Thursday, 19 November 2020

EVENT REVIEW: NWA The Great American Bash 1986 - Charlotte (July 5th)

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - VHS cover
July 5th, 1986
American Legion Memorial Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Before it became the annual WCW PPV we all remember, The NWA Great American Bash began life as a summer tour designed to showcase the best of the best in some of the organization’s most profitable hotspots.

The first such tour kicked off in 1985, though we don’t currently have access to any footage of that since Retro Pro Wrestling started using the WWE Network exclusively for material for this blog.

What we do have access to is two shows -the July 5th and July 26th events- from 1986.

Both of these were uploaded to the WWE Network and, at almost three hours in length apiece, both seem to be the full versions of those shows, or at least as near as dammit.

With that said, let’s head to Charlotte, North Carolina for The Great American Bash.





Let’s Go Skydiving

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Epic crowd
Our show began not with a video, not with an introduction from the announcers (there weren’t any for this show),  but with a presentation from a gold-medal-winning North Carolina National Sky Diving Team.

I’m sure this was very exciting live at the time, but watching it back 24 years later there’s not much to say about it.

This was followed by the obligatory playing of the American National Anthem, then it was down to ringside for some hype from our ring announcer and, finally, our opening contest.

National Wrestling Alliance World Junior Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion Denny Brown vs.  Mr. Electricity Steve Regal

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Mr Electricity Steve Regal faced Denny Brown
For newer fans, it’s probably worth pointing out that this isn’t the same Steve Regal you’re probably familiar with, but a former star of the AWA who then jumped to the NWA before ending up as cannon fodder for WWF stars.

Though his career on the big stage may not have ended in spectacular fashion, it did look like he was about to have a solid match here with Junior Heavyweight Champion Denny Brown. Things started well, with plenty of running around and athletic wrestling, but then it slowly devolved into one long chinlock as both men quite obviously began just trying to run down the clock.

Regal dominated the bulk of the contest but did so with none of the urgency or desperation that you might expect from a challenger in a championship match.

This was especially frustrating. Rather than doing his best to win, Mr. Electricity seemed quite content to keep reapplying wear-down holds and occasionally boasting to the crowd.

Inevitably, the time ran out and this disappointing opener came to a suitably lackluster finish with the ring announcer simply declaring them match is over’ as Regal and Brown punched each other.
Time-Limit Draw

Post-match, both men continues to wail on each other. Regal again got the upper hand, hurling Brown over the top rope and stealing his title, only for referee Earl Hebner to steal it back.

Non-Title Match
NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Black Bart vs. Robert Gibson

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Robert Gibson locks Black Bart in a head scissors
If the non-title stipulation didn’t telegraph the ending for you, the overwhelming popularity of Robert Gibson certainly gave it away.

The crowd absolutely loved the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express member and went wild for everything he did, even when what he did wasn’t all that special.

Indeed, that just about sums up this match. It wasn’t anything special, and from a technical standpoint it was average at best, but the sheer adoration for Gibson made it an enjoyable watch all the same.

Predictably, Black Bart came down on the wrong side of a flying cross-body block and ate the pin, much to the delight of the Charlotte crowd.
Your Winner: Robert Gibson

Afterward, Bart stood in the middle of the ring, hands-on-hips, looking as though he couldn’t believe he’d lost.

Special Challenge Match
The Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Ole Anderson  & NWA World TV Champion Arn Anderson) vs. Sam Houston and Nelson Royal

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Arn Anderson puts Sam Houston in an arm bar of doom
I’m not sure if the Andersons were technically the Minnesota Wrecking Crew here as they were never announced as such.

What I do know is that this was a fairly solid by-the-numbers tag team match that kept me entertained.

After some back and forth offense in the early going, The Andersons cut Nelson Royal off from his partner and worked over his arm for a good length of time.

This could have been boring, but Arn and Ole Anderson kept their offense interesting while Royal did such a great job at writhing in agony that you couldn’t help but enjoy it.

Eventually, Royal made the obligatory hot tag, yet in the ensuing chaos, Sam Houston got waffled by an Ole Ax-Handle from the ropes and lost the match for his team.
Your Winners: Minnesota Wrecking Crew

Moving on...

Bunkhouse Match
Baron Von Rashke (w/ Paul Jones) Manny “Raging Bull” Fernandez

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Baron Von Rashke faced Manny Fernandez in a Bunkhouse Match
This was billed as Anything Goes, but nothing really went besides Barron Von Raske taking his boot and belt off to use as weapons and at one point pulling a random International Object from his pocket.

The belt was especially a dumb move as he then spent the rest of the match with his jeans falling down.

Despite all that, this was a decent, old-school brawl with the crowd firmly behind Manny Fernandez.

The former Brass Knuckles champion took such a beating from his opponent that he was eventually busted wide open for our first blood let of the evening.

This made a nice change from the last NWA event we reviewed, Starrcade 1985, where almost every wrestler on the card bladed regardless as to whether it made any sense to or not.

After a fun fight, the Raging Bull got the three count on his opponent.
Your Winner: Manny Fernandez

Indian Strap Match
Wahoo McDaniel vs. Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin (w/ Precious)

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Jimmy Garvin faced Wahoo McDaniel in a strap match
This was neither the longest nor the greatest strap match in the world, but both Wahoo McDaniel and Jimmy Garvin made the best of their allotted ten minutes.

Meanwhile, on the outside, Precious was a very vocal (and pretty attractive) presence, cheering on her man and getting involved physically whenever she felt it necessary.

Unfortunately for her and Garvin, that wasn’t enough to stop the man described by the oh-so-impartial ring announcer as ‘the greatest Indian wrestler of all time.’

Wahoo pummelled Garvin into a bloody mess then dragged him from corner to corner to win this enjoyable match.
Your Winner: Wahoo McDaniel

Afterward, Gorgeous Jimmy attacked Wahoo with what looked to be a bottle of baby oil.

Bet that hurt.

Taped Fist Match
NWA National Champion Tully Blanchard (w/ James J. Dillon) vs. Ronnie Garvin (w/ Wahoo McDaniel)

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Tully Blanchard battled Ronnie Garvin in a taped fist match
Historically, boxing-type matches in pro wrestling have never been very good. So it was a surprise to discover that this ten-round taped fist match between Ronnie Garvin and Tully Blanchard was by far the best thing on the show up to this point.

In each three minute round, both men took turns beating the living hell out of each other in truly glorious fashion.

Every time a man got knocked down, referee Tommy Young really amped up the authenticity by beginning a serious ten count as though his life depended on it.

Of course, wrestling moves were still allowed because, as Gordon Sollie would often remind us, that’s what it says on the marquee, but there was still far more boxing than wrestling and it was surprisingly awesome.

In the fifth round, both men simultaneously knocked each other down. Young told the ring announcer to announce that the first man to his feet would be declared the winner.

That brought in James J. Dillon, who began desperately- and hilariously- fanning Blanchard with a towel to revive him. That didn’t work, though Wahoo McDaniel has better look reviving Ronnie Garvin by chucking a bucket of water on him.

Garvin got to his feet and this one was done.

Man, if I ever write a ‘best Great American Bash matches’ article, remind me to put this on there.
Your Winner: Ronnie Garvin

Post-match, Dillon argued with the official about Wahoo throwing water on Garvin. Young claimed not to know anything about it even though the ring was now clearly soaking wet.

Brilliant.

Double Russian Chain Match
The Koloffs (Ivan & Nikita Koloff) vs. The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Warrior Animal w/ Paul Ellering)

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Ivan & Nikita Koloff faced The Road Warriors in a chain match
With Hawk chained to Nikita Koloff and Animal linked with Ivan Koloff, this one played out more like two singles matches going on at the same time rather than a coherent tag team match.

Apologies to Road Warriors fans out there, but the results just weren’t that impressive.

After watching Blanchard and Garvin put on a dramatic and entertaining brawl, seeing four huge dudes punch and kick each other with nobody really selling anything just seemed very underwhelming.

After a few minutes of big man brawling, Paul Ellering shoved Ivan off the top rope. Koloff crotched the ropes fell to the mat and was pinned by Animal.
Your Winners: The Road Warriors

Post-match, the Russians attacked by were seen off by the Warriors.

Hair vs. Hair Match
Jimmy Valliant vs.Shaska Whately (w/ Paul Jones)

This was a weird one as we cut right to the action with Shaska Whately attacking Jimmy Valiant from the opening bell then, a few minutes in, the ring announcer declared that the loser would get his head shaved.

Like many NWA bouts, this one wasn’t much to write about, but the crowd were hot so that’s all that matters.

Also, remember what I said earlier about the lack of blood? I take it back. From the Bunkhouse Match onwards, every single match had one or more competitors bleeding, including this one.

Valiant bled hard and really didn’t need to. It was completely unnecessary.

Towards the finish, Barron Von Rashke and Manny Fernandez both put in an appearance, leading to Valiant getting hold of Rashke’s loaded glove and knocking out his opponent for the win.
Your Winner: Jimmy Valiant

Afterward, most of the babyfaces who had already appeared on tonight’s card showed up to fill the ring while Valiant shaves Whately’s head.

It was the highlight of the entire match.

Six-Person Inter-Gender Steel Cage Match
The Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, and Jim Cornette w/ Big Bubba Rogers) vs. Magnum T.A, Dusty Rhodes and Baby Doll

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Jim Cornette and The Midnight Express faced Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA and Baby Doll
Bubba Rogers must have still been in his learning phase here. Despite being on the side of Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express, he spent the entire match watching on from the babyface corner.

That oddness aside, this was a perfectly decent tag team match with the added attraction of people getting their faces ground into the cage for -you guessed it- more bloodshed.

Everyone had their part to play here and played it well, with Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A putting in the work against Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey, Jim Cornette providing the comic relief, and Baby Doll getting the big pops for hitting the men.

Speaking of which, she got the pin for her team when, in the middle of a six-person fracas, Jim Cornette kind of just tumbled to the mat and allowed her to pin him.
Your Winners: Baby Doll, Magnum T.A, and Dusty Rhodes

Afterward, Big Bubba and the Midnights trapped Magnum and Baby Doll in the cage and destroyed Dusty Rhodes.

Eventually, Rhodes’ partners were able to come and check on him as the ring announcer reminded the live audience to stick around for the post-show fireworks.

Steel Cage Match for the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nature Boy Ric Flair vs. Ricky Morton

NWA Great American Bash 1986 (Charlotte, July 5th) - Ric Flair arrived in a helicopter for his match with Ricky Morton
OK, forget what I said earlier about Blanchard/Garvin being the match of the night. This one was far, far superior.

Ric Flair arrived in a frickin helicopter. It brought him right into the stadium, a red carpet was rolled out for him, and he sauntered to ringside like it was just another day at the office.

Several decades later, Flair’s daughter Charlotte would pay homage to that at Wrestlemania 35.

Meanwhile, Ricky Morton wore a protective face mask after Nature Boy had attacked him and ground his face into the concrete.

The story of the match was Morton going out for revenge by attacking the champ’s face whenever he could, while Flair himself took every opportunity to do even more damage to Morton’s.

The results were glorious. With blood dripping down his face, Ricky sold Nature Boy’s offense as though he were literally dying, looking so destroyed that even referee Tommy Young begged Flair to give his opponent a chance.

For his part, the champion was excellent both on offense and defense. As an aggressor, he merely toyed with his battered opponent, dragging him around the ring and verbally humiliating him with unbridled confidence as he delivered shots to the face and occasionally grated Morton’s head in the steel cage.

When his opponent was in charge, however, Flair backed off, begged, and played scared.

It was excellent.

Of course, the champion retained his gold so that he could go on to defend it on the rest of the Great American Bash tour dates, but the journey to get that victory was wonderful.
Your Winner and Still World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair

I should also point out that this was the first major event (chronologically speaking) to feature the famous Big Gold Belt.





If you forget about the fact that there were far too many gimmick matches and bloodshed on this show, the Charlotte stop of The Great American Bash 1986 was a decent effort with two stand-out matches.

Though not everyone agrees, this fan found the taped fist match between Tully Blanchard and Ronnie Garvin to be genuinely enjoyable, while the Flair/Morton main event is definitely worth a look even if you skip the rest of the show.

Finally, give me a moment to complain about the blood some more. Though it was a great visual in the main event, the sight of Ricky Morton covered in blood would have had a much bigger impact had we not seen almost every wrestler on the card do the exact same thing.

It was a problem at Starrcade ‘85 and it was a problem here too.

We’ve all heard stories of older wrestlers telling the younger performers that ‘less is more,’ and I can’t help but wish somebody within the NWA heeded that advice back in the mid-1980s.




Other WCW Great American Bash reviews: 
Other 1986 events:
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