wrestling / Video Reviews

The Great American Bash (7.5.1986) Review

October 14, 2019 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
Great American Bash 7.5.1986 Ric Flair Ricky Morton
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The Great American Bash (7.5.1986) Review  

-WWE Hidden Gems strikes again. For the record, I’m watching this on July 4, the day the Network unleashed it, because I can’t imagine a more patriotic itinerary for the 4th of July than watching peak NWA wrestling for three hours and then going to a Dodgers game with seats in the all-you-can-eat pavilion.

-It’s July 5, 1986.

-We’re at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, NC.

-We open with a skydiving team dazzling us with some mid-air spins over the stadium.

-Next, they play the theme music from when TV stations sign off at the end of the broadcasting day, which is weird because the show is just starting.

-No commentary for this, but the whole show is a professional multi-camera shoot. Layout for the stadium is really odd, with only about five rows of seats on each side of the ring on the field and then it’s just EMPTY until you get to the actual designated stadium seating a mile away.


-Regal had a hilarious 1986, starting with the AWA, then showing up in the NWA and cutting a semi-shoot promo burying his former company. He then immediately walks out on the NWA and goes to the WWF, which uses him like a jobber for the televised house shows and Gorilla riffs on how much he sucks until he just disappears after a month or two, and that just ended Regal on a national level. Both guys are so devoted to kayfabe that the ringside mics pick up a discussion they have with Earl Hebner about what exactly they’re allowed to do with regards to the top rope in this match.

-Regal slams Brown and struts in celebration. Brown fights back with a hiptoss and a series of slams until Regal runs for cover. Side headlock by Brown. Regal nearly fights free, but Brown hangs on and gets him down to the mat. They make themselves quite comfy in that side headlock while we get a time announcement, so I think the outcome here is pretty much concrete.

-Regal uses nefariousness to break out and applies an armbar, keeping it locked on while fans notify Hebner that hair-pulling his afoot. Brown fights out and they have a weird problem on a backdrop-counter spot, as Brown just falls over for no reason and Regal has to quickly throw a forearm in his general direction to make it look like he caused it.

-We hit ten minutes and Regal suplexes Brown for a two-count. Regal sends Brown from turnbuckle to turnbuckle and the timekeeper announces “four minutes” and “three minutes” in such quick succession that it can’t possibly be legit time. Brown makes a token comeback, but Regal gets him back on the mat for a chinlock with two minutes remaining. Why would you do THAT hold with two minutes remaining if you’re the challenger? With one minute to go, Regal misses an elbow and Brown makes another comeback, throwing a series of punches until the bell sounds. 0 for 1. Very blase opening.

-The Mid-Atlantic Title was a zombie at this point, as it pretty much lost all relevance once JCP got the TBS spot, and around this time, the syndicated Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show changed its name to “NWA Pro Wrestling.” Per Tony Schiavone, the fans in Virginia and the Carolinas took that name change kind of hard, too.

-Bart pounds on Gibson. Gibson goes AIRBORNE for a Thesz press. Hiptoss and a flying headscissors and the ladies just get louder and louder with every move he does. Bart gets good and mad, sending him out of the ring with a forearm and bringing him back inside immediately for a turnbuckle shot. Gibson makes the abbreviated comeback to the relief of the fans, but Bart shuts everybody down by just flinging him out to the floor…ground…grass…field. Whatever.

-Back in, Gibson throws a weak knee, with the crowd again reacting like “Oh good, everything’s OK now” but Bart just cuts him off again and drops a leg for two. Bart whips him into the corner, and Gibson springs right up onto the second turnbuckle and comes off with a bodypress for three. 1 for 2. As a wrestling match, it was nothing special, but as an example of why I love this promotion so much, I couldn’t ask for anything better. No company had more passionate fans.


-This is billed as a “special challenge” match. All four guys are wearing red tights, and Royal and the Andersons have such similar body types
that in the cheap seats, this match is going to be impossible to follow. Thing I’ve learned from Tony Schiavone’s podcast: This kind of thing drove Jim Ross up a wall, and the moment JR had actual power in the company he began hammering on the guys to bring multiple pairs of tights to the arenas for exactly this reason. It looks weird when the opponents match.

-Arn steamrolls Houston with a shoulderblock and “presents” him to Nelson Royal in a great visual. Royal tags in and hits Ole below the belt, but fortunately that’s still Ole’s chest so nothing comes of it. Arn tags back in and gets caught in a chinlock. Everybody tags and it’s Houston vs. Ole. Houston lights into Ole with rights. Ole takes over, working the arm in Anderson-like fashion but Houston manages to make the hot-enough tag to Royal. Royal knocks Arn on his ass, but Arn applies a toehold from that position and tags Ole back in.

-Ole rams Royal shoulder-first into the turnbuckle and uses the rope to work the arm over. Arn decides that looks fun, so he tags in and also works the arm over. Ole tags back in with a combination armbar/purple nurple. Arn tags back in with a hammerlock slam. Second rope axehandle is countered by a shot to the gut and Royal finally tags out for our significantly hotter tag. All four men end up in the ring. Houston rolls up Arn Anderson, but Ole comes off the ropes with an axehandle to the back of the head, and Arn rolls over to get the pin on Houston. 2 for 3. Predictable but solid outing.


-Von Raschke is wearing is normal entrance robe, with a t-shirt and blue jeans underneath, which I imagine is exactly how he’d be dressed anyway if he wasn’t booked to wrestle on the 4th of July. Just him soaking his feet in the kiddie pool, sipping on beer and saying “yup” while fanning away a fart with the hem of his robe. I can’t read what is t-shirt says but it doesn’t appear to be anything hilarious like “Female Body Inspector.”

-Baron hammers on Manny. Manny hits the ropes and jawjacks him, then chases Paul Jones around for a while. Back in, Manny misses a corner charge and Baron pulls out a George Steele-style foreign object, targeting the throat before finally going to the forehead so Manny can blade. Baron takes his belt off and winds it around Manny’s head. It turns kind of funny as Baron’s pants are starting to fall and he wears them like those damn teenagers. Baron takes his boot off and clubs Manny over the head with it a few times until Manny can kick him away.

-Manny gets his hands on the belt and takes some shots with it, then pulls Baron’s shirt over his head hockey-style and heads to the second rope, boot in hand. He connects and surprisingly that’s not the finish. He rears back and wallops Baron with it one more time, opening him up. Flying burrito looks to finish, but Manny overshoots it and accidentally launches himself over the top rope and crashes. Jones takes a cheap shot before Baron heads out there to send him into the post. They get back to the apron and Baron slams him back in, but Manny rolls over and cradles him for three. 3 for 4. A good straight-up fight.


-The build to this one made Wahoo look like such a piece of shit and it was weird because it was like nobody realized it. Wahoo would wrestle a squash match, and then later in the show, Gorgeous Jimmy would cut a promo where he’d yell “Where’s Wahoo?” and demand that he show up, and then call Wahoo out for not being man enough to show up. So the commentators would try to play it off like “Oh yeah, he talks tough when Wahoo’s not here” but the thing is, we just saw Wahoo. We know he’s here. So if Jimmy demands a fight, and Wahoo doesn’t show up for it, and Jimmy calls him a coward, well…yeah.

-Great spot to start, as Wahoo puts the strap on his wrist, and Jimmy just struts around and makes a big show of how he’s refusing to tie on his end of it, and while he’s strutting around and stalling, Wahoo just whips him right across the back. Jimmy keeps trying to stall, so Wahoo just whaps him over and over until Jimmy finally gives in and puts it on to start the match.

-So Wahoo whips Garvin and drags him to prevent him from stalling outside. He ties the strap around Jimmy’s neck and flings him across the ring. Garvin tries a front facelock and brings Wahoo down to the mat to stop him from doing anything. They both end up outside and they brawl for as long as they need to for Wahoo to start bleeding. Back in, Jimmy drops some knees and starts the long slow drag around the four corners of the ring, but Wahoo kicks him away after two.

-Wahoo wraps the strap around his fist and hammers Jimmy with it, stopping for a moment to spit on Precious, which gets a good pop. Jimmy’s bleeding and Wahoo ties the strap around his neck to start his own journey around the ropes, but Precious trips him. Jimmy goes to the top rope but Wahoo jerks him off (eww). Nice ending as Precious goes up to the apron and slaps Wahoo after three to try to stop his progress, but Wahoo just gives her the evil eye and touches the fourth corner. 4 for 5. Not bad for what it was.

TAPED FIST MATCH: RON GARVIN (with Wahoo McDaniel) vs. TULLY BLANCHARD (National Champion, with JJ Dillon)

-I love Tommy Young’s commitment to his role as referee, as he steps in and immediately begins inspecting the ropes and makes sure the mat is free of debris. This is a mix of wrestling and boxing. Both guys have taped fists, but any stuff you’d do in a wrestling match is permitted too, and the only way to win is to knock your opponent down for a count of ten. TKOs don’t apply.

-Tully tries to attack during instructions, but Garvin backdrops him and connects with the hands of stone, using the taped fist, mind you, and Tully is out cold before the bell has even sounded for round one. JJ takes a few minutes to revive him with ice water and Tully’s still woozy, but they start the match anyway.

ROUND ONE: Garvin’s just toying with him, tagging Tully in the face with light jabs and just knocking him on his butt for an eight-count. JJ provides some distraction to buy Tully some extra recovery time. Garvin knocks him over again for a five-count. Tully tries throwing a kick, but Garvin grabs onto his ankle and uses his free hand to knock Tully down again for seven. Tully gets knocked out to the floor and tries to stall on the apron, but Wahoo just shoves him back in. Tully tries hiding in the corner, but Garvin stays on him with jabs until the bell sounds.

-Garvin starts to walk to his corner. Tully tries a sneak attack, but Garvin hears him coming and calmly turns around and knocks him out with hands of stone again. JJ tries to negotiate for a 60-second rest period instead of 30, but Tommy Young won’t hear of it.

ROUND TWO: So the round starts with Tully still out cold but he revives just in time. Tully is so worn out he can’t even stand without using the ropes for leverage on the way up. He tries hiding in the corner again, but Garvin just headbutts him a few times to knock him over for a count of three. Garvin lands another punch and lays Tully out as the worst night of Tully’s life continues. Tully stands up at seven and one punch knocks him right back over for four. Tully’s bleeding and they fight for a backslide, even as Tommy tries to correct them and tells them “It’s boxing!” Garvin releases and lays him out with another punch, and Tully is saved by the bell.

ROUND THREE: Tully is still out as the round starts so JJ dumps some more water on him to get it going. Tully can barely function and if this was UFC, the referee would have been fired in the middle of round two for keeping this going. Tully lunges down and uses the tights to send Garvin tumbling outside, and he hits his head on a chair and the barricade on his way down. JJ dumps a full bucket of water on Tully to take advantage of the extra time. Garvin makes it back in and Tully lights into him with rights until the timekeeper suddenly declares without a bell that the round is over.

ROUND FOUR: Tully is all over Garvin with rights. Garvin is bleeding and shows signs of hulking up until Tully slams him and drops an elbow. Tommy Young indignantly corrects Tully when he tries for a pin. Both guys brawl on the field for a while before going back in, and Garvin peppers Tully’s cornbread with a good thrashing until he collapses to the mat for nine. Another right hand knocks Tully out, but he’s saved by the bell again.

-Tully’s bleeding and JJ runs in to add a fresh layer of tape to his right hand.

ROUND FIVE: More punches by Garvin. Back suplex, but Garvin is feeling drained at this point so both men are down. Tully gets to his feet first and goes to the top rope. Garvin meets him coming with hands of stone, knocking Tully out but collapsing from exhaustion. Tommy Young reaches ten with both men on the mat, so he tells the ring announcer that the first man to stand up will win. JJ runs into the ring to try to fan Tully with a towel, but seconds can’t help the men revive, so Tommy Young shoos him out of the ring…and while Tommy’s distracted, Wahoo throws another big old bucket of water right in Garvin’s face, and he gets to his feet. Post-match stuff is great, as the mat is just soaked and JJ is trying to point out to Tommy Young how obvious it is that Wahoo got involved, and Tommy Young just keeps telling him “I don’t know why the mat’s wet!” 5 for 6. This was different, and it was fun. By the way, the visual of water hitting a wrestler covered in his own blood is surprisingly neat.

-Hawk is tied to Nikita and Animal is tied to Ivan. So it’s just a straight-up punch-and-kick-and whip-and-choke fight among four guys who don’t appear to feel any pain. Ivan tries retreating on the floor, but Animal is yanking his chain, so Ivan goes face-first into the post and he’s bleeding. Hawk and Nikita brawl on the field. They head back in and the Koloffs gang up on Hawk before switching their attention to Animal (“Awwww, SHIT!”) Ivan strangles Animal in the corner while Hawk comes off the second rope to lay out Nikita and come to his partner’s rescue.

-Tommy Young gets bumped outside while Nikita levels Animal with the sickle. Ivan heads to the top rope for no reason and Ellering shoves him off, causing Ivan to land crotch-first on the top rope and collapse onto the mat, and Animal pins him right away. Post-match is just fantastic, as Nikita sickles everybody with a pulse but the Warriors eventually clear the ring. 6 for 7. Ending was weak, but other than that it was just a good believable fight from these four monsters.

HAIR vs. HAIR: “Boogie Woogie Man” JIMMY VALIANT vs. SHASKA WHATLEY (with Paul Jones)

-This was such a disappointing feud, as the initial angle brought something new out in both guys and for about a week, they were acting like totally different characters and cutting very different promos, and then they just suddenly went back to being total clowns and the feud turned into background noise in the deathless Valiant/Jones feud.

-Whatley hammers Valiant for a while and nearly gets the pin, but Earl Hebner catches Whatley’s feet on the ropes and refuses to count three. Weird moment as the ring announcer suddenly announces the stipulations in mid-match. Shaska headbutts Valiant and declares him to be a “hillbilly,” which was my favorite part of this whole feud: Whatley calling bullshit on Valiant being billed from New York City when nobody could possibly believe that this white trash goofball was from NYC.

-Whatley chokes Valiant and Jones takes a cheap shot from the floor for a two-count. Whatley stays on him with elbows but can’t finish him off. He tries hanging Valiant in the tree of woe. Next he tries a slam. Valiant cradles him, but only gets two, which unfortunately means the match isn’t over yet. Valiant hulks up, but Whatley punches him down for two. Whatley keeps punching him and Valiant’s hair is gradually turning red. Whatley looks to finish him, and Valiant just absolutely fucking forgets to kick out, so Hebner lightly brushes the mat for three and suddenly Valiant rolls over.

-Valiant starts dancing and punching. Referee gets bumped just before Valiant applies a sleeper hold on Whatley. Baron runs in with a loaded glove, but Manny Fernandez runs in to stop Baron from interfering. Valiant gets his hands on the glove and knocks Whatley out cold for the three-count.

-And now, every babyface that we’ve already seen tonight returns to help hold Whatley down while Jimmy does the honors and cuts his hair. I don’t know what the NWA does differently, but when they did hair vs. hair, they always seemed to have much more efficient clippers than the WWF had. 6 for 8. Match was garbage but Shaska’s reaction to seeing his hair on the mat almost makes up for it.


-Bobby Eaton starts with Magnum. This is about a month into Bubba’s push and to give you a sense of how much he still had to learn, he’s standing in the babyface corner.

-Magnum takes on both members of the Express, and then with both of them hurt and retreating into the corner, Dusty steps into the ring to provide back-up. Thanks, Dusty. Magnum drags Eaton over to get a slap from Baby Doll, then tags Dusty in. So now Dusty takes on both members of the Express himself with punches and elbows. Bobby gets cheese-grated on the cage and he’s bleeding. Dennis Condrey tags in and tries bargaining with Dusty about something. Dusty ain’t having it and Magnum gives Condrey an axehandle from the top.

-Dennis gets flung into the cage and now he’s bleeding too. Dennis gets desperate and tries a piledriver on a still-pretty-fresh Magnum. Magnum counters it in a way I’ve never seen, just recoiling his feet back down to the mat and letting Dennis fall without him.

-Eaton rakes the eyes and Cornette takes a cheap shot from the apron. Eaton hurls Magnum into the cage wall, then connects with an axehandle from the top of the cage. Magnum’s whole forehead is covered at this point and Condrey sends him into the cage wall once more. Eaton tags back in and hammers on Magnum. America’s Team and the Midnights are brawling on opposite corners of the ring, and Baby Doll sees an opening and just runs across the ring to yank Cornette in by his hair and slap him a hundred times. A right hand that misses by a foot knocks Cornette out and Baby Doll gets the pin. What the fuck was that? This was actually a huge disappointment, as the big moment that was obviously going to happen just came out of nowhere and the match ended ten seconds later. 6 for 9.


-This match is famous pretty much entirely for Flair’s entrance, and it’s actually probably the reason they didn’t have more seating on the field, as Flair arrives in a helicopter for the match. Not the shitty version they had Charlotte do as an homage at Wrestlemania where it was an obvious pre-tape and she landed outside the stadium. Flair is there live, he’s in the goddamn helicopter, the helicopter lands on the field, and Flair walks straight from the helicopter to the ring.

-The story here is that Ric Flair got totally shown up by Morton in a TV match, and Flair exacted some revenge by grinding Morton’s face into the concrete floor. Morton, as a result, must wear some protective gear over his face for this match. Flair is dressed like a Create-a-Wrestler, with purple tights, blue kneepads, and brown boots.

-Flair backs Morton into the corner, but Morton fights him off with rights. Flair throws a chop, but Morton just knocks him right on his ass. Flair tries to escape by running over the top of the cage, but Morton yanks his tights down and hammers him in the corner for a bit more. Morton just keeps targeting the face with rights, which would normally be tiresome but for this match’s storyline it just comes off as justice.

-Morton rolls Flair up for two. He applies a standing side headlock. Flair hooks one leg and hits an atomic drop, and Morton slowly collapses to the mat in pain. Flair begins driving elbows into him. Morton’s not in enough trouble just yet. But then Flair finally gets the protective gear off Morton’s Face and just starts whipping him from wall to wall, opening Morton’s forehead up. Nice touch, as Flair puts the headgear on himself to mock Ricky while he’s doing it.

-Flair cheese grates Morton and the crowd is freaking out. Flair throws a punch that directly targets the wound, then flings Morton into the wall again. Flair honks Morton’s nose and is just toying with him, pointing to people he recognizes in the crowd and playing to the cameras while still just unleashing hell on Morton’s face.

-Figure four is locked on. Morton makes the ropes, then cradles Flair out of nowhere for two. Flair throws chops and Morton starts getting good and pissed off. Suddenly he’s lighting into Flair with punches and whips him into the wall and Flair is instantly begging for his life. Flair’s blading, Morton is cheese-grating. Morton applies a sleeper. Flair gets free and tries to escape again, but Morton follows him up to the top rope and they slug it out up there. Morton punches him down to the mat and comes off with an axehandle for two. Morton tosses Flair into a wall and Flair hides in the corner.

-Missile dropkick by Morton, but Flair kicks out and Morton crashes on top of the referee. Flair atomic drops Morton onto the top ropem, and Tommy Young revives in time to count the winning pin for Flair, and the crowd reacts like someone let the air out of them. The good news is, according to the ring announcer, fireworks are next. 7 for 10.

The final score: review Good
The 411
It was satisfying finally seeing payoffs for all this stuff after just seeing the build for it. The show isn't extraordinary, but it fits that Jim Cornette definition of a good show: For people who like this kind of wrestling, this is the kind of wrestling those people will like.