July Countdown: The Great American Bash 87

(2012 Scott sez:  I took June off because King of the Ring never really interested me that much, but this is a much more fun trip down memory lane and in fact is the only WCW PPV concept to get integrated into WWE after the buyout.  For the sake of stretching things out I’ll also cover Beach Blast and Bash at the Beach as part of the same concept.  And we begin with a show that isn’t technically a PPV, but rather a videotape release featuring one of the greatest matches of all-time.  So it’s got that going on.)  The Netcop Retro Rant for NWA Great American Bash 87: WarGames!   This is not one show per se, but rather a 2 hour compilation of the highlights of the Bash 87 tour.   Opening match:  WarGames.  Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger & JJ Dillon v. Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, Hawk, Animal & Paul Ellering.  This is it – the first WarGames, ever.  (I went back and checked out a 1987 Observer to see what Dave Meltzer thought of this, and he basically no-sold it at the time, describing it as a “much-hyped tornado cage match” with “good action” but not a match of the year candidate.  To be fair he was going off second-hand info at that point.  I’m kind of curious where his opinion stands now.)  The story: Everyone hates each others’ guts.  That’s all you need to know.  Big Dust and AA start out.  Lots of situations where a pinfall would usually happen to stress that there are no pinfalls.  AA is bleeding two minutes in, just like everyone else in this match.  An 11 year tradition begins here, as the heels win the first ever coin toss.  Tully is next and Dusty elbows them both before they inevitably destroy Dusty.  The overriding storyline of the match:  When it’s even odds, the faces are in command, but when the heels have one man up, the faces have no chance.  (That’s wrestling in a nutshell, baby.)  Animal comes in to make the save and slingshots Tully into the cage THREE TIMES.  No release.  Wild stuff.  Flair is in next (whoo!) and Animal is bleeding 10 seconds later.  You like blood?  This is the match for you.  Incredibly hot crowd, they must’ve been distributing speed in the hot dog vendors or something.  (The Bash tour of 87 was a GIGANTIC success and it’s all the more baffling that Dusty managed to bankrupt the company by the end of 88 the way he did.  They were doing 10-13K legit sellouts of these shows in their core markets like Atlanta.)  Koloff is in and just obliterates everyone.  Luger is in and goes right after Koloff, and Flair helps out by giving the most blatant ballshot you’ll ever see. Then Flair and Tully give Koloff *two* spike piledrivers in a row. Brutal.  Even the bad wrestlers look good because they can punch and kick away and it’s totally in context.  (That’s why Wargames is so brilliant and why it’s so amazing that WCW could f--- it up so badly.  It’s the PERFECT match for disguising weaknesses and focusing on the strength of the brawling guys!)  Dillon is in last for the heels and not surprisingly doesn’t turn the tide much.  Ellering comes in, wearing the spiked gauntlet from one of the Warriors, and starts jamming it into Dillon’s eye.  Then the Warriors corner Dillon 2-on-1 and just absolutely murder him for about three minutes until he finally surrenders to the end the whole thing.  A bloody, brutal classic.  *****  (JJ suffered a legit shoulder injury taking a Doomsday Device in this match, showing that it truly was a brutal match.)    Rick Steiner v. Barry Windham.  This was when Steiner was still an Eddie Gilbert crony in the UWF.  (It’s funny that people thought that WWE would possibly remember the UWF “invasion” of 1987 and somehow learn from the milions of mistakes made there.)  Standard babyface Barry match with a weird ending – Steiner suplexes Windham off the apron and rolls on top, but Windham kinda pushes Steiner over and cradles him for the pin.  It just looked awkward for some reason.  **  (Probably because Steiner was about 2 years away from being any good as a worker.)    US title match:  Nikita Koloff v. Lex Luger, No-DQ cage match.  We join this about 25 minutes in.  (I’ve heard the full match is pretty bad.)  Luger was Das Wunderkind back in 87, having just ousted Ole Anderson from the Horsemen.  Koloff had been US champion forever, beating Magnum TA the year before.  Koloff has a neck brace after WarGames.  Luger works the neck constantly.  It’s pretty sad when rookie Luger displays more skill and psychology than Wolfpac Luger. (Probably because rookie Luger actually gave a s--- and was excited to be there making big money.)  Koloff whipped to the corner and sickles Luger on the way out, but Earl Hebner gets KO’d during the move.  Dillon tosses in a chair and Luger smacks Koloff on the back of the head, then picks him up into the torture rack.  Koloff is unconscious so the ref just declares Luger the winner and new US champion for the first time.  (Koloff screwed Koloff!  By the way, watching this tape in early 1988, my MIND WAS BLOWN seeing Earl Hebner as a referee for the NWA.)  **1/2 from what I saw.   Texas Death Match:  Dick Murdoch (w/ Eddie Gilbert) v. Steve Williams (w/ Magnum TA).  Pretty bad.  (Now there’s the in-depth analysis and wit you keep coming back for!)  Williams KO’s Capt. Redneck with his arm cast and Murdoch isn’t able to answer the 10 count.  *   (That sounds low.  I should watch this tape again sometime.)  Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts v. Manny Fernandez, Ivan Koloff & Paul Jones.  Throwaway six-man match to give the Freebirds some heat.  Buddy Roberts gets beat up by the heels for a while, then Terry Gordy gets in, destroys Paul Jones, and pins him with the big elbow. DUD.  (That sounds right.)    $100,000 Barbed Wire Ladder match (lights out, non-title): Tully Blanchard v. Dusty Rhodes.  The circumstances surrounding this match always bugged me, because on Worldwide they showed the initial match to set it up (where Dusty got screwed during a TV title shot), the buildup (JJ cons Jim Crockett into putting up $50,000 on his behalf) and they talked about it constantly, but they never actually said WHO WON THE DAMN THING.  (Crockett was never in a TV company mindset, which I think was part of his problem.  Dusty’s booking led to house show payoffs, but it sucked as an “episodic program”, as Vince likes to call it.  Unless something major happened like a title change or big angle, you would never hear the results on TV and guys would just move onto the next program.)  It’s a standard ladder match, but the ring ropes are covered in barbed wire.  Crappy match.  Most of the spots involve one guy trying to cut the other on the wire.  Rhodes cuts Blanchard’s arm right on camera…ick.  Barry Windham is seconding Rhodes and Dillon is seconding Blanchard.  The ladder never really gets used as a weapon, just as a ladder.  Rhodes fights off interference from Dillon to climb the ladder and claim the $100,000.  DUD.   (For two guys with as much history between them as these two, their matches f------ SUCKED, every time out.  You’d think Tully v. Dusty would fluke out and produce something above the level of “totally awful” just once, but you’d be wrong.)  NWA World title match:  Ric Flair v. Jimmy Garvin, cage match, title v. one night with Precious.  Flair considered Jimmy a non-contender (rightly so) and demanded that he put Precious up as a collateral for the title shot.  Garvin is a *really* bad wrestler at this point and even Flair has trouble carrying him.  (Was Garvin ever a GOOD wrestler?  Maybe in World Class for a while, I guess.)  Flair blades as usual, and graciously allows Garvin to beat the holy hell out of him for a while. But Garvin lands wrong during a leapfrog and bungs up his knee, and Flair goes to school.  Whoo!  Ronnie Garvin comes down to ringside to cheer for Jimmy and make it look all epic and stuff, but Garvin sucks dick so it doesn’t work.  (I think I’m being a tad harsh on this match, although not by much.)  Highlight of the match:  Ronnie trash-talks Flair, and Flair (as far as I know) debuts the “hump the cage” maneuver to respond.  Jimmy, the consummate actor, says “Ow, Ow, Ronnie I busted up my knee” to the camera every chance he gets.  But then he gets all stoic and stuff and makes the comeback, and Flair ends up showing his ass to the crowd twice.  (Some heels liked to “show ass” as a part of their character and to let babyfaces get heat on them.  Flair just liked to take it further and do it LITERALLY as a part of his act.)  Of course, they do the spot where Flair is on the top rope and he ends up trying to walk across, but falls on his crotch instead for a Garvin two-count.  Jimmy goes for the brainbuster to finish it, but the knee gives out and Flair slaps on the figure-four, hangs onto the top rope, and doesn’t let go until Garvin blacks out from the pain.  (That’s a pretty great finish, actually.)  Some idiot fan tries to climb the cage and you can just make out Ronnie Garvin beating the s--- out of him in the background.   (That should be an extra star right there.)  Flair gets one night with Precious, although it would turn out to be drastically different from what he imagined…  **   (I looked this up on Youtube and it’s WAY better than I’m giving it credit for here, with the crowd totally buying into the drama of Garvin having to give up his wife for one night, with even the guy trying to climb into the ring because Flair is such an asshole for holding the ropes with Garvin in the figure-four adding to things.  And Flair’s MANIACAL celebration interview is awesome.  I’d give the whole shebang **** now, in fact.  Check it out…) The Rock N Roll Express v. The Midnight Express, World tag team title v. US tag team title.  Cornette was in the midst of a banana emergency and wasn’t there that night.  (Oh dear, the banana joke era on RSPW.  I know someone’s gonna ask, and the answer is that yes, there was a story about Jim Cornette and a banana, and I’m sure you can fill in the details yourself.)  Big Bubba is, though.  I love this match. If you’re not an obsessive collector of everything Midnight/RnR like I am, this is a good primer on the feud and how they worked together. Literally non-stop action.  Oddly, Robert Gibson plays Ricky Morton here.  Morton gets the hot tag and they double-dropkick Eaton, but Lane makes the save and Tommy Young escorts him out.  Morton gets whipped off the ropes and Bubba moves in the ring faster than I thought he could move and Bossman-slams Morton, but leaves his trademark hat and glasses behind by accident.  Young turns around to make the count…but sees the hat and calls for the DQ instead.  The usual **** match from these two.   (Maybe if you’re counting a star per minute, because this was a short match.  They had better matches on TV that month alone, I’m pretty sure.  Probably ** given the length.)  WarGames II:  Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger & “War Machine” (Ray Traylor) v. Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, Hawk, Animal & Paul Ellering.  Basically the same match as the first, with War Machine (Big Bossman) taking the place of the injured JJ Dillon.  Ellering again brings in the spiked gauntlet, and this time War Machine is the victim as the faces spike it into his face until he submits.  Not quite as intense as the original.  ****   The Bottom Line:  Hey, this stuff is mana from heaven for NWA enthusiasts like myself.  I wish they’d have included a better Flair title match, but it was slim pickings until Lex Luger turned face. One of those “something for everyone” tapes.  Very recommended.