This latest “themed” release from the WWE’s vast archives is a look back at the best matches from the NWA’s/WCW’s Great American Bash. Hosted by Dusty Rhodes this takes a look at the history of one of the Bash from it’s inaugural incarnation in 1985 up until the final show of it’s kind in 2000. The WWE have resisted the temptation to include any matches from their own short-lived version of the event (or the short-lived “The Bash” events that followed) . Which is fine by me.
The match selection is in chronological order meaning that, after Dusty’s introduction we’re in 1985 for Ric Flair versus Nikita Koloff. Seven hours or so later you’ll finish in 2000 with Jeff Jarrett versus Kevin Nash.
Younger fans may well fail to appreciate the nuances of the Flair/Koloff match as it’s fought at a much slower pace than today’s action but they will pop for Flair arriving for the match via his helicopter and for old-school fans it will be magic. The two matches from 1986’s show will divide opinion in a similar way but Ole & Arn Anderson against the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express is a classic tag team battle and Ric Flair against Dusty Rhodes in a Steel Cage will always have a certain appeal. The only problem I have with the opening trio of matches it the commentary. Dusty Rhodes and Larry Zbysko provide a modern commentary for the first two matches and although it’s fun up to a point to hear them reminisce it doesn’t add much to the matches themselves. The Mike Graham and Dusty commentary on the Steel Cage match is again fun, but not exactly something that helps the understanding of the match itself.
From there its an 1987 War Games and whilst you could argue that it was recently available on the War Games set, if you’re compiling the best of the Bash, this has to be on it. A 1988 tag pitting the Road Warriors against Sting and Lex Luger is fun from a star-power point of view but doesn’t really hold up well today. We then get to 1989, and one of the greatest pay-per-views in the history of the company. We’re given two matches here, which are both very good indeed. Sting Vs Great Muta is fantastic, albeit perhaps not being given as much time as one might have hoped, but you simply cannot go wrong with Terry Funk or Ric Flair from 1989 and it truly is a fantastic match between two of the all time greats.
As a new decade dawns the star who was supposed to be the face of the 1990’s, Sting, gets his big moment by tacking Ric Flair for the World Title. As the first WCW PPV I ever saw (it truly was a wondrous day back in the early 1990s when my local video shop got four WCW tapes in to rent) I have a fondness for the show, even if in hindsight the great coronation wasn’t quite as great as people might have hoped. A Steiners/Freebirds bout from the same show is fun too, although by this stage of his career Michael PS Hayes is even less about work-rate than he was in his prime.
1991’s debacle is missed out entirely on the “main feature” but 1992’s double of Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes against Steve Austin and Rick Rude and another chapter in the superb Sting and Vader rivalry offers up great wrestling entertainment. It’s easy to knock Bill Watt’s business practices in WCW at this time (banning moves off the top rope, anyone?) but he certainly brought through some workers who put on some great matches.
WCW dropped the Bash name until 1995 and a whole sea change undertook the promotion in the intervening years as Hulkamania started running wild. 1995 is showcased by a Randy Savage/Ric Flair match which is a decent effort that nevertheless falls short of their WrestleMania VIII classic from three years earlier. The Outsiders continue their invasion of WCW at 1996’s event whilst there are a couple of wildly different, but both entertaining, matches from 1997 as Ultimo Dragon tackles Psicosis and Diamond Dallas Page tackles Randy Savage in a Falls Count Anywhere match. DDP and Savage sure did have some chemistry.
Three 1998 matches are next. The battle of the Guerrero’s between Chavo and Eddie is probably on just to get Eddie on here, whilst Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko assemble a cracking match which effectively highlights how exciting the undercard could often be on WCW shows. The least said about the Roddy Piper and Randy Savage versus Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart match the better though. It may have star-power, but it’s a very, VERY, bad wrestling match. We miss out 1999, leaving two matches from 2000’s last WCW Bash to close things out. DDP battles Mike Awesome in a daft Ambulance match which is nevertheless better than you might expect but if anyone is tuning into a Kevin Nash/Jeff Jarrett match expecting anything worthwhile then all I can say is that they’ve more faith in miracles happening than I have.
The Blu-Ray exclusive extras fill in the two missing gaps in the main feature, with a Sting/Koloff Russian Chain bout from 1991’s show and a Nash/Savage “epic” from 1999’s. There’s also a fun six-person match from 1986 where Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA and Baby Doll take on The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette, a 1988 bout from the Bash Tour between Flair and Luger and the 1996 bout where NFL players Kevin Greene and Steve McMichael tackle Ric Flair and Arn Anderson in a bout that is far, far better than it really had any right to be.
Some viewers will no doubt have minor quibbles with matches which are either present on the set or have been missed out, but as an overview of sixteen years of history of one event this does a very good job of summing up the appeal of the NWA/WCW in it’s different incarnations. The storytelling, psychology and sometimes outright violence of the early years is followed by the attempts to create new stars in the early 90’s. We get the “serious” wrestling style of Bill Watts which is then superseded by Hulkamania running wild and the nWo “taking over”. The cruiserweights steal the show whilst the star-power “draws the money” in the late 90’s before the game is somewhat up and old names hang on beyond their prime in the dying days of the company.
All in all, a great set that acts both as a collection of (generally) top-notch wrestling action and as a potted history of the up’s and down’s of World Championship Wrestling. Highly recommended.
– By Matthew Roberts | @IWFICON
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch.fm for providing our copy of United We Slam: The Best of Great American Bash. United We Slam: The Best of Great American Bash is available DVD & Blu-Ray from Monday 14th July 2014. You can pre-order your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here.