Sunday, December 28, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Looking back at Starrcade 1987

Each and every Thursday, I will look back at a different event pay-per-view event wrestling history via the WWE Network. Want to see a certain event covered here? Send your suggestions to @VaughnMJohnson on Twitter. Last week, I looked back at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996.

Throwback Thursday: Looking back at Starrcade 1987

A bloody Ric Flair suffering from a figure-four leg lock. (Photo courtesy of the WWE Network)
A bloody Ric Flair suffering from a figure-four leg lock. (Photo courtesy of the WWE Network)

Each and every Thursday, I will look back at a different event pay-per-view event wrestling history via the WWE Network. Want to see a certain event covered here? Send your suggestions to @VaughnMJohnson on Twitter.

Last week, I looked back at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996.

Starrcade 1987

Date: November 27, 1987 (Thanksgiving night)

Venue: UIC Pavilion, Chicago, Ill.

Match Results:

- Sting, Michael “P.S.” Hayes & “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin vs. “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert, Rick Steiner & Larry Zbyszko went to a time-limit draw

- UWF Heavyweight Championship – “Dr. Death” Steve Williams def. Barry Windham

- Skywalkers Match – The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) def. The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane)

- NWA & UWF World Television Championship Unification Match – Nikita Koloff def. Terry Taylor

- NWA World Tag Team Championship – Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard def. The Road Warriors via disqualification

- Steel Cage Match for NWA United States Heavyweight Championship – Dusty Rhodes def. Lex Luger

- Steel Cage Match for NWA World Heavyweight Championship – Ric Flair def. Ron Garvin

Observations:

- There is a lot of context around this event that needs to be addressed right from the start. This event marked a shift in the wrestling landscape, as Jim Crockett Promotions was beginning to meld the Universal Wrestling Federation into the National Wrestling Alliance, which would explain the UWF champions being on the show. Crockett had purchased the UWF from Bill Watts earlier in the year and kept it alive essentially until this event. The UWF spawned from Mid-South Championship Wrestling and was Watts’ attempt to turn his territory into a national promotion. With the UWF fading away, it left just two major wrestling promotions in the United States: Jim Crockett Promotions and Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation.

- This event was also the first NWA event ever broadcast on pay-per-view. The only problem was that it wasn’t the only wrestling event to debut on pay-per-view that night. On that same night, the WWF also held the first-ever Survivor Series, which was the promotion’s first foray into pay-per-view as well.

- This was also the first time the NWA held Starrcade outside of the American south. Starrcade had previously emanated in either the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. or in The Omni in Atlanta, Ga. The decision to move the promotion’s marquee event apparently alienated its fans below the Mason-Dixon line, who saw themselves as the most loyal fans of the product.

- I always loved the way the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions presented its product. While the WWF was catering to the masses with its entertainment-like product, the NWA presented itself as a sport, as a competition. There wasn’t anything cartoony about this. While larger-than-life Hulk Hogan was running wild as champion in the WWF, the complete opposite to that was NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ron Garvin. The NWA’s presentation made every outcome to every match very important, which is something that is loss today. Too often do we see guys get counted out on purpose, as there is no real consequence to losing. Back in the NWA in 1987, everyone tried to win because that was the most important thing. The exception being the opening match on this show, where Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes seemed perfectly fine with a draw. But adding importance to the outcome added drama to every match on the card, which kept the fans coming back for more.

- Speaking of the fans, the ones Chicago on this night was very hot, which should come as no surprise as Chicago is typically one of the hottest crowds in the country. The even cheered heels and booed babyfaces, especially during the main event between Ron Garvin and Ric Flair. I heard on multiple occasions “Garvin sucks” chants and the crowd wasn’t all that upset when Flair beat him for the title despite the fact that he was the leader of the villainous Four Horseman. However, Flair was pretty much loved by all at this point, as the fans appreciated his hard work.

- Before Flair beat Garvin to win back the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, the two greats put on a great, physical contest. Even with 1987 audio, Garvin’s slaps could be heard loud and clear, and they didn’t sound like it was fun time. They sounded like they hurt like hell. Although the fans didn’t necessarily love Garvin, he still put on a good match with Flair here.

- When watching this event via the WWE Network, you’ll notice that almost all of the wrestlers come out to some very horrible and generic theme music with the exception of Ric Flair. That’s because the real music was dubbed over. The NWA didn’t make theme music for its wrestlers. They came out to real songs, which they didn’t necessarily have the permission to use. It was a different time back then and a wrestling promotion as popular as Jim Crockett Promotions could get away with it. That cannot happen today and the WWE isn’t trying to cough up the dough so that we could enjoy The Road Warriors make their way to the ring to “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath.

- Speaking of The Road Warriors, their match with Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard was the definition of the dreaded “Dusty Finish.” For those that don’t know, Dusty Rhodes booked shows off and on during and after his career. During his time as a booker, Rhodes came up with some good ideas. He probably came up with as many bad ones, but one of the good ones was having a babyface challenger seemingly defeat the heel champion and give the fans that sentimental moment of seeing their favorite guy with the title belt, only for the decision to be reversed that night or days later. This finish worked maybe the first time it happened. The problem was Rhodes got the bright idea to do it numerous times, which didn’t make it seem special anymore. There was another huge problem with this finish. It hurt the attendance in that market moving forward. People legitimately didn’t like the finish and wouldn’t go back to the shows because they felt so cheated. Starrcade 1987 was a prime example of this.

The Road Warriors looked to had defeated Anderson and Blanchard for the NWA World Tag Team Championships in front of their hometown in Chicago. They were awarded the titles by referee Earl Hebner, began celebrating and everything, but the original referee Tommy Young had in fact disqualified The Road Warriors for tossing Anderson over the top rope, which was illegal in the NWA. This angered the Chicago fans so much that it essentially killed the promotion’s attendance in the town moving forward.

- The Skywalkers match was the big draw for Starrcade 1986, but it was just another mid-card match on Starrcade 1987. Even worse, it hindered the work The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and The Midnight Express could do in the ring. Thankfully, Jim Cornette didn’t destroy himself in this match.

- The biggest return on investment Jim Crockett Promotions got from its purchase of the UWF was Sting, who took part in the opening match on this card. Sting was just coming into his own as a babyface and the fans in Chicago were firmly behind him. The match Sting took part in went a time-limit, which is something rarely seen today in wrestling in general and never seen in the WWE. I know it’s something Jim Ross has been vehement about returning.

- The match and finish between “Dr. Death” Steve Williams and Barry Windham was weird and was a huge letdown. When I first looked over this card and saw Williams and Windham I got very excited. In their prime, they were both great workers. I had never seen the match before, so I was very interested to see a great performance from these two. Then I saw the match, which was short and didn’t do any favors for Williams, who walked away the winner.

- Jimmy Garvin cut a promo early in the show where he essentially promoted the rest of the card that night. I thought it was that the fans got to know that even the wrestlers were excited to see the upcoming matches. I think it only adds to the importance and anticipation of them if the fans know that the wrestlers want to see the main event matches, too.

- Pre-Red Rooster Terry Taylor was pretty damn cool. I still, for the life of me, cannot figure out how Vince McMahon saw Taylor and thought he should be a rooster. I still don’t understand it. It wasn’t Taylor didn’t have talent. Oh, and that’s definitely the same robe Bobby Roode wore in TNA. Taylor bestowed the robe upon him while he worked for the promotion.

Vaughn Johnson Sports Producer
About this blog
The Squared Circle is a one-stop shop of pro wrestling news, recaps and observations. You can also enjoy interviews with some of your favorite stars from the world of professional wrestling both nationally and locally. Reach Vaughn at vjohnson@philly.com.

Vaughn Johnson Sports Producer
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