The SmarK Retro Rant for Clash of the Champions XVI: Fall Brawl 91
(Historic show for me, as TBS finally became available here in the frozen wastelands of Canadaland and I bugged my dad to get the movie channels so we could watch some motherfuckin’ WCW, son! And it launched just in time for this show, my first Clash that I could watch LIVE.)
– Not to be confused with the Coliseum Video Rant XVI, which happens to share the same roman numerals, but has a wittier subtitle.
– Cool experience of the week: I was browsing through a local Chapters bookstore (the biggest bookstore in Canada, basically) and went over to check out the price on the new Mick Foley book in the wrestling section. And what was sitting on the shelf right next to it? My own humble book, The Buzz on Pro Wrestling (thumbs up, cheap pop). See, Mick and I are book buds! (Geez, who buys books in paper format anymore? Go back to the old folks home, gramps!)
– By the way, if one more quasi-talented bubblegum Green Day-sounding punk trio calls themselves something with a number in the name (SR-71, Blink-182, Sum-41…) I will be forced to kidnap and torture Billy Joe and eliminate the source of the entire problem. I think the groups should just merge into one big group and add up all the numbers in their name to prevent confusion, then learn to create their own musical style, along with another chord or two. With that in mind, I think I’ll spare American Hi-Fi, because even they’re derivative, at least their name is somewhat original and number-free. (This was written before “American Idiot” became one of my favorite albums of all-time, and in fact the number band craze did not get any better.)
– Live from Augusta, GA
– Your hosts are JR & Tony, with Matrats.com Vice-President in Charge of Totally Bitchin’ Operations Eric Bischoff and RAW color commentator Paul E. Heyman wandering around the building picking their nose and stuff. For those stuck in the low-end of a dead-end job, have hope: Look at Bischoff and know that you, too, can go from coffee boy and junior announcer to sinking the second-biggest wrestling promotion in the country in less than 10 years!
– Opening match, Georgia Brawl Battle Royale:
Your participants are Tom Zenk, Tommy Rich, Bobby Eaton, Ranger Ross, Tracy Smothers, The Great and Mighty Oz, PN News, Buddy Lee Parker, Steve Austin, Dustin Rhodes, Terrence Taylor, Big Josh, Barry Windham, One Man Gang and El Gigante. You’d think putting Kevin Nash and El Gigante in the same ring would cause a black hole of suck that might conceivably end the universe, but there they are. And PN News, too. In hindsight, Paul Neu may just have been 10 years before his time, at which point the wacky dancing fat guy became en vogue in the wrestling business and he wouldn’t have looked like a complete and utter tool. (Let’s not go crazy here.) Of course, if he HAD become the big star in Rikishi’s place, I don’t think I could have lived with the promos: “Austin it was ME who ran you over! YO BABY YO BABY YO!” Trust me, say it out loud and it gets funnier. Sadly, Kevin Nash was nearing the end of his run as the Great and Mighty Oz at this point, and indeed the transition provided the world with one of those Moments in WCW History We’d All Like To Have Been Present For backstage, as someone actually proposed turning him from the living embodiment of a magical land into a snappy dressing Italian stereotype who wrestled in a tux, and someone else actually thought it was a good idea and gave the first person the go-ahead to implement it. It’s not even the original idea that I find so perplexing, it’s the fact that there was little quality control that “Vinnie Vegas” actually was considered a better gimmick than “The Great and Mighty Oz” by someone who was presumably being PAID to keep track of this stuff. These are the same people who couldn’t think of any way to market Steve Austin or Mick Foley, but felt Shockmaster had some good upside potential and El Gigante would be the next Andre the Giant. To be fair, Vince McMahon also gave it the old college try with Jorge Gonzalez, but at least he gave him that muscle suit to wear so that he could make a few bucks on the side as an anatomy teaching aid at local colleges. Anyway, El Gigante eliminates Oz & One Man Gang to win at 9:31, and trust me, you didn’t miss anything. I don’t rate battle royales.
– Lightheavyweight title semi-finals: Bradstreet v. Brian Pillman.
Brad begs off to start, but Pillman gets a headscissors and victory roll for two. It should be noted that Pillman was doing the Yellow Dog gimmick for god-knows-what reason from June until this show, until (as JR notes) thousands of cards and letters from WCW fans necessitated Pillman’s reinstatement into WCW. I didn’t even know there WERE thousands of fans watching at point, let alone enough who could actually read and/or write. Armbar, but Brad breaks. Pillman’s sunset flip gets two, dropkick follows and Brad bails. Bradstreet suplexes Pillman off the apron to the floor in a typically sick Pillman bump, and when Brian gets back on the apron he takes his patented chinfirst bump to the railing. He gets posted and Bradstreet stalls. Yup, he’s a Freebird. Pillman in with a bodypress for two, but Brad gets a neckbreaker for two. He goes up but gets dropkicked to the floor, and Pillman follows with a tope suicida that nearly gives poor JR a heart attack. To the top, missile dropkick misses. Spinkick gets two, but Brad comes back with a DDT for two. Backslide gets two for Pillman. Crucifix is reversed to a samoan drop by Brad, but Pillman finishes with a flying bodypress at 6:52. This would be classified as a good Smackdown midcard match these days, but for 1991 it was amazing stuff, considering Liger was a few months away yet. ***
– And now, as my own alternative to the DVDVR 500, here’s the WCW Top 10 rankings for the week of whenever the hell this Clash was…
10. Beautiful Bobby
9. The Z-Man
8. The Diamond Studd
7. The One Man Gang
6. Dustin Rhodes
5. Stunning Steve Austin
4. El Gigante
3. Barry Windham
2. Ron Simmons
Champion: Lex Luger
Now I ask you, can the DVDVR guys possibly top a list of talent like that with their nobodies like that Kawada fella or that Yuji Nagata guy. C’mon, how are they supposed to draw money if they’re not 7 feet tall like El Gigante? And can either of them flick a toothpick with the pinpoint accuracy of the Diamond Studd? I rest my case. (Another wasted opportunity for a top 10 gag.)
– Sting v. Johnny B. Badd.
Sting’s US title is not for grabs here. Sting gets a quick pump splash, but it misses. Elbow misses, Badd gets a sunset flip for two. Sting gets a small package for two. Sunset flip gets two for Sting. Sting to the arm, Badd reverses. Blind charge misses and Sting goes back to the arm. Suplex is no-sold by Badd, and they back off as a gift box is delivered. Stinger splash misses and Badd gives some bodyshots. Badd and Sting both get distracted by the box sitting at ringside, and the match just stops cold. Sting rolls Badd up for the pin at 6:29, a lot of which was standing around. ½* Cactus Jack of course pops up and beats the holy hell out of Sting. (The gift box gag was a good one, but unfortunately the Luger payoff fell pretty flat.)
– Lightheavyweight title semi-finals: Richard Morton v. Mike Graham.
Ricky Morton’s heel turn might have worked due to the resentment from the female fans, but they make the fatal error of not actually having him dress or act terribly different in the heel role. I know the Joe Dirt mullet defined the guy, but it WAS the nineties and might have been time to cut it off. The guy you’ve really gotta pity is Mike Graham, who had a cushy road agent job until this show, at which point WCW decided to make some cutbacks and force him to actually WORK for his money again by wrestling. (I’m sure Mike later took credit for that idea.) Graham grabs a headlock, no luck. Morton trips him up and rolls into a Boston crab, and into a sunset flip for two. Graham escapes, so Morton bails. Back in, he works a headlock. Pinfall reversal sequence and Morton begs off. Morton goes up and gets suplexed off for two. Morton resorts to a show of fisticuffsmanship and choking. Graham pulls a figure-four out of his ass, no go. He works the arm, as does Richard. Graham gets an indian deathlock (thus dropping the match ½* automatically) as Alexandra York distracts the ref, and Morton rolls Graham up for the pin at 7:42 in a match the entire arena didn’t give a crap about. Maybe were it 1972 and 4 minutes shorter, it might have gotten over better, who knows. **
– Eric Bischoff brings Bill Kazmaier out to bend a “steel bar” around his neck for the Guinness Book of World Records, but the Enforcers attack him after the deed and injure his ribs. Now what, may I ask, was the record that he was going after here? I know the whole point of the skit was to establish the injury, but really you’d think someone would stop and consider that bending a “steel bar” around one’s neck might strike the more discerning viewer as a totally pointless exercise, especially with no actual reps of Guinness there to verify whatever record he was supposed to be trying to attain.
– The Fabulous Freebirds v. The Patriots.
Speaking of dumb ideas, may I present Firebreaker Chip and Todd Champion: The Patriots. The concept? Take a couple of muscle-bound talentless hacks, dress them up in costumes right out of a B-level ladies night and/or a Village People reunion (“Hey, it’s the fireman and the solider!”) and push them to the moon. Plus 10 for developing new talent, minus several million for style. Hayes tosses Chip, but gets powerslammed, as does Garvin. Freebirds bail. Back in, Chip dropkicks Garvin and gets a sleeper. So bush league I almost feel like setting up a booth at a flea market and selling tickets there. Billy Kidman could main event. Chip works the arm, and a sunset flip gets two. Rollup gets two, but Hayes cheapshots Chip. Todd Champion comes in, and he’s a house of fire! I often wonder why Todd didn’t get a shot in the WWF: He’s no less talented than Billy Gunn, and has the advantage of looking like an extra out of a bad porno movie. I mean, c’mon, don’t tell me you don’t look at him and think of Dirk Diggler’s male exotic dancer pal Todd Parker? (That would be Thomas Jane for those of you in this century.) Big elbow on Hayes gets two. Chip comes off the top with a double-clothesline. Double-team on Garvin, but the ref is distracted with Todd and Hayes nails Chip for the pin at 5:38. Those dastardly Freebirds would get their comeuppance when the Patriots won the US tag titles from them a few days later. Indy level mess here. ¾*
– Paul E. interviews Cactus Jack, and he declares Sting’s career OVER after that beating. A box is delivered to ringside, which Cactus assumes is Abdullah the Butcher out to congratulate him, and he decides to go give it a big Cactus Jack Hug without even opening it. Sting of course pops out, returns the beating, and they brawl all over the place.
– The Diamond Studd v. Ron Simmons.
Hey yo, chico, you’re gonna job. Studd attacks, but Simmons fights back. Studd chokeslam gets two. Bulldog gets two. Simmons slides out and posts Studd. Atomic drop both ways for Ron, spinebuster and shoulderblock finish at 2:26. WCW just had absolutely no clue what they almost had with Scott Hall in those days. ½*
– Terrence Taylor v. Van Hammer.
This was Hammer’s debut, as WCW decided to see if they could trick fans into thinking it was a repackaged Ultimate Warrior. No, seriously, that’s what I heard they were going for: The Jim Hellwig look. Hammer squashes Taylor in 1:08 with a kneedrop before settling into life as enhancement talent and DDP’s bootlick for the rest of his career. DUD (Thankfully still alive, unlike the real deal and his other pretender, the Renegade.)
– WCW TV title match: Stunning Steve Austin v. The Z-Man.
Hey, Zenk’s #9 on the top 10, Austin had better watch his back! Austin grabs a headlock into a hammerlock, reversed by Zenk. Austin begs off. Austin overpowers him, but Zenk goes to the headlock and Austin begs off again. Another headlock, Austin reverses, and they fight to the ropes. Austin goes to the headlock as the announcers lament Zenk’s lack of a mean streak. Too bad Meltzer didn’t have a radio show back then so Zenk could prove that one wrong. Zenk goes to the arm and gets the superkick and a backdrop for two. He followed up a superkick with a backdrop and wonders why he didn’t get credit for being a better wrestler? I mean, Zenk is a terrific interview these days, but geez that’s bad strategy. Austin bails and stalls. Zenk follows with a tope con hilo to the ramp, and back in for a bodypress … that misses. Austin stomps away, and hits the chinlock. Stuntun, but he doesn’t cover. Zenk cradles for two. Zenk gets the SLEEPER OF DOOM, but Lady Blossom slips Austin an international object, and he bops Zenk for the pin at 9:11. I’ve seen way better matches between them on Worldwide, and probably have about 4 of them on a tape in my collection somewhere. *3/4
– Special feature on Ron Simmons, leading to the Luger-Simmons contract signing, which turns into the usual brawl.
– World Tag team title tournament finals: Rick Steiner & Bill Kazmaier v. The Enforcers.
Steiner chases Larry Z and powerslams Arn for two. Enforcers double-team him and larry goes for the arm. They pound Rick in the corner, and Zbyszko gets a suplex for one. Rick fights out of the corner, but Larry blocks a superplex on Anderson. Kazmaier tags himself in and cleans house, but gets hit in the ribs and pinned at 3:34. Rushed and sloppy. ½*
The Bottom Line: No one ever accused 91 WCW of setting the intellectual bar too high for everyone else, that’s for sure. But if watching a guy bend a steel bar around his neck and El Gigante doing battle with Oz in a battle royale is what makes a show for you, then RUN out and find a copy of this right now.
For those WITHOUT mental problems, strong recommendation to avoid.