July 7 from the Baltimo' Arena. Jim and Bob have the call. This is the commercial VHS release, so here's what was cut: Doug Furnas beat Dutch Mantell, Mike Rotunda beat Iron Sheik (Jesus), Brian Pillman beat Buddy Landel. And for some reason, Harley Race beat Tommy Rich.
NWA United States Tag Team Title: The Midnight Express (c) v. The Southern Boys
Quick brawl to start, and the Southern Boys come out with the advantage, which doesn't seem to be getting much rise out of the crowd. What can you expect? What's bizarre is how much Herd wanted the Midnights out, but someone viewed Cornette as indispensable (which is also kind of funny, much as I love Jim Cornette) and so they stayed on a couple years after they weren't really wanted anymore, getting totally wasted in '89 for no good reason at all, then coming back here in '90 with some good stuff, because they're the fucking Midnight Express and all. Weird ass monkey flip from Steve Armstrong, but he follows it with a nice dropkick. Steve looks like he's not quite sure what he wants to be doing sometimes, but knows he wants to keep the pace up. Crowd is really not reacting much to Armstrong beating up on Eaton, to the point that it makes Cornette's livid reactions at ringside both too audible and a little strange looking. Small "Bobby" chant kicks up near ringside. Smothers gets the tag, their double-team gets no reaction. Smothers with a SAVATE KICK, Eaton is reeling to just no heat whatsoever. That's too bad, because Eaton and the Southern Boys are coming with it to get this started. Small "Cornette sucks" chant kicks up and dies out -- God bless Corny, he's doing all he can to get the people at ringside mad at him, which he's hoping will spread, but it's just not happening. Another SAVATE KICK by Smothers. Eaton stays down and takes his time in the corner before finally tagging Sweet Stan. And now we've got a matchup of redneck karate, with Stan stretching his leg out.
Lane backhands Smothers, crowd pops. Oh boy, it's one of these. Lane pops him again, then three kicks to the midsection. Finally the crowd is alive, but now Tracy makes a karate comeback. Eaton takes another kick, too. Holy shit, REDNECK KARATE HAS SAVED THE MATCH. A little Midnights stalling, and now we're getting to the wrestling again. Eaton tags back in and is immediately armdragged over and put into an armbar. You know, the stripes down Eaton's legs don't match the stripe going diagonally across his face, which has more pink. That's sloppy. Beautiful Bobby, for shame. Armstrong with a crossbody on both of them, then some quick pin attempts, and this is picking up, and the crowd is starting to come along with it. This proves, once and for all, that the Southern Boys are better than the Dynamic Dudes. I know this has been a decades-long debate, but I think we can say it's settled now. Baltimore loves some Stan Lane -- he knocks Smothers from the apron into the guard rail, which Smothers takes in 1997 fashion, and the crowd rises up again.
This is one of those matches you never hear about, or well...I suppose, from watching some of these newfangled rasslin retards on YouTube, nobody would even think this is good now. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but there are kids on YouTube who say Great American Bash '89 is bad. I'm fucking serious. They exist. And then they defend shitty tournament shows like WrestleMania IV and Starrcade '89 and that Deadly Game Survivor Series. The two WWF shows there I have some great nostalgic feeling for, but they suck bad. I don't know if the kids would like this match or not. I just don't know if this works anymore. WWE has been the pit-stain shits to anyone who grew up on any kind of actual pro rasslin since the Guerrero death and the Benoit tragedy. There's almost nothing redeeming. I know this because people have been trying to say for a few years that guys like Mark Henry are awesome. I don't mind Mark Henry, but Jesus Christ, huh?
But anyway this match is seriously excellent. The Southern Boys get what would be the winning fall with their double team flying dropkick deal, then the Midnights get the Rocket Launcher, but the whole thing is a mass of confusion. By the time it gets into all of this, the crowd is standing and reacting huge to everything. Lane kicks Smothers in the back of the head, Eaton cradles him, and the Midnights retain in what is flat-out no-foolin' one of the best U.S. tag team matches of the 1990s. This match is fucking awesome. If I still did star ratings (which is my way of excusing myself for doing a star rating in a second here) I'd go ****1/2.
Gordon is with the Freebirds, who have become far too much and continue to look more and more like a couple of sorry ass, out of touch posers who used to rock but now are trying to hard to impress people.
Actually, Jimmy Garvin never rocked. Michael Hayes couldn't walk down Badstreet USA with this look without Buddy Jack Roberts clonking him with a lead pipe and Jimmy Garvin seriously just looks like an idiot. I don't care that they "look gay" -- whatever. I get the look, I do. It just doesn't work on these two. It's about as convincing as Johnny B. Badd or Leif Cassidy or The Miz. Garvin tries to cut a promo, and makes it even worse when they get a close-up of his salt-and-pepper beard. Hayes can still talk, but even his promos are starting to sound phony. This really sucked. They'll face the Steiners later.
Z-Man v. Big Van Vader
Vader's making his debut and still has the full-on mask, announced at 399 and there's the steam shooting mask and the whole nine yards. Z-Man gets the sacrificial lamb spot, which is kind of sad. I bust on Zenk in these for being a doofus, but he wasn't bad or anything. Bob says he's never seen Vader wrestle before. Hey, great. Way to do your research, Bob. Vader starts with the punches, then whips Z-Man to the corner. Z-Man, to his credit, really takes off on the whip even though Vader barely pushes him off, Vader knocks him to the ramp, then lifts Z-Man back into the ring. "Hauntingly strong" says JR. Hauntingly? Vader with a press slam. Big elbow. It's weird that they're talking about Vader as a "bizarre" character. I never think of him that way. Vader continues to beat the shit out of Zenk in methodical fashion, and finishes him with a clothesline and big splash. Who'da thunk it, but this here is the WCW debut of one of the biggest stars of the 1990s. It takes a while, though. Vader makes noises at the crowd on the way back.
Ole, Arn, BW and Sid are with Gordon. All but Ole face the DUDES WITH ATTITUDES later. Look out, world. Barry says El Gigante is "Seven-foot-ten, seven-foot-eleven." 7'6" just wasn't good enough for wrestling. They should've said he was 8'4".
The Steiner Brothers v. The Fabulous Freedbirds
I hesitate to even call these two jackasses the Fabulous Freebirds anymore. What a couple of dumbass looking dumbasses. Freebirds do their usual start where they actually have a match for a few seconds, then they spend time engaging the crowd and trying to get heat. They're good at that, at least. Well this is definitely a different time period. The camera goes ahead and gets a close-up on a bunch of grown men chanting "FAGGOT! FAGGOT!" at Jimmy Garvin. At this point in time the Steiners are such a force to be reckoned with that the Freebirds decide the best thing to do here is make this suck as much as possible, and the Steiners show signs of their later crappiness by being all too happy to basically take the night off, at least early on. Hayes cowers until Steiner bites his ass. Well then. So Hayes tags out, and so does Rick. This is a complete stall-fest from the Freebirds. There's a "Michael is a bitch" chant now. Quite audible. Rick even helps. This is a terrible match from a standpoint of action, but there's enough chants about bitches and faggots to make this fun for the whole family anyway. I mean, the match sucks, but it doesn't suck like a Ranger Ross match sucks. They eventually get to wrestling and that means that Jimmy Garvin is running offense on Rick Steiner. Steiner does a bizarre and quite stupid DDT from the second rope to mount his comeback. Scott gets the tag, and there he goes. Hayes gets the Frankensteiner, but Garvin DDTs him and goes for the cover, but for once ever the referee goes, "Hey, bud, you're not the legal fellow here." Belly-to-belly by Rick and Scott pins Hayes for the win. Hot crowd for the final moments, but apart from lewd chants this match had nothing going for it. Maybe it was the sequined suspenders.
Arn Anderson, Barry Windham & Sid Vicious v. Junkyard Dog, Paul Orndorff & El Gigante
It's hard to figure out if El Gigante is taller than Junkyard Dog is fat. Gigante really was quite a great sight, something truly unique and amazing to behold. It's almost sad that he was so bad, because the thing is, he shouldn't even have been in there. Sid starts with Orndorff, who does a great job at playing scared of Sid, who is every bit as great as he ever was. Orndorff does a number on all three Horsemen, but then Sid comes back and Orndorff can't get a hip toss on him. But the reverse is true, as Sid can't get the savvy veteran over. Sid blocks a backslide, JYD sneaks in with a headbutt -- fuck. What a waste of Arn and Barry and Orndorff this is. Here I am looking at something (JYD and Gigante) that I know doesn't work, so I'm hoping this is mostly Orndorff, who can still work. The Horsemen all come in at Orndorff, JYD jumps in, and then Gigante chases them all out of the ring because they want nothing to do with him. Oh fuck, JYD is in and Arn is going to have to try to make him look competent. He can't. Arn flops across the ring when Gigante raises his fist at him from the apron. The match is built around everyone cowering in fear and Gigante doing nothing and somehow, Junkyard Dog blowing up in about 30 full seconds of actual movement. Watching Arn and Barry try to get anything out of the sorry Junkyard Dog is painful. When 1990 versions of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Barry Windham can't make a guy look good, we're talking about an all-time crummy wrestler. Orndorff, thank God, tags back in, so we might actually see something useful. Well, we don't. This whole match is so fucked by the uselessness of 2/3 of the babyface team that Orndorff has to try and be a superman type, and the crowd isn't hearing it. Huge "We Want Sid" chant goes up. God, you know, I know he couldn't work, but I think WCW really did miss the boat on this guy. Hulk Hogan couldn't fucking work, either. BFD. But WCW, in a lot of ways thankfully, was built around the champion being credible, and the top guys being able to work, and you just can't trust Sid for marquee spots if that's your game. He goes to the WWF in a year and sucks there because he doesn't stand out so much in the cartoon world. I don't get Sid. All these years later, and I still can't quite figure that guy out. So you've got Orndorff in there taking the beating now, which ain't so hot. Orndorff hot tags JYD and El Gigante still hasn't actually touched anyone in this match. JYD gets thrown over the top rope for the DQ. Now Gigante gets to "clear the ring" which by itself exposes his complete inability to do anything. What a rotten pile of shit of a farce of a wrestling match this was.
Gordon is with Smilin' Lex Luger. He's gotten a nice midwestern working divorcee/would-be lesbian haircut now. Luger's promo here is really weird. He seems like he's somewhere else.
NWA United States Heavyweight Title: Lex Luger (c) v. Mean Mark Callous
Smilin' Lex ain't god enough to get something too good out of Mean Mark, who is, well, you know, not all that great. What's weird is that since he gets the Undertaker gimmick starting later this year (this is his last major televised WCW appearance, as they declined to re-sign him in a couple months), Mean Mark probably didn't really become much of a "worker" for another five or six years, and I guess some people would argue that he never did, but Undertaker got pretty damn good for a while there if you ask me, and you didn't, but it's my stupid wrestling blog so I'm going to say shit about the Undertaker while getting through this innocuous Luger-Callous U.S. title match. It's almost amazing how much better Luger is as a heel than a babyface, which I've probably beaten to death by now, but my God. Luger was on fire in '89 and got good matches out of Tommy Rich and P.S. Hayes (the latter as a babyface because the story worked so well and Hayes was up for it), and now that he's been deflated as a secondary titleholder, it's just a humongous difference. His utter lack of chemistry with Sting (which is bizarre) certainly didn't help his career, either. Lotta punchin' here. But then there's a terrific clothesline from Luger, and the crowd comes back alive as he sets into a series of them, which leads right into the torture rack. Referee takes a Mean Mark boot to the face as a result of the move, then Paul E. hits Luger in the gut with a telephone, and I'm supposed to buy that being completely devastating. It's a fucking telephone. Anyway Luger kicks out of the delayed pin, just barely. This could end at any time. Mean Mark with what I believe was a short-arm clothesline, but I don't want to accuse him without definitive proof. Luger with a clothesline on Mean Mark for the win. So that's that. Bye, Mean Mark. Hope you like the WWF. (You do!)
Backstage, Gordon is with Sting, who isn't painted up, but he does have on some truly amazing sunglasses. Sting says his knee is back 100% and he has no excuses if he loses, and neither does Ric Flair.
NWA World Tag Team Title: Doom (c) v. The Rock n' Roll Express
Doom are starting to come into their own, or at least Ron Simmons is. Butch Reed is just revitalized after his terrible WWF run and his weak return to the NWA. On paper at the time, this is sort of past versus future, with a meeting point coming at a time when both are still the goods, just with different trajectories. Bob wonders if Jim has ever seen bigger arms than those on Doom. Yeah, probably. I love that Bob lives in the world where you can just say shit and it doesn't matter how easy it is to argue. It's that sort of cool insulting of the audience's intelligence that I just smile at now. I suppose as a younger man I might have been all mad about it or something. This goes into the usual RnRs formula, but Doom aren't quite interesting or exciting enough for this to be anything more than formula. Caudle isn't sure he's ever seen Ricky Morton take a beating like this, because Caudle has never watched wrestling before. I like that every kick is a savate kick to Jim Ross. The RnRs get their comeback, but Reed flattens Gibson with a flying shoulderblock for the fairly anticlimactic ending. This was just fine, but sort of exposed the limitations of Doom on offense when not against the Steiners, who had enough mega firepower to bring it back at them.
Gordon is with Flair. He does the usual, and puts over Sting for coming back from a career-ending injury. Well apparently NOT career-ending, but you know.
NWA World Heavyweight Title: Ric Flair (c) v. Sting
So here we are. The changing of the guard. The match itself is nothing special; it's Flair-Sting-by-numbers. But this represents an actual shift, unlike Ron Garvin or Dusty Rhodes or Ricky Steamboat. This has been built for two years, would have happened by now, and then a knee injury got in the way. Suck babyface or not, Luger deserves credit for sucking it up and basically helping the entire promotion bide time until Sting got healthy enough to claim what everyone at WCW felt was rightfully his. Ole is handcuffed to El Gigante, and the Dudes With Attitudes surround the ring. The match has plenty of drama, but Sting is really not quite 100% back just yet and isn't really himself. This is probably a hair better than their Starrcade match, if only because the drama and the atmosphere are way bigger and better, and the stakes are higher since the 10 pounds of gold are on the line. When the Horsemen eventually try to interfere, the Steiners and Orndorff cut them off while JYD has a snack or whatever the hell he's doing. Flair manages to get out of the Scorpion Deathlock, and fights off a couple near-falls, but then falls victim to the ol' inside cradle reversal of his figure four, and the roof blows off in Baltimo'. This is the first NWA world title change in the city (or so Ross says, and by now I've forgotten shit I used to know like cities and dates of every title change). In his book, Flair says he knew he'd been fighting for the right guy, as he refused to drop the title to Luger earlier in the year because he had promised the belt to Sting. He probably had fought for the right guy, but sadly it never did quite work the way it was likely supposed to.
WCW would never really be the same after this. Ric Flair would never really be the same. The Horsemen would basically die off. The company would soon break ties with the NWA. One thing was clear: Sting was no Ric Flair. That's not really Sting's fault, and Flair made Sting, so it's not Flair's fault either. But there was this massive lack of properly-built top-level talent at the time. You had three main eventers, really: Sting, Flair and Luger. Another Luger turn would make him just seem wishy-washy, if the last one didn't. There's plenty more to be said as we go along, but just going back through this and putting myself in the moment and all that, the Sting win really is a huge deal. If you start at the first Clash as I did, this is the first time that Flair has really been beaten by a guy who is designed to hold on for any length of time. Sting was crowned at the Bash on this night. Now he actually had to be the man, and that was a lot different. With the climb, he was chasing Flair, he was battling the Horsemen, he had all these great opponents. Do you turn right back around and do a Sting-Flair program on TV? How can you? If the idea is, as it usually was by this point, to basically rid yourself of that fuckin' Ric Flair, the fuck, then you have to give Sting new challengers. But who? There is literally nobody ready on the heel side for a world title program. Barry Windham could have done it, and it would've been good, but it's like hitting a single or a home run, as they say, and Sting needed a home run out of the gate.
And here will come the Black fucking Scorpion.