A Mark’s Eye View is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
There used to be a time when seeing competitive wrestling matches on free television was out of the ordinary. There would be an occasional match like Magnum T.A against Ole Anderson, and Prime Time Wrestling would show some back and forth bouts from around the country, but by and large, squash matches were the norm.
This made shows like Saturday Night’s Main Event extra special. In the days before pay-per-view, it wasn’t often fans got to see a Hulk Hogan match, especially against a top flight opponent. The NWA soon followed suit, airing Superstars on the Superstation headlined by a great Ric Flair/Ronnie Garvin NWA World Title Match. (This is not the match that led to Garvin’s career tailspin.) This would lead to the Clash of the Champions specials.
(This article is more directed to the first ten Clashes. While future editions has big moments, these were the ones that left the greatest impression on me.)
The first Clash is most known for the Flair/Sting time limit draw that made the Stinger a star. However, there were many more important moments that have been overshadowed. Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan continued their odd feud. Lex Luger and Barry Windham beat Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson for the NWA Tag Titles, leading to one of the loudest pops in wrestling history. The Midnight Express and the Fantastics battled in another great battle for the U.S Tag Titles while Animal of the Road Warriors has his face smashed in a weightlifting challenge. This was instrumental in their heel turn a few months later.
The Clashes became known for the important events that would occur. The first ones took place in an era where the biggest angles would take place at house shows and some non televised supercards. Sometimes there would be a big happening on a TV show, but this was a rarity. This made the big cards on WTBS that much more special. It was almost a guarantee that fans would see something out of the ordinary.
Match quality may have varied, but the shows were never lacking in major happenings. Sting was kicked out of the Four Horsemen, the infamous Ding Dongs made their debut, and in a sign of what was to come, Jim Cornette was cheered for turning heel. The full ramifications of some of these events took longer to see, but there was always something exciting going down at a Clash. I still remember seeing Eddie Gilbert throw a fireball at the Great Muta at Clash VII. The Pearl of the Orient moved and jobber Trent Knight took the full brunt of the blast. The slow motion replay was downright frightening as the flame went right up Knight’s chest and into his face. (As a side note, there is a depressing lack of fireball throwing in modern wrestling.)
The Clashes came to be known for amazing matches and Flair was a part of many of them. Flair versus Sting from the first Clash is not the only all-time classic match. His match against Terry Funk at Clash IX and a tag match against the Midnights with partner Barry Windham are just two others that come immediately to mind. As good as all were, they were not the best.
On April 2, 1989, Flair and long time nemesis Ricky Steamboat met in a two out of three falls match for the NWA World Title. The two battled for almost an hour and used psychology that would still impress a fan from 2019. Judging wrestling matches is completely subjective — except in this case. Flair/Steamboat from Clash VI is objectively the greatest wrestling match in pro graps history. Anyone who loves wrestling goes through a gamut of emotions. There are the matches we enjoy, the times we are embarrassed, and the moments we will always remember. Flair/Steamboat from Clash VI is the only match that has made me proud to be a wrestling fan.
The Clash of the Champions events are a part of wresting fans will never see again. When the Monday Night Wars came, they brought PPV quality matches to free TV. A special was irrelevant since the best matches could be seen on Monday nights. Monthly big events have also removed the aura around having irregular supercards. All the Clashes can be watched on the WWE Network, but it is not quite the same as seeing them in the moment.
Next week: #Winning!