In their latest attempt to give their November PPV an identity that will stick, WCW have gone all-in with the concept of a ‘road to Starrcade’ highlighted by the first ever Starrcade Series tournament. Thus, Victory Road will decide who wins the Series and moves on to face the World champion at the year-ending flagship PPV.
It’s also a path of victory for the cruiserweights, who have spent the last 12 months evolving from a writer’s punchline into an exciting and talented crop with every bit as potential as the mid-1990s heyday of the junior ranks. Hammering home this successful journey is a 10-man elimination tag featuring all of the cruiser champs plus more to celebrate the upcoming arrival of a new, cruiserweight-orientated second show on Wednesdays.
Nobody knows the road to victory better than Ric Flair. The record-setter for World title reigns and the measuring stick for professional wrestling for so long is considered to be in the twilight of his in-ring career, but then nobody expected him to roll back the years against the likes of Sting, Jeff Jarrett and more the way he has, either.
Tonight, he could complete a remarkable comeback from the brink of self-doubt by dethroning 2001’s top performer and reigning titleholder, Booker T. If he fails, however, Flair has put it in writing that he will never again challenge for the title considered synonymous with the Nature Boy.
Victory Road 2001: November 25, 2001, Pittsburgh PA
On the pre-show, Chavo Guerrero defeated Lash Leroux, who wanted revenge for Chavo walking out on their tag bout the previous night. The brainbuster was enough to finish Lash in 7:06.
We also find out before the show goes behind the paywall that Cat has allowed York and Matthews to replace Norman Smiley and Johnny B. Badd in the eight-man tag tonight.
Opening match, AirTime Showcase 10-man elimination: Elix Skipper, Low Ki, Christopher Daniels, Kid Romeo and Air Paris vs Billy Kidman, Jason Jett, Super Crazy, Tajiri and AJ Styles
This unique bout was 5 on 5, with any surviving team-mates then competing against each other until only one remained. The announcers hyped AirTime and its focus on the cruisers and new talent during the bout.
The newfound bond between old rivals Crazy and Tajiri got their side off to a blistering start as they overwhelmed Daniels and Ki before eliminating them with a Buzzsaw Kick and a Crazy sitout powerbomb, respectively.
Skipper quickly snuck in and rolled up Crazy to reduce the early deficit from 5-on-3 to 4-on-3, before Kid Romeo caught Tajiri off-guard with a Last Kiss to bring it back to level terms at three wrestlers apiece.
An illegal cheapshot from the apron by Skipper allowed Paris to roll up Jett and grab the tights for 3-on-2, before Kidman wiped out Romeo with the Shooting Star Press. Skipper pounced quickly with another roll-up to eliminate Kidman seconds later, however, leaving AJ Styles down 2-to-1.
After being worked on by Skipper and Paris for a bit, AJ made a comeback and sent the two into each other, leading to an O’Connor roll on his former partner to leave it down to himself and the cruiserweight champion.
A brief exchange brought the crowd to their feet before Styles managed to pull off a huge upset and pin Skipper with a springboard 450 at a total time of 21:27 in a huge breakout performance from the youngster.
Shannon Moore vs Shane Helms
The new, jaded Helms defeated his former partner Moore in a clash far more heated than their previous encounters over the last 12 months. Moore had his share of near falls but was a bit too consumed with revenge to maintain his focus and ultimately fell to the Vertebreaker at 12:45.
8-man tag: America’s Most Wanted, Christian York & Joey Matthews vs Simon Diamond, Johnny Swinger and The Full Blooded Italians (w/ Glenn Gilbertti)
This bout, which was originally set to feature Norman Smiley and Johnny B Badd instead of York & Matthews, carried an additional stipulation that heel quartet manager and boss of GGE, Glenn Gilbertti, would have to wrestle former partner Alex Wright if his side lost.
Both Wright and Gilbertti were in their respective squad’s corners at ringside – and lose GGE did, when AMW put away Marinera with the Death Sentence at 8:38.
Gilbertti bolted for the exit at the three-count, only to be cut off at the stage by Badd and Smiley! However, Gilbertti ended up earning a shocking win over his former partner in just 0:18 as the devious boss of GGE used the commotion of his escape attempt and subsequent brawl between everyone else to catch Wright off guard with a set of brass knucks as the German dragged him into the ring.
United States championship: Shawn Stasiak (c) vs Dustin Rhodes
Stasiak retained the US title against Rhodes at the 7:10 mark thanks to a low blow by Stacy Keibler as Rhodes got onto the second rope for a flying bulldog. Once again, the unlikely and some would say undeserving champ escapes with the belt by the skin of his teeth.
Sting vs Lance Storm
In an intriguing encounter set up a week ago, Sting took on Storm, who claimed he was on an unstoppable run of form. That run continued thanks to a run-in by a masked man who laid out Sting with a piledriver when the referee went down, allowing Lance to drape an arm for the 3 at 13:13.
After Storm went up the aisle celebrating his huge scalp, the masked man re-entered the ring to put the boots to the Stinger… then unmasked to reveal Buff Bagwell, who was put on the shelf for several months after a summer altercation with The Icon.
Four Corners elimination for the WCW Tag Team championship: DDP & Kanyon (c) vs O’Haire & Palumbo vs The Chosen Few vs The Mamalukes
Palumbo’s shoulder injury from the previous night left arguably the tag team of 2001 at a huge disadvantage and Anderson soon forced a hasty tapout with an armbar on the bad joint of Palumbo, eliminating the duo many tipped to regain the titles, prior to Chuck’s Saturday injury.
The two heel sides then double teamed Page and Kanyon for a while before the Mamalukes double-crossed the Few and Johnny The Bull rolled up Jindrak for elimination number two, and lastly the champs rallied before Kanyon pinned JTB with a Flatliner at a total time of 14:56.
The champs’ evening was not over, however, as their celebrations were interrupted by Chavo Guerrero who issued a challenge for the belts. As they pondered why they were being challenged by one person, they were attacked from behind by… Eddie Guerrero!
Recently released by the WWF, ‘Uncle Eddie’ returned to WCW and helped Chavo lay out the tag champs.
Starrcade Series 2001 final: Rob Van Dam vs Jeff Jarrett
RVD will main event Starrcade after winning the inaugural Starrcade Series, besting Jarrett in the final. A long match saw Mike Sanders sent to the back by the ref early on after being caught trying to attack RVD at ringside. Anderson, Jindrak and Douglas all wandered down at different intervals after that and were in turn all quickly sent back by The Cat.
Torrie Wilson, however, snuck through the net and handed Jarrett his guitar only for JJ to miss a swing and have it Van Daminator’d into his face. A Frog Splash followed at 18:23 and guaranteed RVD his first World title shot.
In-ring summit: Goldberg and Scott Steiner
The Cat then brought out Goldberg and Steiner, who had agreed not to get physical tonight in return for their requests being granted. Cat explained that the two wanted a fight with no disqualifications and agreed that the loser would leave WCW. Cat then told the two he was raising the stakes by making it official for Starrcade, inside Caged Heat! The two cut promos on each other to close the segment.
WCW World title: Booker T (c) vs Ric Flair
Finally, Booker T defeated Ric Flair in Ric’s final chance to become a World champion. The two went back and forth with Flair really getting the crowd buying into his near-falls, but his trademark bending of the rules came back to haunt him: after getting a close two off a low blow and cradle, Flair soon fell victim to a low blow of his own and the axe kick for the win in 11:59.
Chuck Palumbo will miss at least a couple of months with his injury.
In a deal made the day before the PPV, WCW have brought back a notable former roster member after his dismissal from WWFE:
- Eddie Guerrero: Signed for 300k pa from November 24, 2001 to November 24, 2004
The above deal has a release clause should Guerrero get into any further legal trouble, with the company providing full support in his sobriety efforts. While it has been regarded by some as too soon to ‘reward’ him with another contract, WCW hopes its much lighter schedule in this day and age will help Guerrero provide for his family and do what he does best whilst keeping clean.
Also, two managers have moved onto the Fusient payroll from their TW deals:
- Torrie Wilson: 150k pa until December 31 2003
- Stacy Keibler: 100k pa until November 30 2002
Rick Steiner has now officially left WCW and Time Warner.
Starrcade 2001 card so far:
- WCW World title: Booker T vs Rob Van Dam
- Caged Heat, loser leaves WCW: Goldberg vs Scott Steiner
Next time: What else does Starrcade have in store for us? And what’s next for Ric Flair?