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The Name on the Marquee: NWA Clash of the Champions (3.27.1988)

June 12, 2018 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
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The Name on the Marquee: NWA Clash of the Champions (3.27.1988)  

-And on the fateful day of Wrestlemania IV, Jim Crockett elected to do unto others as they had done unto him. With two straight pay-per-view spectaculars sabotaged by the WWF, Jim attacked the only way he could…with pure, straight-up wrestling, given away for free on TBS.

-Originally aired March 27, 1988.

-We’re live, live, live from Greensboro, NC.

-Your hosts are Tony Schiavone, Bob Caudle, & Jim Ross. It immediately looks like Crockett took some constructive critcism from SOMEBODY because within the first three minutes, you can see numerous improvements over Starrcade and the Bunkhouse Stampede, with slick opening graphics and theme music, commentators who clearly have their shit together, and some asthetic touches to make for a nicer venue.

-There was NO mention of this match at all on the TBS show in the weeks leading up to it. Garvin got screwed over a few weeks ago in a TV Title match to set it up though. Proof that the WWE Network is just guessing at this stuff: they dub over the Varsity Club entrance music on the World Championship Wrestling episodes, but it’s intact here. Amateur rules in this case mean three five-minute rounds, and a one-count wins the match.

-ROUND ONE: They work the match very much in amateur style, with a lot of emphasis on takedowns and holds. Teddy Long is enforcing the rules a little more strictly, too. Armdrag by Rotundo, armdrag by Garvin. Hiptoss and a slam by Garvin and Rotundo goes to the floor to take a break. Back in, Rotundo says “screw the rules” and yanks Garvin by the hair. He manages to get some surreptitious punches to the face on Garvin. Garvin sends Rotundo into the ropes and elbows him down, but Rotundo’s up before the one-count. Front facelock by Garvin; Rotundo backs Garvin into the turnbuckles. Garvin shoves him down and puts up his dukes, which Long makes it a point to frown upon. Rotundo gets the advantage in the final minute, stomping and clotheslining Garvin. Garvin rolls over to prevent the attempted pinfall, and Rotundo ties him up as the bell sounds to end the round.

-ROUND TWO: Irish whip and a slam by Rotundo. He goes to the top rope, but Garvin catches him and Flair-slams him. Backdrop by Garvin. Garvin nearly finishes with the brainbuster, but he sees Sullivan making a move for Precious and takes a time-out to deal with that. Rotundo sneaks up and rolls him for the pin, and the one-count is all he needs.

-Post-match, all hell breaks loose. Garvin gives Rotundo the brainbuster anyway. Fellow Varsity Club member Rick Steiner shows up and he joins Sullivan to double-team Garvin with a 2×4. Precious one-ups Elizabeth by grabbing the 2×4 and KOing Steiner. Then she grabs a coat hanger and strangles Sullivan with it. 1 for 1. A little on the short side, but they made good use of the gimmick match and the post-match antics were pretty exciting.

-Bob Caudle interviews “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, who challenges the winner of today’s NWA Title match to a bout for the belt. He’s a face through-and-through the promo, which totally flies in the face of what he did at Starrcade just a few months earlier. This is a BRUTAL promo, too, as Williams just sounds so tentative and unnatural with every word he says.

U.S. TAG TEAM TITLES: MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (Champions, with Jim Cornette & Big Bubba Rogers) vs. FANTASTICS
-John Hitchcock and his henchmen are at ringside with posters spelling out ‘C-O-R-N-E-T-T-E.” Story here is that the Fantastics went 40 minutes with the Midnights and got a clean pin in their debut match, so the champs are a little nervous about this one. As an inverse to the previous match, the Fantastics’ music isn’t dubbed on World Championship Wresting but is dubbed here.

-It’s a brawl from the moment that the Fantastics show up, and the brawl goes straight to the floor. Fantastics win it, and I mean they WIN this brawl in the most one-sided fashion possible. JR notes that nobody came here today to dance to rock & roll music, by god. The MX gets fed up and whip out the tables and chairs on the floor. Order is finally brought to the match and it turns into a proper tag bout. Not for long, as a donnybrook erupts again and the MX gets Irish whipped into opposite corners. MX finally shows some life with an airborne clothesline on Tommy Rogers.

-Stan Lane grinds Rogers’ face into the mat. Crescent kick by Lane, and here’s Bobby Eaton with a flurry of fists. Rogers gets Irish whipped facefirst into a table propped against the ropes by Jim Cornette. Lane elects to keep attacking instead of going for a pin. Rogers gets a second wind, so that was a mistake. Eaton tags in and powerslams Rogers, then goes up top and hits a mighty elbow. Eaton makes the same mistake, tagging out instead of going for the pin. MX double-teams Rogers behind the referee’s back. Decapitator by the MX. Rogers refuses to die and Bobby throws more punches to try and deal with it. Sunset flip by Rogers, but the referee is distracted and Lane breaks the pin. Another high kick by Lane sends Rogers to the floor, and Rogers gets slammed on top of a table, which is on top of a chair, which is on top of the concrete floor, so he’s feeling three distinct kinds of pain.

-Eaton bulldogs Rogers on the table and Lane boots him. Bobby Fulton runs over and pretty much demands a time-out from the referee and the referee sort of gives him one before walking Rogers back into the ring. MX double-teams him some more. Rogers makes a tag but the referee is distracted again, and that pisses off Fulton so much that he just tosses the referee to the floor. A second referee shows up and…Oh, god, you know where this is going. Midnight Express retains. 2 for 2. Good match, but I’m not really sure why a Dusty finish was even necessary, though. Fulton gets fed up, tosses the referee to the floor, and just unloads on the MX with every weapon he can find, since he’s already lost the match. Why can’t we just have THAT for a finish?

-Post-match, MX wins the battle AND the war by beating the hell out of Fulton with a leather belt.

-The NWA counters Gladys Knight, Robin Leach, Vanna White, and Bob Uecker with TV’s Eddie Haskell from “Leave It to Beaver.” And truth be told, this is actually MUCH more fun. The joke is that Osmond is in character, and he and Cornette are a perfect match, kissing each other’s asses and insulting Corny’s mom while planning a big weekend at Cornette Mansion. Cute bit. 3 for 3.

-Bob Caudle interviews Gary Hart and Al Perez. They issue a challenge to Dusty Rhodes for the US Title.

-Frances Crockett announces the top ten seed teams for the Crockett Cup.

10. Ivan Koloff & Dick Murdoch
9. Sting & Ron Garvin
8. Varsity Club
7. The Fantastics
6. Oprah is hogging the Thighmaster!
5. Powers of Pain
4. Midnight Express
3. Road Warriors
2. Three words: Prozac! Prozac! Prozac!
1. Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard

NON-TITLE CHICAGO STREET FIGHT: DUSTY RHODES & ROAD WARRIORS (with Paul Ellering) vs. IVAN KOLOFF & POWERS OF PAIN (6-Man Tag Team Champions, with Paul Jones)

-It’s no-DQ, and for good measure, there’s barbed wire loosely hanging from the ropes. Animal is wearing a mask, stemming from an attack during a weightlifting contest a few months prior, and Dusty is wearing face paint a la his partners.

-Faces dominate immediately, and Animal grinds Barbarian into the wire, then brings him to the floor and posts him. In the ring, Warlord tries to pull Animal’s mask off while Hawk takes care of Koloff with punches and a press slam. Dusty shoves Barbarian’s face into the barbed wire. Rhodes goes into the barbed wire shortly after Koloff, so, yeah, they’re bleeding like you’d expect. Dusty throws punches as only he can to take Warlord off his feet. DDT on the Barbarian by Dusty. Hawk comes off the top rope with a forearm on the Warlord. Powerslam on the Warlord. Barbarian comes off the top rope and accidentally hits his own partner, and it’s an easy win for the Rhode Warriors. 3 for 4. Too short and too messy.

-Bob Caudle interviews Nikita Koloff, who’s returning after two months off with hair and stylish suits. He explains that he’s Nikita Koloff: Perestroika-Style.

-Arn & Tully double-team Luger early. Luger makes his own save with clotheslines. Powerslam on Tully. He goes for the torture rack to try and finish early. Arn clips his leg and then tags in and goes right to work on the knee. Tully thinks it looks fun and tags in to do some of that himself. Arn goes for a stepover toehold and Luger kicks him away and right into Tully, knocking both of them silly. Windham tags in and the crowd completely loses their shit earlier than any crowd I’ve ever heard.

-Windham is a house of fire. Powerslam on Tully gets two. Sleeper is clamped on, but Tully makes it to the ropes…and Windham hangs onto the sleeper and holds onto it on the floor. Blanchard passes out and Windham goes back into the ring while Arn goes over to revive his partner. Tully snaps Windham’s neck over the ropes on his way back inside. He goes up but gets Flair-slammed. Abdominal stretch by Windham is broken by a left hand from Arn. He tags in and DDTs Windham for two. Spinebuster gets another two. Arn crotches himself on Windham’s raised knees. Tully tags in and holy shit, we’re only just now at the five-minute mark.

-Bodypress by Windham on Tully for a two-count. They bounce off the ropes and collide and it’s race to make the tag. Neither man does, actually, and they dual for headscissors. Windham bridges up and gutwrenches Tully. They’re both out again. Arn tags in this time and throws punches to the gut before wringing the arm. Windham goes down, then kicks Arn away and tries to make the tag. Arn stops him and tries a kneedrop; it misses. They trade punches and daze each other. Tully sprints back in and hits the slingshot suplex for two. Right hand by Windham; Arn tags in, but not fast enough to stop the tag in the other corner.

-Lex unloads with another series of clotheslines and punches. Noggin-knocker just for fun. Shoulderblock on Arn, and Tully sneaks up with a knee to the back to ground Luger. He recovers quickly and powerslams Arn. We have a brawl on our hands shortly after that. In the corner, JJ props a chair against the turnbuckles, but Luger reverses an Irish whip and it’s Arn who goes into the chair. He’s out cold and Luger pins him easily to take the belts. 4 for 5. Holllllllllllly fucking Moses, that was fun, and the heat for it was icing on the cake. Watching this match plus Hogan/Harley from SNME in close proximity makes me want to ask, because I think you could almost make a playlist out of this…What’s the greatest 10-minutes-or-less match you’ve ever seen?

NWA WORLD TITLE: RIC FLAIR (Champion, with JJ Dillon) vs. STING
-We have a 45-minute time limit due to TV constraints, and in case it goes to the time limit, here are the ringside judges: From the NWA Board of Directors, Gary Juster. Former NWA wrestler, Sandy Scott. Former Penthouse Pet of the Year and Sore Thumb of the Group, Patty Mullen. JJ will be in a cage suspended above the ring during the match for good measure.

-Test of strength over a top wristlock to start and Sting wins it and sends Flair to the mat. Sting wants another test of strength and Flair agrees to it. In less than a second, he begins screaming. He breaks away and backs Sting into a corner. A chop just pisses Sting off and he dropkicks Flair out to the floor. Side headlock by Flair when he comes back in. Sting reverses to a hammerlock and then an armbar. Flair backs him into the ropes and goes to work with chops and a shoulderblock. He walks into a press slam and Sting follows with flying headscissors and a hiptoss. He applies a side headlock.

-Flair breaks free, but gets shoulderblocked down. Back to the side headlock. Flair gets free, but Sting knocks him right back down and we go back to the side headlock. Flair uses the tights to roll Sting over and get a two-count. Sting rolls back over and keeps the side headlock going. Flair tries pulling the hair and going for the eyes, and Sting still won’t let go of it. He sends Sting into the ropes and Sting shoulderblocks him and, you know, goes back to the side headlock. I know you have to pace yourself when you know you’re going 45 minutes, but…he’s going back to the side headlock.

-They make their way to the corner and a fisticuffs battle goes Sting’s way. He hiptosses Flair and dropkicks him. Flair tosses him to the floor, but Sting lands on his feet and bounds right back in to unload on Flair. SIDE HEADLOCK! Flair uses the tights to roll Sting and gets a series of two-counts. Sting rolls back over and keeps the side headlock going.

-Flair backs Sting into the ropes and gives him a shot to the ribs. More shots from Flair, but he runs into another press slam. Sting locks in a bearhug and given that this match is Sting’s big break, I’m now trying to figure out if he’s getting blown up or if he’s afraid of doing so. I want to say he’s just afraid.

-Flair collapses and Sting hangs onto the bearhug, using that position to get a couple of near-falls. Sting hammers him and goes for an elbow. He misses, but no-sells it, which makes him look awesome. He charges at Flair, misses, and sells it this time, writhing in a fashion that makes him seem not-so-awesome now. They trade blows and Flair hits an inverted atomic drop and collapses to rest up for a moment.

-Flair takes the brawl to the floor and whips him into the barricade. Back in the ring, Flair Irish whips Sting around to continue working the back. Snapmare by Flair, and a kneedrop gets two. Flair just toys with him, gouging his eyes and punching him in the face. He tosses Sting to the floor. Back into the barricade he goes. Back in the ring, Sting gets his second wind and unloads on Flair until he falls to the floor. Sting tries a splash against the post and Flair ducks it; Sting hurts his arm on the impact.

-Back inside, Flair works the arm until Sting punches him away. Hiptoss and a clothesline. Flair goes outside and gets suplexed back in. Scorpion deathlock is clamped on and Flair makes it to the ropes surprisingly quickly. Sting chokes Flair in the corner. Flair tries another chop and it’s no-sold, with a neat bit of storytelling suggested by Jim Ross. Flair has thrown so many chops at Sting that he’s lost feeling in his chest, so now it’s just wasted effort when Flair throws them.

-Sting goes to the top rope and connects with a bodypress for two. He tries the side headlock again and even Flair is like, “Nah, we’ve done that, dude” and atomic drops him on one leg. Flair alternately rests up and takes shots at the leg. Oh, and a “Woooooo!” just because he hasn’t done it in a while.

-Back suplex by Flair and he’s done playing around. Figure four is locked in and Flair uses the ropes for a little help. Sting fights it and fights it before finally turning it over. Flair gets free and attempts a suplex from the ring apron and onto the concrete. Sting blocks and reverses it. Splash is countered by the raised knees of the Nature Boy. Sting recovers and applies an abdominal stretch. Flair hiptosses out, but misses the follow-through elbow.

-Flair heads to the top rope and Sting slams him in some sort of familiar-looking fashion that I can’t quite place. Sting turns the tables and works Flair’s legs, then applies his own figure four. Flair gets to the ropes and Sting breaks the hold, turning to the crowd to inquire about their knowledge of partying.

-Sting keeps working the leg of Flair. Flair tries to get himself DQed by shoving Tommy Young. Tommy shoves him back and Flair collapses. Sting whips him into the corner and Flair flips over the top and onto the floor in front of the judges. Flair goes into the table, into the post, and into the crowd. He slingshots himself back inside and tries a sunset flip, but Sting blocks it. Inverted atomic drop by Flair, but Sting no-sells it and clothesline him for two. Stinger splash misses spectacularly and Sting tumbles over the top and onto the floor.

-Back in the ring, chops are traded. Sting shoulderblocks Flair. Flair applies a sleeper. Sting lobs him into the turnbuckles to break it. Flair tosses Sting to the floor. Sting sunset flips Flair for two. Sting Irish whips Flair. He Flair flips, runs to the opposite side, comes off the top with a bodypress, and Sting rolls through to get a two-count from it. Chops are no-sold again by Sting. He throws punches and connects with the Stinger splash. Scorpion deathlock is applied, and Flair manages to wait out the last 30 seconds of the match trapped in the hold. The time limit expires and we go to the judges for the official decision.

-Patty Mullen gives the match to Flair. Gary Juster gives the match to Sting. Sandy Scott votes for…a draw. Flair retains and the crowd is deflated. Okay, again, like the U.S. Title match, you dick the fans over in a way that you really don’t need to resort to. One of the judges is a Penthouse Pet and one of the wrestlers is Ric fucking Flair. Sandy Scott casts a vote for Flair, Gary Juster casts a vote for Sting, Patty Mullen casts the deciding vote for Flair and we got close-up shots of Mullen & Flair exchanging smiles and winks. The crowd will still be pissed but at least you have a better finish that way. Anyway, I’ll give a point for what we got. 5 for 6. To me, there’s a line between a great match and a classic. This wasn’t a classic to me, but it was damn sure a great match. That side headlock was the line, my friends. Having said that, we got good storytelling with Sting working the back, Flair doing it in retaliation, then realizing “Wait a minute, I’m Ric Flair!” and going to work on the leg. It was also neat to see Sting being resistant to Flair’s usual offense but then being hurt when Flair would deviate a little, suggesting that Sting actually did his homework and prepared for his opponent. Neat little touches like that are usually lacking.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The tragedy is, there were so many problems with the people running things that this show really didn't accomplish anything for business. Well, I mean, yeah, it established their top face for main events for years to come, so it DID accomplish something for business, but in the sense of the year 1988, when they were losing money left & right and had to sell the company in order to save it, no, the show didn't accomplish much. But it did blow the competition out of the water.