Thursday, March 30, 2017

Revisiting The Great American Bash '89!

Even now, some folks consider it the greatest 'rasslin PPV ever. Almost 30 years down the road, though, does the much-beloved NWA show still stand the test of time?

By: Jimbo X

Well, WrestleMania is right around the corner, which means I am required by Internet law to write something wrestling-centric. As we all know by now, I'm not really a follower of modern wrestling (in fact, the last time I watched a "new" wrestling program from start to finish was in 2007), but the scuttlebutt on the Internet is that right now is prolly the best time to be a wrestling fan in at least 20 years. The WWE - now filled to the brim with top-notch grapplers like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura - is putting on quite possibly its best in-ring product in company history, while New Japan (if the Davey Meltzer reports are to be believed) is quite possibly putting on the most consistently great wrestling product ever. And of course, as long as you keep your ear next to the train tracks at sites like Segunda Caida and The Armpit and ProWrestlingOnly, you'd also be aware of all the other great shit going on in indie promotions in the U.K. Japan and Mexico. So yeah, just as long as you know who to go to toss out the excess fat, there's a ton - an absolute TON - of great contemporary wrestling out there for you to discover and experience yourself.

Which, naturally, got me thinking about what we considered the best of the best when it came to 'rasslin three decades ago.

Now, this may come as a shock to some of you motherfuckers, but surprisingly, not a lot of the stuff people thought were masterpieces in 1989 are still considered so cutting-edge and awesome today. Go ahead, just pull any WWF match from 1989 off YouTube at random and I'm pretty sure you will be underwhelmed and/or bored to tears. Interestingly, though, the year the Berlin Wall came down is considered by many 'rassling purists to be the best year ever for the fledgling WCW brand, which at the time was still more or less under the NWA banner as opposed to being its own truly independent entity. Indeed, by May of that year, Big Dave had already given three WCW matches - the trilogy of televised Ric Flar/Ricky Steamboat bouts - his highest possible rating of five stars.

With that program effectively over, though, that meant WCW had to come up with a new marquee main event rivalry. Here, they turned to Terry Funk to play a psychopathic cowboy foil to grand champion Ric Flair, complete with a controversial TV segment were Funk rankled parents coast to coast by (kayfabe?) trying to suffocate Space Mountain hisself with a plastic bag. Since this was the old days, the company expected to get a good half a year worth of PPV bait out of their premier championship feud, so this crucial first "you gotta' pay for it" match-up at the Great American Bash was all kinds of important. Indeed, more or less the entirety of the company's financial success for the rest of the year hinged on this one show keeping the home fire burning for at least another six months - and according to the Internet wrestling fan hoi polli, this PPV more than delivered the goods

But, is the show - even now, considered by many to be the best WCW/NWA card ever - still as good as remembered, or has Father Time given it an old school, Four Horsemen-style beatdown? Well, howzabout we take a trip down memory lane and see for ourselves if this Great American Bash is still as great as we all thought it was, why don't we?

Let's begin with the pre-show shill hosted by Jim Ross, a good 30 minutes before the formal PPV began. Subtitled "The Glory Days," the event (held July 23 in Baltimore) kicked off at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, which yeah, I know, is a really weird-ass time for a PPV, but hey, it was the eighties, remember.

Ross runs down the card. Curtain jerkin' it is Brian Pillman vs. "Wild Bill" Irwin (or, as we sometimes call him around my household, "who the fuck?"), then we've got the Dynamic Dudes taking on the Skyscrapers. After that we get a Texas Tornado tag match between the Steiners and The Varsity Club, then a tuxedo match between Paul E. Dangerously and Jim Cornette. Then it's fucking WAR GAMES time with The Road Warriors, Dr. Death and the Midnight Express getting in the cage with The Fabulous Free Birds and the Samoan Swat Team. For the TV Championship it's Sting vs. The Great Muta and for the U.S. title it's Lex Luger vs. Ricky Steamboat. And our main event? Ric Flair vs. Terry goddamn motherfucking Funk, and both of them were like 40-something even here.

Time for a video package on Pillman set to Def Leppard, featuring him literally flying a helicopter. Then there's a promo for the Dynamic Dudes, but really, fuck them. Then it's a recap of the Steiners/Rotunda and Sullivan rivalry, and jeez, is it nice to hear Bob Caudle's soothing voice again. Anyhoo, this shit right here is tremendous. Rick Steiner gives flowers to some skinny, bucktoothed fan and while he and Scott are wrestling Arachnaman, Sullivan and Rotunda come out and rip her roses to shreds. Another video shows Paul E. walloping Cornette with a horseshoe hidden inside a tennis racket. Of course, Cornette sells it like he just got shot at point blank range. Next segment is about the first ever War Games event on PPV. There are two rings, cages over both of them and a roof so nobody can get in or get out. We see people welding the cage together and montage of wild ringside brawls set to Sabbath's "Iron Man." The fans go ape shit while The Free Birds and Road Warriors beat the fuck out of each other and The Samoan Swat Team give Paul Ellering "a Samoan funeral" in the back. Then it's a montage of Sting hitting the Stinger Splash and locking in the Scorpion Death Lock on random jobbers and Muta beating the fuck out of Doug Gilbert with planchas and moonsaults and misting Missy Hyatt and going after Eddie Gilbert with a kendo stick. Lex Luger cuts a promo about people thinking he has an ego problem and then we see archival footage of him Pearl Harboring Ricky Steamboat with chair shots and clotheslines before putting that motherfucker in the Torture Rack. So yeah, you can see the marketing psychology of the good old days in full effect here: the bad guys do evil shit on TV for weeks and weeks and then you have to buy the PPV to see the good guys exact righteous vengeance. Yes, it's a painfully simple technique, but hey ... that shit just plain worked. Then Luger says a "good big man can beat a good little man any day of the week," even though the little man he is talking about still weighs 230 pounds and is ripped like Bruce Lee on steroids. Then we get an interview with Terry Funk, describing himself as middle-aged and crazy even though he'll still be wrestling for another 30 years. We relive that infamous piledriver on the table spot and Flair holds a press conference saying he thought about retiring for medical reasons, but he wants to kick Funk's ass too much. J.R. says call your local cable system at your earliest convenience, we got one final rundown of the full card and this baby is an all-go.

The PPV intro shows a horse farm and imagery of the Baltimore harbor. We zoom into the Baltimore Arena (how'd they ever think of that name!) and our announce team is Jim Ross and Bob Caudle. Up first, it's a "Triple Chance Two-Ring Battle Royale Finals" with $50,000 on the line. Gary Capetta gives us the lowdown. Fourteen men are involved. You throw one nigga' into one ring, then the people in ring two try to eliminate each other. Then, the last two dudes remaining in both rings duke it out in a regular wrestling match. So, yeah, it's pretty much the same format later used for BattleBowl and World War III, and this crowd is molten already

Strangely, the rings aren't pushed together all the way evenly, so there's like a good two feet of space in between the ropes. J.R. explains how, earlier in the year, WCW held a series of battle royales at house shows and each of the men participating in this one won at least one of those.

Ranger Ross gets eliminate first, then Ron Simmons (huh ... the only two black dudes get tossed first.) Then Ranger Ross eliminates Simmons from the second ring, so he's officially out of the competition. Scott Hall is dumped into ring two, then Terry Gordy and Bill Irwin. Eddie Gilbert gets tossed, then Dan Spivey, who powerbombs the fuck out of everybody. It's absolute bedlam now, with about seven dudes with mullets getting thrown into ring two at the same time. That leaves Sid Vicious and Brian Pillman alone in ring one (way to foreshadow that one War Games in 1991, guys!) and the size discrepancy is huge and the camera catches all of it. Gilbert and Gordy exit ring two and then Pillman sails out of ring one, so Sid is the de facto winner from ring numbero uno. A trillion concomitant eliminations happen in ring two, so we're down to Steve Williams, Dan Spivey and Mike Rotunda. Rotunda gets powerslammed and eliminated. Williams keeps clotheslining Spivey, but he can't quite get him over the ropes. Rotunda trips him from the outside, and Spivey capitalizes on the moment and eliminates him. He starts to celebrate but then there is that moment where he realizes "oh shit, now I have to wrestle my tag team partner." But then Theodore Long (looking like an anorexic Stevie Wonder) says he ain't going to let that shit go down because he believes in something called unity and he's just going to split the award money $25,000 down the middle for both men.

It's not often you get to say the other guy in the ring is less technical than Sycho Sid, but ... 

Well, that's a pretty smart way to get over the monster heels, I suppose. Sure, it was a bit of a clusterfuck (but when are battle royales not?), but all in all it was still a pretty decent way to start the show and the crowd was hot for it, despite the non-ending. [**]

Time for a taped promo from Funk. Great stuff, as to be expected, as he declares himself an endangered species like the blue whale and the great white north wolf. "I am no member of any organization or corporation, I stand alone," he says, "and when I make a promise to you, believe me, the Funker will make it good." And since this is the company that would eventually become WCW, the tape goes on the fritz towards the end so we have no idea what the fuck Terry's punchline was going to be. And yes, his final line WAS very important in explaining what happens at the end of the show, so Jim Ross makes a mad scramble to get the point home that Funk has some sort of surprise in store for Flair later this evening.

Gordon Solie interviews Long in the back. The dude has a conehead, a greasy skullet and is missing pretty much his entire top row of teeth. Needless to say, the guy cleaned up considerably when he made it to the WWE a few years back.

"Wild Bill" Irwin of Pecos, Texas is already in the ring. Here comes Brian Pillman in his Creamsicle orange undies. Irwin tries to cheap shot Brian early. Pillman with a hip toss, dropkick, springboard bulldog and side headlock combo. J.R. talks about Pillman being a former Bengals player and a good friend of Boomer Esiason. A headscissors takedown sends Irwin flying out of the ring. As an aside, every time I hear Ross talk about Pillman, I can't help but think of that one story he told on the WWE Pillman DVD about the time he pulled him out of a meeting to come look at a giant dump he just took.

Pillman with a sliding baseball kick and another flurry of hip tosses (or is that hip tossi?) Pillman works the arm. Ross says he can almost hear the tape recorders across America recording the PPV, so hooray for acknowledging the piracy of your own product! Pillman with a flying cross body and more hip tosses. Irwin responds with a stalling suplex. "You wanna' fly?" Irwin asks. "Fly on out of here," he says before tossing Pillman through the second and third rope.

Hammer fists to Brian's titties. Now Irwin is just whupping that ass. He follows up a snapmare with a lengthy chinlock spot. Pillman fights back, but Irwin puts him down with a clothesline. Ross talks about how Fred Williamson pioneered the move on the gridiron, but here in WCW or NWA or whatever the fuck the company is technically called, don't nobody get 15 yards for it. Pillman is chucked into the timekeeper's table outside. Pillman with two dropkicks and a flying elbow smash. Just a two on the splash so he chops that motherfucker and headbutts him. Pillman whiffs on a top rope dropkick and lands flat on his ass. 

Irwin grinds his boots into Pillman's face and hits him with one of those old-school and quite gay-looking side suplexes. Irwin throws Pillman into the second ring. While Bill gets in ref Nick Patrick's grill, Brian climbs the adjacent turn post and flies across both rings (well, not really) to land a cross body for the one, two and three. Eh, a mediocre bout that didn't have enough time to really build to anything. [**]

We're in the back with Solie again. Paul E. talks about Jim Cornette falling off the scaffold at Starrrcade '86 and says he bribed his doctor to learn his knee still hasn't heeled. He concludes by telling the audience he's so dangerous, he "even hired Rob Lowe as a babysitter." And if you don't know why that's cringey as fuck, well ... now you're the wiser.

Back to the ring, and holy shit, it's Jason Hervey from The Wonder Years!

Oh, what all of us wouldn't have given to see Vader put this motherfucker through a table back in the day...

And naturally, he gets booed like a motherfucker. He introduces the tag team of Johnny and Shane, and Muhammad-damn-it, you've never seen anything gayer in your life than these two, and that includes readers who have actually been to gay orgies. They're wearing pastel shorts and their theme music sounds like a bad Run DMC knockoff ... wait a minute, that's not just any Run DMC rip-off, it's actually "Wipeout" by the motherfuckin' Fat Boys! Then they throw a neon green frisbee to a fat kid wearing a Ghostbusters tee shirt to complete the trifecta of lame-ness. Oh, and for those of you wondering: Johnny is now one of the most powerful suits in the WWE, while Shane is a Trump supporter who works at a middle school.

Oh, you have gotta' see these two 30-year-old mullet-heads with a Dynamic Dudes sign in the audience. Jim Ross says he probably wouldn't get the same reaction if he took his shirt off. 

Out come the Skyscrapers, Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey, accompanied by manager Theodore Long. Bob calls the Skyscrapers the potential "team of the '90s," which is yet another reason why the '90s sucked a lot of dick.

Ross fucking destroys the competing WWF by saying all the wrestlers on this show are real athletes, not a buncha' bodybuilders who lay under heat lamps all day and bring their pets to the ring. I LOL when the predominantly white audience screams "beat up Ted" in unison. J.R. is absolutely on fire tonight, saying Ted has so much fertilizer coming out of his mouth, maybe he should try rubbing it on his scalp and see if something grows out of it.

Johnny and Dan to begin. Johnny hits him with a dropkick, and Spivey no sells it. Spivey rakes Ace's eyes and chops him in the corner. A shoulder tackle sends him reeling. A double Dynamic Dudes dropkick still can't put Spivey down, but they do get him with a monkey flip. Then Spivey kicks Shane right in the fucking face and I laugh heartily. A botched school boy dropkick combination only nets Shane a two-count. Bob drops the old "a good big man is going to beat a good little man" chestnut again as Sid enters the ring. The crowd roars when he slaps the taste out of Ace's mouth.

Dan back in. He clotheslines Johnny. Shane tagged in. Dan sinks Douglas like a rock with a proto-Rock Bottom. Spivey keeps clobbering that nigga. Spivey with a SICK powerbomb and a big boot that sends Shane flying over the top rope. Teddy Long gets some kicks in while he's down. Spivey lands a vertical suplex, but Shane kicks out. Sid tagged back in. He clotheslines Shane like a motherfucker then panders to the crowd and they howl with approval. Shane does a retard sell on a bump into the ringpost. Dan gets tagged in and the crowd boos. A huge sidewalk slam puts Shane down again. Dan hits a backbreaker, but he misses on the diving headbutt.

Ace gets the hot tag. He kicks Spivey, then chops Sid but he doesn't sell it. Johnny with a clothesline off the top rope. All four men in the ring now. Sid throws Shane out, and then the Skyscrapers accidentally clothesline each other. The Dudes hit Sid with a double dropkick, but he doesn't sell that, either. A double hip toss puts Spivey down, but then he gets right back up and powerbombs one of those blonde mulletheads. A botch piledriver on what was apparently supposed to be a powerbomb on the other Dynamic Dude, however,gets Spivey the follow-up three-count. Yeah, this one was pretty much a throwaway bout, but it had its moments. [**]

Solie is backstage with Cornette. He says that although everything Paul said in the promo earlier about his medical history is true, he don't give no shits because if he breaks both his legs he'll still come crawling after him. Cornette then accuses Heyman of copying his wrestlers' looks and tactics, which ... yeah, is pretty much the most foreshadowy thing in the history of anything.

Time for the tuxedo match. Paul E. comes out to the Halloween theme and I mark out accordingly. J.R. says that Heyman's biggest muscle is his lips and he's probably tired from walking to the ring.

Yeah, I must say I too prefer the pioneering gangsta rap group Niggas With Attitude to the animal preservation organization the World Wildlife Fund.

Cornette, carrying the tennis racket as always, gets a pretty big pop. The rules here are both very simple and very homosexual - whoever strips their opponent down to their skivvies first wins. Cornette punches Heyman in the mouth and immediately yanks off his jacket. Than Paul E. hits him with a mysterious white powder (in the 1980s? No way!) and starts whacking his knee with his gigantic mobile phone.

Cornette's jacket goes flying off. J.R. criticizes Paul's "feminine right hand" and says his trainer was prolly some guy in San Fran named Eric or Bruce. Paul chokes J.C. with his cummerbund, than Cornette returns the favor. During the (in)action, Ross reminds everybody they can watch Friday Night Power Hour on TBS every Friday night. Per Ross: "What (Heyman) causes, Preparation H wouldn't kill."

Paul E. misses an elbow, but he lands some solid shots on Cornette on the follow-through, anyway. Cornette then drops Paul E. with a big right, and that allows him to tear off Heyman's shirt. Paul E. hits the shittiest shoulder block you've ever seen in your life and tries to retrieve some more blinding powder (go ahead, feel free to add in your own tired cocaine joke here) but then Cornette kicks the snow-colored substance back into Paul E.'s face. Then Cornette yanks Paul's pants off, and Heyman runs screaming back to the locker room with his bright blue panty-clad ass hanging out for everybody in the world to see. 

Well, that was a shit match, but at leas the commentary was funny. [*]

Solie is in the back with Gary Hart. He says Muta ain't talking because it might break his concentration, so Hart talks mad shit about Sting instead. Also, Muta is in the back "calling powers of the mystical orient into his own being," which is prolly Anglo-Saxon speak for "he's taking a big fat shit right now."

Time for a Texas Tornado Tag bout. Mike Rotunda and Kevin Sullivan enter first. The Steiners come out to "Welcome to the Jungle," accompanied by Missy Hyatt and an actual dog. Hey Jim Ross, what were you saying about the wrestlers in this company being above taking their pets to the ring earlier? Well, he partially saves face by making the following titty joke: "There's a pair for you ... I'm talking about the Steiners."

Sullivan conks Rick with a chair, the Rick returns the favor. We get some wild brawling on the outside while Mike and Scott square off in the ring. Sullivan sets up a preposterously thin table and rams Rick into it face first. Then Rick whacks him with it. Sullivan slams Rick into the metal steps while Scott does the old 10-punch corner routine to Rotunda. All four men are in the ring, until Scott gets sent flying over the top rope. Naturally, this gives Rotunda and Sullivan ample time to double team Rick. Rick hits a suplex, than Scott puts Rotunda in the tree of woe and kicks the shit out of him. Rick hits Sullivan with a powerslam while Scott hits Rotunda with a snap suplex. Then Scott gets hit by a double clothesline, then Rick headbutts Sullivan in the balls and we all have a hearty, hearty chuckle. Scott with an attempted schoolboy (unlike Michael Jackson, who always finished his school boys) then Scott eats a back body drop. Sullivan whacks Rick with a stretcher, then Scott goes up top and hits Sullivan with a flying elbow while he's trying to scoop slam Rick. And this allows Rick and Scott to dog pile Sullivan for the flash pin fall. Well, it was fun while it lasted, but how much praise can you give a match that doesn't even make it to five minute mark? [**]

Solie is in the back with Sting and Eddie Gilbert. Sting says he has great respect for Muta and he's going to take him seriously in the match. Then Gilbert says he has a lot of respect for Muta, but none for Gary Hart. Well, that's good to know, I guess.

The green lighting and the dude banging the gong lets us know Muta is coming out. You've got to see this one dude who has a poster of Muta with Ninja Turtle skin and the phrase "The Pearl of the Orient" written on it. Of course, Sting gets a monster pop, and he really did look a lot like Chris Jericho back in the day.

Hart's in Muta's corner, Gilbert is in Sting's. The World Television Title is on the line. Ironically, Sting begins the match by Pearl Harboring Muta with a flying crossbody from one ring to the other. Muta follows suit with a top rope karate chop and some (relatively) stiff looking kicks. Muta does some fancy backflips before hitting Sting with an elbow smash in the corner, which he follows up with a backbreaker. He whiffs on the moonsault, but he does get some good karate kicks in, though. 

Muta with a flying high cross body to the Sting on the arena floor. Sting responds with a clothesline and then another one off the top rope. Sting lands a dropkick and then both men briefly brawl on the outside.

Back in the ring and Muta has Sting in a sleeperhold. He reaches the ropes, so Muta has to let him go. Muta working the neck, as a surprising "Muta" chant breaks out. Muta locks in an abdominal stretch and Sting sells it like he's really having his stomach ripped open. Muta launches Sting to the outside, but Sting rolls right back in and Muta rakes his eyes. 

Now Muta is kicking Sting a million billion times. He does some more fancy flips and Sting says fuck that and just clotheslines that Japanese nigga and hits him with a bulldog and dropkick combo. Muta sprays Nick Patrick with that deadly ASIAN MIST (which I always thought sounded like an imported cola) and Sting whiffs on the Stinger Splash. Muta hits the moonsault, but Sting kicks out, which makes the audience go ape shit (or gorilla doo-doo, if you want to keep it PG.) Sting hits the shittiest looking back body suplex you've ever seen in your life, and surprisingly, that's good enough to score him the three count. 

Muta and Hart take the belt with them anyway. The instant replay shows Muta might have had his shoulder up, but you really can't tell one way or another. Regardless, the semi-fluky ending gives us a good excuse to keep this rivalry chugging along, so I suppose it did its part for marketing purposes. Had this thing gone 20 or 30 minutes, it could've been a classic; alas, as a barely 9-minute rush job with a crappy gimmick ending, the most I can afford it is [** 1/4].

Solie interviews Lex Luger. It's very uneventful, but I suppose you already assumed as much. "Are we talking about arrogance of prudence," Jim Ross quips, which has to be the first time I've ever heard the word "prudence" used on a professional wrestling show. 

Alright, so Luger keeps saying he ain't defending the U.S. title unless it's a no-DQ bout. Steamboat comes out to the Chicago Bulls theme song and is carried out on a piece of lumber by six or seven dudes. And, of course, he has a Komodo dragon with him, which results in Bob reminding the TV audience that it's the last breed of dragon still living. His wife Bonnie and son li'l Ricky lead the way.

I can guarantee you she sucked at least one of the Skyscrapers' cocks at some point in her life ... and prolly Spivey's.

Luger gets a surprisingly big pop. "He's got an ego as big as those muscles," Ross quips. Steamboat says he ain't doing that no-DQ shit. So, uh, does that make this a non-title match, then? NOBODY SAYS. 

Steamboat goes for a small package attempt early. He dropkicks the fuck out of Lex and chops him good. Lex retreats to the outside and Steamboat follows him and says "you ain't getting away that easy, motherfucker" and keeps chopping him hard. He hits Lex with an atomic drop and tosses that ass back into the ring. Then they roll right back out, so never mind. 

More chops from Ricky. He slams Lex headfirst into the commissioner's table. Lex catches him with a right hand to the solar plexus, then hits him with a backbreaker and a huge gorilla press slam. Now Luger is doing these gay-ass fist drops to Steamboat's back, then Ricky goes for another small package. But it's just a two, so Lex clothelines him a million times and Ricky starts swinging at air and falls down. Ricky back on the offensive with some knife edge chops (as opposed to knife handle chops, I suppose), and then Luger threatens the ref and he runs out of the ring like a little bitch. Luger with a power slam, but it's only worth a two count. Steamboat with a cross body for just a two. Luger hits an inverted atomic drop, then Steamboat lands a shitty swinging neckbreaker. Lex misses a clothesline and flies over the top rope. Lex re-enters the ring and Ricky tries to body slam him. Luger falls on top of him for a two-count. 

Luger goes up top and, of course, Ricky throws him off. Then he drop kicks him, goes back up top and hits him with a flying karate chop, but it's only good for a two-count. Luger backdrops Steamboat into the second ring. Then he grabs a chair and Ricky swings him into the turnbuckle and Lex winds up smacking his damn self in the face with it. Then Ricky says "fuck it" and decides to get disqualified and just clobbers the hell outta' Luger with the chair. He even smacks the ref with it, at one point. He chases Luger down the ramp, with the chair en tow, and both men fade into the backstage blackness.

All in all, that was a pretty good little outing, even if the intentional DQ ending was kinda' stupid. The did as best as they could with a limited 10-minute match, I reckon, so I'll give them their due credit. [***]

Jim Ross says there will prolly be a rematch. Well, no shit, Sherlock. And then ... the cage doth lower for War Games.

The Free Birds cut a promo in the back with the Samoan Swat Team (strangely enough, one of whom is clearly Caucasian) drools all over everything. P.S. Hayes gives us a PG version of that old "take a shit in one hand and a wish in the other one and tell me which one comes true first" platitude. Then Gordy says they're going to drop a bomb on Baltimore tonight, which I assume is meant to be figurative and not a direct threat of domestic terrorism.

"Beautiful Bobby" and Stan Lane are in the back with Dr. Death, who says he is literally going to use bug spray to kill the Samoans. Yeah, I have no idea what kinda' context is supposed to exist to make that one make any damn sense. Also: remember when Animal used to have a ponytail? Pepperidge Farms and niche-interest-satirical-anti-nostalgia sites do.

The Free Birds come out to - you guessed it - "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Midnight Express and Steve Williams come out in bath robes. Hilariously, the Road Warriors come out riding on the bitch seat of two choppers driven by two burly, leathery "bear" type bikers.

Jimmy Garvin and Bobby Eaton get the ball rolling for the initial "five minute survival period." We get some rights exchanged early, with Bobby getting the upper hand. Eaton lands a swinging neckbreaker, then Garvin hits him with an elbow and a body slam.

Now THIS is what wrestling/manhood is supposed to look like, goddamnit.

Eaton with an atomic drop, Garvin responds with a boot the face. Then he throws Beautiful Bobby's ass into the cage and smashes that motherfucker with an elbow. Hayes calls Eaton scum and spits on him. 

Eaton gets a scoop slam, then puts Garvin in the Boston Crab. But it's for naught, because submissions don't count until everybody's in the cage, so feasibly, he could've just kept that asshole in the hold for the next 30 minutes and saved himself a whole lot of energy. Now Terry Gordy is in, so it's a two-on-one advantage for the heels for the next two minutes. Eaton gets launched into the second ring, then Gordy accidentally pops Garvin.

In comes Dr. Death to even the odds. He hits a double clothesline on both Garvin and Gordy. LOL at Dr. Death wearing the exact same wrestling attire as Hulk Hogan. Now he's pressing Bam Bam up against the top of the cage. Samu comes in. He kicks the fuck out of Dr. Death. Gordy lands a sick back body drop/suplex thingy while Eaton has his face ripped open in the corner. Double supplex on Dr. Death. Animal enters the fray to make it three on three. He elbows and kicks the shit out of everybody, including this great part where he kicks Samu directly in the face and hits him with a diving headbutt from the second ring into the first one. Now the Free Birds and SST are getting their asses stomped. Fatu comes in and he makes a bee line for Animal. The Samoans double team him and hit him with a double clothesline and follow it up with one of those old wishbone leg split thingies. Gordy's trying to choke out Williams and Garvin is trying to claw Eaton's eyes out, so he knees him balls and heabutts him. Stan Lane goes in and fucking EVERYBODY eats cage.

Outside Paul E. tells Hayes he has to go in no matter how bad he doesn't want to. He goes in, eventually, and DDTs everybody and struts around in the empty ring to taunt Hawk and it is fucking great. Jim Ross talks about the infamous "Marietta Massacre" when Hawk got handcuffed to the top of the ring and the heels just whaled on him forever. The Free Birds and the Samoans are smothering the faces and that's when Hawk enters the melee and double clotheslines the Samoans and chops the shit out of Gordy. "It's a demolition derby with human bodies!" laments/praises Jim Ross.

There's this really funny moment when Paul tries to shove his phone through the steel mesh. Now it's just good old fashioned Southern-fried 'rasslin bedlam. "There is no strategy, for all intents and purposes," J.R. tells the viewing audience. 

The roof is so low nobody can do any high risk aerial maneuvers, so that pretty much negates the possibility of the Doomsday Device. So Hawk hits Garvin with about four or five neckbreakers and locks his ass up in the hangman's neckbreaker (now there's a cool old-school submission that ought to make a comeback) for the win. 

Naturally, the heels lock the cage after all the faces leave so they can gang up on Animal five-to-one. Hawk gets so pissed he rips the door open and the Free Birds and Samoans all scurry back to the locker room like the chicken shits they are.

Of course, there were far better War Games after this one, but this is still an entertaining as all hell little donnybrook, filled with enough mullets, flab, face paint and ugly people getting the shit kicked out of them to fill up an entire Streets of Rage sequel. It ain't much in terms of scientific wrestling (obviously), but it'll definitely quench your thirst for whatever over-the-top, pre-ECW ultra-violence you might have a predilection for ... you tasteless, lowbrow motherfucker, you. [*** 3/4]

Shit, why didn't Ric Flair use the flying knee strike as an alternate finisher?

Solie interviews Flair in the back and talks about him being the ONLY six-time World Heavyweight Championship besides Lou Thesz or Harley Race. Solie asks him why he is competing tonight if his spine is so fucked up (remember, in the build-up, the kayfabe doctors said Flair might fuckin' die if he gets dropped on his head one more time.) 
Flair, somberly, confirms his back injuries but says that Funk is nonetheless in for the fight of his wrestling career tonight. Solie (doing a damned fine impersonation of a superficially concerned ESPN correspondent) rhetorically asks if Flair made a huge mistake by not having a warm-up bout before this one. We go back to Jim and Bob. Ross poses the question: "Is Flair just one piledriver away from being a former champion?"

Funk, flanked by at least a dozen security guards, comes out the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. He's accompanied by Gary Hart and carrying a branding iron.

The theme from 2001, of course, gets a loud pop. God, I love watching those golden shower fireworks cascading over the stage. He's in a purple robe and is accompanied to the ring by four bitches in silver aluminum foil dresses. He doesn't have a security entourage, because really, who the fuck would ever try to do anything to Ric Flair?

Flair immediately chases Funk to the outside and our wild brawling segment gets going already. Funk tries to rip the guardrail off the cement floor and jaws with some fans ringside. Flair goes outside and whales on Funk and slams his head into the timekeepers table a few times. Back in the ring, and Funk has a chair. Funk lands some chops but Flair is firing back. Funk eats a running elbow drop from Flair, then Funk tosses Flair headfirst into the metal turnbuckle. Flair gets some stomps in, but a vertical supplex only nets him a two-count. Funk tries going for a supplex of his his own, but Flair stalls it and rolls to the outside. "Will Funk go for an injury or a victory?" Jim Ross muses. 

Flair tries to supplex Funk onto the floor, but Funk falls on top of him and they both tumble off the mat. They exchange chops for awhile and rake each others eyes on the outside before promptly re-entering the ring. Funk signals for a piledriver but gets backdropped out of the ring. Flair then twists Funk's head like a doorknob. Back in the ring, and Flair is still trying to wrench Funk's head off like an Oreo. He lands a running knee drop, but it only scores him a two-count.

Flair hits Funk with a piledriver, and Funk sells it awesomely. He hits another piledriver, but Funk gets right back up, only to fall backwards out of the ring and start crawling to the back like the yellow-bellied coward he is. Flair catches him and chases him back to the ring. Now Flair is just whupping that ass now. He hits a back body drop, then locks in the Figure Four. Hart distracts the ref so Funk can poke Flair with his branding iron. Funk yanks a spike out of his boot and jabs Flair a good four or five times in the face. Now Flair is bleeding like a stuck pig in the corner. 

THAT'S when Funk nails the dreaded piledriver. Alas, Flair somehow manages to get his foot on the ropes before the final three count. Funk grinds his knee into Flair's bloody skull. He goes outside and pulls apart the pads to expose the concrete floor beneath. Funk chokes Flair with some rope, sets him up for another piledriver, but this time, Flair backdrops his ass. Funk climbs the mat and just kinda falls on Flair. No, not like a plancha, more like he just fucking slipped. So we're back in the ring. Funk hits a neckbreaker. Then another one. Funk talks shit to the crowd as everybody starts stomping the floor to support Flair, and then, he hits another neckbreaker, just for good measure.

Funk's talking more shit to the crowd. He pops Flair smackdab in the middle of his big, gory forehead gash. Then he slams him into the turnbuckle - but wait, that allows Flair to get a hold of the branding iron, which he resourcefully uses to conk Funk over the fuckin' skull with a few moments later. Funk flails to the outside holding his noggin. Flair runs Funk into the metal post then throws him back into the ring. Flair pummels Funk in the corner with punches and elbows. He goes for a running knee drop, but Funk rolls out of the way and locks in his patented spinning toe hold of death ... which Flair reverses into a small package for the out of nowhere pinfall.

Flair wallops Hart after the bell. Then Muta comes in and hits Flair with the gren mist. He and Funk double team Flair and conk him with the belt. Funk threatens to piledrive Flair on a chair. Muta spin kicks all the suits that come out to stop them and here comes STING to save Flair from a (kayfabe) career and possibly even life-ending neck injury. Flair hits a running knee and now Sting and Flair are whupping the heels good. They clean house and Muta keeps trying to lob the metal steps over the ring rope. Flair goes after Funk again, then Sting goes after Muta and all four of them brawl their way back to the locker room. This is just an awesome old school brawl, with people getting bonked over the head with some kind of metal object every three seconds. Hell, at one point, Muta even tries to clobber Sting with one of those old four-pronged chairs you used to sit in back in elementary school. Ross interviews a bloodied Flair, who says he's they're just getting started and he's going to beat Funk's "Texan ass" all over the place when he gets a hold of him again. Ross lets us know the TV title HAS been put up for grabs in the wake of the Sting/Muta finish and reminds us the next PPV is going to be Halloween Havoc three months from now. We watch Flair pin Funk one more time in slow-motion, and that's all she wrote in Baltimore. Funk and Flair have had wayyyyy better matches together, but it was still a very, very solid, psychology-driven bout, made even better by all of the post-fight anarchy. Factoring in the tremendous brawling after the bell, I'd feel fairly certain considering this one a [****] affair.

Sweatin', bleedin', cursin' and unapologetically Southern. Not only is that what made WCW great, it's what made AMERICA great. Or, at least, the part of it that was in the South, I guess.

So all in all, it was a pretty good show, but a candidate for best PPV of all-time? Eh, I'd have to strongly disagree with that one. The last two bouts are very, very entertaining, but neither come close to being MOTY contenders. The Luger/Steamboat bout was basically a glorified TV match, and everything before that was either way too short or uneventful to warrant much of a mentioning (especially that uber-disappointing Sting/Muta bout, which prolly shoulda' been 30 minutes long and chock full of green mist, cattle mutilations and enough blood to stage a remake of Texas Chain Saw Massacre.) It was definitely WAY better than anything the WWF was doing at the time, but this is far from being the best WCW PPV I've ever seen. Hell, not only was this NOT the best WCW PPV of 1989, it may not even have been the second best from the calendar year.

As for the residual effects of the show, Flair/Funk and Sting/Muta remained the company's dueling main event rivalries for the remainder of the year. Indeed, the four starred in a "Thunderdome" cage match at Halloween Havoc a few months later, with the de facto blowoff of both feuds coming at Clash of the Champions IX, in which Flair bested Funk in a legendary "I Quit" match and Lex Luger usurped Muta as Sting's new No. 1 rival in the chaotic post-fight brawlin'. With Arn Anderson returning to WCW, this naturally led to the reformation of the Four Horsemen, with Sting and Ric Flair playing gang co-captains. Now, while the logical booking train of thought would've been Flair/Muta duking it out for another six months while Luger and Sting feuded to determine who would take the belt off Flair at next year's Bash, the NWA steering committee instead booked this weird ass "Iron Man" tournament at Starrcade, which splintered off into a Sting/Flair rivalry for the belt, but since Sting got sidelined with a knee injury, they had to make it a Flair/Luger rivalry instead. Meanwhile, poor Muta got the royal shaft, being downgraded to TV champion and jobbing out to Arn Anderson in early 1990. Indeed, by the time the first WCW PPV of 1990 rolled around, he was already back in New Japan and having awesome tag team matches with Masahiro Chono. And if you're wondering what happened to the Funker? Shortly after the Flair bout at COTC, he went into what would be his first of an estimated 15,000 different retirements, only to find himself 'rassling again in USWA just a few months later.

By the time the next Great American Bash rolled around, Sting eventually WOULD take the belt off Flair, which in turn set up an increasingly silly scramble for the belt that ultimately resulted in Ric Flair adopting the ludicrous Black Scorpion alter ego for a horrid Starrcade '90 main event that may very well be the worst match of either Sting or Flair's career. Oh, and along the way, Robocop somehow got involved in the rivalry, but we'll save the deets on that one for an upcoming rainy day.

So while this Bash may not be the best example of late '80s/early '90s WCW, it is mostly solid and even the subpar stuff is at least subpar in an inoffensive way. The War Games match and the main event are prolly worth viewing in isolated form, but unless you are a HARDCORE old-school 'rasslin fan with way too much time to kill, I'd advise skipping this one ... or at the very least, just fast forwarding to the final hour of the PPV.

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