It may be hard to believe now, but there was a time when WCW was the dominant brand of wrestling, and for good reason. Their 1996 launch of the New World Order changed the playing field forever and, for a time, launched WCW above its rival WWF. This storyline was arguably the most successful run of any wrestling story with the possible exception of Austin vs. McMahon.
But when it got time to close it out, it revealed the failures that would eventually unravel WCW. And it all started with the ‘Grandaddy of ‘Em All’ and a whole lot of excellent buildup.
WCW Starrcade – December 28, 1997
When the nWo formed in July of 1996, they had one goal in mind – take over WCW and destroy what had been made. Their process was as brutal as it was efficient. The rank and file of WCW stood no chance (highlighted by Kevin Nash lawn darting Rey Mysterio into the production truck), but the main event stars would be more trouble. To accomplish this, the nWo created a clever scheme to break up the alliance of WCW.
A fake Sting (who looked surprisingly like the real Sting) appeared to join the nWo, much to the chagrin of Sting’s BFF Lex Luger. This was a huge problem as Sting had been scheduled to be a member of Team WCW at the 1996 Fall Brawl’s signature War Games match. Sting assured Luger that it wasn’t actually him, but neither Luger nor his unlikely teammates Ric Flair and Arn Anderson believed him. To them, it looked like Sting would be on Team nWo. When the match itself took place, the fake Sting did show up, but so did the real deal, who proved his allegiance by attacking the nWo. Unfortunately for WCW, Sting felt betrayed by both his friends and his fans and simply walked out of the match, effectively handing the victory to the nWo. The next night, Sting spoke to the fans and announced he was leaving.
Fast forward to March’s Uncensored PPV in which Team nWo defeated Team Piper and Team WCW in a 12-man elimination match. Lex Luger had put up a decent fight, but eventually succumbed to spray paint to the eyes. Just as the nWo began their beat down, suddenly a shadowy figure descended from the rafters. Sting had returned, but he was quite different from the one who had left six months before. Gone were the bright colors of yesterday, replaced by an homage to the Crow face paint scheme and an almost skeletal looking scorpion on his black outfit. Wielding a black baseball bat, he made quick work of the nWo, but when Luger embraced him, Sting remained cold.
For the next months, Sting remained in the rafters above the ring, watching the nWo’s activities and aiding WCW’s fight against the invading force. Finally, when planning for WCW’s biggest show of the year, Starrcade, the match was made to have Sting challenge for Hollywood Hogan’s WCW Championship. This was a huge deal, since Sting had not spoken nor wrestled since he abandoned WCW back at Fall Brawl. The fans were hungry for the Sting/Hogan match that could finally defeat the nWo and launch a new age of WCW. And WCW, to their credit, held out on giving the match until the perfect moment. Such patience was not one of their virtues.
So I have just described one of the best angles in the history of professional wrestling. Why is this in the Don’t Do This category? Well, that would come at the event itself – a mix of panic, backstage politics, and just an uncertainty of what comes next. Follow past the jump as we learn how what could have been WCW’s best moment became it’s point of decline.
Read more of this post