Review: NWA Clash of the Champions [March 27, 1988]

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When you think of the battle between the WCW vs WWF, you most likely think of the heralded Monday Night War of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. While that struggle between WWF RAW and WCW Monday Nitro was an extremely cutthroat affair, I’d argue the war was even more intense in the pre-WCW days of Jim Crockett Promotions.

Case and point; the battle for pay-per-view.

Jim Crockett Promotions and the NWA got the jump start on the closed circuit market with 1983’s Starrcade. However, the game changed two years later with the introduction of the WWF’s WrestleMania. Contrary to popular belief though, the first of these shows to take place on traditional pay-per-view was WrestleMania III in 1987. You know, that lesser-known show with Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant. Kinda hot shit there.

In late ’87, it was JCP’s time to retaliate. So thus, Starrcade ’87 became the first WCW show to be presented on traditional pay-per-view.

Then, Vince McMahon happened.

Vinnie-Mac, in all of his insecurity, tried his damnedest to put a stop to any success Starrcade may have had on pay-per-view. McMahon threatened various cable and satellite providers that if they carried the NWA’s biggest show of the year, they wouldn’t have the privilege of presenting WrestleMania IV that next April. Given the fact that WrestleMania was a proven commodity on PPV and Starrcade was an unproven newcomer, most providers felt their hands were tied and dropped Starrcade from their lineup.

This effectively cannibalized the NWA’s business on pay-per-view, which led to the creation of Bunkhouse Stampede (WCW’s first proper PPV presentation) in February of 1988.

Jim Crockett, Dusty Rhodes and (most importantly) Ted Turner weren’t going to take McMahon’s abuse laying down.

The decision was then made; if the WWF is going to mess with our biggest show, we’re going to mess with their’s.

This led to the creation of Clash of the Champions; a pay-per-view quality show presented on free television on a Sunday night, live on TBS.

What was the insult to the WWF?

It ran HEAD-TO-HEAD against WrestleMania IV.

Oh. Shit.

The strategy of this was sound. Give a show of higher quality, free of charge, instead of paying for an inferior show. Seems like the choice would be obvious. Of course this all relied on the quality of Clash of the Champions verses the quality of WrestleMania IV. If fewer people watched the Clash, or if the Clash wasn’t to caliber of that WrestleMania, than it was all for nothing.

Well, did it work?

You bet your ass it worked.

WrestleMania IV is fondly remembered as being the coronation of “Macho Man” Randy Savage to the top of the WWF, but as a whole, it’s a rotten show. Whereas the initial Clash of the Champions has a reputation of being one of the best shows in both the NWA and WCW’s history.

Image result for randy savage wrestlemania 4
Despite the poor quality of WrestleMania IV, it still is a classic show. Why? Because Savage and Elizabeth. That’s why.

Clash of the Champions is perhaps more famous and important to WCW’s history for being the premier showcase of Sting.

In mid-87, JCP purchased the Bill Watts’ owned Universal Wrestling Federation. Along with their tape library, TV time slots and titles came the UWF’s talent. These wrestlers included Steve Williams, Terry Taylor, Eddie Gilbert and of course, Sting.

After the utter failure that was Ronnie Garvin’s run as NWA World Champion, the search began once again to find the NWA’s top babyface champion. A role originally meant for Magnum TA that temporarily went to Garvin, the choice eventually became clear.

Ron Garvin’s NWA World Title run was one of the early signs that Jim Crockett Promotions was not long for this world.

Originally coming in as a heel, the crowd began having an overwhelming positive reaction to Sting. Given his natural charisma, athleticism and youth, Sting ultimately became the only choice. Only problem; Sting was still unproven in-ring.

Yes, folks, athleticism doesn’t necessarily translate to in-ring skills. This led to JCP’s booker, Dusty Rhodes, having a “trial by fire” mentality. What better way to test one’s in-ring skills than to throw him into a forty-five minute match with the best wrestler in the world in the main event of the most watched show in company history.

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!?

Image result for sting tna confused
“You want me to do WHAT!?”

Of course here in 2018, some three decades later (!) we all know it worked out for all of the involved party. But keep in mind, at the time, this was a huge gamble. Not only were JCP/NWA/WCW going into the unproven ground of free pay-per-view quality programming on cable television, but they were also putting an unproven rookie in the spotlight of the show’s main event.

Say what you want about Crockett and Dusty, but the balls on these men were huge. This was a very admirable endeavor.

But the REAL question here is; does the show hold up? Looking back without wearing nostalgia goggles thirty years after the fact, is NWA Clash of the Champions still a good show?

Boys, lets have us a CLASH.

Have you ever seen anything MORE 1988?

We kick off with a video package that asks the question, “Is Sting finally ready to knock Ric Flair off his throne and become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion?”

The video also poses the question of Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors being able to take down Ivan Koloff and the Powers of Pain and whether “Wrestling’s New Breed” can be victorious on a day where anything goes. I immediately feel confused.

“Now, Superstation TBS presents… Clash of the Champions!”

We then get a close up panning shot of the Big Gold Belt and some amazing 80’s synth music. Lightning strikes the Big Gold, which is followed by the Television, Tag Team and Western States Heavyweight championships respectively. This obviously puts off the “Champions” motif of the show.

We are live at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina in front of a sold out crowd. Tony Schiavone and Bob Caudle welcome us to the show, mentioning that Jim Ross is here as well. Notable by his absence is David Crockett, who was co-hosting NWA/WCW Saturday Night with Schiavone at the time. Speaking of Saturday Night, Tony mentions the NWA Board of Directors were looking into a situation from the previous night involving Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA and Jim Crockett.

The two greatest commentators of all time. Fight me.

It’s worth mentioning that this show looks awful. The resolution looks to be about sub-144p and you could probably get better lighting with a flashlight and a couple of blankets.

Tony and Bob send us to Jim Ross at ringside, looking dapper. JR sends us to ring announcer Tom Miller for our first contest of the night.

NWA Television Championship: Mike Rotunda (c) w/ Kevin Sullivan vs “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin w/ Precious

Miller mentions that this title with have three five-minute periods and the pinfalls for the match will only be a ONE count.

Garvin gets a jobber entrance, while Rotunda gets music and boos for his entrance. Before this match can begin however, COMMERCIAL.

Back from break, it’s now Schiavone and Ross on commentary, with Caudle being M.I.A. How confusing.

The two men lock up before Rotunda scores a single leg takedown. Garvin battles back to his feet and begins shoving referee Teddy Long. Another lock up, as Rotundo lands a beautiful arm drag. Garvin returns with two of his own and a scoop slam. Rotundo powders out of the ring as the crowd erupts. Garvin and Rotundo trade some holds as Rotundo generally gets the best of Garvin with some cheap shots.

Garvin’s tighty-whiteys make me uncomfortable.

Front face-lock by Garvin, but Rotunda takes him into the corner before Jimmy shoves Mr. Wyatt on his ass. Eventually, Rotunda gets tired of it all and punches Garvin before draping him over the top rope. Into the corner and a big clothesline to Jimmy Jam. As Mikey goes for a cover, Garvin rolls to his stomach and then we go full blown amateur wrestling here. Both men roll on the mat before Rotunda locks in a proto-Rings of Saturn. Before Garvin submits though, the bell sounds and round one has ended.

A thirty-second rest period begins, but I.R.S takes this opportunity to cheap shot the wannabe Freebird. Sullivan and Precious give their men some encouragement as the bell sounds to being the second round.

Rotunda immediately rushes at Garvin, takes him into the corner before nailing a scoop slam. Rotundo goes to the top rope, but Garvin gets to his feet and yanks Rotunda off the top. Back drop to Rotunda. Jimmy Garvin is looking for the Brainbuster, but Sullivan jumps on the apron, which prompts Precious to attack the Taskmaster. Garvin is distracted and goes to punch Sullivan, who shoves him back into a roll up from Rotunda, who gets the ONE count, and retains the TV Title.

Garvin hits the Brainbuster on Rotunda anyhow and then attacks Sullivan. Suddenly, Rick Steiner (looking JACKED) attacks Garvin. Precious jumps in the ring with a 2×4 and DESTROYS Steiner before strangling Sullivan with a coat hanger. Don’t ask me why, but it was awesome. Garvin pulls off Precious as the two escape with their lives. Awesome.

I hate that Rotunda was immediately attacked after winning, but this post match angle was great. The match itself was also pretty damn good if you can looks past the weird rules. Also, Schiavone and Ross are SO sharp. They make everything sound real.

Bob Caudle is back with “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, who is fresh from a tour of Japan. Doc addresses the Rhodes situation and tells Dusty to “go on with his bad self.” He also endorses Sting to win the main event, but it doesn’t matter as he is still in line for a title shot. His hair is stupendous.

Doc finishes his promo in the realest fashion I’ve ever seen by saying, “Bye-bye, take care.” What a nice man.

United States Tag Team Championship: The Fantastics vs The Midnight Express (c) w/ Jim Cornette 

A group of fans in the audience wearing suits hold up a sign saying, “CORNETTE” while chanting, “CORNETTE RULES.”

Speaking of JC, he welcomes out his team of Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane, The Midnight Express. They have some horrible, woeful music dubbed in for them on the WWE Network. The Fantastics team comprised of Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers are out next and the two teams immediately start brawling before heading outside.

These four men beat the hell out of each other as Eaton bumps his ass off for Fulton, who nails him with a chair. In the ring, Fulton and Rogers isolate Lane, nailing a backdrop.

This FIGHT spills outside once again, as Lane throws Rogers into a chair that Cornette was holding. On the other side of the ring, Lane nails Fulton with a chair shot of his own. The camera misses it, but we’re told Rogers nails Eaton with a chair. Meanwhile, Cornette throws a chair in Fulton’s face, Rob Van Dam style.

Did I mention that this match ruled?

AT LAST, this breaks down into a tag team match, as the Fantastics beat down the Midnight in the corners. Fulton lands ten punches on Eaton. Lane throws Rogers (the legal man) into the post allowing Eaton to get the upper hand. Eaton sends Rogers into the ropes, but Tommy reverses it just in time for Lane to jump into the ring as the Midnight NAILS TOTAL ELIMINATION on Rogers. Fucking great.

Lane, now legal, rubs Rogers face into the mat as the crowd has become so loud that they drown out JR and Tony. Eaton, back in, lands beautiful strikes on Rogers. On the outside, Cornette props up a table and Eaton drives Rogers into it, head first. I’ve never seen that before, and it looked awesome. Sweet Stan back in, hits a few elbows and a headbutt on Rogers, who counters back by headbutting Lane square in the dick. Stan tags Beautiful Bobby in, who cuts off Rogers short lived comeback by nailing a Orton-esque powerslam. Up top, Eaton hits an awesome elbow that was no doubt better than anything Randy Savage hit on that same night. YEAH, I SAID IT.

Eaton tags Lane back in, who hits a gutwrench suplex on Rogers, before double teaming him in the corner while the ref is arguing with Fulton. Lane drapes Rogers over his knee as Eaton comes off the top with another elbow into Rogers chest.

The crowd erupts as Rogers starts punching with all of his energy into Eaton’s midsection, but Bobby backs him into the corner for five punches. Tag to Stan Lane, who back drops Rogers, but Tommy counters into a sunset flip for a cover.  Referee Randy Anderson is distracted to see the pin attempt, so Eaton breaks it up. Damnit!

Lane hits a silly looking roundhouse kicks to Rogers, before sending him to the outside. Fulton immediately comes over to protect Rogers, which causes the ref to shove him away and be distracted. This allows Eaton to slam Rogers onto a folded table. Ouch! It sounded great though. Eaton then bulldogs Rogers on the table, which Rogers all but no sells for some reason. Fulton and Rogers regroup on the outside as Cornette gloats. Stan pulls Rogers back into the ring as the Midnights AGAIN double team Rogers, who is now bleeding from the nose. Dude, I’ve never wanted to see somebody land a hot tag so bad. I can’t wait for Fulton to kick the Midnight’s ass!

Eaton strangles Rogers, then brings him back to his feet where Rogers FINALLY mounts a comeback and GETS THE GODDAMN TAG. HELL YES. But OH SHIT, RANDY ANDERSON DIDN’T SEE IT. Now Lane, Eaton AND Cornette triple team Rogers.

Bobby Fulton has stood all he can stand and he can’t stand no more. He tosses referee Anderson over the top rope and gets grabbed by Eaton. Cornette swings the tennis racket into Fulton’s face but he ducks and Cornette whacks Eaton before Fulton punches him for his troubles. The Fantastics then do their own version of the Rocket Launcher on Eaton, but there is no referee to make the count.

Suddenly, Tommy Young slides in the ring and counts to three and MY GOD THEY’VE DONE IT! THE FANTASTICS HAVE WON THE U.S TAG TITLES!

But goddamnit, this is a Dusty Rhodes booked show. Anderson reverses the decision and the Midnight Express keep the U.S Tag Titles. To add insult to injury, all three men destroy the Fantastics AND both referees. Lane then whips Fulton’s back with a leather belt, followed by Cornette. Tommy Rogers comes back into the ring with a steel chair and runs off the Express.

So yes, for two matches in a row, there has been a screwy finish and a post match attack. That part sucks. HOWEVER, I love this goddamn match with all of my heart. This was, without hyperbole, one of the best tag team matches I’ve ever seen in my life. All five men (hell, nine if you include the referees and commentators) were at the top of their game and so crisp. I defy anyone to watch this match and then Strike Force vs Demolition from WrestleMania IV that same night, and tell me this match doesn’t blow it out of the water. NWA/WCW tag team wrestling is a lost art, and this match is a masterpiece. If there had been a clean finish, this would have been a ***** match. Unbelievably great. So good.

Back with Bob Caudle who points out the barbed wire being wrapped around the ring ropes for the Texas Barbed Wire Match. Yikes.

Bob then introduces Ken Osmond, playing his Eddie Haskell character from the television show, The New Leave it to Beaver. Osmond interviews JIM CORNETTE and compliments Corny on his tennis racket, and suggests the two play a game of tennis a one of the courts owned by Cornette’s mother. Osmond mocks Cornette for still listening to his mother, who is an “old bat,” which Corny retorts with, “Look, she may be getting up there, but she’s still loaded, so shush.” Jim Cornette then says his mother always wanted him to be like that Haskell boy and Osmond is delighted by this, saying Cornette’s mother has great taste.

Caudle then brings out Al Perez and the returning Gary Hart. Hart and Perez challenge Dusty Rhodes and dare him to put his title on the line. Hart hands the mic over to Perez and the STATE of his promo. I can see why they put him with Hart. I always thought Perez had potential to be a bigger star but now I’m questioning myself.

Bob Caudle the throws us to Frances Crockett, who announces the Top Ten Seeds for the Jim Crockett Senior Memorial Cup. She announces the following teams:

10. Ivan Koloff and Dick Murdoch
9. Sting and Ron Garvin
8. The Varsity Club
7. The Fantastics
6. Barry Windham and Lex Luger
5. The Powers of Pain
4. The Midnight Express
3. The Road Warriors
2. Nikita Koloff and Dusty Rhodes
1. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard

Frances Crockett was a handsome woman.
Texas Barbed Wire Match: Dusty Rhodes and The Road Warriors vs Ivan Koloff and The Powers of Pain w/#1 Paul Jones

Dusty and the Road Warriors are out first. Animal is wearing a cool helmet, Dusty is wearing Hawk’s trademark red and black facepaint, and Hawk couldn’t be assed to do anything creative. A great man.

There is barbed wire on the ropes, but none of the wrestlers seem to be bothered by it. How underwhelming.

P.O.P and Koloff come out during the break.They look hesitant to get into the ring, which is nice. Koloff finally rolls in, followed by Barbarian and the Warlord. All six men brawl as the babyfaces drive the heels foreheads into the barbed wires.

Jim Ross then says, “This match is unsanctioned, it has NO rules, it’s one fall to a finish!” THAT’S A RULE, JR.

Hawk gives Koloff a powerslam. This match is extremely punch-kicky. Koloff slowly brings Rhodes to his knees, but Dusty pops back up, none the worse for wear. Rhodes knocks down the Warlord with a punch, then gives Barbarian a shit DDT. Followed by another. Hawk comes off the top with a punch to the Warlord that doesn’t even knock the man down.

Dusty just stands around for a minute, looking out of shape. Animal hits Warlord with a powerslam as the Barbarian attempts to break up the pin by coming off the top rope. Animal moves at the last moment as the Barbarian lands on Warlord allowing Animal to get the three count for his team. The match ends after six minutes. Dusty Rhodes did not take a single bump.

Big shock as we get ANOTHER post match beatdown, as the heels take it to the faces with a chain. I was expecting another babyface to do a run in, but nah, Dusty just stands up and starts punching people. Hawk joins in and they run off the heels.

This was a stinker. All six men were exhausted, the barbed wire did NOTHING to add and actually subtracted since no one could run the ropes. This was Dusty at his laziest and the Road Warriors at their roidiest. Total shit.

Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross hype the new show NWA Main Event, which would debut the following Sunday. Fun fact; Main Event is the 4th longest running show in WCW history, only edged out by WCW Saturday Night, WorldWide and ironically, Clash of the Champions.

Bob Caudle then introduces Nikita Koloff now with HAIR. HAIR, I TELLS YA. He looks like a drug dealer. And as per usual, I can’t understand a goddamn word Nikita says. I know that’s the point but come on, dude. Would it kill you to enunciate? In a bit or irony, Nikita shows a poster to Caudle that says, “Get high on SPORTS, not DRUGS.” Solid life advice. I then halfway understand Nikita calling out Kevin Sullivan, Dick Murdoch and Mike Rotunda. Koloff talks about how he now has his sights set on the NWA Championship, the one title he hasn’t won. He scrutinizes Tully Blanchard for attacking Magnum TA last night. Then he leaves. I feel bewilderment.

NWA World Tag Team Championships: The Four Horsemen (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) w/ JJ Dillon (c) vs Lex Luger and Barry Windham 

The Horsemen get an off-screen jobber entrance, which is jarring. Windham and Luger out next and BARRY, state of your gear. He is STILL wearing his US Express gear from 1985. It’s worth noting that for some reason, Arn decided to dye his balding hair blonde. It looks ridiculous.

Luger and Blanchard start off with a beautiful lock up that Luger throws Tully out of and flexes. Before you know it, the Horsemen have Luger double teamed, but Lex fights out of it before striking both men with a clothesline. Powerslam from Luger, who then calls for and LOCKS IN the Torture Rack. We’re two minutes in Lex! Calm down! Arn quickly breaks it up and works on Luger’s knee. Frequent tags now, as both men target the Package’s knee.

Anderson goes for a Figure Four, but Lex kicks him in the ass to break it up. Luger tags in Windham and this place EXPLODES. Amazing. Windham cleans house and beats the hell out of Arn and Tully, hits a lariat on Tully followed by a powerslam for a two count. Sleeper hold on Tully, who fights to the ropes, but the two men fall through to the outside. Windham is UNPHASED however and keeps the sleeper on Blanchard. Barry heads back in to avoid a count-out, and Arn resuscitates Tully outside the ring with a nice shoulder massage. On his way back in, Tully necks Windham on the top rope. He heads up top but Windham yanks him off and nails Double A for good measure.

Windham locks in an abdominal stretch on Tully but Arn nails Barry as JJ distracts the referee. Luger comes in to complain but Tommy Young holds him back, allowing The Enforcer to hit Barry with a DDT. Awesome.

After Windham kicks out, Arn hits the Double A Spinebuster but only manages to get a two count! Anderson tags Blanchard back in and Tully punches Windham, like, six times in the face for a two count. Blanchard sends Windham into the ropes, but Barry ducks and hits Tully with a lariat of his own for a near fall. Both men run the ropes and collide into each other. They battle back to their feet and Windham hits a BEAUTIFUL gutwrench suplex and both men go down again.

Tag to Arn, who takes Windham to the corner and twists his arm. Windham battles out of it but is too weak to tag Luger. Big right hand to Arn as Barry collapses from exhaustion. Tag to Tully, who hits his slingshot suplex on Windham for A TWO COUNT. THIS IS A BIG SHOW, THEY’RE KICKING OUT OF FINISHERS. Tully tags in Arn, who runs after Barry Windham as he FINALLY makes the tag to Lex! Luger comes in like a house of fire and destroys both men. Lex collides Arn and Tully’s heads together. Shoulder tackle knocks Anderson down, but as Luger runs the ropes, Tully puts a knee up which knocks Luger down.

Anderson sends Luger to the corner, but Lex reverses and hits another powerslam on Arn. It’s at this point that I realize The Ultimate Warrior probably hit a powerslam in his match with Rick Rude at WrestleMania IV on this same night. It’s also at this point that I’m reminded that Warrior was a homophobic asshole who has an award presented to the those who are battling disease and disabilities named after him, while Lex Luger is a born-again Christian that’s currently CONFINED TO A WHEELCHAIR. There’s no justice in this world.

All four men jump into the ring as the match gets out of control. JJ Dillon holds up a chair into the corner, expecting Arn Anderson to drive Lex Luger into it, but Luger reverses and Arn goes headfirst! Luger hooks the leg and gets the win! Luger and Windham win the titles!

Windham and Luger take their championship titles and immediately run off to the back. They must have been watching this show and know that the winners get beaten down after their match. In all seriousness, I actually presume this was due to time constraints.

This was excellent! A little weaker than the Midnights/Fantastics match from earlier in the night, but that was a hard act to follow. Coming off of the last match, I thought this show was all downhill, but I was dead wrong. This match is a sobering reminder that Lex Luger is CRIMINALLY underrated. For some reason, Luger has a bad wrap. People think of him in the same vein as other jacked up muscle-heads like the aforementioned Ultimate Warrior and Warlord. But let this match be an example of Luger being able to keep up with three of the best wrestlers in the world at this point in 1988. All four men were on top of their game here. Great stuff.

Main Event: NWA World Heavyweight Championship – Sting vs “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c)

Tom Miller is in the ring announcing this match will have a forty-five minute time limit and there must be a winner. Miller then introduces our judges for the match. Why the hell does this match need judges, you ask? Because Dusty never wants to put a baby face over unless his name is Dusty Rhodes. The judges for the match are:

Gary Juster (NWA board member)
Sandy Scott (former NWA professional wrestling star)
Patty Mullen (the 1988 Penthouse “Pet of the Year”)
Ken Osmond (actor, Leave it to Beaver)
Jason Hervey (actor, The Wonder Years)

What a motley crew.

Out first is Sting with some generic butt-rock music. He’s wearing a silver robe with a golden scorpion and black tassels. His face is painted black, red and blue. The people absolutely worship this man. He was a true superstar, even at this point in his career.

The theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey blares through the speakers and out walks the champ. He’s wearing a beautiful white and silver robe, his hair immaculate as ever. He requests referee Tommy Young to open the ropes for him, while JJ Dillon is locked in a shark tank on the outside. The crowd boos Flair but almost a respectful boo as if to say, “Yeah, we hate him; but goddamn he’s good.”

The crowd erupts in cheers however when Dillon’s cage is raised high above the ring. Tom Miller does the formal ring introductions and we are off and ready to go. It’s time to watch one of the greatest matches of all time.

Sting and Flair go eye-to-eye as the bell sounds and the two men lock up. Sting drives Flair into the corner and gives the crowd a big “Woo!” Arm wringer from Flair, Sting goes down but pops right back up. Headlock to Flair, who fights out of it and counters with one of his own. It doesn’t last however, as Sting drives Flair to the mat. Back to square one.

They tease another lock-up, but opt for a test of strength instead. Naturally, Sting gets the better of this exchange, but Ric drives Sting into the corner and nails the future Icon with a big chop. It has zero effect on Sting, who looks more annoyed than hurt by it. Sting charges Flair into the opposite corner and lands a big dropkick that causes The nature Boy to a brief powder to the outside.

Back in the ring again, Flair and Sting begin trading holds and going back and forth for the better part of twenty minutes. Schiavone mentions that if the match ends early, there are two matches waiting in the wings to fill the remaining TV time. Those two matches were Shane Douglas vs Larry Zbyszko and Ricky Santana vs Rick Steiner. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

At about the ten minute mark, Sting teases his trademark ten punches in the corner, but Flair DENIES them. A cool moment came when Flair throws Sting out of the ring but in one motion, Sting rolls through to get back inside, standing straight up. Awesome.

Sting gets Flair in a bear hug for about three minutes. The best part about this was Flair screaming, “OH GOD, MY BACK!!” to the crowd’s delight. Sting lets Flair back to his feet and attempts a Stinger Splash, but Flair moves at the last moment causing Sting to come crashing into the turnbuckle. After mounting a small comeback, Sting goes for the ten punches yet again, but Flair counters with an atomic drop. While both men are writhing in pain, one of them audibly lets out an, “AHH SHIT.”

The Nature Boy tosses Sting to the outside and sends him into the guardrail. On the inside, Flair gives Sting two Irish Whips, further injuring his back. The best part of this is that the ring was a little worn and the ropes were slightly loose at this point, meaning bumps into the turnbuckles had a great sound. It sounded like the ring could break at any second. It really added to the illusion of abuse on Sting’s back.

To the outside once more as Flair sends the Stinger spine first into the guardrail yet again. It’s at this point that I realize this television match has yet to have one single commercial break. This must have cost Crockett a fortune. Back inside, Sting fires up and punches Flair over the top rope. He goes for a Stinger Splash to Flair on the outside, but Flair moves and Sting goes arm first into the ring post. Back in the ring, Flair targets Sting’s arm. PSYCHOLOGY. After fighting out, Sting hits THREE punches in the corner and a clothesline for a two count. Big vertical suplex to Flair before Sting locks in the Scorpion Death Lock! Wisely, Flair crawls to the ropes for safety. Sting attempts to clothesline Flair, but Ric ducks and Sting’s momentum sends him to the outside which looked kinda silly. On his way back in, Flair drops Sting on the top rope throat first, but before Flair can even get back to his feet, Sting is already perched on the top rope. Ric turns around into a cross body, which garners Sting a two count.

Flair then begins to target Sting’s knee, softening him up for the Figure Four Leg Lock. With fifteen minutes left in the match, Flair locks in the Figure Four for the first time. Flair grabs the ropes for leverage, as Tommy Young counts Sting’s shoulders to the match which Sting, of course, kicks out of. Sting then uses all of his remaining strength the drag himself and Flair away from the ropes. After pounding his chest, Sting reverses the hold and puts pressure on Flair’s knee. Ric, of course, gets to the ropes. On their feet, Flair attempts to suplex Sting to the outside, but Sting reverses it and hits one on the inside of the ring. Sting attempts a big splash, but Flair gets the knees up. Hella reversals in this match, it’s great.

Flair goes for an elbow, but Sting rolls out of the way. Ric heads up top but as we all know, it doesn’t end well for him. Sting drags Flair over to the corner and yanks Ric ball-first into the post. Back inside, Sting goes for the Scorpion but changes his mind and locks in the Figure Four! Awesome! Flair gets to the ropes. Sting then gives Ric FIVE punches in the corner and then hip tosses him to the other side of the ring. Ric begs off but Sting just straight punches him and follows with stomps to Flair’s knee. Amazing moment as Flair jumps up in pain and shoves referee Tommy Young out of frustration, and Young shoves him right back. It’s worth noting that Tommy Young’s timing and facial expressions really add a lot to this match. Great stuff.

HUGE whip into the corner and Flair just flies over the top rope, right onto the judges table. Sting whips Flair’s head into the table with so much force the table BREAKS. AMAZING.

FIVE MINUTES REMAIN.

Flair sunset flips Sting to get back into the ring, which means we get ALOHA STING. Not for long as Sting pounds his chest and punches Flair. And then, Sting hits FIVE MORE corner punches, but Flair once again counters into an Atomic Drop. Only now, Sting has seemginly grown some iron protection around his ding-a-ling as no-sells it before just straight punching Flair. He goes for a cover but Flair gets his foot on the rope. Sting goes for a Stinger Splash, but Flair moves and Sting sails over the top rope to the outside.

THREE MINUTES REMAIN.

The two men exchange punches and chops until Sting drives Flair into the corner. Both men are down. Flair tosses Sting outside but he immediately hops on the apron and hits a sunset flip of his own, meaning we get ALOHA RIC.

TWO MINUTES REMAIN.

Flair tries to pin Sting out of the sunset flip, but Tommy Young sees Flair flagrant grabbing of the ropes. Sting counters into a near fall. Flair flips in the corner, climbs the top rope and OH MY GOD HE HITS A CROSS BODY. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I’VE EVER SEEN FLAIR SUCCESSFULLY HIT A MOVE OFF THE TOP ROPE. Sting however ain’t having none of it and rolls Flair through the cross body into a cover. Two count only! Flair chops Sting, who brushes it off. STING THEN FIRES THE FUCK UP.

ONE MINUTE REMAINS.

Sting hits FIVE MORE PUNCHES in the corner, then gives Flair an Irish whip and lands the Stinger Splash!!! Sting locks in the Scorpion Death Lock with only THIRTY SECONDS REMAINING. Tom Miller counts down the final ten seconds of the match and just like that, the match is over! Flair didn’t give up but neither did Sting. It’s all up to the judges now.

Tom Miller tells us the judges decisions;

Patty Mullen: Ric Flair

Gary Juster: Sting

Sandy Scott: DRAW

For some reason, Miller doesn’t read off Hervey and Osmond’s decision which is complete bullshit. If Hervey and Osmond had both voted for Sting, he’d have won! Now if one voted for Flair and one voted for Sting, then fine it’s a draw. I get not wanting to take the title off of Flair while also not wanting to beat Sting but have a little more thought about this here.

This, of course, means that STILL the NWA World Heavyweight Champion is Ric Flair.

Cut to Schiavone, Ross and Caudle who put over both men in the main event and the show as a whole. In the background, we can see Sting standing in the ring looking very dejected and despondent.

The camera zooms out and Schiavone signs out, saying, “We’ll see you at the SuperStation.”

Roll credits.

Wow, holy shit. What a goddamn show. I firmly believe that this is one of the greatest shows ever in NWA/WCW history. And I can without hyperbole say, this show has two of my personal favorite matches in WCW history. Flair vs Sting and The Midnight Express vs The Fantastics were both classics and I think should have been in the discussion for Match of the Year.

Just for shits and giggles, I watched WrestleMania IV to compare it to Clash of the Champions. And OH MY GOD, MANIA IS WOEFUL. A terrible show. The fact that people payed for WrestleMania instead of watching Clash, it should be a crime punishable by law.

This show is important for so many reasons, but it’s greatest contribution is, no doubt, the elevation of Sting. In one forty-five minute match with Ric Flair, Sting went from a very popular fan favorite to the face of the company. This match is why we call Sting, “The Franchise of WCW.” And in my opinion, this match was the true beginning of the greatest feud in WCW history.

When you compare Clash of the Champions to the final Nitro in 2001, almost nothing was the same within the company. You had better cameras, bigger budget, better equipment, more wrestlers and of course, different ownership. Hell, two different owners since that first Clash. There was one common denominator however; Sting vs Ric Flair.

When the houses were down, you could rely on Sting and Flair. When the ratings were down, you could rely on Sting and Flair. WCW needed those two men. And quite frankly, Sting and Flair needed WCW. These three entities are forever tied together, and that can all be traced back to this night.

Six months later, Jim Crockett Promotions was sold to Turner Broadcasting and evolved into World Championship Wrestling. Clash of the Champions would continue until it’s final edition in 1997. It was (kinda) resurrected by the WWE in 2016.

If you think about it, this show was very transitional. We were going from the traditional Crockett shows on Saturday nights on TBS, to grandiose pay-per-view presentations in WCW. Giving away a match like Flair vs Sting on free TV was unheard of at the time. Cut to ten years later, matches of this caliber were given away on Nitro every week. My, how times changed.

Thirty years later, Clash of the Champions more than holds up. A must-see show.

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