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NWA Great American Bash 1988: The Price of Freedom

by Scrooge McSuck

- I've been uploading a bunch of old school NWA/WCW stuff to date files to help decrease the amount of prehistoric era VHS tapes taking up space at my house. This "show" is one I've wanted to recap for a while, but never got around to do it for whatever reasons. Note I said show in parenthesis because while the 1988 GAB aired on PPV, the VHS version clips a lot of matches, and for some unknown reason, INCLUDES a match from another card held during the tour. No one ever credited our friends at Turner Video of using their brains when it came to these tapes, but it's still good ol' time rasslin'.

- We're not really live from the Baltimore Arena in, you guessed it, Baltimore, MD, held on July 10th, 1988. Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross call the action, unless otherwise noted.

- NWA World Tag Team Championship Match:
Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (w/ J.J. Dillon) vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff:
Talk about an opening match to get the crowd going... I don't think there was a specific situation to make this match up, but the Horsemen had been feuding with the likes of Sting, Luger, Rhodes, and Koloff for the last year or so, length of time different for each suspect. I've never been a huge fan of "super teams" challenging for Tag Titles, but the NWA had, like, 3 different tag team belts at the time (World, U.S., and 6-Man) so with so much metal passed around, I can't complain too much. I don't think anyone's introduction had ever been so awesome, especially when Gary Cappetta was doing it. I'm refering to his "This is Sting!" introduction, of course. It just didn't sound right any time someone else would do it. Everyone brawls once the bell rings, with the Good Guys clearing the champs. Back in the ring, and Sting surprises Blanchard with a small package for a two count. Anderson hammers away, but gets knocked out of the ring with a dropkick, and Sting follows with a suicide dive. Arn comes back in via the top rope, but gets caught coming down, and Sting takes him over with an arm drag, then goes to an armbar. Koloff tags in and stomps away on the arm, then goes to the armbar, as well. Arn escapes, but misses an elbow drop, and Koloff goes back to work on the arm. Arn takes it to the corner, but Koloff takes out both Anderson and Blanchard with clotheslines. Obvious clip time, with Sting taking Blanchard over with a series of arm drags. Koloff tags in and puts the boots to Blanchard. Koloff with a wristlock, and again goes to the armbar. Koloff gets a series of two counts on an unusual pin predicament. Sting tags in and take a bite out of Tully. Whip to the corner is reversed, but Blanchard hits the post. Sting covers for a two count, and Blanchard gets trapped in the wrong corner. Koloff sends Blanchard into the corner and continues working the arm. Blanchard tags out with his foot, but the referee won't allow it, and the faces make an illegal exchange behind the referee's back. We suddenly clip to Blanchard having Koloff in a compromising position. Anderson with a snapmare, but a splash attempt meets the knees. Sting gets the hot tag and hammers away on Blanchard. Irish whip and a back drop, followed by a dropkick. Irish whip to the corner, and Sting with a press slam. Anderson tags in and gets taken down with a bulldog upon arrival. Anderson goes low, but Blanchard tags in and is met with a dropkick. Double Noggin' Knocker! Anderson tags back in, and gets caught in a sleeper hold. Anderson escapes with blows to the midsection. Arn tries for a suplex, and Blanchard comes off the ropes with a sunset flip, but Sting blocks. Koloff takes Anderson out with a clothesline. Sting whips Tully to the corner and nails the Stinger Splash. Scorpion Deathlock time, but the bell rings at a heavily clipped 10:28, meaning it's a Twenty-Minute Time Limit Draw. Sting and Koloff celebrate prematurely, prancing around with the belts. ** From what we saw, it looked like half of a pretty good, typical formula match featuring the usual suspects, but because all the heel heat segments were clipped, it really doesn't make it worth watching again.

- NWA U.S. Tag Team Championship Match:
The Fantastics vs. The Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette):

(Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers vs. Beautiful Bobby Eaton & Sweet Stan Lane)
We're incredibly over-booked for this one. as Cornette is not only forced to be suspended over the ring area inside a cage, but he's also being put in a straight jacket, just incase he can escape the cage and willingly want to jump down 10-12 feet. Oh, and if the Fantastics win, they get to whip Cornette ten times. This match suffers more than any other in the clipping department, and we'll see in a few moments to just how much can be done to butcher a match. Cornette's reaction to being lifted up in the air is PRICELESS. Eaton and Fulton start with a lockup, and we get a clean break. Fulton grabs a headlock, then puts Eaton down with a shoulder block and a sunset flip for a two count. We cut to the cage, then back to MUCH later in the match, with Fulton taking Eaton over with a back drop. Fulton puts Lane down and rolls up Eaton for a two count. Irish whip, and Lane trips Fulton up, then slams him on the concrete floor. Back in the ring, and Rogers takes out Eaton and referee Tommy Young with a cross-body. Rogers sends Eaton into the ring post, then takes Lane over with a back drop. Eaton has a chain that Lane dropped, and KO's Fulton with it, and covers for the three count at 2:25 to a big babyface reaction. I could've sworn the Fantastics were the faces, but the Midnight Express kicked so much ass, you can't help but cheer for them. Oh, the match was clipped down from about 15-minutes, just to let you know. 1/2* Not much to speak of, and not a DUD out of respect for the talent involved and what they were capable of doing. After the match, the Fantastics remove Tommy Young's belt and give Cornette a few lashings, just for the hell of it.

- Tower of Doom Match:
Jimmy Garvin, Ron Garvin, Dr. Death Steve Williams, Road Warrior Hawk & Animal (w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotundo, Al Perez, Ivan Koloff, The Russian Assassin (w/ Paul Jones & Gary Hart):

Here we go with the NWA/WCW's attempts at creating the next big gimmick match. After someone realized how fucking insane and dangerous it was to do scaffold matches, we then got WarGames: The Match Beyond, probably one of the greatest gimmick matches of the 80's. Then we got a Steel Cage Battle Royal with such retarded logic, it hasn't been seen again until TNA did something similar. Now we've got a TRIPLE DECK Cage, just like the one featured in that WCW movie, Ready 2 Rumble, released about a decade later. The idea here is that two men start, and every few minutes, the cage opens for a teammate from each side, as well as special trap doors to allow wrestlers access to the lower levels. First team to have all it's members escape the bottom cage wins. The big storyline here is that Kevin Sullivan had kidnapped Precious, Jimmy Garvin's valet, and he might have brain-washed her into being his servant of darkness or whatever, but we don't know. She's dressed in all black to give us the idea she's evil, or something, and she's the keeper of the final cage (the normal, ring sized cage). To even get to the top, super-small cage, one has to climb what looks to be a twenty foot ladder, and the floorings of the two top cages is just the usual cage mesh, so yeah, talk about a health risk. Don't expect ANY kind of bumps until people get to the bottom cage, unless someone has a death wish... which makes sense to have Dr. Death on your team, right Garvin?

Ron Garvin and Ivan Koloff start off for their respective teams, and then every 2-minutes, we get a new man for each team. The top cage is up in the lights, so it's really hard to see. It's basically a slugfest, because, other than the fact Koloff was older than dirt, you can't do much in such limited space and such a dangerous atmopshere. Garvin appears to control most of the "action", but it doesn't really matter at this point.

Dr. Death and Mike Rotundo enter for their teams next, and Garvin quickly makes his way down to the next cage. Williams pounds away on both men, including Rotundo, who just stood around looking at Garvin the whole time. Basically it's a handicap match now, as Garvin hangs around in the middle cage by himself. Williams eats cage, rocking the entire structure in a way that I'm sure no one wanted to be inside of at the time. Williams uses the roof for leverage to kick at both Rotundo and Koloff.

Time for the third round of entrances, and we've got Road Warrior Animal and Al Perez in next. In the mean time, Ron Garvin makes it down to the bottom cage, and he's got it made to escape without much trouble, being the first man to make a compelte exit. In other cage transfering action, Dr. Death makes it to the middle cage, piggy-backing Ivan Koloff with him, and leaving Animal to fight a formidable team of Rotundo and Perez. Animal takes care of business by himself while Williams attempts to murder Koloff. Hey, they don't call him Dr. Death for nothing, and I should point out, that's probably my all time favorite (serious) nickname for someone. Jim Ross' love of Williams was obvious, even in 1988.

Into the ring next is Hawk and The Russian Assassin. Perez and Animal make it to the middle cage, and now Hawk is on top with Assassin and Rotundo, who's been stuck in the top cage since entering the match in the second round of partipcant entrances to the match. The babyfaces control the middle cage with little trouble, using the roof to their advantage. Hawk, obviously, isn't selling for anyone in the top cage. Williams slams Koloff on the second cage floor, the high spot of the match, so far.

The final entrances are made, and of course it's Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan. Al Perez makes it to the bottom cage, as does Animal, and he takes him out with a diving shoulder tackle to a huge pop. In the middle cage is Dr. Death and Hawk with Koloff and Assassin, and as I note that, Animal escapes the cage, and Al Perez follows. Rotundo is STILL in the top cage, helping out fellow Varsity member Sullivan with his feud partner. Williams applies a figure-four on Koloff for some ungodly reason.

The horn sounds for another period of trap door openings, and this time Rotundo FINALLY gets to the second cage. Meanwhile, Koloff and Assassin make their ways to the bottom cage, as does Hawk. The Russians work him over, while Rotundo and Dr. Death go at it. Hawk comes off the ropes with a double shoulder and a clothesline to floor his two opponents. Hawk hits something big, but the camera misses it to show weak brawling from Garvin and Sullivan.Hawk takes care of business and escapes the cage. Koloff and the Assassin make their ways out, as well, leaving 2-on-2 with Dr. Death and Jimmy Garvin up against Rotundo and Sullivan.

Dr. Death makes his way to the final cage and out the door, leaving Jimmy Garvin alone with Sullivan and Rotundo in the middle cage. The heels FINALLY look like they have the advantage, after about 12-minutes of action. Garvin fights his hardest to keep the Varisty Club at bay, despite constant attempts of double teaming. Rotundo is sweating bullets it looks like. Rotundo makes his way through the trap door while Sullivan pins Garvin down like a victim of a sexual crime. Garvin holds Sullivan back from escaping to the bottom, and while that goes on, Rotundo escapes, so now it's a 1-on-1 match with Sullivan and Garvin. Outside the cage, EVERYONE brawls for no reason, but the crowd eats it up like spam. Garvin works Sullivan over with a spinning toe hold. They trade blows again as the camera shows us a "worried" Precious watching from below. The horn sounds and we finally get both men into the bottom cage. Sullivan goes after Precious for whatever reason, but Garvin sends him to the corner and starts pounding away. Garvin sweeps the leg and drops a leg across the left knee. Garvin signals for the finish and plants Sullivan with a Brain Buster. Garvin unlocks the cage and suddenly Sullivan comes from out of nowhere and shoves him out for the Garvin team win at 19:55. Sullivan ends up locking the cage now, with himself and Precious inside, and that means to make the save, the babyfaces have to climb up the cage and back down through all the doors. In the meantime, Sullivan stalks Precious around the ring and intends to do some horrible things to her. Sullivan starts choking her with either a rope or chain, and suddenly Hawk makes it to the bottom of the cage and nails Sullivan with a clothesline for the biggest pop you've ever heard. Hawk drops a few fists across his forehead as Jimmy Jam helps Pecious out of the cage. Talk about a HOT post-match conclussion. **1/2 That isn't really a rating for how "good" the match was, because honestly, I wouldn't know how to rate it in a technical sense. I enjoyed it for the most part, even though it was a bit dull, but the final few minutes and post-match shenanigans were really intense and actually gave me goose pimples.

Bonus Match: NWA Television Title Match:
Mike Rotundo (w/ Kevin Sullivan & Rick Steiner) vs. Sting:

From Greensboro, NC, probably a few days before the PPV aired. There's a double cage set up, as well as what looks like a scaffold, so this probably undercard to some serious shit later in the night. I don't understand the concept of butchering a few other matches to fit this on the tape, when it wasn't on the PPV, and both men are already represented in two of the previous three matches. Lockup to start, and Rotundo grabs a headlock, then puts Sting down with a shoulder block. Sting retaliates with a trio of dropkicks, then Rick Steiner comes in to take one, as does Sullivan. Sting noggin-knocker's Steiner and Rotundo, and all the heels are cleared from the ring. Lockup, and now Sting has the headlock. Sting counters a hip toss with one of his own, and follows with a slam for a two count. Lockup into the corner, and Sting blocks a sucker-kick attempt and floors Rotundo with a roundhouse. Sting teases something before dropping a leg across the groin and midsection. Rotundo sweeps the leg of Sting and drops an elbow across the knee. Sting fights back to his feet and connects with an enziguri. Sting with a headlock, and Steiner trips him up near the ropes as J.R. compares Steiner to John Belushi's character in Animal House. Sting gets tossed out of the ring, where he's met with violence at the hands of Sullivan. Back in the ring we go, and Rotundo nails a back elbow. Rotundo with a snapmare, followed by an elbow drop for a two count, and then it's time for a rear chinlock. It's at this point I realize that the PBP team constantly refers to him as Rotund-A, but fuck it, he's Rotundo, and I don't care. Rotundo gets help from Steiner at ringside for leverage. Sting escapes with an elbow, but Rotundo kills him with a diving clothesline, then goes back to the chinlock. Sting fights free again, but Rotundo maintains control and plants him with a slam. Rotundo heads to the top rope, but Sting recovers and slams him off. Sting hammers away and tosses Rotundo into the second ring and comes flying over the ropes with a suicide dive. Sting hammers away on Rotundo in the corner and mounts him for some punching, then the tape cuts away from the match? Hmm... must be a bad copy. Anyway, about ten seconds later, Steiner ran in to draw a DQ, giving Sting the cheap victory at around the 8:30 mark (we joined the match after the bell rang, so I on't have an official time, anyway). ** Decent enough match until the lack of an ending (boo!), but I still have to question including this on a cassette that was butchered down to begin with. Sting wouldn't get his first taste of gold until winning the T.V. Title from Rotundo sometime in the spring of 1989.

- NWA United States Championship Match:
Barry Windham (w/ J.J. Dillon) vs. Dusty Rhodes:
This is, I believe, the conclussion to an angle where Dusty Rhodes dusted off the Midnight Rider gimmick and began tormenting Windham, who won the U.S. Title in a Tournament after Rhodes had been stripped of the championship for whatever reason. I think he attacked Jim Crockett, or something. Shawn Michaels must've been a huge Rhodes fan, considering the inventive ways of not doing a job to lose a championship. Lockup to start, and Rhodes takes him over with an arm drag. Lockup and Rhodes with a headlock, followed by a shoulder tackle that Windham sells quite generously and rolls out of the ring for a breather. Back in the ring, and Rhodes with a headlock. Criss-cross sequence, and Windham drops an elbow across the back of the head. Irish whip, and Rhodes with a press slam, followed by a DDT. Rhodes with a bionic elbow, and now he heads to the top rope(!) and comes off with a cross body, but Windham is superman and kicks out at two, then rolls back out of the ring. Back in the ring, and they lockup into the corner. Windham unloads with rights, but Rhodes no-sells and gives Windham a series of rights himself, followed by an axehandle to the chest. Rhodes takes out J.J. Dillon too, and the crowd errupts. Windham with some boots to the chest, knocking Rhodes out of the ring, and he hammers away on him some more before ramming him into the security rail. Windham goes for a piledriver, but Rhodes counters, back dropping Windham onto the concrete, then follows with a clothesline. Back in the ring, and Windham takes it to the corner, unloading with roundhouse rights. The action spills out of the ring again, with Windham in control. Rhodes ends up taking Windham out of the ring with a sling shot onto the floor, but it's NOT a DQ? That was deliberate! Rhodes slams Windham on the exposed floor, then heads back into the ring. Windham struggling to his feet every time to get back into the ring is a nice little touch that he's not going to run away. Windham takes control again and slams the much bigger Dusty, then follows with an elbow drop. Irish whip, and Windham applies THE CLAW! Rhodes maintains conciousness to avoid being counted down. Rhodes fights back to his feet, but Windham keeps the hold applied. Rhodes is back up again, but this time he's jiggling! Rhodes takes it to the corner, but Windham yanks him off the middle rope and back to the center of the ring. Rhodes starts getting into the groove now, but it looks more like he's performing a sexual task on Windham more than anything else. Rhodes FINALLY fights free with a series of bionic elbows and the crowd goes nuts as he attempts a figure-four. Windham counters with the Claw, again, and that shuts the fans up like a heart-breaking Grand Slam late in a playoff game your team should've won. Rhodes takes it back to the corner and Windham gets shoved off into the referee, who spills to the outside. Windham heads to the top rope, but Rhodes stops him from whatever and takes him over with either a slam or back drop. Rhodes hits the ropes and drops an elbow, but there's no referee! Ron Garvin comes in the ring, for whatever reason, and KO's Rhodes with a hand of stone roundhouse right. J.J. Dillon tosses the referee back in the ring, and Windham applies the Claw again, and now there's no getting up, and Windham is given the victory at 16:01. Garvin's heel turn was, in short, very surprising. Too bad he was in the WWF about four months later. We go backstage, where Garvin baths himself with a briefcase full of money. **1/2 Good enough match, but a little slow for the most part, and the last five minutes seemed to be nothing more than a Claw spot. It wasn't BAD, but it got old after the fourth attempt at breaking the hold.

- NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match:
Ric Flair (w/ J.J. Dillon) vs. "The Total Package" Lex Luger:

It's now time for the Main Event. Luger kicked off the year demanding a title shot from his stable leader, and promptly got his ass kicked and booted from the Horsemen. Then, he teamed with Windham to win the Tag Titles from Anderson and Blanchard, but Windham decided he was Horsemen material and turned on Luger en route to another ass kicking and giving the tag titles back to the Horsemen stable. Lockup to start, and Luger shoves Flair across the ring. Lockup, and Luger takes him over with an arm drag. Luger grabs a side headlock, but is forced to break in the ropes. Lockup into the corner, and Flair chops away, but Luger no-sells it and stalks Flair into the corner. Luger hip tosses him across the ring, then knocks him out of the ring with a dropkick. Jim Ross makes a great point on how Flair used to heavily rely on time limits to retain the belt, something that today's wrestling really lacks. Of course, not a lot of men can make 45-60 minute matches interesting every night, but Flair was an expert at it, no matter who his opponent was. Back in the ring, and Flair grabs a headlock. Shoulder block does nothing, and Luger with a press slam. Flair rolls out of the ring, then spills over the security rail. Flair shoves the referee, so Tommy Young returns the favor, then hides behind Luger back in the ring. We get a test of strength, and naturally Luger wins. Flair escapes and chops away again, but Luger isn't effected and puts Flair down with another press slam. Irish whip, and Luger catches Flair in a bearhug. Jim Ross reminds us of Flair's history of back problems, notably the plane crash in 1975 that almost ended his career. They tussle into the ropes for another break. Irish whip, and Flair hooks the ropes to avoid more pain. Luger isn't relenting though, and brings Flair back in the ring with a suplex. That only gets a two count, however. Luger bounces of the ropes and HITS the jumping elbow drop!? Woah, that's a first, but it only gets two. Luger goes for it again, but misses, but pops right back up.Luger with a hip toss from out of the corner, and we head back outside again. Flair thumbs the eyes and rams Luger into the security rail a couple of times.

Back in the ring, and Flair takes Luger over with a snapmare, then follows with a knee across the forehead for a two count. Flair with a series of blows to the ribs of Luger, a smart move to take away the upper-body strength, especially since Luger's finishing hold was the Torture Rack (back breaker submission). Luger fights back and comes off the ropes with a clothesline for a two count. Flair with another snapmare, then heads to the top rope. Luger crotches Flair across the top rope, in a spot everyone could've seen coming. Luger sends Flair across the ring with a hip toss, but Flair avoids a dropkick, then drops to his face, and now both men are down. Flair whips Luger to the corner, but Luger bounces back out with another clothesline for a two count. Learn to hook the leg, stupid! Flair dumps Luger out of the ring, but Luger hangs onto the apron and attempts a sunset flip back in. Flair holds on for a moment before being taken over for another two count. Flair stomps away at the left knee of Luger to keep him on the canvas, then drops across the knee, using the ropes for leverage. Flair continues to punish the leg, jerking the hamstring and dropping all his weight across the knee once again. Flair quickly applies the Figure-Four, and it's right in the middle of the ring. Luger powers his way into reversing the preasure, but Flair quickly releases the hold. Flair goes back to the leg and takes Luger over with a snapmare. Flair misses the leg on another butt drop attempt. Irish whip, and Luger knocks Flair over the top rope with a clothesline. Where's the DQ? There was intent on that! Back in the ring, and Luger isn't selling the chops again, so it's time for his big offensive outburst. Irish whip, and Luger with a press slam, but Luger goes down on the follow through. Luger drops a knee, LIKE AN IDIOT, but misses anyway. Why not use the other leg instead, if you had to do that? Flair heads to the top rope again, and he... waits FOREVER, as Luger misses the cue, then finally slams Flair of about twenty-seconds later. Luger with mounted punches in the corner, but Flair counters with an inverted atomic drop. Luger pops right back up and floors Flair with a clothesline for a two count. Luger with more punches in the corner (ten of them), then a whip to the corner sees Flair land on the apron and fall to the floor. Back in the ring, and Luger counters a hip toss with a back slide for a two count. Irish whip, and an ugly cross body spot sees both men EVENTUALLY fall to the floor, with a little help from referee Tommy Young. Flair rams Luger into the post, then grabs a chair, but the referee interferes. In the mean time, Dillon rams Luger into the post again, and Luger does THE WORST BLADE JOB IN THE HISTORY OF MAN. I've cut my balls shaving them worse than he's bleeding. Flair pounds away on Luger, but Luger counters with an atomic drop. Flair chops the sweat off his chest, but he no sells and connects with a powerslam. Luger with the Torture Rack as the crowd goes WILD, and the bell rings at 23:00 and Luger is... NOT the New Champion. The state athletic commissioner called the match due to "severe lacerations" on Luger, giving Flair the win by "Referee's Decision" and retaining the Championship. Ahem... LAME!!! **1/4 Match was alright, but sloppy at times, and a few key spots were blown. Luger was easily one of Flair's worst opponents, and that's saying something. These two would continue feuding through the rest of 1988, before Ricky Steamboat arrived and put on some classic encounters with Flair in half-empty arenas.

Final Thoughts: Short and sweet, a very forgetable card. Luger/Flair was disappointing with a lame finish, the opening tag team title match had a lame finish and was butchered for the home video audience, as was the US Tag Title Match. Then, on a tape cut down for time reasons, we got a match from the tour that wasn't on the PPV itself. The only really pros were an okay match between Rhodes and Windham and a generously rated "Tower of Doom" match, just for the fact it was different and not boring. If you can, watch that at least once, just for the sake of it. The rest you can find in abundance on other NWA PPV's and primetime specials.

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