We continue our series looking at the history of Clash of Champions, taking in Clash of the Champions XVII. Held on November 19, 1991 at the Savannah Civic Center in Savannah, Georgia in front of 6,922 fans. The show drew a 4.3 rating on TBS.
This was the first Clash that didn’t have a catchy subtitle. This Clash is all about the fallout from Halloween Havoc and the build towards Starrcade. Rick Rude returned at Havoc and was immediately paired up with Sting. WCW World Heavyweight Champion Lex Luger was involved with Ron Simmons as well as Sting as we would find out later in this show.
The first contest of the night is Big Josh vs. Thomas Rich in an Lumberjack Match. The ring is surrounded by non-descript lumberjacks. Rich and Josh apparently used to be buddies, but that is not the story tonight! Rich falls out of the ring into the waiting arms of the heel lumberjacks like fellow York Foundation member, Richard Morton and Terrence Taylor who allow Rich to take a powder. Big Josh is then thrown to the ground where the same group including the now heel Young Pistols drop some kicks to the back of the big man. They do a criss cross and in the the confusion Taylor tripped Rich as Big Josh drops the Northern Exposure (aka splash) for the win. More of planting the seed for dissension in the ranks of The York Foundation.
Second match of the night is Firebreaker Chip vs. “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton. This almost seemed like a tryout type match as the great veteran worker Eaton seemed to be letting the young upstart “get in his stuff.” There were a couple instances where Chip looked pretty bad in the ring. Eaton hit Chip with a belly to belly suplex that ended this exhibition match. Eaton was a face at this time, but soon he would return to his more natural heel persona.
Next up was supposed to be the ultimate reveal of the final mysterious box saga involving Sting. Out comes a bunch of oily dudes bringing a huge carriage to the ring. Suddenly Madusa saunters out of the carriage and begins to seduce Sting. Just as Madusa attempted to bring Sting into her clutches out emerges World Champion Lex Luger from the carriage! Luger attacked Sting’s surgically repaired knee, slamming onto the rampway until Sting’s buddies run off Luger. It had been Luger the whole time sending the boxes to his former best friend. Fun segment.
On the WWE Network presentation, they skipped over The Diamond Studd easily defeating Tom Zenk.
Match four is for the WCW World TV Championship “Stunning” Steve Austin w/Lady Blossom vs. “The Rapmaster” P.N. News. Austin tried to get off to a fast start by attacking the bigger man before the bell but is met with an avalanche into the corner. The fight is taken to the floor where PN News throws Austin into the guardrails. PN News gets a couple close two-counts. Cool spot as Austin tried to jump PN on the rampway but instead gets thrown back into the ring. Lady Blossom put Austin’s foot under the rope to stop an attempted pin. PN then chased Blossom outside the ring until Austin dove over the top and onto PN with an elbow/suicide dive. Austin threw the big man back in the ring and pinned PN while Austin used the ropes for leverage to retain. Actually, a rather entertaining match, considering the two polar opposites.
The Network skipped over Missy Hyatt interviewing the rookie phenom, Marcus Alexander Bagwell.
The fifth match of the night is Cactus Jack vs. Van Hammer.
Best. Video. Ever.
Considering it was 1991, Van Hammer did look kinda cool if he was in a Heavy Metal band. These two go right at it in and out of the ring. Hammer hits a really weak knee over the top rope onto the outside of the ring. Cactus then gained the advantage by hitting the big elbow off the second rope to the outside on the fallen Hammer. Later, the ref is distracted and didn’t see Cactus grab Hammer’s guitar and jammed it into Hammer’s throat to nab the victory for Cactus Jack. They continued to brawl after the match including Hammer hitting a nice-looking slingshot suplex onto the rampway.
Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone go over the hand injury sustained by Barry Windham at the hands of The Enforcers (Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko) at Halloween Havoc and if Windham would be able to make it as Dustin Rhode’s tag-team partner tonight.
Windham announced that he won’t be able to wrestle tonight. Just then a man in a Dragon costume walked down the rampway.
Finally, after a few anxious minutes, the man takes the dragon mask off to reveal it’s RICKY STEAMBOAT, Crowd explodes! Anderson, dropped a great “Not Ricky Steamboat” line.
This was Steamboat’s first appearance in WCW since his epic trilogy vs. Ric Flair in 1989 and immediately after his odd run as “The Dragon” in WWF during the first part of ‘91.
Now onto the match. Steamboat opened up with a chop party to The Enforcers. All four men get into the ring and hell breaks loose. Steamboat and Rhodes tagged in and out working hard on Zbyszko left arm. Later, some great doubleteam work by The Enforcers on Steamboat as the champs gained the advantage. Steamboat is selling like only he can as he tries to fight back and make the tag to Rhodes. Steamboat hit Anderson with a double boot on the mat as he finally is able to make the tag to Rhodes who cleaned house. Rhodes hits a bulldog on Anderson and simultaneously accidentally tagged back in Steamboat who climbed to the top and hits a flying bodypress for the win and new WCW World Tag-Team Champions! An amazing match where everything in the match mattered. WCW would sometimes deliver matches like this that were so much better than anything WWF was doing. They should show this match at wrestling schools.
They showed a promo for the incoming Jushin “Thunder” Liger. He would have a brief run in 1991-92 before returning in ‘95.
Paul E. Dangerously and Ross go over a loophole in the contract that apparently stated if Sting can’t make it back from the hospital for the match tonight that he will forfeit his U.S. Heavyweight Championship to Rick Rude. Side note to this angle, was a legitimate beef between Paul E and WCW at this time that involved a rumored storyline to bring the NWA title back into WCW after Ric Flair took it to WWF in the Summer of ‘91.
Funny segment as Eric Bischoff is on the phone with Ross as he explained the forfeit situation, when just then Sting is heard in the background arguing and then “commandeered” an ambulance to make his way back to the arena.
Battle Bowl is coming!
Match seven is for the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship as “Flyin” Brian Pillman took on Johnny B. Badd w/Theodore R. Long. Pillman jumped out with a backdrop and a dropkick over the top onto the rampway, followed up with a flying bodypress on the outside. Badd rallied with a backdrop to Pillman on the rampway and attacked him onto the guardrail. Pillman unleashed a pretty dropkick as Badd attempted a flying bodypress off the top. Badd then delivers a sunset flip off the top for the attempted pin but the ref is preoccupied with Long on the apron. Pillman rolled up Badd for the fast win. Badd then dropped Long with a tight right hook turning Badd…Good.
Next up is Rick Rude vs Sting for the US Title. Paul E is on the mic claiming that he had nothing to do with the attack on Sting. As Paul E. goes on and on, suddenly an ambulance is seen making its way to the arena! Sting is limping into the building while being escorted by Rhodes and other babyfaces. Really fun segment and visual. Rude met Sting halfway up the rampway and then begin brawling all around the ring. Finally, Rude is able to get the upperhand as he jacks Sting injured leg around the ringpost. Rude tried the Rude Awakening but Sting is able to power out of it. Sting is then clobbered with Paul E’s mobile phone but is only able to get the two count. Rude then clips Sting in the knee and it’s just too much for Sting as he crumbles to the mat and Rude is able to get the pinfall to become new US Champion. Fun quick match. Crowd was so into Sting that after he lost, the place went silent.
It’s main event time as Rick Steiner w/Scott Steiner is set to take WCW World Heavyweight Champion Lex Luger w/Harley Race. Ron Simmons was slated for a rematch from Halloween Havoc but he was injured so Steiner took his place. Slow start to this win as Luger and Steiner just seem to walk around the ring. Steiner catches Luger with a powerslam and a clothesline to the outside. Luger begins to take advantage including throwing him to the outside to allow Race to knee the challenger to the face. Steiner rallied to hit his big bulldog off the top rope for a close 2.5 count. Things go off the rails as Mr. Hughes comes to down to aid Luger but his met by Scott Steiner up the rampway. Race is on the apron with the ref as Luger hits Steiner with the championship belt to grab the victory and hold onto World Championship. Not the best match, but business picked up at the end.
Mixed bag for this Clash. The tag match was exceptional, probably the best match since Flair and Steamboat III two years earlier. The Sting segments with the box and his return to the arena was also fun. 1991 was heading to a strong conclusion with the addition of Rude to the main event scene things were looking up in WCW after a dicey beginning.
You can read all ‘Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions Revisited’ pieces here.