Fourth of July Countdown! Great American Bash ’96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Great American Bash 96 – 06.16.96

Upgraded from my Roku Streaming Stick to the brand new version of the Roku 3 today, and everything is blazingly fast now.  Except for the WWE Network, which immediately crashed the Roku when I tried to fast-forward something.  Because of course.  (Update from two years later:  I now have the Roku Premiere Plus or an Apple TV to choose from for my WWE Network needs, but normally just use the Xbox because it’s still the most dependable.) 

Live from Baltimore, MD

Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Dusty Rhodes.

I totally forgot about the goofy SNME-style promos before the show, actually.  They were definitely ripping off aspects of the WWF presentation style around this point.

Fire & Ice v. The Steiner Brothers

Ice Train overpowers Scott for two, but the Steiners clean house.  Norton works on Rick, but he gets suplexed for two and Scott adds a dropkick.  Norton of course is merely inconvenienced and beats Scott down, allowing Ice Train to come in for more punishment.  Corner splash misses and Scott suplexes him out of the corner, then he suplexes Norton and nearly breaks his neck.  He’s got a pretty thick neck anyway, I’m sure he wouldn’t have even noticed.  Norton bails and Scott tries a flying bodypress in the ring, but Norton catches him with a powerslam for two.  Train comes in and works on the shoulder, with Norton adding a shoulderbreaker into an armbar.  Rick repeatedly kicks Norton in the face to break that up and I’m sensing some tensions here.  Another shoulderbreaker, but Scott manages to tag Rick while on Norton’s back and Rick runs wild with clotheslines.  Fire & Ice double-team Rick with a powerbomb into a splash, however, and they try a Doomsday Device, but Scott breaks it up and they get the flying bulldog on Norton for two.  Scott with the Frankensteiner on Norton to finish at 10:31.   Kudos to Flash for taking that thing.   Good hard-hitting match to start.  ***

US Title:  Konnan v. El Gato

Gato is no Joe Gomez as far as challengers go.  As always, I remind you that El Gato is Spanish for “Pat Tanaka”.  This was typical WCW weirdness, as they decided to book a match between Konnan and a masked man named El Gato, but had no real idea of who would play the part.  So instead of getting any actual Mexicans, they found Tanaka at whatever waffle house he was wrestling out of in 1996 and gave him the gig instead.  And they’re not even TRYING, as Tanaka is just wearing his usual gear with a Tiger Mask gimmick stuck over his trademark hair.  Gato uses his South American martial arts to take Konnan down with armdrags, but Konnan puts him down with a clothesline for two.  Gato gets a superkick for two and a sunset flip for two, but Konnan takes him down and works on the leg.  Konnan puts him on the floor with a powerbomb, and then finishes with a jackknife slam back in the ring at 5:57 to retain.  Just a Nitro match.  **

Sting goes on a huge rant against Steven Regal and his prissy mannerisms, but then completely loses his train of thought mid-promo in a funny goof and Gene has to give him a minute and jumpstart him again.  That was definitely live.

Lord of the Ring match:  Diamond Dallas Page v. Marcus Bagwell

They immediately fight to the floor and Bagwell sends Page into the front row, but DDP cuts him off on the way back in.  Bagwell starts working on the arm as Tony relates a backstory about a film student finding DDP homeless on the campus of his college and then giving him the money to enter WCW again.  So was that the payoff the benefactor angle?  Bagwell dumps him and follows with a dive, but goes up and gets crotched as DDP takes over.  Backbreaker gets two.  Backdrop suplex gets two.  Page with the abdominal stretch and some sort of half-hearted piledriver for two.  Bagwell comes back with a pair of atomic drops and a slingshot clothesline for two, but a blind charge misses and DDP gets two.  Bagwell comes back again with a headscissors, but DDP drops him with the Cutter at 9:36.  You can see them building up the “out of nowhere” aspect of that move and really getting it over.  **1/4  Pretty dull stuff here.

WCW Cruiserweight title:  Dean Malenko v. Rey Mysterio Jr.

For those keeping track, this is where the show really takes off.  This is of course Rey’s PPV debut, on par with a Joe Gomez although without the longevity or career highs to follow.  They do the stalemate sequence to start and start pulling out the awesome lucha gymnastics as Dean bumps to the floor.  Rey with the springboard dropkick, and back in for a sunset flip out of a knucklelock.  Dean dumps him and tries a baseball slide, but Rey casually slides back in to avoid it.  Back in, Dean goes to work on the arm with some vicious stuff, but Rey walks the ropes and dropkicks out of it.  Dean puts him down with a clothesline out of the corner for two and goes back to the arm with a hammerlock slam for two.  Dean really cranks on the arm as this stays on the mat for way too long.  Dean stomps him down and starts on the arm again.  What an odd choice of a match style for REY MYSTERIO to debut with.  Even WWE knew enough to have him go out there and fly all over the ring when he started.  Butterfly suplex gets two.  Dean goes back to the arm, but Rey finally makes the comeback and puts Dean on the floor before following with an insane somersault plancha halfway up the aisle.  Back in with a springboard dropkick for two.  They trade pinfall reversals for two and the West Coast Pop gets two.  They fight to the top and Rey takes him down with a rana for two, and reverses a backbreaker attempt for two.  Dean blocks another rana attempt with a powerbomb and pins him with his feet on the ropes to retain at 17:55, however.  Those last few minutes were CRAZY.  ****  Meltzer kind of buried the match, despite giving it the same rating, noting that Rey’s cred was pretty much shot now because he lost his debut to a midcard guy.  BURIED.  And he spelled his name wrong, listing it as “Oscar Gonzales”.  DOUBLE BURIED.

Big Bubba v. John Tenta

They brawl outside to start and Tenta throws him into the stairs and then works him over in the corner.  Bubba finds an international object and slugs Tenta down for two, then follows with an enzuigiri for two.  Tenta tries a slam and falls back, and Bubba smothers him for a while.  Bubba goes up, however, and Tenta powerslams him for the pin at 5:31.  Unfortunately, this feud MUST CONTINUE.  DUD

Falls Count Anywhere:  Chris Benoit v. Kevin Sullivan

They immediately do a crazy brawl into the crowd and up the stairs, ending up in the men’s bathroom.  Dusty is just in his glory here, as this is literally the greatest thing he’s ever seen, culminating with them fighting over a urinal and a woman in the men’s bathroom.  Sullivan shoves Benoit’s head into the extra toilet paper and they get into a vicious slugfest before heading down into the arena again.  Sullivan just dumps him down the stairs and chucks a chair at him at ringside.  Benoit retrieves a table and they take turns whipping each other into it, but Benoit sets it on the top rope and they fight on top of it.  And then from there, Benoit finally puts him away with a superplex at 9:52 to a huge pop.  Can’t really go with the full monty any more, but it was still a great brawl with non-stop action, that set a template for Vince Russo for years afterwards.  Not to mention it was Dusty’s finest hour as a commentator, even as he lost one of his oldest friends the day before.  Now that’s a pro.   ****1/4  Benoit goes for the beatdown, but Arn Anderson makes the save…and then turns on Sullivan and kicks the shit out of him as well.  And that was an awesome payoff, too.

Meanwhile, the newly rejuvenated Horsemen cut their victory promo, and they wouldn’t be done yet tonight.  Apparently Benoit has now “earned his stripes” with the Horsemen and is set for life with them.

Sting v. Lord Steven Regal

At this point I switch to the iPad for various reasons, and the quality is pretty iffy on it tonight.  Also, has anyone commented recently how “The Man Called Sting” and “Steinerized” are basically the same song?  Because they totally are.  This was actually a pretty fantastic little feud built up on Nitro and WCWSN, with Regal being all kinds of a British super-dick and Sting being all “America is awesome, derp derp” and damn if it didn’t work great.  Sting attacks to start, but Regal takes him down and pounds him with forearms, but Sting fights him off and Regal goes to argue with the front row for a bit.  Thankfully the crowd is aware of their location in the USA and informs Mr. Regal.  Back in, Steve offers a heartfelt handshake and smile, Sting THRUSTS HIS CROTCH at him.  Is this how America treats visiting dignitaries and great men like Mr. Regal?  No wonder he hates all the fans.  Regal takes him down and rubs his knee in his face, then goes into a cobra clutch and pounds away with forearms.  Regal controls him with a full nelson, but Sting takes him down with a sunset flip for two.  Regal, who is a great professional wrestler, makes faces while fighting the move and threatens to take out his frustrations by punching the referee in the face at the same time.  Regal was on another level of greatness at this point.  Unfortunately we’re getting close to the point where he indulged in the drink and got fat and lazy for a long time.  Regal with a dropkick for two and he goes to a headlock, but Sting suplexes out.  Regal stays on him with a wacky armbar while yelling at the bloody fools in the front row and using the ropes.  MULTITASKING~!  Sting comes back with an abdominal stretch, but Regal slugs him down and shows his dance moves.  Regal puts him in a headscissors and gets two off that, and he goes back to cranking on the arm.  Sting fights up, so Regal hits him with rabbit punches (Dusty:  “He needs to hit him with that open hand…NO NOT YOU, REGAL!”) and Sting goes down again.  Regal goes for a crossbody out of the corner and Sting hits him with a dropkick with AWESOME timing and makes the comeback.  They fight to the top and Regal takes him down with a butterfly suplex for two and hooks in the Regal Stretch, giving him the quality demoralizing trashtalk at the same time.  Finally he just beats on Sting in the corner with backhands, and Sting has HAD ENOUGH.  Sting beats the hell out of him with an awesome camera angle in the corner, but Regal blocks the Stinger splash with double knees.  Sting isn’t taking more of Regal’s shit, however, and just hooks him in the Deathlock (with Regal kicking and screaming the whole way) to finish for good at 17:10.  LOVED IT.  Regal was just an insufferable dick the whole time and Sting got his revenge.  FOR MURICA.  ****

Ric Flair & Arn Anderson v. Steve McMichael & Kevin Greene

Most people were expecting a by-the-numbers celebrity trainwreck, which makes what we got all the better.  The crowd already hates Mongo and some dudes managed to bring in a huge “Mongo Sucks” sign on a bedsheet.  They’re not wrong.  Arn does some football drills with Mongo and that goes badly for him.  Tony relates a conversation with the football players, where he learns that rattlesnake hunting is a profession in Texas.  Dusty is flabbergasted.  “Of course!  We all hunt rattlesnakes in Texas!”  The football team does a beatdown on Arn in the corner at Savage’s behest and the Horsemen regroup, and Kevin Greene comes in for his debut.  Greene is having a blast and Flair comes in and matches energy with him, then waits for Greene to go into the three-point stance and kicks him in the face.  Greene comes back with shoulderblocks, however, and the Horsemen run away again.  And this time Savage kicks Flair’s ass and tosses him back in.  Flair is so great that he actually makes two green rookies look like killers and makes the crowd cheer for them.  Mongo tags in and Arn pulls back from Flair’s tag in a funny bit.  Mongo keeps overpowering Flair as they keep it simple and effective, and Mongo no-sells the chops and does his own, then adds a backdrop as Flair is just bumping like crazy here.  Flair goes up and gets slammed off, and we get stereo figure-fours from the football players as the crowd goes crazy for it.  The women all head back to the dressing room after an argument and Arn finally turns the tide with a cheapshot on Mongo, and the Horsemen go to work.  Mongo gets dumped and Bobby gets his shots in, and back in Flair goes low and drops the knee to make sure the heels get no sympathy from the crowd.  Kevin Greene as the babyface who is incredulously angry at the rampant cheating is just amazing for someone having his first match.   The Horsemen cut off the tag to continue building sympathy for Mongo as face in peril, but he rams the Horsemen together off an atomic drop and makes the hot tag to Greene.  Powerslam on Flair and you can see Flair leading him through the positioning for the next spot, but doing it totally naturally.  Greene suplexes him in from the apron, but Arn clips him from behind like a dick and goes after the knee.  The Horsemen cut off the ring and Flair tries the figure-four, but Greene reverses into a small package for two.  Flair stays on him with the kneecrusher and this time gets the move, complete with help from Arn in the corner.  Finally Savage can take no more of these shenanigans, but Chris Benoit joins us and beats on him.  And then the evil women return with newly glammed out Debra and the Halliburton case filled with cash, which Mongo considers carefully…and then hits Greene in the face with it.  Flair gets the pin at 20:50 of an insanely entertaining tag match.  ***1/2  And the Four Horsemen are complete again!  We get an epic beatdown of Randy Savage and Kevin Greene for good measure.  Mongo was a terrible worker but fit in perfectly with the group as a character.  Given that everyone assumed it would be the usual goofy match and celebrity going over Flair formula, this was awesome.

This would have been the capper on any other PPV as it is.  But wait, there’s MORE!

Eric Bischoff brings out the invading Hall and Nash, so that WCW can formally answer their challenge.  Bischoff still won’t use their names, which is another nice touch.  So the match will happen at Bash at the Beach, and Bischoff specifically asks if they work for the WWF, trying to get the lawyers off his back.  Bischoff promises the reveal the WCW team on Nitro, so Hall kicks him in the gut and Nash powerbombs him off the stage and through a table, which has the crowd freaking out.  This was amazing on so many levels, not the least of which was that Bischoff had never been touched to that point, and it was the first acknowledgement that Bischoff was the guy in charge of the company, a year before Vince came out as owner of the WWF on TV.  Needless to say, I was losing my shit at this point and this was one of the biggest angles in the history of the company.  It was suddenly a totally different atmosphere, with two guys who weren’t playing by the arbitrary rules of the wrestling “universe” coming in and just doing what they wanted in ways that fans didn’t know how to react to yet.  It was DIFFERENT and off-putting and suddenly made everything must-see and dangerous.

Really, the World title match should have been stuck in the middle of the show somewhere because nothing was going to top that, but they go ahead with it anyway.

 

WCW World title:  The Giant v. Lex Luger

Really, these guys have no hope of following anything that came before.  Luger slugs away on the Giant to start and clotheslines him to the floor, then does a clumsy leap onto Giant’s back with a sleeper.  Jimmy Hart tries to break it up with the megaphone, but Sting comes out and chases Jimmy to the back.  Giant beats Luger down in the corner to escape and whips Luger around the ring, as Luger somehow grunts even louder when he’s selling than when he’s on offense.  Giant puts him in a body vice and tosses him down for a surfboard and the crowd is just totally dead.  Can’t even blame them.  Giant slowly pounds away on the back.  Lex makes the comeback with the offense grunts instead of the defense grunts and pounds away on the Giant, who charges and ends up laying on the top rope somehow.  Luger uses that contrived position to put him in the Rack, but Giant falls on top of him and finishes with the chokeslam to retain cleanly at 9:30.  I think with hindsight they should have put the title on Luger here and passed it to Hogan that way, since it would have ripped the hearts out of the fans that much more and Luger had earned it anyway.  *1/2

The Pulse

If not for the main event, this is the greatest PPV in WCW history and probably one of the greatest of all-time, period.  As it is, it sits comfortably below Bash 89 on my list.  Taken with Bash at the Beach three weeks later, it’s a hell of a one-two punch that nearly destroyed the WWF in the process and really, probably should have.  Strongest recommendation!