Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WCW Clash of the Champions XIV: Dixie Dynamite!

It’s a random TV special from arguably the nadir of World Championship Wrestling’s dozen-or-so-year-history. Excited? Yeah … you probably shouldn’t be. 

1991 was considered by most wrestling historians (read: virgins) to be the company’s absolute worst year. What makes the 14th Clash of the Champions TV special interesting, in a way, is that it’s a portrait of WCW right before the wheels really came off -- Ric Flair was still on the roster, the goofy gimmicks were kept at a minimum and Jim Herd hadn’t gone completely off his rocker in his quest to remodel the entire company into a live-action cartoon quite yet.

As a shameless two hour long commercial for the upcoming “Wrestle War ‘91” PPV, the program was basically a regular episode of “WCW Saturday Night,” only with way, way more shilling. And since it originally aired right around the same time the first Gulf War kicked off,  you best believe there is some brazen jingoism going on here (which, compared to contemporary WWF levels, was an almost unpatriotic tone.)

The special begins with Jim Ross giving us an overview of the co-main event, which segues into a really, really 1980s looking montage featuring all of the stars of the day looming large over a bunch of CGI buildings.

We are coming to you LIVE from the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville, Ga., where the fans are positively RABID -- probably because they’re hopped up on moonshine and trucker speed. The announcer tells everybody to stand for the singing of the National Anthem, which, uh, is actually bugled and not sung.

Are announcers are Jim Ross and Dusty Rhodes, who promises tonight’s affair will be “funky like a monkey.” And oh shit, we’re starting things off with a bang, as out come fan favorites Lex Luger and Sting! Their adversaries tonight are World Tag Team Champions DOOM, consisting of Ron Simmons and Butch Reed. Interestingly enough, their manager Teddy Long (who STILL has an ongoing pro wrestling career, if you can believe it) isn’t in their corner for the bout. Hmm…intriguing.

Sting and “Hacksaw” Reed tie-up to begin, and yeah, this crowd is really, really into it, probably for nefarious racial reasons. Meanwhile, Dusty Rhodes, who is officially the blackest white person of all time, pimps the Wrestling Hotline (1-900-909-9900!), which allows you to PERSONALLY chat with Ric Flair until 8:35 p.m. Eastern.

Luger and Simmons enter the fray, while Ross makes a hard sell for “Wrestle War '91,” featuring DAN motherfucking SPIVEY! We return from commercial break, and Ron Simmons is whooping that ass on Luger. I’ve you never witnessed a tag team wrestling match before, the plot line here is simple; Luger’s trying to get to his man Sting, but Doom, the evil souls they are, keep breaking the rules and double teaming him behind the ref’s back to prevent him from getting what the wrestling nerds refer to as “the hot tag.”

Eventually, Sting gets tagged in, and the locals scream and shout like poll taxes have been reinstated. Sting manhandles both Simmons and Reed, while DAN SPIVEY jumps over the guardrail and beats the shit out of Luger. Good thing the ref can’t see anything beyond five feet in front of him, or else that would probably be a disqualification and shit. A Doom miscue sends the ref tumbling to the outside, but he remains conscious long enough to witness Simmons flip Sting over the top rope, which is a big no-no in WCW world, circa 1991. Our winners, by disqualification: Sting and “The Total Package,” Lex Luger!

Even as a defunct periodical pertaining to a made-for-television industry, it's still a more reliable journalistic source than The National Review.

Of course, belts can’t change hands on a DQ, so Doom retain the straps. Post-match, Doom, Sting and Luger keep a brawlin’, because good sportsmanship is for democrats and the gays.

Oh shit, how about a commercial for “The Wrestling Wrap-Up,” WCW’s proprietary magazine that can be yours for just $24.95 a year! That’s more than half off the cover price! Surely, all five literate WCW fans from the era hopped on such a bargain, pending their probation officer gave them approval  to go to the phone first.

Up next, we’ve got a World Television Championship title between “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton and “The Z-Man,” Tom Zenk, who wouldn’t you know it, was just named the promotion’s sexiest wrestler. I guess a rivalry there was just natural, no?

In his powder blue trunks, Tom Zenk looks like Tony Danza on steroids, while Eaton looks like your spooky, mullet-headed uncle on steroids. There’s really not much to talk about with this one, outside of a really funny moment when Dusty Rhodes recounts a story of how his mama used to hit him over the head with miscellaneous objects as a child. Eventually, Zenk locks up Eaton with the old backslide maneuver, and scores the pinfall … although a replay shows that Eaton had escaped well before the three count, but what the hell ever.

Hold onto your hats folks, later tonight, the York Foundation will announce its latest member! But first, we get to watch “Wildfire” Tommy Rich and Allen “Iron” Eagle take on  the Fabulous Freebirds, Jimmy “Jam” Garvin and Michal “P.S.” Hayes -- who, by his own admission, is “more of a nigger” than most black professional wrestlers.

All you really need to know here? The Freebirds have what is unquestionably the best theme music this side of “Real American.” I swear to god, I actually heard “Bad Street USA” at a Thrashers game once. Swear. To. God.

You know why Southern children have such a hard time counting past eleven? Because traditionally, wrestlers stop punching each other in the corner after the tenth knuckle sammich, for reasons that have never been fully explained to me or anybody else. Also, the fuck is up with WCW protocol? Throwing a dude through the second and third rope is OK, but tossing a dude over the third one is verboten?

With the rookie ref distracted, the Freebirds hit a double DDT on Allen, which facilitates an easy three count. And then, Ross says something offensive about the lights in a teepee being turned off.

You know, it’s no wonder why I preferred WWF to this. Back then, they had wrestling voodoo doctors, a man who was half dragon and a time displaced Viking who tried to stab other wrestlers with swords. In WCW? Everybody looks like muscular carnival people who dabble in the meth trade on weekends.

Following another hard sell for Wrestle War ‘91, Ross and Rhodes throw it to TONY SCHIAVONE and PAUL HEYMAN! “The American Dream” than insinuates Heyman is gay, who responds with an appeal to the Men’s Rights movement that was really twenty years ahead of its time.

Up next, it’s SQUASH CITY as Sid Vicious, who hails from “anywhere he darn well pleases,” beats the ever-loving crap out of jobber Joey Maggs. Because he’s a no good sonofabitch, Vicious keeps pummeling Maggs, even while medical personnel try to wheel him out on a gurney. And Vicious’s crazy motherfucker shtick was anything but an act -- the dude almost killed another wrestler for real a few years later by stabbing him with a pair of scissors.

Up next, it’s Ricky Morton vs. Terry Taylor … who used to wrestle as “The Red Rooster,” but that’s really a story for a different day. Rhodes’ commentary on why these two are fighting, which is basically a tautology of “I ain’t got a problem with you, you got a problem with me?” is just the most high-larious thing. Also, I think Rhodes’ entire commentary career was just a sly means of addressing his intense child abuse to the world at large.

USA! USA! Wait a minute, he's a what? Well, I'm rooting for Saddam Damn Hussein, then. 

…and we’re back from a commercial break. If you did a shot every time Rhodes erroneously called him “Ricky Martin,” you’d probably be in a coma by now. Alexandra York strolls to the ring, and a picture-in-picture video lets us know that Terry Taylor is the latest member of her pro wrestling stable. I guess I have to explain this one a bit. You see, Ms. York is this nerdling valet who walks around with calculator and tells everybody it’s a state of the art computer, that she uses to help wrestlers mathematically outdo their competitors. So uh, yeah, pro wrestling was doing the whole “Moneyball” thing way before the Oakland Athletics were, it appears.

Morton gets tangled up in the ropes on a botched dropkick, which allows Taylor to easily wrap up his foe for the “W.” I wonder who had more per capita vanilla on their rosters -- WCW then, or the UFC today?

Oh shit, there’s going to be unnamed FEMALE Japanese wrestlers at the next PPV! Well, I guess that explains why so many overweight conservatives ordered it, I suppose.

Cue a video package, featuring Pro Wrestling Illustrated editor Bill Apter giving Sting a trophy for best wrestler of 1990. Rhodes follows suit by giving a speech in support of the troops, who were just shipped out to the Persian Gulf for what was surely the only military adventuring the U.S. would ever embark upon in Iraq.

Following that, out comes Acworth Georgia’s very own RANGER ROSS, a short-lived military-themed character that we’re told was one of the first soldiers to arrive at … Grenada. Yeah, pre 9/11 jingoism was a whole lot harder to market, for sure.

Holy shit, the legitimate mountain men fans in attendance today looks JUST like your neo-gentrification hipster 20-somethings today. Hoo-ray for cultural appropriation!

Anyhoo, Ross’s opponent tonight is EL CUBANO, a generic luchador type wearing a Bane mask. The commentary crew keeps reminding us that Ross ain’t just fighting for himself, he’s fighting for the TROOPS, god damn it. Rhodes lets us know that it’s really hard to read an adversary’s expressions when he’s wearing a mask, and Ross one ups him by saying that the Ranger is a fine role model “for children of every color.”

Not saying the southland has any racial problems or anything, but Ranger Ross sure did get a lukewarm reaction after pinning El Cubano.

Well, if you thought Ranger Ross was an obscure name, here come Mark and Chris Youngblood, THE RENEGADE WARRIORS, a bunch of grapplers allegedly hailing from a New Mexico reservation.
Ross says they better “prepare to circle the wagons,” ‘cause their opponents tonight, as cued by the god awful ZZ Top rip-off music, are ARN ANDERSON and BARRY WINDHAM.

The expert storytellers they are, Anderson and Windham carried the Youngbloods to a surprisingly entertaining bout. It’s clear that the Renegade Warriors (imagine, the Rockers, only with two Tito Santanas instead of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) were green, but the Horsemen definitely made them look good here.

Jim Ross with the line of the millennium as the Warriors team up on Anderson: “Now the Horsemen know how Custer feels.”

Windham picks up the “W” with a superplex off the top rope. We jump to Tony S., who shows us footage from a Stan Hansen and Big Van Vader match-up at the Tokyo Dome. Cue a goddamn AWESOME promo from Hansen afterwards, where he chews Redman and talks about how American ‘rasslin is only about “pretty boys who paint their face up,” while Japan is the domain of REAL MEN.

Goddamn at the obscure gimmick characters this evening -- up next, we’ve got Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker, a Big Bossman rip-off hailing from “The State Patrol,” taking on  Flyin’ Brian Pillman, who gets a HUGE pop as he shakes his Cincinnati Bengals-patterned ass into the ring. Using his aerial assault, Pillman easily dispatches the Big Bubba wannabe with a cross body, all while Ross and Rhodes give him one backhanded compliment after another about his size.

Oh, shit, are ya’ll ready for a mind fuck of biblical proportions? In the run-up to the big Paul Heyman/Missy Hyatt arm-wrestling “match,” they trot our country music DJ Rhubarb Jones, who as fate would have it, was one of my professors in college. Like, for real. And I also had a philosophy class with The Big Bossman’s daughter, also for real, complete with an asshole instructor who proceeded to make fun of him with generic wrestling grunting noises, totally oblivious to the fact that her father had been dead for eight years. Oh god, I’ve been waiting years to tell that story to the general public.

So, Heyman comes out in a purple shirt and starts doing Hulk Hogan poses. Hyatt proceeds to stun Heyman with her cleavage, which allows her to win the arm wrestling contest in like, five nanoseconds. Chuckles a plenty when Ross compares Hyatt’s breasts to an episode of “Twin Peaks.”

After that, we cut to Ric Flair hanging out with Lawrence Taylor, who is smoking a cigar more than likely laced with crack cocaine.

A bunch of cheerleaders wearing University of Michigan sweaters trot down to the ring, heralding the arrival of Scott Steiner, who is accompanied by his real-life brother Rick. Interestingly enough, their actual surnames are “Rechsteiner,” which to me, sounds even more pro-wrestling-like.

Ric Flair, not accompanied by the strings of the theme from “2001,” marches ringside with a bunch of skanks -- white, black, brown, Old Nature Boy likes ‘em all, just as long as they’re trashy.

By the way, this match has a TV time limit of 30 minutes. You know what that means, then.

Hey, and guess who is ringside? Why, it’s none other than New Japan Pro Wrestling executive Hiro Matsuda, who believe it or not, gets a pretty nice pop from the Georgian crowd. Also getting a warm reception? El Gigante, who would later be immortalized as WWF atrocity Giant Gonzalez.

Anyhoo, I don’t have much bad to say about this one. It’s a perfectly fine little TV match, complete with all the lingering shots of Flair in shitty looking submission holds and screaming and looking way too much like Leslie Nielsen with that stupid ass bobbed hair-do he has. Of course, Scott Steiner puts in a decent showing, but he can’t outfox Space Mountain, who spends the match working his foe’s knee and constantly rolling in and out of the ring to avoid getting pummeled.

Since the bout ends in a draw, Flair retains the title. And because this show went long, J.R. and Dusty Rhodes are forced to eke out a tandem “Buy Wrestle War ‘91!”  before the transmission truck signs off.

...and you still owe me some extra points on the final, professor country music asshole

All in all, I reckon this one was a forgettable show. Most of the matches were uncompetitive squashes, and outside of the main event (and maybe the Renegade Warriors/Four Horsemen tilt), nothing really seemed all that worthy of a primetime special.

Still, it’s 1990s WCW, and next to sipping on Pepsi Crystal while playing my Sega Genesis, hardly anything feels as much like a product of the times. Yeah, it’s goofy and its outmoded and it’s mostly just a bunch of hicks hee-hawing while muscular fat people pretend to hit each other, but you know what?

Few things out there feel so much like home to pure-D, Atlanta-grown white trash such as myself.


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