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WWE: United We Slam - The Best Of Great American Bash [Blu-ray]
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One of sports entertainment s most patriotic traditions, The Great American Bash provided the July fireworks for fans from 1985 2009. Originating with the NWA and WCW, the event has featured legends such as the Nature Boy Ric Flair, The Road Warriors, Sting, Randy Savage and more clashing for championship gold. Continuing in WWE, the red, white and blue pay-per-view always delivered historic thrills. Now, relive the best star-spangled excitement from nearly 20 events, featuring the greatest matches and moments from history s top Superstars.
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Dusty Rhodes is on hand to talk a bit about the Bash, provide links between *some* of the matches and for *alternate* commentary. Unlike Booker T and DDP, however, he does a poor job of hosting. The man can barely string a coherent sentence together, often doesn't finish his sentences; and speaks in southern Texan drawl that can be highly difficult to understand. The alternate commentary on disc 1 should have been made optional, but isn't. Instead of professional commentary from Jim Ross, we get Dusty and Larry Zbysko not even calling the matches.
It seems to me they'd rather make a mockery of mid 80's cameramen, fashion sense and workers like Nikita Koloff, Road Warrior Hawk and Lex Luger. I'd also add that they add very little to each match. Nothing they say is particularly interesting, entertaining or worth listening to.
Disc 1 kicks off with Flair Vs. Koloff for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in July of 1985. I always liked Nikita as a performer and this is a pretty solid outdoor match. Being '85 it has a slower pace - as you'd expect - but you've got Nikita's raw power and strength versus Flair's ring savvy and technical expertise. There is one crazy moment when a fan hits the ring, very quickly followed by two or more police officers. It doesn't have the feel of a Flair/Ricky Steamboat wrestling classic, but is nevertheless an entertaining match to start things off.
We then have an NWA tag team match featuring the always underrated Rock N' Roll Express Vs. Arn & Ole Anderson. I would've enjoyed this match a lot more if it wasn't for the inane *special* commentary. Rhodes and Zbysko are needlessly distracting throughout a classic see saw battle with a hot crowd. Arn Anderson adopts his usual ground and pound style approach, whilst Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson rely on speed and agility. I will say that everything the Rock N' Roll did in terms of performance was always well timed and expertly executed.
The July '86 Steel Cage Match between Rhodes and Flair is pretty standard. It doesn't have anywhere near the intensity of Flair Vs. Garvin from Starrcade '87. In fact, despite his success, I've never really rated Dusty Rhodes as one of the *all time* greats. He arrogantly describes it as a classic match, but in my estimation it's far from classic. Flair does most of the work, whilst Rhodes throws some punches and drops a couple of elbows. Granted he wins the World Title for a third time in front of an elated crowd, but this bout really didn't do much for me.
We're then treated to War Games '87. A brutal two cage, double ring match between Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, Nikita Koloff and Paul Ellering Vs. Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger and JJ Dillon. The image quality (from certain camera angles) isn't quite up to par, but that can easily be forgiven. I did find the commentary to be too quiet and some of it is fairly indistinguishable from crowd noise. This was a violent fight with plenty of action, but perhaps best remembered for the sick bump JJ Dillon takes on his shoulder from Hawk and Animal.
The final match on the first disc is Sting & Lex Luger Vs. The Road Warriors aka. Hawk and Animal. If you've never seen them go at it (this bout is from 1988's Bash), I'd recommend watching this match. Again though, the exclusive commentary is pretty annoying. I'd much rather they'd stuck with the original commentators; whether that be Jim Ross, Tony Shiavone or Jesse Ventura. This is more of a power match between four men who were arguably in their absolute prime. It's also been well documented that The Road Warriors were perhaps the most intimidating team in wrestling history.
I'd just like to add it also p***** me off that Jesse 'The Body' Ventura's commentary has been unnecessarily removed from all the matches he commentated on. Likely because as a 'heel' announcer he occasionally made disparaging remarks towards the competition. It really is pathetic that WWE in general can't accept the fact that not all wrestling fans are/were WWE fans. I'm also annoyed that you won't find a single Ron Simmons match - a major WCW superstar - from this time period. A bit more variety in these releases really wouldn't go amiss.
The double header on disc 2 - between Sting Vs. The Great Muta and Ric Flair Vs. Terry Funk - almost restores my faith in this being a quality set to own. Both matches are exceptional without outstaying their welcome. Muta shows exactly why he was named The Pearl of The Orient and proves a perfect match for Sting. Likewise Funk takes Flair to another level with his particular brand of iron-branding crazy. There's also an excellent post match two on two brawl outside of the ring; where all four men just continue beating down on each other.
The July '90 NWA World Heavyweight Championship match seems like a pointless showcase. It's Sting's first NWA World Title win (not a spoiler as this is common knowledge) and has been featured on multiple releases. Once you've seen it half a dozen times the match may begin to grate. It's by no means a bad contest, but the angle is obviously Sting's post injured knee, so it gets a bit old with Flair's usual figure four routine. Nevertheless it's another stellar hot crowd and there's plenty of will-he-won't-he back and forth action; plus Flair really puts Sting over.
On the same card we're given a tag team match between The Steiner Brothers Vs. The Fabulous Freebirds. This is during the Freebirds' camp/makeup phase and to be honest I'm not sure why this match is on here. Both teams had far better matches throughout their careers. It's almost like a squash match and Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin either seem quite lazy or just out of their depth. Scott Steiner was, of course, an absolute power house who could suplex anybody out of their boots. I've edited this review to say it's better than I first thought; although this is really Rick and Scott's match. Check out the power moves on offer though, as well as Scott Steiner's unbelievable standing Frankensteiner.
We're then treated to a match from the 1992 event featuring the great pairing of Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham Vs. Stunning Steve Austin and Rick Rude. This is a genuinely classic tag team confrontation with Austin and Rude constantly cutting Windham off from making a hot tag. Rude uses his - legal - piledriver (arguably the best piledriver in wrestling history), whilst Austin proves that once upon a time he actually knew how to wrestle. Dustin proves his worth as a WCW fan favourite long before he ever allowed himself to become a dismally costumed freak.
If you've never seen Sting Vs. Big Van Vader definitely check out their Heavyweight Title match from the same year. This was a big match given Sting's - legitimate - previous injuries at the hands of Vader. What this bout won't show you is how long their feud went on for or the level some of their battles took it to. Whilst this is still a great match to watch I find myself longing for their more brutal four corners Leather Strap series of bouts. Sting suplexes Vader like he's a featherweight, whilst Vader's powerbomb still makes me want to cringe from its impact.
Disc 3 gets going with yet *another* Flair match against Randy Savage. To be honest I've seen enough Ric Flair matches to last me a lifetime. I didn't bother watching this one so can't comment on the action or quality. Flair rarely changed things up in the ring, so whilst he *could* put on good matches, I wouldn't expect this to be any different. It just seems like a Wrestlemania rehash, which probably didn't need to happen. The following contest is a repeat bout (from WCW's Greatest Pay Per View Matches) between the always reliable DDP and the late, great 'Macho Man' Randy Savage.
The Cruiserweights then take things up a gear. Ultimo Dragon Vs. Psicosis is one of the best cruiserweight contests I've ever seen. I only wish WWE/Fremantle would release a set on WCW's awesome Cruiserweights; or give us more of these kind of spectacular matches. I'd especially like to see more Ultimo Dragon/Psicosis bouts on future sets. It's simply outstanding, even more so than Chavo Guerrero Vs. Eddie or Chris Jericho Vs. Dean Malenko. (Both are great matches in their own right, although I'd take Chavo Vs. Eddie for being more entertaining).
What can I say about Piper and Macho Man Vs. Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart? It's just an appalling match from start to finish. Hogan can't wrestle, Piper's clearly past it, Macho Man doesn't have an opponent to wrestle and Bret's lost all his motivation. For a Best Of DVD this match probably shouldn't have been included. It's nothing more than a complete waste of time.
If you're still watching, to round things off there's an okay Ambulance Match between DDP and Mike Awesome. Awesome could at least wrestle and was a solid worker. The ending's kind of annoying and the match could have perhaps gone longer, but it's still worth a watch. The final match - Jarrett Vs. Kevin Nash - was another contest I didn't bother with. I've never cared for Nash - who post WWE couldn't wrestle a decent match if he tried - and Jarrett was never as good as he thought he was. I've read - from other sources - that this match is overbooked and pretty awful.
And there we have it. If you're asking yourself whether this is a set worth owning... I'd say get Volume 1 of WCW's Greatest Pay Per View Matches instead (hosted by Booker T). This was a great nostalgia trip, but The Great American Bash is let down by some poor hosting, poor alternate commentaries, below average presentation and a few questionable match choices. There's also no documentary portion so you can't really get a feel for what the event meant or why it came about. Overall though, despite enjoying *most* of what's on here, I'd suggest that you look up a couple of youtube videos first. The Sting/Muta match and Psicosis Dragon bout are the two that really swung it for 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.
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