wrestling / Video Reviews

The Chrononaut Chronicles: Clash of the Champions XVII

January 31, 2012 | Posted by Joel Thomas


Thanks to the infinitely talented Kyle Morton for the logo. Check out his Etsy account, where he does custom artwork and commissions… you’ll be glad you did!

The Chrononaut Chronicles
WCW Clash of the Champions XVII – November 19, 1991

– One of the first examples of a real-life incident being turned into a storyline took place since our last Clash. WCW was in the midst of trying to legally regain possession of the Big Gold Belt that Ric Flair took with him to the WWF, and they were apparently working with Jerry Jarrett to crown Jerry Lawler as the new NWA World Champion in Memphis and start to build up a future title unification match with WCW World Champion Lex Luger. However, Jarrett and Lawler called the plans off because they claimed word had spread and that would somehow hurt interest in the angle. They accused Paul Heyman of leaking the information to his friend Eddie Gilbert, and without any evidence to support their claims, WCW suspended Heyman for what they termed philosophical differences. When Heyman arranged a legitimate press conference to announce that he was threatening legal action against the Turner organization, WCW promptly reinstated him and Paul insisted that they work his real-life suspension into the angle bringing him back as the lead heel manager. Attributing the suspension to his controversial conduct as a broadcaster, Paul E. Dangerously returned at Halloween Havoc ’91 and announced his intentions to dismantle WCW brick-by-brick as he aligned himself with Madusa and “Ravishing” Rick Rude, who had just made his WCW debut under a mask as The Halloween Phantom. Thus began the storyline that would lead to one of WCW’s best years ever in terms of ring work and upper-card angles.

– That guy who used to do all the voiceovers on TBS commercials narrates the opening video and hypes this evening’s title bouts: Johnny B. Badd challenging Flyin’ Brian for the Light Heavyweight Title, Stunning Steve defending the World TV Title against PN News, Dustin Rhodes and a partner who may or may not be Barry Windham going after The Enforcers’ World Tag Team Title, Sting putting the US Heavyweight Title on the line against Rick Rude, and Rick Steiner attempting to snag the World Heavyweight Title from Lex Luger. That’s five, count’em, FIVE championships up for grabs tonight at the seventeenth Clash of the Champions!

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– LIVE from the Civic Center in Savannah, Georgia! Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone are on commentary.

- Lumberjack Match: Thomas Rich (w/Alexandra York) vs. Big Josh

Big Josh had been feuding with The York Foundation for months after his debut and it became more personal when his best friend Tommy “Wildfire” Rich, the man who brought him into WCW, turned heel and joined the group under his proper name of Thomas Rich. This is a sad-looking group of lumberjacks, consisting of Terrence Taylor, Richard Morton, The Young Pistols, and Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker on the heel side and Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin, and Private Todd Champion as babyfaces. As soon as Big Josh steps through the ropes, Thomas Rich is all over him until Josh starts no-selling and chasing his former friend. Since Rich can’t escape due to the massive amount of wrestlers surrounding the ring, Josh overpowers him with an atomic drop and a belly-to-belly suplex. Thomas finds the heel side of the ring and rolls out to the floor amongst friends, but the Fabulous Freebirds and Todd Champion horn in and shove Rich back in. After Josh lands an elbowdrop for a two-count, Rich manages to dump him to the floor so that his fellow Foundation members Terrence Taylor and Richard Morton can pound away on him while the other heels run interference against the babyfaces. Rich maintains the advantage in the ring as he chokes Josh with his wrist tape and suplexes him, but he goes to the top turnbuckle and Josh slams him off. They start criss-crossing off the ropes and Rich gets tripped up by Taylor, but it was no accident. Josh adds the Northern Exposure earthquake splash and sits on Rich for the pin at 6:03. *¾ It kind of kills the gimmick when there are such a small number of lumberjacks, and the match didn’t feel like a personal grudge between two former best friends, but the work was solid.

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Oh no, how will they ever break through that impenetrable wall of humanity?

- Firebreaker Chip vs. “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton

Beautiful Bobby is saddled with one-half of The Patriots as they were being phased out over the next couple of months. Firebreaker Chip shows some good athleticism as he runs up to the top turnbuckle and jumps over Eaton, but he tries to land on his feet and blows it. Chip runs up the opposite turnbuckles and leaps off with a crossbody out of the corner for two. They do some matwork and exchange some big moves and near-falls as Eaton leads him through a solid little match before pinning Chip with a bridging back suplex in 4:52. *½ Chip was trying, but he just didn’t have it. When you can be described as a poor man’s Paul Roma, it might be time to find another profession. As for Bobby, bigger and better things were on the horizon.

– Tony Schiavone brings Sting out on the runway to receive his final mystery gift box and find out who has been sending them to him. A lineup of muscular half-naked men carry out a covered sedan chair, and when Madusa emerges from inside to writhe all over Sting with a full-body rubdown, Ross is convinced that she is the one who’s been sending the boxes. Despite the fact that the previous boxes contained separate ass-kickings from Abdullah the Butcher and Cactus Jack, Sting is incredibly casual about the whole thing and asks Madusa where she wants him to go. After Sting releases his pent-up sexual frustration by screaming out his trademark war cry, Lex Luger sneaks out of the sedan chair and clips the Stinger’s knee from behind as Ross now declares that Luger is responsible for the boxes. The Total Package smashes Sting’s leg over the side of the runway several times before Flyin’ Brian, Big Josh, Dustin Rhodes, and The Patriots rush out to tend to their fallen friend. It made more sense for it to be Rick Rude because of Madusa’s involvement, but Ross explains that Madusa was just providing subterfuge for the WCW World Champion. This was the beginning of the build to the planned big showdown between Luger and Sting at SuperBrawl II in February.

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Suddenly, Sting found himself wishing he had paid closer attention in sex-ed class.

- The Diamond Studd vs. The Z-Man

This feud began when the Diamond Studd took exception to the Z-Man’s title of Sexiest Wrestler in WCW, believing that he instead was the more impressive physical specimen and ladies’ man. The entrances take place during the commercial break and we are joined at the opening bell as the Studd scores a two-count with a flying bulldog off the middle turnbuckle. While the match is shown in the upper right corner of the screen, we go outside the arena where Sting is on a stretcher being wheeled into an ambulance. Sting doesn’t want to go to the hospital because of his US Title defense later tonight, but Beautiful Bobby assures him that he has plenty of time and sees the Stinger off as Eric Bischoff hops into the ambulance. We go back to the ring just as Z-Man traps Studd in a crucifix for the pin at 1:24. The Studd immediately attacks Z-Man and lays him out with the Diamond Death Drop to prove that he is “The Bad Guy” which he yells into the camera, long before Razor Ramon used it as a catchphrase. Speaking of Razor, this was Scott Hall’s final Clash appearance under the Diamond Studd gimmick before departing for the WWF in the first half of 1992. * Looked like an energetic well-worked match, but they were overshadowed and disrespected in every possible way. However, the interruption made the backstage angle with Sting feel spontaneous and real, and it provided a hook for viewers to stay tuned to see if he would make it back later.

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Look familiar? (No, not the ass, you perv.)

- WCW World Television Championship: “The Rapmaster” PN News vs. “Stunning” Steve Austin (w/Lady Blossom) ©

It’s sad that WCW wasted so much time pushing and hyping PN News, yet he is greeted by a mixed reaction that indicates the fans are sick of him or they just don’t care about him. Stunning Steve blindsides PN News when the bell rings, but News shows a more aggressive side as he dominates Austin with power moves. The TV Champion bails out to the floor and PN whips him into the guardrail before sending him back in the ring. Austin attacks News when he rolls in and scoops him up for a bodyslam, but News falls on top of him for a close near-fall and throws a lazy one-footed ‘dropkick’. News suplexes Austin so that his legs hit the ropes, which is sloppy and dangerous. Snapmare gets two, but Austin dumps PN out to the runway and follows him out to follow up. When Steve charges at him, PN back-bodydrops him back into the ring and plants him with a bearhug into a belly-to-belly suplex. The Rapmaster covers the Stunning One, but Lady Blossom puts Austin’s foot over the bottom rope and News goes out after her. As PN stalks the Lady at ringside, Austin charges across the ring and sails over the top rope with a wild forearm blow to fell the big guy. The TV Champion hurls his challenger into the guardrail and tries to assert himself in the ring, but News reverses a whip into the corner and charges in. Austin sidesteps the avalanche and pins News with his feet on the ropes to retain the WCW World Television Championship in 4:21. **¼ Steve Austin did his best Ric Flair impression and bumped his ass off to get a watchable match out of PN News. Bravo, sir.

– Missy Hyatt interviews WCW’s newest rookie sensation, Marcus Alexander Bagwell! Doing her overblown airhead schtick, Missy melts all over Marcus to get him over as a heartthrob and asks him about himself. He’s 21 and the only thing we learn about him personally is that he graduated from Sprayberry High School. Why is a 21-year-old man bragging about where he went to high school? Either he just graduated, or he’s one of those creepy older guys who still hangs around his old high school hitting on younger girls. Like a less-cool Wooderson from Dazed and Confused.

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“That’s what I love about these high school girls, Missy. I get older, they stay the same age.”

– This week’s WCW Top Ten, topped off by WCW World Champion Lex Luger, includes: US Champion Sting, Rick Steiner, TV Champion Stunning Steve Austin, Ron Simmons, Dustin Rhodes, Barry Windham, Cactus Jack, Bill Kazmaier, Beautiful Bobby, and Big Van Vader making his presence known at #10.

- Cactus Jack vs. “Heavy Metal” Van Hammer

Van Hammer’s new music video alternates between clips of Hammer’s band playing in a ring and Hammer beating Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker in the same empty arena. WCW had a chance to do their own No Holds Barred angle with the Sarge claiming to be the real star of the video, and they blew it. Cactus Jack attacks Van Hammer right off the bat and squeals as he tears away at Hammer’s face, but Heavy Metal comes back with a back suplex and dropkicks Cactus out of the ring. Showing good enthusiasm coupled with bad timing, Hammer slingshots out to the floor too early and lands a glancing blow. Big boot, bodyslam, and a legdrop only get two in a subtle shot at Hulk Hogan that WCW took from time to time, and Jack responds by faceplanting Hammer and clotheslining him over the top rope. The Madman from New Mexico follows Heavy Metal out with the suicidal elbowdrop off the second turnbuckle to the floor and grabs Hammer’s wrist, forcing him to wave to the camera in a nice character moment that was missed by the commentators. Jack pounds away, but Hammer retaliates with a clothesline to the back of the head and a flying kneedrop off the top across the back of the neck for a near-fall. They crack heads and Jack falls out of the ring, grabbing Van’s guitar and jamming it into his throat when he reaches through the ropes. Cactus climbs back in and rolls Hammer up for the pin at 4:03. Ross credits Cactus Jack as the first man to defeat Van Hammer, but he’s not satisfied with that as Cactus jumps Hammer after the match. Hammer fights back with a killer slingshot suplex on the runway and a leaping shoulderblock before they brawl backstage. **½ Much like the Austin/News and Eaton/Chip matches, this was another case of a superior worker leading an inexperienced lug through a watchable match, although Hammer was game and held up his end.

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Wave to the camera!

– Via telephone from the hospital, Eric Bischoff reports that Sting is being examined by three different doctors and puts over the severity of the Stinger’s pain. Eric says an orderly is giving him a thumbs-up, so that means either the orderly likes Bischoff’s hair or Sting will be able to return to the arena. Or both.

– Prior to the next match, footage is shown from the afternoon of Halloween Havoc featuring Eric Bischoff interviewing wrestlers as they arrived outside the building. Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes drive up together and when Barry reaches out to shake Eric’s hand, Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko appear out of nowhere and slam the car door on Windham’s wrist. This was done because Windham had legitimately broken his wrist performing a bulldog on a jobber in a TV match that didn’t air until after Havoc and they needed to write him out.

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Next time you’re getting out of your car, make sure that Arn & Larry aren’t around.

- WCW World Tag Team Championship: The Enforcers (“Double A” Arn Anderson & “Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko) © vs. “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes & Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

Barry Windham comes out with Dustin Rhodes, but since he is unable to wrestle, they introduce a mystery partner wearing a giant dragon head. In a smart bit of misdirection, Schiavone guesses that it’s a wrestler from Japan. The dragon head is removed and underneath is Ricky Steamboat, making a surprise return to WCW after his brief stint in the WWF. The Enforcers totally freak out and the fans are on their feet to welcome The Dragon back as Schiavone notes that Steamboat previously held the World Tag Team Title on two occasions in addition to his singles accolades. Arn Anderson elects to face off against Steamboat, but it doesn’t take long for all four men to start slugging it out in and around the ring. When the Enforcers get back in, Steamboat & Rhodes drive them back out and the WCW Tag Team Champions regroup at ringside as Arn shouts, “He’s just a man!” Ross notes that Larry Zbyszko wants to be known as “The Cruncher” after crunching Windham’s arm, but it’s Larry’s arm that gets worked over by the challengers. The Dragon wraps Larry’s arm around the ringpost several times and Dustin applies an armbar, but Zbyszko manages to make the tag and Anderson takes over. Rhodes comes back with bionic elbows for both Enforcers and tags out as Zbyszko stalls to break the momentum and baits Steamboat into chasing him out of the ring. When Larry slides back in with the Dragon hot on his trail, Anderson blindsides Steamboat and the Enforcers isolate him in their half of the ring. The Enforcers put on a tag team clinic as they cut off Steamboat’s comeback attempts and work him over using their consummate double-teams and underhanded tactics. Anderson squeezes Steamboat in a bearhug on the mat and the Dragon counters into a body scissors, but he’s too worn out and Arn turns it into a Boston crab as Larry pushes on Arn’s head for added pressure. Dustin comes in to complain to referee Nick Patrick, and that allows the Enforcers to make the illegal switch as Larry applies the Boston crab. Fighting the pain, Steamboat inches toward his corner and makes the tag, but the ref didn’t see it because Anderson was distracting him. After the ref ushers Dustin out to the apron, the Dragon hits an atomic drop on Anderson near the corner, but Arn bounces off the turnbuckles and they crack heads. Arn attempts a move off the top, but Steamboat gets the foot up and makes the hot tag as Rhodes unloads on both Enforcers. Displaying their own tag team prowess, Rhodes makes the blind tag as he runs off the ropes and drops Arn with the bulldog. Steamboat quickly soars off the top with the flying bodypress to pin Anderson and win the WCW World Tag Team Championship in 14:48. After a commercial break, Ross and Schiavone report that the Enforcers are filing a protest with WCW since Steamboat’s name wasn’t on the contract for the match. ****½ Just an awesome tag team showdown that had it all: a surprise return, great heel teamwork, phenomenal selling, a heated storyline, and a hot crowd. The new Golden Age of WCW was truly underway.

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Who could that be under there?

– Following a video feature on Jushin “Thunder” Liger to hype his WCW debut in December, Jim Ross interviews Paul E. Dangerously at ringside. On behalf of Rick Rude, Paul E. expresses his sadness for the tragedy that befell Sting earlier, and he claims that they are ashamed and embarrassed to have ever associated with Lex Luger or Madusa. BUT! Mr. Dangerously just so happens to have the hefty contract for tonight’s US Title bout and reads aloud a clause that states if Sting can’t defend the belt, it will be forfeited to the Ravishing One. After a commercial break, JR is on the phone with Eric Bischoff again and we hear Eric inform Sting about the loophole at the hospital. Sting declares that he’s coming back to the arena and Eric reports that he has commandeered the ambulance.

- WCW World Light Heavyweight Championship: Johnny B. Badd (w/Theodore R. Long) vs. Flyin’ Brian Pillman ©

At Halloween Havoc, Brian Pillman defeated Richard Morton in the tournament finals to become the inaugural WCW Light Heavyweight Champion of the World. Ross mentions some recent dissension between Johnny B. Badd and Teddy Long, and Johnny lets a bunch of hot chicks planted in the front row stuff dollar bills in his garters, so his babyface turn is imminent. The first big spot is a springboard clothesline by Flyin’ Brian out to the runway, but Johnny responds by leaping off the runway with Pillman and driving his throat into the guardrail below. Johnny celebrates and draws good heel heat as Brian returns to the ring with a slingshot crossbody for a two-count. Brian powerslams Johnny and attempts a flying splash off the top, but Badd gets his knees up and slugs away. Badd goes up top, but when he jumps, Pillman meets him in mid-air with a dropkick and takes control. The challenger comes back with a slightly botched flying sunset flip, but for some reason Teddy Long is distracting referee Mike Atkins so he doesn’t see the pin. When Johnny gets up to ask Teddy what he’s doing, Pillman pushes Badd into Long and rolls him up to retain the WCW World Light Heavyweight Championship in 4:19. Afterward, Johnny B. Badd completes his face turn by nailing Long with the Tutti Frutti left hook. **¾ Good fast-paced action, but Badd flubbed some spots and the match didn’t have time to develop.

- WCW United States Heavyweight Championship: “Ravishing” Rick Rude (w/Paul E. Dangerously) vs. Sting ©

Paul E. Dangerously takes the mic and boasts that Sting won’t show up in time, but we see the ambulance arrive outside and the United States Champion emerges from the passenger’s side with his tights ripped and his knee bandaged. All of Sting’s friends from earlier are waiting at the door and they rush him inside while Paul E. tries to force referee Nick Patrick to count him out. Complete with swank US Title belt tights, Rick Rude meets Sting on the runway and Sting press-slams him despite the severe limp. Sting unloads on his challenger while selling the intense pain in his knee, and he clotheslines Rude over the top rope. Showing his sneaky intelligence, Rude trips up Sting from ringside and smashes Sting’s knee against the ringpost several times as the crowd is just rabid. The Ravishing One comes back in off the top with a big forearm blow across the back of the neck and goes for the Rude Awakening, but Sting breaks out and Rude pokes him in the eyes. Blinded and limping, Sting flails wildly and Rude ducks, but the Stinger outsmarts him and waits until he stands up to fire off his next series of punches. Leaning against the ropes, Rude seems to be out on his feet and collapses on his face, but when he falls he inadvertently clips Sting’s knee from behind. While the ref is checking on Rude, Sting pulls himself up and Paul E. clubs him in the back of the head with his phone. The crowd is electric as Rude covers him for a near-fall and Sting drills him with a DDT. After yanking off his jacket in frustration, Dangerously hops up on the apron and Sting foolishly goes after him, giving Ravishing Rick an opening to clip the Stinger’s knee from behind. Rude rolls up Sting with a handful of tights to capture the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in 4:50. In a post-match interview, Paul E. reveals that it was a conspiracy between himself, Rick Rude, Lex Luger, and Madusa to bring Sting down and start destroying WCW. ***** combined for the match and the storyline behind it throughout the show. This was one of the most intense and heated five-minute matches you’ll ever see, displaying the amazing chemistry between Sting and Rude for the first time, and Paul E. was proving his worth with his fantastic promos.

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Before returning to the arena, Sting engaged in a rousing session of Nicky Nicky Nine Doors.

– Jim Ross interviews Ron Simmons and puts over his valiant effort against Lex Luger in the two-out-of-three falls match at Halloween Havoc. The All American is recovering from a wrist injury and says that he’s here to scout both Luger and Rick Steiner because he wants another crack at the WCW World Title.

- WCW World Heavyweight Championship: Rick Steiner (w/Scott Steiner) vs. “Total Package” Lex Luger (w/Harley Race & Mr. Hughes) ©

Before the match, the issue between the two is recapped via footage: Rick Steiner interrupted Lex Luger’s boasting in the ring and scored a visual three-count after a belly-to-belly suplex, and he pinned Mr. Hughes with the same move a week later; afterward, Lex blindsided Rick and beat on him until his brother Scott returned to make the save. Referee Randy Anderson ejects Mr. Hughes from ringside, but Scott Steiner gets to stay as Ross assumes he must have a one-night manager’s license. Rick Steiner frustrates Lex Luger early on with amateur takedowns, and he snatches Luger in mid-leapfrog with a powerslam for two. Steinerline knocks the Total Package over the top rope and Lex consults with Harley Race, but he still can’t get anything going as Rick manhandles him with a back-bodydrop and a German release suplex for a near-fall. Luger takes advantage of a momentary distraction and lifts Steiner in an atomic drop, dropping his groin across the top rope before mowing him down with a clothesline to the back of the head. A clothesline from the front turns Steiner inside-out and the WCW World Champion dominates his challenger with a variety of heel tactics, including the interference of his advisor. Rick comes back with a powerslam and lands the flying bulldog off the top, but Lex gets his foot over the bottom rope prior to the three-count. The Dogface Gremlin launches the Total Package with a belly-to-belly superplex and Mr. Hughes runs in, but Scott takes care of him with a Frankensteiner. The crowd is roaring as Rick plants Lex with a belly-to-belly and Race hops up on the apron. Rick suplexes Race into the ring and it backfires on him, as the ref is busy helping Harley out while Luger plasters Steiner with the title belt. Hughes prevents Scott from interfering and Luger pins Rick to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 11:30. *** It was a tall order to follow match-ups like the tag title bout and the Sting/Rude business, but this was a basic power match with plenty of stalling from Luger. JR’s commentary added immensely to the atmosphere and the crowd was hot near the end. The sight of Luger drenched in sweat after less than twelve minutes suggested that he was more concerned with his appearance in the mirror than his performance in the ring, since he used to be able to hang with Ric Flair in much longer matches only a couple of years before.

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All show, no go.

– A cheap plug for the WCW Hotline, promising a decision on the World Tag Team Title situation, ends the show.

The 411: The first Clash without a subtitle since Clash I, Clash of the Champions XVII was built around the angle between Sting and Rick Rude, setting up a feud that would rage off-and-on until 1994 when the Ravishing One suffered a career-ending back injury in a match against the Stinger. Combined with the stellar World Tag Team Title bout, the heavy-hitting World Title main event, and other standout performances from Cactus Jack, Steve Austin, and Brian Pillman, this made for one of my favorite Clashes ever and represented a massive turnaround since the last Clash. Much of the credit was attributed to the input of Jim Crockett as he was pushing for stronger heels, and as 1992 was upon us, that strategy would lead to a year that is fondly remembered and appreciated by many wrestling fans of all generations.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  8.5   [ Very Good ]  legend

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Joel Thomas

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