After doing a series of WCW pay-per-views from 1998, I've been feeling more and more nostalgic for the nWo years. Thus, I've decided to go back to when it was all starting, and start working my way through all of the shows of the time period. Can I do all of them? Who knows, but I'll at least do a few of them in a row and see what happens. I'm already way ahead of my usual monthly quota of reviews (somewhere between 1 and none). So let's go back to June '96, when Hulk Hogan had faded from view at the time, and The Giant was ruling WCW... oh, and two men who were apparently from another company had started appearing at shows...
WCW Great American Bash '96 |
Posted by the Accelerator, May 29th, 2012
- The cover of this one features Randy Savage clotheslining Ric Flair out of the ring. The funny part is that Savage isn't the one wrestling; the two featured in a small picture below (of Steve "Mongo" McMichael & Kevin Greene) are the actual ones in the match against Flair. But Savage was the 'draw' with Hogan out. Also worth mentioning: The Giant is, well, on the back cover, and barely even mentioned on the front, despite being the World Champion. Not much love for Luger, either.
- Sgt. Craig Pittman makes an appearance, bringing out the American flag for the National anthem. It's just a straight playing of the music through the speakers, no special singer today. You can tell the show's in Baltimore, Maryland, as there's a loud "O!" during the anthem (they love their Orioles).
- Our announcers tonight are Tony Schiavone and "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. The two review the big matches tonight, including the two football players competing. There's a quick, heartfelt moment between the two announcers, as Schiavone passes along his condolences to Rhodes on the death of his former tag-team partner, Dick Murdoch.
Fire & Ice (Scott Norton & Ice Train) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner), "There Must Be A Winner" Match:
Backstory: Fire & Ice and The Steiner Brothers have been fighting a lot lately, but no one team had been able to get a victory. That led to the 'special' stipulation that there must be a winner tonight. I would assume that means no holds barred and falls count anywhere... but I might be mistaken, judging from the match.
The Match: Lot of power wrestling in this one, as Rick Steiner's the 'small' one. The Steiners take control early, driving their opponents from the ring and getting in their pose (Scott over Rick), which gets loud cheers from the crowd. Norton landed some very nice maneuvers, including a big Samoan drop that (kayfabe) injured Scott's shoulder, allowing Fire & Ice to take over. Although Scott made a few comebacks, he never tagged out. Norton was a powerhouse, giving Scott his finisher, the Shoulder Breaker, but doesn't pin. A second Shoulder Breaker is a mistake, as Rick gets the blind tag and comes in, throwing both men around.
Fire & Ice comes back, though, and manages to double-team Rick, throwing Scott out of the ring to enable them to get a powerbomb/splash combination. Scott barely saves it, and they get rid of Scott again. Rick gets put into the Doomsday Device, but Scott saved him again by stringing Ice Train on the top rope. Rick gets the DDT on Norton, but Ice Train then jumps off and lands a double axehandle on Rick. I think that was a mistake, though, as Rick basically just shrugs it off and attacks Norton, while Ice Train stays down. Scott lifts Norton onto his shoulders and Rick gets a bulldog, but Ice Train makes the save. So Rick goes after Ice Train, while Scott hits a horrible-looking Frankensteiner (that was basically a powerbomb from Norton, but they sold it anyway). Ice Train, meanwhile, pins Rick as Scott pins Norton. Rick's in the ropes, so only Scott's pin counts, giving the win to the Steiner Brothers.
Ace Thoughts: I wouldn't call it a terrible match, but there were definitely several botched moves throughout. The ending was completely chaotic, and really didn't pay off story-wise. It would have been a lot better to pin off the bulldog, since the crowd popped huge for that (and the Frankensteiner didn't work). I saw some good moves from Norton, once again displaying how much he was wasted in WCW. I can't say I was impressed with Ice Train. Norton and Ice Train would soon violently break up, while the Steiner Brothers would soon be headed back to the WCW World Tag-Team Titles... for a few days, at least.
- Mean Gene Okerlund interviews Kevin Sullivan & Jimmy Hart. They talk about the Horsemen, focusing on Brian Pillman.
Konnan(c) vs. El Gato, WCW United States Heavyweight Title Match:
Backstory: Not much of a back-story between the two wrestlers. El Gato is making his first WCW Pay-Per-View appearance under his new name. He's wrestled regularly as Pat Tanaka in WCW and in WWF, but has a 'new' character (that never really gets over). Konnan is working to get himself over, having won the US Title a short time ago from The One Man Gang in what was considered an upset. The fans haven't quite decided if they're rooting for him yet or not.
The Match: Konnan and El Gato do some technical maneuvers in this one, which is clearly not what the crowd is wanting to see. The better entertainment is Tony Schiavone trying to stay serious throughout Rhodes' ramblings. Schiavone mentions that the reason Bobby Heenan is not there is because Heenan is preparing for his 'coaching' duties later on. I'm missing him, but I can survive. After a few more submission holds, Konnan turns it on, getting a sunset-flip powerbomb to the outside on El Gato, nearly breaking the older wrestler. When El Gato gets back in, Konnan whips him to the corner, and then catches El Gato trying to jump over him, delivering an Alabama slam and flipping over into the pinfall, winning the match and staying the United States champion.
Ace Thoughts: The best moments were at the end of the match, for sure, as the crowd got woken up by the outside powerbomb. I even heard some "Konnan" chants after the move, so maybe Konnan was more over at the time than I thought. El Gato's push was quickly squashed, and Tanaka began wrestling as himself again before the year was out (with about as much success). Konnan would go on to his most high profile feud yet, taking on Ric Flair for the belt in the coming months.
- Mean Gene Okerlund interviews Sting to talk about Steven Regal. Okerlund says that Regal comes off as a "prissy or a sissy", but that he can be one mean son of a gun. Sting jokes about how Regal drinks tea. That's not the way Americans are bred, Regal! Sting does say that Regal's a terrific wrestler, but he's still a little 'iffy', and Sting's going to straighten him out. Wow, Sting was homophobic back in the day. I can't say I remember that, but I was barely watching wrestling at the time *lol*.
Diamond Dallas Page(c) vs. Marcus Alexander Bagwell, Lord Of The Ring Match:
Backstory: Just the month before at Slamboree '96, DDP had one of the biggest victories of his career thus far, as he won the "Lord of the Ring Battle Royal" to earn a ring that he could wear. Page, who was already an egotistical heel, took it to new heights with the ring to show off. This led to many challengers for the ring, including the American Males (Bagwell & Scotty Riggs). On WCW Saturday Night, Bagwell and Riggs did a coin flip, with Bagwell earning the opportunity against Page here tonight (in what might be one of Bagwell's first singles matches, as he was primarily a tag-team competitor at the time).
The Match: DDP did some cheap heat before the match, telling the 'bimbos' in the audience that he'd make them all forget about "Carl Ripken". Getting the local sports hero's name wrong = making sure crowd hates you. Bagwell responded by charging the ring on his entrance, forcing DDP to run for it. We have a nice brawl to start out, with Page even getting sent over the guardrail into the first row. They go back to the ring, and we basically get a showcase of some of Bagwell's best moves, while the announcers talk about Page's recent past. DDP eventually takes over and plays the dirty heel for a while, until Bagwell is able to come back with a few more impressive moves. In the end, though, Bagwell's bridge suplex is too close to the ropes, with Page blocking it, and then landing the Diamond Cutter to get the victory, keeping his ring. Post-match, DDP lets us know that one mistake is all it takes, and does a "self-high five".
Ace Thoughts: Bagwell was pretty good here, actually, but then, he was fighting for his singles career. This was basically a 'tryout' to see if he could make it on his own. I think he did pretty well, and later in the year "Buff" Bagwell would make his first appearance. Diamond Dallas Page would continue to improve, learning more and more great moves, even as the fans start to come onto his side. The nWo would push Page the rest of the way to fan favorite.
- Mean Gene interviews Jimmy Hart & The Giant, who assured Okerlund that Luger could not possibly get the Torture Rack on a man the size of The Giant.
Dean Malenko(c) vs. Rey Mysterio Jr, WCW World Cruiserweight Title Match:
Backstory: This is Rey Mysterio Jr's debut, after a good deal of hype about him coming in. Malenko has been the American face of the WCW World Cruiserweight Title, becoming the second holder of the belt in May by beating Shinjiro Ohtani. This would basically be the beginning of one of the better feuds of 1996.
The Match: Ok, I can't call every move, even if I want to. Suffice to say, Mysterio Jr was looking to show off, and was taking flight to the awe of the fans. Malenko, actually, was moving around quickly as well at first, but he was also very much a technician, going after Mysterio's arm at every opportunity. He grinds on it with various holds, trying to make Mysterio submit. But Mysterio eventually fought free and did some more flying, including leaving the ring. We have multiple cover attempts at the end, but the one that counts is when Malenko gets a powerbomb on Mysterio and uses the turnbuckle ropes, putting his legs on them for the pin and the victory, retaining the title.
Ace Thoughts: Pretty good match with lots of time, although I think these two will have better in the coming months. The two had an interesting clash of styles, and let's face it, it was these two fighting over the belt that really started to get the Cruiserweight division over. For years afterwards, this would be the division that became the matches worth seeing. Malenko and Mysterio would meet several times more over the next year, as the battles for the belt become more and more intense. In case it's still there, there's a good highlight video on Youtube: Dean Malenko vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. Feud Highlights.
- Mean Gene interviews Luger, who doesn't think that The Giant is invincible. Nope, he's not, but we don't know that yet.
Big Bubba w/ Jimmy Hart vs. John Tenta:
Backstory: Tenta (better known by mainstream fans for his days in the WWF as Earthquake) had been wrestling in WCW's The Dungeon Of Doom as Shark. He partnered a lot with Big Bubba (Ray Traylor, known as The Big Boss Man in the WWF), but when Shark decided to leave The Dungeon, Big Bubba & the rest of the Dungeon attacked him and shaved off half his hair. "Shark" dropped the gimmick and went with being a man, threatening to give Big Bubba (and later The Giant) a trim as well.
The Match: Having this match after the Cruiserweight Title bout was just unfair to Tenta and Traylor. Tenta dominates early, but Big Bubba uses a foreign object to get back in it. Big Bubba does manage a suplex on Tenta, which, while not great, was still slightly impressive. Big Bubba made a big mistake, though, by going up the turnbuckle and leaping off. Tenta catches him and slams him down, crushing Big Bubba and allowing Tenta to get the pin. Postmatch, Tenta went to cut Jimmy Hart's hair, with Big Bubba trying to stop him, only to accidentally squash Hart. Tenta then takes down Big Bubba again and cuts off his beard with the scissors, getting a little revenge.
Ace Thoughts: Truly not one of the 'great' feuds, but they were still trying to get over Hogan's friends at this point, and two of the big ones were Tenta and Traylor. This had to be the shortest match of the night. Honestly, they were trying, but both would get lost in the shuffle when the nWo hit. Before then, though, the two would keep feuding, with hair being a key component.
- Mean Gene's doing more interviews (he's busy tonight), this time talking to Kevin Greene, Steve McMichael, and, later, "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Worth noting is that McMichael's wife, Debra, is with him. As most know, Debra would be the break-out star of the family in the near future.
"The Crippler" Chris Benoit vs. "The Taskmaster" Kevin Sullivan w/ Jimmy Hart, Falls Count Anywhere Match:
Backstory: Sullivan & The Dungeon Of Doom had had issues with the Four Horsemen to some time, but it had escalated recently, with Sullivan's displeasure with Brian Pillman as a Horsemen. When Pillman left for the WWF, though, Sullivan turned his attention to Chris Benoit, the youngest member of the Horsemen. Sullivan had also been concentrating on Arn Anderson, working to get Anderson to leave the seemingly-collapsing Horsemen and join the Dungeon. Their feud also involved Sullivan's wife, Woman, who had left him to join the Horsemen (and Benoit). At the previous PPV, Benoit & Sullivan were 'randomly' picked to team together in the Lord of the Ring tournament, but Sullivan helped The Public Enemy to pin Benoit, throwing away his own opportunity. This led to tonight's contest.
The Match: This fight starts in the aisle and doesn't slow down, as these two show what a grudge match should be. Neither seems to be selling that much, making this even more brutal as they head into the crowd (who love it). The fight continues all the way up the stairs to the back, and into the rest room. The crowd follows them in, including a woman (which causes Dusty to freak out). Schiavone screaming about how one's head is going into the commode is hilarious. They fight back out, with Dusty wanting them to go to the women's bathroom next.
The two fight back down the stairs (with Benoit taking a nasty fall) and back to the ring. The announcers mention that Jimmy Hart's stayed at the ring the whole time, probably for his own safety. Benoit brings out a table from under the ring (eventually) and puts it inside. It gets used in several moves, including getting placed on the top turnbuckle (a move you just don't see used). Benoit gets backdropped onto the table, and Sullivan follows him up, with the two standing on the table on top of the turnbuckle. Benoit gets the advantage, though, and uses it, getting a superplex off the table!! The match is over, with Benoit getting the victory!
Ace Thoughts: Tremendous brawl between the two, with very little wrestling. The couple of moves at the end were about the only official wrestling moves we saw the whole match. This is how it should be when two guys hate each other. It's amazing we don't see more matches like this one today.
- Postmatch, Benoit kept beating on Sullivan, with Hart running to the back to get Arn Anderson to help out. Anderson comes in and stops Benoit... but then he turns and starts beating on Sullivan, and the crowd goes absolutely bananas!! The two Horsemen beat Sullivan down until the rest of the Dungeon (minus The Giant) runs down to make the save. Anderson shows the four fingers to the roar of the crowd. The Horsemen may have been heels, but the crowd respected their history, and obviously hated the Dungeon more.
- In the back, Mean Gene is with Miss Elizabeth and Woman, and he's soon joined by Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit, Ric Flair, and Bobby Heenan. Anderson says that Benoit's earned the right to raise four fingers. He says they're ready for war. Benoit gets in a few more shots, and although the Horsemen are still one short, they're definitely looking stronger now. Flair and Heenan do their own talking, with Heenan saying he's not scared of Savage (he clearly is) and Flair joking about Liz being on his team.
Lord Steven Regal w/ Jeeves vs. Sting, "Special Challenge" Match:
Backstory: This feud all started when Regal gave Sting a back-handed slap, igniting the anger between the two. Regal was trying to make a statement, feeling overlooked by the WCW Championship Committee. But Sting's definitely turned the feud into a "sissy" contest, insulting Regal whenever possible. Regal would respond by regularly calling Sting "sunshine". A big reason for this match is that Sting's tag-team champion partner, Luger, is busy in the main event, so Sting was put in this contest for a short feud.
The Match: Sting took the fight to the outside early, but Regal was able to get back into it with a thumb to the eye. The crowd is chanting "USA", as they would do the majority of Regal's career. At one point, the announcers get extremely quiet, giving us a whole minute of peace. At one point, Regal tries to get a handshake from Sting, but Sting just shakes his pelvis in response. The two technicians pull off some great submission maneuvers and suplexes, with Regal nearly getting the win by getting Sting in the Regal Stretch. But Sting won't give up, and so Regal decides to just beat on him... but using a slap was the wrong idea, as Sting comes to life and takes over, pounding him into the mat. Sting goes for the Stinger Splash, but Regal gets his knees up, blocking it. It doesn't make a difference, as Sting immediately is able to grab Regal's legs and take him down, applying the Scorpion Deathlock. Regal submits, giving Sting another victory.
Ace Thoughts: Regal's antics were over-exaggerated, but other than that, I've got no complaints. Regal vs. Sting is always a great combination if you want to see a good wrestling match. Sting would go full-tilt into the defense of WCW in the coming months, at least until Fall Brawl. Regal would be knocked into the background after this, only appearing (live) at one more '96 WCW show, World War III.
- Michael Buffer is out to do the special ring announcing for this match, which is a little strange, since it's not the main event. But it's a special "Legends of the Gridiron vs. Legends of Wrestling" match, so it's understandable.
The Horsemen (Arn Anderson & Ric Flair) w/ Bobby Heenan, Miss Elizabeth, & Woman vs. "Mean" Kevin Greene & Steve McMichael w/ Randy Savage, Debra, & Tara:
Backstory: The original feud was between Ric Flair and Randy Savage, with Miss Elizabeth joining with Flair. Savage got suspended from wrestling for a time (but would be returning to action the night after the Great American Bash). Steve McMichael, at this point, was doing some announcing duties for WCW, and had told Flair to 'back off' on his comments about McMichael's beautiful wife, Debra. At Slamboree '96, Flair brought up McMichael's wife in an interview, so McMichael came over to interrupt (with Flair hiding behind Anderson). Flair tells McMichael to get a partner and face him & Anderson at the next PPV. McMichael brought out Kevin Greene (a current player with the Carolina Panthers) to be his partner, accepting the challenge. Savage later agreed to be the football players' coach, to train them for wrestling.
The Match: This one's slow from the start, as McMichael and Anderson exchange moves. The announcers talk about how McMichael jumped from the Chicago Bears to the Green Bay Packers for more money. Foreshadow alert! At one point, Anderson gets double-stomped by the football players and heads to the outside for a breather, only to get punched by Savage. The Horsemen regroup, then we begin again. Greene tags in, as does Flair, and we get a lot more stalling. Flair almost leaves at one point, upset, but gets dragged back by Macho (who attacks him when the ref HAS to be watching, but we don't have a DQ). The fight continues, with Woman, at one point, eye-raking McMichael, causing Debra to get involved, and all the women go 'fighting' to the back.
McMichael takes some punishment for a while, but eventually manages to smack Anderson into Flair with an atomic drop and get the hot tag to Greene. The football player does some slams and back body drops on Flair, but a violent chop block from Anderson stops things. Greene takes a lot of abuse, getting locked in Flair's Figure Four, with Anderson helping from the outside. Savage stops it, but it leaves him open for Chris Benoit to rush down and attack him. As Anderson & Benoit beat down Savage on the outside, three of the women (Debra, Liz, & Woman) come back down the aisle together, along with a steel cage. Inside the case we find a Horseman t-shirt and a heap of money. With Greene desperate for a tag, McMichael bashes him with the briefcase, turning on his partner. Flair makes the easy pin, and the match is over. Afterwards, McMichael joins the rest of the Horsemen in beating down Savage, showing that he's the new fourth Horseman.
Ace Thoughts: McMichael's betrayal of Greene worked well to get Mongo over as a wrestler. Working with Flair, Anderson, & Benoit probably helped as well. The new Horsemen would be heels for a few months more, before they started to become a key piece of the fight against the 'invaders'. Greene, meanwhile, wasn't done with the wrestling world, and would return after the football season in 1997 to get in a few more matches (and go for revenge against Mongo).
- We go to Eric Bischoff, and the start of one of the biggest wrestling angles in history. Bischoff talks about a number of 'interruptions' they've had since May 27th on Nitro. Bischoff is ready to give them an answer, so he calls out the two men (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash). Bischoff tells them they're going to get their match at Bash At The Beach '96. Bischoff straight asked them if they work for the WWF, but they say no (that's due to legal reasons). Hall wants to know who the three WCW representatives are, for him, Nash, & their mystery buddy to fight. Bischoff won't tell them, saying he'll tell them on Nitro. Hall takes exception to that, punching Bischoff... and then Nash picks up Bischoff and gives him a Jackknife Powerbomb to Bischoff through the side of the stage!! Hall and Nash gloat and leave, as Bischoff is in a pile of debris.
Ace Thoughts: Although it was a segment and not a match, this was one of the most significant segments in WCW history, as it put over how dangerous Hall and Nash were. Just watching this happen live, I bet, inspired many people to be set up to order Bash At The Beach '96 already. This was just the start of the formation of the new World order, and what a ride it would become.
- The announcers talk about what just happened, with Schiavone going down to check on Bischoff, leaving Rhodes to do all the talking. Rhodes sells it well, looking discouraged about the attack, as well as McMichael's betrayal earlier. He mentions being an old man, so he can't fight, but that he knows there are plenty of WCW wrestlers in the back ready to answer the challenge of Hall & Nash.
- Lex Luger stops on his entrance to check on Bischoff, carrying both of his belts (Tag-Team and Television). Rhodes tried to send it to Michael Buffer at one point, but Buffer waits for the wrestlers to get to the ring before he does the special ring announcing. Let's get ready to rumble!
The Giant(c) w/ Jimmy Hart vs. Lex Luger, WCW World Heavyweight Title Match:
Backstory: Luger had been a member of the Dungeon Of Doom stable for the past several months, joining in the Alliance To End Hulkamania, but was kicked out of the stable at Uncensored '96. Since then, Luger had become a good guy, and had been bringing in the gold. The Giant had taken over WCW with his pure power, and had beaten Sting (Luger's long-time friend) at the last PPV. Luger had been pushing for his own opportunity, and had gotten chokeslammed through a table for it. But eventually the match was signed, with Luger swearing that he could put The Giant in the Torture Rack.
The Match: It's not the wrestlers' faults, but this match almost feels like it doesn't belong here after what happened previously. That being said, the wrestlers work hard to get the crowd back and get them involved. At one point, Luger put on a sleeper on The Giant, trying to take him out. Hart tried to get in position to hit Luger with the megaphone, but Sting surprisingly appeared and stopped it, chasing Hart to the back. It doesn't stop The Giant from taking control again, though, delivering several backbreakers to make sure Luger's main weapon is unavailable. Pretty smart wrestling here, which we've seen a lot of tonight.
Luger tried to come back with a bodyslam, but he can't keep him up, falling backwards and almost getting pinned. The Giant dominates some more, with Luger finally coming back with his flying forearm shots (does he still have metal in that arm, or did that stay in the WWF?). The Giant tries to take over again, but missed a turnbuckle splash that left him laying on the 'buckles. Luger goes for the Torture Rack, as the crowd goes wild but he can't hold him, with The Giant falling on top of him. The Giant gets back up and calls for the end, raising his arm. He then chokeslams Luger in the center of the ring, and it's over. The Giant is still the World Champion.
Final Thoughts: It's always amazing to watch The Giant at this point, throwing Luger around like he weighs nothing, and yet still mobile enough to run around the ring. It was interesting that they went with that angle, with Luger basically failing and The Giant stopping him cleanly, but that was the right finish to keep The Giant strong for what was to come.
What's really significant about this show is not what happened, but what was set up. The most important event, of course, is the match being set up for Bash At The Beach '96 that would lead to the major course change of WCW. Bischoff getting thrown through the side of the stage is still remembered today. The re-uniting of the Four Horsemen was huge, as was the first match for Rey Mysterio Jr (who would be a key factor for WCW the rest of its existence). This was really the beginning of a great era for WCW, one that I'm looking forward to reliving over the coming weeks. As for this show, it's definitely got memorable moments, which makes it worth watching. Feel free to skip some of the so-so matches, but if you're someone who enjoys a good old-school feel to your bouts, you'll enjoy some of these for sure.