This year, for their annual WCW-themed release, WWE Home Video released a compilation set for the best of WCW Clash of the Champions, a special event television show that ran on TBS from 1988 to 1997. The set features 24 matches over the 10-year time period, which allows the set to show the history of the company during that time period nicely.
For the most part, the in-ring work in the NWA and even in WCW was good, and this set is filled with some classic matches, and a lot of them are being released on DVD for the first time. Discs 1 and 3 run about 2 hours, 15 minutes, and Disc 2 runs about 2 hours. The set is rated TV-14. One edit that was clear to me is the muting of Jesse Ventura’s commentary on 2 matches.
The feature throughout the 3 discs of this collection is formatted very similar to other match compilations released by WWE. There are a few newly filmed segments scattered throughout the matches that serve as nice introductions, but they only happen twice on each disc plus once at the end of the collection. The host for these segments is Dusty Rhodes. I’ve always enjoyed Dusty, but I can’t say I’ve ever been an enormous fan. After watching this, though, I now am a much bigger fan of him. On most of these match compilations, the host doesn’t really add much to the set (for example, Christian on Ladder Match 2: Crash & Burn). The biggest exception to this in recent memory was DDP’s role on The Vest Best of WCW Monday Nitro. DDP added some interesting commentary throughout the set, but Dusty blows him out of the water here. Dusty is a very energetic guy, and he really does get you excited for the match he is introducing while also giving great explanations of what is to come. I wish there could have been at least twice as many of these short segments, which is an opinion I rarely have about these compilations.
The division of matches between the 3 discs worked out pretty wonderfully, and you clearly see three different eras of NWA/WCW across each disc. The first disc represents the “NWA style” era of the company from 1988 to 1990 (even though the name change from NWA to WCW was already occurring by the end of this disc). The match quality is very high, and the fans were very into the characters, particularly Flair and Sting. The second disc represents the “purgatory” era where WCW seemed to be somewhat directionless (from 1990 to 1994, although 1992 is completely unrepresented). Outside of Flair and Sting, the company was floundering, and Flair wasn’t even there the whole time. Sure, you have Austin, Vader, Luger, and others represented, but their characters weren’t really there. The third disc represents the “Hogan” era (from 1994 to 1997, although 1995 is completely unrepresented). Watching this disc, even though WCW is about to rise to its peak prominence, you still feel the fall coming. The first appearance of Hogan occurs on the first match of this disc, and you really feel a change in the direction of the company as it becomes “where the big boys play” rather than the home for great in-ring matches. The format of the discs works out well, and gives the set a good flow, even if you get a foreboding feeling watching Disc 3.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match: Ric Flair Vs. Sting (Clash of the Champions I, 3/27/88) – ****
If I’m not mistaken, I believe this was the match that really “made” Sting. It is a classic NWA style match, and goes for 45 minutes, so if you don’t like that style, then you may not love this match, but it’s hard not to appreciate the storytelling. Sting was insanely over with the crowd, and Flair of course plays an amazing heel. The acting going on here is suberb, and even if the match starts off a bit slow, they still tell a great story. It’s also hilarious to see Jason Hervey sitting at ringside years before he would become business partners with the man that would shoot WCW into the stratosphere and eventually play a role in killing it.
NWA World Tag Team Championship Match: Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard Vs. Lex Luger & Barry Windham (Clash of the Champions I, 3/27/88) – ** 1/2
A decent match for the time it was given. Anderson & Blanchard don’t get in enough offense to really appreciate them, but the crowd was into seeing the Horsemen get beaten up by their rivals.
NWA World Tag Team Championship Match: Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard Vs. Sting & Dusty Rhodes (Clash of the Champions II, 6/8/88) – ** 3/4
Similarly to the previous match, Anderson & Blanchard don’t get enough offense to really make this match work. All four guys in here are very talented and try to tell a story given the time, but it never really becomes competitive.
Russian Chain Match: Ricky Morton Vs. Ivan Koloff (Clash of the Champions III, 9/7/88) – ** 1/4
The Chain Match has never been my favorite gimmick; the match becomes about dragging your opponent around the ring, when in reality the chain is long enough to just leave him in the center of the ring and do a lap around. This match features the usual chain match spots, and does have a fun finish, but never reaches the next level.
“I Quit” Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair Vs. Terry Funk (Clash of the Champions IX, 11/15/89) – ****
A classic early hardcore match. This match was given the perfect amount of time to tell the story they wanted to tell. For me, this is probably the best match on the set. Funk was at his apex, and it’s fun to see Flair wrestle as a babyface early in his career. The hardcore spots are also fairly intense for a match that took place in 1989 (although nothing compared to what we would later see in ECW).
Mil Mascaras Vs. Cactus Jack Manson (Clash of the Champions X, 2/6/90) – **
This may seem like a random match to include in the set, but it is interesting to see such an early match from Cactus Jack. You really do see that he will go on to become something special. It’s also cool to see Mil Mascaras competing; his matches have rarely been seen on WWE DVD’s. The match is very short, but it’s good for the time it was given, and is not the squash match I was expecting.
NWA World Tag Team Championship Match: Midnight Express Vs. Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Clash of the Champions XI, 6/13/90) – ** 3/4
These two teams had amazing chemistry; I would imagine that none of their matches could ever be described as bad. This is a fairly standard tag team match, elevated slightly because the teams work so well together.
NWA United States Championship Match: Ric Flair Vs. Lex Luger (Clash of the Champions XII, 9/8/90) – *** 1/2
Flair was able to get a good match out of pretty much anyone. Case in point, this match with Luger. Flair highlighted Luger’s strengths, and did a great job hiding his weaknesses. JR on commentary does bring up the fact that over this 15-or-so minute match, Luger uses the military press 6 times, which shows how limited he could be in the ring. Flair sells it well, though, and Luger looks dominant when he should, even if the in-ring action isn’t up to the level of a Flair/Sting match.
The Young Pistols & Z-Man Vs. The Fabulous Freebirds (Clash of the Champions XV, 6/12/91) – * 3/4
When looking at the match listing, this match seems like a complete throwaway, but it’s nice to have the Freebirds represented on the collection. They are also being managed by a young DDP, which is fun to see, and the match is reffed by a pre-ECW Bill Alphonso, which is a role I didn’t know he ever had. The match itself is nothing special, but nothing too painful either.
15 Man Battle Royal (Clash of the Champions XVI, 9/5/91) – N/A
Even if these matches aren’t technical masterpieces, I love when compilations like this include battle royals. They give a great snapshot of the company at the time, and include a lot of wrestlers who have been lost in wrestling history. Highlights in this match include Oz (a pre-WWF Kevin Nash), Stunning Steve Austin, “The Rapmaster” PN News, and El Gigante (a pre-WWF Giant Gonzalez).
WCW United States Championship Match: Sting Vs. Rick Rude (Clash of the Champions XVII, 11/19/91) – ***
I really liked where this match was heading; although the start of the match is somewhat silly (with Sting rushing to ring after being at the hospital), Flair, Rude, and Rude’s manager Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) sell it really well. The match is great, but unfortunately is way too short. Had it been 5-10 minutes longer, this could have been one of the best matches here.
2 out of 3 Falls Match: Ric Flair & Arn Anderson Vs. The Hollywood Blonds (Clash of the Champions XXIII, 6/17/93) – *** 1/2
These four were given a good amount of time here, which pretty much guarantees you are going to get a pretty satisfying match. It’s nothing that goes totally above and beyond, but still a very solid match.
Brian Pillman Vs. Stunning Steve Austin (Clash of the Champions XXV, 11/10/93) – *** 1/4
Because Pillman and Austin knew each other so well by this point, they have great chemistry in the ring, and put on a great match. Even with a relatively short match time, they still get in a lot of spots and are able to tell a complete story.
WCW Television Title Match: Lord Steven Regal Vs. Dustin Rhodes (Clash of the Champions XXVI, 1/27/94) – **
This match was actually given TOO much time, and even though it becomes clear at the end why they were given the amount of time they were, this match totally drags for about the first 10 minutes. Although Regal is a great entertainer, Rhodes was very uncharismatic at this point in his career, and the match is really boring because of this.
Elimination Tag Team Match: Sting & Ric Flair Vs. Rick Rude & Vader (Clash of the Champions XXVI, 1/27/94) – *** 1/4
A solid match that I wish went even longer than it did. As I said about the Flair/Arn Vs. Blonds match, with these four in the ring, there really is no way they aren’t going to put on a competent match. For much of the match, Sting was paired off against Rude and Flair was paired off against Vader, and those pairs of guys worked well together. Sting & Rude have similar styles, and Flair works really well against a great big man like Vader, who can also hold his own in the ring.
Championship Unification Match: Ric Flair Vs. Sting (Clash of the Champions XXVII, 6/23/94) – *** 3/4
I really appreciated that this match was included in addition to the Clash I classic. Matches between Flair and Sting are rarely bad (the final Nitro notwithstanding), and this match is wrestled with a completely different style than the other match because it is so much shorter. For modern fans, I actually think this match will work better than the previous one, even though I didn’t really love the finish.
WCW United States Championship Match: Stunning Steve Austin Vs. Ricky Steamboat (Clash of the Champions XXVIII, 8/24/94) – ****
Although this match has already been seen on DVD a few times, this match definitely falls in the “under-appreciated classic” category. They put on a very satisfying match with a solid finish. This is probably looked at as the key moment in WCW when it became clear that Austin would go on to become a star. Its also great to see Austin work as heel, which he is great at but could never really do once he became “Stone Cold” and the fans fell in love with him.
Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage Vs. Ric Flair & The Giant (Clash of the Champions XXXII, 1/23/96) – **
This match clearly represents the point where WCW main events became much less about what was actually going on in the ring. For a match with Hogan & Savage on a team, Hogan does a surprising amount of the in ring work, which isn’t terrible, but you’d expect to have Savage in there more often. The Giant also was really green at this point in his career, so the match never really gels together.
Medusa Vs. Bull Nakano (Clash of the Champions XXXIII, 8/15/96) – 1/2 *
I can appreciate the idea of WWE trying to put a women’s match on as many of their releases as they can. For sets like the Best of Raw/Smackdown! series, it’s not that difficult to find at least one women’s match that is pretty solid. Women’s wrestling was never a big part of WCW, though, so it feels wrong to include the match on here, not to mention the fact that the match they were able to find is pretty bad.
Match for the Battlebowl Ring: Diamond Dallas Page Vs. Eddie Guerrero (Clash of the Champions XXXIII, 8/15/96) – * 3/4
DDP and Guerrero are capable of putting on a good match, but this match was way too short to really be anything good. Eddie is great at playing a heel, but in this match it happens at the expense of really getting in much offense. Overall, very disappointing.
WCW World Tag Team Championship Match: Harlem Heat Vs. The Steiner Brothers Vs. Sting & Lex Luger (Clash of the Champions XXXIII, 8/15/96) – ** 3/4
A fairly standard triple threat tag match. Nothing particularly memorable, but nothing too negative to say about it either.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match: Ultimo Dragon Vs. Dean Malenko (Clash of the Champions XXXIV, 1/21/97) – ***
Even though this was match was given a nice amount of time and told a good story, I never really got too invested into it. I’m not 100% sure why this is, because I have enjoyed other Dean Malenko matches in the past. I do think Dean works better against slightly more charismatic guys, which may have been the problem here. Still, a solid athletic contest.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match: Chris Jericho Vs. Eddie Guerrero (Clash of the Champions XXXV, 8/21/97) – ***
I did get a bit more invested in this cruiserweight match than the Malenko/Dragon one, but it was not given nearly the same amount of time to play about. Similarly to how I felt about Flair/Rude, if this were given anothe 5-10 minutes it would have been great. As I had mentioned, Guerrero plays a great heel, and it works to perfection in this match.
Diamond Dallas Page & Lex Luger Vs. Scott Hall & Randy Savage (Clash of the Champions XXXV, 8/21/97) – **
Honestly, I was expecting this match to be pretty terrible, like most main event matches were at this time in WCW, but this match actually was fairly decent. I definitely wouldn’t describe it as good, and its another match that just makes everyone not in the nWo look terrible, but still, it wasn’t a total bear to sit through.
Best Buy Exclusive: NWA United States Tag Team Championship Match: The Midnight Express Vs. The Fantastics (Clash of the Champions I, 3/27/88) – ** 1/4
A very standard tag team match between two solid tag teams. Not long enough to be anything special, but still works for what it was. The Fantastics are not often seen on home video releases, so it was nice to see them represented here.
Best Buy Exclusive: WCW World Championship Match: Hulk Hogan Vs. Ric Flair (Clash of the Champions XXXIII, 8/15/96) – **
Hogan was really the one guy that Flair was never able to get a great match out of. This match, again, is way too short to be anything special, and this was right after the Hogan heel turn, so they were playing that up big time.
When I started watching this DVD set, I almost immediately compared it to the Best of Saturday Night’s Main Event as it’s WWE equivalent, and that comparison really held up throughout this set. The match quality is mostly fine, with a few duds and a few real gems. The majority of the matches are fairly short, though, and are solid if unspectacular. Still, the program is easy to sit through, and goes by pretty quickly. The matches on the first few discs are definitely of that era of slower matches, and you should be prepared for that going in. If you appreciate that style of match, though, you should enjoy a lot of those matches, particularly the matches with either Flair or Sting in the ring.
Because it was on free TV, Clash of the Champions was usually used to build up feuds and sell PPV’s. I didn’t want to reveal too many finishes during my discussion of each match above, but I will say that a pretty good majority of the matches end in run-ins, DQs, or otherwise screwy finishes. I am of two opinions about this. On one hand, we never get to see the payoff that occurred after this incident. At the same time, though, it gives us a really good look at the top feuds going on in the company during this time period. Like the SNME set did for the WWE, you really get a history lesson about what was going on in WCW during the time.
Since last year’s Best of WCW Monday Nitro set, it feels like WWE has been a better when it comes to its revisionist view of WCW. They really have been acknowledging what WCW did well and don’t focus much on the negatives. I think Dusty served as a great voice on this set and made the Clash sound like a really exciting event. Flair and Sting appear on this set the most, which I think is appropriate. After them, though, Austin appears on this set in 4 different matches (including the battle royal). This is the biggest example of revisionist history on the WWE’s part. If a layman looked at this set, they would think that Austin was a huge part of WCW during his time there, but in reality he wasn’t. It’s hard to complain because all of his matches on the set are pretty good, but it still felt like we got a lot of Austin across these discs.
The only major complaint I would have is the edited commentary, which is one of my biggest pet peeves. If they need to remove the Ventura commentary, then there is nothing they can do about that. But they can have Matt Striker & Dusty Rhodes (or any other group of people) record alternate commentary so we don’t have to put up with random gaps in the commentating. Commentating is an important aspect of matches for me, so I think this really hurts the flow of the set. The other other negative is that some of the matches on here aren’t great, but for the most part I understand why they are here, and I think WWE did a solid job with the match selections despite that.
Overall, I do think this DVD set is pretty easy to recommend. It serves as a great primer for someone like me who really didn’t know too much about the NWA/WCW at the time (outside of what I learned from The Rise & Fall of WCW). You do get some great matches on here, but I think most of the truly great ones are already available on previous sets. And even if the match quality of the other matches isn’t great, it still is fun to go back in time and watch the different storylines of NWA/WCW at the time unfold. As I have said, this DVD really feels like the WCW equivalent of Best of Saturday Night’s Main Event, so if you enjoyed that set, I imagine you’ll like this one too. Overall, I’d give the set a fairly solid recommendation.
What did you think? Any matches stand out as particularly great to you? Let us know in the comments, and I’ll be back in just 2 short weeks as we move from WCW to ECW.