GREAT AMERICAN BASH
July 7, 1990
For as many (many) times that WCW has screwed up what seemed like a simple concept, it can’t be forgotten that they did have ability to do some good when they’re given the chance, look no further than this show for some historical moments and examples of that good.
The Midnight Express . . . doesn’t let bad booking and gimmicks prevent them from tearing down the house.
Big Van Vader . . . makes his WCW debut and doesn’t damn near kill anybody.
The Steiner Brothers . . . throw the Freebirds around like a couple of transvestite ragdolls.
BOBBY EATON/STAN LANE © vs. TRACY SMOTHERS/STEVE ARMSTRONG (NWA U.S. Tag Team Titles)
Matches like this are why I’m a wrestling fan. Despite the fact that the business was turning into a joke in the U.S. these four just went out there and did what they knew how to do, and that’s put on a kick ass wrestling match. The early parts are hampered a bit because the Southern Boys weren’t able to carry the offense as well as the Midnights. The double teams that they used were the same sort of stuff that you’d see out of the Rockers. Lots of synchronized moves like dropkicks and arm drags. The Southern Boys bring some nice spots while they’re in control, such as the double cross body press, and the Lane/Smothers Karate match (complete with both Midnights overselling like mad for Smothers’ Karate strikes). Fortunately the Midnight Express picks up the slack a bit by working the (mostly pro Midnight Express) crowd in the form of seemingly taking over the match, but Armstrong and Smothers being one step ahead of them and finding themselves bumping into each other, while Jim Cornette is going insane.
Once the Midnights take over the action, they show exactly whey they are listed amongst the best teams of all time, and why it’s a travesty that they were only the U.S. Tag Team Champions at this point. They target Smothers’ back, and work it over with a bunch of really cool stuff (as though you’d expect anything less from them). There is one odd moment when Eaton hits the Alabama Jam, and then tags out. Smothers isn’t exactly Ricky Morton, but he does okay in the role that Ricky made famous. One really nice moment was Smothers’ attempted double sunset flip on the Midnights, and then proceeding to roll to the wrong corner to tag in Armstrong, before he realizes where he needs to be and just barely gets the tag. Just to see how awesome the Midnights were at building the sympathy for the babyfaces, compare the (lack of) crowd reaction during the Southern Boys’ entrance to the thunderous cheers when Armstrong tags in. The heat doesn’t let up after Armstrong tags in either, with both teams getting red hot near falls with their respective finishers. The Southern Boys look to have it own with the old switcheroo, which is usually a surefire tactic for the babyfaces to score the win, but the Midnights return the favor a minute later when Lane hits Smothers with a roundhouse kick from the apron, and Eaton cradles him for three. That this is mostly a one team show prevents it from hitting the same highs that it could have, but it’s still an awesome look at what the Midnight Express could do, even though they were coming close to the end of their run together. ****
THE Z-MAN vs. BIG VAN VADER
For Vader’s North American debut, WCW could have done a lot worse than this. Zenk isn’t the flashy bump taker that Jeff Hardy was in Brock Lesnar’s debut, but he does a decent job of selling what Vader does. Vader also isn’t as deliberate about taking apart Zenk, as Brock was about killing Hardy, so Vader doesn’t seem as sadistic and brutal and Ross is making him out to be. The big splash as a finisher certainly gets the point across even though Vader was *only* 399 lbs. here (and actually looked thin!), but compared with what Vader would do later on in his WCW run, this comes off disappointing.
RICK STEINER/SCOTT STEINER vs. MICHAEL HAYES/JIMMY GARVIN
Looking at the Freebirds with all the makeup they had on, and the sequined outfits they were wearing, I’m not surprised Terry Gordy bailed on them and went to Japan. Maybe I’m just closed minded, but I’m unable to fathom good old “Bamm Bamm” dressing up like he’s going out to the tranny bar. This would have been good if the Freebirds were able to do anything well other than stall, and get the crowd riled up. Hayes’ right punch (complete with huge oversell by Rick) looks like he’s attempting to knock on a door. The Steiners bring all sorts of suplex goodness to the match, the basic premise is that the Steiners know that Freebirds can’t do squat, so they just let them do their rest holds, and weak brawling, and then toss them around when they get the chance to. There is one crazy spot where Rick tries to powerslam Garvin, but loses his balance, and it looks like Garvin actually reversed it while he was in mid air. The Freebirds’ reaction to the crowd chanting, shall we say, ‘inappropriate’ comments at them is better than anything they do here. The pop for the Frankensteiner is unreal, and they ape the finish of the U.S. Tag Titles match, with Garvin doing the DDT behind the ref’s back, and then Rick doing a belly to belly while the ref is putting out Garvin, and rolling Scott on top for the pin.
PAUL ORNDORFF/JUNKYARD DOG/EL GIGANTE vs. ARN ANDERSON/BARRY WINDHAM/SID VICIOUS
Even with having Sid on their team, the Four Horsemen deserved better than this. Orndorff is the only one who works with, and sells for his opponents. JYD no-sells everything they do, and has nothing to offer outside of punching and headbutts (which Jim Ross even acknowledges), and Gigante thankfully does nothing other than look imposing, and make all the horsemen cower in fear. The bits with Orndorff are tolerable, but they don’t last very long. The DQ finish with JYD getting thrown over the top rope isn’t a bad thing altogether. It’s preferable to Anderson or Windham laying down. But there wasn’t anything that happened to really build up to it, or make it seem like things were completely hopeless and it was the only way out for the horsemen.
LEX LUGER © vs. MEAN MARK (NWA U.S. Heavyweight Title)
With all of the WWF vs. WCW ‘Dream Match’ talk that went on all through the 1990's, Lex Luger vs. The Undertaker was never one of the matches people wanted to see, and after seeing this, there’s a good reason for that. It seems like they try to establish a sort of Wrestler vs. Brawler story, with Mark doing lots of punching (and Luger reeling back from them) and Luger keeping Mark under control with an armbar. But Mark’s lack of selling ability doesn’t allow the story to play out very well. There are also some rather odd moments, such as when Luger gets hit with Paul E’s phone and sells it like a knockout, despite getting hit in the ribs. The finish with Luger blocking the heart punch with a boot, and then hitting a clothesline is okay in theory, but flawed by Luger hitting him with three consecutive ones just a few seconds earlier and being unable to get the win. You could say the boot stunned him, but Luger stopped to hit Dangerously before doing the clothesline. Given the skills that Mark shows in emotion and selling, it’s no surprise that his niche in the sport came in being The Undertaker.
BUTCH REED/RON SIMMONS © vs. RICKY MORTON/ROBERT GIBSON (NWA Tag Team Titles)
This suffers from the same thing that kept the Steiners/Freebirds match from being very good, the inability of the heel team to do a whole lot. Doom isn’t as bad as the Freebirds were, because they do interject a few nice bits, such as Reed’s powerslam and Reed’s lariat to break up Morton’s roll up, but they’re spread out over long periods of chinlocks and clubbing forearms. Doom also interjects some cheating tactics, like Teddy Long and Simmons pulling on Reed’s legs to add leverage to his chinlock, as well as throwing both Morton and Gibson over the top rope behind the ref’s back (complete with death sell jobs by both of them). When it comes down to it though, that’s all that Doom has to offer here, and the World Tag Team Champions should have more to offer than being slightly better than the Freebirds.
Morton and Gibson are as good as they can be here, Morton puts over the damage well, but there’s only so much that he can do to put over a chinlock or a clubbing forearm. They’re both also as great as ever about working the fans, whom sound like an ECW Arena crowd at first, rabidly supporting Doom, but by the end of the match, they’re dying for Morton and Gibson to win their fifth NWA Tag Title. Gibson hot tags in, and the usual stuff happens with all four brawling and chaos ensuing. And Gibson spends too long building up the crowd’s anticipation of him cleaning Teddy Long’s clock, and turns right into Reed’s shoulder block, and gets pinned. The finish could have come off better if either Gibson had taken more punishment, or had he been hit with either a double team behind the ref’s back or a foreign object. Nonetheless, it’s got other flaws aside from a quirky finish, and it comes off feeling more like an exhibition of what the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express could do, more than a good old southern tag.
RIC FLAIR © vs. STING (NWA World Heavyweight Title)
As seems to be an ongoing trend on this card, this is good, but could have been better if both participants and done more to carry their weight. The storyline and stipulation of match means it’s going to be simply Flair vs. Sting for the title, the story they go about telling in the match is Flair’s need to take shots at Sting’s injured knee, because it’s the only way he can get anything going. That’s all fine and dandy, except for the method in which they go about telling the story, which involves Sting doing a ton of no-selling to Flair. Flair’s chops have no effect, when Flair hits a hip toss or a suplex, Sting just pops right back to his feet. Flair isn’t totally innocent himself, taking a hip toss on the ramp and more or less shrugging it off. With as much as these two have worked together both as partners and opponents, there isn’t any good reason why they couldn’t tell the same story with Sting actually out wrestling Flair.
Aside from blowing off the bump on the ramp, Flair’s end of this match is quite good. He’s good about the ways he goes after Sting’s knee. One of the more frustrating moments was when Sting took a nice vertical suplex from Flair and just jumped to his feet, but it was followed by one of the best moments when Flair swept the knee out from under him. As good as Flair is about going after Sting’s knee, he also doesn’t use it like his lifeline. He uses the knee to get Sting wounded and then start to use the Ric Flair offense, but aside from the chops which Sting does do a decent sell job for, it doesn’t work so well because Sting is no-selling him left and right with just about everything else. The only time it ever looks like Flair has a hope of winning is the pin with his feet on the ropes, until Scott Steiner pushes them off (so much for the match being free of interference). It also doesn’t help that Sting’s offense for the match is using power moves like the military press, flying clothesline, and Sting splash. All things that require him to use his knee, and until Flair hits a cheap shot at the knee, it’s perfectly fine. There’s only one time that Sting hurts his knee on his own, when he jumps in the corner and misses Flair, and right afterward they go to the finish with Flair’s attempted figure four, turned into a small package for the win. Sting getting the pin and the title literally comes out of nowhere. There wasn’t anything that led up to it, and the match as a whole is really lacking in drama and suspense. It’s fun to see Sting go over Flair, but it looks more like the champion getting surprised by a flash pin in a trios match, rather than a changing of the guard or a passing of the torch.
Conclusion: The trend of the tape was that stuff was good, but could have been done better. The show certainly has its historical value, with the last debut of Vader, Sting’s title win, and the last hurrah of both the Midnight Express and Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. But aside from the awesome opener, nothing else is really essential viewing.