Clash of the Champions 28

It was the perfect mystery, until it wasn’t.

It’s a new era in WCW as Hulk Hogan won the WCW World Heavyweight International Championship at BASH AT THE BEACH! Now, the Hulkster has to defend the belt, and the new look of WCW as former champ Ric Flair gets a rematch.

Pretty Wonderful vs. The Nasty Boys – Pretty Wonderful are the tag team champions, but this is non-title. Lead announcer Tony Schiavone makes a point of saying that many major WCW superstars are not at a MAJOR PRIME TIME CABLE EVENT for whatever reason, including Sting. That’ll be important later on. The team of Paul Roma and Paul Orndorff was a pretty underrated tag team. Overall, the mid-1990s was a good time for tag team wrestling in WCW. Roma is much better suited to the cocky heel team than being a member of the Horsemen, which he was a year ago. At ringside, we see a loud and obnoxious Barry Darsow – the former Demolition Smash and Repo Man – yelling at the Nasty Boys, setting up the debut of Big Bully Busick, I believe. What a shock, we’re seeing more former WWF guys getting air time with Hulk Hogan in the promotion. Schiavone even previews the debut of the Honky Tonk Man! There’s a lot going on in this match that has absolutely nothing to do with the match, and Schiavone does a great job of moving everything forward with Bobby Heenan as his color man. The Nasty Boys win the nontitle match, but that’s really incidental.

“Mean” Gene Okerlund brings out Hulk Hogan for an interview, and a masked man clips his knee with a lead pipe. Did anyone check on the whereabouts of Tonya Harding? Eric Bischoff, the executive producer of WCW at the time, can be seen kneeling at Hogan’s side, hoping his new cash cow isn’t completely ruined. Heenan says he got word from the back that they’ve locked the doors and won’t let anyone out until they figure out what happened. I think that’s a fire hazard, but I always loved those little bits that Heenan added in to make things feel more important. How will this affect tonight’s main event?

United States Heavyweight Championship Match: “Stunning” Steve Austin vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – If Austin gets disqualified, he loses the title. Schiavone and Heenan stop talking during the start of the match to talk, off-mic, to someone named Ron about what happened to Hogan. Scintillating television. Thankfully, the match can keep my attention, as even before he became “Stone Cold” and the hottest thing wrestling had seen since Hulkamania, Austin was still a hell of a hand. And his opponent is Ricky Steamboat, so this match isn’t going to be dull. Heenan makes the reference to Hogan’s attacker doing a “Perfect” job. It’s a shame nothing ever came of that. Curt Hennig in WCW at this point might have been really great. Austin tries to throw Steamboat over the top rope, which would be a disqualification in WCW and cost him the United States title, but Steamboat stops his momentum and skins the cat back over the top. It made me think of the line from Spaceballs – “Evil will always win because good is dumb.” Just take the easy win, Dragon! But noooooo. Steamboat does manage to overcome and get a dreaded small package on Austin to win the match and the title.

Unfortunately, Steamboat suffered a career-ending back injury during this match and would be out of action for close to 15 years.

In the midst of all the panic about what’s going on with Hulk Hogan, we get the debut of a new Honky Tonk Man music video, which seems a whole lot like his WWF entrance theme, but with a few words changed here and there. Jimmy Hart must’ve been busy, because he really half-assed that one.

“Mean” Gene brings out WCW Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel, who says that Hogan must make it to the ring for his match tonight or else he must forfeit the title. WCW ran this same angle at the Clash of the Champions in November 1991, when Rick Rude was challenging Sting for the U.S. Title and Lex Luger clipped the champ’s leg. Sting lost that match, along with the title.

Terry Funk and Bunkhouse Buck vs. Dusty and Dustin Rhodes – Buck and Funk is hard to say without accidentally swearing. This was set up in the aftermath of Arn Anderson turning on Dustin at Bash at the Beach in July. Why isn’t Anderson in this match? Well, someone had to get dressed in all black to hit Hogan in the knee. I love tag team wrestling, but a grudge match between four guys where they all wait their turn to get into the ring seems silly. This should have been a match like the Nasty Boys had with Cactus Jack and Kevin Sullivan, just an all over the place brawl. The fans are all about Dusty Rhodes. Anderson finally changes into street clothes and comes down to interfere in the match and cause the disqualification, ensuring that this feud MUST CONTINUE! In fact, it may just be all-out war! After the match, Meng comes in to help the beatdown and Dusty stands up to him, threatening him with a punch and then an elbow before leaving the ring to get a wooden folding chair. He breaks it over Meng’s head and Meng no-sells it in one of the best moments of the show.

At the hospital, Hogan’s attorney Henry Holm tells Eric Bischoff that he told Eric Bischoff that he advised Hogan to give up the title but Hogan is opposed to it. Back at the arena, Ric Flair tells “Mean” Gene that he wants Hogan to come to the ring and hand him the title. And back at ringside, we learn Hogan is hobbling back to the arena. You’d think someone would be able to get him a car.

Lord Steven Regal vs. Antonio Inoki – This match was set up at July’s Bash at the Beach, but it doesn’t really have a whole lot of fan fare. The audience is a lot quieter here than they were for pretty much every other match. As much as I loved Regal as a kid, I could not be bothered to care about this match. Maybe if they made the match stipulations have something to do with Inoki’s run for Japan’s House of Councilors, I would have cared, since that’s most of what Schiavone and Heenan talked about, along with Inoki’s battle with Ali. The most exciting part of the match was Hogan returning to the arena. Bockwinkel tells the announce team that he advised Hogan not to wrestle also, but after the commish said he’d lose the title if he didn’t wrestle, it’s not like they’re giving him a choice! Inoki wins with a choke sleeper in a match that the announcers barely cared about calling.

World Heavyweight Championship Match: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Ric Flair – WCW trots out Michael Buffer for the ring introductions. I know Buffer is supposed to be a legendary ring announcer and all, but his long-winded intros always sound like they were written by a guy who doesn’t give a damn about pro wrestling. Flair takes the microphone away from Buffer and taunts the champ until Hogan hobbles out, so at least we’re not subjected to another Buffer intro. Hogan mugs Flair to start, taking him down, biting him and generally dominating Flair on one leg. Hulk does rule. Heenan tries to turn the whole thing around by saying Hogan set himself up as a ploy. I miss Heenan’s commentary so much. The ref probably should have disqualified Hogan for using Flair’s robe to choke him. Hogan moves pretty well for a guy with a bum knee. Maybe that’s where Seth Rollins got his idea of selling. Flair eventually takes over and starts to work on Hogan’s knee and this match just went on way too long. Considering the whole show was focused on this match, it may as well have been two whole hours. After Sensuous Sherri hits Hogan in the knee with her spiked heel shoe, Hogan gets counted out and Michael Buffer stupidly announces Flair as the new champion. And then Buffer says it was a DQ and Heenan blows a gasket about Buffer’s stupidity.

The masked man comes back out and attacks the knee some more, leading Sting – who arrived from Chicago in a chartered plane JUST IN TIME – to come down to save the champ. Instead of thanking Sting for saving him, Hogan complains that Flair left with the title belt. What a guy.

Final Thoughts: This show was all about Hogan-Flair, with the other matches being an afterthought. But it was still an easy show to watch, and it all just breezed by.