August 7, 2023

NWA Great American Bash Tour 1986 (7.5.86) review 

NWA Great American Bash Tour 1986 (7.5.86) review 


July 5, 1986 


We’re in Charlotte, North Carolina. 20,000 fans in attendance. This is on the award winning WWE Network but it took me three days to find it. Their new dogshit search engine failed to find it the first two days. I eventually found it by typing “Flair Morton” into the search box and scrolling past a couple of other shows. I did this a few days ago and it didn’t work. I have no idea who designed the new Network but it’s the biggest pile of shit they’ve ever had and every design they’ve had has been bad.  


We start the show with precision skydiving, which without cameras close (IE on the parachutes) doesn’t look like much of anything.  

Look at the drama unfolding!  

Here’s the set up for the building. Most people were up in the bleachers.  


NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship 

Denny Brown (c) vs. Steve Regal  

Regal just came here from AWA. Regal’s 1986 is wild. He started with AWA, came here for three months, winning the belt and losing it back to Denny Brown and then going to the WWF where he lasted all of a month. Denny starts out with a bunch of slams, which pop the crowd and we sadly settle into the traditional quagmire of Steve Regal style. Regal style involves him complaining of a hair pull, then pulling the hair. Complaining of pulling tights, then pulling tights. Repeat until the crowd falls asleep. In his defence, the crowd respond to it. Luck of the opener. They have a bad mistiming on a Regal running elbow where Brown has half bumped it before it even connects. Many rest holds and heat follow. Every minute Denny goes to mount a comeback and Steve cuts it off immediately. For a guy who’s trying to win a title he does a lot of chinlocks. The finish, a time limit draw, arrives in the middle of them scrapping and doesn’t feel like it had arrived in any organic or fun way. Bleh.  


Black Bart vs. Robert Gibson  

Ricky Morton has an NWA title shot tonight. Gibson has been slotted into this match, so he has something to do. Black Bart is the NWA Mid-Atlantic champion, but that belt is not on the line here. Gibson takes a beating and there is a clear size difference. This gives the crowd a clear favourite to cheer on, the underdog rocker. Bart dominates most of the match but gets caught with a high crossbody to eat the three. This was brisk and to the point. The point being that Morton might be able to fluke a win over Flair if Gibson can beat Black Bart. It’s a reach but that’s the story. Luckily Michael Cole isn’t here on commentary to bash us over the head with it. 


Ole & Arn Anderson vs. Nelson Royal & Sam Houston 

Nelson Royal is this ancient cowboy gimmicked guy. You may remember him…if you’re in your 70s. He had more success as a trainer and was responsible for training the likes of Rockin’ Rebel, Johnny Ace and Ken Shamrock. The idea here is for him to be a mentor to young gun Sam Houston. But it’s like sticking Shawn Michaels with Jose Lothario. Houston was young and relatively cool. He didn’t need his lame cowboy gimmick uncle hanging around with him. The Andersons pick off Houston and use all their dark arts to beat the shit out of him. Nelson’s quirks include not wanting to sell for Arn at all before screaming after Ole lobs him into the buckles. He’s such a weirdly grotesque little man.  

Here’s Ole trying to remove his skin. The Anderson’s are a good old school heel team. They focus on the arm and yell a lot. Arn had this unique ability to just blend in with any tag team partner. Over the years it’s going to be interesting to watch, given how many partners he had. As with all Arn matches, the tension builds so the hot tag is molten. Houston gets a roll up for what should be the win but Ole sneaks in, elbows him in the back of the head and the Andersons win. Great little tag match. Almost perfect formula. *** 


Bunkhouse Match 

Manny Fernandez vs. Baron von Raschke  

Somehow, we’re supposed to take the Baron, at 45 years old and looking much older, seriously here. He’s still playing a goose-stepping Nazi, in case you were wondering.  

Because it’s a Bunkhouse match, he’s doing it in jeans and t-shirt. The way Adolf Hitler intended. As with most Bunkhouse matches we get a lot of choking and punches. Manny, obviously, blades. The man has so much scar tissue he’d probably get busted open if you gave him a hug. The crowd goes absolutely buck wild for Manny hitting the Baron with a belt. It’s the Baron’s belt too, so his trousers fall down. To add insult to injury, he bops the Baron in the head with his own boot. Clothing is Von Raschke’s enemy. He gets his t-shirt stuck over his head too. No doubt distracted by all his, he allows Manny to beat him on a roll up. His trousers were falling down at the time.  


Indian Strap Match 

Wahoo McDaniel vs. Jimmy Garvin 

Is an Indian strap match just a strap match with Wahoo in it? Yes, yes it is. Jimmy Garvin is the kind of weird body shape, oddball workers that you never get in WWE anymore. The company insists on a certain body shape and level of fitness. Not that I’m advocating for a Jimmy Garvin clone. He was one of a kind, and I’m glad. Garvin was, by all accounts, a nice fella outside of the ring. Married to his valet Precious since 1972, he’s a religious family man. On retiring from wrestling, he became a pilot. Strap matches are generally quite bad unless there’s at least one great worker in there. Garvin isn’t it. Both guys blade but the match lacks excitement. Coming on the back of a bloody Bunkhouse match doesn’t help. Wahoo collects buckles with his head, which I didn’t think was legal. Precious tries to waffle him with her purse in the process and he just shrugs it off. Wahoo wins, both guys bled buckets. That works for the locals. It doesn’t work for me.  


Taped Fist 

Tully Blanchard vs. Ronnie Garvin 

Garvin gets a lift from Wahoo’s golf cart. Tully charges in but gets backdropped and punched unconscious. The crowd is going wild, but the match hasn’t even started! HANDS OF STONE! I don’t like the style of Garvin’s punches because he throws them overhand onto the top of Tully’s head. There are a few workers (Togi Makabe) who throw punches the same way and it doesn’t look right. Tully’s wobbly legged selling is what makes the match. He’s prepared to look hopeless at boxing and sell like a champ.  


The match is in a round system and after the bell goes to end R1 Tully charges to blindside Garvin and he gets punched out again! The guy’s been unconscious twice, where’s your concussion protocol? Tully bleeds too, making it five bladejobs in three matches here. The midcard gorefest that is the NWA. A discombobulated Tully goes after Tommy Young, and they fight over a backslide with Tommy yelling “IT’S BOXING” at them. But then he carries on counting after R2 ends, even though Blanchard is saved by the bell, so who doesn’t know the rules now ref?  


I keep thinking how great this would have been if the babyface in the match could box like Scott LeDoux, because Tully is a near flawless foil for that babyface but instead he’s stuck with Ronnie. Garvin gets opened up by the ring post, taking us to six bladejobs in three matches. The timing on rounds and breaks between rounds has gone completely to shit by the way. Tully tries for a pinfall and Tommy Young is just exasperated at this point. Fucking wrestlers! Tully comes off the top rope, which I’m pretty sure is in breach of the rules but who cares. It’s a DCO after a clash of heads so Tommy is all; “next guy to stand up wins”. Wahoo chucks the water bucket over Garvin and he gets up first while the crowd are losing their minds. What were they putting in the water in Carolina?  

Hey, if you have a dumb idea for a match and you need someone to get it over? Call Tully Blanchard. His selling absolutely made this. It should have been shit but Tully is a miracle worker. ***½  


Double Russian Chain Match 

Ivan & Nikita Koloff vs. Road Warriors 

Is a Russian chain match just a regular chain match with Russians involved? Yes, yes, it is. For all the success of the Road Warriors in the NWA, their beginnings seem to involve an endless feud with the Russians. Ivan blades here, because of course he does. 7 bladejobs on this show now, they’re gunning for the Starrcade ‘85 record*. By the Road Warriors standards, this is lethargic. There’s no energy or pace to the match. Tommy Young gets bumped so Nikita just takes his chain off and hits the Russian Sickle. Paul Ellering nut shots Ivan though and Animal pins him. This was terrible but at least it was short.  


*An astonishing 17, in a show I dubbed the “Night of a 1000 Cuts”.   


Hair vs. Hair 

Shaska Whatley vs. Jimmy Valiant  

Valiant is a guy of his time and place. He’s a weird looking alien type that doesn’t look like he’s capable of beating anyone. He does the same awful, goofy stuff in every match. His offence and his selling are both weird. I usually give him a pass because he’s over but it’s hard to sit through longer Jimmy Valiant matches and this one passes the ten minute mark, which nobody wants. Valiant does find time to bleed (unlike Jesse Ventura), which takes us to eight bladejobs on this show.  

Pez dominates the match and at one point covers with the muscle pose, ala Jericho, but kneeling and Valiant is so taken aback by it that he forgets to kick out. You almost lost your Barnet there mate! Imagine a hair match where the face just gets his ass kicked all match and loses? Valiant instead mounts one of his chaotic comebacks, arms waving all over the place, decks Paul Jones and puts Whatley to sleep. Baron von Raschke runs in, followed by Manny Fernandez for the save. What is this shit? Valiant steals the Baron’s loaded glove and knocks Pez out cold.  

The crowd goes nuts for this. Shaving men bald, what passes for entertainment in Carolina. Pez does a great job of selling the hair cut and freaking out. You’ve got Baron von Raschke out here saying it looks fine, what’s the problem? Funny stuff. 


Cage Match 

Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA & Baby Doll vs. Midnight Express & Jim Cornette 

This is the sixth gimmick match in a row. I don’t mind some gimmick matches but this is just variations on a theme. Maybe the hair v hair was different because it was basically comedy but everything else is grudge match, bloodshed business. Cornette has some sort of wrestling gear on here. It looks like a bathing suit from a planet where public nudity is punishable by flogging. Dusty is having a nice time here as he’s wrestling two guys who will bump around for him. Condrey’s cowardice is at the forefront too.  

He even lets Baby Doll kick his ass. As with every other gimmick match, there are buckets of blood. Eaton carries most of the match. He uses the cage like no one else and comes flying off it whenever possible. Baby Doll socks Cornette in the jaw for the win. This was fun and the gimmick was that Cornette was a weak link, whereas Baby Doll wasn’t. Three more bladejobs to take our running total to eleven for this show. **½. Add in one more as Big Bubba goes to town on Dusty after the match and opens him up.  


Cage Match  

NWA Championship  

Ric Flair (c) vs. Ricky Morton  

Look who’s riding in style? WOOO!  

The helicopter lands, the champ steps out, walks that aisle and “Thus Spake Zarathustra” rings out in the arena. What an entrance! Ricky Morton gets BOOED here, because we’re in Charlotte and this is Flair Country. WOOOO! I have chills. Morton, in an attempt to gain additional sympathy, has a face protector. Flair, when he has someone to do it with, has another gear. Kerry Von Erich, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham etc. These are guys who could increase the pace of a Flair match. That’s the pacing we get here. Where Flair has to slow it down before he gets blown up!  

Morton starts working Flair’s prominent proboscis and he doesn’t take it well. “YOU MOTHERFUCKER” – Flair. This came about because Flair broke Morton’s nose, so turnabout is fair play. Flair, being a complete asshole, rips off the nose protector, wears it himself and smashes Ricky’s face into the cage. Naturally, Morton is a bloody mess. This is going to ruin his heart throb status. Mathematically, Starrcade ‘85 will remain the King of Bladejobs Show but we’re up to 12 here. Is it getting to the point where it’s too much? I don’t know, people seem to like it? Blood and guts, baby!  


This is probably the first time I’ve heard a male/female reaction divide in the crowd. There’s a clear high-pitched reaction for Morton and the fellas like Flair. This version of Ric Flair is more sadistic and evil than usual. His usual approach is say he’s the best, get beaten up for 30 minutes and then win with his feet on the ropes. Here, he’s bloodied Morton and is rubbing his face into the cage while teenage girls scream. It’s a different Ric Flair. Tommy Young says “give him a chance” as Flair is setting up the Figure Four. Hey, he knew what he was getting into Thomas. I have no sympathy.  


Morton eventually gets something going and Flair blades to get us up to the baker’s dozen of 13 for this show. Morton does some canny selling of his leg during this. Every time he goes to do something, he just reaches to the leg first. Just to remind everyone that Figure Four did some damage. Flair’s selling here is wonderful. It’s Iron Mike Sharpe levels of loud. “ARRRRRRGH, ARRRRRRGH, ARRRRRRRGGGHHH”. Flair, all his heel persona spilling out, goes to run but Morton drags him back down. “AAARRRRRGH, SHIT. GOD. AAAAARRRRGH”. Tommy gets bumped, giving Flair a chance to crotch Morton on the top rope then he just pins him with both feet on the ropes like an asshole. This provokes a ‘mixed’ reaction from the crowd. This was great. ****¼  


The 411: 

This is a bizarre show. There are never ending gimmick matches that all involve bloodshed. The NWA’s booking crutches are becoming more and more evident. However, there are also some wonderful highs. The Tully taped fist match is awesome and the main event is a different kind of Flair match, which you don’t usually see. Due to the contrasting nature of the show, I would suggest cherry picking it. I certainly found it a wee bit of a slog to do in one sitting.  


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