Tuesday, 11 July 2017

WCW The Great American Bash 1996

WCW Great American Bash 1996 - Event Poster
June 16, 1996
Baltimore Arena, Baltimore, MD

The summer of 1996 was an interesting time for professional wrestling, particularly when it came to the burgeoning intensity of the rivalry between World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation. 

By June, the latter were using their King of the Ring PPV to begin launching a bona fide star out of ex-WCW mainstay Steve Austin, ultimately creating the Stone Cold character that would shape and define The Attitude Era.

Meanwhile, the former were using two of the WWF's biggest stars, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in a storyline that would ultimately position them as the number one wrestling company in the world. 

Tonight, at the tenth instalment of their 'Great American Bash event, WCW would not only take that storyline, but their entire rivalry with WWF, to the next level. 

Did that make for an enjoyable show? Let's head to the Baltimore Arena to find out, shall we?


Everybody's Pumped Up For The Bash 

Our show tonight began with a cavalcade of madness, not all of it of the Macho kind.

WCW Great American Bash 1996 - Ric Flair, Miss. Elizabeth, Arn Anderson, and Woman of the Four Horsemen
In the first of a series of crazy-hyper promos, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan tried desperately and failed miserably to convince us that he wasn't worried about the possibility of Macho Man Randy Savage getting his hands on him later on in the show.

Savage, meanwhile, was only concerned about his boys Kevin Greene and Steve 'Mongo' McMichael, and how the NFL stars were going to beat up Nature Boy Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.

As for the two key members of The Four Horsemen, they vowed to take no prisoners when they battled Green and  Mongo.

Finally, TV and co-Tag Team Champion Lex Luger promised to add a third title to his collection by beating The Giant, whilst The Giant himself was obviously having none of it.

All of these promos were shot in shaky-wobbly camera mode, apparently to convince us that this was going to be a wild and crazy show, or something.

WCW Great American Bash 1996 - Tony Schiavone & Dusty Rhodes hosted the event
After Tony Schiavone welcomed us to the show, Sgt. Craig Pittman came out with the American flag whilst the Star Spangled Banner played.

This finally took us to our usual intro from Tony Schiavone and The American Dream Dusty Rhodes. Heenan was absent from commentary tonight as he was coaching The Four Horsemen in their match later.

Lots of pre-match rambling followed, including Schiavone paying his respects to the recently departed Dick Murdoch, before we finally got to the ring for our opening match.

There Must Be a Winner
Fire & Ice (Scott 'Flash' Norton & Ice Train) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner) 

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - The Steiner Brothers faced Fire & Ice in the opening match
For the majority of this fairly average opening match, the vague stipulation that here must be a winner didn't have any bearing on the contest itself, nor was it ever explained quite why it was necessary.

There was no wild brawling outside of the ring, no use of weapons, just a big standard tag match that -admittedly- did get interesting once all four men started brawling towards the finish.

It was at this point that both teams began trading a series of close calls and near falls to create an exciting sequence which ultimately resulted in a win for Rick and Scott.
Your Winners: The Steiner Brothers 

Backstage, Mean Gene Okerlund reminded us that we could chat to WCW wrestlers like Lord Steven Regal on Compuserve before welcoming his first guests of the evening, The Mouth of The South Jimmy Hart and The Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan.

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - Mean Gene interviews Jimmy Hart & The Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan
The two Dungeon of Doom members largely ignored Okerlund as they talked about the rivalry between them and The Four Horsemen.

In a typically old school promo, Sullivan threatened to do all kinds of evil things to Chris Benoit in their upcoming Falls Count Anywhere match, mainly to send a message to his Horsemen buddies, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.

With that, it was on to our next match:

World Championship Wrestling United States Championship
WCW US Champion Konnan vs. El Gato 

For those wondering, challenger El Gato was former Badd Company / Orient Express star Pat Tanaka in a cat mask.

Here, he went up against Konnan in an enjoyable, though hardly spectacular outing which saw both men go back and forth with some pretty sweet -and some admittedly sloppy- looking offence.

Eventually, Konnan landed the win to keep hold of the title he would eventually lose to Ric Flair at WCW Bash At The Beach 1996 one month later.
Your Winner and Still WCW United States Champion: Konnan 

WCW - The Great American Bash 1996 - Sting cut a promo on Steven Regal, calling Regal gay
Backstage, Mean Gene Okerlund interviewed Sting about his upcoming match against Lord Steven Regal.

In one of those moments that leaves you looking at the screen in disbelief saying 'seriously??' Sting spent the whole interview suggesting that Regal was gay, even going so far as promising to 'straighten him out.'

Honestly, there's no way they'd get away with something like that today.

After one of the 12,000 Glacier vignettes that would air that year, it was onto our next match.

Lord of The Ring
WCW Lord of The Ring Diamond Dallas Page vs. Marcus Alexander Bagwell 

Credit where it's due, both men worked their asses off here to provide us with an entertaining match.

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - Diamond Dallas Page faced Marcus Alexander Bagwell
With reigning Lord of The Ring Diamond Dallas Page going for cheap, cowardly heel heat at every opportunity and Marcus Bagwell flying about the place and pandering to the crowd, they both did a great job in setting up a simple good guy/bad guy dynamic that was pure textbook.

Textbook, however, doesn't always equal interesting, and that was certainly the case here.

Apart from the occasional flashes of brilliance, even a solid effort from both men couldn't stop this one from coming across as average at best.

In the end, Page cheated his way to a victory, retaining a Lord of The Ring ring that nobody cared about.
Your Winner: Diamond Dallas Page 

Out in the back, our buddy Mean Gene was standing by with WCW Champion The Giant and his manager, Jimmy Hart.

Hart skirted around the question of whether or not he had any kind of vested interest in Lex Luger's career, before taking a step back to allow The Giant to do all the talking.

And talk he did.

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - Mean Gene interviewed Jimmy Hart & The Giant
With a lisp.

Seriously.

The Giant's promo was basically solid, as he boasted about his superiority over his challenger and vowed to annihilate him later on in the ring, but it was all done with a curious lisp that was as disturbing as it was distracting.

Otherwise, it was good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, we got much more of that next:

World Championship Wrestling Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.  

I feel like I've reviewed a few Dean Malenko/Rey Mysterio matches already this year, including the strong effort they had at Clash of the Champions XXXIII, but I don't know that I've enjoyed any of them as much as I enjoyed this, their first meeting here at The Great American Bash.

By all accounts, Mysterio was still a relative newcomer to World Championship Wrestling by this stage, but his years of prior experience helped him look like a star against the reigning champion.

Not that Malenko was any kind of slouch.


Playing the aggressor for the bulk of the contest and working over his opponent's arm, The Ice Man displayed that rarest of qualities in which he actually looked every bit the fighting champion he was supposed to be here.

Combined with Rey's dazzling comebacks, this made for what was by light years certainly the best match on the show up to this point.

Malenko retained his title by plastering the challenger to the mat with a powerbomb and using the ropes for leverage on the pin fall.
Your Winner and Still WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Dean Malenko 

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - Mean Gene interviewed Lex Luger about his world title match against The Giant
Backstage, Mean Gene reminded us to call 1-900-909-9900 to hear all the latest backstage gossip before welcoming a sombre looking Lex Luger.

The tag team and TV Champion admitted that he was only doing the interview out of respect for WCW, but that his mind was really elsewhere - namely in the ring ready to take on The Giant.

After flubbing his lines a bit and finding himself unable to say the word 'pride,' Luger spoke of dethroning The Giant in their main event match later on in the show.

Big Bubba (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. John Tenta 

Having recently returned to the babyface locker room after a spell as the Dungeon of Doom's Shark, John Tenta looked to extract revenge on his former teammate Big Bubba for the recent hatchet job Bubba did on Tenta's hair.

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - Big Bubba faced Big John Tenta
The result was a match that turned out to be far better than most were probably expecting. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a classic by any stretch, but it was definitely an enjoyable big man outing which ended when Tenta caught Bubba coming off the ropes and squashed him for a three count.
Your Winner: John Tenta 

Post-match, Tenta held a pair of scissors about a small country's length away from  Bubba's beard, and Bubba sold it as though he'd been violently face raped.

As the former Big Bossman scurried off, trying to convince us that his beard had been cut off, Tenta ranted in the ring that this was far from over.

Mean Gene Interviews The Football Players, Baby

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - Mongo McMichael, Kevin Greene and Macho Man Randy Savage were insane in this promo
Asked about a strategy, McMichael said he and Greene didn't need one, whilst Greene himself basically yelled the word 'BABY' over and over again with the odd few syllables in between.

Their wrestling coach Randy Savage then came on the scene, ranting and raving in typical Macho Madness fashion, and before you knew it, this one was over.

Everybody in this promo (with the possible exception of Deborah McMichael and Tara Greene) was clearly off their tits on drugs here.

Falls Count Anywhere
The Crippler Chris Benoit vs. The Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan 

They brawled in the stands, they brawled in the bathroom, and they brawled in the stands some more.

Everywhere they brawled, Chris Benoit and Kevin Sullivan were absolutely awesome together.

From start to finish, this wild, out of control brawl was about as fun as wrestling ever gets.

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - Kevin Sullivan beat up Chris Benoit in the bathroom
Whilst the earlier Cruiserweight Championship match may have been the best bout from a pure wrestling standpoint, this intense street fight was the most enjoyable for the sheer insanity of it.

Things ended when Benoit set up a table on the top rope, got backdropped onto it, then recovered and suplexed Sullivan off it in one of the highlights of the entire event.

A three count later and this one was over.
Your Winner: Chris Benoit 

Afterwards, Benoit continued to attack Sullivan until Arn Anderson, who had been siding with The Taskmaster during this feud, came down and hurled The Crippler across the ring.

This turned out to be a ruse however, and both Benoit and Anderson laid the boots into Sullivan until Dungeon of Doom members came to the rescue.

The Horsemen Are Strong 

Backstage, Mean Gene was doing that creepy-old-guy thing he always did when Woman and Miss. Elizabeth were around. Before he could interview them, however, a sweaty Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit came on the scene, followed by The Nature Boy Ric Flair.
WCW The Great American Bash - Mean Gene interviewed The Four Horsemen

Anderson yelled about how few people could cut it as a member of The Four Horsemen, but that tonight, Chris Benoit had proved well and truly that he could.

Benoit, happy to be back in the fold, added that he had put Kevin Sullivan in his place tonight, and taught him just what happens when you mess with The Horsemen.

Chiming in towards the end of Typical Loud Angry Wrestling Promo #158, The Nature Boy insisted that he and Anderson were more than ready for tonight's match with Kevin Greene and Mongo McMichael.

Special Challenge Match
Lord Steven Regal (w/ Chives) vs. WCW Tag Team Champion Sting 

Apparently Regal had 'backhanded' Sting on a recent WCW show. To hear the commentators talking about it, this was the most heinous thing to have ever happened, meaning Sting was out for revenge against the Blackpool native in a 'special challenge' match.

WCW The Great American Bash 1996 - Steven Regal was awesome in his match against Sting
The match itself was, quite frankly, magnificent. It was mostly Steven Regal being awesome, working the crowd into a seething mass of hatred and making several thousand people hungry to see him get his ass kicked.

Not that they would get to see it.

Regal spent the majority of the contest large and in charge, taking The Stinger apart with a succession of submission moves and trash talking the entire time.

It was awesome to watch, though less so towards the finish when Sting suddenly stopped feeling pain, made a quick comeback and wrapped this one up with a Scorpion Death Lock.
Your Winner: Sting 

Wasting no time in getting back to the ring, it was time for the hotly anticipated Footballers vs. Wrestlers match.

Legends of The World of Wrestling vs. Legends of The Gridiron
The Four Horsemen (The Nature Boy Ric Flair & The Enforcer Arn Anderson w/ Miss. Elizabeth, Woman, and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan) vs. Kevin Greene & Steve 'Mongo' McMichael (w/ Tara Greene, Deborah McMichael, and Macho Man Randy Savage 

There's no two ways about it, this match was incredibly good fun.

No, it wasn't a mat wrestling classic, but then it was never supposed to be.

This was all about the spectacle of seeing two huge football players step into the squared circle, and to give them their due, Mongo and Greene played their roles to perfection.

They were big, they were manic, and that was all they needed to be.

Mongo and Greene kept things simple, Flair and Anderson bumped into the place and made the two footballers look like bona fide wrestling stars.

WCW - The Great American Bash 1996 - Deborah McMichael (w/ Woman & Elizabeth) betrayed Kevin Greene
Meanwhile, on the outside, Woman and Elizabeth chased the two footballers' wives off to the back, only to return towards the finish with Deborah, who had changed out of her football-themed attire and was now wearing a long, flowing dress.

In her hand, she carried a briefcase which she presented to her husband. Mongo opened it to reveal a Four Horsemen t-shirt and a butt-load of cash then closed it again and knocked out his partner with it.

Flair made the pin, and Steve 'Mongo' McMichael was now a member of The Four Horsemen.
Your Winners: Ric Flair & Arn Anderson

Afterwards, Mongo joined his new teammates in beating down his former wrestling coach, Macho Man Randy Savage, before the now complete Horsemen stable congratulated each other on a job well done.

The Hostile Take Over: 'They' Confront Eric Bischoff 

Our show tonight finds us in the earliest stages of the New World Order angle.

Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had already debuted on Nitro, but were still being referred to only as 'They.'

On a recent episode of Nitro, 'They' had issued a challenge to WCW for a match, and now it was the responsibility of Eric Bischoff, as Big Boss of WCW, to respond to that challenge.


Inviting Them out onto the stage, Bischoff first sought to get his way out of a lawsuit by asking both men whether or not they worked for the WWF.

They answered in the negative, leaving Bischoff free to continue the year's hottest angle by accepting Their challenge to a match, albeit on his terms.

The match, said Eric, would take place at next month's Bash at the Beach on July 7th, though the three men who would be representing WCW would not be revealed until the following night's Nitro.

When Bischoff refused to be drawn any further on this, Hall got angry and punched him in the stomach. Then, in one of the most memorable moments of the whole nWo angle, Nash powerbomed the boss through the stage.

It was a short, compelling, and utterly convincing angle which, though simple in its execution, made you sit up and take note:

This was no ordinary wrestling angle, this was something big.

As a stunned Tony Schiavone left the broadcast booth to join EMTs and WCW officials in tending to Eric, our pal Dusty gave a sombre promo to camera, declaring his disbelief at what a cruel, terrible world we lived in.

Between The Destruction of Eric Bischoff and Steve McMichael's dastardly turn, Dusty was inconsolable. So distraught was he in fact, that he failed to recognise that Michael Buffer was to be our ring announcer for tonight's main event.

World Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship
WCW World Heavyweight Champion The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Lex Luger  

WCW - The Great American Bash 1996 - The Giant yelled at the camera after beating Lex Luger
Whilst both Lex Luger and Jimmy Hart getting distracted by the Eric Bischoff saga was a nice touch -Luger even going so far as to check on him en route to the ring- it was about the only part of this match that was.

Everything else, from bell to bell, was miserable and almost unwatchable.

After several minutes of pure crap, The Giant hit his clothesline to retain the title.
Your Winner and Still WCW Champion: The Giant 

And that was all she wrote for one of the better PPVs of 1996.


And so it was that we were one step closer to Bash at the Beach 1996, one step closer to the heel turn that would change professional wrestling forever, and one step closer to the true formation of the New World Order. 

That being said, The Great American Bash was -unlike many other PPVs that would come later in the year- not predominantly focussed on the whole invasion thing. 

Here, we had lots of great wrestling from WCW's finest, including a rip-roaring match between Rey Mysterio and Dean Malenko, a great wrestling match between Sting and Steven Regal, and a highly entertaining novelty match in the wrestlers vs. footballers gimmick. 

To this writer, all of that proves one thing: 

That whilst it may have been the nWo that helped catapult WCW into the stratasphere, it wasn't the only thing they had going for them. Solid, in-ring action which at times totally outshone the competition was one of the company's best assets, and a tool they used to great effect in retaining fans long after the novelty value of Hall and Nash had worn off.

Admittedly, I've reveiwed WCW's 1996 PPVs in a bit of a random order. If you haven't already, you haven't already, you can catch up with other reviews here: 




Next time, we'll go ahead and review WCW World War 3. To be among the first to read that review when it is published, join me on the Retro Pro Wrestling Facebook page, or follow me on twitter at @Retropwrestling. twitter.com/retropwrestling. Until then, thanks for reading.


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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.