Thursday, December 12, 2013
Starrcade--"The Granddaddy Of Em All" Turns 30
Growing up as a "WWF kid," to me Thanksgiving wrestling tradition meant the Survivor Series. As my fandom grew, I learned that Starrcade has an equally large space at the wrestling holiday table. These two events were actually a then new-era equivalent to traditions that had been going on for decades. For many years, after wrestling fans enjoyed their Thanksgiving dinner or opened their presents on Christmas, a night out at the matches was in order. While it probably wasn't the ideal night to be working for the wrestlers themselves, I would imagine that some of the hottest crowds of the year packed armories and arenas for these special shows. With the advent of Starrcade, the talent no longer had to be split up among towns. Finally, one huge holiday supercard could be seen in multiple towns on the same night.
Championship grandeur aside, others look to another match that night as the most memorable portion of the event. Rowdy Roddy Piper and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, two men who would go on to participate in the first WrestleMania as well, battled in an absolutely vicious dog collar match. If certain ECW matches made fans of the '90s think that the participants were truly brutalizing each other, then this match did the same for the audience of a decade earlier. Dog collars were wrapped around each man's neck which were connected by a heavy chain. The chain ultimately became one of the stars of the event, helping each man to wreak havoc on the other. Although Piper emerged victorious, he has since claimed that the effects of the chain hitting his ear caused hearing loss.
Due to the Survivor Series and the WWF's tactics of promotional war, Starrcade was later moved to late in December. When Jim Crockett Promotions became WCW, the event continued and many fans point to the tenth anniversary of the event as its last great moment. Once again Ric Flair, the man who arguably could add "Mr. Starrcade" to his list of nicknames, was on another quest for the gold. This time, Flair would be up against the monstrous Big Van Vader. A dramatic build insinuating that Flair was too old to defeat the behemoth from the Rocky Mountains only helped to bring the true Starrcade "feel" to the event. Flair was victorious, in his hometown of Charlotte, NC to boot. A few months later, Hulk Hogan would enter the company much to the chagrin of some fans who had been with the event and the NWA/WCW brand of wrestling for many years.
Although I was never able to attend Starrcade, my own "live" memories of the event were first created four years after the last one was held. In 2004, my very first wrestling convention was the Thanksgiving weekend Mid-Atlantic Legends Fanfest in Charlotte. The event was a tribute to Starrcade and included many of the stars that made the events what they were. Fittingly, the first autograph that I obtained that weekend was from the original voice of the event, Bob Caudle. Many of the Fanfests since have had Starrcade themed moments such as Flair and Race reuniting as well as Piper and Valentine posing for photos with the original dog collars, still owned by Piper today.