NWA Clash of the Champions 3: Fall Brawl 09/07/1988

It’s been a while since I posted a written review of a show, so here is a look at Clash of the Champions 3, from Albany, GA on 9/7/1988 for the last Jim Crockett Promotions supershow. With such a big show, you’d think they would pull out all the stops, but they didn’t because they had a habit of screwing obvious things up. Maybe that was part of the sale to Ted Turner. This show didn’t have Flair (except as a host), Lex Luger, the Midnight Express, Road Warriors, and the team of Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard.

The latter of those would make the big news of the week: Despite being tag champs, they quit on the spot 3 days after this show at a house show in Philly and they had to scramble and put the belts on the Midnight Express in an untelevised match. And yet they STILL did a double pin spot, protecting guys who were leaving.

This was much more devastating than guys like Ron Garvin and Tim Horner leaving: Flair and Windham were now directionless. Even on this show, a subdued Flair is in a hosting gig with Tony Schiavone while JR and Bob Caudle do commentary. The biggest reason why Arn/Tully left: Dusty Rhodes’ booking, which would be a bit nutty on this show and for the rest of 1988.

Following a cheesy opening montage centers around the word DESIRE and Sting, our opening match is for the TV title between champ Mike Rotunda and Brad Armstrong, who was quite the heartthrob with this Georgia crowd. Rotunda constantly goes to the chin lock as JR plays up Armstrong’s guts. With the exception of basic fun heel stuff, Rotunda was often boring as hell. No wonder why his kids are so screwed up in kayfabe.

Between chinlocks, he would throw Armstrong out of the ring and bring him back in. Dr. Death Steve Williams comes down to cheerlead for Armstrong who is trying to hang on for a draw which seems like a strange story to tell. This is the 3rd NWA supershow of 1988 to start with a draw so there was clearly a template they didn’t stray from often.

Back to Schiavone and Flair, and poor Ric must have been told the bar is closed because he’s so sullen, almost wiping his eyes like he woke up from a nap. They review the Varsity Club breaking Jimmy Garvin’s leg, as he was due for some knee surgery.

The next match is a tag: Dr. Death and Nikita Koloff vs the Sheepherders and it is a nothing match. JR puts over the tag division, but this match is just not good and it lasts 17 minutes! That’s longer than every WM31 match except for the HHH-Sting debacle. Koloff gets the win with the Russian sickle, putting over the guy who was about to walk out the door. Though to be fair, the Sheepherders wouldn’t be far behind, going to the WWF for a gig with more money and less hard work. So living the dream.

Kevin Sullivan takes on Dusty Rhodes in a match better served for Florida 1982. This was supposed to be a tag match of some kind likely involving Ronnie Garvin but he was out the door. I always found it very odd how Sullivan manages the Varsity Club but he himself is managed by Gary Hart.

Short match, as Al Perez runs in and attacks Dusty with a chain, but he overcomes that and manages to get a pin on Gary Hart. Yes, that’s right. He pinned the manager for the win, on a fast count too. Dusty then celebrates with fans, a la Cena at WM21. And this is why many crowds were turning on the Dream in 1988, this sort of silliness. And Dusty’s response at this was by lashing out at “that fat woman in the back” and he did on the Saturday show shortly before this show. Among all the Dusty nuttiness of this time frame, the hypocrisy of him making fun of someone else’s weight doesn’t even register.

Schiavone and Flair are with John Ayers, who played for the 49ers from 1977-1986. They kept playing him up as this huge star, but it would be like if you dropped retired Patriots OL Dan Connolly into WWE. Nice player, made all-conference in 1984 on a dominant team, but nothing that was the stuff of legend. Flair asks him why Ayers is qualified to be a troubleshooting ref, and Ayers says he’s watched wrestling enough to understand it. Alrighty, then. Ayers was not an inspiring talker (which JR even actually says!), but he did have experience as on-screen UWF commissioner in 1987. So he has experience working in promotions about to be sold.

A headscratcher is next: a Russian Chain match between Ivan Koloff and Ricky Morton. This is every Russian chain match you’ve seen, which Morton actually wins. After the match, Koloff snaps on manager Paul Jones before the masked Russian Assassins come out to beat him down, which has been built up on TV leading up as Jones had been disappointed in the grizzled veteran Ivan.

Crowd chants for Nikita: a novel idea, but he quit earlier in the evening. So Ivan takes a beating and they hang him by a chain over the top rope, at which point Ross throws it to commercial. Shockingly, no money was drawn in the face turn of 46 year old Ivan Koloff and they eventually used Ricky Morton and the Junkyard Dog as his partners.

After ANOTHER John Ayers interview, we finally get to the main event: Sting vs Barry Windham (w/ JJ Dillon) for the US Title. At one point Windham slams Sting outside the ring and yells at the camera “How about that, mom?” which made me laugh. He then taunts John Ayers, as if anyone is supposed to care.

Sting runs Windham into the post and Barry blades for the hell of it. Windham regains control and gets a figure 4, to which Sting taps….but since it’s 1988 that just means he’s in pain and not giving up. Sting gets out of it, and eventually lands a vertical suplex, but Windham hangs on and gets the claw….on the chest? Sure.

Sting fights free again (pre-1990 knee injury Sting is the best Sting) and goes for an Irish whip, which is blocked twice at different points, which I love because it looks more real. Windham charges but gets ref Tommy Young. Sting takes control, and hits a great Stinger Splash, followed by the Scorpion.

Dillon has a chair (that has a giant pad on it) but Sting knocks him for a loop. Windham waffles Sting with the chair, and as the recovered Young starts his count, Ayers breaks it up….and awards the match to Sting by DQ. BTW, have I mentioned Ayers has a tweed jacket with leather patches like he’s a college professor? Ayers actually looks small compared to Windham, and Barry was a rather slender guy.

Flair wraps this up with Schiavone: Ric shows some passion running down Ayers, saying “Life after football isn’t pro wrestling for you!” He was right. Say what you will about Mongo McMichael, but he was a REAL NFL All-Pro 1st team twice.

Summary: God forbid they put Arn/Tully vs Midnights on this show, because Jim Cornette as a babyface was truly something to behold. This show isn’t very good top to bottom: way too much John Ayers, and you have Dusty pinning a manager not in the match to get a win. Luckily the next Clash is better, and Starrcade is really good and holds up.

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