On Sunday September 25th, the WWE will be bringing back the Clash of Champions pay per view event. The difference this time around is that, despite the name originating in WCW, Clash of Champions is now the property of the WWE. Fans will have the opportunity to see potentially classic confrontations between Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens and Sasha Banks and Charlotte. There is also the potential for a solid tag match, if given time, between Anderson and Gallows and The New Day. However, that is the present; the Clash has a long history that dates back to its debut in 1988.
The first three Clashes were presented by Jim Crockett’s National Wrestling Alliance promotion, while the remaining four through thirty five were under the WCW umbrella. It is an event that has seen a number of ups and down, great to awful and somewhere in between. However, certain matches stood out for one reason or another, whether it was classic confrontations between legendary talent and poorly wrestled battles where one performer appeared to have dropped the ball. Which matches stood out as great and which ones were easily forgettable. Let us explore the best of the best and the worst of the worst as it applies to the history of the Clash of Champions.
8. Clash of Champions XXXIV: WCW Cruiserweight Champion Ultimo Dragon vs. Dean Malenko
As WWE’s Cruiserweight division is set to emerge, how can we forget one of the most technically sound and high paced matches in Clash of Champions history, between one of the most decorated champions in Japan in Ultimo Dragon, and the second generation man of a thousand holds, Dean Malenko. All these two needed was time to work. Containing high paced exchanges between the two plus a combination of holds that were transitioned well, this match was a classic.
Often times rest holds are considered a hindrance, but in this match it only added to the storytelling. With all the matches over the history of Clash of Champions, it is easy to forget that these two put on a match worthy of four stars. One can only hope that this type of match can take place at the upcoming show.
7. Clash of Champions XXVIII: WCW U.S. Heavyweight Champion Steve Austin vs. Ricky Steamboat
These two men were known for being amongst the best workers in the industry during their time. However, before Stunning Steve became Stone Cold, he and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat tangled in a match that showcased a changing of the guard. Steamboat’s career was coming to a close, but if there was something fans always could appreciate about Ricky it was his ability to sell every move he was hit with. Austin and Steamboat did battle in a match.
However, it didn’t matter who came out victorious, all that mattered was that the young stud in Austin and the quick and savvy veteran were putting on another classic that fans today could very much appreciate. It still stands up, and anyone who hasn’t seen it should take the time to watch it on the WWE Network.
6. Clash of Champions I: NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs. Sting
The storied rivalry between Flair and Sting went on for years. Through that time, fans were privy to two men that could put on matches that went 30 or 45 minutes in length. The first Clash pitted the veteran Flair against the young upstart Sting. In this match they told a story that showcased speed, strength and finesse. Although the name of ‘The dirtiest player in the game’ didn’t come about until years later, Flair was as crafty as they come, and this battle showcased that.
So many Clashes of Champions have taken place in WCW and even the WWE, this was something special and this match is still remembered today. It is a match that set the bar, and without question is still considered among one of the best matches in the events history.
5. Clash of Champions IV: The Midnight Express vs. Ric Flair & Barry Windham
If there was something the National Wrestling Alliance was known for during the 1980s, it was the impressive calibre of tag teams they had. Even wrestlers who were impressive as singles were capable of putting on exciting tag matches that fans appreciated. Flair and Windham were part of the Four Horsemen, and though they were aligned with one another they didn’t regularly tag. Their opponents on the other hand were the Midnight Express, managed by Jim Cornette.
Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton were arguably the greatest team of the decade, and when they faced the Horsemen, they gave them all they could handle. It is often said that a dance is only as good as who your dance partner is. This tag team match up showcased just how good both teams could be, thus making the dance between them during Clash of Champions IV one to remember.
4. Clash of Champions I: NWA World Tag Team Champions Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Lex Luger & Barry Windham
Much like the matchup between Ric Flair and Sting during the first Clash, this battle involved four men that would all at some point be members of the exclusive Four Horsemen group. With the NWA tag team championships held in the balance, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard squared off against a young, but knowledgeable tandem consisting of second generation wrestler Barry Windham and the Total Package Lex Luger.
Despite not being the wrestler he was prior to a motorcycle accident, Luger stil very good, and this match certainly highlighted that. It was clear that even though Luger and Windham had the height advantage, Blanchard and Anderson’s ability to use leverage to wear down their opponents were evident. In the event that fans haven’t watched it then seek out this tag team match from the inaugural Clash of Champions.
3. Clash of Champions I: NWA U.S. Tag Team Champions The Midnight Express vs. The Fantastics
One of the most underrated tag teams during the 1980s was the tandem of Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers, known as The Fantastics. While their look was somewhat bubble gum, when they stepped into the ring their tandem work was second to none. Well, it was second to one team, and that was the Midnight Express. Despite having multiple incarnations, the version of the Midnights at the first Clash of Champions was the tandem of ‘Beautiful’ Bobby Eaton and ‘Sweet’ Stane Lane.
If there was one thing that always stood out about the Midnight Express, outside their incredible in-ring work, it was the involvement of their manager and mouth piece, the tennis racquet wielding Jim Cornette. This match may seem a dated because of their looks, but don’t overlook their ability to lead fans through an incredible journey, with storytelling throughout.
2. Clash of Champions IX: NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk – “I Quit” Match
Two of the most prominent names in wrestling during the 1970s and 1980s were Funk and Flair. Whether it was Dory Jr and his brother Terry, or ‘the Nature Boy’ Ric Flair, they were a featured attraction everywhere they went. During the 1989 event, the NWA World Heavyweight championship was put on the line in an ‘I Quit’ match. As many fans know, the premise of an ‘I Quit’ match is to put your opponent in a position where they can no longer withstand the onslaught they are facing and are forced to surrender.
For as different as these men were outside the ring, they were without question very similar when we look at their careers in the ring. The match went about twenty minutes, and featured Flair as the face and Funk as the heel, managed by Gary Hart. The match concluded with Funk surrendering, much to the chagrin of a disgruntled Hart.
1. Clash of Champions VI: NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair – 2/3 Falls
This rivalry is one of the longest running ones in wrestling history. For all of the bitterness these two had towards one another inside the ring, there was respected for what each could bring to this match. It puts two of the greatest wrestlers of all-time against one another, with the champion Ricky Steamboat facing the bitter heel, the ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair. This match went nearly an hour, and was a best 2 out of 3 falls match. The match had a one hour time limit, and Steamboat came out victorious with less than four minutes remaining.
To watch the look on these two men’s faces from beginning to end, you can see the toll it had on them. The sweat, the fatigue and the complete exhaustion certainly showed.
7. Clash of Champions XIII: Sid Vicious vs. The Nightstalker
For all the good that has come from Clash of Champions, there has been a great deal of bad. He often referred to himself as the master and ruler of the world, but when Sid Vicious faced off against The Nightstalker, there was little to no ruling taking place. In fact, the battle was thankfully brief, but still painful for anyone who saw it; it was just under five minutes in length, but felt longer.
Vicious loved to tell fans just how good he was, but when facing someone that is equally big it often leads to slow and plodding moves that don’t excite anyone watching. A bear hug administered to someone that is equally big just isn’t convincing, and someone should have told them that. We’d like to pretend the match didn’t take place, but sadly there is video evidence to prove otherwise.
6. Clash of Champions IV: Ivan Koloff vs Paul Jones
It may be hard to believe that the Russian Bear Ivan Koloff could be a part of something this bad. However, sadly, Koloff is human, and even the man responsible for ending the championship run of Bruno Sammartino can only do so much. Jones was a manager at the time, so it is understandable why this match is considered so bad.
The silly nature of this match was exemplified by the stipulation that Koloff had to compete with one hand tied behind his back. Thankfully, despite having the odds stacked against him, Koloff was victorious. The question is, when you are as successful as this, and you’re facing a manager, are the odds truly against you?
5. Clash of Champions XXXI: Road Warrior Hawk and Sting vs. Kurosawa and Meng
Meng was a legitimate tough guy, so this should have been a fairly competitive and solid match up, especially when we add the fact that Sting has put on great matches. The match came about initially because of an ‘injury’ to Road Warrior Animal. In the interim, Hawk was being used sparingly, and this teaming led to something that would be great to forget.
A lot of the criticism around the match was the sloppy nature of the exchanges, and the mistakes that were made in the ring. Much of the issues that plagued this match seemed to revolve around Hawk. He was either guilty of no selling offense from his opposition, or looking weak during the moves he hit. Whether it was his delivery or his slow and plodding nature, Hawk was what made this match look as bad as it did.
4. Clash of Champions XXV: Rick Rude vs. Road Warrior Hawk
This was a case where a tag team wrestler appears to be a better off staying in a tag team. It was very silly at times, such as hair pulling attempts on a wrestler with little to no hair to grab. A regular problem for Hawk was his inability to sell the offense of his opponents. Truth be told, Rude was one of the toughest guys around, so for Hawk to not respect his offense knowing what he is capable of was a slap in the face.
The match resulted in a double count out, as the referee appeared to have made a rather quick count to end this torturous match. This is nothing like the matches between Rude and Steamboat, that is for certain.
3. Clash of Champions XVI: Van Hammer vs. Terrance Taylor
Ever watch a great wrestler who is allowed time to show their craft and provide endless sequences of great moves over and over again? That would normally be the case for Terry, or rather Terrance, Taylor. During Clash of Champions XVI, Taylor, who had a technically sound wrestling background with a great deal of experience was poised to take on the younger Van Hammer. Van Hammer later on in his WCW career was part of Raven’s flock, and on this occasion he went over the more experienced Taylor.
The match itself is a blur, and actually an insult to Taylor’s ability to tell a story in the ring. It began with Terrance hitting a cheapshot on Van Hammer, just to have Van Hammer ultimately take control and get the win, when a couple of clotheslines, and a diving knee drop to Taylor’s back was too much for him. It’s really hard to give the company credit, when it forces its talent to produce matches like this.
2. Clash of Champions XIII: Lex Luger vs. The Motor City Madman
If fans don’t recall this match, then they shouldn’t worry. The match was another painful example of a lame WCW gimmick. While it would have been nice if the Motor City Madman gimmick evolved into something else for the person performing it, sadly this is where his career essentially started and stopped. The match was filled with typical rule breaking by the Madman as he took advantage of a distracted Luger. However, then there was mistake after mistake by the Madman, and the match was only a few minutes long. Featuring only punches, kicks and clotheslines, there really wasn’t much to this match.
It ended in a clothesline by Luger that led to the win. This was an instance where one wrestler had to make the other one look decent. The Madmen appeared clumsy, and a much more refined in ring style could have made that two plus minutes easier to watch.
1. Clash of Champions XXV: The Shockmaster vs The Equalizer
Fans will remember one of the most infamous debuts in WCW history was that of the Shockmaster. From his failed entrance through a wall to his helmet falling off, it was as sad state of affairs for the man formerly known as Typhoon and Tugboat in the WWF. The man playing the part of the Equalizer was formerly known as Dave Sullivan, the on-screen brother of Kevin Sullivan.
The Equalizer got the early advantage with a number of kicks and punches, but after pandering to the crowd he resorted to a slow, plodding combination of chokes, punches and attempts to strangle the Shockmaster. There was a suplex that led to a pin attempt, then failed shoulder tackles that helped create the illusion Shockmaster was making a comeback. The pin appeared to be a bearhug that led to a failed spinebuster on the part of the Shockmaster. It was awful.
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