Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1991)

Alright, time to hold my nose as I review this stinker.....

Legend vs. Legacy - Baltimore Arena - 7.14.91

Oh wait, scratch that.  Change of plans....

Luger vs. Windham - 7.14.91

In a scant two years the NWA (morphing into WCW) went from being at the top of its game to being in absolute creative shambles.  Nowhere is this more evident than at their 1991 summer spectacular.  Ric Flair, the NWA's top star for the past decade, had reached a contractual impasse with the new management (led by the cosmically inept Jim Herd) and was forced out of the company while still in possession of its top championship.  His scheduled match with Lex Luger was thus off, and WCW's scrambling to plug this roster hole seemed to have a domino effect on the rest of this PPV.  Once again they shoehorned eleven matches onto a three-hour broadcast, and once again most of the matches belonged in a wrestling dump heap.

Case in fucking point: Steve Austin & Terrence Taylor vs. Bobby Eaton & PN News in a Capture the Flag Scaffold Match.  Sweet merciful Christ, what the hell was this?  Scaffold matches in general are terrible, but this achieved new levels of putrid.  The scaffold itself looked so rickety and unsafe I don't know how these four guys were even coaxed up there.  Once on the platform they did basically nothing for the better part of ten minutes, aside from trying to not die.  After several agonizing minutes of a match three of these four guys should've been mortified to have on their resumes (I'll let you guess which three), Bobby Eaton captured the other team's flag to euthanize this shitshow.

Absolute drivel

Next up was one of several not-ready-for-PPV bouts: Tom Zenk vs. Diamond Stud, a forgettable free TV match featuring an enormously jacked Scott Hall a year before he jumped to the WWF and mainstream success.  Stud won after some interference from DDP.  Moving on....

We go from the future Razor Ramon to the future Diesel, as Ron Simmons faced Oz.  Apparently every match on this show featured a future WWF talent from 1996.  This also belonged nowhere near a PPV.  A portly Kevin Nash looked lost for most of this, yet somehow got to dominate the match.  Eventually Ron Simmons woke everyone up with a clothesline that sent Oz over the ropes, but Oz soon took over again.  Simmons eventually won with a powerslam.

Simmons' reaction upon learning he'd be working with Oz: ".....DAMN!"

The first real match pitted former Rock n' Roll Express partners against each other.  Ricky Morton (a naturally gifted underdog babyface) had been turned heel and paired with Alexandra York (a pre-rebuild Terri Runnels) to become Richard Morton.  This match had a lot of heat due to its personal nature but Morton controlled almost all of it, attacking Gibson's injured knee.  Gibson eventually mounted a comeback and the two each went for a dropkick on the entrance ramp.  This was a cool spot, but then Morton just grabbed York's "computer" and whacked Gibson over the head with it, earning a cheap win out of nowhere.  A pretty dull match considering the aerial skills of both guys.  Ironically RnR imitators Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty would have a MUCH better version of this feud two years later.

Morton applies the sloppiest Figure Four ever.

The first match of the show that could be considered "good" was an elimination tag - The Freebirds & Badstreet vs. Dustin Rhodes & Young Pistols.  All six guys brought a good amount of energy and kept things moving.  Dustin and Badstreet (Brad Armstrong) stayed out of the fray for most of it while the two tag teams did most of the heavy lifting.  After a good fifteen minutes Steve Armstrong was eliminated following a Michael Hayes DDT, and then Hayes almost immediately backdropped Tracy Smothers over the top rope to get disqualified.  So all the suspense over the 3-on-2 disadvantage was diffused.  Three minutes later they did the same thing, as Jimmy Garvin eliminated Smothers only to get clotheslined and pinned by Rhodes.  Finally Rhodes disposed of Badstreet with a bulldog to win the whole thing.  This could've been much better had the structure of the eliminations made any sense.

Back to throwaway territory, we had Johnny B. Badd vs. Yellow Dog.  This match could've been solid if given time, but it wasn't, and thus it wasn't.  Yellow Dog was of course Brian Pillman under a mask (Pillman had lost a Loser Leaves WCW match, but the announcers made no bones about keeping up the subterfuge; Jim Ross even called him Flyin' Brian at one point before correcting himself).  The action was promising until Teddy Long jumped on Pillman to break up a pin, ending the match prematurely by DQ.

A painfully terrible Lumberjack match was next, as Big Josh brawled aimlessly with Black Blood (Billy Jack Haynes under a mask, which if you're counting means there were three matches in a row featuring well-known wrestlers under masks) while a bunch of other guys brawled on the outside.  I literally forgot everything about this match as soon as it was over, other than Dustin Rhodes stopped Blackblood from decapitating Josh with an axe, before Josh rolled him up for a small package.

Dear God, it gets worse.  The One Man Gang was tasked with leading El Gigante through a six-minute calamity.  For some reason OMG and Kevin Sullivan were both wearing eye makeup and teased their hair.  Amazingly, this match wasn't as bad as the opener, the same way being pissed on isn't as bad as losing a limb.

Wait, there were actually two main event-type matches on this show?  Yup, the first was Sting vs. Nikita Koloff in a Russian Chain match.  Ah shit, I hate those.  It's the old touch-the-four-corners rule.  This had some mediocre brawling, your usual corner touch sequences broken up by more brawling, and then both guys ended up sorta rolling around the ring into each corner simultaneously.  But then they'd fight some more and knock each other down and the referee didn't "reset" the corners as it were.  So they'd each touched three corners and then fought for a full three minutes or so before Sting lunged at the final corner only for Nikita to get there first.  This booking made no sense.

Dammit, where's Greg Valentine's ear-boxing when you need it?

The one standout match of this show is also one of the more infamous in wrestling lore.  Lex Luger was originally scheduled to dethrone Ric Flair for the WCW Title, but Flair and management came to some contractual and creative issues, and Flair was fired.  So that left Luger to face Flair's Horsemen pal Barry Windham, a heel (Remember that in a bit).  The crowd likely would've been solidly behind Luger from the outset but most of them were so pissed about Flair's non-presence the first half of the match got a barrage of "We want Flair" chants.  And this was a pretty good, energetic bout too.  I'm not sure why it needed to be in a cage, but both guys used the cage for some big top rope spots, which won over the reluctant crowd.  Windham was dominating the late moments of the match until Harley Race and Mr. Hughes came down to ringside, Race shouted to Luger to use a piledriver, and Luger suddenly surged with 'roid rage, hit the piledriver, and won the belt.  Oh, and then left with Race and Hughes, turning heel.  Despite all this the crowd loved Luger's Title win (ya know, since he was the babyface going into this).  But no one wanted to cheer for, nor was sympathetic to Windham after his basically clean loss.  I don't know why WCW needed or wanted Luger to be a heel Champion here, but it was nice to see him finally get the strap, even if it wasn't over Flair like it should've been.

Flair had the actual belt, so they slapped a generic plate on a Tag Team belt

So yeah, that World Title match wasn't the main event.  Instead the show closed with a two-minute handicap match, pitting Rick Steiner against Arn Anderson and Paul E. Dangerously.  I'm not kidding, that was the main event of this show.  Here's what happened: Steiner was supposed to team with his brother Scott and Missy Hyatt in an Intergender six-person tag against Anderson, Barry Windham and Paul E.  But after Flair left, Windham was moved to the World Title match, plus Scott was injured.  So it became Rick and Missy against Anderson and Paul.  But then, because the Maryland Athletic Commission didn't allow Intergender matches, they booked it so Missy got abducted by Dick Slater and Dick Murdoch on her way to the ring (in full view of the referee, who allowed the match to go on without her).  Thus we were left with half of the scheduled participants.  One might ask, did WCW not know the Athletic Commission wouldn't allow this match to go as planned?  If so, why'd they continue advertising it that way until the last minute?  This was so beyond pointless they should've either cut it from the show or just made it a singles match.  And for fuck's sake, why was it LAST??

WCW was fully off the rails in mid-'91, losing half of the Four Horsemen to the WWF, trying to emulate the WWF's character-driven roster with abysmal results, and being totally disorganized and clueless about what works in pro wrestling.  This show was a snapshot of the clod-like booking in place at the time.  Just a hot, filthy mess from start to finish.

Best Match: Lex Luger vs. Barry Windham
Worst Match: The Scaffold Match
What I'd Change: Everything but the World Title match essentially.  Aside from that and the elimination tag, this show was the drizzling shits.
Most Disappointing Match: Sting vs. Nikita Koloff
Most Pleasant Surprise: That the obviously pro-Flair crowd was actually won over by Luger and Windham
Overall Rating: 2.5/10


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