We continue our series looking at the history of The Clash of the Champions, taking in Clash of the Champions XXXV. Held on August 21, 1997, at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee with an attendance of 4,122. The show drew a 3.64 on TBS. Here it is, the final Clash of the Champions! What started in March ‘88, comes to an end here on August ‘97.
There were a couple major storylines going on at this time. First and most importantly Sting who had still not wrestled or talked in nearly year had a deadline as to what exactly he wanted from WCW Commissioner, J.J. Dillon., It was clear he wanted Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Title.
Also, you had the ongoing of “free agent” Curt Henning as to where his allegiance was, and if he was really with Four Horsemen or not.
Business in WCW was still extremely hot with the NWO leading the way and the ongoing Sting saga as the main attractions.
The first match of the night was the heated feud between US Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett w/Debra McMichael vs. Steve “Mongo” McMichael. Double J was in and out of the Four Horsemen since he entered WCW in ‘96 and in July ‘97 he was kicked out of the group by Flair.
Early on in the match, Jarrett held the advantage and even hit Mongo with his own Three-Point Stance finisher to the knees.
Back from break, the action is hot and heavy on the outside as JJ tossed Mongo into the steel steps. Debra grabbed the head of own husband and held him on the ropes as JJ jumped on the back of Mongo’s neck. Jarrett slapped the sleeper on Mongo until Mongo reversed it into a sleeper of his own. Suddenly Eddie Guerrero who had been helping Double J lately came down to the ring attempted to hit Mongo but instead hit Jarrett. Mongo then grabbed the ref to count to three and become new US Champ! The arena absolutely exploded with this.
Mongo would never be confused for Ricky Steamboat, inside the ring but his involvement with the Four Horsemen made him pretty popular at this time and he did his job as the muscle of the group.
Jarrett would jump back to WWF, by the time Halloween Havoc rolled around. Jarrett wouldn’t be back in WCW until 1999, where he had, in my opinion, the best run of his career. Mongo would hang around WCW and continue to be a part of the Horsemen until he left in early 1999.
Next up, we have Mean Gene Okerlund out with Alex Wright who said he was going to “Drag the Dragon all over Nashville,” Get it?
Completely forgot about this show, “Dinner & Movie” on TBS.
Match number two is Stevie Richards vs. Raven. This was Raven’s in-ring debut since he debuted at the end of June. This was good, as they made it like Raven didn’t have a contract with WCW and would come out from the crowd to meet his “friend.”
Raven grabbed the mic and said this match would be no disqualification aka “Raven Rules.” It was always funny during this time when announcers don’t want to acknowledge where guys were from but dance around it. “He’s been in other wrestling organizations and has a large following.”
This was all Raven as he was beaten from pillar to post. Raven threw a chair inside the ring as he dropped toehold and bulldogged Stevie into the chair. Stevie finally rallied as he threw Raven into the chair which was still in the corner. Stevie tried to unleash a “Stevie Kick” but Raven blocked it and finished him off with a killer DDT.
Raven was brought in as a major player and would hold the US title and would lead his group, The Flock to modest success and a run with the WCW U.S. Championship. But more than likely, politics kept him from getting involved with the NWO, etc.
Raven would stick around WCW, until August ‘99 when he left in a dispute with Eric Bischoff. According to reports, Bischoff asked if anyone wanted to leave and Raven was the only one to take him on his offer and walked out. Richards meanwhile, wouldn’t last much longer in WCW and would be gone by December ‘97, as he headed back to ECW.
Next up was WCW World Television Champion Ultimo Dragon vs. Alex Wright. The Dragon had been managed by Sonny Onno, but that ended at Slamboree in May ‘97 when Dragon won the TV title from Steven Regal. Wright was brought in ‘95 as the German Phenom “Das Wunderkind” as a fan-favorite, but people were not buying it no matter how good of a performer he was.
During break they showed a Syxx t-shirt NWO announcement:
Dragon unleashed a number of lethal kicks to the back of Wright that reverberated all over the arena. Wright was able to reverse the momentum, but was acting extremely cocky and not covering Dragon when he had the opportunity.
Later in the match, as the brawled onto the floor Dragon hit his trademark Asai moonsault as both men were almost counted out. Back inside the ring, Wright went for a superplex but Dragon pushed him off. Some great back and forth action pin attempts end with Wright cinched in a German suplex and bridged up for a three-count and become new TV Champ! After the match, Wright tried doing his silly dance and acted like he had hurt his back in a funny moment.
Wright would stick around WCW until the very last day in 2001. He would be matched up with Disco Inferno as The Dancing Fools and Boogie Knights and of course would be repackaged as Berlyn.
Here we go for WCW Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho vs. Eddie Guerrero in the third title match already. Eddie is shredded up and in the best physical shape of his career and was deep into his bad attitude character. Jericho was really starting to become the fan favorite that would he become 20 years later.
Early in the match, Jericho tossed Eddie around with a press slam that made Eddie take a powder to the floor and argue with some fans.
Back inside, Eddie tried to walk the ropes, but Jericho destroyed him with a powerbomb followed up with a giant swing which had been seen in years! Jericho tried to hit a cross body block from the rope and completely fell which might have been from being still dizzy. These two then went into a series of counters for pinning attempts which ended with Jericho able to keep Eddie down for the three count. After the match, a disgruntled Eddie hit a dropkick and a frog splash to Jericho. Really good match until the giant swing seems to really affect both guys.
Jericho would continue in WCW until June ‘99 before of course moving to the WWF. But before he left he would find his footing especially in his feud with Dean Malenko in ‘98. Jericho would never get involved in the World title picture, but this was the scene in WCW during this time.
Guerrero would also find his footing during this time in WCW, staying a bit longer until January ‘00. Eddie would become part of the Filthy Animals (Konnan, Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman & Torrie Wilson) and he would become the leader of the LWO (Latino World Order) with a number of the Luchador wrestlers. It was a pretty cool storyline as it blurred the lines between a shoot and work for Eddie before he left WCW along with Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn.
Next up was Psychosis, Silver King, Villano IV & V w/ Sonny Onoo vs. Juventud Guerrera, Super Calo, Hector Garza & Lizmark Jr.
Look I love Lucha Libre as much as the next guy but one thing that will always bother me is six dudes waiting on the floor as another guy launches himself onto them. It’s not a good look then or now. Maybe it’s my inner Jim Cornette coming out here, but let me believe this isn’t some choreographed match here. I digress…
The finale of this match was Onno held onto the leg of Psychosis as Calo tried to bring him to the mat. Psycho hit the big leg drop from the top for the win.
Most of these luchadors would stick around WCW but slowly were being slid to the side. Silver King was actually involved with Stacy Keibler as his manager for a brief period in 2000. Psycho would hold the Cruiserweight championship for a week in 2000. Juvi, however, looked to become the breakout star as a member of the Filthy Animals, He would remove his mask and would even get The Rock involved. Not sure if he was ever going to be signed to WWE, but that would all end when he was arrested for reportedly running around naked in a hotel while on PCP in October 2000…Whoops.
Next up Mean Gene is back with the Dinner and a Movie and they are making a bunch of Macho Man themed meals and then they take off their coats to reveal that they are part of The NWO! Macho Man came out and said that these chefs are baking a cake for the NWO’s birthday party.
DDP then came out and of course destroyed the set and flipped the cake and even hit a Diamond Cutter on one of the hosts, Paul Gilmartin
Next up is Ric Flair & Curt Henning vs. Syxx & Konnan. Henning showed up on Nitro on June 97 and then was DDP’s mystery opponent at Bash at the Beach. Henning would turn on DDP and declare himself a free-agent within WCW. Flair would begin recruiting him which would lead to the infamous Arn Anderson “My Spot” Horsemen parody following this Clash. This was Konnan’s biggest push at this time as he joined the NWO.
This match really started rolling when Syxx and Flair entered the ring as they two chopped the hell out of each other. Rumor and innuendo are that these two had a real heat at the time and it provided some great action between the two of them. Syxx was an underrated feud of Flairs. All four men quickly get into the match as Flair tried to slap the figure four on KDawg but Henning inadvertently threw Syxx into Flair. Henning then hit his fisherman suplex (aka Perfect-Plex) on Konnan for the quick win. Match seemed a bit rushed. After the match, Okerlund asked Henning if he was a Horsemen or not. Henning said, “No” and still wouldn’t declare his allegiance.
Henning would stick around WCW until 2000 as part of the NWO B-team mostly and later would be part of the West Texas Rednecks (Barry Windham, Kendall Windham, Bobby Duncam Jr & Curly Bill aka Virgil). He also would feud with “The Perfect One” Shawn Stasiak in 2000. Syxx would sustain an neck injury in October ‘97 and only last in WCW until March ‘98 when he was reportedly fired while convalescing.
Konnan would last all the way until the end of WCW and would become one of the most popular stars there near the end. He was a huge part of the NWO Wolfpac as well as the Filthy Animals and would get involved in the Master P. No Limit Soldiers storyline.
Flair, of course, would continue in WCW even after a dispute with Bischoff kept him off of TV during ‘98. Flair would reform the Horsemen (Malenko, Benoit, McMichael) win the WCW World Title twice in 2000 and get involved in a storyline with his son David as well. Flair and Sting would fittingly have the final match ever on Monday Nitro, just like they headlined the first ever Clash of the Champions.
It’s main event time as Lex Luger & Diamond Dallas Page took on Scott Hall & Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
The whole NWO crew is out here as Syxx, Buff Bagwell, Scott Norton, Konnan, Kevin Nash, Vincent, and Elizabeth accompany Hall and Mach to the ring. Nash announced that Macho is taking his “spot” in the tag team so this is now for the WCW World Tag-Team Championship.
A ton of Black & White balloons dropped from the ceiling to celebrate the NWO’s birthday party in a really cool visual. Hall and Luger start things out as soon enough Lex is thrown to the floor and is waffled to the ground by Nash. Nick Patrick who is no longer the NWO ref, told Nash to go to the back as well. DDP is tagged in and he enters the ring like a man possessed until he’s tripped by Hall from the outside. Hall and Savage then tag in and out as they punished DDP’s ribs.
DDP finally is able to make the hot tag to Luger and all hell broke loose my god was Luger was over at this time! Luger threw Savage into Hall and then slapped on the torture rack on Hall. Macho entered back into the fray to hit Luger and raked DDP’s eyes as Hall shoved Luger into the ‘blinded’ Page. DDP inadvertently hit the Diamond Cutter on Luger as Hall crawled onto Luger to retain the tag titles!
Luger would continue near the top of the card with WCW until the very end. He would eventually become a member of the NWO Wolfpac as well as the Millionaire’s Club with older veterans of WCW in 2000. Luger would not get signed to WWE, however.
Savage would continue with WCW until 2000 but would appear sporadically from ‘98-00. He would form Team Madness with his Miss Madness (Molly Holly), Madusa and Gorgeous George and would make one final strange appearance in May ‘00 looking jacked beyond belief.
DDP would also continue near the top of the card for WCW all way until the end. Page would join forces with his boy Kevin Nash as The Insiders. He would also team with his crew from New Jersey Chris Kanyon and Bam Bam Bigelow as The Triad. DDP would hold the WCW World Title on three separate occasions. Page would be one of the few top guys to get a contract to WWE upon the closing of WCW.
Hall would continue with WCW until 2000, unfortunately, the only headlines that came out of his final couple years there were his reported “substance-abuse” problems as it seemed like he was off of TV more than he was there. Definitely, a ‘what if’ with him, had it kept himself clean he could’ve been the top guy like he was when he started the whole NWO angle.
After the match, more NWO propaganda dropped from the ceiling. The NWO now walked back to the ring led by Bischoff to celebrate their birthday.
Bischoff then grabbed the mic and praised The Outsiders and everyone they’ve done over the past year. Bischoff started demanding things from Ted Turner and then this happened. This still gives me chills!
F’n awesome and how fitting that the man who was the highlight of the first Clash closed out the final edition.
From 1988-97, a ton of the things has changed within WCW as well as the wrestling industry as a whole. TV coverage had moved from syndicated programming to weekly primetime slots on major cable networks. The territories had all but dissolved by ‘97 as WCW and soon to be WWE, would be the only game in town.
As far as the talent, it was a who’s who that appeared on Clash cards. From guys that would shape the “Attitude Era” like; Steve Austin, Brian Pillman, Cactus Jack, Rick Rude, Shane Douglas, Chris Benoit, Vader, Dustin Rhodes, Sid Vicious, Davey Boy Smith, Eddie Guerrero,etc. The tag-team matchups were stacked as well especially the early editions of the Clash with standout performances from; The Midnight Express, The Fantastics, Road Warriors, Doom, Steiner Brothers, Samoan Swat Team, Southern Boys, Freebirds,etc.
The high-water mark of the Clashes was the feud between Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair which also included the involvement of Terry Funk. Those matches are still on par with anything today, absolutely scintillating. While he was only a there for a brief period, The Great Muta is still someone who definitely stood out from the rest during his time.
Of course, the debut of Hulk Hogan to WCW would also become a major factor as to how these Clashes will be remembered.
Could something like this work today? The NXT Takeovers definitely have the feel of a Clash. They are periodically scheduled over a few months and are on the WWE Network, but not on PPV so it’s somewhat similar in this day of streaming services, etc. But with so much to choose from these days, they don’t have the same must-see appeal that the Clash had especially in years before Monday Nitro became the staple program for WCW.
The name Clash of Champions lives on as it’s is currently a WWE PPV. They removed “The” before Champions in the name to make it WWE branded (Not really sure, just speculating) but it’s nice to see that it’s still around.
The Clashes were for the most part, great shows that showcased the talent that made its way through WCW from 1988-97. They put it them on “free TV” and it will be remembered fondly for a very long time and this song will live in infamy by those who heard and saw it all live on The Superstation WTBS!
You can read all ‘Styles Clash: Clash of the Champions Revisited’ pieces here.