You guys might find this hard to believe. I haven’t been to a WWE event in person since the 2012 Royal Rumble. Sure, WWE has come through my area of the country plenty of times since I traveled to St. Louis in order to go to the Rumble with some of my friends from offtheteam.com. It’s been a combination of things. Either I’m working a baseball game next door to US Bank Arena while the show’s going on, or I’m working the next morning so I don’t want to go out, or I’m just flat not interested in going. That pretty much covers it.
There’s a pretty good chance I’ll be breaking my WWE-less streak here on November 24. WWE will return to US Bank Arena, and they’ll be presenting an event near & dear to any old wrestling fan’s heart: Starrcade. WWE Starrcade was a house show that was unavailable on WWE Network last year, and one expects it’ll be the same way this year. Check out this card they’ve announced.
- The Shield vs. Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, and Drew McIntyre in a Cincinnati Street Fight.
- AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe in a cage match for the WWE Championship.
- Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair in a cage match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev for the U.S. Championship.
- New Day vs. Sheamus and Cesaro for the Smackdown Tag Titles.
- Elias concert with Ric Flair.
That’s a pretty solid piece of business there. Lots of rematches, sure, but the cage will bring a new element to Styles/Joe & Lynch/Flair. Nakamura/Rusev should be fun, the Bar challenging for the tag straps sounds good, and we got a street fight with the Shield! Oh, and the Naitch will be there too, because how the hell do you hold a Starrcade without him? You don’t.
The Royal Rumble was a bucket list event for me. Despite what Eric Bischoff will tell you, Starrcade was the one WCW event that most of the promotion’s fans would consider a bucket list event. It was the Granddaddy of them all. Jim Crockett Promotions’ first major event that was shown on closed-circuit television. It paved the way for WrestleMania and every other supercard that followed. It might just be a house show in 2018, but it has a certain level of importance to fans like me. A lot of people were mad last year when it wasn’t carried on WWE Network, and this year’s event is already drawing some criticism. Namely, the location.
Last year’s Starrcade, the first since 2000 was held in Greensboro, North Carolina. Greensboro’s importance in Jim Crockett Promotions’ history is well-known. It served as a host city for the first four Starrcade events, splitting the event with Atlanta for the last two. 1987 saw Starrcade move to Chicago, and many people saw that as a change that hurt the event. Starrcade wasn’t the same outside of JCP’s home territory.
It’s true that Cincinnati wasn’t part of JCP’s territory. You have to look outside of that portion of WCW’s history to understand Cincinnati’s role, and to see why holding Starrcade there makes sense.
A brief history lesson
When TBS became a Superstation and started airing on cable systems across the country, Georgia Championship Wrestling became available to wrestling fans from coast to coast. This greatly upset other NWA promoters around at the time, but owner Jim Barnett claimed that nobody should have been worried because he was still only running in Georgia. This of course didn’t make anybody feel better, but there wasn’t much that could be done.
GCW stayed in Georgia for a few years, but in 1982 they started running what would become known as the Northern Tours. They had been looking into running other areas of the country based on feedback they would receive, and it turned out that fans in Ohio & Michigan were really buying into what GCW was selling. TBS’s expansion came about at the same time that The Sheik’s Big Time Wrestling territory was fading into the sunset. Sheik’s act in the main event had gotten old, his roster had either really old or really young guys on it, and the show had basically become unwatchable by the time the promotion went out of business. With Sheik out of the way, nobody was running wrestling shows in his territory. GCW decided to fill that void & successfully ran a number of cities in the area, including Cincinnati.
I consider myself more of a Southern wrestling fan than anything else. Memphis is probably the territory I’ve watched the most from over the years, and Jerry Jarrett ran shows as far north as Louisville & Lexington, Kentucky. He never made it up to the Cincinnati market, though. It was Sheik country. When older gentlemen would hear that I was a wrestling fan, the names they would mention were Wild Bill Curry & Bobo Brazil, not Jackie Fargo, Tojo Yamamoto & other stars that would be recognized by older fans a hundred or so miles south. Jarrett tried to come into Cincinnati after Sheik’s territory closed, and the TV station that previously aired Big Time Wrestling turned him down. Sheik’s show had gotten so bad at the end that they wanted nothing to do with wrestling. Fans in the area had to tune into TBS to see any type of wrestling, and that’s how they ended up getting into Tommy Rich, Buzz Sawyer, Ole Anderson & other GCW stars of the time.
Of course, we all know what ended up happening to the Georgia territory. Most of the ownership sold out to Vince McMahon & the WWF took their coveted Saturday night at 6:05 timeslot. Jim Crockett ended up with that slot & the Georgia territory once the dust finally cleared, and the NWA/WCW & WWF both would run Cincinnati until WCW closed in 2001. One company would run US Bank Arena/Firstar Center/The Crown/Riverfront Coliseum down on the river while the other would run the Cincinnati Gardens up in Norwood. They traded venues a couple of times.
Under the radar
Cincinnati tends to fly under the radar in general. It’s not one of your more densely-populated cities. Their baseball team is a small-market franchise that hasn’t been great since the 1970s. The football team…well, the less said the better on that. It flies under the radar in wrestling history too. There wasn’t a territory based out of the city, it was one of the Sheik’s furthest-away outposts. The indy scene, while stable, doesn’t rate among the best in the country & has never really marketed itself as such. Its two greatest contributions to wrestling are Brian Pillman & Dean Ambrose.
In a lot of ways, the city is comparable to Greensboro. Cincinnati is the 65th most populous city in the United States, & ranks 3rd in Ohio. Greensboro is the 68th most populous city in the United States, & ranks 3rd in North Carolina. Cincinnati shares the “Queen City” moniker with Charlotte & is one of the better college basketball markets in the nation. If you didn’t know better, you’d think Cincinnati was already in North Carolina! I bet I could find a few Cincinnati politicians to support that bathroom bill too.
I’m aware that I’ve probably put more thought into all of this than WWE’s live event planners did. But when you think about it, Cincinnati hosting Starrcade isn’t some great insult against WCW, Dusty Rhodes or Jim Crockett Promotions. For heaven’s sake, the last four WCW versions of the event were held in Washington, D.C.. What’s a bigger insult to a Southerner than holding Starrcade in the capital of the Northern aggressors?
Now they just need to put the darn thing on the Network. I’m a completist & want to be able to watch all the Starrcades back to back one of these days.