WCW Great American Bash 1996 – June 16, 1996

WCW Great American Bash 1996
June 16
The Baltimore Arena – Baltimore, MD

The PPV broadcast starts with WCW ripping off the WWF by using the old Saturday Night’s Main Event intro concept with various wrestlers giving pre-recorded commentary.

Commentators: Tony Schiavone and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
* Plus, Mike Tenay joins for the Cruiserweight Title Match *

Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman presents The American Flag as The National Anthem plays.

Tony and Dusty pontificate the high profile matches: The Horsemen versus Kevin Greene & Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Lex Luger challenging The Giant for the World Heavyweight Title. They mention the “War” that’s started. Dusty says The Outsiders can bring it on. OK. Tony also notes the death of “Dirty” Dick Murdoch, who passed away a day earlier at the age of 49 from a heart attack.

“There Must Be A Winner”
Fire & Ice [Scott “Flash” Norton and Ice Train] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]

Result/Analysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (10:30) when Scott pins Norton following a frankensteiner. It’s a really awful frankensteiner Scott does as Norton fails to do his part on the move. “Flash” is terrible in the match but Ice Train is worse. The Steiner’s do ALL the work, including selling the shitty power moves of Fire and Ice. Norton does execute a pair of shoulderbreakers on Scott that are nice in fairness. The stipulation is code for Number One Contender’s Match btw. Sloppy but physical is how this bout can be depicted. Norton and Ice Train don’t believe in selling so they give no care at trying. Scott nearly paralyzes Norton on a backdrop suplex and for a second you think maybe there’s a legit injury. The final sequence is good. Rick takes the finishing move of Fire and Ice – a powerbomb / splash combo – only for Scott to break up the pin. The Steiner’s counter with Rick doing the top rope bulldog of Norton off Scott’s shoulders only Ice Train prevents the three count. Rick and Ice Train quickly pair-off which allows Scott the franksteiner on Norton that looks horrible but which gets him the pin and The Steiner’s the win.
Rating: **1/4

“Mean” Gene Okerlund interviews “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan with Jimmy Hart present. Sullivan runs down Chris Benoit. He says tonight he’ll prove that Benoit, while he’s no quitter like Brian Pillman was, is also not Horsemen-material. The Taskmaster says he made Arn Anderson and Ric Flair a handshake deal and he intends to keep his word. You see, Sullivan became the henchman on his own accord to root out The Horsemen. WCW bookers, of which Sullivan was one, could have just had him become the fourth Horsemen with Pillman out and AA order a match wherein the loser would be kicked out after the bad blood between the two created a distraction. Woman (married to Sullivan in real life) could have gotten involved sooner instead of how she would later on. The Taskmaster being the leader of The Dungeon of Doom and doing the dirty work for AA just because Hulk Hogan wasn’t around to torment, just felt like a stretch to me.

WCW United States Championship:
El Gato (Pat Tanaka) vs. Konan (c)

Result/Analysis: Konan via pinfall (6:03) with a bridge roll-up, countering a headscissors attempt into modified powerrbomb. I don’t know how else to describe it. Anyway, this one’s dull with a completely obvious result. El Gato is Pat Tanaka under a mask. Some international SuperStar, huh? Tanaka came to fame as one-half of The Orient Express tag-team in the WWF from 1990-1992 ICYMI. Konan’s reign as U.S. Champion was as dull as this match is. No one cared about the belt, that Konan possessed it, or, when he defended it. The World Television Title had more prestige with Luger as the champion. Tanaka controls in the early stages with armdrags and side kicks. The crowd is dead. Konan does weird, mat-based submission holds that look like they wouldn’t harm a toddler that then suck up time. Eventually, in the only notable spot there is, Konan sunset flips over the top rope with Tanaka standing on the ring apron and hits a powerbomb to the floor. Tanaka lands hard. The finish comes right after thankfully. I never liked Konan. You can argue his best work in The States was under the guise of Max Moon in 1993. Other than that his contribution to wrestling in North America were the stars from AAA in Mexico he helped bring in to WCW and nothing more.
Rating: *

Sting has interview time with Okerlund. He characterizes “Lord” Steven Regal as a little iffy and maybe a prissy and/or a sissy. Yup, that’s the jist of it. Gene sets him up for such talk though. Sting is sporting pink and black face paint and his hair is fully grown out by this point.

Lord of the Ring Match:
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Marcus Alexander Bagwell

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (9:40) following the diamond cutter. Page was done in dirty by WCW after winning BattleBowl in May for he was as The Lord of the Ring to be the one challenging The Giant for the World Heavyweight Title. WCW rightfully decided that match wasn’t a money maker so Luger was given DDP’s spot the day after Slamboree. Page was rapidly improving, enhancing his move set, most notably, while nearly perfecting his schtick between his self high five and coming to the ring smoking a stogie. He was overly adept at selling his own moves and over-selling his opponents, too. Page had transitioned from a carnival joke to a potential player for WCW. It was quite the reclamation project truthfully and most of it coming from Page’s own self-belief and work ethic. Bagwell, meanwhile, was nearing a full solo career with The American Males tag-team he was in with Scotty Riggs flaming itself out. Before he became “Buff,” Bagwell was somewhat of a high-flyer. Then again, in these days he was also a leaner wrestler. Once he became “The Stuff,” however, those leaping moves would go. Page wins to defend his Lord of the Ring as WCW peppered that achievement after pulling the carpet out on his World Title opportunity. It’s a solid match with a good work rate so there’s no complaints from me.
Rating: **1/2

The Giant is next for an interview with “Mean” Gene. He forecasts Luger’s thoughts of putting him in the torture rack as a pure fantasy. Instead, Luger’s reality will be the chokeslam. Brief and on point.

WCW Cruiserweight Championship:
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. “The Man of One Thousand Holds” Dean Malenko (c)

Result/Analysis: Malenko via pinfall (17:51) following a powerbomb and with his feet on the ropes. Yes, this is Rey Mysterio’s coming out party to an American wrestling audience but it’s also a match where Malenko puts on a clinic in both mat wrestling and ring psychology. Malenko finds close to one thousand ways to work over Rey Jr.’s arm and hyperextend his elbow. He does so after Mysterio screams out in pain after a previous hold involving the left arm. Malenko combines mat-based submission holds to weaken Mysterio’s arm with various combinations of slams and suplexes with the arm hammerlocked to take the brunt of each move. Brilliant. This exquisite and masterful work lasts the bulk of the match as Malenko gets the rightful platform to display his excellence. Mysterio’s high flying is on display here in fits and starts as he soldiers on despite the beating he’s taking. Mysterio looks like such a baby here as you forget how slight of body he was at the onset of his career. Rey showcases springboard dropkicks, mid air reversal counters into pinning roll-ups and a signature somersault tope onto Malenko from over the top rope and onto the floor. For all of that, this unappreciative crowd comes alive. The American wrestling fan had yet to be conditioned for the skill set, the lightning quick aerial moves Mysterio had in his repertoire. That would quickly change. The back-and-forth nature, trading near falls and countering each other’s moves in the last 3/4 minutes, elevates this from really good bout to a borderline classic. The match doesn’t quite reach that level given that it’s fought at Malenko’s pace and style for 90 percent of the duration, but, if you appreciate the work rate, you’ll be into the match from bell-to-bell. Up until this point in 1996, this had become WCW’s Match of the Year. The Cruiserweights would mostly dominate that list.
Rating: ****

Luger talks up The Giant as the dominant force in WCW yet also as someone who’s still a human being that will make mistakes. Lex tells Okerlund he’ll capitalize on each and every one of those mistakes and leave The Great American Bash tonight as the new World Heavyweight Champion. Luger, in victory, would hold three titles at the same time as he’s currently the reigning World Television Champion and one half of the World Tag-Team Champions with Sting.

Special Grudge Match:
Big Bubba (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart) vs. John Tenta

Result/Analysis: Tenta via pinfall (5:25) with a powerslam. As grudge matches go this is pretty bad. Bubba had shaved off half of Tenta’s hair on Monday Nitro a few weeks before this to boot Tenta – – – Shark – – – out of The Dungeon of Doom. Bubba’s reasoning was Tenta signing on for a World Title Match versus The Giant, who, of course, was a prominent member of The Dungeon of Doom. What a STUPID angle. Bubba and Tenta were both has-beens long past their usefulness by mid-1996 and no one cared for either. WCW threw this garbage match on the card instead of having someone as immensely talented like Eddie Guerrero wrestle. That confounds logic to me.
Rating: DUD

Steve “Mongo” McMichael, with his wife Debra, and Kevin Greene, with his wife Tara, give pre-match comments to Okerlund. As for “Macho Man” Randy Savage, or “Coach” for tonight, he has been reinstated in WCW. Mongo dismisses that he and Greene have a game plan and says he and Greene are coming to get Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. That’s prophetic. Greene, meanwhile says he’s coming hard and heavy, promising to not give up an inch while playing tough goal line defense. That’s so clichéd. Savage pops in to pump both up for the goal line stand they’ll make. The only thing missing here are Slim Jims. I can’t wait for the pay-off that’s about to come …

Falls Count Anywhere Match:
“The Crippler” Chris Benoit vs. The Taskmaster (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: Benoit via pinfall (10:02) following a superplex off a table that cradles the top rope. Epic fight!!! These two guys legit did not like each other it or they just sold the SH** out of appearing they didn’t. As far as scripted brawls in wrestling go, including the 25 years since, you won’t find a match fought stiffer, with a truer attempt at realism, and a downright visciousness to it. There’s zero wasted time or energy. The crowd is lit/jacked/electrified from bell-to-bell and even after the bell … but, I’ll get to that. Immediately, the match goes beyond the security railing and into the crowd as both men trade chops on each other, chops so rattling they make Flair’s seem amateurish by comparison. The fight continues into the crowd as Benoit and Sullivan battle for control up the aisleway steps. From there, the fight spills into the men’s restroom where Sullivan brutalizes Benoit in each and every bathroom stall as fans fill in around the melee to a loud chorus of noise. Tony and Dusty are going bonkers calling the action and rightfully so as the match is the damnedest melee fans have seen. Tony has a great line as Sullivan goes to dunk Benoit head first into one of the urinals when he says, “HEAD FIRST TO THE COMMODE!” Dusty keeps referencing the plunder being used all the while but he soon loses it also as he catches a glimpse of this … “There’s a lady! There’s a lady in the men’s bathroom!” Oh my. That line will never die! The fight leaves the restroom without any resolution and heads back inside the arena bowl. Benoit takes a nasty spill on the steps as Sullivan shows no guilt or remorse. Back at ringside, nut region shots and railing treatment is exchanged. Benoit locates a table underneath the ring, meanwhile, and positions it inside the ring. There’s another exchange with the table only WCW used tables that didn’t break. Ouch. The finish comes when Sullivan backdrops Benoit onto the table, which now cradles the top rope. Benoit wins a struggle and superplex Sullivan off! The crowd loses it! Benoit picks up the three count and flashes four fingers to signify Four Horsemen supremacy. Benoit puts the boots to Sullivan after the bell and gets on top pounding away “Rabid Wolverine” style! AA runs out. All along he had seemingly aligned himself with Sullivan keep in mind. Arn shoves Benoit off to signify he may still does .. only no! AA flips on Sullivan and puts the boots to him with Benoit joining in. The Baltimore crowd wets itself in all of its Horseman glory! Oh man, this was so epic and the match has stood the test of time. The Horsemen’s BIG night was only just beginning …
Rating: ****1/4

Back in the locker room, Okerlund is with Woman and Miss Elizabeth. AA and Benoit, soon followed by Flair and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan also join. Arn says that what we just saw out there was the head of the snake being severed as Benoit earned his stripes as a Horsemen. AA points out how Sullivan/Taskmaster, whatever he wants to call himself, had tried to poison the most elite group in professional wrestling but failed. Now, if Sullivan looks around, he’ll see The Horsemen are loaded for bear and that the war (referencing the war between The Horsemen and The Dungeon of Doom and not that other “War”) has only just begun. Benoit says he put Sullivan in his place once and for all after warning him not to mess with The Horsemen to begin with. Arn adds a cautionary warning for the football players that they just got a visual aid of what’s to come to them. Flair cuts a promo on Greene and McMichael referencing his two All-Pros – Arn and Benoit, while pointing out the girls and the mind behind it all (Heenan). Bobby assures everyone, including the skeptical “Mean” Gene, he’s not worried at all. Heenan is in classic form. It’s like he never stepped away from managing.

Special Challenge Match:
“Lord” Steven Regal (accompanied by Jeeves) vs. Sting [WCW World Tag-Team Champion]

Result/Analysis: Sting via submission (16:31) with the scorpion death lock. The Franchise, as Regal referred to Sting, perserveres and overcomes as His Lordship controls 85-90 percent of the duration. Regal was at the height of his character in WCW and you really see his greatness here albeit in a losing effort. Sting takes the punishment after flustering Regal and throwing him off in the early stages. Regal is not just good but he’s an exceptional heel wrestler in this period. He plays to the crowd and makes snide remarks as he’s beating the tar out of Sting with brute force and wear-down submission holds – showcasing the Regal Stretch even. Regal wrestles extra stiff, which I love and only a few wrestlers had the ability to pull that off without injuring their opponent. His facial expressions are classic, too. I mean, in his later WWE run, while his character was certaintly top notch, mostly as Commissioner, Regal was still never as great as he was in WCW. Sting takes a methodic pulverizing knowing he would go over for the win and look strong as he makes the babyface comeback. I’d kill to see a wrestling match nowadays worked this good between two guys that understood storytelling and showmanship. I love this match.
Rating: ***1/2

Bash at the Beach segue. Yeah, so um, that would be a history-making event …

The GAB is two hours down with one hour, give or take, left to go. That means the Double Main Event is ready to commence as Michael Buffer takes over as the ring announcer. Are you ready???

Tag-Team Grudge Match: The Legends of Professional Wrestling vs. The Legends of the Gridiron
“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair
(w/ Miss Elizabeth, Woman and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)
vs.
Steve “Mongo” McMichael & “Mean” Kevin Greene
(w/ Debra McMichael, Tara Greene and “Macho Man” Randy Savage)

Result/Analysis: Anderson & Flair via pinfall (20:53) when Flair pins Greene after McMichael turns on Greene hitting him with with a haliburton briefcase loaded with money to join The Four Horsemen. YES!!! Greene wrestles better than Mongo but the threatrics by Flair, the cheat tactics, sucker punches, Heenan’s involvement, etc., elevate the experience of the match far before the McMichael swerve happens. The crowd is in a frenzied fever pitch the entire time. Really, forget star ratings, the ambience, the feeling you get when watching the match, seeing the storyline unfold, capped off by a swerve that’s pretty unexpected, is what gives one the feels here. I expected a train wreck out of Greene and Mongo but they acquit themselves adequately and let The Horsemen handle the fine details of working the crowd and generating heat. Savage provides juice as “Coach” as he levels the playing field chasing down Heenan numerous times while also getting into it with Anderson and Flair outside the ring. Greene and Mongo put The Horsemen in separate figure fours simultaneously at one point and the crowd loves that spot. Later on, Woman and Liz chase off Debra and Tara which you knew wasn’t just pointless. Greene and Flair do extended work in the latter stages with Greene initially cleaning house on Naitch before The Horsemen double up on him to take over. Mongo is getting antsy on the apron, meanwhile, waiting for a tag. Arn and Savage scuffle outside the ring so Benoit runs out for a Horsemen-style beat down on Macho. Woman and Liz return but with them is Debra, now dressed in an evening gown and carrying a briefcase. Uh oh. Debra approaches Mongo with the briefcase. He opens it to find a Four Horsemen XXL inside along with stacks of money. Debra tells him to take the money and sell out. Mongo obliges just as Greene reaches out for a tag by wallopping him with the briefcase!!! Flair gets the pin and Mongo officially joins The Horsemen as the fourth member. Savage takes the post-match beat-down as Heenan stands there calling the shots. The match itself is average but the booking makes up the difference. Mongo and Heenan used to spar on the Monday Nitro broadcasts but they shake hands here, seemingly in cahoots with each other for the past two months. Classic. June 16, 1996 was a seismic night for The Four Horsemen.
Rating: ***1/4

Eric Bischoff is on stage near the entryway and he calls out Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. He tells them that he met with WCW Executives this past week and their request for a match has been granted for Bash at the Beach on July 7th in Daytona Beach, Florida. Bischoff asks Hall and Nash, though, if they work for the WWF, to which both answer no. Hall says, “Forget about the past, Chico, lets worry about the future. We want to know who your three guys are? Is it The Nacho Man? I don’t think so. And what about, what about, the immortal Huckster? You know, you tell Billionaire Ted to break out the money and get anybody he can because the big man and the medium-sized man, and our surprise buddy, are gonna carve them up.” Eric turns to Nash to ask him a question next but Hall and Nash are pulling no punches as they want to know the identity of WCW’s three guys. Bischoff tries to stall saying he’ll tell them who WCW has lined up tomorrow night on Monday Nitro. Hall grabs the mic and says “You can’t tell us? You can’t tell us?!? Don’t jack us around. Don’t jack us around.” Hall punches Bischoff in the gut. Nash turns that into a jackknife powerbomb off the stage as Bischoff goes thru a table concealed by a GAB PPV apron! Holy SHIT!!! Hall adds the parting shot. “The REAL ‘BIG BOYS’ they just left the building.” Bischoff is stretchered out in a neck brace with Tony exiting the booth to look on. Dusty is left to pontificate the ramifications of the “War” that’s at hand. WCW had become must-watch. Who EVER thought second-rate World Championship Wrestling would ever be #1??? It was happening …

At last … “Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!”

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
“The Total Package” Lex Luger [WCW World Television Champion & World Tag-Team Champion]
vs.
The Giant (c) (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (9:40) following a chokeslam. Luger resembles a Lilliputian next to The Giant here as his attempts to do any damage are null and void. WCW was very much pushing The Giant as an unstoppable and unbeatable World Champion and Lex is but a pawn at the chess table. His punches have no effect. His clotheslines merely stagger. Finally, Luger collapses under his own feet in his attempt at racking The Giant. In between, The Giant makes mincemeat of Luger as it’s clear Lex is the one who’s jobbing. The crowd is never into the match following The Outsiders segment with Bischoff and the more significant developments with The Four Horsemen earlier in the hour. The two matches should have been flipped.
Rating: *

The Verdict: The Four Horsemen became whole. The Outsiders send shockwaves through WCW and the wrestling world. Rey Mysterio Jr. debuts as he and Dean Malenko put on a clinic. Chris Benoit outlasts The Taskmaster in an unforgettable Falls Count Anywhere encounter. Sting outlasts His Lordship in my favorite match on the card. The Giant, yeah, he’s an unbeatable Heavyweight Champion of the World. The 1996 Great American Bash is one of WCW’s best-ever Pay-Per-View events if you were to make a list. It’s a show that makes anyone yearn for this era of wrestling. WCW had asserted itself atop the food chain. Three weeks later, the business changed forever. n.W.o.

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