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[1991-11-19-WCW-Clash of the Champions VII] Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko vs Ricky Steamboat & Dustin Rhodes

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This may be my most watched match ever. Ricky Steamboat is an awesome reveal to sub for the injured Barry Windham. WCW had been in a major funk and really needed this show to be strong, and boy did it deliver. Anyway, it's hard to comment on this because I've seen it so many times. The soundbytes from this match are ingrained in my memory ("NOT RICKY STEAMBOAT!" ... "He's just a man" ... "Brand new tag team belts by the way", which is oddly memorable).

 

This is pretty close to a perfect tag team match. I'll make the argument sometime when my mind is a little fresher, but I think there's a case for this as the best WCW match of all time (excluding the Flair/Steamboat series).

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With that get-up the first thing Tony thinks is that it may be someone from Japan but the first thing I think is that it's the Dragon Master from USWA. I love those tag belts, btw. They kept those around for a while (until the side plate fell off).

 

This is a really, really good match for sure.

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Windham wearing a brace on his hand and unable to wrestle. But they have a tag partner to fill in. Dragon Master from USWA! I finally get to see him wrestle. He doesn’t look seven foot three inches tall though. Damnit, BackToBionic beats me to that comment. It’s Steamboat! Big crowd approval of this and the heels sell this big. Enforcers finally get themselves quality opponents. Excellent match and a very crowd pleasing victory for Steamboat/Rhodes in winning the tag titles. WCW has made some really good recent additions in Rude and Steamboat.

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Is this the greatest substitute in wrestling history? I'm hard-pressed to think of another one that compares. The Enforcers have one of the all-time great heel reactions--"NOT RICKY STEAMBOAT!", Arn making bug-eyed faces, and then my possible favorite: Arn caressing his tag title belt, as though the match is already lost and he's giving it his goodbyes. This is the hottest WCW crowd since the beginning of the year if not all year, and after a fine babyface showcase we get some classic heeling by the Enforcers before the big comeback and victory. I don't think this was as good as the best 1990 tag matches involving the Midnights, Rock 'n Rolls, and Southern Boys, but it has a more compelling, "bigger" storyline and more star power to it, and that counts for a lot. I know business was a long way from turning around, but we've just seen the debut of Cactus, Rude, and Steamboat and coming soon will be Vader, Nikita, and others. Things are looking up for WCW in a post-Flair world.

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I'm sure this isn't my favorite WCW match. I liked the work in the best tag matches from 1990 a bit better, and I might say the same about the Superbrawl match the following year with Windham in place of Steamboat. But as a total experience, from the way Steamboat was announced, to Arn's reaction, to the way they structured the match, it was just about perfect.

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It looked to me like there were two separate instances where Zbyszko ended up in the match without tagging in. It wasn't an attempt to get heat by coming in illegally, they just lost track of who the legal man was. Still a great match that I prefer to any MX tag. I was also amused by Jim Ross completely no-selling Tony Schiavone's attempts at analysis.

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Boat making a shock return as a mystery partner was pretty awesome. Kind of like the opposite of the Shockmaster. This helped create an electric atmosphere which certainly never hurts. The standard structure but it was very nicely done. They kept it to the right length, the timings were right and there was an air of excitement.

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This is the type of great match that I somehow always forgot about when I am making lists.Then whenever a wicked hot girl at the club asks me to rattle of My top 10 best WCW matches of the 90s and I list them then she says "What about Steamboat's return with Dustin against the Enforcers". I just rip off the nearest blazer from some hotshot, drop a knee on it and ask her to marry me on the spot. If I say it enough, this is bound to happen. Point is after this match, I am never forgetting about this match again. I don't know if it is in my top ten because it is fuckin' awesome and deserves all the praise it gets.

 

To me all time great matches, need urgency and struggle. You have to believe these two men or teams are actually working to achieve victory. In this match, every single spot is worked for because how great all four of these men are. It has become almost cliche to praise how well the Enforcers put over Steamboat's return, but that only shows how great a job they do from the facial expressions to "NOT RICKY STEAMBOAT!". I watched this match with my mother and brother and when he said "He's just a man!" They popped huge. (My whole living with my parents may be a detriment to the above fantasy). I always, always loved that line. This tag match is like manna from heaven after being in the desert of WWF tags. Look, I have seen plenty of great WWF tags don't get me wrong, but there is nothing like Mama's home cookin'. I have come home, baby! Jim Ross sums up the beginning the best when he says the Enforcers have been totally psyched out my Ricky Steamboat explaining how they are just generally so cerebral, but this surprise has really unnerved. I love that is how that match really unfolds as the story in and out of the ring really connects. The babyface shine is just one of those really feel-good ones, but credit to the Enforcers they are still working to get the advantage they are just discombobulated by the presence of Steamboat. I would rank Ric Flair as the greatest verbal seller of all time, but Larry Z is definitely up there with him. From the beginning, Dustin looks like he belong in there with these three veterans as he is excellent at delivering some great babyface offense. The Enforcers are cheating and stalling like muthafuckas, but nothing seems to take effect as the babyfaces will just not be denied. The thing I really took away from this match was that the transition to the heat segment maybe the greatest transition I have ever seen. Larry Z slaps Steamboat to get him hot and he bails. The Steamer gives chase. Larry Z gets back in and tags Arn. As Steamboat gets back in, Arn hits him. Dustin goes to argue and Arn comes crashing down on the Dragon's back while the Living Legend holds him. Tony puts over that looked "helter-skelter", but it was actually a well-laid plan. That was the fuckin' beauty of it. It is did not look rehearsed. It looked like a really intelligent piece of strategy to finally give the Enforcers the advantage. The Enforcers work a kickass heat segment, but that's like telling you the sun is coming up tomorrow. It is just a clinic as they focus on Steamboat's back and constantly are keeping him in their corner. My favorite part is the Boston Crab where Larry Z is pushing Arn's head back just for that extra little bit. In a match like this, every inch counts. What I really want to make a point of is in a WWF tag usually the heels just do their thing. Here, Steamboat is still clawing at everything. He is still throwing strikes. He is looking to claw his way back into this anyway he can. This entire match has just had so much struggle to it and that's makes it so timeless. Who ever is on the defensive is still putting up a fight. Steamboat gets an atomic drop, but Arn's head snaps back and they crack heads. The ref's count is on, but the Dragon makes it to the Natural. Dustin is a house afire. He hits a wicked lariat and here comes the bulldog on AA. He tags Steamboat back in so Steamboat can hit the cross-body on Arn so he can get the feel-good moment in winning the tag titles in his return. They used Dustin perfectly in this match, but not due to a lack of experience as he was just about to have an absolutely incredible '92. Steamboat was the main focus of the match. You wanted to see Steamboat kick ass at the beginning, get his ass beat and then get the pinfall because he is in the returning hero. Dustin was a sweet guitar fill to Steamboat's all-time bitchin' riff. Dustin hit a lot of good offense to pop the crowd. This is my favorite Steamboat performance because of how passionate it is and how he just works every spot as hard as he can. I don't think much more can be said about the Enforcers, just a masterful heel performance. I am so glad to finally be home, again!

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I haven't checked out the yearbook threads in a while and this is as good a match as any to get back into it. This match holds a special place in my heart. Strangely, while Flair was the face of the nwa in the 80s, I didn't start watching wcw until the fall of 91. I started with the 9/91 clash because there was a battle royal and I loved battle royals at the time. I recognized the One Man Gang from wwf. I became more interested when Rick Rude appeared the next month as he was a wwf mainstay and I drew parallels between Rude/Warrior and Rude/Sting. Then came the 11/91 clash. I remembered Arn from the brainbusters and Dustin from the Dibiase angle.When Steamboat came out I was hooked. I would go on to watch wcw til the end through the good the bad and the ugly.

 

As for the match, I have this as #3 wcw MOTD behind only wargames and Rude/Steamboat ironman. The only other tag me to this imo are the superbrawl2 tag and the mx/rnr and mx/southern boys tags from 1990. Best part about this match is the heat segment on steamboat. I like the idea of wearing down the veteran steamboat and keeping the less experienced dustin on the apron.Match was a perfect length too. I would have liked to have seen a rematch of this on saturday night. I don't know if there is a match of it but I would have liked to see enforcers vs dustin/barry also.

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I had become a fan only a few months before - first the WWF and then WCW. This was the first "great" match I ever saw, and it cemented me as a fan for life. WCW eventually airing classic matches for a few weeks on (I think) Worldwide continued that along, and so did renting old WWF PPVs.

 

The WCW Worldwide (?) stuff was peculiar to me at the time, because it was a complete Flair-fest - even though Flair was in the WWF at that time. Who knows why WCW did half the things they did, but in that case, I'm glad they did it.

 

Michael Hayes was one of the hosts, and I remember him being adamant that they should air the best stuff, "even if those people are no longer in WCW."

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Interesting story with the Flair stuff. Watts felt like Rude and Chono killed the NWA title by having a horrible match at Halloween Havoc. He wanted to rebuild it as something they could draw with, so he and Jim Ross started pulling great matches from the archives that just happened to be Flair vs Steamboat. Anyway, showing those matches popped a huge rating on TBS, which led to Watts signing Flair ... and leaving WCW right as Flair was coming in.

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I think it's either Jim or Tony, but one of them basically points out how they haven't seen a match this hot in awhile which speaks to how bad things were before, and how the clouds were lifting with regard to the in-ring product. Rude and Steamboat coming in almost back-to-back was a shot in the arm WCW needed to fill the void left by Flair.

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If asked to close my eyes and think about US tag team wrestling, this match pops immediately in my mind. So much classic stuff like Steamboat's return, the Enforcers freak out, all the short cuts they take through the match, Steamboat showing more fire and viciousness than usual, and then a great hot finish that had the crowd go rabid. Perfect stuff for the time allotted. I could watch this match on a loop and be happy.

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I have somehow not actually seen this before, and it sure does live up to the hype. What a gorgeous finish! My main qualifications for a really good finish are that it look forceful enough and that it has a bit of creativity, and this one pays off both in spades. The faces beat the Enforcers at their own game with a blind tag and a bit of confusion.

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I'm not sure if this is the greatest American tag ever, but it's in the top ten. Most of the really good comments have already been posted, and I agree with just about all of them.

 

After this match, how can Dusty justify breaking up the Enforcers? Not that Bobby Eaton isn't a superb tag wrestler, but Arn and Larry are magical together. It's their performance that makes this match what it is: the opening moments, when they act for all the world like they're going to walk out because Steamboat's presence so completely unnerves them, to Arn's masterful stall on the outside (which ended with "He's just a man"), to their excellent strategy in choosing Steamer to doubleteam in order to frustrate Dustin into constantly interfering and distracting Nick Patrick (more about that in a second), it just may the best tag performance I've ever seen from Arn, and that includes his teams with both Ole and Tully.

 

You'd think that Dusty would want to keep a team that works that well together, especially since they'll be adding Heyman soon as icing on the cake. Instead, Arn gets Eaton as a partner (they won the belts too, so it's not a waste, but Bobby just doesn't seem like he'd fit with Arn the way Larry does), and more importantly, The Cruncher's sent out on his own to no good end. It just seems like a waste of a perfectly wonderful team.

 

About Dustin: Yes, isolating and doubleteaming Steamer was great heel strategy well executed, but since JR and Tony (rightfully) brought up Dustin's emotional reaction to it, the mark in me is left to wonder why Dusty didn't train him not to fall for such an obvious ploy, especially from a guy whom Dusty himself had fought so many, many times.

 

That's a jarring flaw in most tag matches, by the way, and one that should have been eliminated by this point. A face getting overly emotional once or twice in a match over a particularly blatant bit of cheating is one thing; constant run-ins and referee distraction spots don't do anything but make the "Robert Gibson", if you will, of the match look like a selfish idiot for putting his partner in constant danger. Quite frankly, I'm surprised a situation like this wasn't used in a heel turn at some point: have the FIP lose the fall clean instead of getting the hot tag, then berate and attack his partner for allowing it to happen through his own sniveling and complaining. Dustin was close to crossing that line here, although Steamer turning heel would have served no purpose whatsoever after the huge pop he got when he was revealed.

 

The handling of the reveal was tremendous. I liked Tony speculating that it could be a Japanese wrestler (although the dragon's head was about as big a giveaway as there could possibly have been in retrospect), and JR and Tony popped as much as the crowd did when Steamer finally showed his face. Arn in particular sold Ricky's presence like death: "OH NO! NOT RICKY STEAMBOAT!" You would have thought it was Andre in his seventies prime instead.

 

Excellent commentary from JR and Tony. There were no memorable one-liners, but this match didn't need them; the straight-ahead sports commentary we got here was perfect. I loved Tony's history lesson about Steamboat and the tag team title, though I doubt most of the younger viewers either knew or cared about Jay Youngblood and Paul Jones.

 

One minor nitpick: They probably shouldn't have a had a name graphic for Steamboat. How is it that the broadcasters and ring announcer have no idea that he's under that head, yet the graphics person knows enough to have his name in the Chyron within a few seconds? Is he a relative of one of the faces whom they let in on the secret? That's what I would be wondering if such a thing had caught my attention back in the day.

 

Image of the match: Windham lifting Steamer high in the air after he's revealed to the audience. Normally, you see that kind of stuff after a bout, but the crowd was so hot that they needed to share that moment with their returning hero.

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This match is a work of art. It's one of the best tag team matches in North American wrestling history, and possibly the world as well. So many great moments, possibly the best mystery partner reveal ever, Steamboat in general, Dustin's work in the match is great, and of course everything about The Enforcers. Arn and Larry were on top of their game for sure.

 

The Enforcers might be the best short-lived tag team in history. I wish they would've been kept together longer. I get the appeal of having Arn and Bobby team up, but Arn and Larry were a better team.

 

I absolutely love this match. It's a work of art for sure. *****

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#133 - placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-150-101/

 

I have this at ****3/4 for me. So much has been said about this match, that mostly I can say I just share those sentiments. This is an all-time classic, and this would be higher on a list such as this for me. Off the top of my head, it would be one of my top 5 favorite tag matches of all time. It is definitely my favorite mystery partner reveal. Everyone in this match is fantastic, but for some reason I'm always picturing Arn Anderson first when I think back on it. In match full of great performances, and I just love the hell out of him here.

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Arn Anderson's expressions are so good throughout, but I really love after the reveal, and when he sells the first atomic drop. The way this starts off with a perfect camera angle of Steamboat unloading the fire onto Arn Anderson, who is putting on a selling clinic, man it's just perfect.

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This is an amazing match. And reveal. And that's really all I can add. I guess I can be happy that it got the reaction it did after the bulk of 1991 as well.

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WCW World Tag Team Champions The Enforcers vs Ricky Steamboat & Dustin Rhodes - WCW Clash of the Champions XVII

"He's just a man. He's just a man" - Arn Anderson after taking a Ricky Steamboat ass-kicking

One of the all-time great Southern tags and returns in pro wrestling history. After Flair's departure in July of 1991, it looked like WCW was on death's doorstep. It is amazing that just four months later, WCW was completely revitalized by the returns of Ricky Steamboat & Rick Rude. Here, The Enforcers had crushed Barry Windham's hand at Halloween Havoc and he was unable to compete. Thus Dustin got Steamboat as a replacement. The reaction of Arn Anderson is something to behold. His character work was amazing throughout this match. His freak out at the beginning, selling for the shine, the aforementioned quote and then asking for a timeout, all great shit. I loved the babyface shine. Thats how you capitalize on a return. Steamboat came out breathing fire. I loved how Arn and Larry Z were still attacking, but Steamboat was fighting through it all. The bumping & stooging by the Enforcers was top notch. I love how they finally gain the advantage. Larry Z runs his mouth and gets Steamboat back into the match. Then he slaps Steamboat and Larry Z heads for the hills. It was all a well-laid trap. In this game of cat and mouse, Steamboat gets caught exiting with a knee from Arm. Tony does a great job explaining how that may have looked helter skelter, but it was actually a well-thought out plan. As the ref is detain Dustin, the Enforcers consolidate their  advantage with a double team. Anderson goes from coward to confident in a blink of the eye. Signaling that Dragon is done. Did I mention I love Arn Anderson. Great heat segment on Steamboat. Loved the ab stretch and Boston crab where they get that extra leverage. Good false tag before the real one. Real quick finish, Dustin cleans house and tags Steamboat back in crossbody for the win. They follow the Southern tag formula to a tee and it is great. Really inspired heel performance here and Dragon looked great on his return. Im a smidge lower on this than most. I thought they went home too fast. Dustin is barely in the match. I thought the front half was real next level whereas the back half was just textbook. Really great execution of the textbook, but still textbook. It just doesnt quite get to that tippy top level for me. I am thinking about Greatest Match Ever when I am writing this so thats why I am nitpicking. Regardless, this is a classic and something anybody who loves tag team wrestling should watch. The Dragon has returned to WCW let us rejoice and be glad! ****1/2 

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I once read that Steamboat's key to selling was to never let more than a few moves go by with making a small comeback; to always struggle.

I always look for that in matches now and I'm almost always disappointed by the heat segment with other wrestlers, but Steamboat's selling really is the key to this match. He lives by his mantra and is constantly firing back at Arn and Larry, which makes the ending that much more sweet. I hate matches where the heels dominate 75% but when the face makes their comeback, suddenly the bad guy's "power meter" fades and they're done. Here, The Enforcers have got Steamboat to themselves for a while, but Steamboat chips away whenever he can, causing The Enforcers to exert themselves even more until finally fresh Dustin is able to set Steamboat up for the win.

Love this match and with Rude and Steamboat, suddenly WCW is hot stuff again. 

Agree with thoughts above that Arn and Larry should have been kept together for the Alliance, but I'm guessing Zbyszko was a stronger singles presence than Eaton so if they're all in a group, stick Eaton in a tag role. Frankly I'm surprised they didn't go with Larry/Bobby and have Arn be the third singles guy, but it all worked out.

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Steamboat's return to WCW after a cup of coffee in the WWF over the summer. This is a textbook example of how to do Southern tag team wrestling. The Enforcers were masterful in cutting off Steamboat from getting the tag. Zbyszko pushing Arn back while he had a crab locked on was a cool spot that I don't think I've ever seen replicated. Arn was also great selling the quick bursts of energy Steamboat got to keep the crowd invested. Dustin Rhodes, although you couldn't fairly call him the weak link, was mainly here to be the fresh babyface who would clean house when Steamboat finally scored the tag. He did his role well, but this is the Steamboat, Arn and Larry Z show. I had high expectations, and I'm happy to say that this did not disappoint. 

★★★★¼
 

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