One month removed from a well-received mixture of WCW’s cutting-edge talent and matches with their early-1990s old school decor, the company opted to keep a few homages to their roots in the PPV set-up for their next offering and one steeped in more tradition than most, The Great American Bash.
A classic ‘WCW’ logo statue stood by the entrance way just before the walkway to the ring that was brought back at the company’s ‘rebirth’ in May 2001. And while most of the production values were returned to the 2000s, subtle nods to WCW’s past remained.
The main event of this particular bash would be as ‘old school vs new school’ as it came, as company stalwart and icon Sting challenged perhaps wrestling’s hottest act of the millennium so far, Rob Van Dam, for the WCW World title. Former champ Lance Storm is seething over his reign being cut short by RVD after little over a month, but his recent petulance has earned him a match with a man he attacked, rising star and former United States champ Sean O’Haire.
Meanwhile, that US champ will be defended by the man who unseated O’Haire as the new-look Mike Awesome, sporting attire and face-paint reminiscent of his ‘Gladiator’ days and with Father James Mitchell in his corner, defends against former titleholder Chris Kanyon. One of the most anticipated title bouts on the entire card, however, is AJ Styles defending the cruiserweight title against one of the division’s best ever, Rey Mysterio.
There will be plenty of animosity on the show, as DDP and Booker T look to settle their recent issues revolving around the always-interfering Sharmell while Dustin Rhodes and Shane Douglas will escalate their blood feud in a brutal Dog Collar Chain match.
Both sets of tag team titles will also be on the line, with new cruiser tag champs The Jung Dragons looking to prove themselves as worthy of the belts they’d chased since their inception against three pairs of challengers in a four-way dance. And America’s Most Wanted have come a long way since forming a rookie duo one year ago, but they seem unable to get the better of conniving heavyweight champs Los Guerreros. Can they finally win the big one tonight?
JUNE 30, 2002: WCW GREAT AMERICAN BASH – Baltimore, Maryland
In pre-show bout number one, Bryan Danielson won the ‘top of the class’ four-way over Paul London, Brian Kendrick and Matt Bentley. All four went at one another with only occasional signs of alliances. In the end, Danielson extracted some revenge on Kendrick by taking the fall with a dragon suplex and bridge at 7:19.
Then, Amazing Red and Jose and Joel Maximo swept Kid Romeo and the FBI in their elimination tag bout. After going eight minutes or so without a fall, miscommunication led to Romeo missing Red and hitting Tony Marinera with a forearm, allowing Joel to eliminate Tony with a Majistral cradle at 8:23. A furious Guido Maritato walked out on Romeo in response for a countout elimination at 8:49, and the faces pinballed Romeo around before the Maximos hit their amazing Spanish Fly finisher for Jose to get the three count in a total time of 10:06.
Opening match: Jason Jett vs Shane Helms
Shannon Moore was at ringside for this one, having been seemingly used as a prop in the conflict between former tag partner Helms and more recent buddy Jett. He was conflicted between listening to either man in recent weeks, having been burned by Shane in the past and being displeased with recent mis-communications between he and Jason, but ultimately played no role in the outcome as Helms won with the Vertebreaker in 13:37 after a thumb to Jett’s eye. He then invited Moore to leave with him, but was ignored. Shannon left alone, leaving Jett down in the ring.
Six-man tag: Kidman, Tajiri & Juventud Guerrera vs The Disciples Of The New Church
Just two months after representing three different teams in the World Cup of Wrestling, the babyface trio found themselves united against the recent threat of Father James Mitchell’s new group. Unfortunately for the men who put their differences aside to defend themselves against the onslaught of the Church, they weren’t quite on the same page as Father James Mitchell’s troops. A Tempest leg grapevine on Kidman and his damaged leg, worked on through the bout, forced the tap-out at 9:26. Juvi left on his own but Tajiri stayed to help Kidman to the back along with the trainer.
Sean O’Haire vs Lance Storm
Storm is out first and cuts a pre-match promo how WCW couldn’t wait to shunt him out of the world title picture as fast as they could, and that their “golden boy” Sean O’Haire deserved what he got a week ago for thinking he’s ahead of Storm in the pecking order. O’Haire cuts him off and rushes the ring to get the bout started hot and heavy.
A high-impact heavyweight bout ensues, but O’Haire’s Seanton lands on the knees of Storm and his already worked-on back then found itself clamped in the Maple Leaf. Lance put extra arch on the spine as opposed to the leg muscles and O’Haire passed out from the pain for the stoppage at 11:05.
Dog Collar Chain match: Dustin Rhodes vs Shane Douglas
Next, Rhodes finally gave Douglas a taste of his own medicine in their Dog Collar Chain grudge match. Both men bled and brawled around ringside and even into the crowd for a bit but as Douglas attempted to stand on the second rope and garrote Rhodes with the chain, Dustin hit a low blow and used the chain to pull the Franchise through a table that Torrie set up for Shane at ringside earlier in the fight. An upset Wilson slapped Dustin but got a blood-soaked kiss for her troubles, and Dustin hauled Douglas into the ring and made him submit with a chain-assisted sleeper-choke at 15:40.
WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship: The Jung Dragons (c) vs Triple X vs Jamie Knoble and David Kash vs Super Crazy and Psicosis
XXX, who had beaten these men in a pair of four-way singles bouts via nefarious means, dominated the early stages but only served to turn everyone else – including Knoble and Kash – against them. After triple-teams aplenty, Daniels was pinned by Super Crazy for the first fall at 6:12.
Knoble and Kash jumped the luchadores straight afterwards and worked them both over before the Dragons tagged in and eliminated Kash via Unleash the Dragon in 9:31. Finally, the Mexican duo recovered enough to work over Yang’s arm until he hot tagged to Kaz and a breathtaking sequence of reversals and saves finished with stereo snap straitjacket Germans from the champs to Crazy and Psicosis to retain in a total of 12:46.
WCW United States Championship: Mike Awesome (c) vs Chris Kanyon
Awesome kept the US title in what was announced only on the pre-show as being a “relaxed rules” defense against Kanyon. It seems the decision was made in return for a ban on all members of the New Church excluding a managerial license-wielding Father James Mitchell, who crucially pulled the referee out of the ring after a Flatliner to the champ.
The two men fought with chair-based offense throughout and after Kanyon decked Mitchell to a pop, the challenger was waffled with a chair by Awesome and then Awesome Bombed through a table propped up in the corner for the pin at 11:53.
Diamond Dallas Page vs Booker T
The two former friends fought with a purpose and Sharmell was sent to the back for trying to interfere halfway through, but that didn’t stop T from sending Page into a turnbuckle he exposed while the referee gave Sharmell her marching orders when DDP went for a Diamond Cutter, leading to the Book End and the pin at the 12:27 mark.
WCW World Tag Team Championship: Los Guerreros (c) vs America’s Most Wanted
America’s Most Wanted did what seemed to many as the impossible and defeated Los Guerreros clean in the middle of the ring to become the NEW WCW tag team champions.
A lengthy old-school tag bout saw both Harris and Black worked over leading to two hot tags and furious near-falls and reversals, before Eddie had a title belt he snuck into the ring superkicked into his face by Black and Chavo fell to the Death Sentence for the 1-2-3 in 14:36.
A huge emotional celebration ensued as the two men who served as enhancement talent just one year ago went into the crowd with their new belts.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs Rey Mysterio
AJ and Rey followed that emotional last match with an incredible encounter of their own, with Styles playing a subtle heel in their cruiserweight title showdown. Rey rallied back and the two exchanged reversals and big moves before finally Mysterio caught AJ upstairs as he prepared for a Spiral Tap.
His attempt to huracanrana Styles down was blocked and almost turned into a super Styles Clash, but Rey showed incredible torso strength to fight out of the arm hooks and lunge his way back up to a super rana… only for AJ to roll through with a tight sunset flip for the three in 17:47!
Despite their tensions over the last few weeks, Styles showed his class afterwards by helping Rey up and raising his hand. Mysterio helped Styles put the belt on and they hugged… only for Skipper and Daniels of Triple X to run out and lay out both tired athletes. Is this because of Rey defeating both in the #1 contenders tournament?
Main event, WCW World Championship: Rob Van Dam (c) vs Sting
Finally, Ric Flair came out in referee’s attire to a great reaction, one that was matched by challenger Sting and WCW champion Rob Van Dam. In comparison to the previous bout, the two worked a slow-burner with Sting played the role of grizzled veteran and cutting off a lot of RVD’s state-of-the-art offense.
RVD made the ropes in the Deathlock and followed dodging a Stinger Splash with a quick split-legged moonsault for a super-hot near fall. RVD went for the Five Star but Sting moved and looked to capitalise with another Deathlock, but Van Dam snared him with an inside cradle for the three-count to retain after 16:33.
The two shook hands with each other and with Flair after their contest, but the trio were distracted by scenes in the crowd as Glenn Gilbertti and his men were attempting to rush the ring only for security to hold them back with all their might.
As Van Dam, Sting and Flair prepared themselves in the event that all six men came for a fight, Sting and RVD were blindsided by two men wearing tracksuits and, ironically, Sting masks.
They then grabbed an arm each of Flair’s and held him in place for Mr. Wrestling III, again brandishing a guitar. First, however, he dropped the acoustic equaliser to the canvas and pulled off his mask, shocking Flair, the fans and the announcers with his reveal.
Just before the sound of the guitar smashing over Ric’s head, Mike Tenay uttered a name nobody in wrestling wanted to ever hear again:
“Oh shit, it’s Vince Russo!”