Happy Saturday Everyone!
Seeing as I reviewed an ECW show from June 1996 last week and I haven’t reviewed this GAB show before, I decided to review it this week as it’s a show I generally enjoy and I’m interested to see if it still holds up.
It’s also quite an historically significant one as well, as not only do The Horsemen get a new member but Kevin Nash and Scott Hall show up to set the table for Bash at the Beach and the forming of the nWo the following month.
Plus, we’ve got Benoit/Sullivan and Malenko/Mysterio to enjoy as well!
The event is emanating from Baltimore, Maryland on the 16th of June 1996
Calling the action are Tony Schiavone and Dusty Rhodes
We get a great Saturday Nights Main Event styled intro to the show, with guys cutting quick promos to the camera. That was really well done.
As it’s a WCW show, we have to sit around for a bit before they actually get a match in the ring, although in this case it’s to do the National Anthem, being that it’s The Great American Bash and all.
Following that we get Tony and Dusty chatting for a bit. Okay guys, we’ve had enough pre-amble, stop being all WCW and get a match in the ring!
There Must Be A Winner!
Fire and Ice (Scott Norton and Ice Train) Vs The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott)
These two teams apparently had some non-finishes, so we’ve got this match to settle it. Norton and Ice Train are two big hefty fellers who liked to throw down, whilst The Steiners had returned to WCW following stints in the WWF, ECW and New Japan. This match is what would happen if Jim Ross rubbed a magic lamp and got a chance to wish for the slobberiest of slobber-knockers. It’s all about big lads throwing one another around and delivering snug strikes. It’s probably an acquired taste for some, but I find it entertaining.
The crowd doesn’t really care about Fire and Ice that much, but they do pop for all of The Steiner’s big power moves. There is one scary moment where Scott tries to give Norton a T-Bone and Norton either doesn’t take it properly or Scott doesn’t execute it right, but whatever the reason it ends with Norton taking a nasty landing. Thankfully Norton is pretty much all muscle and bulk, so he doesn’t end up getting seriously injured and it actually leads to some heat on Scott.
Steiner does a decent job selling in the heat actually, although Norton and Train’s offence is a little sloppy outside of certain big power moves. Rick ends up getting a blind hot tag just before Scott takes a Shoulderbreaker from Norton, leading to a sloppy sequence where Norton nearly gets killed AGAIN from a band landing, this time from a German Suplex. That leads us into the finishing stretch, with near falls leading to Steiner getting a super sloppy Frankensteiner on Norton for three.
This started out well enough but it kind of fell apart in the closing stages. It wasn’t boring though, I’ll give it that, and the crowd didn’t hate it
The Steiner’s celebrate their victory whilst Tony says they’ll want a Tag Title match following that. I think this led to something like an 18 month journey for The Steiners where they constantly got screwed out of the tag belts, mostly by The Outsiders.
Mean Gene Okerlund is backstage with Jimmy Hart and Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan faces Chris Benoit in a Falls Count Anywhere bout tonight. Sullivan brags about bouncing Brian Pillman from WCW and tries to form an alliance with Arn Anderson and Ric Flair. Basically the point is that Sullivan hates Benoit but likes the other two Horsemen.
WCW United States Title
Champ: Konnan Vs El Gato
Gato is a faux Mexican in a Tiger Mask styled get up, being played by Pat Tanaka. The rumour at the time was that Konnan’s US Title run came about because he brought the Luchadores into WCW and the company wanted to reward him for it with the Title. Konnan was also the Mexican Champion at the same time. He did have a fun match with Jushin Liger at Slamboree 96 during this run though.
Why they couldn’t just have Tanaka as Pat Tanaka here and had to give him this silly gimmick is beyond me. Was evil faux Japanese guy not a good enough character already? Did they really need to change his faux nationality for this throwaway Title shot? It’s not like he had much chance of winning in either scenario. Tanaka does take some nice bumps for Konnan here, but the crowd dies the minute this match starts and they never get them back.
It’s kind of a boring match in all honesty, although it’s not horribly executed or anything. It’s just two guys the crowd doesn’t care about having a bland basic match. It feels like a match you’d see on WCW Saturday Night, not something on a pay per view you’d actually have to spend money on. Konnan gets to hit some of his trademark offence like the rolling clothesline and it looks decent due to Tanaka taking good bumps in order to make Konnan look good. Konnan does finally get the crowd to care somewhat by giving Tanaka a powerbomb out on the floor before following up with the Alabamma Slamma back inside the ring for the clean three count.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: KONNAN
The crowd didn’t really care but the wrestling itself wasn’t horrible. Just a flat match that didn’t feel pay per view worthy
Mean Gene is backstage with Sting, who hypes up his match with Steven Regal. They both insinuate that Regal is a bit limp-wristed, because “ha ha, you might be gay” was actually a viable insult that a babyface could use back in 1996. Sting actually loses his place a bit in the promo but Mean Gene is a pro and covers for it.
Lord of the Ring
Champ: Diamond Dallas Page Vs Marcus Bagwell
DDP won Battle Bowl back at Slamboree and earned a nice ring in the process (not unlike the Dynamite Diamond thing AEW does), which he’s now putting on the line here. Bagwell was a tag guy at the time, teaming up with Scotty Riggs as The American Males, but they tell the story that The Males tossed a coin to decide who would get a shot at the ring here.
This is a decent match, with DDP being a good bumping Heel and Bagwell being a solid white meat babyface with a vast array of clotheslines and arm bars. DDP sells big for Bagwell’s offence in the early going to really shine him up, but eventually DDP is able to jam the ropes to cause Bagwell to land Stuff first onto the top rope for the cut off.
Bagwell sells well in the heat, whilst some of the crowd actually chants for DDP. It was only a minority, but it was the beginning of grass roots support for DDP that eventually led to him becoming a very popular babyface in 1997 and 1998 when he turned down the nWo and feuded with the likes of Randy Savage and Raven. DDP always liked to meticulously plan his matches out in advance, which usually meant he could take solid guys like Bagwell and craft entertaining matches with them.
DDP actually busts out a prototypical version of the Bro-Derek at one stage, which looked like a rescue for a potentially botched Tombstone. Bagwell ends up making a comeback with some Atomic Drops, which DDP sells in an almost comically over the top manner, which leads us into the closing stretch. The crowd doesn’t really care that much about Bagwell, but they do dislike DDP somewhat at least. DDP eventually gets the Diamond Cutter OUTTA NOWHERE, and that’s enough for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE
This was a decent match, although it was lacking a bit in crowd heat because the fans didn’t really care that much about Bagwell. DDP was really starting to get the Diamond Cutter over by this stage and the commentators put it over big on commentary as well
Mean Gene is backstage with Jimmy Hart and World Champ Giant. Giant isn’t afraid of the Torture Wrack because Luger isn’t going to get him in it.
WCW Cruiserweight Title
Champ: Dean Malenko Vs Rey Mysterio Jr
This is Rey’s WCW debut after he made a name for himself down in Mexico and also in ECW. Apparently a lot of the bigger guys in the locker room thought it was a joke when Rey showed up, but following this match they weren’t laughing any more. Malenko had been defending the belt against the likes of Brad Armstrong, who was a good wrestler but wrestled like a smaller Heavyweight, whilst Rey was a high-flyer who worked the sort of style this division was created for.
Mike Tenay sits in on commentary for this one and does an excellent job of putting both competitors over. This match is really good, as the two men mesh together well and the crowd gets into it once they see what Rey can bring to the table. Malenko is great at making Rey look like a threat as well, as he sells for Rey’s offence in a believable manner and does a good job at showing his frustration as Rey gets the better of him in the early stages.
Malenko eventually manages to cut Rey off by going after Rey’s left elbow, which Rey of course sells really well. It’s refreshing to hear that both Tony and Dusty are trying to get Rey over as a genuine competitor too, which helped a lot with establishing Rey as a star to the fan base early doors. Malenko’s limb targeted offence looks really good and Rey’s selling helps in making it look dangerous and effective. It makes sense from a kayfabe stance that the technician would try to ground the high-flyer on the mat as well.
I love how Rey struggles in the holds as well, whilst Malenko actually works in the holds to try and pick up the victory. It’s what makes the difference between a working hold and a rest hold. Rey does eventually make a fantastic comeback, hitting some excellent high-flying moves and popping the crowd in the process. Because Malenko worked his elbow and not his leg then it makes it believable that Rey could still fly around as well. They’ve put this one together really intelligently. Malenko eventually manages to catch Rey with a powerbomb against the run of play and pins him with his feet on the ropes to a standing ovation.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: DEAN MALENKO
This was a great match, with excellent selling from Rey and some really crisp wrestling from Malenko. The fans really appreciated it as well, even cheering Malenko at the end due to how much they liked the match overall, even though he technically cheated for the finish
Mean Gene is backstage with Lex Luger, who isn’t really focused on his interview because he’s too focused on his match with The Giant later. This was a good promo from Luger.
Big Bubba w/ Jimmy Hart Vs John Tenta
Bubba shaved off half of Tenta’s hair to set this one up. Tenta decided to keep half of his hair shaved in order to motivate his quest for vengeance, which must have sucked for him in real life having to walk around with that stupid hairdo. This match doesn’t have a lot of heat, but it’s decently worked, with Tenta clobbering Bubba in a quest for revenge and Bubba selling it well. Bubba hits Tenta with a concealed international object at one stage though and that leads to the cut off.
Tenta sells well in the heat, whilst Bubba’s offence looks decent. Again, the crowd doesn’t really care, but this is fine as a match. I will say that this was probably the right match to follow the previous one in some ways as it’s totally different from a style perspective and that’s usually a good thing. If this feud was over with the Baltimore crowd then it would have been even better. Bubba eventually has the match won but he stupidly mugs for the camera and that leads to Tenta getting a powerslam for three.
WINNER: JOHN TENTA
This was a “perfectly cromulent” match as Scott Keith would say, the crowd just didn’t care
Tenta cuts off Bubba’s beard following the match for a measure of revenge.
Mean Gene is backstage with Mongo McMichael, Kevin Green and their wives Debra and Tara. They cut the usual shouty generic promo, but it’s fine for what it is. Randy Savage comes in to add his two pennies as he was training the two guys in the storyline. He fires them up and they head out. That was great once Savage popped in.
Falls Count Anywhere
Kevin Sullivan w/ Jimmy Hart Vs Chris Benoit
Sullivan actually liked Benoit in real life at this stage I think and was actually trying to put him over, hence this feud and match. This is a fantastic brawl, the kind of which only really ECW was doing at the time in North America. Sullivan had worked in ECW and decided to bring that style of wrestling to the mainstream, with this match being the result. Of course wild brawls like this had been a thing back in Memphis prior to FMW and ECW doing it, but this saw the wild brawling combined with big time production values, making it a historical battle.
They don’t even get in the ring to start, instead brawling through the crowd and then into the toilets, leading to Dusty yelping “There’s a woman in the men’s john right here in Baltimore!” with joy in his voice. This stuff would eventually mutate into the hardcore division in both WCW and the WWF, but they are trying to play this one up as more of a hate filled brawl instead of a comedy break, although Tony and Dusty are having fun with it on commentary. Both men are working really hard here and it’s been a believable intense fight for the most part.
Both men do finally fight back down to ringside, which leads to Benoit getting a table out from under the ring and setting it up on top of the turnbuckles. This leads to Benoit giving Sullivan a Superplex off the table back into the ring for the three count and a huge pop from the crowd.
WINNER: CHRIS BENOIT
This is one of the most important matches of the 90’s in a lot of ways, as it legitimised the “brawl all over the building” style that ECW was using to great effect and normalised it to the point that the WWF could lift it in 1997 as part of the Attitude Era and ride it to great success with the likes of Stone Cold, Mick Foley, The Rock and Triple H. Had WCW not proved that it could actually work at this level first, then the WWF might have been more reticent to try it. Once it became clear that this style could work in a mainstream company though then the WWF quickly took it and made it “their” thing, which coupled with the fact they could go further than WCW with things like blood and big bumps made them instantly seem edgier and cooler to more casual fans who hadn’t watched ECW and thus didn’t know that they’d poached the concept. As a match by itself, this is still a great brawl, as both Sullivan and Benoit tried to keep the fighting feeling intense and hate filled, even though they were doing things like fighting in the toilets
Arn Anderson runs down to the ring following the match to seemingly rescue Sullivan from further Benoit attacks, but he ends up helping Benoit instead to send the crowd wild as The Horsemen are now more united than ever.
Mean Gene is backstage with Woman and Elizabeth. Bobby Heenan, Arn Anderson, Ric Flair and Chris Benoit join them for some promo time. Anderson cuts a great promo about how The Horsemen are ready for war with Sullivan and his Dungeon of DOOM. Flair cuts a promo on Mongo and Greene in his own imitable style. This was a good segment.
Lord Steven Regal w/ Jeeves Vs WCW Tag Team Champion Sting
Regal started a feud with Sting by talking down to him and then slapped Sting in the face for good measure, leading to this match being booked. This was the only real top level feud WCW let Regal have though as he was back to working in the mid-card for the TV Title following this. Sting was one half of the Tag Champs with Luger at the time of this show. Sting is fired up because of the slap from Regal and that causes him to run wild on the Englishman to start, with Regal taking lots of nice bumps for him in order to get the assault over.
Regal’s selling and facials are top-notch as always, with him really winding the crowd up at points. Sting does a good job at his end as well, but this is really the Regal Show and he’s in his element, not just selling for Sting but also when he gets on offence and is able to torture Sting in some painful looking holds whilst jawing with the crowd. Sting sells well when Regal is in control and the match is very watchable with decent crowd heat, as they like Sting and dislike Regal. It’s just a very solidly worked match that tells a good story of Sting’s early exuberance being curtailed once Regal is able to cut him off and take it to the mat.
Regal eventually manages to get Sting in the Regal Stretch, but Sting refuses to tap so Regal gets frustrated a lets go, which was pretty stupid on his part as Sting could have possibly still passed out from the pain even though he wasn’t voluntarily giving up. Sting starts no selling and making the fired up comeback following that, showing good intensity and getting the crowd behind him. Sting goes to the Scorpion Deathlock following that and Regal immediately taps out because, unlike Sting, he’s a cowardly Heel, which is a nice touch.
This was a good match. If you don’t enjoy Regal’s style then this might not be for you, but I like what he does in the ring and I thought the story of Sting being tougher and Regal
We get a Bash at the Beach promo video. It’s pretty awful.
Ric Flair and Arn Anderson w/ Elizabeth, Woman and Bobby Heenan Vs Mongo McMichael and Kevin Greene w/ Debra McMichael, Tara Greene and Randy Savage
The deal with this one was that Mongo was doing commentary with Heenan on Nitro and that led to a spat between Mongo and The Horsemen to set this match up. There was also a story going on with Flair and Savage, as Flair had defeated Savage for the World Title when Savage’s ex-wife Elizabeth had turned on him, leading to Flair spending all of Elizabeth’s alimony in order to anger up Savage’s blood. It was a very good storyline and was actually a key reason to WCW finally turning a profit in 1996 as the feud between Flair and Savage did excellent business on the road.
Flair has green trunks and knee pads with yellow boots here, which is usually the go-to colour scheme I picture him wearing in my head. Mongo and Greene aren’t exactly good wrestlers, although Greene showed shocking good aptitude for someone with so little experience, but Flair and Arn know exactly what to do in order to lead them through the contest and the match is fun as a result. I’ve seen a lot of people give this really high ratings, which I think might perhaps be a bit too generous, but it’s still a well-executed bit of smoke and mirrors by the two wrestlers and the fans really get into it.
The footballers get the elongated babyface shine on the wrestlers, with the wrestlers selling it all really well, and that leads to The Horsemen women and the WAGS getting in an argument, leading to Debra and Tara fleeing due to not having fighting experience. The confusion from all of that leads to the wrestlers managing to cut off Mongo and working him over for a bit, with Flair even clocking Mongo right in his Defensive Line at one stage when the ref is distracted by Greene trying to get back into the ring. Mongo actually does a decent job selling it all as well.
Eventually it’s hot tag Greene and he looks really good again for someone so new to all this pro wrestling stuff. It helps that he has Flair and Arn bumping, feeding and selling for him of course. Flair ends up cutting Greene off and working his knee though, getting some classic Flair leg based offence. Things break down before Mongo can come in for the rescue though, with Benoit running down to clock Savage. Debra re-joins us with Woman and Liz in a nice pink dress, and she has a briefcase of money with her along with a Horsemen shirt. Mongo decides to sell out and clobber Greene with the case, leading to Flair getting the pin and the three count.
WINNERS: THE HORSEMEN
This was good, although I’d stop short of giving it the higher ratings others do. Certainly for a match with two inexperienced footballers teaming together it was very impressive that they were able to have as good as a match as they did and that’s a testament to how good Flair and Arn were here. Mongo and Greene delivered on their end as well to be fair to them. The crowd responded to the action and enjoyed the match, so I’d call the bout a success
Mongo puts the shirt on and is the Fourth Horsemen. A beat down commences on Savage. This was a good angle, although Mongo was a bit out of his depth as a Horsemen. Debra was great in the finish actually, being the Lady Macbeth of the piece and egging Mongo on to go Heel.
We get a very famous angle following that, as Eric Bischoff interviews Kevin Nash and Scott Hall on the stage. He quickly gets them to confirm that they don’t work for the WWF so as to avoid legal issues from the WWF. Bischoff makes it official that it will be WCW Vs Outsiders at Bash at the Bash, which leads to Hall telling Bischoff to get whoever he wants for that match as “the big man, and the medium sized man and our surprise buddy, are gonna carve…them…up”. Even in the exaggerated world of wrestling I don’t think you could ever describe Scott Hall as medium sized to be honest, but the last bit of that line was very cool. Bischoff is coy about who WCW’s team will be, so Kevin Nash powerbombs him off the stage in an iconic moment. This was a fantastic angle that really made Hall and Nash look like the two most dangerous guys in the whole company. Amazingly the pay per view buy rates were hardly exploding yet, but WCW stayed the course with the storyline and it proved to be the right decision. Sadly Bischoff wouldn’t show the same patience when the WWF started catching up to them in 1998. Tony goes down to check on Bischoff to give the angle some gravitas and Dusty has to hold things together as a play-by-play guy and actually does a decent job in all fairness.
Champ: The Giant w/ Jimmy Hart Vs WCW Tag and World Television Champ Lex Luger
Giant had defeated Luger’s buddy Sting at Slamboree, so now Luger is getting his shot. There had also been a long running story that Luger was aligned with the Dungeon of Doom and would betray Sting, but the New World Order angle kind of killed that one off and Luger went back to being a pro-WCW babyface again. Luger was one half of the Tag Champs and was also the TV Champ to boot, so the chances of them giving him a third belt were pretty slim here.
In a nice touch, Luger makes sure to check on Bischoff on his way to ring rather than ignoring the big angle that just took place. Even Giant takes the time to glance over momentarily, which for a Heel Champ is pretty empathetic. Luger sticks and moves to start and manages to knock Giant out of the ring. Luger continues to throw punches and kicks back inside, with Giant acknowledging them but not fully selling them either because he’s so big.
Jimmy Hart tries hitting Luger with his megaphone, but Sting runs down to chase him off, leaving both men to go at it inside. Giant eventually manages to overpower Luger and methodically works him over. Sadly OSW Review has ruined Lex Luger matches for me now as I can’t watch one without noticing the way he always yelps with the other wrestler beats him up. Seriously, once you see it you can’t un-see it.
Giant was less than a year into the business here, so the stuff he does in the heat is pretty basic, but it works for what they are going for. This one isn’t as good as the match with Sting was as Sting just has a more natural charisma than Luger does, but it’s fine for what it is. It’s mostly just Luger selling and Giant not doing anything overly difficult, which is the best you could probably hope for with these two from this time period.
Luger does finally manage to get Giant down to one knee, and that gets a good reaction from the crowd, but Giant gets back up and goes for a splash in the corner. Luger manages to dodge that and hammers away whilst Giant is propped on the ropes before heaving him up into the Torture Wrack. Sadly for him though Giant is too big and he ends up collapsing, which allows Giant to pounce with a choke slam for the three count.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: THE GIANT
Not the most exciting match in the world but it told a good story and was probably the best you were going to get from these two. There were better matches on this show but I’ll take a clean pin in a WCW pay per view Main Event. Those were in rare supply a lot of the time.
There isn’t much post-match as Giant kind of just walks off. WCW regularly had flat finishes to their pay per views like that.
For 1996 in American Wrestling the quality of the majority of the matches on this show was very impressive and it was widely regarded as one of the best shows held all year. It’s still a very watchable show to this say, with Malenko/Mysterio and Sullivan/Benoit all holding up, whilst the two big angles of Mongo joining The Horsemen and Bischoff getting clobbered hold up as well. That alone is enough for an easy thumbs up.