WCW Starrcade 1994 Review!
Updated: Aug 25
The acquisition of Hulk Hogan was a scoop of epic proportions for the Georgia-based company. Hogan had been gone from Wrestling for almost 12 months whilst recording the Emmy-nominated Thunder in Paradise, and though it was never explicitly stated that he was done with Wrestling, it certainly seemed that way when he left the WWF in 1993.
However, what would WCW do with Hogan now that he was on the payroll? Well, why not have him have that dream match against Ric Flair that everyone was salivating at the prospect of? This was what they did... with Hogan winning, barely drawing a sweat and taking the company's top prize.
Right, now what?
The problem was, that even though Hogan was undoubtedly getting reactions, they weren't the raucous ones that WCW were hoping for, and so the mission statement changed: get Hogan over!
They did this initially by allowing all the old Hogan crew into the company; Jimmy Hart, a well past his prime Ed Leslie, The Nasty Boyz etc all made their way to WCW to join Hogan. After this, the Three Faces of Fear were formed after Leslie turned on Hogan in an angle that fell almost criminally flat. Now Hogan had his enemies to overcome in Sullivan, Avalanche (the former Earthquake) and Ed Leslie (now christened The Butcher) and the first port of call was Starrcade 1994, WCW's crown jewel of a show...which would be main-evented by Hulk Hogan taking on real-life bestie Ed Leslie for the WCW Championship...
Sometimes you have to marvel at Hogan's politicking ability don't you, he had it down to a tee.
We open the show, not with Wrestling action, but with a considerable amount of build-up courtesy of our commentary team of Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan, alongside 'Mean’ Gene Okurland. They briefly outline the card before focusing on Macho Man Randy Savage's words about what he was going to do when he finally saw Hogan; shake his hand or slap him in the face, and then cut to that aforementioned promo from WCW Saturday Night.
Following this, we have Schiavone holding the PWI issue with the Top 500 Wrestlers inside, fawning over how Hulk Hogan had won 1994's Best Wrestler. Heenan has a slightly different approach and instead tears up the issue as we cut to footage of Hogan receiving his award. He talks at length about how his legacy being incomplete made him yearn to come back, and how his legacy would not be complete without defeating Ric Flair (which he did at Bash at the Beach of that year.) Yes, Hogan returning to Wrestling had absolutely nothing to do with 'Thunder In Paradise' being a big fat flop, and everything to do with defeating Ric Flair.
Match #1 - Vader def. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
[WCW United States Heavyweight Championship Match]
We finally get our first match of the broadcast as Vader takes on Hacksaw Jim Duggan for the United States Heavyweight Championship.
Duggan doesn’t even make it to the ring before Vader meets him. The pair brawl with Duggan coming out on top before he makes his way to the ring, tosses Vader’s manager, Harley Race, out of it and instigates a ‘USA!’ chant; it won’t be the last time we hear that during this match.
The Champion dominates the vast majority of the early exchanges, clubbing at Vader with Clotheslines and Punches, pausing between each to pander to the crowd, and even takes the Challenger down with a Crossbody, which garners a 2 count. Having ground him down, we go to a Rear Choke, as the pace of the match certainly warrants a choke hold. Eventually Race distracts the referee and Vader pokes at the eye of Duggan, finally getting in some offence, before Duggan Clotheslines momentum back in his favour.
Duggan misses an Elbow from the top rope and Vader sends him over the ropes and into the barricade. Vader punches at the ribs and kidneys before planting him on the floor and hits the Vader Bomb, but Duggan gets a foot on the rope. Vader goes for a second Vader Bomb, but Duggan clocks him twice in the plums. The pair meet in the middle after an Irish Whip which sends the Champ across the ring and into Harley Race who attacks while Vader distracts the referee. Vader eats canvas off of a Moonsault as the arena fills once more with ‘USA!’ chants. Vader goes for a Splash in the corner, but Duggan cuts him off with a Diving Clothesline. We get more punches and a Double Axehandle from the Champion, finishing it off with a 3 Point Stance, but Harley breaks the pin by raking the eyes.
Vader goes up top but is taken down by a Spinning Powerslam from Duggan, but the referee is still remonstrating with Harley Race and misses the count. Duggan is livid but stops just short of assaulting the referee. He tries once more the 3 Point Stance, but Vader dodges and Race hits him with the 2 x 4, allowing Vader to hit a Wheelbarrow Facebuster for the victory, and become the new WCW United States Champion.
A solid match, but there was far too much dead space between moves. Duggan especially has a very bland move set, with Punches making up the majority, and patriotically pandering to the crowd making up the rest. Vader sold well for him and looked good during offence, but it went too long and even Race’s constant interference started to take a toll on the viewer.
Match Rating: 3 stars
Backstage, Gene Okurland is talking to the Three Faces of Fear; Kevin Sullivan, The Butcher and Avalanche. The Butcher cuts a terrible promo where he mentions the word ‘fight’ altogether too many times while holding a Hulk Hogan Tombstone. Avalanche chastises Sting, his opponent for tonight, finishing up by literally jumping up and down in anger, before Sullivan spews a rambling promo about Hogan needing a funeral parlour. The entire angle is then finished with Okurland attempting to send us to the ring, but Avalanche is too busy jumping and shouting again!
Match #2 - Alex Wright def. Jean-Paul Levesque
A wild Triple H appeared!
It’s an interesting dynamic between these two; Alex Wright’s high-flying offence and Levesque playing the snooty and obnoxious heel he would take to the WWF as the Connecticut Blue Blood. Wright impresses early on with some quick counters and even Leapfrogging the referee when he is reprimanding Levesque in the corner.
Levesque can’t get any space from the Wunderkid, and the frustration begins to show as Wright once again comes out on top during some mat wrestling and locks him in a Headscissors on the floor. Finally, after another mat wrestling sequence in which Levesque finds himself in a Headscissor, he headstands out and deliver a right hand to Alex Wright, finally gaining some momentum. Levesque slows down the pace after mauling Wright initially, Stomping away at the 18 year old, and marvelling at himself when hitting a Spinning Wheel Kick, bowing to the unappreciative audience.
Wright misses a big Crossbody and rolls out of the ring, and is then Dropkicked as he attempts to get back in. He tries a Springboard Sunset Flip, but Levesque blocks it and continues his own momentum, hitting a Powerslam for a 2 Count. Heenan then makes the eerie call that “This Levesque guy is going to be a Superstar from 95 onwards!” How right he was!
It’s undeniable that Levesque would become a superstar as Triple H in the late nineties, but it’s very hard to get on board with his current character. His offence lacks any intensity and far from it being cerebral, it’s just dull. 2 Reverse Chinlocks follow a Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreaker and a Dropkick (as well as an awful lot of bowing), before Wright finally catches a break as the former Terra-Ryzin misses a Top Rope Elbow. Wright looks to capitalise with an Arm Drag and a Dropkick but Levesque kicks out handily.
Slightly out of nowhere then, Levesque sends Wright into a corner and charges at him, only for Wright to flip over him and roll him up for the victory.
The match started well, and the initial stretch where Wright was in control, dominating the Mat Wrestling, was interesting, however the longer the match went on, the more it meandered without any real intensity or story. Unfortunately, Levesque was more at fault here, with his offence translating as both bland and boring. He didn’t really have a handle on the character he had been given, just to incessantly bow, which did nothing for the crowd or for the viewers at home. However, nothing botchy in this relatively inoffensive match, and it’s always fun to look back at a megastar’s humble roots.
Match Rating: 4 stars
Match #3 - Johnny B. Badd (c) def. Arn Anderson [WCW Television Championship Match]
Originally this match was slated to be Honky Tonk Man challenging for Badd’s TV Title after lamping him upside the head with a guitar shot. After being fired however, the company had to scratch around for a challenger whilst not disclosing that Honky had been fired, merely making out that he had no shown, even going so far as to start his music. However, it is Arn Anderson, flanked by Colonel Robert Parker and Ming who strides to the ring to take on Badd instead.
The match starts really slowly, with both men feeling each other out, grappling and then breaking apart, pausing only for Arn to pick up Johnny and perch him on top of the ring post, as though teaching him a lesson, pointing a warning finger at him. The second time this happens, Anderson accompanies it with a slap, which sets off Badd and he levels Anderson with a Dropkick.
Johnny B Badd rocks Anderson with some punches before hitting a Spinebuster, but can’t cover because of the effects of the aforementioned Punches. The pair then complete the exact Sunset Flip spot from the previous match, with Anderson blocking and socking the Champion in the face. Double A then remains in charge, grinding down the Champion with Sleeper Holds and Reverse Chinlocks, until Badd eventually manages to reverse into a Sleeper of his own, which Arn in turn reverses into a Jawbreaker.
The Champion gets in some more offence, culminating in a Big Knee to the face and a Sunset Flip pinning combination from off of the top rope, but Anderson kicks out. Badd attempts the Monkey Flip from in the corner, but Anderson blocks it and goes for a Pinning attempt with his feet on the ropes, but the referee spots it before the 3 Count. Anderson still believes he’s won and argues with the referee, until Johnny B Badd rolls him up to retain the Championship.
A solid match with some good chemistry, which also benefited from not going as long as the previous match. However, there were so many similarities to the previous match that it beggars belief. The Sunset Flip spot, the rest holds and the Flash Pin finish are all identical, which took me out of it slightly. Put this together with that slow start, and this match comes across as a little disappointing when you consider who is in the ring.
Match Rating: 3 stars
Match #4 - Harlem Heat vs. The Nasty Boyz Ended in Double DQ
[WCW World Tag Team Championships #1 Contendership Match]
Harlem Heat were actually WCW Tag Team Champions at this point, having beaten the Stars and Stripes team of Buff Bagwell and The Patriot on the December 8th taping of WCW Saturday Night. However, as that episode wasn’t due to air until January 14th 1995, the team, accompanied by Sister Sherri, came out without the belts.
A brawl breaks out, as you may expect from a match including The Nasty Boyz, with the only real flashes of athleticism coming when Booker T enters the fray. In fact the brawling is only punctuated initially by Sherri’s screams and Schiavone asking Heenan who the legal men are, to which he replies ‘I have no idea, check their birth certificates!’
Sherri’s distraction finally leads to a brief respite for Harlem Heat, but when Stevie Ray misses a Legdrop, Knobbs regains the momentum once again, as the Nasty Boyz work the arm of Ray, including quite an ingenious Double Team Arm Breaker which I don’t think I’ve ever seen, and didn’t think the Nastyz were capable of!
Booker finally manages to tag in but cannot change the momentum and is hit again with the Double Team Arm Breaker as the pair work the arm of Booker T. Knobbs sits on the shoulder of Booker T with his arm in an Armbar whilst the ref counts Booker’s shoulders to the mat, but he kicks out, putting more strain on his shoulder.
Harlem Heat finally manage to get a foothold in the match as Booker sends Saggs to the outside, and Ray hits him with a Big Boot on the ramp followed by a sloppy looking slam on the barricade. A period of sustained pressure for Heat, with Booker working Saggs with a series of kicks, and then bringing it to the mat with a Nerve Hold. Harlem Heat do a good job of cutting the ring in half, stopping Saggs from making the tag, using their own tags very well, swapping over regularly, even continuing the previous move after tagging.
Saggs gets out of the corner with a Big Boot to Booker T and follows it up a big Clothesline which sends the future WCW Champion cartwheeling through the air. A Harlem Heat double team is stopped by a Saggs Double DDT, and we finally get the hot tag to Brian Knobbs.
The ensuing brawl reaches the ropes where Sherri attempts to pepper spray Knobbs, but gets Booker instead. As this happens, Stevie Ray is then pitched from the Top Rope and hit with a Diving Elbow Drop from Saggs. Sherri then gets to the top rope and attempts to break up the ensuing Pinfall with a Diving Splash but misses and hits Stevie Ray. Nick Patrick at this point has had enough and throws out the match, with the Nastyz getting revenge on Sherri with a Pit Stop after teasing the Pepper Spray.
A double DQ feels a little bit of a cop out in a number 1 Contendership Match, especially as the match went 17 minutes and actually had some semblance of a story in the Nasty Boyz working the arms of Harlem Heat, even if it played in no way into the finish, and it was painfully slow at times.
Match Rating: 4 stars
We cut to the awards once again, this time with Sting receiving the ‘Most Popular Wrestler Award.'
‘Mean’ Gene Okurland catches up with Sting and talks about his upcoming match with Avalanche. The Stinger yells his way through a promo about how all Stingers, all shapes, sizes and colours are his lifeblood, just like Wrestling is his lifeblood, and he is going to walk out of this match as either a loser, or a giant killer, and he feels like a giant killer!
Match #5 - Mr. T def. Kevin Sullivan
WCW channelled their inner WWF next as Mr. T (former WrestleMania main-eventer) took on the leader of the Three Faces of Fear - Kevin Sullivan.
Just as the match begins, we cut to Santa Claus on the ramp giving out free t-shirts as we miss Mr. T running Sullivan into each of the corners, jabbing him in the ribs and eliciting a wonderful barking noise from Sullivan. The match spills to the outside, where Sullivan launches Mr. T into a cameraman and pulls his confusing referee-style jumper over his head and hands, taking the A-Team star’s punches out of the equation.
As he rolls Mr. T back into the ring, Jimmy Hart makes his way to ringside, unmasking Santa as Sullivan’s brother Dave/Evad on the way and placing his megaphone in his sack (not a euphemism). Dave, who had previously been beaten up by his brother, waits as Sullivan comes off of the ropes before decking him from behind with the megaphone in the sack, knocking him out and allowing Mr. T to cover for the Pinfall victory. What was this hot garbage?
Match Rating: DUD
Sullivan does get his heat back however, effectively pantsing his poor brother and hitting him with a Piledriver, all while Evad is still half-dressed as Santa, presumably mentally scarring an entire generation of children!
Match #6 - Sting def. Avalanche via DQ
The second of our ‘Triple Header of Main Events‘ sees the PWI Most Popular Wrestler of 1994 take on what must be the laziest repackaging in WCW history!
This match is hard to get through, so as a favour to anyone reading this, I am going to do my best to condense this marathon into a more bearable soundbite; the match is that dull.
We start with postulating (a lot of it) before we have Avalanche dominate proceedings. There are flashes of actual wrestling when Sting has his early hope spots, doing his best to grind the beast that is John Tenta down, cutting down the base with stiff kicks. When Tenta is in control however, the action moves at a snail's pace, and this isn't helped by the fact that he is completely blown up 5 minutes into the match.
A great deal of nothingness later, and after an extended Nerve Hold that lasts an eternity, we finally get some action as Sting finally hits his baby-face comeback, slamming into Avalanche with a Stinger Splash in the corner. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't see that the referee has been crushed behind Avalanche in the corner in the process.
Cue some interference (how refreshing) from Sullivan, with both he and Avalanche beating down the hapless Sting; whoever will save him? Why it's Mr. Hulk Hogan of course, replete with Steel Chair as he comes in to make the save alongside the second referee, who officially throws this debacle out and awards the match to Sting via DQ.
To expect 550 lbs John Tenta to go 15 minutes is excessive in of itself, but to then throw another screwy finish into the mix is just ridiculous; why on earth do we need to protect Avalanche? So he can be toppled by Hulk Hogan, obviously! Boring, boring boring and a complete waste of PWI's Most Popular Wrestler of 1994!
Match Rating: 1 star
Just before the sole video package of the show documenting the shocking betrayal of Brother Bruti, we have a horribly sycophantic promo from Jimmy Hart who is accepting his first PWI Manager of the Year Award since 1987. The entire promo centres around how it is because of Hogan that he has won the award, and he will be by Hogan's side for ever and a day; heel turn incoming!
Match #7 - Hulk Hogan (c) def. The Butcher [WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match]
The Butcher comes out accompanied by his other Faces of Fear compatriots, meaning we have now seen Kevin Sullivan in each of the last three matches. Straight away it is glaringly obvious that the crowd have no feelings towards Leslie, far from even booing the heel in the main event, there is complete ambivalence towards him, which is worrying in the main event of your biggest show of the year. Hogan conversely gets a big reaction, accompanied by Hart and a steel chair.
We throw to Ring Announcer Michael Buffer, who introduces both competitors as Hogan wards off the Three Faces of Fear with the steel chair. Once again, Butcher gets no reaction, while Hogan gets pyro and his entrance theme played again.
It’s clear from very early on that Leslie is out of shape and past his wrestling prime as he is blown up, almost straight away. After the initial posturing and shoving, the match moves to the outside where Butcher manages to bounce Hogan off of the barricade and steps, though a distraction by Jimmy Hart allows Hogan to reassert his dominance, and also allows him to savage Brother Bruti with a chair...in front of the referee...without being disqualified; this won’t be the last time something like this happens!
We make our way back to the ring and Butcher hits a Rising Knee Strike and goes for a second rope Elbow Drop, which he predictably misses, allowing Hogan to lay back into him with chops, cue some of the most ludicrous selling I’ve ever seen from Leslie - I mean, Shawn Michaels circa 2005 would be proud of this! After just full-on biting Butcher, not once, but twice, Hogan finally gets some manner of comeuppance as Butcher locks in the Sleeper Hold. Not content with burying Leslie’s Rising Knee Strike finish, we also get Hogan powering out of this, ‘Hulking up’ to the delight of the fans. Just as it looks like we may be mercifully approaching the end of this match, we get yet more interference as Sullivan and Avalanche, who I didn’t even realise had left ringside, make their way to ringside to be easily disposed of by Hogan. Big Boot and a Legdrop to Butcher and a Pinfall victory in a 12 minute match that felt like it lasted 12 days.
Match Rating: 1 star
After waiting politely for the pinfall to finish, Sullivan and Avalanche ‘storm’ the ring, but are easily held off by a chair-wielding Hogan. Randy Savage finally makes an appearance, teasing his union with the Three Faces of Fear before turning on them instantly and helping Hogan clean house. The pair face off and engage in a very awkward handshake, presumably a nod to their Mega Powers days, which is referenced by Schiavone, and then we have a long time with the pair postulating in the ring and making their way to the back as, bafflingly, the show is not over.
We make our way to the face locker-room, where ‘Mean’ Gene interviews Hogan about his match. After un-ironically putting over Butcher as one of the top talents in WCW, he states that it’s bittersweet, because beating his friend in the middle of the ring was like a beating a piece of himself; dirty Hogan. Randy Savage pops up to say that he probably owes the Three Faces of Fear an apology and in the process cements himself as the most entertaining thing about this entire show. An enraged Vader storms the locker-room to demand a title match as he is now the #1 Contender after winning the United States Championship. Nick Bockwinkel seems to agree to the match as we finally bring the curtain down on this cavalcade of shit.
This is not an easy show to watch.
There is a reason that this is lauded as one of the worst Starrcades, and unfortunately, there is very little to change my mind to the contrary.
Looking just at Meltzer’s ratings, the highest-rated match was the Tag Team match (2 and a quarter stars), which for WCW’s flagship show of the year, simply cannot be the case. Even if, like me, you believe star ratings to be subjective, there’s certainly one thing that cannot be argued, and that is that this show lacked that marquee match! In 1993 we had the fantastic Vader vs. Flair match, while the year before we had the iconic Sting vs. Vader encounter, but here we had a show mostly full of Hogan’s past-their-prime entourage wrestling poorly paced matches, the final 5 of which involved copious amounts of interference and shenanigans.
And that is without the main event.
I have long been a critic of Hogan’s early run in WCW, believing his ego ran wilder than it did in his final months with WWF, but this show illustrates this to the point where it passes through farce and into pantomime. Ed Leslie was never a main event player, not even as The Barber, but here he was catapulted ahead of so many more worthy WCW talents to wrestle best friend Hogan when severely out of shape, with a move set and gimmick which no-one cared about and all the while wrestling in near silence because the WCW crowd didn’t care about him. If the ‘top heel’ of a show isn’t even getting boos, you know you’re doing something wrong!
Aside from the awful main event, we had a match between Sting and Avalanche that went far too long, the awful Mr. T vs. Kevin Sullivan ‘match’ and a disappointing Arn Anderson match; it’s not a great look for this show, and highlighted just how much the company changed when Hogan, and his ego, arrived.
To sign off, if Hacksaw Jim Duggan is wrestling one of the better matches on your card, and the best thing about a show is a man who is only on screen for about 5 minutes (Randy Savage) then you know this is a show to skip.
Matches You Need to Check Out: The Vader matches from Starrcade 1992 and 1993
Matches You Need to Avoid: All of them