It’s part three of our series looking at the history of Clash of the Champions. This week we go back in time to September 7, 1988, for ‘Clash of the Champions III: Fall Brawl’, an event that would eventually be a standalone WCW event from 1993 onwards. But that’s all still to come, read on for your weekly fix of 1988 NWA goodness.
September 7, 1988 from the Albany Civic Center in Albany, Georgia in front of 3,700 in attendance and drew a 5.4 on TBS. This Clash is called “Fall Brawl” and later would become the name of an annual WCW September stand-alone PPV in 1993.
The show kicks off with a dramatic Sting video with the definition of “Desire” as the underlying theme. They first show his NWA world title time-limit draw classic with Ric Flair from the first Clash and then his close call for the tag-team titles with Dusty at the last Clash. Tonight, he’s facing Barry Windham for the U.S. Championship and the video mentions “The Brass Ring is offered…” hmm sounds like something Vince McMahon has thrown around too not long ago.
While NWA/WCW never had the music production that WWF/E never had they did drop some very cool themes during this time including this one:
Tony Schiavone is joined by Ric Flair, who looks less than thrilled to be there and already let out a sigh just two minutes into the show. Flair was there to hype up his upcoming Starrcade match vs. Lex Luger.
Brad Armstrong is once again jerking the curtain here to take on Mike Rotunda w/Kevin Sullivan for the NWA Television Championship. Armstrong is the hometown hero from Georgia and the crowd is into every offensive move that Armstrong made. Commentators Jim Caudle and Jim Ross make a point of how much the crowd is into Armstrong as well as being underrated throughout the match and made him sound like a viable superstar.
These two go back and forth for most of the match and told a compelling story of the underdog Armstrong against Rotunda. Eventually, Kevin Sullivan attacks Armstrong on the outside of the ring, prompting Steve “Dr. Death” Williams to roll down to the ring in his Oklahoma Sooners #77 jersey. Armstrong could last the entire 20-minute time limit and the match is declared a draw but a “moral victory” for the challenger.
Flair and Schiavone discuss Lex Luger’s chances at Starrcade and all the former champions that have come before and whether Luger is up to par with them.
Next up, Ross and Caudle update the fans on the condition of “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin who suffered a broken leg at the hands of Sullivan and Rotunda. Quite intense angle and Sting’s shorts our 1988 as hell!
The following match is a “Special Challenges Match” between The Sheepherders w/Rip Morgan against Nikita Koloff and Dr. Death Steve Williams. Not exactly sure what was so ‘special’ about this challenge but this is quite the battle. While Koloff and Williams aren’t exactly the best tag-team they were always good at destroying their opponents with slams and high-powered moves. Again, this match shows how different the Sheepherders were as the Bushwhackers, honestly couldn’t name one good match they had in WWF and this is the second Clash in a row that they are stealing the show. After more than 17 bruising minutes, Williams tags in Koloff who comes flying in to nail his patented Russian Sickle on Sheepherder Luke for the quick three-count! Not many people had a better clothesline (sickle) than Koloff had then or after him.
The Clash comes back from commercial with Dusty Rhodes and Kevin Sullivan w/Gary Hart already in the ring for their “Grudge Match.” It seemed like TBS was late coming back from commercial or the guys were early, but it’s go time. The grudge between these two go back to their days in Florida and now it’s spilled over to Georgia. Immediately, all hell broke loose as Rhodes slammed Sullivan’s head onto the commentators table about five times and some great mic work as you’re able to hear each thump. Hart blasts Dusty with his shoe on the outside as Sullivan’s gains the early advantage.
Sullivan is using a metal spike to nail Dusty in the neck, it looked pretty stiff as well. Sullivan was never one to pull up on any angle or execution. Dusty becomes frustrated with Hart on the outside and faces off with him until Al Perez runs down with a chain in hand to whack Rhodes. Unless I missed some stipulation Rhodes pins Hart for the win…apparently, you can pin the manager? Dusty flies out of the ring and plops down in an empty seat in the audience for a classic moment those fans will never forget.
Flair and Schiavone are back along with John Ayers, who was a member of the San Francisco 49ers and commissioner in the UWF was named special referee for the Luger vs. Flair match. This was brutal, Flair was trying to get a rise of Ayers and well that didn’t happen at all.
The fourth match was Ivan Koloff w/Paul Jones & Angel of Death vs. Ricky Morton in a Russian Chainsaw Match (as the ring announcer called it).
This a weird time for these two as Morton’s Rock N Roll Express partner Robert Gibson was no longer with the company forcing Morton into a singles run. Koloff was having dissension with Jones at the time and wasn’t as threatening when had his Russian Brothers of Nikita and Krusher Kruschev on his side. Chain matches were never my favorite, it always just felt like a game of tug of war. Solid match that culminated with Morton needed just one more corner to touch as Jones attempted to help Koloff by pulling him towards but eventually loses his grip that knocked Morton into the fourth and deciding corner for the win. The real action takes place after the match as Jones and Koloff confront each other outside the ring while the massive Russian Assassin #1 (Angel of Death) attacks Morton inside the ring. Koloff has enough of Jones and knocks him down prompting the Assassin and a second Assassin (Jack Victory) to jump Koloff. The crowd is chanting for Nikita to help his old comrade but to no avail. Ross gives the classic “Let’s get outta here” just as Koloff is busted open and sent over the top rope in a near strangulation spot.
They come back from commercial to have Ross pull some emotion of Ayers, yeah that didn’t work either.
It’s main event time and they are selling Sting as it’s his destiny to finally gain some gold here against Barry Windham w/J.J. Dillon for the U.S. title. Windham had such a great run in NWA 1986-89 first as a babyface going 60-minutes on numerous occasions with Flair and then as heel doing tremendous work as a Four Horsemen. Looking back at it, he never should’ve gone to WWF as the ill-fated Widowmaker in 1989. They never did much with him and while he did return to NWA (then WCW) in 1990, he wasn’t the same.
This was a fast-paced match and has aged very well. Pivotal moment of the match is when Windham flies over the top rope and into the post that busted open the champ. Windham recovered and slaps the figure-four on Stinger and the continued to work on the leg. Sting rallies to open up on Windham until the champ accidentally hits referee Tommy Young knocking him out of commission. Sting slaps on the Scorpion Death Lock that brings in JJ Dillon with a chair that ends up in Windham’s hand who nails Sting with the chair. John Ayers who was at ringside as an enforcer comes in the ring to notify the ref about the outside interference that gave Sting the DQ win but once again he fell short of winning gold.
The best part of the show might be Flair’s promo at the end with Schiavone. F’n Classic. This Clash was missing some key players competing (Flair, Luger, Midnights, etc) but still a very entertaining event.
You can read all ‘Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions Revisited’ pieces here.