NWA Clash of the Champions III - Fall Brawl Review

NWA Clash of the Champions III - Fall Brawl review - Event poster

September 7, 1988
Albany Civic Center, Albany, Georgia

Drawing a crowd of 3,700, NWA Clash of the Champions III was the first show to introduce fans of the National Wrestling Alliance (and, later, World Championship Wrestling) to the name Fall Brawl. 

The company would use the name for its September Clash show all the way up to 1991, with Clash of the Champions XVI: Fall Brawl proving to be the last Clash of the Champions to have a subtitle.

After skipping a year, WCW clearly decided they liked the Fall Brawl name so much that they made it a stand-alone PPV in 1993. 

I don't have any other interesting tidbits to share with you on this one, so let's get right down to the action:


Clash of the Champions III began with a movie-trailer-style voice-over repeating the word Desire as we were told the story of Sting’s desire to hold NWA gold.

So far, that desire has gone unfulfilled.

The Stinger had battled world champion Ric Flair to a draw at the first Clash show. He'd then gone on to team with Dusty Rhodes in an effort to capture the tag team titles at Clash of the Champions II

The duo had technically won that match, but since it was a DQ, their opponents, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard had retained the titles. 

Would the third time be a charm for Sting tonight as he challenged Barry Windham for the US title?

NWA Clash of the Champions III - Ric Flair & Tony Schiavone

We’d find out later, but first, we went live to our hosts, Tony Schiavone and NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nature Boy Ric Flair.

The two ran down tonight’s card and touches briefly on Flair’s upcoming title defense against Lex Luger before sending it down to our play-by-play team, Jim Ross and Bob Caudle.

NWA Clash of the Champions III - Jim Ross & Bob Caudle

Ross and Caudle assured us that as electric as the atmosphere was out on the arena floor, things were even more intense backstage.

Not that we’d get to go there.

Instead, we went right to the ring for our opening contest.

National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship 
NWA World TV Champion Mike Rotunda (w/ Kevin Sullivan) vs. Brad Armstrong 

Was there ever a more underrated talent than Brad Armstrong?

NWA Clash of the Champions 3 Review - Brad Armstrong

Not only was he a tremendous wrestler, but here at Fall Brawl, he was incredibly popular.

From the moment he scored an early near fall to the second the time limit expired, he and Mike Rotunda had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands.

In between those moments, it was Rotunda who remained mostly in control. The champion attempted to wear down his opponent with one headlock after the next.

If that sounds boring, believe me, it wasn’t.

Combining Rotunda’s intensity with Armstrong’s exceptional ability to get the crowd behind him, what we got here was a captivating opening match that kicked off Clash 3 in fine fashion.

NWA Clash of the Champions III Review - Brad Armstrong vs. Mike Rotunda

As the time ran down, a desperate Rotunda tried over and over again to put his adversary away, his every attempt thwarted by an equally desperate kick out from Armstrong that whooped the crowd into a frenzy.

Eventually, the bell rang and the whole thing was over, but man would I have liked to see more of that. 
Time-Limit Draw (Mike Rotunda retains)

Afterward, Armstrong was helped to his feet by Dr. Death Steve Williams

Williams had appeared halfway through the match to deter Kevin Sullivan from interfering on Rotunda’s behalf. 

Ric Flair is Ready for Lex Luger

Back in the upper part of the arena, Tony Schiavone and Ric Flair discussed the previous match before turning their attention to the scheduled Flair/Luger title fight. 

The Nature Boy heaped praise on his challenger, going so far as to claim that The Total Package had the second best skill set in the NWA.

Flair, of course, had the first best, and he made sure to remind Luger of that fact as their hotly anticipated match drew ever closer.

From there, Ross and Caudle took us back to a September '88 TV taping where Kevin Sullivan had attacked Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin outside the ring and injured him by slamming blocks on him.

Fighting outside the ring was a big no-no in the  NWA back in those days, so this was serious stuff.

Not serious enough, apparently, to have any kind of immediate follow-up tonight.

Instead, we went straight from that recap to this:

Nikita Koloff & Dr. Death Steve Williams vs. The Sheepherders (Luke Williams & Butch Miller w/ Rip Morgan)

There was nothing classy or flashy about this one, just four tough dudes having a good ol’ scrap.

NWA Clash of the Champions III - Fall Brawl - The Sheepherders

The lively crowd and the animated play-by-play from the announcers made this otherwise inconsequential match seem bigger and better than it actually was, but that’s not to say it wasn’t good in its own right.

Turning out to be far more entertaining than you might imagine, this wild tag team match ended with a win for the good guys thanks to Nikita Koloff’s Russian Sickle.
Your Winners: Nikita Koloff & Steve Williams 

Up next, this:

Grudge Match
Dusty Rhodes vs. The Games Master Kevin Sullivan (w/ Gary Hart)

I’ve seen very few matches that have made me say “Wait, what?” more than this one.

NWA Clash of the Champions III - Fall Brawl - Kevin Sullivan vs. Dusty Rhodes


“Wait, what? Sullivan was Rotunda’s manager, but he himself was managed by Gary Hart?”

Second, after some enjoyable brawling, Hart got a spike into the ring, only for Dusty Rhodes to get hold of it and clock Sullivan with it right in front of the official.

“Wait, what? This match is No DQ? Shouldn’t that have been made clear to the audience?”

If it wasn’t No DQ, that must mean that referee Johnny Young was clearly out of Fs to give as he stood there and watched Al Perez attack Rhodes with a chain.

He continued to stand there as Perez and Sullivan attacked Dusty inside the ring, so it had to be No DQ, right? 

Either that or everyone was just making the rules up on the fly because the next thing you knew, Dusty Rhodes was rolling up Gary Hart for the three count.

No, that’s not a typo. 

Dusty Rhodes beat Kevin Sullivan in a singles match by pinning Sullivan’s manager Gary Hart.

That would have been a strong match if it wasn’t so laden with rampant WTFerry.
Your Winner: Dusty Rhodes
NWA Clash of the Champions 3 Review - Dusty Rhodes sits in the crowd

Post-match, Dusty took a seat among the fans, who were so delighted that their hero had won that they didn’t even bother to turn to him and ask:

“Wait, what?”

John Ayers: Special Guest Official

From The Taskmaster to The Tache Masters, we returned from a commercial break to find Tony Schiavone and Ric Flair with former NFL player John Ayers.

NWA Clash of the Champions 3 Review - Tony Schiavone & Ric Flair interview John Ayers

Ayers had been given the role of special guest referee for the upcoming Luger/Flair match and was here to talk about it.

The football star appeared to know nothing about wrestling or, apparently, how to give an interview.

At one point, Ayers gave up altogether on trying to make any sense and just started spouting off as many wrestling words as he could remember in a completely random order.

It was hilariously bad. 

I mean so hilariously bad that I watched it three times. 

Fortunately, Flair was there to save the day, cutting off Big John to ask a very good question:

“What qualifies you to referee a world title wrestling match?”

Ayers replied that he knew “something” about wrestling and was going to be impartial. That’s all he had to say.

My goodness, this was car wreck levels of horrible. 

Russian Chain Match
Ivan Koloff (w/  Paul Jones and The Russian Assasin) vs. Ricky Morton

The ring announcer declared this to be a “Russian Chainsaw” match. 

NWA Clash of the Champions III - Fall Brawl review - Ivan Koloff & The Russian Assasin

Fortunately, no power tools were involved here, just a super popular babyface (Ricky Morton) and an intensely reviled heel (Ivan Koloff) dragging one another around the ring to touch all four corners.

The result was a match void of much actual wrestling. Instead of trading holds and counterholds, the two took turns to whack, choke, and generally batter one another with the chain.

The crowd, of course, lapped it all up with glee. Whether he was in charge or on the defensive, Morton’s every step was greeted by a shrieking chorus of schoolgirl screams as if he alone were the second coming of The Beatles.

This was especially true at the end.

Morton had hit the first three corners and just needed a fourth to win. Koloff held on for dear life, his manager Paul Jones trying to save his man by having him grab Jones’ riding crop so that Jones could basically anchor his man in place.

NWA Clash of the Champions III - Fall Brawl - Ricky Morton vs. Ivan Koloff

At first, it seemed the strategy was going to pay off.

Then, Koloff let go, and momentum sent Morton crashing into the fourth corner to win the whole thing.

This was far from the best match on the card, but as with everything we’d seen so far tonight, the unbridled energy from the audience really made it feel that much more special.
Your Winner: Ricky Morton

The post-match shenanigans saw Koloff and Jones get into an argument. Koloff was then attacked by Jones, The Russian Assassin, and a second Russian Assassin, making this the first time we’d seen two Assassins together.

More from John Ayers

Prior to the main event, it was deemed necessary to give John Ayers more mic time. 

NWA Clash of the Champions III - Fall Brawl - Jim Ross interviews John Ayers

Interviewed by Jim Ross, Ayers bombed even harder than he had earlier.

National Wrestling Alliance United States Heavyweight Championship 
NWA US Heavyweight Champion Barry Windham (w/ James J Dillon) vs. Sting

Unsurprisingly, this was a heated main event with solid action from start to finish.

NWA Clash of the Champions 3 - Sting vs. Barry Windham

The two traded holds on the mat, brawled outside the ring, and generally did everything they could to secure victory, yet no matter what they tried, it seemed Sting and Windham were too evenly matched for either man to gain a clear advantage.

The referee took a bump towards the end of the match, giving. JJ Dillon a chance to sneak into the ring with a chair in hand.

His dastardly plan was thwarted by Sting…

Or was it?

With his manager distracting Sting, Windham grabbed the chair and clocked his opponent with it.

A groggy referee made the count, yet before he could seal Sting’s fate, John Ayers got involved.

The San Francisco 49ers star broke up the cover and informed the official of the chair shot.

The referee called for the bell, and that was that.
Your Winner Via DQ: Sting (Barry Windham retains)

Afterward, Sting and Ayers celebrated in the ring while Jim Ross and Bob Caudle signed off.

Finally, Clash of the Champions III ended with a compelling Flair promo in which Nature Boy issued a stark warning to John Ayers and Lex Luger ahead of the upcoming title fight.

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The third NWA Clash of the Champions show was a great watch from start to finish.

Though there may not have been many matches that stood out as all-time greats, almost every bout delivered in its own right. 

Only Dusty’s overbooking in his match with Kevin Sullivan dragging things down a notch or two, but I’m willing to overlook that nonsense to declare this one of the best Clash shows in the event’s nine-plus-year history. 

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