Finally, the “terror” of the Black Scorpion’s “black magic” and mind games against NWA Champion Sting are put to rest at this show, and it turns out it was all just smoke and mirrors. Defending his title in a steel cage match against the Scorpion with Dick the Bruiser as the special referee, the main event of Starrcade was meant to put an end to this weird little feud. If the Scorpion failed to win the title, he would be forced to unmask.

The Scorpion was, of course, eventually defeated with the dreaded small package of great inconvenience. And during a post-match brawl between Sting, his allies and the Four Horsemen (well, most of them), the masked man was eventually revealed to be six-time former World Champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. The reveal was disappointing on several levels, because of course it was all a plot by the Horsemen, and the promise of the mystery man from Sting’s past was all but wasted. It was also disappointing because Flair is capable of so much better than the match he had with Sting. Under the mask, though, and trying to hide his identity, he worked a different style than he was used to and he was clearly not comfortable with it.

It would have been nice if, instead of spending the whole match acting like a different person, Flair’s frustration with being unable to take the champ out had him keep slipping into the things he knew worked for him, giving little hints that it was him here and there until, finally at the end of the match, he was in full “Nature Boy” mode. It would have helped the match immensely, I think.

Best Match: NWA Tag Team Championship Street Fight: Doom (c) battled to a draw with Arn Anderson and Barry Windham – Screwy finish be damned, this was a major fight between four guys who could hold their own in a brawl. Ron Simmons and Butch Reed took the fight to Anderson and Windham, brawling all over the ringside area, using weapons and beating the hell out of each other until all four men were on the mat with a double pin causing the no-contest. The match was shorter than I would have liked – just over 7 minutes – but it was basically non-stop action.

Worst Match: Sid Vicious and Danny Spivey defeated Big Cat and Motor City Madman – After repeatedly sticking his nose where it didn’t belong during the November CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS, Big Cat teamed up with the Motor City Madman to challenge the reformed Skyscrapers – who promptly wiped the floor with the upstarts. Vicious – who is still a member of the Horsemen here – and Spivey were reunited for a one-time spot, though after the match they manhandle announcer Paul E. Dangerously and declare that they may stick around. Of course, nothing ever came of that.

Making Quick Tournament Work – The secondary focus of Starrcade 1990 was the tag team tournament featuring teams from 8 countries around the world. Eventually won by the Steiner Brothers, representing the U.S.A., most of the evening’s 7 tournament matches didn’t get much of a focus. Besides the finals, which went just over 10 minutes, none of the other matches cracked the 6-minute mark and only two managed to last more than five.

To kick off the tournament, it was announced that the winners of the Pat O’Conner Memorial Tag Team Tournament would be recognized as the “Tag Team Champions of the Universe!” You had to know that WWE cribbed the Universal Champion moniker from somewhere. Considering none of the competitors in the tournament were from other planets, the title is a bit of a misnomer. Though maybe someone was from a different Earth and they meant to say Champions of the Multiverse.

Of course, former NWA Champion Pat O’Conner, who died earlier in the year was honored with the naming of the Starrcade tournament, despite not having made any real impact in tag team wrestling. But it’s the NWA, so that kind of thing makes sense, I guess.

Gotta Touch ‘Em All – Matches where the goal is to touch all four corners to get the win are frequently disappointing. Anything that forces the flow of the match to be interrupted (like a Last Man Standing) is a tricky needle to thread. There are some exceptions, though: Sting and Vader; JBL and Eddie Guerrero. I’ll even throw the United States Championship Lariat Match between Stan Hansen and Lex Luger on that list. Like the Tag Team Championship Street Fight, the action in the HALLOWEEN HAVOC rematch made up for the unwieldy stipulations. Again, there’s a screwy finish, with Luger touching the fourth corner, only for the referee to get knocked out. Another referee awards the match to champion Hansen before the original ref reverses the decision to give the belt back to Luger. But the crazy ending doesn’t take away from the action.

Ranking Starrcade 1990

1 – NWA Tag Team Championship Street Fight: Doom (c) battled to a draw with Arn Anderson and Barry Windham
2 – Pat O’Conner Tournament Finals: The Steiner Bros. defeated Mr. Saito and the Great Muta
3 – NWA World Championship Steel Cage Match: Sting (c) defeated The Black Scorpion (Ric Flair)
4 – United States Championship Texas Lariat Match: Lex Luger defeated Stan “The Lariat” Hansen
5 – Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich defeated The Freebirds
6 – “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton defeated the Z-Man
7 – Tournament Quarterfinal: Konnan and Rey Misterio defeated Norman Smiley and Chris Adams
8 – Tournament Quarterfinal: Mr. Saito and the Great Muta defeated The Royal Family
9 – Michael Wallstreet defeated Terry Taylor
10 – Tournament Semifinal – The Steiner Brothers defeated Konnan and Rey Misterio
11 – Tournament Semifinal – Mr. Saito and The Great Muta defeated Victor Zangiev and Salmon Hashimikov
12 – Tournament Quarterfinal: The Steiner Btrothers defeated Col. DeKlerk and Sgt. Krueger
13 – Tournament Quarterfinal: Victor Zangiev and Salmon Hashimikov defeated Troy Montour and Danny “Bull” Johnson
14 – Sid Vicious and Danny Spivey defeated Big Cat and Motor City Madman

DISCLAIMER* The Top 10 rankings are for discussion purposes only and in no way reflect an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion. If you disagree, let me know in the comments. New arrivals to the Top 10 are in bold.

This is it! My final rankings for 1990! Man, what an underwhelming year. The NWA/WCW dominates the list with seven matches, but that was pretty expected.

1 – WWF Championship Match: The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan (c) – WrestleMania VI
2 – NWA Tag Team Championship Match: The Steiner Brothers (c) defeated Doom – Clash of the Champions X
3 – World Tag Team Championship 2-out-of-3 Falls Match: The Hart Foundation defeated Demolition (c) – SummerSlam 1990
4 – Steel Cage Match: Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Ole Anderson beat The Great Muta, Buzz Sawyer and the Dragonmaster – Clash of the Champions X
5 – Rock n Roll Express defeated the Midnight Express – WrestleWar 90 Wild Thing
6 – NWA Tag Team Championship Match: The Steiner Brothers (c) defeated Ole and Arn Anderson – WrestleWar 90 Wild Thing
7 – United States Tag Team Championship Match: The Midnight Express (c) defeated the Southern Boys – Great American Bash 1990
8 – NWA Tag Team Championship Street Fight: Doom (c) battled to a draw with Arn Anderson and Barry Windham – Starrcade 1990
9 – United States Championship Match: Lex Luger (c) beat “Nature Boy” Ric Flair by disqualification – Clash of the Champions XII
10 – Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake defeated “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig – WrestleMania VI

That’s all for the 1990 Top 10! What are your thoughts on our list of the best matches of 1990? Let us know in the comments. And stay tuned for more Top Ten features in the new year!