WWE // 2012 // 420 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // June 2nd, 2012
To be the man, you've got to beat the man.
By 1988, the war between rival pro wrestling organizations WCW and (then) WWF was in full swing and, on March 27, 1988, the night of Wrestlemania IV, WCW had their own big show running. It was called Clash of the Champions and aired for free on the Superstation WTBS. It didn't match Wrestlemania standards, but it was a big enough success to make it a tradition. These quarterly events bridged the gaps between their bigger Pay-Per-View extravaganzas. In total over the next decade, WCW aired 35 Clashes and here, courtesy of the conquering WWE, comes The Best of WCW: Clash of the Champions, a three-disc collection that, while really only a best-of in name only, reminded me of a lot of matches and storylines from my teenage years that I'd forgotten all about. Let's have a look.
Ric Flair vs. Sting (3/27/88)
Their first selection is smart, as Flair vs. Sting is the rivalry that basically defined WCW. They wrestled each other countless times over the years and, while this is early in the feud, the match is for the NWA title, Flair is in his prime, and the young Sting is already the biggest fan favorite in the company. This match is very good and a strong start to the collection.
Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard vs. Lex Luger/Barry Windham (3/27/88)
Here we have a tag match for the NWA tag team championship between current Horseman and future Horsemen. Every time Lex Luger is in a ring, I want to start crying, but the other guys in the match are legends and they make up for Luger's desperate failings.
Anderson/Blanchard vs. Sting/Dusty Rhodes (6/8/88)
A third straight title match might make people think that every match on Class of the Champions was for a belt. It most certainly wasn't that way, but it's nice that they've stuck to main events so far. This tag contest isn't as good as the previous one; it's gimmicked by injuries and run-ins, but it's a very decent match that shows once again how ridiculously talented Dusty Rhodes was in the ring.
Ricky Morton vs. Ivan Koloff (9/7/88)
Here, we have the dumbest type of match: the chain match. To win, you must incapacitate your opponent and drag him behind you while you touch each of the four turnbuckles. The match is stupid and I can't fathom a reason for these two to be in the ring together. There's no contest, so there's no way to know, but I have to imagine that the company just shoehorned them together for a while.
Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk (11/15/89)
This one has appeared on collections before, but it belongs here as clearly as any match. This was an "I Quit" match (maybe the very first), in which your opponent must verbally and humiliatingly quit the match. The loser here was also required to leave the company, so these guys pound each other for a good long time, resolving a feud that was bloody and kind of scary at times. This is the best of the early matches on the set and a truly great piece of wrestling.
Mil Mascaras vs. Cactus Jack Manson (2/6/90)
This one...not so much. If you ever read Mick Foley's first book, he talks about the horror that was this match, and it's really even worse than he describes. Mascaras may have been a legend in Mexico, but he was a terrible wrestler, at least at this stage of his career. The one high point is Cactus Jack plunging back first onto the concrete floor from the ring apron, smacking the back of his head in the process. Classic Foley.
Midnight Express vs. Rock 'n Roll Express 6/13/90)
If Flair/Sting defined the singles world of the time, this tag rivalry defined the tag world. These four wrestlers, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson for the Rock 'n Roll Express and Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane for the Midnight Express, were some of the best the organization had (okay, not Sweet Stan) and they knew one another's moves in the ring before they did them, making consistently exciting matches. This one's no exception, though manager James Cornette is sporting an exceptional pink jacket.
Flair vs. Lex Luger (9/5/90)
I have a suspicion that WWE includes multiple Lex Luger matches instead of matches by any of dozens of better contemporary wrestlers to continue undermining the quality of WCW's product. I'm sure they'd deny it, but it's the only explanation for why he is featured in four matches on the set, second only to Flair, who is the greatest of all time. Anyway, I'm sure Flair tried his best, but this match, for the US title, is terrible nonetheless.
The Young Pistols/Z-Man vs. The Fabulous Freebirds (6/12/91)
So, the Young Pistols were mediocre cowboys and they teamed up with the not-so-great Tom Zinc for some reason in this match against Michael PS Hayes, Jimmy "Jam" Garvin, and a masked doofus they called Badstreet, known collectively as the Fabulous Freebirds. There is no excuse to have this match in the collection, none at all.
15-Man Battle Royal (9/5/91)
I won't list all the participants in this over the top rope battle royal, but it's definitely a who's who of B-slate wrestlers of the era. Notables include a young(-ish) Kevin Nash wrestling as Oz and a young Steve Austin. The funniest part of it involves a forgotten, but absolutely massive wrestler named PN News in a hip-hop gimmick based on equally forgotten rap group PM Dawn (though whoever came up with it probably thought that this was the big rapper's name). Anyway, at one point the announcers refer to him as Yo Daddy Yo, the Rapmaster. Hearing old southern white men using words like "Rapmaster" is like hearing your grandmother drop a series of F-bombs; it just sounds wrong. That this is what I take away from the match should inform you of its quality.
Sting vs. Rick Rude (11/19/91)
Rick Rude was, arguably, the best wrestler of his era to never win the Heavyweight Championship, and this match, for the US title against Sting, shows of his talents very well. Sting never really had to be carried, but he wasn't exceptionally skilled (John Cena, today, seems to fit his mold most closely). When he had a really good match, as this one is, it highlights the greatness of his opponent. This might not be the greatest match in the set, but it's still excellent.
Flair/Anderson vs. The Hollywood Blondes (6/17/93)
This is a fun match. The Horsemen, which only consisted of Flair and Anderson at the time, had been taking constant abuse from the young combo of Stunning Steve Austin and Flyin' Brian Pillman, and had become good guys as a result. Here in the ring are four personal all-timers, so I can't help but love this match to death. It's my second favorite on the set and the best so far.
Brian Pillman vs. Stunning Steve Austin (11/10/93)
It didn't take long for volatile personalities of the Hollywood Blondes would break them apart and, almost immediately after the previous contest, their bitter feud began (though, in reality, they were broken up just as they were getting popular, which was always the way of WCW). This is great action, with both relatively sober, uninjured, and working their butts off.
Lord Steven Regal vs. Dustin Rhodes (1/27/94)
Regal was a wrestler I didn't appreciate until much later and, given that I never could see the younger Rhodes as a credible worker, so I must have hated this match at the time. I don't hate it so much today, mostly because Regal plays rough and stiff. Rhodes does all he can to undermine the match quality, but as usual, he fails.
Sting/Flair vs. Rude/Vader (1/27/94)
At one point, they decided to end their storied rivalry and make them buddies out of mutual respect or some garbage. It didn't last, of course, because Flair is about the least believable good guy ever, but it did produce a few matches like this. Unfortunately, this is the only glimpse we get of Vader, in my opinion the best big man ever in the ring, and the match isn't particularly long, but it's good to see him smashing things again.
Sting vs. Flair (6/23/94)
See, it couldn't last. Though this was a good guy vs. good guy match, the rivalry was restarted here, though strangely for the hand and managerial services of Sensational Sherri. I love the late Sherri Martel, but this makes no sense. As a match, this isn't as solid as their first one together, but their familiarity with each other makes the match go like clockwork anyway.
Austin vs. Ricky Steamboat (8/24/94)
Austin had started to get pretty big, though nowhere near the sensation he would later become, and Steamboat is a true wrestling legend. This is the only appearance of Steamboat on the collection, as well, which is dumb, but it really is a fantastic match. My only complaint is the length of the match, but that's awfully petty of me since Steamboat suffered a back injury in the match that would end his career.
Hulk Hogan/Randy Savage vs. Flair/The Giant (1/23/96)
And then the bottom drops out. Drastic changes had taken place within the organization, some good and some very bad. The infamous Eric Bischoff was running the show now and decided that the tact to take was to sign every old WWF wrestler to a massive contract to stick it to Vince McMahon, whose company was smashing WCW in ratings and attendance. This is a terrible match, as Hogan and Savage were both already pretty much washed up by now, though they'd go on to wrestle for years after. The only notable part is The Giant, later known as WWE's Big Show, who makes an early appearance as a massive 22-year-old phenom.
Madusa vs. Bull Nakano (8/15/96)
Of the good changes that Eric Bischoff made, their institution of a women's division, I believe for the first time in WCW history, was one of the most positive. It started with stealing veteran great Madusa (short for Made in the USA) Miceli while still the WWF Women's Champion, a real jerk move, but Bischoff continued to bring in a number of the best female wrestlers in the world, including the great Bull Nakano. At 5'7," 200 pounds, and quite possibly the most vicious female wrestler ever (if you don't believe me, the link to the side is a two-minute compilation of her top ten moves that will convince you), she absolutely pounds the still relatively large Madusa. All you need to know is that Nakano literally swings Madusa around by her hair...seriously, ouch.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Eddie Guerrero (8/15/96)
This is the first appearance from both Page and Guerrero, though Page does show up as a manager in the Freebirds match. Page wasn't on the level of Luger; at least he worked hard. His talents were massively overblown at this time, however. I'm always glad to see Eddie Guerrero, but I'm sure they could have found a better match.
Harlem Heat vs. The Steiner Brothers vs. Sting/Luger (8/15/96)
Here we have two legendary tag teams and one thrown together for some reason. Surprise, Luger's team ruins everything. When he's not in the ring, things are a whole lot better, but I still know that he's coming in eventually, so it's tough to enjoy the match at all.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Dean Malenko (1/21/97)
This is my favorite match on the collection. The Cruiserweights was the other positive thing that Eric Bischoff did during his tenure and for the same reason as the women. He scoured the globe for the very best talent and let them go to town on each other. The Ultimo Dragon is my all-time favorite Japanese wrestler and Dean Malenko had the most diversified repertoire of moves I've ever seen. The match, not their first and not their last, is totally electric and almost worth the price of the set by itself.
Chris Jericho vs. Eddie Guerrero (8/21/97)
Now this is the kind of showcase that Eddie Guerrero deserves, a match with a young Chris Jericho, arguably the best wrestler of his generation. Like the Dragon/Malenko contest, these guys pull out all the stops for a fantastic match. If the inclusion of Luger undermines the memory of WCW as a whole, it's matches like these that remind audiences how awesome the group could be sometimes.
Page/Luger vs. Scott Hall/Savage (8/21/97)
We must, however, end on a sad note. This is the final Clash of the Champion match to occur and, boy, does it ever suck. They were all about the NWO by now and these three of the four wrestlers are just terrible. Scott Hall had some life left in him and Savage, though once the greatest, was a shell of his former self. I've already had to write about their opponents way too much.
Like all of WWE's archival DVDs, the transfer quality is very good, even if the raw footage is very mixed. The oldest stuff looks pretty rough, and it appears that WCW didn't take very good care of their tapes, because it retains that dubbed VHS look for far longer than it should. The sound mix is pretty much free from background noise, but again, the quality varies from match to match. Dusty Rhodes hosts a few brief segments giving a little context, and all that looks and sounds perfectly fine. No extras on the disc, but that's the usual scenario and this set is right on par with past entries in WWE's collection.
It's not necessarily a great collection of matches, and they could have made many more successful choices, but there is a lot of nostalgia here for someone who loved watching these supershows as a kid. For seven solid hours of old-school wrestling entertainment, The Best of WCW: Clash of the Champions is very much worth the price.
Review content copyright © 2012 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 420 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Best of Bull Nakano