Retro Recap – Great American Bash 1990

The 1990 Great American Bash was the second one since Ted Turner bought out Jim Crockett, and for the second year in a row there was some heavy roster turnover.  Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk and the Great Muta, three guys who were a big part of the previous years’ ring action, were gone.  And the Road Warriors, a staple of NWA action since 1986, had finally moved on to the WWF a few months prior.  So to fill the void the NWA brought in some veterans.  Paul Orndorff and the Junkyard Dog came in for the summer.  And Barry Windham returned after a short stint in the WWF.  For this show, they signed up a bunch of part timers to work the opening matches.  The big match was Sting challenging Ric Flair for the World Title; Sting was coming back from a real  life knee injury to take on Flair, who’d turned on him and kicked him out of the Four Horsemen.

Flyin Brian Pillman vs Buddy Landel

Pillman was the king of pay per view opening matches during his NWA/WCW days.  Landel was literally a second version of Ric Flair; the two hooked up a few times and Landel was on track for bigger things more than once before personal issues derailed him.  Good back and forth match, won by Pillman.

Iron Sheik vs Mike Rotundo

Sheik jumps Rotundo before the bell, and Jim Ross would later call it a ‘terrorist attack’…never change, unfortunate late 80s/early 90s bad adjectives.  Other than that Ross, as always, put over both guys amateur backgrounds.  They had history from their WWF days when Rotundo teamed with Barry Windham against Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.  Some basic back and forth, Sheik got in some decent heel heat with the crowd and Rotundo wins with a backslide after a few minutes.  This was basically a time filler.  They kept it short so it was all good.

Doug Furnas vs Dutch Mantel

Furnas was billed as ‘the world’s strongest man’ due to setting a bunch of world powerlifting records.  (There have several ‘World’s Strongest Men’ in wrestling.  Set a record in some lifting contest and you can use it.)  Mantel was a journeyman.  Furnas was mostly power but had some athleticism, Mantel was a brawler.  They had some decent back and forth, Furnas won with a belly to belly suplex.  Match went a little long (11 minutes)

*Jim Cornette cuts a promo for the Midnight Express’ upcoming match with the Southern Boys.  Cornette may have been the best manager on the mic, ever.  If you love Paul Heyman you’d have loved Cornette.*

Harley Race vs Tommy Rich

Both guys got a decent reaction from the crowd when introduced; they had long history together including some matches for the World Title back in 1980-81.  Race wins the match after about six minutes.  Didn’t make a lot of sense given that Rich was still working for the company and Race was just in for this show.

*This ended the opening portion of the show.  Looks like the strategy here was to put a bunch of guys with NWA history that would be familiar with the crowd out there, with a some young guys sprinkled in.  The matches were good for what they were.

U.S. Tag Team Title Match: The Midnight Express (c) vs The Southern Boys

The Midnight Express were one of the best tag teams ever, hands down, and combined with Cornette were one of the best heel acts of the 1980s.  Match starts off quickly and the crowd was hot the whole time.  Plenty of teamwork on both sides and a nice faux martial arts exchange between Stan Lane and Tracy Smothers, both legit martial artists.  Lane and Bobby Eaton were masters at double team moves and heel tactics, and pulled them all out here.  This was just a great 80s style tag team match; these guys got almost 20 minutes to work in a mid card match for a secondary tag team title on a 12 match major show .  That says all you need to know.

Big Van Vader vs Tom Zenk

Vader was making his American debut.  (OK, Vader had worked here before under his real name Leon White but he went off to Japan, got himself a good gimmick, and came home.)  The crowd was hot for Vader here as Vader had been hyped up for several weeks.  Zenk was served up as a sacrificial lamb here.  Squash match, it served it’s purpose.

Rick and Scott Steiner vs The Fabulous Freebirds

This was a ‘hey, these two teams don’t have anything to do so let’s hook them up’ match.  The Freebirds were washed by this point so the Steiners had to carry the match, which they could do in their sleep back then.  Decent enough match.

Paul Orndorff, Junkyard Dog, and El Gigante vs Barry Windham, Sid Vicious, and Arn Anderson

Talk about disappointing matches.  For the second year in a row Sid Vicious is in a tag team match and barely works.  Junkyard Dog was well past his prime at this point and a part-timer, and the less said about El Gigante the better.  But even with all that dead weight you still had some good to great workers in Orndorff, Anderson, and Windham.  No reason they couldn’t have stretched this one out a little longer and cut some time from say, the Furnas-Mantel match.  Or they could have just had a singles match with Anderson and Orndorff for Anderson’s TV Title while getting a singles opponent for Windham.  Or something.  Bad,short match with a DQ finish to boot.

U.S. Title Match: Lex Luger (c) vs Mean Mark Callous

Luger was coming off a two and a half year stretch where he was paired with Flair, Anderson, Windham, Tully Blanchard, Ricky Steamboat, Sting, and Brian Pillman.  And had a plethora of good to great matches in the process.  Callous was a few months away from hitting the WWF and donning all black to become the Undertaker.  The match was decent, mostly power stuff between two big men.  Without a master seller to play off his offense, Luger’s matches definitely lacked some luster but he wasn’t terrible here.

World Tag Team Title Match: Doom (c) vs The Rock n Roll Express

Doom (Butch Reed and Ron Simmons) was in the midst of one of the most abrupt career turnarounds ever; in three months they went from a a joke masked team to legit badasses.  The Express was on their last legs as a big time team.  They were filling in for the departed Road Warriors in this match and the program that led into it.  Good power vs speed matchup here; all four guys were pros and could do this kind of match in their sleep.  This was essentially the last big match on a major show for the Express.

Main Event: World Title Match – Ric Flair (c) vs Sting

sting flair 1990

There were a bunch of stipulations here.  There was no DQ, Sting’s allies (the unfortunately named Dudes With Attitude – the Steiners, Orndorff, and Junkyard Dog) were around the ring to prevent Flair’s Four Horseman teammates from interfering, and Horseman manager Ole Anderson was handcuffed to El Gigante.  Flair and Sting had done this dance a million times so it was old hat to them.  They’d done 30-plus minute matches before, easy.  This one didn’t go as long, only about 16 minutes.  That may have been out of concern for Sting’s knee but who knows.  Sting went for mostly power moves while Flair worked the leg to set up the figure four.  It was a tale of two matches, really.  For about ten minutes they were going at a pace that suggested it was going to be a longer affair but then they sped things up to head towards the finish.  That they were able to do that and still put on a good match is a testament to both guys.

Overall Verdict

Good show.  Some excellent tag team action and some good singles matches.  I was actually in the building the night this one went down so it has some special significance for me.  Some of the early matches seem unnecessary in 2016 but given that the show was in an traditional NWA city, bringing back some familiar faces made sense.  With Sting being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year it’s worth checking out.

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