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WWE Network Deep Cuts (May 7, 2014): Clash of the Champions Special Edition!

Clash of the Champions has come to WWE Network, and this week, Scott takes a look at five matches -- three are great, one is pretty cool, and another is a big steaming pile of garbage featuring one of the best wrestlers to ever live.

WWE Network

Hello again. I'm Scott, and this is your weekly Cageside Seats feature, WWE Network Deep Cuts, where we take a look at some of the more unheralded matches, some good, some great, some something else entirely, that you can fire up right now, this very second, with WWE Network.

This week, we're doing a theme! Normally, I don't want a theme. Too constrictive. But every Clash of the Champions is now available on WWE Network, so we're going to talk the Clash. Some of y'all young bloods may not even have been alive for the last Clash of the Champions, which took place in August 1997. So if you were born August 22, 1997 or later, you were never alive for a single Clash of the Champions. And yet here you are, about to start driving cars, not too far off from voting, getting ready to continue ruining what my generation and those last few before it already started screwing up. Time really flies, and sometimes, when I realize that a nearly 17 year old person was never breathing the sweet oxygen of life during a Clash of the Champions event, I feel very old indeed. Other times, it's, like, whatever, man, you know?

The Clash was special for a while, then less special, and by the end, not special at all. There are four stages of Clash of the Champions: 1988-91, 1992-94, HOGAN ERA, and then the dying days. I encourage you to watch all the Clash shows. They tell a good chunk of the tale of WCW.

Barry Windham vs Brad Armstrong (Clash of the Champions II: Miami Mayhem, 6/7/88)

Windham and Armstrong would go on to have some damn good weekend TV matches into the 1990s, but this is their biggest match. I set that up like it's the highlight of a great rivalry because, well, it kind of is -- Windham and Armstrong had tremendous chemistry, as you can see in this match. During the times that Barry Windham gave a damn, he was about as good as anybody. He was right there with Flair or Steamboat or anyone else. When he cared. He didn't always care. It's almost like wrestling came so easy to Barry that he'd get bored with it.

Brad Armstrong had the same natural talent that Barry did, but he wasn't as big and tall, and he wasn't much on the microphone, although he also didn't get a lot of chances to talk. Bullet Bob Armstrong was a phenomenal promo guy, so maybe Brad was better than he got to show. At any rate, Windham would be a relevant star for the next five or six years, with dips in and out of the spotlight, and then he would just occasionally pop back in. Armstrong would never really lose a step over the next decade, but would become more and more irrelevant as time wore on. He was an early star in WCW's light heavyweight division, but past that he didn't get to do much more than make guys look good on Saturday Night. On the chances he got to really go with someone good, he always proved he could. He was really one of the best technicians of his era. He remains tremendously underrated.

Terry Funk vs Ricky Steamboat (Clash of the Champions VII, 6/13/89)

Of all the great matches in 1989 NWA, this may be the most overlooked of the truly great matches. Funk had returned to the ring to go after world champion Ric Flair, while Steamboat had just gotten done trading the belt with Flair in their instant classic big match trilogy. This is a masterful display of psychology, selling, and just beautiful character work. I think this match is damn near as good as anything these two did in ‘89, including their respective classics with Flair. This match is seriously just awesome. I don't even really have the words for it. This is one of my absolute favorite matches, and I'm so glad it's on WWE Network now so that I can spread the gospel. Marvel as these two ring geniuses beats the crap out of one another. Jim Ross and Bob Caudle call the hell out of this match, too. "Steamboat is cannon fodder!"

Ric Flair vs The Junkyard Dog (Clash of the Champions XI: Coastal Crush, 6/13/90)

Within one year, the NWA/WCW had gone from having the baddest run of badass motherfarking killer matches with the best gotdanged rasslers on this very planet to having Ric Flair face the Junkyard damned Dog at Clash of the Champions. It's exactly one year from the Funk-Steamboat match that this is the headline match on a Clash. Fortunes faded fast.

I want to be very clear here: I AM NOT RECOMMENDING YOU WATCH THIS BECAUSE IT'S GOOD. This is among the very worst Ric Flair matches I've ever seen. JYD was beyond done by this point. It's important to remember that the big man was only 37 years old in this match. He was never a good worker by any means, but at this point, we're very close to seeing what happens in that much-discussed theoretical Flair vs Broom match, except the broom would probably bump. Horrible, awful, no-good, very bad match. It's so bad I think you should watch it.

Brian Pillman & Jushin Liger vs Chris Benoit & Beef Wellington (Clash of the Champions XIX, 6/15/92)

Here, have a palate cleanser. Clash XIX was built around an international tag team tournament for the NWA world tag team championship, featuring The Miracle Violence Connection (Dr. Death Steve Williams and Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy) coming in to go after those belts, and get their shot at the Steiner Brothers. There are lots of weird teams thrown in, including the Malenko Brothers, and there's a godawful mess of a match between The Fabulous Freebirds and Silver King & El Texano. Watch that one if you're in the mood for more garbage.

This match is awesome, though. All four guys know the Stampede style, and Benoit and Liger have plenty of experience together by this point, too. They make the match go, but nobody in this match drags on it. And the referee is Bill Alfonso, with the great JR & The Body commentary team. All around, this is a great Clash match, and one of those cool things you could get in WCW that didn't happen in the WWF, with international stars coming together and just wrestling. This match takes liberal advantage of the NWA rules not outlawing top rope maneuvers, which Bill Watts' WCW rules had.

Psicosis, Silver King, Villano IV & Villano V vs Juventud Guerrera, Super Calo, Hector Garza & Lizmark Jr (Clash of the Champions XXXV, 8/21/97)

This was the final Clash of the Champions card, making for a really bittersweet show for me in retrospect. I was 15, I didn't know this was the last Clash, if that was the idea going in, and it just turned out that it was the final one. By this point, the Clash had long since stopped meaning what it once did, as there were 12 pay-per-views every year from WCW, not to mention the weekly live Monday Nitro. The time of the Clash had passed. At this point, it was really just another show, though one more focused on the matches than Nitro would be. This is a lucha eight-man, and about standard for the WCW lucha tags. It was a great change of pace for the show. The show's main event had 1997 Lex Luger, so, you know.

Clash on, champions! Tell us about your thoughts about when you watched these matches! Share further Clash delights!

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