Rock Star Gary reflects on…NWA Great American Bash ’88: The Price for Freedom

Live from Baltimore, MD

Airdate: July 10, 1988

Attendance:  13,000

Hosted by Tony Schiavone & Jim Ross

Match 1 for the NWA World tag team titles: Tully Blanchard & the “Enforcer” Arn Anderson (champions w/ JJ Dillon) versus Sting & the “Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff

Highlights:

  • Sting’s hair was actually two-toned with bleach blond on top and dark on the sides.
  • All four men brawled at the onset.
  • As Nikita followed Arn outside the ring, Sting hooked Blanchard with an inside cradle for 2. Unfortunately, referee Dick Woerhle was late to the dance to count the pin.
  • Arn saved Blanchard’s bacon so Sting dropkicked him.
  • He then followed with a tope con hilo to Arn on the concrete floor. Woohoo!
  • After nailing Sting in the midsection, Arn mounted the top turnbuckle, leaped, but ate a shot to the midsection.
  • Shortly after, Nikita reversed a cross-corner whip from Arn and almost came up empty on his follow-through before applying the brakes.
  • Nikita then steamrolled Arn with the Russian sickle.
  • To a raucous ovation, he also steamrolled an incoming Blanchard.
  • As Nikita shot the half to pin Arn, Woerhle again was late to the dance and only counted 2 as Arn placed his foot on the bottom rope.
  • Sting tagged in, reversed a cross-corner whip, but received a knee to the midsection from Arn on his follow-through.
  • Again, Arn mounted the top turnbuckle, thwarted Sting’s attempt to crotch him, then jumped down and applied a sleeper.
  • Sting escaped by using momentum to send Arn face-first into the top turnbuckle.
  • As Arn attempted a wrist lock on Sting, Blanchard joined him for a double wristlock, but Sting flipped out of it sending the Horsemen reeling.
  • He then delivered another dropkick to both men.
  • Off-camera, Nikita guillotined Arn using the top rope.
  • Blanchard tagged in, reversed a cross-corner whip from Sting, but came up empty on his follow-through.
  • After kicking out at 2, Blanchard went to the wrong corner where Nikita rang his bell.
  • Speaking of Nikita, he tagged in and rammed Blanchard shoulder-first into the top turnbuckle.
  • Blanchard then missed a kick that was caught by Nikita and received an atomic drop.
  • Shortly after, Nikita converted a half nelson into a full nelson, but Arn escaped with a kick to the knee.
  • After Blanchard tagged in, Nikita reversed an Irish whip and applied the Russian hammer.
  • Again, Nikita reversed an Irish whip and hit a flying shoulder block. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as crisp as one from Road Warrior Animal.
  • Next, a clothesline by Nikita sent both men over the top rope to the concrete floor.
  • He then suplexed Blanchard from the apron back into the ring for 2 as Dillon pulled Nikita out of the ring. Nikita then grabbed Dillon, positioned him against the ring post, but nailed the ring post with his left arm as Dillon avoided decapitation.
  • Arn then lifted Nikita on his shoulder and rammed his left shoulder into the same ring post.
  • He then tagged in and gave Nikita the Anderson slam.
  • Ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta announced that five minutes remained in the match.
  • Nikita tried to come back but fell victim to a DDT from Arn for 2.
  • Blanchard tagged in, mounted the top turnbuckle, and lowered the boom on Nikita.
  • Arn tagged back in, attempted a Vader bomb, but hit knees. OUCH!
  • Hot tag Sting as the roof came off the Baltimore Arena.
  • Sting then delivered a back drop followed by a dropkick to Blanchard.
  • He then gave Blanchard a cross corner whip and a gorilla press slam.
  • After face-planting Arn, Sting gave Blanchard an atomic drop.
  • When Blanchard tried to return the favor, Sting flipped over and gave him another dropkick.
  • Afterward, he gave both Arn and Blanchard a double noggin knocker.
  • Arn tagged in with one minute remaining but fell victim to a sleeper by Sting.
  • Arn escaped by tagging in Blanchard who mounted the top turnbuckle, tried a sunset flip, but Sting landed on top.
  • Nikita came in and leveled Arn with a Russian sickle.
  • With thirty seconds left, Sting gave Blanchard a Stinger splash.
  • He then hooked the Scorpion death lock and the bell rang.
  • Do we have new champions?
  • No, the time limit expired. BOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Rating: ***1/2

Summary:  Very exciting tag match where Nikita and Sting came up just short.

After the match, Nikita and Sting grab and wear the belts thinking they won. Unfortunately, Cappetta announces the time-limit draw. The challengers think that Blanchard submitted and clear the Horsemen from the ring. Sting and Nikita as tag champions? I’ve seen worse.

Match 2 for the US tag team titles: The Fantastics (champions) versus the Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette)

Highlights:

  • Special stipulations for this match:
  1. While trapped in a straightjacket, Cornette will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage.
  2. If the Midnight Express lose this match, they along with Cornette will be lashed ten times with a leather strap.
  • Cornette got on the microphone announcing that he’s not crazy. That’s an opinion, not a fact.
  • Before Cornette wore the straightjacket, he needed a hug from Eaton.
  • As referee Dick Woerhle hooked the straightjacket, Cornette offered him a bribe to no avail.
  • After a leap frog by Eaton, Fulton hooked a sunset flip for 1.
  • Eaton then gave Fulton a cross corner whip, but Fulton delivered a flying headscissors followed by a huracanrana.
  • As the Baltimore faithful chanted “Cornette sucks,” Lane gave Fulton a series of kicks that sent him between the ropes to the floor.
  • Lane joined him but got reversed on an Irish whip sending him face-first into the ring post.
  • Fulton then gave Lane a baseball slide.
  • As Rogers tagged in, he gave Lane a pair of dropkicks.
  • Eaton tagged in and gave Rogers a knee to the midsection.
  • He then placed Rogers on the top turnbuckle, joined him, but Rogers removed the possibility of a superplex.
  • Instead, he rolled Eaton up for 1, leaped to the second turnbuckle, and hit a cross body block for another 1.
  • Members of the Maryland State Athletic Commission sat at a ringside table. Keep that in mind.
  • Fulton tagged in, and the Fantastics gave Eaton a double back drop.
  • All four men were in the ring.
  • The Midnight Express tried to ram the Fantastics into one another, but each received a mule kick from a Fantastic.
  • As Fulton nailed Lane in the midsection, Rogers sent Eaton into Lane who accidentally gave Eaton a back drop.
  • Shortly after, Lane tried to backdrop Rogers, but the latter landed on his feet.
  • As Lane tagged out, Rogers rolled him up only to fall victim to an Eaton bulldog for 2. Awesome!
  • Lane tagged in and guillotined Rogers using the top rope.
  • Next, he knocked Rogers into the middle of 1989 with a springboard clothesline. Wow!
  • Eaton tagged in and gave Rogers a back elbow.
  • Following an elbow drop, Eaton got 2.
  • He then gave Rogers a swinging neckbreaker for another 2 thanks to Rogers’ foot on the bottom rope.
  • Lane tagged in and gave Rogers a series of kicks which led to a backbreaker by an incoming Eaton. Unimaginable!
  • Before Rogers could tag out, Eaton hooked a waist lock to prevent it.
  • As Fulton distracted referee Tommy Young, Eaton nailed Rogers as Lane held him for 2.
  • After a face plant by Lane, Eaton tagged in and gave Rogers a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker.
  • A single-arm DDT by Eaton then preceded a face plant by Rogers.
  • Again, Fulton entered the ring and distracted Young. By doing so, Eaton nailed Rogers from the apron. SNEAKY!
  • Regardless, a somersault rollup by Lane only got 2.
  • He then hooked an Eaton-assisted abdominal stretch.
  • After Lane tossed Rogers outside the ring, Eaton tried to ram him into the ring post but ate it himself.
  • Back in the ring, Rogers hooked a sunset flip on Lane but only got 2.
  • After a slam, Eaton mounted the top turnbuckle and hit the Alabama Jam.
  • Lane tagged in and only got 2 thanks to a save by Fulton.
  • He then hooked another abdominal stretch then gave Rogers a side Russian leg sweep.
  • The Midnight Express then attempted the Rocket Launcher, but Rogers raised his knees.
  • Hot tag Fulton.
  • After he gave Eaton a back drop, Fulton rolled him up for 2.
  • As Fulton was up against the ropes, Lane pulled him outside the ring and slammed him on the concrete floor. YEE-OUCH!
  • Back in the ring, Rogers gave Eaton a cross body block that knocked down Young.
  • He then rammed Eaton face-first into the ring post.
  • Brandishing a foreign object in his hand, Lane tried to nail Rogers but received a back drop instead.
  • Eaton then grabbed said foreign object (chain), wrapped it around his fist, and hammered Fulton with it.
  • 1-2-3.
  • WE HAVE NEW CHAMPIONS!
  • The Baltimore faithful loved it!

Rating: ****

Summary: These teams can do no wrong in the ring together no matter the outcome. Excellent work, gentlemen!

After the match, Fulton finds the chain in his tights, tries to convince Young about it, and then knocks Eaton from the ring with it. Upon Cornette’s release from the shark cage, the Fantastics chase him into the ring and whip him with Young’s belt until the Midnight Express saves him.

Bob Caudle briefly interviews Cornette, but the Fantastics run him off.

Match 3 (tower of doom): The Road Warriors, Jimmy & Ron Garvin, & “Dr. Death” Steve Williams (w/ “Precious” Paul Ellering and Precious) versus Kevin Sullivan, the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff, Mike Rotunda, Al Perez, and the Russian Assassin (w/ Gary Hart and Paul Jones)

Highlights:

  • I pray with all of my soul that this match does not resemble Uncensored ’96 whatsoever.
  • According to the rules, every two minutes, the doors will open for ten seconds allowing wrestlers to move into/between cages. The object is to exit the cage on the floor. First team to do so wins.
  • Two months earlier, WCWA tried a similar gimmick at the last Parade of Champions.
  • Precious, holding the key, was in the bottom of the cage.
  • Ron and Ivan both climbed their respective ladders to begin the match at the top.
  • They brawled until the 2:00 horn sounded.
  • Williams and Rotunda entered the cage as Garvin climbed down to the second level.
  • Williams had a 1-on-2 disadvantage but gave both men a double noggin knocker.
  • The horn sounded again, and Williams and Ivan climbed down to the second cage while Ron climbed down to the floor. Ron’s exit was mighty hasty, no?
  • Meanwhile, Animal and Perez entered the top cage.
  • Despite the 1-on-2 disadvantage, Animal ran roughshod over Perez and Rotunda.
  • In the meantime, Williams gave Ivan a double stomp using the cage for leverage.
  • Animal and Perez climbed down to the second cage as Hawk and the Russian Assassin entered the top cage.
  • Williams then slammed Ivan in the second cage.
  • Another period ended as Hawk and the Russian Assassin jumped down to the second cage as Animal and Perez escaped to the ring below.
  • Animal then gave Perez a flying shoulder block.
  • As Animal left the cage, Hawk slammed Ivan and the Russian Assassin on the second cage.
  • Next, Sullivan and Jimmy joined Rotunda in the top cage.
  • As Jimmy rammed Sullivan face-first into the top cage, Williams hooked a figure-four leg lock on Ivan in the second cage. You have to give Ivan credit for taking a shit-kicking in this match.
  • Thus far, the tally is Ron and Animal for the faces and Perez for the heels.
  • Another period ended as Rotunda finally escaped to the second cage.
  • Both the Russian Assassin and Ivan escaped to the bottom.
  • Hawk also escaped to the bottom, ducked a double clothesline, and gave both Ivan and the Russian Assassin one of his own.
  • He then escaped the cage as the match was tied 3-3.
  • As the horn sounded again, Williams gave Rotunda the ten-punch count-along in the second cage.
  • He then jumped down to the bottom cage and escaped giving the faces a 4 to 3 lead.
  • Sullivan and Jimmy then climbed down to the second cage.
  • Rotunda and Sullivan then double-teamed Jimmy until he gave the Varsity Club members a double noggin knocker.
  • The horn sounded, and Rotunda jumped down to the bottom.
  • Sullivan and Jimmy continued to brawl in the second cage, as a pier-sixer broke out at ringside between the remaining wrestlers.
  • Jimmy then gave Sullivan a spinning toe hold.
  • The final horn sounded as both men jumped down to the bottom.
  • Next man to exit wins the match.
  • Jimmy then gave Sullivan a brainbuster with the Baltimore faithful in the palm of his hand.
  • As Precious unlocked the cage, Sullivan pushed Jimmy out of the cage to the concrete floor.
  • The faces won.

Rating: *1/2

Summary:  Convoluted mess that may have been a good idea in theory but not in execution.

After the match, Sullivan locks the door with Precious still inside. As Sullivan tries to get Precious, Jimmy climbs the Tower of Doom to rescue her. While Sullivan chokes Precious, Hawk ultimately jumps down to the bottom cage and levels Sullivan to a big ovation. Jimmy then escorts Precious from the cage as they embrace. Aw.

Match 4 for the NWA US title: Barry Windham (champion w/ JJ Dillon) versus the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes

Highlights:

  • This exemplified the proverbial teacher versus student match-up.
  • After a Rhodes shoulder block, Windham exited the ring for refuge.
  • As a criss-cross culminated, Windham gave Rhodes an elbow to the back of the head.
  • Rhodes retaliated with a military press slam followed by a DDT.
  • After a bionic elbow, Rhodes mounted the top turnbuckle, hit a cross body block, and got 2.
  • Without hesitation, Windham scurried out of the ring to regain his composure.
  • Upon Windham’s return, Rhodes paint-brushed him down to the mat then nailed Dillon who had jumped on the apron.
  • Right hands by Windham sent Rhodes to the concrete floor.
  • Windham then leaped from the apron and nailed him.
  • He then made Rhodes taste the steel railing. It must have tasted like the crab and bacon benedict at Blue Moon Café. Yummy!
  • Next, Windham tried to piledrive him, but Rhodes countered with a back drop.
  • Back in the ring, Windham gave Rhodes the ten-punch count-along.
  • As Rhodes exited the ring again, Windham leaped from the apron and nailed him.
  • After ramming Rhodes face-first into the apron, Windham tried to bring him in the hard way, but Rhodes used momentum to send Windham flying down to the concrete floor.
  • He then slammed Windham on the concrete floor as Ross mentioned Windham’s being a second-generation wrestler.
  • In the ring, as Rhodes got distracted by Dillon, Windham nailed him from behind.
  • He then slammed Rhodes and followed with an elbow drop.
  • Afterward, he applied the claw and got a pair of 2 counts.
  • Rhodes tried to come back as he mounted the second turnbuckle, but the claw made him crumble to the mat.
  • In his next comeback attempt, Rhodes nailed Windham with the bionic elbow.
  • Yet as Rhodes attempted the figure-four leg lock, Windham reapplied the claw.
  • Again, Rhodes mounted the second turnbuckle, but Windham joined him but got shoved down to the mat. In the process, referee Tommy Young got knocked down to the concrete floor.
  • Windham then mounted the top turnbuckle, got caught and slammed down to the mat.
  • Rhodes then delivered his elbow drop finisher, but Young was still OUT COLD resulting in a false pin.
  • Ron Garvin came into the ring.
  • Unbelievably, he WALLOPED Rhodes! WE HAVE A HEEL TURN!
  • Windham then reapplied the claw to the unconscious Rhodes, got the pin, and retained the US title.

Rating: ***

Summary:  Windham did everything he could to bring Rhodes to his level; however, it only partially worked. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a bad match.

Afterwards, Rhodes is still OUT COLD as Williams comes out to check on him.

Back in the dressing room, Ron Garvin takes a briefcase full of money from both Dillon and Hart. Aha! So THAT was his motivation!

So let’s set the table for the main event…

In 1987, Luger joined Jim Crockett Promotions and became an associate member of the Four Horsemen until they kicked Ole out of the group. From there, he styled and profiled his way with the Horsemen and won the US title beating Nikita Koloff. Seeing his future climb skyward, Luger wanted to win the World title, but Flair was a fellow Horseman.

However, when Dillon asked for the Horsemen to voluntarily leave the ring during a Bunkhouse Stampede match, it was the final straw for Luger. While Blanchard and Arn exited without question, Luger dumped Dillon over the top rope to the win the night’s main event and severed his ties with the Four Horsemen.

Next, Luger teamed up with Windham and beat Blanchard and Arn for the NWA World tag team titles at the initial Clash of Champions. Their reign would not last as Windham turned on Luger allowing the Horsemen to regain the belts.

Fast-forward to Clash II where the Horsemen jumped Luger coming out of a limousine and bloodied him for the first time in his career. With the best measure of revenge against the Horsemen being a victory for the World title over Flair, Luger had his sights set on the big prize.

Match 5 for the NWA World title: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (champion w/ JJ Dillon) versus the “Total Package” Lex Luger

Highlights:

  • The theme to the WWF Superstar Line brought out the challenger. For those that don’t follow my Monday Night War series, “Slammer” by Derek Todd Sorensen was used for both Luger’s WCW entrance music as well as the WWF Superstar Line during commercial breaks of RAW in ’96.
  • Interestingly, while Flair wore white trunks with yellow knee pads, Luger wore yellow trunks with white knee pads.
  • Flair attempted to chop Luger, but the latter no-sold them.
  • Luger then gave Flair a hip toss followed by a dropkick.
  • Flair then exited the ring to regroup.
  • After a leap frog, Luger gave Flair a gorilla press slam.
  • As Flair exited the ring again, he tried to intimidate referee Tommy Young, but Young shoved him back then sought refuge behind Luger in the ring. SMART!
  • Luger then reversed an Irish whip and gave Flair another gorilla press slam.
  • Next, he applied a bear hug and got a 2 count upon lowering Flair’s shoulders to the mat.
  • As Flair went to the apron, Luger hooked a vertical suplex to return him to the ring and got 2.
  • He then hit an elbow drop for another 2.
  • A second one missed however.
  • After another hip toss, Luger followed Flair to the floor.
  • On the other hand, Flair made Luger taste the steel railing. It must have tasted like the southern slammer sandwich at Miss Shirley’s.
  • He rammed him again causing Miss Shirley to offer him an Alonsoville too.
  • Back in the ring, Flair delivered a pair of knee drops for 2 with a big kick-out from Luger.
  • After Flair missed a chop, Luger hit a lariat for 2.
  • Flair came back, mounted the top turnbuckle, but Luger crotched him on the top rope.
  • Upon a third hip toss by Luger, Flair dodged a dropkick resulting in a Flair flop.
  • He then gave Luger a cross-corner whip, but Luger exploded out of the corner and delivered a clothesline for 2 as Flair’s foot was on the bottom rope.
  • As Flair tossed Luger outside the ring, Luger re-entered via sunset flip for another 2.
  • At the fifteen-minute mark, Flair began to work on Luger’s left leg.
  • He then applied the figure-four leg lock and used the ropes behind Young’s back.
  • Upon Luger’s reversal, Flair escaped.
  • He tried to continue working on the leg, but Luger moved it in the nick of time.
  • He then clotheslined Flair over the top rope to the concrete floor.
  • When Flair returned, he gave Luger a series of chops, but Luger began to no-sell them.
  • After a third gorilla press slam, Luger’s leg gave out.
  • He then tried a knee drop but missed.
  • Flair then mounted the top turnbuckle, got caught, and received a slam down to the mat.
  • Luger then gave Flair the ten-punch count-along, but Flair countered with an inverted atomic drop.
  • Luger no-sold it and clotheslined Flair for 2 as Flair’s leg was on the bottom rope again.
  • At the twenty-minute mark, Luger gave Flair another ten-punch count-along.
  • He then delivered a cross-corner whip that resulted in a Flair flip to the concrete floor.
  • Luger then countered a hip toss with a backslide for 2.
  • Flair then hit a cross body block, and both men got tangled in the ropes instead of going over them.
  • After they fell to the floor, Flair rammed Luger face-first into the ring post.
  • He then grabbed a steel chair, but Young made him drop it.
  • Dillon then rammed Luger face-first into an adjacent ring post.
  • Luger was BUSTED OPEN!
  • Back in the ring, Flair gave Luger the ten-punch count-along, but Luger countered with an inverted atomic drop.
  • The doctor got up from the ringside table and motioned for Young.
  • In the meantime, Luger gave Flair a powerslam then put Flair in the Torture Rack.
  • The bell rang.
  • Do we have a new champion?
  • The Baltimore faithful believed so as they ERUPTED.

Rating: ****

Summary:  Another great match by Flair as he made Luger look great although I wonder about the outcome.

After the match, Sting, Nikita, and Williams come to the ring to congratulate Luger. As the Baltimore faithful exuberantly chant “Luger,” Cappetta announces that due to the laceration on Luger’s head, Flair wins the match and retains the title. Changing their tune, the Baltimore faithful chant “BULLSHIT,” and I can’t disagree.

Conclusion:  Similar to AWA Super Sunday, a terrible injustice occurred here. Whereas common sense and fan reaction dictated that Luger win the belt here, politics and older old-school booking prevailed.

Since Jim Crockett Promotions was losing ground in terms of competition to the WWF, having Luger as World Champion made all the sense in the wrestling universe. While it may not have saved Jim Crockett Promotions, it may have led to a bigger influx in business with Luger at the helm.

This is, by no means, a criticism of Ric Flair. On the contrary, it is a criticism of Jim Crockett Promotions for failing to elevate a wrestler whose time had come in the paying customer’s eyes. Using a state’s law preventing the intentional use of blood in wrestling is not an excuse for failing to elevate Luger here.

Most certainly, this was a definitive turning point for Jim Crockett Promotions, and the effect will be felt going forward.

BONUS FEATURE: Check out a rare backstage video from the Bash tour. Kids, don’t try this at home.

See you for WWF WrestleFest ‘88!

Rating: 5.40

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