CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS XIX
June 16, 1992
Ah yes, the days when WCW respected tradition. Bill Watts and his rules were in full effect at this time. But out of respect for tradition, all the matches in the NWA Tag Title tournament are being held under the rules of the NWA.
Steve Williams and Terry Gordy . . . eliminate a Puerto Rican team in a manner that JBL of the U.S. border patrol would approve of.
Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin . . . should never consider attempting to work down in Mexico
Headhunter #1 and Headhunter #2 . . . will hopefully choose less similar looking ring gear for their next match together.
DEAN MALENKO/JOE MALENKO vs. RICKY STEAMBOAT/NIKITA KOLOFF
There is no question (in my mind anyhow) that respect for tradition in wrestling goes a long way, and is something that is sorely lacking in today’s product, but as this match shows, it sometimes can become problematic. The oldest tradition in wrestling is simple. Size matters and it comes before actual talent. Whereas the opening match at the previous Clash had shied away from that, and a more fun match was the result, this match doesn’t follow suit and a potentially fun match is simply a decent enough opener.
The Malenko Bros have the obvious advantage in teamwork as well as on the mat, but it’s not exploited to its fullest effect. Everyone knows how great Ricky Steamboat is, he’d won the NWA World Title only three years previously. Instead of tailoring the match around the talents of everyone, it’s centered around the weakest link in the match, Koloff. Koloff is the biggest guy in the match, but if talent were size, he’d make a Mexican Mini look like Big Show. So instead of using the Malenko’s teamwork and mat advantage to wear down Koloff, and having Steamboat using his own proficiency as the difference maker. It’s Steamboat who gets himself in trouble, and gets tied up on the mat, or the victim of double teams behind the ref’s back, while the big guy Koloff can toss the Malenkos around and no-sell them left and right. Koloff’s lack of talent is shown just in the vast array of moves he’s got at his disposal. The bear hug, the clubbing forearms, and of course the Russian Sickle to finish off Dean. It’s fun enough when Steamboat is getting worked over, but it fails to matter at all, because Koloff was the biggest guy, therefore he wins the match for his team, regardless of anything else.
RICK RUDE/STEVE AUSTIN vs. Z-MAN/MARCUS BAGWELL
On their way to the ring, Rude clearly sneaks a quick look at Madusa’s ass, before realizing he’s on camera and looks away. The match itself is fun enough for what it is, which is mostly a squash. Rude is the only one that really stands out amongst the four of them. He’s established as the heavy hitter, and he brings a couple of decent moves with him, his piledriver on Zenk especially looked good. Rude and Austin sneak in a double team behind the ref’s back, and then Austin sneaks in more cheap shots as well. It’s nothing special, but it does its job of getting the fans going. When things start looking bad for the heels, Madusa hops up to turn the tide. Bagwell doesn’t really *sell* so much as he takes his beating, he also has no offense either and Rude finally sidesteps what seems like his millionth dropkick and levels him with the Rude Awakening for the win.
Doc and Gordy cut a quick promo about wanting to face the Steiners and having to beat the Australian team and then wait for the Steiners to beat the Puerto Rican team.
STEVE WILLIAMS/TERRY GORDY vs. LARRY O’DAY/JEFF O’DAY
So you’ve got the obvious tough-guy team in the whole tournament taking on a guy in his fifties and his twenty-one-year-old kid. I give Larry (the old guy) some credit for attempting to double lariat Doc and Gordy when they did their double football tackle. You can’t say he didn’t put up a fight. The backdrop he gets leveled with by Doc was really nasty (although Kobashi would top that the next year), and the Oklahoma Stampede is just the icing on the cake.
BARRY WINDHAM/DUSTIN RHODES vs. ARN ANDERSON/BOBBY EATON
Now this is the stuff that good tag team wrestling is made of. In keeping up with the tradition theme of the night, it’s worked in your typical southern tag format, at first. Windham and Rhodes are damn near unstoppable in the early going, and Anderson and Eaton bump all over the place for them. The heels get a quick advantage with some cheating, and momentarily get control of Windham, but he’s a veteran himself and quickly manages to get out of trouble. When Rhodes gets in he looks in good shape, avoiding Anderson’s DDT, but Eaton levels him with a cheap shot and gives the heels the advantage, and this time they’re able to keep the pressure on. Eaton has a chance to end things early with the Alabama Jam, but opts for a knee drop in favor of increasing the punishment. Eaton also mocks Rhodes’ bulldog, and when he gets pushed off for trying a second one, Anderson makes sure to distract the ref so he misses Rhodes’ tag to Windham.
What eventually happens though is a quick twist from the usual formula of the tag match. Windham’s hot tag never comes. Instead Windham brawls on the floor with Eaton, allowing Anderson to sneak in the spine buster but Anderson has to roll outside to free up Eaton for the pin and in the time it takes, Dustin recovers enough to get a shoulder up. Eaton misses the Alabama Jam and Rhodes hits the bulldog (complete with a headfirst bump from Eaton) for the win. All the fun elements of a good southern tag, and none of the usual disorganization that comes after the hot tag, and a clean finish to boot. ***1/4
SILVER KING/EL TEXANO vs. MICHAEL HAYES/JIMMY GARVIN
I can only think of two reasons why this match turned out the way it did. Either nobody told the Mexicans that they were coming in just to put over the Freebirds. Or they’d seen some of the matches involving their opponents, knew how horrible they were, and decided to put on a show anyway. This is enjoyable for the same reasons Minoru Suzuki matches are enjoyable. Because regardless of what’s going on, or what the outcome is going to be Suzuki finds a way to make things fun, and so do Los Cowboys in this match. The Mexicans bringing all sorts of cool offense to the match, while the Freebirds (the U.S. Tag Champion at the time) have nothing good at all to add. Hayes gets completely lost and just start no-selling the stuff they do. The only thing that looked to be missing was a whacked out looking Lucha submission, there is a nice dive to set up the finish, although it’d be topped in the next match. The finish itself, with Hayes simply rolling up King for the pin is totally out of left field and looks even worse when you hear the whole crowd yelling for then DDT.
BRIAN PILLMAN/JYUSHIN “THUNDER” LYGER vs. CHRIS BENOIT/BEEF WELLINGTON
The fun just keeps on coming! If Benoit had another partner, this would have been even better. I can’t really say that Wellington is “bad” per say because I’ve not seen any of his other work, but more often than not he looked uncomfortable in there, and dragged the match down a few pegs. It’s okay though because the other three are totally on. All four of them at one point take falls outside the ring and Jesse and Ross hammer home that there aren’t any pads on the floor, and thus they are landing on concrete. Lyger gives the U.S. its first look at an Asai Moonsault, and Pillman and Benoit chop the living hell out of each other in a manner not seen since the days of Flair vs. Ronnie Garvin. Since the match is NWA rules and coming off the top is allowed, they make sure to take advantage of that as well.
There isn’t a whole lot as far as story goes, the match is more about giving the fans a match style that they’d never really seen before. But the work mostly looks good, and they do a nice job of having a back-and-forth match and keeping both teams essentially looking equal. Again, Wellington is a bit of a drain on the match at times. He does add a nice cheap shot from the apron, and his counter to Lyger’s crucifix. But there are much more common instances of Pillman and Lyger having trouble executing even simple moves on him, as well as his freezing up when Pillman and Benoit go to the floor and it more or less kills the ending as a result. Lyger doesn’t use the same sort of offense he’d use later, but he still manages to show off how awesome he is. Give Benoit a partner who can work better with the other team and it’s probably the match of the night, as it is, it’s simply really fun stuff, and leaves us wanting more. ***
HIROSHI HASE/AKIRA NOGAMI vs. HEADHUNTER #1/HEADHUNTER #2
The Headhunters are just a masked jobber team, not the semi-famous team of the same name. He’s going by his full name, but Nogami is in full AKIRA mode here, meaning all flash and little substance. The little bit of Hase that gets shown is quite good, but this is just a quick squash to give the NJPW team a spot on the PPV. The fans don’t really respond that well, and it’s pretty much over before it starts. The dual suplex finish was cool, although the ref was way out of position to actually make the three count.
TERRY GORDY/STEVE WILLIAMS vs. RICK STEINER/SCOTT STEINER (Quarter Finals)
This is more or less split up into two separate halves. The first half is all about working on the mat, with a bunch of amateur-style work. It’s fun as a change of the pace, but considering the rivalry existing between the teams, it takes away from it to an extent. They’re not rivals in the sense of Lyger and Pillman, where it’s based on respect and whatnot. It’s a personal sort of rivalry and by keeping things (mostly) clean, it almost takes away from it in a sense. It’s not totally all business, as there are some fists flying as well as Rick hitting a big suplex on Doc, which he has a great reaction to. Gordy isn’t really a factor either, because he’s not skilled enough to keep up with either Rick or Scott, so he stuck to playing a heel rather than trying to actually “wrestle” the way his partner did.
The second half is more traditional pro wrestling style, with the fists flying, the big lariat by Williams, and the work on Scott’s knee. The segment on Scott’s knee isn’t too terribly long, and until it’s clipped on the floor by Doc, it’s not even really in the forefront of things. Gordy does some nice pro style mat stuff to work it over. It’s nothing major but it gets the point across, that Scott is human after all. The missed hot tag to Rick is one of the best, and important moments of the match, setting up the brawl which causes the knee to initially get clipped, and then the second one behind the ref’s back that gets Doc the pin. It also kills the overjoyed crowd’s hopes of seeing the Steiners make it past Doc and Gordy. As a whole it’s a decently fun match, although it didn’t come off as well as it could have if the Steiners hadn’t been so dominated during the second half and had been able to work in their own stuff, and if Gordy had been able to better work with the Steiners during the first half of the match. ***1/4
Conclusion: This is a perfect example of a fun little wrestling card, nothing is outstanding, yet nothing is horrible either. Every match is enjoyable in some sort of way, easy recommendation for this show.