Great American Bash 1989

Ric Flair sought revenge on Terry Funk 30 years ago today!

I was a WWF kid growing up, getting the WWF pay-per-views exclusively, so I missed so many big shows from the NWA. But I was just starting to get into Vince McMahon’s rival promotion at this point, from reading magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated and watching the weekend shows on TBS. This is really around the time where I began to pay attention to the NWA.

Two-Ring King of the Hill Battle Royal – What a weird idea. 14 guys in one ring, they get eliminated and go into the other ring and then have to be eliminated from there. The participants aren’t announced as they come down the aisle, because the ring announcer is too busy explaining the rules, but they all have little crowns with them. That’s a good budget item. Ron Simmons is the first guy completely eliminated from both rings? DAMN! Maybe that’s why he eventually put on a mask and became Doom No. 2. Jim Ross and Bob Caudle on commentary don’t even bother to note most of the guys being eliminated, as they focus on the finals of ring one between Sid Vicious and Brian Pillman. That’s a pretty random final in 1989. PIllman gets eliminated from ring one and then quickly gets tossed from ring two. Steve Williams and Dan Spivey are the final 2 in ring two and go at it like a couple of hosses until Mike Rotunda trips Williams. When he turns around, Spivey clotheslines him over the top. Spivey is supposed to battle his partner, Sid Vicious, for the prize money, but manager Teddy Long says screw that, we’re splitting the $50,000. What does Teddy care? He gets his 10 percent either way!

What was the NWA’s obsession with having more than one ring? It always looks weird.

“Flyin’” Brian Pillman vs. Bill Irwin – I don’t know if it’s the crappy master tape the WWE Network had to work with, but Bill Irwin doesn’t even get an introduction. It’s a good thing Pillman got eliminated with enough time to go back stage and grab his shiny silver vest before he had to come back out for this match. Jason Hervey, the older brother from the hit 1980s TV show The Wonder Years, is sitting at ringside, looking totally mesmerized by this match and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. The audio here is such crap that I can hear Irwin shouting over Ross and Caudle. Pillman wins with a shot off the top rope to put the match out of its misery.

The Dynamic Dudes vs. The Skyscrapers – Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace toss a frisbee around with a kid in a Ghostbusters T-shirt before the match and the kid looks like he’d rather be anywhere else when Ace turns him around to pose for the camera. Sid Vicious looks like such a bad ass in the leather vest and the leather riding chaps. I know he couldn’t work the way the NWA liked, but had they put him in the main event even in 1989, they would’ve had something special at the box office. The Baltimore crowd proves me right chanting “WE WANT SID” while Spivey is in the ring. This match goes on way too long and Douglas and Ace have way too much offense against the monsters. Spivey finally tries to power bomb Ace but drops him on his head and gets the pin.

Tuxedo Match: Paul E. Dangerously vs. Jim Cornette – Oh dear sweet merciful wounded baby Jesus. The camera pans to a guy in the crowd with a sign that says WWF Stinks, but the WWF part is blurred out, probably because of their Panda problem, but it’s still funny. Dangerously assaults Corny’s knee with his telephone. Is this a no-DQ match? This is probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen on a wrestling show. We are spared seeing Cornette lose any of his tuxedo while Dangerously gets stripped down to his underwear. At 6 minutes, it was probably six minutes too long.

Texas Tornado Tag Team Match: The Varsity Club vs. The Steiner Bros. – I was pretty excited when I saw this match on the card. An early outing for Rick and Scott Steiner against Mike Rotunda and Kevin Sullivan, brawling all over the place sounds like it should be a show-stealer. But the match lasted FOUR MINUTES! The Tuxedo Match got TWO MORE MINUTES than these four guys! It was a fun four minutes, but man, that seems like a waste.

World Television Title Match: Sting (c) vs. The Great Muta – This is more like it! Sting, a year after his career-making match against Ric Flair at the first Clash of the Champions, is starting to come into his own as an attraction for the NWA, and pairing him with the Japanese Muta gave him an opponent who could move and get the Stinger going in the ring. I was fascinated by both of these guys as a kid, especially Muta’s moonsault finisher and his mist attack. It’s a short match, under 10 minutes, but it’s fast-paced and told a good story about these two men being evenly matched. So it makes sense when the back suplex into a bridging pin ends the match in controversy when both men’s shoulders on and off the mat. Fans show their displeasure with the finish with a “BULLSHIT” chant, but the program with Muta was a big part of catapulting Sting into the main event in 1990.

United States Championship Match: Lex Luger (c) vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – Originally announced as a no-DQ match because Luger attacked Steamboat during the June Clash of the Champions, Luger said in an interview with Gordon Solie before the match that the No DQ stip had to be waived if Steamboat wanted the match. Steamboat is probably the best white meat babyface ever, and he makes Luger look like a million bucks here. Taking away the no-DQ stip, of course, plays into the ending, as Luger brings a chair into the ring. But The Dragon trips him up and monkey flips him into the turnbuckle WHILE LUGER HOLDS ON TO THE CHAIR. Really great spot. Of course, that leads to Steamboat smacking Luger around with the steel chair, pushing the referee and getting disqualified. Fun match for what it was. Steamboat would be gone from the NWA not long after this.

War Games: The Fabulous Freebirds and the Samoan Swat Team vs. The Midnight Express, The Road Warriors and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams – War Games matches are always fun, and I’ve never seen this one. The teams here seem like someone picked some names out of a hat, though. Bob Caudle marvels at having a camera inside the cage, like moving a guy to the other side is groundbreaking technology. Freebird Jimmy Garvin and Bobby Eaton start, and the heel team of the Freebirds and the SST, of course, win the coin toss for the man-advantage in the alternating periods. One of the fun parts of watching this match all these years later is how Williams and Freebird Terry Gordy – who would be tag team champions a few years later – going at it for most of the match. The War Games builds to the final entrant, Road Warrior Hawk, coming in and cleaning house before getting Garvin to submit. Even after the bell, the Freebirds go after Road Warrior Animal before his partners can come back to run them off. Kind of so-so War Games, but nothing terrible.

NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match: Ric Flair (c) vs. Terry Funk – Funk and Flair go all out from the jump, as Flair was looking for revenge on the Texan for the attack after Flair regained his title from Steamboat two months earlier. Flair may have been a master ring technician, but he could brawl, too, when needed. I don’t think that gets referenced enough. The story of the match was whether Flair could survive an attack on his neck after the injury, and Funk’s focus is on the neck and head. He even tried to hit a piledriver on the floor, but Flair blocked it with a back body drop. And of course, as it should be in any big brawl for a major championship, it ends with a rollup, as Flair pinned Funk to retain. Muta comes out to help Funk attack the champion, leading to Sting coming out for the save, to set up the next year’s worth of stories.

Final Thoughts: Like a lot of NWA shows from the late-1980s and early-1990s, the early parts of this show were deathly boring, but business picked up in the second half, as Jim Ross would say. Great main event with some fun action underneath.