Written By: Matt Peddycord
NWA Great American Bash ’88: The Price for Freedom
July 10, 1988
Written By: Matt Peddycord
After being a part of the NWA’s calendar for three years, they finally narrowed down the concept to one show and one city; Baltimore. Baltimore would be home to eight of the next twelve “Bashes”, which is more than any one city has ever held for one particular wrestling show in North America.
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross!
NWA World Tag Team Champions Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (w/JJ Dillon) vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff
There’s a big brawl to start to get the crowd all excited. Nikita and Arn go out to the floor, while in the ring Sting gets a small package on Blanchard for two. Arn tries to save Tully, but then he gets nailed with a Sting dropkick to the outside. Sting follows him out with a running plancha (!) out on top of Arn, which became one of his trademark moves before the knee injury in early 1990. Arn catches Sting on the apron, but then he gets nailed in the gut as he comes off the top. Sting drags Arn over to his corner and tags in Nikita. He works an armbar for a while. Arn finally escapes once he reaches a neutral corner, but then Nikita no-sells a missed corner charge and nails both Horsemen with a SICKLE. We JIP to Sting giving Tully a bunch of armdrags. Koloff gets a tag and applies the armbar to Tully and gets several nearfalls with a half-nelson pin attempt. Blanchard puts his foot on the bottom rope, but Nikita pulls him off the ropes and back into his corner to tag in Sting. Blanchard misses a corner charge and hits the ringpost shoulder-first. He then tries to make a tag, but ends up in the WRONG corner and pays for it. Koloff gets another tag and rams Tully’s hurt shoulder into the corner. Tully tries to tag Arn with his foot, but the ref is just not going to allow that to stand. Ha, funny how the Christian Crusaders are doing a dishonest switch behind the ref’s back. We get more clippage as we come to Blanchard tagging in Anderson with Koloff hurt down on the mat. Arn goes for the pump splash out of the corner, which NEVER bodes well for him. This time is no different, as Koloff brings up his knees just in time to block. HOT TAG TO STING! Guerilla Press Slam to Tully! Face Slam for Arn! Sting delivers an atomic drop. He flips out of a back suplex and catches Tully with a dropkick. DOUBLE-NOGGIN KNOCKER! Arn gets a tag, but then runs into a sleeper hold! We’ve only got one minute left in this thing! Arn elbows out and tags in Tully. Since Arn can’t suplex Sting, Tully leaps down for a sunset flip. Sting punches out while Nikita knocks Arn out with another SICKLE! Stinger Splash to Tully leads to the SCORPION DEATHLOCK, but Blanchard holds on until the time runs out. (10:28 shown of 20:00) Most of what was shown was armbars up until Sting got the hot tag. It might have been better if half of the match wasn’t cut out, but then again I haven’t seen the unedited version so it’s really hard to say. **
NWA U.S. Tag Team Champions The Fantastics vs. The Midnight Express (w/Jim Cornette)
Cornette is not only locked inside of a cage and elevated twenty feet (of course in JR talk, twenty means forty!) above the ring for this one, he’s also strapped in a straight jacket to prevent ANY chances of Cornette getting physically involved. By the way, if the Fantastics win, they get to give Cornette ten lashes with a belt. The pre-match stuff is more fun to watch than the match at least with the ULTRA SUPER RIDICULOUS clip-job done on this match. Whenever Jim Cornette gets caught in these stipulations, he always has these reactions like, “I was REALLY hoping everyone would have forgotten about that.” Oh well, he whines for a moment and then hugs Bobby and high-fives Stan and quickly puts his arms in the jacket. While the refs are putting him in the straight jacket, he’s bribing them with $15,000 to NOT go through with it. They don’t bite, though. Hahaha, Bobby even wipes away his tears! Before he goes in the cage, he whispers something to his team and then quietly walks into the cage. Just off the top of my head in the two matches I’ve seen (the COTC match and the title switch on Worldwide), these two teams have done nothing UNDER ****½, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to do that again. Bobby and Bobby start things off in this one. They run the ropes for a bit and then Fulton gets a rollup for only one. We take a look at Cornette and then we snip off a WHOLE bunch from this match. Fulton and Eaton are in the ring, but they are sweating profusely. Fulton gets a backdrop and rolls up Eaton for two. Lane trips up Fulton as he comes off the ropes, allowing Eaton to knee him from behind and Lane to slam him out onto the concrete! GENIUS! Meanwhile in the ring, Rogers hits the ref by accident as he connects with a crossbody on Eaton. Rogers rams Eaton face-first into the ringpost, but Lane is behind him with a small chain wrapped around his fist. Lane charges, but Rogers backdrops him down. Eaton grabs the chain and wraps it around his fist. Fulton has no idea what’s going on and walks into a chain-assisted right hand. Eaton covers for the three-count, allowing the Midnight Express to regain the US tag titles for the second time. (2:17 shown of 16:23) Why such a huge gap there? Who was editing these things? ½*
The Road Warriors, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Ronnie & Jimmy Garvin (w/Paul Ellering) vs. Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotunda, Al Perez, The Russian Assassin & Ivan Koloff (w/Gary Hart & Paul Jones) – Tower of Doom Match
The Tower of Doom cage match is the same type of match used at an infamous WCW event called, UnCeNSoReD 1996, where Hogan and Savage beat SIX other top WCW heels by themselves. Don’t worry though, because this doesn’t get quite that bad. The Tower of Doom is three separate cages placed on top of one another. Two wrestlers start out on top of the cage for a two-minute period. After a two minute period, a trap door in both the top-tier cages open for fifteen seconds which allows you to get down into the cage below with all the other wrestlers. If you’re one of those already in the middle-tier cage, you can use the fifteen second to drop down into the bottom cage, which surrounds the ring. Once you get down to the ring, you can unlock the door and escape out to the floor. That’s the basic point of the match, to get from the top all the way to the floor. Seems kind of ridiculous, (to be honest, it really is) but this is what we have in order to try and settle this Precious thing once and for all. She’s the key holder, which adds to the drama of the match. The Russian Assassin is Jack Victory from World Class and was involved with “The Network” stable over in ECW, in case you weren’t aware. He’s wearing a mask here, so I thought it was worth mentioning. Here though, he’s just one of Paul Jones’ thugs. Ron Garvin and Ivan Koloff start things off here. All they can really do in that small cage is trade blows or slam each other’s face into the steel mesh for two minutes. The trap door opens after two minutes and Garvin starts climbing down into the second-tier while Dr. Death fights off Koloff and Rotunda. Once Garvin is through the trapdoor, the door is closed and Garvin has some time to chill. Williams gets double-teamed by Koloff and Rotunda until the next period ends for Animal to come help. Williams and Koloff go through the door down to the second-tier while Garvin is already down in the ring. Precious unlocks the door for him and lets him escape the cage. Perez and Rotunda are in the top-tier working on Animal while Williams is in control over Koloff in the second-tier. The horn blows for the third period to end, allowing the trap doors to open back up. Animal follows Perez down into the second-tier, leaving Hawk alone with the Assassin and Rotunda. Williams and Koloff remain in the second-tier along with Animal and Perez. The only two to not enter this match still is Kevin Sullivan and Jimmy Garvin. Fourth period ends, and Perez is the second man to reach the canvas. Animal follows him down and gives him a dropkick. Hawk is down in the second-tier now; along with the Assassin, Koloff, and Williams. Animal and Perez escape to give their respective team a point, making it 2-1 in favor of the Garvin team. Sullivan and Rotunda stick with Jimmy Garvin on the top-tier. Believe it or not, Jimmy is in control up there! Meanwhile In the middle-tier, Williams puts Koloff in a freakin’ figure-four! The horn blows and Rotunda finally makes it to the middle-tier, leaving Jimmy alone with Sullivan. Koloff and the Russian Assassin make it down to the ring, but they don’t seem to be in a big hurry to leave. Oh, because Hawk is dropping down to give them a two on one advantage. Gotcha. Hawk ducks a double-clothesline and comes back with the same on the Russians. Hawk is still putting the hurting on those two, but the camera looks up to Jimmy and Sullivan instead. The Russians try another double-team clothesline, but Hawk avoids that and puts them down again before he walks out the cage for good. Up in the middle-tier, Williams mounts Rotunda for a whole bunch of punching while the Russians escape to make it even 3-3. Another period ends, so Williams comes down into the ring and out the cage to make it 4-3. Rotunda stays up in the middle-tier while Jimmy and Sullivan come down to meet him. Stupid Dr. Death, now Jimmy is all by himself. I’m starting to believe that Ph. D. you have is a FAKE! I bet you’re not even a real doctor, because doctors are supposed to be SMART. Wow, Garvin actually gets a DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER on the heels. The horn blows for possibly the last time in this match. Rotunda climbs down to the ring while Sullivan has Garvin held down. Once Rotunda is in the ring, Sullivan tries to come down but Garvin grabs hold of his leg. The door shuts again while Rotunda makes it out to the door. Garvin tries to incapacitate Sullivan in the middle-tier with a spinning toe hold while the rest of the guys get into a brawl down on the floor! The horn blows again and both Sullivan and Garvin make it down to the ring this time. OH MAN, what’s going to happen here? Sullivan grabs Precious, but Garvin saves and starts working on Sullivan’s knee some more. Garvin hits the BRAINBUSTER, but he doesn’t connect too well with it. Precious unlocks the door, but then Sullivan shoves Garvin out of the cage for the win! (18:18 shown of 19:55) Uh oh! Sullivan locks the cage door to be all alone with Precious! Precious tries to kick him away, but there’s only so much she can do. Jimmy Garvin climbs up to the second-tier and opens the trap door to come down and save his wife! Hawk heads up to the cage with him. Meanwhile in the ring, Sullivan is choking Precious out with his wrist tape! Hawk gets through the door and comes off the top rope with a FLYING CLOTHESLINE to Sullivan! Man, poor Jimmy can’t even save his own wife without some other guy stealing all his glory. Once Garvin finally does get down in the ring, all there is left for him to do is lead his lady out of the cage. I really don’t think this match is possible to be rated. It’s just the kind of match that needs the right angle and the right individuals to make it seem interesting, and this was that angle.
NWA World Television Champion Mike Rotunda (w/Kevin Sullivan & Rick Steiner) vs. Sting – BONUS HOUSE SHOW MATCH (not on card)
They mention that this match was in Greensboro, but they don’t give a specific date. It looks like it could’ve taken place in the previous month. Sting received several chances at every major title defended in the NWA in 1988, but never won any of them. Sting hits Rotunda with three dropkicks which signal in Steiner and Sullivan to hop in the ring. They both eat a dropkick and then Rotunda and Steiner get a DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER to clear the ring of the heels. Back in, Rotunda shoves off out of a headlock and goes down to a hiptoss. Sting follows up with a slam for two. Sting legdrops Rotunda between the legs, as Steiner hops on the apron for the momentary distraction. Rotunda trips up Sting, but then gets caught with an enziguri. Steiner trips up Sting as he comes off the ropes so that Rotunda can nail him from behind. Rotunda dumps Sting out for Sullivan to nail him repeatedly with a foreign object. Back in, Rotunda hits an elbow drop for two. Sting elbows out of a rear chinlock a few times, but Rotunda comes back with a slam on Sting’s second try. Rotunda heads up top, but Sting meets him there and slams him down to the mat. Sting tosses Rotunda into the next ring (looks like there was a scaffold match on the card) and dives over the ropes onto Rotunda! Ten-count corner punch leads to a Stinger Splash! Sting goes for the SCORPION DEATHLOCK, but Steiner comes in for the DQ. (8:19) This was like every WCW Saturday Night 1-on-1 match Sting would do basically for the rest of his career. *½
NWA U.S. Heavyweight Champion Barry Windham (w/JJ Dillon) vs. Dusty Rhodes
Big Dust was stripped of the belt and suspended after he hit Jim Crockett with a baseball bat two weeks before Windham SHOCKED THE WORLD and turned on Luger and everything that is good and honest in the world. Well, then Windham faced some nobody named “The Midnight Rider” in the NWA US title tournament (which he won as you can plainly see here) who nearly beat him. That nobody turned out to be Dusty Rhodes, and now we have this match because these two HATE each other. Windham tries to charge at Dusty on several occasions, but all he has to do is lift up his arm to tease the elbow to ward off the attack. Rhodes delivers a shoulderblock and Windham takes five out on the floor. Back in, Dusty delivers a press slam followed by a DDT! Rhodes heads up top (OH MY GOSH!) and connects with a FLYING CROSSBODY for 1-2-NO! Everyone is in DISBELIEF that Windham has just kicked out of that! Barry takes another breather and I can’t really say I blame him. Back in again, Rhodes is all over Windham with lefts and then JJ gets nailed on the apron. Windham suckers Dusty in with a test of strength and kicks him down for it. They brawl out to the floor where Windham tries a piledriver, but Dusty backdrops out of it and puts Windham down with a clothesline. Back in, Windham takes Dusty into the corner and gets his first real flurry of offense by just pummeling the big guy down in the corner, but then Dusty flips Barry out to the floor from the apron. Dusty follows him out and slams Barry down on the floor. JJ Dillon distracts Rhodes long enough for Windham to blindside him for control of the match. Windham connects with an elbow drop and applies the CLAWHOLD. Windham gets a few nearfalls off that, but then Dusty starts SHAKIN IT LOOSE! Dusty finally elbows out and tries for the Figure-Four, but Windham counters it with the CLAWHOLD! Dusty makes the climb up in the corner to prevent Windham from having the leverage advantage, but then Windham releases the hold and goes for the SUPERPLEX! Can he follow through with it? No! Dusty shoves Windham down into the ref! Dusty hits the BIG ELBOW! He covers for- wait there’s no ref! What? Ronnie Garvin comes in out of nowhere and turns Dusty around and punches him down! JJ wakes up the ref as Barry reapplies the CLAWHOLD for the 1-2-3. (15:58) So yeah, Ron Garvin is a heel now. It wouldn’t matter much since he’d be running off to McMahonLand by the end of the year. Few men could ever carry Dusty to anything over ** and Barry Windham ’88 is one of those guys. **½
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair (w/JJ Dillon) vs. Lex Luger
Flair has white trunks and yellow knee pads and Luger has yellow trunks and white knee pads. It was just an odd observation and that’s all. Ever since Luger was kicked out of the Horsemen, he’s been beating them all up! Well, actually they’ve been beating him up too, which is why he wants revenge AND the NWA World Title. Typical Flair match to start by Luger no-selling everything Flair throws at him such as chops and forearms. Flair begs off and takes a hiptoss out of the corner and then eats a dropkick (!!) from Luger that sends him rolling out to JJ Dillon. Schiavone points out that the Maryland State Athletic Commissioner guy is at ringside, which will become important later. Back in, Luger delivers a press slam and Flair has to bail out again. Flair calls Tommy Young out to the floor and then he shoves him, but Young shoves him back and gets chased back in the ring. Haha, THAT’s some psychology for ya. Flair finally comes back in and wants a test of strength, but then he ends up taking another press slam from the challenger. Luger then wisely goes to a bearhug and gets a near-fall off that. Cena should try that and then I’ll be really impressed with him. Flair gets to the ropes and tries to escape out to the floor, but Luger grabs him on the apron and gives him a suplex back in the ring for two. Luger hits a jumping elbow drop for two and then misses the second one, but he NO-SELLS it. Flair begs in the corner and takes a hiptoss for it. Flair baits Luger out to the floor and then takes him head-first to the guardrail a couple times before getting back in the ring. Flair connects with a pair of rolling knee drops (WOOO!) for two. Flair starts kicking on the ribs, but then gets caught with a desperation clothesline for 1-2-NO! Flair jabs him in the ribs and then heads up top, but then Luger shakes the ropes and crotches Flair on the top-rope. Luger delivers a hiptoss, but then whiffs on a second dropkick to put Flair back in command of this match. Wait-no, he’d rather do the Flair Flop instead. Luger explodes out of the corner with a clothesline and covers for 1-2-NO! Flair gets his foot on the bottom rope. Flair takes another shot at Luger in the ribs and then tosses him out, but Luger lands on his feet and hops up on the apron for a sunset flip for 1-2-NO! Flair finally goes after the leg at 14:00 in this thing in usual Flair fashion. WOOO! That leads to the FIGURE-FOUR, but Luger reverses the hold (which wasn’t as commonplace as it is today). Flair relinquishes the hold and goes right back to the leg, but Luger comes back and clotheslines Flair out to the floor. Flair gets back in and chops on Luger in the corner, but it has NO EFFECT on Lex. Luger gives Flair another press slam, but his knee buckles which keeps him from making the pin attempt in due time. Luger stupidly goes for a knee drop and misses. Flair uses this opportunity to head up to the top rope, but it doesn’t work for him this time either. Flair brings Luger out of the ten-count corner punch into an inverted atomic drop, but Luger NO-SELLS and drills Flair with a clothesline for 1-2-NO! Luger gets the ten-count corner punch this time and then whips Flair into the opposite corner for the Flair Flip. Luger brings Flair back in the ring and gets a backslide for 1-2-NO! They both fall over the top rope and hit the floor. Flair complains about a leg injury, but that’s all part of his strategy to RAM Luger’s face into the ringpost to bust him open a little bit. Tommy Young keeps Flair from hitting him with a chair while JJ Dillon rams him into the ringpost AGAIN! Luger gets back in the ring and makes the comeback. He hits the Powerslam and RACKS Luger while the Maryland State Athletic Commissioner guy is trying to get the ref’s attention. Once he does and they converse, Tommy Young calls for the bell which causes the crowd to think Lex Luger has just won the title. (23:13) Sting, Nikita and Dr. Death run in to celebrate, but then Gary Michael Capetta announces that the match was stopped to due to excessive bleeding, so Flair retains the belt. Seriously, you can hardly tell that Luger is even bleeding. It’s got to suck knowing that your own state’s athletic board screws you over. Good match outside of the finish, but these two will do much better matches in the years to come. ***
Final Thoughts: Nothing must-see unless you want to check out the Tower of Doom match. Everything else is topped by the first-ever Clash in 1988. You’re just not going to find a better NWA show from this year than that one. Like I said earlier, there is better Flair-Luger matches so don’t necessarily bother with this show unless you’re a HUGE Luger fan. Even the infamous finish isn’t that big of a deal to go out of your way to see. Thumbs down for Great American 1988.
34-year-old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Long-time fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Vikings. An avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on old-school wrestling.