And one heck of a cage match.

This is the original biggest show ever and it actually lives up to the billing. The main event is Ric Flair vs. Harley Race inside a cage in one of the biggest storylines ever at that point.

Starrcade 1983
Date: November 24, 1983
Location: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
Attendance: 15,447
Commentators: Gordon Solie, Bob Caudle


As mentioned, this was all about Race vs. Flair. Even the show’s title (A Flair for the Gold) was focused on that one match. Aside from that, the rest of the show was pretty much a big Mid-Atlantic house show. There was a world tag team title match between the Brisco Brothers and Ricky Steamboat/Jay Youngblood and Roddy Piper vs. US Champion Greg Valentine in a non-title dog collar match. The rest of the card pretty much was thrown together and had little to do with ongoing storylines. Let’s get to it.


There isn’t much in the way of an intro. We open on a shot of the arena and the announcer says “THIS IS STARRCADE!” That’s a very simple yet awesome way to say it.


The Assassins vs. Rufus R. Jones/Bugsy McGraw


This is one of those matches with no given story behind it. Jones is the reigning Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion at this point, McGraw is a fat guy and the Assassins are guys in black sweaters and pants with yellow masks. They’re called Assassin #1 and #2 so it’s not going to be easy to remember which is which. Bugsy starts with we’ll say #1 and the match is shockingly fast paced to begin. Bugsy drops him with a shoulder block but both guys miss elbow drops. A slam sends #1 to the floor and the fans are VERY into McGraw.


Back in and they lock up with McGraw hitting a quick elbow to the head before pounding away on #1 over and over to knock him into the corner. Here’s Assassin #2 who is much smaller than his partner. Another slam puts #2 down and it’s off to Rufus for an even louder ovation. He gyrates a lot and pounds away as the cameraman seems to slip, sending the shot all over the place. Rufus works on #2’s arm with some headbutts before it’s back to Bugsy.


The Assassins make a tag but #1 winds up running away from McGraw instead of fighting him. #1 grabs the wrist and cranks on it a bit but Bugsy looks much more annoyed than anything else. Bugsy elbows his way out of trouble and brings Rufus back in for more headbutts to the shoulder. Jones pounds on #1 in the corner and knocks him down with a hard Irish whip. Assassin rakes him in the eye to finally take over but the advantage lasts for all of ten seconds before Jones fires off some headbutts to the ribs.


Back to Bugsy for some wild punches to take over. Everything breaks down until it’s just McGraw backdropping I think #1. In a pretty bad ending, #2 causally walks into the ring and rolls up McGraw for the fluke win. The referee seemed to be perfectly fine with the lack of tagging there.


Rating: D. The match sucked but the crowd reactions for McGraw/Jones were great. I have no idea what the point was in having the Assassins win here was as they were in control for roughly ten seconds out of just over eight minutes. Nothing to see here at all and the ending sucked the life out of the crowd.


The announcers talk about how great this show is and hype up the main event a little bit more. Apparently Dusty Rhodes is going to challenge the winner.


Tony Schiavone (long time WCW commentator making his debut tonight) is in the back as the good guys are warming up for their matches later, including both Flair and Piper.


Kevin Sullivan/Mark Lewin vs. Scott McGhee/Johnny Weaver


McGhee and Sullivan get things going meaning we don’t have a tall man in the ring at all. Off to Lewin to slap McGhee in the back and tag out to Sullivan again. Weaver gets the tag and we get a crisscross resulting in Sullivan holding onto the ropes to avoid a right hand. Lewin comes back in but Weaver starts cranking on his arm to gain control. Off to Scott again as Lewin isn’t sure what to do.


Mark and Kevin start tagging in and out very quickly to work on Scott’s arm with knees and chops to the shoulder. Lewin comes in to crank on both arms at once but Scott manages to make a tag while still in the hold. That would be very impressive but the tag doesn’t count as the referee didn’t see it. Lewin and Sullivan stay on the arm before it’s a nerve hold by Mark. Sullivan comes back in but lets McGhee go long enough for the hot tag to Weaver. Johnny cleans house but has his bulldog broken up by Sullivan. Now it’s Weaver getting pounded down and Lewin comes in off the top rope with a knee to the arm….for the pin? Seriously?


Rating: C-. It was better than the opener but not by much. The arm stuff was fine although the ending was out of nowhere. Sullivan just held the arm while Lewin jumped onto it for the pin. The match wasn’t bad but we’re now a fourth of the way through the show and no good guy has won yet. That’s some questionable booking.


Post match Sullivan and Lewin’s manager Gary Hart throws in a spike and McGhee is stabbed in the head, busting him open. Huge referee Angelo Mosca gets beaten down for a bit before making the save.


Some fans from South Carolina are in the front row and are very polite about being here.


Harley Race is his usual calm and collected self and says he knows all of Flair’s injuries. He’s coming after them tonight.


Abdullah the Butcher vs. Carlos Colon


This was a MEGA feud in Puerto Rico where the match was allegedly banned from ever happening again, despite the two feuding on and off on the island for the next ten years or so. Abdullah looks exactly the same here as he’d look for years to come. Butcher shoves Colon into the corner to start and pounds away on him against the ropes. It looks like Abdullah has something in his hand to jab Carlos in the head with.


Carlos comes back with some right hands and an object of his own. Colon fires off some shots the ample gut and gets two off a legdrop. Butcher kicks Carlos off of a near fall and the referee is crushed in the process. Colon puts on the Figure Four but Butcher’s manager Hugo Savonovich rakes Carlos’ eyes, giving Butcher the pin.


Rating: D+. Just a brawl here for the most part which never got wild in the slightest. Butcher was there because he could bleed a lot and look like a mess at the end of the match. Carlos was somewhat known here but the fans weren’t quite sure what to make of the match as neither guy was all that well known in this area. This was about three minutes of punching and then a finish though, which makes for a dull match.


Angelo Mosca is furious but says he’s going to be the referee in the world tag title match later. He’s going on a crusade for people like his son so he doesn’t have to deal with people like Sullivan and Lewin. The camera pans back to see Scott McGhee covered in blood and looking completely unconscious in a disturbing visual. Oh and Mosca picks Flair to win tonight.


More fans pick Flair to win tonight.


Wahoo McDaniel/Mark Youngblood vs. Dick Slater/Bob Orton


Slater and Orton put Flair out with a broken neck and McDaniel and Youngblood are Flair’s friends, here for revenge. Youngblood and McDaniel are both Native Americans so they come to the ring in big headdresses. Before the bell Dusty Rhodes is introduced to the live crowd for no apparent reason. Wahoo and Slater start things off with McDaniel quickly throwing him over the top and out onto the apron.


Back in and Wahoo works on the arm before it’s off to Mark for some arm work of his own. We cut to an overhead camera view which is pretty disorienting. Slater is slammed down but comes back with a quick rollup for two. Mark puts on a hammerlock as we go back to the overhead view. Slater is kicked to the apron again but comes back in with a Russian legsweep for two. Orton comes in with a knee to the back and it’s Youngblood in trouble.


A gorilla press backbreaker has Youngblood down again but Bob misses an elbow. After a quick chase on the floor, Orton brings Slater back in after only a brief rest on the apron. Actually scratch that again as the tag doesn’t count for some reason. It’s very clear that the tag team formula hasn’t been invented yet. A crisscross results in a backbreaker to Youngblood and a tag off to Slater. There’s a gutwrench suplex for two on Mark and he falls to the floor for some stomping by Orton.


Youngblood breaks the count by a second but the punishment to the back continues with a reverse chinlock. Orton lets go on the hold and stomps him in the face for good measure. Slater comes in and breaks up a tag before suplexing Mark down for two. Back up and they bang heads, allowing for the hot tag to Wahoo. He cleans house with an atomic drop on Orton and a big chop for good measure.


Everything breaks down and it’s Wahoo getting double teamed for a change. A belly to back suplex gets several two counts for Dick before it’s back to Orton. Bob misses a headbutt and it’s off to Mark who speeds things up almost immediately. Wahoo is sent to the floor and Youngblood has to fight off both villains on his own. After a quick double beating, Orton hits Youngblood with the superplex for the pin.


Rating: C. Not a terrible match here but the majority of it was Slater and Orton toying with Youngblood and McDaniel which doesn’t make for very entertaining action. I’m not sure what sort of revenge this gets for Flair and it makes the Native Americans look pretty lame. Also this is the fourth straight loss for the good guys here.


The winners injure Wahoo’s arm post match.


Flair is in the back with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood who are getting ready for their matches later. In a rare sight, Flair is very calm and collected before the main event. He wishes the other two luck. Youngblood and Steamboat are ready too and promises to win the tag belts again.


Dusty Rhodes…..has technical difficulties but I think he’s talking about wanting the first shot at the winner. Expect to hear things like this a lot, as Dusty had a big issue with making everything about himself and not the guys that the show was supposed to be focusing on.


TV Title: Charlie Brown vs. Great Kabuki


This has a lot of stuff to mention. First of all, Kabuki is defending. Second of all, Brown is Jimmy Valiant under a mask, but given that he has Valiant’s foot and a half long beard, it’s clearly him. Also this is a sixty minute time limit but the title is only on the line for the first fifteen minutes which I’ve never heard of before. The referee is in jeans here too which isn’t something you often see. Finally this is mask vs. title, but again I think that’s only for fifteen minutes.


Kabuki is sent to the floor but Brown is all over him, sending the champion into the post and chasing him with a chair. Kabuki gets crotched against the post and it’s time to dance back inside. Brown chokes away and pounds away before putting on a sleeper hold. Kabuki goes for the mask to escape but Brown puts the hold back on almost immediately. The champion’s manager Gary Hart puts Kabuki’s foot on the ropes for the break and Brown yells a lot.


Kabuki comes back with a kick to the chest and some chops to take over before putting on a claw hold. Brown escapes and backdrops Kabuki down, only to have the champion come back with another claw hold. Charlie fights up again but he’s too dazed to follow up. Back to the claw for the third time but Kabuki lets it go for no apparent reason. A top rope chop to the head gets two on Brown so Kabuki goes after the mask again. Another kick puts Brown down but he fights up, avoids a kick in the corner and drops an elbow for the pin and the title out of nowhere.


Rating: D. Another dull match here but we finally get a victory for a good guy. The majority of this match was spent with Brown laying on the mat in a hold which doesn’t make for an interesting match whatsoever. Brown would become Jimmy Valiant again soon and had to drop the title as a result. Nothing to see here but the good stuff is coming.


Caudle and Solie talk to a local radio show host who predicts Flair winning. Does ANYBODY think Race is winning? The announcers run down the rest of the card. Both guys look and sound like great announcers which they both are for the most part. Solie talks about being saved by Roddy Piper during a brawl so he’s backing Piper in the dog collar match.


Slater and Orton talk about the bounty they collected and think Race is retaining the gold. Race says these two men know Flair better than anyone so he’s as ready as he can be.


Dusty (noticing a pattern here?) says that he wants the first shot at the new champion. He picks Flair too after talking about how great his own career has been for a minute or so.


Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine


Greg is US Champion but this is non-title because it’s a dog collar match. The idea is they both have collars around their neck and there’s a chain attaching the two collars, meaning neither guy can run away. Anything goes and you can win by pinfall. This match came about because Valentine injured Piper’s ear in the match where he won the title. They immediately start by pulling on the chain with their necks in a painful looking tug of war. Neither guy can get an advantage so they both start pulling on the chain to get closer to each other.


Piper gets in the first shot with the chain and Valentine is mad. They back up again but Valentine misses some swings and Piper gets back to the corner. Both guys come to the center of the ring for a slugout but no one can take over. Roddy gets in some shots with the chain and Valentine is in trouble. Greg goes for the bad ear and start choking away with the chain but also wrapping the chain around Piper’s face for extra torture.


Piper comes back with some shots to the eyes of his own before choking away in the middle of the ring. Valentine is sent into the corner and Piper keeps pounding away on the head. Piper takes it to the floor for some HARD shots with the chain as they head into the barricade. Greg gets in some shots to the bad ear and Piper is bleeding from the side of his head.


Back in and Valentine pounds away but Piper blocks a suplex. A hard elbow gets two for Valentine but Piper is in big trouble. Greg tries to hit the ropes but Piper pulls the chain to bring him down. Piper goes NUTS on Valentine and pounds away on him, busting the champion open in the process. Valentine goes right back to the ear but Piper comes back with some straight left hands to the jaw. A BIG right hand drops Valentine but Greg goes after the ear again to take over. Greg gets two off a knee drop as both guys are tiring.


A chain shot to Piper’s ear gets two but Roddy comes back with a suplex to put both guys down. Greg grabs a quick sleeper but Piper’s arm only drops once. Roddy wraps the chain around his hand but the hold slows him down again. A jawbreaker gets Piper out of the hold but it’s Valentine going up first. Roddy pulls him off the ropes and beats the tar out of him with the chain before tying the legs up to pin Valentine. Solie says that was for the title but corrects himself a few seconds later.


Rating: B+. This is a very hard hitting brawl but it can be a bit slow at times. This is the match that made people realize how insane Piper could be as he went out there and took an insane beating before coming back time after time and trying to hurt Valentine. He would jump to the WWF soon after and become the top villain in the world, which is what he deserved to be.


Post match Valentine jumps Piper and chokes him with the chain.


Flair gets I think his third interview of the night, this time with Wahoo McDaniel next to him, says that he’s coming for Race, Slater and Orton. He wants the best from Race tonight.


Don Kernoodle, former world tag team champion, wants to see Flair win.


Tag Titles: Ricky Steamboat/Jay Youngblood vs. Brisco Brothers


The Brothers would be Jerry, who you might remember as one of Vince’s Stooges in the Attitude Era and the legendary former world champion Jack. They’re defending here against the guys they took the belts from. Jack and Steamboat start things off in what sounds like a dream match. It’s a feeling out process to start with neither guy being able to get any kind of advantage to start. Steamboat does some fast leapfrogs but Brisco grabs the ropes to avoid a chop. Mosca, the big guy mentioned earlier, is referee here.


Jerry comes in to work on the arm for a bit before it’s back to Jack for an armbar. Jerry comes in again and pounds away in the corner but Ricky chops him down and tags in Jay. Youngblood counters a slam into an armdrag on Jerry before bringing Steamboat back in to pound on the arm as well. Jay jumps off the top onto the arm as well but it’s off to Jack again to drop Steamboat throat first onto the top rope.


A quick suplex gets two for Jerry and he hooks a short armscissors to keep Ricky in trouble. Ricky escapes in an impressive power display by lifting him off the mat and dropping him down on his back. Hot tag brings in Jay and things break down. The Briscos double team Youngblood to take over again but Jerry can only get two off a suplex. Jerry tries his abdominal stretch cradle but Jay kicks out again. He tries again but rolls Jay into the corner for another tag to Steamboat and the future dragon cleans house. A double chop puts Jerry down and Steamboat slams Jay down onto Jerry for the pin and the titles.


Rating: C+. Nice tag match here to give Steamboat and Youngblood their fifth tag titles. Yeah even back then there were teams who would get a bunch of titles in just a few years. Anyway, the Briscos would be retired soon after this while Youngblood would die in 1985 due to injuries suffered in the match. Good stuff here though.

As the new champions celebrate, we actually have the credits read to us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.


Charlie Brown comes in to see Flair and says the TV Title is for Jimmy Valiant. Piper comes in to say it’s not over between himself and Valentine (yeah it was). The new tag champions say they know what it takes to be champions now because the first three reigns didn’t count I guess.


The announcers hype up the main event even more.


NWA World Title: Ric Flair vs. Harley Race


The entrances take a LONG time, especially when you compare them to the other intros tonight. Wait has anyone else had an intro tonight? I don’t think they have actually. Flair has a long light sequence with his legendary music (the song playing in the gorilla sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey) playing in the background. Former world champion Gene Kiniski is guest referee for no apparent reason and this is inside a steel cage. Race is a seven time and reigning champion and Flair is a two time champion so these are both seasoned veterans.


They talk trash to each other to start before Flair takes him down with a headlock takeover. Race sends him into the ropes for a knee to the ribs but Kiniski pulls them apart. Ric snapmares him down into a chinlock which transitions into a headlock. Race fights up and hits a high knee, only to have a falling headbutt hit the canvas. Flair goes back to the headlock and cranks away on it on the mat but has to shift over into a front facelock.


Race escapes but misses a big elbow drop, only to fall on Flair for two during a slam attempt. Race drops a knee on the forehead and it’s Flair in trouble this time. Kiniski pulls Race off again so Harley opts to hit Ric in the ear instead. A piledriver puts Flair down but Race drops an elbow before covering. Race stays on the neck which is logical given the piledriver that put Flair out earlier in the year. The champion drives some knee into the back of the neck before sending Flair head first into the cage. That’s the first time it’s been used and we’re about ten minutes into the match.


We go to that overhead camera shot again as Race hits what looks like a shoulder breaker for two. A falling headbutt has Flair in trouble again as does being slammed face first into the cage. Another shot into the steel has Flair in trouble and Race is in full control. The referee pulls Race off Flair for the third time but this time he yells at Flair as well. Ric is busted open now.


Flair tries a headbutt get gets raked in the eyes to bring him down again. Now Ric blocks a ram into the cage and sends the champion in to get his first advantage in a long time. A knee to Race’s head gets two and Harley is busted open as well. Flair hits a piledriver of his own but Race’s afro protects him, meaning Flair only gets two. There’s a butterfly suplex for two for Flair and he sends Race head first into the cage again.


Race is in trouble but comes back with a headbutt which looked very low and Flair is in trouble as a result. Kiniski interferes AGAIN before Race throws Flair into the cage. Flair loads up a punch but Gene pulls the arm back because that’s illegal. IN A CAGE MATCH. Ric gets ticked off and pounds away on the champion but Kiniski breaks up the strut. Flair puts on the Figure Four but Race turns it over, which is apparently a big deal at this time.


Race headbutts out of the corner but Flair falls on top during a suplex attempt. The champion slams him down and drops a middle rope headbutt but stuns himself in the process. A suplex gets two more for Race and there is blood EVERYWHERE. Race pounds away and Kiniski has a problem with that too. Harley shrugs off some Flair punches and sends him into the cage before choking away with his boot.


Flair counters a suplex into one of his own as the back and forth control continues. A big elbow drop misses Race and both guys are down. Flair has been in such a fight that he’s gone from covered in blood to clean again to bloody again. Race accidentally knocks the referee down and in a famous but odd ending, Flair goes up top and hits a cross body, sending Race falling over the kneeling Kiniski for the pin and the title.


Rating: A. This is the definition of an old school fight. While it was pretty clear that Flair was going to win, it wasn’t a complete lock which made the match that much more interesting. The only slight flaw is the ending as the Kiniski stuff really wasn’t needed and the build wasn’t all that strong. Still though, this was a bloody and violent match between two of the best ever. Great stuff.


Flair’s friends storm the cage to celebrate. Ric thanks the fans for the win.


The announcers talk about Dusty vs. Flair which is coming soon.


Tony is in the back with Flair (again) and Flair thanks the fans (again). Here’s Dusty (AGAIN) to say he’s coming for the title, because Heaven forbid Flair gets his moment without Dusty being the last thing we see on the show right???


The announcers talk about Dusty. AGAIN.


Race says that he’ll be back, which he technically would by beating Flair in an unrecognized title reign in New Zealand but it only lasted three days. There’s a misconception that Race was very old at this point, but he was only forty years old here, which is a lot younger than a lot of the guys on this show, many of whom were in their mid to late 40s.


Flair (in his fifth or sixth promo tonight) is with Steamboat and Youngblood as they pose with their titles.


The announcers talk about everything to end the show, over twenty minutes after the main event ended.


Overall Rating: B. This show is a hard one to grade because it’s literally the first of its kind. Starrcade was a very ambitious effort and it worked quiet well for the most part. The first three matches were pretty bad, but with the longest one being just over eight minutes long. The next two matches weren’t particularly good either but at least they had some stories behind them.


That brings us to the final three matches which were all somewhere between good and masterpieces. This is pretty much a one match show with the main event being the focus of about 90% of the hype and that was excellent. On top of that you have another great match in the collar match and a very solid tag match, so what more can you really ask for here? It’s a very good show which is a very easy sit and required viewing for all wrestling fans.


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