Time for some more Main Event reviews, as we look at WCW’s Great American Bash Event. For simplicities sake, I’m just going to count the official pay per view events, as otherwise we’d be here for a long time due to The Bash being a big tour prior to it becoming an official pay per view. I’m also not going to cover WWE’s version of the event, because I never really enjoyed those ones and I’m not really that eager to relive them.
Anyway, there’s chuffing wrestling, so we should watch it!
Great American Bash 1988
Champ: Ric Flair w/ JJ Dillon Vs Lex Luger
Luger had been a member of the Four Horsemen but his allegiance to the group began to falter when he lost his United States Title to Dusty Rhodes at Starrcade 1987. This led to dissension and eventually paid off with him leaving the group in early 1988. This is his long awaited shot at taking it to his former leader and claiming his first ever World Title. If this was the WWF from this era and they were trying to shoot a new top babyface to the top of the card then Luger would probably run through Flair in quick order on route to a long Title reign. As you’ll see though, WCW liked to do things a bit differently.
In an interesting touch, both men are wearing yellow and white here, which could be a subtle way of playing up that Luger is aiming to be Flair’s replacement atop the card. The early going is your typical Luger Vs Flair match, which is Luger getting a sustained babyface shine by out wrestling Flair and showing him up. Flair is a fantastic heel that does an incredible job of shining up opponents, especially bigger athletic ones like Luger, so this section is entertaining and the crowd is behind Luger. Even Tommy Young the referee gets to shine of Flair a little bit before scampering behind Luger for protection!
I’m not personally a gigantic Luger fan or anything, but when he was up for it he was capable of having a good match, especially when he was in there with a Flair or Steamboat who could get the absolute best out of him. People can argue that perhaps he wasn’t quite good enough in-ring to carry the main belt in a more work rate influenced company like the NWA was at this time, but they had plenty of talented heels on the roster that he likely would have been fine. It was certainly worth rolling the dice on him, as they could always just put it back on Flair again if needs be.
Flair eventually manages to cut Luger off and starts working him over with measured offence targeting the mid-section. The commentators ponder why Flair is going after that part of the body, but I’m guessing it would be harder to do the Torture Wrack if your ribs and back weren’t right. Flair makes the mistake of going up top, but instead of getting thrown off like usual, Luger jams the ropes so that Flair falls Horseman first onto the top rope. Luger misses the follow up dropkick however, but replies with a clothesline for two.
Flair decides to try going after the leg next, which was his usual MO from this era due to the Figure Four Leg Lock being his finishing hold. Yes, he didn’t win with it very often, but it’s the thought that counts. Flair does go to the Figure Four and Luger sells it well, eventually managing to get the crowd behind him whilst he tries to reverse it. The reversal is successful, but the damage is done and Flair keeps going after the appendage.
Luger starts doing the big no sell though before making a comeback, even managing a press slam, but he makes sure to collapse after delivering it though to sell the leg work. I like that, as he managed to deliver the move but it still had an effect on him. Luger makes the mistake of going for a knee drop however and Flair is able to dodge it, but Flair makes a mistake of his own by heading up again and Luger flings him back down in the spot most wrestling fans will know so well. I do remember that when they turned Flair face in 2005 WWE they made a special point of him successfully coming of the top sometimes, just because they knew the crowd would pop for it.
Flair does his traditional bump out of the corner to the floor, and man did that spot look awesome when Flair use to do it, and a backslide back in the ring gets a two for Luger. Sadly they then botch a spot where Flair tries to cross body Luger over the top rope to the floor and they have to struggle with a few times before finally going over to the floor. Whilst out there however Flair flings Luger face first into the ring post, with Dillon also having a go, which leads to Luger doing a blade job. This blade job will be important as the match progresses.
Flair drags Luger back inside to the ring and works the cut with punches. Luger keeps fighting though and gets a power slam before locking Flair in his trademark finishing hold of the Torture Wrack. However, whilst this has been going on a ringside doctor has decided that the match needs to be stopped due to the blood loss and calls the referee over to demand he stop the bout. The referee does as he’s told, just as Luger has flair in the Wrack, and the crowd explodes thinking Luger has won the Title, but soon the truth is revealed and they are crestfallen.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: RIC FLAIR
The big problem with this match is that Luger really didn’t look like he had a bad enough cut for the fight to be stopped. If he’d been bleeding like Kerry Von Erich at Super Clash III then the finish might have worked a bit better, but as it was it just seemed silly that a big match would be stopped over comparatively so little blood. It was a good idea of keeping the belt on Flair without making Luger eat a pin fall loss, but the execution just wasn’t right. Plus, the right finish here was probably Luger winning the belt clean.
I like NWA/WCW from this time period and I understand that for them it was always about the chase above all else, but the WWF was having big pay per view spectaculars where the crowd was going home happy thanks to Hogan/Savage/Warrior picking up the win in the Main Event. Like it or not, the WWF had ushered in a new way of doing business, and that was built around the good guys winning. Things like whether they were going to get a satisfying ending played a big part in fans deciding whether to spend money on events like this, and because the WWF could almost always guarantee a happy ending they provided something the NWA/WCW couldn’t.
You either adapt or perish.
Great American Bash 1989
Champ: Ric Flair Vs Terry Funk w/ Gary Hart
Ric Flair had regained his World Title from Ricky Steamboat at Wrestle War 89 which had led to Terry Funk coming into the ring to ask for a Title shot. Flair said that Funk wasn’t in contention, so Funk viciously assaulted him and then piledrove him on a table to put him out with a neck injury. This is Flair’s first match back and is his shot at revenge. They did make sure to have Funk work with Ricky Steamboat on a Clash of Champions prior to this event so that he could officially put himself into contention.
Before the match we get possibly my favourite pre-match interview ever, as Gordon Solie interviews Flair. What I love about it is that Solie asks realistic questions that you would expect to be asked in such a situation and Flair gives logical answers that make sense. For instance, Solie asks Flair why he didn’t take any warm up matches on TV prior to this and follows up with whether he thinks there will be any ring rust, and Flair replies that he wanted to prove to himself that he could get back in the ring and get it done following his lay off, which is why he turned down warm up bouts. That’s a babyface ladies and gentlemen! Solie closes the interview by wishing Flair luck and Flair sincerely thanks him. I don’t know why but that moment gives me chills, you can just feel the respect the two characters have for one another.
It’s always amazing to me that Ric Flair seems so strongly to believe that he isn’t a good babyface, because I personally think he’s fantastic in that role. Is his heel work better? Yeah, maybe, but his babyface work is still top notch. He’s got great fire and sells exceptionally well, which makes him a great babyface almost automatically. Sadly Funk’s creepy entrance music gets dubbed out on the WWE Network. That one always gives me the heebie jeebies. The minute you hear it you know some bad stuff is going to go down.
Flair comes down with four lovely ladies on his arms and looks like the coolest bloke on the planet. Funk takes umbrage to this and says mean things to the lovely ladies, so Flair heads out right away to start the fight. The crowd is very much into the idea of Flair laying a whupping on The Funkster, and that’s what they get for most of the early going, as Flair clobbers Funk both inside and outside of the ring, showing great intensity in the process. Funk sells it all well, bumping and flailing around like an unhinged nutter.
Funk does manage to throw Flair into the ring post, which allows him to get in some offence of his own, but Flair fights back by suplexing Funk from inside the ring to the outside. This has not been a smooth technical wrestling bout, it’s been a stiff and frantic slug fest for the most part, which suits the story line perfectly. If a guy tries to break your neck and put you out of wrestling, you’re not going to show up and work a courting hold for ten minutes. You’re going to show up and try to wreck his face with ten knuckles of vengeance, which is what Flair has been doing here.
In a nice call back, Flair actually manages to piledrive Funk inside the ring, which gets a big pop from the crowd. That looked good as well, Flair does a good piledriver. It’s not really a move you know him for, with an under-hook or vertical suplex usually filling his high impact move quota. Flair looks set to serve Funk a nice cold dish of revenge with the Figure Four, but Gary Hart distracts the referee and that allows Funk to hit Flair with a branding iron. Flair blades from that and Funk works the cut with punches before delivering a piledriver.
There was a genuine hush throughout the crowd when Funk did that, as fans are genuinely fearful for Flair’s health, that’s how into this story they are. I love that. Funk reveals the concrete at ringside and goes to piledrive Flair right onto it, but Flair back body drops out of that (Thankfully onto where the other mats are so that no one has to splat on the concrete). Funk does manage a neck breaker back inside though, and adds another one. I love the story here, as literally any move that works that part of the body is instant heat for either man because the fans are buying the narrative.
Funk demands that Flair verbally surrender, which would set up the blow off between them later on, whilst Hart implores him to finish Flair off. Flair of course refuses to give up and, whilst the referee deals with Hart, he gives Funk a taste of his own medicine by clocking him with the branding iron for a big pop. Funk now bleeds also, as they just keep upping the ante in this one. Flair brutally works the cut back inside the ring, and the crowd is all up for that. Flair misses a running knee in the corner though, which leads to Funk trying the spinning toe hold. Flair counters that though and follows up with an inside cradle for the flash pin fall victory.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: RIC FLAIR
This was a fantastic hate filled fight that gave Flair the last gasp win but also left the door open for future matches. Great Muta runs down to help Funk put the boots to Flair following the match, but Sting runs down to rescue Flair and set up a tag team match between the four men at Halloween Havoc 89.
Great American Bash 1990
Champ: Ric Flair Vs Sting
Flair and Sting’s alliance didn’t last as Sting committed the ultimate sin of wanting a shot at Flair’s Title, which led to Flair and the returning Ole and Arn Anderson laying a whupping on him. Sting later came out on that same show to try and get The Horsemen whilst they had a cage match but ended up hurting his leg for real, meaning they had to put off the blow off between the two men until The Bash. There are also a host of stipulations going on here, as Ole Anderson has to be handcuffed to El Gigante and Sting has The Steiner Brothers, Paul Orndorff and Junkyard Dog at ringside to stop The Horsemen from getting involved.
Sadly the babyface side has been saddled with the awful name of “Dudes With Attitudes”, which is about as early 90’s a stable name you could ever get. I had a best of the Great American Bash VHS that WCW released around 1999 that had clips of Bash matches and this one was included, so I’ve seen this one numerous times and I still enjoy it. It’s not the best meeting between the two men, but it’s good fun for the most part, as Sting gets a big shine in the early going by no selling Flair’s chops and just generally battering him from pillar to post.
Flair does eventually target the previously injured leg/knee area, which is the first time Sting has really sold any of his offence in this one, and that gives Flair a way back in to the match. We get the ten minute call following that, which is kind of amazing as it doesn’t feel like they’ve done ten minutes at all, which is a testament to how fast paced and entertaining this one has been. Sting sells his leg well and makes sporadic comeback attempts, only for Flair to cut him off and go back to the leg again on each occasion.
We head outside, where Sting no sells an Irish whip into the metal railings and then heads in for some punches to Flair before flinging him off the top rope when Flair heads up. Sting goes to a backslide following that, but Flair manages to kick out at two and then sweeps Sting’s leg out from under him. Oh wait, hang on.
Mike: Psst, Scott
Scott: Oh what is it Mike I’m busy here
Mike: Sorry to bother you. It’s just that someone just swept somebody else’s leg on this review I’m doing
Scott: *Sigh* Fine, wait a sec
Mike: Thanks for that Scott, you’re the greatest!
Scott: Piss off
Ah, wasn’t that good of him? He’s a great guy, we’re always joking around with one another. What a pair of rapscallions we are eh? Anyway, back in the match Flair tries going to the Figure Four to make use of all the work to the leg, but Sting fights him off and then starts Stinging Up, even gutting through a press slam and getting a clothesline for two. Stinger Splash follows and Sting follows up with the Scorpion Deathlock.
This is The Horsemen’s cue to run down to try and help their boss, but The Dudes hold them off before they can get involved. Flair does still manage to make the ropes however and then makes the pin with the feet on the ropes. Scott Steiner knocks Flair’s feet off the ropes however and the two men trade roll ups until Sting is able to get another backslide for two. Sting goes for a running knee in the corner but Flair dodges and Sting crumples to the mat holding his leg. Flair tries to pounce with the Figure Four, but Sting counters that into an inside cradle for the three count.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: STING
Not the best match the two would ever have but it was a fun contest and the crowd was big into Sting and loved the fact that he won the Title. Sadly Sting’s reign was overshadowed by the lousy Black Scorpion storyline, but this was a good way to get it started. Sting makes sure to put Flair over in his post-match promo and says he’ll do the best he can to fill his shoes.
Great American Bash 1991
Arn Anderson and Paul E. Dangerously Vs Rick Steiner and Missy Hyatt
Oh yes, this match actually went on last on this show, not the infamous cage match between Barry Windham and Lex Luger that is much more well remembered. Paul E and Missy were having a squabbling announcer’s feud during this period, which led to them having arm wrestling battles and the like.
Fans were probably into the idea of Paul E getting battered by Missy as a way to pay off the feud, but the Maryland State Athletic Commission didn’t allow inter-gender matches, so she gets dragged off by Dick Murdoch and Dick Slater prior to the match starting, thus leaving Rick in a 1 on 2 situation.
Paul E does a great job of selling fear about Rick getting hold of him (Probably because he truly was afraid of him) but he manages to hit him from behind whilst he deals with Arn. Rick dodges a cowboy boot shot though and Arn ends up taking it instead. Rick is actually quite nice to Paul E and just body slams him before taking him out with a Steiner-line for the three count.
WINNER: RICK STEINER
That one was only about 2 minutes long, but it at least gave the crowd Paul E getting creamed. Booking and promoting an inter-gender match in a state that doesn’t allow inter-gender matches is one of the all-time “Because WCW” moments though.
Great American Bash 1992
Final of NWA Tag Team Title Tournament
Terry Gordy and Steve Williams Vs Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham
Doc and Gordy were already the WCW Tag Champs here, so giving the NWA belts to the babyface tandem would have made sense, especially as WCW had just ruined the crowds night in the previous match by having Vader crush Sting for the WCW Title. However, even with an easy happy ending right there, WCW decided to take a different route.
Ole Anderson is the trouble shooting referee here, and the first thing he does is stop Rick and Scott Steiner from interfering. The Steiner’s were the team that Doc and Gordy won the WCW tag belts from. Rhodes and Windham hold their own in the early stages, managing to get Gordy off his feet at one stage and making Williams work for everything. It’s more of a Japanese style of match, with mat work and holds as opposed to the traditional tag formula of the babyfaces getting a shine on the heels before one of them getting cut off for the hot tag.
It’s all mechanically fine, but after the fans just suffered the gut punch of the previous match they really need a more high tempo sort of match where they can be given opportunities to pop and get behind the babyfaces. This is crying out for classic southern style tag wrestling, with the faces constantly confounding the heels in the shine segment to get the crowd into things before the heels manage to cut one of them and work some heat before the big hot tag segment once the crowd are behind the babyfaces and ready for a comeback.
Instead, it’s four talented wrestlers going out there and just doing a technically sound, but rather dull, wrestling match that doesn’t really do much to lift an already flat crowd. Rhodes does eventually get isolated from his corner and worked over, but the crowd hasn’t been brought up earlier in the match so they don’t really get behind him. Windham gets a tag, and he hits a series of high impact moves, which at least gets something out of the crowd but they quickly go back down again.
Windham tries going to a sleeper on Williams, but Williams sends him into the ring post to stop that and Gordy comes in with a suplex for two. Things pick up a bit with Windham in there, as Rhodes is an animated presence on the apron and they do some actual proper tag teases, where Windham tries to tag out but gets held back. Eventually Gordy and Windham collide, which leads to a double down and a tag to Rhodes.
Rhodes’ possible hot tag segment gets killed almost instantly though, as Williams clobbers him and goes to a front face lock. It’s like they’re actively trying to kill the crowd now. I mean, I get that they want to make Doc and Gordy look like this unbeatable team who can’t be stopped, but you have to give the babyfaces something otherwise it just becomes tedious, and that’s the wrong kind of heat.
Williams goes for the Oklahoma Stampede on Rhodes, but Windham dropkicks him so that Rhodes falls on top, which would be a fantastic way to give the gutsy babyfaces an upset win to pop the crowd and send them home happy, but that isn’t what we’re going for here and Williams kicks out. Rhodes tries to go for a bulldog on Williams, but Williams shoves him off into Gordy and then follows with a lariat for the three count.
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: TERRY GORDY AND STEVE WILLIAMS
It just goes to show that you can have all the technically good wrestling that you want, but if its in front of a crowd that doesn’t care then it really loses something. I also really have to question the way they booked that match too. I’m fine with Doc and Gordy having all the belts and being an unstoppable heel team, but that doesn’t mean that they had to clinically dispatch their opponents in such a manner. Having them sell a bunch before getting a clean win would have been a more exciting match to watch and would still have given you the finish of the heels winning in the end.
It was the wrong match at the wrong time in front of the wrong crowd in my opinion. I know the Bill Watts era of WCW has its fans out there (And even I personally love the Beach Blast show) but matches like this kind of highlight that he really didn’t know how to read his audience. Two flat heel wins in a row to close out a pay per view like that is absolute madness, especially as all the heat they were building ended up getting paid off on TV and not the next pay per view event (Both Vader and the Doc/Gordy team would lose their belts on TV to Ron Simmons and Rhodes/Windham respectively)
So not only did he take a massive steaming dump on the fans with such an ending, any of the heat he got from it was thrown away on free TV instead of on the big show that the fans were supposed to pay for. Essentially it was all for naught. And if you’re going to bother putting the belts on Rhodes and Windham a couple of months later anyway, why not call an audible when you realise you’ve sent the crowd into a sorrow induced coma and just have them win it via fluke roll up on this show? You can always kill them later if you have to put the belts on Doc and Gordy.
The first three matches were varying degrees of good and I enjoyed going back to watch them. The last two weren’t, but at least one of them was short.
See you all next week for 1995 to 2000