Thursday, February 20, 2020

Revisiting WCW Clash of the Champions XXIII from 1993!

Come for Ric Flair and Arn Anderson taking on the Hollywood Blondes — stay for the AWESOME Barry Windham/Too Cold Scorpio title scrap and Man Mountain Rock trying to LITERALLY shoot Marc Mero’s fuckin’ face off

By: Jimbo X

Nowadays, it’s kinda’ hard to explain the appeal of WCW’s old-ass Clash of the Champions cards. Pretty much every week, WWE and New Japan and AEW and ROH and whatever-the-fuck-you-call TNA these days are giving us PPV-caliber main events for free on cable and network TV, but back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, MOST rasslin’ shows were just B-tier midcarders beating the shit out of no-name jobbers, and if you were lucky, you MIGHT have gotten a 15-minute time limit TV title draw out of the shit. So considering the lay of the land there, maybe you can grasp why it was so awesome to catch free-on-TBS wrestling shows featuring actual big names taking on other big names with championship belts on the line — and even better, the joints were broadcast LIVE, which believe it or not, didn’t become a common practice in pro wrestling television until at LEAST the mid 1990s.

Even now, I have a pretty piss-poor handle on which Clashes are which. Per Wikipedia, there were a grand total of 35 of ‘em broadcast over the years, with the last being held in 1997 — even though I SWORE they were still doing COTC specials as late as 2000, but apparently, I’m a lying motherfucker. So if somebody comes up to me and says “Hey, do you remember the main event for Clash 27?” for all I know the fucking thing could’ve been held in 1996 or 1992 — these shows exist in such a vaccuum, they kinda’ escape the normal laws of time, space and memory in the process.

It’s pretty fun to hit up the YouTubes and DailyMotions and just pick a Clash at random, especially if it’s an original VHS broadcast complete with all the commercials for Movies for Guys Who Like Movies and Sega Genesis games. Even if the actual in-ring product isn’t that good — say, as the case with a show like Dixie Dynamite — you can at least cull some nostalgic joy out of all that genuine ‘90s ephemera. But for this retrospective, I decided to stack the deck a little bit and cherry pick a Clash that I *know* is fucking tremendous from start to finish. Ladies and gents, I give you Clash of the Champions XXIII, a live broadcast from June 16, 1993 that, if I’m not mistaken, represented one Ric Flair’s big return to action in WCW after jumping ship from WWF earlier that year. So that alone makes the show pretty noteworthy, but hold your Horsemen, kids — this Clash also contains one of the all-time great hidden gem matches in WCW history, and if you’ve never seen it before, you are in for a TREAT. 

But enough hype and hullaballoo, how about we fire up the trusty old Sanyo VCR player and relive this shit for ourselves right damn now?

If this was AEW, he'd kick out at one.

We are coming to you LIVE from The Scope in Norfolk, Va. Jesse Ventura lets us know that Paul Orndorff can’t compete tonight and Tony S. immediately throws it to announcer Gary Capetta, who introduces us to “All-American'' Ron Simmons, wearing a very inspired purple and yellow get-up while the fans wave their hands in the air, rather fittingly, like they actually do care. His opponent this evening is “Dirty” Dick Slater, and you will NEVER guess how he got that nickname. That’s right, because he never washes his genitals, that’s why.

By the way, Orndorff is in Slater’s corner for this match, so expect shenanigans to transpire at some point. Simmons hits an atomic drop right out the gate, and man, how cool was the conical design of The Scope’s ceiling? Slater with a single leg takedown, and he starts working the ankle. Simmons monkey flips him and hits a scoop slam. Simmons with a shoulder block, but Slater kicks out at two and rolls to the outside. The fans keep chanting “Paula!” at Paul, because there is LITERALLY nothing worse than being called a woman. There’s another Greco-Roman knuckle lock and Tony S. says he’s never heard the word “ornery” before. Slater slaps Ron and that makes him real mad, but when he tries to tackle him, Orndorff trips him up, allowing Dick to clobber him with a clothesline. Slater hits a swinging neck breaker and Orndorff thinks they won, but Simmons kicked out at two. Simmons hits another big bodyslam and yeah, that gets him the three-count. Well, shit, that was *abrupt*. Not much of a match, but I’ll give it some points, just because I’ve always though Simmons’ theme music was so fuckin’ boss. Let’s call it a [**] match as we had to our first commercial break of the evening, why don’t we? 

Eric Bischoff and Larry Z. pimp the upcoming Beach Blast PPV and Zybsko puts Too Cold Scorpio over via means of a Polish proverb about riding a ship of fools or something. Then Michael Buffer shows up and talks about Pernell Whittaker for a bit and says he thinks Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are going to win tonight’s main event. Wow, he actually sounded halfway like he knew what he was talking about there. Color me impressed. And also, white.

Next up, we’ve got WCW Magazine “rookie of the year” Marcus Alexander Bagwell going toe-to-toe with Lord Steven Regal, who is accompanied by Sir William. Then Ventura makes a wisecrack about people in Virginia having dirty fingernails and that’s our cue for commercial break No. 2.

We return to the squared circle and Regal starts working the arm early. Bagwell LITERALLY has a haircut like Beavis, unironically. Regal rolls around a little bit and Bagwell reverses the hammerlock. Regal with a snapmare, but Bagwell counters that with another wristlock. Regal gets leg scissors and Bagwell counters with another hammerlock. Hell, I’ll actually have to give Bagwell some credit, he’s doing some surprisingly decent chain wrestling here. Bagwell starts yanking Regal’s arm and tosses his ass halfway across the ring. Bagwell goes back to the truth armlock and Regal retaliates with a European uppercut. Regal clips Bagwell’s knee and hits another snap mare. Regal with a leg trip and yep, even more snap mares. The ref asks Bagwell if he wants him to stop the match, and Bagwell is all like “eh, not really.” Regal keeps working an ankle lock, but Bagwell counters with a kinda-sorta enzuigiri, but not really. Regal hits another leg trip and keeps working the knee. Man, so many neon pink, yellow and green shirts in the crowd tonight. Shit really makes me want to eat some Easter-themed M&Ms. Bagwell drops Regal with a spinning forearm off the ropes, following suit with a hip toss. He goes for a backslide, but Regal kicks out at two. Bagwell goes for a roll-up, but Regal counters, holds onto the tights and gets the three-count on a ROYALLY botched finish. Eh, outside of that, it was hardly an offensive match, so I’ll give it a quasi-respectable [** 1/2] rating.

Hey, did you know you can order a video cassette of tonight’s event by calling 1-800-732-0700? Because you can.

We return from another commercial break and Eric. B is interviewing “Mean” Maxx Payne. Apparently, he stole Johnny B. Badd’s atomizer thingy, which canonically, is called the “Badd Blaster.” Sure enough, out comes Johnny, who I totally thought was black when I was a kid. Naturally, Payne shoots Band right in the face with the pressurized confetti shooter, and Badd LITERALLY sells it like somebody threw acid in his face. Since Budd has been temporarily blinded by his weapon of mass distraction, Payne (who REALLY looks like a fat AJ Styles) declares himself the winner of the bout by forfeit, but wait a minute, here comes TOM ZENK to avenge his colleague! He calls Payne “a sick egomaniac,” super kicks his ass and catches him with a dropkick. Then Maxx applies the “Payne Killer” armor submission and he REFUSES to relinquish it. Some refs come out and pull Maxx off and there’s this one old bitch in the audience in a red dress who you can TELL she thinks this stuff is real and she keeps yelling shit at the ring and giving the tomfoolery a thumbs down gesture. Fuck, now THIS is what a REAL ‘rasslin audience ought to be like, not a buncha’ beta, cosplayer-wannabe Bernie Sanders supporters like at AEW tapings. And that’s a SHOOT, ya’ll.

Yeah ... Too Cold Scorpio really was THAT awesome.

We return from the commercial break and it’s time for Too Cold Scorpio to challenge Barry Windham for the NWA Heavyweight Championship. I know it’s 27-year-late spoiler, but trust me, this match is fuckin’ FANTASTIC and I’m so happy to get to revisit it. Michael Buffer does the ring intros and Scorpio gets a couple of boos, which is really shocking for a WCW show held in a Confederate state in the early 1990s. Collar and elbow tie-up to begin and Windham gives Scorpio a clean break in the corner. Scorpio hits an early dropkick and Jesse commends him for not wrestling conservatively. Time for another tie-up. Windham works an arm-wrench and Scorpio counters with a body slam. Windham lands some elbow shots in the corner and a body splash. Scorpio gets “am unorthodox takedown,” per Tony S., and goes for a half Boston Crab, but Windham gets to the bottom rope for a clean break. Windham socks Scorpio a couple of times in the jaw and drops his ass with a knee to the noggin. Windham goes up top and hits a top rope lariat, but he doesn’t go for an immediate pin. Windham with a scoop slam and a knee drop. Windham hits a floatover suplex, but Scorpio kicks out at two. Scorpio starts battling back with punches to the solar plexus and Jesse asks Tony S. who Michael Jordan is betting on tonight. You know, because Jordan’s father was allegedly murdered by the mob due to Jordan’s purported gambling debts? Windham hits a DDT, but Scorpio gets a shoulder up at 2.9999. Scorpio goes for an inside cradle and ALMOST got the flash pin. A clearly miffed Windham gets back to his feet and hits Scorpio with a NASTY gut wrench suplex. Too Cold kicks out again. Windham does a little bit of ground and pound and Scorpio lands another dropkick. Windham responds with a shoulder charge and stun guns Scorpio on the top rope. Too Cold gets dumped to the outside, but he comes swinging right back with a flying clothesline over the top rope, landing in the full guard for a two-count. Windham hits Scorpio with a PHAT dropkick and and a Samoan drop. Scorpio kicks out. Windham drops Too Cold with a hard right and another belly to back suplex. SCORPIO KICKS OUT AGAIN. Now wind ham is paint brushing Scorpio with open hand slaps. Scorpio counters another Samoan drop with a sunset flip, then Windham tags him with another clothesline. Scorpio hits a back suplex of his own and now, both competitors are down. Scorpio gets to his feet first and Windham rakes the eyes. Windham sets Too Cold on the top rope, presumably for a superplex, but Too Cold launches him off and hits a goddamn BEAUTIFUL crossbody/frog splash hybrid that pretty much EVERYBODY in the building thought was a three-count. Scorpio leap frogs and hits a Frankensteiner. Now the fans are actually BUYING the possibility that Scorpio can win this one and it is EXCELLENT. Scorpio sticks Windham with a super kick and goes for a victory roll, but the champ kicks out. Scorpio follows that with a SWEET flipping sunset senton, but Windham kicks out of that, too. Now the fans are at a fever pitch, like, 99.9 percent behind Scorpio to pull off the upset. Scorpio goes up top again and hits Windham with a dropkick. Another two-count. Windham catches Scorpio with a right hand as he springboards off the rope, then he picks his carcass up and kills him DEAD with a leaping DDT for the three-count just like that

I’ve always been a sucker for this “undersized challenger that has no shot of winning the match ALMOST winning the match” type affairs, and for my money, this is one of the absolute greatest I’ve ever seen. The pitch and pace and tempo of this thing was absolutely perfect, with Windham looking dominant as fuck throughout the match, but with Scorpio getting in enough spirited offense to make both of them look like A-tier wrestlers. I fuckin’ love this match and you should, too — it’s an EASY [**** 1/2] bout for me, and probably one of the 20 best WCW matches of the 1990s. And it’s a top five Clash of the Champions match, no ifs, ands or buts about it, for sure.

There’s another spot for Beach Blast 1993, which at this point, doesn’t have any matches lined up for it. Hey, remember that VHS copy of the show we talked about earlier? Well, NOW Tony S. reminds us that shit costs $19.99. Gee, thanks for letting me know after I already gave ‘em my mom’s credit card information.

We throw it to Eric B. in the back, who interviews Sting, The British Bulldog and Dustin Rhodes. Huh. I wonder why nobody ever criticized Davey Boy for appropriating black culture with his dreadlocks? Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s because people weren’t overly sensitive pussies until 2011. Got ya.

We return from commercials, and here comes the trio of Rick Rude, Sid Vicious and fuckin’ Big Van Vader. Now THAT is a goddamn rudo triple threat right there. This one guy holds up a sign reading “Sid” Rules “WCW,” and I have no idea what all those fucking quotation marks are supposed to be about. Then the faces come out, with Sting’s awesome shitty pop-metal music playing in the background, which I always thought sounded like WASP, if WASP really, really fuckin’ sucked. 

That bitch's glasses are so thick, she's acually watching Clash of the Champions 33.

So it looks like it’s going to be Sting and Rick Rude to begin. LOL at this one guy in the crowd who has a mullet, and also two kids who probably aren’t even his. Sting works an overhead wrist lock early and converts it into a headlock. Rude reverses the hammerlock, then Sting re-reverses it. Rude gets a NASTY back elbow in the corner, then Sting back body drops Rude and throws Rick on Vader and Sid. There’s this great spot where Sid tries to sell one of Sting’s punches, only he flies back WAY too early and kinda’ falls through the bottom ropes. Then Sting foes for an inside cradle, only for Rude to kick out at two. Rhodes gets the tag and he starts punching the shit out of Rude, then Vader accidentally splashes Rick. Now it’s Smith and Sid, which feels SO WWF circa 1996. Sting hits Sid in the balls with the bottom rope and coldcocks him on the apron. The Bulldog hits a shoulder block and Dustin is tagged back in. Now Vader is in, and Rhodes is punching the SHIT out of world champ and the fans are LOVING it. Rhodes hits Vader with a suplex and follows suit with a series of elbow drops, including the coup de grace right on Vader’s big red ball sack. Rhodes goes for a top rope elbow, but Vader rolls out of the way. Vader hits a clothesline and he lands the VADER SPLASH. Alas, Rhodes kicks out. Rude is tagged back in and he starts punching the spinal cord fluid out of Rhodes’ back. Rude with a front suplex and then Rick screams “YOU AIN’T SHIT, RHODES!” on live television and we all chortle heartily. Rhodes lands another front suplex and Sid gets the tag. Sid rakes his eyes and slings him into the corner a couple of times. Sid hits a weird side headlock takedown and drops Rhodes with another clothesline. Rhodes kicks out. Vader is tagged in and he unloads on Dustin in the corner. Vader with a snapmare, but Rhodes hits a power slam counter as he flies off the top rope. Rude is tagged in and Rick goes for a tombstone piledriver. Rhodes counters it and fucking STIFFS the shit out of Rude’s neck, but Sid breaks up the pin and then Rhodes gets triple teamed. And that, of course, is our cue for all six men to start scuffling all over the place, with Sting crashing and burning on the guardrail and Vader conking Rhodes over the head with a metal briefcase, thus allowing Rude to secure the EASY pinball. Then Vader powerbombs Davey Boy, only for Sting to run in with the loaded briefcase to make the save. Eh, it wasn’t great technical wrestling by any objective measurement, but it sure was fun while it lasted. I’d feel comfortable giving it a solid [*** 1/4] rating — I mean, it DID pique my curiosity about a “real” PPV match, and really, isn’t that the whole intent of these Clash of the Champions cards in the first place?

Alright, time for our main event. For all of you Johnny-Come-Latelies, this bout is the culmination of WEEKS of mad shit talk from the Hollywood Blondes who have been calling Ric and Arn a buncha' old fucks nonstop on TV, including give them the old what-fer in that infamous "Flair for the Old" segment on Saturday Night. Tony S. says this match is "The Battle of the Decades," with Austin and Pillman representing the roaring '90s and the Horsemen representing warmovers from the Reagan years. By the way, this thing is best two out of three falls for the tag titles. Buffer says Ric Flair has had over 6,000 matches up to this point, and for once, somebody may have actually UNDERCOUNTED a sum in pro 'rasslin. It's Pillman and Arn to begin. Brian does the Fargo Strut and we have a collar and elbow tie-up in the corner, with Pillman doing that kinda' gay but still kinda' awesome "rolling camera" taunt. Pillman slaps Arn in the corner, so Anderson responds by elbowing the fuck out of him. Brian rakes the eyes and then Arn stun guns his ass on the top rope. Steve Austin, not quite "Stone Cold” at this point, calls Arn fat and elbows Flair on the apron. Ric gets the tag and the fans go APE SHIT. Flair pokes Steve in the eyes and starts chopping like a motherfucker in the corner. Then Ric starts chopping on Pillman and he fish hooks Austin for running his goddamn mouth so much. Man, this is SO satisfying on every level. Steve takes a tumble to the padded arena floor when he gets back in the ring, he gets chopped like a bitch some more. Arn is tagged in and he stomps a mudhole in Austin ... ironic, isn't it? Arn hits a body slam and Flair is tagged back in. He hits a knee drop and chops Pillman off the apron. Arn is tagged back in. He works the wrist and then Pillman chokes Arn with a towel while he ref is distracted. Brian is now the legal man and he blatantly chokes Arn, this time, without the wash cloth. Austin is tagged back in and Jesse makes a crack about Arn probably having arthritis. "We want Flair!" the fans chant while Austin continues to throttle Anderson. Arn hits Steve with a DDT out of nowhere and now both men are splayed out on the canvas. Flair gets tagged in and he chops Pillman like a sonofabitch and spinning elbows Austin to the arena floor. Flair feeds Pillman a whole buncha' fist burgers in the corner, then he hits Pillman with a flying forearm smash to pick up the first fall. And wouldn't you know it, that's our cue for another commercial break. 

We're back from the break, and it's Flair vs. Pillman again. It's chops galore in the corner, with Flair doing his patented turnbuckle bump before Pillman knocks him off the apron. Austin suplexes Flair on the padded concrete floor, then Pillman conks his gord on the metal guardrail at ringside. And that, of course, is a segue for our first Flair Flop of the evening. Back in the ring, the Blondes double team Ric and Austin hits a superplex. Steve with more shoulder shunts in the corner, and then he starts biting Flair's forehead. Wow, what a great way to get Hepatitis, nigga. Pillman is tagged in and he chops on Flair some more. Ric reverses position, rattles off a few chops and there's a double knock down, per Southern-style tag team 'rasslin law. Austin and Arn get tagged in and Anderson ruins Austin's life with a spinebuster. Alas, Pillman breaks up the pin and clips Arn. Steve goes for an opportunistic pin, but Anderson kicks out at two. Pillman gets the tag and he starts going to town on Anderson's fucked-up knee, with Tony S. comparing Pillman to the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, of all things. Austin is tagged in and he continues the leg work. Arn fights to get towards Flair, but Pillman drags him away and locks in a single-leg crab. Austin pushes Pillman's head down like a Pez Dispenser to intensify the hold, then he lets go ... only for Arn to hit him with an enzuigiri, of all things. Austin is tagged in and he immediately starts working Arn's leg again. Pillman hits a snapmare and climbs the top rope, but Arn gets a foot on Brian's jaw. And Flair gets the hot tag. He fucks up both of the Blondes and hits Austin with a belly to back suplex. Ric sets up the Figure Four, but wha the fuck, here comes Barry Windham to make it a three-on-two, and then Paul Roma hops out of the crowd to make the save. Oh, by the way, since it's a DQ finish, the belts CAN'T change hands, so all of that was pretty much a waste of everybody's time. Post-match, Windham talks some mad shit about Ric Flair while this really fat, sweaty guy yells "WOO" at him over and over again. Then Flair Pearl Harbors his ass in front of a buncha' really excited black people, and if that doesn't make you miss WCW, I don't know what the fuck will. Also, I’m pretty sure Tony S. said “what the fuck is going on?” as the show went off the air, and that simply serves to make an already sweet pot all that more delicious

Just TRY to show me a visual that embodies pro 'rasslin more than Ric Flair trying to pull Steve Austin's face open on a free TV show.

Yeah, the screwy finish hurt the main event quite a bit, but I still reckon it was a rock-solid [****] made-for-TV main event, and one that probably could’ve been a decades-defining classic had it been allowed to go 30 or 40 and had an actual ending. Still, I guess the show did what it was intended to — I don’t know about you, but after catching 90 minutes of that shit, I DEFINITELY wanted to hit up the old illegal cable box and scope me out that Beach Blast ‘93 like a motherfucker. 

As for the unresolved plot points heading out of this one, Pillman and Austin would wind up being Paul Roma and Arn Anderson at the very next PPV, while Ric Flair would best Barry Windham for the NWA strap. Dustin Rhodes and Rick Rude would continue to feud over the U.S. title, and let the record reflect that Johnny B. Badd did indeed exact revenge on Maxx Payne for trying to shotgun his face off with pressurized confetti.  Of course, the only thing anybody REALLY remembers about BB ’93 was that one god-awful mini-movie with the evil midget trying to LITERALLY murder Sting with an explosive device, and really, the less said about the nonsense, the better.

If you’re looking for an endgame of sorts, WCW wrapped up ‘93 with Flair defeating Vader in his hometown (basically) to once again wrap the Big Gold Belt around his waist. Of course, the original plan for that year’s Starcade was to have Sid going over Vader for said belt, but then he tried to stab Arn Anderson to death with a pair of scissors in Europe and … yeah, the plans, they quickly changed. So I guess you could say that, in the long haul, this was a fairly inconsequential Clash, but there’s no denying it had some DAMN good ‘rasslin on it, especially that woefully underappreciated Scorpio/Windham jaunt that I will be singing the praises of until my final days on this here planet Earth.;

If you’re looking for an endgame of sorts, WCW wrapped up ‘93 with Flair defeating Vader in his hometown (basically) to once again wrap the BigThis is just good old-fashioned, southern-fried ‘rasslin goodness, kids — and if you don’t have a taste for it by now, for goddamn shame.


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