Nick Patrick On The Conflicting Direction He Got For WCW Starrcade 1997 Main Event

Among the many out-of-place elements in the bizarre finish to Starcade 1997, referee Nick Patrick's "fast count" lives in infamy. The story — recited countless times by the various actors involved — goes that Patrick, the crooked ref, was supposed to screw over Sting with a fast count in favor of Hollywood Hogan, after which Bret Hart would emerge and restart the match. Sting would then make Hogan submit and end his two-year rivalry with the New World Order. Instead, Patrick counted a normal pin, Hogan pinned Sting — even if the announcers acknowledged otherwise — and Hart stepped out to restart the match regardless. Although the intended finish of Sting making Hogan submit was still achieved, the bizarre sequence of events left fans perplexed, tainting what was supposed to be WCW's victory over the nWo invasion and the crowning moment of Sting's career.


Nearly 26 years later, Patrick maintains that it wasn't clearly communicated to him that the plan was to execute a fast count. In his recent chat with Chris Van Vliet, Patrick detailed a conversation he had with Eric Bischoff on the day of Starrcade 1997.

"Eric came up and met me as soon as I got to [the building]," Patrick recalled. "I hadn't even made it to the locker room yet, and he goes, 'Here's what we're doing.' He gave me a straight finish. I said, 'Okay.' I figured they'd dress it up the rest of the day. He told me, 'Just do a straight 1-2-3 count.' Not a fast count."

"An hour or so goes by, Hulk comes up to me and goes, 'About that count, man. Nice and slow: 1-2-3,'" Patrick continued. "About an hour or so later, Sting comes up to me and says, 'Hey Nick, you know about that count? Rapid fire, baby! 1-2-3 just like that.' I'm like, 'Okay?'"


Patrick Decides To 'Split The Difference'

Confused by his conflicting instructions and unable to locate Bischoff for clarification, Patrick eventually decided to "split the difference" and go somewhere between a fast and slow count. To his surprise, when he returned to the back after the match, he wasn't given a dressing down.


"I'm waiting for somebody to come and give me my pink slip," he said. "Nobody said a damn thing to me! I got my bag and left the building. We never spoke about it again until I did the podcast with Eric Bischoff."

When Van Vliet asked Patrick if he had ever spoken to Hogan, Sting, and Bischoff at the same time about the finish, prior to the match, Patrick was adamant that he had not. "We were never all together in the same room," he said. "That never ever happened."

In the end, Patrick believes the screwy finish to Hogan vs. Sting was only a small factor in what would amount to a disastrous match. There was a feeling among many, he says, that Sting "had not put enough" into making the match work, considering it was WCW's highest-grossing event in history. Patrick maintains that it could have been "the biggest match in history" if not for factors beyond his control.


"It looked like none of us wanted to be there," he said.