Sunday, 17 April 2016

EVENT REVIEW: NWA Clash of the Champions 1

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988
March 27th, 1988
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina

By now, there shouldn't be too many long-term wrestling fans who don't know the story of how the NWA/WCW Clash of the Champions TV specials came into existence. In the days before the Monday Night War, the precursor to WCW as we remember it today were locked in a strategic battle with Vince McMahon's burgeoning World Wrestling Federation, with both companies using the PPV market as their battlefield. 

WCW presented Starcade and Bunkhouse Stampede, McMahon countered with Survivor Series and the first Royal Rumble. Having taken just about as much as they could from Titanland, Jim Crockett promotions looked to fight back by pitting a new, PPV caliber TV event, Clash of the Champions against McMahon's flagship event, Wrestlemania.

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Live at the Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
The results didn't work out in Crockett's favour, with 'Mania trouncing Clash every which way. Yet despite the poor return on investment, the show was a hit with fans, and would continue to run all the way up until 1997, the height of the war between the two companies.

When I was last posting regularly on this site (and I know it's been a while, I'm sorry), I was mainly covering WWE events from the mid-1990s, though I decided to change that around just recently. I cancelled my WWE Network subscription after Wrestlemania 32, and decided that for the proverbial shizzles and giggles, I'd watch -and review- some content that I won't be able to get my hands on elsewhere.

With that in mind then, let's turn on the Network and review the first ever NWA Clash of the Champions.

Is Sting finally ready to knock Ric Flair off his throne and become NWA Champion? With Dusty Rhodes by their side, will the Road Warriors take revenge on the men who brutalized them, Ivan Koloff and the Powers of Pain. Are wrestling's new breed of young gladiators equipped with what it takes to be victorious on a day where anything goes? There are so many questions, and the time has finally come to find out the answers. Now, TBS Superstation presents...Clash of the Champions
NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Tony Schiavone & Jim Ross
After that dramatic introduction, complete with footage of the stars in question, generic 80s Movie style music played over pictures of the NWA championship belts before Tony Schiavone (complete with terrible 80s mustache) and Bob Caudle welcomed us to the show, running down tonight's big matches.

It was a simple, no-frills introduction that worked well in setting the tone for tonight's show, and ultimately took us to a youthful Jim Ross standing at ringside.

Ross put over our next match, and with that, it was up to the ring.

NWA Television Championship

NWA Television Champion Mike Rotundo (w/ Games Master Kevin Sullivan) vs. Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin (w/ Precious)
NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin (w/ Precious) prepares to challenge Mike Rotundo for the TV title
"Just like in amateur rules, a one count will count as a fall, and there will be three, five minute rounds" decreed the ring announcer before the future IRS and the future Freebird locked up in a textbook opening contest.

With the Greensboro crowd popping huge for moves most modern fans wouldn't bat an eyelid over (hiptoss, bodyslam, hiptoss, work the crowd) both men went to-and-fro in a match which -though short- was as good as any card-starter you could hope for.

After trading the advantage in the first round, things became much more heated in the second round, with the respective managers getting involved. This was enough to distract referee Teddy Long (who I'm sure was itching to book a tag team match there on the spot) and for Rotunda to grab the quick one fall and retain his title.
Your Winner and Still NWA Television Champion: Mike Rotundo.

Post match, more shenanigans ensued, with Rick Steiner entering the fray, only to be drilled across the spine with a 2x4 courtesy of Precious, who then went further in her efforts to save Garvin from a Varsity Club beatdown by choking out Sullivan with -of all things- a coat hanger.

Dr. Death Steve Williams Promo
NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: "Dr. Death" Steve Williams cut a promo challenging Flair for a title shot
Though I'm sure he no doubt had plenty of fans, I never really saw the appeal of the late Steve Williams. Whilst I'm willing to accept that's probably because I've never actually seen most of his best work, his wooden promo here certainly did little to endear me to JR's favourite.

Asked by interviewer Bob Caudle about the recent events surrounding Dusty Rhodes, Willliams ranted on for at least a minute, mentioning Dusty by name at least every few seconds and sounding for all the world like he hadn't got a clue what Rhodes had been upto without actually admitting as such.

After that, I admittedly switched off, only barely paying attention when Williams said "one more thing...and another thing," and claimed to be ready for an NWA title shot against Ric Flair.

NWA United States Tag Team Championship Match

NWA United States Tag Team Champions The Midnight Express ('Beautiful' Bobby Eaton & Sweet Stan Lane w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers)
NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Fantastics for the NWA US Tag Team Titles
Introduced by their manager, a slim, young-looking Jim Cornette, Beautiful Bobby and Sweet Stan wasted no time in going after their Fantastic Opponents in a wild match where chairs were used liberally in the early moments like something out of ECW's heydey.

The pace of this one was pretty relentless. A fast, furious stormer of a match, with the heels doing everything to batter down their opponents (including slamming them onto folded-up tables at ringside ECDUB! ECDUB!) and keep the crowds up on their feet, cheering and roaring for Fulton and Rogers to fight back.

After one of the best tag team matches this writer can remember seeing for a long time, The Fantastics looked to do just that after Rogers leapt off the top rope onto Eaton and pinned him for the three count. The babyface celebration was shortlived however, as Fulton had -for whatever mad reason- tossed the referee out of the ring (a second ref appeared from nowhere to make the three count). The ref then returned, reversed the decision, and allowed the champs to retain their gold by DQ.
Your Winners via Disqualification and Still NWA United States Tag Team Champions: The Midnight Express.


NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Jim Cornette with Ken Osmond from Leave it to Beaver
Man, that was fun. It wasn't over yet though, as Sweet Stan, Beautifully Bobby and even Jim Cornette ganged up on the Fantastics, the latter lashing one of the Fantastics with his belt as the former two held him over the ropes. This. Is. Hardcore.

After a quick advertisement for NWA Main Event, Bob Caudle showed us the barbed wire being wrapped around the ropes ready for our next match before taking us to a pre-taped segment with Ken Osmond from Leave it to Beaver and Jim Cornette.

Though I'm sure it made more sense at the time (and I'm aware that Cornette's gimmick was that he was a spoiled rich kid using mama's money to play wrestling manager), this was just a bizarre segment in which the two talked more about Cornette's mum and her mansion than they did The Midnight Express.

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Al Perez and his manager, Gary Hart, cut a promo on the show
Moving back to Caudle next, who was standing by with Al Perez and his manager Gary Hart. The interview mainly involved Perez looking confused whilst Hart hyped his charge's US title shot against reigning champion, Dusty Rhodes. Perez finally spoke up, insisting that the only way Rhodes could beat him would be to strike him with a baseball bat.

"Let's just hope they legalise baseball bats, Dusty Rhodes...." said Hart finally, before adding he indeed, invented the Dirty Deeds. Somewhere, a young Dean Ambrose was probably taking note.

Jim Crockett Snr. Memorial cup 

Up next, Frances Crockett announced the top ten seeds for the upcoming Jim Crockett Snr. Memorial Cup, all whilst looking as though it was the last place in the world she wanted to be.

Chicago Street Fight: Six Man Barbed Wire Match

NWA United States Champion Dusty Rhodes and The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal, w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Ivan Koloff and The Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian, w/ Paul Jones)
Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors, among the very greatest of all time. There was no possible way this could be bad, right?

Wrong?

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Dusty Rhodes & The Road Warriors lost a barbed wire match to Ivan Koloff and The Powers of Pain
OK, maybe bad's the wrong word here. Let's try boring. Uninteresting. Not worth watching. Yeah, that's more like it.

Indeed, I think the most interesting thing about this match was that Animal was wearing a hockey mask to sell the very face injury that had led us to this match, and that Dusty was wearing L-O-D style facepaint.

Beyond that, this was just several minutes of guys standing by the ropes rubbing each other with barbed wire and occasionally punching each other. Somewhere amidst the melee, you're likely to have seen Hawk busting out his trademark press slam/fist drop spot, and Barbarian accidentally nailing Warlord with a headbutt to give the win to the good guys, but that's only if you were still paying attention at that point.
Your Winners: Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors

Post match, the heels pretty much no-sold the loss, getting back up, ripping Animal's mask off and attacking him until his partner's made the save.

Nikita Koloff Reveals his New Look 

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Nikita Koloff revealed a new look at the show
After Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross stood around at ring side hyping the new NWA Main Event show, it was back to our man Bob Caudle for an interview with Nikita Koloff. Wearing a white suit, white shirt, and white tie, this was apparently Koloff's 'new look.' Since I was four at the time, and this is about the furthest I've ever gone back in watching NWA/WCW footage, I have no idea what his old look was, but hey, more power to the man. 

Looking sharp in his new suit, Koloff claimed that he'd spent the last two months talking to young people about taking care of their health, cleverly transitioning this into talking about how the heels of the company had tried to take his health, making him a fighter.

I'll be honest, the thick, faux-Russian accent made it hard to understand every word of Kolloff's promo, but the points were delivered well enough, and despite not being particuarly memorable,t his was so far the best promo on the show.


NWA World Tag Team Championship Match

NWA Tag Team Champions 'The Enforcer' Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard (w/ JJ. Dillon) vs. Barry Whindham & Lex Luger 

So much of me wants to refer to the champs here as The Brainbusters, but I'll refrain, and instead tell you what an enjoyable bout this was.

Following the same non-stop pace of the first two matches, this was another textbook, old-school match with barely a dull moment in sight. All four men worked hard, the big, brawny challengers putting their size and strength up against the smaller champions speed and dastardly heel tactics, the very same tactics which ultiamtely cost them the match.

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Barry Windham & Lex Luger beat Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard for the NWA World Tag Team TitlesAfter a good match, JJ Dillon jumped up onto the apron with a chair, only for Lex Luger to throw Arn Anderson head-first into it. One pinfal later, and The Total Package leapt into the air, celebrating his and Windham's victory.

Your Winners and NEW NWA World Tag Team Champions: Lex Luger & Barry Whindham

Prior to our main event, we were introduced to the match judges; Gary Juster from the National Wrestling Alliance, former wrestler Sandy Scott, Penthouse Playmate Patty Mullen, Jim Cornette's buddy Ken Osmond, and 'The Wonder Years' Jason Harvey, all of whom randomly stood around at ringside looking like they couldn't find their seats. 

NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match

NWA World Heavyweight Champion 'The Nature Boy' Ric Flair vs. Sting (w/ JJ. Dillon)

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Ric Flair kept his NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a 45 minute draw with StingWith JJ suspended in a cage at ringside, WCW's two biggest stars went at it in an gripping main event that proved why both men still enjoy the kind of acclaim they do today.

Challenger Sting fought desperately to claim the title, using everything in his arsenal to take it to the champion. Flair meanwhile, played the cowardly heel to perfection, backing into the corner whenever Sting went on the rampage, begging for mercy and taking cheapshots whenever possible.

Though it may not have been the best match the two would ever have (that's certainly not for me to say), this one was certainly a riot from start to finish.

Speaking of the finish, both men went the full forty-five minutes, leaving the decision up to the judges. The fact that three celebrities held the fate of the most prestigious wrestling title in the world at that time in their hands kind of spoiled things a little bit for this fan, but only a little bit, and I'll admit I'm nitpicking here.

In the end, the match was -somewhat predictably- declared a draw.
Match Result - Draw: Ric Flair retains the NWA Championship


NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Sting holds Ric Flair in the Scorpion Death Lock in the closing moments of their World Title Match
And that was all she wrote folks. Though not the greatest event ever recorded in the history of televised professional wrestling, this was nonetheless a very good card, with the only low-point being the dull barbed wire match and a couple of wooden promos. In fact, I enjoyed the whole thing so much, that I'm seriously reconsidering cancelling my WWE Network subscription.

Writing this has been just the thing I needed to rediscover my passion for pro wrestling, and this blog, a passion which has been slowly battered away by a current WWE product that I can sadly no longer relate to.

'Til next time,

Thanks for reading.


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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.