The SmarK Retro Repost – Great American Bash ’88

– This is for two reasons: One, for the winner of the 50,000th hit contest a couple of weeks ago on TheSmarks (soon to have it’s own domain name and professional design) and second for someone who won’t stop NAGGING me about it. You know who you are.

– Live from Baltimore, MD.

– Your hosts are Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross.

– Opening match: NWA World tag title match: Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson v. Sting & Nikita Koloff. Big brawl to start. There’s no real story here — Sting needed something to do while Lex took his turn on top of the card, so he got stuck fighting for the tag titles with Koloff, who was the opposite of resurgant, whatever that is. Sting gets a couple of quick two counts before Arn runs away. Koloff had a full head of hair at this point, by the way, which looks…creepy. Move #393 (ARM-bar) comes into liberal use from Koloff, boring the crowd. The faces manage to double-team Tully while the ref argues the legality of tagging your partner’s foot with Arn. Suddenly, the THE guys do a Sid-worthy scissor job on the match, clipping to the finish as Sting gets the hot tag and destroys everything that moves. Sleeper on AA leads to a messed-up sequence with Tully, which leads in turn to a Stinger splash and deathlock. Crowd thinks it’s a submission, but it turns out to be a time-limit draw, of which we saw 10:27. That would turn out to be popular booking for the evening. I don’t know which was worse — the effort of the workers or the editing job. Match looked to be about *1/2

– US tag team title: The Fantastics v. The Midnight Express. The Fantastics won the titles on a **** TV match a few weeks prior to this, and prior to that they did a ****3/4 MOTYC on the first Clash that nearly blew the roof off the place. For this one, OverBook-A-Mania is running wild, as Jim Cornette is first placed in a straitjacket, then locked in a steel cage, and if the Midnights don’t win he gets lashed 10 times with a belt. So nice to see Cornette being given the book from time to time, isn’t it? Funny bit as Cornette tries to bribe the officials on the way to cage (“WOULD YOU TAKE $15,000?!?”) but no dice. The pre-match nonsense eats up about 10 minutes, however, which is ridiculous considering that the 20-minute match is clipped down to 2:16. Obviously they were still learning how to edit a PPV tape at this point. I’ve seen the full match, and it’s tres disappointing, about **. The ending is the ref getting wiped out and Eaton pulling out a chain and nailing Rogers with it for the pin to regain the US tag titles. Cornette still gets whipped in the end, of course, so everyone ends up happy.

– The Tower of Doom: The Road Warriors, Jim Garvin, Ron Garvin & Steve Williams v. Kevin Sullivan, Al Perez, the Russian Assassin, Ivan Koloff & Mike Rotunda. Okay, unless you’re a big WCCW fan you’ve probably never heard of this one before. Here’s the deal: There’s three cages stacked on top of each other, shrinking in size on the way up. The smallest cage is literally up in the lights. The object is to have all five team members proceed from the top cage, down to the bottom cage and out via the door, which is controlled by Garvin’s wife and/or Sullivan’s evil love-slave, Precious. The issue at the time was whether Sullivan had brainwashed Precious, see. Every two minutes, a trapdoor opens in the bottom of the top two cages, allowing people in them to move down within a 15-second window. At the same time, a door in the small cage at the top opens, allowing a new member from each team to enter the match. The gimmick itself was horribly complex and impossible to follow and book good matches around, so this is the only appearance. The Tower of Doom match (called the Triple Dome of Terror at the time) first took place in World Class a few months prior, with longtime partners Terry Gordy and Michael Hayes fighting for the first time. Anyway, on with the match. We start with Ron Garvin & Ivan Koloff in the top cage, and they slug it out for a while, although the light standards are blocking the view so no one can tell what’s going on. And the cage is like 4 feet by 4 feet so there’s no room to do much. After 2:00, Garvin drops into the next cage, while Koloff is trapped above and Williams and Rotunda enter the match. Williams handles both easily, and when the next 2:00 is up, Garvin drops into the bottom cage, and then leaves the ring to be the first man out for his team. Hope that clears up the rules a bit. Doc and Ivan go into the second level, meanwhile, leaving Rotunda at the top level as Al Perez and Animal join the match. Doc wipes the cage with Koloff for 2 minutes, until the trapdoors open again and Perez & Animal move down to join Doc and Koloff in the second level. The top cage opens to admit Hawk and the Russian Assassin. Hawk holds off both Rotunda and Assassin. It’s all a giant brawl. Next period: Perez & Animal make it into the bottom cage and both leave. The second level has Williams & Hawk v. the Russians. Up top, team captains Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan have entered the match, and poor Rotunda is still up there in the top cage with them. Next period: Rotunda finally gets to drop down to the second level, while Hawk and the Russians all make it to the bottom and out. We’re down to four guys: Garvin & Sullivan in the top cage, and Rotunda & Williams in the second cage. Next period: Williams takes out Rotunda and escapes the cage, leaving Garvin 1-on-2 against the Varsity Club. Next period: Rotunda makes his escape, leaving the blowoff match: Garvin v. Sullivan. Garvin works on Sullivan’s leg while in the second level to keep him from making it to the trap door. Next period: The strategy doesn’t work, as both are able to make it to the bottom level, and it’s first man out to to win. Garvin takes out Sullivan with the brainbuster (now THERE’S a perfectly good finisher just waiting for a new user) and tries for the door, but Sullivan dives for it, accidentally knocking Garvin to the floor for the babyface win. But that leaves Sullivan alone in the cage with Precious, and he proceeds to basically kick the shit out of her. I’ve always wondered why Kevin didn’t get a booking job for the WWF — he’d be PERFECT. The faces have to go all the way through the cage maze again to make the rescue, but when Hawk drops down and clotheslines Sullivan on the way down, the pop is HUGE. The match was…um…interesting, although if you think I can possibly rate it you’re nuts.

– For some reason, they decided to stick a “bonus” match on a tape that was already hacked more than a WrestleLine article in order to make 125 minutes.

– World TV title match: Mike Rotunda v. Sting. Taped from a house show a week or so prior, this is a completely paint-by-numbers Sting match, as Rotundo controls with his boring offense, Sting makes a quick comeback, and Rick Steiner runs in for the usual DQ at 8:15. Why even bother? *

– US title match: Barry Windham v. Dusty Rhodes. The story: Dusty was US champion, but he got into a big brawl with the Horsemen that ended with him going ballistic on the puppet president of the NWA at the time (I forget whether it was Geigel or Crockett at the time — he also did the same angle in Florida and it gets hard to keep track) with a baseball bat. He was suspended and stripped of the US title (Dusty? JOB? Heaven forfend). And of course, the next week Windham started getting dogged by the most mysterious of all mystery men…the Midnight Rider! If anyone knows who that enigmatic guy was, let me know, because I’m stumped. Finally, the suspension ended, but not before Windham had won a tournament for the US title, going over Nikita Koloff in the finals. So we got this match. This was the peak of Barry’s skills and luckily it coincided with the peak of his credibility as a wrestler, 1993 notwithstanding. Barry bumps his ass off for Dusty to begin, as Dusty even manages a press-slam and DDT…then heads to the top?!? LUCHA DUSTY! AMERICANA LA VACA! Dusty pulls out the cross-body from the top that he hadn’t used since 1979 (when he used it to pin Harley Race for the NWA World title) but it only gets two. Man, you gotta admire Barry for taking the weight of a 600 pound man from the top rope and then kicking out. HE’S A MAN’S MAN! Windham bails, but Dusty pummels him when he returns. They fight outside and Dusty opens a bigger can of whoop-ass. Barry gets a cheap shot to temporarily take control, but when he tries to slingshot Dusty in, it backfires and Barry goes flying to the floor. Why? Because Dusty is JUST TOO FAT. Nice bump from Barry, though. Back in the ring, JJ runs interference, allowing Windham a knee to the back and the most dreaded of all finishers…the CLAWHOLD! Nothing will put a man out faster than massaging his temples while wearing a black glove, you know. Dusty spends about 5 minutes fighting out, but gets nowhere. He even walks the ropes to escape, but Barry is tall enough to hang on. Good psychology there. Dusty finally elbows out and goes for the figure-four, but when he bends over Barry slaps the claw back on. That’s VERY good psychology. Dusty goes back to the ropes, and this time makes it far enough up to break the hold. Ref gets bumped as Dusty comes down, however (a Dusty finish in a Dusty match? WHAT ARE THE ODDS????) and Dusty slams Windham off the top and hits the BIG FAT ELBOW OF DEATH. Ron Garvin runs in to wake up the ref…then it’s KAPOW! and Dusty is down for the count after a grade-A heel turn. Crowd is absolutely in shock as Windham slaps on the claw again and Tommy Young counts three. As a young mark, my jaw nearly dropped when I heard Garvin turned on Dusty. Windham carried the whole match. ***

– Backstage, Garvin accepts a big briefcase full of money from Gary Hart and JJ Dillon.

– Main event, NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Lex Luger. This would be the NWA’s first real money match in the PPV era. Of course they screwed it up. The story: Luger is the young apprentice of the aging Four Horsemen, but decides that they’re holding him back, especially what with JJ Dillon wanting him to lay down in battle royales so Dillon can win. Luger is out, Windham is in, and now Luger is pissed and starts taking out the Horsemen one-by-one, leading up to Flair. The Horsemen systematically attack Luger every chance they get, including a memorable parking lot beating the week before this show. Luger totally overpowers Flair to start and tosses him around. The usual from Flair as he bails and argues with the front row, then gets into a shoving match with Tommy Young. Flair offers a test of strength, something which I don’t think he ever tried again after what happened. Luger has his way some more and goes for the bearhug, getting a two count off it until Flair makes the ropes. Luger casually suplexes him back in, but misses the leaping elbow. It’s not like he sells it or anything, though. Flair gets a cheap shot outside the ring to take control, but Luger keeps fighting him off, as if merely inconvenienced. Luger goes for the kill but misses a dropkick and Flair goes right for the knee. Figure-four gets put on the wrong leg as usual. Luger powers out and comes back, but the knee caves in on him very quickly. He shakes it off and hulks up, however. Luger gets a backslide for two, then a really bad looking spot ensues as they both go over the top rope after about 3 tries at it. Flair and Dillon take turns ramming Luger into the post, finally busting him open….cue ominous music. Back in the ring, and Luger decides to just dispose of Flair once and for all, powerslamming him and locking in the rack for the easy submission and his first World title…ah, no.

See, Baltimore was on this big anti-blood kick at the time, so in order to run it into their face the NWA booked a goofy ending whereby Luger would get busted open and the State Athetlic commission would stop the match and award it to Flair. The end comes at 23:13 and when the crowd hears the announcement they are, to say the least, none too thrilled. I’ve cut myself open bigger than that shaving, I don’t blame them. A pretty weak Luger-Flair match here, but they’d have better ones in years to come. ***1/2

The Bottom Line: This card holds nostalgia value for a lot of people, but the wrestling is easily topped elsewhere. The first Clash completely blows it out of the water for instance. There’s tons of better Luger-Flair matches out there, not to mention WAY better stuff with Tully & Arn, the Midnights and the Fantastics. Sting is wasted here, as are most of the guys in the Tower of Doom match. If you’ve never seen the practically-legendary Luger-Flair screwjob finish or are interested in the goofy gimmick match in the Tower of Doom, I’d recommend this one, but otherwise stick with pre-88 or post-89.

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