With the Peacock app finally getting some level of organization, but still resembling a battle royal of content, I selected an event to review based on the main event that I actually originally watched on a VHS titled “Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s best matches of 1994 Volume One.” Ironically, when I did commentary for some FNW Warriors events, the shows ran by Corey Graves’ family on the local scene in the mid-2000s, in 2010, his brother, the now-international star, Sam Adonis had a box of tapes he sold for $2 each. With my roller bag that contained a suit, dress shoes, and trusty comb, I found space for five tapes and gave Sam a $10 dollar bill. Among the impromptu purchases was the previously mentioned 1994 tape, a VHS originally made by George Mayfield, known for years as a vendor that had thousands of tapes of obscure footage before the concept of streaming content even existed. I picked up the 1994 compilation because Eddie Guerrero and Art Barr, the duo that had a legendary run as Los Gringos Locos, were on the box art. Other selections included a Best of Jushin Liger and a Michinoku Pro VHS.
For whatever reason, even though it technically happened in late-1993, the famous Ric Flair vs. Vader bout from Starrcade was included in the 1994 compilation, which had the AAA tag match with Guerrero and Barr, the Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Micheals ladder match from Wrestlemania, and other international action. Despite VCRs being an antiquated format by 2010, it was still neat to get to see so many great bouts in a row. The Flair/Vader main event stood out, particularly because Vader was just brutal with stiff strikes to “The Nature Boy,” and as stellar as Flair’s usual work was, it definitely wasn’t a typical Flair match, but more on that later.
Still, that initial VHS viewing is what prompted the selection of Starrcade 1993 on the Peacock streaming service for this review. For some reference point, this pay-per-view was after the infamous Jim Herd era, but just before Eric Bischoff took the reigns to at least give the organization some direction so as far as quality, this broadcast is a mixed bag.
The underrated tag team of Pretty Wonderful, the combination of Paul Orndorff and Paul Roma vs. Marcus Bagwell and Too Cold Scorpio was the opener of the show. Despite injuries putting this bout toward the latter stage of Mr. Wonderful’s career, he’s still a solid pro in this contest. Roma is a puzzling case because he had flashes of talent throughout his career, but for whatever reason, never picked up enough steam to have more than a mediocre run. Maybe, it was some sort of attitude problem, which I’m only guessing based on a shoot interview he did several years ago where Roma somehow thinks he was a much bigger star than he actually was during his career. The match was decent, but nothing too spectacular and Pretty Wonderful get the win. As far as Bagwell and Scorpio, you can definitely see the talent that Scorpio brought to the table, as well as why Bagwell had his biggest run as a heel a few years later. Speaking of shoot interviews, Bagwell is another guy that somehow thought he had the talent to be another Rock, but was “kept down” by the office. Bagwell just has the body language and the demeanor of a heel, but unfortunately, the majority of his career had “go away heat.”
Next, was something that you’d expect from the Jim Herd era of ding dongs and Norman The Lunatic. The Shockmaster, after he fell through the wall, had ditched the Star Wars helmet and traded it for a hard hat so the gimmick appears to be that Fred Ottman worked at the power company. Two generic wrestlers in masks that resemble the McGuire twins waddle to the ring, known as Awesome Kong and King Kong. The ring announcer and the commentators refer to the actual participant in the match as different names so I’m not sure what Kong competed against electric company Ottman. The Shockmaster wins in less than two minutes and besides this review, it would be better if everyone forgets that this match happened.
Thankfully, the card picks up here with Steven Regal vs. Ricky Steamboat for the TV championship, which went to a 15-minute draw so Regal retained the belt. This is really a master class in pro wrestling 101, the technique and in-ring skill of both of these athletes were flawless. The dynamic between the two worked perfectly, as Steamboat’s selling complimented Regal’s work as a vicious heel. One of the takeaways from this bout is that while Steamboat’s full-time career would conclude the following year due to injuries, he was still in top form in this era, an aspect of this stint that is almost unintentionally overlooked simply because he had such a legendary run in the late-80s during the series of matches with Randy Savage and Ric Flair.
Cactus Jack and Max Payne beat Tex Slazenger and Shanghai Pierce in a short bout. This was more or less just a basic tag match, it wasn’t anything terrible, but there wasn’t anything notable about it either. That said, I’m puzzled as to how Max Payne had a stint in both of the national promotions in the 90s because he looked and worked like a glorified enhancement talent. I’m honestly not sure how either office saw him as bringing anything more to the table than any of the other local yokels that might be at a TV taping to work squash matches.
“Stunning” Steve Austin defeated Dustin Rhodes in a two-out-of-three falls match to claim the US title in a really solid bout. While the performance wasn’t necessarily their best work because of the major runs they would both have in later years, you can really see the potential of these two competitors in the ring. Something that should be noted from this is that these two had just four years experience at this point, and it speaks volumes to how talented they were to already be this skilled this early in their careers. The actual booking of the match worked well since it was a way to protect the baby face while getting heat for the villain. With Robert Parker on the apron, Dustin unknowingly throws Stunning Steve into the interfering manager, sending the heel over the top rope for the DQ. Nearly twenty minutes into the match, Austin uses the trunks to get the pin so the baby face dropped two falls, but didn’t lose clean in either of them.
Following that was Rick Rude defending the International championship, the short-lived name for the belt after the dispute with the NWA board at the time about the decisions of the title, against The Boss, who was known as The Big Bossman just before his arrival in WCW. I have to be honest, considering the level of those involved in this contest, this match was underwhelming. I don’t know if Rude was injured ahead of this bout and they had to work around it, but this wasn’t anything more than just an average match before he retained the title.
Road Warrior Hawk worked a handful of appearances for WCW at this time and was paired with Sting on this pay-per-view to challenge the Nasty Boys for the tag titles. The announcers acknowledged that this was the first match for the Hawk/Sting duo so clearly this was just a pairing to try to shoehorn some extra star power onto the show solely based on the face paint of both wrestlers. This bout had its moments, but it went way too long and dragged at certain points. More than thirty minutes of pin falls being interrupted was very repetitive, and the DQ finish when Missy Hyatt interfered might’ve been a way to keep the titles on the Nasty Boys without either Hawk or Sting getting pinned, but the finish fell completely flat. There was a 30-minute match that was rendered pointless because there wasn’t a winner.
As mentioned, the main event was the reason I made the selection on Peacock and watching it again confirmed just how entertaining this contest is, even today. One of the criticisms of Flair’s career was that he had very similar matches, which is true, he worked a specific playbook, but the counter argument could be made that he always made his opponents look good in the process. That said, this match in particular shows that Flair is versatile and just how well-rounded of a performer he was, especially in his prime. His body language and his walk to the ring were different in his role as the sentimental baby face who had his career on the line in this bout. The way he sold was different than when he worked as a heel, and his selling really emphasized Vader as a monster during the main event.
The actual in-ring work was something completely different than what you’d expect from a Flair match, and Vader absolutely battered him with stiff strikes from bell-to-bell. At the same time, The Nature Boy battled back with stiff chops and personified classic baby face fire. The finish was also designed to emphasize that dynamic, as Flair won with a rocky roll up and just barely got the three count to win the championship. The crowd goes crazy and it’s more proof of just how over Flair was in the prime of his career.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta