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NWA Hurt WWF WrestleMania’s PPV Buys 36 Years Ago Today

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In the spirit of rivalry, the NWA pitted their Clash of the Champions TBS special directly against the World Wrestling Federation’s WrestleMania IV on this day in 1988.

During the late 1980s, Vince McMahon was determined to dominate the wrestling industry, both in passion and finances. He was making significant strides, acquiring numerous territories across the country. To secure total victory, he needed to outmaneuver the struggling WCW (then known as the NWA), led by Jim Crockett.

The feud between these two wrestling titans intensified during the rise of cable television and Pay-Per-View. While Vince McMahon and the WWF usually emerged victorious, on March 27th, 1988, Jim Crockett finally gained the upper hand on the most significant day in wrestling; WrestleMania day!

In 1987, Jim Crockett announced that his annual Thanksgiving Day event, Starrcade, would be broadcast on PPV for the first time. Sensing competition, Vince McMahon scheduled his Survivor Series PPV for the same day and time. Worried about the impact of a direct clash, Crockett rescheduled Starrcade to avoid conflicting with Survivor Series.

Seeing an opportunity, McMahon launched a retaliatory strike, declaring that any PPV-provider airing Starrcade would be barred from broadcasting Survivor Series or the upcoming WrestleMania. This aggressive move severely crippled WCW, as most opted to stick with McMahon due to WrestleMania’s immense popularity.

For Crockett’s next PPV, Bunkhouse Stampede, McMahon struck again, scheduling the inaugural Royal Rumble against it. Not only was the Royal Rumble a novel concept, but it also aired for free on the USA Network, achieving record ratings. WCW was on the ropes, facing a make-or-break moment.

Taking a page from McMahon’s playbook, Jim Crockett counter-programmed WCW’s inaugural Clash Of The Champions against WrestleMania, broadcasting it for free on TBS. Despite cable companies’ ire, Clash Of The Champions drew significant viewership, denting WrestleMania’s PPV sales.

While Clash Of The Champions succeeded, WCW remained financially strained, and Crockett’s morale suffered. McMahon’s influence over cable companies became evident, proving him the superior businessman.

Despite cable company troubles, Clash Of The Champions received widespread acclaim, and some even said it surpassed WrestleMania IV in the overall match-quality.

The WrestleMania IV matches sort of paled in comparison to its predecessors. The tournament for the vacant WWF Championship lacked excitement, with early exits from notable stars dampening the crowd. The main event featured “Macho Man” Randy Savage becoming WWF World Heavyweight Champion for the first time ever. In contrast, Clash Of The Champions featured several standout matches, including the iconic main event bout between Ric Flair and Sting, which is considered an all-time-classic.

Though history shows McMahon’s victory over Crockett, the latter can take pride in the critical battle he won, outshining McMahon for one night, to the delight of pro wrestling fans.

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