The SmarK Rant for Clash of the Champions XXXIV (January 1997)
Live from Milwaukee, WI
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes & Bobby Heenan.
This is the second-to-last Clash, and clearly by this point these shows were just extra editions of Nitro and little effort was put into promoting or booking them. Plus this was leading into nWo Souled Out, so…you know…not the best PPV to be leading towards.
Cruiserweight title: Ultimo Dragon v. Dean Malenko
They trade hammerlocks on the mat and take a break. Back with Malenko’s suplex attempt getting foiled, but he fires away in the corner instead and hits the delayed suplex for two. Dragon fires back with kicks to chase Dean out of the ring. Dean recovers and comes back in with a backdrop suplex and into an anklelock on the mat. Half-crab and STUMP PULLER as Dean works on the leg in mechanical fashion. They head to the floor and Dean runs the leg into the post, and back in for a figure-four. Dean releases and hits a corner clothesline, but a second try runs into a spinkick. Dragon goes up and Malenko follows with a superplex and a rollup for two. Heenan: “What do you call 40 millionaires watching the Super Bowl? The Dallas Cowboys.” And as if inspired by that joke, Dean and Dragon start firing off highspots and trade near-falls, fighting to the floor for Dragon’s Asai moonsault. Back in, Dragon goes up and snaps off a moonsault for two. They head back up and Dragon gets a rana to bring him down, and a small package gets two. Malenko tries a powerbomb, but Dragon flips out and escapes, so Malenko does it again and gets the Cloverleaf for the submission and the title at 11:58. **** Dean was crazy over here, and Mark Curtis calling for the bell like a maniac is a thing of beauty.
Mike Enos v. Scotty Riggs
This is the very definition of “main event anywhere in the country”. Riggs tosses Enos and follows with a dive, but Enos runs him into the apron and follows with a clothesline to the floor. Back in, Enos with an overhead suplex, but Riggs comes back with a flying forearm for the pin at 2:20. *
Meanwhile, The Four Horsemen join us, and Benoit has some comments that hit a bit too close to home now. (“When I don’t get want I want, I cripple you. I’ve got a very fragile mind.” YIKES.) Mongo going off on the Green Bay fanbase is pretty hilarious, as they start booing him and he makes no effort to win them over. It’s too bad he had nothing to back it up with in the ring.
Konnan, Mr. JL & La Parka v. Chris Jericho, Chavo Guerrero & Super Calo
Quite the interesting mix. JL gets a back elbow on Chavo, and Konnan slugs away on Calo and works the arm. Konnan has now fully transitioned into the K-Dogg look, by the way. Parka goes a little nuts on Jericho, but Jericho sends him out with a dropkick. Back in, the rudo side double-teams Chavo and Parka does a crazy moonsault onto Chavo while Konnan has Chavo up on his shoulders. Jericho comes in and we get the series of trainwreck spots and dives, and JL gets a rana on Jericho for two. They head up and Jericho finishes him with a rana off the top rope at 5:30. Just a crazy collection of spots, hinting at what the division would become later. ***
Harlem Heat v. Joe Gomez & The Renegade
Gomez gets pounded unmercifully in the Heat corner, but Booker misses a flying legdrop and Renegade gets the “hot tag”, at which point the Heat beat the shit out of him as well and finish him with missile dropkick at 3:30. Total squash. ½*
Masahiro Chono v. Alex Wright
Nick Patrick is reffing while wearing an nWo shirt, just to eschew all subtlety. Wright pounds away in the corner and takes him down with a headscissors and dropkick, and a side kick gets two. Thankfully, Patrick actually knows how to make a slow count in this case. Chono comes back with an atomic drop, but Wright gets a sunset flip and Patrick won’t even count now. Wright kicks him in frustration, but misses a flying bodypress as a result of his anger and gets Yakuza’d at 4:30. *
Scott Norton v. Eddie Guerrero
More Nick Patrick here, goody. Eddie was US champion but Syxx had possession of the belt. Norton whips him around and puts him down with a press slam, but Eddie dropkicks the knee and goes to work on the leg. Norton overpowers him again and adds a powerslam, then just destroys him with a powerbomb. No one took a powerbomb like Eddie. Norton actually tries to go up and Eddie comes back and brings him down, but misses the senton. This brings DDP out, and the ref gets bumped, giving us a Diamond Cutter on Norton and a frog splash from Eddie at 5:25. Patrick’s slow count wasn’t enough to allow Norton to kick out, sadly. *1/2
Meanwhile, The Giant (who has joined and left the nWo in the time since the last Clash) has words for Hulk Hogan leading into Souled Out.
Falls Count Anywhere: Kevin Sullivan v. Chris Benoit
They immediately brawl into the crowd and into the traditional bathroom. Poor Randy Anderson gets dumped into a urinal while they tear up the bathroom and Dusty is just in his glory. They fight back down the stairs again, with Bobby Eaton acting as security for some reason, and into the ring for the Tree of Woe and some abuse therein. Double stomp gets two for Sullivan. Jimmy Hart distracts the ref, but Woman sneaks in and breaks a balsa wood chair on Sullivan to give Benoit the pin at 5:01. Too short to be worth much, and all this stuff was done better in the years following. ** This feud was just too long and ended up destroying the personal lives of everyone involved.
The Steiner Brothers v. The Amazing French Canadians
Truly one of the laziest repackagings done by WCW, and that’s saying something. The Canadians manage to clear the ring, but the Steiners come off the top rope as we have to take a very ill-timed commercial break. Back with the Canadians in control, but they miss the finisher Scott gets the hot tag. So yeah, they edited out the entire heat segment via commercial. Top rope DDT finishes Pierre at 8:06. Everyone looked bored out there, but at least the Steiners finally got that job from 1993 back. *1/2
Alleged Main Event: Scott Hall v. Lex Luger
Weird bit as Tony throws out birthday wishes to “long time fan and WCW supporter Brian Hildebrand”, aka the guy who’s refereeing the match! Couldn’t he just say happy birthday to referee Mark Curtis? Hall gets a chokeslam and misses an elbow, but manages to dump Luger anyway. Nash lays him out with a clothesline on the floor. Back in, Hall pounds away in the corner and gets a clothesline for two off a Syxx cheapshot. Fallaway slam gets two. Abdominal stretch as the cure for insomnia continues, but I will say that at least Hall was mobile and cogent at this point. Luger, having won and lost his World title already, had clearly given all the fucks he was going to. He makes the comeback with the usual and fights off the Wolfpac, but turns his back and gets clobbered for the DQ at 10:28. Steiners come out for a brawl, but they take it home too soon and get a cue from the director to stretch it out, so they have to start brawling again to fill the rest of the time in the show. Because WCW. *
Really, all pretense of the Clash shows being unique and special was gone by this time, and it was just an episode of Nitro here. This is only for completionist idiots like me.