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The three weeks that preceded the Clash of the Champions in January 1997 were arguably some of the strongest television WCW had ever produced. For perhaps the first time it felt like WCW had the balance and the depth of star power to be able to fill a two hour show without it sagging mid-way through. Combine that with a string of hot crowds, the return of Randy Savage, a compelling and layered storyline involving the four horsemen and the genesis of an opposition to the NWO and you simply had a company that could do no wrong.
That all being said, with the focus on making Nitro’s good and interesting the build to both this show and the NWO pay per view five days later seemed a bit in the way. Everything was part of a bigger end and that was certainly true of this Clash show. As I wrote about when reviewing the previous Clash in August, a two hour live TV special doesn’t seem that special anymore. With Nitro working really hard to pack a lot of major events in, this show really felt like a live WCW Saturday Night type event, and it’s hardly a surprise there’s only one more Clash of the Champions before WCW pulls it completely.
Dean Malenko vs Ultimo Dragon (w/ Sonny Ono) for the WCW Cruiserweight Title.
Only so many times you can write about this style of match and attempt to describe it differently. This was, perhaps unfairly, exactly the level of match you’d expect from these two in front of an above average crowd. Malenko, as always, works really hard to wear down his opponents legs only for his opponent to rally and effectively ignore the work Malenko did. Still, Malenko locks in the cloverleaf, Dragon submits and the crowd pop big for that.
Mike Enos vs Scotty Riggs
A simple squash match for Riggs, although given that Riggs really lacks momentum I’m not sure Enos was the right opponent.
We get an exchange with the Four Horsemen, who seem like they’ve sorted out their differences and Benoit and Mongo are somewhat on the same page. Debra McMichael is still a riot of a promo, and gets a shot in at Woman after she and Benoit had left for the back.
La Parka, Konnan and Mr Jl vs Chris Jericho, Chavo Guerrero and Super Calo
Mike Tenay, who’s a regular on commentary these days, is really good at giving background for a lot of these guys, even if we’ve seen most of them in bits and pieces before. This is presented as a Lucha style trios match, and it’s wrestled like one too. Problem, if anything, was that I’m not sure it was a style the crowd were used too. Very, very fast, often uncoordinated. Well wrestled, but not sure what they were trying to achieve. Still, fun match and Jericho hits a frankinsteiner from the top for the win.
Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray w/ Sister Sherri) vs The Renegade and Joe Gomez
Another squash, which I don’t really have an issue with on this kind of show. The Heat finish it with their Heat Seeker finisher where Booker does a dropkick taking his opponent off of Stevie Ray’s shoulders. Nice that.
Masahiro Chono vs Alex Wright
Nick Patrick out as ref in NWO gear. This was really good and, perhaps surprisingly, the first real build towards the NWO pay per view on Sunday (I suppose, to a point, that makes sense given that WCW wouldn’t inherently put a lot of effort into preventing what is sort of a non-WCW PPV). Still, this match was fun, Nick Patrick is a riot and Chono and Wright played towards the storyline very nicely. Patrick slow counts, which winds up Wright and the crowd, Chono hits a lovely looking Mafia kick and that’s enough for the win.
Eddie Guerrero vs Scott Norton
A nice clash of styles this as Eddie Guerrero continues his mission to show he’s arguably the most well rounded wrestler in WCW. Norton dominates proceedings, and I wouldn’t necessarily have objected to a squash win for Norton (even though it would’ve made no sense). Still, DDP comes out, then a ref bump happens (felt like that was the wrong way around) DDP hits a lovely Diamond Cutter on Norton and that’s enough for the win.
The Taskmaster (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs Chris Benoit (w/ Woman) in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
Basically a re-run of not only their brilliant match last summer, but also what happened the night before. Taskmaster ushered Benoit to the outside and the brawl went immediately into the crowd and up towards the exit. They’d clearly blocked off a set of toilets so they could get the match in (the brawl on Nitro the night before was besieged by fans). Benoit kicks out of a pin while laying down in a toilet. We get back towards the ring as Benoit takes a proper fall down the steps at one point. Back in the ring, Woman hits Sullivan with a chair and he wins. Really good.
The Amazing French Canadians (Carl Oulette and Jacques Rogeau w/ Col Parker) vs The Steiner Brothers
Steiners are interrupted in their walk out by a shouty promo from Nash and Hall on the aisle way, not the best one, is that. Still, a fairly one sided squash – the Canadians did much of their damage during the commercial. We get a nice elevated DDT tag team finish from the Steiners as their prep continues ahead of the NWO pay per view at the weekend.
Scott Hall (w/ Kevin Nash and Syxx) vs Lex Luger
An interesting choice of main event, Hall’s first ever televised singles match in WCW was the night before, and Luger was one of the hot acts they had. But this whole thing felt like a bit of a stretch given that there was nothing really on the match. Nash and Syxx make their presence felt through, enabling Hall to dominate much of the match. As always, you have to temper everything NWO related when you think that Luger has no friends. Luger rallies, but cannot fight off the NWO 3 on 1 and it predictably finishes with a DQ. Decent, but could have meant a lot more with more on the line.
Score Rating: 7/10 (Graded on a TV curve)
Go Back And Watch: A perfectly harmless ninety minute, watch. In 1994 a live Clash Of the Champions would’ve been the most important even of the week in WCW, in 1997 it was the third. That showed but pretty much everything on the show progressed a storyline.