The SmarK Rant for NWA Great American Bash 89 – The Glory Days (07.23.89)
Well obviously this is a long time in coming. This is another one where I only ever had the home video version that was cut down to 2 hours. I believe the full version had aired on WWE 24/7 at one point, but for some reason I never got around to reviewing it there. But the Network has the full PPV cut (albeit with a “technical difficulties” disclaimer), so let’s continue our celebration of the Fourth of July and Sting!
Live from Baltimore, MD, drawing 12500 and a 1.5 buyrate. That was actually quite a disappointing number given the buildup for Flair’s return.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Bob Caudle.
King of the Hill Battle Royale:
This is a two ring battle royale with 14 guys, and everyone gets crowns to wear to the ring. Everyone starts in the first ring, and you move to the second ring as you get eliminated until there’s one winner of each ring and they fight each other to determine a winner. A bunch of guys are working twice here, including the Varsity Club, Steiner Brothers, Skyscrapers, Flyin’ Brian, and others. Usual hodge podge of kicking and punching and Ranger Ross is the first guy thrown into the second ring, followed quickly by Ron Simmons. The crowd is pretty hot for an opening match battle royale, I gotta say. Ross throws out Simmons, making Ron the first guy eliminated for real. Soon Terry Gordy and Scott Hall end up in the second ring as the sound is pretty spotty and I can hear why we got the “technical difficulties” disclaimer. And then the tape kind of cuts out and we jump via editing to a bunch of guys in the second ring and Sid left with Pillman in the first ring. Did they splice the home video version together with the PPV version, I wonder? Pillman charges Sid and lands in the second ring, leaving Sid as the winner of the first ring. And then all the geeks are quickly cleared out of the second ring, leaving Spivey and Rotunda against Dr. Death. Doc dodges a clothesline from Rotunda and backdrops him to the floor to eliminate him, and hits Spivey with a couple of clotheslines on the ropes. But then Rotunda trips him up and Spivey clotheslines him out to win the second ring at 8:28. This seemingly sets up a battle of the Skyscrapers for the win, but Teddy Long declares that the team is splitting the money.
Meanwhile, we get another tape cut and head to the back for an interview with Teddy Long, as the quality of the broadcast is DEFINITELY different, so I guess they used the home video for the battle royale and then went to the original PPV feed from there.
Brian Pillman v. Wild Bill Irwin
Jesus, the overdubbed ring announcer that they used to cover up “Rocket” sounds NOTHING like Gary Michael Capetta. Could they not even drop Gary a few bucks and get him to dub it? Pillman charges in and takes Irwin down with a headlock to start, and then dumps him and follows him with a baseball slide. Back in, Pillman takes him down with an armbar while JR predicts that VCRs all over the country are taping this show as we speak. PPV companies were actually REALLY touchy about that and I’m surprised he’d say something like that. Pillman gets caught with a sideslam and Irwin follows with a suplex and lays the badmouth on him. Wild Bill is very derisive of the whole “Flyin’” nickname and notes “You wanna fly, FLY OUTTA HERE!” before tossing him to the floor. Back in, Irwin beats him down for two and goes to the chinlock, but Pillman fights back with chops. Irwin catches him with a clothesline and kicks him in the ribs for two while still yelling at Pillman and the ref and anyone else within earshot. Irwin tosses him again, but charges and crotches himself on the ropes, allowing Pillman to make the comeback. Pillman with the big splash for two and he goes up and misses the dropkick. Irwin hits him with a gut wrench for two and then tosses him over the top and into the second ring, but Pillman climbs to the top rope of the second ring and dives into the first ring again with a high cross for the pin at 10:03. Now THAT was a tremendous finish. Match wasn’t great but it was a fine TV match. **1/4
Meanwhile, Paul E. Dangerously doesn’t care if he wins against Jim Cornette, because he’s here to take him out. And in fact, he remembers Cornette falling off the scaffold at Starrcade 86 back when he was a photographer, and he knows that he’ll be going after the bad knee. That’s quite the psychology lesson for a tuxedo match.
The Skyscrapers v. The Dynamic Dudes
Oh my god I cannot take much more of the fake ring announcer. It sounds like Bruce Prichard to be honest. Johnny and Shane playing frisbee with some poor kid at ringside who looks like he wants to die mostly sums up their career at this point. So yeah, the whole entrance of both teams was absent from the videotape, I remember that for sure. JR notes that the difference with the NWA is that their guys aren’t musclemen who spent all their time laying under the heat lamps. See, the other guys’ World champion is REALLY TAN. In case you didn’t know what he was going for there due to the layers of subtlety. Spivey overpowers Ace, but the Dudes double-team him with a monkey flip in the corner. Ace goes up with a high cross for two and Spivey shakes that off, while the crowd cheers on their upstart babyfaces by chanting “WE WANT SID!” So Sid they get, as he chops Ace and seems unsure of what to do with the heel crowd cheering him on. Spivey comes in and misses an elbow, allowing Ace to bring in Douglas, but he immediately walks into a Bossman slam and Spivey follows with a backdrop suplex. Big boot puts Shane on the floor for some “punishment” from Long and then Danny suplexes him back in for two. Back to Sid, who just hits Shane with a lazy clothesline and then stops to pose while the crowd goes crazier and crazier for him. Spivey comes in and misses a headbutt, and Shane makes the hot tag to Johnny and the crowd could not care less. So he runs wild and goes up with a flying clothesline on Spivey, but Sid kicks him in the head to save and draws a bigger babyface pop for that. The Skyscrapers collide accidentally and the Dudes double-team Spivey, but Sid just yanks Ace down to block a bodypress and Spivey finishes him with a powerbomb at 9:10. Match wasn’t good and went way too long for the Skyscrapers, but Sid was clearly a license to print money here. *1/2
Tuxedo match: Jim Cornette v. Paul E. Dangerously
This was the final blowoff for the Midnights v. Midnights feud, although years later this feud would take on a much different perspective. Some guy has a sign that says “WWF Stinks” and the “WWF” is blurred out, so obviously this is the 24/7 edit of the show lazily dumped onto the Network. You’d think this would be wacky comedy, but NOPE. Cornette immediately clobbers Paul with a forearm, but Dangerously tosses powder in his face and then takes the phone and bashes Cornette in the knee repeatedly to take over. Off come the jackets and Paul slugs him down, and then goes to work in the corner wrapping the knee around the ropes. Paul chokes him out with the cumberbund, but Cornette steals it and does the same to fight back. Cornette fights back out of the corner, but Dangerously spits on him and puts the boots to him on the mat. They head to the floor and Paul beats on the knee some more and then rams Cornette into the post with GUSTO. Frankly I’m shocked Cornette didn’t gig right there. Back in, Paul E misses an elbow and Cornette makes a real babyface comeback, slugging away as Paul takes a Fatu-style flip bump off it. Cornette pulls off the shirt, but they collide for a double down and Paul finds more powder in his pants. But Cornette kicks it back in his face and Cornette pulls off the pants for the win at 6:18 as Dangerously flees to the back in his blue underwear. This was a real match and everything and it was GREAT for what it was, as they were obviously having the time of their lives finally getting to do all this stuff. ***
Meanwhile, Gary Hart reminds us that the Great Muta is undefeated and Japan possesses the best athletes in the world. But at the moment he’s busy calling the POWERS OF THE ORIENT into his being through meditation.
The Steiner Brothers v. Kevin Sullivan & Mike Rotunda
This is Texas Tornado rules, basically the final blowoff of the Rick Steiner v. Varsity Club feud. Scott had only been in the promotion for a couple of months and he was already becoming a giant star. Sullivan brawls with Rick on the floor right away and crotches him on the railing with NO protection, then runs him into a table, but Rick pops up and bounces it off Sullivan’s head. Meanwhile, in the ring, Scott throws Rotunda around, but Sullivan tosses him and the Varsity Club double-teams Rick. But then the Steiners start throwing suplexes and Rick powerslams Sullivan for two. The Club tosses Rick and double-teams Scott this time, and Rotunda legdrops him for two. Rick tries a sunset flip on Sullivan and Kevin blocks it, so Rick headbutts him in the groin repeatedly while Sullivan does a hilarious sell, and that gets two. Sullivan throws Rick out again and they double-team Scott with a double backdrop. Scott pulls the down the top rope to get rid of Rotunda, however, and comes off the top with a crossbody onto Sullivan while Rick dogpiles on for the pin at 4:54, and they win the war. It was a bit short, but hugely influential and a crazy brawl. ***1/2
Meanwhile, Sting is trying to keep things calm and under control, but he’s not good at that, so he storms off while Eddie Gilbert finishes the promo for him.
World TV title: Sting v. The Great Muta
Muta was so badass in 1989 that he was able to coast off his reputation for the next decade afterwards. They could probably bring him back to WWE with the gimmick today and he’d be crazy over with the 50 year old nostalgia junkies, in fact. And Sting is of course crazy, crazy over at this point himself. Sting dives over the rings and hits Muta with a bodypress and they fight into the first ring, where Muta hits his own flying chop to take over. Handspring elbow follows and he goes for the kill right away, with the moonsault misses and Sting no-sells the spinkick. So Muta hits him with an enzuigiri and puts him on the floor, and then follows with a pescado as they’re working a million miles an hour. Back in, Sting clotheslines him from the apron and goes up with a flying clothesline for two, then dropkicks Muta to the floor and tries to follow with his own dive but misjudges the distance. So he kind of lands on his feet and chops Muta instead. Back in, Muta reverses a suplex into the ORIENTAL SLEEPER, but Sting makes the ropes and comes back with a press slam. Elbow misses and the crowd is pretty split here, and Muta drops the power elbow and goes to the chinlock. Sting fights up, so Muta switches to an abdominal stretch and uses the ropes before turning it into a rollup for two. Muta tosses him, but Sting flies right back in and they slug it out until Muta rakes the eyes and throws boots to the gut. Another handspring elbow misses and Sting makes the comeback with clotheslines and a bulldog to send Muta to the floor. Back in, Muta preps the deadly green mist, but hits the ref with it by mistake. Sting misses the Stinger Splash and Muta goes up with the moonsault, as another ref counts two. Muta with a spinkick, but Sting ducks it and gets a backdrop suplex with both of their shoulders down, for the apparent pin at 8:10 to retain. Of course, it would turn into a disputed finish and Muta would end up with the title. This was GREAT, but the finish was weak and they should have just pulled the trigger on Muta and been done with it. ***3/4
US title: Lex Luger v. Ricky Steamboat
Luger had freshly turned heel on Steamboat, and this was supposed to be a no-DQ match, but Luger threw a tantrum and refused to defend the title unless DQ rules were in effect. So after earlier going on a big rant about how “we don’t have snakes or pets coming to ringside in the NWA”, Jim Ross is silent on the subject of Steamboat bringing his dragon down to ringside with him. Despite being a heel now, Luger still has people chanting his name during his entrance. Luger’s title reign was pretty crazy, as he won it from Michael Hayes in May and actually held for another year and a few months on top of that, finally losing it to Stan Hansen at Halloween Havoc 90. And then he won it back at Starrcade and held it for ANOTHER 7 months afterwards until finally getting stripped of it when he won the World title! Basically Lex was champion from February 89 – July 91 outside of a couple of weeks. They fight for the lockup to start and Steamboat rolls him up for two, and then gets a small package for two and a rollup for two. Steamboat with dropkicks and he follows with chops and a backdrop out of the corner as Luger runs away to think it over. So Steamboat follows him out and chops the hell out of him out there, but Luger catches him with a kneelift on the way into the ring. Steamboat falls to the floor and Lex heads out and clotheslines him out there, but Steamboat fires back with chops and Lex has nothing to respond with. Back in, Ricky goes up with a flying chop, but Lex nails him on the way down and follows with a backbreaker. Lex pounds the back while doing his patented grunts and follows with a press slam and drops elbows on the back for two. Steamboat gets another rollup for two, but Lex just clotheslines the shit out of Ricky, and Dragon won’t stay down, popping up with wild swings at the air before finally falling down. God damn what a babyface. Lex drops him on the top rope, but Dragon just keeps throwing the chops until Lex punches him in the head to slow him down. Powerslam gets two. Steamboat with a cross body for two, but Luger takes him down with an atomic drop. Steamboat fights back with a neckbreaker and dodges a charging Luger, who lands on the floor. Steamboat throws chops on the apron, but tries a slam and Luger falls on top for two. Luger decides to go up top for some reason and Steamboat slams him off and goes back to the chops. Now Steamboat goes up with a flying chop for two and Steamboat gets frustrated with the count, which allows Luger to backdrop him into the second ring. So Lex grabs a chair, but Steamboat catapults him into the corner and Luger hits himself with the chair as a result. And then Steamboat gets frustrated again, attacks Luger with the chair, and gets disqualified at 10:45 to pay off Luger’s desire for a match with DQ in effect. Easily one of Luger’s best ever matches, non-stop action for 10:00 with a clever reason for the DQ finish. ****1/2
WARGAMES ’89: The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express & Steve Williams v. Terry Gordy, Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin & The Samoan Swat Team
In the first break from the usual Horsemen v. Road Warriors feud, this one stems from the Samoans and Freebirds teaming up and destroying the Warriors for a rare stretcher job from them. The pre-match Roadie promo where Hawk promises “We’re going for family members” is a classic as well. Plus the Freebirds had defeated the Midnight Express in the finals of the World tag title tournament, giving another layer of issue to it. Of course this is also the first one not to main event a show, but when you’ve got Flair v. Funk that’s a given. So not only does the ring introduction survive here uncut, but they actually leave “Iron Man” intact! Like, it’s clearly the opening drums and guitar riff for the song. Here’s a shocker: The heels win the coin toss to gain the advantage.
Jimmy Garvin starts with Bobby Eaton to begin the 5:00 opening period and they slug it out, with Eaton getting the best of that. Bobby gets a neckbreaker, but misses an elbow and Garvin slams him, but Bobby gets an atomic drop into the corner. JR notes that although Garvin used to be “Gorgeous”, that was no longer the case since he hasn’t been around for a while. So there you go, the official death of that gimmick. Eaton fights back by grabbing the ceiling and mule kicking Garvin into the corner, but Garvin puts him down with a forearm. Meanwhile we cut to Hayes promising to come into the match next, which would be a pretty hilarious running gag throughout the match. Garvin rakes Eaton’s face on the cage while Hayes gives him the trash talk from the floor, but Bobby hits an elevated backbreaker with 1:00 to go in the opening period. Eaton turns him over with a Boston crab and the opening period is done. Terry Gordy is next in for the heels and he lays Bobby out and runs him into the cage. Paul E. promises that Michael Hayes is next into the cage after Gordy! I’ll be looking forward to that. Gordy and Garvin double-team Bobby and put him down with a double elbow, but Gordy hits Jimmy by mistake. They get over it and sent Bobby into the cage again as the next period ends. Steve Williams is in to even things up, and he bulldozes the heels and tosses Gordy into the other ring for a slugfest. And then Doc presses Gordy INTO THE CEILING, EIGHT TIMES! Holy shit. Gordy fights back with a corner clothesline and slugs him down on the mat while Garvin chokes out Eaton on the ropes. Doc hits Gordy with a clothesline out of the corner and sends him into the cage, and it’s time for another heel.
Samu is next in and he puts Doc down with a spinkick and headbutt. Gordy adds the backdrop driver and the heels double-team Eaton in the corner and then add a double suplex on Williams. Road Warrior Animal is here to save the day and he whoops some ass and beats on Samu, throwing him from one ring to the other and then following with a diving shoulderblock over the ropes! He just lays out all the heels with clotheslines while Hayes psyches up Fatu to go in next, once again breaking his promise to go into the match. So with the babyfaces rallied, Fatu is into the match and the SST beat on Animal with headbutts in the corner and put him down with a double clothesline. The crowd is literally screaming for Hawk while Animal gets worked over, but Stan Lane is the next guy to make the save while Gordy and Williams slug it out in their own ring. Stan manages to run everyone into the cage multiple times while Hayes learns the awful truth from Paul E: He’s finally gotta go into the match. Animal and Doc take turns clotheslining Gordy in the corner, but the Samoans team up on Animal. Paul reveals the secret strategy for Hayes: Hit people with the DDT. So he does! Michael Hayes is next and he actually does go in there and DDT three guys in succession, but he makes the mistake of taunting Hawk on the floor. Why would you make that man mad? He was probably injecting himself with something crazy while he was waiting! Hawk is the last man in and he wastes zero time, hitting the SST with a double flying clothesline on the way in and then beats on Terry Gordy for good measure. He javelins Garvin into the top turnbuckle while Eaton gives Hayes a taste of his own DDT medicine, and then Hawk flies over the ropes with a shoulderblock of his own. Paul tries to send the phone into the ring while Tommy Young gives him a disapproving glare in a funny spot, and everyone slugs it out until the Warriors set up Gordy for a Doomsday Device. That’s not gonna work. Garvin saves anyway, so Hawk hits him with a flying clothesline instead, follows with a neckbreaker, and then finishes him off with the Hangman’s Noose submission at 22:15 for the MONSTER pop. I don’t know why no one else ever used that one, it’s an amazing looking submission hold that’s easy to understand. Lack of blood and a meandering storyline kind of hurt this one, but even a subpar Wargames is still pretty great. ****
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Terry Funk
Before the match, Gordon Solie tells Flair that he’s dumb for returning when another neck injury could end his career for good. Flair admits that Funk would be stupid not to attack his neck, but he’s 120% anyway. I will say, at the time I was completely buying into the storyline and thought for sure that Flair was losing the title here. Sadly, Funk’s Morricone entrance music is overdubbed with the fake announcer. Flair is of course insanely over as a babyface coming back from the neck injury, a bigger babyface than anyone else in the promotion, and he spent the rest of the year as booker lobbying to turn himself heel. They just immediately brawl on the floor as Flair goes after Funk and runs him into the railing. Terry stops to yell at the front row, so Flair drops an axehandle from the apron and Funk runs away and tosses a chair into the ring, which Tommy Young quickly dispatches. Back in the ring, Funk throws chops and Flair returns FIRE and then punches Funk over the top rope and follows with an axehandle off the apron again. Funk runs him into the post and slaps him around on the apron, then brings him back in with a suplex for two. Funk wisely beats on the neck, but Flair tries to suplex him off the apron and they both crash to the floor. That could have went badly. They trade chops on the floor and then trade eyepokes for good measure. Back in, Funk teases a piledriver, but Flair backdrops him over the top rope as Funk takes bump after bump for Flair. So now Flair works on Funk’s neck to get some revenge, giving him the old Zeus neck wrench and dropping a knee on the neck for two. Flair hits his own piledriver for some more specific revenge while Funk is just selling like crazy for him. Another one and Funk collapses out of the ring and tries to crawl for the dressing room to escape. Back in the ring, Flair slaps him around and throws chops, then puts him down with a forearm for two. Flair as a fired up babyface seeking revenge is INCREDIBLE. He was nuts to turn heel again. Flair with the figure-four, but Funk grabs the branding iron and hits Flair in the face with it to break the hold, busting Flair open in the process. Somewhere in the back, Lex Luger is screaming for the Maryland State Athletic Commission to stop the damn match! Funk with the piledriver for two, but Flair is in the ropes. Funk chokes him out and pulls up the mats outside, then chokes him out with his wrist tape until Tommy Young pulls him off. Funk with the piledriver attempt on the floor, but Flair backdrops out of it. Funk jumps off the apron with some kind of glancing blow, but Flair sells it anyway, and back in Funk gets a pair of neckbreakers but he’s more concerned with having Flair quit rather than actually going for the pin. So he beats on Flair in the corner, but Flair steals the branding iron and nails Funk to knock him out on the floor and then sends him into the post to draw blood on HIM. Lex Luger is busy tearing up t-shirts in frustration as we speak! Back in, Flair slugs away in the corner, but misses a high knee in the corner and Funk goes with the spinning toehold, still trying for the submission. Flair tries for the figure-four, but Funk reverses to a cradle, and Flair reverses THAT for the pin to retain at 16:34. And then Great Muta hits the ring and blows green mist in Flair’s eyes, giving us the amazing visual of Flair’s bloody face covered in green, and the heels set up for a spike piledriver on a chair before Sting makes the save, beginning a year long build. And then Flair fires up and everyone slugs it out in a crazy brawl while Jim Ross is losing his voice. ****1/2
BREAKING NEWS: The TV title has been held up!
But wait, as it looks like we’ve got a standoff to end the show, but then the heels storm the babyfaces again and try to double-team Sting while Ross & Caudle are signing off, smashing each other with chairs and destroying the set. I think this was all cut from the videotape, actually. Flair brings Sting over and says “Thank you” for saving him, and tells Terry Funk that he’s just breaking a good sweat, PAL, and he’ll be wearing Funk’s Texas ass out! Man that whole ending segment was something else.
So I’ve finally seen the full version. Does it hold up as the best PPV of all time? Hard to say. Irwin v. Pillman certainly dragged it down a bit, but the whole run from the tuxedo match all the way to the main event was an insanely great series of matches, with everything around **** or more. I’d say easily it was the best WCW show ever and easily the best PPV of the 80s, but once we got to the modern era we’ve had some shows that have probably eclipsed both this one and Wrestlemania X-7. But that’s just picking nits, this was one of the greatest shows of all-time any way you want to compare it, hands down.