them at that game. The "We Wrestle" brand was a solid idea and the product it was producing was quality. Business was probably not great, but it takes time to build a company. Admittedly, the Black Scorpion angle seemed to get over with the crowd. But once you reveal that Flair was the man under the mask, it's all for nothing and everything goes back to where it was before the Scorpion came on the scene. They would have been much better off just building a match featuring Sting and one of their established talents, with Lex Luger probably being the best choice. That would have been WCW's version of the Ultimate Challenge. Anyway, this is a good show to wrap up an uneven year for WCW. Unfortunately, there was a year of turmoil ahead.

Grade: C+