Clash Countdown: #3

The SmarK Retro Rant for Clash of the Champions III: Fall Brawl! – Live from Albany GA, which is never actually mentioned during the course of the show. – Your hosts are Jim Ross & Bob Caudle. – Opening match, TV title: Mike Rotundo v. Brad Armstrong. The more of these Armstrong matches from the 80s I see, the more his treatment makes me sad. (That and his death.)  Mike takes him down to start, and gets a fireman’s carry. Bodypress out of the corner is rolled through by Brad for two, and Mike bails. Back in, Armstrong wins a hiptoss battle and dropkicks him for two, and Rotundo bails again. Back in, Brad grabs a headlock and they work off that on the mat for a bit. Brad gets a crossbody for two, and Mike bails again. Too much of that so far, but the crowd is amazingly hot for 3000 or so. Back in, Brad works the headlock and hooks a hammerlock off a criss-cross. Cool stuff. He holds an armbar and works the arm. Rotundo buries a knee and hotshots him to take over. He dumps him and Sullivan lays in the cheapshots. Back in, suplex gets two and Rotundo hits the chinlock, but uses the ropes to redeem it. He pounds him and covers for two. Back to the chinlock, but Brad escapes, and walks into a vicious lariat for two. Back to the chinlock, but Rotundo keeps it interesting by going for a pin. All the chinlocks make the finish so obvious that anyone reading should be able to guess it by now. Backbreaker gets two, and he tosses Brad. Brad sunset flips back in for two, but gets legdropped for two. Steve Williams joins us at ringside to irritate Rotundo. Armstrong takes the opportunity to cradle for two, but Rotundo hits the chinlock again to eat up time. Airplane spin (!!) on Armstrong, but both guys are left goofy. Rotundo recovers for two. Gut wrench gets two. Small package gets two. Big forearm gets two. Cradle gets two, and he keeps working the pinfall attempt until the time expires at 20:00. JR sells it as a moral victory, but there was no followup in the booking plans. (Poor Brad was perpetually the up-and-coming youngster.)  Still a great opener with hard work all around. ***1/2 – We get clips of Jimmy Garvin’s broken leg at the hands of the Varsity Club, which basically gave them the final victory in that feud. The “Gorgeous” character was retired as a result of that attack, as he quit the promotion while healing, and when he returned 8 months later it was in his new role as Jimmy “Jam” Garvin, one half of the new Freebirds. Sullivan drops a cinderblock on his leg to “break” it, for those who enjoy that sort of detail.  (Man, Jimmy Garvin really got the shit end of that feud.  He almost lost his wife to Sullivan, couldn’t beat Rotundo in their TV title feud, and then got chased out of the promotion with a broken leg.)  – The Sheepwhackers v. Steve Williams & Nikita Koloff. The booking was getting really disjointed around this point, with thrown-together stuff like this dominating the midcard while Crockett was busy selling out to Turner. In fact, the more I learn about how insane Dusty Rhodes was becoming around this time, the more it amazes me that the promotion even survived long enough to sell out. Midnight Rider, anyone? (Hey, if Flair had jumped ship for Summerslam 88, as was heavily rumored at the time, Crockett would have been DOA because that sale was partly contingent on Flair being the top guy.  So we came closer to a WWF monopoly earlier than some people might realize.)  As merely one example of the anarchy going down all around Dusty, the main storyline being pushed during this match by the announcers is the Midnight Express v. Tully & Arn feud. That feud would come to a final end less than a week after this at a house show in Philly, with the Express winning the tag belts as Tully & Arn bailed on the NWA and jumped ship without even giving two weeks notice. After two and a half hours of incessant hype for that payoff match, the world at large never even got to see it, or indeed even hear about what the hell happened to Tully & Arn besides them losing the tag titles. (I was really pissed about never getting to see the match until years later, too.)  To the match: Doc gets beat in the corner, but a brawl erupts and the Herders bail. Back in, Doc overpowers Luke with ease and the heels bail again. I somehow doubt we’ll be seeing Luke & Butch cutting off all the babyface comebacks like they did at Clash II against the Fantastics. Koloff comes in and slams both, and they bail again. Back in, Nikita overwhelms Luke and Doc works the arm. Clothesline puts Luke out, and Doc suplexes him and goes up with a bodypress for one. Koloff pounds on the arm and prevents a tag. Nice touch. Doc stays on the armbar and the faces team up on it. Williams tosses him into the corner, but misses a blind charge and Butch takes over with stomps and an elbow for two. Doc no-sells Luke’s stuff, but Butch clocks him from behind for two. Luke hits the chinlock. Butch gets a running knee for two, but heel miscommunication allows Koloff to get the tag. He pummels Butch, but Rip Morgan nails him with the flag and Nikita is YOUR commie-in-peril. They kill him outside the ring, and Luke gets a forearm off the middle for two. Kneedrop gets two, and they double-team for two. Luke grabs a sleeper, but Koloff sends him scurrying out. However, Doc is busy with that pesky Rip Morgan, so no tag. Luke goes up and gets nothing but mat, and suddenly the corners change as everyone rotates 90 degrees around the ring for no apparent reason. Whatever. Hot tag to the Doc, and he nails everything that moves. Butch clips him, but Nikita rips HIS head off in turn with the Sickle and gets the pin at 16:53. Nikita quit right after that match to tend to his increasingly sick wife, and didn’t come back for another 3 years. It’s too bad, because had he not quit doing the steroids and not had the misfortune of having his wife die, Vince McMahon would have snapped him up in a minute and pushed him until he was a household name. You don’t think Vince could have sold out stadiums around the country with Hulk Hogan v. Nikita Koloff? The match was really good, leaving me to wonder what the hell happened to the Sheepherders in the two week period between them screwing Turner over and debuting as comedy jobbers in the WWF. *** – Dusty Rhodes v. Kevin Sullivan. Dusty no-sells some stuff to start and they brawl out, terrorizing Ross & Caudle at ringside in the process. Dusty wins easily and Kevin grabs some sort of metal object to defend himself. Everyone regroups and Dusty tosses Kevin again. Back in, Sullivan goes to the throat to take over and wins a brawl outside. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Sullivan finds an international object and plays Lawler games with it. Dusty comes back with the flip flop and fly as this match goes south faster than birds in the winter, and a shot with the object gets two. Dusty chases Gary Hart, but Al Perez comes in and a beatdown results. Contrary to standard logic and common sense, the match continues until Dusty pins GARY HART at 6:59 for the win. I say again: Dusty was losing all touch with reality at this point and may have been on the verge of a nervous breakdown if his behavior leading up to his firing was any indication. No wonder Dustin ended up so screwed up. DUD – Russian chain match: Ricky Morton v. Ivan Koloff. Ah, the Ivan face turn angle that drew so much money. Dave Sheldon is lurking around ringside in his guise as Russian Assassin #1. Ivan pounds Morton and clotheslines him with the chain as Ross hints at his face turn. Ricky crotches him with the chain, but gets nailed again. Koloff touches two corners, but Ricky breaks it up and bails. Back in, Koloff keeps stomping away and touches two again. Ricky kicks at the knee to take over and whips at the knee with the chain. Koloff hits him with the chain, but gets yanked off the top. Ivan chokes him out, but Ricky comes back. Ivan whips him and touches three, but Morton takes him down and pounds away. Koloff hits him with the chain again and goes up, but they knock each other out. Ricky recovers first and drags him to three corners, but Paul gives Ivan the riding crop to hold onto for leverage, before suddenly letting go and giving Ricky the win at 9:52. Ivan is unceremoniously turfed via a beatdown by the Russian Assassins, and Nikita was SUPPOSED to make the save, but he was already gone. Junkyard Dog was later subbed into the angle to replace him, which of course makes no sense whatsoever and basically killed the whole angle. (Did I mention that Dusty was losing his fucking mind at this point?  Because I feel like I should.)  Match was slow and plodding. * – Tony introduces us to football player John Ayres, who will be reffing an upcoming Flair-Luger title match. Flair runs verbal circles around him, which is pretty funny in both a “ha ha” and sad sort of way. John is doing color for the main event. – US title match: Barry Windham v. Sting. Sting grabs a pair of armdrags, but gets tagged by Windham. They trade shoulderblocks and Sting dropkicks him out. Back in, Windham suplexes him, but he no-sells and dropkicks him out again. Back in, Windham cheats on a test of strength and pounds away in the corner. Sting atomic drops him out, and lays in his own beating in the opposite corner. Facejam and slam, but the Elbow That Never Hits lives up to its name. They brawl outside and Windham gets a slam on the floor and suplexes him back in. Sting gets a sunset flip, but Windham kicks him in the head to break. Powerslam and kneedrop get two. Sting cradles for two, and Windham posts himself in dramatic fashion on a blind charge and tumbles to the floor. Sting introduces him to a pair of ringposts, drawing blood. Back in, Sting bites at the cut and cheats like a madman, which the crowd loves. Dropkick gets nothing and he grabs a rare sleeper, as they reverse the usual heel-face roles and Windham fights to recover. Weird psychology there. They go to the usual babyface sleeper psychology, with Windham trying to run him into the corner, only to see Sting release the hold and then reapply it. Windham drops him on his knee to break, and slaps on the figure-four, using JJ and the ropes for leverage. The ref sees that and breaks it up, but the damage is done. Delayed backdrop suplex, but Sting fights back. Vertical suplex attempt is countered by Barry with a clawhold to the pecs, and Sting has to fight out of that. Windham bails, so Sting slingslots him back in and mounts the comeback. Stinger splash is blocked, bumping the ref in the process. Another try hits, Scorpion Deathlock follows, but no ref. JJ brings in a chair and knocks Sting cold, but John Ayres leaves ringside to stop the count and let Tommy Young know that shenanigans have occurred, which draws a DQ at 21:02. RETARDED finish from the rapidly senile Dusty, which makes Barry look weak and does nothing for Sting. Windham, previously the hottest commodity in all of wrestling, was progressively killed by the booking for the next 6 months until he jumped to the WWF to escape it. Gotta deduct ¼* for the ending, but the match is must-see otherwise. ****  (Yeah, even with Barry’s noted lack of passion for the business, he was really the hottest thing in wrestling as a heel US champion and they just ground him down to nothing with no payoff for the character and no resolution for the Horsemen.)  The Bottom Line: Thank god Ted Turner was able to bail out Jim Crockett around this time, because Dusty Rhodes’ self-absorbed and increasingly stupid booking choices were killing the promotion faster than Vince ever could. The really sad part is that the talent was putting on fantastic matches that were totally going to waste in all the circus atmosphere of the management situation. Mildly recommended show, for the main event and opener.