February 14, 2024

NWA Clash of the Champions #5: St Valentine’s Day Massacre 

NWA Clash of the Champions #5: St Valentine’s Day Massacre 


February 15, 1989 


We’re in Cleveland, Ohio at the Cleveland Convention Center. Hosts are Jim Ross & Magnum TA. This popped a tidy 4.6 rating on TBS but will surely go down as the worst show the NWA ran during a legendary hot 1989. I won’t go into details just yet but suffice to say, it’s not a good card.  




To get us into the right mood for 1989 NWA though, we need to briefly stop off for a… 



Ric Flair & Barry Windham vs. Eddie Gilbert & X 

This is back on January 14, 1989. Flair and Windham had gone on TV and mouthed off about how they dominated Starrcade, and no one could deal with them. Gilbert, who had been double teamed by the pair earlier in the night, came out and demanded a tag match. Without knowing who it was the Horsemen were all; “pffft, fuck it, who can you possibly have got?”  


We skip ahead to the following week and the match is on. The other guys are in the ring and the Horsemen are confident. Gilbert is merely smiling.  

They don’t exactly kill the unveiling of Steamboat but he’s back, baby. This is Steamboat’s first match since losing in the first round of the title tournament at WrestleMania IV and he’s not lost a step. If the NWA wanted to crush this comeback, they’d have done the tag on Clash 5 imo. Bring Steamboat back in front of a big crowd, not a tiny TV taping. That said, they had to sell tickets to the PPV, which was only five days after Clash 5.  


The best part of this is clearly Steamboat taking it to Flair. They have an intensity and smoothness that makes the contact feel violent and fast-paced. It’s Steamboat’s work that pushes Flair to be better. Gilbert can’t carry his in-ring weight in this, sadly, and it might have made more sense to partner him with Bigelow (given their prior WWF connections, and Windham’s feud with Bam Bam). Bigelow was, of course, in NJPW on the taping date and wouldn’t come back to WCW for over a year.  


The match is scuppered by a long heat segment on the sub-par Gilbert. Obviously, you couldn’t do it to Steamboat, but it kills the momentum established early on between Flair and Steamboat. After the hot tag Steamboat hits Flair with a high crossbody for the pin and that’s how you get someone over as a challenger! *** for the match. Way too long with way too much Eddie Gilbert, who’s better off cutting promos.  


Steamboat’s post-match promo where he talks about his quest for the world title is more important at this juncture. Flair’s rambling “this doesn’t happen to millionaires” promo is also great. Steamboat’s calmness offset by Flair’s ranting. Flair importantly says if he knew he was facing Steamboat he could have prepared for him and will beat him next time.  




Back to Cleveland. Magnum TA and JR preview the show and TA calls Genichiro Tenryu the “greatest wrestler in Japan”.  


Midnight Express vs. Russian Assassins 

Angel of Death & Jack Victory under the hoods here. MXP are still babyfaces, something that went on for much longer than my brain can understand. They’ve got NOTHING to work with here and their motivation levels for such a contest are lacking. Cornette seems to be the only guy who’s up for it and offers Paul Jones out for a fight, before hiding behind Stan Lane. He also whacks AOD with the tennis racket and does the Fargo Strut.  


The match is improved by Paul Heyman joining commentary to jaw, at great length, about what his version of the Midnight Express is going to do to this version, and Cornette, at the upcoming Chi-Town Rumble. It helps to distract from the boring, bearhug heavy, offence of the Russian Assassins. Rule of thumb; “if you do bearhugs, you suck” in full effect here. The ref misses a blatant over the top DQ, but Eaton wins moments later with the Rocket Launcher anyway. 


The only good part of this was the hot tag right at the finish as they managed to put together a couple of hot sequences. Otherwise this was just dull as ditch water. *¾ 


Bob Caudle catches up with Ricky Steamboat, and the Little Dragon. Ricky explains that being a father made him want the title more, so he can support his family. He rambles about drugs and the family unit.  


Steve Casey vs. Butch Reed 

Reed is another guy who the NWA picked up after their last match was at WrestleMania IV. However, he’s not getting pushed to the moon right off the bat and with good reason. He’s up against World Class regular Casey. There’s a feeling the NWA isn’t quite sure who they want to look good in this match, so we end up with neither.  


The cameraman gets bored and focuses on a couple at ringside, who promptly make out for our amusement. Hey, it is Valentine’s Day! Amazingly, I’m actually watching this match on Valentine’s Day. It’s not the most romantic of contests. Unless Casey and Reed are giving us a romantic look at boring matches.  


Jim Ross tries to get the match over by talking about how they “wrestle” (“WRASSLE”) in the NWA, brother. As Butch chinlocks the match to oblivion, Ross talks about upcoming shows. Magnum does his best to explain why a chinlock is effective without sounding bored. I could not commentate on wrestling.  


Reed’s one good spot is sidestepping a dropkick, like Samoa Joe. Which he immediately follows with another painfully long chinlock. While I’m debating whether I should have used “ditch water” or “dishwater” Reed wins with a diving shoulder tackle. This was so boring. Why on earth did they give them so much time? DUD 


Promo Time: Ric Flair 

Naitch is here to wake the crowd up after a couple of snoozers that opened the show.  

Flair spends some time talking about women he’s going to bang before calling out Ricky Steamboat to “take his pick” and have some fun. Flair even offers a girl to Bob Caudle. Hiro Matsuda had started managing Flair around this point as they segued from being a two-man Four Horsemen to Flair & Windham with Matsuda as manager (dubbed the Yamasaki Corporation, not quite the Horsemen is it?). Meanwhile, JJ Dillon had fucked off to the WWF to manage their backstage area.  

The Steamer comes out for a chat, which is basically Flair verbally abusing him while trying to get over his new corporation. Steamboat, family man, says he hates everything Flair stands for. Which is why the feud worked outside of the match quality. Steamboat was a nice guy babyface who didn’t show off. Flair was all rolexes, private jets, hookers and blow. It is far easier to hate rich people when they show their riches. They get into it and Steamboat ruins Flair’s $1500 suit. Oh man, the CHOPS here are so good. This is a ****¼ brawl. The match is only five days away! 


Should I count this on my match guide for 1989? It’s legitimately fantastic. Steamboat puts on Flair’s tie and the remains of his suit for shits and giggles. WHOOO!  


Lex Luger vs. The Blackmailer 

Oh no. Why would you do this? Luger is about to face Barry Windham, so Hiro Matsuda has gone out to get dirt on Luger and apparently this man has it? (I have no idea, it’s not explained. Basically, it’s just a guy to wear Luger down ahead of the match.) The man in question is Jack fuckin’ Victory AGAIN. This time under another mask. Here’s how this should go down; Luger beats the piss out of Victory and Matsuda. Racks Victory for the win in like 90 seconds, then racks Matsuda. Windham runs out for the save and kicks his ass to set up the match.  

How it actually went down? They go THIRTEEN minutes.  


I’m going let you process that for a moment.  


The match is just headlocks and other rest holds. Victory has already had one match tonight and Luger isn’t going to sell for him anyway. Who honestly thought this was a good idea? Thank god for that Flair-Steamboat scrap, or the crowd would be literally asleep here. JR gets so bored he starts talking about Bear Bryant (Alabama American Football coach, sports fans). More chinlocks follow and Luger wins with a superplex to stick it to Barry Windham, by stealing his shit. ½* at best. Another powerfully boring match.  


Video Control takes us to Caudle who interviews Rick Steiner, and Alex. Rick was a really good interview in 1988-89 because he didn’t yell and scream and he leaned into that gimmick. It made him really likeable. As opposed to now where he’s yelling random transphobia and has brain worms.  


NWA United States Tag Team Championship 

Varsity Club (c) vs. Fantastics 

VC team is Doc and Rotunda with Kevin Sullivan ringside. They had a Freebirds gimmick where it was any two from three to defend the belts. This is the end for the Fantastics, sadly. They’re off to AJPW after this. Rogers will reappear in ECW in the late 90s, but Fulton is done as a star in North America. It’s a shame because they were a great tag team, but they leaned so heavily on the hand-slapping babyface stuff and even in 1989 the fans were starting to get sick of them.  


Williams is starting to show improvement here. He’s not got the polish and any time he misses something he misses by a mile. The powerhouse stuff is nice though and he has a good presence when he’s just standing in the ring, which is tough to teach. JR starts rambling about “wrasslin” again, telling the viewers they don’t know anything about wrestling if they don’t understand tag teaming, or something. He’s been incoherent all night, probably because of what he’s been given to commentate on.  


The Fantastics do a decent job of selling the beating they get and Fulton does a nice job of switching his weight to fall on top on the Oklahoma Stampede. Rotunda relentlessly cuts off hope spots and stamps on Rogers’ head to give the champs the win. This was not great but at ** or so, MOTN thus far. Wave goodbye to the Fantastics, unless I happen to catch some of their AJPW work. You never know. 


Bob Bradley vs. Ricky Steamboat 

This is the Dragon using his TV time for a tune-up match. It’s a nothing match with Steamboat just getting some reps in and the crowd loudly chant “we want Flair”. It’s startling that Steamboat isn’t over in the slightest. It’s Flair who is over, which is why Steamboat never got an extended run with any major belt. They give Bradley way too much offence before Steamboat finishes with a high crossbody. * 


Rick Steiner vs. Rip Morgan 

Steiner is the TV champ, but the belt isn’t on the line. Morgan is certainly tall (6’4”) but that’s about all he has. This only exists for Steiner to get a win and get his character over. He bites, barks and powerslams his way to victory. Belly to belly finishes right out of an attempt at a bearhug. This was fine. *½.  


Tonight’s billed main event is LOD & Tenryu vs. Sting, JYD and Michael Hayes. The challengers to the six-man belts get locked backstage by the Varsity Club, who steal their spot in the main event. Doing bait and switch and leaving Sting in the back is not the greatest idea that WCW ever had.  


NWA Six Man Tag Team Championship 

Roadwarriors & Genichiro Tenryu (c) vs. Varsity Club  

Having Tenryu over and not using him at all is dumb. Doing a bait and switch and using the Varsity Club, again, is dumb. I assume they didn’t want people to boo the challengers because, to the surprise of no one, the Roadies are still mega over despite turning heel. Possibly because of it as they’ve got their edge back. Sting would get his revenge by wrestling Butch Reed at the PPV. Wait, what?  

The match isn’t a total disaster because you have Doc doing slobberknocker business with the Roadies and Tenryu. It is disastrously stupid though. The faces get cut out of their cage in the back and run in for the DQ after like five minutes. Of all the matches to screw for time! * 


The 411: 

1989 may be considered one of the best years in wrestling history by a single company in the NWA but this show sucks. It’s a mess. There’s loads of terrible, boring matches and the bait and switch main event is a booking aberration. Like, why? The only good thing on this show is the Flair-Steamboat brawl done to set up the PPV, which is only a few days after this.  


A reminder of that card: Flair-Steamboat, Luger-Windham, Roadwarriors-Varsity Club, Steiner-Rotunda, Midnights & Cornette-New Midnights & Heyman, Sting-Reed, Hayes-Russian Assassin #1.  


As for Clash of the Champions 5, it’s on the list for worst show of the year for 1989. Remarkable considering the NWA’s reputation for these 12 months. Don’t watch this. DON’T.  

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