Before we can get to what happens with Shawn’s first pay per view event in WCW, we have to explain how we got there. It’s a necessary evil for the first entry in the series.
Setting the Scene
On November 9th, 1997, the main event of WWE’s Survivor Series booked Bret Hart to defend the World Title against the challenger, “Heart Break Kid” Shawn Michaels. In this fictional universe/timeline/reality, it’s not Shawn Michaels who benefits from Vince McMahon performing a screwjob in the main event. As Bret Hart gets Shawn Michaels in the Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner pretends to ask HBK if he submits, then calls for the bell. This time, it’s Bret Hart who exits the ring, takes the championship belt and runs off with his allies.
After the pay per view event stops rolling, Shawn Michaels and Triple H go backstage and they find Vince McMahon. Shawn confronts Vince about the situation that just went down, because earlier in the evening the two had discussed Bret Hart being the one getting screwed over. Vince tells Shawn that Bret Hart isn’t going anywhere, and that the Hitman’s 10-year contract renewal was going to be honored. When HBK said that a mistake was being made, McMahon took it personally and told Shawn that the only mistake would’ve been if Vince had tried to bank on Michaels being the face of the company. Vince claims that Shawn doesn’t sell tickets and pay per view “buys” anywhere close to what Bret can do, not only in the United States, but especially in foreign markets. The exchange gets more heated, and Shawn ends up punching Vince in the mouth. Triple H ends up pulling Shawn away from Vince before the altercation can go any further, but before Shawn can leave Vince’s locker room area, McMahon yells his trademark “Yoooooou’re…. FIIIIIIIIIRED!!!” And he meant it.
The next night on RAW, Vince McMahon and Bret Hart start off the show, explaining that the duo decided to join forces in order to “get rid of DX once and for all”, and that Shawn Michaels was no longer a part of WWF after the backstage altercation which occurred following the prior night’s event. But more on the WWE once we take care of the HBK-side of things.
World War 3
Given that no one in WCW was expecting Shawn Michaels to be available to be a part of their roster, his sudden availability didn’t impact the events that took place at WCW’s November pay per view, World War 3. In fact, he didn’t even make an appearance on the show, as the legal matter of Shawn’s “no compete” clause of his WWF contract wasn’t cleared up in time. His impact on the WCW landscape wouldn’t be felt until their year-end flagship event.
Starrcade 1997 Bookings
World Heavyweight Championship
Hulk Hogan (c) vs Sting
The saga between Hulk Hogan and Sting is well chronicled. Upon his return to WCW, it became Sting’s mission to take down the leader of the new World order and get the championship back. Why, then, did Hulk Hogan seem to stop fearing the bat-weilding warrior once the pay per view got closer? Vignettes for Shawn Michaels’ arrival in WCW began airing on Nitro, and when approached for comment, Hall and Nash laughed off any notion that HBK was going to further weigh the odds in favor of the World Heavyweight Championship staying with the nWo.
World Tag Team Championship Triple-Threat
Steiner Brothers (c) vs Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray) vs The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash)
Three of the greatest tag teams in WCW history all wanted to be in the World Tag Team Championship match at WCW’s flagship pay per view event. As they jockeyed for position in the weeks leading up to Starrcade, the teams found themselves all equally looking to be worthy of being there. The front office decided that in order to show that WCW had the best teams on the planet, that the pay per view should feature a triple-threat match between the three teams with the belts on the line.
United States Championship
Curt Hennig (c) vs Diamond Dallas Page
Having spent months trying to keep Ric Flair from both tearing his head off and taking the United States Championship from him, Curt Hennig had finally found the perfect combination of efforts to keep The Nature Boy from getting another shot on pay per view. As he and Rick Rude laughed about how the plan had gone perfectly, Diamond Dallas Page showed up and made his case. Not a guy looking to play games, Page offered up his straight-forward approach and just wanted the opportunity. Not sensing much of a challenge from DDP, and knowing they had to defend the belt at least once every pay per view cycle, Curt Hennig and Rick Rude agreed that the blue-collar approach from DDP wasn’t going to pose a significant threat to them, especially with the new World order behind them.
Eddy Guerrero (c) vs Dean Malenko
While Eddy Guerrero sat back and watched as Ultimo Dragon and Rey Mysterio fought over which one of themselves should be worthy of getting a shot at the Cruiserweight Championship, Dean Malenko took it upon himself to blow away the rest of the competition with extremely solid wrestling matches. Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko bumped into each other backstage, and a nearby interviewer took a moment to get each’s opinion of the other in a face-to-face. While Malenko clearly had respect for Guerrero, it wasn’t reciprocated. Eddy felt that his style was more exciting than the “boring” style used by Malenko, but Dean told Guerrero that he could teach him a thing or two in the ring. The front office felt that this match was the best opportunity to mix styles, especially given what was going on with Mysterio and Ultimo Dragon.
The Return Match
Ric Flair vs Randy Savage
The opportunity to fight Curt Hennig at Starrcade was already given away, so Flair would not get another return match. Instead, he decided to turn his attention to another “return match” that he always wanted the chance to redeem himself for, that being his loss on the big stage of WrestleMania VIII against Randy Savage. Flair said he was disappointed that Savage wasn’t part of the War Games match at Fall Brawl when the Four Horsemen took on the new World order, or even the previous year. It didn’t take much to ignite the fuse inside Randy Savage, but when Ric Flair joked about how Randy Savage was just riding Hulk Hogan’s coattails “again”, that’s when the flames burned brightest. Weeks of heated segments and confrontations lead way to the match being signed.
Raven’s Rules Match
Chris Benoit vs Perry Saturn (w/ Raven)
During Saturn’s run during November as the WCW Television Champion, he and Chris Benoit crossed paths backstage. When it seemed like the two might meet in the ring, Raven gave a cryptic promo about how Saturn needed to focus on Disco Inferno, ridding WCW of one of its absurdity side-shows. The two met again after Saturn lost the TV title to Disco Inferno, and Benoit laughed it up, saying that he could’ve been the one to take home the belt instead – a belt he “knew” he could make famous. Saturn seemed up for the fight, but Raven (injured and unable to compete himself) cut a cryptic promo about how the Television Championship required its holder to endure rigors that he didn’t feel Benoit was capable of enduring, and that he could test his limits by competing against Saturn in a Raven’s Rules match. Both parties were up for it, and the match was signed.
Bill Goldberg vs Brian Adams
Since his debut, Bill Goldberg had been running roughshod over the opposition, a fact which wasn’t lost on nWo member Brian Adams. When the two bumped shoulders backstage, Adams let it be known that Goldberg was only capable of racking up those victories because he wasn’t fighting viable opposition. During one of Goldberg’s next matches, Adams showed up to watch the match transpire, and Goldberg saw him watching. The next week, it was Adams in the ring and Goldberg watching on, and after the match, the nWo member invited Goldberg down to the ring. The two had a staredown, and Brian Adams pretended to be leaving. Instead of fully exiting the ring, he rushed Goldberg, knocked him to the mat, but he wasn’t down long, and Adams escaped for the hills before Goldberg could get back on the attack. Backstage, Goldberg not only found Brian Adams, but several of his fellow nWo members standing by, and instead of starting a fight, Goldberg took the opportunity to send the message that the two would meet in the ring at Starrcade.
Rey Mysterio vs Ultimo Dragon
After Rey Mysterio lost to Eddy Guerrero at the November World War 3 pay per view, failing to win the Cruiserweight Championship, the next contender for the belt had to be determined. The following night on Nitro, Ultimo Dragon made his intentions known that he should be the next person with the opportunity to fight for the belt. Rey Mysterio didn’t appreciate Ultimo Dragon “stepping on [his] toes”, as Mysterio felt like a rematch was in order, given how he and Eddy had battled recently and Rey felt the war would end in his favor. Mysterio and Ultimo Dragon would then square off the next week, with Ultimo Dragon finishing on top, literally, as he scored a pinfall when he blocked a hurricanrana attempt from Mysterio. When Ultimo Dragon got his opportunity to fight Eddy Guerrero the following week, he was attacked on the way to the ring by Rey Mysterio. The front office had no other choice but to book Mysterio and Ultimo Dragon to settle their differences at Starrcade.