Every Tuesday night at 8pm ET we look back at the next pay-per-view in WCW history, and discuss the show in the comments section below. I will provide “live” coverage of the event, and a brief review when it’s finished. All selections for Wrestlezone Network Club are available for viewing on-demand via the WWE Network.
NWA Starrcade ’83
“A Flair For The Gold”
Date: November 24, 1983
Venue: Greensboro Coliseum
Location: Greensboro, North Carolina
Bob Caudle and Gordon Solie open the show for this “new era in professional wrestling”. The Assassins are already in the ring ready for some opening action.
1) The Assassins vs. Bugsy McGraw & Rufus R. Jones. I believe this was Jody Hamilton and Raymond Fernandez, the man who would become Hercules, under the masks here. This one isn’t pretty, as it’s four big guys doing some basic brawling, but the crowd is hot for Freight Train and Bugsy. Jones works over a wrist lock for most of the match, McGraw makes the hot tag but Hamilton rolls him up from behind for the win. The crowd is not happy.
-They throw it back to an incredibly young Tony Schiavone in the dressing room, where Ric Flair and Roddy Piper are hanging out.
2) Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin vs. Scott McGhee & Johnny Weaver. Weaver makes a hot tag but it gets thrown out because he went through the ropes instead of over the ropes; talk about old NWA rules. Eventually he does make a hot tag, but manager Gary Hart holds his arm from the outside as Lewin hits it with a knee from the top rope. Score another pin for the bad guys. Gary Hart brings some sort of spike into the ring and they bloody up Scott McGhee. Angelo Mosca runs down to make the save.
3) Abdullah the Butcher vs. Carlos Colon. Solie plays up that this match was banned in the Caribbean, and Carlos came to the U.S. to challenge Abdullah at Starrcade. Colon takes a spike out of Abdullah’s trunks (awkward) and gives him some color. Colon gives him a few dropkicks and the big man goes down, but so does the referee. He locks in the Figure Four, has the match won, but Hugo Savinovich nails him with something. The ref recovers and counts the three. The crowd gives the Butcher hell as the third straight heel to win.
-Shiavone interviews a passionate Angelo Mosca, who is upset about his friends getting attacked by Gary Hart’s crew. In a hilarious moment, they pan over to Scott McGhee, who is still busted open and dying on the bench next to him, as Shiavone and Mosca just shoot the breeze about Ric Flair. Mosca already has his arm bandaged, but apparently nobody cares about poor McGhee.
4) Bob Orton Jr. & Dick Slater vs. Mark Youngblood & Wahoo McDaniel. A change of pace for this card, with the young Mark Youngblood and Dick Slater doing some athletic manuevers and lock-ups early on. Slater throw Mark over the ropes and they try to get him DQ’d for it, but the referee doesn’t buy it. Orton and Wahoo slow things down and take their time. Eventually Youngblood gets the hot tag and they try for a double suplex off the top turnbuckle, but Slater makes the save for the heels and Orton puts the match away with a superlex. Adding insult to injury, Orton drops a knee off the top rope right on Wahoo’s stretched out arm after the match.
-Ric Flair does an uncharacteristically laid back promo, telling Shiavone he hopes Harley Race has prepared for the match of a lifetime. He puts over Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood, who have their big tag team title match later on.
-They try to give Dusty Rhodes mic time, but the mic isn’t working so it’s just one of the most insane men in wrestling ranting and nobody can tell what he’s saying.
Mask vs. NWA TV Championship Match
5) Charlie Brown vs. Great Kabuki (c). Just a little backstory for those that don’t know – Charlie Brown is a masked Jimmy Valiant, who lost a “loser leaves town match” a few months before this show. Everyone knows, because it’s just Jimmy and his huge beard in a mask. They even introduce him “from out of town”. Charlie is the most over guy of the night so far; everything he does gets a huge reaction. He controls most of it until Kabuki comes back and puts on the claw. Brown comes back and no-sells a few punches, Kabuki misses a kick in the corner and Brown drops an elbow on him for the three-count. The building comes unglued for the win.
-Bob Orton and Dick Slater are backstage talking about cashing in the bounty that Harley Race put on Ric Flair, that took him out of action for months. Race in his cold tone tells Flair that they will spike his head into the ground with a piledriver tonight.
-Dusty Rhodes gets another shot at a promo, this time backstage, and this time the microphone works. Rhodes challenges the winner of Flair/Race to a championship match.
6) Dog Collar Match
Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine. This match is an all-out brawl, and they really get their money’s worth out of the chain. Really something modern wrestlers should study if they’ve got any sort of gimmick-based match. Valentine works over Piper’s injured ear every chance that he gets, which bleeds everywhere. They take a lot of time with a slow, perfectly executed brawl, leading to Piper making the big babyface comeback covered in his own blood. They have a great sleeper hold stall late into the match, with Piper answering a very close arm-raise from the referee. Never one for subtlety, Roddy simply beats the hell out of him with the chain to pick up the win. Post match, Valentine gives him a brutal beatdown with the chain, but Piper ends up standing tall to a great reaction from the fans.
-Ric Flair is backstage with Wahoo McDaniel, who has his arm in a sling. He tells Team Race to celebrate their small victories while they can, because come tomorrow they won’t have anything to celebrate. Wahoo says he’d bet the farm on Flair winning tonight. Shocker.
7) NWA World Tag Team Championship Match
Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood vs. The Briscoe Brothers (c). Angelo Mosca is the special referee. The Briscoes are wrestling machines in their own right, but Steamboat gives them a run for their money early on which takes them by surprise. They underestimate Youngblood and he does the same thing; this forces them to heel it up to regain control, and creates a great dynamic. Mid-match they slow things down, mostly working over Steamboat. Eventually the Dragon deadlifts a Briscoe out of a rest hold and slams him down to a big pop and makes the hot tag. The Briscoes get into it with Mosca who ends up shoving Jerry. Jay picks up the win with with an elevated press slam from his partner, and the titles change hands. The Briscoes go on the attack immediately after the bell, beating down Mosca and putting the Figure Four on Youngblood. Mosca and Steamboat rally and the new champs clean house.
-They take a long intermission and interview everyone from Charlie Brown to Steamboat and Youngblood, etc. The steel cage is assembled and the two competitors for the main event get their full ring introductions.
8) NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match
Ric Flair vs. Harley Race (c). The great Gene Kiniski is our special referee. Flair gets in some offense at the start to get the crowd pumped, then they settle in for about fifteen straight minutes of the champ in total control, including a piledriver nearfall. Kiniski finally gets involved when Race won’t back off in the corner, giving Flair the opening to get in some shots, including his own piledriver nearfall. They eventually throw out the rule book as both of them are bloodied good, and Kiniski tries to get them to stop throwing closed fists to absolutely no avail. Flair puts on the Figure Four and they go back and forth with it for several minutes. After a few moments of both guys swinging away, obviously running on fumes, Kiniski goes down. Flair comes off the top rope with a diving crossbody and Gene recovers to count the 1-2-3.
The first thing that stands out to me, every time I watch this show, is how receptive the crowd was to everything on the card. Every babyface from Freight Train Jones to
Jimmy Valiant Charlie Brown to Ric Flair seemed to have the Greensboro fans in the palm of their hand.
I’m not sure this would ever work in the modern era – you would need actual stars all over the card, with polarizing reactions for this to work – but having four heel outcomes in their first four matches turned out to be a stroke of genius. The crowd was so mad by the time Brown got out to that ring, you would have thought Hulk Hogan had just slammed Andre when he dropped an elbow on Great Kabuki. It set a great tone for the semi-main event matches as well; if all these guys we like just got screwed over, what’s going to happen to Roddy Piper? Can Steamboat and Youngblood actually overcome the deck being stacked against them?
As I’ve said, Piper and Valentine should be required reading for any modern wrestler given any sort of gimmick match. You want to know how to make the most of your 15 minutes with a random foreign object? Watch Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine turn a dog collar and metal chain into paint and paintbrush.
Something you really don’t get enough of in today’s wrestling is the importance of the main event built up throughout the card. Obviously that’s easy to over-do, and WCW would prove that about 15 years later with the NWO, but you can hear, see and feel the importance of Flair vs. Race from the opening match until the main event ring introductions. They didn’t try and hide alliances and friendships back then – you didn’t have to be in a gimmicked faction to stand up for your friends, and that played huge into the rivalry between these two sides. The same kind of thing would manifest itself in the original Survivor Series pay-per-view cards; an art form sadly lost over the years.
Admittedly, this is one of my favorite 80’s-era shows. It’s not perfect, but the crowd covers up anything that could have been a total flop, and as the first major wrestling pay-per-view in the U.S. (somebody fact check PPV for the rest of the world, please) the NWA really went out of their way to find some major programs to make the first ever Starrcade, as Caudle and Solie would say, “a Happening”.
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Our viewing party begins at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. I will be providing “live” coverage above throughout the event – which you can find on the WWE Network – and will be joining you to discuss the pay-per-view in the comments section below.