Let’s rewind to the Baltimore 1991: before the Inner Harbor revival and Camden Yards, and before I became an Orioles fan. It is the 1991 Great American Bash, a rather infamous show. This is a show I remember well personally: it is the only WCW PPV I saw live before Starrcade 1997. There was an issue with the cable company where they activated the wrong PPV channel and we got it working just in time. Maybe I should have just watched the movie Green Card that the cable company was giving us instead.
Here is the unforgettable promo for the show, still stuck in my head 24 years later:
Show starts with camera panning through crowd outside and up to box office where guy asks for “two tickets” and is just handed them, and camera then pans thru the lobby into the arena. Not bad since it was set to some NFL highlights music that you may remember from NFL Primetime.
In the ring, there’s a scaffold for the opening match: PN News/Bobby Eaton vs Steve Austin/Terry Taylor in an all-time crapfest. Austin revealed on his podcast that they used the wrong kind of scaffold; it is not the usual kind where they could grab onto a pole below before falling to the mat. This would be a straight drop. So it’s “capture the flag” rules, and literally NOTHING happens. Eventually PN News uses his fatness to block Austin/Taylor and Eaton gets the flag and walks back with it for the win. Lady Blossom (Austin’s first wife Jeannie Adams) hands Austin some mace, which he sprays at Eaton, who just sort of walks back to his own side again. One of the most ill-conceived matches ever, but still not the worst thing that happened to Terry Taylor in his career. And PN News: he is actually still working in Europe right now. Many guys actually left WCW rather than job to him, like Dan Spivey.
Arn Anderson and Paul E. Dangerously are being interviewed by some new guy named Eric Bischoff, who is making his debut. Wonder if he’ll make an impact. Anyway, Arn says he’ll make a woman out of Missy Hyatt in the upcoming mixed tag. Pretty sure there was already a line for that in the back, Arn. Paul E. is confident probably because he’s teamed with a guy from Minnesota. That always worked for him with Rude, Lesnar, etc.
Finally we see the hosts: it’s JR with Tony Schiavone who is sporting a blond mullet. They address the Flair situation saying they have contract issues: yeah guys, Jim Herd fired him after a battle that had gone on for about 18 months. Rather than just accepting that Flair was their best option, Herd and company were determined to undermine Ric by having him cut his hair and all the other stuff that’s been referenced by Flair himself in interviews a million times. To be honest, the Nature Boy needed a fresh start anyway. WCW could now proceed with Luger as top guy and babyface, except they would waste no time screwing around with that.
Diamond Studd (w/DDP) vs Z-Man Tom Zenk: Studd is effectively a proto-Razor Ramon because many elements of the character are there. Page would bring a girl into the ring to rip off the weird coverall pants. The girl to “strip” Studd just about grabs his junk first before being admonished by DDP. Zenk was accompanied by 4 women for some reason, none of whom hold up to modern eyes. Nothing match as Studd wins with back suplex/bridge. No Diamond Death Drop, which would become Razor’s Edge. Tom Zenk: the perennial “youngster” never really made it because he just couldn’t play the game. It also didn’t help that he wasn’t really all that great in the ring.
Oz vs Ron Simmons: Back to back Outsiders! Oz gets a scaled-down entrance and Kevin Nash has grey hair in this gimmick so he looks like he does now. WCW killed the original entrance after SuperBrawl 1 for budget reasons and fact that Oz sucked. I can’t even put into words how over the top the SuperBrawl entrance is, but his entrance at Clash 15 is on YouTube here. I am a fan of the Joe Satriani-esque guitar riffs in the theme. Boring match as JR runs down Simmons’ Florida State football career. Test of strength, guys just running into each other? The finish is 3 shoulder blocks by Simmons for the win. Really.
JR and Tony read down the list of the WCW Top 10 singles rankings, which if you’ve listened to JR’s podcast, probably gave him some sort of tumescence.
Robert Gibson vs Richard Morton: A blowoff for the Rock and Roll Express breakup which didn’t take because they were too old by then and Gibson would be on his way out just as quickly as he came back in. Funny part where Morton is down on outside and guy in front row lays down nearby to mimic, a la the old Mizdow gimmick. Morton had turned heel but is still wearing the RnR tights which shows how committed he was to the character. This match is Morton working the leg for like 10 minutes because Gibson had on a giant knee brace. Even Steve Austin thinks your knee brace is too much, Robert. Morton hits Gibson with a laptop as pre-Marlena Alexandra York distracts the ref for the win. This match would have been better in 1987 but they would be back together as a team within two years for a Smoky Mountain run. My favorite Rock and Roll Express fact: They made two WWF PPV appearances and both of them were in Boston, the 1993 Survivor Series at Boston Garden and Wrestlemania 14 at the FleetCenter.
Now for one of the two funniest moments of the show: a Young Pistols (Tracy Smothers and Steve Armstrong) promo with Dustin Rhodes and Dustin is doing a GREAT imitation of big Dust. “You can count on it, pally!” The match is an elimination tag between the Freebirds (Hayes/Garvin/Badstreet) and Dustin with the Young Pistols. Freebirds stalling leads JR to ask for a 24 second shot clock. Only notable thing to me is Armstrong trying to unmask Badstreet, who is actually his own brother Brad. Dustin overcomes a 1 on 2 to be sole survivor. If this took place today, the combo of Dusty booking with Dustin getting a rocket push might be met with a Roman Reigns-ian response. But we get a different kind of fan revolt later.
Next up, Johnny B. Badd in action vs the Yellow Dog, who is announced as being from “The Kennel Club” but really it’s Brian Pillman, who lost a loser leaves town match to Barry Windham at the June Clash and for the life of me I don’t understand what the hell this was about. I do love me some Brian Pillman during this time period, but I can’t endorse the “Johnny B. Gay” stuff or the “faggot” chant he tries to start. Picture cuts out at start of match, but we get about 4 minutes and then Teddy Long runs in to try and unmask Pillman and fails. Crowd is in a medically induced coma at this time. In a later twist, Johnny B. Badd would don a mask in summer of 1993 after getting hit in the face with his own blaster, which sounds dirtier than it is.
Eric Bischoff crashes Missy Hyatt’s locker room, but she does not like guys looking at her naked on camera. Well, not now anyway.
Big Josh vs Black Blood in a lumberjack match, because Big Josh is a lumberjack gimmick. And Rollins-Ambrose this ain’t, because that is the old lumberjack match I can remember that was worth a damn. Our finish is lumberjack Dustin Rhodes hitting Blood with an axe handle to give Josh the win. So you can see Dusty as booker is using similar concepts to when he was active: back in 87/88, he would make sure he was at least tangentially feuding with all heels so he could remain a focal point and now it’s happening with his son. Black Blood was the rather unstable Billy Jack Haynes, and Josh would be off to Clown College shortly in WWF. Matt Borne also played one of the South Africans (Sgt. Krueger) in the Starrcade 1990 tournament. What versatility!
One Man Gang vs El Gigante is next, and I have a confession. I was into El Gigante and wanted him to succeed so badly. I was pissed when Gang and Sullivan cut his hair and do wish they would have shown some of the background of this feud in a recap package, but no. Sullivan cuts a nonsensical promo on the way to the ring, while Gigante is accompanied by four little people who mildly annoy Gang and Sullivan. JR is putting over Gigante’s personality huge here, probably at gunpoint from Jim Herd and because he had no discernable in-ring ability. Nice guy by all accounts but incredibly uncoordinated. Gigante gets the win when Gang is trying to get powder to throw, but Gigante kicks it out of his hands.
We DO get a rundown of the Nikita Koloff-Sting feud, which was Koloff killing Sting like 12 times, and also threatening a 10 year old boy at the June Clash show or good measure. That boy was actually Kevin Sullivan’s son, BTW. This is a Russian Chain match, and as we learned at 2015 Extreme Rules from the Rusev-John Cena battle, these all suck. They both touch three corners….then hit each other for two minutes….then Koloff is Stinger splashed into the last one. This made no sense other than to give Koloff a win. He was okay during this run but it would peter out quickly, especially after the face turn.
They preview Lex Luger vs Barry Windham for the WCW title as the cage is being built. WE WANT FLAIR is a deafening chant now, but Ross and Schiavone do an excellent job breaking down the matchup like actual sport. Kudos to those guys for some superior time-killing, and Tony picks Windham to win while Ross backs Lex.
Match starts very slow, and JR is oddly treating Windham like a babyface here. Hmmm, what’s going on? Luger busts out a DDT and a sleeper so he’s trying, even if the fans are crapping on this. Luger gets him into the rack, but Windham uses the ropes to get out in a pretty inventive spot. Windham then gets a superplex and a sweet missile dropkick. Fans aren’t crapping on this as much now because this match isn’t so terrible….then Harley Race and Mr. Hughes are out for some reason. Race yells “Now’s the time!” to Luger, who piledrives Windham for the win. This made zero sense at the time: you build Luger as a face for 18 months, only to turn him when he wins. No build to this on TV either and the only odd thing was Luger using new moves in the match. Crowd is as confused as I was, and Luger leaves with the fake belt that they had to use (an old belt Dusty had from Florida) because Flair took the Big Gold Belt with him. They didn’t need to turn him on the PPV: save that for the Clash or gradually make him more arrogant.
And that’s not even the final match! We get another cage match with Paul E. and Arn Anderson versus Rick Steiner and Missy Hyatt. Scott Steiner was out with a torn bicep so that’s why the brothers aren’t together at this point. However, the Maryland State Athletic Commission frowns on intergender tags so Missy gets kidnapped by the Hardliners (Dick Slater and Dick Murdoch) while everyone else was in the cage. Go make your own jokes about Missy Hyatt being taken away by two Dicks. They were up against time here, so Rick takes care of Arn, then destroys Paul E. with a Steinerline. And that reminds me of the BEST part of this show: Paul E’s wrestling attire, which is so 1991 in every way. If that’s the best part of the summer PPV then they got some issues.
Conclusion: There are a ton of gimmick matches to paper over some of the crappiness. The actual matches themselves are nothing to write home about. Some people like Morton-Gibson for the smart leg work and all but it should have been more of a brawl. Luger-Windham was alright except for the circumstances that led to the crowd crapping on it. But it is pretty lousy. The lesson is: use the right kind of scaffold, don’t book a Russian Chain match, and don’t fire your world champion 13 days before the PPV. Or at least have him drop the damn belt to Windham on the way out since that would have solved a bunch of problems.