When WCW owner Eric Bischoff proudly announced around the time of last year’s Starrcade that he’d sourced additional capital to continue the company’s push forward from the brink of demise, he probably never envisioned things being the way they are heading into the 2002 year-end centrepiece event.
The consortium that pumped cash into WCW in return for 50% ownership was in fact former head writer Vince Russo, along with a number of money marks still drinking the New Yorker’s Kool-Aid. Russo’s reckless leadership was one of the main reasons the company was almost bought by rivals WWE in the spring of 2011, until Bischoff began to repent for his own errors in charge by saving fans from a certain monopoly.
Starting by disrupting what had been a solid and enjoyable product early in the year via proxies such as Glenn Gilbertti Enterprises and some masked attackers later revealed as disruptive stars Scott Hall and Sean Waltman, Russo made his presence known at the Great American Bash before luring Bischoff into a battle for 51% and controlling power at Bash At The Beach, which Vinnie Ru won via nefarious means.
However Bischoff wasn’t willing to give up on WCW after everything he and they had been through, and with the help of company-loyal stars was able to masterfully undermine and push-back Russo at every turn to ensure his Sports Entertainment Xtreme vision does not engulf the product entirely.
Unfortunately the bitter conflict within the divided promotion has made Turner executives nervous for the first time since they almost pulled the plug 18 months prior. Wanting the situation resolved under any circumstances, they used their own clout to install the legendary Ric Flair as interim Commissioner with the primary goal of resolving the conflict, one way or another, by the end of 2002.
So here we have Starrcade, WCW’s prestige event, headlined by a huge three-match series of Bischoff-backed wrestlers against Russo-selected fighters. Whichever side wins two out of three earns 100% control for their boss, with the losing figurehead forced to accept a reasonable buyout of their shares.
And, because it is Bischoff and Russo after all, the stakes have been raised. Success for Team Bischoff in two straight means Flair will be able to jettison his impartiality and finally do what has eluded him for two and a half years: spend five solid minutes punching Russo square in his big mouth. Two straight for SEX, however, means the entire cruiserweight division can be removed without a shred of push-back. All cruiserweight wrestlers can be released without reason, their singles and tag title belts will be de-activated and Wednesday’s one-hour cruiserweight showcase AirTime will be cancelled.
Thankfully for the cruisers, four of their very best will be able to prevent this personally as they participate in match one of the three-match series against Russo’s favourite anti-cruisers, The Rejected and Triple X. But we still don’t know who will team with Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman and Jerry Lynn after SEX made a point of putting both Low Ki and Jorge Estrada on the shelf.
Match two is a heavyweight eight-man tag, and opposing Russo’s degenerate foursome of Hall, Waltman, BG James and a mystery man is perhaps the most WCW quartet one would conceive, as Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T, Goldberg and the icon Sting form a dream team of sorts.
Finally, whether the Bischoff-Russo series needs it or not, Ken Shamrock will defend the WCW World title against rising star and Starrcade Series 2002 winner Sean O’Haire, with the challenger promising The World’s Most Dangerous Man his strongest possible form in the wake of the champ questioning whether or not O’Haire is ready for him.
Also on the card, several SEX footsoldiers must defend the championships gifted to them by Russo’s regime against the men they have screwed over along the way. York and Matthews must win the cruiser tag titles from the FBI or leave WCW, though Maritato and Marinera will be unable to get themselves counted out or disqualified yet again. Ron ‘The Truth’ Killings must defend the United States title against former friend and fired ex-Commissioner The Cat, and Simon Diamond and Swinger face America’s Most Wanted for the heavyweight tag belts one more time inside a 15-foot-high steel cage.
Plus, AJ Styles vs Jushin Thunder Liger in what could be the last ever WCW cruiserweight title match, Jeff Jarrett faces the ghosts of his Chosen Few past when he battles CW Anderson in a Bunkhouse Brawl, the second ever Ultimate X match and more!
DECEMBER 22, 2002: WCW STARRCADE 2002 – Washington DC
A bumper three-match pre-show aired for free before the PPV, featuring the usual analysis of all the matches on the main card.
In match number one, the Jung Dragons defeated Sonny Siaki and Matt Bentley with Unleash The Dragon to Bentley in 7:27.
The second pre-show match saw Jamie Knoble defeat former partner David Kash, using a double-leg takedown to escape a double-arm piledriver attempt and folding Kash over before putting his feet on the ropes for leverage to get the three in 6:10.
Finally, American Dragon faced Brian Kendrick with Paul London at ringside. London kept out of the action, merely cheering on Dragon in his mandatory capacity outside the ring so that we could be sure the man behind the mask certainly wasn’t him.
Nonetheless, Dragon won via countering a super Sliced Bread #2 into a super belly-to-back suplex before strapping on Cattle Mutilation for the submission in 10:43. The win means Bryan Danielson’s banishment from WCW is null and void, allowing Dragon to unmask after the bell and, to the surprise of very few, reveal Danielson himself!
The commentary team introduced this as perhaps the most important night in the company’s history, and certainly since the revival in 2001. What will WCW be in 2003? Will it even survive to see Starrcade 03? Only a win for Eric Bischoff’s WCW loyalists in our best-of-three triple main event is likely to guarantee a safe future. Plus, all the titles are on the line and more!
Opening match, Ultimate X II: Psicosis vs Juventud Guerrera vs Super Crazy vs Tajiri
We began hot and fast with the four-way Ultimate X 2, with the winner receiving a cruiserweight title match, if the title survives the night. The four went at it in dazzling fashion inside the ring, outside the ring and across the high crosswires containing a medallion at their very centre.
The finish saw all four men take a corner and go arm-under-arm to the middle. Psicosis was the first to fall in the subsequent kicking contest, followed by Juvi. Crazy and Tajiri closed in on the prize, each using their legs to hang on longer. Each got a hand on the medal, and it came off in the hand of both men in a confusing moment.
Tajiri ended the tug of war with green mist to Crazy’s eyes, sending him to the floor. Tajiri celebrated with the medallion as his music hit, though the commentators wondered if Crazy will be able to dispute that one – or indeed, if it’ll even mean anything, by the end of the night. Official time when both men unhooked the medal: 13:52.
United States Championship: Ron ‘The Truth’ Killings vs Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller
The champion arrived first, entering with a mic and insulting the crowd all the way to the ring. He didn’t stay in the ring long, opting to meet challenger The Cat on the walkway as the fight between former friends was on.
Miller certainly had ring rust but still knew how to punch hard and kick harder, getting the better of things on the outside until Killings sent him into the ringpost from the walkway. The champ worked over his foe briefly in the ring, but Miller fought back, eventually slipping out of a suplex attempt and nailing the Feliner for the surprising win in just 4:21 to become the NEW US champ!
Miller celebrated with the title, his pride and the ultimate redemption – which was made even sweeter when Killings attempted a sneak attack during the celebrations and wound up eating another Feliner that sent him flying out of the ring!
International Challenge eight-man tag: Team Canada (Lance Storm, Teddy Hart, Eric Young and Johnny Devine) vs Dustin Rhodes, Chris Kanyon & Los Guerreros
Lance Storm, leader of this new edition of his revived Team Canada stable, recently issued an open challenge to any four Americans, answered 24 hours ago by makeshift foursome Rhodes, Kanyon, Eddie and Chavo.
Chavito was isolated for a while but used his guile even while hurt to escape the rookies. Storm prevented a tag at the last second but took an enziguri before Eddie came in a house of fire.
Devine eventually blindsided Eddie and held him in place for Hart, only for the Guerrero to dodge and leave Teddy to nail his own partner. A Flatliner to Hart was followed by Eddie’s Frog Splash and the pin on Teddy in 8:16 while Rhodes kept Storm at bay.
The faces celebrated their way to the back, while Team Canada regrouped in the ring – until an enraged Storm blasted Hart with a superkick as he returned to his feet! Lance ordered Young and Devine to put the boots in and then toss Teddy to the floor, as it appears Team Canada has already streamlined.
Bunkhouse Brawl: Jeff Jarrett vs CW Anderson
CW Anderson was Jeff Jarrett’s handpicked ‘Enforcer’ when he formed a ‘Chosen Few’ to do battle against legends such as Sting and Ric Flair. When the faction dissolved a year ago, the two remained thick as thieves to the point of Jarrett even earning another World title bout.
When that opportunity finally arrived at Halloween Havoc, however, Anderson’s head was turned by former Jarrett confidante Vince Russo. Now, the former allies do battle with no rules, the winner to receive a WCW title shot.
Both men arrived in jeans, t-shirt and taped fists and the fight was on right from the get-go – though CW’s second on the night, Mike Sanders, interfered freely thanks to the rules. Jarrett was busted open by CW and a cowbell and had his rib tape ripped off during a period of Anderson control but Jarrett, tasting his own crimson, rallied and ended up taking Sanders out of the equation with a powerbomb through the WCW.com table near the stage.
The action soon returned to the ring where CW wore Jarrett down with a chair before setting up a table in the corner – legs up once more – preparing for another devastating spinebuster, but this time Jarrett countered with a DDT onto the nearby chair! Jeff then picked up his former ally and used the Stroke to send him face-first into the table legs and through the table, a brutal move that busted CW open and ended the Bunkhouse Brawl in 13:28. Jeff Jarrett had exorcised the ghosts from his past and earned one more crack at the World title in the process.
WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship: The Full Blooded Italians (c) vs Christian York & Joey Matthews
York & Matthews’ WCW careers hung in the balance as they challenged the Full Blooded Italians one final time for the cruiserweight tag titles. With the FBI getting themselves DQd and counted out in the past, both such results were stipulated to lead to a title change on this occasion, meaning Y&M either won the titles or left the company tonight after their vow to leave WCW if they didn’t become champions in 2002 was written into their contracts.
A strong start for the challengers led to the FBI teasing that they would walk out with the belts, only for the referee to remind everyone via Dave Penzer that the belts would indeed change hands. Later, Johnny Stamboli considered getting involved from ringside but was warned by the official that it’d lead to the exact same fate.
Nonetheless the champs bounced back when they suckered York into a Kiss of Death on the walkway that left Matthews 1-on-2 for a while. Trainers came to help York to the back only for him to stop at the stage, shove them away and stagger back to the apron for a tag. His hot tag didn’t last long in his condition, but he evaded a double-team effort and tagged back out to Matthews, himself not at 100%.
FBI, back on top and getting cocky, went for the double Rubik’s Cube on Matthews only for York to dropkick Guido out of the ring from out of nowhere as Matthews victory rolled Marinera for the pin and the titles in 11:46! York and Matthews, after 18 months, were finally champions in WCW.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs Jushin Liger
Styles’ title defence against Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, using his right to an automatic championship bout won at the World Cup, felt like a huge match – and the fans certainly agreed, launching a sea of streamers into the ring before the bell.
The two men built from a tentative feeling-out into an exciting exchange of holds and counters before things really picked up for the finish. Liger stopped Spiral Tap with a palm strike and went for the devastating avalanche brainbuster, only for AJ to fight out of the hoist with knees to the face when he went up. Styles repositioned himself on the top and reversed the suplex hoist before lowering the challenger down to where he had him upside down by the legs. A Super Styles Clash followed to retain in 19:04.
Styles was congratulated afterwards by the groggy Liger, as AJ’s amazing past 12 months in WCW peaked in style.
Steel Cage match for the WCW World Tag Team Championship: Simon Diamond & Johnny Swinger (c) vs America’s Most Wanted
Next, the steel cage lowered for the tag title match between champions Simon and Swinger and the side they dethroned for the belts in the summer, America’s Most Wanted.
All four men bypassed any sort of voluntary, strategic use of tags and went at it from the start with Glenn Gilbertti on the outside looking none too pleased about being neutralised by the walls of steel. He found a way to make an impact nonetheless by slipping a pair of handcuffs to his team, leading to Chris Harris being chained to the wall halfway through the battle.
Simon and Swinger kept James Black on the other side of the cage to pummel him down, drawing blood in the process. Harris did all he could to get his hands on the two but couldn’t, often taking shots from the champs instead, to keep him at bay.
That all ended when Curt Hennig came out with a pair of bolt cutters to break the cage links around the cuffs, freeing Harris to wipe out both men. He then used the loose cuff like a knuckleduster to bust both men open as an outraged Gilbertti was decked by Hennig and the challengers took over.
A huge Death Sentence from near the top of the cage led to Harris pinning Swinger and another title change after 17:33. AMW are two-time WCW tag champs!
No Holds Barred: Rob Van Dam vs Malice
Father James Mitchell led the entire New Church to the ring for Malice’s grudge match with Rob Van Dam. As soon as RVD’s music hit, he ordered the other three to wait ready to ambush on the walkway. However, Van Dam didn’t come out to his music, but York, Matthews and David Kash did.
They brawled with Tempest, Sinn and Slash through the crowd and out of sight. Meanwhile, RVD’s music continued to play and Malice stood in the ring wondering where he was – until he realised his opponent was behind him to start the fight with a huge martial arts kick off the top.
Things soon found their way to the walkway, around ringside and even in the third row, where Rob landed with a huge somersault dive off the top rope, onto the monster. RVD remained on the offensive for the most part with his elusive-yet-abusive approach combined with a fantastic knowledge of his surroundings in a no-DQ environment. That all changed, however, when Mitchell crotched Van Dam before he could go for the Five Star Frog Splash.
Malice took over with a combination of power moves and steel chair punishment, until he walked into a Van Daminator. We then saw the six men from earlier brawling their way back to ringside via the crowd, before RVD decided to hit a springboard dive onto the entire gathering outside. When he returned to the ring, he was greeted by a chair to the midsection and then a shot over the back from Malice, who then had Mitchell set up a table on the other side of the ring… then place a barbed wire board on top of it.
The monster looked for the chokeslam from the apron through the sadistic design, but RVD held onto the ropes for dear life before kicking himself loose and pulling the ropes back sharply to send Malice through the barbed wire table! Kash ran over and decked Mitchell with a right hand before helping RVD get Malice back into the ring, where Kash held the chair to Malice’s head in the corner so Rob could finish with a huge Van Terminator in 11:37. RVD, Kash and the new cruiserweight tag champions celebrated together and left as a group.
Backstage, Jerry Lynn was cheering on what happened on a monitor, having fought the Church alongside RVD himself – and especially having something in common with all four of those men who conquered Mitchell’s army.
He’s joined by Kidman and Rey, who ask if he’s ready. Lynn says he was born ready, but is their fourth man ready? Kidman says he is definitely ready, before Rey reminds them both that victory for the cruisers tonight protects the roots of the division no matter what Russo may have up his sleeve. Tonight, they can keep themselves alive without needing big men or money men to bail them out. Kidman finishes by saying not only that, but Triple X and The Rejected are going to find out first-hand that karma is a bitch.
THE FIGHT FOR CONTROL: A three-match series to determine who will be 100% owner of World Championship Wrestling going forward
Team WCW (Eric Bischoff) vs Team SEX (Vince Russo)
The first team to win two of the three matches will earn control for their co-owner and force the other to accept a buy-out. If Bischoff wins in two straight, Russo must face Ric Flair for five minutes. If Russo wins in two straight, the cruiserweight division will be abolished.
Elix Skipper, Christopher Daniels, Shannon Moore and Shane Helms were accompanied by Vince Russo to the SEX entrance theme as our triple main event to decide who will own WCW began with match one. Out came captain Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman and Jerry Lynn, who waited on the walkway. Next came their cornerman Eric Bischoff, who brought out alongside him… JASON JETT.
Eight-man Cruiserweight War: Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman, Jerry Lynn & Jason Jett vs Triple X & The Rejected
Jett looked fully healed and in great condition as he made a beeline for the ring alongside his team-mates and the fight was on! The faces cleared the ring before wiping out their opponents with four dives in succession. Russo tried to protest this turn of events which led to Bischoff coming over to get in Vince’s face. As the ref broke things up, Moore hit Bottom’s Up on the floor to Rey and rolled him in for a delayed two-and-a-half cover from Daniels.
Mysterio was worked over by the entire heel quartet before ducking and dodging his way to tagging in Lynn. Jerry took on all comers but was blindsided by Skipper attempting a Cradle Piledriver on Moore. When The Rejected attempted a spiked Vertebreaker on Lynn, however, Jett saw red and raced in to get a piece of Shane and Shannon.
An attempt by the ref to settle it all down again led to another pier-six brawl with Kidman this time hitting an insane shooting star from the top to everybody else on the outside. When Moore and Lynn rolled back in, they looked around for a tag with only one man fresh on each side, with Jett and Helms avoiding the brunt of the dive. Helms tagged in and went to stop Jerry doing the same but found himself face-to-face with the man he helped put on the shelf for six months.
Jett ripped through Helms and laid into Moore until the numbers caught up to him. They then attempted to finish off Jett for good with the Spiked Vertebreaker, but Mysterio came from out of nowhere with a pop-up rana to bring Moore down from the top while Jett flipped the Vertebreaker over and hit Helms with his own move for the pin in 14:21! Cruiserweight wrestling was saved and Vince Russo was one down in the best-of-three!
As the faces celebrated with Bischoff and left Eric behind to go backstage, Russo regained his composure somewhat from a post-match tantrum and waved for someone from the crowd – as we saw Scott Hall, Sean Waltman and BG James saunter through the people, over the rail and into the ring.
Vince then took the mic and said how sweet it was that Bischoff was being all nice to his homegrown ‘rasslers’, but the truth is that Bischoff is only nice when there’s something in it for him, because there are plenty of ‘homegrown’ guys he threw out like yesterday’s garbage.
For example, a man who devoted years of his life to WCW, only to be discarded by Eric’s faction when he got seriously hurt and then kicked out of the company as soon as Bischoff could pull it off after he took over. Russo introduces his fourth man – Buff Bagwell!
Eight-man Heavyweight War: Sting, Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page & Booker T vs Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, BG James & Buff Bagwell
Bagwell hugs his team-mates and Russo in the ring before the entrances of DDP, Booker T, Goldberg and finally Sting bring WCW’s ultimate power quartet together on the stage.
Once again, the brawl was on from the opening bell but things settled down when Sting missed a Stinger Splash towards Hall on the outside guardrail before Hall and Waltman beat down Page inside the ring.
DDP weathered the storm and landed a Cutter out of nowhere on James. Too weak to cover, Page instead crawled to his corner, as did BG. Waltman tagged in, as did Booker who had his way with the former Syxx until a low blow behind the ref’s back brought Book to a grinding halt.
Waltman tagged in Buff and held Booker in place for a Blockbuster… but Bagwell came off the ropes and nailed his finish on Sean! Bagwell stared at Russo and laughed before fleeing to escape Hall’s wrath, hi-fiving Bischoff on his way out of the arena. ‘Easy E’ had orchestrated his very own ‘swerve’ on the master of them!
Meanwhile in the ring, Hall broke up the cover by Booker on Waltman then came in himself, only for an Outsider’s Edge to be turned into the Book End. T then managed to reach out to Sting!
The Stinger punched down all three men when they popped up until he was caught coming off the ropes by Russo. An enraged Icon chased Vince all the way around the ring until Russo ran right into a kick from Bischoff!
Hall crawled to his corner where Shane Douglas, of all people, had hopped up in an apparent attempt to replace Bagwell. When Hall saw him, realised what was happening and tried to tag the Franchise, however, Douglas flipped him a double bird and left again, seemingly making a point to an SEX army that he feels overlooked him.
Meanwhile, Sting tagged Goldberg and Hall walked into a huge Spear! A Diamond Cutter for Waltman and a Harlem Sidekick for BG left Hall primed for a Jackhammer and the pin in 12:40. Between the cruisers and the heavies, some of Bischoff’s greatest contributions had saved WCW from the clutches of Vince Russo and forced the SEX leader to accept a buy-out!
That wasn’t all, as Bischoff reminded Russo over the mic as Vince gathered his bearings – he was now obliged to face Ric Flair for five minutes!
Bonus Match, five-minute time limit: Ric Flair vs Vince Russo
As Flair’s music hit and he came out in full wrestling gear in 100% Nature Boy mode, Russo realised what was happening and tried to run, only for Bischoff to grab the seat of his jeans and throw him into the ring where Flair jogged down to head him off.
Russo begged off as the bell rang, but was greeted with a barrage of chops and right hands. Bischoff happily distracted the ref for not one, but two kicks to the groin before Flair stalked Vince as he slowly tried to get back up – only to take his leg right out when he did.
Ric made a big show of putting on the figure four, but when he did, Russo tapped out almost immediately to end the carnage at 1:10. Flair and Bischoff stared down after the bell, then embraced. They had their retribution over Vince Russo, and WCW was back in safe hands.
Main event, WCW World Championship: Ken Shamrock (c) vs Sean O’Haire
The wild ride concluded with our WCW World title bout, with Shamrock defending against O’Haire who now comes into the bout with a lot less pressure hanging over his big moment. The fight for power was over, and all that was left was a good old-fashioned battle between the champ and his top contender.
A tentative start ensued as O’Haire tried not to make any crucial mistakes against such a dangerous adversary. Sean then used his deceptive speed to get the better of Shamrock, landing the backflip off the turnbuckles into a superkick and slipping out of several suplex attempts until Ken caught an overconfident challenger coming in and belly-to-bellied him over the ropes, onto the apron and out onto the floor.
Shamrock took over, but every attempt to transition into the Anklelock was well scouted so the champ kept his focus on O’Haire’s back. A belly-to-belly superplex was blocked by Sean but when he knocked Shamrock off, the subsequent Seanton found only knees and left his back in further agony. Out of nowhere, however, Sean rolled the next Anklelock attempt to send Ken into the top turnbuckle before he somehow completed an F5 to leave both men down.
Suddenly, the crowd’s attention switched to the sight of Vince Russo hobbing out, his clothes ripped, his chest bloody and his limbs in obvious pain. The commentators speculated that the stips do not take effect until midnight, explaining perhaps why security wasn’t kicking the former co-owner out of the building.
O’Haire looked to finish Shamrock off, bad back and all, but a spin kick was ducked by the champ and it instead took the ref out before Shamrock landed a desperation German suplex. Seeing his chance, Russo limped over and snatched a chair from underneath Dave Penzer before going over to the corner where Shamrock was recovering… and sliding the chair across the ring to O’Haire.
Sean took the chair, shot Russo a glance, smiled and brought the weapon crashing down onto the skull of the champion. Russo smacked the groggy official around until he noticed the subsequent cover and made a slow count of 1…2…3.
After a 12:25 main event, Sean O’Haire was the NEW WCW World champion – but he did so with the help of the antichrist of professional wrestling, the man who had seemingly just been run out of town, and the man who had brought Shamrock to WCW in the first place.
O’Haire and Russo embraced over the fallen former titleholder, before leaving together, arm in arm. As the Starrcade watermark appeared on the screen to signal the end of the PPV, the camera zoomed in on Sean and Vince walking past on the walkway, where a beaten-up but elated Russo looked dead into the lens and shouted the word we thought we’d heard for the very last time: “Swerve!”