In a new series from Benjamin, the blog’s newest writer, we’ll take a trip back to a time when NWA/WCW put on Clash of Champions cards free of charge on the Superstation TBS about four times year. Beginning in 1988 and ending in 1997, Benjamin begins his odyssey some 29 years ago with the original Clash of The Champions.
In all, NWA/WCW would run 35 Clashes and, for the most part, they had some of the best matches NWA/WCW were cranking out during this time. Mostly, the shows consisted of matches that were the culmination of a feud or for a specific title and didn’t usually have many interviews or talking segments.
The first Clash of Champions took place on March 27, 1988, which was held at the same time as Wrestlemania IV, so wrestling fans had to make a choice on this Sunday afternoon as to which one to watch. The event took place at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina which was basically NWA’s home building. The theme music will make you want to call up your buddies and have a match in your family room all over again…or is that just me?
While WWF/E will always have the upper hand on production, there was something to be said with the atmosphere of NWA shows at the time, as the kids say ‘the crowds were lit!’
The first match was an amateur rules match, “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin w/Precious vs. Mike Rotunda w/Kevin Sullivan. I never understood why Kevin Sullivan was the manager for The Varsity Club, consisting of Rotunda and a young Rick Steiner, but, for some reason, it worked. This match was more about Precious and her feud with Sullivan. Rotunda ended up pinning Garvin, winning in the second round after interference from Sullivan. After the match, all hell broke loose as Steiner came down to attack Garvin, which brought in Precious who nailed Steiner with a 2×4 (don’t ask) and then tried to choke Sullivan with a coat hanger, because why not it was 1988 those things happened then.
After the match “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, in a sweet USA warmup suit, had a ridiculous interview with Bob Caudle. Not sure what he was getting at but said something about being “clean.”
The second match was straight fire between the NWA U.S. tag team champions The Midnight Express (Stan Lane & Bobby Eaton) w/Jim Cornette vs. The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rodgers). It started off with an all out brawl using chairs and tables which were not used at all back then, that sent the crowd into a pure frenzy. During the match, Jim Ross talked about stand-by matches featuring Shane Douglas vs Larry Zybysko and Ricky Santana vs. Rick Steiner, which never did take place. Back in the ring, this match is what tag-team wrestling is all about and is missing in the current WWE product. Luckily NXT still knows how to do it right. Rodgers takes the beating for a while before he makes the “unseen hot tag” to Fulton. Cornette comes in and blasts Rodgers with his loaded tennis racket while a frustrated Fulton tosses referee, Pee Wee Anderson, over the top rope. Cornette accidentally nails Lane with the tennis racket which allowed The Fantastics to hit their Rocket Launcher finisher off the top as new referee, and the always extra amped up, Tommy Young dives into to count the pin. The Fantastics and the crowd believe they have won the US titles, but Anderson comes to and tells Young what happened and disqualifies the challengers.
While the ring crew sets up the Chicago Street Fight Barbed Wire match between The Road Warriors w/Paul Ellering and Dusty Rhodes vs. Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian) w/Paul Jones and Ivan Koloff they take a short intermission which needs to be seen. First up is Eddie “Haskell” Clark from “The New Leave it to Beaver” show, which was moving to TBS for its final season, talked to Cornette about him mom…don’t ask. Then they cut to Gene(?) Crockett in front of what looks like a dressing room at Sears announcing the Top 10 seeds for the upcoming Jim Crockett Senior Tag Tournament. Bob Caudle then holds a quick interview with a returning Gary Hart along with Al Perez, who talks smack to Rhodes. Always thought Perez had something to give, but just never put it all together.
The barbed wire match was built around the weightlifting situation to where the Powers of Pain dropped a barbell on Animal’s eye. Cool spot here as Animal wore a Road Warrior painted hockey mask to protect his injured eye and Dusty wore face paint as well. The match was pretty short (3:39) but it did its job of a bruising beat down between some major players. Barbarian accidentally nailed Koloff with his patented flying headbutt and Animal dives in for the pin. After the match, the heels beat the hell out of Animal’s eye again until the Hawk saves the day.
The tag-team title is next as Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson put their NWA World tag-team titles on the line vs. The Twin Towers (Lex Luger and Barry Windham). Another great tag-team match as Luger and Windham are in unbelievable shape and are connected to the crowd with every move. Arn and Tully are at their technical best in this match, hitting a brainbuster and spinebuster respectively to Windham, but he kicks out. Eventually, Windham makes the tag to Luger who cleans house until JJ Dillon attempts to interfere, to no avail, as he goes to the apron with a chair only to have Luger reverse Anderson into Dillon and the chair. Luger hops on Anderson for the fall and new tag team champions as Greensboro erupts! Very cool moment for Luger and Windham, but don’t get too excited *spoiler alert* as Windham would turn on Lex and join the Four Horsemen in about a month.
Of course, the main event of the night was Sting vs WCW World Champion, Ric Flair. What more can be said about this match that hasn’t already been said? It was phenomenal on all levels. For some reason, they had judges for this match, which you knew right there was going to be trouble. Eddie Haskell, Jason Hervey (aka Wayne from The Wonder Years), NWA Exec Garry Jester, former wrestler Sandy Scott and former Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen…no really. The line of the night is Jim Ross saying, “I’m sure Patty Mullen has seen some action, but this is going to be some REAL action.” Silence…
This is Sting’s coming out party and Flair is firing on all cylinders at this point of his career. Going 45-60 minutes was no big deal for Flair as this was just what he did. At the 44+ minute mark of the match, Sting applies the Scorpion Deathlock to Flair and it seems like Flair submitted just as the time-limit bell rang, but he survived so the match went to the judges. For no reason, or maybe they just messed up, but they only announce three of the judge’s results; 1-1-1 so the match is declared a draw.
While Wrestlemania IV garnered more attention and it had its moments, on this day NWA would win the battle. It’s just too bad they couldn’t capitalize on this momentum and let Sting win the strap here, or right after this Clash event. Eventually Sting would win the title at Great American Bash 1990, but it’s funny how in 1997, Sting was given another shot at his biggest win vs. Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade ’97 and instead WCW messed up that opportunity as well.
You can read all ‘Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions Revisited’ pieces here.