The SmarK Rant for Clash of the Champions IX – New York Knockout! (11.15.89)
OK, finishing up the 89 Clash series with one of the greatest Clash shows they did! Honestly a lot of the stuff here should have been Starrcade 89. Anyway, I literally only remember like two matches from this one, so it’s another one where it’s all new to me.
Live from Troy, NY, drawing 4000 people and a big 4.9 rating. In the Observer review of the show, Dave (diplomatically) complimented them on taking such a shithole of an arena and making it look decent on TV.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Gordon Solie
The Freebirds v. The Road Warriors
The Freebirds are listed as “World tag team champions” in the graphic, but in fact the Steiners had liberated them of the belts two weeks prior to this and they don’t have the belts here. This is also not announced as a title match. Unless the title change hadn’t aired on TV yet and they were just trying to pretend this was a non-title match or something, I dunno. Hayes quickly runs away from Hawk, but he makes the mistake of pointing to his head to indicate intelligence and Animal beats on him as a result. Back in, Hawk slugs away on Michael and hits him with a press slam, but Garvin gets a cheap knee from the apron for some double-teaming. Hawk no-sells all that, of course, and the Warriors double-team Garvin with an elbow. Animal no-sells a suplex and chases Garvin out and the Freebirds regroup again. Hayes beats on Animal, but that goes nowhere for him and Animal beats on him some more. At this point, JR reveals that the Steiners-Freebirds title match will air on the next Saturday show, so that explains it. Freebirds get some cheapshots on Animal to take over, but Hawk gets MAD and tosses the ref around for the DQ at 5:17. What a shit finish that was. Match was absolutely nothing, with the Birds barely getting on offense before they booked themselves out of the corner in the lamest way possible. DUD
Terry Funk stops by and lets us know that he might have little in common with Ric Flair, but neither one is a quitter so they’ve got that. Gary Hart wants to stress that he better not embarrass Texas tonight. OR ELSE. Terry’s pretty sure he’s got it under control, though.
Bill Apter joins us to award the Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (in the NWA) to Sting. Not to be confused with the actual PWI award, which went to Hulk Hogan in 1989, duh. Sting finished third that year, after Ric Flair in fact. Bill also awards Ric Flair the Wrestler of the Decade.
Meanwhile, Woman does a promo from her hotel room with some cleavage that would earn me a content strike from Google if I posted it here. Definite tan lines there.
THE TAG TEAM COMBINATION OF DOOM v. Tommy Rich & Eddie Gilbert
Oh man, this is a pretty sad end for Eddie Gilbert’s 89 NWA run. I don’t know what they edited out for music here, but the generic rock track for Doom sounds like it’s ripping of Tool’s “Sober”. That’d be a hell of an entrance song, actually, especially for someone like Karrion Kross. Not for Michael Hayes, obviously. Eddie starts out with the mysterious Doom #1, but again we’ll randomly pick a made-up name for him and call him “Ron Simmons”. Simmons overpowers Eddie, but the rednecks double-team him and work the arm. Over to the equally mysterious masked Doom #2, who we’ll dub “Butch Reed” by randomly picking names out of a baby name book. Rich keeps Reed frustrated with armdrags and it’s back to Eddie, who works a headlock before falling victim to a sideslam. Simmons comes in and hits a press slam backbreaker and pounds on the back, as Reed adds a knee to the back and stomps him down. Rich gets a hot (?) tag and comes back with elbows to Reed as it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA, but Doom hits Rich with a Doomsday Device behind the ref’s back and that finishes at 5:18. They probably could have gotten some juice out of Rich & Gilbert as a team, but it wasn’t to be. This was an OK squash. *1/2
Jim Cornette interviews the Steiner Brothers, and immediately asks Scott what that fancy new move of his is called. So Rick tells the story of how they’re watching scary movies and named it THE FRANKENSTEINER as a result. So tonight they’re facing the Skyscrapers and Scott stumbles through his promo until Rick swoops in and saves it with a story about how his mom used to slap them around when they got out of line and hopefully she can do the same to Woman. He had it and he don’t want it! Well, Scott would certainly get more confident as the years went on. And also less picky about his choice in female companionship.
The Dynamic Dudes v. The Midnight Express
Lots of tag team matches tonight. So the idea was of course that Jim Cornette was unsure of where his allegiance was, helping the Dudes more and more as a babyface while the Express was on a losing streak without him, obviously increasingly uncomfortable in that role. So here, he plays Elizabeth, sitting in the neutral corner while the Express gets all pissy about it. Bobby grabs a headlock on Shane to start, but gets reversed to an armdrag while the Network has a rare moment where they allow the hotline number to appear on the screen. Usually they blur it out. Shane cleans house on the Midnights and stays on the arm with Lane, but Stan pulls the hair to escape that. Cornette actually stooges out to the ref, allowing Shane to roll up Lane for two. Over to Johnny, and apparently there’s some backstory with a woman between them that the announcers discuss. Hopefully not Jim Cornette’s wife because THAT would be awkward! Ace gets some dropkicks and chases Lane off, and it’s over to Bobby, who walks into more dropkicks to put him on the floor. Shane hits him with a dive and it’s a rough day for the Midnights so far. This gives us our first COORS LIGHT plug of the show from Gordon. Back in, Shane tries a headlock on Lane and gets suplexed, but comes back with more armdrags. Bobby slugs out of that as the heel fans are delighted and increasingly vocal, and they head to the top before Shane brings him down with a rollup for two and a crossbody for two. The Midnights try to get Shane trapped in the corner, but he fights out, so they haul Ace over instead and work him over a bit. Johnny comes back with a monkey flip on Bobby, but he tries a flying headscissors and Lane clotheslines him on the top rope to a HUGE pop from the heel fans, and the Midnights take over. Legsweep from Lane sets up the Rocket Launcher, but Ace gets the knees up and Shane gets what should be a hot tag as the crowd has this resigned disgust going on and won’t cheer. It’s BONZO GONZO and Bobby pulls out a chain, but Cornette leaves his position and steals it, then WAFFLES Shane with the racket and Bobby gets the pin at 9:26 as the crowd is all about that. And of course, Cornette was working with them all along. Unfortunately they don’t even let that one soak in and cut immediately to the commercial. This definitely woke up the crowd, though. ***1/4
Steve Williams v. The Super Destroyer
Yes, it’s another generic masked guy, so ONE GUESS who’s playing him. There’s actually a funny story behind the match, as they actually cancelled Williams’ match with the Cuban Assassin for whatever reason, but then they forgot to inform Doc and he showed up anyway. So then they were going to have a Tom Zenk v. Bill Irwin match, but Zenk no-showed and Bill Irwin was actually in Japan at this point, which no one knew about, so they had the Super Destroyer gear and needed a match for Dr. Death. So if in doubt, stick Jack Victory in a mask and away you go. You might ask why WCW needed to overthink this one squash so damn much but you know…WCW. Also Norman the Lunatic is around ringside as a full babyface now, dressing as Santa Claus in November. Oklahoma Stampede finishes at 1:30 as the crowd is definitely up and running now.
The Skyscrapers v. The Steiner Brothers
So for those still keeping track, the Steiners were in fact tag team champions at this point, although the match doesn’t air until a few days after this. The crowd is REALLY revved up now for this one. Rick immediately hits Spivey with a release german suplex and clotheslines him to the floor and the crowd is all about it. Back in, Spivey catches Rick with a tombstone for two as they are wasting no time here. Rick comes back with a clothesline and Scott comes in with a Frankensteiner, and then hits Sid with a rolling fallaway slam that actually turned out to have punctured Sid’s lung and screws up their plans for the next few months. But Sid I guess doesn’t realize it at this point and comes in with a blind charge that misses, and Scott goes to work on the arm until the Scrapers double-team him to take over. Spivey hits Scott with a tilt a whirl slam and a big boot, but Scott gets a suplex as they are having what Jim Ross might call a SLOBBERKNOCKER. A knickerbocker slobberknocker in this case. Rick comes in and the Steiners run wild for a bit, but Doom runs in for the DQ at 6:09 as Sid seems to have realized that he’s hurt. Woman hits Rick with her shoe and he goes after her, but we get the historic debut of Nitron as her bodyguard (Tyler “Sabertooth” Mane from the X-Men movies) and then the Road Warriors also hit the ring for a four-way brawl to set up Starrcade’s Iron Team tournament. Anyway, these two were just throwing bombs at each other non-stop and it was pretty awesome. ***
US title: Lex Luger v. Brian Pillman
Of course, this is the rematch from Halloween Havoc 89. And with this crowd you know that supposed heel Luger is going to get cheered wildly. Not that he doesn’t try to turn them against him, though. Luger stalls and yells at the crowd to start while backing off from a fight, and then hits Pillman with a knee and pounds on his back, but Pillman gets a pair of dropkicks to chase him to the floor. Back in, Luger slugs away in the corner, but then runs away when Pillman fights back. Still not working as the dude-bros in the crowd are still cheering for him. Maybe because he was AWESOME at this point? Asking for a friend. They fight for the lockup in the corner and Pillman throws chops and then escapes a suplex, but charges and goes over the top. Luger is proud of himself, but Pillman skins the cat and comes in with a spinkick and Luger backs off again. Pillman with a crossbody for two and he goes to work on the arm in the corner, wrapping it around the COORS LIGHT RINGPOST and then smashing the hand into the railing on the floor. Pillman keeps throwing chops out there and back in for more armbar action, but Luger slugs out in the corner. Finally he gets a backdrop suplex to escape and gets this great evil sneer on his face before hitting a press slam to the delight of the burgeoning ECW mutants in the audience. And indeed, we actually see Hawaiian Shirt Guy at ringside cheering him on! Luger drops elbows and Pillman fights back with chops as there’s a pretty serious Cena energy to the crowd here, with the women and children screaming for Pillman and the college bros cheering for Luger, and Lex slams him on the floor to cut off the comeback. Lex suplexes him into the ring for two, but Pillman rolls him up for two. Lex with the powerslam, but Pillman rolls him up again for two while Flexy Lexy flexes. They slug it out and trade chops, and this time Pillman makes the comeback with a leaping clothesline and backdrop out of the corner. He goes up with a flying bodypress, but the ref is bumped. So Pillman goes to wake him up, but Luger nails him from behind. Pillman gets a rollup with no ref and Luger bails to the floor and grabs a chair this time, nailing Pillman with it in the head for the pin at 12:35 to retain. Guys, I’m starting to think that maybe Luger isn’t as bad as people think he is! ****
Lex continues the beating afterwards, but Sting makes the save and Luger is all “It’s about time you had the guts to face me!” Sting is ready for the fight, but Lex decides to walk away and wait for Starrcade. See, that should have set up Luger v. Sting for the US title at Starrcade while Flair did the I Quit match with Funk in the main event. Or maybe Flair and the Andersons v. J-Tex in the final blowoff of that? I dunno, you probably don’t want to hear me prattle on about “rebooking Starrcade 89” like a silly old ninnymuggins. So I’ll stop.
I Quit match: Ric Flair v. Terry Funk
Although this is non-title, Flair has promised to give up the World title if he loses. Flair immediately chops Funk to the floor and he freaks out about that. Back in, Flair hits him with chops and Funk runs away again. Back in, Funk wins a slugfest and stomps Flair over to the apron, where he delivers a further beating with chops and a headbutt. Back in, Flair hits him with another chop, so Funk elbows him down and tosses him while laying the badmouth. They fight up the aisle and Funk beats on him with the microphone, but Flair fights back with chops. Back in the ring, Funk slugs him down again and offers Flair the chance to quit, but even calling him an EGG SUCKING DOG doesn’t convince him. Flair fights him off with an atomic drop, but Funk gets a neckbreaker and they fight to the floor. At this point Flair goes nuts with more chops out there while Terry flails around helplessly, apparently losing control of his limbs due to the force behind the shots. I mean, can you BLAME him? Holy shit. Back in, Flair chokes him out and tells him to quit, but there’s an inherent contradiction there. So Ric goes for the branding iron, but Funk nails him from behind to protect his property and gets a neckbreaker. Funk offers him a chance to quit before he delivers another piledriver and breaks his neck again, but Flair won’t go for that deal, so Funk gives him the piledriver as promised and goes to work on the neck.
Back to the floor as Funk means business now and he delivers another piledriver, on the FLOORBOARDS this time, and Jim Ross is aghast at this monster. “I know it’s no-disqualification but he’s got to have a little bit of compassion!” Geez, JR, maybe grow a set. Funk slams him on a table and sets it up on the apron, but Flair is ALIVE and fires back with more chops in desperation. He runs Funk into his own table and then sends him flying across it like a cowboy in a bar fight, and it’s back to the chops again. He crotches Funk on the railing and adds another chop, and poor Terry does the Curly Shuffle in the ring due to the pain before taking a kneedrop and bailing to the floor again. Back in, Flair continues working on the nuts with an atomic drop, and goes to work on the knee now that he’s got the advantage. He just brutally beats on Funk with chops, then kicks the knee out, and then when Terry goes to grab his knee in pain, Flair hits him with another chop to stand him up again. Funk finally runs away in terror and Flair tackles him in the aisle because he’s had enough, and drags Funk back to ringside with a kneecrusher. Back in with a suplex and Gary Hart is not OK with how things are going, but Flair can’t get the figure-four because Funk pokes him in the eye out of desperation. Funk tries a suplex, but Flair reverses to his own onto the apron and Funk is Funked now. Back in, Flair keeps doing the chop/knee shot combo until Funk goes down, and the figure-four makes Terry break down and say “I Quit” at 18:35 and I still get chills. *****
So as promised, Funk shakes Flair’s hand and calls him the better man while Gary Hart freaks out and then turns on his own man. So Great Muta and the Dragon Master (who was an unmasked Kendo Nagasaki) hit the ring for the beatdown, until Sting makes the save. So the babyfaces get their shots in, but Lex Luger hits the ring and gets his receipt on Sting for earlier, laying him out with a chair. And then, because this is wrestling, Luger goes over and smashes up both of the trophies from earlier. I was wondering when those were going to bite it. So that was a hell of an angle to end the show. Of course, Terry Funk soon retired and never stepped in the ring again, as we all know.
I was skeptical that this one was gonna hold up like I remembered after the first couple of matches, but the Midnights turn EXPLODED the show and it never looked back, turning this into an all-time classic.
Next time: Starrcade 89!