Fourth of July Countdown! Great American Bash ’90

(Did I seriously not go back and redo this one when we hit the Observer Flashback for this show?  Damn, apologies, I hate this rant.)  

The Netcop Retro Rant for Great American Bash 90.

– Live from Baltimore, Maryland.

– Your hosts are Jim Ross and Bob Caudle

– Opening match, US tag titles:  The Midnight Express v. The Southern Boys.

The Southern Boys, Steve Armstrong and Tracy Smothers, would become better known as the Young Pistols.  They had two principal feuds: This one and with the Freebirds.  Guess which one I liked better.  I consider this match required viewing for all new wrestling fans. If you’ve never seen the *real* Midnight Express in action (ie, Sweet Stan and Beautiful Bobby) and are wondering why everyone loves them so much, run out and rent this tape.  (I’m assuming this is in comparison to the abomination of Bob Holly and Bart Gunn.)  This is a jaw-droppingly great match. Just when you thought the Midnights were on the verge of being done for (okay, they were, but go along with me for the sake of argument) they go and pull this thing out of their bag of tricks.  This is also the match that turned the ‘Boys from heatless slackjawed yokels into serious title contenders.  That’s no mean feat.  Midnights have their own built-in fanbase here, getting solid babyface reactions a lot of the time.  Cool moment:  Stan Lane and Tracy Smothers have a martial arts duel, drawing super heat from the fans.  It’s cool shit like that, out of nowhere, in the middle of a match, that set the Midnights apart from everyone else. The sustained heat here is incredible.  Smothers plays Ricky Morton, as the Midnights get to show off all their cool stuff.  Cornette and Lane bolted to form SMW in November of 1990, so this is basically the swan song for the Midnights and they make it count.  Armstrong gets the hot tag and goes nuts, and the ‘Boys hit their finisher with the ref distracted.  Chaos ensues:  The Midnights hit the Rocket Launcher, just get two.  Ref is distracted again, and the ‘Boys do the old switcheroo (in what is usually a sure-fire match ender) and get a two count. Smothers is up and ready to finish Eaton, but the ref is distracted with Armstrong, and Lane nails a bee-yoo-tee-ful savate kick right to the back of Tracy’s head from the apron, and Eaton cradles him for the pin. Magnificent.  ****1/2  The crowd is nearly breathless after that one. Cornette called it one of the best Midnight Express matches EVER.  (Pretty sure I redid this match somewhere else later, because this seems very breezy compared to how I remember writing it, plus I distinctly recall rating this at ****3/4.  Any help, obsessive fans?) 

– Gordon Solie interviews the Freebirds.  I know it’s not politically correct to make fun of effeminate males, but they just looked soooooo faggy in this time period.  I mean, really now, mascara and eye shadow? And the sequined outfits?  And people thought Goldust was shameless…  (Perhaps they were just metrosexual.) 

– Big Van Vader v. Tom Zenk.

Hey, it’s Tom Zenk, how appropriate after that last interview.  (Was there a “Tom Zenk is gay” meme going around in 1998?)  And don’t blink or you’ll miss Vader killing him in his WCW debut.  Steam-spewing helmet and all.  Vader didn’t really make any kind of notable impression in WCW until late 1991.  Big splash for the pin.  *  Always good to see Vader in the early years, though.  (I should really redo this show.) 

– Solie interviews the Horsemen.

– The Fabulous Freebirds v. The Steiner Brothers.

Thank god Zenon is at the bar tonight so I don’t have to listen to him yelling “Yeah, Badstreet USA! Crank it!” when the Freebirds come out.  (It’s true, that did happen very often.)  The Freebirds are useful in exactly two areas:  Selling the Steiners’ offense and pissing off the crowd.  They excel at both.  Steiners pummel the Birds for 5 or 6 minutes, which is good, but then Jim Garvin gets into the match, which is very very bad.  Hot tag, Frankensteiner, but ref is otherwise occupied.  Garvin DDTs Scott while Rick belly-to-bellys Hayes, and since the Steiners are the butchest team in the match, Scott gets to pin Garvin for the win.  A better Birds match than usual, thanks entirely to the Steiners’ godliness at this point in history.  ***  (Ugh, this rant is driving me a little crazy.) 

– Arn Anderson, Barry Windham & Sid Vicious v. Paul Orndorff, Junkfood Dog and El Gigante.

The lowpoint of the show.  (Orndorff and JYD were hired by Ole Anderson because they would work cheap, and that’s about it.)  This is Gigante’s debut, so if you ever invent a time machine and need to know when to send the assassin back to kill him, this is it.  (His own body took care of that for us.)  Luckily he doesn’t so much as touch anyone in this match.  But the Horsemen still cower every time they get near, because he’s 7’7″.  Welcome to the internal logic of wrestling, folks.  The “Dudes with Attitudes” basically no-sell all of the Horsemen offense while the fans scream for Sid to get in (poor souls), until a melee breaks out and Sid tosses JYD over the top rope for a DQ.  *1/2

– Gordon Solie interviews Flexy Lexy.

– US title match:  Lex Luger v. Mean Mark (w/ Paul E. Dangerously).

Before the urns, evil brothers, casket matches, 2 WWF titles, (Only 2?  This is definitely written in 98 then.) costume changes, deaths, resurrections and Inferno matches, there was only “Mean” Mark Callous, a two-bit big man who could walk the ropes.  WCW considered him unmarketable and dumped him unceremoniously a month after this match, figuring it a futile gesture to bother resigning him.  This is the same governing body that thought the Black Scorpion was a good idea.  In November of 1990, Vince McMahon made them look like the idiots they were by repackaging Mark Callous and debuting him at the Survivor Series in a gimmick that would literally change the face of wrestling forever.  He seems to do that sort of thing a lot, doesn’t he?  And thus was the Undertaker born of WCW’s usual collective corporate boneheadedness.  As for this match, well, just imagine if Lex Luger and Undertaker fought tomorrow, then imagine them 8 years younger, and you’ve about got it.  Punch, kick, armbar here.  It’s so weird seeing Mark display actual emotion and move-selling.  Given his abilities in both areas, I can say without fear of contradiction that the Undertaker is the perfect character for him to play.  Luger with 3 clotheslines and the Rack, but the ref gets bumped and Paul E. whacks Luger with the phone and revives the ref.  Only a two count, then Luger pops up, nails both Mark and Paul E. with rights, then clotheslines Mean Mark and gets the pin (?).  *1/2  Kind of an anti-climactic move to get the win with, no?  A good looking clothesline from Luger for once, though…

– Solie interviews Sting.

– NWA World tag team title:  Doom v. The Rock N Roll Express.

How deeply fitting that the last gasp of greatness for the Midnight Express should come on the same card as the last gasp of greatness for their eternal rivals, the Rock N Roll Express.  Shakespeare himself couldn’t have written more perfectly suitable irony.  (That’s not really iro…whatever.)  Robert Gibson banged up his knee shortly after this match and the team degenerated into what you see stinking up WWF Shotgun on the weekends.  By Bash 91, Morton and Gibson were fighting each other.  This, by contrast, is an excellent way to end the Rock N Roll legacy in the NWA, as they symbolically allow Doom to step into the “legend” area.  Reed & Simmons had become incredibly improved as a team at this point, in stark contrast to the lumbering dolts who debuted under masks at Havoc 89.  Doom controls this one, with Ricky Morton playing…uh…well…Ricky Morton.  Doom beats on him like he’s their bitch.  The Baltimore crowd is almost ECW-ish, completely turning on the Rock N Rolls as Doom gets more and more offense in. Morton does get several near falls in, keeping the pace up.  A Reed chinlock slows it down a bit.  Here’s why the top rope rule used to be a good idea:  The heels would toss the face over the top with the ref distracted, and the face would sell it like he’d been shot.  That’s good, old-school wrestling tactics.  The fans would eat it up, too, and they do just that here.  Reed misses a splash and Morton hot-tags Gibson.  Katie, bar the door, it’s a pier-six brawl!  Hey, Gordon Solie is in the building, how can I *not* use his cliches?  (Obviously this is pre-BONZO GONZO for me.)  Chaos ensues, of course, and Reed hits Gibson with a shoulderblock off the top as Gibson is beating up poor Teddy Long.  Doom retains.  Great match!  ****

– Solie interviews the runner-up in People’s Online Beautiful People poll.  (Oh yeah, I remember that!  RSPW ran a ballot-stuffing write-in campaign for Ric Flair and almost got him elected Beautiful Person of the Year or something.) 

– NWA World Title match:  Ric Flair v. Sting.

You know the setup, right?  Sting is invited to join the Horsemen in 89 so Flair and his cronies can leech the youth factor from him, but Sting is STUPID enough to actually challenge Flair for the title *and* trust him not to retaliate.  What a maroon.  The Horsemen turn on him like ugly on Dionne Warwick and destroy his knee, putting him on the shelf for months and turning Lex Luger into a babyface again in the process.  This is the blowoff match.  And how overbooked can you get?  No DQ, no countout, The Dudes with Attitudes are around the ring to keep the Horsemen out, AND Ole Anderson is handcuffed to El Gigante.  They must have gotten Flair drunk before he agreed to sign *that* lop-sided a deal.  I miss Sting. The real Sting, not the bum who’s been sitting in the rafters and letting his muscles atrophy for months on end. (Must have been written in 97 then.  This REALLY needs a redo if that’s the case!)  This was *supposed* to be the match where Sting was introduced to the world and Flair faded into the sunset.  He would of course go on to win 7 more World titles after this.  (And then a few more after I wrote THAT.)  Ring psychology:  The Horsemen killed Sting’s knee, and even the marks remembered it, so when kicks him there, they all gasp in fear.  This is like the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of the Flair-Sting series.  Flair works on the knee and goes “Whoo” a lot. Sting comeback, but Flair destroys the knee and builds to the figure-four.  Crowd is oddly quiet even for the Sting offensive portions.  Sting comeback, and he seems unsure of what the script is. Kinda weird little segment, actually.  Anyway, he gets his shit together and gives Flair the Stinger splash, which is always a good start, and puts him in the Scorpion deathlock.  Flair escapes as the Horsemen and Dudes with Attitudes brawl on the rampway.  Crowd can sense the ending is near and start to buzz.  Token wrestling sequence (bridge, backslide, you know the routine) leads to Stinger splash #2, but Flair moves and Sting crashes into the turnbuckle…knee first.  The crowd gasps like Flair is the villain in a movie serial and Sting is Penelope.  Flair (Nyah-hah-hahhaha…all he needs is a moustache to twirl) goes for the figure-four, but Our Hero does the done-to-death inside cradle to reverse it, and gains his first World title in the process.  And the crowd goes BALLISTIC.  Wow, they were really saving that sucker up. ***  For a really outstanding Flair-Sting match, see the first Clash of Champions in 1988, or Clash 27 in 1994 where they unify the two World titles.

The Bottom Line:

Cartoonish main event aside, this was a terrific effort on WCW’s part to kickstart the Sting title reign.  So what the fuck happened?  (Ole Anderson.)  WCW went completely into the tank between this show and the debut of the Dangerous Alliance in late 1991.  (Ole Anderson.) Still, a commendable effort all around for this one.  Highly recommended.  (Youtube the Midnights match, skip the rest.)