Classic Wrestling Review: The Great American Bash ’88

Before I get started this week, I need to correct my last review. There is one more incident of the two promotions running shows on the same night. WCW ran a Clash of the Champions the same night as WrestleMania V. Notice that I said WCW and not JCP. That is because this event that I’m reviewing today marks the end of an era. The Great American Bash ‘88 is the final PPV under the Jim Crockett Promotions banner. Crockett would soon discover that he was deep in a financial hole because of his poor business decisions. By November, it would become so dire that he would sell the company to Ted Turner. Turner would rename the company “World Championship Wrestling” (WCW). Despite the new ownership and new name, WCW would maintain their membership in the NWA until 1993.

(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)

The Great American Bash

July 10, 1988

Baltimore Arena

Baltimore, Maryland

The Great American Bash was originally a non-televised tour that JCP did every summer, starting in 1985. The tour would include multiple stops. In 1988, Jim Crockett decided to lower it to one stop and put it on Pay Per View, which leads to today’s review. The primary storyline going into this show was Lex Luger’s feud with The Four Horsemen. Luger had left the group because he felt they were holding him back. This lead to a feud between them. He enlisted the help of Barry Windham, only for Windham to turn on him and join the Horsemen. The other major storyline was the feud between Kevin Sullivan and Jimmy Garvin over the affections of Precious. At one point, Sullivan had even abducted Precious. The feud leads to the creation of a stipulation match called “The Tower of Doom,” which is the triple-decker cage from Ready to Rumble, except on a smaller scale.

The show starts with a graphic and clips that highlight all of the major feuds for the show. The event comes with the tagline “The Price of Freedom.” I’m not sure exactly whose freedom it is or how much it costs because they don’t explain either one.

NWA World Tag Team Title Match: Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (c) (w/ J.J. Dillon) vs. Nikita Koloff & Sting

The show immediately goes to the entrances for this match. The commentators don’t even welcome us. Sting and Koloff make their way to the ring, and I notice that Nikita has grown some hair! It appears that he’s trying to mimic Sting’s haircut, but he hasn’t dyed it blonde. Arn & Tully are already in the ring with the Horsemen’s “executive director” J.J. Dillon. The voices of the commentators for the night, Jim Ross, and Tony Schiavone, finally welcome us to the show. Tony says that the fans “literally exploded” as Sting & Nikita came to the ring. Well, I guess they better call off the show. All of the fans are dead. What a tragedy! I’d hate to be the clean-up crew for the arena.

The fans pull themselves back together, as a brawl erupts between the four men. They brawl in and out of the ring and Sting ends up diving over the top rope onto Arn. Once the referee gets control, it’s Arn and Nikita in the ring. Koloff goes after Arn’s arm (say that three times quickly). Arn fights back, and Sting comes into the match. Anderson gets a sleeper, but Sting fights back and also goes after Arn’s arm. Tully enters the ring, and both men try a double wristlock on Sting, but he flips them over and knocks Tully to the floor. Tully tags into the match, but Sting & Koloff go after his arm, as well. Tully tries to fight back but ends up going shoulder-first into the post. He then wanders into the wrong corner, and Nikita hits him with a head clap. Tully is in danger and desperately attempts to get to his corner. Arn tries to tag in by slapping Tully’s foot, but the ref doesn’t allow it. However, he does allow a fake tag from Sting & Nikita because they clapped their hands to trick him. I always hated that spot. Sting & Nikita work quick tags to keep the arm work going. Arn & Tully manage to tag in and out, but they can’t seem to get the advantage. Nikita hits a Russian Hammer and then a Sickle that takes both men over the top rope. Koloff then suplexes him back into the ring and goes for a pin, but Dillon breaks up the count. Nikita goes to attack him, but he misses the Sickle and hits the ring post. They post him again and finally take control of the match. Anderson works over Koloff’s arm and shoulder, but Nikita rallies back by making odd faces and doing lots of growling. He fights back, but he ducks for a back drop and Arn hits a DDT. He only gets a 2 count off of it, so he tags in Tully, and they go back to the arm. The ring announcer, Gary Michael Cappetta, announces that there are only 3 minutes left in the match. Arn comes in and goes for a variation of the Vader bomb, but Nikita gets his knees up and then makes a hot tag to Sting. The crowd erupts (not literally, Tony) and Sting hits a back drop, press slam, and facebuster. Sting and Tully both reverse atomic drop attempts and Sting does a double noggin’ knocker on both men. However, Sting keeps foolishly letting them get a tag. Sting eventually hits a Stinger Splash, while Nikita takes out Arn. Sting then gets Tully in a Scorpion Deathlock, but Tully holds on until the time runs out. Sting & Nikita think they’ve won and even collect the belts, but Cappetta announces that the match is a draw.

This was a pretty good match, but did it need to go to a draw? I’m not a big fan of time limit draws on PPV. Despite the disappointing finish, the crowd was insanely hot for this match. It’s a good sign for the rest of the night.

Winners: Time Limit Draw

Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone discuss the rest of the show. Ross says it’s going to be pandemonium. They are interrupted by Sting & Nikita getting into a scuffle with Arn & Tully, but it doesn’t last long. Then, they talk about the upcoming U.S. Tag Title Match between The Midnight Express and The Fantastics. They say that Cornette will be placed in a cage above the ring and if the Fantastics win, they will get to lash the Midnights and Cornette with a strap. Oh, my!

NWA U.S. Tag Team Title Match: The Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Fantastics (c)

The Midnight Express make their way to the ring as a small cage is lowered from the ceiling. They enter the ring and Cornette gets a microphone. He says that everyone knows he’s not crazy. He then introduces the Express and calls them “The Gangster of Love” and “The Sultan of Swing”. Stan Lane takes the mic and introduces Cornette as the man who sold Mike Tyson his first workout video. The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers) are out next. They’re wearing little bow ties and bright blue jackets. The fans like them, but I’m sure if they were heels the fans would be chanting derogatory things at them, with a gimmick like that. Cappetta tells everyone that Cornette will be put into a straight jacket and placed into the cage. Jim protests and complains, but the refs make him put on the jacket. He tries to bribe one of the refs, but he refuses. Cornette says that the ref is a crackpot for being an honest man. The fans then taunt him, as they lead him to the cage and put him inside. Jim freaks out as the cage is raised into the air.

The match starts off with some basic duck downs, leapfrogs, and a shoulder block by Fulton. Eaton ends up getting a side headlock and the lights in the arena flicker for a moment. They fight back and forth and Fulton hits a head scissor takedown and a hurricanrana, so Eaton tags out to Lane. Stan gets arm dragged, but he fights back with some karate-looking kicks and they fight to the floor. Fulton reverses Lane into the post and then hits him with a baseball slide, before tagging out to Rogers. Neither member of the Midnight Express can seem to get an advantage. Eaton tries a superplex, but it’s reversed. He also tries a back drop, but Fulton catches his partner and they hit a double hip toss on Eaton. This leads to all four men fighting in the ring. Lane ducks for a back drop, but Eaton is whipped towards him. Lane instinctively back drops his own partner before he realizes his mistake. The Fantastics use double teaming and frequent tags to stay in control, but Lane makes a blind tag and Eaton hits a bulldog on Rogers. The Midnight Express take over and Eaton hits a swinging neckbreaker, which causes Ross to call him a “piece of work”. Eaton & Lane use some double teaming and ref distractions to keep control. Rogers fights back, but Lane lures Rogers into the ring to distract the ref. They continue using shortcuts and distractions and dump Rogers to the outside. However, Rogers rams Eaton into the ring post. It’s not enough, as Eaton fights back and hits an Alabama Jam off the top. Eaton seems hurt, so he tags in Lane. Stan only gets a 2 count, so they continue the attack and go for the Rocket Launcher. Rogers gets his knees up on the move and finally makes a hot tag to Fulton. He hits a back drop and some punches before rolling Eaton up, but Lane comes in to stop it. Stan gets decked, but he manages to grab Fulton’s leg as he runs the ropes. Lane powerslams him to the floor, so Rogers comes into the match illegally. Eaton sends Rogers into referee Tommy Young, so Lane enters the ring for some double teaming. Eaton ends up retrieving a chain and punches Fulton with it. He then covers him for a 3 count to win the titles.

This was a pretty good match. The stuff with Cornette added some good humor to it and the action was great. Thankfully this match had a decisive finish, unlike the last match.

Winners: The Midnight Express (New Champions)

The Fantastics complain to the ref about the chain, but he says that he didn’t see it. The ref checks Eaton, but he finds nothing. Fulton discovers the chain in his own tights because Eaton hid it there. Cornette is released from his cage, but the Fantastics grab him and pull him into the ring. They take Tommy Young’s belt and start whipping Cornette with it, so the Midnight Express save him and pull him out of the ring. Bob Caudle tries to get a word with Cornette in the aisle. Jim says that the Fantastics are coming and they’re trying to kill him, so he runs. Tony and J.R. then talk about the match a little bit and Ross calls it a travesty of justice. While they’re talking, a drunk fan walks up behind them and starts making weird gestures.

Tower of Doom Match: Jimmy Garvin, Ronnie Garvin, Steve Williams, & The Road Warriors (w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotunda, Ivan Koloff, The Russian Assassin, & Al Perez (w/ Gary Hart & Paul Jones)

The triple-decker cage is lowered onto the ring and the crew begins setting up everything. This goes on for a while. Did they not have any backstage promos they could show here? Precious comes to the ring and enters. She will be the one holding the key to the final door. Gary Michael Cappetta then explains the rules of the match. There are two teams of five. Two men start in the top section and every two minutes another man from each team will enter. At those two minute intervals, the trap door to the next section will also open. The first team to have all of its members escape the final door will be the winner. Ladders are set up against the sides so the teams can climb to the top section. Sullivan then leads his team to the ring. They come out to a college fight song because Sullivan had started his Varsity Club stable with Mike Rotunda. When I look at Sullivan I definitely think college guy, so it makes sense. Garvin’s team come out next to a big reaction, so I’m guessing they originally played the Road Warriors’ theme. It’s been edited on the network. Tommy Young climbs up to the top and looks extremely nervous. He takes forever to figure out how to operate the doors. Jim Ross jokes that Tommy should get hazard pay.

Ronnie Garvin and Ivan Koloff start the match in the top section. They get into fisticuffs and ram each other into the cage for a while. You can barely even see what is happening on TV, so I can imagine the fans in the arena couldn’t see a thing. The two men begin a chop-fest and the horn sounds for the next interval. Williams and Rotunda enter the match and Ross says that Ivan tried to throw powder at Ronnie but hit Rotunda. I have to take Ross at his word because I couldn’t see any of that. Ronnie climbs down into the next level, but he closes the trap door and leaves Williams in a 2 on 1 situation. Steve grabs the cage and starts kicking at both men, but it’s no use. The horn sounds again and Animal and Perez join the match. Williams and Ivan climb down to level 2, as Ronnie climbs into the final cage. Precious unlocks the door and Ronnie escapes. Williams and Ivan fight on level 2, while Animal tries to fend off Rotunda and Perez. The horn sounds again and this time Hawk and the Russian Assassin join the match. Animal and Perez head into level 2 to help Williams. They show shots of the fans, but they all seem either bored or are laughing at the match. Another horn sounds and Jimmy Garvin and Sullivan enter the match. Perez and Animal reach the final cage and both escape, while Hawk and Williams beat on the Russians in level 2. Jimmy and Sullivan fight in the first section until the horn sounds. Rotunda moves into level 2 and the Russians move into the final cage. Hawk joins them, but they double team him. He eventually fights back and escapes, as Williams fights Rotunda. There is another horn and Williams escapes the final cage, as Sullivan and Jimmy enter level 2. Jimmy gets double teamed and fights back with a double noggin’ knocker, but it’s not enough. The horn sounds again and Jimmy goes for the door, but Sullivan jumps on him and lets Rotunda escape. It’s down to just Sullivan and Jimmy Garvin and the members of both teams start a brawl on the outside. One last horn sounds and Jimmy and Sullivan enter the final cage. Sullivan tries to go after Precious, but Jimmy stops him and works over his leg. Garvin lifts Sullivan for a brainbuster, but the cage ceiling makes it impossible to get him fully vertical. He ends up nearly breaking Kevin’s neck with the move. Jimmy then goes for the key, but Precious hesitates for a moment. She finally opens the door for him, but Sullivan tries to stop him. He ends up accidentally pushing Garvin out the door, so Garvin’s team wins.

This was an odd match. You could barely see what was happening and it was mostly punching, kicking, and trying to escape. It wasn’t good. It would be a long time before they would use a gimmick match like this again, but there would be variations of the concept in the future.

Winners: Garvin’s team

Jimmy escaped, but Sullivan took the key and locked himself inside with Precious. He goes after her, while members of Garvin’s team frantically climb to the top level to get into the cage. Precious fights back, so Sullivan gets a small piece of rope from his tights and starts choking her. Jim Ross yells about how Sullivan is sadistic. Rick Steiner comes out and tries to prevent Garvin’s team from entering. The commentators have to tell everyone about this because the cameraman didn’t show any of it. Hawk finally makes it into the final cage and stops Sullivan from choking Precious, as Jimmy helps her to safety. I wasn’t expecting to see male on female violence in this era of wrestling. It shows the stark contrast in tones between the two wrestling promotions, at this time.

Tony and J.R. talk about the match. Ross says Sullivan decided that if he couldn’t have Precious then no one could have her. Then, they throw to Bob Caudle. He says that no one has ever seen a match like that last one. He calls it a devastating match and says that the men had death-defying will. He then talks a little about the upcoming matches.

NWA U.S. Title Match: Barry Windham (c) (w/ J.J. Dillon) vs. Dusty Rhodes

Windham comes out first, which annoys me. I think that traditionally the champion should come out second. Barry is wearing all black leather and looks like he just came from a biker bar. Dusty is out next, but his entrance kind of loses its impact because a man is sweeping the ring when he enters. Cappetta introduces the competitors, but Dusty keeps walking into the camera shot while Windham is announced. The lights flicker again, which causes Windham to look up in confusion. I know that Crockett is in debt, but at least pay the light bill!

Dusty hits an arm drag and threatens Barry with his elbow, so Windham hesitates. Dusty then shoulder tackles him and Windham nearly does a flip on the bump. He bails outside for a breather and then climbs back inside. Jim Ross talks about how Dusty has known Windham most of his life and tried to talk him out of joining the Four Horsemen. The two men then do a criss-cross and Dusty press slams Windham. Rhodes hits a DDT, but he picks Barry up and elbows him. Then, he hits a flying cross body off the top for a 2 count. Windham bails again and starts to head to the back, but he stops when he sees Dusty breaking the ref’s count. He gets back in and fights and Dillon ends up getting knocked off the apron, so Windham checks on him. The two men end up fighting to the outside and Barry rams Dusty into the guardrail. He then attempts a piledriver, but Dusty back drops him and clotheslines him. They fight back to the apron and Windham tries to slingshot Dusty over the ropes, but it’s reversed. Dusty slams him on the floor and goes back inside, but Dillon distracts Dusty. Windham attacks and locks in an Iron Claw on Dusty’s head. Dusty keeps trying to rally, but can’t. The ref checks his arm, but Dusty keeps it up on the 3rd drop. Dusty attempts more comebacks, but keeps getting cut off. He finally elbows his way out of the hold and they fight up onto the turnbuckles. Windham goes for a superplex, but Dusty shoves him away. Barry collides with Tommy Young, who falls out of the ring. Windham ends up going to the top again, but Dusty slams him and hits an elbow drop. However, there’s no ref to make the count. Ronnie Garvin shows up and Dusty thinks he’s going to help, but Ronnie punches Dusty, as Dillon helps Tommy Young back into the ring. Windham locks in another Iron Claw and Dusty is out cold, so Young counts Rhodes’ shoulders to the mat for a 3 count.

This was a decent enough match, but the endless Iron Claw spots kind of ground it to a halt. I’ve never been a big fan of the move. It looks a bit silly. The Ronnie Garvin heel turn was unexpected, but it didn’t fully save this match.

Winner: Barry Windham

J.R. and Tony talk about the match and then say that Caudle is backstage. They show Ronnie Garvin with Gary Hart and J.J. Dillon. Garvin is admiring a briefcase full of money. He leans in to smell it and even starts rubbing some of the money on himself. Bob Caudle narrates the scene from off screen and he sounds like he’s in disbelief. Garvin then grabs the briefcase and leaves.

NWA World Title Match: Ric Flair (c) (w/ J.J. Dillon) vs. Lex Luger

Lex Luger is out first and they’ve dubbed over his old theme with the generic biddle music (credit to OSW Review). Luger practically power walks to the ring and gives the fans a quick wave. At least try to look interested, Lex. Flair is out next and Cappetta introduces the competitors. Luger looks a bit more excited when he’s announced. Tony Schiavone then says, “That’s one robe and one entrance by Ric Flair.” Well, that is factual, but an odd thing to say.

The two men circle each other and lock-up. Flair backs him into a corner, but Luger shoves him while yelling, “ahhhhHHHHHH!” Luger keeps getting the better of him, while Flair stalls and complains of hair pulling. Luger grabs a side headlock and almost harmonizes his painful yelling with Flair’s. Luger no-sells some chops and punches and hits him with a dropkick and a press slam. Flair stumbles out of the ring and falls over the guardrail. He motions for Tommy Young to come over, only to give him a shove. Tommy shoves him back and scurries back into the ring to hide behind Lex. Ric gets back in and loses a test of strength, so he tries to stall some more. Luger then locks Ric in a bear hug, but Flair eventually gets to the ropes. They fight back and forth and in and out of the ring. Flair lures Lex outside and sends him into the guardrail a couple of times. He sends him back inside and starts working over Lex’s ribs. Flair then goes up top, but Lex shakes the ropes and Flair takes a very delayed bump onto them. Ric fights back again but flops to the mat in exhaustion. Luger hits a running clothesline and a sunset flip, but neither gets more than a 2 count. Flair takes control and goes after Luger’s legs before finally getting the Figure Four. He uses the ropes for leverage until Luger manages to reverse the hold. Flair breaks free and goes back to the legs, but Luger fights him off. He starts no-selling Flair’s chops again, despite yelling with each hit. It’s like Luger’s face says one thing, but he can’t stop making his selling noises. Lex press slams him, but then foolishly attempts a knee drop with his hurt leg. Flair then goes up top, but he has to wait for a while because Lex misses his cue. Finally, Luger slams Flair off the top rope. Luger then makes two attempts at 10 punches in the corner, with Flair trying to fight back. He whips Ric into the corner for his usual bump. They fight back and forth some more and Flair goes for a cross body that’s supposed to send them over the ropes. However, Luger gets caught up and messes up the spot. They finally tumble outside and Flair seems pissed about the whole thing. Flair sends Luger into the post and then distracts the ref so Dillon can do the same. Luger is bleeding from the shots to the post and this gets the attention of the state athletic commissioner. They fight back inside and Luger gains control. He powerslams Ric and signals for the Torture Rack, as the fans go crazy. Luger lifts him up, but the commissioner gets Tommy Young’s attention. Young calls for the bell and Luger thinks he’s won the match. The fans do too and they erupt. However, Cappetta announces that the match has been stopped due to Luger’s cut. Flair is awarded the match by stoppage. Flair grabs his belt and quickly leaves, as fans boo and chant “bullshit”.

This was a fairly decent match, but that ending ruined it. Luger’s blade job was so weak that there was barely any blood. This is the same stupid ending that they used at Starrcade ‘84. I get that they’re trying to inject some realism into the match, but no one wants to see an ending like this.

Winner: Ric Flair

J.R. and Tony talk about how the fans aren’t very pleased. That’s an understatement. Ross says that Luger will have to live with this for the rest of his life. He tries to say more, but he has to stop and acknowledge the credits on the screen. The two commentators then bid everyone goodnight.

Final thoughts:

This show was a mixed bag. There was some good stuff, but the bad booking and that odd Tower of Doom match hindered the show. I wanted to like it, but the show fell flat. You can tell that this company is going through some rough times and big changes are on the way. Sadly, they might not all be good changes.

Thank you again for reading. As always, check out the Facebook page for my blogs by clicking here. You can check out my Monday Night Wars blog by clicking here. Also, follow me on Twitter @PaulDMatthews78.

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My next review will be SummerSlam ‘88.

 

Written by Paul Matthews

I chronologically review NWA/WCW and WWF/WWE PPVs on the WWE Network. I put out a new review every Saturday. Like and Follow the Facebook page for this blog here: https://www.facebook.com/ClassicWrestlingReview. Also, follow me on twitter @PaulDMatthews78

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