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Top 7 Great American Bash Moments

June 28, 2021 | Posted by Steve Cook
Great American Bash

When I think about pro wrestling in the month of July, I think of the Bash.

Dusty Rhodes came up with the idea of having a big event every July and calling it the Great American Bash. The Fourth of July has us waving our American flags and acting patriotic anyway, so it’s somewhat surprising it took until 1985 for a wrestling promoter to think of it. Jim Crockett Promotions ran a closed circuit event in 1985, then toured their area with a month of Bash events in 1986 & 87. The GAB became an annual July PPV event until 1993, when WCW decided they wanted their July event to have a beach flavor. Beach Blast took that spot one year, then in 1994 Bash at the Beach hit big and became the July event for the rest of WCW’s existence.

People still missed the Great American Bash name, so WCW brought it back in 1995 as the June PPV event. A little different, but it was still fun. It was the one old school WCW event that WWE brought back to PPV, holding Bashes from 2004 to 2009. It was a SmackDown special episode in 2012, and now it’s becoming an annual event for NXT.

What better way to get ready for NXT’s Great American Bash than by reliving the event’s past? Here are the seven most magnificent Great American Bash moments.

7. “We Want Flair!”

The 1991 edition of the Bash is widely considered one of the worst PPV events of all time. The opening match, a “capture the flag” scaffold match pitting P.N. News & Bobby Eaton against Steve Austin & Terrance Taylor, certainly ranks among opening matches we’ve seen. The Diamond Studd & Oz made appearances, years before they would become relevant in the WWF and return to WCW as a pretty big deal. The Rock ‘N Roll Express wrestled each other in a singles match that nobody wanted to see. They false advertised a cage match because the Maryland State Athletic Commission didn’t allow intergender matches. (Why anybody thought Missy Hyatt wrestling in a cage match with five men was a good idea is a question I don’t have an answer for.)

I could go on, but the main thing sinking this show was the title match. Baltimore was supposed to play host to yet another bout between Ric Flair & Lex Luger, which made sense as a chance for Luger to finally get his crowning moment a couple of years after people expected it. Only problem: Flair’s contract was up, and he was more than ready to get the heck out of Dodge. Negotiations between Flair & WCW went the opposite of “well”, and Flair left for the WWF with the championship belt in tow. Luger got to beat Barry Windham instead, and got to turn heel and have Harley Race as his manager. It didn’t quite have the effect people hoped for, as the main thing the fans said during this show were three simple words:

“We Want Flair”

Fan sentiment towards a wrestler that recently left a company has rarely been stronger. One wonders if it would even happen today, as fans are far more apt to support a company than a wrestler.

6. Keith Lee Takes It All

The most recent Bash was the first under the NXT banner, and they did a darn good job promoting a main event that people wanted to see. Adam Cole had been NXT Champion for 403 days heading into a Winner Takes All match against the North American Champion, Keith Lee. From the moment Lee entered NXT, his popularity steadily grew. Impressive performances at the Survivor Series & Royal Rumble established Lee as the next big thing for NXT, or whichever show WWE wanted to showcase him on.

The return of the Bash to WWE’s schedule was part of the company’s attempt to overtake AEW in the Wednesday night ratings dispute, and to reactivate a brand name that AEW was looking to add to their portfolio. Lee defeating Cole in a hotly contested main event was a great way to put the Great American Bash back on the map, and to this point stands as the highpoint of Keith Lee’s WWE career.

5. Vader Crushes Sting

Sting had run Lex Luger out of town early in 1992 at SuperBrawl II, and it looked like he would be WCW Champion for as long as he wanted to be. A number of monsters like Cactus Jack & Abdullah the Butcher set their sights on Sting, but one stood out from the rest of the pack. Big Van Vader was a force of nature that Sting just wasn’t ready to handle. He injured Sting’s ribs & spleen in their first match in the Omni. Three months later in Albany, Georgia, Vader got his rematch against Sting.

It was pretty well one-sided. Sting had brief moments of offense, but Vader dominated him & took his championship. Ron Simmons would win it not soon after, but once Vader got the title back from him he dominated the scene throughout 1993. It wasn’t the most successful time period for the company, but I remember enjoying it quite a bit as a kid.

4. Luger’s Coronation Stopped By The Athletic Commission

July 10, 1988 seemed like Lex Luger’s night. Baltimore seemed like the place. Luger had been earmarked for the top of the business since his debut. The man had a million dollar body and was competent enough in the ring for promoters to think he could be the next Hulk Hogan. Luger joined the Four Horsemen in 1987, which was a good way for him to learn the ropes from Flair, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard. Of course, he would fight against them later on, and it seemed like a matter of time before he would be on top as World Champion.

Luger got Flair up in the Human Torture Rack backbreaker. Flair looked on the verge of submitting. The only problem? Luger had a cut on his forehead, and there was so much blood coming out that he was unable to continue. Even though he was on the verge of winning the match. That darn Maryland State Athletic Commission.

The re-matches drew well, so even if this was a flop in the eyes of the critics, it wasn’t a terrible idea. Unfortunately for Luger, his next big match with Flair at Starrcade made his name synonymous with “wrestler that can’t win the big one”.

3. Dusty attains the Dream

In 1986, the Great American Bash was a month-long tour of Jim Crockett Promotions’ biggest towns, with a number of shows taking place in stadiums instead of arenas. Unfortunately, the combination of wrestling along with Waylon Jennings & George Jones concerts didn’t fill most of those stadiums. Not all of the shows were busts though, and one of the most memorable took place in the Greensboro Coliseum on July 26.

Ric Flair worked a busy schedule on the tour, defending the NWA World Championship against Dusty Rhodes, both Road Warriors, both Rock ‘N Roll Express members, Ron Garvin, Nikita Koloff, Magnum TA, Wahoo McDaniel & Ron Garvin. Flair spent one of his few off-days from the Bash tour wrestling Rick Martel to a 45-minute draw in Quebec. The man was busy! It was only a matter of time before somebody caught him, and it wound up being the American Dream inside a steel cage. Rhodes & Flair always had fun matches that got tons of heat, this one was no different and still holds up pretty well today.

Dusty’s third & final reign as NWA Champion only lasted two weeks, but the memory of the victory in Greensboro has lasted much longer than the defeat in St. Louis.

2. Sting’s Coronation

1990 was a year of change in pro wrestling. It’s been well-documented in this column & other outlets how Ultimate Warrior took the top spot from Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI. Just three months later, Warrior’s former tag team partner took WCW’s richest prize from Ric Flair at the Great American Bash in Baltimore.

It had been a long time coming. Sting broke out at the first Clash of the Champions in a match with Flair that went to a 45-minute draw. He suffered a knee injury early in 1990, just when he was about to start the feud with Flair that would end with him taking the championship. It certainly added some drama to the Bash match, as Flair was known for targeting knees with that Figure Four leglock of his. Flair was also known for having his Horsemen running buddies interfere in his matches, which WCW counteracted by allowing Sting to have his friends at ringside to stand guard. Lex Luger, the Steiner Brothers, Paul Orndorff & the Junk Yard Dog served in that role, while El Gigante was handcuffed to Ole Anderson to keep the Horsemen leader from intervening.

Yeah, it was a stacked deck, but the fans still liked it.

1. War Games Debuts

The 1987 Great American Bash tour saw fewer stadium shows than the previous year, and the introduction of one of the NWA & WCW’s most popular gimmick matches that has been replicated in almost every major promotion since. Two rings surrounded by a steel cage with a roof. Two teams of five. You start off with two men for five minutes, there’s a coin flip, and then members from each team come in every two minutes in alternating fashion. Once everybody enters, it’s The Match Beyond, and the only way the match ends is to submit or surrender. It’s a good time!

The first two took place during the 1987 Bash tour. The Four Horsemen & their manager James J. Dillon took on the super team of Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, the Road Warriors & Paul Ellering in the Omni. After Dillon got injured by a Doomsday Device from Hawk & Animal, he was replaced by The War Machine for the second match, taking place in Miami’s Orange Bowl & ending the tour.

Did War Games work? Well, NXT has a Great American Bash special on USA & a War Games special on Peacock/WWE Network. So I’d say it worked pretty well.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up on Twitter or the comment section with your favorite Bash memories, and I’ll see ya next time!

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Great American Bash, Steve Cook