Repost: The SmarK Retro Rant for WCW Clash of the Champions XI

(Since we’re at that point in the Observer recaps and we were robbed of Dave’s star ratings, here’s my 2002 rant on Clash XI instead.  Back to the grind tomorrow.) 

The SmarK Retro Rant for WCW Clash of the Champions XI

– This is from the thick of the Ole Anderson booking disaster, as he pushed his friends for cheap and fired and/or buried more expensive talent in hopes of getting them to quit. And the result is the main event that’s forthcoming.

– Live from Charleston, SC

– Your hosts are JR & Bob Caudle.

– Opening match: The Southern Boys v. The Freebirds.

I always wonder why WCW didn’t get the rights to 38 Special’s “Wild Eyed Southern Boys” for entrance music. Southern Boys do a do-see-do and clean house on the ‘birds to start, and they bail. Back in, Garvin pounds on Tracy Smothers in the corner and gets a knee for two. BODYSLAM OF DOOM gets two. And people wonder why I hate these guys so much. Steve Armstrong comes flying in with a bodypress on both Birds, and they bail again. Dig that crazy stalling! Back in, Hayes spends some quality time sharing his feelings with the front row, and having had a therapeutic experience decides to rejoin the match. Pretty hot crowd tonight, too. Hayes grabs a headlock on Armstrong, but gets overpowered. Garvin gets a backbreaker for two. Hayes works on the arm and heads up, but gets slammed off and Tracy gets the hot tag. HICK ON FIRE! Reverse elbows all around and it’s BONZO GONZO as Tracy rolls up Garvin, but Hayes rolls them over with a lariat and Garvin gets a Shining Wizard. Armstrong then comes off the top onto them, reverses the pinfall, and the Southern Boys triumph at 7:15. Short and inoffensive tag match. **  (The tag team depth was pretty crazy in 1990, with the Boys being the hot new team but still four or five down the depth chart at that point.) 

– Tommy Rich v. Bam Bam Bigelow.

I seem to recall that this was supposed to be something else originally but got changed at the last minute. (The whole card was switched around three or four times, it seems like, as it was originally announced before Ole took over as booker.)  Bigelow looks weird without sleeves on his tights. He tosses Rich around, but Tommy keeps slugging back. He starts working on the arm as Caudle predicts Tommy Rich will pull out an upset. Remind me not to have Bob pick my lottery numbers. Rich is just going nuts on that wristlock. Bigelow headbutts him down and charges, but gets rolled up for two. Tommy keeps punching, but gets caught with an inverted atomic drop and press-slammed. A melodramatic choke draws a DQ at 3:42. Wow, Caudle gets it right after all. That’s one of the few times I’ve actually seen the ref DQ someone for not breaking at five.(That was actually a thing that Vince was pushing for a while a couple of years ago, to reinforce the idea of realistic refereeing.  No, really.)  DUD “I’ll kill everybody!” Bam Bam yells at the camera. By choking them out one by one? Well, kudos on the ambition, but the efficiency could use some work.

– Preview video for some jabronie named “Big Van Vader”. Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but that gimmick was actually designed by Antonio Inoki for Ultimate Warrior.  (Dave never did mention that story in the ‘90 Observers, so I wonder if it didn’t come out until much later.) 

– Gary Capetta interviews El Gigante, in Spanish. This was about as entertaining as you’d imagine. On the other hand, every day brings us closer to the potential return of Giant Gonzalez to feud with Undertaker again. (Well, not now, of course.) 

– The Samoan Swat Team v. Captain Mike Rotundo & Tom Zenk.

I would be remiss in not mentioning Rotundo’s gimmick du jour in this match, which was that of a skipper. I guess we were supposed to be sitting in the audience going “Dang, Jethro, I love boating too!” or something. (So what, “Dang Jethro” dies on the vine, but you guys think it’s hilarious that Kevin Owens is fat? I bet if the Miz started saying “Dang Jethro” you’d all cream yourselves over it.)  Rotundo fights off an attack from Fatu and hiptosses him to the rampway. Tama (who had taken over for Samu at this point) comes in, but gets slammed and dropkicked by Zenk, and bails. He was called “Samoan Savage”, but f--- WCW, it’s Tama. Rotundo gets a cross-body for nothing, because the ref is distracted, and the Samoans use chicanery to reverse the pinfall for two. The pairing here is one of the few cases where the relationship is straightforward – Fatu (Solofa Fatu) and Tama (Sam Fatu) are brothers. Fatu uses the VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DOOM, and then clotheslines him down again and dumps him. The SST works over Rotundo in the corner as JR alternates between “Samoan Swat Team” and “Wild Samoans”, and Rotundo clotheslines both of them and makes the hot tag to Zenk. Zenk, being pretty rather than intelligent, tries the old double-noggin knocker and gets clobbered for his troubles. Never try to ram Samoans’ heads together. (That’s just basic science!)  Zenk, however, switches off with Rotundo in the most unlikely switcheroo you’ll ever see, and a small package finishes for the faces at 5:22. That was pretty weird. Another decent but shortish match. **1/4

– Brian Pillman v. Mean Mark Callous.

Callous is being managed by Paul Heyman, back when he had hair and could see his toes. This was very, very soon after his WCW debut, and he was only about a year into the business at this point. (But rapidly improving! And as a bonus, he chased Shane Douglas out of the company.)  He attacks Pillman to start and pounds him down. Pillman was being punished by Ole Anderson for signing a big-money contract under the previous administration. Anderson had a famous exchange with Pillman, as he warned him to renegotiate, or job in opening matches for the rest of his career. Pillman responded that he’d be the highest-paid curtain jerker in history and love it. Pillman gets bumped into the railing and tries a crucifix, but Callous rams him into the corner to break and drops a big elbow for two. We hit the chinlock, and Pillman escapes and walks into an elbow. That gets two. Pillman keeps fighting back with chops, but gets sideslammed. Really good agility from a young Mark Callaway at this point. Pillman gets whipped into the corner, but a charge misses and Pillman tries another comeback. He tries power instead of speed, and it fails in the form of getting powerslammed, however. Callous misses a legdrop and Pillman keeps chopping and hits him with a dropkick, but gets tossed. He skins the cat back in, heads up, and hits Callous with a missile dropkick. They mess up an irish whip reversal that was supposed to set up the heart punch finish, and recover as Callous hits him with a hotshot for the weak pin at 5:40. Pillman was game for carrying the load until the awkward finish. **1/2

 

– US tag title match: The Midnight Express v. The Rock N Roll Express.

Eaton starts with Gibson and escapes a hammerlock, and Eaton gets frustrated quickly. Criss-cross and Eaton gets taken down with a headscissors. Lane comes in and nails him with a back kick, but Gibson gets an enzuigiri. Morton tags in and they work Lane over in the corner. Criss- cross ends with Lane getting hiptossed, but he slugs Morton in the mouth. Charge misses, however, and Ricky backdrops him, and armdrags Eaton on the way in. Rana and Eaton bails to the corner. Lane comes in and gets hit with an armdrag as well, and the RNR go for the arm. Gibson atomic drops Lane into the corner off a criss-cross, and it’s back to the face corner for a Morton rollup that gets two. Back to the armbar, and Eaton comes in to turn the tide. They head up top and Morton blocks a superplex, nearly falling on his head in the process. Yikes. It’s a CHINESE FIRE-DRILL and the MX double-backdrop Gibson, but both RNRs rollup both MXs for a collective two-count. Everyone backs off to regroup again. Morton hiptosses Lane, but Lane blocks a rana attempt and turns it into a double-team that puts Ricky down. They work him over with a necksnap and elbowdrop that gets two for Eaton. Eaton misses a charge, hot tag Gibson. He cleans house like a French maid and Eaton tumbles out with Morton as a result. Gibson goes to a leglock on Lane while Eaton bumps Morton into the railing, and Bobby nails Gibson off the top for two. Morton is back in and it’s BONZO GONZO, as the RNR hit Eaton with the double dropkick for two. Lane breaks it up, so the ref DQs the champs at 11:49. Holy CRAP that’s lame. Pretty uninspired stuff here. **3/4

– Doug Furnas v. Barry Windham.

Furnas overpowers Windham, but gets hiptossed. This was WELL before Furnas was any good. Just so you know. He gets a sunset flip for two and tackles Windham out of the ring. Barry goes to the eyes to take over, always a favorite, and Furnas tries to get cute with a backflip out of the corner, and blows it. The perils of live TV and rookies. He gets a press-slam regardless, and destroys Windham with a lariat for two. Windham bails again and gets yanked back in by Furnas, who charges and gets equally destroyed by a lariat. Well, I guess they’re even now. Floatover suplex gets two. Windham’s slam attempt is reversed to a cradle for two. JR of course loves Furnas, who hails from Oklahoma. Furnas comes back with a faceplant and a snap belly to belly for two. Powerslam gets two. A badly botched dropkick ends with Furnas acting like he missed and Windham acting like it hit, and Windham finishes him with a backdrop suplex at 5:41. Windham was still good enough to hold it together in 1990, despite Furnas blowing everything he tried. **

– US title match: Lex Luger v. Sid Vicious.

Luger is wearing his hot pink tights, so you know he means business. Sid attacks Luger from behind and uses the BACK RAKE OF DEATH, but Luger gets a clothesline for the pin at 0:23. To this day I have no idea what the f--- that was all about, unless they were running long. If someone who was reading the WON in 1990 can enlighten me, please do so. (Since Sid wasn’t supposed to be cleared until 7/1, I’m assuming that it’s because he was unable to do anything in the ring.  Now, this begs the question of why they added the match in the first place, since Luger was also out with the staph infection at the time and really neither guy was supposed to be in the ring, and the match wasn’t one that had been announced.) 

– NWA World tag title: Doom v. The Steiner Brothers.

Doom’s SNME graphic is quite funky – the “OO” in their name is formed by the eyes of a skull, and it’s projected over video of an atomic blast. You see, they’re the heels. Scott starts with Ron Simmons, and they slug it out. Scott gets the full-on Blockbuster slam, as he essentially suplexes him backwards while holding him in a bodyslam position, and he doesn’t let go. That’s a f------ awesome move and you know Scott is FEELING IT when he’s pulling out s--- like that. Simmons pounds back, but Scott casually hits him with a clothesline to the back of the head and sends him running to the corner for a tag. Reed tries hammering on Scott, but can’t overpower him. Scott catches a surprise backslide to counter a leapfrog, for two, and slams him a couple of times. Scott used to be amazing. Rick comes in and walks into a cheapshot from Simmons, but comes back with a MONSTER belly to belly. Reed tries it again and pounds away, but can’t hiptoss Rick. Reed takes a timeout, but Rick pulls him out of the corner and rolls him up for two. He fights his way into the wrong corner, however, and gets blindsided by a Simmons clothesline on the outside. Back in, Reed hits him with a spinning neckbreaker for two. He pounds on Rick’s head with the soupbone rights and gets a massive clothesline which Rick sells like death. The Steiners were so awesome when they wanted to play ball. Simmons comes in, but puts his head down and gets punted. Reed decides to come in via the top, cutting off any potential tag. Rick gets tossed over the top behind the ref’s back, and sent into the post for good measure. If you’re gonna cheat, cheat big. Rick tries to come back, but Reed kicks him in the face and gets a butterfly suplex. Elbowdrop gets two. We hit the chinlock, and Rick fights out and dodges a charge, allowing him to hit Reed with a double axehandle off the middle rope. I have to question the strategic value of that move. He finally opts for the hot tag to Scott, who hits both Doom members with better dropkicks than most cruiserweights throw. Powerslam and it’s BONZO GONZO! Scott and Simmons head to the top, but Reed uses the POWER OF THE PUNCH to give Simmons the pin at 11:15 while Rick gets a meaningless fall on Reed. It’s purportedly a double-pin, but Scott and Simmons were the legal men and clearly Rick’s pin of Reed meant nothing. I think they booked it that way to protect the Steiners, but it’s kind of silly. (As noted in the last Observer recap, Ole told the Steiners when he made the card that they’d be getting the belts back here, and then changed his mind and had Doom retain cleanly the night of the show.  The Steiners freaked out on him and they changed the finish a bit to save face, and then put the US tag titles on them a couple of weeks later as a consolation prize.  Although I have to say, f--- the Steiners if that’s how it went down.  Be professional, you jerks.)  It should be noted that those of you who think I’m just kidding when I say that WCW made announcers call things “international objects” in order to be politically correct, JR indeed uses the term here. Really good power match. ***1/4

– Paul Orndorff v. Arn Anderson.

It’s the battle of the second bananas! Man, why didn’t that Dudes With Attitudes v. Horsemen feud win any awards? Orndorff works a headlock on Arn and they do a criss-cross that results in Orndorff gaining the upper hand. Back to the headlock, and Paul gets a backslide for two. Orndorff punches him to the outside, and chases him into a MAIN EVENT SLEEPER. Well, he’s no HHH. Arn reverses. He’s no HHH either. If these guys could just learn to work WWE main event style, they might draw some money. Orndorff takes him down with the Dusty-variation on the figure-four, and gets a near-fall from it. Paul works on the leg, but walks into the MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER. See, HHH has ruined the move for me so much that I can’t even enjoy it when Arn does it anymore. Arn works on the back and hammers away in the corner, giving Paul the old bootlacing and chokejob. He goes to the abdominal stretch while we play “Is he holding the ropes?” with the ref. General AA rule: If he starts holding the ropes in an abdominal stretch, he’s not trying. The length of the abdominal stretch spot is generally inversely proportional to the number of stars the match gets. We hit the chinlock to emphasize this, and they do the usual collision in the corner spot for the double count. Orndorff slugs away to come back, but gets hit with an atomic drop. He comes back again with a high knee and the BOOGIE WOOGIE ELBOWDROP OF DEATH for two. Kneelift and another elbowdrop get two. Orndorff goes up for a pump splash, but hits the knees and gets rolled up for two, and reverses for the pin at 11:37. Major yawner. *1/2 These guys need to learn to work! They’re too small! They can’t work WWE Main Event Style! Am I missing anything?

– NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Junkfood Dog.

Flair’s graphical representation shows a somewhat, shall we say, romanticized notion of his muscularity. Picture HHH’s body with Flair’s head on it. This is a rather famous match, although not for any good reason. Dog slugs Flair down to start and overpowers him. The headbutts follow and Flair retreats over the top to consult with Ole. Dog no-sells all of Flair’s chops and hammers away in the corner, and gets a horrible clothesline to send Flair begging again. Flair goes to the eyes, but Dog keeps no-selling Flair’s offense in the corner. More chops, nothing sold. Dog slugs back and Flair Flops, and then gets backdropped out of the corner. You know, usually when Flair bumps like a madman for a guy, he gets SOME offense in. Flair retreats and grabs a chair, which Dog no-sells, and pounds away in the corner again. Flair Flip and he comes off the top and gets caught coming down. Another backdrop for Flair and Flair FINALLY gets a knee to the back to knock Dog down, but he immediately no-sells it and slams Flair off the top. Headbutt and JYD pounds away on the ground, which for some reason brings in Ole and the Horsemen for the DQ at 6:16. Holy CRAP that was an awful Flair match. Flair got absolutely ZERO offense, against a Dog who was just grotesquely out of shape, with flab hanging everywhere, and who was sucking wind about a minute in. This was an absolute hatchet job by Ole Anderson on Flair, in payback for Flair being booker in 1989. Just brutal. DUD, which is probably one of the worst Flair ratings I’ve ever given. And this is the guy who carried El Gigante to a *** match!

The Bottom Line:

Actually there’s a couple of decent matches here, in the form of RNR/MX (which is like pizza – even when it’s bad, it’s pretty good) and Doom/Steiners, a totally underrated feud.

Very mildly recommended.  (The Observer poll trended shockingly high as well, one of the best NWA showings with Observer readers since ‘89, in fact.)