by Daniel Johnson
I’ve written time and again that the early Starrcade events were chalked full of forgotten matches worth taking a look at. Yet, the card booked for NWA Starrcade ’87: Chi-Town Heat in the event’s fifth year had a slew of problems with it. The card’s marquee match featured a bout that stood out like a sore thumb among Starrcade main events up to that point. Even though Ron Garvin held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship going into the show he was tough to sell as a main eventer. Likewise, Sting who was already a fast rising star was wasted in an opening six man tag that went to an always lame time limit draw. Luckily, the undercard also contained some decent action.
Despite it’s successes, the 1987 event is good evidence that change was needed for Starrcade. That change came in the form of WCW being established in 1988. For more than a decade WCW would go onto produce some of the best and worst wrestling the industry had ever seen. WCW Starrcade ’88: True Gritt was a great first step. Aside from having a much better main event match in Ric Flair defending his championship against Lex Luger, the seven match card in general was stronger from the opener to the time the pay-per-view went off of the air.
So let’s take a look at some matches worth checking out from 1987 and 1988!
1. Steve Williams vs. Barry Windham (1987)
The 1987 Starrcade took place just a short while after Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) purchased Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF). Just like everything WCW when Vince McMahon bought that company, everything UWF disappeared in a fairly short amount of time. However, for a while the UWF titles were kept around so there are neat things like this match, the only bout for the UWF Heavyweight Championship in Starrcade history. One little aspect of this bout that stands out is just how much “Dr. Death” Steve Williams sells a nut shot that Barry Windham gives him. Seriously the guy takes the blow at about the mid point in the match and is selling the injury well after the contest has ended. Comparatively some contemporary wrestlers who look a lot less rugged than Williams will take a nut shot and sell it no differently than a light chop on the chest. Aside from some realistic work from Williams, Windham also bumps his butt off. The bout ends when Windham charges Williams, but ends up flying over the top rope. It kind of looks like Windham performs a suicide dive, but the only thing he hits is a table on the outside. As the hurt Windham is re-entering the ring this allows Williams (still selling the low blow) to roll him up for a three count.
2. Nikita Koloff vs. Terry Taylor (1987)
This bout is another one that references the UWF. It was a television championship unification match pitting the UWF Television Championship holder, Terry Taylor against the NWA Television Championship holder, Nikita Koloff. Commentator Jim Ross puts Koloff over huge throughout the match and by comparison how Taylor is treated reminds me vaguely of how WCW guys were buried after the company was absorbed by the WWF. Eddie Gilbert is in Taylor’s corner to give him an unfair advantage and after he attacks one of Koloff’s legs Taylor gets the powerful Russian in a figure four leg lock. Yet, because of how much Koloff was put over it is impossible to buy that Koloff is going to submit, even with Gilbert grabbing Taylor’s hands to give the heel some extra leverage. The referee eventually catches the cheating, breaks the hold and in a short while Koloff wins the bout with his Russian sickle clothesline.
3. Kevin Sullivan and Steve Williams vs. The Fantastics (1988)
This bout has a dynamic that would be sort of rare today since the heels in this match didn’t need to be chickens or crazy. Okay, maybe Kevin Sullivan was more than a little crazy, but it is always good to see a match where the heels are made to look legitimately strong. This contest was held for the long since forgotten NWA United States Tag Team Championship, which was then held by The Fantastics, Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers. The match served as a great opener for the 1988 Starrcade and went over 15 minutes. Despite looking more like singles stars, Sullivan and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, who were part of the Varsity Club gelled well together and really give Rogers a pounding throughout. When Rogers finally makes the hot tag to Fulton it isn’t long before Fulton tries to pounce on Death and gets his throat slammed across the top rope for his troubles. This proves to be enough to get new NWA United States Tag Team Champions!
4. Rick Steiner vs. Mike Rotunda (1988)
Apart from the main event this was arguably the match of the night for the 1988 Starrcade. The contest was held for the NWA Television Championship and had the added spectacle of having Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotunda’s pal from the Varsity Club, suspended in a small cage above the ring as the action took place. This was of course done so Sullivan could not interfere, but this then immediately makes one think, “Hey isn’t Steve Williams in the Varsity Club too? Couldn’t he just interfere?” Unsurprisingly, Williams comes to the ring as Steiner is kicking Rotunda’s butt and confuses the dog faced gremlin by ringing the ringside bell. Again, this is refreshing because if you’ve only been watching contemporary mainstream American wrestling lately you may figure Williams would probably interfere, Steiner would get the disqualification victory and the fans would be cheesed off. In reality the match doesn’t end, but apparently the guy in charge of keeping Sullivan suspended thinks it does so Sullivan gets lowered allowing him to interfere. Williams hightails it and Sullivan argues with the referee as well as another ref who has come out amongst all the confusion caused by Williams. Rotunda gives Steiner a cheap shot during this turmoil and clamps on a headlock, but Steiner powers out of it and sends Rotunda crashing into Sullivan. Steiner wins the NWA Television Championship!
5. Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Barry Windham
Bam Bam Bigelow is just one of those wrestlers who looks so out of place in the NWA/WCW during the1980s. Nevertheless it is cool to see him challenge Barry Windham for the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship. Throughout the match the commentators play up Bigelow’s bad knees because aside from actually having knee surgery the commentators point out that bigger guys in general can have problems with their knees because of how much weight they have on them. That being said Bigelow proves to be as agile as ever. Aside from hitting a great looking dropkick early in the match as the bout winds down Bigelow attempts a headbutt from the top rope and…catches nothing, but mat! That’s a reason for aspirin if there ever was one! Managers JJ Dillon and Oliver Humperdink look on as Windham tries to put Bigelow away first with his infamous claw hold and then by actually slamming the big man. Given that Windham was still lanky as heck at the time this is a surprising move to say the least! For the finish the two go outside and Bigelow rushes at Windham, but instead hits the ring post. To quote Michael Cole, “Not this way!” Yes, after an otherwise intriguing 16 minutes of action the contest ends with a never welcomed countout.
Photos 1, 6: en.wikipedia.org
Photos 2-5: onlineworldofwrestling.com
Categories: Wrestling Lists