CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS XVIII
January 21, 1992
When one remembers WCW, they often think of the negative aspects of it. They remember things such as the silly angles, the stupid bookers, and the clowns who got pushed despite having no talent or motivation. However believe it or not, once upon a time, WCW was able to be counted on for good matches and storylines.
The Steiner Brothers . . . prove that being the biggest guy in the match isn’t always a rock-solid advantage.
Cactus Jack . . . takes a handful of dangerous bumps.
Sting and Ricky Steamboat . . . cheat like crazy to win their match.
BIG VAN VADER/Mr. HUGHES vs. RICK STEINER/SCOTT STEINER
What makes this match so cool is the fact that you’d never see anything like this today. Vader and Hughes have the size advantage, and you’d think they’d have the advantage in power, but that’s not quite accurate. Both Rick and Scott show off their own power when they level Vader with a German and Belly to Belly suplex, they also both manage to hit a single Steiner-line on Vader and send him to the mat. So right away it’s established that size isn’t going to be a factor, which shuns one of the oldest rules of pro wrestling.
What winds up putting this into the favor of the Steiners is teamwork. Vader and Hughes may be bigger, but they don’t have the continuity of Rick and Scotty. When Vader heads up top, Scott is right there to shake the ropes and it allows Rick to hit a Belly to Belly off the top. Vader manages to block Scott’s German suplex by grabbing the ropes and Rick is there to hit Vader with a few punches to allow Scott to hit the move. It’s those sorts of things that Vader and Hughes aren’t able to pull off. Indeed the one attempt at a double team by the big guys winds up with Vader leveling Hughes with a big clothesline, Scotty ambushes Vader and sends them both outside so that Rick can finish off Hughes with the bulldog. The two big bad monsters were defeated because not because they were overpowered, but because their opponents were simply a better tag team. Think about that one next time you watch Kane and Big Show defend the World Tag Team Titles in a two minute long squash. ***
BRIAN PILLMAN/MARCUS BAGWELL vs. TERRY TAYLOR/TRACY SMOTHERS
Between “The Red Rooster” and “The Taylor Made Man” it’s amazing that Terry Taylor was able to have a decent career in wrestling. It’s also amazing to see the difference between Bagwell here, and how Bagwell turned out later. This Bagwell is all spunkiness and not much talent, as opposed to the all-attitude and no talent Buff Bagwell that we got later on. Bagwell nearly dumps himself on his head with a pescado, he almost fails to take Taylor over with a back drop, almost loses Smothers with a bodyslam, and his punches look positively lame. Pillman winds up looking the best, bringing a few nice flying spots with him, but it’s nothing that we hadn’t already seen done by him, or see done better by others at that point.
The wild card in the last match was teamwork, but that can’t apply here because neither of these two had teamed up before. Although Bagwell and Pillman do a few synchronized moves to give the idea that they’re a better team. It looks like experience will be the factor at first, with Bagwell’s attempted cheap shot at Taylor on the apron being the catalyst for him getting into trouble, as well as Pillman getting caught in the wrong corner and being worked over, while the young Bagwell tries to help him, but only winds up making things worse. The experience does play into things, but the ultimate factor was cockiness and thinking ahead. When Pillman gets sent the floor, the experienced team figures that the rookie Bagwell is theirs, but he surprises Smothers with a sunset flip, and then Pillman dropkicks Taylor from behind to stop him from saving, and Bagwell is able to score the win. This isn’t anything remarkable, but it’s not bad for being a tag match between four guys who were more or less tossed out there together.
JOHNNY B. BADD vs. RICKY MORTON
WCW was still calling him “Richard Morton” here, but he’s got the leather jacket, and the Rock N’ Roll Express style tights on, so he’s Ricky Morton as far as I’m concerned. This is pretty much over before it begins. Badd punches a lot, and Morton does a few basic spots, and the Badd rolls through a cross body press with a really sloppy looking cover for three. Let’s just move on.
DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE vs. PN NEWS
Even though there is absolutely zero doubt as to what the result is going to be. This isn’t a complete squash. Page does have his bumping boots on for the very beginning, and then uses News’ size against him when News misses an avalanche. Page actually takes News down with a single clothesline, which was a bit odd to see, given the way News just shrugged off Page at first. Page also has very little offense at this point in his career, although his Randy Savage style hotshot was nice. News manages to come back though, and pins Page after a big splash off the top. Page actually did look halfway decent here, although not in a future champion way or anything.
CACTUS JACK vs. VAN HAMMER (Falls Count Anywhere in Kansas)
Even though a match like this was unique for the time period, all it really accomplished was showing off exactly how crazy Cactus Jack really was, with the bumps he takes. Hammer only takes an Irish whip into the guardrail, and some prop shots when they head outside to the rodeo area, including the shovel shot from Abdullah the Butcher that wound up putting him down for the count. Compared with Cactus getting power slammed on the ramp, tossed off the ramp onto the floor, and Cactus’ attempted sunset flip off the second turnbuckle to the floor. Why would you do that Mick? That cannot possibly have any positive effect on you. Hammer also gets in his share of prop shots on Cactus when they head to the rodeo arena. It’s funny to see Cactus take such a beating and then still be able to win, even if it was because of Abdullah. Watching this with hindsight of knowing where each of them wound up makes it all the more fitting. Hammer was a no-talent hack and fell by the wayside, Cactus loved the business, worked hard and became a success.
MICHAEL HAYES/JIMMY GARVIN vs. BRAD ARMSTRONG/BIG JOSH
Hayes and Garvin are the “New Freebirds” but the only thing new about them is their music and their look. They still suck. Hayes manages to screw up an O’Connor roll, and Garvin can’t even take a simple bump into the corner. Neither of them can throw a punch worth anything, and Hayes goes to a headlock at a moment’s notice. They’re not completely useless though, they both do some exaggerated bumping for Josh, and attempt to work a blind tag into the mix, although it doesn’t end up working out for them. Armstrong is far ahead of everyone else here, bringing the good work with him, which makes it suck that much more that he was the one who got stuck doing the job. Brad did sell the double DDT like complete death though, despite taking very little damage in the match. It was a bit similar to the previous tag match, only instead of unfamiliarity being the problem, it was just the Freebirds.
VINNIE VEGAS vs. TOMMY RICH
Another pointless squash with no purpose whatsoever. Nash looks like he should be waiting tables, and he talks like he should be in Brooklyn. On the plus side, Nash didn’t injure himself at all here. Was Snake Eyes really that lethal a finisher, even back in ‘92?
RHODES/WINDHAM/SIMMONS vs. ANDERSON/EATON/ZYBYZSKO
In most cases when someone has an injured body part and it’s heavily taped up it’s obvious to attack it during the match. However, just because it’s the most obvious way to go, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go, as this match does a great job of showing. Sure, Windham has a bad hand, and it’s thanks to Zybyzsko and Anderson, but along with Eaton, they find out early on that it’s only going to make it that much harder on them. Windham is angry and is desperate to get his hands on them and start whooping ass, as a result the early work they do on Windham, including Eaton using his own Superplex against him doesn’t do a thing for them. All it does is make Windham that much more fired up.
One thing that is almost always a given with tag wrestling in the south is the spunky fired up babyface, and that’s exactly what Windham (to an extent) and Rhodes are. Rhodes takes a big chance, with a diving lariat onto the ramp to Eaton, Rhodes is also the least experienced of everyone, and that comes to play when he goes to the well once too often and gets sidestepped. Anderson using the spinebuster as soon as he did seems a bit odd (and JR even mentions how soon it is to go for it) but considering Rhodes had just wiped out on the ramp, it seemed like a good time to try and get the win. Now following that up with the DDT (not to mention the delayed sell of Rhodes getting his knees up on Anderson’s splash to explain why he doesn’t cover right away) is a bit much though. The only thing it really lacked was a few hope spots for Rhodes that get cut off. But that’s due to time restraints rather than due to anything to do with the workers. Windham makes the hot tag, and it breaks down, leading to Windham leveling an airborne Eaton with a big punch for the win. Indeed the guy who most would have expected to be the weak link of the team wound up being the one who scored the win. ***1/4
STING/RICKY STEAMBOAT vs. STEVE AUSTIN/RICK RUDE
Even though this isn’t able to hit the same level as the previous match, its still got its share of fun. Austin and Rude are both all about the fun overselling, especially Austin at this point. Rude’s does the best sell-job of a reverse atomic drop ever. Sting brings some fun selling himself, when he crotches himself on Rude’s knees. None of them really bring much actual wrestling moves, there’s a lot of brawling which suits the heated rivalry aspect of why this match is even happening. Sting and Steamboat do some fun work over Rude’s back, including making both the fans and Ventura go crazy (in different senses) with their illegal switches to work over Rude’s back, but it only amounts to filler. This could have been so much better with a real extended heat segment on either of the faces. The heat segment on Steamboat wasn’t bad, but it was hampered by being so short, as well as a distinct lack of real offense, and a focus from the heels. Austin does use a few backbreakers on Steamboat, but they wind up looking really ugly. The finish alone is enough to make this memorable, with Sting saving Steamboat from another backbreaker by literally jumping in and the babyfaces dog pile Austin for the pin. It’s fun to see the Dangerous Alliance lose because they got out cheated of all things, but this still winds up falling flat compared to what the six-man was able to accomplish with far lesser workers.
Conclusion: While this show does have its share of bad matches, they’re kept pretty short. Everything that gets a decent amount of time is enjoyable on some level, definite recommendation for this show.