Written By: Matt Peddycord
NWA Clash of the Champions
March 27, 1988
So the WWF wants to put on a PPV to make cable companies choose which wrestling show they let America watch on Thanksgiving? Fine. The WWF gets two hours on free-TV for the first-ever Royal Rumble show, while we’re trying to have a crappy battle royal inside of a cage called “The Bunkhouse Stampede”? Whatever, that’s cool. But if you think for one second that we’re not going to put on a show during that one day a year where you show forth your abnormal compulsion of “wrestling” and that we’re not going to show you guys up North how it’s done with a two-hour wrestling extravaganza, then you’re DEAD WRONG, mister (McMahon)!
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross!
NWA World Television Champion Mike Rotundo (w/Kevin Sullivan) vs. Jimmy Garvin (w/Precious) – Amateur Rules Match
This match is competed in three five-minute rounds, in which a one-count wins the match. Both men do some basic mat stuff to start with Teddy Long breaking them up and saying, “Hold on a minute, playa!” They trade some armdrags and Rotundo bails out to the floor. Back in, Rotundo pulls on Garvin’s hair to get out of an overhead wristlock, but then runs into a back elbow. Garvin goes for the quick cover, but Rotundo gets right back to his feet. Garvin hooks on a front facelock, but Rotundo backs him into the corner to try and get in a cheapshot off the break, but Garvin shoves him down on the mat. They lock up again and Rotundo sneaks in a right hand and drops Garvin with a hotshot. Rotundo whips Garvin into the farside and catches him with a clothesline. Garvin wisely rolls on his stomach to avoid being pinned as they ride one another in a non-homosexual way until the end of the first five-minute period. According to my calculations, it was more like 5:06. Like only a good heel would do, Rotundo attacks Garvin during the thirty-second rest period. Rotundo jumps Garvin as the bell sounds for the second period. He heads up top, but gets slammed down to the canvas. Garvin hits a backdrop and goes for the BRAINBUSTER, but Kevin Sullivan hops up on the apron to distract the challenger. Precious grabs hold of his foot, so Sullivan lifts her up on the apron by her throat! Garvin lets go of Rotundo and nails Sullivan, making him easy pickings for a cheap rollup victory by Rotundo. (6:59) Garvin hits the BRAINBUSTER after the bell has sounded and attacks Sullivan. Fellow Varsity Club member Rick Steiner makes the save until Precious brings a freakin’ 2×4 into the ring and nails Steiner in the back with it! As Sullivan keeps punching on Garvin, she saves her man by grabbing Sullivan’s coat hanger and choking him down with it! This is AWESOME! Once Garvin comes to, he grabs his woman and they head out the back door. It was during this period when the WWF tried to bill Elizabeth as the bravest little manager ever. Wow, that’s funny. I don’t recall her ever choking anyone out with a coat hanger and beating a man down with a 2×4 before. Match was okay, but the post-match stuff was insane. *½
NWA U.S. Tag Team Champions The Midnight Express (w/Jim Cornette) vs. The Fantastics
Another legendary Mid-South tag team feud makes its way to the NWA. This match starts off completely crazy with chairs being thrown and tables tossed in people’s faces! The match finally comes to order about two minutes of that with Fulton getting a blind tag out of a headlock and Eaton being ping-ponged between the Fantastics. We get STEREO CORNER WHIPS on the Express and the crowd is going insane for all of this! Fulton fires away on Eaton in the ring while Lane is beating up Rogers out on the floor. Suddenly, Rogers is the legal man again and he takes a TOTAL ELIMINATION from the Midnights! Lane lifts Rogers up off the canvas and delivers a savate kick before tagging in Eaton. Fulton runs to cause the distraction as Cornette lifts up a table so that Eaton can slam Rogers into it face-first! Haha! Lane hits some elbow/leg drops, but Rogers headbutts him in the gut to try for a comeback. Lane knows he’s in trouble and tags in Eaton before Rogers can reach Fulton. Eaton delivers a powerslam and connects with a top-rope elbow drop that has such impact that it nearly knocks himself out and takes him into his corner to tag in Lane. Fulton comes in again after a gutwrench suplex to cause more double-teaming by the Midnights. Eaton tags in again and together, he and Lane deliver the DEMOLITION DECAPATION! Take that, WrestleMania IV! Fulton wants at Eaton so bad, that he grabs his blond hair from the apron. It proves as a stupid move, because Lane comes in and gives Rogers a big stomp. Eaton delivers a five-count corner punch and tags in Lane. He whips Rogers into the ropes and takes a sunset flip, but the ref is busy with Fulton on the apron. That allows Eaton to gingerly walk in and stomp Rogers in the back of the head. Lane hits another savate kick and tags in Eaton. Lane sends Rogers out to the floor and Fulton comes over to save, which just causes more pain for Rogers. Not only does Eaton slam Rogers on an unfolded table, but then he gives him a running bulldog on top of it as well to bust Rogers open! Randy Anderson finally lets Fulton help Rogers back in the ring, even though the Midnights maintain control with a drop toe-hold/elbow drop combo for two. Rogers fights out of the Express corner and tags in Fulton, but the ref’s back was turned! Randy Anderson gets all in Fulton’s face, but at this point he doesn’t care and throws Anderson out over the top rope and to the floor! Cornette comes in with the racket, but Fulton ducks and Cornette hits Eaton instead! Cornette gets nailed and the Fantastics deliver the ROCKET LAUNCHER to Eaton! Ref Tommy Young runs in to count the 1-2-3 to win the US tag titles! (10:21) Of course, we all get disappointed once Randy Anderson gets back in the ring and awards the match to the Midnight Express by DQ because Fulton’s emotions got the best of him. *COUGH!* Dusty finish! *COUGH!* There was nothing wrong with this match outside of the Dusty finish. This was like TNA, but better! The Fantastics would de-throne the Midnights a month later in Chattanooga and trade the belts back and forth until the Midnights turned face and won the World tag titles in September. ****¾
The Road Warriors & Dusty Rhodes (w/Paul Ellering) vs. The Powers of Pain & Ivan Koloff (w/Paul Jones) – Chicago Street Fight
This version of the Chicago Street Fight features barbed wire loosely wrapped around the ropes and when you factor that in, it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that it’s anything goes. The PoP dropped a barbell on Animal’s face, which is why he’s wearing a bulky protective mask and the reason for this match. Dusty Rhodes holds the U.S. title here, but he loses that a week later after he attacks Jim Crockett Jr. The Super Powers control the whole match hitting their signature moves because they want REVENGE! The finish comes when Animal hits a powerslam on Warlord and moves to let Barbarian elbow drop Warlord for the 1-2-3. (3:36) After the match, the PoP kick Animal’s mask off and beats him in his injured eye. Dusty and Hawk break free from Koloff to save Animal and Paul Jones’ Army head out of the ring. *
NWA World Tag Team Champions Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (w/JJ Dillon) vs. Barry Windham & Lex Luger
The Horsemen try and trap Luger to start, but he comes fighting out with clotheslines. He hits a powerslam on Blanchard and looks ready to rack him, but Arn breaks that up with a kick to the back of Luger’s leg. Arn tags in and goes to work on the thigh as though he’s paid good money to cripple people. He tags Blanchard back in for more of the same. Just as soon as Luger gets back to his feet and starts swinging, Blanchard trips him up and tags in Arn. Luger kicks out of a figure-four attempt and sends Anderson into Blanchard on the apron. Blanchard still gets a tag, but so does Windham! DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER! I bet he learned that during his time in the WWF! Windham delivers his Running Lariat to Blanchard, but doesn’t go for the pin and hits a powerslam instead for 1-2-NO! Windham hooks on a sleeper hold! They end up in the ropes and fall out to the floor, but Windham doesn’t let go no matter what! Anderson breaks the count and tries to revive Tully to get him back in this match. Blanchard catches Windham with a shoulderblock from the apron and hotshots him to slow Windham down. He goes up on the top, but gets caught and slammed down to the mat. Anderson gets popped on the apron and then Windham applies an abdominal stretch in the middle of the ring. He really cranks on it and does that so much, that he doesn’t see Anderson coming in this time to nail him in the face! All of this thanks to JJ Dillon distracting the ref, of course. Anderson becomes the legal man and delivers the DDT to Windham for 1-2-NO! Anderson doesn’t show any frustration and gives him the next best thing, which is the Double-A Spinebuster for 1-2-NO! Windham is INHUMAN! Anderson does the spot where he tries for a pin out of a knucklelock, but gets crotched instead. Blanchard gets the tag and keeps Windham from doing the same. Blanchard pounds away on Windham, but then misses a clothesline and goes down to a crossbody block for 1-2-NO! Blanchard shoves off on a headlock for a double-KO. Back up, Blanchard starts off another headlock sequence, which ends with Windham delivering a gutwrench suplex! Windham can’t capitalize this time either and Blanchard tags in Arn. Windham kicks out of a wristlock and avoids a knee drop, but still can’t reach Luger. Anderson and Windham punch each other down, but it’s Tully who gets the tag once again. He delivers the SLINGSHOT SUPLEX for 1-2-NO! Windham has taken the best these two have to offer and kicked out of pin attempts for all three moves! Windham punches Tully down and staggers into his corner to make the MOLTEN HOT TAG TO LUGER! Luger destroys Arn with clotheslines, but then Blanchard catches him coming off the ropes to slow him down. However, Luger reverses a corner whip on Arn and gives him a powerslam. Arn goes low on Luger as Tully comes in and brawls with Windham. Meanwhile with the ref’s back turned, JJ Dillon holds a chair in the corner. The Horsemen’s plan backfires and Arn gets pulled face-first into the chair by Luger! Cover, 1-2-3! We’ve got NEW NWA World Tag Team Champions! (9:33) Crowd goes insane for it, but it wouldn’t be long until Windham SHOCKED THE WORLD and turned on Luger to give the belts back to Anderson and Blanchard. To compensate the loss, he became a member of the legendary Four Horsemen. It’s every kid’s dream! This is how tag-team wrestling is supposed to be done. ****¾
NWA World Champion Ric Flair vs. Sting
To truly give this the big-match feel, they bring in Eddie Haskell from “Leave it to Beaver”, Wayne Arnold from “Wonder Years”, the Penthouse “Pet of the Year”, and two other faceless NWA stiffs as the ESTEEMED judges for this match. Are you kidding me? JJ Dillon is hanging up in an ascended cage to prevent any shenanigans and a clear-cut winner. Flair yanks Sting down by his hair out of an arm wrench to start, and kips up to the delight of the G-boro crowd. Flair comes out of a Sting headlock into an overhead wristlock, but Sting powers out. Sting wants a test of strength because he wants to know who the strongest is FOR REAL, not for play-play and kick his opponent in the gut, but Flair is like, “Yeah okay.” Flair goes for it and screams and falls to his knees. He maneuvers Sting over to a corner and chops on him, but Sting no-sells and backs Flair across the ring. Sting hiptosses Flair out of the corner and dropkicks him down to send Flair out to the floor to take a walk. Back in, Flair grabs a headlock. They trade hammerlocks ending with Flair caught in an armbar. Flair backs Sting into the ropes and chops on him, but then gets caught in a press slam. Sting hits a flying headscissors and delivers a headlock takedown. Flair makes a few escapes, but quickly gets put right back in the headlock over the next four minutes. Sting no-sells a chop in the corner and comes out fighting with right hands. Sting whiffs on a dropkick, but Flair Flops anyway and is the first man to his feet. He throws Sting out to the floor, but Sting no-sells THAT and gets right back in the ring and reverts to the headlock. Flair comes out with a forearm to the ribs and chops away in the corner. Sting fights back again and delivers a press slam to set up a bearhug. They go the mat for a few near-falls, but Sting releases after two minutes of that. He gets all fired up and tries the jumping elbow drop off the ropes, but Flair rolls out of the way. No worries though, Sting doesn’t sell that either. Flair begs, but Sting whips him into the farside corner for the Stinger Splash, but nobody’s home. That hurts Sting’s left arm, but he goes for a ten-count corner punch anyways and Flair comes out with an inverted atomic drop. Flair takes Sting out to the floor and whips him into the guardrail and tries to get the countout win. Sting returns to the ring just in time and receives some chops and a couple good hard whips into the corner. Wooooo. Flair snapmares Sting over, pulls down the knee pad and delivers the rolling knee drop. Make it two. He rakes on Sting’s back and claws on his face. Flair throws Sting out once again and grabs a chair this time, but Tommy Young will not allow that! Flair compromises and sends Sting into the guardrail again. Back in, Flair chops away, but then Sting starts to no-sell again! Sting fires back and sends Flair over the top rope and out to the floor! Tommy Young calls it unintentional and due to momentum, so match continues. Sting follows Flair out and tries to Stinger Splash him up against the ringpost, but Flair moves and lets Sting hit steel. Back in again, Flair grabs a wristlock. Sting quickly fights back and hits a clothesline for 1-2-NO! Flair crawls to the apron, so Sting suplexes him back in the ring to set up the SCORPION DEATHLOCK! Flair gets to the ropes at the 25-minute mark. Sting no-sells more chops and fires back for another Flair Flop. Sting covers, but Flair’s foot was under the bottom rope. Sting hiptosses Flair near the ropes and charges, but Flair ducks and lets Sting fall out the concrete floor. Sting gets back up on the apron and Flair snaps his neck on the top rope. Flair crawls to the middle of the ring and doesn’t notice Sting is perched up on the top rope! Flair turns around and gets nailed with a Flying Crossbody for 1-2-NO! Sting grabs another headlock, but Flair comes out of it with a shin breaker. Wooooo. Flair hammers on the knee some more and delivers another shin breaker, making Sting roll out to the floor. Sting gets back in the ring after an eight-count and Flair stays on the knee. Back suplex by Flair sets up the FIGURE-FOUR! In classic Flair mode, he uses the ropes for leverage like CRAZY, but Sting won’t give up. We JIP to Flair being in the Figure-Four, which is odd because one moment you see Sting in the hold and the next moment Flair is being asked if he’ll give it up. Flair gets to the ropes to call for the break. Sting has his way with Flair for a while and works on his knee. Flair Flip out to the floor and Sting slams Flair’s head into the guardrail just like he did to him. Sting bounces Flair’s head off the judges table and then eats the ringpost before falling out into the front row. Back in, Flair attempts a sunset flip from the apron, but Sting pounds him down. Sting mounts Flair in the corner and Flair tries to atomic drop his way out of it, but Sting avoids it and clotheslines Flair down for 1-2-NO! Flair got his foot on the bottom rope. Sting tries another Stinger Splash, but Flair avoids it again and Sting hits his head on the ringpost as he falls to the floor. Sting makes it back in the ring before the ten-count, but then runs into a sleeper. OH SNAP. Sting counters by sending Flair face-first into the turnbuckle. Flair tosses Sting out, but he pops right back up on the apron and goes for a sunset flip. Flair tries to pin Sting using the ropes, but Tommy Young sees it and kicks Flair back for 1-2-NO! We’ve got two minutes to go. Another Flair Flip leads to a flying crossbody attempt, but Sting rolls through it for 1-2-NO! The crowd goes into freakin’ cardiac arrest. Sting no-sells some chops and hits the Stinger Splash! SCORPION DEATHLOCK is applied, but Flair holds on until the time runs out! That leaves it up to the judges now. The match ends up a draw and Flair retains the belt. (39:16 shown) This is the match that made Sting a main event player. For all the little Stingers out there, we thank you Ric Flair. These two have wrestled so much, that their matches became formulaic. However, the original match still contains some amazing drama. Even though this match is nearly twenty years old, you still want to believe that Sting will pull it off. ****
Final Thoughts: This is quite possibly the best free-TV North American wrestling shows ever. You show me where there is a free-TV card where you have two near-perfect tag matches and an unforgettable main event, and I will saw my arm off. TWO thumbs up for the first-ever Clash, as it blows every thing WrestleMania IV did out of the water. Yeah, TAKE THAT WWF!