By Sean O'Conner
Hello again! It’s time for another instalment of Flashback Friday and this week we are covering on of the Clash of The Champions events. What better way to prepare for WWE’s Clash of Champions than to take a trip down memory lane and relieve some classic WCW matches! For those who our unfamiliar with The Clash of The Champions concept, let’s briefly go over the event’s history. Clash of The Champions was WCW’s version of Saturday Night Main Event, it was broadcast as a television special and featured pay per view quality matches. There were 35 Clashes produced all together spanning from 1988 to 1997 and along with these 35 specials, came memorable moments and matches. So when choosing a Clash to review, there was a lot of available options but when all the smoke had cleared, the decision had been made. So join me on my review of the sixth Clash of The Champions titled Ragin Cajun which took place on April 2nd 1989. You might be wondering what made this Clash so significant, well WCW broadcast this Clash on the same day as Wrestlemania V in order to hurt the PPV rating for the WWF (And you thought Eric Bischoff was the only one who would do anything to pop a rating). WWF had run Survivor Series against Starrcade in 1987, the PPV companies of the time could only carry one PPV on their channel so Vince threatened that any company which showed Starrcade would be banned from showing any further WWF events. Due to Mcmahon’s strategy, many companies chose the WWF over WCW. This started a bitter war between the two as WCW would create The Clash of The Champions to mess with WWF scheduled PPVs. So could WCW hurt Wrestlemania’s rating? Could WCW top the WWF on this night? There is only one way to find out so read on!
We are treated to the final scenes of The Chi-town Rumble as Ricky Steamboat overcame Ric Flair to win the World Heavyweight Championship. One hell of a match if you have not seen it. Tonight Ricky defends his championship against Ric Flair in a two out of three falls match. We are live from New Orleans and JR welcomes us to the action alongside Michael PS Hayes. The night before the event, former NWA champions such as Lou Thesz, Harley Race, Terry Funk, Pat O’Connor and current champ Ricky Steamboat meet for a lovely evening of dinner. President of WCW Jim Herd, salutes the former wrestlers for all their accomplishments and hard work/dedication to the wrestling business. Next up is a montage of wrestlers kicking some serious ass, the likes of Sting/Muta/Eddie Gilbert/Butch Reed/Samoan Swat Team/Rick Steiner/Dr. Death are all featured performing some of their signature moves and mannerisms. WCW is going all out here, we even have the national anthem played before the beginning of the first match. Fireworks explode and we are ready to get things on!
The Samoan Swat Team W/ Paul E. Dangerously vs The Midnight Express W/ Jim Cornette.
Beautiful Bobby and Sweet Stan with Cornette in their corner taking on a young Rikishi (Fatu) and Samu with Paul Heyman in their corner. Sweet Stan and Samu start off, uppercut by Samu. Shoulder block by Samu but Stan does not budge, Samu misses a crossbody but Stan does not miss his crossbody. Quick pin and a two count for The Midnight Express, Samu backs Stan into the corner, Samu decks Fatu by mistake. Stan cannot enjoy the advantage for long as Samu overtakes Stan, tag to Fatu. Fatu roughs up Stan with a club to the back, Stan stays alive though with a deep arm drag, Bobby is in and Midnight Express nail a drop toehold and elbow combo. Missile dropkick by Bobby, headlock and a tag to Sweet Stan. Snapmare and reverse chinlock by Stan, Samu and Cornett get into a scuffle with Cornette nailing Samu in the arm with his signature rocket. Stan is all over Fatu in the ring, tag to Bobby, lovely double reverse elbow. Quick tags by The Midnight Express who work Fatu’s arm. Stan enters the ring but before long, Fatu is nailing Stan with an uppercut to the throat. Samu is in, Samu drags Stan to Fatu’s corner. Samu nails Fatu for a second time, Paul E. consoles Fatu who was hurt by his partner’s punch to his face. Bobby has Samu in a headlock, takedown by Bobby. Samu and Bobby circle one another, Bobby hammers Samu with right hands. Quick Tag to Stan, Stan grabs a side headlock but Samu reverses Stan into a back suplex. Leg drop by Samu, Fatu and Samu double team Stan in the corner. Scoop slam by Fatu, two count for Fatu. Stan battles back, dropkick and a tag to Bobby Eaton. Big back body drop by Bobby on Fatu, inside cradle and a two count for Bobby. Bobby applies a side headlock on Fatu, Bobby and Stan bend the rules as Stan jumps into the ring yet there was no tag made by Bobby. Fans roar in approval of The Midnight Express, Bobby steps back in and smashes Fatu. Crossbody by Stan across Fatu’s back. All four men end up in the ring, Fatu escapes the wrath of Bobby Eaton as Samu makes a blind tag. Huge clothesline by Samu, big chops in the corner by Samu. Samu rakes the eyes of Bobby and drops Bobby with a headbutt. Thrust kick to the head by Samu, two count. Samu holds Bobby in a nerve hold, Bobby breaks free but Fatu pulls Bobby’s hair from the apron. Stan complains to the referee while Samu and Fatu beat down Beautiful Bobby. Bobby fires up briefly but Fatu takes Bobby’s head with a clothesline. Samu kicks and chokes Bobby in the corner, Bobby tags Stan Lane. Kicks and punches by Sweet Stan Lane, Bobby helps Stan. Stan and Bobby ram The Samoan’s head first into one another, The Samoans no sell it and start beating one another up! The Samoans refocus with each manager tripping one of the wrestlers in the ring. Stan is down when Bobby comes into the ring, battling Samu before the referee pleads with Bobby to step out onto the apron. Samu and Fatu double team Stan, powerslam by Fatu. Two and a half for Fatu, Fatu applies a nerve hold to Sweet Stan. Bobby tries saving Stan but the referee prevents Bobby from doing too much. Samu and Fatu double team headbutt Stan, superkick by Samu. Two count and Samu is frustrated so Samu nails Bobby on the apron. Bobby goes into the ring and roughs up Samu. Referee takes control and we have Fatu and Stan battling it out. Fatu misses a headbutt from the second rope, Stan crawls to Bobby. Bobby is like a house of fire, right hands to The Samoans. Bobby attempts a double headbutt but The Samoans feel nothing. Bobby keeps fighting, nailing a crossbody and a swinging neckbreaker. Stan is in and Bobby is climbing to the top rope, Rocket Launcher by The Midnight Express, Paul E. is livid but Cornette decks Paul E. with a right hand. The Midnight Express have the match won but the referee is hurrying Stan Lane out of the ring. Behind the referee’s back, Fatu grabs Paul E.’s Cellphone and nails Bobby in the back of the head. Fatu puts Samu on top and The Samoan Swat Team steal the win due to tomfoolery. The Midnight Express were a made team by this point, they had won the fan’s hearts years before this with their feuds against The Rock “N” Roll Express and Magnum TA. They were simply untouchable so I expected a good match and I was not disappointed. Perhaps it was a bit on the long side but the finish was hot, crowd was hot for Bobby’s comeback and the Rocket Launcher. Samoan Swat team were fine, they did their part, Paul E and Cornette were very animated, it actually worked really well as the crowd wanted to see Cornette kill Paul E. which he did and that was a great little moment. 1989 was not a kind year to The Midnight Express as management was not too keen on the tag team despite The Midnight Express being arguably the best tag team in the division (Feuding with the Dynamic Dudes did not help either!). Despite losing, they were undoubtedly the stars of this match.
Winners: The Samoan Swat Team
Great Muta W/ Gary Hart vs Steve Casey
The Great Muta, one of New Japan’s Three Musketeers, Keiji Mutoh AKA The Great Muta would rule the 90s alongside Masahiro Chono and Shinya Hashimoto. Before Muta would light the world on fire in New Japan, he made a name for himself in WCW. Gary Hart is managing Muta who I would most associate with managing foreign heels. Muta meditates before the match begins, his opponent is Steve Casey. Muta spits the mist in the air and then into Casey’s eyes. Muta rams Casey into the turnbuckle before nailing a handspring elbow. Reverse Chinlock by Muta, Casey catches Muta with an arm drag, Casey is backed into the corner, Muta mule kicks Casey. Missile dropkick by Muta, another punch by Muta. Muta rakes the eyes of Casey who is still partially blinded by the mist. Casey has a wristlock on Muta but Muta stretches the leg of Casey with an effortless counter, spinning toehold by Muta. Casey tries to fight back, spinning kick by Muta cutting off Casey. Casey breaks free, clothesline by Casey, reverse elbow and dropkick by Casey. Muta blocks a dropkick, spinning reverse kick by Muta (Can you tell I am struggling to name all these type of manoeuvres?). Muta hurls Casey into the guard rail, springboard elbow against the guard rail. Backbreaker on Casey and Muta Moonsault for the win. Extended squash for The Pearl of The Orient. What a wrestler Muta is as he still competes to this day and considers America as his second home. Fun fact: Muta would return to WCW in 2000 to reignite his feud with Sting, Muta would capture the tag team titles with Vampiro but would also lose to Ernest The Cat Miller so yeah…. Probably regrets that WCW 2nd run.
Winner: Great Muta
Junkyard Dog vs Hacksaw Butch Reed
Junkyard Dog makes his entrance with a whole marching band, Butch Reed makes his way to the ring with Hiro Matsuda. Butch talks smack to Junkyard Dog, Dog floors Reed with a right hand while using the crowd to his advantage. Lockup and Butch sends Dog off the ropes, shoulder block by Dog but it has no effect on Butch Reed. Reed leapfrogs Dog but Dog smashes Reed with a headbutt, multiple headbutts to Reed who powders the floor. Reed slows down the pace of the match by slowly easing his way into the ring. Lockup, wristlock by Dog, Dog wrenches the arm of Reed repeatedly. Reed counters and hammers Dog in the corner, Reed gets cocky attempting a hiptoss. Dog hiptosses Reed and headbutts Reed to the ground, choke hold in the corner by the dog. Reed rakes the eyes and smashes Dog with his taped fist. Reed hammers the face of Dog with his taped fist, crowd is not too happy with Reed’s antics. Reed chokes Dog over the second rope, Reed distracts the referee (Who is Teddy Long). Matsuda chokes Dog behind the referee’s back. Reverse Chinlock on Dog by Reed, Junkyard Dog does not fade in the hold, Dog battles back to his feet, right hand to the mid-section of Reed. Big back body drop by Dog, two count for Dog. Dog Irish whips Reed, we have a malfunction at the junction as both man clothesline one another. Reed climbs the turnbuckle, big mistake as Dog punches Reed in the stomach, JYD misses a headbutt so Reed goes back to the top rope and scores with the flying tackle. Dog takes a great bump, Reed goes for the pin but JYD places his foot on the rope. Matsuda is not happy and climbs the apron, JYD reverses and Irish Whip and sends Reed into Matsuda. Matsuda falls to the floor and Reed to the canvas, JYD pins Reed. Not a big fan of that finish, I would have accepted a roll up over JYD pinning Reed after he ran into Matsuda. Was a standard by the books match, nothing memorable so let’s say it was alright.
Winner: Junkyard Dog
(United States Tag Team Championship Match) The Varsity Club vs The First Family W/ Missy Hyatt
Rick Steiner and “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert defend their titles against Dan Spivey and Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan jumps Steiner while Spivey takes down Gilbert. Hard Irish whip by Spivey, tilt a whirl sideslam by Spivey. Sullivan is in, cheap shots Steiner and Gilbert is thrown to the floor. Sullivan distracts Steiner while Spivey tears apart Eddie Gilbert. Double stomp by Sullivan, headbutt by Sullivan. Spivey is in, rakes the eyes and a flying shoulder tackle by Dan. Gilbert kicks out at two, Sullivan is in, knee to the ribs of Gilbert. Sullivan tries to go for the knee again, Gilbert breaks free from the tree of woe. Hot tag to Steiner, powerslam by Steiner on Spivey. Two count, Steiner hammers Spivey, belly to belly suplex. Gilbert and Sullivan brawl with Steiner and Spivey in the ring. Clothesline by Steiner, Gilbert grabs Missy Hyatt’s Gucci bag and whacks Sullivan with the bag. Gilbert inside cradles Sullivan and the match is over. Spivey and Sullivan beat down Gilbert after the match but The First Family retain the titles. Match was very brief, hardly got time to get into it. It is a shame because Steiner seemed so explosive and Gilbert was selling his ass off so a longer match could have been very enjoyable.
Winners : The First Family Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner
(NWA Heavyweight Championship Match) Ricky Steamboat © vs Ric Flair (Two out of Three Fall Match)
Steamboat vs Flair, prepare to take a lesson in how to put a wrestling match together folks, these two will tear the house down. Ric Flair, the man in the thousand dollar robe, the man who gets all the women, the superstar vs the champion Ricky Steamboat, a family man and a humble man. Polar opposites clashing in this titanic match. Terry Funk is on commentary, Terry puts over the importance of the title. Lockup, Steamboat and Flair slap one another, tense stare down. Another lockup, Steamboat and Flair trade holds with Steamboat outwrestling Flair. Second big slap from Steamboat, Flair cannot believe the audacity of the champion. Third lockup, Steamboat takes control, Flair has the wristlock, Flair drops Steamboat to his knees. Steamboat battles out, Flair quickly goes to the ropes to break the hold. Flair takes a breather, telling the referee that Steamboat yanked the hair of Flair. Fourth lockup with Flair dropping Steamboat with a shoulder block, Steamboat comes back with an arm drag and a side headlock takedown. Steamboat squeezes the head of Flair who tries to roll out repeatedly to no avail. Flair eats a shoulder block and Steamboat locks in the front facelock once more, Flair shoves Steamboat back to the corner. Flair does not give a clean break, chop to the chest of Steamboat, make it two as Steamboat grimaces in pain. Steamboat fires back with chops of his own, Flair is whipped by Steamboat, flying headscissors and a side headlock by the champion. Flair kicks out at two, Steamboat keeps Flair grounded with knees to the back of the head. Flair backs Steamboat into the corner, clean break? Of course nor as Flair smashes the ribs of Steamboat. Chop for chop, Steamboat matches Flair, big back body drop by Steamboat. Beautiful dropkick, Flair begs for mercy. Steamboat is pushed back by the referee, Ric Flair is wasting time, asking for forgiveness. Steamboat is lured in by Flair, low kick to the abdomen by Flair, straight right hand. Steamboat rolls up Flair after an Irish whip, clothesline and side headlock on Flair again. Flair barely manages to kick out, Steamboat squeezes the head of Flair who screams out in pain. More and more knees to the head. Steamboat chops Flair repeatedly in the corner, Flair does his classic Flair flop and Steamboat gets a two count. Flair lures Steamboat in, inverted atomic drop. Flair walks into a huge chop from Ricky who is all over Flair in this match. Another shoulder block by Steamboat, Steamboat cannot put away Flair, Flair continues kicking out. Flair powders and rethinks his strategy. Flair is back in the ring and begs Steamboat for mercy, Steamboat says let’s fight. Flair chops Ricky, again and again. Ricky and Flair hammer one another. Steamboat gains the advantage but Flair powers out again. Flair is on the apron, Steamboat suplexes Flair into the ring, Steamboat was thinking splash but Flair pulls his knees up and Steamboat is in trouble. Snapmare by Flair complete with nasty double stomp, double underhook suplex by Flair gets a two for the challenger. Flair repeatedly tries forcing Steamboat’s shoulders to the mat but Steamboat will not admit defeat. Steamboat fights back from the mat onto his feet, Steamboat begins overpowering Flair, more chops, hiptoss by Steamboat but Flair dodges the dropkick. Ric Flair says it is time for the figure four, Steamboat reverses into a small package, a callback to the previous finish of their match. However, this time Flair reverses and Flair gains the first fall!
We reset with Flair circling Steamboat, Steamboat is listening to the crowd while Terry Funk states the importance of Steamboat keeping his cool and not letting the loss go to his head and affect his performance. Steamboat starts with a sense of urgency, huge diving chop from Steamboat. Front facelock by Steamboat, Flair capitalizes on Steamboat’s urgency with a back suplex. Knee drop by Flair, Flair misses the knee drop and Steamboat goes right after the knee of Flair. Sound strategy from Steambaot, one mistake was all it took as Steamboat drops at least 13 elbows squarely on Flair’s knee. Figure four on Flair by Steamboat, would Flair’s pride let him submit to his own move? Flair could pass out from the pain, the longer the hold is on, the more pain is caused to Flair. Flair inches his way to the ropes as Steamboat relinquishes the hold, Flair thought he could kick off Steamboat, it backfires as Flair finds himself locked in The Boston Crab by Steamboat. Flair is hammered by Steamboat, Flair goes low with a shot to the ribs, chops by Flair. Steamboat fires back, side headlock by Flair, headscissors by Steamboat, Flair counters into a pin, Steamboat bridges out and tries for a backslide. Flair kicks out at two, Flair powders and whips Steamboat into the guard rail, scoop slam on the floor by the challenger. Another Irish whip by Flair, Steamboat is down on the floor as the referee is counting out Steamboat. Flair has Steamboat on the apron, Flair scores with the vertical suplex. Steamboat kicks out at two, Flair drags Steamboat to his feet, abdominal stretch by Flair, pin by Flair and it is another two count. Steamboat is hanging on by a thread, you can really feel the desperation as Steamboat barely kicks out every time. Flair uses the ropes for leverage in the pin but Steamboat continues to survive. Nasty right hands by Flair, Steamboat blocks the back suplex, Steamboat tries an O’Connor roll and Flair kicks out at two. Huge chop by Flair after Steamboat lowers the head, Flair climbs to the top rope, bad idea as Steamboat crotches Flair. Superplex by Steamboat, clubs to the back by the champion. Chickenwing by Steamboat, Flair is in trouble and Flair gives up, Steamboat’s work on the back of Flair pays off as Flair had to submit.
The match continues with Flair poking Steamboat in the eyes, chop block by Flair. The two trade more blows in the corner with Steamboat trying to pin Flair, two count. Flair begs for mercy, Steamboat says bring it, Chops by Steamboat. Big back body drop by the champion, more clubs to the back of Flair, Flair fires back with a thunderous chop. Shin breaker by Flair, Flair has the figure four, Steamboat reaches the ropes. Flair will not break the hold so the referee helps break the hold. Flair is frustrated, Steamboat’s left leg is hurting. More chops between the two, Flair turnbuckle flip and a clothesline by Steamboat. Flair says hold on, Steamboat is taken down by Flair, Flair has his feet on the ropes. Giant chop by Flair, Steamboat eats a boot from Flair, double ax handle by Flair to the back. Steamboat misses a dropkick in the corner, Steamboat’s leg is caught in the top turnbuckle. Flair is like a shark that smells blood, Flair goes right after the leg. Figure four by Flair, Steamboat is in the centre of the ring, Steamboat is trying to pry Flair’s grip off of him but Steamboat cannot escape the hold. Steamboat is screaming no, the referee is counting multiple pins as Steamboat’s shoulders hit the mat but Steamboat is getting up at two each time. Steamboat reverses the hold, both men are tangled and Flair works the leg of Steamboat against the ring apron. Steamboat chops flair, Flair turnbuckle flip and this time it is a crossbody by Flair. TWO AND A HALF! That was close, mighty close, shoulder block by Steamboat, the one legged champion is climbing to the top rope, beautiful crossbody but it is two for Steamboat. Steamboat misses an elbow, chops by Flair. Swinging neckbreaker by Steamboat, Flair hurls Steamboat to the floor. Steamboat tries and tries for the sunset flip, Steamboat has Flair for a two. Shoulder block by Steamboat but it’s Flair with the sleeper. Steamboat slams his leg on the mat, asking for support, Steamboat slams Flair into the top turnbuckle. Flair falls to the outside, Steamboat is asking for the support of the crowd, enzuigiri by Steamboat. Steamboat misses a top rope splash, Flair goes back to the leg. Chops by Flair and kicks to the shin of Steamboat. Flair senses it is time for the kill but Steamboat will not quit, more chops. Double chop by Steamboat. Steamboat hammers Flair in the corner, Flair thinks of an inverted atomic drop but Steamboat has it well scouted. Back suplex by Flair who takes down Steamboat, Flair climbs to the top rope. Steamboat punches Flair, Steamboat tosses Flair to the mat, chickenwing by Steamboat but both men collapse to the mat with both men’s shoulders being on the mat. Controversial finish as Flair states that his foot was on the ropes. Terry Funk and JR debate who won the main event as it appears both men’s shoulders were on the mat while it did appear that Flair had his foot on the ropes. That was an awesome match though, the leg work by Flair and the back work by Steamboat was great, the selling by Steamboat was ridiculously good and the finish made sense as Steamboat could not hold up Ric Flair because of his leg buckling from the amount of damage done by Flair. I loved it, I was not bored at any time, I did not feel that anything was wasted and what adds to the match to is the aftermath, JR interviews Ricky Steamboat and Steamboat admits that Ric Flair had a legitimate case and that there should be another match between Steamboat and Flair. I could really talk all day about what I loved about this match but I will let you be the judge, go see it yourself and see what you make of it.
Winner: Ricky Steamboat
Overall, Clash of The Champions was the superior show to Wrestlemania V, Hogan and Savage was a great story coupled with a great match but the rest of Wrestlemania V was hit and miss with most of the Wrestlemania being a miss. In fact, Wrestlemania V was declared the worst wrestling show of 1989 by The Wrestling Observer (And you know Big Dave is never wrong!). Clash had the epic between Flair and Steamboat which blew everything that the WWF did out of the water, a hot opener with The Midnight Express and the likes of Great Muta and Junkyard Dog made the show very entertaining and also enjoyable. Sting and Luger were not even on this show, they appeared in dark matches later in the night but still, this show managed to rock and showed WCW was not going to be pushed around by Vince and the WWF. Well that’s all for me, I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane and I want to know some of your favourite moments from WCW’s Clash of The Champions! I’ll see you next week for another edition!