The events surrounding the Great American Bash include:
- Scott Hall showed up on WCW Nitro’s initial two-hour broadcast to kick off what would become the nWo angle. Early speculation is that Lex Luger and Nash will join him to set up Hulk Hogan’s return in August as WCW’s hero. The WWF started court proceedings immediately over Hall acting like Razor Ramon and implying he was still in the WWF. They are withholding money they owe Hall until things are settled.
- Kevin Nash debuted a week later and the main event for Bash at the Beach began to be set up.
- Ted Dibiase gave notice to the WWF that he was jumping to WCW. He was given a contract by WCW for 225K, with 25K more added each of the next three years. Considering they are suppose to be cutting back salaries, I am surprised by those numbers since Dibiase had proven over the past year to be somewhat ineffective as a mouthpiece for others as the lead villain manager in the WWF.
- The Road Warriors quit when WCW refused to pay them similar deals to what Hall and Nash signed for.
- Davey Boy Smith, who is in the middle of a feud with WWF World Champion Shawn Micheals, has given the WWF his notice. Smith has been unhappy with some recent angles involving his wife coming on to Micheals. He is also hoping to use WCW as leverage to get more money out of the WWF.
- They aired a match with Lex Luger and Sting vs. The Steiner Brothers on WCW Worldwide with Bobby Heenan commentating. Then two days later on Nitro, Sting faced Scott Steiner and Heenan wondered aloud if these two men had ever faced off before. Randy Savage also worked on the Worldwide show despite being suspended in storyline on Nitro.
- DDP was flown to Philadelphia to try and convince Raven to sign with WCW. Apparently the creative team has an idea for Raven and DDP to be aligned.
- Jacques Rougeau and Carl Oulette are expected in soon. Power plant trainees High Voltage debuted. Jim Powers also debuted. Chris Jericho has been offered a contract.
- Sting vs. Konnan, Booty Man vs. Hugh Morrus and DDP vs The Great Muta were originally booked for this card. New Japan decided to not send Muta to the U.S. to lose to Page because they saw him as well below main event level. Booty Man vs. DDP was booked as a replacement, but it was decided not to have Hogan’s buddy do a job, so Marcus Bagwell was plugged in against DDP instead. Brian Pillman was originally penciled in as Ric Flair’s partner vs. Mongo and Kevin Greene but Pillman suffering serious injuries in a car wreck, along with leaving WCW for the WWF, changed that plan.
Great American Bash 1996
We open with promos from Bobby Heenan, Macho Man, Ric Flair, Lex Luger and The Giant that were brief snippets like the old Saturday Night’s Main Event opening bits.
Craig Pittman holds Old Glory while the National Anthem plays.
Tony Schiavone and Dusty Rhodes call the action.
The Steiner Brothers vs. Ice Train and Scott Norton
Scott and Ice Train square off first. Steiner immediately lets Train know he doesn’t care how big he is, he’s still going to suplex city. Train bumps around a bit before retreating. Scott Norton and Rick come in next and Norton just eats up Steiner with big blows before The Dog Face Gremlin can retaliate with a Steinerline blast. Norton eats a belly-to-belly suplex before Scott tags in. Norton steamrolls Steiner and tags Train back in to batter Scott with ax handles and a belly-to-belly of his own. A train wreck splash in the corner fails to keep Scott down and he instead sends Train flying with a suplex toss. Norton tags in and Steiner immediately drops him on his shoulder while trying to toss him. Norton is rocked badly but he manages to powerslam Scotty before downing him again with a stiff clothesline.
Norton dumps Scott with a pair of shoulder breakers but Rick manages a blind tag and he goes right after both of his opponents with tosses. Norton manages to powerbomb him and lets Train hit a splash that would have finished things if not for Scott jumping in and saving the day. Rick manages to nail Norton with a top rope bulldog off of Scott’s shoulders. Train saves his partner. A horribly botched Frankensteiner ends it right at after 10:30 of hard HARD hitting wrestling. A really good start to the show.
Kevin Sullivan promises to end Chris Benoit’s WCW run like he did to Brian Pillman.
US Champion Konnan vs. El Gato
“El Gato” is apparently Spanish for fat Pat Tanaka. Why randomly have Konnan work with a gimmicked up jobber instead of a new luchadore or an established guy? Tanaka is a good worker at least. Tanaka whips Konnan down by his legs early on but Konnan’s size allows him to bully Tanaka and we get Pat’s patented 360 clothesline sell job. Tanaka eats up some time by trapping Konnan in a few varieties of arm and leg locks. Konnan uses some tumbles in between moves that makes some basic stuff look flashy. He powerbombs El Tanaka on the padded floor to a big pop and scores the win soon after at 5:57. This was fine, but would have fit just as well on WCW Pro instead of a PPV.
Mean Gene and Sting make gay slurs at Lord Steven Regal. Sting loses his train of thought mid promo and just screams. Mean Gene tries to save the bit and Sting manages to make a few more gay insults before they sign off.
Battle for the BattleBowl Ring: Marcus Bagwell vs. “Diamond” Dallas Page
Bagwell is all fired up and charges the ring. DDP bails out and jumps him but things go sour and DDP ends up wrapped up in chairs at ringside. Based on his wacky bumps on the last couple of PPVs, I’d wager DDP has been studying up on Terry Funk tapes. Bagwell knocks Page in the breadbasket or as Dusty puts it: “He hit the hully gully in the belly”. DDP hits a nice package suplex and manages to save a botched abdominal stretch attempt by turning it into a gut wrench back breaker. DDP then delivers a nice modified tilt-a-whirl slam. DDP hadn’t put he whole package together yet but he was certainly learning some solid power offensive moves in between his cheap heat spots. Bagwell makes a rally but DDP hits the Diamond Cutter out of nowhere for the win at 9:36. Probably a bit long for what it was. Overall this was watchable but dull.
Cruiserweight champion Dean Malenko vs. Rey Mistero Jr.
Malenko attempts to work a ground game but Rey Jr. proves to be apt at preventing being tied up. Rey uses his speed to confound Malenko, which pisses the champion off and he takes a time out. Malenko then begins a torture session as he starts to focus on Jr’s elbow joint, starting with a unique move where he stabilizes Rey’s arm with one hand and then lays on his back and kicks at his elbow. Malenko spends the next several minutes using a variety of moves and holds to wear at the limb. I can appreciate the slow pace because at least Malenko is changing up the “rest holds” frequently. Rey is getting to show off how a person wearing a mask can still effectively sell.
Rey finally makes a show of it in the final minutes as he starts to show off his aerial magistracy. Malenko attempts to quell the youngster with a top rope gutbuster but Misterio turns things into a Frankensteiner. Malenko reverses another move into a powerbomb and uses his feet on the ropes to win it at 17:55. I can see an argument being made for Malenko’s heat segment lasting too long compared to Rey’s high spots but this was bordering on greatness.
John Tenta vs. Big Bubba
Tenta has no music. I was way into this feud at the time. I guess I loved me some hosses. Bubba takes the fight to him right away on the floor but Tenta ends up in full control. Bubba takes a big bump off the top rope to the floor, then takes a nasty bump into the stairs. Tenta then brings him in the ring and sits on Rogers several times. Bubba resorts to a illegal object to take control. Rogers roughhouses him with boots and fists. Bubba hits a back suplex and scales the ropes. He leaps into Tenta’s arms and is powerslammed for the finish at 5:31. This was good enough for two big ol’ boys throwing down.
Mongo, Kevin Greene and Macho Man cut a fired up promo full of football analogies.
Falls Count Anywhere: Kevin Sullivan vs. Chris Benoit
Sullivan storms toward the ring but Benoit greets him with fists in the aisle. They fight into the audience and up the stairs. They brawl all the way to a public bathroom and the fans pour in watch. They take turns smashing each other into the bathroom doors and hitting each other with anything that is not nailed down. Dusty gets in his all time best line when a woman shows up in the crowd and Rhodes erupts with “Dere’s a lady in de meen’s room!” They end up fighting back down the stairs, with Benoit taking several bumps down the stairs. Benoit is then crotched on the railing. Sullivan chucks a chair into the Crippler. Benoit crotches Sullivan to even the score and then produces a table. Sullivan and Benoit both take bumps into the table, which doesn’t break. They end up putting the table on the ropes and Benoit uses it as a platform to deliver a nasty looking superplex which earns him the win at 9:52. Arn Anderson comes down and yanks Benoit off Sullivan, only to then join in the beatdown of the Taskmaster until the rest of the Dungeon can run in for the save. An all-time great brawl out of these two men. This set a standard that was later over used during the Attitude Era.
The Horsemen take a victory lap with Mean Gene in the back.
Sting vs. Lord Steven Regal
Sting out powers Regal early, causing his Lordship to take a powder. Sting teases stalking Regal, causing his Lordship to seek an escape. Regal finally gets down to business and uses his superior knowledge of grappling and body balance to trip up Sting. He then takes pleasure tying Sting in knots to try and sap his energy from him. Sting is held helpless for the next several minutes as Regal manipulates Sting’s body parts at will. Regal looks to the audience with pompous confidence as the physical manipulation continues. The Regal Stretch is locked in but when Sting refuses to quit, the champ releases it out of frustration.
Sting finally gets fired up after taking Regal’s abuse for fifteen minutes. Sting slugs Regal down, but his attempt at a Stinger splash is ruined by Regal raising up his knees. Sting’s adrenaline carries him through and he locks on the Scorpion Death Lock for the submission at 17:10. Fun match with Regal giving us all a clinic in a mat work and Sting being a willing victim.
Steve McMichael and Kevin Greene (with “Macho Man” Randy Savage) vs. Ric “Nature Boy” Flair and Arn Anderson (with Coach Bobby Heenan)
I was super jacked for this match when it was being set up on Nitro. Heenan’s return certainly helped pop interest. I’d guess I figured Mongo was just going to work a one off match here. Flair has stated on his podcast that Kevin Greene was all fired up all day during the show and once the match got going he wanted to work spots they hadn’t practiced in the workout sessions that preceded this match. Arn works a headlock on Mongo and then mocks him with calisthenics. Schiavone drops a subtle hint to this match finish as he mentions Mongo left the Bears after playing with them for over a decade to play for the rival Packers for more money.
McMicheal finally figures out that he has to stick with what he knows and starts to use tackles to rock The Enforcer. The Horsemen call time out and regroup. Greene tags in and is all riled up and runs football drills. Ric Flair tags in and starts to prance and preen himself. Greene falls for a Flair head game and gets kicked in the face. Greene explodes with a shoulder block and gives one to Arn for good measure. Flair tries to take a walk but Macho Man grabs him and sends him in the ring.
Flair finds himself face to face with Mongo and chooses to play a mental battle since he can see the physical one will end poorly for him. Mongo no sells Flair’s chops and gives him some of his own. Mongo slams Flair off the top rope and locks a figure-four on Flair. Arn is then locked into his own by Greene. Woman saves the heels, then she and Liz chase the NFL star’s wives away to the back. Mongo starts to take Flair’s best and even Heenan gets in a cheap shot. McMicheal tries to fight back but Flair blasts him in the nuts. Arn and Flair double up on Mongo but McMicheal manages to knock both heels overand tags in Greene who explodes over both Horsemen. Greene delivers a powerslam and suplex on Flair but the Enforcer clips his knee to end his dominance.
Greene manages to avoid a figure-four but Flair is relentless with his knee attacks and Flair ultimately locks in his signature move. Benoit runs down to help Arn take down Macho Man. Suddenly Debra and Flair’s bitches return, now with all three wearing formal wear. Debra shows Mongo a briefcase full of money and a Horsemen shirt. Mongo thinks it over as Greene screams for his help. Mongo’s response is to crack Greene in the head with the briefcase. Flair steals the pin at 20:50 after that. FANTASTIC match as the Horsemen knew how to stooge for the faces and carry the rookies to something extremely watchable. The angle was great to boot. Super fun bout.
Hall and Nash come down to a big ovation. They confirm they are not with the WWF. Bischoff promises them that their opponents will be announced tomorrow night. That doesn’t sit well with the invaders and Hall slugs him in the gut and Nash powerbombs him through a table. Of course no one from WCW comes out to respond to the attack or the invaders being there in general, thus rendering WCW rudderless from the start.
World Champion The Giant vs. Lex Luger
Luger runs into the Giant like he’s a brick wall. When that fails, Giant chucks him to the floor and presses him back in. Luger tries to leap on Giant’s back but they blow the spot. Lex gets a sleeper and Sting runs down and blocks Jimmy Hart from interfering. Giant takes over via sheer size and power and tosses Luger around at will. Lex fails at a slam attempt and the Giant continues his mauling. Luger makes a push with a forearm shot and some chop blocks. Giant misses a corner splash and Luger tries a Torture Rack but the Giant is too large. Luger is choke slammed and pinned clean at 9:50. That was a perfectly acceptable match considering the participants, but given how the card had been rocking, it made for a flat main event.
Final thoughts: The last WCW PPV before the company went into a full time nWo focus was a very good one! Houses were improving, ratings were impressive and the roster was varied and soon to get even better with a heavy influx of luchadores. Things were bright for WCW but the peak was still to come. Next time I’ll see how the Bash at the Beach went down – ending with the biggest heel turn of our lifetimes.