Who needs PPV? It’s the 21st January 1992 and we’re in the Expocenter of Topeka, Kansas for WCW’s Clash Of The Champions 18! Your main event tonight: Rick Rude and Steve Austin team up to take on Ricky Steamboat and Sting!
We’re a bit aways from the COTC brand’s beginnings as an effort to fight back against the popularity of Wrestlemania, and by now it really was more of an advertising vehicle for actual PPV’s than a really worthwhile thing of its own. And it wasn’t a super great time for WCW, with Jim Herd just gone, ratings down, questionable booking and the absence of the promotion’s really stand-out megastar in Flair. Kip Frye, a Ted Turner guy, was now in charge, if only for a few months ahead of the already discussed reign of “Cowboy” Bill Watts. Frye actually had a bit of a brain in his head, raising a few salaries and offering bonuses to the best matches on any given card, which had workrate going rapidly up, at least by reputation. This particular Clash has a fairly decent rating, though, in a mockery of the title, there isn’t one title match. What it does have is nine announced matches in a 107 minute show, so, entrances/aftermath/interim stuff included, we’re talking less than 12 minutes a contest. This will zip along.
An opening video package recaps the arrival of the “Dangerous Alliance”, with Paul E. Dangerously recently transitioning from part-time announcer to evil managerial presence. They’re taking over WCW and are involved in a few matches tonight. “Wrestling power elite”, led by Sting, is out to oppose them. So wrestling’s power elite are Sting and Steamboat?
We get fireworks, before JR and Tony Schiavone welcome us to the event and run down the card before throwing us to Bischoff and Missy Hyatt on the ramp. She’s going to be “where the action is” saying this line with a shocking lack of enthusiasm. Onto our first contest.
Big Van Vader & Mr Hughes w/ Harley Race vs the Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott)
Vader out wearing some kind of Geiger-esque helmet for some reason. Hughes is playing his body guard role here. Hughes against Scott to start, as JR waxes lyrical about their college athletics history. Hughes wrestling in shaded googles, which seems like a bad idea. Scott takes him down a couple of times, then Hughes back with a big right and a headbutt. Scott hits a belly-to-belly to a big reaction, and this crowd does seem quite hot, and not late-WCW piped-in music hot, actual hot. Hughes takes a powder to confer with Race, then able to beat down Scott for a bit. Vader in, an interfering Rick thrown out, then Scott, but the heels spend too long taunting the crowd and get nailed by tandem Steinerlines from the top. Nice spot.
Vader and Rick facing off as Ross continues to waffle on about college footbaw and college wrestling. He’s got a complex on college sports, does Jim. Vader hits a few suplexes, then a Scoop Slam, then a corner charge. When he tries it again he eats a clothesline, sorry, Steinerline, then a suplex, then gets dumped out. Ricky out in pursuit, but gets caught and rammed into the post. Back in, Vader back on top, clothesline, to the top as JR just lists colleges. Steiner with the interception, and hits an avalanche belly-to-belly. Tag to Scott, a clothesline gets two. Trying for a German, nothing doing until Rick gives him an assist. Scott to the top, Vader suddenly up super fast to make the catch and counter into a powerslam. Scott tries a Sunset Flip, but gets Vader’s weight on top of him instead. Good rhythm to this one.
Hughes in, flipping powerslam gets two. Lots of stiff clotheslines flying in, Hughes misses on a corner charge, tag to Rick and he gets in a hip toss where Hughes was clearly somersaulting early. Back body-drop, now all four guys in the ring, Rick thrown out, and Vader/Hughes looking for an assisted clothesline, but of course Scott ducks and Hughes eats it. Race in, gets knocked out, and Rick suddenly nails a bulldog from the top for the 1, 2, 3 in just over nine.
Winners: The college champions of all-American wrestling, or something.
Verdict: Really good opener, booked well to play to both teams’ strengths.
An ad for the wrestling hotline, then straight onto our next contest.
Young Pistol Tracy & Terrence Taylor vs Flyin Brian and Marcus Alexander Bagwell
Pistol is Tracey Smothers, who has been all over, and has recently passed at time of writing. Taylor was off to the Fed soon enough. Pillman and Taylor to start. Lock-ups, trading chops, and then Brian hits a rana and atomic drop. Smothers in, and gets cleaned out. Leapfrog chain, and Taylor able to hit a backbreaker for two. Some odd camera angles for this one, think there’s a guy on the apron who can’t keep the lens steady. Brain hits another rana for two, then Bagwell in to clean house. Stereo drop-kicks take the heels out, and they skitter to the outside to take stereo crossbodys. These two are wrestling a different era in terms of speed.
The faces mug for the crowd, who are into this high flying stuff. When things settle it’s Tracy and Bagwell. Lock up, Bagwell eats a drop-kick, then a flying elbow. Beat down commences. Smothers and Taylor taking turns with the shots and kicks, with a few slams here and there to mix things up. Bagwell gets some space with a kick, and hot-tag to Pillman. Cleaning house, Taylor drop-kicked out, spinning kick to Smothers but Taylor back in to break it up. Heels double-teaming Pillman, and Taylor gives him a suplex to the outside, that the cameras basically miss, yeesh.
Smothers beating Pillman down on the outside for a sec, back in, Pillman trying to fight back, but now the face-in-peril. Taylor with a gut wrench into a sitting powerbomb, struggled a bit with it. Pillman on the apron, smashed off it into the barricade. Smothers too busy jawing with Bagwell to see Pillman no-selling, coming off the top with a clothesline. Hot tag to Bagwell, cleans house, including a very awkward back body-drop to Smothers where Pistol nearly landed on his head. Bagwell going for a Sunset Flip on Smothers, Pillman drop-kicks Taylor away from interfering, and that’s it in just under eight.
Winners: Pillman and Bagwell, and one of those guys would not be maintaining this style.
Verdict: A few dodgy moments in this one, but very fun otherwise.
Back from a break, Ross and Schiavone talk about Jushin Thunder Liger winning the WCW Light-Heavyweight Championship recently, with highlights including what looks like a very botched somersault tope. Oops. Liger will be at a later show, and isn’t here tonight, so that’s a tease.
Richard Morton vs Johnny B. Badd
One of Morton’s single runs here, that are never remembered very well. This is classed as a Light-Heavyweight match, with Badd just inside the weight limit, which is 235 in WCW of this era. They paint Badd as a super-face here, but it’s a real “the crowd goes mild” situation. Takedown from Morton, and again, then head scissor chains. Badd with an double axe-handle off the second rope, but Morton puts him out. Morton helpfully turns his back so Badd can run-up and give him a rubbish roll-up for two. Morton back with an inverted Atomic Drop, and Badd dumped out again. Just noticed it’s a mulleted Nick Patrick officiating, ain’t that a sight. Morton dumps Badd into the post, and I suppose he must be heel here, though that really hasn’t been made clear.
Badd with a springboard Sunset Flip for two, Morton back with a suplex for two. Badd counters a charge into a powerslam, then gets a thumb to the eye for his trouble. Badd with boxing-esque strikes, Morton with elbows, then a very awkward crossbody that Badd rolls through, hits the ropes, scrambles back into the intended pin, and that’s it in under three-and-a-half minutes.
Winner: Your future Crusierweight champ? Don’t think so myself.
Verdict: Too short really, and the ending was badly executed.
We’re promised more of Bischoff and Hyatt as go to a break, where a card promises us that “P.N. News will be rappin, you’ll want to be clappin'”. Reminds me of Regal’s efforts at rap.
Back, and Bischoff is with Pillman and Badd. Badd gives Bischoff a stick-on lip as he asks about who is going to be Thunder Liger’s next opponent. Pillman respects Liger, but is angry at Japanese companies ruining American neighbourhoods? That’s a random motivation to have. Badd smiles like a loon through this jingoistic nonsense, and Pillman gives him a punch, flooring him. Back to the ring for the next contest.
Diamond Dallas Page vs P.N. News
This is, according to Cagematch, only DDP’s 12th ever match, and his 3rd on TV. I remember that he claimed that he basically just kept showing up to the Powerplant unpaid to train, and eventually they gave him a shot after a few years as a manager. News, with a rapper gimmick, does his impression of a future John Cena, and it is as bad as you can imagine, missing only a “My name is XXX and I’m here to say…”.
Page attacks before the bell, but can’t get News up for a slam. News hits a low drop-kick to send DDP out, as Jim Ross plugs the Hotline. Back in, Page eats a corner charge and sells like a champ. News does a roll over past DDP twice, slam, then Page dodges an elbow drop. Dodges a corner charge, hits a falling elbow of his own, only two. A few more, Russian Legsweep, two, goes for the slam again but he collapses under News’ weight and P.N. gets two.
Impressive how, this early on, Page is able to carry someone clearly unfit to a workable match. He gives News a rake on the ropes while vaulting over him, landing on his feet. Back in, News hits a belly-to-belly, to the top to hit the “Rapmaster Splash” also known as a Splash, and that’s it in just under three-and-a-half.
Winner: The guy who was released two months later.
Verdict: Squash where the guy getting squashed looked way, way better.
Time for the WCW Top Ten, which is a ranking of contenders for the World Title, currently held by Lex Luger. In descending order, we have Larry Zbyzko, El Gigante, Big Van Vader, Dustin Rhodes, Cactus Jack, Rick Steiner, Ricky Steamboat, Stunning Steve Austin, Sting and #1 is Ravishing Rick Rude.
We are promised “SURPRISING DEVELOPMENTS…NEXT”. Developments turns out to be Schiavone in the ring introducing Kip Frey, who has a contract to be signed to set up that next World Title match at Superbrawl. Poor Kip is not super comfortable here, and it’s all he can do to keep his voice from wobbling as he brings out Jessie Ventura to make the announcement of who Luger’s opponent will be. Didn’t they just say Rick Rude was #1 contender?
Ventura out in full get-up, making his return to WCW after an 18 month absence. He’ll be commentating at Superbrawl, is this also a SURPRISING DEVELOPMENT? Even though they have said Ventura is here to announce Luger’s challenger, Schiavone goes and does it, and it’s Sting, who gets a big reaction. Schiavone throws us to a pre-record with Luger, he claims to be in the best shape of his life, and his friendship with Sting will be put aside when the match starts. Luger looking very muscled up here, with a tiny head on a humongous frame. I’m sure it’s all natural. In response, Sting signs the contract, and wishes he could take Luger on now. I kept expecting Rude to come out, but nothing doing. Sting would win that match, the start of his first WCW Title run.
Cactus Jack vs Van Hammer (Falls Count Anywhere)
Just under six months away from the badass FCA match Cactus would have with Sting, so looking forward to this one. In fact they referenced this match in the preamble to the later one, so I suppose it’s been all set-up for me. Not a word on why this match is happening though.
Hammer pulls off a crossbody from a springboard right from the off, getting two, then a forearm off the top, then a leg-drop, but only two. Comes off the top again looking for a clothesline, and gets nailed with one from Cactus instead. Cactus Clothesline sends them both out. Hammer sent into the barricade, and Jack exposes some concrete. “Charles Manson’s favourite wrestler” says JR as Cactus screams manically. Jack to the second rope, Sunset Flip to the bottom where he hits the ground hard, lets go of Hammer, then has to reach up and complete the move. Looked bad.
Foley well enough to get back up as they fight up the ramp. Hammer hits a powerslam for two. Jack hits back with a clothesline, as an unfortunate cameraman scrambles around the two awkwardly. Hammer with an inside cradle for two, and Jack back with another clothesline. Tries to throw Hammer off the ramp, but Hammer counters and does it himself, and Jack lands with a sickening thud on concrete. Taking a few scary bumps here, is Foley, but I suppose that is par for the course. Hammer follows up with a flying clothesline, then they keep fighting to backstage, after a break.
When we’re back the two guys have gone as far as the outside of the arena. Jack hits Hammer with a two-by-four, then a traffic cone. Trading shots as Missy Hyatt of all people takes over the play-by-play momentarily. Jack trying to beat Hammer with a sandbag, but Hammer finds a rope from somewhere and starts choking Cactus. They head over to some rodeo holding pens, where there are actual bulls being kept. Abdullah the Butcher is here for some reason, everyone starts brawling, Abdullah nails Hammer with a shovel, and Cactus gets the pin in just over ten.
Winner: Bang, bang
Verdict: An entertaining diversion, but not as good as the later one.
Jack and Abdullah start brawling, and somewhere in the fracas Missy Hyatt gets thrown into a water trough, but of course. They are still fighting as we cut away. When back, our next contest has just started.
The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin) vs Big Josh & Brad Armstrong
It’s the tail end of the Freebirds’ existence at this point. Josh is the future original Doink. Hayes and Armstrong to start, leapfrog chains, some awkward going back-and-forth and Garvin in after a failed roll-up. Armstrong taken down, Garvin lands a top rope crossbody. Josh in, lands a running Scoop Slam and walks on Garvin. Hayes back in, eats a Scoop Slam, then lands a Sunset Flip for two, then down from an arm drag. Garvin back in, takes some elevated shots, then a miscommunication I think as Josh just walks into Garvin off an Irish Whip.
Armstrong in to issue drop-kicks to both Freebirds, before they get double clotheslines by Josh. Armstrong looking for a suplex on Hayes, Garvin interferes with the ref distracted by Josh, the Freebirds hit a Double DDT, and that’s it in just over three..
Winners: The damn numbers game
Verdict: Forgettable squash.
Back from a break and Bischoff is with the Steiners after a highlights package runs down the teams they have been able to beat, and how well they’ve gotten on in single runs. Bischoff asks about their future title aspirations, and they say they are ready to reclaim what they never lost, aka the WCW Tag Team Titles. No more Mr Nice Guy, and they are coming after the champs. I guess they are building to a future match, this didn’t really have a lot of heat.
Another break, and on to our next match.
Thomas Rich vs Vinnie Vegas
Rich a guy who had been around for a while at this point, having once been a major enough player in the NWA. Vegas of course is Kevin Nash, making his “debut” here, though in reality it’s just a change of gimmick, he’d been in WCW for a bit and had wrestled as “Oz” as late as the month previous to this. “Vinnie Vegas in the house” he says coming down the ramp, as JR and Schiavone talk about his finisher, “Snake Eyes”. Have a feeling this will be short. Vegas distracts Rich by pointing out a heckler at ringside, and then ambushes him to start. “Looks like a matire’d from the Riviera”. Way to bury him JR. Vegas takes Rich down with a stiff clothesline, gives him the Snake Eyes which is indeed the same move the Undertaker has been known to use, and that’s it in less than a minute.
Winner: This kid has a future. As an asshole.
Verdict: Butternut Squash.
Onto the main point of the show. Bischoff is with Paul E. Dangerously ahead of a six-man tag featuring the Dangerous Alliance. He says his predictions always come true, and tonight one of the fans’ top five stars, all facing the Dangerous Alliance in the next two matches, will see their career ended. He goes through them one-by-one with that Heyman magic at insult, and re-iterates his threat to put one of them in a retirement home. Full of fire here, the best promo of the night by far. And you know what, it makes me want to actually see it. After the break, let’s get to it.
Arn Anderson, Beautful Bobby & Larry Zbyszko (the Dangerous Alliance) w/Paul E. Dangerously vs Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons (Six Man Tag)
Anderson and Bobby have just won the tag titles, and the heels come out to no music as the announcer explains in his introductions the situation with the tag titles, which was awkward as hell. The faces out with music, but to not a great pop to be honest. The heels vacate the ring so the faces can ham it up, but again the crowd is oddly not biting.
Bobby and Windham to start. Bobby nails a swinging neckbreaker early, then sets Windham up on the top. Slaps, and hits a second rope superplex. Windham no-sells that, and back with a big stiff clothesline, then another. Hits a second rope superplex of his own, and things break down as he goes for a cover. The faces lock-in three figure 4’s one after the other, and the heels skitter out of them just as fast.
Somehow after that Zbyszko and Simmons are the legal men. Simmons getting the better of a test of strength. Anderson in to assist, but Simmons sends them both down, then locks Bobby into a bear hug. Anderson breaks that up, but Simmons rallies back to nail Zybszko with a clothesline, then Anderson with a press slam. All faces so far. Rhodes in, who looks like he is doing a Hulk Hogan cosplay by the way, and Bobby. Trading blows back and forth, and Bobby tossed to the ramp. Rhodes follows up with a flying clothesline over the rope, to a big reaction.
Windham, and Zybszko in now, as Dangerously gives out at ringside. Windham goes for a flying clothesline of his own, but Zbyszko pulled out of the way by Anderson. Looking for a piledriver, Windham back with a back body-drop. Drop-kick to Bobby that sends him out, Anderson in and he eats a bulldog. Rhodes in to nail Zybszko a few times, but then he ends up on the outside on a rope-pull. Out there, Dangerously hits Rhodes with one of them new-fangled portable telephones. Inside, looks like Zybszko and Rhodes are the legal men, and Rhodes is now the face-in-peril.
Anderson in and he nails a sweet Spinebuster for two. Snapmare, Anderson to the top but gets the knees off a splash attempt. Anderson back with a DDT that spikes Rhodes it looks like, but only two. Bobby in, Scoop Slam, to the top, and drops an elbow. Late cover, only two. Bobby missed on a corner drop-kick, but Anderson in to maintain the beatdown. Scoop Slam, to the second rope, but a second-rope nothing only gets a boot. Twice they’ve pulled that spot with AA. Hot tag to Windham, who hits a big flying clothesline on Bobby, then again, then a back body-drop for two. Zybszko in, things break down again. Anderson and Rhodes on the outside, Simmons and Zybszko on the ramp, and Windham hits Bobby with a big forearm as Bobby comes off the top, and that’s enough for the 1, 2, 3 in about nine-and-a-half.
Winners: The Heroic Alliance
Verdict: Fine for what it was, maybe a bit short. An overabundance of clotheslines was very much evident.
Our main event is upcoming. Another plug for the hotline, and then Schiavone is backstage with the victorious faces from the last match. Windham doesn’t care what anyone says, he’s back and he’s going to start kicking tail and forget to take names. Simmons and Rhodes look a bit bored standing behind him. Windham promises vengeance for a previous injury inflicted by Zybszko, and plans to do some crippling of his own.
At ringside Jesse Ventura is with JR. He says anytime you got Rick Rude you got trouble. If he was Sting or Steamboat he’d be real careful. OK then. After the break the main event is up.
“Stunning” Steve Austin & “Ravishing” Rick Rude (the Dangerous Alliance) w/ Paul E. Dangerously vs Sting & Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat
Austin and Rude are the TV and US champions respectively. Rude on the mike before the faces are out, to run down the “fat” crowd and make sure they note what a real man is meant to look like. Cheap heat really. Sting gets the love from the crowd. JR makes sure to note that the top four of the Top Ten are in the ring, as if that means anything.
Steamboat and Austin to start, with 15 minutes of show time left. Lock-up, Steamboat takes Austin down with a shoulder charge, to his general consternation. Austin back with strikes, Steamboat back with some of his own, and Austin retreats to the apron for a bit. The Dragon with a series of pinning predicaments for two, then hits a superkick. Rude in, but cleaned out, and the heels take a break on the outside for a bit.
Austin slowly back in so he can give a tag to Rude after a lock-up. Rude wants Sting, and Steamboat obliges with a tag, after which Rude, of course, skitters away. He and Sting eventually lock-up, leapfrog chain and Sting hits an Atomic Drop, then an inverted one. Series of clotheslines, Austin taken down, back rakes, then a gutwrench drop. Sting, who hasn’t taken any offence yet, locks on a Camel Clutch, then does some hip gyrating to mock Rude. Steamboat in and maintains the clutch, as Rude is almost playing the face-in-peril. Steamboat with some gyrating now, and that looks really wrong. Sting back in to maintain the clutch, which has gone over two minutes at this point.
Eventually Rude out with some knees to the groin, unseen by Nick Patrick and the Alliance can commence a beatdown on Sting. Sting and Austin exchanging shots, Austin nails a big elbow for two. Rude in and he takes the Dragon out on the apron as the heels keep Sting firmly in-peril. Austin with a reverse suplex. Sting trying to get back with a Sunset Flip, Austin resistant, but when Sting dodges a punch he is able to get the hot tag. Steamboat cleans house, might have Austin beat with a Victory Roll, but Rude in with a big shot while the ref is distracted.
Brief beatdown maintained on Steamboat but the Dragon back quick enough, getting two off a roll-up. Things breakdown, Sting and Austin fighting on the ramp, eventually back in, and Sting nails a crossbody on Austin as Austin was carrying Sting, and that bizarre choice is the finish in just under 11-and-a-half.
Winners: The Stinging Dragon
Verdict: By-the-numbers tag
The Alliance fight back after the bell, taking down both Sting and Steamboat. Rude starts whipping Steamboat with a cable, security hits the ring and a big brawl results, with even Heyman laying in a few punches. Rude keeps whipping at a prone Sting. JR and Ventura sum up what we have seen as the Alliance heads out, in what amounts to a plug for Superbrawl. And that will be all.
Best Match: I’ll go with the Pillman/Bagwell vs Taylor/Smothers tag, that had a fun energy to it and was a good showcase for the four.
Best Wrestler: Mich Foley was on the verge of really getting into something special at this time, and no man better to make outside-the-ring brawling look cool.
Worst Match: The Freebirds tag was especially needless as squash’s go.
Worst Wrestler: PN News, who looked bad next to a guy who had barely started wrestling.
Overall Verdict: It was fine I suppose. There was a time when COTC were big deals, filled with huge matches, while this was just another TV show in many respects, masquerading as a bigger deal. WCW was in a not great place, and heading to worse territory, but this show did indicate the depth of talent they had available at least. I would say that it is worth watching.
Quick Thoughts On NXT Takeover: Vengeance Day
Womens Dusty Final – Really fun match, with a proper crowd the roof would have been off the place with the near-falls and pace of the thing. A little surprised with heel winners, but in a good way. Wouldn’t mind seeing the Womens Tag Titles on NXT. Must see.
Gargano/KUSHIDA – A proper Takeover epic. While Gargano wasn’t exactly the cowardly heel he’s been playing lately, I loved this. Brilliant stuff. Check it out
Mens Dusty Final – Two teams gave it their all, and MSK proved they are worth the hype in another top notch performance, Somewhat surprised GYZ have been booked to lose two Dusty Finals in a row. They’ll be back, presumably. One to watch.
Shirai/Storm/Ripley – Had its moments, but probably the weakest match on the card. Never really felt like Shirai was losing. They recovered well from the table collapse to put on a good finish. Inessential.
Balor/Dunne – Not a huge fan of the submission heavy style the first half was full of, but the last ten or so minutes was top notch. Balor has gotten very good at putting on wars. Presume Kross next, or maybe whoever comes out on top of the Undisputed Civil War. Watchable.
Overall – Really good show for the first 90 minutes, with the first two match the best Takeover’s have had in a while. Last hour was good, but not as spectacular. Worth seeking out.
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