Retro Review

Clash of the Champions VIII – Retro Review

Ahead of this weekend’s Clash of Champions, Matthew Roberts goes back 30 years the seventh ever NWA Clash of the Champions.

With Clash of the Champions 2019 just around the corner, Matthew Roberts takes another trip in the TWM Time Machine, this time all the way back to 1989 to cast his eye over one of the “original” Clash events.

It’s 30 years ago to this week that NWA Clash of the Champions VIII: Fall Brawl hit our screens so it seemed like a good excuse to re-visit this event  on it’s 30th anniversary.  This event was the follow up to the Great American Bash 1989 (still regarded as one of the finest NWA/WCW ppv shows) and was continuing the build up to that year’s Halloween Havoc. 

After an interview with manager Gary Hart, where he insists there are no problems in his camp whatsoever, the action kicks off with The Road Warriors against The Samoan Swat Team.  The first noticeable thing is just how white-hot the crowd are for this one which certainly helps the match feel perhaps a little bit better than it actually was.  That’s not to disparage it though.  It may follow somewhat the basic Road Warriors formula, but the SST are willing to take some ridiculous bumps and the all round energy from both teams makes this a perfect opener. 

The Z-Man Tom Zenk debuts next, up against The Cuban Assassin, and if you thought it was just the WWE of the time who would ignore achievements in other promotions the fact that the commentary team of Jim Ross and Jim Cornette pretend they’ve never heard of him will show you otherwise.  It’s meant to be a showcase for the newcomer, and in one sense it is, but at the same time he shows little fire and finishes things off with a sleeper hold. 

After footage of the South Carolina governor declaring “National Ric Flair Day” airs we get a much better “showcase squash” as Sid Vicious destroys Ranger Ross. Hindsight tells us otherwise but when Sid looked as mean and as, well, vicious as he did in these kind of matches it’s easy to see why some would have thought he could be THE future superstar of the business.

After a video montage of Missy Hyatt and Robin Green (the future “Woman”) spending the Steiner Brothers’ money on clothes and The Fabulous Freebirds doing an interview to insist that the Steiners have no chance against them, we get the Steiners challenging for the Freebirds’ Tag Team Titles.  This is the first-ever shot for Rick and Scott and as yet the matching outfits aren’t even there.  You can see why they would become one of the most renowned tag teams of the 1990s though, as they toss around the Freebirds with ease.  A title change seems certain but perhaps the reason why the camera work has been a little off all night (missing certain big moves etc) becomes clear as Scott Steiner is tripped by one of Missy and Robin (we cannot see which) and Michael PS Hayes takes advantage to get the pin.  As The Steiners continue to argue with Missy and Robin (and each other) over who tripped Scott, a second camera angle leaves us none the wiser, for now… Still despite being overshadowed by the ending, the match itself was really rather good.

Brian Pillman makes his Clash debut against the politically correct character of Norman The Lunatic in a fun big man/little man match.  It doesn’t last long but in the same amount of time it took Tom Zenk to be portrayed as a boring pretty boy, Pillman gets over as a gutsy high-flying underdog. 

Steve Williams and Mike Rotunda have a decent match which is another one that perhaps seems better than it was due to the fact that the crowd were so in to it.  I would say it was rather dull, but you could almost be persuaded otherwise by the crowd reaction.  I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Lex Luger defending his US Title against Tommy Rich (even allowing for the fact that late 80’s Luger was a far better wrestler than most will ever remember) but it surpassed all expectations and turned into an exciting tussle.  Although the sight of a botched suplex by Rich which sees Luger dropped squarely on his head makes you wince even thirty years removed.

We finish with the main event of Ric Flair and Sting teaming up to take on The Great Muta and Dick Slater (the latter being a replacement for an injured Terry Funk – we do get a classic Funk interview/promo video before this match mind you as some compensation).  Even with Funk, the main protagonist, not being there, the crowd are still mega into this one and the wild brawl delivers on every level.  Terry Funk does show up and attempts to finish off Flair for good by shoving a plastic bag over his head (in a “move” that caused consternation with the non-wrestling fans in the upper echelons of Turner Broadcasting). 

1989 was a great year for the NWA in terms of in-ring action and Clash VIII is another rewarding card from that year.  The title matches and the tag team main event deliver great entertainment, new faces in the form of Brian Pillman and Sid are showcased and nothing at all drags in the slightest.  Well worth a watch. 

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