The Main Event:
Fans of wrestling in the eighties knew that where the WWF (now WWE) had Wrestlemania, the WCW had Clash Of The Champions, the difference being that these were events on par with the WWF's pay-per-view flagship fiesta but shown on regular cable TV on TBS. The event, which was intentionally scheduled to air on the same night as Wrestlemania IV, first appeared under the NWA league banner on March 27, 1988 and continued through 1997 when the last entry in the run aired on August 21. WCW took over for the fourth event and it appeared as a WCW event for the rest of its run.
WWE Home Video have opted to compile a 'best of' collection that wrangles up what someone somewhere considers to be the cream of the crop - and thus we have this release, The Best of WCW Clash of the Champions . What most fans will quickly realize just by skimming over the match listing is that the emphasis here is on wrestlers who had a strong WWF connection ('Macho Man' Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat) and on wrestlers who would have a strong WWF connection (Steve Austin, Sting, Eddie Guerrero ) - calling this the 'best' is debatable, but to the WWE's credit, the matches they have compiled here are generally very good. Dusty Rhodes presents introductions to each of the three discs and pops up periodically to give some historical context to various bouts. His input is decent enough but Dusty being Dusty, there are moments where he's a little out there. It's fun to see him pop up here though, and he even gets a chance to strut his stuff in one of the matches on the first disc where he teams up with Sting who hadn't yet turned into the odd hybrid of The Crow and The Joker that he's become over the last few years.
It was around this time in wrestling history, the late eighties and into the nineties, that the WWF/WWE was getting gimmicky. This left WCE in a great spot to capitalize on the void that was quickly being left and that's exactly what they did. Yes, there were storylines and feuds and rivalries and back stabbings galore, this is all part of what makes wrestling what it is, but with the WCE matches it always felt like the emphasis was always on what happened in the ring.
The content in this set, and there's quite a lot of it, is spread out over the three discs in the set in chronological order as follows:
The Real Story
While some of this material has been made available before on other WWE releases, for those without extensive wrestling DVD libraries this set offers up a lot of classic moments. The first disc is excellent through and through, the first match being the one that really made Sting start to rise to national attention when he wrestled champion Ric Flair for forty-five minutes straight. The action doesn't let up from here, as we then segue into a great pair of tag team matches and are then treated to a surprisingly brutal and bloody 'Russian Chain Match' with Ricky Morton and Ivan Koloff, something you never would have seen on the WWE at the time. The 'I Quit' match with Terry Funk and Ric Flair is a highpoint in the careers of both of these legitimate superstars of the ring, while the bout between Mil Masceras and Mick Foley (appearing here as Cactus Jack Manson) is also excellent. Close the disc off with another solid tag team effort and the first disc is a winner all the way through.
To Be The Man, You Gotta Beat The Man
-NWA United States Championship Match With Ric Flair Versus Lex Luger, Clash Of The Champions XII - 5th September, 1990.
The second disc has also got some classics on it, with the Flair versus Luger opening proving to be a standout and the fifteen man battle royale, something seen far too infrequently in wrestling these days, a nice blast from the past. Some good tag team matches pop up here, Flair involved in a few of them and even teaming up with Sting for the last match on the disc but by this point in the series we're starting to skip ahead... a lot. No Road Warriors, no Sid Vicious and no Cactus Jack? Something's wrong with that!
Here we are Again
The third disc is the weakest of the three and the later cards don't tend to be quite as interesting as those seen on the first two discs in the set but again, they do offer some good wrestling with some interesting and classic characters. Sting and Ric Flair team up again for the opener and you can't help but get excited when Hulk Hogan and Macho Man square off against Ric Flair and The Giant - there are better matches in the set than that one but the star power here is impressive and it's easy to see why these guys became the legends they became. The Triple Threat match is just okay, not great but not terrible, while the Ultimo Dragon/Dean Malenko fight impresses. Another Macho Man appearance and an early Chris Jericho match are both fun as well, even if both men have done better work than what we see here.
All in all, this is a pretty great collection of matches and highlights from the Clash Of The Champions events. The focus is on the better known contestants and as such, some fans are going to be disappointed that maybe some of the bits that they would have liked to have seen haven't been included here but in general the WWE has done a nice job of compiling some solid bits of NWA and WCW history. By my count, eight of the twenty-four matches in the set have been released on DVD before, so the overlap may also be a bone of contention with some, but with two thirds of this material not having hit the format before this release, the good certainly winds up outweighing the bad. There's room for improvement and with that in mind hopefully the WWE will dig a little deeper into the vaults and concentrate more on the entertainment value that some of these matches provided when they first aired, rather than the star power inherent in them.The DVD:
The 1.33.1 fullframe presentation (technically the 1.33.1 image is windowboxed within a 1.78.1 frame, so widescreen TV owners have no fear), though interlaced, looks pretty decent. Some of the earlier matches are on the soft side and aren't quite as clean and colorful looking as the later day content is but this is generally quite a respectable looking presentation. There are times where the lights over the ring make skin tones look a bit off but this isn't a fault of the transfer or the authoring, it's simply the way the material has always looked. Nothing here really looks worse than when it was broadcast on television, and to some eyes it might even look a little bit better.Sound:
The same comments apply to the audio on this release - some of the earlier stuff sounds a bit flat, but most of the newer stuff sounds just fine. Everything comes at you by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track and aside from one or two instances where some of the archival clips have a small amount of audible distortion, there aren't any issues worth complaining about here.Extras:
Aside from menus and chapter selection, there are no extras in this set and while there are some listed for the Blu-ray release, that wasn't supplied for review so we can't really comment on them and there's apparently a Best Buy exclusive version of the DVD set that contains a few additional bonus matches, but again, it wasn't supplied for review.Final Thoughts:
WWE's three DVD release of The Best of WCW Clash of the Champions is good, but not great. It definitely gives us a look at an interesting period in wrestling history, a time when the WWE was concentrating more on gimmicks and storylines than on wrestling itself and where WCW was giving fans a lot more bang for their buck. The set could have offered up a broader representation of more varied matches than they have here and the lack of extras is irritating (if expected) but otherwise, fans will more than likely really enjoy this set and can consider it recommended.