GREAT AMERICAN BASH 1986
More old-school goodness from the good people at Jim Crockett Promotions, although the line-up doesn’t appear to be very old-school. Hair matches, chain matches, taped fist matches, and cage matches. I’d make a Vince Russo comparison, but there’s nothing on a pole.
Tully Blanchard . . . discovers the power of the punch more than fifteen years before William Regal.
Nikita Koloff . . . shows his toughness by taking the king of all crotch shots and still doing a beat down afterwards.
The Minnesota Wrecking Crew . . . try to make a few adjustments to Ricky Morton’s facial features.
JIMMY VALIANT vs. SHASKA WHATLEY (Hair vs. Hair)
As bad a worker as he may have been at this point, you can’t deny that Valiant was popular, the fans are going nuts during his entrance, but the magic is over as soon as the bell rings. If I had a nickel for every punch, I’d be rich. If I had a nickel for every decent looking punch, I’d be broke. Shaska punches, and then distracts the ref so that Paul Jones can interfere in various capacities, Shaska gets a near fall and is in shock that he didn’t get the win, rinse and repeat. Jimmy getting busted open makes the constant punching a touch more bearable, but Jimmy isn’t exactly gushing, and Whatley’s punches don’t look that good. I’ve never been so glad to see a ref bump, because it means the match is finally going to end. Tommy Young goes down, Rashke and Fernandez run in, and Jimmy steals the loaded glove and gets the win. At least Whatley takes his shaving like a man.
JIMMY VALIANT vs. PAUL JONES (Hair vs. Hair)
Luckily for me, we’re joined in progress to Valiant leveling Jones with some kind of object. Baron throws Jones the glove, and Valiant brought his own. Valiant hits first, but then Baron interferes and Fernandez makes the save again. Jones and his boys at last learned from last time, because they had a backup plan, Whatley hits Jimmy with a chair and puts Jones on top to give the army revenge. Valiant also takes his shaving like a man.
RON GARVIN vs. TULLY BLANCHARD (Taped Fist Match)
I’ve never been big on the concept of boxing matches on wrestling cards, and while this isn’t technically a boxing match, it might as well be, it’s got rounds and can only be won via KO. Watching Tully stooge around is an absolute joy though. He tries to attack before the bell and Garvin lays him out, and he starts the match flat on his back with his robe still on, and the National Title around his waist. Tully spends most of the first and second rounds stumbling like a drunk man and swinging at ghosts. Garvin is actually holding up Tully at one point so he can keep hitting him. It’s also fun to watch how desperate J.J. Dillon gets, and the ways he resorts to getting Tully to wake up before he loses.
Tully finally catches a break in the third round and unloads on Garvin a bit, but his attempted cheap shot on Wahoo McDaniel backfires and Tully ends the round on the floor on his back. Dillon distracts Wahoo and the ref and slips a foreign object to Tully which he uses to KO Garvin and win. Not the best finish, but a common one (Tully/Dusty at Starrcade ‘86 had the same sort of ending), but it made sense that Tully needed the help, after seeing the can of the ass-whip that Garvin opened up.
HAWK/ANIMAL vs. NIKITA KOLOFF/IVAN KOLOFF (Russian Chain Match)
While watching this match, it occurred to me why these matches haven’t done much for me, and what’s missing. Context. These matches are happening for good reasons, but the viewer isn’t told or shown why they’re happening. Tully/Garvin was a taped fist match because Tully broke Garvin’s hand and necessitated the tape, but they don’t show it to us. Whatley/Valiant was over Whatley turning on him and joining Jones’ army, but they don’t show us that either. This isn’t any different, it’s mostly a brawl with some occasional smart use of the chain, like Animal pulling Ivan into the post, and the priceless crotch shot that Nikita takes. Nikita cheats and unchains himself and hits the Sickle on Animal, but Ellering evens the odds and crotches Ivan on the top to give the Warriors the win. Nikita lays out Ellering afterwards which was a bit of a surprise, before the Warriors clean house, which wasn’t a surprise at all.
OLE ANDERSON/ARN ANDERSON vs. RICKY MORTON/ROBERT GIBSON (#1 Contenders match for the NWA World Tag Team Titles)
I guess I spoke a bit too soon about lack of context. David Crockett informs us, before the match starts, that this is coming off the heels of the Four Horsemen breaking Ricky Morton’s nose. Typical southern tag formula here, with Ricky and Robert using their quickness and staying one step ahead of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew early on, and Ricky even punches Arn in the nose at one point for some revenge. As expected, Ricky’s face and nose is targeted during the heat portion, and while the Andersons aren’t as flashy as the Midnights, they’re very good at getting sympathy on Ricky, at one point Ole steals someone’s camera and uses it. The only thing missing is Ricky’s nose really getting busted open, Ricky was his usual great self, but blood would have added so much more to it. The Andersons worry too much about hurting Ricky, and not enough about trying to win. They try to switch things up and take out his arm (their signature strategy) but Ricky makes the hot tag, the match breaks down, and time runs out. Considering the stipulation, a finish would have been nice, but seeing as there was already an issue with these two teams, it’s not a big deal. ***
David Crockett continues bringing the context by informing us that Magnum TA had been stripped of the United States Title due to an incident during a press conference. The title is going to be decided by a best-of-seven series between him and his sworn enemy, Nikita Koloff.
MAGNUM T.A. (0) vs. NIKITA KOLOFF (3)
This is a great example of how less can be more. Nikita is far from a polished wrestler (and would always remain as such), so having a straight up wrestling match is going to expose Nikita quickly. At the same time, Magnum can’t very well play Nikita’s power game, because he needs to win and if he beats Nikita in the power game it’ll expose Nikita. So they keep things very simple, Nikita uses his power and beats Magnum like a rented mule, while Magnum bumps and sells his heart out for Nikita. Magnum outsmarts and outwrestles Nikita and wins in the end, to stay alive in the title quest. They don’t do anything overly complicated, but what they do works beautifully. Magnum takes a couple of rough bumps to the floor, and his re actions when he gets the cheap shot from Ivan and when Nikita hits the big forearm to the chest are great. When they work the top wristlock early on, Magnum seems hopeful that he’s going to come out on top, but Nikita’s power is too great, and once he gets Magnum down, he doesn’t let him get up again. When it can’t look any more hopeless for him, Magnum gets the sunset flip from the apron and gets the upset. It works so well because they both got to look good, Magnum wasn’t worried about protecting his spot or making sure his character looked strong, he made Nikita look good by doing his part to make him look unstoppable, and Magnum got to look good by finding a way to work around that and win. ***1/4
DENNIS CONDREY/BOBBY EATON/JIM CORNETTE vs. DUSTY RHODES/MAGNUM TA/BABY DOLL (Steel Cage Match)
Baby Doll gave Bobby Eaton an armdrag! Eat your heart out, Dennis Rodman! There isn’t much of this shown, and it’s clearly designed for Baby Doll to get her hands on Cornette. It gets teased a few times, but Cornette runs away from her. Magnum plays face in peril, and Bobby comes off the top of the cage onto him twice, which is a nice visual, but should have been saved for something more meaningful. Magnum hits Bobby on his second trip off the cage and makes the tag, the match breaks down, and Cornette gets surrounded. Baby Doll KO’s him with one punch and it’s over.
RIC FLAIR © vs. DUSTY RHODES (NWA World Heavyweight Title - Steel Cage Match)
As a wrestling match, this is somewhat lacking, but, like the Flair/Sting Clash match, it’s a good example of Flair being able to get the most out of an opponent while working his formula. The concept here is simple, Flair is a dick, and Dusty is the everyman who hands it back to him when he gets the chance. The early portion is what you’d expect from Flair and pretty much anyone. Flair struts and shows off, and Dusty shows him up. Flair gets outwrestled early on, and tries to rile up Dusty, only to beg off when Dusty is ready to fight.
Dusty does have his good moments, but most of the good work, and the story is totally carried by Flair (which is the norm for the promotion and time period). Flair gets a surprise shot to Dusty’s gut to knock the wind out of him and starts working him over. He uses the cage the bloody him up, uses his fists and his knee drop to keep Dusty bleeding, and starts going after his leg, which softens Dusty up for Flair’s finisher, and also serves as a reminder of what Flair and the Andersons did to Dusty’s leg the year before. The cage and Dusty’s size prevent Flair from doing a few of his usual tricks, like the knee buster and using the post, so Flair can’t take him school as well as he’d like to. After escaping the figure four, it’s time for Dusty’s revenge. Dusty opens up Flair by using the cage and even rakes his face across the fence, the same way that Flair did, and he busts up Flair’s leg a bit, which lets Tony remind us that Dusty has been known to use the figure four as well.
Again, it’s not just Dusty doing revenge spots to Flair. He has a few of his own good spots. At one point, Flair looks like he’s measuring Dusty for a charging punch, and Flair charges into a big lariat. Dusty also gets a surprise backslide for a near fall. The only real drawback here is selling, despite playing off the injury and spending time in Flair’s finisher, Dusty doesn’t sell his leg all that much. There’s also a nice moment when Dusty misfires and punches the cage, but it’s not played up at all, Flair doesn’t shark in on the hand, and it doesn’t prevent Dusty from doing anything. This could also have used a better finish, there’s nothing wrong with Dusty cradling Flair when he tries the figure four, but the fans clearly weren’t expecting it, and they really weren’t into the near falls before it. It’s obvious that they didn’t expect the title change, which makes this the perfect reason to change it here, but the point of wrestling the match is to create doubt, and make the fans think that they’ll actually get the outcome they’re hoping for.
Conclusion: There’s not too much to complain about here. There’s plenty of fun to be had, and the not-so-fun stuff tends to be kept short.