Let’s continue our summer of great wrestling with one of the forgotten gems of all-time: The 1989 edition of the Great American Bash. 1989 was a phenomenal year for WCW in terms of on-camera product, which unfortunately didn’t translate to big business the way it should have. This show features WCW’s stacked roster at its very best: Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Sting vs. The Great Muta for the World Television Championship, Lex Luger vs. Ricky Steamboat for the United States Championship, and a loaded War Games match. Let’s get it on:
Great American Bash 1989: The Glory Days
July 23, 1989
When we last left off, Ric Flair had just defeated Ricky Steamboat in a classic match to win back the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He turned babyface after showing respect for Steamboat. Immediately, he was challenged by Terry Funk. Flair declined Funk’s challenge, stating that he had not been in wrestling and had not earned a shot. Funk took this poorly and ended up Piledriving Flair through a ringside table. Flair demanded to fight Funk, and thus he was granted a shot at Flair’s title.
Lex Luger won back the United States Championship from Michaels Hayes and turned heel shortly afterward, insisting that he deserved a shot at the NWA Championship before Ricky Steamboat or Funk. He beat down Steamboat to make his point. Steamboat was granted a shot at the U.S. Title for this show.
The Varsity Club was stripped of the tag team championship after attacking the referee at WrestleWar. A tournament was held to crown new champions. The Fabulous Freebirds ultimately won the tournament by defeating the Midnight Express in the finals. Rivalries developed among the Road Warriors, Midnight Express, Freebirds, and Samoan SWAT Team over the course of the tournament. This led to a WarGames match between the Road Warriors, The Midnight Express, and Steve Williams facing The Freebirds and Samoan SWAT Team. Let’s get to the action:
Jim Ross and Bob Caudle are our hosts tonight.
We start with a cheesy opening video package featuring a synthesizer and clips of wrestling interspersed with graphics of the American flag. Pure 80s.
King of the Hill Two Ring Battle Royal
Participants: Bill Irwin, Brian Pillman, Dan Spivey, Eddie Gilbert, Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotunda, Ranger Ross, Rick Steiner, Ron Simmons, Scott Hall, Scott Steiner, Sid Vicious, Steve Williams, Terry Gordy
Lot of future big names in this one. The winner wins $50,000. There are two rings side-by-side, but they will all fight in one ring. Eliminations take place when someone is thrown into the other ring. Then there will be an ongoing second battle royal in the second ring, where eliminations take place over the top rope. Then the two survivors fight each other. Got all that?
A predictable mess of a fight to start. Apparently they had 14 of these in the lead-up to the show. I assume they took place at non-televised shows, because that would be staggeringly boring to see on TV over and over. Ranger Ross is the first man thrown into the second ring. Ron Simmons is thrown second, so he and Ross go at it. Simmons is ultimately eliminated by Ranger Ross. A blonde Scott Hall is thrown into the second ring, followed by Bill Irwin. The second ring is quickly filling up. Spivey hits a Powerbomb on Ranger Ross. We’re down to two in the first ring: Sid and Pillman. The crowd is really into Sid, who had only recently debuted. He and Spivey are tag team partners, known as the “Skyscrapers.” Pillman tries a Body Press, but Sid ducks and Pillman flies into the second ring. Sid is the winner of the first ring, so he’ll stand around and wait for someone to win in the second ring.
The second ring has already winnowed down to Steve Williams, Mike Rotunda, and Spivey. Williams has left the Varsity Club, so it’s two on one. Rotunda misses a Clothesline and flies over the top. Williams unsuccessfully tries to Clothesline Spivey out. Rotunda distracts Williams, who is then thrown out of the ring. So it’s down to Sid and Spivey, tag team partners. Teddy Long, their manager, quickly interrupts and says they’re not going to fight each other. Instead, they’ll just split the money.
Result: Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey
Analysis: *1/2. Run of the mill battle royal.
We get pre-recorded comments from Terry Funk. He talks about endangered species, referring to himself as the most endangered, because he’s one of a kind. He promises to beat Flair tonight.
Brian Pillman vs. Bill Irwin
Nice pop for Pillman. He’s Flyin’ Brian at this point, long before his psychotic character had taken hold. Irwin is thick, so it’s his power against Pillman’s quickness. If you’ve only seen Pillman’s work in the WWF in 1997, you’ve missed out: he was amazing before injuries destroyed his athleticism. He controls early with fast-paced offense. Pillman works on the arm for a bit until Irwin takes over. Irwin works a generic heat segment consisting of punches and rest holds. Pillman starts his comeback with a series of Dropkicks. A Splash gets two. Pillman misses a Dropkick off the top rope. Gordbuster by Irwin. Irwin throws Pillman into the other ring. He argues with the referee while Pillman goes up top. Pillman hits a nice Flying Crossbody for the win at 10:18.
Result: Brian Pillman by pinfall
Analysis: **. Not bad. Pillman was a lot of fun to watch and they did a good job building up to his comeback.
Gordon Solie interviews Paul E. Dangerously, who will face Jim Cornette in a Tuxedo Match later tonight. He’s not here to win tonight, he’s here to take Cornette out. He promises to work on the knee that Cornette blew out at Starrcade 1985. Good promo from Heyman, as you would expect.
Skyscrapers (Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey) vs. Dynamic Dudes (Johnny Ace and Shane Douglas)
Skateboarders versus monsters. Spivey starts against Johnny Ace. Spivey works his methodical offense, interspersed with Dropkicks from Ace. Ace makes a tag and he and Douglas both get their asses kicked by Spivey. Spivey eventually tags in Sid, who gets a pop. Unfortunately, Sid quickly tags back out. Big Boot by Spivey sends Douglas to the floor. Sid tags back in. Sid plays to the crowd while not doing much in the ring. Sid tags back out and Spivey hits a Sidewalk Slam. Ace ends up mounting a comeback and getting a two count after a Flying Clothesline. That’s for naught, as Sid and Spivey hit a double Spinebuster for the pin at 9:14.
Result: Skyscrapers by pinfall
Analysis: *. Long and dull squash. Could have been done in three minutes.
Gordon Solie interviews Jim Cornette, who is typically hysterical. He promises to beat Dangerously, even if he breaks both of his legs.
Tuxedo Match: Jim Cornette vs. Paul E. Dangerously
Huge pop for Cornette. To win, you have to strip your opponent. Dangerously gets Cornette with powder to the eyes. He grabs his massive cellphone and beats on Cornette’s knee. Dangerously screams like a mad man while ripping off Cornette’s jacket. Dangerously works on the knee. Good selling from Cornette here.
Dangerously chokes Cornette with his cummerbund. Cornette mounts a comeback and chokes Dangerously. Cornette’s knee gives out and Dangerously stomps on him. Cornette hulks up (basically) and takes down Dangerously with a right hand. Cornette gets Dangerously’s shirt off. Dangerously tries the powder to the eyes again, but Cornette counters and throws the powder into Dangerously’s eyes. Cornette rips off Dangerously’s pants and wins the match at 6:22.
Result: Jim Cornette by stripping
Analysis: **. That was actually quite entertaining. Great heat, and right to the point. Both guys know how to work a crowd and it made up for their lack of technical prowess.
Solie interviews Gary Hart, manager of the Great Muta. He’s challenging Sting for the Television Championship tonight. Hart points out that Muta is undefeated and says that won’t change tonight.
The Varsity Club (Mike Rotunda and Kevin Sullivan) vs. The Steiner Brothers
This is the pay-per-view debut for the Steiners are a tag team. The Steiners enter to “Welcome to the Jungle.” They are accompanied by Missy Hyatt and get a nice response from the crowd. This is tornado rules, no tags. Sullivan and Rick brawl on the floor and Rick no-sells a chair shot to the head. Atomic Drop on the guardrail by Sullivan. Scott hits a ten punch in the ring. Scott gets thrown to the floor and Rotunda and Sullivan double team Rick. Overhead Belly to Belly Suplex by Rick. Powerslam by Rick. Rick gets dumped to the floor during a ten punch. Double Clothesline on Scott. Rick gets back in and drops Sullivan with a Steiner Line. Double Backdrop on Scott. Sullivan goes for a slam on Rick, but Scott flies off the top with a Crossbody for the win at 4:22.
Result: Steiner Brothers by pinfall
Analysis: ***. That was a really fun brawl. Very short, but it was non-stop action. Hardcore wrestling wasn’t very common at this point, so this was a nice novelty.
Solie interviews Sting. He’s excited for his defense against Muta tonight. Eddie Gilbert will be managing Sting tonight.
NWA Television Championship: Sting (c) vs. Great Muta
Muta is undefeated in the NWA. Hart distracts Sting, so Muta hits him with a flying chop from the top rope. Muta hits a Tumbling Body Press into the corner. Scoop Slam Back Breaker by Muta. He goes up top and misses the Moonsault but lands on his feet. Muta knocks Sting to the floor with a Thrust Kick. Plancha to the floor by Muta. Damn, they’re flying. Sting goes to the top and hits a Flying Clothesline. Dropkick by Sting sends Muta to the floor. Muta drops out of Suplex and locks on the Sleeper. Sting breaks it and connects with a Military Press. Sting misses an elbow and Muta apples a chinlock. He transitions that into an Abdominal Stretch.
Muta rolls into a cradle for two. Muta shuts down Sting’s comeback attempt with an eye rake. Muta misses a corner splash and eats a pair of Clotheslines from Sting. Dropkick. Bulldog by Sting. Dropkick sends Muta to the floor. They run the ropes and Muta accidentally Mists the referee. Sting misses a Stinger Splash. Muta hits the Moonsault, but Sting kicks out at two on a delayed count (new referee Tommy Young ran in to replace Nick Patrick). Muta misses a kick and Sting hits a Back Suplex for the pin at 8:40.
Analysis: ****. Great match. Both guys went all out and played their roles excellently. Sting was the high-energy, all-American babyface and Muta was the cocky foreigner.
Turns out both referees counted the pin for different men. Muta takes the Television Championship. The title would be vacant for several months after this until Muta defeated Sting in September to become the champion.
Solie interviews Lex Luger, who is scheduled to face Ricky Steamboat in a No Disqualification match tonight. Luger says he won’t compete unless they wave the No DQ stipulation.
United States Championship: Lex Luger (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat
Steamboat enters to “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project, best known as the entrance theme for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Steamboat is carried out on a platform and holds a Kimono Dragon in his hands. Cool entrance. Luger gets on the microphone and repeats that he’s not competing unless the get rid of the No DQ stipulation. Steamboat agrees, and we have a normal contest. JR acknowledges that the fans are still cheering Luger. They were trying really hard to get him over as a heel and it wasn’t working. The story is Steamboat’s speed and technique against Luger’s power. Steamboat hits Dropkicks and chops early. Steamboat continues to control on the floor. Atomic Drop by Steamboat. Luger catches Steamboat with a big knee and takes over. They continue to fight on the floor. Steamboat’s chops are so stiff that even Luger has to sell them. Steamboat goes up top for the big chop but takes a shot to the stomach. Back Breaker by Luger. Luger lifts Steamboat for a Military Press.
Luger argues with the referee and gets rolled up for two. Luger hits a series of Clotheslines. So far, his power has proven to be too much for Steamboat. Powerslam by Luger. He follows that with an Inverted Atomic Drop. Luger telegraphs a Backdrop and is hit with a Swinging Neckbreaker. Luger tries a Clothesline and ends up going flying to the floor. Luger goes up top but gets thrown off. Steamboat goes the top and hits a big chop for two. Steamboat charges Luger but is Backdropped into the second ring. Luger goes outside and grabs a chair. Steamboat manages to get it away from him and hits him with it for the disqualification at 10:26.
Result: Lex Luger by disqualification
Analysis: ****1/4. Damn, that was really good. I don’t think there was a single rest hold in this entire match. Both guys just went at it the whole time. Luger’s power kept him in control, but Steamboat wouldn’t quit. Luger ultimately took the easy way out to keep his title.
Steamboat beats on Luger with the chair after the match. Steamboat chases Luger to the back.
We hear from the Freebirds and Samoan SWAT Team, competitors in the upcoming WarGames match. Quality coked up promo from the Freebirds.
We then hear from an equally coked up Steve Williams. To cap it off, we hear from the Road Warriors, who can yell louder than anyone in wrestling history.
Stan Lane, Bobby Eaton, Steve Williams, Hawk, and Animal vs. Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, Jimmy Garvin, Samu, and Fatu
So, to recap the rules of WarGames:
- Two men start, one from each team. They fight for five minutes at the start of the match.
- After five minutes, a coin toss determines which team gets to have a man enter the match first. From there, they alternate entrances every two minutes. In practice, the heel team always wins the coin toss and gets the advantage.
- After all ten men have entered the match the contest continues until someone submits. The match is won only by submission, no pinfalls or disqualifications. The first submission wins.
- Cages surround both rings. Competitors can move about the rings freely.
“Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd appropriately plays as the heel team enters. The faces enter separately. All ten men will be at ringside during the match. They huddle to determine who will start the match. Garvin is selected by the Freebirds. Bobby Eaton is picked for the faces. They have a new innovation this year: a camera inside the cage. That was big technology at the time. Eaton and Garvin go back and forth, neither man getting much of advantage. Terry Gordy is the second man in. As always, the heel team won the coin toss and got the advantage. Gordy and Garvin control their two minute advantage period. Steve Williams is in next. He goes house on fire on Garvin and Gordy. Williams bench presses Gordy into the cage roof repeatedly in an incredible display of strength. Samu is the next entrant. He swings the advantage back to the heels.
Garvin is stretching Eaton’s face. Meanwhile, Gordy and Samu beat on Williams. Animal is in next. Animal beats on all three men in an exciting segment. He even hits an impressive diving Shoulderblock from one ring to the other. Fatu is the next entrant. The Samoans double team Animal. Garvin works on Eaton. Gordy and Williams brawl in the other ring. Stan Lane is the next entrant to even things up. Lane beats on everyone, sending them all into the cage. Hayes is the final entrant for the Freebirds. Hayes DDTs everyone. He then prances around the ring to huge heat. The heels are in control. Hawk enters as things look dire for his team. Double Clothesline from the top rope by Hawk. Hawk and Williams double Clothesline Gordy. Garvin gets slammed. Hawk turned the tide. Eaton starts DDTing everyone.
All ten men are brawling in the same ring. Everyone seems pretty gassed at this point. Hawk gets Garvin in a Hangman and he gives up at 22:18.
Result: Road Warriors, Midnight Express, and Steve Williams by submission
Analysis: ****. Great brawl. No blood, but plenty of good violence. Lots of big guys throwing their bodies around the ring. Not the best WarGames match, but very good nonetheless.
We hear from Ric Flair in the back. Solie wants to know why he’s wrestling even though he’s risking serious injury to his neck. Flair says he can’t do anything other than wrestle. With knowledge of his later financial problems, that’s poignant and true.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair (c) vs. Terry Funk
Funk is out first, accompanied by Gary Hart and a large contingent of police officers. Flair is second, complete with fireworks. They start off brawling outside the ring. Flair gets control and beats on Funk. In contrast to the Flair/Steamboat series, this is not a technical contest. Instead, they just beat on each other. That’s good, because I always hate it when two guys are supposed to hate each other and then just come out and wrestle a normal match. Obviously, these guys are capable of having a great scientific match. But that wouldn’t fit the storyline. Funk gets control with a Vertical Suplex. Flair tries to Suplex Funk from the apron to the floor, but slips and they both tumble. Not sure if that was a botch or not.
Back in the ring, Funk tries a Piledriver but gets Backdropped over the top rope to the floor. Flair cranks Funk’s neck. Revenge. Knee Drop by Flair. Flair Piledrives Funk! He does it again! Funk tumbles out of the ring. Flair chases him down and throws him back in. Surprising domination from Flair so far. Flair locks in the Figure Four. Hart hands Flair his branding iron and he hits Flair in the face. Hart had distracted the referee. Flair is busted open. Funk goes outside and throws the mats up. Funk goes for the Pildriver on the concrete! Flair Backdrops out of it. The announcers speculate about the state of Flair’s neck. Swinging Neckbreaker back in the ring by Funk. Another one. The announcers want the referee to stop the match to protect Flair. Back Suplex by Funk. Funk yells at Flair to give up.
Hart distracts the referee again and Flair hits Funk with his branding iron. Funk rolls out to the floor. Flair drags him back in. Funk is busted open too. Flair misses a knee strike in the corner and Funk applies the Spinning Toe Hold. Flair picks the leg and goes for the Figure Four, but Funk cradles him with a Small Package. Flair reverses into a Small Package of his own and gets the pin at 17:23.
Result: Ric Flair by pinfall
Analysis: ****1/2. Awesome match. Great intensity and storytelling from both guys. Funk worked on Flair’s injured neck and Flair assaulted Funk like a mad man out for revenge. That felt like a real fight. The finish was smart because it sets up a re-match, as there’s obviously more money to be made with these two. Fantastic match to cap the show.
Flair is attacked by Muta. He spits the mist into his face. Funk and Muta double-team Flair. Hart gets a chair. Funk goes for a Piledriver on the chair but is interrupted by Sting! Flair and Sting clear the ring and stand tall. They chase Funk and Muta into the crowd and the brawl continues. Flair says he’s just getting started with Funk, and promises to wear his ass out. Sting and Flair celebrate together. Hot ending to a great show.
Overall: Excellent show. One of the best pay-per-view events I’ve ever seen. The undercard wasn’t anything special, but those last four matches were all great. Four four star matches? I don’t think any other show has ever matched that. This show also had great variety, with brawls, technical matches, high-flying, power moves, everything you could want. If you haven’t seen this show, track it down. You won’t regret it.