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  1. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Lex Luger – NWA Starrcade 1988 As great as the Total Package was in this match, Ric Flair was the undeniable man in this match. Understanding who the Nature Boy was in between those ropes as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. A lot of this was covered verbally during Part 1 of Fair to Flair, but lets go through the minutia using this match as a case study. The match begins with Flair cocky as ever going so far as to taunt the Total Package. At one point, he gets down on one knee and flexes! Flair’s goal early on is psych out the inexperienced challenger and assert himself. You see crowd Luger in the corner, but Luger’s immense power overwhelms him and sends him flying out of the ring. Now, Luger poses to a massive pop, which is a great payback spot as Flair is left doubting himself rather than the other way around. The key to Flair is that he is always going to try to win the match legitimately at first. He is only apprehensive right now, not out and out desperate. The key difference to me between Flair and Harley Race is that Flair makes you earn your shine because Flair is going to apply a hammerlock, throw a chop and try a back elbow, but the challenger fights through this offense and when they gain the upper hand it is more meaningful. Now Flair is going back to the core of his strategy: breaking the rhythm of his opponent. The challenger is going on a fast break and the crowd is hot. Flair uses the ropes like a basketball team would use a timeout. Luger can taunt all he wants, but Flair is in command. Of course, Flair can’t win the match either this way he can only slow Luger down. Now, he moves the second phase of his two-pronged strategy leverage his superior cardiovascular stamina to defeat powerful, muscular Lex Luger. He tries to turn into a track meet by coming off the ropes and we see Luger do a really IMPRESSIVE leapfrog. Luger is ready to use power via a shoulder tackle to thwart the Nature Boy. Big Press Slam! Flair is in the ropes and it is not looking good. Luger begins to try break down Flair via the arm and Flair’s verbal selling is great. He whips Flair hard into the turnbuckles who takes it shoulder first. Here comes Flair with his perpetual motion offense of chops and shoulderblocks to stop the bleeding, but nothing is working on the challenger. Finally, about ten minutes in, Flair finally thumbs Luger in the eye. For ten minutes, Flair try to best Luger and could not. Out of desperation, he finally resorted to nefarious tactics. That’s beautiful storytelling. Flair goes to his number one weapon, the chops. JR gets in a good point about chops as wearing down the opponent. Incredibly, he does NOT take it to the logical football analogy of running up the middle in the first quarter for 2-3 yards, but keep pounding the ball up the gut so that it turns into 5-7 yards in the fourth quarter. The chop is a similar strategy and in addition it is evacuating the air out of Luger’s lungs, which plays into Flair’s overall strategy. Remember, we are only ten minutes into this contest, so when Flair chops Luger they have an effect, but they have taken their true toll on the Total Package yet. The result is one of the MOST ELECTRIC NO-SELLS of all time with Luger coming out of the corner looking like a million bucks and the crowd and me losing their shit. Flair retreats to the outside and admittedly due to small ringside area things do get a little awkward with Luger trying to navigate his way to get Flair and then he wrenches Flair’s arm around the railing. Another Flair strategy is use of shortening the distance like a boxer would or what could be called crowding when he takes Luger from the armbar into the corner. Flair is an underrated puncher and I have always thought his punches look nasty. Flair tries to combat Luger’s power by using the ropes to get a running start to increase his momentum and add some wallop to his blows. Luger at this stage of the game is a Flair-seeking missile and will not be denied. I love the suplex back in the ring as it is just the perfect babyface move. Oh, you want to try to run from me, let me bring you in the hard way. Luger misses his big elbow and lets out quite the yelp. Flair pounces with a short kicks to abs and now using that running start to really topple Luger. He throws Luger to the outside for a hard, hard fall. He attacks Luger using the railing. This is when Flair is at his sadistic best. He slows down the pace and really grinds his opponent down. Kneedrop and double footstomp! This is offense that allows him to recover without expending too much energy, but at the same time non-kayfabe allows the heat to sink in and for Luger to sell. Luger gets his second wind so Flair immediately goes back to trying to create movement, but ends up in a sleeper! Again Luger earns the comeback fighting through his chops and then winning the criss-cross exchange! Flair hits a back suplex counter. He realizes he can not waste anymore time and goes for his one surefire home run, the figure-4. INSIDE CRADLE! Only two. Flair crashes down with a elbow to stymie Luger. You feel his hold on the match is tenuous at best. He wants to go up top to get some free velocity and really crash down on Luger, but he gets caught with the superplex, awesome nearfall. Luger now applies the figure-4 as a slap in the face and as a strong match-ender spot. Flair gets the ropes and now here comes the Luger home stretch. Luger accidentally hit the ref on the backswing of his punch. He gets a top rope crossbody for two only because the ref was out of position. Backslide that’s how Kerry beat Flair. Flair takes the flip in the corner. Luger suplexes him back in and PRESS SLAM! The challenger is pouring it on. Now it is up to JJ to do what Flair can’t break his momentum. Luger is on a fast break so putting himself into harm’s way distracts Luger. Flair trips Luger up and goes full psycho smashing a steel chair into the knee of the Total Package. Flair goes to town on the knee. This is an absolute clinic of how to work the knee and how to sell a knee both psychically and verbally. Flair Figure-4! Time to test the mettle of Lex Luger, who like a real man reverses the pressure. Flair is right back to the knee. He goes up top to try win the match with a cross body, but gets caught in a press slam. Luger was able to fight through pain for that one moment, but the pain is too much has to crawl to Flair and can’t capitalize. Flair desperate just throws him out of the ring. Sunset Flip by Luger! That’s how Garvin won the title. Flair tries one of those running, jumping forearms, but just bounces off Luger! It is hot baby! Luger fighting through the pain hits the clotheslines and powerslams to set up for the torture rack. In my probably my favorite finish of all time, Luger hoists up the champion only to have his knee give out and Flair lands on top, puts his feet on the ropes and wins the match. WOW! Incredible match and one that I hope I did justice. I really don’t think I can in all honesty it is something that needs to be watched. Everybody seems to like the Wrestlewar match, which I think is an all-time classic, but I have this a notch above. Clearly, the Starrcade finish is better than the Wrestlewar finish. This told an absolutely incredible story and just stayed so true to both characters. The selling was just pitch perfect. I have always seen this match ranked ****1/2. I can’t go below ****3/4 and right now I can’t think of a reason not to go the full monty. For my money, this is the perfect Flair vs power wrestler match. It is Flair’s best power wrestler opponent, Luger, putting a great selling and offensive clinic. His timing on those no-sells was great. Flair gave a heel performance in this match that I don’t know has ever been topped. I am going *****, but would love to hear arguments to the contrary.
  2. I was never what you would call a WCW fan growing up. I liked seeing the matches on Saturday or Sunday but, I never went out of my way to watch Nitro until the Monday Night Wars stuff. It was WCW that grabbed my attention first with Goldberg and his streak. Plus my older cousin thought he was cool and therefore I did too Quickly, I found out that I preferred WWF to WCW in most instances and then ECW came in the picture and I never looked back really. So, with that being said, I never gave a thought to WCW's pay-per-views and although the titles were cooler than WWF's the cards usually sucked. So, here I am all of these years later willing to call bullshit on myself and check out the best of the best PPV that WCW had to offer - Starrcade. The saving grace of this project is that many of the matches on this list (this is the Starrcade Essential Collection set by WWE) are from Jim Crockett Promotions and/or in the early days of WCW. Half are from the 80's and 5 more are between 1990-1993. Anyhow there's 25 matches and I'm going run down (or up?) the list to see just how essential these matches are. I might give impressions for some, others I might have a review, and even more I might have written something up in the match discussion archives. Let's start Roddy Piper vs Hollywood Hogan (1996): Good match with good action that tells the Match of the Decade story well. Intense too which was a big surprise considering Hogan was in the ring...I mean honest-looking intensity and not that hammy crappola. Sting vs Great Muta (1989): Iron Man tournament match which I saw a few months ago during my Great Muta You Might Have Missed post ( https://forums.prowrestlingonly.com/blogs/entry/685-great-muta-you-might-have-missed/). Shit that was almost a year ago!? Anyhow, an under 10 minute banger with Sting and Muta at the height of blending simple wrestling with a fast pace and a few flashy moves. I liked this quite a bit. I'll say a very good match. Barry Windham & Brian Pillman vs Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas (1992): Awesome action packed title match. This Starrcade thing doesn't seem that bad! This also featured Pillman and Douglas ushering a crash-bang style that we would we would see in ECW and the Attitude era. Not that they invented it or anything but, its in contrast to Windham and Ricky's style here. Great match! Goldberg vs Kevin Nash (1998): The match that ended THE STREAK and perhaps was an early sign of things to come. Goldberg and Nash actually wrestle a good match up until the hi-jinks and Hall electrocutes Goldberg. Battlebowl (1991): I don't like Battle Royals. So, I'll make a couple suggestions. Fast forward to when Ricky Morton & Liger are wrestling each other. Then fast forward to when Luger and Vader are in ring #1 by themselves (yes there are two rings). Then fast forward to when it boils down to Steamboat and Sting vs Austin and Rude (Luger is in waiting so to speak). Then watch the rest of the match and you might call this good. This rated higher than the 1992 tag match? horse shit! Dustin Rhodes vs Steve Austin (1993): Starts of pretty good and just sorta ends. I had high hopes for this but, uh yeah it's very much what I expect out of WCW. The last 3 matches don't seem very "essential" to me. I talk more about it in the 1993 match discussion yearbook. I really don't want to do that again here...if that gives you an idea. Road Warriors vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987): Oh crap the Road Warriors...this is not looking good..let's see. Oh man am I wrong! Maybe it's Arn and Tully but, this is perhaps the best Warriors match I've seen. We see a brains & brawn story unfold despite their early domination, Hawk & Animal don't seem invincible. There are some hi-jinks but, it is pandemonium so it works. I loved this match- it was all about selling and timing and it comes off beautifully! Near classic match...hells yeah! Rey Misterio vs Jushin Liger (1996): Oh Rey vs Liger '96, this should be an easy great match! Nope! It's neat but, just felt clunky and the commentary team bury them. This is a great example of how WCW was out of step with where wrestling was headed. It was a fun exhibition match though. Rock 'n Roll Express vs Midnight Express (1987): I wish they could have put another type of match on here with these teams. It was high risk and whatnot but, is really a novelty that doesn't really show what these guys do best. Nevertheless it was one of the best scaffold matches I've seen. I've seen like 4 so...maybe that's not a recommendation. Sorta goes into the realm of Battle Royal matches to me. Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (1988): Here we have our first classic match of the set! I never would have thought it'd come from Luger. Simple but effective stuff! GO SEE THIS!! 1988 Everything else folder has more gushing if you need it. Eddie Guerrero vs Shinjiro Otani (1995): I've seen this match twice and liked it better the 2nd time. Its what the Rey vs Liger match needed to be. Skip that one and watch Otani and Eddie go! Again, I beat a dead horse in the 1995 December yearbook if you want to see that Very good match. Not sure why this is "ahead" of Flair/Luger '88 at all though...gotta give something to Eddie I suppose. Dusty Rhodes & Sting vs Road Warriors (1988): Hmm can't seem to find my notes on this one...I remember it being good with Sting doing his thing. It was not as good as the Tully/Arn match I can tell you that much. I think it was meant to get Sting over since I really don't remember Dusty or the Warriors doing much but a good match and letting Sting shine. Sting vs Vader (1992): People have called this a classic match but, I disagree. Its great but, not a classic. There are a few too many flaws that screw with my suspension of disbelief to put it in that **** 1/2+ class. Selling and the finish being the two biggest complaints. Nevertheless, it is Sting vs Vader - Go watch it for yourself and then head over to the 1992 December archives and see where your opinion falls. Jack & Jerry Brisco vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (1983): A great action packed match. Maybe people don't think that can happen in 1983 here we have it! There were tons of double team moves from both sides. Angelo Mosca is the ref and played his role perfectly. This felt like a real battle in the unreal realm of pro-wrestling! Dusty Rhodes vs Ric Flair (1985): An entertaining match that was kept even keel for some reason. This lacked the charisma and excitement I expected. It felt very average. Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (1997): Again, I can't find any notes on this one. From memory it started off well but, I don't think it really set the world on fire. Probably very much like the Dusty/Flair match above. They had to give a nod to the feud I suppose so, here it is... Road Warriors vs Steiner Brothers (1989): Everyone was selling and bumping. There were no miscues or blown spots. They did their power moves and throws. What more can you ask really!!? It was a dream match as your gonna get. I thought it was very good and should be in both teams highlight reels. Certainly so for the Steiners as I thought the quality and style was right around what they would be doing in NJPW in the 90's. Ladder Match (2000): This is the 3 way ladder match that was really a harbinger of early 2000's indy 'let's try anything' wrestling. It sucks that Jamie Noble and Kaz Hiyashi (who I like) are in this thing. Its also on the first WWE Ladder Match DVD set so, I skipped this. Sting vs Ric Flair (1989): I believe this is the Finals of the 1989 Iron Man tourney. Terry Funk and Jim Ross are on commentary (yes!). This was a great match featuring athletic, charismatic wrestling as you'd hope for. Both guys really put on an action filled match despite the previous bouts and you gotta give it to them for that alone. From what I've seen here and above 1989 looked sweet. Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine (1983): And if '89 looked sweet then '83 was sweeter. Oh man, we get the legendary Dog Collar match between Piper and Valentine and it does not disappoint. It was a madhouse type of match where they're just wailing away on each other with abandon. So many visually remarkable moments involving the chain...man they just did it right. A brutal and bloody affair. A classic match. Road Warriors vs Midnight Express (1986): Another scaffold match. This was remarkably dangerous and Cornette takes a bump off the scaffold (dangling) that seriously injures him. Watch it on fast forward perhaps. Again, these really aren't my thing :/ Sting vs Hogan (1997): Sting's entrance gave me goosebumps. Make no mistake though this is late 90's WCW and they have to fucking slip in some interference in every big match just for the hell of it. Its like having a nice meal at a restaurant and right before you finish, the waiter comes over and drops a fly in it. Like "Why man? Why?" It was a good match even though they dropped a fly in it. For nostalgia sake, watch this big moment in wrestling. I never saw it before and I'm glad I did. Hogan may actually out wrestle Sting too! Ric Flair vs Harley Race (1983): Steel cage NWA world title match. I watched this a couple times in a week about 7 years back and recall it being very good. It was nice and stiff but, a little to methodical if memory serves me correct. I think it was kinda long too...could be wrong. Maybe it just felt long?? I decided to pass but, this is a big time match up so, if you're curious check it out. Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA (1985): This I Quit match was the #1 reason that I spent the $5 at the used DVD/game store for this DVD set. This was violent from the very start...they looked like they wanted to maim each other. I believed it man. I mean Magnum was digging his fingers into Tully's arm trying to pull Tully's wound apart and he's the babyface!! They had to switch cameras that it was so nasty. Visceral barbaric wrestling...this did not disappoint. An all time classic without a doubt. If this is your thing, go see this match. If you gotta buy this DVD, do it. It's worth the dough. Vader vs Ric Flair (1993): This was Vader's title against Flair's career. I bet you know who wins This was deemed the greatest Starrcade match of all time by someone(s) at WWE. That's arguable but, I understand why they put this over Tully and Magnum. Flair. And it is a great match. It is not without its detractors and I am one of them. I watched this twice in 2 days and my take away is this- it is too slow at the start. Vader wants to pick apart and torture Flair rather than just pin him. I get this but, it is at a turtle's pace. Flair should have had a couple pin attempts in there to show that he had fight rather than getting pummeled. It does get good once Flair makes his successful come-back. However, the pacing and finish are all off to me. The finish required Vader to sell the leg being hurt but, he didn't at all/forgot/etc. so, it seemed like an odd fluke win. Maybe that's what they were going for but, it was clumbsily executed on Vader's part (understandable). But that's a small quibble next to the drawn out first half of the match where Vader beat Flair like a rented mule. Some of the appeal had to be thinking that Flair was going to lose...but, in 2019 that magic has worn away. So, I would say this set was hit or miss with more hits in the end. Ranking the hits Honorable Mention: Eddie Guerrero vs Shinjiro Otani (1995) 10) Sting vs Great Muta (1989) 9) Road Warriors vs Steiner Brothers (1989) 8) Barry Windham & Brian Pillman vs Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas (1992) 7) Sting vs Vader (1992) 6) Sting vs Ric Flair (1989) 5) Jack & Jerry Brisco vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (1983) 4) Road Warriors vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987) 3) Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (1988) 2) Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine (1983) 1) Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA (1985) I'm very glad that I shelled out the 5 bucks for 10 awesome matches. I feel like Race vs Flair should also be an honorable mention as well. So 12 out of 25 matches that are totally worth checking out...not bad. I'm not sure what that says about WCW or maybe it says more about WWE, I suppose. I'd probably thing the latter is the culprit. They probably could have loaded this with great stuff from 83-89 and I would have been pleased as punch. Heck, Starrcade 83-93 would have been more than acceptable. Thanks for reading! At the very least watch the top 3 matches above! I'm so glad that I did. Until next time...
  3. November 1st, 1985 Forum de Montréal Holiday Wars Battlebowl Match Qualifier: Jos LeDuc beat Alexis Smirnoff in 15:19 -NWA World Tag Team Champion Botswana Beast (w/Eddy "The Brain" Creatchman) beat Raymond Rougeau in 9:32 -Roddy Piper beat Chris Benoit in 8:38 Mid-Atlantic Showcase: NWA Canadian International Tag Team Champion Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon beat Iron Mike Sharpe in 13:04 -Gilles "The Fish" Poisson beat Armand Rougeau in 16:17 Guest Referee - Édouard Carpentier: Prince Alofa Fatu (w/"Pretty Boy" Floyd Creatchman) beat Boris Zhukov in 6:11 -Gino Brito beat UFO (Frenchy Martin under a mask) in 8:07 NWA Canadian International TV Championship: Super Strong Machine beat Billy Robinson (w/Sherri Martel) in 46:06 to retain
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