The Best And Worst Of WWE Starrcade 2018 Network Live Special

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Previously on the Best and Worst of Starrcade: WWE brought back WCW’s flagship event, “Starrcade,” at least in name, to sell tickets to a slow-selling Greensboro, NC, house show. I went to it, because I have been in an abusive relationship with pro wrestling my entire life, and wrote a piece on it. This year the event is back, in Cincinnati of all places, and showing up on the Network in a truncated, one-hour “live special.”

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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Starrcade, originally aired on November 25, 2018.

Here’s Everything You Missed

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Up first, a rundown of everything that didn’t make it onto the one-hour “Hulu” WWE Network version, with a h/t to PWInsider. I used a cool picture of The Revival here so you could remember what they looked like before second-hand embarrassment caused a deep feeling of grief in your soul every time they show up. Or is that just me?

  • Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes tribute videos aired, because we’re still pretending Starrcade ended when WrestleMania started, and you can’t get much of an emotional video package out of Hulk Hogan making Sting look like the biggest piece of shit in the entire world
  • Drew McIntyre defeated Finn Bálor with a Claymore Kick, because as much as you and I might like Finn Bálor, putting him in the ring against Drew McIntyre is like booking a cute little kitten to go one-on-one with a Bengal tiger
  • The B-Team defeated The Revival, which should’ve at least included Colonel Robert Parker showing up to manage The Revival, then accidentally causing them to lose when Alicia Fox flirts with him
  • The Bar defeated The New Day, and at no point declared the event BARRCADE
  • Charlotte Flair defeated Asuka with the most dangerous move in any Diva’s arsenal, the roll-up
  • Baron Corbin was supposed to face Braun Strowman, but Strowman had his elbow shattered on Monday and couldn’t make it. So he issued an open challenge, and got Strowman’s old baby daddy instead

Note: He also won with a roll-up. Corbin restarted the match as a no disqualification match, not remembering that Wyatt is a psychobilly cult leader and can easily recruit spooky guys like Finn Bálor (pumpkin demon) and Elias, who I’m 90% sure is the latest regeneration of USA Network’s The Hitchhiker, to help him out. Wyatt wins twice, which I’m pretty sure is the most wins he’s gotten all year.

And now, everything that made broadcast.

Best: Who Has Less Rhythm, Ric Flair Or Alicia Fox?

The show opens with Elias, who is quickly greeted by Ric Flair. Flair says he, “like all the women here tonight,” want to Walk With Elias. So, uh, did Flair just say he wanted to bone Elias? Or is it a “Space Mountain” thing, where the ride’s supposed to implicitly reference his dick but took on a broader meaning of “Ric Flair?” I haven’t been this worried about the Nature Boy’s sexual activity since that time Road Warrior Hawk implied he was gonna pop a Viagra and BUFU him in the ring.

Anyway, Flair and Elias are interrupted by a quartet of heel women — Mickie James, Alicia Fox, Tamina Snuka, and public enemy #1 Nia Jax — but cooler heads prevail, and they decide to sing together. Jax ruins it with some Vickie Guerrero-style bad singing, which brings out a bunch of babyfaces for an eight-woman tag. I’m not sure whether the highlight is Alicia Fox attempting to dance and becoming Rosie Perez from the opening credits of Do The Right Thing, or Ric Flair’s hilarious off-tempo old man clapping:

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Dusty Rhodes said it best:

WWE Network

It’s Literally A House Show, So Here Are The House Show Matches

The first match of the night is the aforementioned eight-woman tag, teaming the Elias Confronter’s Club against Bayley, Sasha Banks, Ember Moon, and Dana Brooke. I like to imagine they brought Brooke in to play “special teams” and specifically guard Tamina. You can’t beat someone who’s bad at wresting unless you can think like someone who’s bad at wrestling!

This is straight-up an hour of a three-hour house show they decided to brand and put on the Network, so saying “it was like a house show match” is redundant. That’s what these are. If you’ve never been to a WWE Live Event, imagine Raw without the backstage segments, every match goes for about 15 minutes, and almost everything ends with an inconclusive finish. It’s usually disqualifications or count-outs or something, and if someone DOES lose, it’s either in the main event, or they immediately get their heat back (heel or face) after the match. It’s the closest to the New Generation as modern WWE gets these days.

The faces win here because they don’t have anything to do on the weekly shows, and it’s pretty fun while it lasts. Certainly more watchable than its Raw equivalent, because they get a little bit of time and the crowd actually wants to see it. That’s another great thing about Live Event crowds; they’re usually hotter for what’s happening in front of them whether it “matters” or not because they haven’t already had to sit through three hours of commercial breaks and promos in half silent darkness.

Honoring Teddy Long At Starrcade

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these are the people in your neighborhood

Miz puts over Starrcade’s greatest matches by mentioning Ric Flair vs. Harley Race (not the best, but it’s important, so sure, okay), ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper vs. Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine (without mentioning the stipulation, or the life-altering gore), and, of all things, Dusty Rhodes vs. Lex Luger from Starrcade ’87. If you’re going to mention a terrible match because it has a WWE Hall of Famer in it, at least namedrop the Midnight Express vs. the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express on a scaffold on the same show. And again, Starrcade continued existing after the mid-80s, guys, WrestleMania didn’t “put Starrcade out of business.”

Miz’s guests on the program are neck brace Rey Mysterio and full-on space suit Shinsuke Nakamura, thankfully without a Smackdown t-shirt hiding the brilliance of his deep-V jumper with shoulder pads. This leads to a great if not poorly sourced dialogue exchange in which Nakamura calls the show “Arcade” and says he doesn’t care about it, while Mysterio says Starrcade is special to him because that’s where he got to see his favorite legends for the “very first time.” Like, uh, Eddie Guerrero. Yes, the first Guerrero match Rey Jr. ever saw was vs. Ohtani in the “world cup of wrestling” at Starrcade ’95. They definitely never met before that!

This leads to a match for the HONOR OF THE ‘CADE or whatever, and ends a few minutes in when Miz interferes. But NEVER FEAR, WCW fan, because the NWA is where Teddy Long got his start. Rusev runs out to even the odds because reasons, and it’s gonna be a TAG TEAM MATCH, player!

You know it’s a house show when they do “singles match ends with interference, someone makes the save, it becomes a tag team match,” and “heel GM loses a match, restarts it as a no-disqualification match” on the same card. And like ten roll-ups.

The good news here is that the tag match gets about six more minutes and is perfectly watchable, mostly because of Rusev Rey. I would be into that as an actual tag team. Mysterio sets up a Matchka kick with a double 619, because Rey’s WWE powers are only magnified at live events. If you booked Mysterio at a WWE Live event in a handicap match against John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Brock Lesnar, I’d pick Mysterio. He’d just wiggle around in the F-5 until Brock went diving across the ring into the middle rope chest-first.

Oh Wendy, I’m Losing Again

Finally we have the main event, a steel cage match (holler holler) between former WWE Champion AJ Styles and never ever WWE Champion Samoa Joe. This was probably telegraphed a lot by the fact that Styles is challenging for the championship at TLC next month and Samoa Joe’s most notable match this month was losing like a complete chump at the very beginning of his Survivor Series match. If Drake Maverick hadn’t started his pee-pants angle, Joe would’ve been the most humiliated guy on the card.

They aren’t interested in passionately smashing any expectations here, and “play the hits” of their previous matches. It’s the kind of match Joe and Styles could do in their sleep, which roughly equates to “better than most of what you see on television.” The only downside is that Joe taps out again, but at least it’s a real finish, and when you’re going through Hell, keep going.

WWE Network

That’s it for the show. Not a lot to write home about, but at least the Starrcade name is staying alive. I can’t wait until 10 years from now when WWE Network’s giving us old AJ Styles vs. old Bobby Roode inside the Six Sides of Steel at WWE Bound For Glory.