Friday, 17 March 2017

WCW CLASh OF THE CHAMPIONS XXXIII 1996

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW
August 15, 1996,
Denver Colliseum, Denver, Colorado

There once was a time when the unique combination of free-to-air TV and pay per view caliber performance made the NWA/WCW spectacle that was Clash of the Champions a truly unmissable event. 

From the very first Clash back in 1988, the show had delivered some memorable moments, and, even today, remains in the eyes of many a nostalgic fan as one of the company's best ideas, ranking up there with War Games, the introduction of the cruiserweights, and the original New World Order, more of which later.

By the time of tonight's show however, it's fair to say that WCW Clash of the Champions had lost much of its appeal as a genuine special attraction.

One of the true causalities of the Monday Night Wars, in the latter half of the 1990s, Clash shows became lost in a world of monthly pay per views, Nitro broadcasts. and multiple 'B' shows, ultimately becoming just another wrestling show.


Thankfully, nobody told the talent, many of whom went out on this particular event to deliver where it really mattered the most; between the ropes.

Here, we go back to the summer of 1996, to chart Hollywood Hogan's first title since winning the world title a week earlier at Hog Wild, a stormer of a woman's match, and more, all at WCW Clash of the Champions XXXIII.

Stupid Little Man

Our show tonight opened with a brief video package documenting Hollywood Hogan's vicious verbal and physical attacks on both 'The Nature Boy' Ric Flair and 'Macho Man' Randy savage.

When I say verbal attack, boy do I mean it. On the one episode of Nitro between winning the title at Hog Wild and defending it tonight against Flair, Hogan really let Nature Boy have it with both barrels by declaring that from now on, the multi-time world champion would be known as 'Stupid Little Man.'

Talk about brutal right? It's amazing Hogan didn't go on to claim Flair smelled like poop or something.

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Tony Shiavone and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan were our commentators for the show
Anyway, with that over and done with, we were welcomed to the show by our announce team for the evening, that classic, mid-90s WCW duo of Tony Shiavone and the legendary Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan.

Before we got down to any in-ring action, Heenan and Schiavone took the time to shill tonight's main event, reminding us how the emergence of the New World ORder had somehow united World Championship Wrestling, bringing together Sting and Lex Luger with The Horsemen, two sides who had long been bitter rivals.

We'd hear more about that later, but for now, it was time to head ringside for the first of nine matches on the show.

World Championship Wrestling Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Dean Malenko

Eager to reclaim the Cruiserweight championship he lost to Rey Mysterio Jr. on Nitro only a month earlier, 'The Man of 1,000 Holds' Dean Malenko wasted no time in attacking Mysterio, looking to keep his rival grounded and preventing the defending champion from using his high-flying offence. 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Rey Mysterio defended his WCW Cruiserweight Championship against Dean Malenko
Whilst this was no doubt a solid premise on which to build a match, it didn't exactly translate into the kind of adrenaline-charged opening contest you might expect from two undoubtedly talented performers. 

Sure, we were treated to the occasional fast-paced, high-flying spots that were the hallmark of WCW's cruiserweight division, and sure, Malenko's move towards the finish, in which he climbed the top rope, hurled Mysterio off his shoulders and made him land across Malenko's knee was a definite highlight, but in between such moments of brilliance, we were treated to long periods of, well, not very much. 

In his efforts to keep his smaller rival grounded, Malenko spent a lot of time moving from one chin lock to the next, creating some serious lag in an otherwise enjoyable outing.

The end came following the aforementioned top-rope move from Malenko. The challenger made the cover and got the three count, only for referee Randy Anderson to realise that Mysterio's foot had been on the ropes the whole time. Whilst Dean grabbed the cruiserweight title in the mistaken belief that he was the new champion, Anderson restarted the match. This gave Mysterio the opportunity to leap onto Malenko's shoulders from behind, roll him up, and score a quick three count. 
Your winner and Still WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Rey Mysterio Jr.

Following a quick Macho Man Slim Jim Commercial and one of about five thousand promo clips for the still-to-debut Glacier which aired during the summer of 1996, it was back to the ring for a match nobody could have possibly wanted to see. 

V.K Wallstreet vs. 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Hacksaw Jim Duggan battled V.K Wallstreet
Long time Retro Pro Wrestling readers may recall that I've always had something of a soft-spot for Mike Rotunda. Even when he was saddled with the I.R.S gimmick in the early-to-mid 1990s, his performances at WWF pay per views were always an enjoyable part of the show for me

Though he may have been past his prime in 1996, Rotunda was still capable of being entertaining, albeit in a decidedly old-school way that was rapidly falling out of favour with crowds during the Monday Night Wars.

So, when I say that this short match with Hacksaw Jim Duggan was achingly dull, please don't take it that I'm knocking the talents of the erstwhile Captain Mike. 

Nor is it necessarily easy to lay all the blame on Duggan, who was still doing the same gimmick he always did, albeit with added pyro. 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - V.K Wallstreet defeated Hacksaw Jim Duggan
No, the fault for this coming across as such a miserable outing was simply the fact that it was so out of place. In a world of cruiserweights, the renegade nWo faction and hard-hitting action, an old-school heel/face like this, came across as dull, uninspired, and lifeless. It didn't help that the crowd were mostly silent too, even when Hacksaw got his 'USA! USA!' schtick going.

The ending was dumb too. This was a period in which Duggan -who was the babyface here- was winning his matches by pulling a role of tape out of his tights and knocking his opponents out with it. This time however, Hacksaw somehow got himself, and the referee, caught up in the tape, allowing our man Wallstreet to get a quick roll-up for the three count. 

For those keeping score at home, that's two matches in a row ending with a roll-up.
Your Winner: V.K Wallstreet 

Backstage, Mean Gene Okerlund was standing by hoping to get a word with The Nasty Boys. Okerlund asked Jerry Saggs if the altitude and Colorado air had been getting to him as of late, prompting to Saggs to respond that yes, a lot of things had been getting to him lately. 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Nasty Boys issued a challenge for the WCW tag titles
He continued by once again refuting any claims that the Nasty Boys were affiliated with the New World Order (something they had been doing for weeks on Nitro), and insisting that he and Brian Knobs were looking forward to beating up whichever team came out on top in tonight's triangle tag match.

For his part, Knobs ranted and raved about how much The Nasty Boys wanted to become tag team champions again, and backed up his partner's clams that the duo were going to "smash some heads" whenever they got the opportunity.

After a commercial break, we once again returned to Mean Gene, who claimed that he and Mike Tenay had been trying to conduct a backstage interview (he never said who with) when those dastardly Outsiders turned up and ruined it. 

Fortunately, anyone feeling devastated at missing out on comments from the unnamed WCW star needn't have worried. Okerlund and Tenay had managed to record the interview after all, and all you had to do was pay money to access the WCW Hotline to hear it. 

Clever.

Ultimo Dragon (w/ Sonny Onoo) vs. Konan

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Konan beat Ultimo Dragon
After dropping the United States Championship to Ric Flair back at Bash at the Beach 1996, Konan was here in a transitional phase between the Mexican Superstar babyface gimmick he portrayed in his early WCW face-run, and a fully-fledged heel run, complete with baggy pant, sweat-tops and new catchphrases.

To show-off his new-found aggressive side, the AAA star made light work of Ultimo Dragon in a fun, albeit incredibly brief, match. 

Honestly, I would have liked to have seen this go on longer, and really feel both men could have turned out a good match given the chance.

Still, it was what it was, and resulted in a quick win for the future LAX leader.
Your Winner: Konan 

If you'd just tuned into this show on the WWE Network and had no idea what time period it was from, our next segment would surely reveal all. 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Ice Train got beat up by Scott Norton
Backstage, my boy Ice Train was chatting to fans online not via Facebook, not via Myspace, MSN Messenger, or even AOL, but by Compuserve. Sadly for 'Train (and probably the handful of his die-hard fans), his online chat was disrupted by former partner and now bitter rival, Scott 'Flash' Norton. 

Norton -who had already beaten up Ice Train so badly a few nights ago that the man had have his chest bandaged up to use a computer- stormed into the Compuserve area, clotheslined 'Train from his chair, stomped on him, and walked away. 

Clearly, this was one feud that was only set to get hotter.

Meng (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Macho Man Randy Savage

Anyone who had paid money to see Randy Savage wrestle (even against Meng) would have been sorely dissapointed. 

After the former King Haku made his way to the ring, Savage's famous theme music played, and played...and played, all with no sign of the Macho Man. 

The crowds cheered, applauded, looked on eagerly at the entrance way. Still, there was no Savage to be seen. 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Meng bt. Macho Man by forfeit when Savage no-showed
Eventually, somebody did appear, but it wasn't Savage. Instead, it was our old friend Mean Gene, who arrived to tell referee Nick Patrick that Savage wouldn't be there because he hadn't been cleared to compete after getting attacked a few days earlier at Nitro.

Look, I know rumours ran rampant during the 1990s about WCW's poor backstage management in real life, but surely nobody at the company seriously thought it was a good idea to reflect that on telivision? 

Were we really supposed to believe that those running the show had gone all the way to Randy Savage's scheduled opponent was out in the ring before they realised that Savage was unable to compete?

Credit where it's due though, the site of Jimmy Hart dancing around the ring, celebrating the victory as though Meng had really defeated Savage in a hard-fought battle was pretty funny, and actually worth sitting through the dumb explanation for.
Your Winner Via Forfeit: Meng 

Returning from the break, Meng and Hart had been joined in the ring by Dungeon of Doom team mates Kevin Sullivan, Hugh Morrus and The Barbarian for an interview with Mean Gene. 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Dungeon of Doom promo
Dungeon leader Sullivan began by saying that he didn't like Randy Savage in the first place, and boasting that at least when The Taskmaster hit people with a chair, he didn't sneak up from behind, unlike that no good Hogan. 

This played well into Sullivan's lengthy rival with Hulk, as he was able to boast that he had known all along what a villain Hollywood really was. Next, he turned his attentions back to Okerlund, questioning how the man with the mic felt now after 'leading the parade' when Hogan had first joined WCW two years earlier. 

"Well, Hulk Hogan was a great man, but lately something seems to have snapped in that man, and I think it's because of The Outsiders," offered Okerlund in response. 

Jimmy Hart chipped in then, claiming that Dungeon of Doom were the strongest force in WCW, a force even more powerful than the New World Order. 

Finally, Sullivan issued stern words to Chris Benoit to further that rivalry, and that was the end of that interview.

Bull Nakano (w/ Sonny Onoo) vs. Madusa

Squaring off in a return match from their Battle of the Bikes encounter at Hog Wild, both Madusa and Bull Nakano made the best of what limited time they had to put on a short but enjoyable match. 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Madusa bt. Bull NakanoPlaying the dastardly foreign heel to perfection, Nakano used her brute strength to counter Madusa's quickness. When that didn't pay off, it was time for manager Sonny Onoo to get involved, distracted the referee so that Nakano could grab her trusty nun-chucks and ram them straight into Madusa's gut.

Sadly for Bull, such cheating was to be her downfall as Onoo attempted to drill Madusa with a swift karate kick, only to miss and get Nakano instead. 

One three count later, and this one was over. 
Your Winner: Madusa

Backstage, Mean Gene interviewed number one contender to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship: The Nature Boy Ric Flair. 

Flair, flanked as always by Four Horsemen beauties Woman and Miss Elizabeth, dismissed Okerlund's claims that they were "all in this together" against the New World Order, instead insisting that it was just him, his girls, and his fellow Horsemen.

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Ric Flair had choice words for Hulk Hogan
Turning his attentions to tonight, Flair also dismissed Hogan's recent change of gimmick, claiming that whilst the champion could change his look and his name all he wanted, at the end of the day, this was still Flair/Hogan for the title, and when that happened, it was only a matter of time before The Nature Boy came out on top. 

And what if Scott Hall or Kevin Nash opted to get involved in tonight's title match? According to Flair, that wasn't going to be a problem either, since both Steve 'Mongo' McMichael and 'The Enforcer' Arn Anderson were on hand to watch The Nature Boy's back.

World Championship Wrestling Battle Bowl Championship
WCW Battle Bowl Champion Diamond Dallas Page vs. Eddie Guerrero 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - DDP lost his Battle Bowl championship to Eddie Guerrero

The concept was simple, a 'Lethal Lottery' was held, in which tag teams were drawn 'at random,' usually resulting in sworn rivals teaming together, and regular tag team partners finding themselves squaring off. 

These ad-hoc teams would compete in straigh tag matches, the winners of which would all go into an every-man-for-himself battle royal at the end of the show. 

After the '93 event, the concept wasn't seen again until WCW Slamboree 1996, when Diamond Dallas Page won the 'Battle Bowl Championship,' earning himself a shot at the WCW World Championship. 




Admittedly, I haven't seen any WCW shows from around that period, though according to reports, DDP was then stripped of his title shot on the following Nitro after it was found shenanigan came into play when he eliminated The Barbarian.

Despite losing the title shot, Page was apparently allowed to keep the championship (a ring akin to the traditional Superbowl ring), which he put on the line tonight against Eddie Guerrero.
Despite the lack of any real crowd reaction (a problem which pretty much plagued this entire show), Page vs. Guerrero was enjoyable, and came to an end when the latter hit his patented frog splash for the pin fall. 
Your Winner and NEW WCW Battle Bowl Champion: Eddie Guerrero 

Not that things between these two was likely to end there. Kicking off a feud with both Eddie and his nephew Chavo, Page feigned shaking hands with the new Battle Bowl champion, only to drag him into a Diamond Cutter and choke him out before hitting a second 'Cutter.
It was at this point that Chavo ran out to make the save, only to be given a dismissive shove from Dallas, who then nailed Eddie with a third Diamond Cutter from the top rope before leaving the ring. 

For those wondering, I'm not sure that Eddie -nor anyone else for that matter- would ever defend the Battle Bowl Championship ever again. 

Hogan Roughs Up Mean Gene 

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Hulk Hogan was angry at Mean Gene and Ric Flair
As Chavo was busy tending to Uncle Eddie in the ring, Hulk Hogan came out, dragging Mean Gene along with him. Irate about Okerlund's earlier comments in the aforementioned Dungeon of Doom interview, Hogan demanded that Mean Gene explain himself. 

Okerlund did so, though only by declaring his right to freedom of speech and insisting that, after Hogan's treacherous betrayal of his friends, his fans, and WCW as a whole, he (Okerlund) was well within his rights to call the champion a no-good you-know-what.

Hogan warned his former buddy to watch his mouth before turning his attentions to his opponent for tonight, The Nature Boy Ric Flair.

Dismissing Flair's 13 world title reigns, Hogan boasted that he -and only he- would be remembered as the Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and erm, Hulk Hogan of pro wrestling, and that Flair was simply a 'Stupid Little Man who couldn't get the job done.'



After another commercial break, we got our second lengthy 'Glacier is Coming soon' vignette of the show, before Tony and Bobby took time to shill WCW Pro. With that out of the way, it was finally on to our next match.


WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - The Giant squashed Chris Benoit in 25 seconds

Chris Benoit (w/ Woman & Miss Elizabeth) vs. The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Clearly in a foul mood after dropping the WCW title to Hogan just a few nights ago, The Giant wasted absolutely no time in taking out his frustrations on Benoit. 

A dropkick in the corner followed by his famous Chokeslam was all it took to put away the Horseman in less than 25 seconds.
Your Winner: The Giant 

More commercials followed next, first for the WCW PowerPlant, then for Hog Wild merchandise, and finally for Slim Jims, after which it was back to the ring for our big three-way tag team bout.

World Championship Wrestling Tag Team Championship Triangle Match
WCW Tag Team Champions Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray w/ Col. Parker and Sister Sherri) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner) vs. Sting & Lex Luger

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Sting & Lex Luger challenged Harlem Heat and The Steiners for the tag titles
The rules here were that any wrestler could tag in any other, regardless as to whether or not they were on the same official team. 

If one man gained a pinfall or submission however, he and his actual, designated partner would be the WCW tag team champions. 

Rules aside, what was perhaps the most notable aspect of this particular bout was that it was the first one on the show for which the crowd truly came alive, loudly rooting for firm favourites Sting, Lex Luger, Rick and Scott Steiner with every move they made. 

The reception from the Colorado faithful actually played a big part in turning what was a fairly average match into something that was actually rather fun to watch. 

The controversial ending came as Rick Steiner, Stevie Ray, Lex Luger and Sting all brawled outside the ring, prompting Scott Hall & Kevin Nash to run out and attack them. As this was happening, Scotty Steiner planted Booker T with a Frankensteiner inside the ring, and would have scored a victory were it not for dastardly referee Nick Patrick.

Clearly in the New World Order's back pocket, Patrick refused to make the three count, instead turning to the outside and calling for the bell due to interference. 
NO CONTEST

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Scott Steiner was angry at Nick Patrick after his match
Showing shades of his future insanity, a livid Scott Steiner yelled at Patrick literally, clearly, and loudly calling bullshit several times. 

Just when Patrick thought he could escape however, Mean Gene was waiting for him in the ilse. 

The two had been developing something of a rivalry as of late, with Okerlund constantly calling out Patrick for his dodgy decisions.

This time however, Patrick did at least have a somewhat valid point; The Outsiders had interfered in the match, and in normal tag match, that would be grounds for disqualification. 

Clearly however, this was just another case of Patrick working for the nWo, and Okerlund was going to make sure the referee knew that he, and the WCW fans, were onto him. 

World Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship
WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs.  WCW United States Champion The Nature Boy Ric Flair (w/ Woman & Miss Elizabeth)

WCW Clash of the Champions 33 1996 REVIEW - Ric Flair challenged Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship
Remember earlier when I said that there was little room for the kind of old-school approach adopted by V.K Wallstreet and Jim Duggan?

Perhaps those two could have paid attention to veterans Hogan and Flair who managed to make their old-school style work in front of a modern audience.

Sure, there were no reversals of reversals, no false finishes and dramatic near-falls involved, but what there was, was a hot crowd who were eager to see two legends of the game go at it for the title belt.

For this writer, that all made for an entertaining bout, right the way up to the point where Hogan confusingly began to 'Hulk Up' as though he were still a babyface.

Not that it did him much good.

Flair regained the upper-hand, and even slapped on the Figure Four, yet just when it looked as though he might have another title reign in sight, Hogan grabbed the referee and hurled him across the ring, causing the disqualification which would allow him to hang onto his belt.
Your Winner by disqualification: Ric Flair (Hulk Hogan retains the title)

Post match, The Outsiders ran in for a beatdown, only to be chased off by the remaining Four Horsemen, alongside Lex Luger and Sting, laying the foundations for September's War Games main event at Fall Brawl.

Whilst Clash of the Champions may have lost its spark as a special attraction, it still nonetheless held its own as a decent pro wrestling show. Wallstreet/Duggan and the brief Giant/Benoit squash aside, the matches were at least fairly entertaining, if hardly memorable. 

This may not be a must-see show by anyone's standards, but in terms of setting up Fall Brawl and continuing to build on the nWo's dominant reign over WCW, it did it's job well. 

I'll get onto that Fall Brawl review, and some other stuff, in the next couple of weeks, but until then, thanks for reading, and be sure to come join me on Twitter @Retropwrestling.

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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.