We continue our series looking at the history of Clash of Champions, taking in part 6 today with Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin’ Cajun, St. Valentine’s Massacre, held on April 2, 1989, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. There were 5,300 people in attendance and the show drew a 4.3 rating on TBS
The first Clash of Champions in March of 1988 was a sensational card and put expectations through the roof that every show was going to be just as good. Unfortunately, the last couple Clashes have been somewhat mundane mostly due to a ton of roster turnover but by the Spring of 1989, everything has changed for the better.
It’s April 2, 1989 the same day as WrestleMania V as Clash of Champions VI: Ragin’ Cajun takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana at New Orleans Superdome.
Jim Ross and Michael P.S. Hayes are the hosts as the show kicks off with a nice video package of WCW executive Jim Herd talking to such legends of the game like famed promoter Sam Muchnick, Lou Thez, Terry Funk, etc. They also played the National Anthem on air so it felt like this was a major event much like Wrestlemania.
The opening match between Midnight Express w/Jim Cornette vs. The Samoan Swat Team (Fatu/Samu) w/Paul E. Dangerously. This was basically an enhancement of the feud between Cornette and Dangerously from the battle of The Midnight Express teams to this much better variation of the Samoans. Ross talks about a 30-minute postgame broadcast on the WCW Hotline (kids under 18, ask your parents).
The SST were a great team at this time, it was controlled chaos with these two. Somewhat plodding match until Stan Lane gets the hot tag at about the 18-minute mark and suddenly all four men are in the ring! The Midnights throw the SST into each other’s head, but you know Samoans have hard heads so it doesn’t affect them. The two Samoans start hitting each other for no particular reason but it works.
Later in the match, the SST’s attempt a flying headbutt but Eaton moves out the way and Lane jumps into the ring to set up the Rocket Launcher finisher but referee Tommy Long wasn’t looking. Dangerously and Cornette start getting into to it on the outside and the giant mobile phone ends up in Fatu’s hand and uses it to nail Eaton with the phone and pick up the win for the upstart SST.
Next up is The Great Muta w/Gary Hart vs. Steve Casey. Everything about Muta is so innovative at this point in 1989. Younger fans might see him today and think “yeah he’s pretty cool” but won’t understand how jaw-dropping his moveset was at this time.
His entrance alone was enough for you to pay attention.
Muta was popping handspring elbows into the corner, flying over the top rope to the floor with absolute precision. Muta eventually executes a perfect moonsault to Casey for the win.
The best part is how Muta caught on with the crowd, he was too good not too respect.
Third match of night was an old rivalry from Mid South Wrestling between Junkyard Dog and “Hacksaw” Butch Reed w/Hiro Matsuda. Real cool entrance as JYD is accompanied by a traditional New Orleans brass band.
JYD was one of those wrestlers who was really popular at this point but wasn’t the best inside the ring but was always well liked by fans. This was pretty much a slugfest from bell to bell. Reed attempts his patented flying shoulderblock but JYD’s leg ends up on the rope as he attempted the pin. Matsuda is up on the apron to contend the fall as JYD swings Reed into his manager and gets pinned in the process with a rollup.
The WWE Network edited out a couple matches; Bob Orton defeated Dick Murdoch, and unfortunately, they also miss an NWA World Tag Team Title switch as The Varsity Club (Mike Rotunda & Dr. Death Steve Williams) defeated the Road Warriors for the straps. The Iron Sheik also defeated Ranger Ross.
The U.S. Tag Team team titles are on the line next as champions, Rick Steiner and Eddie Gilbert w/Missy Hyatt take on The Varsity Club (Kevin Sullivan & Danny Spivey). This match seemed real rushed as they were running out of time. It only went about four minutes as Gilbert rolled up Sullivan after dropping him with the loaded purse of Hyatt. After the bout, Sullivan and Spivey beat the crap out of Gilbert until Steiner comes back in the ring with a chair. Ross was definitely pushing that the show was running out of time ahead of the main event.
Lex Luger was slated to take on Jack Victory for the U.S. title as well as Sting vs. Rip Morgan but they were scrapped because of time restraints.
Nevertheless, it’s main event time as NWA World Champion Ricky Steamboat is set to take on Ric Flair in a two out of three falls match. Steamboat defeated Flair on February 20,1989 at Chi-Town Rumble to become champion, so this was their second of three all-time classics that would take place this year. Terry Funk has replaced Hayes as the commentator, of course for those who remember Funk will play a pivotal role in this feud later on this year.
This match is what wrestling is all about and why so many fans fell in love with it. Every single move meant something. Two of the best sellers at their all-time best. Whenever these two got into the ring it was magic. Wrestlemania V had Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage this day, and while it was a good match it wasn’t Steamboat vs. Flair.
The first part of the match is mostly controlled by Steamboat, destroying Flair with his chops, working on Flair’s arms, using every part of his body to control the momentum. At about the 15:00 minute you realize, these two are going all out here and there hasn’t been one fall for either man. Flair begins to take gain the advantage and attempts about six nearfalls on Steamboat using an amateur type move to no avail. Flair then goes for the figure-four leglock and Steamboat attempts to roll him up but the challenger rolls back and notches the first fall of the match at 19:30.
Steamboat starts the second fall real quickly as hits a flying chop off the top but doesn’t get the fall. Then Steamboat drops 16 elbows in a row to Flair’s knee and locks in the figure four leglock! Steamboat uses the Boston Crab as Ross and Funk talk about Flair’s weak back from the near fatal plane crash in 1975. Flair then punishes Steamboat to the floor and drove him into the railing a couple times. Flair is in complete control at this point as he attempts another round of pinning attempts including using the ropes to his advantage but can’t get grab the fall. Flair goes to the top rope but is instead met by Steamboat into a superplex. Steamboat then puts a double chickenwing and Flair submits to tie things up at a fall apiece!
The third fall starts with about 25 minutes left of the 60 minute time limit. Cool spot as Steamboat throws Flair into the turnbuckle when Flair does his upside down flip to the apron only to be met with a vicious chop. The final story of this match is Flair working on Steamboat’s knee. These two are completely exhausted but it doesn’t stop them from going all out. Absolutely amazing action and great commentary from Ross and Funk for that matter. Flair goes to the top rope only to get slammed off and into the double chicken-wing again but this time they both fall backwards to the mat, the referee counts to the three while Flair’s foot is underneath the bottom rope but Steamboat’s shoulder is up to retain the NWA World Championship!
After the match, Ross and Steamboat go over the final fall of the match in the back showing Flair’s foot under the rope. Steamboat admits that Flair has a legitimate reason to be upset with the end.
This Clash was definitely a step up from the previous few and was on par with Wrestlemania V with the outstanding Flair and Steamboat bout. 1989 was a very strong year for both the NWA and WWF and this day would be high-water mark for both companies.
You can read all ‘Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions Revisited’ pieces here.