CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS XX
September 2, 1992
WCW celebrates twenty glorious years on the Superstation, but it’s not all wine and roses for good old WCW. Shocking as it may seem, their management and booking is far from perfect.
Ricky Steamboat . . . can only use his finisher in a No DQ match.
Cactus Jack . . . bumps like a madman to make Ron Simmons look like a legit World Champion.
Windham and Rhodes . . . sell like crazy to make The Barbarian look like a World Title contender.
RICKY STEAMBOAT vs. STEVE AUSTIN © (WCW Television Title)
If this is in fact the culmination in a bitter rivalry, as JR and Ventura would have us believe, then there probably should have been some more intensity and aggressiveness from both Austin and Steamboat. What we do get however, is a simple and well-worked match, even though it’s a bit on the short side. Steamboat finds his early success in the simple holds like the headlock to keep Austin at bay. In a real blink and you’ll miss it moment, Austin gets stuck in a headlock and actually does ‘tap out’, as he’s feverishly slapping the mat with his hands. Austin targets Steamboat’s ribs (which he has heavily taped) to give himself openings, and lead to his offensive run in the match.
Austin’s offensive run though, never really sees Austin go all the way though, it’s nice to see him doing little things like grinding the elbow into the rib cage, while in the abdominal stretch, but Austin never really does a full-blown assault on the ribs just to further injure them, it’s impossible to imagine good old Stone Cold not targeting the ribs in such a manner. The same with Steamboat, he doesn’t lose his cool at any point, and just wail away on Austin. The aforementioned wailing away by both of them would have lent some believablility to the near falls they both get at the end, and especially with Austin’s tactics like feet on the ropes, as well as pulling the trunks. Steamboat does do a bang up sell job on his ribs though, and that does help lend some credence to Austin’s near falls. The ending is especially well done, playing off the No DQ stipulation, and the lack of Paul E. in Austin’s corner, the only thing that it lacked could have also been made up for in the aforementioned wailing taking place. Steamboat hadn’t really done a whole lot to wear down Austin, and especially with his ribs hurt. Steamboat’s body press should have been more of knockout type of impact to Steve, rather than Steamboat cradling him for the win, but it plays into the roles they established in the beginning, Steamboat the wrestler vs. Austin the brawler. ***
ARN ANDERSON/BOBBY EATON vs. DICK SLATER/GREG VALENTINE
This is also lots of fun, but a bit on the short side. The heel vs. heel dynamic is a nice touch, and it’s fun to just watch all four of these guys have a brawl without any real regard for sportsmanship or the rules. Slater and Valentine have permanent sneers on their faces from the opening bell to the end. There isn’t much as far as flow goes, but there are a few bits of smart work, such as when Anderson knocks Slater off the apron after Larry Zybyzsko accidentally hits Valentine with the cast. The Alabama Jam behind the ref’s back was a nice finish, although not really necessary given that Zybyzsko’s mistake already sealed the match’s result. Michael Hayes (in the corner of Anderson and Eaton) getting involved just to rub it in Zybyzsko’s face would have been fun as well.
RON SIMMONS © vs. CACTUS JACK (WCW World Heavyweight Title)
As with the previous title match, the seemed to lay the groundwork for something, potentially good, but didn’t have enough time to finish it. It’s definitely odd to see Cactus Jack having on offensive run in a match that isn’t some sort of crazy street fight or a falls-count-anywhere match. But here it is happening anyway, and even Ventura makes some comments being surprised at how well Cactus is doing just keeping it in the ring. It’s an interesting concept though, and not completely without merit. Being the champion is about different challengers every night, and if Simmons (as well as everyone else at that point) had just written Cactus off as a brawler with no skills, it’s conceivable that Cactus reverting back to his long unused actual wrestling skills could have caught Simmons off guard.
Simmons could have done more to put a little bit more into his selling, he’s (to some extent) the hometown boy, and certainly treated as the returning hero. So by really going all out in order to put over what Cactus does to him would have really gotten the crowd going, and one of the big traditions in wrestling has been the fans really getting into the match, as a result of a heel control segment. Unfortunately, the finish comes way too soon, and it pretty much kills the momentum. Almost immediately after Cactus drops his famous elbow on the floor (and tears his abdominal muscle in the process), Jesse mentions he’d be surprised to see Simmons get up. Simmons not only gets right up without any problem, but he goes right back on offense like nothing has happened and quickly finishes off Cactus. There isn’t anything really wrong with Simmons looking like a black Superman, but at the very least they could have slowed down and taken a few steps between the elbow and the finish in order to better transition it, so Simmons still looks like Superman and Cactus doesn’t look like totally worthless.
THE BARBARIAN/BUTCH REED vs. DUSTIN RHODES/BARRY WINDHAM
It’s funny that one of the big gripes with Watts’ time as WCW VP was that Barbarian got a World Title shot at Simmons, this makes it really obvious that Barbarian’s title shot wasn’t intended, but rather the backup plan after Reed got fired. Just listen to Ross on commentary and try to count all the instances that he mentions Reed is Simmons’ former tag partner. It’s logical to have a squash match to get these two over, but I can think offhand of several other teams that would have made better opponents, than the next World Tag Team Champions. Luckily, they do what they can to salvage the match, at least partially. Dustin Rhodes takes his beating like a man, he does a great job at putting over the pain that Reed and Barbarian are putting him through, despite the rather obvious lack of actual wrestling being done. Windham doesn’t get much in terms of offense, but the little he does get in, he tries to make count. His punches and lariat both look good, and his superplex complete with a float over also looks excellent. The boot shot he takes from the Barbarian to end the match, definitely looks like a knockout blow. It’s a shame that the Texans had to be used in such a match, especially on a show like this, but at least they tried to make it count.
STING/NIKITA KOLOFF/RICK STEINER/SCOTT STEINER vs. JAKE ROBERTS/RICK RUDE/VADER/SUPER INVADER (Elimination match)
Considering the stipulation and the number of participants, this isn’t given nearly enough time to full develop. The wrestlers do what they can to offset it, but with so much to accomplish in only fifteen minutes, it would have been impossible to fully salvage the match. There are a decent number of fun spots, and good moments in the match, and some of the eliminations are nice, but most of them feel rushed. The first elimination (Koloff) had a good idea behind it, with the cheap shot from the apron, but it was still way too soon for that to get the pin, maybe if Jake held the tights or put his feet on the ropes it would have come off as more legit. The only heel to get eliminated, Super Invader isn’t even eliminated with a big move, but with one of Sting’s lower range moves in the bulldog. Then there are eliminations by DQ for coming off the top, which is just insanely stupid. And how exactly did Nick Patrick see Vader coming off the top rope, when he was behind him, but *not* see Jake pulling Rude to their corner for a tag? And why is Scotty disqualified when he wasn’t even the legal guy in the ring?
As it is, this comes off feeling more like a spot exhibition than a cohesive match. Thankfully, it’s not an insane one, and nobody rushes to get out as much stuff as possible. They work in some basic heel/face psych, like the ref missing the hot tag, and inexplicably forgetting that Rude was the legal man when he was putting Sting out, but now Vader is suddenly legal. The cheap shot on Scotty that leads to the only extended segment of the match (Scott as the face in peril) is one of the best moments of the match. Rick Steiner getting counted out after Rude hits the Rude Awakening on the floor was one of the few eliminations that didn’t come off awkwardly. Vader’s DQ elimination is another nice touch that shows that Jake’s team did have a plan going in. They managed to get rid of Sting’s partners pretty easily, and with Sting hurt, Vader sacrifices himself, to leave Sting totally at Roberts’ mercy. If this match is any indication then there was clearly the potential for these eight to put on a much better showing given the proper time, but that’s one of the downfalls to this being on a television show as opposed to a PPV.
Conclusion: Well this is definitely an interesting show. It’s not so much “bad” as it is “disappointing” because of the short matches, and the potential good matches that could have been. It’s good for novelty, but not much else. Thumbs down for Clash of the Champions XX.