A long time ago in a territory far, far away, there existed a world with more than one top wrestling company. Before the McMahon empire won wars with every major wrestling promotion and before the birth of WrestleMania, we as wrestling fans had Starrcade.
What began as a year-ending show under Jim Crockett Promotions and culminated as WCW’s version of WrestleMania during the Monday Night wars, Starrcade is the brainchild of the American Dream Dusty Rhodes.
Tonight, for the first time in 17 years, Starrcade is reborn.
Before we rank our top Starrcade moments, here is a look at tonight’s top matches.
WWE Championship Steel Cage Match
AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal – While a title change in this situation would be shocking, Styles has already won one major championship this year at a live event. You never know in wrestling.
SmackDown Women’s Championship Steel Cage Match
Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya – With Ric Flair advertised for the show and his daughter inside a steel cage, this is the closest we can get to the good ol’ days of Starrcade.
Dustin Rhodes vs. Dash Wilder – It is impossible to have a Starrcade without a Rhodes. This is not Goldust. This is Dustin Rhodes, who famously dropped his championship to Stunning Steve Austin at Starrcade 1993 in a two-out-of-three falls match.
If you are unfamiliar with Starrcade, or simply want to relive the great matches, FRS Slam gives you our top moments to watch on the WWE Network.
10. Vader vs Sting 1992 – If not for what followed for the WCW title next Starrcade, this match would be even higher on the list. Simply put, this contrast in styles among two men that knew how to tell a story lasted almost 20 minutes, and the crowd was all in.
9. The Cruiserweights 1998 – There is no story here, but the two matches that kicked off Starrcade 1998 were just so much fun. This is what 205 Live should feel like. First, we get Rey Mysterio vs. Billy Kidman vs. Juventud Guerrera in a barn-burner, and then we get the treat of Kidman vs. Eddie Guerrero. Talk about a star-making moment for Kidman.
8. Lord Steven Regal vs. Ricky Steamboat, 1993 – There can be no Starrcade primer without an appearance from Ricky the Dragon steamboat. While Steamboat did some excellent work in his earlier matches, and as a tag wrestler on Starrcade, this was a clash between two of the best all-time ring technicians. A time-limit draw sounds boring, but not when Regal and Steamboat beat the hell out of each other of 15 minutes first.
7. Ric Flair vs Harley Race, 1983 – This was the match that started it all, and is the best way to learn about two legends. The best part of this main event is not the match itself, but the pre-fight interviews in the locker room. Both deliver serious promos without simply yelling buzz words … a lost art, and the perfect appetizer to this elite wrestling match.
6. Eddie Guerrero vs DDP, 1996 – Instead of yet another match between aging stars (though Piper and Hogan put on a great match in which the Hulkster submitted), the first NWO-themed Starrcade was about building new stars. Both Eddie and Dallas had to win preliminary matches to get here, and were well on the way to stardom thanks to this prominently-featured match. DDP’s babyface run was born here, while Latino Heat put on his second spectacular Starrcade match in a row. He wrestled Otani the year prior.
5. Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine, 1983 – Dusty knew the first Starrcade had to really bring it, so every match on the card meant something. While the main event told an excellent story between legendary wrestlers, this “dog collar match” epitomizes Piper. He sold a body part with a brutally injured left ear, before an epic comeback. After the loss, Valentine got all of his heat back with a beat down on the Hot Rod.
4. Sting vs. Ric Flair 1989 – Was this the best between the brand’s two greatest wrestlers? Maybe not. But this is the moment where Sting became the next guy. The final shot we see as we transition into the 1990s is a vision of the victorious Sting over Flair and the foreshadowing of the return of the Four Horsemen. With Flair on his way to WWE in the next year, this helped Sting rise as the next guy.
3. Hogan vs. Sting, 1997 – The match itself was nothing close to what either was capable of 10 years ago. In fact, it was a fiasco at times with the tough-to-understand fast-count pin. But who cares? We waited a full year to see the man from Every Man’s Nightmare debut in a ring after WCW turned its back on him. Sting’s debut did not disappoint in arguably the greatest rebranding of a character in modern wrestling history.
2. Vader vs. Ric Flair, 1993 – Who knew Flair retirement matches could have so much gravitas 15 years before he actually called it a career? This match had it all. It was a story that, again, pitted Flair against Harley Race, and some of the most original out-of-ring work of the time. The flurry of chops and roll-up at the end blew the roof off the building.
1. Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA, 1985 – In an epic “I Quit” match within a solid steel cage, this set the standard for blood feuds and personal conflict. Like the great wars of the 80s, words do not do it justice. Go watch this match.