WCW’s year of chaos thanks pretty much entirely to Vince Russo quietly heading a consortium to buy 50% of WCW appears to have hit a peak lately.
Russo’s frustrations that his now-51% majority stake still isn’t allowing him to run complete roughshod, with the likes of 49% owner Eric Bischoff, WCW commentator Mike Tenay and a host of pro-tradition wrestlers keeping him in check, led to him assaulting Tenay and threatening to get his own company kicked off Turner networks for good this time.
Needless to say, the company’s stakeholders were none-too-pleased to hear their pilot threaten to nosedive the aircraft in a petulant rage, and Russo now finds himself in emergency meetings all week to explain his actions while Bischoff is free to steer things back onto a more traditional course, one month before Starrcade.
This time around, that means delivering a huge WCW World Championship main event between two legitimate badasses who’ve never faced off before: defending champion Ken Shamrock and the returning Goldberg. It also means finding the winner a worthy opponent in the finals of the second annual Starrcade Series.
This time around, however, things are a little more complex. Curt Hennig, Booker T and Sean O’Haire all finished in a three-way tie in Block B, meaning they will have to face off in a one-fall Triangle Tiebreaker before the winner battles a fresh Lance Storm in the finals later in the evening.
Elsewhere on the show, members of Russo’s Sports Entertainment Xtreme stable could face a whole ton of comeuppance.
Jeff Jarrett was set to get his hands on the man who betrayed him at Halloween Havoc and defected to SEX, CW Anderson, but will seemingly have to settle for another treacherous former friend, BG James. Meanwhile tag team champions Simon Diamond and Swinger must face not one, not two, but THREE top duos they have screwed over in the past in a four-way elimination title bout.
Plus, The Full Blooded Italians have no choice but to face the music and defend the cruiserweight tag titles against the side that put the belts on the map, true WCW junior-heavy pioneers Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio. And more of WCW’s proud cruiserweights will go to war with eight of SEX’s anti-cruisers in a Torneo Cibernetico which could earn the eventual winner a title match with participant and cruiserweight titleholder AJ Styles.
NOVEMBER 24, 2002: WCW VICTORY ROAD – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In addition to the usual match previews and breakdowns during the pre-show, we see footage of Kanyon speaking to DDP backstage and the two shaking hands and embracing. It appears to confirm what has been reported since Nitro last night: with Page now out of the Starrcade Series, he will slot into the tag title match alongside his regular partner and get one more crack at Simon and Swinger.
Our pre-show match saw Paul London, Brian Kendrick and American Dragon attempt to settle their differences in a triangle match. Kendrick mostly found himself pinballed between two men who weren’t huge fans of his, before AmDrag and Brian actually worked over London for a couple of minutes. That didn’t last long, as Dragon took the fight to Kendrick as soon as he had a clear one-on-one path, almost as if he had a bone to pick with him for whatever reason.
After Dragon hit a suicide dive to Kendrick on the outside, London followed with a springboard SSP to both men! However as the three headed into the ring, somebody pulled London away and then rammed him into the stairs as soon as the referee’s focus was on AmDrag and Kendrick inside the ring. That person hopped up onto the apron and the hood on his top dropped to show Jamie Knoble, Dragon dropkicked him down and was immediately pulled into Sliced Bread #2 for the pin in 9:36. It appears Kendrick has a new ally, and one who has just ditched his previous partner-in-crime…
Opening match, Starrcade Series Triangle Tiebreaker: Curt Hennig vs Booker T vs Sean O’Haire
Bischoff understandably gave all three as much chance as possible to be ready to compete again later, if they emerged victorious, by putting this on first. With the Finals just a couple hours away, all three of Hennig, Booker and O’Haire worked hard and fast to wrap up the sudden-death deciding fall as quickly as possible to conserve energy and a frantic three-way sprint was the result.
Hennig got the crowd very much behind him with his last lunge at a huge world title match having narrowly missed out on clinching it 24 hours beforehand. He reversed Booker’s Book End attempt into a Flatliner, of all things, for two. Continuing his apparent learning of previous experiences, he found himself up on O’Haire’s shoulders in F5 position after Sean scuppered a Hennigplex attempt on Booker, only to pull off what Kanyon did to him on Saturday and counter to a DDT that Booker had to break up.
Hennig ducked a Booker charge to send him outside then planted a kiss on Sharmell for hopping up onto the apron for a distraction attempt. T returned with a steel chair, but had it spin kicked back into his face by O’Haire. Curt grabbed Sean for the Hennigplex and when he went for the same small package counter that worked in the group stages. Hennig was ready this time, holding the rope before crotching O’Haire on the turnbuckles.
He went for a super Hennigplex, but Booker dropkicked him in the back which sent O’Haire down to the apron. Booker powerbombed Hennig off the turnbuckles and went up for a Harlem Hangover, but O’Haire recovered, sent Booker flying onto the walkway and quickly went up for a Seanton for the three count on Hennig in 8:59. Our Starrcade Series finals later tonight will pit Lance Storm against Sean O’Haire!
Lance Storm was with Team Canada and backstage interviewer Jeremy Borash. He says the Series couldn’t have gone any better for him, now he has an equaliser for all the interference and ‘gang warfare’.
Borash points out that O’Haire has done it all on his own so far and is already tired from his tiebreaker. Does that mean Team Canada will stay backstage for a 1-on-1 Finals? Storm scoffs at Borash, calls him a “stupid American” and leads his team away.
WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship: Full Blooded Italians (c) vs Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio
After shocking the champions by pinning them at the end of a long and action-packed gauntlet at Halloween Havoc, the FBI no longer had Stacy Keibler around to protect them from serious threats to their belts after Bischoff sent her home for the week. The challengers kept their foes on the backfoot for much of the early going until a Glenn Gilbertti distraction allowed the FBI to block a Mysterio top rope climb and hit a double-team powerbomb onto the walkway.
They worked over Rey’s back until he hot tagged out to Kidman, who not only tore through both champions but wiped out Gilbertti with a plancha. Johnny Stamboli came running out to the scene and checked on Gilbertti, which earned him a dive from Rey – however Mysterio hurt his back further doing so. Kidman went for a Kid Krusher on Guido, which was reversed into a Kiss of Death attempt and then countered back to the Kid Krusher for real only for Tony to break it up at the last second.
Rey remained seriously hurt outside, and was unable to prevent a two-on-one from eventually overwhelming Kidman and the double Rubik’s Cube finished him off in 16:05.
WCW United States Championship: Ron ‘The Truth’ Killings (c) vs Dustin Rhodes
After this bout came together via a series of brawls between the two, the contest unsurprisingly began as soon as Killings joined Dustin in the ring and featured plenty of ringside fighting. Ron floored Dustin with a couple of impressive kicks and took over with weardown techniques before the Rhodes fightback began.
Dustin set Killings up for a Dustbuster but the referee stopped him from following through with it, warning Rhodes that his US title opportunity would disappear if he hit him low. However, this only gave Killings the chance to sneak in a low blow as Rhodes moved the official aside, and a quick roll-up with the tights kept the belt with Killings after 7:28 of action.
Killings celebrated with the title belt as the referee checked on Rhodes, only to be suddenly taken down by… Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller!
Miller mounted his former friend with punches, very unbecoming of his karate discipline as all of that was out the window here. Killings reacted with horror and finally managed to escape the Cat, only to be thrown straight back into the ring by a recovered Rhodes when he rolled out.
Miller hit a huge Feliner to the skull of the champ and celebrated with Rhodes, even coaxing the big Texan into attempting some dance moves… rather badly.
Torneo Cibernetico: Team WCW vs Team SEX
The SEX theme music brought out the batting order of Elix Skipper, Christopher Daniels, Matt Bentley, Shannon Moore, Shane Helms, Sonny Siaki, captain Sean Waltman and Tempest. Shane Douglas and Torrie Wilson brought up the rear until Glenn Gilbertti rushed out and told them “I got this”. The duo didn’t know how to react, but left Glenn to supervise from ringside.
WCW team captain Jerry Lynn then led his side out followed by Kaz Hayashi, Jimmy ‘Yun’ Yang, Tajiri, Super Crazy, Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera and finally the cruiserweight champion AJ Styles. Commentary noted that Waltman seemed to suspect Lynn would lead by example and put himself at the back end of the batting order, and also that ‘lucha rules’ applied meaning exiting the ring was as good as a formal tag.
We began with eight feeling-out exchanges, all in line with the batting order, before returning to Lynn and Skipper. Elix was able to tag out to Daniels and Triple X used a high-low to take over on Jerry only for the skipper to hot tag to Kaz after Bentley tagged in. Another tag to Yang led to Unleash The Dragon on Bentley for the first elimination at 10:32.
Moore went straight on the attack and he and Helms worked over Yang before pretty much the entire remainder of the heel team switched in to beat on Jimmy. Yang finally made the tag to Tajiri who tore through Daniels and then Moore only for Helms to pull his partner out after a Buzzsaw Kick.
Helms went for a Vertebreaker but Tajiri flipped out and landed a snap German before tagging in Crazy. Before he could land the third of the triple moonsault onto Helms, Shane rolled out to safety. Crazy followed with a crossbody and in came Juvi and Siaki. Sonny was quick on the attack but soon found himself Juvi Drivered and pinned at 15:51. The wily captain Waltman immediately dove in and rolled up Guerrera with the tights, however, for SEX’s first elimination at 15:56.
Styles and Waltman then had their first exchange but when Lynn tagged in, Waltman fled the ring to bring in Tempest. Jerry and the former Crowbar battled briefly until the New Churcher ducked a crossbody to sent Lynn outside. Kaz attacked then made a quick tag for another Unleash The Dragon attempt, only for Gilbertti to provide the distraction that allowed Tempest to hit his ‘Mindbender’ sit-out gourdbuster to eliminate Yang at 18:24.
Some more rotations followed before Psicosis was able to get Moore down for a Guillotine Legdrop attempt, only for Helms to crotch him on the turnbuckles with the referee dealing with Gilbertti once more, and a Bottom’s Up finished off Psicosis at 20:50. SEX enjoyed working the advantage for a bit until Lynn was finally able to get Waltman in the ring and the two old friends/rivals went at it until Jerry eliminated his opposing captain clean with the Cradle Piledriver at 24:01!
Tempest came in but was immediately thrown out by Lynn in a reversal from earlier, but the wild and unstable cruiser kept coming back in to attack which led to a DQ elimination at 25:10 for not following the batting order. Lynn rolled out to recover but Kaz fell victim to Triple X’s solid teamwork and the Powerplex led to Daniels eliminating Hayashi at 27:00.
Tajiri then found himself attempting to escape the Vertebreaker once more, but Helms was able to switch back to it and nail it at the third attempt to send the Buzzsaw packing at 28:43. That left Super Crazy, Styles and Lynn 3-to-4 against the XXX and Rejected duos.
AJ, who was one of the relatively-fresh remaining wrestlers, picked the right time to step it up a gear and sent Moore packing with Spiral Tap at 30:39. It looked like Crazy had Skipper beat with a straitjacket powerbomb soonafter, but Gilbertti made a third crucial intervention which allowed Daniels to sneak in with Angel’s Wings and place Elix on top for the pin at 31:55.
Daniels then rolled Elix out and put the boots to Styles as the ref finally had enough and ejected Gilbertti from ringside. As Daniels went for another Angel’s Wings on the champ for a very lucrative scalp, AJ flipped into a slingshot position before deadlifting his opponent up by the legs and into a Styles Clash to make it 2vs2 at 33:16.
Helms came in and sent himself and Styles to the outside, leaving Lynn and Skipper to go at it. Elix set Lynn up on the ropes and looked for the ringwalk rana, but Jerry held onto the top rope to send Primetime down with a thud. He followed up with a picture-perfect flying Tornado DDT for another elimination at 34:34.
Helms snuck back in and immediately looked for a Vertebreaker but AJ slid in and pulled Lynn down. A kick to the gut and a cradle piledriver followed, but Lynn held Helms in place virtually doing a headstand post-impact, at which point AJ took the legs and added a Styles Clash for good measure. Lynn left the ring and new legal man Styles eliminated the final SEX member at 35:07.
According to the rules, this left Styles and Lynn to battle it out to see who’d be the inaugural Cibernetico winner. Knowing a win here would be the fast track back to the top of contendership, Lynn went straight on the attack and scored a few nearfalls.
He then went for the Cradle Piledriver, and Styles looked for a similar reversal into the Clash as he nailed on Daniels but Jerry flipped into the first of a dozen pinfall reversals which ended when Styles was able to turn Jerry’s attempt at his own Bret-Bulldog pin on AJ into a successful Clash at 39:25. Just as he had a year ago, AJ Styles was the main man in the Victory Road elimination match. And just as he was a few days ago, Lynn was classy in defeat.
Grudge match: Jeff Jarrett vs BG James
James disappointed a lot of people when his recent WCW debut turned out to be a precursor for yet another ‘Russo swerve’ and his subsequent joining of SEX. The move simply pissed off his old partner in crime Jeff Jarrett, however, and with CW Anderson out after rejoining the injured list JJ was seemingly happy to beat on James instead, all through the crowd and then back to the ring.
Anderson then made an appearance on crutches at the stage which distracted Jarrett long enough to allow BG back into the contest. Jarrett managed to slip out of the pumphandle slam and go straight into connecting with the Stroke, at which point CW stopped relying on the crutches and sprinted to the ring, bringing one of them with him.
Jeff saw this coming and was first to the punch on Anderson but as the referee tried to get CW away from the match, James belted Jarrett with the dropped crutch and got the three count moments later in 6:39.
After the match, CW got a table into the ring and propped it up into the corner. As BG dragged Jarrett to his feet, however, Anderson had a change of heart and turned the table over so that the legs were facing outward. James then irish whipped Jarrett into a brutal spinebuster, right into the legs and through the table!
The heels didn’t even look finished, but before they could approach Jarrett again we heard the music of Ric Flair, who walked to the ring with purpose and carried what looked like a Sting baseball bat. James and Anderson decided to leave and exit via the crowd, the damage done, while Flair tended to Jarrett and summoned EMTs.
Relaxed rules handicap match: Sting & Rob Van Dam vs Disciples of the New Church
Sting and the returning RVD received a huge ovation for their 2-on-3 war with Malice, Sinn and Slash of the New Church under relaxed rules. Father James Mitchell seemed to be ordering his men to observe the tag structure after a pier-six started us off and led to the faces cleaning house. This allowed them to use Malice as a cleanup hitter which gave them the advantage and allowed them to isolate RVD.
Van Dam was finally able to tag out to Sting and after he cleaned house on Sinn and Slash, he used his bat to weaken the monster Malice until Mitchell hopped up to grab one end of it, leaving an opening for a chokeslam. RVD sent Malice out of the ring with a Van Daminator and the two brawled up to the stage. As Van Dam hit a frog splash from the stage to a table-prone Malice, Sting hit a Deathdrop on Sinn before tapping out Slash to the Deathlock in 9:32.
Starrcade Series 2002 Finals: Lance Storm vs Sean O’Haire
Now it was time to see who’d be challenging the WCW Champion in the main event of Starrcade. Storm appeared to have every advantage over O’Haire going in – freshness, with O’Haire’s tiebreaker win at the start of the show; psychologically, after he defeated Sean at the GAB and Halloween Havoc; and physically, with the added ringside presence of Team Canada as well.
The rookies overplayed their hand putting the boots to O’Haire behind the referee’s back, however, and as they rolled him back into the ring they found themselves ejected from ringside.
It was down to a true one-on-one scenario and O’Haire was able to weather a beatdown, two Maple Leaf attempts and Storm uncovering a turnbuckle. As he went to send the big man into the exposed corner, O’Haire pulled off his trademark run up to the top and backflip over his opponent.
He went to follow with a superkick as he often does, but Storm caught it, spun him around and went for his own. Sean caught that in turn, spun Lance around and loaded up an F5 for the pin in 9:04 and a fairytale comeback to win the 2002 Starrcade Series! One of the last great products of the Power Plant days had finally made his way to the top of the card.
WCW World Tag Team Championship, four-way elimination match: Simon Diamond & Johnny Swinger (c) vs Los Guerreros vs America’s Most Wanted vs DDP & Kanyon
As expected, Kanyon brought Diamond Dallas Page with him to the four-way elimination match for the WCW tag team titles. This left champions Simon and Swinger facing three teams they’d barely scraped by in 2vs2 defences: Page and Kanyon, America’s Most Wanted and Los Guerreros.
The champs had Glenn Gilbertti out there with them and though it began with a six-on-two pummelling on the obnoxious and slippery titleholders – with Glenn taking a few licks in the process – there was no love lost between the three challenging pairs and a true four-way soon broke out.
AMW in particular looked fantastic early on, but were stunned by the first elimination when Harris found his Catatonic turned perfectly into a Flatliner from Kanyon at 8:45. Simon and Swinger talked Los Guerreros into a very uneasy alliance to try and get Page and Kanyon out of there, but the two duos inevitably couldn’t wait to betray the other and the chaos enabled a hurt Page to recover enough to catch Chavo with the Diamond Cutter for the second elimination at 12:52.
The champs immediately pounced on the weakened remaining challengers but a couple of double teams could not finish Page off. DDP then reversed another to send the titlists into each other and tagged out to Kanyon. After beating down both men with the last remains of his tank, Kanyon looked for the Flatliner only for Gilbertti to hop onto the apron once more, and after he took a shot to the jaw, the champs hit the Problem Solver to retain in 14:49.
WCW World Championship: Ken Shamrock (c) vs Bill Goldberg
It was main event time, and the reception for Goldberg’s entrance and his first match back from injury was spine-tingling stuff. Out came WCW champion Ken Shamrock and the two men went nose-to-nose before exchanging heavy duty forearms as soon as the bell rang.
The two went back-and-forth in an intense brawl with distinct MMA tones and counters, as Goldberg successfully kept most of Shamrock’s attempts to weaken the ankle at bay. It wasn’t until a Spear attempt hit nothing but ringpost thanks to Shamrock’s perfectly-timed leapfrog that the champ was able to finally get Bill down into the Anklelock.
Goldberg agonised but slowly neared the ropes. Shamrock pulled him back near the middle but that allowed the challenger to forward roll and send Ken into the turnbuckles himself before following up with a half-speed Spear to a big reaction.
Goldberg hobbled up slower than usual but made the signal for the Jackhammer… only to then be clobbered over the back with a steel chair by none other than Vince Russo. The shot only fazed and angered Goldberg, but it did end the match via disqualification at 10:12.
As Goldberg turned around and faced a now-regretful Russo, he was attacked by Scott Hall, BG James, CW Anderson and Mark Jindrak. Shamrock returned to his feet but rather than join in, he angrily confronted Russo for getting involved.
The others tried to calm Shamrock down but soon they were forced to deal with Dustin Rhodes, AMW, DDP, Kanyon, York and Matthews, The Cat and others. The rest of SEX joined the fray as did cruiserweights and others. Ric Flair’s music again played as he joined what was fast becoming the biggest all-out war between the two sides yet, though Russo managed to clobber Flair with the ring bell when he least suspected it, leaving him down and bloodied.
We ran out of PPV time as the fight continued all over the arena. The inner turmoil plaguing WCW had finally reached breaking point, and cost us a highly-anticipated main event in the process.