Tales from Hill Valley: Win One for the Kipper

by Billy Carpenter (@4CR_Billy)

 

Entering 1992, World Championship Wrestling found itself in a most tumultuous state. 1991 proved to be an absolutely disastrous year, as they managed to somehow trump their failures of 1990 both financially and creatively. With Dusty Rhodes back as booker after Ole Anderson’s failed stint and with Jim Herd horribly mismanaging the company, 1991 is often looked at as one of the worst periods in the history of not just WCW but of any wrestling promotion at any point. The company’s direction towards the over-the-top gimmicks and departure from emphasizing in-ring action turned the NWA/WCW faithful away in droves. To further exasperate WCW’s woes, long time flag bearer and, at the time, reigning World champion Ric Flair not only leaves the company for the WWF but he takes the belt with him—all due to well-documented issues with Herd.  In January of 1992, three years after becoming executive vice president, Jim Herd resigned and WCW fans simultaneously breathed a massive sigh of relief while wondering who would succeed him. Enter Kip Allen Frye, a Turner employee who had participated in some other successful ventures under the Turner umbrella prior to becoming the new EVP. He very wisely decided to run WCW as a business and brought about some key changes backstage that helped in creating a more positive atmosphere. While Kip gets a lot of the credit for this era of WCW being so good, he certainly was not the only one who had a hand in it.

 

In October of 1991, Rick Rude made his way to WCW after a near one year absence from pro wrestling. He was brought in to help Paul E. Dangerously exact revenge on WCW, who had “fired” him as a commentator preceding this. His arrival gave Sting a new foe and the angle that went down at the Clash of the Champions in November of 1991 was just what the company needed. It gave WCW a sorely needed kick in the ass and in the coming weeks, Paul E. Dangerously would recruit some of WCW’s top heels and create the Dangerous Alliance. Rude, along with ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin, Larry Zbysko, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton & Madusa gave the company a fresh cast of villainous characters to wreak havoc at the top of the card. Their goals; eliminate the face of the franchise, Sting, and seize control of World Championship Wrestling. In possession of the United States, Television and World tag team titles, the Dangerous Alliance was about as hot as you could get and made for some of the most compelling TV WCW had produced in quite a few years. As we entered 1992, the company was riding a new wave that seemed to fade as quickly as it came…but that’s a story to be told later; for this Clash of the Champions, it was time to wash off the stench of the previous year’s failures and move forward under this new regime, spearheaded by Kip Frey.

 

 

We open the show with Harley Race leading a most intimidating duo down the ramp; Mr. Hughes & Big Van Vader. Their opponents are the recently reunited Steiner Brothers, as Scott is back from injury. Today’s fans: that feeling you get when you see American Alpha in the ring? That’s what it was like watching the Steiners in the early 90s, especially Scott. Rick was coming off a mini-program with Lex Luger, where they flirted with the idea of the ‘Dog Faced Gremlin’ dethroning the ‘Total Package’ for WCW’s World title. Early in 1991, Scott did battle with Ric Flair at a Clash card where Flair has stated that he wanted to put him over but Scotty refused, not wanting to halt what he & his brother were doing in the tag ranks. Later in the year, they would test the waters with him again as a singles wrestler when Rick went down with an injury, even booking him to win the Television title from Ricky Steamboat in September. Unfortunately, it never panned out as the brothers would bolt for the WWF by year’s end. Scott and Hughes start things off and the crowd is electric for the brothers from Michigan. Vader enters the fray and the heels attempt to take over the match by tossing out both Rick & Scott; as they posture to the crowd, the Steiners head up top and hit a double flying clothesline. Vader & Rick are in now and things immediately pick up. Vader tosses Rick around with suplexes before Rick comes back with a Steinerline & a big overhead belly to belly. HOSS LEVEL RISING. Vader gets in some offense before heading up top. Scotty shakes the ropes, however, and Rick is able to get another overhead belly to belly—this time off the top! Scott comes in and drops the big man with a German suplex. He also tries his hand at an aerial move but finds himself in the clutches of the Rocky Mountain Monster, who powerslams him to halt the Steiner’s momentum. In comes Mr. Hughes, sunglasses still in place. He misses a corner splash, allowing the hot tag to Rick. Hughes bumps like his surname is ‘Hennig’, getting some tremendous height on a back body drop. It quickly breaks down and everyone is in now; Vader nails Hughes with a clothesline as they become victims of miscommunication. Scotty and Vader send each other careening to the floor and Rick absolutely drills Hughes’ head into the mat with a top rope bulldog to pick up the win! Fun, hot opener with four guys just tossing each other around. I found myself wondering during this match what a WCW title program would’ve been like between Scott and Vader in 1992.

 

WINNERS: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall

 

Tracy Smothers, formerly of the Young Pistols, apparently gets to keep the name as he’s going by ‘Young Pistol Tracy’ here. His partner for tonight is Terrence Taylor who, no longer with The York Foundation, decided to keep the ‘Taylor Made Man’ gimmick anyway; hey, it beats clucking about the ring like a rooster, doesn’t it? They’re opposing the duo of Flyin’ Brian & Marcus Alexander Bagwell, which of course means some very audible screeching from the females in attendance. Taylor & Pillman start, exchanging some chops. I become distracted by the camera crew outside the ring, very audibly telling Bagwell & Smothers where to stand on the apron in order for them to get their shots. Admittedly, it makes for some great angles on the action. Bagwell & Pillman create some tandem offense and send Taylor & Smothers to the floor. They eventually are able to isolate Pillman and work him over. Taylor even breaks out a nice gutwrench powerbomb for 2. Pillman is able to catch Smothers with a springboard clothesline and tag in Bagwell. Painful spot where he goes for a backdrop on Tracy and it doesn’t go well, with Marcus Alexander burying his shoulder into Smothers’ gut. Ouch. Moments later, he’s able to get a sunset flip on Tracy and despite Taylor’s best efforts, Bagwell gets the pin! Another fun tag match; I have no idea if Smothers & Taylor teamed any more after this but I hope so. Pillman is always fun and he & Bagwell made for a decent enough team.

 

WINNERS: Brian Pillman & Marcus Alexander Bagwell via pinfall

 

Video package for current WCW Light Heavyweight champion, Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger. Jim Ross says he’ll be here to defend his gold at Superbrawl in February before we head to the next match…

 

Johnny B. Badd vs Richard Morton

Morton is still working heel here, although The York Foundation has been disbanded by this point. This match is thankfully pretty quick, as it’s dreadfully “meh”. Badd rolls through a crossbody to pick up the win in about 3 minutes or so.

 

WINNER: Johnny B. Badd via pinfall

 

A bumper appears before the break, proclaiming that “P.N. News will be rappin’, you’ll want to be clappin’…”

 

Eric Bischoff is with both Brian Pillman & Johnny B Badd, as they discuss the light heavyweight title situation. Badd puts a glittery lip sticker on Eric’s cheek while Pillman tries to demonize the Japanese. My goodness. It’s quite the rant, and he ends it by vowing to bring the title back home to the US of A. Badd tries to stick one of those lip gimmicks on Flyin’ Brian and gets his jaw rocked for it. The way Badd sells it had me cracking up for some reason.

 

Diamond Dallas Page and all the fringe he could budget for make their way out for the next contest. He’s saddled with the unenviable task of squaring off with P.N. News. ‘The Rapmaster’ won the prestigious WCW magazine Rookie of the Year award. Page is a *LONG* way away from what he’d become in ’96. This is a squash, almost quite literally considering the size disadvantage. The Rapmaster Splash—which is essentially News just falling off the top rope onto a helpless DDP—finishes things. Yo baby, yo.

 

WINNER: PN News via pinfall

K. Allen Frye—Mr. Frye, if you’re nasty—is introduced as the man running things in WCW now. For those of you unfamiliar with this era of the company, he’s a big reason this time period is looked back on so fondly. He implemented performance based bonuses and, in turn, the roster had incentive to work harder and produce better matches. He’s a bit of an enigma as far as the history of WCW goes, as his stint was rather brief and to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t done anything in the industry since. Here, he introduces Jesse Ventura to WCW! Ventura, of course, was coming off a bitter split with the WWF over licensing and proclaimed to be the man who “tells it like it is”. This is followed by Tony Schiavone announcing that Sting will be challenging Lex Luger for the WCW World title next month at Superbrawl! We get a video package from the champ before Sting signs his name on the contract.

 

Ah yes, Cactus Jack vs Van Hammer. Almost anyone who was watching around this time has memories of this next match. Falls count anywhere in Kansas, brother! . He starts off with a big flying clothesline but Jack turns the tide with the ol’ Cactus clothesline. Outside now, Jack lifts the blue mats and misses a second rope sunset flip, his carcass producing a sickening thud on the concrete. They brawl to the ramp now and Hammer gets a powerbomb on said ramp for 2. Of all things, we get an inside cradle on the ramp by Van for another 2. Jack sacrificing his body yet again, taking a hip toss from the ramp to the floor before Hammer takes flight with another clothesline. They brawl past the curtain and into the back. They find themselves waging war in the back parking lot. Roving reporter Missy Hyatt is on the scene as the match careens into a bullpen. Abdullah the Butcher appears and hits Hammer with a shovel inadvertently, as he was aiming for Jack. Cactus gets the pin moments later before resuming his brawl with Abdullah. Missy finds herself in the middle of things and ends up in a horse trough. This was a really fun brawl that was essentially Cactus killing himself to get Hammer over.

 

 

WINNER: Cactus Jack via pinfall

 

Michael Hayes & Jimmy Garvin debut “I’m A Freebird (And What’s Your Excuse?) and I really wish they wouldn’t have. The duo is dressed like the Fabulous Ones and they perform the ENTIRE song. This leads right into the following contest as the ‘Birds take on the duo of Big Josh & Brad Armstrong, who is coming off the Badstreet gimmick, ironically. Josh is, of course, the future Doink the Clown. This match is also kept short, meant to only get this “repackaged” Freebird thing over. They pick up the win in about three and a half minutes with a double DDT.

 

WINNERS: The Freebirds via pinfall

 

Video package on The Steiner Brothers before they join Eric Bischoff on stage. If you think Scott gave hilarious promos, try and decipher whatever Rick was saying here. Scott says they’re coming for the tag titles that they never lost and implore Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton to put their names on the dotted line.

 

Tommy Rich is out now, as he’s tasked with taking on the debuting Vinnie Vegas. There was almost no down time between Nash’s Oz gimmick & this one, as he had portrayed that emerald green monstrosity as recently as a few weeks prior to this. Vegas is best described as the type of character you’d find in a Casino porn parody. He suckers Rich in and finishes with Snake Eyes in about a minute. The crowd, much like yours truly, couldn’t care less.

 

WINNER: Vinnie Vegas via pinfall

 

Paul E Dangerously gives a spectacular promo, promising that one of our heroes will leave here disfigured.

 

The world tag champs, Bobby Eaton & Arn Anderson are joined by Larry Zbysko for a six-man match against Barry Windham, Ron Simmons & Dustin Rhodes. Barry looking to settle some scores, as Zbysko slammed Windham’s hand in a car door awhile back, at Halloween Havoc I believe. The Dangerous Alliance finds themselves reeling to start, as the faces come out guns blazin’. They’re able to finally establish control, as Dustin misses a crossbody and goes sailing all the way to the ramp. Paul E. & his cell phone get involved too. Back in, Arn gets a spinebuster on Dustin for 2. He can’t connect on the splash but he drives Rhodes into the mat with a DDT for a near fall. Beautiful Bobby in and he hits a nice top rope elbow. Arn back in but he catches two cowboy boots to the face and in comes Windham! He starts cleaning house before everyone jumps back in. In the melee, Windham catches Eaton coming off the top rope with straight right hand and that’s enough to get the win! Bell to bell action.

 

WINNERS: Barry Windham, Ron Simmons & Dustin Rhodes via pinfall

 

‘Stunning’ Steve Austin & ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude are here for the main event. Jesse Ventura is on commentary for the first time here. Sting & Ricky Steamboat are out to a great reaction, naturally. Jesse notes that these four are the top four ranked wrestlers in WCW’s top 10 gimmick. Austin & Steamboat to start. The Dragon gets the upper hand, staying a step ahead of Austin. He sends both Austin & Rude to the floor with kicks. Rude baits Sting in, slapping him in the face. Rude with an amazing sell off a pair of atomic drops. Sting & Steamboat work over Rude without tagging in & out of the ring, giving the dastardly Dangerous Alliance fits as the ref doesn’t catch it. They maintain control for a while but the Alliance are able to eventually cut the ring off and work over Steamboat. Everyone gets back in during the closing stretch and as Rude has the ref distracted, Sting comes off the top with a cross body as both he AND Steamboat pin Austin (?). Not a great finish but a fantastic main event to close out the show. That classic WCW formula with the added wrinkles of the face team using some underhanded tactics to the chagrin of the heels. Post match, Rude attacks The Dragon, laying him out with a pair of Rude Awakenings. He has a belt and begins lashing Steamboat as security tries to stop him. Sting lays across Steamboat to shield him from the attack as the Dangerous Alliance gets the last laugh this night in Kansas.

 

WINNERS: Sting & Ricky Steamboat via pinfall

 

A really fun and easy to watch show from start to finish. Kip’s bonus pay structure paid dividends right away, as everyone here came to work; outside of the quick squashes, every match was enjoyable. Paul E & the Dangerous Alliance provide so much juice to these late ’91-early ’92 shows. The feud pitting them against Sting & friends would remain white hot, as we’ll see in the coming weeks and months before it culminates at Wrestle War. A great little show to kick off these reviews and coming up next time is Dusty’s final show (for now) as head booker: SuperBrawl 2, featuring Brian Pillman challenging Jushin Liger for the Light Heavyweight title and Sting challenging Lex Luger for the WCW World title!

 

Don’t have the WWE Network? Here’s the show in its entirety for you to enjoy:

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