Written By: Matt Peddycord
WCW Starrcade 1991: Battlebowl – The Lethal Lottery
December 29, 1991
The current WCW Champs were as follows:
World Champion: Lex Luger (7/14/1991)
U.S. Champion: Rick Rude (11/19/1991)
World Television Champion: Steve Austin (6/3/1991)
World Light Heavyweight Champion: Jushin Liger (12/25/1991)
World Tag Team Champions: Ricky Steamboat & Dustin Rhodes (11/19/1991)
U.S. Tag Team Champions: The Young Pistols (11/5/1991)
This is the debut of Dusty Rhodes latest project known as Battlebowl: The Lethal Lottery. The concept is simple; forty guys have their names put into a spinning bingo-like container. Each name is drawn out of the container by Eric Bischoff, Missy Hyatt and Magnum TA until there are collectively twenty random tag teams. Why does it take three people to draw out names? I have no idea. Anyways, these teams face off in the order their names were drawn and the winners of those matches are entered in a two-ring battle royal known as Battlebowl. Winner gets a Battlebowl ring. Kind of like earning a Super Bowl ring, but WAY less prestigious since who wins is already decided.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone. I think I saw Jim Herd in the front row with a Magnum TA shirt on. He’s like the very first person you see.
Michael PS Hayes & Tracy Smothers vs. Marcus Alexander Bagwell & Jimmy Garvin
We’re already getting a wacky combination, as they pit Freebird against Freebird. Plus, we’ve got a face/heel combination in Hayes and Smothers. This is Bagwell’s PPV debut, by the way. He really wasn’t that bad for a rookie. I’d have to see more of his rookie days to say for sure, but he doesn’t look bad here. Lots of stalling to start. Crowd starts chanting DDT and getting on Smothers’ nerves. Smothers refuses to tag out when he gets in trouble since his partner is a gross babyface. Both Garvin and Bagwell give Smothers dropkicks and hiptosses. Garvin kicks Smothers off the apron for his patented back-first guardrail bump. Back in, Smothers corners Bagwell and finally tags in Hayes. A bunch of armbars follow. Bagwell gets in trouble and tags out to Garvin, so Smothers dives and tags Hayes. This crowd is BUZZING. They armdrag each other, strut, and then lock up again. They go through a headlock sequence, strut, and then switch with their partners. The crowd loved that. Smothers misses an elbow drop on Bagwell and Garvin gets another tag. He decks Smothers with a running forearm and tags in Bagwell for a flying bodypress for 1-2-NO! That turns into a pier-six brawl and Hayes comes in and starts left jabbing people until he accidentally nails Garvin. The Freebirds argue a little bit with one another while Smothers misses a flying splash and takes a FISHERMAN SUPLEX from Bagwell for the win. (12:45) The Freebirds shake hands and all is right with the world. The match was entertaining as all get out. **¼
Steve Austin & Rick Rude vs. Van Hammer & Big Josh
They clip to the finish due to time restraints on the tape. Would it have killed WCW to use a 180-minute tape? Hammer becomes a HOUSE OF FIRE on Austin, so Rude puts out the flames with the RUDE AWAKENING. Ha, like Hammer & Josh had a freakin’ chance.
Larry Zbyszko & El Gigante (w/Madusa) vs. Dustin Rhodes & Richard Morton
Another clipped match. Rhodes looks to put Zbyszko away with the BULLDOG, but Larry Z shoves him off and tags Gigante. Larry won’t stop shouting orders to the already angry-seeming giant though. He actually SLAPS Gigante! Larry gets flipped back in the ring and whipped into a double-dropkick as Dustin covers 1-2-3.
Mike Graham & Diamond Dallas Page vs. Bill Kazmaier & Jushin “Thunder” Liger
I believe this is the PPV wrestling debuts of everyone but Kazmaier who wrestled at Halloween Havoc against Oz. Liger had just won the Light Heavyweight title on Christmas night in the Omni. Of course, there was nobody better in the world in 1991 outside of Jushin Liger, which made it a real treat to have him in WCW. Liger flips out of the wristlock in a spot that seems commonplace today, but was fresh to American audiences in ’91. Liger hits a headscissors out of the corner and Graham has to go to the floor on that one. He didn’t really fall with it correctly. Back in, Liger tries a handspring back elbow, but Graham avoids it and covers for two. I don’t think that was supposed to happen like that. Kazmaier tags and overpowers Graham, so DDP gives him a try. Page gets in a cheapshot, but he pays for it with a big slam. Kazmaier skins-the-cat (!!) back in and kills DDP with a clothesline. Gutwrench slam gets two. Kazmaier goes up, but misses whatever he was trying there. Page delivers a running hotshot and then allows Kazmaier to tag in Liger. Page gets in a Russian legsweep, but Liger comes back with a spinning heel kick. Graham tags in and he’s nailed with an enziguri. Liger lands on the apron off a backdrop and hits a slingshot splash on his way in for 1-2-NO! Kazmaier tags in again. Graham tries to ground him, but it doesn’t do any good and Page gets another tag. Page tries a slam, but Kazmaier falls on top for two. They switch again and Liger hooks on a surfboard stretch! Graham comes back though with a rolling Boston crab (think Lance Storm), but Liger powers out into a rollup sequence. Nice! Headlock sequence leads to a backslide from Graham for two. Page & Kazmaier come in again, but that goes nowhere and we’re back with Liger & Graham. Liger absolutely brutalizes Graham with repeated kicks. One more switch for Page & Kazmaier, but it’s short-lived. Graham misses a charge in the corner and flies out to the floor so that Liger can deliver a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! Again, this was back in the day when this stuff was fresh. The crowd goes nuts for it too. Back in, Liger hits a second-rope moonsault for 1-2-NO! A cross-corner double-whip from the face team puts Graham on the floor as Kazmaier lifts Liger up and throws him on top of Page for 1-2-3! (13:08) Naturally, the Liger spots were awesome. Other than that, the match was kind of disjointed. **¾
Lex Luger & Arn Anderson (w/Harley Race) vs. Terrence Taylor & Tom Zenk
Taylor had already been showing signs of being done with the York Foundation, so this is more like a tweener/face vs. heel/heel match. Anderson knocks Taylor off the apron to start, but then forgets about him when he avoids a punch from Zenk and gets punched down on the floor by Taylor. You know, the usual awesome from Arn. Back in, Zenk delivers an enziguri for two. Luger comes in to save and then Zenk and Taylor clean house. Luger tags in and gets caught in an offensive flurry from Zenk. Taylor gets a tag and takes a press slam. He comes back with a jawbreaker and delivers a flipping neck snap for 1-2-NO! Swinging neckbreaker gets two. Luger elbows out of a hammerlock, but Taylor gets a sunset flip. Luger fights it ALL THE WAY to the other side of the ring over to Arn for the tag. Taylor wins a backslide battle for two and then delivers a pump splash. Arn, you should probably be taking some notes here. Zenk tags and hits a flying bodypress for 1-2-NO! Zenk gets tripped up by Race and falls right into a DDT. He sells like his brain fell out. Wait, wouldn’t he be dead then? Yeah, that’s true. He sells it like his brain is hanging on in his head by some sort of a very small thread. There we go. Cover, 1-2-NO! Taylor makes a save. Zenk becomes face-in-peril and gets stuck in the heel corner for a while. The hot tag to Taylor comes when Arn comes off the middle-rope and eats a boot. Taylor starts hitting everybody with forearms and then goes for it all with a Gutwrench Powerbomb for 1-2-NO! Taylor calls for the FIVE-ARM, but Arn catches him with a knee off the ropes and into the PILEDRIVER. It’s over. (10:25) Tony calls it the best match we’ve seen so far. Can’t say I disagree. ***¼
Ricky Steamboat & Todd Champion vs. Cactus Jack & Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker
In the back, Abdullah is pissed that he didn’t get picked as Cactus Jack’s partner and destroys Buddy Lee Parker. Abdullah tries to come out as Jack’s partner, but the refs send him to the back. On his way, Parker is shown crawling towards the ring, so Abdullah beats him IN THE FACE with his voodoo stick! Steamboat and Cactus have a good little match and then Todd Champion tags in to slow things down with chinlocks and bearhugs. Meanwhile, Buddy Lee Parker is still crawling to the ring. Cactus finally has enough of that and throws Champion to the floor for the elbow drop off the apron. Back in, they bump heads and Cactus falls back into a tag to Parker. Steamboat gets a tag on the other side and quickly puts Parker away with the FLYING BODYPRESS. (7:48) You’re SO lucky, Todd. *½
Sting & Abdullah the Butcher vs. Brian Pillman & Bobby Eaton
Oh man, now we have complete opposite tag teams. Abdullah has a smile on his face about teaming with Sting, so this can’t be good for the Stinger. On their way to the ring, Abdullah puts his voodoo cane to good use again and beats on Sting with it until Pillman comes out for the save. When Bobby comes out, it’s just one big brawl. We finally get a semblance of a tag match when Eaton throws Sting into the ring. They quickly go back on the rampway as Sting leaps on Eaton over the top rope! Back in, Pillman refuses to tag in against Sting. Sting controls with a wristlock, but then his partner Abdullah comes in and saves Eaton. Abdullah grabs a pencil off the announce table and JABS Sting in the throat with it once Eaton puts Sting in his own corner. Sting and Eaton go back on the floor while in the ring, Pillman SLAMS Abdullah and gives him a flying splash! Awesome! Back in again, Pillman still refuses to tag, so Eaton tries to tag Abdullah. Haha, doesn’t work like that, Bobby. Sting escapes out of an abdominal stretch and tries a tombstone piledriver, but boy do they botch that. Could’ve been REALLY bad for Bobby, too. Another pier-six brawl erupts and Cactus runs down with a kendo stick. Abdullah grabs Sting, but Cactus hits Abdullah by accident. Sting heads up top while Abdullah and Eaton are dazed and nails Eaton with a flying crossbody for 1-2-3. (5:55) Pillman celebrates his loss! This was the match that the “Lethal Lottery” was created to achieve: an environment of utter chaos. Pillman looked like the star here though, not Sting. Afterwards, Cactus and Abdullah fight to the back. **
Rick Steiner & The Nightstalker vs. Big Van Vader & Mr. Hughes
Diamond Studd’s name was drawn, but he’s injured so Nightstalker (Adam Bomb, Wrath, Bryan Clarke) wrestles in his place. There was already talks of Vader and Hughes teaming together anyway, so it works out great for them. Especially since they’re wanting to take on the Steiners. Vader OWNS Steiner to start until Rick hits a Steinerline out of the corner. He follows up with the Belly-to-Belly Suplex and then another Steinerline puts Vader on the floor. Rick follows him out, but Vader then rams Steiner spine-first into the ringpost! Vader wants to suplex Steiner off the apron to the floor, but Rick counters and brings Vader in the ring instead. Hughes comes in for an elbow drop, but Steiner moves and gives Hughes a backdrop. Steiner hits a release German suplex, but then we get a double-KO and Nightstalker gets a tag. Steiner still manages a powerslam on Hughes and heads up top. Meanwhile, Nightstalker forgets about Vader and gets nailed with an avalanche. STEINER BULLDOG to Hughes! Rick covers, but he’s not legal. Instead, Vader splashes Nightstalker and ref Nick Patrick counts three. (5:05) Match was kind of a mess, but the Vader/Steiner stuff showed some promise for their future matches. *
Scott Steiner & Firebreaker Chip vs. Johnny B. Badd & Arachniman
Match is clipped as I figured it would be. They show Scott annihilating Badd with a tiger bomb. Looks like this whole match was just Badd & Arachniman (or Brad Armstrong, whichever you prefer) bumping around for Scott Steiner. Another clip shows Scott receiving a blind tag and killing Arachniman off for good with a Release Belly-to-Belly Suplex. Sucks that it’s clipped because it looked pretty good. Way better than that last match.
Ron Simmons & Thomas Rich vs. Steve Armstrong & PN News
Well, clipping this one isn’t a bad idea. Simmons and News appear to have a friendly contest, but then Armstrong gets put away with the SPINEBUSTER. Let’s head to Battlebowl!
Here are the remaining twenty who will be competing in Battlebowl: Marcus Alexander Bagwell, Jimmy Garvin, Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Dustin Rhodes, Richard Morton, Bill Kazmaier, Jushin Liger, Lex Luger, Arn Anderson, Ricky Steamboat, Todd Champion, Sting, Abdullah the Butcher, Big Van Vader, Mr. Hughes, Scott Steiner, Firebreaker Chip, Ron Simmons and Thomas Rich. Unlike a regular battle royal where when you’re thrown over the top rope, you’re eliminated; in Battlebowl, you have to be thrown from ring one into ring two and THEN thrown over the top rope. The last two who remain in ring one and two FIGHT TO THE DEATH! Actually, they can just throw the other over the top rope to win. Onto the match. It starts off like your typical battle royal with everybody beating up on everybody. The cool thing about this match is that you can go to the floor and wrestle and it doesn’t mean you’re eliminated, and Anderson and Steamboat take advantage of that within the first minute. Vader and Steamboat are next as Steamboat takes a big splash on the rampway. Vader just won’t leave Steamboat alone either! The first guy sent into ring two is Thomas Rich. It’s good for him because he gets to rest until someone else is tossed into the ring with him. Sting and Luger hook it up in a corner, which causes the crowd to erupt. Bagwell’s the next guy to be thrown into ring two. He and Rich start up a match instead of Rich doing the smart thing and just tossing people over the top rope as they come to him. Hughes presses Firebreaker Chip onto Bagwell in ring two. Jushin Liger and Richard Morton are next to go. Morton does his best to sell Liger’s awesome move set, but he’s just not prepared. Liger and Morton quickly tumble out over the top rope to be the first two completely eliminated from Battlebowl. Simmons backdrops Mr. Hughes into ring two. Meanwhile on the floor, Vader is brutalizing Rhodes. Rich is next to be thrown out of Battlebowl. Now we see Todd Champion and Jimmy Garvin in ring two, as is Arn Anderson and Ricky Steamboat. It’s about half and half now. Abdullah and Austin get sent into ring two right before Jimmy Garvin gets eliminated for good. Kazmaier meets Abdullah in ring two as Sting and Rude punch back and forth until they tumble over into ring two. They hate each other, you know. Simmons is also in ring two as they’re down to Luger vs. Vader in ring one. Vader hits a bunch of corner splashes, but then Luger gets his foot up on one of them and then clotheslines Vader into ring two. Luger is the last man standing in ring one, so he gets to rest until there’s one man left in the other ring. Steamboat chops out Abdullah. Arn tries something up top, but takes a dropkick to the floor from Rhodes. Directly after that, Rhodes charges at Austin and takes a backdrop out to the floor. Ron Simmons and Mr. Hughes take each other over the top rope. Steamboat and Sting double-team Vader and clothesline him out. Also, Marcus Bagwell gets thrown out. We’re down to four in ring two: Sting, Steamboat, Rude and Austin. SPOILER ALERT! These four are included in the main event for the next Clash. They do a lot of neat back-and-forth stuff with Sting hitting a couple Stinger Splashes on the heels. Heel miscommunication gets Austin eliminated. Rude tries to toss out Steamboat, but he skins-the-cat and headscissors Rude out to the floor. Steamboat tries to flip back in the ring, but Rude pulls him down by his tights to eliminate Steamboat to make Sting the final man in ring two! Rude isn’t too happy with that and crawls back in to surprise Sting with the RUDE AWAKENING! Now, Luger and Sting meet in ring one and Luger has his cocky face on. He punishes Sting for a while and then throws him between the ropes out on the rampway for Race, but Sting blocks the cheapshot from Race and slams him down. Luger comes out for the save and knocks Sting off the rampway to land chest-first onto the security railing. They fight over who will taste the guardrail right in front of a guy holding a baby. WATCH OUT FOR THE BABY! Sting wins that battle and they fight around the ring and back in again. Sting kicks Luger around and then gives Race a suplex when he tries to cheat again. He goes for the Stinger Splash on Lex, but nobody’s home. Luger tries to toss him out, but Sting holds onto the ropes and lands on the apron. Luger thinks he’s won and gets blindsided. Sting hits the running face slam and then powers Luger over the top rope and to the floor for the win. Sting defeats Luger to win Battlebowl! (25:10) I think everyone would agree that the best battle royals are the kind that lead to some kind of payoff. That’s why the Royal Rumble is so popular. This was definitely the case here with Steamboat/Rude and Sting/Luger. In this case, the first Battlebowl is considered to be the best. ***
Final Thoughts: After a crappy 1991 for wrestling in general, WCW is looking to turn things around with 1992. I mean, they’re looking to do a complete 180 here. This was a pretty entertaining two-hour tape with a few good matches and minimal stinkers. Norfolk was always hot for WCW and even 1991 wasn’t an exception. The only real problem I have with this show is that there are no matches hyped ahead of time. No one knew who would be facing who prior to the show, so you didn’t really know what you were getting into originally. Of course, it’s no big deal now. But I could see why people would choose not to buy the show and why it’s not a very profitable concept. All the same, thumbs up for Starrcade ’91.