WWE United We Slam – The Best Of The Great American Bash (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/ 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 430 minutes approx.
The title of this latest retrospective compilation is a shamelessly patriotic pun of epically awful proportions but thankfully the content isn’t as we trawl through fifteen years of one of the NWA/WCW staple PPV shows the Great American Bash (hereon after referred to as the GAB). The WWE rather surprisingly resurrected the name and concept in 2004 for their Smackdown brand PPVs but it didn’t last long and neither did its short lived successor The Bash a few years later.
But it is the original GAB show this collection is only concerned with. It was created by Jim Crockett Promotions head booker at the time Dusty Rhodes – who is also the host of this presentation and provides commentary on some of the older matches alongside the legend in his own mind, Larry Zbyszko. This wasn’t the smartest of ideas as they merely prattle on like a couple of senile old men in a retirement home discussing their favourite cardigan.
Back to the GAB which was a summer time event to compliment the winter classic Starrcade, with the first instalment held at the American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1985. A reported 27,000 fans packed the stadium to witness this big event which is represented here by the NWA World Title match pitting Ric Flair against challenger Nikita Koloff. This clip is pure old school magic with Flair arriving by helicopter complete with a red carpet entrance!
The following year the GAB took a slightly approach by being a tour rather than single event, taking in thirteen stadium and arena shows across the country in a month long tour, with selected matches appearing on a later home video release. The two matches from this ambitious trip are however from the same show – first a classic old school tag match between Ole & Arn Anderson vs the Rock & Roll Express then an NWA Title Steel cage match between long time rivals Flair and Dusty. The commentary for this match features someone called Steve Romero (who?) chatting with Dusty and the late Mike Graham, so I assume this is from the Dusty Rhodes DVD from a few years back as Graham passed away in 2012.
1987 saw the GAB run as another tour, famous for bringing us the brutal and often imitated War Games match, the first of which is included here. In 1988 the GAB became a PPV event for the first time but this is where the chronology of this release becomes somewhat derailed as the match presented here, The Road Warriors vs Sting & Lex Luger in an NWA tag title match, didn’t take place until much later in the year. The Roadies didn’t win the titles until October 1988 which saw them turn heel in the process, so quite how this match qualifies for inclusion in this set is a head scratcher and an egregious oversight – fun match though that it is.
We get back on track with the matches from the 1989 iteration, a show which is regarded as one of the best WCW PPVs of all time, so we’re spoilt for choice. Two matches are chosen: Sting vs Great Muta for the NWA TV title and Flair vs Terry Funk for the NWA Title. I don’t think I need to say any more about these matches except enjoy! Elsewhere from the 1990 show – the second of four consecutive PPVs held in Baltimore – is the Steiners vs Freebirds in a match that will surprise newer viewers who only know Scott Steiner as an irascible, blonde haired, unintelligible over-roided psychopath to see him as a lean mean wrestling machine! I don’t know why WWE match compilers ignored the Southern Boys vs Midnight Express match from this show as it was the best match of the entire night and deserves a revisit!
Thankfully the abomination that was the 1991 edition is skipped over (unless you count Sting vs Koloff in the Blu-ray extras) so we jump to 1992 for the period when Bill Watts was in charge and reconnected WCW with the now moribund NWA to little benefit for everyone involved. A tournament for the NWA tag titles did however gives us some great matches such as the one featured here, Dustin Rhodes & Barry Windham vs Steve Austin & Rick Rude.
After this show WCW dropped the GAB from its PPV calendar and didn’t bring it back until 1995 by which time the company was now in the grip of Hulkamania, resembling WWF-lite with so many of Hogan’s friends featuring on the roster. For example the 1995 show was headlined by Randy Savage vs Flair which was the WWF’s world title feud just three years earlier!
The result was that the younger under card guys like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Booker T, etc. were left to provide the action and carry the workload while the old timers stunk up the main events. This may sound cynical but true – to exemplify this, from the 1998 show we have Jericho vs Malenko in a corker of a match then Hogan & Bret Hart vs Savage & Roddy Piper (combined age at that time of 179) in a real stinker!
While the match quality may be hit and miss one cannot complain about the value for money these WWE releases offer the fans. This comprehensive collection gives you seven hours (more if you have the Blu-ray) of wrestling content which isn’t to be sniffed at. The match selection will divide the audience into two halves – the old guard such as myself who loves the old school material with the longer, stronger matches and awesome crowd reactions, and the younger fans who cut their teeth on the nWo era material who will no doubt reminisce fondly about this period of the company.
WWE is on a roll with these themed compilation releases and this deserves a place in the collection of any keen wrestling fan young or old.
GAB Tour 1986 – Steel Cage Match – Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA & Baby Doll vs. The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette – Exclusive Commentary provided by Dusty Rhodes & Larry Zbyszko
GAB 1988 – NWA World Title Match – Ric Flair (c) vs. Lex Luger
GAB 1991 – Russian Chain Match – Sting vs. Nikita Koloff
GAB 1996 – Kevin Greene & Steve McMichael vs. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson
GAB 1999 – WCW World Title Match – Kevin Nash (c) vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black