Thanksgiving used to be the biggest day of the year for professional wrestling. The tradition of holding shows on Thanksgiving was a Jim Crockett Promotions idea. The thought was that fans would eat during the day, and then come see a major event during the night that everyone had off. They were correct, as it was a highly profitable affair for the company since beginning in the 1960s. The event became a mainstay for the wrestling fans of Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Thanksgiving event eventually evolved into Starrcade, a name coined by Dusty Rhodes. The first Starrcade event took place in 1983, and featured Ric Flair’s crowning moment as he defeated Harley Race for the National Wrestling Alliance’s World Heavyweight Championship. It would remain a Thanksgiving tradition until 1988, which is when World Championship Wrestling began. They then moved it to a December card for the rest of its lifespan. More recently, WWE has brought it back as a retro-themed house show.
Around the same time of the inaugural Starrcade, World Class Championship Wrestling also got into the Turkey day professional wrestling fun. The Von Erich-based Texas promotion used the holiday to run its marquee Wrestling Star Wars events, which happened several times a year. Great feuds revolving around both the Von Erich family and the Fabulous Freebirds were a staple of these cards.
The first Starrcade event to be offered up on pay-per-view was the 1987 installment featuring Ric Flair going up against Ron Garvin, and this potentially lucrative event birthed Survivor Series. In order to counterprogram the event, WWE decided to also throw a Thanksgiving day event. Vince McMahon told cable companies that if they aired Starrcade that they wouldn’t be allowed to offer WrestleMania IV, and that was all McMahon needed to usurp the Thanksgiving tradition. Until 1994, Survivor Series took place on either Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Eve.
So, when you’re done eating turkey today, feel free to either launch the WWE Network or go to YouTube to view some incredible professional wrestling Thanksgiving events. The holiday and the combat sport are tied together, and it’s worth celebrating.
Here are some of our favorite clips from the best events to take place on Thanksgiving, including a full traditional elimination match from the 1989 edition of the event: