Thursday, 12 July 2007

NWA Starrcade '89: Future Shock - Retro Review

This week's retro show review takes us back to December 1989, and the biggest show on the National Wrestling Alliance's calendar, Starrcade '89 - Future Shock. But this Starrcade was different, with two round robin tournaments to crown Iron Man and Iron Team champions, featuring the top stars of the NWA at the time. So here we go.

The show begins with our announcers for the evening, Jim Ross, Jim Cornette, & Terry Funk telling us the format for the two tournaments.

First up we have the Steiners facing Doom, back when Ron Simmons & Butch Reed were little more than masked no-names managed by Woman. It's interesting to compare the Scott Steiner of '89 to the Scott Steiner of '03. But anyway, not a bad opener here between two powerful teams. Woman's bodyguard, Nitron, almost costs the Steiners the match, but the brothers manage to get the count-out victory.

Then we go to the singles tournament as Sting, then a member of the Four Horsemen, takes on U.S. Champ Lex Luger, two men labeled as the two wrestlers who would dominate the 90's by announcers Ross & Funk. This is a battle of two young superstars entering the prime of their careers, and it's a back and forth affair that shows why WCW put so much faith in Luger & Sting in future years. I found myself enjoying this bout a great deal. Luger won the bout somewhat controversially, pinning Sting with the help of the ropes. Good stuff here.

Back to tag action as Doom face their second bout, going up against the Road Warriors in a battle of the powerhouses. Obviously some editing in the bout, as Hawk quickly goes from being on the offense to being hammered. The Road Warriors picked up the win when Animal pinned one of the masked men after Hawk clotheslined him off the top rope. Hard to give a proper opinion on this one because about ten minutes was edited out.

Moving on to the singles tournament, it's mark out time as The Great Muta takes on World Champion Ric Flair, who is accompanied by Arn & Ole Anderson. We also see shots of Norman the Lunatic dressed as Santa. It's a quick affair as Gary Hart's J-Tex Corporation try to spoil things as Flair quickly locks in the figure four on Muta. As the Andersons and J-Tex brawl outside, Muta misses a moonsault, and Flair scores the win with a small package. Not the pure wrestling clinic that would have been expected in a Flair v Muta match.

We return to the tag tournament next as the two babyface teams, the Road Warriors & the Steiners, go at it. Some good exchanges between these two teams produced a good bout, which saw Scott pin Animal somewhat controversially. After Animal held Scott in a back suplex position, Hawk came off the top rope with his trademark clothesline. As Animal went with the momentum and went for the pin. Scott raised his shoulder before the three count, while Animal's shoulders were still on the mat. The brothers were now leading the tournament.

Next up, Sting and the Great Muta continued their rivalry in the singles tournament. What was one of the top rivalries in the NWA in 1989 produced another great match, with Sting & Muta showing what great promise they had. Sting won this one after a superplex. Good stuff here.

Back to the tag tournament, and it's the first appearance of the Wild Samoans, late replacements for the Skyscrapers team of Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey, going up against Doom, who have nothing to wrestle for in the tournament apart from pride. The early parts of this bout are edited out, either that or the Samoan Savage was beat down early. A pre-Rikishi Fatu gets the win in the battle of the heels. After a clash of heads, Fatu pinned one of the masked men after being pushed down by his manager, Sir Oliver Humperdink.

Singles action next, as we see Ric Flair v Lex Luger, chapter 2, 475. This was during the time that Luger seemed to get thousands of world title matches against the Nature Boy. Yet more editing, as the first thing we see is a dazed Flair having his head smashed into the turnbuckle. What we did see was an entertaining series of exchanges, which makes you wonder what they cut out. Luger dominated, but Flair was able to lock in the figure four. However, the time limit expired, and the match was declared a draw.

Back in the tag tournament, the Samoans make their second appearance against the Steiners. Need I say it, but yet more editing. Fatu and the Savage literally beat the hell out of Scott Steiner, despite fighting back briefly with a Frankensteiner. However, the Steiners get disqualified when they thrown one of the Samoans over the top rope, a move that was illegal in the NWA at the time.

Back in the singles tournament, the Great Muta takes on Lex Luger, who heavily favours his leg after the previous bout. Again, more editing from the early stages of the match as Muta works over Luger's injured leg. Muta dominates, but the Package fights back, and just as he is about to synch in the Torture Rack, Muta takes him down with the Muta Mist, earning him nothing more than a disqualification.

Then it's time for the final match of the tag-team tournament, as the Samoans take on the Road Warriors, with hundreds of mathematical computations about who needs to do what to win the tournament. This is nothing more than a brawl between the two powerful teams, and at times, it wasn't pretty. The bout came to an end as Hawk pinned one of the Samoans after a clothesline to win the match and the tournament.

The final bout of the card was the final bout in the singles tournament, as Sting went up against Ric Flair. Both men needed the win to win the tournament. The final match of the show proved to be a cracker, as the young star and the wily veteran went at it tooth and nail. As the fifteen minute time limit neared, Sting scored the winning pin fall as Flair attempted a second figure four. Sting then got the rub from Flair and the Andersons as all four Horsemen celebrated in the ring.

Overall conclusion - an interesting competition format for a pay-per-view, and it's a pity that this format wasn't seen again. It was pretty hit-and-miss in certain areas, but it certainly delivered what it set out to do.

Production wise, the NWA certainly couldn't compete arena wise with the WWF at the time, but overall it was very good, although the clipping of some of the matches detracted from my overall enjoyment. Commentary wise, Jim Ross, Jim Cornette and Terry Funk did a good job of calling the action.

Match of the show goes to the final match of the night between Sting & Flair. Probably one of the best bouts these two had against each other.