The Monday Night Wars changed a lot of things. It changed the way wrestling was portrayed, switching out family-friendly characters for more edgy, young-adult themed personalities, it changed the image of the wrestling industry to outsiders and it significantly changed the future prospects of one Dwayne Johnson. One other thing it changed was the position of WWE as the top company in world wrestling; having defeated WCW in the wars, Vinnie Mac’s Rasslin’ Shack was the only game in town and they’ve been untouchable since.
But things could have gone very differently and, instead of gearing up towards WrestleMania 33, we could be looking ahead to December, eagerly anticipating the arrival of WCW Starrcade ’17. Originally the NWA’s answer to WrestleMania (except Starrcade began two years before Mania), Starrcade would go on to become the biggest show of the year for WCW (which formed out of the NWA), pitting top star against top star, ending long-running feuds and creating memorable moments for the ages. At least, in theory. This is WCW we’re talking about here, after all.
In the cutthroat environment of '90s wrestling, it wasn’t uncommon for a wrestler to perform in both WWE and WCW, so it’s hardly surprising there are several performers who have earned a paycheque at both WrestleMania and Starrcade. Whilst men like Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and Goldberg are famous for their appearances at both shows, there are several other, lesser-known wrestlers who appeared on both shows, some in pretty surprising circumstances. It’s time for a history lesson, folks. Here are 15 wrestlers you forgot performed at both WrestleMania and Starrcade.
No, not the Greek mythical figure. Sorry.
Hercules Hernandez had a relatively successful WWE career in the late-'80s. After being passed around several managers, he got his big break under the guidance of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, transforming into a monster heel and even receiving a world title match against Hulk Hogan in 1986. He lost, obviously, but this is still pretty impressive. Hercules appeared at a number of WrestleManias, including battles against the likes of Ricky Steamboat and The Ultimate Warrior, but never really had a “WrestleMania moment” to speak of. Unless being squashed by The Legion of Doom in under a minute counts as a “WrestleMania moment”... oh, wait, I’m just being informed it doesn’t. Never mind.
The reason Hercules gets a place on this list is because he actually made a little piece of history at Starrcade. At the very first event – Starrcade ’83 – A Flair For The Gold – Hercules wrestled under the guise of “Assassin #2” and teamed with Jody Hamilton (who was, you guessed it, called “Assassin #1”) to take on Rufus R. Jones and Bugsy McGraw in a tag team match. Stupid wrestling names from the past are my favourite thing, so reading about this match just made my day. This is important because it was the opening contest of the show, thus making it the first match in Starrcade’s illustrious 17-year existence. Also, The Assassins defeated Jones and McGraw, making them the first people to win a match at WCW/NWA’s biggest show of the year. You may not remember Hercules all that fondly, but spare a thought for the Assassins and the mark they left in wrestling history.
14 The Barbarian
This one is just silly.
Sione Vailahi wrestled under the name “The Barbarian” in WWE for a number of years, famously teaming with The Warlord to form the tag team The Powers of Pain. This team engaged in a famous feud with Demolition in 1989, culminating with a match for Demolition’s tag team titles at WrestleMania V, which The Powers of Pain lost. Fuji didn’t run interference or anything; he just defected to The Powers of Pain’s side in the match. He was just really bad and comically old. Barbarian can also take comfort in knowing he played a key role in the career of one of the best of all time; he was one of Shawn Michaels’ first WrestleMania opponents, battling The Rockers alongside Haku at WrestleMania VI. So, essentially, The Barbarian made Shawn Michaels what he is today. And I won’t hear any more on the matter.
Barbarian made his Starrcade debut at the 1985 show in one of the most bizarre matches I’ve ever heard of. He was set to face Superstar Billy Graham at the show, but, before the match could start, Barbarian challenged Graham to an Arm Wrestling Match. At the NWA’s version of WrestleMania. What? Furthermore, there was a $10,000 prize in this match (for some reason) and Barbarian got himself disqualified after his manager, Paul Jones, beat up Graham with his cane, so he was ten grand down before the match even began. What? Then, the actual match started, but only went for three minutes, before Jones once again attacked Graham, costing Barbarian the win again. What?! Maybe it makes more sense to actually watch this segment, but I wouldn’t count on it. The '80s was a weird time for wrestling, man, a weird, weird time.
This. This is just pure joy.
Fred Ottman has wrestled under numerous names in his long career, but is known best in WWE for his work as Tugboat/Typhoon. As one half of The Natural Disasters (alongside John Tenta, a.k.a. Earthquake), Ottman won the World Tag Team Championships in 1992, defeating Money Inc. for the honours and competed a few times at WrestleMania, including in the gimmick Battle Royal at Mania X7. Fun fact: Ottman was also considered to be Hulk Hogan’s opponent for WrestleMania VII in a WWE Championship match. No, seriously. No, no, honestly, seriously. No, honestly, I mean it; Tugboat, the Iraqi sympathiser, vs Hulk Hogan for the world championship. What?
Whilst his WWE run was impressive, Ottman’s true calling in wrestling came in WCW under the legendary gimmick that made his name; the one, the only, the incredible... Shockmaster! Yes, the man who made quite possibly the worst debut of all time, The Shockmaster’s debut is not something that can be explained in mere writing, so take a moment to Google it, then come back and carry on reading. It was great, wasn’t it? Knew it. Shockmaster made his Starrcade debut in 1993, defeating Awesome Kong (no, not that one) in less than two minutes and would never wrestle at the show again. So, he’s undefeated. At Starrcade. The Shockmaster. For God’s sake.
12 Big Boss Man
If you ever take a trip down to Cobb County Georgia, you’d better toe the line, respect the law and order! You’ll serve hard time! You’ll be serving haaaardddd tiiiimmeeee!! What a theme.
With his stellar theme song, The Big Boss Man competed at numerous WrestleManias, including a match against The Rockers at Mania V and becoming a victim of The Streak at WrestleMania XV; a match that ended with Boss Man being hung above the ring, supposedly, to death. Well, at least it was memorable, I guess. Boss Man also won numerous titles in his WWE career, including the Tag Team and Hardcore titles, as well as receiving a Hall of Fame induction in 2016. Also, he won a Jailhouse Match against The Mountie, which resulted in Mountie being sexually abused. Seriously. Look it up.
Boss Man took his act to WCW in 1993 and was pretty successful there. He challenged Rick Rude for the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship at Starrcade ’93 as The Boss (he lost) and then turned up on the show four years later, losing a six-man tag team effort under his real name of Ray Traylor. So, yeah, things didn’t go all that well for Boss Man on Starrcade, but maybe that was because he never used the Boss Man name. Shakespeare might have said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, but he certainly didn’t say “a wrestler by any other name wins on both WrestleMania and Starrcade.” Because that would have sounded really weird in the 16th Century.
11 The Red Rooster
Jesus, Terry, what the hell happened?
Terry Taylor currently works for the WWE as a trainer with NXT, but he is perhaps best remembered as one of the goofiest, stupidest characters of the late-'80s WWE. Taylor was given the, umm, “honour” of portraying “The Red Rooster”, a character whose gimmick was that he, err, thought he was a rooster? Seriously, I have absolutely no idea what his actual character was. If anyone can tell me, that would be greatly appreciated. Anyhow, Taylor’s Rooster took part in one WrestleMania match in his time; a 30-second squash against Bobby “The Brain” Heenan at WrestleMania V, which he won with the help of Ultimate Warrior, who beat Heenan up after The Brain cost him his Intercontinental Championship moments later. All of this gets even worse when you consider that, according to rumours, Taylor could have portrayed the “Mr. Perfect” character, instead of Curt Hennig. Christ. What did you do to annoy someone, Terry?
All in all, Taylor had a much better run in WCW, because, you know, they didn’t make him pretend he was a rooster. He appeared at Starrcade ’85, defending the NWA National Heavyweight Championship against Buddy Landel, which he lost. Two years later, he lost again, this time against Nikita Koloff in a match to unify the NWA and UWF Television Championships. Then, in 1990, Taylor was defeated by Michael Wallstreet, who would go on to become I.R.S in WWE, in what would be his final Starrcade match. Ok, so he lost all of his matches, but, I repeat, they didn’t make him pretend he was a rooster. He could have been paraded naked around the arena at every single Starrcade show and he still would have been treated better there than he was in WWE. A freakin’ rooster. Insanity.
10 Jamie Noble
Just what happened to J and J Security, exactly? They just disappeared one week in 2015 and were never spoken of again. Weird.
Apart from being a part of one of the most adorable security teams of all time, Jamie Noble was a pretty successful wrestler, who first debuted in the WWE in 2001 during the Invasion angle. He won the Cruiserweight Championship and held it for several months, before dropping the belt to Billy Kidman. He competed in a Cruiserweight Championship Open at WrestleMania XX, but failed to win the gold. If you think I’m glossing over his singles career at Mania, that was pretty much it. Taking that draping DDT from Randy Orton at 31 was probably the best thing he’s ever done at that show.
Noble appeared at the final edition of Starrcade in 2000, under the incredibly original name of “Jamie Knoble”. Genius. Noble – whoops, I mean, Knoble – competed in the opening contest of the night, partnering up with Evan Karagias (of 3 Count fame) against The Jung Dragons and Shane Helms and Shannon Moore. This ladder match was actually a pretty decent bout, with Helms and Moore going over, but even this high-flying cruiserweight action couldn’t save this show from being the final one in Starrcade history. Being a part of the final Starrcade show is a pretty mean feat and, even though he didn’t win his match, Knoble is still a part of wrestling history. Still want to know where J and J Security are. I’m worried about them.
Virgil? On a list of forgotten wrestlers? Surely not.
Michael Jones made his name as Virgil, the manservant/bodyguard/henchman of “The Million Dollar Man”, Ted DiBiase. He would begin life as a villainous character who would enforce DiBiase’s sinister will, but would late transition into a babyface after turning on DiBiase and going after his Million Dollar Championship, a title he won from DiBiase at SummerSlam 1991. Virgil challenged for the "title" at WrestleMania that same year, but won via countout, so the belt didn’t change hands. He also won a six-man tag team match at WrestleMania VIII in what would be his final Mania match, which, amazingly, makes Virgil undefeated at WrestleMania. Maybe if he’d have advertised that, people would have turned up to his autograph signings...
Virgil performed at the biggest Starrcade of all time (Starrcade ’97) under the name Vincent in a six-man tag team match, where he teamed with Scott Norton and “Macho Man” Randy Savage to take on The Steiner Brothers and Ray Traylor, who we’ve already seen once before on this list. In his sole Starrcade match, Vincent ended up on the winning team after Savage pinned Scott Steiner following a flying elbow drop. This makes Virgil/Vincent one of an elite class of wrestlers that are undefeated at both WrestleMania and Starrcade. This, officially, makes Virgil our God, and we must worship him without question. Bow before the almighty, Virgil, or be crushed!
(Editor's note: The ring name Virgil was WWE's attempt to troll Virgil "Dusty Rhodes" Runnels, and when WCW hired Mike Jones, they used him to troll WWE by renaming him Vincent. Then Shane. Oh, those wacky Monday Night Wars.)
It really does feel weird talking about just one of Demolition.
Smash was one half of Demolition, the most popular tag team of the '80s in WWE, as well as one of the most successful. The duo reigned for a grand total of 698 days, with their first reign coming in at 478 days, the longest single reign with the World Tag Team Championships (The New Day’s reign was with the WWE Tag Team Championship, before you get on my case). The duo is the only team in history to walk out of three successful WrestleManias with the tag team gold (IV, V and VI) and Ax, Smash’s first partner in Demolition, is actually undefeated at the event. Smash, on the other hand, made the fatal mistake of teaming with Crush at WrestleMania VII, which, as we all know, is the absolute worst thing a person can do.
Smash turned up in WCW in 1985 and appeared as that year’s Starrcade, under the guise of Khrusher Khruschev. He competed in a match to win the vacant NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship. The next year, he would team up with Ivan Koloff to defeat the Kansas Jayhawks to retain the United States Tag Team Championships in what would be his final Starrcade appearance. He would join WWE in 1987, form Demolition and have one of the most successful tag team careers of all time. Oh, and he was also The Repo Man. Can’t all be perfect, I guess.
7 Roddy Piper
OK, maybe this one isn’t quite as shocking, but it’s still a surprise to see such a huge WWE name turn up on the enemy’s show. Also, I needed an extra spot. Sue me.
Roderick Toombs became a wrestling legend under the name, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. His zany promo style and over-the-top character made him an instant hit, either as a face or a heel, and he had some of the most memorable moments of any WWE superstar in the Golden Era. One of these moments including main eventing the first ever WrestleMania, teaming up with “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff to battle Hulk Hogan and WWE legend Mr. T. Hey, he’s a Hall of Famer and undefeated at WrestleMania. The stats don’t lie.
Piper accomplished something very special when battled Hogan and T at Mania I, because he had appeared at both the very first WrestleMania and the very first Starrcade, something only two other men can say they have done. One of those men was actually Piper’s first Starrcade opponent, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, whom Piper battled in a Dog Collar Match. This is a match where the two men were joined together by a chain attached to collars around their respective necks, because wrestling is really, really stupid sometimes. Anyhow, Piper won, which was nice, and would go onto main event the show 13 years later, defeating Hollywood Hulk Hogan by submission. Yes, that’s right, Hulk Hogan did a job to Roddy Piper in the main event of a Pay-Per-View. Truly those were incredible times. This makes Piper one of a handful of people to main event both of the two biggest shows in American wrestling; just another reason why he’s one of the greatest of all time. That and They Live. Love that movie.
6 Harley Race
One for the older fans, here. No offence, but this guy was born during the Second World War, so...
For those of you who don’t know, Harley Race is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important wrestlers of all time. A successful performer with the NWA, he held their world championship seven times for a total of over 1,000 days, the third-most time of anyone ever across a career. Race was also the first-ever holder of the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship, a title which is now known as the WWE United States Championship. Huh, they should really mention that more often.
Race appeared at WrestleManias III and IV, but it is his Starrcade career that is much more successful. In 1983, he was NWA World Heavyweight Champion heading into the first ever Starrcade; a title he defended in the show’s main event against Ric Flair. The match (which was contested inside a steel cage) is widely regarded as one of the greatest of the early-'80s and won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s coveted “Match of the Year” award. It was also seen as Race passing the torch to Flair, establishing The Nature Boy as the next great champion in American wrestling, which, you know, turned out to be 100% true. Race would never wrestle at Starrcade again, but would make appearances in a managerial capacity, adding an air of weight to future title matches and just reassuring everyone that he hadn’t died yet. What? The guy’s really old. Still terrifies me though. Sorry, Mr. Race.
5 Brutus Beefcake
Oh, Ed, you’re just the worst.
The running joke in pro wrestling is that Ed Leslie can’t go five minutes without changing gimmicks. In his time he’s been known as Zodiac, Ed Boulder, The Butcher, Brother Bruti, Brute Force, Eddie Hogan, The Man With No Name and, my personal favourite, The Booty Man. And that’s not even all of them. Seriously, Ed, calm down. In WWE, Ed was best known as Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, a relatively successful wrestler who competed at a number of WrestleManias (including Mania VI, where he ended the undefeated streak of Mr. Perfect) and even main evented SummerSlam 1989. This was more often than not down to his real-life friendship with serial politic-er, Hulk Hogan, and, surprise surprise, Hogan was on hand to help out his old buddy once more, when he made the jump to WCW.
Leslie arrived in WCW in 1994, just one year after best pal Hogan, and the two began a feud, with Leslie joining The Three Faces of Fear, alongside Kevin Sullivan and Avalanche. If you want this explained to you, please, don’t ask me. I have neither the time nor the energy, I’m afraid. At that year’s Starrcade (a bafflingly short show), Hogan and Leslie, who was going by “The Butcher” at this point, battled in the main event for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Yes, you heard me; Brutus Beefcake, in a world title main event, at Starrcade. What an absolute mess. This was the bright spot of Beefcake’s WCW career, but, to be fair to the guy, not many people can say they headlined Starrcade, so credit where credit is due, I suppose. Which, technically, means I should be praising Hulk Hogan here. Harsh, but true.
4 Ron Garvin
This story is just the best.
“Rugged” Ronnie Garvin is perhaps one of the most forgettable figures of WWE’s Golden Era. Only with the company for a brief spell, his feud with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine was probably his most memorable, with the rivalry stretching out over several months and even featuring Garvin being pulled out of kayfabe retirement to battle Valentine at the 1990 Royal Rumble. Other than this, however, Garvin had very little to do in WWE, but did get a WrestleMania match out of Dino Bravo at Mania V, which he lost. However, just two years earlier, Garvin had taken part in one of the most incredible events in wrestling history. Strap yourselves in, fellas, this is something else.
It's 1987. The NWA’s booking committee wanted to strip world champion, Ric Flair, of his title to make sure he could win it back at that year’s Starrcade, creating a feel-good moment for the biggest show of the year. However, the team encountered a problem; the other top tier talent at the time knew that this title reign would only last until Starrcade and had no desire to drop the championship to Flair at the biggest stage of the year. This put the committee in a real tight spot, especially with WWE running the first ever Survivor Series against Starrcade. Enter Ron Garvin. At 42, Garvin knew this could be his last chance to be a world champion and so, like the hero he is, stepped up to take the role in this storyline. He defeated Flair for the title at a house show in September 1987, his first and only taste of world title gold, only to lose the belt back to Flair in the main event of Starrcade '87. He might have only won the belt because literally nobody else wanted it, but the history books will always display Garvin as a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion and, of that, he can be very proud. See, told you it was a good story.
3 Mr. T
Do not adjust your laptop screens. You read that correctly.
Laurence Tureaud, best known under the stage name of Mr. T, is an actor perhaps best known for his roles in the Rocky films as Clubber Lang and on the hit TV show, The A-Team, in which he portrayed B.A. Baracus. Also, he main evented the first ever WrestleMania. No big deal. As explained earlier, T performed at Mania I in the main event tag match, but this was not his last appearance on the grandest stage of them all. Just one year later, T took on Roddy Piper in a boxing match, which the A-Team star won via DQ after Piper body slammed him. Yeah, I’m no boxing expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.
You’d think two Mania matches would be enough to satisfy T’s desire for pro wrestling, but this was not the case. In 1994, WCW were desperate to recreate the magic and, more importantly, financial successes of Hulkamania. This is why Brutus Beefcake was one of The Three Faces of Fear – WCW knew Hogan had success against wacky, outlandish villains in WWE, so they wanted to produce the same for Hulk to fight under their roof. Another person WCW saw as integral to Hulk’s earlier successes was our boy Laurence, and so, in 1994, he was signed to the company to perform in a number of roles alongside Hogan. Sadly, wrestling had moved on since the days of Andre the Giant, and the fans didn’t care for the zany antics of The Dungeon of Doom and ridiculous characters like The Yeti. Oh, the Yeti. Despite this, Mr. T still got a Starrcade match in 1994, battling and defeating WCW legend Kevin “The Taskmaster” Sullivan in a match that went a measly 3:50. But still, that makes the man undefeated at both Mania and Starrcade. He and Virgil should get together some time.
2 The Gobbledygooker
I am absolutely not making this up. Seriously.
The Gobbledygooker has a reputation as one of the worst ideas in wrestling history. At Survivor Series 1990, The Gooker was the end result of a long-running mystery in the WWE. You see, as WWE toured the country in 1990, they were followed by a large egg. Fans speculated as to what could be inside – Is it a dinosaur? Is it a rabbit? Balloons? Is it the Playmate of the Month? (Not my words, but, in fact, the words of “Mean” Gene Okerlund at the event itself) – and, when they got their answer, they were, umm, let’s just say “disappointed.” What was supposed to be a new mascot for the WWE became a laughing stock and the character was an absolute flop. I mean, he was a giant turkey, what did you expect? Seriously?
The Gooker was quickly forgotten about in WWE following his ridiculous debut, but this wouldn’t be the last audiences would see of him. Fast forward just over a decade and to WrestleMania X-7, home of the “gimmick battle royal”. This over-the-top-rope contest pitted some of WWE’s most colourful characters of the past against one another, including Sgt. Slaughter, The Iron Sheik, Tugboat, One Man Gang and, you guessed it, our friend, The Gooker. He was the second man (or should that be bird?) eliminated in the match, being thrown out by Tugboat. This, for many people, is the end of the Gobbledygooker’s story. However, for us, there is still one place we have to go and that’s WCW in 1986.
As much as I hate to ruin the illusion, The Gooker is not a giant turkey. I know, I’m sorry. He is, in fact, a man and a fairly famous man at that. Hector Guerrero, brother to WWE legend Eddie, and uncle to WWE “eh, he was ok, I guess”, Chavo, was the man responsible for portraying The Gooker in both his 1990 debut and the Mania X7 battle royal. Guerrero was a respected wrestler in his own right, highlighted by a 1986 appearance at Starrcade, where he teamed with Baron Von Raschke to defeat The Barbarian and Shaska Whatley in a match with some of the most ridiculous names in pro wrestling history. Guerrero might not be as well-known as his brother or even nephew, but he is still, in his own special way, an indisputable part of wrestling history, and his two grand stage appearances only help solidify this. And now, for our final segment, we move on to something much more normal, but, somehow, even weirder.
1 Triple H
For the past two decades, Triple H has been a constant presence in WWE. From his midcard days as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, to his rapid rise to fame as a part of DX, to his ascension to the top of the card as one of the most dominant champions of all time to his more recent role as an on-air and backstage authority figure (no pun intended), The Game has truly done it all in WWE and has been a part of some truly memorable WrestleMania matches along the way. He’s main evented the show seven times across his long career, battling the likes of Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns in the final matches of Mania and waging war against guys like The Ultimate Warrior, Brock Lesnar, Sting and The Undertaker (three times) on the undercard. A truly mammoth WrestleMania performer, The King of Kings is a bona fide legend and a future Hall of Famer for sure, but, and this is really going to sting the hardcore fans, before he event stepped foot in a WWE ring, Triple H was actually performing for the company he would help put out of business.
At Starrcade 1994 (which, with Mr. T vs Kevin Sullivan and The Butcher in the main event sounds like one hell of a show), a young man named Jean-Paul Levesque fought and lost to Alex Wright, a man who would later go on to form a tag team with Disco Inferno. Oh yeah. Jean-Paul Levesque is actually a play on the real name – Paul Levesque – of the man who would go onto become The Cerebral Assassin. It’s so strange to see the future son-in-law of Vince McMahon compete for WCW and even more so to see him draw money for them on their biggest show of the year.
We’ve seen a lot of things on this list – Greek mythical figures, a rooster, a man with a thousand gimmicks, a turkey etc. – but to see Triple H competing in a WCW ring in such a big capacity, that’s the absolute peak for me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit down and watch Starrcade 1994. Cannot wait.