WWE Great American Bash 2004 Review

WWE Great American Bash 2004 Poster

June 27, 2004,
Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, Virginia

Torn between The Great American Bash 2004 and an early 90s WCW show, I’ll admit I was swayed to view this show first by nothing more than the picture of Torrie Wilson on the poster.

Of course, that’s probably not the wisest thing upon which to base a decision that requires several hours of commitment, but hey, WWE put Torrie on the poster and it got me to watch.

Score one for the marketing department at Titan Towers.

The show,  a Smackdown-only event that served as the final PPV before Summerslam ‘04, was the first Great American Bash event promoted by WWE, reviving the NWA/WCW staple for a several-year run as a permanent fixture in the company’s Pay Per View calendar.

Was it any good? 

There’s only one way to find out. 


The Great American Bash 2004 kicked off with a rather on-theme opening video that linked tonight’s biggest stories with some good, old-fashioned American patriotism.

In between shots of the Stars & Stripes (complete with a voice-over of kids pledging their allegiance to it), we saw John Bradshaw Layfield boasting about being a better American than everyone else and lambasting WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero (here representing ‘The Land of Opportunity) for being everything that was wrong with the USA.

Elsewhere, freestyle rapper and US Champion John Cena was the face of ‘Freedom of Speech,’ the outspoken star apparently landing in hot water with Smackdown General Manager Kurt Angle and finding himself booked in a fatal Fourway match.

Side note: Peacock seems to have the two matches confused:

WWE Great American Bash 2004 Mislabelled on Peacock

Finally, The Undertaker’s rivalry with Paul Heyman and The Dudley Boyz represented ‘The Freedom to Choose,’ with 'Taker being forced to decide between joining forces with his enemies or having Paul Bearer murdered on live PPV. 

With all that over with, we went, as advertised, to the one and only poster girl herself, Torrie Wilson. 

Torrie Wilson kicks off the 2004 Great American Bash

Decked in typically patriotic attire, Wilson gave props to the crowd and US Armed Forces before finally welcoming us to The Great American Bash.

As pyro exploded and music blared, Michael Cole noted that the event was back after a four-year hiatus, confirming that WWE considered this part of the event’s long lineage dating back to the NWA shows of the 1980s.

WWE Great American Bash '04 announcers Michael Cole & Tazz

Cole was joined by Tazz for tonight's broadcast, which began with the two of them paying close attention to the ominous cement truck set up for tonight's main event.

With that, it was onto our opening match.

WWE United States Championship 
WWE United States Champion John Cena vs. Rene Dupree vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T 

WWE never did a One Night Stand style show for WCW.

However, I'd say that by opening up a Great American Bash show at the Norfolk Scope with a US championship match featuring the last man to hold the WCW championship while the company was still alive was as close as they were ever going to get to paying tribute to the now-defunct company.

Not that Booker T had much desire to get involved.

US Champion John Cena freestyle wrapping at Great American Bash 2004

We began with a John Cena freestyle rap in which the US Champ referenced RVD’s marijuana use, Booker T’s time as GI Bro, and Renee Dupree’s General Frenchness,.

From there, the match kicked off with a weird format in which two guys would wrestle in the ring and the other two would hang around outside.

I’m not sure if I missed it, or if it was never actually explained, but I genuinely couldn’t work out why the non-competing wrestlers were on the floor and not on the apron waiting to be tagged in, or what exactly constituted an exchange of combatants.

Renee Dupree and Rob Van Dam at Great American Bash '04

The only rule seemed to be that if you got beat up on the outside and then thrown in the ring, tag, you’re it.

Being the heel, Booker showed no signs of wanting to participate, dismissively avoiding the action until RVD finally threw his former tag team partner in the ring.

It was only at this point that the match started getting good.

With Cena taking a nap on the outside, RVD took control, standing tall over both Booker T and Renee Dupree and throwing a couple of frog splashes around for good measure.

Sadly for him, that was to be his last bit of offense.  

Before the former ECW star could gain a fall, Cena returned to the ring, rolled him up, and pinned him.

A brief lull followed as Booker and Dupree did the whole ‘heels-try-double-teaming-the-face-but-can’t-get-along’ culminating in Cena taking out Dupree before Booker took out Cena and stole the fall to eliminate the Frenchman.

From there, the champion and his last remaining challenger went at it in a pretty solid encounter which resulted in the latter gaining the upper hand.

For all intents and purposes, it even looked as though the then-future Hall of Famer had the match in the bag, though if you didn’t see Cena countering Booker’s scissor-kick attempt with a match-winning FU, you must still be new to this stuff.
Your Winner and Still US Champion: John Cena 

As Cena made his way through the backstage area, he was congratulated on his victory by Charlie Haas a stars-and-stripes-clad Jackie Gayda.

Great American Bash 2004 - John Cena propositions Jackie in front of Charlie Haas

Practically ignoring Haas, John invited Jackie to some post-show nookie and walked off, leaving Charlie to have another go at flirting with her.

His attempt didn’t last long. 

The two were immediately interrupted by a wheelchair-bound Kurt Angle, who was furious with his former protege for not living up to his potential.

Looking to teach him a lesson, Angle booked Haas a match against the GM’s new protégée, Luther Reigns.

That was next, so it was a good job Charlie was already suited up in his wrestling gear despite not originally being booked on the card.

Sable in a paddling pool at WWE Great American Bash 04

Giving Haas time to make it to the Gorilla position, we next cut to Sable, who sat rubbing herself up and down in a hot tub while attempting to make the fact that wrestlers would be interviewed sound sexy.

The attempt failed.

Not only did this segment not come across as sexy, it didn’t even make a lot of sense.

Anyway, onto Luther Reigns, who I’m sure will be back in WWE any day now to sort his son out.

Charlie Haas (w/ Miss Jackie) vs. Luther Reigns (w/ Kurt Angle)

The set-up for this match may have been short and basic, but it was still far more entertaining than the match itself.

Luther Reigns demolishes Charlie Haas at Great American Bash 2004

I’m not a fan of the term “extended squash,” but that’s precisely what this was; the monsterous Reigns dominating his smaller opponent from bell to bell.

The result was an entirely boring match that had no place being on a PPV, even a brand-exclusive, B-level PPV like this one.

Heck, this match would still have been dull as the proverbial dishwater were it featured on an episode of Superstars.

There was at least one person who enjoyed it, that being Kurt Angle, who sat at ringside, applauding and coaching his charge with great enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, Angle’s amusement was everybody else’s punishment and it was a small mercy when Reigns predictably scored the win.
Your Winner: Luther Reigns 

We next went backstage, where John Bradshaw Layfield cut a strong and convincing promo ahead of his upcoming title match with Eddie Guerrero.

WWE Great American Bash 2004 - John Bradshaw Layfield cowbell promo

Recalling their bloody battle back at Judgement Day, Layfield noted that the reason tonight's match was a bullrope match wasn't that it needed more cowbell, but rather to prevent Eddie Guerrero from getting intentionally disqualified.

Finally, the former Acolyte turned his attention to the audience, insisting that the only reason they hated JBL was down to him being a better American than they were.

I don’t care how much you hate JBL’s run from this time, you have to give him credit for a pretty solid performance here.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero 

Speaking of solid performances, defending cruiserweight champion Rey Mysterio and his challenger, Chavo Guerrero, delivered what was quite possibly one of the best of their many matches together.

WWE Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio (Great American Bash '04)

Whether it was their title match in WCW at SuperBrawl Revenge or their recent commendable outing at No Way Out 2004, Mysterio and Guerrero never had the flashiest cruiserweight matches in the world, but they usually made up for it with lashings of drama and storytelling.

Here, the story was both simple and compelling.

Unable to stop the champ whizzing around him like a pinball, the contender cut Rey’s legs from underneath him, bringing the speedy (better word?) to a grinding halt with a series of uniquely painful-looking submission holds.

Refusing to yield, Mysterio battled on, at one point even gaining enough momentum to land a 619 but having his follow-up springboard attempt land him in the clutches of yet another submission hold.

Chavo Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio - WWE Great American Bash 2004

Eventually, Guerrero looked to have the match won, setting up his opponent for a gory bomb. At the last moment, however, Mysterio did some lucha wizardry and countered with what Tazz tried to describe as “some kind of sunset flip.”

One three-count later, and this enthralling match was over, proving that it’s possible to do all the high-flying acrobatic stuff in wrestling while still getting the audience emotionally invested rather than just giving them cool s**t to watch.
Your Winner and still cruiserweight champion: Rey Mysterio 

Backstage, Billy Kidman, Funaki, and Spike Dudley sat in a paddling pool with Torrie Wilson arguing about which one of them would have won that last match.

Torrie Wilson is the center of attention at Great American Bash 2004

Of all the sentences I’ve ever written on this blog, that’s certainly one of the more unique.

Anyway, the three stopped arguing to perv on Torrie’s bum as she got up to prepare for her match with sable.

That was silly.

This wasn’t:

Kenzie Suzuki (w/ Hiroko) vs. Billy Gunn

It wasn’t silly. It was just unnecessary.

I know Billy Gunn is regarded as a well-respected veteran these days, but nobody needed an Ass Man in 2004.

Here, Gunn was doing practically the same thing as he was when he won King of the Ring 1999, only now with only 50% less charisma.

There was just nothing interesting about him during this time, and that meant this match wasn’t all that interesting either.

The bout was a rematch from their clash on Smackdown when Kenzo Suzuki’s geisha girl and real-life wife had Hiroko interfered to stop Suzuki from losing. It was so uneventful that I forgot the entire match as soon as it was over.

On second watch, it turns out Suzuki -here making his WWE PPV debut- won with a backbreaker thingy.
Your Winner: Kenzo Suzuki 

This would prove to be Billy Gunn's last WWE Pay Per View appearance for a good number of years. His ten-year run with the company would draw to a close later that year, giving him the freedom to diss on WWE and Triple H in several shoot promos and eventually show up in TNA as The Outlaw.

Paul Heyman Holds Paul Bearer Hostage 

Out in the back, Paul Heyman had Paul Bearer gagged and bound. 

Paul Bearer held hostage by Paul Heyman at WWE Great American Bash 2004

The former ECW boss took a perverse glee in reminding Bearer that he would be buried alive in concrete if The Undertaker didn’t “do the right thing.”

Sable vs. Torrie Wilson

Playing out to near silence, this match between the two Playboy cover girls was more or less exactly what you might expect.

Great American Bash 2004 - Sable vs. Torrie Wilson

All the standard “divas” moves that we’d see for the rest of the 2000s were in play here, and though the two women performed their spots competently, there wasn’t an awful lot to enjoy.

Sable dominated the early part of the match before Torrie turned the tables, hurling her opponent into the corner and charging forward, only for the two to “inadvertently” clash heads.

Sable went down like a sack of potatoes, prompting referee Charles Robinson to hold Torrie back while he checked on the fallen wrestler.

Of course, it was all a ruse.

Playing possum, Sable lured Torrie in and sprang back to life, wrapping up her former friend for the match-winning roll-up.
Your Winner: Sable

Out in the back, The Undertaker walked down a dark corridor looking like a dude who’d been sent by his wife to check out a strange noise in the house in the middle of the night.

Elsewhere in the arena, Dawn Marie looked stunning in a stars-and-stripes bikini as she interviewed Rene Dupree about his earlier loss.

Great American Bash 2004 - Dawn Marie in a bikini with Renee Dupree

The Frenchman declared that he was going to get even by filing some sort of protest before inviting Marie to see his, ahem, “French tickler.

Before she could respond, Nunzio arrived on the scene and gave her a better offer:

A whole 15 inches.

Nunzio shows Dawn Marie his big feet at WWE Great American Bash 2004

Nunzio was, of course, talking about his feet, propping a boot up on the hot tub and repeating “you know what they say about guys with big feet, huh? You know “big…feet.

Amazingly, the dumb pickup line worked.

Although it took Dawn Marie to get the insinuation, when she did, she was clearly impressed and left with the FBI man.

Mordecai vs. Hardcore Holly

Speaking of big feet, Mordecai stomped his all-over Hardcore Holly’s head in a boring match which really had no business being on Pay Per View.

Mordecai makes an entrance at GAB 2004

For reasons unknown even to Tazz & Cole, these two had gotten into a backstage brawl on Smackdown and now looked to settle their score, whatever it may have been.

The result was plenty of kicks and punches, a rest hold spot that sucked out what little life there was in the Norfolk Scope Arena that night, and a win for Mordecai with a crucifix powerbomb.
Your Winner: Mordecai 

Following a quick commercial for Summerslam which played on the upcoming 2004 Summer Olympic Games, we got a recap of JBL and Eddie Guerrero’s rivalry which focused on the bullrope stipulation, leading us straight into our next contest.

Texas Bullrope Match for the WWE Championship 
WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero vs. John Bradshaw Layfield 

The first thing I need to point out here is the addition of a lighting system to keep track of which wrestler had touched which corner.

Any time Guerrero touched a corner post, a red light would turn on in that corner.

A lighting system used for JBL vs. Eddie Guerrero at WWE Great American Bash 2004

Any time JBL did so, a green light would turn on.

I’ve watched a lot of wrestling over the years but I’ve never seen this gimmick deployed in any match before or since the 2004 Great American Bash.

It was an interesting concept that would have worked better if one of the lightbulbs wasn’t dying and there weren’t occasional delays between a wrestler hitting the corner and the light turning on, a problem that created moments of confusion in an otherwise stellar match.

The early going saw both men choking each other out with the rope. As psychologically solid as it was, it wasn’t very interesting until JBL hurled Guerrero out of the ring.

There, the challenger set up his opponent for a powerbomb from one announce table to the other, but the crafty champion swiped Bradshaw’s leg from under him, not only turning the tables but also turning the match up to a whole new level.

Reminiscent of their bloody battle at Judgement Day, the two waged war on one another in a gripping match that highlighted Eddie Guerrero’s versatility as a pro wrestler.

JBL vs. Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Title - Great American Bash 04

With the bullrope stipulation getting in the way of his usual fast-paced brand of lucha-inspired technical prowess, the champion played his rival at his own game and proved he could brawl with the best of ‘em.

Eventually, with both men having touched three corners, this thoroughly compelling match culminated in a tense sudden death stand-off.

The two held firm in opposite corners of the ring, desperately attempting to simultaneously stop the other touching that last corner while also trying to touch it for themselves.

Ultimately, Guerrero charged at JBL, squashing his nemesis in the corner as he (Eddie) touched the post to win the match and retain the title.

Or at least that’s how it seemed at first.

As Eddie celebrated, Luther Reigns wheeled out Kurt Angle to interrupt.

The GM demanded a replay of the match’s finish, a replay which showed that as a consequence of Guerrero squashing him in the corner, JBL’s shoulder had technically touched the corner first, making him the victor.
Your Winner and New WWE Champion: John Bradshaw Layfield 

I don't doubt for a second that the kind of fans who take this stuff super seriously will have criticized that finish and claim it made Bradshaw look like a “weak champion” or whatever, but I honestly thought it was a stroke of genius.

Remember, JBL was a heel. 

Winning the match on a technicality did make him seem unworthy of the title, and that’s precisely the point.

Those fans whose enjoyment of pro wrestling hadn’t been ruined by Meltzer star ratings and the need to hero-worship the latest indie darlings would despise him even more.

Those fans who still bought into the stories presented to them would know this dastardly dickhead didn’t deserve the title and clamor to see him defeated.

At least, that’s how it should have worked in theory. 

Whether it paid off in execution is another story, but it was still a fantastic move from a story and character development perspective.

Anyway, afterward, a bloody JBL took his title backstage, leaving Eddie Guerrero to soak up the adulation of the fans, his time as Smackdown’s number-one player at an end.

Finally, it was time for our main event. 

2 vs. 1 Handicap Match
WWE Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boyz (D’Von & Bubba Ray Dudley w/ Paul Heyman) vs. The Undertaker 

Well, almost time.

First, we got a look at the backstory to this match, which essentially boiled down to Paul Heyman looking to gain control of The Undertaker by capitalizing on The Phenom’s one true weakness:

His emotional bond with Paul Bearer.

It was a logical and interesting concept for a story, even if the whole kidnapping and threat of burying Bearer in concrete really did stretch the limits of credibility.

Hey! The Dudleys kidnapped Paul Bearer. They’ve been holding him hostage and now Paul Heyman is planning to murder him!”
“Well, damn. Shouldn’t we do something? Maybe call the authorities?”
“Nah, let’s sell tickets to the murder attempt and put it on Pay Per View.”

Proving that he really wasn’t bluffing, Heyman buried Bearer up to his ankles, warning ‘Taker that there’d be more cement to come if he didn’t do the right thing by laying down for The Dudley Boyz.

Great American Bash 2004 - The Undertaker vs. Dudley Boyz

Acquiescing, The Dead Man lay down but soon changed his mind, gripping both Dudleys by the throat.

Before he could do any damage, however, he was interrupted by Heyman, who filled the glass crypt up just a little further.

The distraction allowed Bubba Ray and D’Von to regain control, as it did any time Undertaker even threatened to fight back.

Paul Heyman prepares to bury Paul Bearer in concrete

By the time Bearer was submerged past his waist, Bubba began getting worried, turning the cement truck off and imploring Heyman to let them finish off their opponent before he committed murder on live Pay Per View.

Thank goodness Paul agreed, because his frequent interruptions were jarring and distracting.

Not that the rest of the match was a whole lot better.

With Heyman behaving himself, ‘Taker had a decent but unremarkable battle with the tag team champions, eventually putting Bubba away with a tombstone.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

Afterward, an enraged Paul Heyman planned to finish burying Bearer. However, a spooky lightning bolt stopped him, giving ‘Taker time to make it to the glass crypt and save his long-time associate.

Except, that didn’t happen.

Instead, Undertaker insisted that he had no choice, pulling the lever that would release the rest of the concrete into the crypt as The Great American Bash -and, presumably, Paul Bearer’s life- came to an end.

Kind of.

If it wasn’t for The Guerreros, The Great American Bash 2004 would surely be ranked as one of the worst PPVs of all time.
Chavo’s cruiserweight classic with Rey Mysterio was enthralling, while Eddie’s WWE championship reign ended in fine fashion with a captivating bit of storytelling in his Texas Bullrope match with JBL. 
Otherwise, this show was mostly a misfire, featuring midcard matches so blind they would have served as a bathroom break even on Smackdown, and a main event that was hindered by its own story.
Damn Torrie Wilson. I should’ve watched that WCW show. 

Buy The Complete History of The Royal Rumble on Amazon now

Be the first to catch the latest Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following on FacebookInstagram, or Threads.   

Post a Comment