The American Wrestling Association wasn’t long for the wrestling world in April 1990, and watching this show, it was easy to see why. While most of my knowledge of the AWA came from the Apter mags like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, I occasionally caught the hour of AWA wrestling on ESPN Monday through Thursday when I came home from school. This is where I really got my first taste of “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko. Known mostly for being the protégé of wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino, Larry Z was the AWA’s final champion, winning his second AWA Heavyweight Championship at this show, defeating Masa Saito. Saito had defeated Zbyszko months earlier in Japan. Here, the American had to overcome not only the talent of Saito but a referee who, in Zbyszko’s own words “hated his guts” in former AWA Champion Nick Bockwinkel.
Compared to the rest of the card, the Heavyweight Championship match is a near-classic. For the most part, AWA SuperClash IV is a stinker. Watching on the WWE Network, where it was added as a “Hidden Gem” in January, it’s even worse. The show has no commentary, and the camera microphone picks up random conversations of people near the camera. This one was rough to get through, though it did have some highlights.
Best Match: Steel Cage Match: The Trooper and Paul Diamond defeated The Destruction Crew – One of the things I remember most about the dying days of the AWA was the Trooper’s quest to unseat dominant tag team champions The Destruction Crew (Mike Enos and Wayne Bloom) with various partners. In this challenge, he had former Bad Company member Paul Diamond (who would soon be under a mask in the WWF as a member of the Orient Express) as his partner in a non-title steel cage match. Former Minnesota Viking “Benchwarmer” Bob Lurtsema was the special guest referee, and he ended up being the deciding factor in the match. After the Destruction Crew attacked him, the ref retaliated, hitting a leg drop and putting the Trooper on top for the win. Really fun match on a mostly lackluster card.
Worst Match: Baron Von Raschke beat Col. DeBeers by countout – Von Raschke was announced as a substitute for an “injured” Junkyard Dog. A DeBeers-JYD match would be interesting considering the implications – DeBeers is labeled as being from an Apartheid-era South Africa – but it probably also would have been the worst match on the show. Slow, plodding and mostly terrible for six minutes of my life I’ll never get back.
Patriot Games: The Trooper was, of course, Del Wilkes before he put on a red, white and blue mask and became The Patriot. Watching the match – combined with my memories from the early-1990s, I wondered why Wilkes didn’t become a bigger star. He had the look, he could go in the ring. What was holding him back? Then I saw an interview he did with a very young but graying Eric Bischoff at the end of the show and it was all very clear. Man, Del Wilkes was terrible at promos. No way could he have held his own as a top guy. Well, maybe in the dying days of the AWA. But even there, Larry Zbyszko would have chewed him up and spit him out on the mic.
Future Champion: Probably the most interesting match on the card, to me, was between “Yukon” John Nord – who would go on to be the Berzerker in the WWF – and Samoan Kokina Maximus. In just about 2 years, Kokina would be billed from Japan and would change his ring name to Yokozuna. Kokina was a lot smaller than Yokozuna was and much more athletic. This is the first time I remember seeing a pre-WWF Yokozuna in the ring, but it’s clear that he was going to be doing more in his career, even if it was in a losing effort against John Nord in a lumberjack match.
Ranking SuperClash IV
1 – Steel Cage Match: The Trooper and Paul Diamond defeated The Destruction Crew
2 – AWA Heavyweight Championship Match: Larry Zbyszko defeated Masa Saito (c)
3 – The Texas Hangmen defeated DJ Peterson and Brad Rheingans
4 – Tully Blanchard defeated Tommy Jammer
5 – Yukon John Nord defeated Kokina Maximus
6 – Jake “The Milkman” Milliman defeated Todd Becker
7 – Baron Von Raschke beat Col. DeBeers by countout
No new arrivals in the overall Top 10 after this show. Which shouldn’t really be a surprise…
*DISCLAIMER* The Top 10 rankings are for discussion purposes only and in no way reflect an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion. If you disagree, let me know in the comments. New arrivals to the Top 10 are in bold.
1 – WWF Championship Match: The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan (c) – WrestleMania VI
2 – NWA Tag Team Championship Match: The Steiner Brothers (c) defeated Doom – Clash of the Champions X
3 – Steel Cage Match: Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Ole Anderson beat The Great Muta, Buzz Sawyer and the Dragonmaster – Clash of the Champions X
4 – Rock n Roll Express defeated the Midnight Express – WrestleWar 90 Wild Thing
5 – NWA Tag Team Championship Match: The Steiner Brothers (c) defeated Ole and Arn Anderson – WrestleWar 90 Wild Thing
6 – Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake defeated “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig – WrestleMania VI
7 – “Macho King” Randy Savage defeated “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan – Saturday Night’s Main Event, Jan. 27, 1990
8 – NWA World Championship Match: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) beat Lex Luger by countout – WrestleWar 90 Wild Thing
9 – Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior defeated “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and “The Genius” Lanny Poffo – Saturday Night’s Main Event, Jan. 27, 1990
10 – The Orient Express defeated The Rockers – WrestleMania VI
Next up in our tour of 1990, Saturday Night’s Main Event from April 28!