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
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
Anderson/Blanchard vs. Sting/Dusty Rhodes (6/8/88)
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
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)
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)
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)
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
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
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
Hulk Hogan/Randy Savage vs. Flair/The Giant (1/23/96)
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
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.