We continue our series looking at the history of The Clash of the Champions, taking in part with Clash of the Champions XV: Knocksville USA. Held on June 12, 1991 at the Civic Auditorium in Knoxville, Tennessee in front of 5,000 fans. The show drew a 3.9 on TBS.
It’s been nearly six months since the last Clash took place and so many things have taken place since then. The most notable being that WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling held a co-promotional PPV in March of ‘91 with WCW/New Japan Supershow. At that event, Ric Flair lost to Tatsumi Fujinami for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship but it was not recognized in the US because Fujinami threw Flair over the top rope. At Superbrawl in May, Flair defeated Fujinami to stop all the confusion.
This show however, starts with The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael “PS” Hayes, Jimmy “Jam” Garvin and Badstreet) w/Diamond Dallas Page, Diamond Doll and Big Daddy Dink vs. The Young Pistols (Tracy Smothers & Steve Armstrong) & “The Z-Man” Tom Zenk.
Badstreet is Brad Armstrong under a mask, while the unnamed Diamond Doll is of course Kimberly Page and Big Daddy Dink is Sir Oliver Humperdink. DDP is new to WCW here, having just debuted in February of ‘91. Meanwhile, The Young Pistols were the former Southern Boys, so this was an welcome updated name to their name. The Birds and Pistols have been embroiled in a long feud for months now, including The Birds winning the U.S. tag-team title in May.
As far as the match goes, Zenk gets things cooking by cleaning house of The Birds. The Pistols execute a real slick double flying bodypresses off the top rope. Some real nice triple-team action by The Birds to Tracey Smothers including a slingshot onto the outside. All six men begin to brawl and then The Pistols and Zenk execute perfectly synchronised sunset flips and all three pick up the win as referee Bill Alfonso who later go onto to notoriety in ECW would go down the line to count the shoulders down. Real cool visual and hot opener with a ton of moving parts added to this feud.
Second match of the night is Oz w/The Great Wizard vs. Johnny Rich. This was Kevin Nash’s second character change since his run in the Master Blasters, while Rich was the cousin of Tommy Rich.
Sure Kevin Nash was wearing a weird old man mask and maybe The Wizard (Kevin Sullivan) was wearing another old man mask while holding a monkey but Oz’s Castle on the entrance way and his appearance was definitely something you’ll never forget. Oz destroys Rich in about a minute with a real nice sideslam and a spinning helicopter slam. All things considered, Oz maybe wasn’t as bad as people say it was.
“Dangerous” Dan Spivey is up next to take on Big Josh in match three. Big Josh is Matt Borne who wrestled in the WWF in the 80’s and then had his real success later as Doink the Clown. Here however, he’s a lumberjack character from the Pacific Northwest. Spivey at this time was having more success wrestling in Japan including winning the AJPW tag-titles with Stan Hansen. This match was a couple of big dudes barreling into each other. Kevin Sullivan came down to the ring looking insane probably after taking off his Great Wizard costume and nailed Big Josh across the back of his head with a crutch. Spivey hit a German Suplex and picked up the win. Sullivan was currently managing Black Blood (Billy Jack Haynes) and was involved with Big Josh at the time, thus the reason for this interference.
The new top 10 WCW rankings, dropped. Who’s this Stunning Steve Guy?
Next up is Paul E. Dangerously in the Danger Zone, with TV star Jason Hervey from the hit show “The Wonder Years” as the guest. Paul E. kept pulling the mic away from Hervey every time he tried to answer a question. Hervey was dating Missy Hyatt at the time and apparently had a new car, new house so Paul E asked Hervey, “If everything you have is new, why is your girlfriend used merchandise?”
Hervey become irritated and left, when Paul E. blasted him in the back of the head with his old school celluar phone. Hyatt then came down to aid her man. Good heat on Paul E.
Match five is “The Natural” Dusty Rhodes vs. “The Computerized Man of the ‘90’s” Terrence Taylor w/Alexandra York & Mr. Hughes. Rhodes had returned to WCW in February of ‘91 along with his dad, Dusty and so far had been undefeated.The York Foundation had been recruiting Rhodes for a couple months to join the group, but to no avail. Interesting tidbit as Ms. York (Terri Runnels) would later marry Rhodes, but at this time they were not yet married. This was a nice match as Rhodes started things off hot until he missed Taylor in the corner and fell all the way to the floor. Taylor hit a gut-wrench suplex into a powerbomb for a two-count. Rhodes began a comeback with a boot to the head in the corner and a bionic elbow just like Daddy did. Rhodes hit the bulldog but Mr. Hughes distracted the ref. Ricky Morton came down the ring to supposedly to help Rhodes out, but instead kicks Dustin! So we now we know who the new member of the York Foundation is. Big Josh ran down to help Rhodes out and clear the ring. Real solid match and seeing Morton turn heel was a big deal for someone who was always a major good guy.
Nikita Koloff returned at Wrestlewar ‘91 after being gone from WCW for nearly three years and was put right into a program with Sting. This match started out intense as Sting runs down the ramp entrance but Koloff catches up just as he entered the ring. When Koloff left in 1988 he was one the more popular superstars but now he’s back to his evil “Russian Nightmare” persona. Koloff dominated the match including an impressive walking tombstone piledriver. Koloff continued to work over Sting even as the Stinger tried to start a comeback. The action spills onto the floor as Sting reverses Koloff into the guardrail. Sting then also reverses a tombstone piledriver to hit one of his own. Sting goes for a Stinger splash but misses, Koloff tries to take advantage with a Russian Sickle but misses. Sting then rolls up Koloff for the win in one of the better matches on the Clashes in a long time. Putting Koloff back into the fold and right into a feud with someone like Sting was a great move on WCW’s part.
We go from that to “The Rapmaster” P.N. News along with Salt N’ Pepa who drops some knowledge with one of the best/worst raps in the history of hip hop. Newcomer Johnny B. Badd and Theodore Long interrupt the rap and claim to the original rapmaster.
Match seven is a Loser Leave WCW: “Flyin” Brian & El Gigante vs. Barry Windham & Arn Anderson. Pillman would basically take on both men by himself as El Gigante was very limited in what he could do but he did a job of it when needed. Anderson hit El Gigante on the apron and then was nearly choked out by the big guy. El Gigante entered the ring and then Pillman went onto the 7-7 shoulders of El Gigante and dove onto the Windham but couldn’t get the pin as Anderson broke it up. El Gigante and Anderson brawl on the outside as Windham kicks Pillman square in the head and jumps on him for the fall. Pillman was now supposed to leave WCW….don’t tell anyone but he would return as The Yellow Dog.
The IWGP tag-team championship is defended for the first time in the U.S. as The Steiner Brothers take on Masahiro Chono & Hiroshi Hase. They show a quick video of how The Steiners won the titles at the New Japan Supershow. Scotty and Hase start right off some deadly crescent kicks from Hase. Both guys tag out as Chono destroys Rick kick so hard that breaks Rick’s headgear. The Steiners comeback with a double team flying elbow drop off the top rope. Chono and Hase execute a double team move their own with a flying shoulder block. Chono has the STF on Rick as Scotty attempts to break it up off the top rope but slips and just kinda elbows him instead. This match goes off the rails in a good way as all four men are going at it. Scotty hits the frankensteiner on Hase to retain the titles. Just as The Steiners are about to celebrate their win, Dick Murdoch & Dick Slater hit the ring and jump the champs. These two are now known as the Hardliners. They attack Rick and are about to break his arm the top rope but they go to commercial. Really good hard-hitting match and interesting angle builder after the match.
Match nine is The Diamond Stud w/Diamond Dallas Page vs. “Wildfire” Tommy Rich. This is basically Scott Hall’s debut in WCW, he had a brief run in 1989 but it didn’t amount to much. This would be the Hall that everyone would remember. He had the toothpick and all the moves including the Razor’s Edge which was then known as the Diamond Death Drop, which dropped on Rich for the easy win. Hall was jacked at the time and obviously we all know what became of him the next time he returned to WCW in 1996.
Jim Ross is up next to announce that this young “fan” named Ben has won the “Sting Lookalike Contest.” Sting comes to the ring to congratulate the kid. Suddenly Koloff returned to the ring and attacked Sting with a chain wrapped around his hand. Koloff then tries to go after the kid but his mother stops this madness by climbing over the guardrail. If Nikita wasn’t a heel before, he certainly was now.
Next up is for a shot at Ric Flair at Great American Bash as Lex Luger took on The Great Muta. At this time, Muta was in Japan most of the time but would show up in WCW from time to time. Luger and Muta wasn’t exactly the best matchup like Muta had with Sting and it showed during this match. Muta attempted his handspring elbow into the corner as Luger moved out the way sending Muta clear over the post in an incredible sight to see. Muta then attempted his spew his green mist but Luger blocked it with his massive forearms and caught Muta with a powerslam and that was that. Seemed like it should’ve been longer or better because of the title shot on the line.
Uh? He looks like someone else…
“Stunning” Steve Austin w/Lady Blossom took on “Jumpin” Joey Maggs. Austin had skyrocketed through WCW immediately so it’s not like they didn’t see anything in him but not sure if anyone would believe he would become the one top performers in the history of wrestling. This match lasted about 30 seconds as Austin hit the stun gun on poor Joey Maggs.Austin had only been in WCW for about a month but was given superstar treatment.
The York Foundation is in the ring to introduce Richard Morton who comes out in a suit and tie. Morton’s Rock n’ Roll Express teammate Robert Gibson came out to confront his buddy. Morton tells the rest of The Foundation to stand down. Morton then says “He’s been waiting 10 years to do this” as he proceeds to drill Gibson in the face and then drops him with a piledriver. This was a HUGE deal to see these two going at it.
It’s Main Event time as WCW World Heavyweight Champion, Ric Flair took on “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton in a two out of three falls match. Some great build to this one as Ross and Schiavone say they’ve been waiting six years to see this match. Eaton was widely considered one of the best workers in the business for a number of years as part of The Midnight Express. Unfortunately the Midnights had ended their run at Halloween Havoc of ‘90, when Stan Lane and Jim Cornette left WCW. Eaton was in really good shape here in ‘91. Eaton and Flair trade offensive barrages in the beginning part of the match. Flair tosses Eaton over the turnbuckles onto the floor. Flair drags Eaton back into the ring attempts the cover by using the ropes for extra leverage but the referee sees this and stops. Eaton then makes comeback with a backbreaker, a spinning neckbreaker and then hit the Alabama Jam leg drop off the top for a clean pin and the first fall.
Between falls, Flair is selling that his injured neck is too much to continue. Eaton waits until the second fall bell rings to hit Flair with rights and lefts and then gets a close two-count with a backslide. Eaton goes to the top rope to finish off Flair who shook the ropes so Eaton fell all the way to floor onto his knee and the ref counted to ten, so Flair won the second fall with a countout.
As the third and deciding fall begins, Eaton sold his injured knee but was still able to hit a superplex and nearly won the title, but Flair kicks out. Flair then slaps the figure-four leglock on Eaton not once, but twice the final time using the the ropes for the extra advantage. The pain was too much for Eaton whose shoulders fell to the mat for the winning fall for The Nature Boy. Pretty good match between two classics of the ring. At this time, Ric Flair was supposed to face Lex Luger in a steel cage match at The Great American Bash, however things would change drastically.
This Clash would be the final appearance for Flair as he would jump to the WWF in the summer of ‘91 after a contract dispute with then-WCW President, Jim Herd. Flair would head “Up North” with the WCW World Championship Big Gold Belt and the rest as they say is history.
Very solid Clash from top to bottom. Seeing guys like DDP, Nash Hall and Austin that would dominate the landscape in just five short years from now is always interesting. Then knowing Flair’s status with the company added some intrigue to the match and the events following this show.
You can read all previous ‘Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions Revisited’ pieces here.