The SmarK Rant for Clash of the Champions VII – Guts and Glory! (06.14.89)
(As requested in the World Championship Wrestling thread earlier today. This was written in the summer of 2020, and YES, I have added a rating for Funk-Steamboat this time.)
Let’s face it, I’m home on vacation, and since I’m building to the redo of Starrcade 89, we might as well finish going down the rabbit hole of 89 WCW and do the 3 big Clashes that I haven’t done since 2000.
Live from Ft. Bragg, NC, which was apparently a stifling hot arena with no AC. The arena is small but it’s a hot crowd (literally) and a unique look at least.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Bob Caudle
NWA World tag team title tournament semi-final #1: The Dynamic Dudes v. The Freebirds
So yes, this marks the debut of Jimmy Garvin as a member of the Freebirds, completely reinventing himself in the process. The Freebirds are immediately despised by the crowd, with the soldiers throwing garbage in the ring like they’re the nWo, but Dudes fight them off and clear the ring. We start proper as Johnny works the arm on both Birds and the Dudes are getting what I’d classify as a shockingly good babyface reaction from the hardcore MAGA crowd. Shane gets caught in the Freebird corner and stomped down as Michael Hayes knows EXACTLY how to milk this kind of hostile reaction. Shane gets a sunset flip and manages to tag Johnny, and Hayes accidentally punches Garvin off the apron as Ace gets a rollup for two. But then he misses a bodypress and Garvin drops him on the top rope to take over and gets two. Slam gets two. They toss Johnny and drop him on the railing as Hayes threatens to go aerial but then thinks better of it. Back in, Garvin collides with Ace and both guys are out, and it’s hot tag Shane Douglas. He backdrops everyone and noggins are knocked, and a sunset flip on Garvin gets two. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and they put Hayes on the floor with a double dropkick, but he recovers and tosses Ace to the floor. So Ace throws Hayes out again, but the ref escorts Shane to the apron and Hayes sneaks in with a DDT on Johnny and puts Garvin on top to advance to the finals at 7:08. Finish was a little confused but the Freebirds got in and out and didn’t overstay their welcome here. ***
Meanwhile, Jack Victory delivers secret codes to the WRESTLING HOTLINE in a funny commercial.
Ranger Ross v. The Terrorist
Well this seems like an unfair advantage. The Terrorist attacks to start while Jim Ross reminds us that he’d rather be home having a COORS LIGHT and a big slice of DOMINO’S PIZZA. I can honestly say that sounds awful. Ranger comes back with an elbow on the Terrorist. Given he’s a generic masked guy working a one-off goofy gimmick, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you who is playing the Terrorist here. Ross wins with the combat kick in 1:20 and then presumably goes to have a Coors Light and Domino’s Pizza.
Meanwhile, we get a video feature on the Road Warriors, using their Iron Man ripoff music fully intact.
The Great Muta and Gary Hart are here to demonstrate some martial arts on a pair of jobbers. Hart is disgusted by this lack of competition and calls them a couple of GAIJIN. Them’s fighting words! Also, over in the Orient, women know their place, not like Missy Hyatt. So this brings Eddie Gilbert out and he’s throwing fireballs, but accidentally burns Trent Knight with it. Jim Ross actually stops to fill in Muta’s backstory, noting that he’s deathly afraid of fire because his father (Great Kabuki) was burned in the face and that’s why he wore makeup. I mean, fear of crazy Tennessee rednecks throwing fire IS a perfectly rational fear.
George South & Cougar Jay v. THE DING DONGS
Time to date this rant: PLAY JA JA DING DONG! OK, so once again for those in the back row: The Ding Dongs were one of the notoriously terrible ideas put forth by creative genius and former Pizza Hut mogul Jim Herd, who envisioned a pair of guys with bells on their tights that they would continuously ring during the match to appeal to children. This was something of a spinoff of another terrible Jim Herd idea, namely the Hunchbacks, who were going to be the biggest tag team in wrestling because they would be unable to be pinned due to the humps on their backs. Ole Anderson, famously blunt miserable bastard, listened to the idea and retorted that he’d take them down and put them in a spinning toehold until they submitted, and thankfully that was the end of it. The Ding Dongs only made TV twice, with this match and then another famous appearance on WCW Pro where Jim Cornette tore them apart on commentary like a grizzly devouring a small animal. Although Jim Ross dubs them “Ding” and “Dong”, the official names were “Ding Dong #1” and “Ding Dong #2”. Lemme tells ya, the real ding dongs were the guys running the company. Ding works a headlock on Cougar Jay while Dong rings the bell on the apron and yes it’s just as annoying as you’d imagine. Over to Dong and South takes him down with a headlock, but the Ding Dongs double ding dong diddly team South. A Thesz Press gets two as Thesz was probably rolling over in his grave pre-emptively at having his name associated with this match in any way. The Ding Dongs hit a flying elbow and flying kneedrop to finish South at 3:39 and get booed out of the building. I mean, the match wasn’t TERRIBLE, but when you’re starting from two guys in pink bodysuits with bells on their f------ ankles, you’re pretty far into a hole that you’re unlikely to dig your way out of. ½* I looked up the guys playing the roles, but the names didn’t ri…you know what, I’m just gonna move on.
NWA World tag team title tournament semi-final: The Midnight Express v. The Samoan Swat Team
Some drunk idiot charges the ring during Cornette’s introduction and he decides to let him live tonight and allows the military police to carry him off so he can go sleep it off. Cornette really was mellowing out as a babyface! Big brawl to start after some words from Paul E. Dangerously, and Lane beats on Fatu in the corner to set up an elbowdrop from Bobby. Midnights with a double elbow and they work him over in their corner, but Bobby gets caught in the samoan area and dropped on the top rope. Bobby tries a hiptoss and gets clotheslined by Fatu for two and tossed, where Fatu adds a suplex. Back in, Samu with a faceplant and legdrop and the SST add some clobbering in the corner, but Fatu misses a blind charge and it’s hot tag Stan. Legsweep gets two and it’s a PIER SIX BRAWL, but Stan walks into a superkick from Fatu while the ref is bumped. Fatu goes up to finish, but the Road Warriors run in and destroy the Samoans to a MAMMOTH pop, and the ref revives as Stan gets the pin at 6:09 with the crowd so loud that you can’t even hear the count. Not much to this one. *1/2
Meanwhile, at WrestleWar, Terry Funk comes out of retirement and breaks Ric Flair’s neck with a piledriver through a table.
Dr. Death Steve Williams v. Terry Gordy
Big brawl to start and they slug it out, with Doc taking out the knee and then hitting him with a shoulder tackle. Gordy blocks another one with a lariat out of the corner and then follows with a corner clothesline and they awkwardly tie up in the corner while JR namedrops the UWF and Mid-South. Over to another corner and Williams UNLOADS with rights as Gordy sells like crazy and the crowd also goes crazy. Gordy takes him down with a backdrop suplex as JR reminds us how much he’d enjoy a Coors Light right about now. If it’s 100 degrees in there like they say, that would just dehydrate him further. So I can’t advocate that. They fight to the floor and back in for more hoss fighting, but Doc dropkicks him to the floor again and then puts the boots to him on the way back in. They fight in the COORS LIGHT CORNER and Doc knocks him out to the floor again, where they fight up the aisle and out to the back for the double countout at 6:20. The crowd is displeased with that b------- finish, but this was a HOSS BATTLE and I give it a solid 0.5 Haku.
Norman the Lunatic v. Mike Justice
This was of course a drastically different interpretation of the character to start, as he basically playing an escaped mental patient at this point before it later turned into the Eugene-style idiot savant. Kind of like what the original concept for Mankind was supposed to be years later. Norman with an avalanche to finish at 0:45. It wasn’t a bad gimmick and Mike Shaw is a great worker, but WCW wasn’t the company to pull it off.
Meanwhile, we take a look at FLYIN’ BRIAN, who is on his way to the NWA. This look is basically a bunch of cheesecake shots of him working out intercut with footage of him beating George South. Well, it’s something.
Kevin Sullivan & Mike Rotunda v. The Steiner Brothers
So yeah, here you go, the debut of the Steiner Brothers! Scott runs Kevin into the corner and hits him with a clothesline for two, and the Steiners clear the ring. Back in, Scott hits Sullivan with a powerslam, and it’s over to Rotunda while JR shills Coors Light and calls out all the fans watching their show in Stamford. Rick grabs a headlock on Captain Mike and they work off that, with Rotunda taking him down with a side suplex. But Sullivan comes in and Rick fights them both off. Scott comes in with a suplex on Rotunda, but Sullivan pushes him over and Scott takes a bump through the ropes and onto the ringside table. Sullivan HURLS the stairs at him and the Varsity Club takes over in the ring as Rotunda hits a dropkick. The Club double-teams Scott and Rotunda gets a butterfly suplex for two and cuts off a comeback with a lariat. But Scott still has a fighting heart! GOD BLESS AMERICA AND COORS LIGHT AND DOMINO’S PIZZA, BY GAWD! Rotunda misses a dropkick and it’s hot tag Rick, as he manages to slug on both heels at the same time and dropkicks Sullivan to the floor. Kevin steals Bob Caudle’s chair and throws it in the ring, where Rotunda suplexes Scott onto it and steals the pin at 8:34. Well, better days would soon be ahead for the Steiners. This was a pretty damn good hard-hitting match to debut with, though. ***1/4 Especially since Scott was basically just a baby at this point!
Jim Cornette joins Jim Ross and he notes that he’s not above taking help when it’s given to him.
World TV title: Sting v. Wild Bill Irwin
Bill tries to attack with the whip, but Sting bulldogs him and dropkicks him into the corner. Irwin drops him on the top rope to buy some time and puts him down with a back elbow, but Sting comes back with a suplex for two and slugs Irwin into the corner. He misses the Stinger Splash and Irwin takes him down with a spinebuster, but he goes for the whip again and Sting hits him with another Stinger splash and pins him to retain at 3:40. That was kind of an awkward finishing sequence but Sting was of course over like nuts. *
Meanwhile, we get a look at GATOR SCOTT HALL, who apparently chases alligators with a sharp stick in Florida for fun. Not to be confused with Skinner. It will never not blow my mind that he morphed into the Diamond Studd/Razor Ramon shortly after this and became a totally different person in front of our eyes.
Meanwhile, Jim Ross takes a break from shilling delicious Coors Light to stop by Ric Flair’s home. The champ is in a neck brace, but still has impeccably styled hair because it was the 80s. He has a heart-to-heart with Jim about the possibility of his career being over and talks about how hard it is to sit on the sidelines while Terry Funk runs around hurting people. Jim broaches the subject of Flair’s 30 day title defense window, but Ric notes that the NWA has graciously agreed to give him another 30 days as a courtesy to him. But if he can’t defend it after that time, he’ll give it up so someone who can defend it, can hold it.
NWA World tag team title tournament final: The Midnight Express v. The Freebirds
Paul E. makes a surprise appearance and knocks Cornette out from behind during their ring entrance, which knocks the cover off Cornette’s racket and we get the only glimpse I can remember of what’s inside! It’s a horseshoe tied to the racket strings with a chain, in case you’re wondering. So the Dynamic Dudes carry Cornette back to the dressing room to set up that storyline, leaving the Midnights with no manager. Lane takes Hayes down with a bunch of armdrags, and then it’s over to Garvin as Eaton drops an elbow on him for two. Lane comes in and hits him with an enzuigiri and superkick and the Freebirds bail and we get some stalling. Back in, Garvin catches Bobby with a knee to the gut and adds some slams, before Hayes dumps him and beats on him outside. Back in, Hayes chokes him out on the ropes and then tosses him out of the ring to the other side. Back in, Bobby fights back, but Garvin tosses him again and Bobby takes his third bump into the railing for this match. Back in, Hayes slugs away in the corner and the Birds puts him down with a double elbow before Garvin goes to a chinlock. Eaton fights back in the corner and it’s over to Lane, but he immediately misses an elbow in the corner and Hayes comes in for some punishment. Stan catches him with a DDT, however, and the Express double-team Garvin with a backdrop and take out Terry Gordy. Flapjack on Garvin gets two, but Gordy takes the ref to break up the count, then powerbombs Eaton behind the ref’s back and Garvin gets the pin and the titles at 9:12. This never really got going. **1/4 I will say, I would not have bet on the Freebirds sticking around for another four years after this.
Terry Funk v. Ricky Steamboat
So Funk is the #10 contender and Steamboat is #1, and Steamboat is putting his #1 contendership on the line here as Funk basically tries to leapfrog the ratings and get a title shot. Funk throws NASTY chops in the corner to start, so Steamboat fires back and Funk goes flying back and out of the ring to escape. Back in, Funk hits him with shoulderblocks, but Steamboat adds more chops and dropkicks him to the apron and out to the floor again. Back in, Funk slugs him down and tosses him, but Steamboat fires back with more chops out there, just wearing him out. Back in, Funk takes him down and slugs away on the mat, then follows with a neckbreaker and dives onto the neck for two. Steamboat beats on him and fires back with more chops, and Funk takes a Flair Flip to the floor while JR notes that Lex Luger was supposed to be here doing commentary but he’s upset at not being ranked #1 and chose to stay home. Sounds like him actually. Funk wanders around ringside while Steamboat goes up and takes his time before hitting a flying chop to the floor. He carries Funk all the way around the ring and makes him think about it before slamming him out there. Back in, Steamboat charges and runs into a boot as they’re having a contest to see who do the most melodramatic sell of the other guy’s offense. I’d say it’s a draw so far. Funk chops him down and hits the piledriver for two, but Steamboat fires back with chops and the ref is bumped in the corner. Funk sends the Dragon flying over the top rope and adds a piledriver on the floor just to be a bastard about it, but Steamboat manages to pull himself back to the apron again. So Funk suplexes him back into the ring for two and slugs away in frustration. Funk decides to go to the top rope and Steamboat gets his knees up to block a splash, and Steamboat makes the comeback. Steamboat hits him with chops to the injured gut and follows with a gutbuster, then he goes up with the flying chop and superkicks Funk to the apron and out onto the announce table. So Funk grabs the microphone and nails Steamboat with it for the DQ at 12:56, thus failing to secure the #1 contender position. ****
Lex Luger makes the save to a huge babyface reaction before Funk can further brutalize Steamboat, and then does a promo about how people think he’s too cocky lately, but he disagrees. And then he helps Steamboat up and KILLS him with a clothesline before beating on him with a chair. Man, this #1 contender deal is turning into a pretty shitty day for Ricky Steamboat. And Luger’s motivation was 100% clear and understandable: He’s the US champion, but Steamboat was ranked #1 ahead of him, so he was upset about it. I actually don’t know why they didn’t have Luger screw Steamboat out of the #1 contender spot and give it to Funk.
This was actually a hidden gem of a show, with a super hot crowd (although they couldn’t sustain it for the whole 2.5 hours) and everything being either really good or at least short enough not to be offensive. A really entertaining two hours that’s well worth checking out.