The SmarK Retro Rant for Clash of the Champions VII: Guts & Glory!
– Ah, Jim Herd and his wacky generic names for big shows. God bless him.
– Live from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
– Your hosts are Jim Ross & Bob Caudle.
– Okay, so your lame theme for this show is that it’s being held on a military base on Flag Day, a pseudo-holiday so insipid that only a greeting card company could have thought of it, and it’s also the 214th birthday of the Army. So we get lots of soundbites of the army doing army stuff. The theme also figures into the booking of one of the matches, and I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess which one.
– Opening match, World tag team title semi-final: The Fabulous Freebirds v. The Dynamic Dudes. Alliteration RULES! The deal here is that the Varsity Club had screwed the Road Warriors out of the titles at Clash VI and then retained them through nefarious means at WrestleWar 89, but those means were so nefarious that they were stripped of the titles and this tournament was staged. For those of you who actually care about this sort of thing, the Freebirds got a screwy victory over the Road Warriors in the first round while the Dudes beat stiff competition in Jack Victory & Rip Morgan. But wait, there’s shenanigans, as the opening round Freebird team of Hayes & Gordy suddenly becomes the debuting Hayes & Garvin version of the Freebirds here in the second round so that Gordy can become a single again. The Dudes, as always, still suck. Big brawl to start, and the Dudes send the Birds scurrying. Back in, they get a double-cover on them but the ref won’t count anything. The Birds bail and stall, then Hayes and Garvin take turns getting dominated by the babyfaces. The Dudes hit a double-hiptoss and double-elbow on Garvin, but Douglas gets hit with a cheapshot and is pounded by Hayes. Johnny Ace comes in and dodges Hayes, but misses a bodypress and gets dropped on the top rope for two. The Birds dump him and Gordy inflicts some damage on the floor, and Johnny is YOUR Ace-in-peril. I’ve been waiting for years to work that one in. Ace & Garvin collide, and Ace makes the hot tag to Shane. He’s a house of fire, even if he is wearing fruity tights! Sunset flip gets two on Garvin. Double-dropkick puts Hayes out, but he sneaks back in, catches Shane rolling up Garvin, and DDTs him behind the ref’s back for the pin to advance at 7:14. Super heat, but the match was pretty thin. *1/2
– Ranger Ross v. The Terrorist. As with almost every generic masked bad guy in 1989 (see also: Blackmailer, The and Assassin #2, Russian) Mr. Terrorist is played by Jack Victory. The ass gives him away. Anyway, one wonders why they’d let an admitted terrorist into a military base (I mean, cripes, the guy’s NAME is “TerroristÃ¢â‚¬Â), but there he is. And it also raises further questions, like what kind of parents would name their child “TerroristÃ¢â‚¬Â to begin with Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I mean, isn’t that just ASKING for a life of crime? And what about when his contract expires and he asks for a raise Ã¢â‚¬â€œ wouldn’t that violate the USA’s policy of not negotiating with terrorists? Anyway, my mental meanderings are not nearly as surreal as Jim Ross stopping, mid-match mind you, to note that he’d rather be at home “enjoying a Coors Light and having a slice of Domino’s PizzaÃ¢â‚¬Â. And you think he’s a corporate whore NOW. Anyway, Ross squashes our would-be foreign invader and uses the Combat Kick to get the pin at 1:25 and thus make the drunken troops happy. DUD
– Cheaply produced “Iron ManÃ¢â‚¬Â video hypes the Road Warriors. It’s not even the real version, it’s that dopey knock-off one they were using at the end where they took the riff and repeated it for 3 minutes.
– Great Muta is out to do a martial arts exhibition with a couple of jobbers, but Gary Hart declares Trent Knight and Mike Justice to be “a couple of gaijinÃ¢â‚¬Â, in what may be the only known use of that word in the history of televised American wrestling. Muta wants Eddie Gilbert instead, and Gilbert obliges by charging the ring, fireball in hand. He misses, however, and hits Knight with it, and the overwhelming force of the flash paper contacting the air in the vicinity of his face sends him hurtling to the mat in pain. Another promising career ended by the scourge that is nitrocellulose.
– George South & Cougar Jay v. The Ding-Dongs. And you thought the Ding-Dongs were just a tall tale that young promoters got told about by their mothers at night to keep them from trying out bad gimmicks on decent wrestlers. Nope, they really existed and they debuted on this show. The scary thing is that Ding-Dongs were actually the IMPROVED version of a Jim Herd brainfart. See, Herd’s big idea to spruce up the company in 1989 was to start marketing to children and using some of the cheaper talent to portray wrestlers who would get the kids to come out. So his first plan was to take a couple of jobbers and give them hunchback gimmicks, and have them bring a big bell out to ringside like Quasimodo had in the book. They’d presumably be called the Hunchbacks of Notre Dame University or something equally cerebral. Okay, now here’s the really high-concept part of the plan: Because they’re hunchbacks and have these big humps on their back, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to pin them, because their shoulders could never be on the mat, right? Okay, so this idea actually makes it to the drawing board stage and Herd goes to Ole Anderson to implement it, and they get into a big argument about it, because Ole thought it was total horseshit and they could be beaten in 10 seconds flat by anyone. Herd wanted to know exactly how you could pin them if they were hunchbacks? Ole responded that you didn’t pin them, you pushed them over on their hump and then put them in a spinning toehold until they submitted. So there went that idea before anything could be done with it. But, Herd reasoned, the BELL was a ratings winning idea just waiting to be exploited. So Herd took Joel and Fred Deaton, dressed them in orange bodysuits with little bells taped to their legs, and gave them a big bell for the outside man to ring while the other guy wrestled. And thus the Ding-Dongs were born. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. And as everyone except Jim Herd predicted, not 4 seconds after making their initial entrance, the Ding-Dongs were completely booed out of the building. As for me, the burden of having to sit through a Ding-Dongs match was offset by the pleasant surprise of seeing old-time Crockett jobbers Jay & South for the first time in a long while. And by the way, I’d highly recommend tracking down the Ding-Dongs initial appearance on the NWA Power Hour around the same time, because Jim Cornette was the color commentator and he just completely BURIED them for the entire match and bitched about how stupid he felt even covering the match. The actual match here is secondary to the backstory, so suffice it to say that the Ding Dongs squash the jobbers and finish them with a vanilla double-team finisher (flying kneedrop and flying elbow combo) at 3:26, before fading quietly into the long history of stupidity that is WCW. Jim Ross and Bob Caudle basically apologize in-depth to all the fans still watching and bury the whole concept after the match, which almost makes up for him shilling beer and pizza in the second match. Of course, the next month they started having sponsors buying turnbuckles, which led to such lines as “And Luger goes hard to the Coors Light turnbuckle!Ã¢â‚¬Â, but such is life in Corporate America when you’re owned by Ted Turner. Ã‚Â½*
– World tag team title semi-final: The Midnight Express v. The Samoan Swat Team. Winner meets the Freebirds in the finals later tonight. Again, for the anal retentives in the audience, The Express beat Bob Orton & Butch Reed (the depth of the tag division was kinda shallow at this time) while the SST beat Ranger Ross & Ron Simmons (ditto). The Express are just crazy over as babyfaces, a situation that annoyed Jim Herd to no end because Cornette was not a team player at this point. I would be remiss in not pointing out that Paul E. Dangerously is dressed like Sonny Crockett here, except with less hair. He’s got pop! Pier-six to start, and the Express dominates. They go through the motions of their usual double-team stuff on Fatu, but Bobby gets caught in the samoan corner and he’s YOUR redneck-in-peril. Fatu’s lariat gets two. Eaton bails and gets suplexed on the floor for his troubles. Back in, Samu gets a hair takedown for two. Blind charge misses, and Eaton gets the hot tag to Lane. Russian legsweep on Fatu gets two, and everyone’s kung-fu fighting. The ref gets bumped, and the Road Warriors run in, demolish the SST, and Lane pins Samu at 6:12 in a finish missed by the crack camera crew. So they show the replay, and play the same botched angle again. The Express were just totally misused for all of 1989. Ã‚Â½*
– Review of the Flair-Funk situation from WrestleWar 89.
– Steve Williams v. Terry Gordy. Slugfest to start, and Doc clips him. Lariat follows, but he walks into a Gordy lariat. Gordy gets a cross-corner clothesline and they slug it out again, which Doc eventually wins after a LONG punching sequence. Headbutt and they go into a clinch. Gordy suplexes him out of it and pounds away, then hits the chinlock. I always thought someone was missing a great move-naming opportunity by not giving Gordy a submission move called the Gordy-an Knot, but then that be a bit highbrow for the intended audience anyway. Doc comes back with a slam and Gordy bails. Brawl on the floor and I’m betting on a double-countout, but they head back in and Gordy catches him on the way in. Doc gets a bodypress for two, and Gordy bails again. Back in, Williams hits a forearm that sends Gordy out AGAIN, and indeed this is where the obvious double-countout comes about at 6:28. Okayish power match that was ruined by all the stalling. *1/2
– Norman the Lunatic v. Mike Justice. Mr. Justice (no relation to Sid) returns from his ordeal earlier in the night to get squashed (literally) by Norman in 0:42 with a Karachi Krunch. DUD Norman’s initial ring exit, as part of his mental patient gimmick, had him getting strapped into a stretcher by orderlies and carried back to the dressing room that way. I’m shocked Mick Foley never thought of that approach.
– Flyin’ Brian promo video, done to the soothing melodies of Yello’s “Oh YeahÃ¢â‚¬Â. And yet he still got over.
– Mike Rotunda & Kevin Sullivan v. The Steiner Brothers. First major appearance for the Steiners as a team here. Scott hits a quick clothesline on Sullivan, but fails to drop an elbow and do pushups. Oh yeah, it’s 1989 and he doesn’t suck yet, I forgot. Scott powerslams Sullivan, and he gets out and lets Rotunda try with Rick. Rick gets a Steinerline and works a headlock. Mike hits a nice backdrop suplex to break it up, but Sullivan can’t take advantage. Scott gets a bodypress on Rotunda for two, but he gets dumped while trying a suplex. Sullivan ups the insanity ante by tossing the stairs right at Scott’s knee and connecting. YEE-OWCH! Back in for the heel beating, as Scott misses a blind charge and Rotunda dropkicks him. Butterfly suplex gets two. Clothesline puts him down again, but he makes the false tag to Rick. Second try is successful, however. Rick does the Enemy Pummel on Rotunda in the corner and alternates shots on Sullivan, who is standing there as well. That’s a cool spot. Scott comes in again and tries a splash on Rotunda, but hits the knees, and Rotunda suplexes him on a STEEL chair and gets the pin at 8:17. Awesome TV match. ***1/2
– World TV title: Sting v. Wild Bill Irwin. Irwin was last seen at Wrestlemania X-7 reprising his role as the Goon. Sting blitzes him and dropkicks him into the corner, but Irwin kneelifts him. Sting comes back with a suplex for two, but Irwin gets another kneelift. Sting tries the Stinger splash and misses, but Irwin stalls and Sting manages to hit it on the second try and gets the pin at 3:14. Ugly match. Ã‚Â½*
– Video package of Scott “GatorÃ¢â‚¬Â Hall poking alligators with sticks to the tune of “When the Going Gets ToughÃ¢â‚¬Â and doing generic wrestling moves against a jobber. Not surprisingly, he DIDN’T get over with his approach. You have to think that whoever the guy who thought “Man, give that guy a bad Scarface accent and slick black hair and he’ll get overÃ¢â‚¬Â was, he should have been booking the entire promotion.
– Jim Ross interviews Ric Flair at his home, while he’s recouperating from the piledriver on the table Terry Funk gave him. The sunglasses and neckbrace just make Flair look SO cool. Not. Not much of note is said.
– World tag team title match: The Fabulous Freebirds v. The Midnight Express. Paul E. punks out Cornette right away, taking him out of the equation. The Dynamic Dudes help Cornette back to the dressing room, starting the Express heel turn in motion. Lane dominates Hayes with armdrags, and the Express double-team Garvin for two. Lanezuigiri and double-team elbow get two. Birds stall, what a shock. Finally, Garvin takes over on Eaton with a pair of slams. More stalling. Hayes chokes Eaton out and tosses him. More stalling. Back in, Hayes dumps him. More stalling. Back in, Freebirds hit the chinlock. And some of you wonder why I hate these guys so much. We’ve had maybe 30 seconds of actual wrestling in the first 8 minutes of this thing. Hot tag Lane, and he DDTs Hayes, leading to the pier-six brawl. Hayes bails, and Gordy jumps onto the apron and gets knocked off. Flapjack for Garvin by the Express, but the ref is distracted, Gordy powerbombs Eaton, and Garvin gets the pin and the titles at 9:02. Usual Freebird stall-o-rama here. Ã‚Â½*
– Terry Funk v. Ricky Steamboat. A big deal is made that Funk is only ranked #10 and thus isn’t deserving of a title shot yet, while Steamboat is #1 and needs to be beaten first. Long lockup to start, and Funk chops away. Steamboat returns fire, and Funk bails. Those were HARD shots, too. Back in, Funk gets a shoulderblock off a criss-cross, but Steamboat dropkicks him out. Slugfest back in, won by Funk. He tosses Steamboat and beats on him on the floor, but Steamboat comes back and introduces Funk to the railing. Back in, Funk absolutely hammers him to take over. Standing neckbreaker gets two. Steamboat comes back, but Funk flattens him with a right to the jaw. Steamboat keeps fighting him off, so Funk bails. Steamboat follows with the FLYING KARATE CHOP OF DEATH, to the floor, and then carries Funk all the way around the ring and slams him on the floor. Back in, Steamboat casually slams him over the top to the floor in a sick bump. Back in, Steamboat runs into a boot and takes a running elbow. Piledriver gets two for Funk. Steamboat comes back again, but the ref is bumped. Steamboat goes flying out and Funk gives him a nasty-looking piledriver on the floor, which amazingly doesn’t put him out. Steamboat fights up to the apron and Funk suplexes him in for 2-7/8. Funk just pounds away on his face in frustration. He actually goes to the top rope, but a splash hits knees. Steamboat hits the flying chop and an enzuigiri, so Funk, in desperation, grabs the microphone and knocks Steamboat silly to draw the DQ at 12:56. I knew this was a good match back in the day, but OH MY GOD. ****1/4 The intensity from Funk was just incredible here. Funk was absolutely on the hot streak of a lifetime in 1989. Funk continues beating Steamboat down, and Lex Luger comes in to make the save and turns on Steamboat out of jealousy for his #1 contendership. D’oh. That beating continues until Sting makes the save for real.
The Bottom Line: A rather ignored show that actually had some awesome stuff on it, like much of the product put out by WCW in 1989. Okay, sure the Ding-Dongs are on there, but it’s short. Two Freebird matches might be stretching things, though