(We have come to the point in the Observers where Hulk Hogan drives me away from the product for a year and a bit, so here’s my review of Clash 28 to celebrate!)
The SmarK Rant for Clash of the Champions XXVIII (August 1994)
There are apparently “technical difficulties”, which forces the deletion of the country singer singing the national anthem. OK then. I also had technical difficulties with the original rant, in that it sucked and had bad formatting, so here’s a fresh version. This was the highest rated Clash ever and one of the highest rated wrestling shows on cable until the Monday Night Wars started blowing all the old records away. I’m pretty sure that Hogan had nothing to do with that.
Live from Cedar Rapids, IA
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Bobby Heenan
Special Tag Team Feature: The Nasty Boys v. Pretty Wonderful
Roma and Orndorff are the champions, but this is non-title. Apparently the Nasties have turned babyface since losing the titles, although I remember very little of this. However, Knobs yells out “Nasty!” after his moves like a babyface now instead of a heel, so that’s clearly a turn. Knobs hammers on Orndorff and puts him down with an elbow, and the Nasties do some clobbering on Roma. Just not the same without Dusty to call it. Sags gets double-teamed on the floor, however, while Tony goes on a weird rant about how WCW lets fans decide stuff, unlike those other guys. Which is funny because I don’t recall WCW fans clamoring for Hogan on top. Sags hangs out on the floor taking the occasional shot, and back in for a flying elbow from Roma that’s roughly 100 times better than Sags’. See, there you go, I paid Roma a compliment. He does one move better than one of the worst wrestlers in the company. Hope it doesn’t go to his head. Roma drops knees while Barry Darsow debuts his new gimmick of “Obnoxious heel fan” while Roma goes to the chinlock. Dropkick from Roma gets two. Tony relates a quote from Pretty Wonderful: “Not only is it great to be champions, it’s great to be champions here in this new era of WCW where we are the defining standard of professional wrestling.” Now that’s a money promo! Kids around the schools were always talking about how WCW was the defining standard of pro wrestling. The champs hit a powerplex on Knobs, but Sags drops the Shitty Elbow on Orndorff and pins him at 9:00, despite neither guy being legal. This was a match that opened the show. *
HULK HOGAN HOTLINE, brother! I bet Linda got all that hotline money in the divorce.
Hulk Hogan comes out for an interview, but OH MY GOD, someone in a Black Scorpion Halloween costume pulls a Tonya Harding on him and hits his knee with a lead pipe. So why doesn’t he just hulk up and no-sell it? Pussy. Like seriously, guys get hit in the face with chairs and barbed wire and shit in the ring and this guy takes one shot to the knee and we get a 10 minute segment dedicated to putting him on a stretcher? Gene notes that this is the WORST NIGHTMARE OF ANY WRESTLING FAN. Don’t oversell it or anything there, Gene. As noted previously, this was intended to be Curt Hennig but was played here by Arn Anderson.
US title: Stunning Steve Austin v. Ricky Steamboat
They trade headlocks to start and Austin immediately accuses Steamboat of pulling his hair, which would become much less of an issue by the year after. They trade some vicious chops and Steamboat puts him down with dropkicks and gets a powerslam for two. Meanwhile, the ambulance drives Hogan to the hospital. For a boo-boo on his knee? Doesn’t anyone know how to say “put some ice on it”? Pinfall reversal and Steamboat goes to the armdrag, which is the point where the Clash DVD set picks it up so as to omit the Hogan stuff. Steamboat holds an armbar, which turns into a nice little mat segment. Austin tosses him out and they brawl outside, with Austin turning into a footrace before running into a chop. Back in, they trade sleeper attempts, but Austin escapes with KICK WHAM STUNNER…or just a jawbreaker, whatever. Austin throws chops in the corner, but gets hiptossed before missing a charge and hitting the post. Steamboat walks the ropes to hurt the arm, and follows with the flying chop for two. Austin comes back with a kneedrop for two and slugs away on the ropes. He goes to the chinlock and we take a break. Back with Austin getting a suplex for two. They fight on the top and Steamboat goes down, but crotches Austin. He fights for a superplex, but Austin hits it instead. Steamboat keeps coming and nails Austin coming off the top, however. Steamboat back up, but the flying bodypress misses and Austin sends him facefirst into the mat. He doesn’t follow up, though, slapping him around instead of pinning him, which allows Steamboat to fight up again. Steamboat is PISSED and fires away, chopping Austin down for two. Spinebuster gets two. Electric chair gets two and Steamboat’s back is killing him, you can see it. Small package gets two. Rollup gets two. Backslide gets two. Sunset flip gets two. Austin finally ends the rally with a clothesline and dumps him, but Steamboat pulls himself in and gets a rollup for two, then finishes with a small package at 15:30 to win the US title. That finishing sequence, with Steamboat’s babyface comeback and the series of insane near-falls on a desperate Austin, was some of the best American pro wrestling you will ever see. ****1/4 And that was it for Steamboat’s career until the sort-of comeback against Jericho.
Meanwhile, at the hospital, Eric Bischoff reports on Hogan’s injury, although WCW has more money than they did when they ran the same angle in 1991, so this time they can at least do a remote shoot from a real hospital.
The Honky Tonk Man debuts his new music video, which sounds suspiciously like his old one. The backup singers literally look and sound like a bunch of girls they found on the street and dressed up in matching outfits. Because WCW.
Nick Bockwinkel lets us know that if Hogan is unable to fulfil his commitments and defend against Flair tonight, he’ll have to forfeit the title. Well, it’s looking pretty bleak, brother.
Terry Funk & Bunkhouse Buck v. Dustin Rhodes & Dusty Rhodes
Dusty’s promo to set up this tag match is everything that Hogan’s angle was lacking, featuring real emotions and passion and actual stakes. Dustin slugs it out with Buck and boots him down, and the heels have some miscommunication, allowing Dustin beat on them and clean house. Big Dust comes in and throws elbows, which gives Funk the opportunity do his crazy selling. I’m sure you didn’t have to ask him twice. Dustin powerslams Buck for two, but turns his back and gets hit in the head with a boot. When will that boy ever learn? So the Stud Stable takes over and cuts off the ring, but Buck hits Funk with the boot by mistake and it’s hot tag Dusty. They’re certainly keeping this one brisk. AA comes out and punks out Dustin and the heel beatdown of Dusty is on, just like old times. This also brings the Clash debut of the MONSTER MENG, back when he was wearing a suit and trying to be Big Bubba Rogers. The match breaks down into a donnybrook and Arn runs in for the DQ at 7:22. Clearly this was all a backdrop for the angle anyway. *1/2 Meng gets all up in Dusty’s area, so Dusty breaks a wooden chair over his head in their attempt to recreate the Dusty-Bubba angle of 1986. This was less effective, of course, but at least they were trying something that had some track record of success previously instead of whatever stupid shit they came up with in 95 while doing blow off hookers in strip clubs.
Meanwhile, at the hospital, Hogan’s cronies feel that he should just forfeit the title because doctors are concerned. And his lawyer is also concerned, so you know it’s serious. But Hogan wants to wrestle and defend his title, because if there’s one thing you can say about Hogan, it’s that he always works matches he doesn’t have to and makes sure fans don’t go home disappointed!
Ric Flair demands that Hogan walk down and hand him the belt. Sherri’s got some other weird thing going on. Flair and Sherri were just never a good match.
Antonio Inoki v. Lord Steven Regal
This was a weird one that I never got. They do some shooty-shoot stuff with Regal throwing forearms in the corner and the crowd not really caring. As well, the Network connection is pretty bad tonight, which isn’t helping the match. I actually had to switch from the Roku to the PS3 at this point. So there you go, proof this wasn’t written in 1998. Regal kicks Inoki down and works for a kimura as the connection finally calms the fuck down. Regal with a facelock, but more importantly than this wrestling shit, HULK HOGAN HAS ARRIVED. Apparently he walked, five blocks mind you, from the hospital on a bad knee in the 10 minutes since that last update. Anyway, Inoki keeps working for and finally gets a rear naked choke on Regal at 8:24. This was kind of MMA-ish in a half-hearted stupid way, but didn’t really work and was only there so Hogan could make his dramatic return. DUD
WCW World title: Hulk Hogan v. Ric Flair
Logic and wrestling history say that Hogan does the job here to make him look sympathetic in defeat and set up the cage match at Halloween Havoc, but you know, Hogan. Flair starts throwing chops right away and Hulk no-sells them and chokes him out in the corner, and we get a Flair Flip. They brawl on the floor and Flair gets the worst of that as Tony notes that Flair had the ULTIMATE surprise for Hogan and it turned out to be the PERFECT plan. Clearly the perpetrator only could have been “Macho Warrior” Ric Hogan given those clues. Clearly HHH and Flair go to the same school of master planning if the big payoff was hitting a dude with a big stick. So Flair finally goes to the knee and follows up with a suplex, but Hogan pops up and drops elbows, and we get another Flair Flip. Back to the floor, but Flair goes to the knee again and this time Hogan doesn’t no-sell it. Flair fights for the figure-four and Hogan fights him off and bails, so Flair attacks the knee on the floor. Back in, figure-four looks to end the legend of Hulkamania, but he fights out of it and Flair goes back to the knee again. Hulk mounts the comeback this time and hits the big boot, but the pressure on the knee makes it give way, and that should have been the finish. He still manages to drop the leg, but can’t stand up on it again, and Flair recovers first with the figure-four. So yeah, logically, there’s your finish. The hero gives it his all, can’t get the pin after hitting his big finisher, loses nobly in the end and comes back to fight another day. But no, instead he makes the ropes and falls out of the ring, giving Flair the lame countout win at 14:22. Michael Buffer fucks up the announcement, declaring Flair the new champion, before sort-of correcting himself. Flair carried Hogan to something really good, but the finish was ridiculously bad because they had every out to allow Hogan a clean job without looking the least bit bad or weak, and they still did the shitty TV screwjob instead. ***1/2 But hey, I’m sure Hogan would return the job to Flair sometime in the 20 years following, right? The mysterious masked man attacks again and this time Sting makes the save, which was setting up Hogan & Sting v. Flair & Hennig, but obviously plans fell through there.
I was so insulted as a fan that this was where I jumped off WCW for a long time, because it was so apparent that the company was going nowhere that I wanted to watch. Meltzer’s take on it (at least at the time) was that yeah, it was stupid and Hogan was basically going scorched earth on the promotion, but the company was dead in the water at the end of 1993 and was only saved by Turner due to loyalty and the promise of bringing in Hogan in the first place, so shitty is better than gone. I haven’t checked the December issues to see if he was still that positive when Hogan was fighting Beefcake in the main event of Starrcade.
Anyway, two good matches on this show, but the Hogan angle is some prime bullshit Hogan stuff. It’s worth a look, I suppose, but only for those two matches.