Monday, June 1, 2009

Mike Rickard Reviews Starrcade: The Essential Collection

n 1983, Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) held one of the most successful wrestling shows ever. The sold-out show featured a who's who of talent from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and was headlined by a steel cage match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship between former champion "Nature Boy" Ric Flair and Harley Race. The card would sell out the Greensboro Coliseum as well as several closed circuit states in the Carolinas and beyond. Starcade: A Flare for the Gold had succeeded beyond Crockett's wildest dreams and suddenly, the business changed overnight.

Make no mistake about it, Starrcade was the innovator, the forerunner to Wrestlemania that proved that with the right buildup and matches, promoters could expand their revenue base past the confines of a single arena. JCP would show the wrestling world that a card could be shown on closed-circuit television (and once technology made it mainstream, in fans' homes) for fans unable to score a ticket to the event in person. For the next two decades, Starrcade would become the biggest show of the year for JCP and its successor, World Championship Wrestling (WCW).

Starrcade: The Essential Collection provides a well-balanced look at one of the most important PPV's in wrestling history. As Jim Ross notes on the documentary, every student of the game needs to know the history of this pivotal show and the role it played in the evolution of professional wrestling. Thanks to this product, they now have a convenient reference as well as a solid series of matches from the event. This three disc set features a one hour documentary on the history of Starrcade and a selection of some of the key bouts from the show's run.

Serious kudos to the WWE for creating an even-handed documentary feature on the history of Starrcade. While some fans have expressed grave concerns over the upcoming Rise and Fall of WCW DVD, this one provides a candid, balanced look at Starrcade. While it's another case of history being told by the winner, it features interviews with a lot of Starrcade's key personnel and performers including Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Magnum T.A., Road Warrior Animal, and former JCP announcer (and brother of promoter Jim Crockett Jr.) David Crockett proving that the WWE can do a relatively objective job when it comes to telling the story of its former rivals (and in all fairness to the WWE, their DVD's dealing with rivals such as the American Wrestling Association, Extreme Championship Wrestling, and World Class Wrestling have been surprisingly good as opposed to the Death of WCW).

The DVD follows Starrcade from its very beginning up until its last days. Watching the program, you can't help but notice the pride of the people involved. When JCP asked Dusty Rhodes to become their booker, Starrcade instantly became Jim Crockett Promotions' biggest show of the year-its Wrestlemania, its Superbowl. Rhodes came up with the Starrcade concept, following the success of supercards he'd worked on during his tremendously successful run in Florida. However (as chronicled in the program), Jim Crockett Jr. placed all his eggs in one basket and a ruthless (and/or shrewd depending on your point of view) business move by Vince McMahon killed Starrcade. Crockett never recovered and he ended up selling the company to Ted Turner. As pointed out, the Turner organization brought a lot of plusses to the company-increased production values and marketing but as Dusty Rhodes put it, the company didn't know "shit" about wrestling. Starrcade floundered as it tried bold new concepts like the Iron Man and Battlebowl competitions but neither proved successful and it was only when Eric Bischoff took over WCW that Starrcade began to bounce back.

Like any good history lesson, there's something to be learned here. Comparing Starrcade to Wrestlemania, Jim Ross feels Starrcade lost its identity after JCP folded. When you hear one wrestler point out how Starrcade lost its importance when PPV's started coming out every other month, you can't help but wonder if anyone in the WWE sees the irony.

In the end though, Starrcade was something very special. As noted on the show, it's still talked about to this day. As Road Warrior Animal points out, it not only featured some of the greatest champions in wrestling but some of the greatest challengers. Starrcade is gone but it's (as Gorilla Monsoon would say) "highly unlikely" that it will be forgotten any time soon.

No comments: