GREAT AMERICAN BASH
July 12, 1992
After the fun little show that was Clash XIX, we get the sequel. Sting vs. Vader, Lyger and Steamboat in the same match, Shinya Hashimoto, tons of Barry and Dustin, and the NWA Tag Titles are decided.
Jyushin “Thunder” Lyger . . . delivers a good sized beating to Ricky Steamboat
Shinya Hashimoto . . . makes the Freebirds regret their no-selling of the awesome Los Cowboys from the Clash.
Big Van Vader . . . brings his work boots for the biggest win of his North American and WCW career.
RICKY STEAMBOAT/NIKITA KOLOFF vs. BRIAN PILLMAN/JYUSHIN “THUNDER” LYGER
If only Koloff had worked with the Malenko Bros the same way he does here, the Clash match would have been so much better. Koloff obviously uses his strength to his advantage, but he also allows Lyger and Pillman to overtake him in other ways, and it results in an unusually good back-and-forth match. Pillman and Lyger first get Koloff in trouble by taking out his arm, and then using their speed to keep him at bay. Steamboat is more successful against them than Koloff but not a whole lot because Pillman and Lyger are still quicker. Lyger and Pillman also catch their opponents by surprise with how aggressive they are. With their smaller size, you’d expect them to be mostly on the defense, but au contraire Pillman and Lyger are both right at the front lines bringing the fight.
Koloff’s arm has a chance to heal up, and when he gets back in, he keeps his team ahead by grounding the challenges and using his size advantage to keep them down. Pillman and Lyger regain the advantage with some quick (and not always legal) double teaming, as well as taking to the air to keep Koloff off balance. Koloff does a nice job selling for the juniors as well, especially Air Pillman and the missile dropkick. There are also several bits of smart work thrown in from the juniors, such as Pillman’s dropkick to Steamboat before he gets in to break up a pin, and the delay in the pin being made results in Koloff’s kick out. Pillman’s blind tag and springboard cross body press was an especially nice near fall, and Lyger evidently knows the style of a match the audience is used to, and manages to pop them huge with a moonsault, tombstone, and senton all in succession. In the end it came down not to size, experience, or cheating, but to simply thinking ahead. Knowing Pillman’s propensity for the cross body press, Steamboat rolls through it and cradles him for three. Considering how easy a win (on paper) it looked for Steamboat and Koloff, and how much of a fight that Pillman and Lyger put up, calling this an upset isn’t a huge stretch. ***
HIROSHI HASE/SHINYA HASHIMOTO vs. MICHAEL HAYES/JIMMY GARVIN
The Freebirds are better here than they were against Low Cowboys, thank God. Of course it helps that Hayes didn’t really get a chance to do any no-selling. Hashimoto was the one dishing out the strikes. You do the math. Hayes doesn’t just sell though, he also attempts to work a quick bit on the mat with Hase, to allow him to do his head scissors escape. The fun in the match though is watching Hashimoto deliver the beating, and that it leads to Garvin’s hot tag (and a good reception) is a bonus. Hase and Hashimoto do some good selling of their own, for Hayes’ pathetic looking left jab, and they both bounce around for Garvin when he hot tags in. The finish is nice, although not totally clean with Hashimoto sneaking in a kick behind the ref’s back to set up Hase’s Northern Lights, but that was more out of necessity with the Freebirds being the Hometown boys.
BARRY WINDHAM/DUSTIN RHODES vs. RICK RUDE/STEVE AUSTIN
The way this is worked is understandable with “The Texicans” having to pull triple duty, and the match does have some good moments, but it doesn’t hit the same levels as the match Barry and Dustin had with the other half of the Dangerous Alliance. What the match is mostly lacking is interesting work from the heels during their extended control segment on Windham, Austin and Rude are both good at sneaking in the cheap shots, and double teams. They’re good at cutting the ring in half, and goading Dustin in. But they fall short when it comes to dishing the punishment to Windham. More often than not, it’s nothing more than strikes and perfunctory holds. Despite the lack of good offense, Windham is damn good at selling the beating he takes. The piledriver and tombstone spots both look odd considering Lyger had used one in the opener and failed to put Steamboat away, but Windham sells Rude’s piledriver (and Rude sells the tombstone from Dustin) like death. Madusa also hops up on the apron when Windham starts looking for a comeback, distracting the ref and letting Rude and Austin work in a quick double team. It also seems a bit odd to see Rhodes in the position for the hot tag, but looking from Rude and Austin’s point of view, who’s more likely to drop the ball when push comes to shove?
Despite lacking in good offense, the heels are really good at selling for the faces. Austin is all over the place for both Windham and Rhodes, and the sell job of the shot from Windham’s taped up right hand is spectacular. Rude is no slouch himself, when Dustin finally gets his hot tag and starts unloading. It’d have been nice to see them brawl for another couple of minutes instead of going to the finish. The finish itself looks a bit ugly, and is more than a giveaway, since (A. Windham is more known for the lariat than Rhodes and (B. Rude had used the piledriver in the first round and in this match, compared to Austin never using it. If it had some more interesting work from Rude and Austin (targeting a body part is a no brainer when it comes to tournaments and building drama) then it’d probably be just as good (if not a bit better) than the opener.
TERRY GORDY/STEVE WILLIAMS vs. RICKY STEAMBOAT/NIKITA KOLOFF
The various themes that this match lays out are all very smart themes, but the problem with them is the overall execution of how they’re laid out. The first one is fairly obvious. The MVC will have a huge advantage being the fresh team, as well in size and power. But instead of utilizing it in the same manner that they did in their first round match with the Australian jobbers, by dismantling them, it’s all done on the mat. When Doc is working the amateur stuff with Koloff, it’s fun, if a bit obvious that it’s filler. The rest of the time though, it’s painfully obvious that they’re just laying on the mat in an attempt to kill time. It’d be one thing if Doc or Gordy was giving off the impression that they’re taking advantage of Steamboat and Koloff already working a pretty fast paced match by tiring them out, but never does that become apparent in what gets done.
The themes with Steamboat’s ribs and Koloff’s leg are carried out much the same way. It’s a good idea in theory but laid out poorly. The work on Steamboat’s ribs is a bit better, but the work is both sporadic and unfocused that unlike Scotty Steiner’s knee it’s difficult to keep it in mind. And considering the technical prowess of Steamboat, it’s more than a bit shocking that Doc and Gordy didn’t just start throwing kicks and punches and Steamboat’s rib cage. Sure, the Oklahoma Stampede to the ribs makes for a good finish, but with the sporadic work and the long period of time between Steamboat’s tag out to Nikita and the finish, it’s barely an afterthought. The work on Nikita’s knee is the exact same story. Sure taking out Nikita’s leg will put the big man down, and it will eliminate the chances of him hitting the sickle, but aside from Gordy’s “Oriental Twist” (STF) there really isn’t any solid legwork, and Nikita doesn’t sell it all that well. Even something simple like a failed attempt would have helped it along. Instead the match is overly long with mostly dull work, and three perfectly good themes for the match all done minimally. Apparently the goal of this tournament isn’t to have consistently fun matches, but rather to make Doc and Gordy look invincible.
BARRY WINDHAM/DUSTIN RHODES vs. SHINYA HASHIMOTO/HIROSHI HASE
Once again, a match that should be all about fun work is reduced to an afterthought, and the common denominator isn’t Barry and Dustin, but their opponents. This is almost the exact opposite of the Texicans quarter final match with Rude and Austin. While Rude and Austin had all the heeling and good tag work down, but lacked the interesting offense in their control on Windham, it’s the other way around here. Hase and Hashimoto both have good offense, but they don’t seem to know how to really heel things up to put sympathy on the babyfaces. The only time it ever seems like Rhodes was in any real danger was after the spike piledriver, but the next thing done after that was a Boston crab, by Hase. Windham clearly sees the problem here, and rushes in on more than one occasion to “save” Dustin, when it’s clear that Rhodes isn’t in any real danger of being beaten, hoping to give them the message to cheat behind the ref’s back or goad him into the match. The result of Dustin’s hot tag to the fired up Windham is a less-than-fired-up crowd. The ending works on some level, with Windham hitting a lariat with his taped hand on Hase, and making sure to hook both legs and an arm (since Hase hadn’t been worked over that much) but Hase’s lack of struggling to escape the pin puts some tarnish on it.
STING © vs. BIG VAN VADER (WCW World Heavyweight Title)
The outcome here is in almost zero doubt, but creating doubt and causing drama as to how the match will end is supposed to be the whole point of a wrestling match. To call it a squash isn’t accurate when you look at how much Vader really gives Sting, but at the same time there isn’t any point in time when Sting looks like he’ll have a prayer of walking out with the title. Vader not going after Sting’s ribs seems a bit weird. Granted the angle and injury took place four months previously, and obviously injuries do heal up. But Sting was favoring his ribs when he was still feuding with the Dangerous Alliance, and had even taken punishment to them as recently as a month previous to this. Of course the size and power advantage both go to Vader, and having Harley in your corner doesn’t hurt either, so if anything Vader gives Sting a fighting chance by leaving his ribs alone. Harley also never once gets involved, so the playing field is totally level.
Considering the size and power difference, it’s amazing how much Vader really does give Sting in the match. He takes a few good bumps for Sting’s running clotheslines, and sells surprisingly well for Sting’s chops and punches. He even lets Sting pick him up, hold him for a few seconds, and then do a Samoan drop as well as taking a big German suplex from him. When Vader slaps the Scorpion Deathlock on Sting, Sting doesn’t escape by grabbing the ropes, he actually powers out of it. But it all doesn’t really matter because whether or not you know the outcome already, Sting never looks like he’s really got any chance at all to overcome Vader, and that’s more due to Sting than it is Vader. Sting may not be able to do as much with Vader as he would with Cactus Jack, but Vader does some awesome selling for Sting, and it’s up to Sting to think of interesting ways he can attack Vader and offset the obvious size factor, and that’s where Sting falls short. Sting’s missed Stinger Splash into the post is obviously intended to make it seem like Vader lucked out, and it does work to an extent, given how well he makes Sting’s offense look, compared with everyone else he’d faced up to this point. Sting appeared to have things well at hand until he hit the post on the attempted splash, and Vader just stepped in and finished the job with the powerbomb. It’s brilliant in terms of making the loss seem like it was due to that one mistake, rather than anything Vader actually did. The bottom line though is that it didn’t really matter, because Vader was right there to make Sting look like a real champion, and while Sting’s offense was hampered by the size difference and Bill Watts’ asinine rules, part of being a “great worker” is knowing how to offset disadvantages like that. It’s really fun on Vader’s end of things, but Sting being unable to hold up his end drags it down a bit. ***1/2
BARRY WINDHAM/DUSTIN RHODES vs. TERRY GORDY/STEVE WILLIAMS (vacant NWA Tag Team Titles)
If WCW’s goal here was to end the show with every fan feeling dissatisfied, then they certainly succeeded in spades. First off the entire Clash of Champions special and this PPV has been built around this tournament, so it seems like a safe bet to say that the NWA Tag Titles are a big deal. Then why are Jesse and Jim Ross constantly calling Doc and Gordy the best team in the world and saying that as WCW Tag Champions they hold the most prestigious tag titles in all of wrestling? So right off the bat Doc and Gordy are established as the best, so if they do lose then Rhodes and Windham are just the second banana tag champs. They’d already disappointed the fans with putting Vader over Sting, and putting over Doc and Gordy in any fashion doesn’t help matters. Let alone in the same convincing fashion that Doc and Gordy always seemed to go over in. In addition Ole Anderson as the ref doesn’t help matters at all, since he’s usually out of position for the near falls and his gentle mat slaps don’t encourage fans to count along.
No, the match isn’t a total squash, but it might as well be. The fans are already deflated from Sting’s loss and the way this is worked doesn’t do anything to get them back into things. The little times that they do get into things, like when Rhodes starts fighting out of the corner and has some success in fending them off, never goes anywhere other than putting Doc and Gordy back in control. The four of them do a good job of building up to a hot tag. Windham runs in a couple times to save Dustin so he can hopefully make it, as well as Doc and Gordy cutting off Dustin several times. Doc and Gordy also work several nice blind tags into the mix. Just like in their previous match though, Doc and Gordy’s best idea to keep control is to constantly keep Windham and Rhodes on the mat, and now with this being the Texicans *third* match, the same idea of doing it to tire them out seems obvious, but they don’t take that initiative either. So once again, Doc and Gordy maintain control by laying on the mat with rest holds. Windham and Rhodes do attempt to offset Doc and Gordy’s control, but it’s nothing to substantive, little things like Barry surprising Doc with a counter to one of his amateur holds, and Dusting laying flat to prevent the STF, nothing very substantive but the effort is nice.
If this had been worked as a southern tag (which Doc and Gordy are both capable of doing) then the finish here would have been brilliant. Instead the fun finish doesn’t gel with the rest of the match and feels like it’s just added on. The dropkick counter to the Stampede is something fresh out of Spunky Babyface 101. That it doesn’t get the pin isn’t shocking, considering Doc hadn’t taken much damage. The Bulldog after Doc’s blind charge was a perfect throwback to the first round and Dustin taking advantage of a mistake to turn sure defeat into victory. Doc’s power advantage prevents that and the big lariat seals the deal to unify right out the gate (yet another horrible idea) the NWA and WCW Tag Titles. So Doc uses his power and wins with a big lariat. That doesn’t seem to go with the laying on the mat that most of the match was predicated on. As preferable as clean finishes are in title matches, main events, and tournament finals, even a run-in by the Steiners to cost Doc and Gordy the belts would have been better than this. But time and history have shown us that when WCW does get something right, and have a chance to take advantage of it, they usually shoot themselves in the foot.
Conclusion: There’s a couple of good matches here, but not good enough to warrant having to sit through the rest of the show. It’s even more disappointing compared to the very fun Clash of Champions that preceded this, recommendation to avoid.