Throughout the drab hotchpotch PPV that was Starrcade 2000, the wrestling world was almost unanimous in the belief that it would likely be the only offering under the once-prestigious marquee that began in 1983.
The show drew a measly buyrate and came at a time when WCW being sold off was inevitable – it was just a case of if they’d end up somewhere that would asset-strip, or give them a second chance to thrive.
WWE were interested in picking up the rights, video library and selected talent contracts but an Eric Bischoff-led consortium named Fusient felt they could give World Championship Wrestling the focus they felt AOL Time Warner would not.
And though it looked at one point like the WWE would end the Monday Night Wars in the most dominant fashion imaginable, Time Warner’s decision to give WCW a stay of execution in the form of one Saturday evening show in a timeslot long associated with this form of entertainment and its loyal audience not only saved Fusient but paid off.
TBS will soon add an hour late on Wednesdays entitled AirTime to capitalise on the sports-driven mandate with extra cruiserweight action, the existing Time Warner contracts are at least being used and WCW is continuing their solid work in early 2001 while waiting for news on their fate.
Now, it’s time for Starrcade 2001. And unlike one year ago, the card has the diehard wrestling fanbase excited. Fresh main event star Booker T defends the WCW World title against the year’s hot new mainstream act, Rob Van Dam in a double main event alongside the Caged Heat, loser-leaves-WCW blow-off of the hard-hitting Goldberg vs Scott Steiner feud.
And after coming back to life with a Big Bang in May, Starrcade 2001 has a ‘brand new galaxy’ theme with a modern take on the classic logo plus some smart white, silver and gold arena colour schemes with an old-school touch.
This is the first WCW PPV to be listed as a four-hour event, something the company plan to do on occasion two or three times a year with major shows. At least this time, they alerted the PPV carriers that they may go over three…
WCW STARRCADE 2001: December 23, Washington DC
We opened the pre-show with the Mamalukes taking on York & Matthews and Diamond and Swinger in a triangle tag match following the events of Nitro 24 hours earlier. Johnny The Bull would get the fall over York in 8:12 after the Italians shoved Y&M off the top before they could descend onto the third legal man, Swinger, perhaps reinforcing the Mamalukes’ quest to regain the WCW tag team titles.
This is followed by a cruiserweight gauntlet match, featuring 12 possible contenders with the winner to receive a singles title match down the line. Eleven men were confirmed in the build-up to the PPV with a mystery participant also hyped.
We kicked off with Lash Leroux and Tony Marinera, and Leroux picked up the win with the Whiplash. He was quickly eliminated soonafter by Marinera’s partner Guido Maritato courtesy of the Kiss of Death, but Guido only lasted one fall himself courtesy of entrant #4 in the gauntlet and the luchador who returned to WCW the previous night, Psicosis!
The former cruiserweight champion then went on a tear, pinning Jimmy Yang and then his co-Dragon Kaz Hayashi. A tired Psicosis was picked off by entrant seven, Kid Romeo, and his Last Kiss. Romeo then saw off Shannon Moore by reversing a cradle but was eliminated by the Crash Landing of another former champ, Jason Jett.
Jett survived the threat of recently-returned David Kash and then Kash’s partner Jamie Knoble, only for the duo to put a beatdown on Jett after they were both despatched. That allowed the final entrant, Air Paris, a relatively easy gauntlet win despite a valiant attempt by Jett to pull it off even despite the beating. Total time: 17:57.
Opening match, WCW Cruiserweight Championship: Elix Skipper (c) vs AJ Styles
The four-hour main card of Starrcade 2001 kicks off with championship action, one on one as AJ Styles walks through the curtain to brand new music, entitled ‘I Am’, followed by the familiar ‘Primetime’ solo walkout theme of the cruiserweight champion, Elix Skipper.
The two go back and forth in a hot opener during which the commentators note that The Cat has threatened Triple X with dire consequences if they attempt to interfere in each other’s matches tonight. Both the Styles Clash and the Play of the Day only get close two counts, and the finish comes when Skipper cuts Styles off at the top before a Spiral Tap and goes for a ropewalk huracanrana to bring AJ down, only to be caught mid-rana and brought down with a super Styles Clash for the pin at 14:16 and a new champion!
As Styles celebrates, Air Paris comes out to the entrance way and glares at his former partner and the new cruiserweight champion. Paris earned a title shot during the PPV’s pre-show.
Backstage, Glenn Gilbertti is pleading with The Cat to spare him his match with Alex Wright. Cat says he has had this coming for a long time, and even sends security to ensure his four goons are out of the building for it, now that they’ve all competed themselves.
Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship: Super Crazy & Tajiri (c) vs Low Ki & Christopher Daniels
A bad night for Triple X continued as Ki and Daniels failed to regain the cruiserweight tag titles from Super Crazy and Tajiri. The unlikely partners retained after Ki accidentally nailed Daniels in the corner with Tidal Crush, setting up a Buzzsaw Kick and Crazy Moonsault to Daniels for the three in 12:54.
Best Of Seven Series, match one: Billy Kidman vs Shane Helms
A blistering cruiserweight-heavy start to the show continued in match three, which in itself was match one of the return of the Best of 7 Series made famous by Chris Benoit and Booker T in 1998. An evenly-fought back-and-forth contest concluded when Kidman slipped out of a Vertebreaker attempt and kept Helms down with a rolling prawn hold for the three-count at 15:03. Kidman leads the series by 1-0!
Alex Wright vs Glenn Gilbertti
Wright made short work of Gilbertti, who was dragged to the ring by two members of security for the bout. Wright finally got his hands on his former tag team partner uninterrupted after weathering 60 seconds of Gilbertti offense when the sports agent jumped him at the bell. He finished Glenn off with a German suplex at 3:19, before celebrating with Johnny B Badd and Norman Smiley.
Sting vs Buff Bagwell
Sting made an epic entrance for his match against fellow WCW ever-present Buff Bagwell, with a dramatic light show and a real-life crow. The two brawled around ringside at a brisk pace before Bagwell briefly took over in the ring, only to fall to a ‘greatest hits’ Sting comeback.
After some Stinger Splashes, Sting lined up the Deathdrop only for Bagwell to twist his body and shove Sting into the ref, winding the official long enough for a Buff low blow to connect. The Blockbuster got only two, however, and Sting then reversed a Buff tombstone attempt with one of his own before locking in the Scorpion Deathlock for the tap-out at 10:28.
Bunkhouse Gangfight: Dustin Rhodes, Bam Bam Bigelow & America’s Most Wanted vs The Chosen Few
Things got wild in match five as Jeff Jarrett led his Chosen Few of Shane Douglas, Mark Jindrak and CW Anderson into a Bunkhouse Gangfight against Dustin Rhodes, Chris Harris, James Black and Bam Bam Bigelow.
All eight wore street clothes and a variety of weapons from the classic to the obscure (Jarrett was crotched on a rocking horse by Rhodes at one stage). Douglas accidentally knocked Torrie off the apron aiming for Harris, as Wilson distracted the ref post-Death Sentence on Anderson.
This led to Jindrak and Douglas entering a shoving contest with each other until AMW double-teamed Jindrak through a set-up table at ringside. Rhodes lamped Jarrett with his own guitar and Bigelow then picked up Douglas’ chain – used to bust Black open during the fight – and nailed old rival ‘The Franchise’ before Greetings From Asbury Park at the 12:46 mark ended both group and individual issues on the big stage.
WCW United States Championship, Triangle match: Shawn Stasiak (c) vs Sean O’Haire vs Mike Awesome
Sean O’Haire capped a tremendous breakout 2001 with his maiden singles title, pinning champ Shawn Stasiak in a triangle match also including Mike Awesome to become the NEW United States champion in 8:38.
Stasiak attempted to have his challengers carry the heavy load of the match but soon fell foul of both, before Awesome’s ill-advised attempt to involve a table backfired as his top rope splash attempt on O’Haire found nothing but wood, allowing the tag team specialist to superkick and Seanton Stasiak for the title. Stacy Keibler was furious while O’Haire was understandably over the moon.
Ric Flair vs Lance Storm
Flair and Storm worked an old-school technical classic. Both men targeted the other’s leg for their respective submission manoeuvres, but around the finish when Storm’s superior age and conditioning appeared to be pulling him in front, he got cocky and attempted Flair’s own move – the figure-four – on him. Flair reversed to a small package, and after two re-reversals he held onto the cradle for the three-count over the Canadian at 17:33!
The two stood off afterwards, before Flair offered his worthy adversary a respectful handshake. Storm actually shook… only to blast Ric with a superkick!
A short video promised a return… before closing on the visual of a familiar old luchador mask…
WCW World Tag Team Championship: DDP & Chris Kanyon (c) vs Los Guerreros
In his WCW in-ring return, Eddie Guerrero teamed with Chavo Guerrero to defeat DDP and Chris Kanyon and become the new WCW tag team champions.
A formula tag bout ended when Chavo attempted to bring in a chair, which allowed enough distraction for Eddie to waffle Kanyon with a tag belt and finish with the frog splash in 11:56 while Chavo held onto Page’s legs outside the ring. Bam Bam Bigelow came out to check on his dethroned buddies as the Guerreros headed up the walkway, holding their new gold aloft.
WCW World Championship: Booker T (c) vs Rob Van Dam
With that, it was now time for the double main event. And on a night where so many titles changed hands, Rob Van Dam added to the list by ending the fifth reign of Booker T and becoming WCW World champion!
Sharmell was actually ejected halfway through for continuing her habit of becoming increasingly involved, and a long see-saw battle eventually concluded when Van Dam held onto the ropes during a T superplex attempt and quickly followed with a Five-Star in 17:21 to rise to the top of the food chain.
Caged Heat, loser leaves WCW: Goldberg vs Scott Steiner
As the Caged Heat structure lowered, a viewing discretion warning was aired. After that, Scott Steiner and Midajah made their entrances followed by Goldberg. Unlike previous weeks where their rage was out of control, both heavyweights were calm before the opening bell of their Loser Leaves WCW feud-ender, perhaps with the significance of the bout finally dawning on them.
When the match started, however, the combatants flew at each other and tore into one another one more time. Both men bled and weapons from chairs to the steel steps to a table were introduced from outside/under the ring.
After spearing Steiner through the table propped up into the corner, Goldberg hit a Jackhammer onto a pile of chairs to end the WCW run of one of the company’s originals after a 21:28 war. The PPV ended with Goldberg gingerly celebrating his survival of his most gruelling and most dangerous battle to date, and a title match at Superbrawl is now in his future.
Another Fusient contract confirmed by Starrcade’s events:
- Psicosis signs for 150k on a two-year deal. December 1 2001 to December 1 2003.
In the six days between Starrcade and the special year-end Nitro, several matches were announced for the last TV show of the year via WCW.com:
- AJ Styles, Super Crazy and Tajiri vs Triple X
- Billy Kidman vs Shane Helms in match two of the Best of Seven Series
- Shawn Stasiak’s rematch vs Sean O’Haire for the US title
- RVD vs Mike Awesome for the WCW title
- Los Guerreros vs Sting and Ric Flair for the tag titles
Next time: WCW end a rollercoaster 2001 with a huge special edition of Saturday Nitro!