The SmarK Rant for Clash of the Champions VIII – Fall Brawl! (09.12.89)
While I have watched and reviewed this before, I have no memory of it, so it’s new to me!
This is the followup to Great American Bash 89, as we move to setting up the first Halloween Havoc a month later.
Live from Columbia, SC, drawing a pretty empty 2600 but doing a big rating.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & James E. Cornette, who appear to be green-screened in front of the crowd for some reason.
Meanwhile, Gordon Solie chats with Gary Hart about problems in the heel camp, which Gary denies as lies and slander and FAKE NEWS spread by Flair and Sting. The only problems are gonna be for Flair and Sting when their career is ended tonight.
The Road Warriors v. The Samoan Swat Team
This is of course a blowoff that’s a few months coming. Animal cleans house to start and chases Fatu with a powerslam. Over to Samu and Hawk, as Samu decides to run away and Animal runs over and clobbers him on the floor before sending him back in. Hawk with a fistdrop for two and it’s back to Animal, who overpowers Fatu and the Warriors double-team him for a bit. Hawk clothesline gets two. He charges and hits the COORS LIGHT post, landing on the floor, and Samu drops him on the railing crotch-first for good measure. Back in with a powerslam for two. Fatu with the bearhug, but Hawk fights over for the tag, which is sadly missed by the referee and that allows more double-teams from the SST. Fatu comes in with a Demolition elbow for two and then goes up for the flying splash, but he lands on Hawk’s foot and it’s HOT TAG Animal. He runs wild with a shoulder tackle on Samu for two, but Fatu saves and it’s BONZO GONZO. Paul E throws the phone into the ring, but Hawk steals it and knocks Fatu out, then the Doomsday Device finishes at 6:42. Simple and effective win by the LOD. *** And then Paul Ellering slugs Dangerously out and smashes the phone and that’s the end of the feud, as the SST walks out on Paul to also finish up that chapter.
The Cuban Assassin v. The Z-Man
Yes, it’s the electrifying NWA debut for Tom Zenk. Zenk was originally pegged as the Zodiac Man, the gimmick that eventually went to Brutus Beefcake years later, but he wisely declined to be involved with that nonsense and just ended up as “The Z-Man” instead. Zenk works the arm to start and gets a sunset flip for two, but Cuban slams out of that and goes up with a headbutt that misses. This sets up Zenk’s deadly SLEEPER HOLD, which finishes at 3:33. Yeah this was a match that happened. *1/2
Meanwhile, the governor of South Carolina declares today to be RIC FLAIR DAY. Really, isn’t every day Ric Flair Day?
Sid Vicious v. Ranger Ross
Not sure why Sid was doing a singles match at this point. Sid attacks him from behind and drops him on the railing outside, but Ross fights back in the ring, the poor idiot. Sid catches him with a DDT and follows with the helicopter slam before killing him with the powerbomb to finish at 1:10. Now THIS is what Sid should have been about. You’ve gotta give the people what they want!
Meanwhile, Missy Hyatt and Rick’s new girlfriend Robin Green go on a shopping trip with Rick’s credit card, as the supposedly innocent Robin buys expensive dresses and runs up his card. Funny to see lifelong gold-digger Missy Hyatt portrayed as the voice of reason.
NWA World tag team titles: The Freebirds v. The Steiner Brothers
Man, the Steiners were so clearly destined to win these belts and they still spend MONTHS jerking the fans around before they got there. So you may notice watching this, that Michael Hayes is lacking a tag team title belt. This is because one of them was stolen while they were on the road, and they tried to get the Road Warriors’ old six-man belts shipped in to replace them but couldn’t courier them in time. The Steiners have both Missy and Robin at ringside, which is gonna lead to trouble because WOMEN, AMIRITE? Hayes quickly tries a bodypress and Scott rolls through for two, and then clears the ring with clotheslines. Garvin comes in and Scott throws him around before suplexing him out of the corner. “He stuck him in the ground like a fence post!” notes Cornette. Over to Rick, who clears the ring with Steinerlines and the Freebirds regroup. Back in, Rick hits them both with powerslams as the Freebirds are all over the map, and Rick slugs away on Hayes in the corner and follows with another clothesline. Hayes makes a brief comeback and Rick hits him with a corner clothesline and then suplexes him out of the corner. But he charges and Hayes falls out of the way as the Birds finally get some offense. Garvin with the DDT for two, but Scott saves. The Birds double-team Rick and toss him to finally regain their breath after getting mauled for 6 minutes. The Steiners were like a freaky force of nature at this point. Back in, Hayes with a clothesline for two and he throws a tantrum about that as they get more frustrated at not being to keep up with the challengers. Garvin with a chinlock while Cornette tells exactly that story on commentary. Rick escapes the DDT with a slingshot suplex of all things and makes the hot tag to Scott, and he immediately hits the Frankensteiner on both Freebirds and they’re FUCKED. Powerslam on Hayes gets two, but Garvin makes a desperate save. But then Scott comes off the ropes and somehow trips, although the camera misses the culprit, and Hayes hits the DDT to retain at 10:30. Missy and Robin each blame the other for tripping him up, but of course we know who the eventual devilish woman really was. Early Steiners was something to behold. These guys could TASTE superstardom coming. ***1/2
Norman the Lunatic v. Flyin’ Brian
To say these two had some experience together would be an understatement. Norman attacks but Brian gets a dropkick and a suplex on Norman, which sets up Air Pillman to put Norman on the floor. Pillman follows with a dive off the top, but he goes after Teddy Long and gets hit with the avalanche as a result. Norman takes over with a faceplant and goes up with a flying splash for two. They head to the floor and Norman adds an avalanche into the COORS LIGHT RINGPOST, but tries a second one and Pillman moves and makes the comeback. Back in, Pillman goes up with a missile dropkick and then slams him to make the comeback. Norman tries one more avalanche, but Pillman counters with a bodypress, which Norman turns into a powerslam for two. Norman puts him down with a clothesline for two, but Pillman gets a crucifix for the pin at 3:36. Holy SHIT where did this match come from? This was a sprint from start to finish with Norman bumping like crazy for Pillman. ***1/2 And then Teddy begins berating Norman to start the babyface turn already, only a couple of months after the debut of the character.
Meanwhile, Gordon Solie questions Gary Hart about whether Terry Funk is actually in the building or what? Hey, it’s wrestling, people show up two hours into the show all the time. Leave the guy alone.
Captain Mike Rotunda v. Steve Williams
Doc charges the ring and gets a press slam with five reps, then clips Rotunda before running into a clothesline out of the corner. Rotunda tosses him and slugs away on the floor and necks him on the way back into the ring. Rotunda with the abdominal stretch, but Doc reverses out to a sunset flip for two. Rotunda hits him with a high knee and drops an elbow for two before going to a chinlock. Doc fights out of that with a jawbreaker, but misses an elbow and Rotunda gets two. They fight to the corner and Rotunda thumbs him in the eye and adds a slam before going up and getting slammed off. Williams makes the comeback, but misses a charge. Rotunda tries for the clothesline but misses as well and hits the floor, and Doc hauls him in for the Stampede attempt. Rotunda grabs the ropes, but Tommy Young kicks his hand off, and Doc rolls through into a cradle for the pin at 7:15. Pretty standard issue match between these two as the last vestiges of the Varsity Club were finally out of steam. **3/4
US title: Lex Luger v. Tommy Rich
Rich takes him down with a headscissors right away and slugs away out of the corner, surprising Lex with a backdrop and slam before chasing him into the corner. Rich grabs a headlock but Luger puts him down with a shoulderblock and offers some posing, but Rich slugs him down and goes to the armbar before hitting a crossbody for two and keeping Luger down with the armbar. Lex finally beats on him in the corner to escape, but misses a charge and Rich rolls him up for two. Small package gets two and Rich gets him down with the armbar again. Luger again beats on him in the corner, but Rich keeps coming with a backdrop before finally missing a dropkick as Lex takes over. Powerslam gets two. Luger goes to work on the back, but Tommy comes back with a suplex and Lex falls on top for two. Lex puts him down again with a side slam for two. This sets up the Rack, but Rich slips out and tries a rollup. Lex blocks that, but he points to his head to indicate his intelligence and that never goes well. But regardless, he puts Rich on top and brings him down with a superplex for two. Lex goes up himself this time and tries a flying splash, but Rich moves and makes an improbable fired up babyface comeback as the crowd goes nuts. Back elbow and he goes up with the fistdrop for two. Thesz Press gets two, but Luger makes the ropes and Tommy celebrates prematurely. Luger bails to the floor to escape and Rich follows, but he gets too excited and punches the COORS LIGHT RINGPOST. Back in, Rich tries a sleeper, but they’re on the apron, and Luger necks him to escape and pins him to retain at 10:35. Now where did THIS come from?!? **** What is with Luger having freakishly great matches with random dudes like Rich or Dan Spivey?
Meanwhile, Gordon Solie is still all up in Gary Hart’s grill about Terry Funk, and we finally learn that Terry in the hospital recovering from surgery on his arm, as Terry claims that he got infected and came close to losing the arm. This in fact was a shoot, as Funk had a life-threatening staph infection and there was discussion of amputating his arm if it was any worse. Of course it kind of sucked that they spent weeks advertising him for the main event of this show, but shit happens.
Ric Flair & Sting v. The Great Muta & Dick Slater
Slater is of course taking the place of Terry Funk, which is fitting because that’s been his role for his entire career. Muta blows red mist before the match as JR hypes up the super-deadly YELLOW MIST, which we’ve never seen before and hopefully never will, god willing. Although never yet seen, I’ve heard that hitting Ric Flair with it would immediately strip him of his booking powers permanently. But then they withheld Gold Kryptonite for imaginary stories and Elseworlds in the comics, too. Sting starts with Muta but stops for a high five with Flair to show how they’re on the same page, now and forever. Sting chases Muta to the floor as the J-Tex team regroups. Back in, Sting takes Muta down with armdrags, but Muta beats him down in the corner and gets a backdrop out of the corner. Cornette notes that the difference between himself and Gary Hart is that “he’s got loyalty to his men”, which is extra hilarious considering what was coming at Clash IX. Flair comes in with chops on Muta and it’s over to Slater, who is sporting a cast on his arm tonight, and Flair beats on him with chops as well until Slater takes a Funk-style bump onto the top rope to escape. Slater whips into the corner for a Flair Flip, but Ric hits Muta with an elbow off the apron on the way by and then comes in via the top rope with an elbow on Slater! But then Muta hits him with a kick and tosses him before following with a pescado, and then Sting hits Muta with his own dive and they all brawl on the floor. What a great sequence. Back in, Flair and Sting again reinforce their unbreakable friendship and teamwork. The heels trap Sting in the corner and he fights them with AMERICAN RIGHTS and hits Muta with a press slam. Over to Flair, who suplexes Muta and drops a knee before Muta finally rakes the eyes to take over. Slater slugs away in the corner and Flair fires back with chops as you can see Slater telling him to lay them in, which even works in kayfabe. Slater puts him down with a neckbreaker, however, and Muta comes in and beats on the neck before tossing Flair to the floor. Slater runs his neck into the railing and Flair comes back in the ring, but Muta drops the power elbow and then goes to the nerve hold. Sting gets a hot tag and hits Muta with a press slam and Stinger splash to set up the Scorpion, but Gary Hart comes in and hits Sting with a roll of coins from behind to break it up. Muta gets two off that and it probably should have been the finish. Muta with a POWERBOMB on Sting for two and it’s back to Slater, who catapults Sting under the ropes. Slater tries a piledriver and Sting backdrops out of it and makes a hot tag to Flair, and he chops the shit out of both heels. Sting dropkicks Muta to the floor, but Muta hits Sting with the deadly YELLOW MIST. Well at least Sting wasn’t booking. The heels go to work on Flair, but Terry Funk makes an appearance out of the hospital and uh…tries to suffocate Flair with a plastic bag to draw the DQ at 19:22. Real thing that happened on national TV. As you can imagine, this did not go well for anyone involved in crafting the storyline. Anyway, this was a tremendous match with excellent heat but what a stupid and off-putting finish. **** Like just have Sting get pinned with the roll of coins and move on.
Anyway, this is another hidden gem hell of a show, with a pair of **** matches to close it out and a bunch of other bangers up and down the card. 1989 was a pretty good year for the NWA, I hear.