Clash of the Champions

February 20, 2011

The first Clash of Champions event was held March 27th 1988 and aired on TBS head to head with WrestleMania IV and pulled a 5.6 TV rating. The tape I have of the show unfortunately was a commercial release so it was slightly edited. Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, and Bob Caudle covered the announcing duties, and I thought all three were quite good, with Jim Ross of course being outstanding. There were no promos on this show and it was presented strictly as a live sporting event being covered on television, but that may have been partly due to the event being edited for video release. I loved the presentation and the crowd was red hot all night, which certainly added to the show.

Mike Rotunda vs. Jimmy Garvin (NWA TV Title): Kevin Sullivan was in the corner of Mike Rotunda and Precious was out with Jimmy Garvin. This match had a strange set of rules that were presented as Amateur Wrestling Rules. The match consisted of 3 5-minute rounds and to win you only needed to score a one count. I assume this was playing off the fact that Rotundo and Sullivan were part of a group called the Varsity Club which played off the college wrestling background of their participants. On an interesting note the referee for this match was current SmackDown GM Teddy Long. This was a very basic slow match where they took the entire first round just getting over the gimmick of the match and putting over the need to stay off ones back. The crowd was totally into this match and strongly behind the baby face Jimmy Garvin. In the second round Sullivan distracted Garvin which led to a roll up pin by Mike Rotunda. It was so basic and simple and the crowd flipped out. Rick Steiner came out for the post match beat down. Precious made the comeback hitting Steiner with a large 2X4 and then put a coat hanger around Sullivanís neck choking him to get him off of Garvin. There must have been a long standing angle to get to this point because the crowd went absolutely bat shit crazy for this spot. Eventually everyone got separated, and I was left feeling that issues were no where near settled and everyone in the building still wanted to see more. This was a trend on the show and something current pro-wrestling bookers need to learn from. Not a great match by any stretch, but hot action and a good angle.

Midnight Express vs. Fantastics (US Tag Titles): Iíve always been a big fan of the Midnight Express and when their familiar music hit I popped big time. Jim Cornette was out with the express and looked to be about 18 years old at the time. This was not your typical Midnight Express match because it started in a crazy brawl and I can only assume this match was a long way into a very heated feud. The brawl at the beginning was a bit on the sloppy side, not that anyone in the crowd seemed to care, and it did seem silly to brawl like crazy for that long then settle into a regular tag match but once they did settle into a match my god it was awesome. The Midnight got the heat on Tommy Rogers and the heat in this match made the heat in matches today seem like the Ice Age; people were going insane. I found it interesting that no matter how much stuff the Midnight hit Tommy Rogers with they never once went for a cover. Bobby Eaton was unbelievable, and is still one of my all time favourites. He did this spot, which he did a lot back then, where he would hit big top rope offense (a top rope elbow in this match) and would sell the impact of the move big time and immediately tag out. Jim Ross would usually put over the fact that he was sacrificing his own body to inflict punishment. They eventually set up a ďfalse tagĒ spot where Rogers managed a tag Bobby Fulton but the ref didnít see it, when the ref tried to prevent Fulton from getting into the ring, he lost control, threw the ref over the top rope, and blew an amazing comeback. He kicked everyoneís ass then he and Rogers hit their Rocket Launcher finisher on Bobby Eaton and a second referee slid into the ring and counted 3. The place went completely insane popping bigger than fans popped for the Rock on Monday. Of course the first ref eventually got up and disqualified the Fantastics for throwing him over the tope rope, so we got the Dusty Finish, which got a ton of heat and as the Midnights ran away with their Title Belts, I was once again left thinking I saw some great action and wanted to see these 2 teams fight again.

The Road Warriors & Dusty Roads vs. The Powers of Pain & Ivan Koloff (World 6 Man Titles): This match was a Chicago Street Fight Barbed Wire Match. The ropes were sparsely wrapped in barbed wire and all 6 men were just in the ring fighting. The guys were over, so the crowd seemed to care but this match was pretty bad. It was like a 6 man battle royal with some blood because of the barbed wire. They just punched and kicked for a while until Animal hit a power slam on Warlord and while he was covering him Barbarian tried to hit a top rope head butt on him but Animal moved, he hit his own partner and Animal scored the pin. Animal was wearing a hockey mask for this match because the Powers of Pain had attacked the Road Warriors during a Bench Press Challenge, weeks earlier, and broke his orbital bone. After the heels lost, Barbarian kicked Animal in the face knocking the mask off and they attacked the eye briefly to get a little post match heat. Not a good match by any stretch but it had heat and the crowd was into it.

Blanchard & Anderson vs. Windham & Luger (NWA Tag Titles): The Horsemanís manager JJ Dillon was suspended above the ring in a Shark Cage for this match, I assume based on continued outside interference by him in the past. I assume this because at this time in the business stipulation match actually made sense and were designed to prevent things that continually happened in a match preventing a clear cut winner from happening again. This match seriously made me want to cry. Okay that is a bit dramatic but this match was so great and so made me long for the way the business used to be. The selling, the heat, and the psychology of this match were quite simply a thing of beauty and a beauty almost completely lost in wrestling today. I donít want to sound like a bitter old timer and Iím not even going to argue wrestling should go back to this, Iím just saying it is completely different and this is the style I grew up on, love dearly, and prefer. I imagine itís the same way a guy who grew up on Bruce Springsteen canít understand the mass appeal of Justin Beiber.

They did a double heat in this match and the second heat on Barry Windham was art work. Tully and Arn were one of the greatest tag teams ever and Barry was in his prime here and fantastic. Barryís selling and struggle to make the tag was incredible, and when he finally made it the place exploded, and when the faces scored the win and captured the tag titles (You see the stipulation to remove JJ from the match ACTUALLY worked) the place went insane and you know, based on this pop alone, everyone in this building is going home happy and will spend their money again in the future to attend another show.

Ric Flair vs. Sting (NWA Title): They had judges out for this match incase it went to the time limit and they made a big deal that since this was a televised event the usually 1hr time limit was reduced to 45 minutes. They introduced 5 Judges but only went to 3 of them for the decision when the match went the time limit (WTF? Not everything made sense in this era). For Judges they had wrestling people: Sandi Scott and Gary Juster, and celebrities, Patty Mullen (Penthouse Pet of Year), Jason Hervey (The Wonder Years), Ken Osmond (The New Leave it to Beaver). By todayís standards this match started off so slow but people were into it and the pace was perfect for this crowd. You could tell Sting was very green and Flair was carrying him like crazy but Sting was a great athlete and had loads of charisma. Selling again was great in this match and it felt like a genuine physical battle throughout. For some reason they edited 6 minutes out of this match and did so with the worst edit Iíve ever seen. Flair had Sting in the Figure 4, they cut to a tight shot of Patty Mullen and when they cut back Sting had Flair in the Figure 4 and it took me a minute to even figure out why Flair was selling all of a sudden. How they couldnít find room for 6 more minutes on this tape to keep this classic match intact is beyond me.

If you want to nitpick the match was repetitive at times (I think mostly because of how green Sting was) with Sting doing too many punches in the corners but the crowd love it and Stingís charisma covered it up well. I loved the match and enjoyed the important feel this World Title match had. At the end Sting got Flair in the Scorpion Death Lock but Flair held on until the time ran out. This is where booking got a little stupid in my books. If they didnít have judges this would have been perfect; taking the Champ to the limit made Sting a superstar. He came as close as you can to winning the title without doing so. The judging this night was worse than Cecil Peoples scoring MMA. As I said earlier they only asked 3 Judges for decisions and Patty Mullen picked Ric Flair, Juster picked Sting, and Scott said Draw, so the match was declared a draw. A draw really, Flair was on the verge of submitting as the time ran out and itís a draw? How much credibility do the judges have if there are 3 Judges and they all come to different conclusions?

On the whole I loved this show. It felt like a sporting event, and all the matches and titles seemed important. I thought 3 of the 5 matches were GREAT, the other 2, if not particularly good, were exciting and judging by the crowd reaction 4 of the 5 matches the crowd would like to see rematches for. We got great wrestling matches, one huge decisive pay off to leave us happy (NWA Tag Title switch), they created a new Main Event Superstar (Sting) and 4 angles furthered to continue to draw money down the road. BOOKING Ladies and Gentleman, no skits required. Two Monstrous Thumbs Up.

Lance Storm