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The Chrononaut Chronicles: Clash of the Champions XXVIII

April 14, 2012 | Posted by Joel Thomas
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The Chrononaut Chronicles: Clash of the Champions XXVIII  

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 XXVIII – August 28, 1994

– The twenty-eighth Clash of the Champions opens with footage of Hulk Hogan celebrating with Shaquille O’Neal and Mr. T after vanquishing Ric Flair for the WCW Heavyweight Championship of the World at Bash at the Beach ’94. On commentary, Bobby Heenan echoes the thoughts of hardcore fans everywhere as he wishes to be woken up from this nightmare. This is followed by a video hyping the Hogan/Flair rematch… TONIGHT!

Mr. T… being used as a celebrity… in 1994… in a non-ironic capacity.

– LIVE from the Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa! Tony Schiavone and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan are on commentary, and they open the show with Mean Gene Okerlund noting that Ric Flair has promised “The Ultimate Surprise” for Hulk Hogan tonight. Hmm, I wonder what they could possibly be hinting at. Good ol’ WCW, teasing things that they had no intention of delivering.

– The Nasty Boys (Saggs & Knobbs) vs. Pretty Wonderful (“Pretty” Paul Roma & “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff)

Although this is a non-title “Special Challenge” bout, Pretty Wonderful are the WCW World Tag Team Champions after winning the belts from Cactus Jack & Kevin Sullivan at Bash at the Beach. The Nasty Boys turned face after they were clobbered by Pretty Wonderful during their assault on Sullivan & Cactus on WCW Saturday Night, leading to a natural feud with the new champs. The match begins after a commercial break and it doesn’t take long for the Nasty Boys to commence clubberin’ on both Pauls, but Pretty Wonderful come back and isolate Saggs for an extended period. It’s worth noting how well Orndorff & Roma had meshed together, as this was the ideal spot for both of them since Orndorff was no longer a viable singles wrestler and Roma was best suited in a midcard tag team. After a sharp dropkick from Pretty Paul, Mr. Wonderful sets up Saggs for the piledriver, but he back-bodydrops out and makes the hot tag. Knobbs slugs away on both Pauls and all four men are in the ring as Orndorff briefly regains control and the match breaks down. Orndorff suplexes Knobbs and Roma immediately follows up with the Swandive splash off the top, while Saggs also lands a flying elbowdrop on Mr. Wonderful at the same time. Even though he isn’t the legal man, Saggs covers Orndorff and referee Randy Anderson registers the pinfall at 9:34. ** WCW had outlawed the crazy brawls that were the Nastys’ specialty and they were like fish out of water in a regular tag team match, so this was nothing to write home about. Pretty Wonderful held it together with their underrated heel work, although the finish sounds much better on paper than it actually looked.

– Mean Gene brings out WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan for an interview, but during his entrance, a masked man rushes out and clubs him in the knee with a lead pipe. This is followed by several minutes of Okerlund indignantly bemoaning this terrible tragedy while medics apply a brace on Hogan’s knee and cart him out on a stretcher, accompanied by Eric Bischoff, whom Schiavone identifies as WCW’s Executive Vice President of Programming. I don’t believe his front-office position had ever been acknowledged on TV. On commentary, Heenan claims that WCW is barring all the exits out of the arena so that they can find the perpetrator. This was a pretty blatant ripoff of the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding figure-skating controversy that was a major media story at the Winter Olympics.

If you think this is going to stop him from emasculating Ric Flair, you don’t know Hulk Hogan very well.

– WCW United States Heavyweight Championship: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Stunning” Steve Austin ©

During Stunning Steve’s entrance, a split-screen shows Hulk Hogan being loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital as Schiavone and Heenan question how this will effect his World Title defense against Ric Flair tonight. The disorganization within WCW is made apparent as the commentators bicker over the disqualification rule being waived for this match; Bobby thinks it’s no DQ, but Tony explains that it means the US Title can change hands if Austin is disqualified. Since WCW is now the Hulk Hogan Show, the early part of this bout is merely a backdrop for the Hulkster’s ongoing saga, as a production assistant named Ron tells the announcers about the masked man in black attacking Hogan with the pipe. This happens off-mic, so we get an extended period of dead air before they declare that this is news to them even though it’s exactly what we saw on-camera. We also get another split-screen shot to show the ambulance driving to the hospital, as Heenan suggests that they just dump Hogan on the edge of town and leave him there. Meanwhile, in the ring, Steamboat armdrags and armbars Austin as the announcers briefly pay attention to the actual match before informing us that WCW has chartered a flight from Chicago for Sting in case Hogan can’t make it back to the arena. Steamboat continues to work over Austin’s arm and lands a flying chop off the top turnbuckle for a two-count, but Steve somehow breaks out of an armbar while the camera focuses on a loudmouth “fan” (actually Barry Darsow, formerly known as Demolition Smash and Repo Man in the WWF, doing his Blacktop Bully gimmick) at ringside. Austin slaps Steamboat around and holds him in a chinlock while Schiavone and Heenan give us the first hint at the identity of Hogan’s masked assailant, noting that it was a “perfect crime” and whoever was under the hood did a “perfect job.” The Dragon tries to rally back and attempts a splash off the ropes, but the Stunning One gets his knees up and covers Steamboat for two. Austin follows that with the elbowdrop off the middle turnbuckle that he later made famous as Stone Cold, earning another two-count as he smacks Steamboat around in frustration. Steamboat blocks a suplex and sits Austin on the top turnbuckle in preparation for a superplex, but Steve blocks that and sends him tumbling to the mat after a headbutt. Sadly, this is the spot that ended the career of one of the greatest workers of all time, as Ricky takes a bad bump on his lower back that he blamed for his retirement. He still manages to climb back up the turnbuckles for another superplex attempt, but Austin suplexes him down on his face and then dives off. Steamboat catches him with a fist to the gut on the way down and starts another comeback, but Austin avoids the flying bodypress off the top and arrogantly taunts his challenger as Tony namedrops the Hollywood Blonds. The humiliation awakens the Dragon as he explodes on Stunning Steve with punches and chops, igniting the crowd. Steamboat even pulls out an Arn Anderson-style spinebuster for a near-fall and catches Austin trying to climb the turnbuckles, as he carries him on his shoulders and drops backward for another close count. The fans are loudly behind Steamboat as he scores a handful of quick near-falls and Austin dumps him over the top rope. However, the Dragon skins-the-cat back in as Austin realizes he could have lost his US Title via disqualification, and Heenan points out how dumb Ricky is for not just falling to the floor and taking the DQ victory. Steamboat rolls him up for another near-fall and counters a bodyslam with an inside cradle to finally pin Austin and win the WCW United States Championship in 16:05. **** The match started slow and steady and the commentators did it no favors by continually discussing the Hogan drama, but it developed into a hot bout between these two long-time rivals that hooked the crowd, who had the benefit of not hearing Schiavone and Heenan. Austin’s heel mannerisms and Steamboat’s mastery of babyface psychology always made for a great match.

One bad bump that ended a legendary career.

– With manager Jimmy Hart, life partner Brother Bruti (Brutus Beefcake), and attorney Henry Holmes in tow, Hulk Hogan arrives at the hospital in the meatwagon (™ Bobby Heenan) and he is wheeled into the emergency room on a stretcher. Eric Bischoff is also on the scene with a microphone and admits what we all knew: “Look, I don’t know a lot.” He hands the mic to someone off-camera and promises to be back with more information as he heads inside. Oh, Uncle Eric, you’re so good to us!

Pull, not push, Einstein.

– And now, the world premiere of the brand-new music video from the Honky Tonk Man as he is on his way to WCW. It’s a cheap and badly-produced ripoff of his WWF theme entitled “Honky Dog” that begins with Honky rolling up to a residential home in his pink Cadillac and asking some total goober in a WCW cap if he knows where the wrasslin’ matches are tonight. Terrible video, terrible song, and not in a good way like his WWF song. No imagination or creativity whatsoever.

This is how WCW visualized its core fanbase.

– Mean Gene interviews WCW Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel as he announces that if Hulk Hogan cannot defend the World Heavyweight Title tonight, he will forfeit the championship to Ric Flair. The crowd boos and Okerlund accuses Flair of ordering the hit on Hogan, but Bockwinkel claims there’s no proof of that yet.

– Terry Funk & Bunkhouse Buck (w/Colonel Robert Parker & Meng) vs. “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes & “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes

As expected, Arn Anderson turned heel on Dustin Rhodes during their tag team bout at Bash at the Beach and joined Col. Rob Parker’s Stud Stable, which also included the Colonel’s nephew, Bunkhouse Buck, and former World Champion Terry Funk. In an emotional promo on TV that was replayed before this match, Dusty Rhodes tearfully begged his son to let him be his partner by explaining how he had let Dustin down for his entire life and now he wanted to be there for him. That’s the kind of raw human emotion that is sorely lacking in today’s product. Let’s hear it for estranged fathers! The Rhodes Family clears out the Stud Stable as soon as they hit the ring and Terry Funk freaks out at ringside, throwing a chair around and rattling the guardrail, as Heenan mentions the bitter family feud between the Funks and the Rhodes clan. Schiavone suggests that Dustin was targeted by Funk and Parker to lure Dusty out of retirement, as if that would be so difficult to do. Dustin takes care of both Funk & Buck (boy, WCW was just asking for an announcer slip-up with that pairing) and tags in his old man to the delight of the crowd, and before long Buck starts to pound on the American Dream. Bunkhouse whips Dusty toward a neutral corner, but there’s a nice spot where Dustin covers the turnbuckle with his body to shield his father. Dusty pats his son on the head and unloads on Buck & Funk as Dustin tags in and powerslams Buck for a two-count. Funk drags Dustin off to prevent the pin and Dustin goes after him, but this gives Buck the opportunity to bludgeon the junior Rhodes with his cowboy boot in the back of the head while the referee is busy ushering Funk out. The Funker grabs Dustin in a front-facelock and we quickly get the false-tag routine, as the ref misses Dustin making the tag and prevents Dusty from entering. While the official is busy, Buck leaps off the turnbuckles with his boot and accidentally nails Funk when Dustin ducks out of the way. Dusty tags in and cracks the Stud Stable’s heads together as Arn Anderson appears at ringside and posts Dustin. The Enforcer trips up the Dream to swing the advantage back to Funk & Buck, but that doesn’t last long as Dusty escapes and makes the tag. The Natural unleashes lariats for Funk & Buck and whips them into his dad’s Bionic Elbow before covering Buck after a bulldog, but Arn Anderson runs in for the disqualification at 7:27. Afterward, Arn plants Dustin with a DDT and sells his ass off for Dusty’s elbowsmashes. When Dusty comes face-to-face with the mighty Meng, he elects to retrieve a balsa wood chair and breaks it over Meng’s head to no effect. Since he had not yet adopted the Tongan Death Grip, Meng applies a traditional nerve pinch to render Dusty defenseless and it takes a flock of officials to pull him off. Dustin covers his father’s paralyzed body to protect him from further damage as the Stud Stable continues to kick and stomp the Rhodes Family. **½ The match itself was all smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that Stardust was well beyond his prime, but the crowd reactions were fantastic and the post-match angle got Meng over as a total badass. Credit to WCW for rebuilding Meng as a monster heel after he had spent most of his WWF career as a low midcarder.

Meng with shades was my favorite Meng.

– Outside the hospital, Eric Bischoff claims he still doesn’t know anything and takes a statement from attorney Henry Holmes, who says he has advised Hulk Hogan to forfeit the World Title because WCW has promised him the first title shot once he has recovered from his injury. There’s a funny screw-up here as Holmes mentions that he has been in contact with “Mr. Bischoff and other WCW officials,” although Eric is standing right there and just told us he didn’t know what was going on. Eager to get some undeserved mic time, Brother Bruti comes outside with Jimmy Hart and explains that they have been trying to talk some sense into the Hulkster, but he’s not having any of it and has vowed to defend the belt tonight. The Mouth of the South states the obvious: Hulk is gonna do what Hulk wants to do. Eric detects a commotion at the doors and promises another update later.

– Mean Gene interviews Ric Flair with Sensuous Sherri, dressed in funeral garb because she’s ready to dance on Hulk Hogan’s grave. The Nature Boy states that he came to Cedar Rapids to win the World’s Championship in the ring and he demands that the Hulkster walk the aisle to hand over the belt tonight.

– After a commercial break, Okerlund announces that Hogan has dragged himself out of the hospital and he is on his way back to the arena. Heenan can’t believe it, so Schiavone makes it even less believable by noting that Hogan is WALKING BACK TO THE ARENA. ON A BAD LEG. And he’s not walking back to hand over the belt, he is coming to wrestle Ric Flair. My hero!

– Lord Steven Regal (w/Sir William) vs. Antonio Inoki

WCW had recently presented a plaque to Japanese legend Antonio Inoki for his contributions to the sport, but WCW World Television Champion Lord Steven Regal interrupted the in-ring ceremony and took exception to “this man from overseas” receiving such an accolade. That led to this non-title bout featuring Inoki, who had announced that he was winding down his career and planned to retire from active competition, in his first major US match in ten years. For a 51-year-old man, Inoki is in phenomenal shape and engages in a shoot-style technical match-up that resembles an MMA exhibition at times, leaving Schiavone clueless as to how to call the action. The commentary does a good job of recapping Inoki’s career highlights, including his famed showdown against Muhammad Ali in 1976 and a victory over Andre the Giant in a martial-arts contest, as Inoki applies a choke-sleeper near the ropes. Sir William reaches in and grabs Inoki’s foot to break the hold, and Regal punishes the Japanese legend with forearms and kicks. They do some grappling and Lord Steven transitions into a leglock while a split-screen shot shows Hulk Hogan limping into the dressing room flanked by Jimmy Hart and Brother Bruti. Just imagine driving down the road one night and seeing these three goofballs walking along, Hogan in his little yellow panties with the Big Gold Belt strapped around his waist and the other two in their garish red-and-yellow outfits. What a sight that must have been. After slugging it out, Inoki takes Regal down in a choke-sleeper and the TV Champion grabs the ropes as WCW Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel makes his way out to inform us via commentary that WCW has advised the Hulkster not to wrestle tonight, but he has insisted on defending the World Title. Bockwinkel leaves as quickly as he came while Regal works the arm, until Inoki breaks out and takes him down in another choke-sleeper that turns into more of a dragon sleeper on the mat. His Lordship uses knees and short kicks to fight out and covers Inoki for a two-count following a butterfly suplex. Since Inoki had been elected to Japanese parliament in an office similar to US Senator, Heenan compares the scene to Ted Kennedy being suplexed. Both men on their feet, Regal pounds away with kicks and forearms, but Inoki ducks an uppercut and locks in the choke-sleeper as referee Nick Patrick calls for the bell to award Antonio the submission victory at 8:42. Regal remains unconscious on the mat to sell the hold while Inoki receives a respectful reaction from the crowd. **¾ This match was all Regal from bell-to-bell as he was responsible for most of the action and physicality. Inoki was in fantastic shape, but he didn’t contribute much to the match and the added distraction of the Hogan angle didn’t help. Still a very unique style of wrestling compared to the rest of the show.

– WCW World Heavyweight Championship: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/Sensuous Sherri) vs. Hulk Hogan (w/Jimmy Hart) ©

Michael Buffer is the special ring announcer for this titanic main event, but he only gets through Ric Flair’s entrance before the Nature Boy grabs the microphone and demands that Hulk Hogan come out and hand over the World Heavyweight Title. After a commercial break, Flair is still moaning Hogan’s name as “American Made” (his cheesy “Real American” ripoff theme) starts to play and finally the Hulkster hobbles out with his left knee bandaged so that he remembers which one to sell, leaning on Brother Bruti for support. Refusing to share the spotlight with anyone else, the Hulkster sends Brutus back to the dressing room and heads down the aisle with Jimmy Hart in his shadow. Upon entering the ring, Hogan briefly contemplates Flair’s request and decides that he’d rather perform his Superman routine, bombing away on Slick Ric with punches and no-selling chops. This is followed by Hogan ripping off his shirt and force-feeding it to Flair, then biting Flair’s face off. Flair takes his customary flipping bump over the top turnbuckle to the floor and drags Hogan out by the leg, but the Hulkster no-sells a chop and wraps a towel around the Nature Boy’s head as he rams him against the ringpost. Heenan claims that Hogan isn’t really hurt and theorizes that the masked man was, in fact, hired by Hogan himself to whack him with a fake rubber pipe as part of an elaborate scam to give him an excuse for dropping the strap. That is so brilliant on so many levels and would have been far more interesting than what actually ended up happening. Half-heartedly limping around the ring, the WCW World Champion continues to dish out the abuse and make his challenger look completely ineffectual while Schiavone references the “ultimate surprise” promised by Flair and the “perfect plan” that unfolded. Are you picking up on these subtle hints yet? Flair scampers up to the top turnbuckle and Hogan slams him down as he gives Flair absolutely nothing, despite the circumstances. The match spills out to the floor again when Flair takes a bump over the top rope after a punch from Hogan, and Hogan destroys Flair out there too. Back inside, Hogan no-sells a suplex and pounds away as I recall why I stopped watching WCW when Hogan arrived. After more total Hogan domination on the floor, Flair targets the knee and works it over in the ring. Sensuous Sherri adds her own flourish as she comes in behind the referee’s back and double-legdrops Hogan in the groin. The Nature Boy dismantles the knee and locks in the figure-four, but the Hulkster uses his brute strength to untie their legs and rake Flair’s eyes.

They make such an adorable couple!

That leads to the usual Hulk-up nonsense as Hogan shakes off Flair’s offense and levels him with the big boot, but the knee gives out and he collapses to the mat. The power of Hulkamania compels Hogan to get back up and drop the big leg, but he can’t capitalize on it and Flair applies the figure-four again. To his credit, Hogan sells the hell out of the crippling leglock as he cries in agony and pleads for help from Jimmy Hart. Hulk flails his arms and appears to submit, but he grabs referee Randy Anderson before he can call for the bell and starts screaming, “NO!” Okay, what the hell? Since when can a wrestler recant a submission? Gotta love how there were different rules for Hogan, both behind the scenes and in kayfabe. The Hulkster rolls over to reverse the figure-four, but they are in the ropes and Hogan falls out to the floor after Sherri attacks him with her shoe. We get the quickest 10-count of all time for the cheapest finish possible and Flair is declared the winner via count-out in 14:27, as Michael Buffer mistakenly announces that Flair is the new World Heavyweight Champion. Despite Schiavone immediately noting that this is incorrect, Flair celebrates with the belt and Heenan has to ask the referee himself before Buffer announces that since Flair won by disqualification (still wrong), the title doesn’t change hands. Not content to sit idly by while Flair goes unpunished, Hogan returns to retrieve his belt and finds himself distracted by Sherri long enough for the masked man to run out, toss Jimmy Hart over the top rope, and stomp the Hulkster’s knee from behind. The mystery assailant (obviously Arn Anderson in both physique and body language, although it wasn’t supposed to be him) flees the scene and Flair traps Hogan in the figure-four while Sherri kicks and stomps him. Fresh off his chartered flight, Sting rushes out to make the save and help Hogan to his feet. Hogan is upset because the belt has disappeared with Flair and he is assisted up the aisle by Sting and a WCW trainer, but makes sure to show that he doesn’t really need their help as he walks away from them and holds up a supposedly fan-made “Hulkamania Rules” sign. After Schiavone and Heenan kill some time arguing whether the masked man is connected to Flair, Hogan is shown climbing back into the ambulance so that he can return to the hospital. *** based mostly on name value, crowd reaction, and Flair’s selling; Hogan fans may disagree, but I freely admit that I do not like the man nor do I enjoy most of his work, especially after 1990. This match was absolutely ridiculous and I’d probably give it a personal rating of DUD. Based on the knee injury angle and the idea that he walked all the way from the hospital, it was absurd for Hogan to come out and completely dominate a majority of the match. Not only was it unrealistic, it made Flair look insanely weak and impotent as a contender since he had his ass handed to him, even with all the odds in his favor. Then, after the match, Hogan sold the knee like he had stubbed his toe and left in an ambulance under his own power. Would it have killed him to be carried out on a stretcher after Sting chased Flair off? Sell the injury, build interest in their rematch at Halloween Havoc, play up the aspect of it possibly being Hogan’s last match if Flair can apply the figure-four. At this point, why would anyone pay to see a third match between them when Hogan had so blatantly made Flair his bitch in both of their previous meetings? With Hogan as the centerpiece of the company, the main event scene became very predictable because if Hogan wouldn’t do the job under these circumstances, there was no chance Flair would ever get his win. The booking was so one-sided and selfish, it boggles my mind that Flair never resented Hogan for it. The money must have been good.

Knee injury? What knee injury?

The 411: By copying the Sting/Rick Rude angle from Clash XVII, right down to having Eric Bischoff as the reporter on the scene, the Hulk Hogan/Ric Flair storyline woven throughout the show made Clash XXVIII a massive success as the highest-rated television special on TBS in 1994 and the most widely-viewed match on cable television up to that point. While I disagree with the way the match and post-match were handled, the build-up throughout the program was very well-done and effective at creating drama and interest, because the protagonist showed weakness. Well, until he decided to walk on a bad leg all the way to the arena, rather than call a cab or commandeer an ambulance like Sting did to sell the idea that his knee was badly injured. Aside from a great match between Steve Austin and Ricky Steamboat, the rest of the Clash featured passable-to-solid wrestling and was basically a backdrop for the Hogan saga. That pretty well describes Hogan's entire career, but it was especially bad during this period as WCW was rightfully trying to maximize its sizeable investment in the Hulkster.
Final Score:  6.5   [ Average ]  legend

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