Clash Countdown: #18

The Smark Retro Rant for WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII – When the current product depresses and bores me as much as tonight’s RAW does, I’m left with little recourse but to seek out Ricky Steamboat battling the Dangerous Alliance in the time before Paul Heyman became a corporate whore.  (Well technically he was one for years before he got to WWE since he was taking Vince’s money under the table…)  – Live from Topeka, KS – Your hosts are Tony & JR, with a surprise guest later on. – Opening match: Big Van Vader & Mr. Hughes v. The Steiner Brothers. Scott starts with Hughes and he takes him down. Fireman’s carry and Hughes backs off. Some cheapshots give Hughes the advantage, but Scott suplexes him like a child and he bails. Scott Steiner scares me here, but in a good way. Scott gets double-teamed and tossed, but the heels showboat and the Steiner clean house. Vader suplexes Rick as we get started again and casually military-presses him. Rick gets a Steinerline, however, suplexes Vader out of the corner, and dumps him. Wild. Vader posts Rick on the floor to regain control, and hits a nasty lariat back in. Vader goes up, but gets superplexed (!) off by Rick, hot tag Scott. Clothesline gets two. Vader blocks a german suplex attempt, but Rick clocks him and Scott finishes the move. Awesome. He goes upstairs, but gets powerslammed and buttdropped. Mr. Hughes gets a powerslam for two. Lariat hits, blind charge misses. Rick comes back in with a hiptoss for Hughes, and a HIGH backdrop, but Vader nails Rick from behind. Heel miscommunication sees Vader nail Hughes, and Rick bulldogs him for the pin at 8:59. Watching those 300-400 pound guys toss each other around like ragdolls is an amazing sight to behold, and if you like this match I’d highly recommend checking out Steiners v. Vader & Bam Bam Bigelow from New Japan around the same time. Wild, wild stuff. ***1/4 – Tracy Smothers & Terry Taylor v. Brian Pillman & Marcus Alexander Bagwell. Taylor & Pillman start, and jaw at each other. They exchange chops and Pillman gets a headscissors and cleans house. Taylor gets a backbreaker for two, but Pillman headscissors him again and bodypresses him for two. Bagwell comes in and dominates the heels with basic stuff, and they bail. The babyfaces follow with stereo pescados, and the crowd goes nuts. Tracy and Bagwell go next, and Tracy gets a dropkick and back elbow to take over. Taylor hits a necksnap for two, but Tracy misses a splash. Pillman in, he’s a house of fire. Spinkick gets two on Smothers. Heels beat him down, however, and Taylor suplexes Pillman to the floor. He seems to enjoy working that bump in. Tracy pounds him down there (down where?) and gets two back in the ring. Pillman gets stuck in the heel corner and Taylor hits a Doctorbomb for two. Taylor lays some smackdown, and Pillman tumbles to the apron and takes his patented railing bump via Tracy’s shoulderblock. He comes back in with a vengeance, hitting Air Pillman on Smothers, hot tag Bagwell. Pier-six, Bagwell sunset-flips Smother for the pin at 7:48. Amazing heat for a midcard match and a thoroughly entertaining affair to boot. *** Pillman was FEELING IT during this period, and Bagwell was used perfectly here. Funny how 10 years later he got all bitchy about laying down for young kids after seeing everyone lower than TV title level bump around like pinballs for him in the early 90s… – Richard Morton v. Johnny B. Badd. Morton dominates on the mat, but hides in the ropes. Badd gets a double axehandle, but Morton cheapshots and dumps him. Badd sneaks in with a rollup for two, but Morton gets an atomic drop and they brawl out. Badd eats post and back in they go. Morton gets a suplex for two. Badd powerslam gets two. They slug it out and Badd rolls through a bodypress for the pin at 3:23. Match started nowhere and went nowhere. ½* – Diamond Dallas Page v. PN News. Life is funny, what more can ya say? The 1991 DDP was a drastically different animal than the one currently waiting out his million-dollar WCW contract these days. (Of course, he wouldn’t be waiting for long, so that pinpoints this somewhere between April – June 2001.)  For instance, he earned far less and jobbed FAR more. Page can’t slam him and they criss-cross, and News dropkicks Page out. Back in, News gets an avalanche and senton. Big fat elbow misses, as does another avalanche. DDP gets three elbows and a russian legsweep, thus exhausting his moveset at the time. He tries a slam but gets squashed for two. Page snaps PN’s neck off the top rope and slingshots back in for two, but walks into a belly-to-belly suplex and BIG FAT RAPMASTER SPLASH OF HORRENDOUS AGONY for the pin at 3:26. ½* – Once again, in order to enrich your meaningless lives and provide you with a sense of direction and fulfillment, I present to you the WCW Top 10 for the week of January 21, 1991. 10. Larry “The Cruncher” Zbyszko 9. El Gigante 8. Big Van Vader 7. Dustin Rhodes 6. Cactus Jack 5. Rick Steiner 4. Ricky Steamboat 3. Steve Austin 2. Sting 1. Rick Rude WCW champion: Lex Luger – Big moment (all sarcasm aside) as Tony Schiavone introduces us to the person who would sadly be the shortest-reigning of all the incompetent bean-counters to run WCW over the years, Kip Allen Frey. Frey actually had some brilliant ideas for improving the work ethic, including a sizable chunk of cash to whoever had the best match on a given show, but after putting on one absolutely awesome PPV in the form of Superbrawl II, he was forced out for actually doing his job properly and replaced with Bill Watts shortly after. Ah, politics. (Man, I miss Kip Frey.  He was a good combination of bean-counter and wrestling guy.)  Kip announces the signing of Lex Luger v. Sting for Superbrawl II here, and then shakes things up further by bringing out WCW’s newest color commentator…Jesse Ventura. Now, WCW was already top-heavy with announcers at that point, but this was one pickup that actually meant something, unlike the signing of Eric Bischoff as a favor to DDP earlier in the year. – Falls Count Anywhere in Kansas: Cactus Jack v. Van Hammer. The fledging internet nearly had a collective orgasm when Jack was actually booked to (gasp) WIN A MATCH at Clash 17 against Van Hammer, and everyone figured the honeymoon would be over here. Little did anyone suspect that this was actually the beginning of a quasi-push for Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy while Hammer would be shunted into obscurity again soon enough. And yes, Clash 17 is coming soon, and in fact is already done and hidden in a notebook somewhere and once I figure out which one I’ll type it up. The problem with doing the rants on paper first is that you end up with about 18 identical-looking notebooks full of stuff and if you should forget to type something in you might never see it again. (Thankfully now that I have a laptop welded to the couch I can just do all the rants live as I watch them, but it used to be a pain in the ass, for sure.)  Hammer comes over the top with a bodypress into the ring for two to start. Flying clothesline and legdrop get two. Cactus pops up and clotheslines him for two. Cactus clothesline gets two. Jack pulls up the mats and rams Hammer to the concrete, then comes off the apron with a sunset flip that hurts him more than Hammer, for two. They fight onto the ramp and Hammer counters a sleeper and powerslams him for two. Jack clotheslines him and they fight up the ramp. Hammer small packages him for two, but Jack clotheslines him again. Hammer biels him off the ramp onto the concrete as Zen and I cringe just watching. I’m so glad Mick at least got over with all those sick bumps. Hammer comes off the rampway with a flying clothesline on Jack for two. Jack gets an atomic drop and they brawl backstage as WCW takes a commercial break so they can switch to the tape. This was well before live hardcore matches had been perfected, so a little cheating was necessary. We return in the stables as Cactus uses one of those horned skulls to choke Hammer out, and Hammer comes back with a lasso to choke Cactus out in turn. Abdullah the Butcher, dressed as a cowboy and looking strangely like Dusty Rhodes, nails Hammer with a shovel and Jack gets the pin at 10:08. ***1/2 Jack & Abdullah continue brawling, oblivious to the finish. – The “New” Freebirds v. Big Josh & Brad Armstrong. Oh, man, where do I start here? Okay, first, the Freebirds are “new” because they have newer, less queer-looking ring attire, and a new entrance music: “I’m a Freebird and What’s Your Excuse?” If ever a song could make me long for “Badstreet USA”, it’s that one. The guys they’re facing are Brad Armstrong, who played the Freebird lackey Badstreet up until about a week before this show and completely outclassed them at every turn, and Big Josh, who was played by Matt Bourne. Bourne went on to the WWF and became Doink the Clown, but he wasn’t the guy who the gimmick was made for. In fact, the guy the WWF had signed to play Doink before the deal fell through was…Jimmy Garvin. (That’s what Jimmy was claiming, although this has been contradicted several times since then.  Most notably by the recently-released preliminary sketches for the character on WWE.com, which clearly show that is was Matt Bourne’s deal.)  And now you know…the rest of the story. Life is just f------ weird, ain’t it? The idea is that the Birds are supposed to be babyfaces with an edge, as opposed to the heels without an edge that they were playing before. Hayes & Brad start, and Hayes gets a rollup for two. Garvin gets a forearm and flying bodypress for two. Josh comes in with a powerslam and logroll, and Hayes gets the same. Hayes gets a sunset flip, but Josh armdrags him. Armstrong cleans house with dropkicks, but the Birds double-DDT him for the pin at 3:48. Same old same old from the new Freebirds. ¼* – Steiners are interviewed by Bischoff, and Scott notes that it’s “No more Mr. Nice Guy”. There’s the understatement of the decade. – Thomas Rich v. Vinnie Vegas. The debut that shook the world! Listening to Jim Ross pimp multi-time loser Kevin Nash as a “newcomer” after just seeing him as Oz a couple of weeks before this show is an exercise in absurdity. Snake Eyes finishes at 0:56. DUD – Eric Bischoff interviews Paul E. Dangerously, and he promises one of the babyfaces goes to the “Magnum TA Memorial Retirement Home”, TONIGHT. Paul used to rule. (And now he mostly rules again.)  – Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton & Larry Zbyszko v. Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons. Anderson & Eaton were fresh off winning the tag belts from Rhodes & Steamboat here. Windham starts with Eaton, and gets neckbreakered. Superplex is no-sold, however, because he’s still kinda pissed about the whole car-door thing at Halloween Havoc 91. Windham gets a pair of lariats, and his own superplex for two. The babyfaces do triple figure-fours, drawing a huge pop from the fans. Larry goes with Simmons next, and Simmon overpowers him. Arn comes in and Simmons shoulderblocks both of the ex-Enforcers. He presses AA and works on Larry in the corner. Eaton comes in and goes with Rhodes. Dustin dumps him and hits a flying clothesline over the top, and back for Larry v. Barry. Barry misses a lariat and lands on his face, but Larry can’t get him up for a piledriver. AA comes in and gets brushed off in favor of keeping Zbyszko in the match. Rhodes & Windham go to town on Larry, but Dustin gets dumped and Paul wallops him with the phone to become YOUR redneck-in-peril. Back in, Arn spinebuster gets two. Pump splash hits knee, but Arn still gets a DDT for two. Eaton comes in with a flying elbow for two. Blind charge misses, but Rhodes can’t tag. Arn misses a double-axehandle off the 2nd rope and Dustin makes the hot tag to Windham. Top rope lariat and regular lariat for Eaton, backdrop gets two. Big brawl, Eaton comes off the top, and Windham punches him in the mouth with the cast on the way down for the pin at 9:28. Great old-school action here. ***1/2  (Dustin was improving rapidly at this point after his initial over-push at the beginning of the year, and it’s kind of cool that he was able to hang with top workers like he was.)  – Sting & Ricky Steamboat v. Rick Rude & Steve Austin. Austin & Steamboat start, and the Dragon overpowers him. They slug it out, won by Steamboat, and Austin bails. Back in, Steamboat backslide gets two, and he just goes back to it again for two. Small package gets two and Austin goes nuts and gets dumped. The heels regroup. Back in, Rude wants Sting, then backs off in a great bit of psyching out. Rude slugs away, but gets atomic-dropped. Sting clotheslines him down and rakes the back, driving new commentator Jesse Ventura insane. Sting goes to a rear chinlock, but spices it up as the faces play mindgames with the heels by switching off without a tag a few times, and the crowd absolutely eats it up with a spoon. Sting tries a testicular-drop, but lands on Rude’s knees and Austin comes in. Back elbow gets two, and Sting is YOUR Face-in-peril. Rude clotheslines him for two after a tag tease. Austin gets a backdrop suplex, but Sting tags the Dragon. DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER OF DOOM gets two on Austin. Victory roll, no ref. Rude nails him, and Austin gets a back elbow and the heels work him over. Austin blocks a rollup, but gets cradled for two. Pier-six, Sting and Austin brawl onto the ramp, and back to the ring as Austin tries to slam Steamboat, only to see Sting plow into him with a flying bodypress that results in Steamboat & Sting dogpiling Austin for the pin at 11:21. Just awesome effort out of everyone here. ****  (Man, why didn’t this make the Clash of Champions DVD?  Talk about a dream match.)  The Bottom Line: Ya know, I had no idea this show was so evenly great from top to bottom. It just never registered with me because it was so long ago and I haven’t watched it recently. But then, the Dangerous Alliance angle completely reenergized the entire promotion, so that’s probably not such a huge shock. Or I could just be a huge mark for the guys on top at that point, your call. Strongly recommended.