24 hours before Starrcade 2001, two huge face-to-face summits will take place ahead of the double main event. Goldberg and Scott Steiner will be kept apart with their Loser Leaves WCW blow-off depending on it, but war is simmering everywhere else in WCW.
Sting and Buff Bagwell, Ric Flair and Lance Storm, Triple X and the other cruiserweights, Jamie Knoble and Evan Karagias and especially The Chosen Few and Dustin Rhodes’ resistance group. It remains to be seen exactly what will be left of the Starrcade card after tonight.
Saturday Nitro #33: first aired on December 22; taped along with episode 32 on December 12
The show begins with a peculiar look to the familiar Florida studio, as a steel fence has been set up so that it cuts the ring in half. This is so that The Cat can host the ‘caged confrontation’ as Goldberg and Scott Steiner go face-to-face and trade words ahead of their Caged Heat match at Starrcade. With the loser set to leave WCW, this will be the final Nitro appearance for one of them.
Security surrounds the ring so that the two are between the guards and the fence, and the enemies go back and forth on their mics documenting their storied past and why exactly they must rid the company of the other. Steiner threatens to tear the fence down while Goldberg dares him to do so – remember: the two are barred from fighting before tomorrow’s clash or else both will be fired, and yet they really don’t seem to care at times, intensifying the atmosphere between the two.
Billy Kidman and Shane Helms did battle in a ‘dream partner’ tag match ahead of the start of their Best of 7 Series on Sunday. The identity of each man’s partner was a mystery to everyone else until they made their entrances, as Helms brought out someone he had a lot in common with in Air Paris and Kidman emerged with Helms’ estranged former partner, Shannon Moore! Helms went to the eyes of Moore at the end of a frantic closing sequence before getting the win with a roll-up and a handful of tights in 8:37.
A video package looks at the road to Starrcade for Rob Van Dam and WCW champion Booker T, including RVD’s Starrcade Series win and Booker’s attitude change through 2001.
In the first of two singles bouts previewing the cruiserweight tag title rematch at Starrcade, Tajiri defeated Christopher Daniels clean with the Buzzsaw Kick in 6:56.
Before the latest weekly sit-down interview began, an advert indicated that the following Saturday’s year-end Nitro special would feature the final weekly interview, and it would be with Eric Bischoff. Until then, US title contender Sean O’Haire was up.
O’Haire discussed the amazing 2001 he and Chuck Palumbo had as a team, and how they evolved from the under-achieving Natural Born Thrillers. O’Haire said Palumbo’s injury in their quest to finish the year back on top of the tag team food chain was a bummer, but that this opportunity at the US title in Chuck’s absence is a chance to prove something to himself: that he can do it as a solo act.
He says Shawn Stasiak was always the annoying Thriller, always in it for himself and not taking things completely seriously, but that Mike Awesome is a fearsome wild card in the match. He finishes by saying that at Starrcade, WCW fans will see everything O’Haire has to offer.
Next was a six-man designed to preview a cruiserweight gauntlet match that had been added to the Starrcade pre-show. Kid Romeo and the Jung Dragons teamed up to face Jason Jett, Lash Leroux and the returning… Psicosis!
The guillotine legdrop finished Yang in 6:45, after which Leia Meow got into the ring to once more read her losing-streak side the riot act. Meow whipped both and demanded they get on their hands and knees to lick her boots. Although they considered bowing to their boss once more, they instead stood up and shoved her onto her backside to a pop before walking out, perhaps finally liberated from Meow’s bullying.
Another video package previews the meeting of the only two men on the roster who haven’t left since WCW emerged from the NWA in 1990. Sting and Buff Bagwell’s vendetta has risen throughout the year and it seems like neither will be happy until only one person can say they have been around since day one.
Johnny B Badd and Norman Smiley defeated the Full Blooded Italians when Smiley escaped a Tomikaze attempt from Guido with an innovative cradle for the three-count in 4:49.
Simon and Swinger ran down for a five-on-two along with their boss Glenn Gilbertti after the bell, only for Alex Wright to quickly stop that with a steel chair, causing GGE to retreat for the time being.
Wright then got on the mic and said his issue with Gilbertti would finally be settled the following night. One on one, everybody else banned from ringside and no excuses or backing out until one man is victorious. Gilbertti looks petrified.
We next get a look at the formation of the Chosen Few and their ups and downs this year. They may have a heavy price to pay against four men sick of their antics when Starrcade descends into a Gangfight on Sunday.
Low Ki defeated Super Crazy with an assist from Daniels, allowing Ki to level Crazy with a kick to the back of the head for the pin in 6:23. Tajiri looked to make the save but the third member of XXX, Elix Skipper, also got involved to help the former champs leave the new titlists laying.
After the advert break, Skipper called out his challenger for Starrcade, AJ Styles. With Triple X in the ring, Styles remained on the walkway as Skipper belittled him on the mic, calling him a “failed tag team bum” and no match for the three-time champ who, in his words, dominated the lightweight scene in 2001.
Styles replies, saying he knows how formidable Skipper and XXX are but that this is his big moment and he won’t stop until he is the new cruiser champion. Skipper dares Styles to come and say it to his face in the ring, to which Styles says “I’m not really one to dash into a 3-on-1 24 hours before the biggest fight of my life, but in fact this looks pretty even to me.”
At that point, Crazy and Tajiri have recovered enough to attack XXX again with Styles lending a hand to send the heels scurrying. AJ finishes by promising that the era of XXX’s games ends at the biggest show of the year.
In non-title action, Shawn Stasiak took on one of his two Starrcade US title challengers in Mike Awesome in a rare heel-v-heel encounter, with third man Sean O’Haire on commentary. Inevitably, the bout broke down as O’Haire was provoked during a ringside brawl and the three men began to fight all over the place, with the ref throwing the match out after 4:28.
As things re-entered the ring, Stacy Keibler tried to send a steel chair to Shawn only for Awesome to get to it first. Mike laid out both former Thrillers with the chair to stand tall on the go-home show.
Sting and Ric Flair cut a classic dual promo backstage, ahead of their tag match with their Starrcade singles opponents Buff Bagwell and Lance Storm. They promise to show their rivals throughout the weekend why they are the flagship players in WCW.
24 hours before his anticipated return to in-ring WCW duties for the first time in nearly two years, Eddie Guerrero stood in nephew Chavo’s corner as he took on Kanyon (with DDP in his corner) ahead of their Starrcade tag title showdown.
Kanyon looked to have the match won only for Eddie to run in and nail him in the back with a tag title belt as he set up a Flatliner for the DQ after 5:04. Page quickly entered the ring for the save and almost nailed Eddie with the Diamond Cutter, only for Chavo to pull his uncle to safety.
We get a series of shorter previews of the other title bouts set for Starrcade, beginning with a segue from the last match into the road to the WCW tag title bout, followed by the cruiser tag match, the singles cruiserweight title contest and the US title three-way.
Emphasised are the reunion of DDP and Kanyon, the return of Eddie Guerrero, the rise of Triple X, the emergence of AJ Styles in the singles ranks, Shawn Stasiak’s uncanny ability of escaping every scenario with the US title he was lucky to win in the first place, and the fact that Super Crazy and Low Ki debuted in a match against Christopher Daniels and Tajiri earlier this year. Now, those four men are in different combinations in the cruiser tag title bout
Jamie Knoble beat Evan Karagias in their Last Man Standing blow-off in only 3:55, thanks to David Kash returning from injury within seconds of the bell as Evan was laying into Knoble with a kendo stick. The duo pummeled Karagias down and though he beat the count twice, Kash then trapped Evan’s same leg in a steel chair for Knoble to hit with a top rope elbow, assisted by another chair. In agonising pain and clearly re-injured, Karagias could not get up and the glorified pummelling of a grudge match was over.
A match between the teams of York and Matthews and Diamond and Swinger never got started as the Mamalukes interrupted just before the opening bell and complained on the mic about “constantly being screwed out of the tag team titles”. It wasn’t long before they were provoking the two teams in the ring and a three-way brawl soon erupted.
The next production chronicles Ric Flair’s road to redemption in 2001, which has dovetailed with Lance Storm’s rise up the ranks. They meet one-on-one at Starrcade in what the video bills as a “battle for respect”.
Jeff Jarrett defeated Dustin Rhodes the day before they led their respective quartets into a Bunkhouse Gangfight. The closing stages of the match resembled said Gangfight, as CW Anderson, Shane Douglas, Mark Jindrak, Bam Bam Bigelow and America’s Most Wanted got into it at ringside, which allowed Torrie Wilson to give Jarrett his guitar for the match-stealing shot on ‘The Natural’ at 8:20. The Chosen Few retreated extremely pleased with how they were heading into Starrcade, and looked more cohesive than they have in the last couple months in the process.
We get a final video package, tracking the growth of the feud between Goldberg and Scott Steiner that began over a year ago in the old era of WCW and has failed to calm down since. It kicked into higher gear when Steiner returned from suspension to cost Bill the WCW title before declaring that the company isn’t big enough for them both. His claim will come true in 24 hours when the loser of their Caged Heat collision will be forced to leave WCW.
Sting and Ric Flair vs Lance Storm and Buff Bagwell was thrown out after 7:18 of (relatively) civilised tag action when the two sides began to brawl around the arena in their respective Starrcade pairings. Flair and Storm were eventually separated back in the ring while officials had a harder time keeping Sting and Bagwell apart in the merchandise stands area.
Finally, The Cat returned to ringside for the second of our Starrcade double-main-event preview confrontations as both challenger Rob Van Dam and champion Booker T (with Sharmell) made their way to the ring.
Booker and Sharmell unsurprisingly hogged most of the ‘debate’, cutting off and talking over RVD many times as Booker pointed to his recent tag match pin on Van Dam as a reason why he is an unworthy challenger.
After daring RVD to rebut, Van Dam gave it some thought and eventually kicked Booker down to the mat. He went up for the Five-Star Frog Splash, only for Sharmell to stand between RVD and Booker, allowing T to quickly roll to the ropes and unbalance the high-flyer. T added an axe kick before standing over his challenger holding the world title aloft to close the show.