Friday, 29 January 2021

PPV REVIEW: NWA - The Great American Bash 1988 (The Price of Freedom)

NWA The Great American Bash 1988 (The Price of Freedom) - Event Poster
July 10, 1988
Baltimore Arena, Baltimore, Maryland

Over the years, The Great American Bash would go on to become one of World Championship Wrestling's flagship Pay Per Views, a mainstay of their events calendar that was held every single year until their demise in 2001.

It would also prove to be a show with an interesting history.

Though the 1988 Great American Bash wasn't the first event of its kind, it was significant in other ways, being the last National Wrestling Alliance PPV as well as the last NWA event presented by Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP). 

In 1988, JCP was on the verge of bankruptcy and was purchased by Ted Turner. Thus, World Championship Wrestling was born and the next PPV, Starrcade 1988 was produced by WCW though still considered to be an NWA event. 

Anyway, that brief history lesson aside, let's head to Baltimore, Maryland to see what went down at The Great American Bash 1988.







The Price of Freedom

NWA The Great American Bash 1988 (The Price of Freedom) - Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone called the action
Tonight's show began with a simple, old-school opening which presented us with the marquee matches over some typically 80s music.

We then cut direct to the arena where tag team champions Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard awaited their opponents' arrival, all without any of the usual introduction that we'd normally get from the announce team.

National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship
NWA World Tag Team Champions Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (w/ James J. Dillon) vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff

The most surprising thing here was that, since we last saw him at Bunkhouse Stampede back in January, Nikita Koloff had spouted a full head of hair and was now rocking a major flattop.

He and Sting made their way to the ring accompanied by a thunderous ovation to the live crowd. After the introductions, Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross finally made their presence felt, with Schiavone informing us that the crowd had literally exploded.

That must've been pretty messy.

What certainly wasn't messy was this match.

With the audience lapping up their every move, Sting and Koloff took the fight to their opponents in an intense opener that only dragged part way through when they worked Tully Blanchard's arm for half a year.

That weak spot aside, this was a fun contest with the challengers dominating far more babyfaces usually do in tag team matches.

After a figuratively explosive closing sequence, Sting locked in the Scorpion Death Lock on Tully, but the time limit expired before the champion could surrender.
Time-Limit Draw

After the bell, Nikita and Sting thought they'd won and celebrated with the title belts, only to be disappointed when Garry Michael Capetta announced the draw.

Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone then attempted to hype us up for our next match, only to be interrupted by the sight of Sting and Koloff kicking some horsemen butt.

NWA United States Tag Team Championship
NWA US Tag Team Champions The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers) vs. The Midnight Express (Beautiful Bobby Eaton & Sweet Stan Lane w/ Jim Cornette)

If The Fantastics win, Jim Cornette receives 10 lashes.

NWA The Great American Bash 1988 (The Price of Freedom) - Jim Cornette led The Midnight Express into battle against The Fantastics
Prior to the match, Jim Cornette got on the microphone to introduce his men. Sweet Stan Lane then returned the favor, letting us know that James E. was the man who sold Mike Tyson his first workout video.

OK then. 

Rather than the bell ringing and the action commencing, Cornette was next ordered into a straight jacket and forced into a shark cage that was hoisted high in the air, which was apparently the only way anyone could be sure that Jimmy wouldn't interfere in the match.

Though all this pre-match stuff went on far too long, you really have to give credit where it's due: Cornette sold the whole thing superbly and was absolutely priceless in his role.

Once the bell finally sounded, the match got underway and quickly turned into a very enjoyable tag bout. There was nothing fancy about it nothing out of the ordinary, it was just a solid wrestling match that was fast-paced for the time period and had nary a dull moment in sight.

The end came when Beautifully Bobby Eaton smacked Bobby Fulton in the mush with a chain-wrapped fist.

One three count later, new US tag team champions were crowned.
Your Winners and NEW NWA United States Tag Team Champions: The Midnight Express

Post-match, Fulton and Tommy Rogers protested, trying to convince referee Tommy Young that an international object had come into play. 

Doing his due diligence, Young searched Eaton and found nothing, only to discover that the chain was stuffed down Fulton's tights. The referee's decision stood. The Midnights were the champions, but The Fantastics were -understandably- quite PO'd about it. 

Exacting their revenge, they waited until Cornette's cage had been lowered, dragged him into the ring, and gave him a whipping with Young's belt.

The Tower of Doom is Imminent 

The Tower of Doom concept is perhaps best remembered from its ill-fated use in the main event of WCW Uncensored 1996, when Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan from cage to cage, laying waste to everyone in sight in a dimly-lit and generally terribly presented concept.

That, however, was far from the first time it was used. 

Tonight, we'd see the triple-decker cage serve as the setting for a big eight-man clash pitting The Road Warriors, Dr. Death Steve Wiliams, and the Brothers Garvin against The Varsity Club, Al Perez, The Russian Assasin, and Ivan Koloff.

Before we got to the actual match, however, we first had to wait while the cage was put into place.

In the modern age, this would be the point at which we'd be distracted with some backstage promos or video packages. This being the NWA in the late 1980s, however, we instead got nothing more than a hard camera view of the cage being setup, with one briefly funny moment in which we saw security chasing after some nefarious ner-do-weller in the crowd and escorting him out of the arena. 

Tommy Young -whose job was to operate the trapdoor between the top and middle cage- then scaled to the pinnacle of the structure and spent at least four decades trying to figure out how the trapdoor contraption worked. 

Young looked terrified the entire time and would spend the entire contest clinging on for dear life.

Tower of Doom Cage Match
Ron Garvin, Jimmy Garvin, Dr. Death Steve Williams and The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal w/ Paul Ellering) vs. The Varsity Club (Kevin Sullivan & Mike Rotunda), Ivan Koloff, The Russian Assasin, and Al Perez (w/ Gary Hart and Paul Jones)

NWA The Great American Bash 1988 (The Price of Freedom) - Precious played an important role in the Tower of Doom cage match
OK, so here's how this one worked. 

Two men would start at the top of the cage while everybody else stayed on the ground. Every two minutes, a ladder would sound and a clearly petrified Tommy Young would open the trapdoor, allowing the men to escape down into the second cage while a new man from each team scaled a giant ladder and entered the cage.

The object was to escape down into the third, bottom cage around the ring. There, Precious would be waiting to open the cage, and the first team to get all five men back to the arena floor would be declared the winners. 

The match wasn't great by any stretch, but it was infinitely better than the aforementioned Uncensored '96 debacle and it was at least easy to see what was going on.

Towards the end, it all came down to Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan. 

With the cage door open, Sullivan actually pushed Garvin out of it, essentially giving his opponent's team the win. 

At first, that seemed like the most nonsensical finish to a match ever, but then the post-match happened, and suddenly everything made sense.
Your Winners: Team Garvin

You see, this whole feud was centered around Sullivan wanting Precious. So, since she'd been in the ring the whole time, he was willing to sacrifice a win to lock himself in the cage with her. 

As he did this, the other wrestlers brawled around ringside (I think fellow varsity club man Rick Steiner also got involved here) until Jimmy Garvin and Road Warrior Hawk scaled the top of the cage, worked their way down, and rescued the blonde beauty. 

As a side note, its interesting that we're almost 90 minutes into this thing and so far there's only been three matches. To be fair, about 20 of those minutes were waiting for the cage to be set up. 

National Wrestling Alliance United States Championship
NWA US Champion Barry Windham (w/ James J. Dillon) vs. Dusty Rhodes

NWA The Great American Bash 1988 (The Price of Freedom) - Barry Windham (w/ J.J Dillon) defended the US title against Dusty Rhodes
So, Dusty Rhodes had once been Barry Windham's mentor, but then Windham had turned heel and joined The Four Horsemen, leading to tonight's title match. 

Though not very high on action, this was a perfect example of less is more. The challenger received a huge ovation from the live audience for doing simple things like hitting an arm-drag, punching Windham in the face, and dropping the elbow on his head, while the champion used his strength and height advantage to eventually overpower Rhodes.

It was compelling enough to keep you emotionally invested in the match without either man having to overexert themselves.

This was especially the case when Windham clamped the claw on Dusty's head and held it there for the next 18 years. I've seen other reviewers and fans criticize this spot and, admittedly, it did go on a bit long, but personally, this writer found it very entertaining.

Windham slapped on the claw, Dusty went down and almost past out but then got a second wind and threatened to break out of it, only to nearly pass out again. He then got a third wind, a fourth, and so on, until eventually making his big triumphant comeback.

At that point, he threw Windham off the turnbuckles, knocking the referee out in the process. That allowed Ronnie Garvin to come in and turn heel, knocking Dusty's lights out so that Windham could get the cover, the count, and the match.
Your Winner and Still US Champion: Barry Windham 

Post-match, Steve Williams ran in to check on Rhodes. 

Meanwhile, out in the back, James J. Dillon handed Ronnie Garvin a whole bunch of money for his role in the previous match. Garvin did his best Scrooge McDuck with the money then wandered off doing the kind of evil cackle you learn on Day 1 of Heel Wrestler School.

Garry Hart was there too and would be Garvin's manager during his heel run.

National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion 'The Nature Boy' Ric Flair vs. 'The Total Package' Lex Luger

NWA The Great American Bash 1988 (The Price of Freedom) - Ric Flair punishes Lex Luger with a figure four
For the most part, this was a solid main event based around the simple premise that the champion would have to use his cunning and cardiovascular conditioning to get the better of the much more powerful challenger.

Yet while Luger's strength and physical presence were certainly central to the match, he was far from as one-dimension as he'd become later in his career. Honestly, having only really known Luger from his work in the 1990s, it came as a surprise to this writer to see him throwing dropkicks around and hitting a sunset flip over the top rope.

This, combined with the fact that he dominated perhaps 2/3s of the contest made The Total Package look very impressive indeed, though alas simply being impressive wasn't enough for him to win the match, at least not when shenanigans and BS finishes are at play.

After trading the advantage between them, both men got thrown to the outside where Luger had his head introduced to the steel post on two separate occasions, first by Flair, then by Dillon. The move caused Luger to become busted open, though even that wouldn't stop him.

Back in the ring, the challenger regained control and lifted his opponent into the Torture Rack. The referee called for the bell and Luger leaped into the air in triumphant joy, celebrating what he thought was his big title win. 

Unfortunately, Tommy Young had actually called for the bell because the ringside representatives of the Maryland State Athletic Commission had decreed that Lex would have to lose the match because of the blood loss. This was Starrcade '84 all over again
Your Winner via Complete and Total Bullsh*t and STILL World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair

In the ring, Sting, Nikitta Koloff, and others who had joined Luger to celebrate now looked enraged at the stupid decision. It was stupid too. Luger may have been bleeding, but it was a minor cut compared to the proverbial crimson mask we'd seen on previous shows.







All in all then, you could say that The Great American Bash was a decent show dampened by terrible booking. The Luger/Flair main event was very entertaining for its time until the ridiculous finish. I get that it's one way to keep the title on Flair while still making Luger look strong, but there are better and more logical ways to do that.

Elsewhere, the two opening tag team matches were fun, the Rhodes/Windham match was alright for what it was, and the Tower of Doom was interesting purely for the spectacle of it.

Not a must-see show by any stretch, but certainly not one you'll regret watching.



Other 1988 events:
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1 comments:

Only the cage, U.S. title, and World title matches are worth watching in my opinion. Thanks for the review.😀

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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.