Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NBR: Clash of the Champions Part 1

Collected thoughts while watching the new WWE DVD Set The Best of Clash of the Champions.

It’s so great to see Dusty Rhodes in promo mode.  It’s still spellbinding.

CLASH of the CHAMPIONS I: March 27, 1988

NWA World Championship Match:

Ric Flair w/ J.J. Dillon (Champion) .vs. Sting

JJ will be in a cage suspended from the air. Your time limit is 45 minutes.

Your judges at ringside include Jason Hervey and the guy who played Eddie Haskell in Leave it to Beaver. Why are there judges for a wrestling match? Because TBS can’t run a fucking wrestling company without fucking something up.

We start off slow and steady, presumably to make sure Sting’s stamina lasts 45 minutes. Ric Flair, of course, invented stamina.

Your crowd, by the way, is HOT. I mean, hot like “1980s, no-bullshit” hot.

Five minutes in and JR has already referenced the Oklahoma Sooners.

Flair won the world title, like, 16 times, right? Now, a pessimist would point out that he also lost it 16 times. I, however, would argue that while it’s hard to win a world title, it’s a LOT harder to lose one and stay on top of the wrestling world long enough to get another shot. Flair had 16 shots. Kevin Nash held the WWF title for a whole year one time before he lost it. Kevin Nash was not good at losing. Flair was good enough to do it 16 times.

The ring announcer tells the crowd that 5 minutes have elapsed. 45 minute Broadway.

We’re working the headlock here, which isn’t thrilling me nearly as much as the live crowd. Next comes a bearhug. Bearhugs don’t really work when both guys are about the same size. You need a giant or a fat man.

Yes, I’m being very critical. No, it’s not fair. These guys are both really good, but they’re not at their best here. I shouldn’t have come in expecting to see The Match That Made Sting.

Time limit draw, so the judges get to decide who wins. No, fans, this isn’t fucking boxing. Judges rule Flair, naturally.

Call it *** maybe *** 1/2 before the ending

NWA World Tag Team Championship
Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard w/ J.J. Dillon (Champions) .vs.
Barry Windham & Lex Luger

“YOU would have gotten over better than Luger. Hell, everybody DID get over better than Luger …”
-- Jim Cornette

Geez, I am critical. A positive note, then: this match is the best fit for Luger: he gets to knock people around, look really strong and let Barry Windham do the work.

Arn Anderson is announced as hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Yes, I know that the Andersons were originally known as the Minnesota Wrecking Crew (I think that was Gene and Ole), and it’s not Arn’s fault that he inherited this gimmick. But listening to Arn talk, it doesn’t take long to realize that he ain’t from Minneapolis. Not that I would ever complain about listening to Arn Anderson talk.

Still, a HOT crowd. They are ABLAZE.

Arn Anderson is hilarious when he sells, and I mean that as a big compliment. It was always a treat to watch him sell a sunset flip.

Did any wrestler ever look the part of a bratty heel better than Tully Blanchard?

JR refers to a breakneck pace, and he really isn’t kidding; these guys haven’t stopped moving yet. There hasn’t been a dip in the energy level at all, which is a testament to how good these guys are.

JJ’s interference backfires, as Arn takes a chair to the head and takes the fall.

**** Maybe that’s not enough. No wasted movement here.

CLASH of the CHAMPIONS II: June 8, 1988

NWA World Tag Team Championship
Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard w/ J.J. Dillon (Champions) .vs.
Dusty Rhodes & Sting

Dusty Rhodes … I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. He’s some kind of wonder. And he knows exactly what to do in the ring every minute.

Sting and Dusty toss the referee aside, and we get a DQ. After the match, Flair and Windham attack. Windham grabs Dusty with the claw (runs in the family) and doesn’t let go all the way to the back. Dusty blades for the claw! Of course, Dusty did a lot of blading.

CLASH of the CHAMPIONS III: September 7, 1988

Russian Chain Match
Ricky Morton .vs. Ivan Koloff w/ Paul Jones

I wonder how old Koloff is here. It’s hard to tell; Ivan may be one of those people who looks 50 at the age of 35. Granted, pro wrestling must play hell with a man’s aging curve.

How do you know it’s a Russian chain? Because if you’re Russian, you better quit Stalin. Better punch lines will be accepted by submission.

Ricky wins! I am surprised. Koloff gets jumped by Paul Jones and some masked Russian fellows after the match. I guess that’s his face turn, though I can’t picture Ivan Koloff as a babyface.

** 1/2

CLASH of the CHAMPIONS IX: November 15, 1989

“I Quit” Match
Ric Flair .vs. Terry Funk w/Gary Hart

Terry was always a goofball. Actually, that statement doesn’t do justice to the special talent that was (is?) Terry Funk. I saw this man, live and in person, tell an audience of wrestling fans that as a child he wanted to brush his teeth like British wrestler Billy Robinson. And he demonstrated what that would look like.

Funk would have been in his 40s in ‘89, but he really doesn’t look it.

Your announcers are Jim Ross and Gordon Solie, which is a rare treat.

Flair is chopping the piss out of Funk.

Funk gives Flair a piledriver (which was still a big deal back then), But Flair still won’t quit. Funk even references Flair's broken back, an injury suffered in a 1970s plane crash that should have ended his career.

Figure four seals the deal, as Funk says the magic words. It’s so nice to see a clean finish to an “I Quit” match. Or any match at all, these days.

Funk insists on shaking Flair’s hand, as promised. Gary Hart is pissed. He punches out Funk. The Great Muta and … some guy called the Dragon Master come out and lay out Flair. Sting comes out to the rescue (!), but Lex Luger comes out to put a stop to that.

*** 1/2 – a little more deliberate than I would have liked.


Mil Mascaras .vs. Cactus Jack Manson

This one goes down exactly as described by Mick in his book, Have a Nice Day!. Mascaras is able to look really good by, as Mick said, walking on his tiptoes and sucking in his stomach. If ever there were a poor fit for a lucha match, it’s Mick Foley.

Yay! I actually get to see the book I Am In Urgent Need of Advice. I think this is one of the only matches I’ve ever seen from Mick’s first stint in WCW.

Just as described, Mick gives Mascaras a backbreaker on the outside, and Mascaras doesn’t even take a bump; he puts down his hands and eases his butt to the floor.

Mick takes the Nestea Plunge, and damn it looks scary. After all of this research into concussions and head injuries in the NFL, it’s harder for me to watch Mick Foley’s matches. Mick goes splat, taking a flat back bump right on the concrete. Skulls aren’t supposed to bounce like that.


US Tag Team Championship
Midnight Express w/Jim Cornette (Champions) .vs. Rock n’ Roll Express

A lackluster match (by their standards, at least) that ends in a DQ.


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