WrestleMania has stood out as WWE’s biggest annual event since 1985, but a year and a half before WWE launched its Showcase of the Immortals, the National Wrestling Alliance broadcasted the first Starrcade. The event started as a Thanksgiving super show, before migrating to December to get out of competition with WWE’s Survivor Series. From an event centered on Jim Crockett Promotions, to WCW’s Granddaddy of Them All, Starrcade was an institution for eighteen years, before WCW closed its doors.
Now that WWE has revived the event, first as a house show, and more recently as a WWE Network special, it’s fitting to look back at the event’s heyday. This articles ranks the top ten matches ever staged at Starrcade.
10 Eddie Guerrero Vs. Dean Malenko, 1997
Starrcade 1997 was all about WCW vs. The New World Order. In particular, Sting vs. Hollywood Hogan marked a showdown well over a year in the making. Sting’s challenge to Hogan wound up an overbooked disaster, widely regarded as one of the most disappointing matches of all time.
At very beginning of the show, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko's fight for Cruiserweight Championship was more quiet than expected.. While this encounter wasn’t either man’s best in WCW—together or with other opponents—it was nonetheless a rock solid match between two technical masters that easily bested any other bout on the card.
9 Ric Flair Vs. Lex Luger, 1988
Lex Luger is known for his physique and being positioned as a superhero more than once in his wrestling career. He is not, however, renowned for his in ring talent. His Starrcade 1988 match, challenging for Ric Flair’s world title, marked not only one of his best efforts, but a demonstration of The Nature Boy’s ability to pull a borderline classic out of just about any dance partner.
This match told a keen story with Flair working the knee as he so often did. At the climax of the bout, Luger went for his signature Human Torture Rack, only for his knee to give, allowing The Dirtiest Player in the Game to collect the pin.
8 Goldberg Vs. Kevin Nash, 1998
In 1998, Goldberg was riding a historic undefeated streak that had seen him collect the World Championship from Hollywood Hogan along the way. By virtue of how he’d been booked, his size, and his popularity, Kevin Nash, the leader of the nWo Wolfpac, stood out as one of his few remaining credible, first-time challengers.
Goldberg and Nash worked a fun big man battle, and one of the best outings of either man’s WCW tenure. The match culminated in Scott Hall inserting himself in the proceedings to stun Goldberg with a cattle prod. Nash went on to hit a power bomb to win the match and end the streak in stunning fashion—all a precursor to Nash and Hall more formally reuniting as heels aligned with Hogan in the days to follow.
7 Eddie Guerrero Vs. Shinjiro Otani, 1995
Starrcade 1995 saw WCW in a bit of an identity crisis. The experiment of reviving Hulkamania had yielded lukewarm results, and the company hadn’t yet launched the New World Order. In this in-between time, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Sting, and Lex Luger occupied the main event picture, all feeling something like place holders. Meanwhile, the company drew on talent from New Japan for a World Cup of Wrestling competition—ill defined, though it at least led to some quality matches.
From a storyline perspective, Eddie Guerrero’s clash with Shinjiro Otani was pretty forgettable. On the plus side, though, the in ring action positively stole the show in an outstanding technical showcase that further the WCW vs. NJPW competition.
6 Sting Vs. Ric Flair, 1989
Sting and Ric Flair’s careers were largely intertwined in WCW. In the late 1980s, Flair was instrumental in getting Sting over as the top face in the company, and their match to close out Starrcade 1989’s Iron Man Tournament was a key step in that process.
After Flair had so often gotten the better of The Stinger, by hook or by crook, this Starrcade 1989 main event saw Sting go the distance. He ultimately pinned The Nature Boy with a small package to eke out the victory and be crowned the tournament winner.
5 Sting Vs. Big Van Vader, 1992
Starrcade 1992 culminated in the finals of the King of Cable tournament, pitting Sting against Big Van Vader. It wasn’t the first time they clashed, but it was a rare instance of them going head to head with a title on the line or direct title shot ramifications.
Despite largely getting lot in the cannon of matches between these two, this was a deceptively great outing, rendering Vader as monster heel and Sting as never say die face perfectly. There was the added reward for long time fans of Sting finally pulling off a decisive win over Vader after he power slammed him off of a splash attempt.
4 Ric Flair Vs. Harley Race, 1983
The original Starrcade main event was a near perfect fit to launch the legacy of this signature event. The NWA World Heavyweight Championship was on the line as young face Ric Flair sought to regain the title from grizzled veteran champ Harley Race inside of a steel cage.
While the match hasn’t necessarily aged well, it was a fit for its time as a mix of technique and bloody brawling to firmly put over The Nature Boy as the standard bearer for wrestling world champions anywhere. It’s telling that he’d carry that legacy forward for nearly twenty five years before putting over Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24 (not to mention that he’d still wrestle on smaller stages after that).
3 Roddy Piper Vs. Greg Valentine, 1983
The image of Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine glaring at one another, each strapped in at the neck on opposite ends of a chain is pretty iconic for old school wrestling fans. While both of these men were quite arguably in their physical primes, they waged war at the original Starrcade and stole the show with an absolutely brutal fight.
Piper went over in this match, signaling the bigger things he’d go on to like main eventing the first WrestleMania a year and a half later, or headlining Starrcade itself thirteen years later.
2 Ric Flair Vs. Big Van Vader, 1993
By 1993, Ric Flair was a veteran enough for WCW to start casting him as an old man. Accordingly, the highly decorated all time great came into this Starrcade looking completely outgunned against a younger, bigger, stronger monster of a world champion in Big Van Vader.
While Vader was always more talented than the standard issue big man who relied only on his size, he played his part to absolute perfection as a dominant villain here, seeking to not only defeat but destroy Flair. Flair was arguably never better as a face than in this match, fighting for all he was worth until he could steal the pin.
1 Magnum TA Vs. Tully Blanchard, 1985
Starrcade played host to its share of bloody battles, but no may be more legendary than the I Quit Match between Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard at Starrcade 1985. Both were masters of their craft in the ring and both were rising stars, setting the stage for an instant classic. Add in the barbarism of first Blanchard, and ultimately Magnum using a wooden spike fashioned haphazardly from a chair leg, and you have a next level iconic scene.
On one hand, this match tends to be forgotten for a more casual audience because both performers arguably peaked here as opposed to going onto the full fledged main event status they had the potential to. On the other hand, for hardcore fans, this match represents a bit of what might have been. Magnum’s career ended with a car accident less than a year later, erasing purported plans for him to become the top face in the promotion. Blanchard being cast behind Ric Flair in the Four Horsemen, besides his personal demons catching up to him in the early 1990s limited how high he flew as well.