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WWE Great American Bash 2004
by Scrooge McSuck

-The writing was on the wall almost immediately: Smackdown wasn't nearly as important as Monday Night Raw. Sure, the sides were practically even from the original launch of a brand split through all of 2003, but things changed immediately after WrestleMania XX: WWE held the first of what would become a traditional Draft that would move a few pieces around in order to create fresh matches and new storylines... except it didn't seem to balance out very fairly. Triple H was picked to Smackdown, only to be "traded" back in exchange for Booker T and the Dudley Boyz (yes, THREE for the one). sure, those aren't nobodies, but now Raw had Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Chris Benoit, as well as the pushed to the moon Randy Orton, always good for a filler Main Event Kane, a returning Edge, and even Batista knocking on the door. Smackdown? They had Eddie Guerrero. Kurt Angle desperately needed time off for injuries, ditto the Big Show. Brock Lesnar left for Minnesota Vikings Training Camp and a successful career in MMA. This complete lack of uppercard talent made Smackdown look second rate, as did the choice for the next big, main event threat, heel... Bradshaw.

BRADSHAW. Of the APA. Formerly Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw, managed by Uncle Zebekiah. Formerly Blackjack Bradshaw. Bradshaw, the beer drinking, potty-mouthed Texan that DIDN'T get over. Yes, he was suddenly, and I do mean out of nowhere, pushed to the top of the card, doing what would generously be called a mix of a Ted Dibiase, Stan Hansen, and Kevin Nash impression. I chose the latter because JBL would go on to headline some of the poorest drawing shows of all-time. With Eddie Guerrero (a mostly life-long midcarder) vs. JBL (generously a life-long midcarder) as the WWE Title program, there needed to be something else... so the Undertaker, back from the dead and finally ditching the stupid BikerTaker version of his character, was put into an odd situation with the Dudley Boyz over the kidnapping and threatened homicide of Paul Bearer. Great American Bash would be the first "Smackdown Exclusive" PPV since the pendulum swung in Raw's favor... and boy can you tell. Let's take a look:

- Originally presented by the WWE on June 27th, 2004, from the Scope in Nortfolk, VA. Michael Cole and Tazz are on commentary, unless otherwise noted. One of the few cool things about the show: The return of red, white, and blue ring ropes. That's about as positive as I'm going to be, most likely. I should note this is only two WEEKS after Raw's Bad Blood, which might explain the miniscule buyrate. Sorry, I wasn't dropping 80 bucks in a month on PPV's, so I chose the one with a secondary Main Event of Chris Benoit vs. Kane. Not Bradshaw winning the WWE Title. Whoops, spoilers. In a worthless match on Sunday Night Heat, Spike Dudley put away Jamie Noble. WWE's answers to the Cruiserweight Division: Moving SPIKE DUDLEY to Smackdown. Misuse Ultimo fucking Dragon, but push Spike Dudley. WWE sure did a lot to piss me off back in the day. Yes, I just referenced 2004 as BACK IN THE DAY.

WWE United States Championship; Fatal-Four Way Match:
John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T vs. Rene Dupree:

This is held under Elimination Rules. Let's see, take three of the few "names" available on Smackdown, and stick them into the same match with Rene Dupree. In the OPENER. We'll see just how depleted and miss-cast the roster is as the show progresses. Cena's pre-match "rap" actually makes me long for "Rise Above Jobbing" Cena of the last eight years. I totally forgot about Booker's character motivation at the time: Being disgruntled having to be on Smackdown. RVD and Booker quickly take things to the floor, probably over who carried the team during their run as Tag Team Champions. Booker kind of hangs around on the floor, making Dupree do all the work. Thanks, Book. Dupree gets taken out on he floor, so now Cena decides he wants back in the ring. RVD punks out Booker and finally sends him in the ring. I'm kind of annoyed that while two guys are in the ring, the other two just STAND AROUND DOING NOTHING. I get the idea, but it's incredibly lazy looking. Dupree does the French Tickler, the only moment of "heat" he would have in the match. RVD with the Frog Splash on Dupree, then one for Booker T. Cena sneaks in and rolls up RVD for three at 8:18. Dupree and Booker take turns beating on Cena, but he OVERCOMES THE ODDS! FU to Dupree, and Booker steals the pin at 11:12, leaving Cena and Booker. Remember that EPIC Best of 5 Series? No? Well, it sucked. Booker gets a series of near falls and hits a chinlock. Cena mounts the comeback and a 5-Knuckle Shuffle gets two. Booker with a super-kick to the chest, but the Scissors Kick misses, and Cena finishes him with the FU at 15:48 to retain the US Title. ** A solid few minutes in the end saved this one from being a complete turd. Why make it a 4-Way when the match was a heatless, steaming, pile of dog poo until it came down to Cena and Booker T?

- Smackdown General Manager Kurt Angle heckles Charlie Haas for flirting with Jackie Gayda, so he throws him into a match with his NEW Protege, Luther Reigns, later tonight. You got to love matches added at the last minute! Especially matches that nobody gives enough of a shit about in the first place.

- Sable interviews herself in a hot tub. Did Vince Russo return for One Night Only?

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

This is kind of unfair for Haas, having to work a match only moments after finding out about it. I forgot Haas was managed by Miss Jackie, but then again, I forgot he was also doing an oddball team with Rico, too. Reigns is fairly new to the roster, working as a bodyguard of sorts for the "injured" Kurt Angle (injured by being chokeslammed 20 feet onto CONCRETE, and only walking away with a broken leg). Haas tries to take Reigns down with, gasp, wrestling, but has little luck with that. Haas with a surprise school boy for two. Reigns pops up with an elbow to the jaw, followed by a big boot. Reigns slows things down doing a lot of nothing. Haas offers a comeback with a pair of dropkicks, but ends up getting tossed to the floor. Back inside, it's chinlock time! Five years later, Reigns with a press slam for two, followed by the laziest single-leg crab you will ever see. Haas fights free, only to get wiped out with a clothesline. Haas avoids a charge and connects with a T-Bone Suplex. Oklahoma Roll only gets two. Bridging German Suplex for two. Haas posts himself on a charge, and Reigns finishes him with the Cross Rhodes at 7:12. * When Haas was in control, it looked watchable, but Reigns kind of sucked, and the match felt like it dragged, despite clocking in well under 10-minutes.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match:
Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero:

Normally I wouldn't mind looking forward to this match, but we've seen a lot of Rey vs. Chavo in 2004, and none of it was really show-stealing efforts, so I'm going into this with low expectations. Chavo earned a title shot by winning a Cruiserweight Battle Royale on Smackdown. Instead of using the non-contenders in undercard matches, we get slugs like Luther Reigns. Both men with a pair of near falls to open the match, then take turns working the arm. Chavo catches a springboard moonsault, but still gets taken over with an arm drag. Rey remains in control until a dropkick sends him from the top rope to the arena floor. Back in the ring, Chavo goes to work on the leg with a modified toe hold. He changes things up, using the post for leverage on the left knee. Chavo rolls through a sunset flip attempt and slaps on a sick looking single-leg crab. THAT'S how you apply it. Rey turns away from the pressure and takes Chavo down with a bulldog. Whip to the corner, and Rey crumples like a sack of potatoes. Chavo with a dropkick to the knee, sending Rey to the apron. Hard suplex back in for two. Rey fights out of a Brock Lock, but Chavo keeps working the knee. Chavo traps him in a Tree of Woe, then ends up posting himself on a charge. Rey to the top, and he hits the West Coast Pop on the floor! They fight to the top rope, and take each other down with a facebuster. Chavo recovers first and covers for two. Rey counters a slingshot to the corner and connects with a missile dropkick. Twisting body press and Russian leg sweep for two. Chavo with the Gory Bomb, but it only gets two. Rey hits an enziguri and the 6-1-9. Chavo blocks the West Coast Pop and slaps on another Single-Leg Crab! Rey finds something deep down to make it to the ropes and force a break. Chavo goes for another Gory Bomb, but Rey counters with a more subtle version of the Canadian Destroyer, and it's good for the three count at 19:22! Wow, didn't feel like it went that long. ***1/2 They were light on high-spots and heavy on building momentum. Chavo's leg work was commendable, and Rey sold like a champ. Nice to see he didn't win with "the usual."

- Torrie Wilson is hanging out in a Hot Tub with Spike Dudley, Funaki, and Billy Kidman. Seems stupid for Kidman to act like a 13-year old geek drooling over his (at the time) real life wife.

Billy Gunn vs. Kenzo Suzuki (w/ Hiroko):

This is NOT going to be pretty. Billy Gunn pushed Suzuki to the limit this past week on Smackdown, but a handful of "salt" saved Suzuki from his first pinfall loss. The only notable thing about Suzuki I can think of was the original concept for his debut: An Anti-American Japanese Warrior/Soldier who happened to be named after Hirohito, Emperor of Japan from 1926 through 1989. Instead, he's your standard Samurai wanna-be with a Geisha Girl as his valet (his real-life wife, in this case). To say Billy Gunn was long in the tooth at this point would be an under-statement. Lockup to the corner, Gunn avoids a big chop. Headlock and Shoulder tackle by Gunn, and Suzuki comes back with the Hadoken pose. Gunn with a shitty Fisherman Suplex for two. Swinging neckbreaker gets two. Suzuki with a Claw and Leg Sweep to take control. NERVE HOLD! This crowd is DEAD. It's so quiet, you can hear a one-man chant o "Boring". Gunn counters a knee lift with a roll up, but walks right into a chop. They stand around awkwardly for what feels like eternity before Suzuki takes him down with a suplex. Here's a crappy abdominal stretch, and now the crowd wakes up with boos. Gunn with a heatless comeback. Suzuki avoids the Fame-Asser and completely whiffs on a Shining Wizard, but it still gets a two count. I guess the gust of wind stunned Gunn enough for that. Suzuki avoids another Fame-Asser, hits Gunn "low", and finishes with a SHITTY reverse back breaker for three at 8:09. DUD We'll be generous and say this match sucked a fat, wet, rotting piece of bratwurst.

Torrie Wilson vs. Sable:

Was there a reason for this taking place? I guess Sable is jealous that Torrie is the Bash "cover girl" or something. I'm surprised Sable was still around at this point, but I'm pretty sure this would be one of, if not, her last appearance in WWE. Still has a decent body on her, I guess. I just hope this one is quick. Sable plays to the crowd, mocking Torrie, but I don't think Michael Cole got the point of it. Torrie with a takedown and a shitty attempt at cat-fighting. Sable with forearms, kicks and a snapmare. Sable's float-over necksnap is a better representation of Curt Hennig than Gunn's Fisherman Suplex in the previous match. They manage to fuck up a sunset flip, so any goodwill has just been lost. Sable grabs an odd looking chinlock. Maybe she learned that from Brock. Torrie escapes and hits an ugly "float over" suplex for two. Whip to the corner, and a head knockin' spot puts them both down. It looked pretty bad, too. Sable does her best Bret Hart impression (no, not patting herself on the back), psyching out Torrie in the process. Sable with a surprise roll up... and despite Torrie's shoulders not being down, it's good for three at 6:06. -** This sucked hard enough to make me want to watch a rematch between Gunn and Suzuki.

- Dawn Marie is hanging around the Hot Tub to interview Rene Dupree. Yes, attractive women in bikini's is nice to look at. Is this supposed to be compensation for spending $40 on what has been an underwhelming PPV? Nunzio and Johnny the Bull laugh at Dupree as Nunzio shows off his 15-inches (his boot) to Dawn Marie... and it works. There's something about Italian men using cornball jokes regarding their genitalia that hypnotizes women.

Hardcore Holly vs. Mordecai:

I'm starting to regret committing to doing a recap of this PPV. Mordecai was a long-time performer in OVW under the name Seven. He came up to the main roster shortly after WrestleMania as what would loosely be described as a religious zealot, possibly to be groomed for a program with the Undertaker. And now it's up to HARDCORE HOLLY to make him look good. Did every match in the undercard get set up through ridiculous circumstances on the latest episode of Smackdown? Holly wins a slugfest and traps Mordecai in the Andre Special. Whip, and Mordecai quickly heads o the floor. Holly chases and gets rammed into Mordecai's goofy twisted cross prop. Now it's Mordecai's turn to control with the punchy-kicky stuff. We break for a (what feels like) long chinlock. Holly fights free and a Hot Shot spot somehow ends up with both men bopping heads. Holly with a clothesline from the top rope for two. Whip reversed, and Holly with a reverse DDT for two. Mordecai with a sit-out Spinebuster for two. Holly with his signature dropkick for two. Alabama Slam is countered and Mordecai finishes with the Razor's Edge at 6:31. 1/2* Mordecai would be sent back to OVW almost immediately after this show. He would resurface a couple of years later on WWE's version of "ECW" as Kevin Thorn, Vampire Enthusiast.

WWE Championship; Texas Bull-Rope Match:
Eddie Guerrero vs. John "Bradshaw" Layfield:

These two went to an inconclusive finish at Judgment Day (including a gory blade job from Eddie), so here's our lucky shot at watching JBL's second attempt at being a Main Event Player. Did I mention how ridiculous it seemed to push Bradshaw into such a role after floundering as half of the APA for what felt like an eternity? Tony Chimel has to do a 5-minute long introduction just for the friggin' rules. NOT A GOOD SIGN. I tend to hate Strap/Bull Rope matches because they tend to follow the same, boring, predictable formula. Almost as bad as a Cage Match, but more restricting.

Standard start, with both men feeling each other out with the rope. JBL's momentum was technically not interrupted until a 45-second long beating and Eddie touching a corner... REALLY? Michael Cole apparently suffers from Tony Schiavone-itus: JBL is choking Eddie out with the rope, and the referee can't do anything about it (murder = legal in wrestling matches). Where's Jesse Ventura to call him an idiot? Both men take turns using the rope as a weapon and means for transportation, ignoring any early attempts at touchin' 'em all. Eddie whacks the shit out of JBL with a chair, drawing blood. PAYBACK! Eddie goes for the corners, but gets stopped just shy of number four. Eddie with the Three Amigos and a Frog Splash, but it's still not enough, as JBL rolls to the floor to play dead and kill Eddie's momentum. JBL from out of nowhere hooks Eddie around the neck with the rope and pulls him off the top rope, on top of the Spanish Announce Table (it doesn't break, so double OUCH). JBL with the old "fuck it" and decides to Powerbomb Eddie through the table. Take that, you no-selling table son-of-a-bitch! We get the obvious "both men touching the buckles" spot, which technically should keep interrupting momentum, but it's logic in wrestling. They get near the fourth, Eddie tries for a dive, and hits the fourth buckle... no, wait, here's General Manager Angle to say Bradshaw touched first (via Eddie splashing him into the corner), and we have a NEW WWE Champion at 21:07. Ugh, I hate stupid finishes to gimmick matches. ***1/2 About as good of a match as you're going to get out of the gimmick, with the typical shitty finish. In hindsight, Eddie needed to be pulled from the top of the card, considering the rumors of heavy stress getting to him, and sure, someone else could've been used, but I can see giving someone who had a few years left in the tank a shot when there's no other "made" options available. JBL was still a product of poor handling, and was made to look inferior to almost all of his opponents before finally losing the strap at WrestleMania 21 (yes, over 9 months, uninterrupted, for a non-HHH heel).

Concrete Crypt Match:
The Undertaker vs. The Dudley Boyz (Tag Team Champions; w/ Paul Heyman):

I've never seen this match before, and am sorry that it's going to have to change. Once you see it, you cannot unsee it. So... Paul Heyman hired the recently turned heel Dudley Boyz kidnap Paul Bearer, and threatened awful harm to him if Undertaker doesn't "do the right thing." Harm that includes being buried alive in CONCRETE. This is kind of a spit in the face of Eddie and Bradshaw, but at the same time, considering the goofy shit we are about to see, it had to go on last, regardless. You'll read why in a very short while: First, it's a pretty craptastic match. Undertaker vs. Anyone at this point was still drizzling shits, and I never cared much for the Dudleys, either. I know its the UNDERTAKER, but why put the Tag Titles on a very dominant team, and have them job in a Handicap Match (a match playing second fiddle to a goofy soap opera drama)? Couldn't the title win have waited until after, maybe as motivation for being embarrassed in such a situation? Second, the crowd seems kind of meh: Even Undertaker's entrance isn't exactly drawing an epic reaction. Third, our finish: Undertaker wins, pinning D'Von at 14:38 following the Tombstone. He saves Paul Bearer from being buried completely in concrete... and then he does the deed himself, seemingly killing the man in front of a live audience and dozens of people watching on Pay-Per-View. END SHOW.

So... on top of being a ridiculously over-the-top, stupid ending to a shitty match, the real kick in the nuts is that footage leaked earlier in the day of a REHEARSAL OF THE FINISH. Yes, someone in charge of the production crew let footage leak of them doing the finish, thus killing any mystery or intrigue the match might've had. Instead of just writing Paul Bearer out of storylines in a normal fashion (he had to be relieved of his on-air duties for what I believe were health concerns that had popped up very suddenly), they had to simulate MURDER? WWE would later update us via WWE.com that Bearer "survived" but was horribly injured from what he was put through... Yeah. Stupid. Did I mention Undertaker remained a babyface for attempting to murder his own manager? -*** For the whole steaming pile of dung. A match that seemed like it would never end, and a ridiculous storyline that questions why I bother watching wrestling in the first place.

Final Thoughts: WWE honestly charged people $40 for THIS. To their credit, Eddie and JBL put on as best of a match as they could, taking away the fact it's still Bradshaw being launched into the Main Event picture with little warning. Chavo vs. Rey is a very solid piece to the undercard, but that's where the positive ends: The undercard is like the left-overs to a pretty boring Smackdown, the US Title Match is a waste of three upper-card talents, and then the crap surrounding the Undertaker and Paul Bearer. Wow. I honestly can't believe someone was paid to come up with these ideas, let alone present them to a viewing audience, not on regular old network television, BUT ON A PAY-PER-VIEW. Obviously, not many people did see it, considering it drew (at the time) one of the lowest buyrates in WWE history. Highest Recommendation to Avoid, unless you're in love with the origins of JBL's epic reign as WWE Champion, and one of the countless times someone murdered Paul Bearer in front of a live audience.

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