Check out John LaRocca’s look back at Clash Of The Champions XIV: Dixie Dynamite.
We’re going to start tackling an era of WCW that isn’t necessarily as popular as say 1988 and 1989 or the mid-to-late 90s era. That means, we’re going to write reviews of old shows as well as record podcasts discussing the era. You may wonder what era we’re covering. You may want to call it the “We Want Flair” era.
Sting is the chosen one. But he’s not the champion that he needs to be. Dusty Rhodes comes back as the booker. Ric Flair is given the belt again. But Ric Flair won’t be there for long. Soon, he’d be in WWF and WCW would have to continue without the one guy who was synonymous with their company.
We’re going to begin with John LaRocca’s review of the Clash XIV. Ed.
January of 1991 brought a lot of change for Ted Turner’s pro wrestling company. No longer was it referred to as the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), but instead was called World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Also, Ole Anderson was out as booker and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes returned to take over the pencil. “Big Dust” was in the WWF from summer of 1989 through the end of the 1990. The last time Dusty Rhodes was the booker for Turner’s company, he was fired in December of 1988.
In 1991, WCW fans had high hopes after a overall down year in 1990. Things looked up at the start of 1990, but Sting’s knee injury threw a lot of the booking out of whack, especially having to turn Lex Luger back to babyface to fill the void. He was red hot as a heel.
When Sting returned and won the NWA World Championship from Ric Flair at the Great American Bash in Baltimore, things looked up again, but Sting’s first World title run was a flop. With no fresh new challengers other than Sid Vicious, booker Ole Anderson created “The Black Scorpion” but he had no end game for who the masked man from Sting’s past would be.
With no real plan, they turned to Ric Flair, and Sting pinned Flair under the Black Scorpion hood at Starrcade 90. Apparently, Flair was originally going to win the title at Starrcade 90, but Sting nixed it, instead saying that he would drop the title to Flair on a different date. Ric Flair finally regained the now WCW World title on January 11th, 1991 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Though Flair regaining the title was already in the works before Dusty Rhodes arrived as the new booker, my feeling is that “The Nature Boy” would have ended up with the title anyways. The reason being is that majority of bookers, book what they know. Ric Flair was the top heel as the leader of The Four Horsemen and World Champion and that is what Dusty knew all too well.
That leads us to Clash Of Champions XIV which took place in Gainsville, Georgia on January 30th. If you want to watch along, it’s on the WWE Network.
Sting and WCW United States Champion Lex Luger defeat WCW World Tag Team Champions Doom (Ron Simmons and Butch Reed) in 10:33 by disqualification when Sting was thrown over the top rope.
As a kid, hearing about this match had me excited. It was the top tag team versus the top babyfaces in the company. The story of this match was that Teddy Long was out looking to buy investments for the team, thus he was not at ringside. This started happening a week after Starrcade 1990, teasing the split between Ron Simmons and Butch Reed. Ron Simmons was always considered a future singles star and this was the start of that push. In my opinion, WCW should have waited for at least a year to start splitting up the team.
The match was as expected, very physical and fast paced. There was some timing issues with Ron Simmons and Sting. The crowd was super hot for the match. A problem with matches like this is that they have no way out, other than a lame disqualification finish.
This match did serve a purpose as “Dangerous” Dan Spivey came through the crowd (in gear) and attacked Lex Luger on the outside to put heat on their upcoming WCW US title match at the Wrestle War 91 PPV. When I watched this live, Dan Spivey attacking Lex Luger came out of nowhere and it was a big surprise. Interestingly, Jim Ross was discussing Luger defending against Spivey at the PPV. It would have better if Spivey attacked Luger to set up the title match on the next TV show.
A funny thing about the attack by Spivey – after the first few shots, Luger actually made sure he got himself in position so the attack could be caught on the hard camera side.
WCW Television Champion “Z-Man” Tom Zenk pinned Bobby Eaton in 7:08 with a backslide.
Zenk actually lost the WCW TV title to Arn Anderson on January 14th, but since that wasn’t going to air until after the Clash, Zenk was still the champion here. WCW was not the only group to do this, but WCW was more of a repeat offender of an obvious break in kayfabe. I never understood why they did this. They could have easily just had Anderson beat Zenk on the TV tapings following the Clash. Once again the booker Dusty Rhodes went with something he was familiar with, Arn Anderson as TV champion.
One of the highlights of the second half of 1990 was Tom Zenk’s win streak. Each week Jim Ross would mention how on a roll the “Z-Man” was on. It finally lead to Zenk challenging Anderson for the TV title a week after Starrcade 90. (Zenk actually won the TV title on December 4th before Starrcade 90.) It was one of my favorite television matches of that era. Tom Zenk as the television champion was fresh and new, and his run as champion was cut way short. I’m not sure why Dusty Rhodes never got behind Tom Zenk. He was a good wrestler, decent talker, had a great look and was very popular.
As expected Zenk versus Eaton was a solid match. A highlight was Zenk hitting a standing dropkick as Eaton sat on the top rope. At the time, that was a rarely seen spot. Now we see it in every Kazuchika Okada match in New Japan.
Bobby Eaton is truly one of the very best workers in this era. He is someone many young workers should watch and learn from.
Back to the action, Zenk caught Eaton in the backslide, but Eaton actually kicked out at three. They showed the slow motion replay, which was odd because it clearly showed Eaton kicking out. Credit to Jim Ross and Dusty Rhodes for acknowledging it or least debating it. Also credit to WCW for following up on television with a rematch with Zenk retaining. Luckily, the “rematch” was already in the can as it was taped back on January 14th, the same taping Anderson defeated Zenk for the belt at.
The Fabulous Freebirds defeated Tommy Rich and Allen Iron Eagle in 5:53 after the “Birds” double team DDT’d Iron Eagle.
The purpose of this match was to give the Freebirds a strong win as they would be challenging and defeating Doom at Wrestle War 91 for the tag titles. Allen Iron Eagle was a big, green kid doing a Native American gimmick. He would later return to WCW in 1996 under his real name, Joe Gomez. While he was very green, I don’t blame Ole Anderson for bringing him in the summer of 1990. He had some potential.
The highlight of the match was Michael Hayes hitting Iron Eagle with his trademark left hand. The thing is, Hayes did not connect and Iron Eagle did not sell it. If you don’t feel it, don’t sell it was what you are taught. Hayes was livid and threw him to the floor. Hayes followed him out and gave him some stiff shots. I felt bad for Iron Eagle as it wasn’t his fault. But, I also understand Hayes’ reaction as he needed to make the fans quickly forget the fanned left punch.
Sid Vicious destroyed Joey Maggs in 1:11 with a powerbomb.
This was a squash match. I remember being let down that I was getting a basic television squash match on a Clash. Vicious is always impressive in squashes though. “Big Sid” was such a star and it is hard to imagine that he would be gone from WCW by the middle of May.
Babyface Sid winning the World title from Ric Flair would have been money. World champ babyface Sid would’ve set up a lot of fresh matches with Flair, Barry Windham, Arn Anderson, Nikita Koloff and eventually, Lex Luger when he turned. If built up correctly, Sid Vicious versus Dan Spivey in the battle of the Skyscrapers would have been perfect for Halloween Havoc 1991. This has me wanting to do a “re-booking” article of Sid Vicious now.
Terry Taylor pinned Ricky Morton in 11:53.
I thought the “Computerized Man of the 1990’s” was actually a really good gimmick and so did Dusty Rhodes. They turned Terry Taylor, who was a natural heel, to become Alexandra York’s new client. The match was supposed to be a babyface versus babyface match to start, but then Alexander York would show up towards the end, Taylor would go heel on Morton and win.
During the ring introduction of Terry Taylor, he was announced as “Computerized Man of the 1990’s” thus spoiling the turn. Six months later, Ricky Morton would turn heel on his long time Rock ‘n’ Roll Express partner Robert Gibson and join The York Foundation. The match itself was very good. Both men are just so smooth and match was fast paced.
Ranger Ross pinned El Cubano in 3:05.
Ranger Ross was a former Army paratrooper and since the Persian Gulf War was happening, they felt this match needed to be on here. El Cubano was Fidel Sierra, also known as the Cuban Assassin. Since Sierra had been on TV as El Gigante’s trainer and translator, they put him under a hood.
Trivia note – Fidel Sierra has worked numerous masked gimmicks, including as “The Assassin” in Portland and “The Saint” in Florida.
The match was fine, but just not needed. I remember rolling my eyes when Ranger Ross came out and then I rolled my eyes even more when El Cubano came out.
Arn Anderson and Barry Windham defeated The Renegade Warriors (Chris & Mark Youngblood) in 7:30.
It was a good match, but I must admit, the Renegade Warriors always bored me. The Youngbloods were good workers, but for some reason, they just never connected with me. I didn’t even like their squash matches.
However, this was probably their best match in WCW. It’s hard to have a bad match with Anderson and Windham.
Leading up to this Clash, WCW produced great black and white videos of Anderson and Windham in a junk yard destroying old cars with sledgehammers. As a viewer, you felt they were gearing up for some more wild matches between The Horsemen and Doom for the belts. After this match, that was soon dropped. Anderson became the TV champion and Windham went into a program with Brian Pillman.
Brian Pillman pinned Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker in 3:17.
This was a showcase match for Brian Pillman. Now, I like Buddy Lee Parker a lot. I used to love The State Patrol matches on television each and every week. I just don’t want to see guys like Buddy Lee Parker, Joey Maggs or masked jobbers like El Cubano on a Clash Of Champions. Squash matches devalued the Clash and took away from that big show feel.
WCW World Champion Ric Flair and Scott Steiner battled to a TV time limit draw.
Looking back at this match, it was a lot better then I remembered it. When this match was announced, I lost my mind. Scott Steiner was always someone I saw as a future World Champion. In the summer of 1990, WCW had a gimmick called “Gauntlet For The Gold.” The gauntlet would take place over a weekend on WCW’s television shows. There would be one runner of the gauntlet and three blockers.
The first match would be Friday on “The Power Hour”, the second match would be Saturday on “World Championship Wrestling” and the final match of the gauntlet was Sunday on “The Main Event.” This was a great idea. It gets the fans interested in watching all three television shows. Scott Steiner was the second man to run the gauntlet. I forget who he beat on the Power Hour, but he would wrestle Ric Flair on Saturday. The match was very good and exciting. Scott Steiner ended up pinning Ric Flair with some help from his brother Rick Steiner. You can watch that match below.
So now with Scott Steiner taking on “The Nature Boy” with the title on the line, I felt the title would change hands. Look at how much results meant back then. That match back in the summer of 1990 played into my excitement for this match in January of 1991. Now, I don’t think Ole Anderson planned it that way, but big wins like that don’t go forgotten. For weeks, I envisioned Ric Flair getting pinned after the hottest move in wrestling at the time, The Frankensteiner.
However, while watching, I remember thinking it was going to go “broadway” within the first ten minutes of the match. That result felt so telegraphed and it took the excitement out of the match for me. Though Scott was explosive and had some great moves, he lacked in the charisma department early in his career.
That really hurt the match. Though the fans loved Scott Steiner, it wasn’t like it was Sting, Luger, or even Rick Steiner challenging for the title. Honestly, the match would have been hotter if it was Rick Steiner challenging instead. This was a typical Ric Flair style match, which is a good thing because I love Ric Flair matches. It was pretty nutty seeing Ric Flair taking a “Tiger Driver” in this match.
The ending was mistimed. The idea was the time would run out just as the referee was about to count three. Steiner took way too long and by the time he hit the belly to belly suplex and covered for the pin, the ring announcer was counting down the time limit already. As the referee was counting three, they finally rang the bell. Some people reacted like it was a near fall, but others you sense could tell it was mistimed. The final minute was hot and the crowd was desperate for Steiner to hit that last big move for the pin.
WCW wanted Scott Steiner to walk out of this match like Sting walked out of his match with Flair at the first Clash Of Champions; a future World champion. Though it was a good match, in the end, this match showed that Scott Steiner was a long ways away from a singles title run.