The epic history of WCW's Clash of the Champions

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May 17, 2012

Between 1988 and 1997, WCW offered fans a chance to witness marquee match-ups, normally only seen at pay-per-view events, for free multiple times a year. The brainchild of Dusty Rhodes, Clash of the Champions was presented by Jim Crockett Promotions as a must-see event for wrestling fans. Airing on Ted Turner’s TBS, Clash was a chance for viewers curious about sports-entertainment to witness high quality competition without a pay-per-view price tag. When Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW in late 1988, he kept Clash of the Champions going strong on his flagship network.

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The event didn't only offer free pay-per-view caliber matches, but also sparked a rivalry between WWE and WCW that predated the famed Monday Night Wars. In fact, sports-entertainment’s greatest corporate rivalry did not begin in 1995 with the debut of WCW Monday Nitro, it erupted between Mr. McMahon and NWA/WCW’s Jim Crockett over the scheduling of pay-per-view events.

In 1987, WWE held the first-ever Survivor Series slated for broadcast at the same time as NWA’s marquee event, Starrcade. Back then, cable providers could only present one pay-per-view at a time and WWE would not allow those providers to carry any future WWE events if they aired Starrcade in favor of Survivor Series. 

“Jim Crockett and I were at a steakhouse in New York City, waiting to meet with the cable providers about our pay-per-view,” WWE Hall of Famer and Clash of the Champions originator Dusty Rhodes told “After the meeting, Jim and I looked at each other and we knew they weren’t going to run our pay-per-view because Mr. McMahon backed them into a corner.”

Watch clips from some of Clash of the Champions' best matches

The American Dream knew he had to do something to counter WWE’s aggressive – and wise – strategy for Survivor Series that went beyond simply rescheduling Starrcade.

“It was on the flight back to Charlotte, North Carolina that Clash of the Champions occurred to me,” Rhodes explained. “We went to the Turner network executives and said, ‘Let’s have a free show,’ and they were immediately onboard.”

With the power of Ted Turner’s media empire behind them, Jim Crockett Promotions and NWA decided to send Mr. McMahon a bold statement. The inaugural Clash of the Champions was aired for free on TBS the very same night WrestleMania IV aired on pay-per-view.

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