The SmarK Rant for NWA The Great American Bash 1988
By Scott Keith on 18th October 2023
Live from Baltimore, MD
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone
NWA World tag titles: Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson v. Sting & Nikita Koloff
Good lord, they actually overdubbed Sting’s generic 80s music with “The Man Called Sting”. That’s beyond awful. Big brawl to start and Sting quickly cradles Tully for two out of that. Arn bails and Sting follows him with a tope con hilo, and back in Arn comes off the top and gets caught. Sting puts him in an armbar and Koloff trades off on that, but Arn pounds him in the corner to break. Koloff comes back with a Russian Sickle for both heels, and gets two on Arn as a result. Sting comes back in and goes back to the arm, but runs into a knee. Arn makes another ill-advised trip to the top, but outsmarts Sting and sucks him in for a sleeper. Sting powers out of that and goes back to the arm again. Tully comes in for a double-team, but Sting dropkicks both of them. Tully immediately gets taken down with an armdrag, and Nikita goes to the arm as well. They stay on it and Koloff runs Tully’s shoulder into the post, and we get a funny spot with Arn trying to tag Tully’s foot and protesting the legality of it. This gives the challengers a chance to switch off again. Tully tries to fight back on Koloff, but Nikita takes him down with an atomic drop and goes back to the arm. Nice sequence sees Nikita holding a hammerlock and holding on through a snapmare counter by Tully, but it also puts them in the heel corner and allows Tully to tag out. Nikita takes Arn down with a drop toehold and holds him on the mat with a half-nelson, but goes after JJ on the floor and clotheslines the post as a result. And now we go to school, as the champs pound the arm and Arn gets the hammerlock slam and goes to work. Hammerlock on the mat, but Koloff fights back, so Arn gives him a DDT for two. Tully comes in for a cross-armbreaker and standing armbar, but Koloff fights out and it’s hot tag Sting. Dropkick for Tully and press slam, and Arn gets bulldogged. Noggins are knocked, but Tully tags Arn in again, which allows Sting to put him in a sleeper with a minute left. Not MY strategy for a match with a minute left, but whatever. Tully tries a sunset flip to break, but Sting blocks and hammers away, and it’s BONZO GONZO with time running out. Stinger splash for Tully sets up the Scorpion Deathlock, but time expires at 20:00. Sting and Koloff rather presumptuously put the tag belts on before the decision is even announced. There’s confidence, and there’s being an asshole, guys.
US tag titles: The Fantastics v. The Midnight Express
The Fantastics had won the US titles from the Midnights on Worldwide Wrestling in a rather legendary match and then retained them at Clash #1. In order to secure another rematch, the MX had to put Jim Cornette in a cage above the ring, in a straitjacket, and then promise to take 10 lashes with a strap if they lose. Strange story while I’m thinking of it: The Panasonic rep dropped off some demo DVDs at work to show off Panasonic’s TVs with, and one of the segments featured is from a boat race on what I can only assume is ESPN 8 (The Ocho!), with two boating superstars being interviewed by none other than an aging and balding Stan Lane! Anyway, both “The Chase” and the Fantastics’ custom intro music (“From the city of the angels, please welcome Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers…the Faaaaaaaaaaantastics!”) Kinda made Capetta’s job redundant, maybe he sued and that’s why they cut it. Cornette throws a tantrum about the stipulations before we start, as though he wasn’t informed of it beforehand. The banter between Jim and the ref for the camera is tremendous, giving us this exchange:
Cornette: “Can I appeal to your baser instincts?”
Dick Wohrle: “You don’t have to appeal to me, brother.”
Cornette: “Well, can you be bribed, then? How about $5000?”
Dick: “I wouldn’t take $10,000.”
Cornette: “How about $15,000?”
Cornette is of course deathly afraid of heights in real life, which Jim Ross points out several times here, so this can’t have been fun for him. Fulton and Eaton fight for the lockup to start and Fulton grabs a headlock and turns it into a sunset flip for two. Eaton comes back with his own headlock, but Fulton takes him down with a pair of flying headscissors and Eaton backs off. Lane comes in and wants the test of strength, but Fulton does the Ricky Morton walk up the shoulders, so Lane drops him like a sack of potatoes and then kicks the crap out of him with some SWEET legwork. I’m such a mark for Stan Lane’s marital arts stuff. Fulton dumps Lane, however, and baseball slides him. Over to Rogers, who dropkicks Stan, so Lane elbows him down and brings Eaton in again, but he walks into an armdrag. Bobby takes him down with a knee to the gut and puts Rogers on top, but he slips out and rolls Eaton up for two. Nice sequence as Eaton kicks out and pushes Rogers off into the corner, and Tommy springboards back out with a bodypress for two. What a great spot that you don’t see anymore. It’s BONZO GONZO and the Fantastics break up a double whip and then chase the Midnights out of teh ring, and the challengers are looking lost without Cornette. Jim Ross makes sure to mention several times that the Maryland Athletic Commission is presiding over the matches tonight, which is paid off later.
Lane backdrops Rogers but gets rolled up, but has the foresight to tag Eaton beforehand, and Bobby bulldogs Tommy to break up the pin, and then gets two himself. Rogers is YOUR face in peril, and Lane throws kicks in the corner and necksnaps him, then slingshots in with a clothesline to kill Rogers dead. Eaton gets a big back elbow and kneedrop, as Rogers is just selling like nuts here. That gets two. Neckbreaker gets two. Lane comes in with the kick combo, and Rogers collapses right into a backbreaker from Eaton. TEXTBOOK. That gets two. Eaton slugs Rogers down and Lane gets two off it. Lane rams him into the mat and Eaton follows with a backbreaker for two. Divorce Court and Eaton works the arm, and then it’s some quality cheating as the Express suckers Fulton in and double-teams Rogers for two. Lane goes to the abdominal stretch and gets an assist from Eaton (the only worthwhile use of that move, by the way) but they head out to cheat some more and it backfires, as Rogers manages to send Eaton into the post. Back in, Stan calmly pounds Rogers down with forearms, but Tommy gets a sunset flip for two.
Eaton goes up with the Alabama Jam and Rogers is DONE, and Lane gets two as Fulton saves. I love how they tag before making the cover, just to make sure they’ve got a fresh man in there. Back to the abdominal stretch, which Lane transitions into a russian legsweep, and that sets up the Rocket Launcher. That hits knee, however, and it’s HOT TAG Fulton. Crowd is still 50/50 for the Express, however, so the pop isn’t as huge as I expected. Rollup on Eaton gets two and he dumps Lane. Stan gets revenge, however, tripping up Fulton from the floor, and the ref is bumped by Rogers. Rogers sends Eaton into the post and fights off Lane, but Bobby Eaton finds a chain and wraps it around his fist to make sure no one slips on it, but then accidentally trips and punches Fulton in the face with it. Whoops, butterfingers. He then shoves the chain in Fulton’s tights, just in case. New champs at 16:21 and that gets a pretty impressive reaction from the crowd. Loved it, loved it, loved it. May a yak marry the daughter of whatever buffoon cut this down to 2:00 on the home video release 20 years ago.
Tower of Doom: The Road Warriors & Jimmy Garvin & Ronnie Garvin & Steve Williams v. Kevin Sullivan & Al Perez & Mike Rotundo & Ivan Koloff & The Russian Assassin (Dave Sheldon).
This was a goofy-ass idea they stole from World Class, themselves known for off-the-wall booking notions at that time (like the infamous “blackout” finish to the Iceman Parsons-Kerry Von Erich World title match), and the concept is thus: There’s three cages stacked on top of each other, with the smallest on top, and team members at the top every two minutes and fight their way down, with the winner being the first team to exit. Precious holds the key and decides who wins, presumably. It’s kind of funny to think back on a time when Jimmy Garvin WASN’T playing a smarmy sleazeball heel. Ivan Koloff and Ron Garvin start in the little cage on top and slug it out, despite being so high that no one can possibly follow the “action” from the crowd. I have no idea why they didn’t just do the Wargames instead of this stupid idea. So the door opens and Garvin proceeds to the next level, leaving Steve Williams 2-on-1 against Koloff and Rotundo. The next period sees Ron Garvin heading to the bottom level and leaving while Ivan Koloff and Steve Williams fight to the second level. Up on top it’s Rotundo & Perez v. Animal. What a fucking retarded match concept. The rules are so convoluted that it’s like something even Vince Russo would reject for being too tough to understand. Anyway, next period sees Animal & Williams v. Koloff & Perez in the second cage, with Hawk v. Russian Assassin & Rotundo in the top cage and no one in the bottom. It’s all just guys punching each other, so there’s nothing really to call other than that. Third period and we’ve got Perez and Animal in the bottom cage, RA & Koloff v. Williams & Hawk in the middle cage, and Rotundo still on top with Kevin Sullivan against Jimmy Garvin. Animal and Perez both walk out to put the faces up 2-1. Next period and the Russians both drop down and look to depart, but beat up on Hawk first. Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan, the principles in the whole dumb Precious feud, are alone on the top, with Rotundo & Williams in the middle cage. Hawk walks, as do the Russians, so it’s 3-3. The build is just all off for this thing, as guys fight in the bottom cage when they can just as easily walk out. What a mess. Rotundo and Williams both exit, leaving us with Garvin & Sullivan in the middle cage, where we should have just gone to in the first place. Garvin actually tries a spinning toehold of all things. They make it to the bottom and Garvin hits the brainbuster and leaves at 19:13. Yay, it’s over. I don’t know that I can even rate it. Call it a solid DUD and leave it at that. Afterwards, with Precious having chosen hubbie Jimmy Garvin over Sullivan, Kevin takes it badly and tries to kill her by strangling her. Uh, I don’t know that it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to edit that out given the time when they were airing it and all.
US title: Barry Windham v. Dusty Rhodes
This was quite the hot feud for Windham, with the whole “former friends” thing as Windham was on the hot streak of a lifetime as a Horseman. Barry backs off from the elbow to start, but Dusty shoulderblocks him down and Windham bails. Criss-cross and Windham drops an elbow to the back of the head, but Dusty presses him and DDTs him in response. Elbow and Dusty goes up (?!?), and a bodypress gets two. Windham, apparently thinking that an airplane crashed on the arena, is shell-shocked and bails to confer with Dillon. Back in, Windham slugs away in the corner, but Dusty is up for that challenge and fires back with some Flip Flop N Fly action. Barry bails again. They brawl outside and Barry tries a piledriver on the floor, but Dusty backdrops out of it and follows with a clothesline. Back in, Barry takes over by slugging away in the corner, but Dusty heads to the apron and slingshots him over the top, as Barry takes a nasty bump to the concrete. Dusty follows with a slam on the floor. Back in, Barry again gets the advantage by attacking from behind, and drops an elbow to set up THE IRON CLAW OF DEATH. AKA “Dusty gets to lay around and sell for five minutes”. Keep in mind that this is Windham’s finisher at this point, the move that he kills jobbers with and won the US title with. Barry gets a pair of two counts off that.
Dusty tries to fight up and climbs the ropes to escape, but just can’t fire off that elbow, despite melodramatically cocking it. Windham brings him down, and Dusty’s facing insurmountable odds, according to JR. Naturally that means Dusty is ready to escape, but Barry goes right back to it. So obviously the odds were surmountable, but just difficult. Dusty walks the ropes again to escape, but Barry decides to try a superplex and the ref gets bumped. They fight on the top rope and Dusty slams him off and drops the big fat elbow, but there’s no ref. Cue the run-in, as Ron Garvin makes a random appearance, and then turns on Big Dust and knocks him cold with the Hands of Stone. And now Barry goes back to that claw, finishing at 15:54. Apparently Windham is no more of a miracle worker with Rhodes than Ric Flair is. This was pretty dull stuff, with Barry bumping all over for Dusty for 10 minutes, then Dusty selling the claw for five, and finally a run-in finish.
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Lex Luger
There were many, many more to come, but this was the first match between them. Well, if you don’t count the Battle of the Belts match from Florida that no one remembers. Luger of course joined the Horsemen in 1987, then lost the US title to Dusty Rhodes and regrouped by telling the other members of the team that he didn’t need their help any longer and he wanted to stand on his own. So they did just that, and kicked him out of the group, then paid off his best friend to turn on him and join them. Now that’s evil. Common sense, popular opinion and years of wrestling history said that Lex Luger wins the belt here and Flair regains it at Starrcade.
They fight over the lockup to start and Flair starts throwing chops, but Luger no-sells and hiptosses him into a dropkick, and Flair bails. Back in, Luger press-slams him and Flair is out again. Back in, another press slam and Luger goes to the bearhug. That goes on for a while. Flair manages to draw Luger into the ropes to force the break, and Flair bails to the apron. Luger suplexes him back in…and HITS THE ELBOW. Holy shit, I’ve seen him miss that thing like 800 times. A second try misses, however, so all is right with the universe again. Flair tosses him and uses some dirty tricks to take over, ramming his head into the railing before they head back in. Flair drops the knee and works on the arm, then hits a cheapshot to the ribs while Tommy Young is checking the arm. Luger comes back with a clothesline for two, but Flair slams him and goes up. You know what happens there. Luger hiptosses him out of the corner, but whiffs on a dropkick and we get a Flair Flop as both guys are out. Flair whips him into the corner, but Lex comes out with another clothesline for two.
Flair tosses him again, but Luger slingshots in with a sunset flip for two. Flair goes to the knee to finally get him to sell, and starts going to work on the knee. And it’s figure-four time. Luger quickly reverses, so Flair kicks him in the knee again, but Luger comes back with a press slam. He misses a kneedrop (duuuuuuuuhhhh….him smart like dump truck…) and Flair goes up again, and gets slammed again. Luger’s knee is iffy, however. Luger pounds away in the corner, but Flair brings him down with an atomic drop, and Luger does the All Japan sell by popping up with a lariat for two. Luger pounds away in the corner again, totally forgetting the knee injury now, and we get a Flair Flip. They brawl on the floor and Luger takes the fateful trip to the post (dumb dumb dumb….that’s not a dramatic music cue, that’s my opinions of the finish) and starts bleeding. Back in, Luger starts “bleeding”, but still powerslams Flair and gets the Torture Rack, and Flair apparently submits at 23:13. Your basic Flair v. Broomstick match.
BUT WAIT! Turns out that the tiny little cut on Luger’s forehead forced the the “Maryland State Athletic Commission” to stop the match, and thus award the decision to Flair instead. Worst Screwjob Ever. This was completely ridiculous on several levels:
1) Baltimore had seen dozens of matches far bloodier than this one without ever hearing a mention of the Commission before this, or after this for that matter.
2) Luger’s cut was so small as to have dried up 10 seconds after his blade job.
3) Luger was obviously able to compete, given that he was about to win the match and all.
Essentially, this was supposed to be Luger’s ascent into Hogan levels by getting his big All-American win for the All-American World title ala Hogan in 84, but politics and a really bad job of blading screwed it all up and left Luger branded a choker for the rest of his career.
More importantly, however, this show really showed how out of touch with the audience that JCP was at this point, as WWF was still doing the superhero “send the fans home happy” finishes on their PPVs, and here you have heels going over up and down the card and casual buyers, who may have been excited to see a WWF alternative, getting kicked in the proverbial nuts at the end of the show with a retarded screwjob finish. You can screw with your audience if you’re Vince McMahon and have legions of followers who will tune into Monday Night RAW every week no matter how shitty it gets or how many months John Cena holds the title for, but you can’t do that when it’s your first real PPV. And that’s why Jim Crockett went out of business before he could do a SECOND PPV.
The Bottom Line:
Still, a pretty decent show aside from the horrifyingly stupid Tower of Doom match. Mild recommendation, mainly for the Midnights v. Fantastics tag title match.