Clash Countdown: #27

The Netcop Retro Rant for WCW Clash of the
Champions XXVII (June 1994)
– Live from Charleston, South Carolina
– Hosted by Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan
and Jesse Ventura.

(Apologies for any formatting weirdness, but this is from close to 20 years ago, back when we used to chip blog posts into stone slabs.  It’s also one of my first true Retro Rants.)  

Opening match:  WCW World tag team title:  Cactus Jack & Kevin
Sullivan v. The Nasty Boys.  This, like most of the card, is a rematch
from Slamboree.  That match was one of my favorite matches,
ever.  This
is not as good because it’s a straight tag
team match and 3/4 of the
participants are shitty at straight tag
team matches.  Two referees here
for no reason in particular.  (No reason needed!  Referees for everyone!)  Not too painful to watch, because WCW
allows them one last flirtation with
hardcore wrestling before the
arrival of Hulk Hogan puts Cactus Jack on a
permanent leash.  (And then WWF put him in a restraining mask.)  Sags and
the Sullivan brothers brawl outside the
ring and Jack DDTs Knobs for the
pin to retain the titles.  Not bad, and an enjoyable opener.  **1/2
– Guardian Angel promo.
– Guardian Angel v. Tex Slazenger.  The Angel is of course Ray Traylor,
and this is the debut match for the
gimmick.  Speaking of bad gimmicks,
ol’ Tex is currently stinking up the WWF as
everyone’s favorite hog
farmer, Phineas I. Godwinn.  
(Geez, this was written before he even started switching gimmicks around.  So basically I was doing a retrospective on a show that wasn’t even four years old at that point?)  

And this match is a squash.  Angel gives
Tex three “strikes” (ie. shots)
before he flips out and ends it with the
Bossman slam.  One of the better gimmicks for Traylor, to be
sure, but
doomed to failure for legal reasons.
– Extended footage of Hulk Hogan’s
limousine pulling into the building
is shown, as Bobby fires off a couple of OJ
jokes.  Back when they were
still funny.  (Of course now that he’s in prison, they’re back in vogue.)  
– 
WCW World TV title match:  Larry
Zbyszko v. Steven Regal
.  Here’s the
short version of this feud:  Regal was acting like a pompous ass and
generally pissing on Zbyszko’s leg (much
like Scott Hall today) so one
day while interviewing him, Zbyszko decided
to deck him and come out of
retirement. 
They fought at Slamboree in a non-title match to prove
Larry’s worth, and that earned him a title
shot, which he also won,
which was aired on Worldwide (I
think).  This is the rematch.  Steven
Regal is my god at this point, and I wish
he’d remember how good he was
in 1994 and go back there again.  (But keep the hair.)  By this time, these two have wrestled
each other twice and have a really awesome
groove going together.  Both
guys are total professionals and know how
to keep a match from getting
boring, and their styles mesh perfectly
here.  The crowd is very
appreciative throughout, as Regal draws
monster heel heat.  When was the
last time that happened?  (This was of course written before he ever went to the WWF and got awesome.)  End comes as Zbyszko tries a Boston Crab, but
Sir William pulls him over with the
umbrella, putting Regal on top, and
Regal then grabs onto the top rope for
leverage and gets the pin and
his second TV title.  Terrific match.  ***1/2  (I’m dubious but don’t have time to go back and redo it.)  
– Mean Gene interviews Dustin Rhodes.  Rhodes has been feuding with Col.
Parker’s stable for a few months, and now
he’s asking Arn Anderson to be
his partner against Terry Funk and
Bunkhouse Buck, in retaliation for a
beating at Slamboree.  Arn accepts on the condition that Dustin
realizes
it’ll be the old, sneaky, dirty trick
playing Arn that shows up.
Dustin, like an IDIOT, agrees and of course
when they wrestle at Bash at
the Beach, Arn turns on him and beats the
hell out of him.  They just
don’t write great storylines like that one
anymore.  (But they’re TELLING STORIES!  Like about how Damien Sandow dresses like other people for some reason!)  
– US title match:  Stunning Steve Austin v. Johnny B. Badd.  Another
rematch from Slamboree.  Austin had fired Parker the week before and
was
better for it.  It was supposed to be Austin going over Flair
for the
World title in the next few months, but
Hulk showed up and screwed it
up, and screwed up Austin’s career with
it.  (Wait, what?  Like Austin was ever in line for the title.  That’s why he left!)  Ironically, it was the
bitterness caused by this that created
Stone Cold Steve Austin.  A damn
fine match that isn’t as good as Slamboree,
but it’s a lot different and
different is good sometimes.  I just watched some Johnny B. Badd stuff
from 1991-ish this afternoon, and the
difference between then and
1994-ish is ASTOUNDING.  The guy improved 200% in that time span.  Goofy
ending to the match:  Austin pulls out a gimmick (foreign object,
whatever you want to call it) from his
tights and nails Johnny in the
gut, then small packages him for the
pin.  Austin does a lousy job of
hiding it, however, and a second referee
runs down and sees Austin drop
it, then restarts the match.  Badd cradles Austin and gets a quick pin
from the second referee, and is declared
the new US champion!  We go to
break and a decision is promised when he
come back.
– We’re back, with no mention of the
decision.  I grumble to myself and
check the PWI Almanac, which says that it
was Badd by DQ.  Good enough
for me.  (Jesus, back when I had to use PWI to check results stuff instead of the multiple sites dedicated to exactly that.)  
– Hulk Hogan comes out to a decent pop.  Boos can be heard, however.  He
challenges the winner of the Flair-Sting
match later in the show.  Flair
pops up on the video wall, to a pop at
least 3x louder than Hogan got.
Keep in mind that WCW turned Flair heel not
two weeks prior to this in
order to prevent exactly that sort of thing
from happening.  This is why
I hate Hogan so much.  (Among other reasons.)  
– Main event:  “Unification” match:  WCW World champion Ric Flair v.
Bogus World champion Sting.  Flair gets an amazing pop, half face/half
heel. 
Sting gets an even louder face pop. 
Hulk didn’t get half of what
either guy got.  The subplot here is that Sherri Martell has
been
showing up in the front row of WCW shows
for weeks now, and no one knows
who she’s managing.  Once again, before we start, I feel the need
to
reiterate that this match unified NOTHING
and Sting’s “title” was
WORTHLESS. 
Sherri comes down with her face painted like Sting and sits
in his corner.  This is about the closest these two got to
having that
big epic showdown that everyone was waiting
for but never happened.
The first Clash of Champions was too soon
for Sting to win.  He was too
injured at Bash 90 and the match was too
bogged down with storyline.
This had a great reason for existing (The
World title controversy), a
good storyline (They hate each other…what
more do you need?) and GREAT
heat. 
It’s not a great match, but it’s really, really good.  Lots of
stalling from Flair to start, which drags
it down but gives Flair
mega-heat. 
Flair is the king, I swear.  It
amazes me that WCW could
manage to put Flair over as the biggest
babyface champion they’d had in
years, then ask him to turn heel again on
two weeks’ notice and watch as
he puts every other heel in the federation
to shame.  The man could do
it all. 
And WCW pissed it away for Hulk. 
It gets *really* good 15
minutes in as Flair takes over.  Sting makes the comeback and starts
rockin’ and rollin’ on Flair, showing more
moves than in all of his 1998
matches combined.  Flair rolls out and Sting tries a plancha,
but Flair
pulls Sherri in the way and Sting wipes her
out.  Sting is in shock over
it, and is distracted enough trying to help
her up that Flair can simply
roll him up and pin him to unify the
titles.  Holding the tights, of
course. 
****
(Here’s the later version from the Flair DVD and a couple of others:)

And don’t even get me started on the reasons behind this
match.  Sting was the International World
champion and Flair was the actual WCW World champion, and just leave it at
that.  Flair goes for the arm to start,
but Sting keeps kipping up.  They trade
hammerlocks and Sting shoves him down, so Flair bails to the ramp and
regroups.  Back in, Flair grabs a headlock,
but Sting escapes and gets a press-slam. 
And hey, why not another one? 
Flair bails again and stops for a Flair Flop outside, and stalls.  Back in, Flair goes to the eyes and tries a
chop, but Sting is having none of that. 
He hiptosses Flair and follows with a trio of clotheslines, and Flair
bails again.  Way too much stalling thus
far.  Back in, Flair finally takes over
with a cheapshot, but Sting no-sells and comes back with a hiptoss, only to
whiff on a dropkick.  Flair goes for the
leg, but Sting comes back and Flair bails again.  Flair decides to start chopping, but Sting
fires back…and misses the Stinger Splash. 
And NOW Flair takes over, dumping Sting behind the ref’s back and laying
in the chops.  Back in, Flair necksnaps
him on the top rope and drops a knee. 
Another one gets two.  Back to the
chops, and a backdrop suplex, but Sting escapes the figure-four.  Flair gets a back elbow and grabs a sleeper,
but Sting fights out of it and sends Flair into the corner.  Sting knocks him down and gets a sloppy
slingshot into the corner, but Flair bails. 
Sting suplexes him back in for two. 
Flair Flip and Sting clotheslines him off the apron, then brings him in
for another clothesline, which gets two. 
They go up and Sting brings him down with a superplex, but goes for a
flying splash and misses.  Flair gets a
suplex, but Sting no-sells and hiptosses him out of the corner, into a dropkick
and a press-slam.  A clothesline puts
Flair on the floor, so Flair slickly hides behind Sherri Martell, who was supposedly
on Sting’s side that night.  Sting
follows with a pescado and wipes out Sherri as a result.  No one ever said she was afraid to take a
bump.  Back in, Sting gets a backslide
for two.  Clothesline and he checks on
Sherri, but Flair rolls him up for the pin at 17:11 to unify the belts.  I gave this a really good rating back in like
1998, but they didn’t click at all here and Flair seemed really off his
game.  ***  Flair & Sherri reveal their alliance and
team up on Sting afterwards, but Hulk Hogan makes the save, which doesn’t get
half the pop they were probably banking on.  
After the match, Flair and Sherri hug,
since it was all a ruse, of
course, then clobber Sting.  Hogan makes the save.  Oh, the irony.
– Everyone promptly forgets what a good
match we just saw as Hogan poses
and challenges Flair to a match at Bash at
the Beach.  Sting?  Who’s
Sting?
The Bottom Line:
He ruined it all.
From 1989 – 1993, WCW was led by a parade
of idiots, blunderers,
accountants, lawyers, old men and faded
ex-wrestlers, none of whom could
both satisfy the bottom-line craving suits
and put on a watchable
product. 
Bill Watts tried but was fired for daring to have an opinion.
Things were terrible in 1990 under Ole
Anderson, but Dusty Rhodes tried
everything new and original he could think
of in 1991 to rebuild.  It
didn’t work, but many of the stars built in
that era (Austin & Badd to
name two) would stick around to help later
on.  In 1992, Bill Watts gave
the federation a complete makeover before
Eric Bischoff forced him out
in a power play typical of WCW.  In 1993, Ted Turner threw every cent he
could at WCW in a desperate attempt to boost
the federation to the WWF’s
level and the decision was made to put Sid
Vicious on top for the bulk
of 1994.
Then, a few weeks prior to Starrcade 93,
Vicious nearly stabbed Arn
Anderson to death with a pair of scissors
and was promptly fired.  WCW
was left without their biggest draw and,
more importantly, a credible
challenger for the monster Vader at
Starrcade.  So they did what they
always did in their most desperate times of
need:  They went back to Ric
Flair, hoping for a stopgap until they
could start from square one, just
like they always did.  But the unthinkable happened:  WCW finally got it
right.
We’re still not sure how or why it
happened, but they put on a hot
Starrcade, followed it up with a good Clash
of Champions, then blew
everyone away with Superbrawl IV, Spring
Stampede and Slamboree.  The
quality was through the roof.  Flair was drawing like nuts as a babyface
and Sting was more over than ever before in
his feud with Rick Rude.
WCW could do no wrong, and with Steve
Austin and Johnny B. Badd in the
wings, being prepped for major star turns,
they looked to be ready to
mount a major offensive against the WWF
within weeks.  They even flirted
with a more mature, “hardcore”
style by signing Terry Funk and allowing
Cactus Jack to book his own matches.
Then they signed Hulk Hogan.  And it all fell apart.  Flair was turned
heel to set up a hastily signed match
between the two at Bash at the
Beach. 
Sting was put on the backburner for more than a year.  Cactus
Jack was put on a virtual choke-chain and
forced out of the federation
by the fall.  All of Hogan’s friends came in and took away
the spots
earned by WCW’s rising talent.  Austin was jobbed out and humiliated.
Badd was stuck fighting the Honky Tonk Man
in the opening matches.
Vader was relegated to ineffective heel
while Brutus Beefcake fought
Hogan in the main event of Starrcade 1994.
For me, it was like watching a relative
deteriorate due to disease.
After seeing WCW fuck it up for so long,
then get it totally right, I
couldn’t help but have a soft spot for
them.
But Hulk Hogan ruined it all.  I never forgave him for that, and in fact
I stopped watching WCW entirely for 18
months following Bash at the
Beach, as my own personal protest.
This Clash represents the last truly great
show WCW put on in 1994, and
is the turning point for them, as they went
from penthouse to outhouse
in one month flat.  Had they continued with this level of
quality, they
wouldn’t have needed to wait until 1996 to
overtake the WWF because
their product could have stood on it’s own,
with the talent they already
had.
But Hulk Hogan ruined it all.
(Yeah, well, he also drew a shitload of money in his first PPV and justified most of his ridiculous contract, so it’s hard to blame him specifically.  However, the booking stuff revolving around him is another story.)  
As usual.
I highly recommend watching this show, and
thinking hard about whether
or not it was worth ever signing him.
Later.