Heading into 1993, WCW was running yet another tournament, this time for #1 contendership to the United States Championship. This was one of a series of tournaments that have quite frankly killed me on the concept of tournaments. With Scott Steiner leaving WCW after being given the TV strap, it would appear we’ll have to have a tournament for that too. Thanks a lot, The first and most obviously important thing to happen in this period, was…this.
– December 30th, 1992, from the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland
BIG VAN VADER REGAINS THE WCW CHAMPIONSHIP!
This was some time in coming, because Simmons reign as champion had failed completely. How it turned out was that Simmons was scheduled to lose the title in Philadelphia and decided he wasn’t going to show up. WCW had flown a crew out there to film the title change and everything. Obviously, they were not very happy. That’s probably why Simmons got buried after losing this title. Simmons was also pulled from Clash 22, in favor of what was supposed to be Terry Funk taking a spot in the THUNDERCAGE main event. Instead, he didn’t, and someone else was put into that match. The match was originally supposed to be an eight-man, which turned into six. So, heading into 1993, we have a new champion!
– Taped to air January 2nd, 1993, on WCW Saturday Night, from Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia
WCW #1 Contender for the United States Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: Vinnie Vegas vs. Dustin Rhodes
Pre-Match Thoughts: I’ve just realized I’m only reviewing matches from a 10 day period or so. With that being the case, it must mean I’m reviewing a lot of matches featuring guys I don’t often watch. Vinnie Vegas is definitely one of those guys. That won’t be the case for too much longer, because he didn’t stay Vinnie Vegas forever. Boggles the mind that WCW couldn’t find a role for someone that intimidating.
Match Review: Dustin rolls Vegas up for 2, good way to start things off. Larry Zbyszko said that Vinnie Vegas was basically a thug. That’s not nice. Dustin rolls Vegas up again for 2, then Vegas comes back with a sunset flip for 2. Dustin takes him down with a headlock, but Vegas elbows his way out and misses an elbow drop on him. Dustin goes back to the headlock, but Vegas gets up again to drop him with a side slam for 2. Vegas then throws Dustin from corner to corner, and blocks a bodyslam attempt, landing on Dustin for 2. Vegas uses a gutwrench suplex for 2, then puts a bear hug on Dustin. Vegas holds that for a while, until Dustin gets out and sunset flips him for 2. Dustin knocks Vegas down with some punches, then hits him with a clothesline. A dropkick follows and gets 2 on the cover, then Dustin pushes Vegas into the corner. BULLDOG, and that’s it at 6:22. Dustin Rhodes! advances to the next round!
My Thoughts: I never wrote thoughts on this match, so I had to watch it again almost a year after I’d written this review. Anyway, it was nothing special and I’ve seen a lot better over the past year, so it’s very unfair to rate it now.
WCW #1 Contender for the United States Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: Tony Atlas (w/Cactus Jack vs. Van Hammer
Pre-Match Thoughts: They really had to be taking the piss with this match. I get that they had a spat over arm wrestling, but please. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to subject the fans to watching something like this. It also doesn’t mean I should subject myself to this, but its already been established that if they have a tournament for the first or second-tier title, I’m obligated to watch all of it if I can.
Match Review: Atlas locks up with Hammer, and in no way can this turn out well. Atlas shoulders Hammer down, but Hammer comes back with a few bodyslams and a dropkick for 2. Hammer shoulders Atlas down for 2, then they fight over a wristlock. I mean they fight over it for a LONG time. Nothing comes of it, then Hammer backdrops Atlas and drops a shitty elbow for 2. Hammer goes to a headlock, but Atlas gets out with a back suplex. Hammer comes back with a shoulderblock for 2, then clotheslines Atlas in the corner. Hammer follows up with a leg drop, and Atlas kicks out at 2. Hammer clotheslines Atlas over the top, then Cactus gets on the apron at the same time as Atlas. Atlas blocks a suplex, Cactus drops down and holds Hammer’s leg, and Atlas gets the win at 5:07!
My Thoughts: Can’t say this was good, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be. Still, quite comical. Didn’t belong in this position at all. Atlas wasn’t good or anything like that, but had to do what he could against somebody as bad as Hammer. 1/4* for a pinfall finish.
WCW #1 Contender for the United States Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: Barry Windham vs. Johnny B. Badd
Pre-Match Thoughts: This would appear to be the best match of the four opening this tournament, which tells everyone all they really need to know. I’m fairly certain these two could put on a good show. If they don’t, well, I’ll be surprised. Badd hadn’t worked too many studio matches that I’ve watched. He doesn’t have his personalized theme yet, but it’s coming. Not looking forward to that.
Match Review: Windham and Badd lock up, but Badd is a clean fighter and breaks clean. Windham shoulders him down, but Badd comes back with some arm drags to gain control. Windham leaves the ring, and when he gets back in there, Badd puts a wristlock on him. Windham fights out, but Badd knocks him out of the ring with a left to the body. Windham clotheslines Badd with the top rope to get back in, then takes Badd down with a back suplex. Windham follows that up by booting Badd in the face, and slamming him. Windham elbow drops Badd for 2, then throws him to the outside. Madusa is outside scouting these guys for Rick Rude. Okay. Badd gets back in the ring, driven into the mat, and knee dropped. Windham suplexes Badd, getting 2 on the cover. Windham gutwrench suplexes Badd for another 2 count, then Badd finally blocks a suplex and gives out his own. Badd follows that with a backdrop, and nails Windham with a back elbow for 2. Windham uses momentum to ram Badd into the buckle, but Badd comes back with a hurricanrana. Badd heads up top, and comes down with a sunset flip attempt, only for Windham to flip through and clothesline him. Windham spikes Badd with a DDT, and that’s it at 7:32.
My Thoughts: This was about what I expected, not bad at all. Windham was really on a rool with his new alignment, and working as a heel was perfect for him. He worked well with the guys on the other side, so it was a very smart move to turn him. Badd got in some good offense, and was made to look like somebody nearly on the verge of stardom. Of course he wasn’t. This was also Badd’s first match against a top guy, I think. He did well. **1/2.
WCW #1 Contender for the United States Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: Dan Spivey vs. Ricky Steamboat (WCW/NWA Tag Champion)
Pre-Match Thoughts: This could be as good as the last one, but seeing the shape that Spivey was in at Starrcade, I’m not so sure. This was taped before that, too. I HATE Ricky Steamboat’s new theme. That “Family Man” song is the absolute worst.
Match Review: These two lock up, and Steamboat takes Spivey down with a headlock. When they get up, Steamboat trips him and it’s back to the headlock. They get up again and Steamboat dodges a clothesline, then takes Spivey down with a drop toe-hold. After more headlocking, Spivey puts Steamboat on the top rope only to get hit with a flying chop. Steamboat takes him down with a cross body for 2, then gives him a swinging neckbreaker for 2. Madusa is at ringside again! Spivey drops Steamboat with a SPINEBUSTER, then a backbreaker gets 2. Spivey follows with a clothesline for 2, then goes for a suplex which Steamboat blocks. Spivey puts an abdominal stretch on the Dragon, who hip tosses his way out of that. Spivey comes back with a Bossman Slam type move, it gets 2. Spivey chops Steamboat down a few times, then picks him up and slams him. Spivey goes back to the abdominal stretch, and turns that into a PUMPHANDLE SLAM for 2. Spivey follows with some forearms, but Steamboat’s ready to start his comeback. He chops Spivey into the corner, only to get clocked in the face. Not time for the comeback, then. Spivey puts a bear hug on Steamboat, who elbows him to get out. Still, Spivey catches him with another backbreaker for 2. Spivey misses a charge to the corner, so Steamboat drops the big guy with a back suplex. Steamboat winds up on the apron to avoid Spivey, but Spivey clotheslines him anyway. Steamboat rams him into the buckle in response, comes off the top with a cross body, and picks up the victory at 8:21!
My Thoughts: This match was quite good! Spivey was always a good hand, but he could never stick in a promotion long enough to get a good run going. Against Steamboat, he was made to look like a monster, somebody capable of dominating a match. Of course, Steamboat did get the victory, in typical Steamboat fashion of doing so out of nowhere. Still, good stuff. **3/4, best match in the tournament so far.
– Taped to air January 3rd, 1993, on Worldwide, from Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville, Georgia
Big Van Vader and Rick Rude (w/Harley Race and Madusa) vs. Shane Douglas and Ricky Steamboat for the WCW/NWA Tag Team Championships
Pre-Match Thoughts: Obviously this was taped way before Rude got injured and before Vader won the WCW title. This sounds awesome, which is why I’m checking it out. It may not be awesome, I don’t know. Douglas is so far out of his league in this match that it was the first thing I noticed when I saw this bout listed. At least WCW mentioned that this was taped before Starrcade. They didn’t do things like that very often.
Match Review: Douglas and Rude will start, as Michael Hayes points out the same thing I said about Douglas being out of his league. Anyway, Rude drives his shoulder into Douglas a few times, but Douglas stops that with a knee and flying clothesline from the second rope. He atomic drops Rude, then a cross body follows that. He takes Rude down with an arm drag, then goes for a sunset flip, but Rude makes a blind tag. Vader then accidentally clotheslines Rude, blocks a Douglas cross body, and Steamboat comes off the top with a cross body to knock Vader down. Steamboat splashes Vader for no count, then hits Vader with an enzuigiri. Steamboat and Douglas try double shoulderblocks, then Steamboat clotheslines Vader over the top. That sequence was great. Vader comes back by grabbing Steamboat and dropping him on the rail, then press slams him when he gets back in the ring. Vader goes up to the second rope, and down he comes with a clothesline. Rude tags in, suplexes Steamboat, and covers for 2. Rude goes up top, and hits Steamboat over the head when he comes down. Vader tags back in, and splashes Steamboat in the corner. Another clothesline follows that, then Steamboat winds up in the wrong corner. Rude gets back in there and sits on Steamboat for a chinlock, but he looks a bit hurt when trying to do the hip swivel. That wasn’t a FULL hip swivel. Rude makes a tag out, and Steamboat tries to sunset flip Vader. Vader misses his butt splash, but he beats Steamboat up in the corner and clotheslines him. Rude tags back in, and goes to the bear hug. Steamboat elbows his way out, but Rude clotheslines him. Rude goes up top, and Steamboat avoids him, then giving him a DDT. Steamboat makes the tag to Douglas, who comes in with a double axehandle from the top on Rude. Douglas follows that with an inverted atomic drop, then a flying head-scissors. Vader runs in and Douglas hits him a bunch, then drops Rude with the BELLY TO BELLY SUPLEX, but Vader breaks the cover. Everyone’s in the ring now, and Vader throws Steamboat out of it. Rude then throws Douglas over the top for a DQ at 9:58, and Steamboat gets a visual fall over Rude after a cross body. The guys keep brawling, and eventually double team Douglas. Vader crushes Douglas on the concrete floor, so Steamboat grabs a chair to scare him away.
My Thoughts: This match started out great, but the meat of it wasn’t so good. Ended well too. Rude was clearly messed up, and I wasn’t just seeing what I wanted to see there either. He wasn’t taking many bumps, and didn’t look right when doing his own stuff. Still, I thought the matchup was interesting, which is why I check out a majority of these matches. **1/4.
The day after this, the Great Muta defeated Masa Chono and took the NWA Championship from him. Not watching that, but that’s what happened.
– Taped to air January 9th, 1993, on WCW Saturday Night, from Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia
WCW #1 Contender for the United States Championship Tournament Semifinals: Tony Atlas (w/Cactus Jack) vs. Dustin Rhodes
Pre-Match Thoughts: The match title alone gives away what’s going to happen. Anyone who actually thought Atlas could beat Rhodes was being silly. This was taped the same night as the quarterfinal round, so people got to see these guys wrestle twice.
Match Review: Atlas and Rhodes lock up, and they trade punches with each other. Dustin comes out of the corner with a shoulderblock for 2, then hip tosses Atlas and dropkicks him a few times for 2 again. Atlas tries to kick Dustin away, but Dustin starts working on the left leg. Atlas gets up and starts working on Dustin’s broken wrist, giving him a hammerlock slam. Who knew Atlas could work like that. Atlas wraps that arm around the ring ropes, and Madusa is at ringside again. Okay. Atlas has a wristlock on Dustin, who gets up and counters a bodyslam with a dropkick. Dustin follows up with a clothesline, and covers for 2. Atlas comes back with a bodyslam, misses an elbow drop, and Dustin takes him down with the shittiest bulldog for the win at 4:18.
My Thoughts: No surprise Dustin advanced to the finals given his side of the bracket. Him, Vinnie Vegas, Tony Atlas, and Van Hammer. I mean, you’d have to be stupid to think it would go any other way. No offense if any of you did. I really liked Dustin’s work at this point but there’s no way he could have had a good match with Atlas, who was absolutely awful. DUD.
WCW #1 Contender for the United States Championship Tournament Semifinals: Barry Windham vs. Ricky Steamboat (WCW/NWA Tag Team Champion)
Pre-Match Thoughts: So, even though the other side of the tournament bracket was garbage, there were quality wrestlers in this tournament. Like these two! This is somewhat of a rematch from Starrcade, and rest assured it was given the time needed for it to be a quality match. Windham wanted his tag belts back for a time, but what he wanted more was to punish Steamboat. This is what they should have done with Rhodes and Windham.
Match Review: Steamboat tries to jump Windham, but Windham’s punches knock him down. Steamboat comes back with chops, then throws Windham out of the ring. He brings Windham back in, and Windham suckers him in for a kick to the chest. That’s dirty. Windham follows with punches to knock Steamboat down, then slams him. An elbow drop misses, so Steamboat goes for a bodyslam, only for Windham to fall on top for a 2 count. Steamboat goes for a backdrop, but Windham stops and clotheslines him for 2. Windham works on the left arm now, putting a hammerlock on it. Steamboat gets to the ropes, then tries to fight back, but Windham has control now. Steamboat goes to the apron and comes in with a sunset flip for 2, then gives Windham a jawbreaker. Steamboat starts working on Windham’s arm, trying to BREAK IT. He holds an armbar for a while, and wrenches that arm any way he can. Windham rakes the eyes and Steamboat leaves the ring, but Windham follows and clotheslines him from behind. Windham knees Steamboat from behind, then suplexes him into the ring for 2. Windham goes for another suplex, but Steamboat counters with his own. Steamboat then runs the ropes, and they collide, sending Windham out of the ring. Steamboat tries to slam him back in, but Windham falls on top for another 2 count. Windham gutwrench suplexes Steamboat for 2, then decides to head up top only for Steamboat to slam him down. Steamboat goes up top, but Windham hits him on the way down. This is too good. Windham DDT’s Steamboat, then it’s time for a FIGURE-FOUR. He cheats by holding the ropes, but Steamboat eventually reverses the hold, leading to it being broken. Windham and Steamboat trade shots for a bit, then Windham tries to send Steamboat across the ring only for him to fall down. Steamboat comes back with a shin-breaker, then puts his own FIGURE-FOUR on Windham! Windham hits Steamboat’s knee to break the hold, then drops a leg on it. Windham suplexes Steamboat again for 2, but Steamboat comes back with a facebuster. THE DRAGON WILL NOT QUIT. Steamboat backdrops Windham, then follows up with some chops and a swinging neckbreaker. Steamboat goes up top, and lands his flying chop for 2. Steamboat tries to slam Windham and accidentally takes out the ref, then he heads up top for a cross body that should have gotten 3. Steamboat is upset, but Windham takes him and throws him over the top for a disqualification at 17:34. The referee saw that!
Windham comes off the apron with a stomp to the head, then slams Steamboat on the concrete floor. Windham decides he’s going to DDT him, but here comes SHANE DOUGLAS. YOU CAN’T DDT MY PARTNER, BROTHER. HERE’S STEVE AUSTIN AND BRIAN PILLMAN. HERE’S DUSTIN RHODES TO DEAL WITH WINDHAM. THIS IS ANARCHY. Steamboat tries to save his partner, and the brawl continues until Austin and Pillman tuck tail and run.
My Thoughts: This was bordering on the spectacular. I thought the psychology here was right on. Steamboat gets tired of having his arm worked over, so he works on Windham’s. Now that Steamboat’s arm is hurt, time to go for the legs. Windham is too angry to focus all his attention on winning, his attention is on hurting. Douglas is not okay with that, so he goes out there. Dustin’s not okay with Windham, so he goes out there. The soon-to-be Hollywood Blondes are challenging for the tag belts, so they go out there. Everything made sense to me. Very old-school match here, so it may or may not be for you. It’s wrestling. ***3/4.
– Taped to air January 10th, 1993, on The Main Event, from the Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky
Barry Windham vs. Dustin Rhodes
Pre-Match Thoughts: At least they gave these guys a singles match SOMEWHERE. I mean, this wasn’t their most popular TV show or anything, but I think it’s required that we see this feud followed up on. Windham’s all over these reviews because this may be the best period of his career. He was having great matches every week, and sometimes multiple good matches on every TV taping. Windham gets on the microphone, and says that Dustin doesn’t really have the guts to get in the ring.
Match Review: Windham meets Dustin on the floor, and here we go. They get in the ring, and it’s brawling time, brother. Windham rakes the eyes, but Dustin clotheslines him a few times, knocking him over the top. They fight more on the floor, and Windham goes to the eyes again. Back inside, Windham rakes Dustin’s eyes on the ring ropes. Dustin starts beating up Windham in the corner after reversing a whip, and he follows with a clothesline. Windham comes back with a DDT, then rams the broken wrist of Dustin’s on the turnbuckle. Windham knee drops that wrist, then stomps on it a few times. Windham gives Dustin a hammerlock slam. Dustin tries to fight back, backdropping Windham after blocking a DDT. Dustin starts putting hands on him, then Windham returns the favor. Both guys try to move the referee out of the way, shoving him out of the ring and getting themselves disqualified at 4:25. Windham then DDT’s Dustin, and beats him down until a host of officials walk out to stop him.
My Thoughts: That wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, although imagining these guys doing a 15 minute match sounds like fun. Can’t explain why they didn’t. I thought this was good for what it was, and what it was, was way too short. **.
Paul Orndorff vs. Cactus Jack in a STREET FIGHT
Pre-Match Thoughts: Same episode, but not the same location. In any case, the stipulation here was that these guys were wrestling to see who belonged on Vader’s team at the Clash. Orndorff had signed a contract with WCW and was going to be there full time. Talk about an awesome TV match, it’s not like you’d get a street fight every day. The street fight is probably my favorite gimmick. BRING YOUR JEANS, YOUR TANKTOPS, COME AS YOU ARE AND GET IT ON. Harley Race is at ringside for this.
Match Review: TIME TO GET IT ON. Orndorff rams Cactus into the rail, and chokes him there too. Orndorff beats him up more, and Cactus takes his idiotic bump over the steps. Orndorff rams Cactus into them next, and they get in the ring, with Orndorff landing an elbow from the top. Orndorff eats a boot on a charge to the corner, then Cactus clotheslines him. Cactus follows that by scratching Orndorff’s back, then he tears his shirt off and chokes him with it. The crowd seems to like Cactus by this point. He jumps on Orndorff’s back, then throws Orndorff over the top. No rules, so why not. Race tries to motivate Orndorff, who pulls Cactus to the floor while getting kicked on the way there. Cactus rams Orndorff into the steps, then misses an elbow drop on the floor. Not the apron elbow drop, just a regular one. Thankfully. Orndorff hits Cactus with a can of soda, then clotheslines him down. Orndorff elbows Cactus in the face, but Cactus posts him now. Cactus starts screaming in Orndorff’s face, then plays to the crowd. They get back in the ring and Cactus goes for the CACTUS CLOTHESLINE, but flies over the top by his lonesome instead. Orndorff keeps Cactus on the floor with some stomps, but he gets back in anyway so they can clothesline each other. Cactus gets up first and beats Orndorff up, but Orndorff knocks him out to the floor. Race throws Cactus on the apron, and Orndorff tries to choke Cactus with his belt. Cactus stops it, then he decides to fly off the apron with a clothesline on Race! BANG BANG! Cactus pulls Orndorff out of the ring, then starts beating him down. Back in they go, and HERE’S VADER. Cactus whips Orndorff with the belt, but Vader runs in and starts beating Cactus up. Orndorff PILEDRIVES Cactus, Race knee drops him, and Orndorff chokes him with the belt as Vader SPLASHES him. Vader goes up to the second rope, and SPLASHES him again. That was 10 minutes of greatness.
My Thoughts: This was a perfect way to turn Cactus babyface. I know Orndorff and Cactus had another street fight, and I’m looking forward to that when I get to it. This was really fun. They beat the crap out of each other, this didn’t lack in stiffness at all. I loved the heel vs. heel dynamic as it’s very fitting in street fights. All in all, can’t stop gushing over this match even though it was no better than ***1/2.
That was only two weeks worth of matches, but there were some awesome ones there. That shows what kind of TV WCW was starting to put on. As said earlier, Terry Funk was possibly going to debut at the Clash, but he thought they’d use him terribly and changed his mind. WCW also decided that for some reason they didn’t need Madusa anymore. They did, but they didn’t think so. I’m very interested to see what’s ahead at Clash 22, because they built towards the main event pretty well. That’s next.
Best: Barry Windham vs. Ricky Steamboat. Fantastic wrestling match.
Worst: Running Clash shows so close to PPV’s may have caused less interest in paying for WCW events. Bad business.