Sting versus Hollywood Hogan:
WCW somehow managed to make the easiest thing it has ever had to book into a total disaster. That’s not hyperbole, all that had to happen in this Starrcade 1997 match was for Sting to defeat Hogan to start the process of the breakup of the NWO. However it has been said politics were involved and because of that the fast count that Nick Patrick was supposed to deliver was closer to a count of regular cadence to protect Hogan. Well, the only question about that is why was there even talk of a fast count?
That match should have been 100 percent clean and 100 percent for Sting. Sting was the most popular wrestler in North America by time Starrcade arrived and if he had one the match the way he was supposed to, maybe he would have become the major star that people thought he would be. This was a match that was built for over a year, since September of 1996, and WCW (Hogan most likely) comes up with political machinations to make sure people still see him as number one…horrible. The match itself didn’t make anyone forget Steamboat-Flair either. It also made Bret Hart look bad (not to mention the announcers) by trying to sell that as a fast count when everyone knew it wasn’t. To make things worse, this was the end of one of the most disappointing Pay-Per-Views in memory, the most-brought WCW PPV in history.
Royal Rumble 98/Shawn Michaels-Undertaker:
The Royal Rumble itself was just important in that established Steve Austin as the man who would go to Wrestlemania to face the champion, it did warrant mention though. But the big match at the Rumble was the Michaels-Undertaker WWE title match, now everyone knew that Michaels was going to win to set up HBK-Austin at Mania, but no one knew that this would be Michaels penultimate match (the Austin match was his last one) for the next four years. Michaels took a bad back bump on the edge of the casket at ringside, which effectively ended his career until last year. It’s ironic in a way because HBK kept WWE afloat during a rough time and then was forced to retire before he could reap the benefits of his hard work.
WCW blew its last chance by having Randy Savage interfere in the Superbrawl rematch between Sting and Hogan. A clean win may have healed some of the damage done to Sting’s character by the Starrcade debacle two months earlier, but it’s WCW so what did you expect. It used its most popular character to set up another feud (Savage-Hogan).
The build to this match, which included Mike Tyson, was a big step in WWE’s boom that lasted for three years. There has been talk that HBK, despite his bad back, was thinking about refusing to job to Austin in this match. Legend has it that the Undertaker had to threaten Michaels with physical harm to get him to lay down in this match. The match itself was good, and only disappointing if one chooses to ignore the injuries that both Michaels and Austin had going into to this match. Michaels back was so bad that at times it seemed as if he could not even bend over and Austin’s neck had been a concern since SummerSlam 1997. Despite those factors the two wrestlers put on a very respectable match. The only thing that somewhat taints it is the fast count by Tyson, but Austin somehow survived that to become a somewhat respected main eventer, don’t you think?
New Age Outlaws versus Cactus Jack and Terry Funk:
This was a cage match for the vacant tag team titles the night after Wrestlemania 14. The result is almost secondary in comparison to how it happened. The Outlaws were helped in their victory by the new Degeneration X, which was now led by HHH and included X-Pac. The Outlaws would eventually join the group and by June the group had officially turned babyface and they were probably third on the list behind Austin and McMahon in terms of importance in the WWE’s success.
Dude Love versus Austin:
The template for the WWE main event matches from 1998-2000 can be seen in this Over the Edge WWE title match. Brawling outside of the ring, overbooking, signature moves and great commentary were all involved in this match. Because of Austin’s neck injury and the fact that he was going to be the top guy, this kind of match was mandatory. The result was obvious, an Austin victory, but the action in the match proved that the brawling style of main event can be successful and it was. It doesn’t hurt that Austin and Foley are great brawlers who know how to use psychology without working a body part. Speaking of Foley…
Mankind versus the Undertaker:
This was the match that put Mick Foley on the map. After all the Japanese Death matches, barbed wire matches, having his ear ripped off, and being in the ring where an entire arena threw chairs at it, Foley’s 20 foot fall off the Hell in the Cell “made him famous” as the Undertaker would say. Who knows how much exactly Foley owes to this one match, his new career as an author? One if not all of his WWE title reigns? His status as a legend in North America? One thing is for sure Foley would not have achieved all of what he has achieved in his career if it wasn’t for the two falls in Pennsylvania. In a way it’s a shame because Foley’s career was about so much more than that and for good reason he is tired of hearing about that one match, maybe he should write about that…