Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions XXXIII

Benjamin Trecroci

We continue our series looking at the history of Clash of Champions, taking in Clash of the Champions XXXIII. Held on August 15, 1996, at the Denver Coliseum in Denver, Colorado in front of 8,304 fans. The show drew a 3.5 on TBS.

The landscape of wrestling all changed on May 26, 1996, when Scott Hall jumped the railing and invaded Monday Nitro. To this day, it’s still one of the best moments in wrestling history and what followed was just as groundbreaking:

Younger fans might not fully grasp how big this was. Hogan was not only one of the most popular names in not only wrestling but mainstream entertainment. Seeing him turn heel was such a gutsy move by Hogan and WCW that it changed the way wrestling was watched. It was the shot in the arm that the world of wrestling needed.

At the Hog Wild PPV, just five days earlier Hogan captured his second WCW World Championship. After the match, Hogan, Hall, and Nash would spray paint the NWO initials on the prestigious WCW title belt in an act of total disrespect.

This Clash kicked off with Hulk Hogan’s run as Hollywood and the backstory between the main event between Hogan and Flair. The recapped last Monday Nitro as Sting and Luger took on The Outsiders. The Horsemen (Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit, Steve McMichael and Ric Flair) came to the aid of their WCW rivals chased away the NWO.

The first match of the night is for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship as Rey Mysterio puts his title on the line vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.

Since his WCW debut in June, Mysterio has made a huge impact since day one. Capturing the Cruiserweight Championship on July 8th edition of Monday Nitro. This match kicked in unbelievable fashion. Mysterio was so fast and slick during this initial run. He was 21 and healthy and while he would have a great run in WWE, years later but here in 1996 this is groundbreaking. Of course, it takes two to tango, and Malenko is taking all the high-flying maneuvers like a pro.

Malenko finally halted Mysterio as he kept grounded, by working on the legs of Rey. There’s so much to see here that it needs to be seen as believed. These two are putting on a clinic. Finally, Malenko hit a wild looking Gutbuster off the top rope that sent Mysterio about 15 feet in the air. Malenko then went for the pin and got the three count, but Rey’s leg was on the rope as Randy Anderson restarted the match. Mysterio then rolled up Malenko to retain the title. This was wild from bell to bell.

Uh, oh…it’s a promo for Glacier. The build for Glacier went on for months and safe to say it did not pay off.

Match number two is V.K. Wallstreet vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan did a great job of keeping fans on the edge of their seats of when or when the NWO was going to show up. Revisionists historians will say this was annoying and it took away from the matches, but in a match like this, you hoped that the NWO was going to come down to the ring and beat the crap out of both of these guys. Rotunda would join the NWO by the Fall ‘96 as a defector from WCW, but right now he’s being used to take a shot at Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

As far as the match went, some plodding maneuvers from these two veterans that ended as Duggan entangled the tape around his fist and the referee allowing Wallstreet to roll-up Duggan for the win.

Mean Gene Okerlund is in the back with The Nasty Boys and their allegiance with the WCW is being questioned, but they are only loyal to themselves and they want a title shot!

Next up is Ultimo Dragon w/Sonny Onoo vs. Konnan. Ultimo Dragon was another international star to make his way to WCW. Konnan had taken on a more heelish persona as pointed out by Schiavone and Heenan. The match starts out with Dragon holding the advantage as Onoo kicked Konnan on the outside. Once inside, Dragon hit a perfect moonsault on Konnan. Dragon rolled up Konnan, but it’s reversed as Konnan pulled the tights for the win. Short, uninspiring match between two of the top international stars that would become a big part of Monday Nitro.

In the back, Ice Train is on this new internet thing until attacked by his former Fire & Ice partner, Scott Norton.

Here we go with “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Meng or so we thought….

Macho’s music plays but no Randy. Mean Gene walked to the ring and told referee Nick Patrick that Savage won’t be here because of chair shots to the head sustained by the hands of Hogan. So Meng won by forfeit. The crowd wasn’t very happy about this.

Mean Gene is in the ring with The Dungeon of Doom (Meng, Barbarian, Kevin Sullivan, Hugh Morris and Jimmy Hart) as Sullivan and Okerlund are trying to figure out why Hogan had gone to the dark side.

Next up is Madusa vs. Bull Nakano w/Sonny Onoo. Madusa came into WCW and of course, tossed the WWF Women’s title in the trash in of the most startling moments in wrestling history. This match started with Nakano tossing Madusa around by her hair. Nakano then pulled out the nunchucks and hits Madusa right in the sternum with them. Madusa rallied as she hit a flying bodypress to the outside, but instead hit Onoo. Nakano is then accidentally kicked by Onoo, Madusa then rolled up Bull for the win. For the record, that’s the third rollup win of the night. WCW attempted to revive their women’s division in late ‘96, using mostly Japanese talent like Nakano,etc. It wouldn’t last long however, as by mid-97 it all but disappeared.

Okerlund is in the back with Ric Flair, Woman and Elizabeth. Woman was always great with Mean Gene as she always would feel up his arm and shoulders in almost every interview. Classic. Flair warned the NWO that if try anything, that his best friend Arn Anderson will have his back unlike Hogan who turned his back on Brutus Beefcake at Hog Wild PPV, the Sunday before.

Match number five is Diamond Dallas Page vs. Eddie Guerrero. Page has been around WCW for five years now but he’s finally starting to become the guy that will make him one of the biggest names in the industry. This match was for the Battle Bowl ring that DDP won at the Slamboree PPV in May of ‘96.

DDP owned the beginning part of the match as he held a chin lock on Eddie for a number of minutes until Guerrero began to rally. The crowd is firmly behind Eddie as one of the first “Eddie, Eddie” chants were heard in WCW. Another quick match as Eddie hit the frog splash from the top rope for the win.

After the match, DDP offered to shake Eddie’s hand but instead hits him the soon-to-be-famous Diamond Cutter. Page then hits the Diamond Cutter two more times until Chavo Guerrero saved his cousin.

Just as this match ended, the crowd exploded as Hollywood Hogan dragged out Mean Gene and asked him what he saying he was about him earlier. Hogan said Flair couldn’t lace his boots and their will only be one Hollywood Hogan of wrestling. This was a really good nasty heel promo by Hogan. It was so wild to see Hogan rough up Okerlund since they were joined at the hip since their early days in Minnesota in the 80s.

Next up is Chris Benoit w/Woman & Miss Elizabeth vs. The Giant w/Jimmy Hart. The Giant is still part of The Dungeon of Doom at this time. For some reason, Woman is held onto Benoit’s vest as Giant hit a dropkick and then hoisted The Crippler to the sky in a massive chokeslam and that’s that after 25 seconds. This was building towards the Sullivan/Benoit/Woman saga. While The Giant would switch allegiance to the NWO in September of ‘96

Next up, The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) vs. WCW World tag-team champions Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray) w/Col. Parker & Sister Sherri vs. Lex Luger & Sting in a triangle match. Scott Steiner and Booker T started things off in a matchup of the top two teams of WCW. Booker is hung on the top by Scott and Luger clotheslines him off al the way to the floor. This whole triangle match is a pretty new concept for fans so Schiavone and Heenan are explaining the rules as the match heated up. After the break, Sting is in with Booker T as he press slammed the member of Harlem Heat. It’s cool to see Sting in one of his final appearances before his allegiance was questioned as he fell into the darkness of “Crow” Sting, he was already growing out his hair at this point.

Sting and Scotty went at it as Sting hit a stun gun on Steiner. Rick Steiner and Luger are in next as they have been brawling off and on for the last few minutes. Rick hits a belly to belly on Luger and then Scotty is tagged in for a belly to belly suplex of his own. All hell breaks loose as all six men are brawling with Booker T and Scott Steiner are in the ring. Scotty hits a Frankensteiner on Booker for the 1-2…and then referee Nick Patrick called for the bell because The Outsiders run-in attacking people on the outside. So this match is thrown for outside interference. They are obviously pushing the always heat-seeker “evil ref” angle with Patrick.

Here we go to the main event as Hollywood Hulk Hogan took on Ric Flair w/Woman & Elizabeth. Schiavone went over the timeline how things have changed since Hogan’s celebrated ‘94 debut, their rematch in ‘95 and now this as a heel Hogan took on and face-ish Flair for the first time.

Heenan and Schiavone are speculating who the fourth or possibly fifth member of NWO was and whether it’s someone who is already in WCW or someone from the “outside.” Flair and Hogan do some posturing as the match began. Heenan is great here as he said, “Hogan only cared about himself but nobody believed me.” Hogan placed Flair on the top rope to which Flair slapped him right in the face. Flair then unleashed a number of chops and forced Hogan to the floor. Hogan then drawbacks and almost punched a woman in the front row, in a scene that nobody would ever think they would see in their lifetime.

Flair is thrown into the corner where he does his flip thing and onto the floor. Hogan then threw Flair into the corner post. Flair, however, rallied with a poke to the eye and then a suplex. Hogan suddenly “Hulked Up” in what of the last times in years. Hogan did the familiar big boot, but he missed his leg drop. Flair slapped on the figure four as Hogan was in obvious pain and grabbed the ref and tossed him instead of submitting.
Hall and Nash ran down to the ring to jump Flair until The Horsemen, Luger, and Sting all rushed to the aid of Flair. Sting and Flair started pushing each other as they announce that Flair won but only by DQ as Hogan retained the WCW World Championship.

This Clash had such a different feel from every previous installment. The NWO with Hogan as champion was really started to find its footing and fans were really getting into it. Turning Hogan heel was the smartest thing he and WCW could’ve done. Hogan’s face run in WCW was a couple years too late as the wrestling business was going downhill by ‘94-95. The NWO would run roughshod for a couple more years and maybe it ran its course too long, but nobody could deny how hot it was right here in August of ‘96.


You can read all ‘Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions Revisited’ pieces here.


 

2 thoughts on “Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions XXXIII

    • Sure is. Imagine if Liz and Randy were still around to help the young kids around at NXT?!?

      As well as Woman, aiding someone like Alexa Bliss with her attitude.

      Like

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