Flashback Friday: The Great American Bash Tour (1987)

Greetings all. Today we step away from the weekly magazine recaps to look back at highlights from the 1987 Great American Bash Tour, courtesy of Scott Keith’s rant for the original VHS tape, along with selected comments from others. So let’s jump in!

The 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. (Atlanta, GA on 7/4/1987)

This is it – the first WarGames, ever. The story: Everyone hates each others’ guts. The rules: one wrestler from each team wrestles one another for five minutes, a coin is flipped, and the winner of the coin toss (**the heels**) has another wrestler enter the cage. Every two minutes, a wrestler from the opposite team enters until it’s 5-on-5. The match beyond begins with the outcome being either submission or surrender. Anyway, Big Dust and Arn Anderson 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. 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. 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. 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. In fact, JJ suffered a legit shoulder injury taking a Doomsday Device. *****

Rock Star Gary: The first ever WarGames delivered in spades. If you’ve never seen this match, you owe it to yourself to do so STAT.
Mike363: I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but I don’t love the WarGames matches, mostly because I find the endings to be very anticlimactic. There’s way too much going on for anyone to notice a random submission in the corner. Everyone just keeps brawling after the bell and a lot of the fans seem confused.
Bryce McNeil: I hate rules that are clearly only there to protect the babyface but limit the storytelling capacity in the process. #1 with a bullet here for me is the coinflip determining *PERPETUAL* advantage here in this match. This either telegraphs an obvious result to the coin flip (the heels win it) or if you deviate from that, stupid booking that makes your babyfaces look like weaklings for struggling to stay ahead in the fight despite the advantage (see: every Lethal Lockdown booked by Vince Russo). Seems to me the better call is to alternate the advantage. One team will get a 2-1 advantage, but then the other team gets the next two guys to build a 4-3 advantage, then back to a 5-4 advantage the other way before everything is evened up.
Eric Von Erich: I remember renting this as a 9 year old with my brother from the local video store. We’d rented a bunch of the Best of WWF tapes and thought we’d rent this one from “the other” wrestling organization. Being accustomed to the cartoony WWF, we thought it would be fine to throw it on during family dinner. My mom was not pleased at everybody getting BUSTED OPEN.
Tully Blanchard: The Road Warriors had their rough edges, but they were easy for us to make look good, and that match was great.

Tully, J.J., Arn, and Ric

Rick Steiner v. Barry Windham (Atlanta, GA on 7/4/1987)

This was when Steiner was still an Eddie Gilbert crony in the UWF.  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.  **

JWBraun: Sample commentary from Missy Hyatt and Jim Ross: Missy: “Rick Steiner is sooo strong! I’ve seen him in the gym, and he lifts more weight than… well a lot more than you weigh.” JR: “I should hope so.”
Rock Star Gary: Unique finish as Rick was very green at this point in his career.
Scott Keith: Steiner was about 2 years away from being any good as a worker.

George South’s July, 1987 Calendar

US title match:  Nikita Koloff v. Lex Luger, No-DQ cage match (Greensboro, NC on 7/11/1987)

We join this about 25 minutes in. 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 later Luger. 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, knocking him out cold, then picks him up into the torture rack. Koloff is still unconscious so the ref just declares Luger the winner and new US champion for the first time. **1/2 from what I saw.

Rock Star Gary: I’m so glad this was clipped because even the extended chin locks during what was shown dragged the match longer than it should have lasted. Important win for Luger here as he became Horseman #3 with a belt and, by default, the #1 contender to the World title.
Manu: Luger’s strength to pick up Nikita as dead weight like that was incredible.
Scott Keith: You can see Rookie Luger actually cared and was excited to be there making big money.
Silver Fox: I was at this Greensboro show, and it was almost as much fun as Starrcade ’86.

Great American Bash Merch

Texas Death Match:  Dick Murdoch (w/ Eddie Gilbert) v. Steve Williams (w/ Magnum TA) (Atlanta, GA on 7/4/1987)

Pretty bad. Williams KO’s Capt. Redneck with his arm cast and Murdoch isn’t able to answer the 10 count.  *

Scott Keith: Now there’s the in-depth analysis and wit you keep coming back for!
Matt: Just a watchable three-minute fist fight.
Rock Star Gary: Two brawlers in a brawl with a cast. It writes itself.
Disco Inferno Forever: How is it a Texas death match if it’s not in Texas and no one dies?

Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts v. Manny Fernandez, Ivan Koloff & Paul Jones (Atlanta, GA on 7/4/1987)

This is the original Freebirds combination taking on Paul Jones’ Army in a 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.

Matt: Nothing special, just another fun short match.
JWBraun: Vintage Birds.
Rock Star Gary: A hot crowd and a fiery finish made this one better than it had any right to be.

$100,000 Barbed Wire Ladder match (lights out, non-title): Tully Blanchard v. Dusty Rhodes (Charlotte Memorial Stadium on 7/18/1987)

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.) To paint a picture for you, the ropes are wrapped in barbed-wire and you have to climb a ladder to reach a sack filled with $100,000 in it. 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 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.

Jameson: Somewhere a young Vince Russo was taking notes.
Matt: Very lame match that in no way foreshadows the ladder matches that would come in the next ten years.
Test-icle: Rhodes wins despite all odds being against him. Who would have thought?

NWA World title match:  Ric Flair v. Jimmy Garvin, cage match, title v. one night with Precious (Greensboro, NC on 7/11/1987)

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. 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. 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 a** to the crowd twice. 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. (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.) Flair gets one night with Precious, although it would turn out to be drastically different from what he imagined… **

Scott Keith: I looked this up on Youtube later 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 a****** for holding the ropes with Garvin in the figure-four adding to things. And Flair’s MANIACAL celebration interview is awesome. Today I’d give the whole shebang ****
Rock Star Gary: You know your formula works when Jimmy Garvin could follow it.
JWBraun: Sometimes I wonder if Flair misunderstood the booker when he was asked to show some a**.

The Rock N Roll Express v. The Midnight Express, World tag team title v. US tag team title (Atlanta, GA on 7/4/1987)

Cornette is absent, but Big Bubba takes his place. 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.

Jim Cornette: Just before this, on June 27, the Midnight Express wrestled The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express in Philadelphia, and at the end, I was in the ring, and we were all attacking Ricky Morton when all the babyfaces started running in to save him. So I tried to give him one last kick before attempting to bail, and as it turns out, the padding had separated underneath the canvas, and my foot got caught, and I tore my ACL.
Matt: Too bad Cornette isn’t there, but this is still the typical greatness from one of the best tag-team feuds ever.
Rock Star Gary: Cheap finish to a great match. Encore! Encore!

WarGames II:  Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger & “War Machine” (Big Bubba) v. Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, Hawk, Animal & Paul Ellering (Miami, FL on 7/31/1987)

Basically the same match as the first, with Big Bubba taking the place of the injured JJ Dillon. Ellering again brings in the spiked gauntlet, and this time War Machine (Bubba) 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.

Mark: The Orange Bowl was PACKED.
Rock Star Gary: Good but not great WarGames. I think the Florida humidity played a factor that slowed them down compared to the original match.
KTC:  If you’re a huge NWA fan like me, you can’t go wrong with this tape. You can’t beat the original Wargames matches and you’ve got a great RnR/Midnights match on here too. What is sucky on here is still okay because it’s mostly shortened down to a watchable length.
Scott Keith: 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.
1987 Tony Schiavone: You’ll always remember the summer of 1987 as the best wrestling there’s ever been.

That’s it for this week! See ya next time when we return to WWF Magazine. And be sure to take a look at my books at my website: www.jwbraun.com. See you next time!