Written By: Matt Peddycord
NWA Clash of the Champions IV: Season’s Beatings
December 7, 1988
Your hosts are Jim Ross and Bob Caudle!
Ron Simmons & Eddie Gilbert vs. The Fantastics – NWA U.S. Tag Team Titles Tournament Finals
When Anderson and Blanchard dropped the NWA world tag titles to the Midnight Express, who held the NWA US tag titles at the time, the US belts were made vacant and a tournament was started. To show just how unfair this was to the Midnights, they lost the NWA world tag belts less than two months later to the Road Warriors and were left completely title-less when 1989 came around. This is possibly the earliest match I’ve seen of Simmons. He shakes hands with Fulton at the bell to show you that they’re both face teams. It even sounded like the Fantastics received some “we’re sick of seeing you guys!” boos. Maybe they just wanted to see Simmons tear these guys up, I don’t know. Simmons no-sells some stuff from Fulton and then gives him a press slam. Rogers gets a tag, but he’s backed into the “Hot Stuff” corner. Crowd is freakin’ crazy for everything Gilbert does, but then he misses an elbow drop. By the way, the story here is that Gilbert’s arm is hurt. Fulton tags in and takes a sunset flip, but Gilbert doesn’t even get a one-count. Fantastics are working the heels here, which is interesting. Fulton gets all cocky and starts strutting around, which pisses Gilbert off but Fulton wants a handshake to make him feel better. Gilbert rebuts with a headscissors, but then Fulton escapes with a small package for 1-2-NO! Gilbert’s like, “Dude, you got me” and wants another handshake. This crowd sounds BLOODTHIRSTY though, because they are booing sportsmanship. They wanted to see Gilbert knock Fulton’s teeth out! Simmons comes in and works a hammerlock, but then Fulton tosses him out to the floor. Back in, Fulton grabs him for a small package for a one-count. Rogers tags in and gets rolled up for two. Simmons works a headlock on Rogers, but then he comes out of it and takes Simmons off his feet with a dropkick. Rogers heads up top, but totally misses an elbow drop. Simmons explodes on Rogers with a football tackle and then tags in Gilbert. He grabs an armbar, but Rogers escapes and rolls up Gilbert for two. Gilbert goes to a hammerlock, but Rogers flips completely out of it and tags in Fulton. Fulton locks on an armbar on his injured arm, but Gilbert fireman carries him off of him and gets in Fulton’s face about it. Oh yeah, they’re getting mad now! Simmons tags in, but then he lands shoulder-first in the corner after he missed a charge. The Fantastics tag in and out for a bit cranking on the big guy’s arm. Simmons finally elbows out and tags in Gilbert. Swinging neckbreaker by Gilbert gets 1-2-NO! Gilbert hits a suplex for another near-fall, but then Rogers comes up and forearms him in the gut. Gilbert forearms him back, but then he takes a suplex. Both Simmons and Fulton tag in where Fulton delivers a legdrop for two. Rogers tags back in and delivers a sick looking knee-lift to Simmons for two, but then Simmons uses his power and backs Rogers into his own corner. Gilbert tags in and starts working on Rogers’ lower back. Back suplex from Gilbert gets two. Simmons gets another tag and starts working on Rogers’ arm (huh?) and then misses another charge in the corner. He should really not do that again. Fulton tags in and comes off the top, but Simmons catches him in mid-air for a Powerslam! Crowd ERUPTS! Gilbert tags and rolls Fulton up out of the corner, but Fulton sends Gilbert off injured-arm-first into the ringpost. Rogers tags in and knocks Gilbert off the apron into the security-wall as he lands on his hurt arm. Back in, the Fantastics start tearing that arm apart. Rogers even whips out the short-arm scissors, which JR even has no idea what to call that. Thankfully, Gilbert doesn’t lift Rogers up on his shoulders with it. He just tries to get on his feet and pin Rogers’ shoulders to the mat. Fulton comes in and delivers a hammerlock slam. He misses a diving headbutt, but quickly tags Rogers to prevent the tag to Simmons. Rogers has a keylock applied, but Gilbert is still able to back him in the corner and nail him in the gut. Gilbert can’t make the tag, as Rogers grabs another armbar. Gilbert tries to escape again, but Rogers wants to ram him shoulder-first into the corner. Gilbert avoids that and Rogers runs himself into the corner. Fulton gets a tag before Gilbert can, but then he hits into a desperation HOTSHOT. Gilbert starts fighting back with his good arm, but then he runs shoulder-first into the ringpost and gets cradled up for the 1-2-3! (27:05) Good, long match to really play off the arm injury, but the booking was really odd with the Fantastics wrestling like faces at the beginning and then going almost full-blown heel by the end with no real heel turn or anything. The crowd sounded like they hated the finish, and the Fantastics lost the US tag belts three weeks later at Starrcade, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that reaction was the writing on the wall for these guys. ***¼
“Dr. Death” Steve Williams (w/Kevin Sullivan) vs. The Italian Stallion
Rick Steiner had finally had enough of the Varsity Club cheating ways and turned face, so Dr. Death was chosen to fill the void. This was basically just a glorified jobber match to put Williams over as a serious new heel. Stallion sends Williams out to the floor to start with a dropkick. Back in, Stallion tries to work the arm, but ends up just giving Doc a clothesline back out the floor. Williams comes back in and gets caught in a cross armbar. He tries to get a pin off of it by using the ropes to show he’s a terrible man now. Stallion hits a crossbody off the ropes, but then Williams presses the big guy off him and tosses him out to the floor. Sullivan kicks Stallion around before Doc comes out and backs Stallion into the ring apron a couple times. Back in, Doc goes to a chinlock, but Stallion elbows out and then misses an elbow drop. Doc works the leg, but ends up just tossing Stallion out again for Sullivan to get in some more licks. Back in, Stallion tries a ten-count corner punch, but Williams counters with an inverted atomic drop. Doc hooks on a sleeper and then tries a splash off the top, but Stallion moves out of the way. Stallion gets a dropkick and a powerslam, but stupidly doesn’t go for a cover. Stallion ducks a clothesline, but YOU CANT DUCK THE OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE! It’s over. (15:18) A HUGE time-killer squash, but it served its purpose I guess. The match wasn’t great at all though. ½*
Ivan Koloff vs. Paul Jones
Ivan Koloff is another guy who got sick and tired of being a bad guy and turned on his manager Paul Jones back at the last Clash in September. The reason for this match though is to sell Ivan and JYD’s PPV match against the Russian Assassins at Starrcade. Yep, Junkyard Dog was brought in to replace Nikita Koloff for what should have been an obvious Koloffs vs. Russian Assassins match, but Nikita’s personal life took him out of the business for a while. The only way Paul Jones would get back in the ring, would be if Ivan agreed to fight him with one hand tied behind his back. Forget the fact that Paul Jones was a WRESTLER not that long before 1988. Koloff controls to start by punching and choking on Jones with his one hand, but then Jones whips out a foreign object and jabs Ivan in the throat with it. He stomps away, but Koloff punches back. The foreign object gets loose and Ivan grabs it and nails Jones with it for the win. (1:25 shown) Less is more in this case considering it’s an EIGHT minute match. The Russian Assassins attack, but JYD makes the save.
Dusty Rhodes vs. Road Warrior Animal (w/Paul Ellering)
The Road Warriors and Dusty Rhodes were the NWA world six-man tag champs for like, three years. When the Road Warriors turned heels on Dusty (by STABBING a spike from their shoulder pads into Dusty’s eye!), the titles became vacant. This match is to determine who gets possession of the belts and the winner gets to choose his two other partners, and also serves to get you pumped up for their LOD vs. Dusty/Sting match at Starrcade. Ellering takes a BIONIC ELBOW out of the ring to get things going. Dusty hits a clothesline and avoids a charge by Animal in the corner. Dusty rolls out and posts the leg to set up a Figure-Four! Wait, why did Dusty just nail the ref? Ellering gets in the ring and pops Dusty in his injured eye to break up the hold. Dusty and Animal gouge at each other’s eyes until Hawk runs in for a double-team beatdown. LOD wants a DOOMSDAY DEVICE, but Sting comes in for the save. Hawk and Sting brawl out on the floor while Dusty beats on Animal’s leg with a chair. (about 3:00) I never even heard a bell, but Animal wins by DQ because Dusty knocked the ref out with a back elbow. Therefore, Animal gets the belts and chooses Hawk and their Japanese buddy, Genichiro Tenryu to the last NWA world six-man tag champions, as the titles would be dropped when the Road Warriors were turned face again by the crowds. Wild stuff, but this was hardly a match. CRAP
The Midnight Express (w/Jim Cornette) vs. Ric Flair & Barry Windham (w/JJ Dillon)
After the Midnights had taken the belts off Anderson and Blanchard, they became enemies of the Horsemen. Well, now both those guys are gone, so they just become enemies of Flair and Windham. No titles on the line here, just a good old-fashioned dream match. Remember those? To keep Lex Luger connected to Ric Flair, they show that he and Tony Schiavone are watching this main event from somewhere else in the building besides ringside. Flair and Eaton start things off. Flair stops to WOO, so Eaton smacks him HARD in the face! Eaton gives Flair a backdrop and then sends him into the corner for the Flair Flip. Stan Lane, who is the only man Ric Flair ever publicly trained, tags in for a savate kick. Even in 1988, JR uses the “educated feet” clichés that he still uses twenty years later. Flair gets caught with an enziguri and tags in Windham. Lane catches Windham with a dropkick and then avoids an elbow drop off the top. Another savate kick from Lane sends Windham out to the floor. Windham gets pulled back in the ring the hard way and tags in Flair as does Eaton. Beautiful Bobby goes SLAM CRAZY on what’s left of the Horsemen and then takes them both down with a double clothesline. Lane tags in as Flair regroups with JJ down on the floor. Lane surprises Flair with a drop toe hold and puts on the figure-four! Eaton nails Windham coming in and applies the figure-four on him! STEREO FIGURE-FOURS! JJ hops up on the apron, but Cornette comes over to bring him down. Once the action settles, Lane delivers a slingshot back elbow into the ring for 1-2-NO! Lane sends Flair to the opposite side of the ring with a savate kick and then tags in Eaton. Flair begs off into his corner, but doesn’t tag out and locks up with Eaton. Eaton wins a slugfest with Flair and tags in Lane, but Flair pops him in the nose with a back elbow as we get a word from Paul E about his “Original Midnight Express”. Meanwhile, Windham comes in and misses a knee drop before tagging back out to Flair. He heads up top, which means he’s going STRAIGHT down to the canvas. Eaton tags in for the five-count corner punch, which leads to a corner whip and a Flair Flop. Flair comes down off the top, but gets caught in the gut. SWINGING NECKBREAKER by Eaton! Windham comes in and gets knocked out the floor, allowing a DOUBLE FLAPJACK by the Midnights on Flair! Eaton takes too much time wailing on Windham to cover in time, as he only gets two. Eaton rolls Flair up off the ropes, but Windham breaks it up with a forearm. Windham gets a tag and manhandles Eaton with an atomic drop before punching him out to ringside. Windham is able to suplex Eaton back in and then follows up with a powerslam. Flair tags and connects with the rolling knee drop. Flair slaps Eaton around until he falls out to ringside again. Windham drops Eaton on the guardrail while the ref isn’t looking. Back in, Windham tags and hits the Lariat, but only gets a one-count! Windham follows up with a gutwrench suplex and then hooks on a sleeper hold. Eaton shrugs him off, but Flair gets a tag anyway. Eaton wins a slugfest on Flair and makes the HOT TAG TO LANE! He’s got savate kicks and backdrops for everybody! DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER! Windham staggers around and gets dropped with the Double Goozle by the Midnights! Flair gets kicked out to the floor while Eaton heads up top for the ALABAMA JAM! Eaton covers, but Tommy Young is busy trying to get Lane out of the ring. Meanwhile, JJ Dillon sneaks his shoe into the ring. Cornette grabs him and chokes him down while Flair knocks Eaton in the back of the head with JJ’s shoe! Windham drapes his arm on top of Eaton as the ref turns around for the 1-2-3! (17:42) A phenomenal match that keeps everyone looking strong going into the PPV. ****¼
Final Thoughts: While there’s nothing here directly responsible for the matches at Starrcade, they continued some of the mid-card feuds that are paid off at the event. Although in hindsight, I might have cut off about ten minutes of the opener and had Lex kill a jobber or something since you had him healthy and available, but it would probably be moot by this point in the feud. Dustin Rhodes getting his butt BEAT would’ve been nice. Anyways, the main event is a classic and the opener was dare I say, interesting. Thumbs up for CotC #4.