The SmarK Rant for WCW Great American Bash 90 – NEW REVOLUTION! (07.07.90)
All the kids today with their Instagrams and Vines might be talking about NXT’s Great American Bash, but WCW had the real deal first.
So now for the most patriotic of all WCW shows here on the Fourth of July, the most patriotic of all days. Also one that’s been due for a redo for a while now, especially since the only version I’ve had until the Network days has been the 2 hour home video edit. And really I can only remember one match from this show, so it’s mostly all new to me again. For reference, the videotape starts with the famous Southern Boys v. Midnight Express match.
Yes, it’s Sting and his DUDES WITH ATTITUDES, who represent plucky young America, taking on the evil Four Horsemen, who are British loyalists in this bizarre metaphor I guess! All we need is Bill Watts barbequing some Bison steaks in the parking lot to make this an All-American slam dunk. He’s probably busy in Virginia having a Covid party.
Live from Baltimore, MD, drawing 10,000 and a good 1.7 buyrate.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Bob Caudle
Buddy Landell v. Flyin’ Brian Pillman
These guys are such geeks here that their graphics are BLANK. Yes, even Budro’s name no-showed. No idea what’s up with that, but we’ll chalk it up to WCW-ness. They trade chops to start and Brian gets a crossbody for two and follows with a hiptoss out of the corner and a dropkick to put him on the floor. Buddy stops to pose for the unappreciative front row, and then goes to work with a wristlock and some timely cheating. Pillman with a sunset flip, but Buddy thumbs him in the eye to block and then stops to pose again. Pillman fights back with more chops, but misses a dropkick and Buddy gets two. Buddy works a wristlock and blocks a hiptoss with a clothesline for two. Brian fights back again and slugs away in the corner, but Buddy whips him into the corner and they trade chops until Buddy takes him down with a chinlock. Buddy with a knee to the gut for two and he works a neck vice and then hits Pillman with a suplex. They get into another chop battle but Pillman tries a blind charge and runs into an elbow this time, as Buddy is showing some rare thought and foresight in this match. Pillman with a crossbody, but Buddy is ahead of him again and rolls through for two. Pillman tries a rollup, but Buddy holds the ropes to block, so Pillman runs to the top and surprises him with a crossbody for the pin at 9:34. Shockingly good opener by Buddy’s standards, with solid work and a good story. ***1/2
The Iron Sheik v. Captain Mike Rotunda
Sheik attacks with the flag as JR repeats the lie about Sheik winning a silver medal in the Olympics. Never happened. Sheik chokes away in the corner but Mike gets a sunset flip for two and dropkicks him to the floor. I should note that Rotunda turned babyface after the Varsity Club and his gimmick at this point is that he’s some kind of undefined sailing captain despite, to the best of my knowledge, never appearing anywhere near a boat on television. But he’s got an anchor on his ass so he’s legit. Sheik, meanwhile, is part of one of the most famous stories in WCW’s storied history of WCW stupidity, as they wanted to fire him but someone forgot to terminate his contract, so they had to pay him for another year. Sheik with the abdominal stretch, but that’s like trying to serve Alpha-Getti to Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, and Rotunda escapes that and makes the comeback. Is Alpha-Getti a thing in the US? Would Spaghetti-Os be a better reference point? Anyway, they trade a couple of shitty suplexes and Sheik sends him to the floor and suplexes him back in, but Rotunda gets a backslide for the pin at 6:47. OK, so there’s another backslide win I’ve seen in the past week. I take it back, that move is a killer, apparently. Anyway, a year later and these two would somehow fall ass-backwards in higher positions in the WWF. *1/2
Harley Race chats with Gordon Solie, and thinks that Flair MIGHT be beatable if he’s not on his game tonight.
Doug Furnas v. Dutch Mantel
This is incredibly random. Furnas was not what you’d call “great” at this point in his career, to say the least. Furnas puts Dutch on the floor with a shoulderblock, and back in for a criss-cross before Furnas gets a press slam. Furnas is ridiculously cut up here, looking like a shorter Lex Luger, and he definitely improved a lot once he stopped worrying about looking like a bodybuilder all the time. Dutch gets a pair of cheapshots and hides in the corner after each one, but Furnas slugs away and follows with a dropkick to send Dutch to the floor. Back in, Doug works the arm, but Dutch gets more cheapshots and grinds a forearm in the corner. Furnas comes back with a slam and goes up with a flying splash, but it misses and Dutch puts him down with a short clothesline for two. Dutch with a top wristlock and they head to the floor for more simple punishment from Dutch. Back in, a suplex gets two. Furnas does a dramatic kickout spot a couple of times, throwing Mantel across the ring in the process, so that’s a neat spot I guess. Dutch works an armbar, but Furnas gets a rollup for two and comes back with a clothesline and a powerslam. Poor Dutch is trying so hard to lead this green rookie through a decent match. They do a messed up reversal sequence on the ropes and then Furnas finishes with a belly to belly at 11:20. Furnas showed a lot of promise at this point but he just had no idea what to do with himself out there. Credit to Dutch, though, it was too long but wasn’t terrible or anything. ** I actually forgot Furnas died a few years back, although (thankfully?) he wasn’t one of the usual victims of exploding heart syndrome or drug overdose.
Jim Cornette thinks the Southern Boys need to look in the mirror and wonder if they’re tough enough and mean enough to take the US tag titles from the Midnights. Maybe someday. But not this day.
Harley Race v. Tommy Rich
Jesus, 1981 called and wants its main event back. What the hell was Race even doing in the ring at this point? He’s still wearing his sad royal purple gear, although legally he couldn’t be any kind of regent at this point. Rich works a headlock to start and whips Race into the post to go after the arm, but Race puts him down with a high knee. Race with a piledriver (which eventually becomes Luger’s finisher, the Attitude Adjustment) and they head to the ramp, where Race gets a suplex. Race tosses him but Rich comes back with a suplex and a fistdrop for two. JR: “He must be a fan of the Sacramento Kings with that outfit.” Nice cover there, JR. Race with a belly to belly for two as the announcers reminisce about the NWA World title match they had in 1981. Can you imagine if WWE spent all their time reminiscing about stuff that happened a decade ago? Actually that would put them more up to date than they usually are, never mind. Tommy makes the comeback and NO ONE CARES, but they tumble to the floor on a slam attempt. Back in, Tommy with a high cross, but Race rolls through for the pin at 6:32. I forget what the Observer said at the time, but this had to have been a bone thrown to Race as a farewell. *
Mean Mark and his manager Paul E. Dangerously are ready to challenge Lex Luger later tonight. Mark rips up a Luger t-shirt to prove his point, but he has trouble with it, probably because IT’S TOO TIGHT.
US tag team titles: The Midnight Express v. The Southern Boys
OK, we now join the version of the show I’m used to. The Express were of course in a career renaissance at this point after winning the titles from Pillman and Zenk and seemed ready to ascend to the World titles again, so of course Jim Herd made sure to break them up and fire Cornette as soon as possible. The Boys clear the ring while Cornette yells at the cameraman, and Armstrong gets the armdrag on Eaton. Bobby slams him and goes up, but Armstrong slams him off gets a monkey flip and dropkick and then goes up with a flying clothesline. The crowd seems less than appreciative of the challengers, although I can’t imagine why two guys called “The Southern Boys” with Confederate flags on their asses wouldn’t be heroes in Baltimore. The Boys double-team Bobby in their corner, so he backs off for a conference with Stan. Tracy slugs it out with Eaton and wins that battle with REDNECK KUNG FU, and Eaton backs off again. JR notes that the key to Cornette is to listen to what he has to say, and then discount it about 50% and you’ll be closer to the truth. I love shoot comments that aren’t supposed to be shoot comments. Over to Stan, who flips in and limbers up for a KARATE BATTLE with Tracy. How can you not love this match? So they match up and Lane blocks him and hits some back kicks as the crowd goes nuts for it, and then Tracy fights back with his own and cleans house. What a fantastic sequence that was. Cornette calls for another conference and Lane starts again with Tracy, but takes him down with a headlock this time before getting reversed into a hammerlock. So he tags Bobby in frustration and Tracy takes HIM down with the armbar too. Bobby slugs out of it, but Tracy takes him to the apron and boots him to the floor. And then Lane hits Tracy with a sucker punch while he celebrates, and the Express double-teams him. But then Armstrong flies in with a double crossbody on both Express for two, and the Boys ram them together and clear the ring again! The timing and ring awareness of these guys is incredible.
Back to Bobby, and he makes a blind tag while getting rolled up, which allows Stan to come in and take out Smothers with a trip to the railing. And then Cornette stops by and hits him with the racket just in case. Tracy gets to the apron and Lane sends him FLYING into the railing from there while Cornette distracts Armstrong. Back in, Bobby with a backbreaker to take over, and he follows with a short clothesline to keep Tracy from escaping. The Express works the back and Lane fires away with kicks in the corner, and Bobby gets two. Tracy fights back with kicks, but Bobby slams him and goes up with the Alabama Jam to a monster pop, but he chooses to tag instead of taking the pin. Lane continues the punishment, choking Tracy out on the ropes, but Tracy gets a sunset flip for two. But he’s still too far from his corner, and Bobby comes in with a neckbreaker off Lane’s savate kick and that gets two. And then they toss Tracy out of the ring, keeping him on their side, and Eaton slingshots him back into the ring before Lane gets a double arm suplex for two. Eaton puts him on the floor again, keeping him cut of, but this time Smothers slingshots Bobby to the floor. But then Lane is the backup, cutting him off from tagging and holding him in the corner. Tracy comes back with a double sunset flip, and it’s HOT TAG Armstrong, as they’ve managed to turn the crowd around. Armstrong with a shoulderblock for two on Lane as Bobby saves. The Boys hit their missile dropkick on Lane, but Bobby distracts the ref and it only gets two. Tracy goes to the top, but Bobby casually shoves him off the top, and the ROCKET LAUNCHER gets two as a result. But then Smothers switches with Armstrong, and that’s a small package for two in an incredible near fall. And finally Lane just kicks Tracy in the head behind the ref’s back, and Bobby rolls him up in a cradle for the pin to retain at 18:00 because they needed to get out of there NOW before the Southern Boys could mount another comeback. No exaggeration, still one of the greatest tag team matches in wrestling history. The Midnights were just on another level as a team, out of their minds great at this point. I gotta go the full monty, if only to spite Jim Herd. *****
Big Van Vader v. Tom Zenk
This is of course Vader’s WCW debut, although it took a while for him to catch on. Vader beats on Zenk in the corner and follows with a splash and a short arm clothesline to put Zenk on the ramp. Back in, Zenk bounces off the no-selling Vader, who puts Tom down with a press slam and drops an elbow. Another short arm clothesline and a big splash finish at 2:14. Vader was impressive but it wasn’t the right time for him yet. **
The Steiner Brothers v. The Freebirds
Were the Steiners still using “Welcome to the Jungle” at this point? I can’t place what the generic replacement music is going for. The Birds attack Scott and double-team him to start with a clothesline. What is with the Freebirds and the stupid towels around their necks at this point? Was the joke supposed to be that they were just in the makeup chair or something? Anyway, the Steiners clear the ring, probably leaving a smear of mascara on the floor in the process, and we proceed with the traditional Freebird stall. Jimmy slugs away on Rick in the corner, but Rick hits him with a backdrop and Steinerline for two. Over to Hayes, who proceeds with the stalling again and hides in the ropes. Rick bites his ass to bring him out, and it’s over to Scott, who dropkicks both Freebirds out of the ring and we slow down the torrid pace again. Back in, Hayes throws chops, but Scott hits him with a butterfly powerbomb and then drops Garvin with a tilt a whirl slam, as the Freebirds bail to the ramp and think it over again. The crowd gets on them with “Michael is a bitch”, which seems a bit harsh, but then he’s wearing makeup and sparkly pants with suspenders, so there’s certainly an argument to be had here. Finally Garvin pulls down the top rope and takes Rick to the floor and the Birds give him a double suplex out there to finally get the heat 10:00 in. Back in, Hayes with a bulldog for two. Garvin slows it down again with a chinlock on Rick and goes up for whatever, but Rick hits him with a half-hearted shot and then bulldogs him for a double down. Hot tag Scott and he powerslams Hayes and presses him into Garvin, then follows with the Frankensteiner on Hayes. Garvin sneaks in with a DDT behind the ref’s back, but Rick hits Hayes with a belly to belly and puts Scott on top for the pin at 13:44. The Freebirds just looked like a team out of the 70s in there with the Steiners, doing all the stalling and chinlocks while the Steiners wanted to bust out all their state of the art crazy shit and it never clicked like their 89 stuff did. It was still good enough with the Freebirds throwing themselves all over the ring for the Steiners at least. ***
The Horsemen (Sid Vicious, Barry Windham & Arn Anderson) v. The Dudes with Attitude (Paul Orndorff, El Gigante & Junkyard Dog)
Yeah! When you think of hip young babyfaces with attitude, you think of Mr. Wonderful and big fat JYD! More importantly, they’re dudes with low downside guarantees and name value five years prior, which is the most important thing to Ole Anderson. Sid immediately hits Orndorff with a clothesline, but misses a legdrop, and hip young Mr. Wonderful runs wild on the Horsemen, representing all the youths out there. Backslide gets two on Vicious, and it’s over to AA. Orndorff fights out of the corner with his sick Tony Hawk-style skateboarding moves and punches, and the Horsemen regroup. Over to Orndorff’s fellow young person, JYD, and he slugs the Horsemen down and throws headbutts on Windham. JR notes that you have to see El Gigante in person to appreciate how big he is. Well, if you were one of the 100 people in attendance for a WCW house show at this time, you were in luck! Barry gets a DDT on the Dog, but he no-sells it because black guy and hard head, yada yada, and it’s back to spry young Orndorff to clean house again. He tries the piledriver on Arn, but Barry hits him with an axehandle from behind and it’s over to Sid. He comes in with a powerslam for two, and Windham follows with a suplex for two. The Horsemen continue getting the heat on Orndorff, who has a bad neck and atrophied arm muscles like all young people can relate to, but it’s hot tag JYD. The Horsemen immediately throw him over the top rope for the DQ at 9:10 and Gigante comes in and chases them off, literally never tagging into the match. Yeah, this was pretty bad. *
US title: Lex Luger v. Mean Mark
Luger, in his pre-match promo, specifically notes in reference Mark’s earlier shirt-tearing that “it’s not too hard to tear a t-shirt apart”. You know, every time I lose faith in our wonderful so-called sport and forget why Lex Luger has been the gift that keeps on giving for decades now, along comes shit like this and makes me smile all over again. For those who need a refresher…
So yeah, apparently it IS hard to tear a t-shirt apart. Luger works the arm to start with a hammerlock, and Mark claims a hair pull, which Paul E. concurs with. “He’s a football player, he’s not supposed to wrestle that good!” Mark misses a charge and Luger gets a bodypress for two, and goes back to the arm again. He holds that for a while and they completely lose their flow trying a horribly complex deal where (follow along with me here) Mark goes for a punch and Luger blocks it. Finally they give up trying to recreate this intricate series of moves and Callous just boots him down instead and goes to his own armbar on the mat. More like GREEN Mark Callous, am I right? Luger slugs back, but charges and hits the floor like a goof as this is going nowhere. Mark follows him out and rams him into stuff while Luger does his melodramatic selling and the crowd is pretty bored. Back in, Luger with a sunset flip for two, but Callous pounds away before missing a blind charge. They slug it out in the corner and Mark gets a suplex, but Lex no-sells it and comes back with a pair of clotheslines to set up the torture rack. The ref gets bumped in the process and Paul E. hits Lex with the phone, which gets two. Mark sets up for the heart punch to finish, but Lex takes out Paul and finishes with a clothesline at 12:14. I dunno, Meltzer gave this *** but I’m not seeing it. *1/2
NWA World tag team titles: Doom v. The Rock N Roll Express
So crazy that the Rock N Roll Express had really only been gone for a couple of years at this point, but they already felt completely like a relic from the distant past like Harley Race or Paul Heyman’s hairline. JR of course goes nuts with every football reference from Doom’s past that he can think of, now that they’re been unmasked and he can talk about them freely. Simmons overpowers Robert to start, but a rollup gets two for Gibson. Over to Reed, who uses the clubbing forearms, but the RNR double-team him in their corner. Reed puts Robert down with a clothesline and they double-team him with an elbow for two. Reed throws Robert over the top behind the ref’s back, but he fights back in with a sunset flip for two. Reed puts him down with a neckbreaker for two. Over to Morton, who gets a rollup on Reed for two, but Simmons hits him with a clothesline to the back of the head and Doom takes over. Doom works Ricky over and the crowd is pretty dead by this point in the show because everyone just wants to get to Sting’s big moment. Ricky gets a small package on Simmons for two, but Reed comes in with the SOUP BONE rights on him and it’s over to the chinlock. Morton gets tossed and Long gets a cheapshot on him as this kind of drags on. Simmons with a slam for two. Ricky makes the comeback and blocks a Reed splash to set up the hot tag to Robert. He runs wild for a bit with a sunset flip on Simmons, and it’s BONZO GONZO. Teddy Long gets involved and Robert goes after him, but Reed hits him with a shoulderblock behind the ref’s back and pins him at 15:40. Would have been better in 1985 with a different crowd, but shudda cudda wudda. ** And then Gibson got hurt and he was out for a year anyway.
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Sting
So finally, after months of false starts and the most ill-timed knee injury humanly possible, it was time to finally put pass the torch and put the title on Sting once and for all so Flair could be moved down to the midcard and be a gladiator or whatever. Regardless, Sting’s red white and blue outfit is pretty much peak Surfer Sting and his most iconic look pre-Crow. Anyway, Jim Ross goes on this whole thing about how there’s only been three World changes to start a decade, citing matches in 1920, 1940 and then 1980, and wonders if we might get a title change in 1990. Yeah, and then WCW 2000 says “hold my beer”. So we’ve got Ole handcuffed to the Giant, and a million people at ringside. Flair comes in with chops to start and you can tell Sting is amped and ready. Sting with the press slam and hiptoss out of the corner to put Flair on the floor. Yup, it’s a Flair-Sting match all right. They head to the ramp and trade chops and Sting throws him back into the ring, but Flair goes to the eyes and drops a knee. Sting no-sells it and goes up with a high cross for two, and Flair bails to think it over. Back in, Flair finally kicks him in the damn knee and goes to work with chops, but Sting clotheslines him out of the corner, but then misses an elbow. Flair tries the figure-four, but Sting kicks out of it and they’re at an impasse. Test of strength and Flair pokes him in the eye to win that and chops him down, then they head back out to the ramp as they call the 10:00 mark at 5:50. Must be that new math they’re teaching kids in school now. Back in, Sting makes a comeback in the corner and hiptosses Flair again, but he misses the dropkick this time and Flair goes to work on the knee now. But then Flair drops the knee and misses, and Sting gets his own figure-four and Flair has to make the ropes. Back to the floor and Flair sends him into the railing, but Sting shrugs that off and they head back in as Sting slugs away on the mat. Flair goes up and gets slammed off, and Sting gets a backslide for two. And then Flair clips the knee right away and goes to work on it again. Sting fights off the figure-four, so Flair takes him back to the corner for more chops, and Sting no-sells them all and makes the comeback with another press slam. Clothesline gets two. Sting slugs away in the corner and we get the Flair Flip and clothesline on the apron, and a suplex gets two. Stinger splash and Scorpion Deathlock follows, but now the Horsemen all run in and brawl with the Dudes until Flair makes the ropes. Flair gets a pinfall attempt on the ropes, but Scott Steiner pushes him off and Sting rolls him up for two. They go into the pinfall reversal sequence and Sting gets the backslide for two. Flair with more chops, but Sting no-sells them, but then misses the Stinger splash and runs into his bad knee as the camera inexplicably cuts to the crowd during this big moment. Flair with the figure-four, but Sting rolls him up for the pin and the title at 16:07 and let’s just forget the rest of the year happened. Anyway, this was the high middle end of Flair-Sting matches, but every time I watch it I’m just waiting for the epic title match to break out and it just never quite gets there. Maybe next time. ***1/2 It’s somewhat ironic and yet fitting that both Sting and Ultimate Warrior beat the legendary champions (Flair and Hogan) to begin their first title reigns in synergy, but then both were such flops as champion that both titles were back with those same legendary champions by the same time the next year.
Anyway, this was a really good show that I still enjoy watching, but it absolutely did not end up being the era-defining classic that they were shooting for. In fact, most of the midcard was either back into semi-retirement (Orndorff & JYD) or poached by the WWF (Rotunda, Sheik, Callous) within a couple of months and it was back to square one again. Still, they tried, and you can’t fault them for that. Thumbs up.