(Originally written and posted, I wanna say, 2002-ish?)
The SmarK Retro Rant for WCW Clash of the Champions XVII: “Subtitle Omitted for Budget Reasons”
– Live from Savannah, Georgia
– Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Jim Ross.
– Opening lumberjack match: Thomas Rich v. Big Josh.
Indeed this match is a microcosm of all the complex social commentary generally found within a wrestling match – friendship lost, money exchanged, betrayal of the highest order. Sure, it might have been worth it in the short term for Rich to move from $2.50 hooch to $4.00 hooch, but WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? Anyway, the story as it were is that Rich “trained” Josh (in reality veteran Matt Bourne) and brought him into WCW, only to turn on him and join the York Foundation, quite possibly the most pathetic group of wannabe-heels this side of the Desperadoes. Headed up by Alexandra York (aka Terri Runnels), they wanted to be Ted Dibiase but WCW didn’t even have the money to get her an actual laptop computer in place of the word processor she had to use. Never mind that “evil” Ricky Morton still wore Rock N Roll Express tights as a heel. Rich hammers away, but Josh no-sells and uses some Oregonian Violence. Belly to belly and logroll give Josh the upper hand. Rich rolls out to the heels for solace, but the faces toss him in. Josh drops an elbow for one. The lumberjacks brawl at ringside as Tony earns his keep by analyzing the number of faces and heels on the outside and extrapolating the winner of the match from that. Way to use the power of math there, big guy. Josh gets caught in the middle of the lumberjack brawl, giving Rich the advantage. Back in, Tommy cheats freely and drops an elbow for two. Suplex gets two. Josh comes back, but misses a charge. Rich goes up and gets slammed off, and Josh suplexes him for two. They do one of the best-looking criss-crosses I’ve ever seen (complete with staggeringly well-choreographed circling from referee Randy Anderson) and Rich’s partner Terry Taylor trips him up on the outside, thus putting Rich in the top 20 or so for having done both the dumbest heel AND face turns within the same calendar year. Josh hits the buttdrop and gets the pin at 6:00. The Rich angle never actually went anywhere as the whole York Foundation went their separate ways shortly after, leaving the breakup completely unresolved. Match was nothing you’d be ashamed to watch. *1/4
– Firebreaker Chip v. Bobby Eaton.
Ah, Curtis Thompson, a guy so bad that even though he looks like Ken Shamrock after having a needle filled with a mixture of HGH and Miracle-Gro shoved in his ass, the WWF couldn’t find anything for him to do. Ponder that one and DESPAIR. Eaton was ostensibly still a babyface here, although even the marks were waiting for the heel turn at this point and pretty much everyone figured he’d end up with Paul E. Dangerously. Chip grabs a headlock and hangs on. Chip goes up and blows a bodypress, then confirms his status as mouth-breather by repeating in the spot in the other corner. Back to the headlock, as I stop and think about how bad you have to be in order to be part of a tag team where Todd Champion is considered the talented one. Chip releases his faithful headlock and goes up for a flying clothesline instead, which gets two. Chip now works on a hammerlock, before Bobby has finally had enough and clotheslines him. Crowd pops big for that one. Backbreaker gets two and now the crowd wakes up. Chip rolls through a bodypress attempt and gets two, then somehow manages to screw up a backslide and gets two. Rollup gets two, but Eaton shoves him into the turnbuckle to knock the wind out of him and uses a simple backdrop suplex for the pin at 4:52. Yeesh, whose bright idea was this match? ½*
– Sting is out to receive the mysterious final gift box, after months of getting ones filled with various combinations of Cactus Jack & Abdullah The Butcher from a mysterious enemy. A bunch of jobbers carry out a fancy carriage from which Madusa emerges, distracting Sting The Giant Idiot long enough for Lex Luger to pop out and clip Sting in the knee. As payoffs go, this wasn’t exactly one of the best.
– The Diamond Studd v. Tom Zenk.
This match is somewhat distracted-from by the split feed of Sting being loaded into the ambulance because of Luger’s attack. Must have been a REALLY hard clip. Studd quickly gets his bulldog, but Zenk posts him and sunset flips him. Studd rolls through and clotheslines him, but Zenk gets a superkick and crucifix for the pin at 1:24. Match was just a backdrop for the Sting angle, which even the announcers admitted and apologized for several times. DUD
– World TV title match: Stunning Steve Austin v. PN News.
Both of these guys were making approximately the same money at this point. Boy, that WCW, they sure could spot star talent, couldn’t they? This would be one of the last (if not THE last) appearance of Jeannie “Lady Blossom” Clark as Austin’s valet, before the switchover to Paul E. Dangerously and a near-total character makeover as part of the Dangerous Alliance. News overpowers Austin and gets an avalanche and clothesline. Elbowdrop and they brawl outside. Back in, Austin tries a slam and News falls back on him for two. That spot worked surprisingly well, and the crowd even popped for some weird reason. News hits version of a dropkick, which rates around 0.9 on the Erik Watts scale. I’d go the full 1.0, but he IS a big fat guy, so really it’s to be expected. Basically it involved him “jumping” in the air at a 45 degree angle from the mat and barely making contact with one foot on Austin’s knee. Thankfully the camera angle was BEHIND News when he did it, because if they had been dumb enough to film it straight on like they would end up doing at the fateful Starrcade 92 (where Erik Watts attempted to dropkick Steve Williams and earned his spot in infamy) I think I’d still be laughing right now. Anyway, News follows this offensive onslaught with a suplex, but Austin is in the ropes. News drags him into the center for two. They brawl out again, and News backdrops Austin from the ramp into the ring. Belly to belly gets two. News chases Blossom, and Austin hits a pescado (!) onto him, sending him crashing into the railing. Back in, a groggy News charges and gets pinned at 4:21. Gotta give him points for effort there. *3/4 That was probably his best match in WCW, come to think of it. Hey, I know *3/4 doesn’t seem like much, but for a guy who I can’t recall breaking DUD with before, that’s a big improvement.
– Missy Hyatt introduces us to WCW’s newest rookie sensation (to go along with other rookie sensations like PN News, Johnny B Badd, Van Hammer and Oz), Marcus Alexander Bagwell. And he can actually speak English here instead of his usual Dumbshittian accent.
– And now, to bring meaning to your lives and fulfil your secret fantasies once again…the WCW TOP TEN FOR THE WEEK OF NOVEMBER 19 1991! Please, as a friendly reminder, while heated discussion on the Top 10 is encouraged, wagering on the outcome is not. I also cannot condone stopping people in public places and asking them if they remember who the #5 guy in this week’s top 10 was, because then you’d be a huge loser and I’d have to eject you from my fanbase and find someone cooler to read my rants instead. Please do not read the top 10 if you’re currently reading other top 10-related columns, unless you have permission from a doctor or someone who looks like a doctor beforehand. Side effects for the WCW top 10 are minimal, and may include dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, impotence, bankruptcy, baldness, acne, nosebleeds and raised testicles. Should you experience any of these, please discontinue reading the WCW top 10 and go see a movie. The WCW top 10 is for non-profit use only, and any attempt to make money off the WCW top 10 will result in me demanding a 60% cut and then having my associate “Big Tony” roll you for the remainder in an alley outside your house. The WCW top 10 should not be considered a legally binding document unless you live in Washington, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina or any other state with an “E” in it. Readers of the WCW top 10 who live in Idaho should move immediately, because face it, you live in friggin IDAHO, dude. I mean, come on. The WCW top 10 should not be taken internally unless specifically prescribed by a booker. Anyone attempting to find logic in the WCW top 10 will be shot. The WCW top 10 conforms to all laws and statutes of my pants. The WCW top 10 is good. The WCW top 10 is loving. Worship the WCW top 10. Send money to the WCW top 10. If you are a Christian, please do not actually pray to the WCW top 10, as this may violate one or more of the 10 commandments and confuse everyone needlessly. For those without commandments, feel free. Please make sure to cook the WCW top 10 for at least 20 minutes at 450 degrees to ensure even heating and eliminate the chance for salmonella. DO NOT REFREEZE THE WCW TOP 10. Store the WCW top 10 in a cool, dry place for best results and top with parsley before serving. The WCW top 10, while not necessarily ignorant of the impending alien takeover of the earth, is by no means connected in any meaningful way with it, whatsoever. No matter what you’ve heard. The WCW top 10 is not a Wayne/Enright production, but it wishes it could be. Failure to read and abide by these rules and regulations will result in absolutely nothing. So there.
Champion: Lex Luger
2. Rick Steiner
3. Steve Austin
4. Ron Simmons
5. Dustin Rhodes
6. Barry Windham
7. Cactus Jack
8. Bill Kazmaier
9. Bobby Eaton
– Cactus Jack v. Van Hammer.
Tony spends the time during Hammer’s entrance talking about how Jack is going to jump him when he turns his back on Jack to pose for the fans, and sure enough that’s what happens. See, who says Tony has no credibility? Hammer suplexes him and dropkicks him out, and follows with a pescado. Back in, big boot, bodyslam and legdrop piss off the crowd. Man, that was REALLY SUBTLE, guys, way to go. Bravo to the bookers for that oh-so-inside bit of humor there. I bet they were sitting around in the back calling their friends on the phone going “See, we just had this big blond stiff go out there and do Hulk Hogan’s moves, and Jack kicked out, so the fans will watch and think that Cactus Jack is better than Hulk Hogan! This has never been done before! WE’LL MAKE MILLIONS!” Jack comes back with a bulldog and Cactus Clothesline, to set up the Big Elbow off the Apron. Back in, Jack loses a slugfest and Hammer clotheslines him from behind. Hammer’s TOP ROPE KNEEDROP OF AGONY only gets two. I swear to god, if that thing had been within six inches of making contact instead of a foot, he’d have gotten the pin. It’s just that impressive a finisher. Their heads collide and IT’S UNDERTAKER! Oh, no, wait, sorry that “BONG” was the sound of Van Hammer’s empty skull, my mistake. Jack bails, grabs Hammer’s very own guitar, and gives him a weak shot with it for the pin at 4:03. See, that’s what the kids call “irony”. Well, at least Jack went over. *
– Eric Bischoff updates us from the hospital where Sting is. You know that Bischoff is at the hospital because they’ve taken the time to make a complex-looking graphic representation of the state of Georgia, complete with a little dot marked “Savannah”, and a file photo of Eric in the corner to go along with the graphic that reads “Eric Bischoff live from Savannah”. Apparently they just couldn’t spare any extra mobile cameras. Now, you know me, I’m not the cynical type normally, but you don’t think that maybe they just did the supposed live feed from a closet somewhere in the arena and put the graphic over the screen? Not that’d I’d ever doubt anything Eric Bischoff would tell me, of course. Meanwhile, Eric continues his run of Pulitzer-prize winning journalism by noting that he hasn’t received any word on Sting’s condition yet, but an orderly is “giving him the thumbs up”, so it might be a good sign. This is so good they should make one of those reality-TV shows on TLC out of it. TRAUMA IN THE FAKE EMERGENCY ROOM! Jason Hervey can produce. Then Bischoff can run it against Tough Enough and give away the results on his own show. “Fans, we understand that over on the competition, Tazz is going to teach the guy a suplex. Yeah, that’ll put butts in the seats.” HE’LL MAKE MILLIONS!
– Aw, crap, just when I’m in a good mockery groove, they gotta ruin it with an awesome match…
– WCW World tag title match: Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko v. Dustin Rhodes & The Mystery Man.
Originally scheduled to be Barry Windham challenging here, but he was having problems with his hand (in storyline and real life), so they went with the “mystery partner” route, and for pretty much the first time in their history, actually managed to deliver on a big angle with a big payoff. Dustin brings out a guy in a goofy looking lizard costume, and after some speculation on the announcers’ part, he whips it off to reveal…Ricky Steamboat, fresh from leaving the WWF only weeks before. Anderson just completely freaks out. Too funny. Steamboat & Arn start, and Steamboat just destroys him and fights off both heels in the process. They all brawl outside, and Steamboat & Larry head back in, where Steamboat & Rhodes proceed to clean house and pop the crowd huge. Arn takes a breather and comments to the camera: “He’s just a man”. No way, Arn, he’s RICK F’N STEAMBOAT. Back in, Steamboat works a headlock on Larry, and Dustin works on the arm. Steamboat comes off the top with a melodramatic chop, and Larry sells it like he’s been stabbed in the arm with Excalibur. It’s so awesome to see someone come out and rock the house, and the heels sell like nuts to make sure it gets over. Steamboat posts the arm and Larry screams like Billy Gunn in the crossface. Rhodes comes in, but so does AA and he pounds Dustin in the corner. Arn goes up and gets caught by Dustin on top, but rakes the eyes and continues the beating. Blind charge hits cowboy boot, and the faces clean house for another monster pop. Zbyszko loses it and starts randomly picking fights with officials, announcers and fans, and then engages in a martial arts showdown with Steamboat, which he promptly loses. So he goes to Plan B and cheats instead, as Arn nails Steamboat from behind and Larry suplexes him for two. See, heel psychology: When confronted by someone who can beat him at his own game, the heel naturally resorts to cheating and generally gets the upper hand that way. This is SO textbook, I’m in awe. Arn whips him into the corner, but Steamboat chops his way out and gets a sunset flip. Arn tags to escape the pin, and Larry grabs an abdominal stretch, and do you even need to ASK whether he uses the ropes, Arn, and anything else available for leverage? Remember, kids, if you’re gonna be a heel, grab the ropes at every opportunity, argue with the referee every chance you get, and always go for the eyes. My name is Scott, and cheating is MY anti-drug. Arn comes in with a backdrop suplex for two. Slugfest is won by Arn, but Steamboat facejams him…and Arn cuts off the tag. Larry gets two. This is PRIMO sneaky heel backstabbing shit. Backbreaker gets two. Arn comes in, drop-toeholds Steamboat to cut off another tag attempt, and they double-team him to cut the ring in half. They should teach courses using this match as reference material. Arn bearhugs Ricky, turning it into a pinning attempt for two, but of course he goes for the kneedrop off the knucklelock, and Steamboat counters with a bodyscissors, which Arn then one-ups by countering into a Boston Crab, which they then top off by Larry pushing on Arn’s head for leverage, then (and this is the brilliant part), they distract the ref and SWITCH OFF. So you’ve just seen them do a chain wrestling sequence, sneaky heel assist, and switcheroo, all in one chain of stuff. There is just about every element of the classic tag formula executed to perfection in this match. How I ever forgot about this match for my Best of the 90s rant, I’ll never know and never forgive myself. That sequence was so perfectly done without requiring anything spectacular or violent or whatever, and the cool part is that a wrestling crowd will “get” everything involved without having to be told, and will have the appropriate reaction for everything with no prompting needed. All this match needed was Tommy Young refereeing. False tag to Rhodes (there’s another element) allows more shenanigans from the heels, but Arn & Ricky collide in the corner off an atomic drop for the double KO. Arn goes up and hits foot, hot tag Dustin. ELBOW! ELBOW! BY GAWD ELBOW! Lariat! Bulldog for Arn, and a desperate Larry tosses Steamboat to buy time, but even that backfires on him as Steamboat skins the cat, goes to the top, and comes off with a flying bodypress for the pin and the titles at 14:46. And that, my friends, is a Tag Team Match and the best thing Dustin Rhodes will ever have the honor of having his name attached to. *****
– Musical tribute to the incoming Jushin Liger, as he beats Chris Benoit in clips from Japan. Jesus, they hadn’t even signed the guy at that point and he’s already jobbing on WCW TV. GLASS CEILING!
– Paul E. Dangerously, patron saint of sneaky heels everywhere, comes out to let us know that if Sting doesn’t make it back from the “hospital” in time for his title match, Rick Rude wins by forfeit.
– We make a dramatic return to the “hospital”, complete with cool background graphics, as Sting emerges from the operating room (well, we HEAR him emerging, I guess) to get the news from Eric Bischoff about the forfeit thing. We know that Sting has emerged because the people running the graphics helpfully put a little file photo of Sting beside the file photo of Eric Bischoff already on the screen. Man, they could have saved themselves millions by booking entire PPVs that way – just do a radio play with the guys going “Ooof” and “ugh” to simulate pain while you put little photos superimposed over a helpfully marked computer graphic of whatever state the show is in. God knows that Kevin Nash’s workrate would improve 500% with that setup. Anyway, Sting apparently steals an ambulance in order to make it back to the arena on time for the show.
– Lightheavyweight title match: Brian Pillman v. Johnny B. Badd.
Johnny has opted to go for the full-on Village People “In the Navy” motif tonight, complete with half-length officer’s jacket. God bless Dusty Rhodes for giving me more material for cheap humor than I can ever possibly use in one lifetime. The day he stops booking will be a dark one for me, indeed, when I don’t have any more lisping, fruity lipstick-clad wrestlers who shoot a phallic symbol full of confetti into the crowd. The weight limit for the belt has taken another one of it’s mysterious trips upwards, this time settling on 236 pounds, which would make Randy Savage and Ric Flair lightheavyweights according to the standard PWI weights for them. Pillman wins a slugfest and dropkicks Badd out, then follows with Air Pillman to the ramp. Badd reverses a piledriver and they spill to the floor. Oh man, there’s seaman all over the arena! Well, don’t act like you didn’t know that joke was due. Badd heads back in, but Pillman bodypresses him for two. Powerslam and he goes up, but a big splash hits nothing but knee. Badd gets two. He goes up in turn, but Pillman dropkicks him on the way down and clotheslines him. Pillman gets a leg lariat for two, but Badd comes back with a clothesline and goes up again. Sunset flip, but Teddy Long is inexplicably talking to the ref. Badd goes to argue, collides with Long, and Pillman gets the cheap win at 4:21. Cliched booking, but the match wasn’t anything you wouldn’t want to take home to meet your mother. *1/2 Badd KO’s Long to end that relationship.
– US title match: Sting v. Ravishing Rick Rude.
Paul E. falls prey to that same weakness all great villains possess…the inability to shut up for long enough a time for your master plan to take effect. In this case, he gets on the mike to run down the crowd and gloat about how Rude was gonna win by forfeit, which allows Sting the time to arrive in his stolen ambulance and beat the count. They brawl on the ramp, where Sting presses Rude, but his knee buckles. Just a note to Test or any other mediocre wrestlers reading: “Selling” means actually having the injury affect your performance — not just clutching your ribs, doing a move like normal, and then clutching your ribs again. They head into the ring and Sting slugs away and backdrops Rude, completely grounded by the injury. He clotheslines him out, but Rude outsmarts him and trips him up, then posts the knee. Back in, Rude nails him off the top, but Sting blocks the Rude Awakening. Sting channels the Three Stooges to win a slugfest by faking Rude out, but Rude makes sure to fall FORWARD, and takes out Sting’s knee in the process. Sting falls back just as Paul jumps up and shatters the phone on his head. That’s so cool. It gets two. Sting comes back with a DDT, but he’s got nothin’, and when he gets desperate and goes after Paul again, Rude just hits the knee from behind and pins him to win the title at 4:15. THAT is how you push a new guy, and is one of the rare instances where WCW managed to use someone far more effectively than the WWF did. He would never be beaten for that title. **
– In a post-match interview with Eric Bischoff (who has somehow managed to arrive back at the arena only 4 minutes after Sting), Paul admits that the whole thing was a setup from the beginning, we’re all stupid, Sting is stupid, Jim Herd is stupid, and all the WCW bigwigs can kindly kiss his ass because the Dangerous Alliance is here and ready to take names and kick ass. Did I mention what a watered-down corporate patsy Paul Heyman has become? This was actually very much nWo-ish years before the nWo came about. Just saying.
– World title match: Lex Luger v. Rick Steiner.
This was supposed to be Ron Simmons getting a rematch from Halloween Havoc before the injury bug bit again and they were forced to shoehorn Rick Steiner into the slot, having nothing better to do with him while Scott’s arm healed. Scott of course ended up going on the HHH diet plan while in rehab and somehow managed to come back 50 pounds heavier than when he left. Stalling to start here. Lots of it. Finally Rick overpowers Lex, leading to more stalling. Rick gets a powerslam for two, and Luger of course bails and stalls. Back in, Steiner gets a backdrop and german suplex for two. Slugfest, won by Rick. Luger crotches him on the top, however, to take over. Luger kicks away and a slam & elbow get two. He tosses Rick, and gets two back in the ring. Steiner fights back and gets a powerslam and the Buffkiller for two. Hughes runs in, and runs right into a Frankensteiner from Scott, and Race comes in and gets slammed, allowing Luger to use the belt for the pin at 11:30. Scott Steiner v. Lex Luger might have actually drawn some money at that point, but Rick knew that once Scott’s singles push started he was done as a player, so he managed to keep convincing Scott to turn it down. The result: Classics like this match. ¼*
The Bottom Line:
Well, tossed off main event aside, it’s the show with Enforcers v. Steamboat & Rhodes, and Cactus Jack gets the biggest win of his career to that point, so really you can’t lose here. Plus Paul E. on his game is always a bonus.