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NWA Clash of the Champions III: Fall Brawl

by Scrooge McSuck

- Seeing as how a lot of the old NWA/WCW Supercards and PPV's are at my disposal, I figured why not try and go through as many of these shows I can before I finally crack. I picked the 1988 Great American Bash as my starting point, and next up we've got the 3rd Clash of (the) Champions.

- We open the show with a montage of Sting in unsuccessful efforts for the World and Tag Team Championship at the previous two Clash of Champion specials. Tonight, he's got ANOTHER title shot, in the form of the United States Title, presently held by Barry Windham.

- From the Albany Civic Center in Albany, GA, and televised on September 7th, 1988. Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the broadcast with Ric Flair, the reigning World Heavyweight Champion. Schiavone runs down the card, with a few titles on the line and some other not-so-impressive matches. We've got Jim Ross and Bob Caudle calling the action at ringside, unless otherwise noted. I always make a note to mention that because I've never seen these shows before, and don't know if we're going to have any special surprises in the broadcast position.

- NWA Television Championship Match:
Mike Rotundo (w/ Kevin Sullivan) vs. Brad Armstrong:

This has potential to be a pretty good match. Armstrong was, I believe, just coming off a run working tag matches with Tim Horner as the Lightning Express, but I might be mistaken. Sadly, once the Cartoon Era took over, he was repackaged over and over again, most notably as "The Candyman" and "Badstreet", a masked allie of the Fabulous Freebirds. Lockup, and Rotundo takes him down with a go-behind waist-lock. Lockup #2, and this time Rotundo uses a fireman's carry. Lockup into the corner, and Rotundo with a cheap shot, followed by some european uppercuts. Whip to the corner is reversed, and Armstrong rolls through a cross body for a VERY close two count. Lockup into the corner, and Rotundo hammers away. Armstrong takes him over with a hip toss, and connects with a dropkick for another two count. Armstrong with a side headlock, and Rotundo counters into a pin attempt for a two count. Irish whip, and Armstrong comes off the ropes with a cross body for a two count. Armstrong goes back to the headlock. Irish whip to escape, but Armstrong takes him down with a spinning arm drag, and quickly goes to work on the arm with a wristlock and armbar. Rotundo tries an arm drag to escape, but Armstrong rolls through, holding onto the lock. We go into the corner for a break, and Armstrong blocks a cheap shot and unloads with rights of his own, then applies another armbar. Irish whip, and Rotundo drives a knee into the midsection. Rotundo drops Armstrong across the top rope, then dumps him out of the ring, allowing Sullivan to get in some cheap shots.

Rotundo brings Arrmstrong back into the ring with a suplex, but that only gets a two count. Rotundo quickly goes to a reverse chinlock, his favorite move, no doubt. Yes, he uses the ropes for leverage, too. Referee Tommy Young forces a break, and Rotundo maintains control with some stiff blows in the corner. Rotundo with a snapmare, followed by a boot to the back of the head for a two count. Rotundo goes back to a chinlock. Armstrong fights back to his feet and escapes with a few elbows, but Rotundo bounces off the ropes for a diving clothesline. Rotundo drops an elbow and covers for another two count. Chinlock again. Armstrong fights back up, but Rotundo puts him back down with a back breaker for a two count. Rotundo dumps Armstrong out of the ring again, allowing Sullivan more cheap shots. Armstrong comes back in with a sunset flip, but that only gets two. Irish whip, and Rotundo floors him with a back elbow, then drops a leg for another two count. Out comes Dr. Death Steve Williams to cheer on Armstrong, even though he's the #1 Contender for the T.V. Title, according to Jim Ross. Armstrong counters a slam with a small package for a two count. Rotundo slaps the chinlock back on as we get a time limit countdown. You know what that means... Armstrong fights free, again. Irish whip, and Rotundo with the Airplane Spin, but that dizzies himself too, of course. By the time he covers, Armstrong is able to get the shoulder up at two. Rotundo with a gutwrench suplex, and that only gets two. Rotundo with a small package for another two count. Irish whip, and Rotundo blasts Armstrong with a roundhouse right for another two count. Rotundo cradles Armstrong with a half nelson for another two count. Then he uses the ropes for leverage for ANOTHER two count. Irish whip, and Rotundo with a big clothesline for another two count. Rotundo drops a fist for two. Then he attempts cover after cover, to no avail, as the bell sounds for a 20:00 Draw. ***1/4 At first, I was going to be a little short on my rating, thanks to some very slow spots throughout the first half of the match, but that last 5-6 minutes really got me into the match, and the final lasting image of Armstrong surviving through all Rotundo could dish out to him to go the distance really helps makes you want to see a rematch and gives Armstrong credibilty as a contender.

- We're updated on Jimmy Garvin and his rivalry with Kevin Sullivan. Garvin was scheduled to have a match with Mike Rotundo, but a pre-match beating turned ito chaos. I didn't know a few wooden boards could break a leg that easily, but it's funny seeing Sting out in surfer shorts and all the babyfaces getting a crappy stretcher out to help him. I don't recall Jimmy Garvin coming back until sometime into the next year as the new member of the Fabulous Freebirds, totally dropping his babyface persona in the process.

- Steve Williams & Nikita Koloff vs. The Sheepherders (w/ Rip Morgan):
Yes, the Sheepherders are the Bushwhackers, except a lot more intense. They go by the names of Butch Miller and Luke Williams, so I can refer to them as normal, I guess. Outside of maybe two of their matches as The Kiwis, I don't recall much of them wrestling as heels, but from what I've heard, it was a little better than their cartoon "comedy" in the WWF. Williams and Luke start with a lockup, and Luke quickly rakes the eyes and pounds away in the corner. Williams fights off both Sheepherders and Koloff comes in to scare them out of the ring. Dr. Death grabs a headlock, then plows through Luke with a shoulder tackle. Luke with a series of rights to the ribs. Irish whip, and Luke puts Williams down with a shoulder, but Williams gets back on takes both men out with shoulders. Koloff tags in to go at it with Butch. Lockup, and Butch rakes the eyes. Whip to the corner, and Koloff misse s acharge, but he comes back to slam both Herders, and sends them packing with a double noggin-knocker. Butch takes control with Koloff, but that doesn't last long, with Dr. Death coming in to work the arm of Luke. Irish whip, and Williams knocks Luke out of the ring with a clothesline, then brings him back in with a suplex. Williams to the top rope, and he comes off with a cross body for a two count. Koloff tags in and pounds away on the left arm. Williams tags back in and takes Luke over with an arm drag, then works an armbar. Koloff tags in and drops an elbow, then applies his own armbar. Luke rakes the eyes to escape, but gets caught coming off the ropes with a dropkick. Koloff with an arm drag, and back to the armbar. Dr. Death tags in and throws Luke shoulder first into the corner, but misses a charge, ramming himself into the post in the process.

Butch tags in, and clubs away on Williams. Irish whip, and Butch with a diving elbow for a two count. Luke tags back in with some more punchy-kicky stuff. Williams starts no-selling everything, so Butch nails him from behind with an axehandle, and Luke drops a knee for a two count. Luke grabs a chinlock, giving me a moment to grab a soda. Butch tags in and drives a knee to the midsection for a two count. Williams avoids a double team situation, and Koloff tags in, hammering away on Butch. Whip to the corner, and Koloff puts him down with an elbow. Irish whip, and Koloff gets tripped up by Morgan. Luke tags in and drops a series of knees into the ribs. Butch takes advantage of Koloff outside the ring, ramming him into the ring post. Back in the ring, and Luke puts Koloff down with a slam, then comes off the middle rope with a headbutt for a two count. Luke with a snapmare, followed by a knee drop for another two count. Butch tags in, then spits at Williams in a questionable act of judgment. Double clothesline from the Sheepherders, and Butch drops an elbow for a two count. Luke tags back in, but quickly gets nailed in the midsection with rights. Irish whip, and Luke applies a sleeper hold. Koloff escapes, but Luke maintains control. Irish whip, and Koloff knocks him over the top rope with a roundhouse right. Morgan distracts Dr. Death, creasting a situation leacing Koloff without a partner to tag. Luke with a slam, but he misses a dive from the top rope. Dr. Death gets the hot tag, and he hammers away on both men. Irish whip, and Williams tries a press slam, but Butch takes the knees from under him. Butch tags in, as does Koloff, and Koloff takes his head off with the russian sickle (a running lariat) for the three count at 17:10. Well, that really came out of nowhere. ** Decent little tag match that went through with the usual formula, but I liked the ending just came out of nowhere like that. The Sheepherders didn't do much in terms of wrestling ability, but they worked a fine tag formula. Really makes you wonder how hard they tried once Vince McMahon told them to act like morons, once they jumped ship about a month after this.

- Dusty Rhodes vs. "Gamesmaster" Kevin Sullivan (w/ Gary Hart):
This is a special GRUDGE Match, because Dusty Rhodes had to have been part of every feud going on in the company. I'm not an expert, but wasn't Rhodes/Sullivan a big feud down in Florida earlier in the decade, and that's where the Midnight Rider gimmick originated? Lockup to start, and Sullivan pounds away. Whip to the corner, and Rhodes no-sells a clothesline, then tosses Sullivan out of the ring. Rhodes rams him into the broadcast table a few times, then takes a few shots at Gary Hart, just because he can. Sullivan enters the ring with a squeegee or something. So THAT'S where Sid Vicious got the idea from. Back in the ring, and Sullivan with a series of blows. Whip to the corner is reversed, and Rhodes connects with an elbow, then tosses Sullivan back out of the ring. Sullivan takes control, knocking Rhodes over in comical fassion. I could've sworn Cow Tipping was illegal. Gary Hart hits Rhodes with his shoe, and Sullivan rolls Rhodes back in the ring, using his crappy offense to control. Sullivan chokes and stabs Rhodes with a foreign object, but only gets a one count, then goes back to the chinlock. Rhodes escapes with a low blow, then pounds away with his dancing jive punches. They herd into the corner, and Rhodes takes control of the weapon and stabs Sullivan in the forhead with it. Gary Hart pulls Rhodes out of the ring, but that only pisses Rhodes off. Al Perez comes to ringside and nails Rhodes with a chain, then tosses Rhodes back in the ring. Irish whip, and Rhodes splashes the chain to knock Perez and Sullivan into each other, then cradles GARY HART, and Tommy Young makes the three count at 7:01. Are you kidding me? -* I would've given this match a DUD under normal circumstances, but the fact Rhodes pinned the manager? Seriously, come on.

- Russian Chain Match:
Ricky Morton vs. Ivan Koloff (w/ Paul Jones & Russsian Assassin):

Talk about a random match... was Robert Gibson injured or not around at the time, to give us Ricky Morton in a singles match? Not just a singles match, but a chain match? Koloff was only about 87 years old at this point, so it makes sense to keep featuring him on television. No, the masked Russian Assassin wasn't really Russian, either. It's humorous to think how rapidly Morton and Gibson aged. The ring announcer flubs his line, saying Chainsaw by mistake, and THAT would've been a great match, I bet. The first man to touch all four corners without considerable interruption wins. Koloff hammers away and drives the chain into the throat. Irish whip, and Morton slides between the legs, then uses the chain to give Koloff an unwanted wedgie. Koloff takes Morton over with a snapmare, then starts going to the corners. Morton yanks Koloff away by the arm to break the count. Koloff dumps Morton out of the ring, then pulls him into the ring apron via use of the chain. Morton blocks further attempts and pulls Koloff into the ropes. Morton comes in, but is quickly put down with a series of boots. Koloff chokes him with the chain and tries touching the turnbuckles again. Morton clips the knee and whips the leg with the chain. Morton tries going to the corners now, but Koloff interrupts his progress, then comes off the second rope with a double axehandle. Koloff goes up again, but this time Morton pulls him off. Morton goes to touch 'em all, but Koloff cuts it off, again. Koloff does a hangman with the chain, but Morton flips over to escape and starts using the chain as a weapon, again. Koloff with a snapmare and some chain whipping of his own. Corner touching time, but Morton stops him before he can get the fourth buckle. Morton pounds away and chokes Koloff with the chain. Koloff wins a duel over who can hurt the other more with the chain, then goes to the top rope, but jumps into a fist wrapped with the chain. Morton drags Koloff around the ring. Koloff grabs the rop with his legs, then grabs onto Jone's riding crop, but eentually lets go, and Morton touches the final buckle for the victory at 10:36. After the match, the Russian Assassin dumps Morton over the top rope. Koloff, in the mean time, knocks Jones on his ass, and this draws the Russian Assassin in to pound away on Koloff. Then ANOTHER Russian Assassin comes in for a 3-on-1 beating on Koloff. * Match wasn't very good, but I guess it wasn't the worst strap/chain match I've ever seen. This was supposed to lead to Koloff joining forces with Nikita Koloff to feud with the Russian Assassins, but Nikita left the NWA with little notice to tend to his terminally ill wife, and in the process, pretty much ended his career, too, outside of an under-the-radar return to the AWA in 1990, and a return to WCW in the Spring of 1991.

- Jim Ross interviews John Ayers at ringside. After a brief research, Ayers is a Two-Time Super Bowl Champion as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, and even worked in Bill Watt's UWF for a brief period as an on-air authority figure. He's going to be guest referee for an up-coming match between Lex Luger and Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Title, but it's not for this show, so I just move on...

- NWA United States Championship Match:
Barry Windham (w/ J. J. Dillon) vs. Sting:

It's time for the Main Event of the evening, and this should be a good one. Barry Windham has been reigning champion since the spring, and Sting has still been incapable of capturing championship gold, despite thousands of chances. He was almost like Lex Luger, except people really cared about him and he didn't suck, and then he really did win the big one(s). Lockup to start, and Sting takes Windham over with a series of arm drags. Windham gets up in Sting's face, and they have some unkind words for each other. Lockup into the corner, and Windham with a sucker punch to knock Sting across the ring. Irish whip, and Windham puts Sting down with a shoulder block. A criss-cross sequence leads to Sting putting Windham down with a shoulder tackle and dropkicks, sending Windham out of the ring for a breather. Back in the ring, and Sting grabs a headlock. Windham counters with a back suplex, but Sting pops back up and sends Windham outside again with a couple of dropkicks. Back in the ring, and we get some more trash talking. Windham wants a knuckle-lock, and puts the boots to Sting instead. Windham hammers away on Sting in the corner, but Sting takes Windham down with an inverted atomic drop. Irish whip, and Sting with a back drop. Sting with mounted punches in the corner, and Windham gives a modified version of the face-flop. Sting rams Windham face-first into the canvas, then gives a "Woo!" to J.J. Dillon. Sting with a slam, but he misses an elbow drop a la Lex Luger. Windham with a knee into the ribs, then dumps Sting out of the ring, into the security rail. Windham heads out after Sting and works him over, and slamming him on the concrete floor. Windham brings Sting back in with a delayed suplex, then talks trash to John Ayers for whatever reason. Irish whip, and Sting comes off the ropes with a sunset fliip for a two count. Irish whip, and Windham takes Sting over with a powerslam, then drops a knee across the forehead for a two count. Windham goes for a slam, but Sting cradles him for a two count. Whip to the corner, and Windham misses a charge, and Sting helps him fall over the top rope. No DQ because it wasn't intent, I guess. Sting follows him out and rams Windham into the ring posts, because he has intensity. Windham has been busted open in the mean-time, and he's always good for a professional looking blade job. Back in the ring, and Sting bites away on the open wound of Windham. Then, out of the pages of Hulk Hogan, Sting rakes the back, and drags Windham's face across the top rope. Sting with a series of rights, followed by a dropkick, but a pin attempt has Windham already in the ropes. Irish whip, and Sting applies a sleeper hold. Windham tries taking it to the corner, but Sting sends him in with his own momentum, then reapplies the hold. Windham finally escapes, with a Ric Flair-style atomic drop, putting all the impact on the left knee of Sting. Windham kicks away at the leg of Sting, putting him down on the canvas, and stomps away in the process. Windham jerks the hamstring of Sting and applies a figure-four. Windham has been doing a lot of stuff that seems inspired by Flair through-out the match, including using the ropes for leverage. Young eventually catches Windham cheating and forces the break. Windham takes Sting down with a delayed back suplex. Sting tries slugging it out with Windham, but a suplex seems to hurt Sting more, and we see why, as Windham has a Claw applied to the pectoral muscle of Sting. Sting hammers away with rights, and a leverage move sees Windham spill out of the ring. Sting brings Windham back into the ring with a sling-shot. Irish whip, and Sting with a back drop, followed by several elbows and a hip toss from out of the corner. Windham fights an Irish whip attempt, but knocks Tommy Young out with a clothesline after Sting avoided the move. Whip to the corner, and Sting nails the Stinger Splash. Sting goes for the Scorpion Deathlock, but J.J. Dillon comes in with a chair. Sting quickly knocks him out, but Windham has the chair now, and he blasts Sting across the head with it. Windham covers, but JOHN AYERS stops the count and pulls Windham off of Sting, and then the referee awards the match to STING by Disqualification? Match time was around 21:00. Dillon gets in the footballers face but gets thrown into the corner for his troubles, while Sting sends Windham out of the ring with a dropkick. Oh....kay. ***1/2 I was enjoying this one, but it was a little disappointing to what I was expecting. The finish really leaves a bad taste in your mouth, too. It seems like a lot of the matches from this show had some questionable booking decisions made.

Final Thoughts: Not one of the more memorable Clash of the Champions, I would say. The opener and main event were both very good, but had non-decisive finishes, and everything sandwiched in between was either okay or just really fucking bad. Although it's not a bad way to spend about two hours to watch classic wrestling, there's nothing here that's really a must see for old school fans.

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