The SmarK Starrcade Countdown: 1989
by Scott Keith on December 4, 2011

The Netcop Retro Rant for Starrcade 89

- I just want to start off by addressing the whole “How can Russo/Ferrera steal from themselves” debate that my Thunder report seems to have triggered. Two words: John Fogerty. He was the sole creative force behind Creedence Clearwater Revival, so much so that when he recorded a solo album in the 80s, CCR’s money-grubbing former record label actually sued him because that album sounded like a CCR album and was thus “self-plagiarism”. And they almost WON that lawsuit, too. Fogerty stuck it out and fought it, costing both sides millions, and eventually won the case. Was it silly and trivial to sue over it? Of course. But in the entertainment world, stupid stuff like that happens EVERY DAY, and Russo & Ferrera would be well-advised to remember that the WWF was more than happy to sue WCW over “intellectual property” on weaker grounds than what they’d have if they pressed a lawsuit tomorrow over, say, Buzzkill. What is right and fair and logical seldom applies in the wrestling world, legal world, or any other place these days. I’m just saying that if the WWF sues because Russo has writer’s block to go along with his million-dollar contract, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  (2011 Scott sez:  As it turns out, the whole thing was a moot point because Russo got fired anyway.  And John Fogerty did eventually reconcile with Fantasy Records and released a solo/CCR greatest hits CD that’s pretty awesome.  So happy endings for everyone!) 

- Onto the show…what do you get when you’ve had a banner year quality-wise, but blew off your biggest feud (Flair v. Funk) months earlier and can’t decide who your next main event feud should involve? Why, hold an Iron Man tournament, of course, and that’s exactly what the NWA tried in the last days of the Flair/Ross booking era. It was a monumentally stupid idea because of time constraints and the fact that the only fresh, high-level match on the card was Road Warriors v. Steiners. Everything else had either been done (Flair/Luger, Flair/Sting) or held no interest for the fans. The relatively complicated scoring system meant that too much thinking was involved for the fans. As a result, this show drew flies and was a total bomb, one that pretty much signalled the end of Flair’s run with the book.

- The Rules: Competitors get 20 points for a pinfall or submission, 15 for a countout win, 10 for a DQ win, and 5 for a time-limit draw. Whoever has the most points after wrestling the other three people in the tournament wins. All matches are 15 minute time limits.  (2011 Scott sez:  Sounds like something TNA would think up, actually…)

- The Competitors: For the Iron Man tourney, it’s Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Sting and the Great Muta. For the Iron Team portion, it’s The Steiners, The Road Warriors, Doom and the Wild Samoans (who are subbing for the Skyscrapers).

- Live from Atlanta, GA

- Your hosts are Jim Ross & Terry Funk for the Iron Man matches, and Jim Ross & Jim Cornette for the Iron Team matches.

- Opening match: Doom v. Rick & Scott Steiner. The arena is so empty to start that the announcers have to make excuses to cover it up. Doom still has the masks, and Woman, and that doofus bodyguard Nitron. (2011 Scott sez:  That doofus bodyguard went on to play Sabretooth in the X-Men movies, as well as Michael Myers in the Halloween reboots, so he’s doing OK for himself now.)  Simmons and Scott start, and that goes badly for Ron. Slow start as Scott works on Reed with some basic stuff. Nitron (who later became Big Sky, an early partner for Kevin Nash during his Vinnie Vegas run) (2011 Scott sez:  Jesus, didn’t you hear me?  He’s SABRETOOTH, no one gives a shit about Big Sky.  Oh wait, I’m yelling at 1999 me again, sorry) attacks Scott on the outside to gain the advantage. Fashion note: Bad-asses don’t wear spandex tights and leather jackets. Scott bumps around a bit to make Doom seem like they might have a hope in hell. Scott gets the hot tag to Rick as the 15-minute time limit is approaching. Rick stampedes over Doom with clotheslines, and everyone fights on the floor, with Rick rolling in to beat the count to steal a win and 15 points. I’ve always hated that finish. Bad choice to rev up an already indifferent crowd. *1/2

- Steiners – 15, Doom – 0, Warriors – 0, Samoans – 0.

- Sting v. Lex Luger. THIS should have been the opener. Big stall-job from Lex to start. He was technically a heel at this point, but as is usually the case, became so massively popular that he started morphing into a babyface by sheer willpower of the fans. Sting gets him in the ring and hits a slingshot splash for two. They fight on the outside, not much happens. Sting controls back in the ring with move #428 (arm-BAR). (2011 Scott sez:  You can instantly pinpoint my 1998-99 rant timeline by how many Chris Jericho references I make.)  I find it astonishing that two people who have been linked as long as these two have can’t put together a decent match with each other if their lives depended on it. I mean, hell, even Hogan and Savage could half-ass a **1/2 match during their heyday thanks to sheer familiarity with each other. Sting tries a flying bodypress and gets atomic-dropped. Luger dominates for a while. The crowd yawns. So do I. Stings flips out of the Torture rack and hulks up. Luger bails with a minute left. Sting chases, but Luger falls on top back in the ring, grabs the second rope, puts his feet on the second rope, and probably would have grabbed Sting’s tights with his other free hand had he thought of it. Anyway, that’s enough for the cheap pin and 20 points, the SECOND bad finish for the show. * On the other hand, the lack of a true heel today – one who will gladly stoop to pinning a guy with his feet on the ropes and a handful of tights – is something I notice all the time.  (2011 Scott sez:  Now we’ve swung all the way to the other extreme, where all the heels are weasels like Alberto Del Rio and Cody Rhodes, and when someone actually kicks ass like Mark Henry he turns into a monster who gets over.) 

- Luger – 20, Sting – 0, Flair – 0, Muta – 0.

- The Road Warriors v. Doom. To use an Oklahoman metaphor, this should be uglier than a pitbull at a poodle convention. Turner editors must agree, because the match is clipped to the 10-minute mark with the LOD cleaning house. Reed tries a piledriver on Animal, allowing Hawk to come off the top with a clothesline and Animal gets the pin and 20 points. Seemed about ½*

- Warriors – 20, Steiners – 15, Doom – 0, Samoans – 0.

- The Great Muta v. Ric Flair. Muta was the undefeated TV champion at this point, but don’t blink or you’ll miss this match. Flair gets a kneebreaker and figure-four about a minute in, then the Andersons and the J-Tex group brawl, allowing Muta to escape, miss the moonsault, and get rolled up for the pin. Flair gets 20 points for 2 minutes’ work. DUD

- Lex Luger – 20, Ric Flair – 20, Sting – 0, Muta – 0.

- The Road Warriors v. The Steiners. Jim Cornette describes this as the “insensible force meeting the illiterate object” which is probably closer to the truth than you’d expect. Lots of mutual respect and stuff. This is the one, and only, meeting of these teams. (2011 Scott sez:  That still blows my mind.  The phrase “Leaving money on the table” has never seemed so apt.  Both teams were basically still in their primes, and WCW could have turned the Warriors heel again and jobbed them to the Steiners up and down the US on their way to the WWF and probably drawn some BIG money.) They were both in WCW in 1996 during the Jurassic Revival Period that pre-dated the n.W.o, but their paths never crossed for whatever reason. They exchange some brain-rattling clotheslines to start. Rick gets a belly-to-belly on Animal for two. The LOD takes over on Rick, however, getting a few two-counts. Scott comes in and gets clotheslined out of his boots on a blind charge. He manages an awkward belly-to-belly superplex, however, and Animal goes to the bearhug to slow things down. Hawk gets a SWEET powerslam and a brawl erupts. LOD tries a odd-looking version of the Doomsday Device, with Animal doing a belly-to-back suplex on Scott, but of course Scott lifts his shoulder at two and the Steiners get the pin. Good god, ANOTHER finish that I never want to see again. Match was good enough. **3/4  (2011 Scott sez:  This show is the greatest hits of horrible finishes.  Luckily Titantrons hadn’t been invented yet, because they probably would have had someone appearing on one so that another guy could get rolled up while he was yelling at the screen with his back turned.) 

- Steiners – 35, Warriors – 20, Doom – 0, Samoans – 0.

- The Great Muta v. Sting. They exchange full-nelsons to start, then Muta takes over with kicks. Sting quickly comes back and tries the Scorpion Deathlock, causing Muta to bail. So we start again, and Muta gets his awesome inverted bridged double-chickenwing. Sting comes back with JR’s patented “American Right Hands ™” and a press-slam for two. The horizonal elbow gets two. Muta batters him in the corner, but misses the moonsault. Man, was the writing on the wall for Muta, or what? The poor guy’s finisher was just killed by this show. Sting crotches him on a second try, hits a simple superplex, and gets the pin and 20 points. Too short to be of any worth. *1/2  (2011 Scott sez:  No matter how badly they tried, they just couldn’t destroy Muta’s mystique.  DAMN HIM FOR GETTING OVER!  Don’t the Japanese know they’re only supposed to be popular in Japania?)

- Flair – 20, Luger – 20, Sting – 20, Muta – 0.

- We stop to analyze things. I stop to prepare for three matches involving the Wild Samoans in the second half of the show. Where’s the liquor when you need it? Oh well, could be worse, if it wasn’t for Scott Steiner’s humanitarian efforts in the field of lung-puncturing a few weeks before this, it could have been ALL-SID, ALL-THE-TIME, BABEE! I still think Scott should have gotten the Nobel Prize for ridding the world of Sid for that short time.  (2011 Scott sez:  Just think, had someone asked him to come off the top rope in 1989, we would have been spared World Champion Sid all those times…)

- The Wild Samoans v. Doom. Samoa is represented by Fatu and The Samoan Savage (Tama) tonight. I wonder how Samoa feels about always being portrayed as “wild”? I’ve known some very down-to-earth Samoans in my life, and none of them ate raw meat or wore grass skirts. I mean, why not try “The Introspective Samoans” or “The Calm Samoans” sometime, just for a change. Of course, I find the developing Samoan-as-sumo-wrestler trend from the past few years to be almost as disturbing, but maybe that’s just me. Anyhow, the match is mercifully clipped down to about 30 seconds, just long enough for me to make a joke I’ve been dying to work in somewhere since Fatu’s repackaging: The Savage plays Rikishi Morton. Ahem. Well, it SOUNDED funny when I was doing the rough draft in my notebook. (2011 Scott sez:  Yeah, a lot of things sounded funny in my notebook, especially after a few drinks.  And Rikishi, what a dumb gimmick idea.  How is a guy named Rikishi gonna get over?  Dancing with a couple of white guys?  I’d like to see that!)  Anyway, Fatu gets a hot tag and collides head-to-head with Reed, and falls on top for the cheap pin. Hey, ANOTHER finish I hate. God forbid anyone get a decisive win (over someone who isn’t Japanese) on this show. Was Vince Russo booking this or something? Samoans get 20 points, Doom finishes with zilch. Not enough there for me to rate, but I’d bet my eyeteeth that it was a DUD

- Steiners – 35, Warriors – 20, Samoans – 20, Doom – 0.

- Ric Flair v. Lex Luger. I’m a little disturbed that someone like Jim Ross would knowingly blow the Luger/Flair money match on this tossed-off show. Match is clipped to about 10 minutes in for time reasons. Luger is hammering on Flair. Another “Cure for Insomnia” special, as is the case when Luger is on offense as a heel. Luger gets a couple of two-counts as time winds down. Flair goes to the top for no reason I can fathom other than to be on the top rope so Luger can slam him off. It’s like one of those lucha spots where guys will just move to another part of the ring so they can be in position to get hit with a highspot. (2011 Scott sez:  Or as we call it now, “WWE Style”) Flair gets a fluke suplex and slaps on the figure-four with no buildup, but Luger holds on for the draw. Both get 5 points. Match seemed okay. **

- Luger – 25, Flair – 25, Sting – 20, Muta – 0.

- The Wild Samoans v. The Steiners. Once again, clippage rears its ugly head to meet the two-hour time limit. I never got that one – if Coliseum video could spring for a T-180 tape to record three hour WWF PPVs in SP, you’d think Turner Home Entertainment could do likewise. (2011 Scott sez:  Dig that 90s tape trader jargon!) Scott is in some trouble when we pick this up, getting all bearhugged and stuff. Once again, artificial drama is created as time winds down…AGAIN…and Scott hits a fluke Frankensteiner on Fatu that allows the hot tag to Rick. The ref doesn’t see it, however, and disqualifies Rick after he tosses a Samoan over the top. Samoans get 10 points, and I get a tension headache from such a spectacularly bad finish. I mean, seriously, there’s no titles on the line, there’s like 300 people in the Omni, and the buyrate for this was negligible, so just put say “screw it” and put guys over clean.  (2011 Scott sez:  Two mini-tournaments would have been much smarter.  Tournaments are AWESOME.  I even made a tag saying so.)

- Steiners – 35, Samoans – 30, Warriors – 20, Doom – 0.

- Lex Luger v. The Great Muta. The point totals at this point necessitate another crap finish, because any result other than a DQ messes up the drama for the finals and basically hands the tournament to Luger. That’s the problem with this show – the format handcuffs the bookers with stupid finishes that tease the fans with a good match and then cop out. (2011 Scott sez:  See also:  That stupid PPV before Bound For Glory where they didn’t even figure out the math needed to win the tournament until the PPV itself)  Luger is still selling the knee injury from the Flair match. We join it in progress, as Muta goes to town on the knee. Muta actually gets a FACE POP for doing the bridged indian deathlock, which is admittedly a cool-looking spot. A spinkick to the face and a Holly-esque dropkick keeps things going for Muta. (2011 Scott sez:  By that I must have meant that Muta intentionally took liberties with Luger and then got a World title match at the Royal Rumble as a reward.)  Luger mounts a comeback, turning back into a babyface. One minute left, Luger goes for the Rack, and Muta blows mist in his face to draw the DQ. Luger finishes at 35 points, Muta finishes with nothing but his pride and his TV title. (2011 Scott sez:  I’m sure he felt better while rolling around in the pile of money that All Japan paid him in later years.)  The latter would go to Arn Anderson about a week after this, and the former got lost on a flight to Japan in 1993, last I checked. This match was actually shaping up to be something interesting given another few minutes, too. **

- Luger – 35, Flair – 25, Sting – 20, Muta – 0.

- Iron Team Final: The Road Warriors v. The Wild Samoans. Winner takes all, pretty much. The match is short and ugly, as both teams are done for the night and running on fumes. Hawk gets a quick pin about 5 minutes in after a flying clothesline. And that’s that. DUD  (2011 Scott sez:  They showed this match on Vintage Collection recently.  It wasn’t a DUD, more like ** or so.) 

- Final standings: Warriors – 40, Steiners – 35, Samoans – 30, Doom – 0. Winners: The Road Warriors.

- Iron Man Final: Sting v. Ric Flair. This actually did have a bit of backstory, as Sting had joined the Horsemen a little ways previous to this, and everyone was just WAITING for him to get punked out. Nice to see Sting taking the time to reapply his makeup before the match. Nice wrestling sequence to start, with Flair playing subtle heel. The fans are sharply divided on the subject. Criss-cross sequence leads to a press-slam, and Flair bails. Back in, and it’s Flair Classic out of the blue, as he nearly chops the skin off Sting’s chest. Sting comes on with a clothesline for two, then Flair cheats and tosses Sting out of the ring. He takes over with a suplex back in, followed by the usual Flair stuff. Abdominal stretch rollup gets two. Small package gets two. Suplex gets two. Double-arm suplex gets two. Sting comes back and Flair bails again. The heel-face roles are well-defined now, as Sting no-sells the chops. Clothesline gets two, and he goes into the Stinger splash/Scorpion Deathlock sequence. Flair makes the ropes, then quickly counters with the figure-four. Sting makes the ropes. Flair continues working the knee with less than a minute left. A pinfall reversal sequence gives Sting a two-count, but Flair hits another knee-breaker. 30 seconds left, and Flair goes for the figure-four again, but Sting of course reverses to the inside cradle for the pin and 20 points. The Andersons POUNCE into the ring and the crowd senses a beatdown, but Flair calls them off and the Horsemen celebrate together. Of course, weeks later they’d turn on Sting and leave him for dead, but Sting gets so few chances to be happy, so who am I to ruin this moment for him? Match was pretty good, too, given the limitations. ***1/4  (2011 Scott sez:  I upgraded this one to **** when I did the Essential Starrcade reviews.  Hell of a match, shitty PPV.) 

- Final Standings: Sting – 40, Luger – 35, Flair – 25, Muta – 0. Winner: Sting.

The Bottom Line: The first of three years in a row to feature an experimental format for Starrcade, and the first Starrcade to decisively suck as a result. Just a bad idea all around here that wastes the biggest show of the year for the NWA on a dead crowd and two meaningless tournaments.

Not recommended.




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  • Victor

    I’ve always thought the general idea of this kind of round robin tournament can be done well, but you have to think through the implications of the scoring. If I recall, Japan does elements of this in some of their big tourneys.

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