NWA Starrcade 1988: True Gritt Review

Starrcade 88 Logo

Hello everyone and welcome to the Starrcade 1988 review! This card is freaking stacked. Every match had potential to be, at least good, and this will hopefully be a better, more consistent card than any of the prior shows. A trend in these Starrcades has been slowly moving away from a territory supercard, and, instead, having this show be solely a Jim Crockett Promotions card. That allows cards to be shorter, matches to get more time, and most subpar wrestler’s to be left out. Some matches, like Lugar vs. Flair or the Midnight Express vs. the Original Midnight Express, have the opportunity to be classics, so I hope this show doesn’t disappoint. Anyhow, let’s get this underway.

The show opens with a short video package hyping the storylines to the most important matches. That helps someone like me, who has only really watched Starrcades from this period, to catch up. Its simple, but effective. We are in Norfolk, Virginia, and our hosts are Tony Schiavone and Magnum TA, and Bob Codle (!!!) and Jim Ross (!!!) are at ringside. Our first match is…

Fantastics vs. Varsity Club

The Fantastics (c.) vs. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams & Kevin Sullivan – United States Tag Team Championship Match

            I am so conflicted about this match. The psychology was the usual heat segment we see in many tag team matches, but the Fantastics were, well, fantastic at selling when they were in the ring. They garnered sympathy well, and made a couple nice hot tags. I also like how Williams and Sullivan were able to cut the Fantastics off when they made hot tags by using their superior size and strength. It was all going well, until The Fantastics went on offense. Their offense was sloppy, and they didn’t do any real exciting maneuvers that a good babyface comeback should have. Their execution was spotty all match, but in the finishing stretch they really got exposed and looked quite awful. Also, the finish itself had no impact, and looked ugly as sin. Overall, the match built well to a hot finishing stretch that never happened.

Rating: **¾

Both Magnum TA and Tony Schiavone run down the card before our next match, which is…

Midnight Express vs. Original Midnight Express

The Original Midnight Express (w/ Paul E. Dangerously) vs. The Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornett)

            Big improvement over the last match. These two teams put together a wild brawl of a match that was still tightly structured. That is rather impressive. The early goings consisted of the New Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane) always being one step ahead of the Original Midnight Express (Randy Rose & Dennis Condrey) because they were younger, more fit, and better prepared. Then, Bobby makes a mistake, and the Originals use their cunning (and less than sportsmanlike tactics) to maintain a surprisingly fantastic heat segment. Honestly, this heat segment was one of the best I have ever seen. There were no rest hold, constant tagging and action, and the side plot of the managers’ tension at ringside. One hot tag and a phenomenal finishing stretch later, we have ourselves a potential MOTN. This was solid tag psychology, great structure and wild action coming together to make a great match.

Rating: ****

The brawl continues after the match as The Original Midnight Express and Paul E. decimate all their adversaries. This is honestly some really great heel work. Bobby cleans house with the tennis racket. Is there another match between these teams? I need to see it if there is. Bob Codle and Jim Ross make predictions a little and recap the opener. This is when I realize when I said everything is going to be at least good in my intro, I was wrong. These next two matches are going to be rough. We cut to Magnum TA interviewing Steve Williams, Mike Rotunda and Kevin Sullivan. Williams says that the Varsity Club will always be at the top, no matter what. Sullivan then states that Rotunda will defeat his opponent Rick Steiner, and Rotunda concurs. Our next match is…

Ivan Koloff & JYD vs. Assassins

The Russian Assassins (w/ Paul Jones) vs. Junkyard Dog & Ivan Koloff – If the Russian Assassins lose, they must unmask and Paul Jones must retire

            This was bad. There is no way around it. Everything was very basic, had no energy behind it, and they seemed to be moving in slow motion. Also, Ivan Koloff had some of the worst punches I have seen in a while. They were so weak looking it was unbearable. The Russians getting the heat was boring and the finish was an anticlimax. I wish I could write something better than this for this match, but there is literally nothing to talk about. It was just bad.

Rating: ½*

Codle & Ross recap the prior matches AGAIN. My lord, this is redundant. This feels like they’re just killing time. We go into our next match, which is…

Rick Steiner vs. Mike Rotunda

Mike Rotunda (c.) (w/ Kevin Sullivan) vs. Rick Steiner – World Television Championship Match – Kevin Sullivan is Locked in a Cage

This was, for complete lack of a better term, boring. I kid you not when I say the first 10 or so minutes were completely worthless, and only consisted of stalling, rest holds, and the occasional short sequence. That was really the story of the whole match, as soon as something compelling, like an interesting sequence or spot, they would regress back into rest holds or stalling. A rest hold or stalling or unnecessary interference immediately cooled down potentially interesting stuff, like Steiner flying through the top and middle rope to the floor or most of the finishing stretch. There was good, like Steiner and Rotunda playing to the crowd and taunting each other, but these factors should embellish an already good match, not be the only remotely positive thing to find. In saying that, it might sound as if the match was bad, but it wasn’t. The wrestlers were completely competent, but nothing they did had anything behind it. The good in this match is diluted entirely by the horribly bland stalling and rest holds.

Rating: *¾

Inexplicably, the crowd goes absolutely apeshit for Steiner’s title win. The crowd enjoyed the fact that he won, so good for them! Tony Schiavone & Magnum TA recap what we literally just watched. WHY? And they run down the card AGAIN? WHY? I just saw what happened, and I know what matches are on the card I bought because they already ran it down. This may be nitpicking, but I hate having my time wasted. Next up on the card is…

Barry Windham vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

Barry Windham (c.) (w/ JJ Dillon) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ Sir Oliver Humperdink)

            This had the potential to be either good or very bad. Gladly, it was the former. Bigelow would use his strength, weight, and agility to attack Windham, but Windham had two things Bigelow didn’t, JJ Dillon and a good strategy. He waited for Bigelow to make a mistake, and then he would try to pounce. This story was made even better by Windham selling wonderfully for Bigelow, which made the offense look devastating. After a good first half, they kicked it up in the final stretch, putting together good action, convincing nearfalls, and just an overall fun time. The finish was a bit of a downer, but that is nothing considering how good the match was.

Rating: ***¼

Jim Ross does a hell of a job post match putting over both competitors. He is so great. Backstage, Magnum TA interviews Rick Steiner, and he cuts an adorable bumbling, innocent promo, but audio issues mar it a little. This was amazing regardless. Next up is…

The Road Warriors vs. Sting & Dusty Rhodes

The Road Warriors (c.) (w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Sting & Dusty Rhodes – World Tag Team Championship Match

            These four guys know how to work a crowd into a frenzy. This was action packed and absolutely amazing. Sting & Dusty’s offense was action packed and hella’ fast paced, which really impressed me. Both guys went all out in front of this crowd to make this match great, and they pretty much succeeded. That’s not to discount the Road Warriors, who’s power offense played an integral role in the match, but Rhodes and especially Sting impressed. Sting hit a top rope plancha to the floor for God’s sake! When the Warriors got the heat on Dusty it slowed down a lot, but the crowd remained hot and into the match. Honestly everything, even the finish, work in the match’s favor and makes everyone look good. Watch this now. It’s almost the MOTN.

Rating: ***¾

The brawl continues post match a bit, before the Road Warriors escape the ring. Tony Shiavone and Magnum TA talk about the match we just watch, and show some replays. They then hype the next match, and throw it back to Jim Ross and Bob Codle for our MAIN EVENT!

Lex Luger vs. Ric Flair

Ric Flair (c.) (w/ JJ Dillon) vs. Lex Luger – World Heavyweight Championship Match – Title Can Change Hands Via DQ

            This match just has a feeling of grandeur. These two feel like the biggest stars on the show, and just seem like the right guys to be in the main event. To say I’m hyped for this match is an understatement. If this delivers, this will be the best Starrcade yet without competition. Lets see if it holds up!

It does. This match was the shit, and definitely one of Starrcade’s best matches. Ric Flair makes Luger look like a million bucks, and Luger puts in the performance of a lifetime. Luger was the young gun with tons of energy who wanted to keep the pace up, while Flair was wily and slowed Luger down in any way possible. Luger had control throughout much of the middle, and used power to try to win the title. Flair, however, wouldn’t let that happened, and taunted and stalled as much as possible. The stalling was not excessive, though, and the pacing of the match was never compromised. Down the stretch, they went onto an entirely different level, and put together one of the best finishing sequences you could ask for. Luger made one mistake that cost him, and Flair’s heel work and cheating was top-notch. The finish itself was perfect; as it kept Luger strong while giving Flair a (mostly) clean win. The only issues I have is Luger’s early armwork that went absolutely nowhere, and I wish Luger sold his leg a bit more consistently down the stretch. Regardless, this is a classic, and for sure one of the best matches in Starrcade history.

Rating: ****½

Jim Ross and Bob Codle recap what we just saw, and put Luger over. They then recap the results on the card, and give some thoughts. Magnum TA is backstage with JJ Dillon and Ric Flair. Flair puts over the NWA and himself in an intense and phenomenal promo. He just yells and says he is the best, and that Luger will never wrestle Flair again for the title. WATCH THIS PROMO RIGHT NOW! Schiavone puts over the NWA and Flair some more, and hypes the show and the next year of wrestling. Ross and Codle run down ongoing feuds, plug the next PPV, and bin us farewell. Highlights of the show play us out. Close curtain.

Overall:

What a frigging show! This was a very consistent card that was an easy watch. There were a few bad matches, but that is to be expected, especially in an 80s undercard. What wasn’t expected, however, was that 3 matches hovered around 4*. That is incredible, and is a testament to the booking and talent on the show. There isn’t much else to say. Watch this now, because it is the best Starrcade yet.

Overall Rating: ***¾

That was the Starrcade 1988 review, and what a show that was! We are almost done with Starrcade in the 80s, and almost halfway done with the reviews series as a whole. I have been working on more RMR reviews, and will be reviewing the next NXT special when it comes out. Also, I still do not want to review WWE PPVs, so it you want to write a little for this site or contact me for any other reason, my contacts are here or in the sidebar to the left. If you enjoyed, like this post, follow my blog, and maybe even comment as well! Anyhow, thanks for reading, and I hope to see you next time.

Top Ten Matches in Starrcade History:

  1. Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum TA – ’85 – *****
  2. Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger – ’88 – ****½
  3. Tully Blanchard vs. Ricky Steamboat – ’84 – ****¼
  4. The Minnesota Wrecking Crew vs. The Rock & Roll Express – ’86 – ****
  5. Greg Valentine vs. Roddy Piper – ’83 – ****
  6. The Original Midnight Express vs. The Midnight Express – ’88 – ****
  7. Ronnie Garvin vs. Ric Flair – ’87 – ****
  8. Harley Race vs. Ric Flair – ’83 – ***¾
  9. The Road Warriors vs. Sting & Dusty Rhodes – ’88 – ***¾

-Terrance Smith

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