Retro Review: WCW Great American Bash 1990

Justin takes a look back 30 years ago to the night Sting made it to the top of the mountain.

Photo: WWE

With NXT bringing back the Great American Bash this week, I decided to dive back and watch one of these shows from the past. And why not go back 30 years, where Sting goes one-on-one with Ric Flair for the NWA Championship?

I thought about going back 20 years, but there isn’t enough alcohol on the planet to get me through the Great American Bash 2000 and Goldberg’s stupid heel turn.

Jim Ross and Bob Caudle are on commentary. Right behind them is a man with a “Sid Rules” sign so that fan clearly has good taste.

“Nature Boy” Buddy Landel vs Flyin Brian

There was a good amount of hype around Brian Pillman around this time. He gets a pretty good pop coming out too. And of course Pillman starts on fire with some quick offense and sending Landel to the outside. For some reason Landel then decides to do an awful pose on the outside. Jim Ross is quick to point out that physique is not Landel’s strong suit.

Landel slows the action down once he gets back to the ring which brings everything to a screeching halt. JR of course has to bring up Pillman’s football background. For some reason there are fans of Landel in the crowd as every so often we hear these faint “Buddy” chants. I guess they are fans of the slowest offense absolutely possible.

If you are trying to showcase Pillman here and get him over, slowing the match down to this extent just doesn’t work. We get some chop exchanges but Landel thwarts everything Pillman does. Landel finally tosses Pillman over the top but Pillman lands on his feet. Pillman then hits a crossbody off the top for the win.

I mean, at least Pillman won, but that was an awful showcase of a potential young talent. Landel controlled 90% of the match and Pillman’s win could be looked at as a fluke. Not smart booking at all.

The Iron Sheik vs Captain Mike Rotunda

Oh lord. You thought the IRS outfit was bad? Rotunda comes to the ring in a windbreaker and white hat that makes him look like a sailor. And Shiek already has a pretty big beer gut. This match should be something.

JR describes Sheik attacking Rotunda before the bell as a terrorist attack, something that wouldn’t fly in 2020. JR brings up Rotunda’s Syracuse background so go ahead and take a shot. Sheik is already blown up two minutes into the match.

The crowd couldn’t care less about this match. When you have an out-of-shape Sheik and one of the dullest wrestlers ever in Mike Rotunda you can understand why. You can actually hear a fan laugh hysterically at a headbutt that sends Rotunda to the outside.

Rotunda eventually gets Sheik over for a backslide and gets the win. It looked like Sheik was trying to fight it. And I also believe the ref counted about a 7 count before actually calling for the bell. Woof.

Dutch Mantell vs Doug Furnas

Furnas is billed as the World’s Strongest Man. Be careful Furnas, Mark Henry is coming for that title soon. Dutch Mantell looks like someone you’d see at a truck stop at 3 a.m. eating a piece of cherry pie. He’s also showing early on here that he probably should have just been a manager his whole career.

Guess what? JR brings up that Furnas played football for the University of Tennessee so go ahead and take another shot. Mantell plays the slimy heel role and slaps Furnas across the face twice to try and get to the rookie. This is the complete opposite of the Brian Pillman match as Furnas is showing off an impressive move set for 90s wrestling. And instead of Landel slowing the match down it is Furnas.

Furnas goes to the top and Mantell moves out of the way. Now Mantell slows the match down which is appropriate. JR talks about first seeing Furnas as a high school football player. Go ahead and drink again because it is different than the first time JR brought up football.

Another smart thing is that every time Mantell goes for a pin, Furnas kicks out and power kicks out and tosses Mantell a couple feet. Mantell applies an armbar and for some reason grabs the tights, which JR says is for leverage. Someone needs to explain that to me.

Furnas gets out of it and they exchange blows until Furnas hits a belly-to-belly suplex for the win. A much better showcase for a potential young star than the Brian Pillman match.

Tommy Rich vs Harley Race

Gary Michael Cappetta says this is a battle of two former great champions. Well he’s 50% right. Race is another guy who looks like he shouldn’t be in the ring anymore. At least Race is wearing a singlet to hide his gut. Rich of course beat Harley Race at one time to win the NWA Championship. Rich held it for 4 days. It was considered a power play move by Jim Barnett in Georgia at the time.

You wouldn’t know this is a match between former champs. Bob Caudle keeps talking about the pace being amazing. It is literally one move, break, move, break. That is it on repeat. I don’t think the crowd cares about either guy. Race wins after reversing a crossbody off the top. Lets move on.

United States Tag Team Championship: The Midnight Express vs The Southern Boys

The Southern Boys have confederate flags on the back of their jackets. That is again something that would not fly today. Things break down early on and ends up with the Midnight Express on the outside.

Steve Armstrong takes it to Bobby Eaton early on. He tosses him off the top then flips and hits a top rope clothesline. For some reason Eaton doesn’t tag out as Smothers comes in. Smothers hits a superkick and doesn’t slap his leg, which is again something that would not fly in 2020. Smothers even does it a second time as the Southern Boys take it to Bobby Eaton.

Stan Lane finally comes in. It is so hilarious to hear the announcers talk about these super kicks as karate. Someone should ask JR about how they evolved from 1990 today. Lane actually does have a black belt in karate.

Lane lands some kicks but Smothers blocks one then lands some karate chops sending Lane to the outside. Are we sure this isn’t The Karate Kid? More chaos breaks out and Armstrong hits a high crossbody and the champs are sent to the outside again.

This is a bit of a weird match because the crowd is behind both teams at various points. The Midnights make a blind tag Smothers doesn’t see. This allows Lane to plant Smothers on the mat. Eaton hits a nice leg drop off the top rope. Somewhere Hogan feels a shiver down his back as Eaton does not go for the pin. Lots of quick tags between the Midnights as they work over Smothers.

Bob Caudle calls the barricade a “steel cage around the ring.” At least he isn’t asleep yet. Smothers rolls through a double back drop attempt and tags in Armstrong. Armstrong hits a top rope drop kick on Lane while Smothers holds him. The ref goes to break up a fight between Eaton and Smothers and by the time he goes for the pin its only two. The same thing happens when the Midnights hit the Rocket Launcher.

The crowd is super hot into this match now. Lane ends up hitting a kick to the back of Smothers head from the apron with the refs back turned and Eaton rolls up Smothers for the pin to retain their titles. Really fun match and the crowd was super hot for it at the end.

Big Van Vader vs Tom Zenk

This is Vader’s WCW debut. Vader has his sweet Mastodon mask. I have his Elite action figure and will never give it up. By now you should know I am a huge Vader mark. I wonder if Zenk wishes right now that he didn’t leave the WWF in the 80s.

I’m pretty sure a light went out somewhere because the ring looks a tad darker. This is a 100% Vader squash, if you couldn’t guess. The crowd gets super into a Vader powerslam. Vader finishes it off very quickly with a big splash for the win.

The Steiner Brothers vs The Fabulous Freebirds

If only the Steiners came out to their mid 90s WCW theme, we would have had two great themes as these teams made their way to the ring! [Really? Ed]

The Freebirds jump the Steiners early on but Rick ends up sending both to the outside then Scott hits a hard double clothesline on the outside. In a bit of an awkward moment, the crowd starts chanting a derogatory chant to the Freebirds because of how they are dressed. And the camera cuts to the crowd chanting it.

Rick gets into barking position and backs Michael Hayes into the corner. Hayes hides in fear but Rick bites his ass instead. The Freebirds want Scott in the ring and JR says Scott is the more sane of the two. Give it a few years JR. Scott sends both Freebirds to the outside with dropkicks. The Freebirds take a walk down the ramp to regroup.

The regroup doesn’t help as Scott hits a Pearl River Plunge on Hayes then a bit sloppy tilt-a-whirl backdrop on Garvin. The Steiners keep getting the better of the Freebirds at every turn until Garvin kicks Rick in the back. This allows the Freebirds to take their time to work over Rick. There is a group of about five guys in the front row that just keep giving the business to the Freebirds.

Rick makes the tag to Scott who cleans house. Garvin tags Hayes but the ref doesn’t see it. Garvin goes for a pin but the ref won’t allow it. Rick then hits a belly-to-belly on Hayes and Scott pins him for the win. Fine match.

Barry Windham, Arn Anderson and Sid Vicious vs Junkyard Dog, Paul Orndorff and El Gigante

Hey at least El Gigante isn’t wearing a body suit of fur. Guess what? The crowd already loves Sid as he slams Orndorff down and the crowd pops as Sid does his one knee pose. We end up getting a staredown after a few minutes and the Horsemen bail. They are suppose to be scared of El Gigante but he honestly looks like a big dork jumping around in the ring.

Arn Anderson bumps around for Orndorff and JYD like only Arn can. Seriously, this guy is just great. Orndorff goes for a piledriver but Windham breaks it up off the top.

What is that we hear? That’s right. A giant “We Want Sid” chant. And Arn, being the professional that he is, tags in Sid and lets him work over Orndorff. Ei Gigante has done nothing in this match so far as it is JYD who gets the hot tag when it should have been El Gigante.

JYD ends up getting pushed over the top rope, which during this time in WCW is a DQ. El Gigante comes in and shoves the Horsemen a bit after and just watching him do that you know why they didn’t let him in the ring.

United States Championship: Lex Luger (c) vs Mean Mark

Well would you look at that: Mean Mark in a title match on this show! I honestly don’t know if Lex Luger and the Undertaker were ever on opposite sides of the ring after this match. After giving us a few matches off JR brings up Lex Luger’s football background.

Bob Caudle says Lex Luger is very smart in the ring and now I am just thinking it is past his bed time. Luger is fine, and he’s from Buffalo so I have a bias toward him, but I would never call him smart in the ring.

Mean Mark has a black glove on his right hand, which would later go on to symbolize that you were a fan of Big Daddy Cool Diesel. Mean Mark hits a drop toe hold! Man this is going to be weird to watch this as not a normal Undertaker match.

Okay this match has been nothing but armbars so far. I mean it would make Chris Jericho proud but it isn’t making this match watchable. Paul E is doing his best to keep the crowd engaged on the outside. But I think they care more about going after him than the actual match.

Hey look at that, Mean Mark walks the ropes and drops down on Luger’s arm. Mean Mark hits a suplex but Luger no sells it and hulks up. Luger applies the Torture Rack but the ref gets knocked out. Paul E hits Luger with the giant phone in the gut. The ref gets back up but Luger kicks out at 2.

Mean Mark goes for the Heart Punch but Luger kicks him, knocks Paul E off the apron and then clotheslines Mean Mark for the win. I would have never seen Mean Mark having a great, long career after this match.

World Tag Team Championship: Doom vs Rock n Roll Express

This is your classic ‘Strength vs Speed’ match. Rock n Roll’s might be the one past their prime act on this show that still look good and in shape. They aren’t fully past their prime but they are on the down slide.

You can tell early on that the new, younger fans are on the side of Doom while the older audience is behind RnR. After a quick burst of offense from RnR Express, Doom slows things down and work over Robert Gibson. Gibson ends up making the quietest hot tag I might have ever heard to Ricky Morton. Four years ago that building would have ERUPTED.

Butch Reed stops Morton rather quickly with a hard clothesline. It’s announced ten minutes have gone by but it feels like thirty. Something is going on in the crowd that distracts the audience. I mean, it isn’t like they were paying attention to this match as it was. Doom is just slowing down this match to a point where it isn’t interesting.

Robert Gibson gets tagged in but no one cares at this point. Teddy Long comes in but Gibson grabs him and punches him. Reed then hits a shoulder tackle off the top for the win to retain the titles. Not pretty.

NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair (c) vs Sting

JYD, Paul Orndorff and the Steiners are at ringside to ensure everything is fair and square. Ole Anderson is handcuffed to El Gigante up the ramp. This is Sting’s first match back after getting attacked by the Four Horsemen when they tricked him into joining the group, only to kick him out. The first of many times Sting fell for that kind of stuff.

Ric Flair’s chops of course do not phase Sting, as he press slams Flair coming out of the corner. Flair suplexes Sting but Sting gets right back up. Sting hits a crossbody off the top for two.

Flair resets on the outside and goes right after the bad knee of Sting. He goes for a Figure Four but Sting kicks him away. Flair lands some chops that work this time as they go out to the ramp. Flair side steps a dropkick from Sting back in the ring then drops right on Sting’s bad knee. Flair once again works it over, trying to soften Sting up for the Figure Four.

Sting rolls out of the way of a Flair knee drop and applies a Figure Four of his own but Flair quickly gets to the ropes. Flair tries going to the top, but it obviously doesn’t work as Sting tosses him off the top. After a back slide for two, Flair goes right back after the bad knee of Sting.

Flair’s chops are ineffective once again as Sting comes back. Sting sends Flair into the corner and he does his classic flip over the top and Sting clotheslines him on the apron. Sting hits a Stinger Splash and applies the Scorpion Death Lock. The Horsemen run to the ring but the Steiners, JYD and Orndorff hold them off. Flair gets to the ropes.

After a handful of near falls, Sting goes for a knee in the corner. Flair moves then we get a weird camera cut to the crowd. Flair goes for the Figure Four but Sting gets an inside cradle for the win and the crowd loses it!

FINAL THOUGHTS

The main event is good, but Sting and Flair have had better matches and it was a bit short for a Flair World title match. The US Tag Title and the Steiners/Freebirds are both good. They could have gotten rid of two of the first four matches and given more time to Flair/Sting. I would give it a thumbs in the middle.

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