Torch Flashbacks SUPERDOME FLASHBACK: NWA's Clash (Flair-Steamboat) faces WM5 (Hogan-Savage); 25 years later, Mania to the Superdome
Feb 18, 2013 - 2:51:31 PM
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Imagine one day where Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat battled on free television and Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage battled on WrestleMania pay-per-view. It happened on April 2, 1989 when the NWA presented Clash of the Champions "Ragin' Cajun" from the Superdome in New Orleans opposite WWE's WrestleMania 5 PPV from Trump Plaza in New Jersey.
Twenty-five years later, WWE will bring WrestleMania 30 to the Superdome for the first time on April 6, 2014. WWE is hoping WM30 will not be a dud like the WM5 event that went head-to-head with the Clash in the Superdome...
PWTorch Newsletter Back-Issue #40
Originally Published: April 6, 1989
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Headline: NWA vs. WWF
The Wrestling Megapowers Collided: NWA vs. WWF
By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
"This makes me so sick, it makes me almost not want to come back." Jesse Ventura said it all...
Seven hours of wrestling on Super Sunday, April 2, 1989, was capped off with Hulk Hogan defeating Randy Savage in a match, that to me, was much below expectations with the worst possible finish. It seems unanimous that this was the worst WrestleMania of all.
The NWA show, on the other hand, was a quality wrestling show. The main event was great, the undercard was enjoyable, had many highlights, and contained some unexpected occurrences.
First, a review of "Ragin' Cajun: Clash of Champions VI" emanating from the Superdome in Louisiana. This was a well-below average line-up for a supercard. There were a lot of dud matches scheduled and a lot of meaningless matches. George Scott put the card together, and the temporary booking committee made the best of it.
The atmosphere was very good considering well under 10,000 people stepped into the Superdome to see the card. The production values were above average. The lighting was good enough so you could see the ring, the ringside area, and the first dozen rows of fans. It wasn't bright enough to see the 60,000-some empty seats. The opening of the show was spaced up with indoor fireworks and an impressive lighting show. Wrestlers's entrances were seasoned with smoke, strobe lights, fireworks, and their name in lights.
The heat in the building was below average, but loud enough to show the fans cared. The commentary was handled by Jim Ross with Michael Hayes on color. Ross was up to usual par. Hayes was very good, but he has potential to be much better. Gary Kappeta was excellent on ring announcing and holds his place as a top two ring announcer along with Howard Finkel. The video opening the show was fine. The on-screen graphics were new and fresh. Overall, the production values and atmosphere was excellent on NWA standards.
(1) The show opened with The Samoan Swat Team with Paul E. Dangerously taking on the Midnight Express with Jim Cornette. The SST looked good while the Express looked below average. Jim and Paul did their share of ringside antics. With the Midnights leaving, the purpose of this match was to get the SST over. It good a good job of that. The match ended with Eaton getting hit with Paul's phone and taking the pin. It certainly was a good way to open the show and could have been more toward the end under different circumstances. The 23-minute match gets a B-Grade from me.
(2) The Literally Great Muta (they're gradually changing his name back to Muto) pinned Stephen Casey. Muta is doing all the moves we wish Owen Hart were allowed to do. His agility and innovation makes him the brightest new star in the NWA. He will get over huge if he continues at this pace. He has potential to be the first Japanese native to eventually get over as a super babyface. A top-rope somersault ended this 8-minute bout. Grade: B.
(3) Junkyard Dog returned home to New Orleans and pinned Hacksaw Butch Reed, the best-working Hacksaw in wrestling today. Unfortunately, that doesn't say much at all. JYD was accompanied to the ring by a Bourbon Street band. He did his usual unrealistic moves like the crawling headbutt and stationary shoulder knock-down. Reed came off the top rope with a sharp flying shoulderblock, but JYD was saved from getting pinned by using the ropes. JYD recovered and sent Reed into the ropes. Hiro was on the apron and collided with Reed, who fell to the mat and was pinned. This six-minute match earns a C-.
(4) Bob Orton took on Dick Murdoch in the battle of beer bellies. This was fun, as they compliment each other's styles well. Orton tried to superplex Murdoch, but was thrown to the mat. Murdoch picked Orton up for a brainbuster suplex, but Gary Hart pulled Murdoch's leg, knocking him off balance. The result saw Orton on top of "Captain Redneck" for the three count. This 12-minute match was pleasant and gets a C.
(5) This was the surprise of the night. In one of the best Road Warrior matches in a long time, they entered as World Tag champions and left without waistline support. Mike Rotunda and "Dr. Death" Steve Williams defeated the LOD to become new NWA World Tag Team Champions. This bout saw classic confrontations between Dr. Death and Animal, and Rotunda and Hawk were at their best. Late in the bout, referee Teddy Long was giving Animal a hard time. Animal simply tossed Long out of the way. The Warriors then top-rope clotheslined Rotunda (which popped everyone in the room). Teddy Long stood in the corner like a mom looking at a little kid who just spilled the cookie jar, staring at the cover. Michael Hayes explained during the replay: "He was trying to get over there!"
Then, Dr. Death (illegal man in the ring) ran in and rolled up Hawk for a one count. Unfortunately for the Roadies, Teddy Long found time to flamacue his hand for a three count. Rossy said, "That's got to be the fastest three count I've ever seen." The Roadies lost the titles in 14 minutes of an A- match. Teddy Long may be turning heel after this. The Road Warriors are a marathon ahead of the Powers of Pain, Demolition, and any other intimidation teams.
(6) Ranger Ross defeated Iron Sheik via DQ when flag-bearer Rip Morgan interfered. JYD made the save. Ranger dropped to the arena floor on a rope in the "ring entrance of the night." Iron Sheik looked decent and this feud could be moderately successful since Ross is fresh and proving to be a very bright star. This three-minute quickie gets a C- as it wasn't bad, but wasn't long enough to be much.
(7) Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner defeated Kevin Sullivan & Dan Spivey. This was a good, short bout which saw Spivey be innovative and Steiner and Gilbert strong as usual. Sullivan was small-packaged for the three count. This 6-minute bout gets a B-.
Rossy ended the last match by saying, "We're running out of time." Time management problems forced them to go to the main event next and miss showcasing Sting and Lex Luger in their respective matches. Sting would have made his first World TV Title defense against Rip Morgan and Lex Luger would have made his first TV defense of the U.S. Title in a hyped match against "Secret Service" Jack Victory. Oh well.
(8) The final bout saw a great re-match between Ricky Steamboat, NWA World Hvt. champion, and Ric Flair, former champion. Many of the NWA champions of the past were in the front row. Terry Funk replaced Hayes as color man for this bout and did an excellent job. The 19-minute first fall of this 2/3 Falls match went to Ric Flair when he small-packaged Steamboat for a three count.
The 16-minute second fall went to Steamboat when Flair submitted to the double-arm chickenwing. The 20-minute third fall ended when Steamboat fell backwards while applying a chickenwing and bridged his left shoulder. Flair's shoulders were down for three, and Steamboat retained the title. Flair's feet were in the ropes, though, giving Flair a legitimate excuse for the loss. I didn't think it was as perfect as Chi-Town's bout, but the 55-minute encounter easily gets an A. Both men were at the top of their game.
The eight-match TV card was a lot of fun and there wasn't a dud in the bunch. It is very close in quality to the first Clash of Champions as an overall show, and at least the second best. Chi-Town edged it out on overall quality.
WrestleMania V coming from the Trump Plaza in Atlanta City via PPV television took place at the same time as the Clash. It was also three-and-a-half hours. 14 matches were packed into this time period. The entire card was built upon the Megapowers exploding and also seeing who Elizabeth sided with. Unfortunately neither happened.
The atmosphere was atrocious. The crowd was so loud that you could hear a worm talk. At times when Gino and Jesse stopped talking during a match, there was truly an apparent hush over the arena, and this was during high spots. The crowd looked to be about 300 trillion as they used wide-angle camera lenses. It was sold out and did set an ll-time gat record due to the high-priced tickets.
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura handled the commentary. I was looking forward to seeing Tony Schiavone and Ventura together so we could compare Ross to Schiavone and Hayes to Jesse, but as it worked out, Ross was better than Gino and Jesse was more polished and more funny than Hayes, but all four were excellent. The opening graphics for the show were tremendous. The highlight clips, although beyond stale, were well put together. The lighting was perfect and the music was well done.
(1) Hercules pinned Haku with a belly-to-belly suplex in 6:00 earning a D+. Haku missed a top-rope splash. Not much of an opener. The highlight was Howard Finkel announcing Haku as "King Tonga."
(2) Akeem & Bossman squashed former AWA World Tag Team champions The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) after a pretty darn good big vs. little battle. Michaels came off the top rope with a front bodyblock, but Bossman turned with him and powerslammed him. He tagged in Akeem, who splashed him and got a three count. The Rockers and Bossman looked superb. This 9-minute bout earns a B-.
(3) Ted DiBiase fought Brutus Beefcake to a double count-out. Nothing much here with DiBiase just average. This 9-minute match gets a C.
(4) After a skit with the Bushwhackers at a luncheon, they defeated the Fabulous Rougeaus. The battering ram followed up by a double knee to Jacques was enough to end it. Five minutes of this earned a D. Just comedy.
(5) "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, who stumbled perfectly on his way to the ring, pinned the Blue Blazer (Owen Hart) in five minutes. For the length, it was really good with Blazer showing off some impressive moves. But, Owen has go to move on where justice can be done to his talent. Jesse Ventura mentioned Larry "The Axe" Hennig being Curt's dad. Curt wore a new full bodysuit. I'll have to get used to it.
Run DMC got three people rocking by doing an apparently foreign "WrestleMania Rap," which looked impromptu. Waste of time.
(6) Demolition retained the Tag Titles against Mr. Fuji and the Powers of Pain when Fuji was pinned. Dead crowd. Dead match. Eight minutes of a D.
(7) Dino Bravo defeated Ronnie Garvin.
(8) The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard along with Bobby Heenan) defeated Strike Force (Rick Martel and Tito Santana).
In the Piper's Pit segment, Roddy Piper ended up putting out Morton Downey, Jr.'s cigarette with a fire extinguisher and stripping Brother Love down to his underwear.
A preview of "No Holds Barred" followed.
(9) Jake Roberts defeated Andre the Giant after special referee John Studd DQ'ed Andre. Studd and Andre had an altercation and DiBiase took Roberts's snake, creating a new feud. Eight minutes. F! Terrible.
(10) Hart Foundation beat Greg Valentine & Honky Tonk Man when Bret KO'ed HTM with the megaphone. Nine minutes. D+
(11) In the biggest surprise of the card, Rick Rude pinned the Ultimate Warrior when Heenan pulled Warrior's leg out from under him while he was attempting to suplex Rude. The match ended up being better than expected, but at times I was sure the Warrior was going to collapse. When he pressed Heenan after the bout, he lost control and dropped him early out of sheer muscular exhaustion. Earlier, he screwed up an attempted backbreaker and fell forward into the ropes. He almost didn't make it back to the dressing room when chasing Rude away from the ring. His legs began to melt as he ran. Rude was impressive with a top rope dropkick on Ultimate, although Warrior kicked out at one. The 11-minute match gets a C-.
(12) Bad News Brown and Hacksaw Duggan fought to a Double DQ. Who cares! D-. Chairs and 2x4's got involved in this three-minute marathon.
(13) Red Rooster pinned Bobby Heenan after Heenan missed a flying shoulder into the corner. Bobby Heenan wore a mini-Andre suit. 10 seconds for this one.
(14) The final match of the event saw Hulk Hogan pin "Macho Man" Randy Savage to capture the WWF TItle in a replay of any average Hulk Hogan title match. Elizabeth didn't get into play too much and was sent back to the dressing room by Savage during the match. That was the last we heard of her. Macho came off the top rope with a solid elbow to Hulk's chest, but Hulk's ego kicked out at one-and-a-half. A bleeding Hogan made his superman comeback and pinned Savage cleanly with a leg drop.
I was expecting a lot more out of the main event. This was no different than a SNME Hogan-Haku type pf match. In one night they killed their top heel, gave their top babyface an unneeded belt, and gave us a Megapower Cap Gun Shot, not an explosion. I was really looking forward to a solid 25-minute match where both men worked hard and had the best match they could put together. I looked forward to an angle that would draw out re-matches, mainly having Savage retain the title. Fans would go see Hulk's "second chance to regain his belt." Both men worked harder in the pre-match interviews than during this match. I hope they know what they are doing, because Savage was simply buried. Where do you go from here?
Despite it being terrible, and possibly worse than last year's WrestleMania IV, I enjoyed the card just because I enjoy seeing things unfold. But, once it was over, I realized how truly bad the entire show was. The NWA put on a much better card, and at least I have that on tape to re-watch because I just won't be re-watching WM5 for a long time. WM5 got a major thumbs down from everyone I talked to.
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