After a one-week hiatus to take in the marathon that was WrestlemMania 33, it’s time to return to ‘Styles Clash: Clash of Champions Revisited’ and to 1988 for Clash of the Champions IV: Season’s Beatings. This Clash took place on December 7, 1988, at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Arena.
The show kicks off with another great intro package showcasing historic confrontations from Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga that tied into tonight’s card.
There’s a ton of outside the ring business that shaped this event.
First off, NWA (Jim Crockett Promotions) had been sold to Turner Broadcasting and became World Championship Wrestling (WCW) just a month earlier in November ‘88. Meanwhile, The Powers of Pain (Barbarian & Warlord) as well as Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard have all gone up to New York (WWF).
Finally, The Midnight Express had won the NWA Tag Team Championships but were forced to vacate their U.S. tag team titles so a tournament was set up. Right before the tournament final, The Sheepherders unexpectedly jumped ship to the WWF (becoming the Bushwhackers) so that left The Fantastics vs. the last team eliminated, “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert and Ron Simmons to battle for the vacated U.S. titles.
Keeping up weird Sting kid?
Simmons is still pretty new to the squared circle having only been active for over a year, but you could tell that he had all the making of a future star. His physique stood out, especially at this time.
An interesting crowd in TN, as The Fantastics who were always major babyfaces received a ton of boos during this match. Gilbert is criminally overlooked by people who weren’t familiar with his work but to those who did see him he’ll never be forgotten.
Announcers Jim Ross and Bob Caudle were always great on telling the story as this match went on and rarely deviated from the action. The Fantastics worked over Gilbert’s left arm throughout the match which created sympathy for Gilbert. The match gets down to the final two minutes when Gilbert hits the Hot Shot finisher on Fulton but then misses a shoulder block into the corner that hits his sore shoulder on the post and it’s was too much to handle. Fulton rolls up Gilbert to become the new U.S. tag-team champions!
This was the first Clash to be produced by WCW so they broke out the big guns with the overhead-camera shot:
Lex Luger and Tony Schiavone are up next to hype Luger’s big rematch with NWA World Champion, Ric Flair at Starrcade which was set to take place on December 26,1988. Luger always wore the worst shirts.
The next match is the Italian Stallion (Gary Sabaugh) vs “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. Dr. Death had just joined the evil Kevin Sullivan’s Varsity Club so this was nothing more than showing the “heel side” of Williams.
Outside the ring, Ross is interviewing fellow Varsity Club members Sullivan and World TV Champion, Mike Rotunda about his Starrcade tilt with former Club member Rick Steiner. This match went on way too long (15:17) and probably would’ve been the time check in on The Wonder Years on ABC. Williams eventually catches The Stallion with an Oklahoma Stampede slam for the convincing win.
Back from break, Magnum T.A introduces The Junkyard Dog to the NWA! This was his debut and it was a big deal for them to nab the JYD. He basically was brought in to aid Ivan Koloff vs. Paul Jones’ Army since Nikita Koloff had left the company.
The third match of the night is Paul Jones vs. Ivan Koloff with one arm tied behind his back.
Jones had turned his back on Ivan Koloff at the previous Clash so this was a blowoff of this feud. Koloff as a face just didn’t seem believable once Nikita left, he was an all-time nasty heel. Jones was still in pretty good shape here. Jones brings in a foreign object but it backfires on Koloff instead uses it to hit his former manager in the neck to gain the pinfall win. The Russian Assassins bumrush Koloff prompting fans to toss garbage into the ring until The JYD comes to the aid. Cool run-ins but it was still kinda weird seeing JYD help Koloff.
Luger and Schiavone go over The Road Warriors heel turn and heinous spiked eye attack on Dusty Rhodes.
The winner of the match between Rhodes and Road Warrior Animal would be able to choose their two partners and become Six-Man Tag Team Champions.
Not real sure what was going on but Rhodes was late to the arena so they go to Rick Steiner and Magnum T.A. in a pretty funny segment as Steiner talks to “Alex” aka his hand.
Finally, Rhodes is here and the match pops right off as Dusty hits Ellering and Animal with about 15 Bionic Elbows. Hawk comes down to help his Road Warrior brother out, then Stings hits the ring and chaos ensues between everyone! Rhodes has a chair and Sting has charcoal pants on, no big deal.
Apparently, Animal won the match by DQ so he gets to become Six-Man Tag Team Champions. Japanese standout Genichiro Tenryu is later chosen to become the third partner.
The main event of the night is World Champion Ric Flair & Barry Windham w/JJ Dillon vs. World Tag Team Champions the Midnight Express (Stan Lane & Bobby Eaton) w/Jim Cornette. It’s sort of odd seeing The Midnights as faces in this match but they always had their fans but now they are legitimate good guys. All four of these competitors are on fire at this point in their careers. The Midnights were in the midst of a feud with “The Original” Midnight Express Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose w/Paul E. Dangerously.
This match was classic tag-team battle that NWA was so far ahead of WWF at this time. Eaton sold his beatdown like the classic worker he was until he makes the hot tag to Lane who cleans house. Eaton comes back in and nails Windham with the Alabama Slammer leg drop as Cornette and Dillon battle on the outside. Flair grabs Dillon’s shoe and nails Eaton with it in order for Windham to get the pin. Great match, highly recommended.
Cornette is going off after commercial with Schiavone praising the match and hyping up Starrcade as only Cornette can.
Considering all the outside the ring business attached to this event, this was another solid Clash on the road to Starrcade ‘88.
You can read all ‘Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions Revisited’ pieces here.