August 18, 2023

NWA Great American Bash Tour (7.26.86) review 

NWA Great American Bash Tour (7.26.86) review 


July 26, 1986 


We’re in Greensboro, North Carolina. 15k in attendance and Dusty Rhodes gets yet another shot at the NWA title of Ric Flair. This time inside a steel cage. There’s no way for the ‘over the top DQ’ gimmick they’ve ran twice before to happen. Flair had held the belt since winning it back from Kerry von Erich way back in May 1984. Except for 20 days, Flair had been NWA champion since Starrcade ‘83.  


Steve Regal vs. Sam Houston 

Jeez, this screams ‘opening match’. Regal is in that brief NWA run of his before joining WWF and then washing out of there too. The crowd is molten red hot for Houston.  

There is a huge rebel flag on the ringside barrier. I never got this whole rebel flag/old glory hung together. Those were the two sides in a war. Pick a side. Why not hang a Union Jack up there too while you’re about it? Regal does a lot of cheap stuff like pulling the tights, pulling the hair and Houston, instead of being a man and fighting back, just whinges about it. Houston tries for a bulldog but Regal just shoves him into the buckles and pins with his feet on the ropes. Haha. Houston complains about it, but the record books have him as the LOSER in this contest. 


Black Bart & Barbarian vs. Italian Stallion & Denny Brown  

This is the actual Barbarian not to be confused with John Nord’s version. This match has the powerhouse heels vs spunky babyfaces dynamic. Bart has war wounds from previous GAB shows. A lot of NWA’s regulars had forehead scarring. If I had to guess, I’d say the taped fist match he had with Sam Houston the day before is to blame. Brown spends a lof the match isolated for heat, which is good because it means less Italian Stallion. He looks like the kind of guy they’d have in ECW as a jobber. He gets the hot tag and Barbarian kicks his ass and finishes with the diving headbutt. Haha, another banter finish. Faces 0-2 this evening.  


Loaded Glove on a Pole match 

Baron von Raschke vs. Manny Fernandez  

Haha, I’m in bits here. Look at this stupid fucking glove. The Baron is 45 years old, going on 70. He is a ridiculous character and the kind of worker that you remember for the wrong reasons. He takes bumps in such a weird fashion. No two bumps are alike. Sometimes he just sits down, sometimes he goes over sideways with one leg in the air. While I actually like his bumping style, all his offence is stinky and terrible for the same reasons. It just looks wrong. The CLAW is applied and, surprise, surprise, the Ragin’ Bull bleeds. Manny Fernandez could turn up to wrestle at a children’s party and two minutes later would be gushing blood. Baron wants the glove so he can apply an even more devastating glove covered Claw, probably caving Manny’s head in during it. We never find out though because Manny crossbodies him immediately for the win. The stipulation meant nothing at all here and the match was mostly stupid. It was, at least, funny and finally a face wins!  


Indian Strap Match 

Wahoo McDaniel vs. Jimmy Garvin  

This is a repeat of the other Wahoo vs. Garvin match in Charlotte. I hated that match. Precious requests the fans not smoke during Jimmy’s match. She was progressive and ahead of her time. Garvin takes forever to get going so Wahoo hits him with the strap. Precious complains so Wahoo straps her across the butt and the crowd comes unglued. Wrestling fans always love misogyny. Jimmy Garvin is the kind of guy who would have been a great fit for WWF in this era. He’s a clear sports entertainer, who just does goofy shit. He never seems to be harmed by a loss and would have been effectively used by McMahon, you would think. Wahoo blades and starts beating the piss out of Jimmy. Is Wahoo hot here? His chops suggest there’s hidden beef. Wahoo collects buckles with his head again, which I’m pretty sure isn’t in the rules. I’ve never seen anyone else do it. As with the last time, Precious tries to batter Wahoo but he just ignores her and finishes collecting buckles. Both guys bled loads and nothing much happened. Slightly better than their last match with the same stipulation.  


Taped Fist Match 

Tully Blanchard vs. Ronnie Garvin 

This is another rematch from Charlotte. Same stipulation and everything. I get the impression, from watching 1986 shows, that Tully was basically the Kingmaker. You had a great feud with Tully, you were moving on to the NWA title soon afterwards. They have the same start as Charlotte, with Tully getting KOd before the match. Tully spends a lot more of R1 struggling than last time though. He spends half it face down on the mat.  

R2 isn’t much better with a wobbly legged Tully eating punches, swinging wildly (mostly at Earl Hebner) and taking near losses. R3 is better for Tully as he runs Garvin into the buckles and is able to dominate after that. Until he goes after Wahoo at ringside, which gets him atomic dropped into a Ronnie punch. How is that not a DQ? JJ Dillon is very involved in the match. He slops Wahoo with the water bucket, so he can sneak a foreign object to Tully. Wahoo gets his revenge on JJ, and he’s bleeding too, but the foreign object has done its job and Blanchard wins on KO. A contrast to the first match where Tully couldn’t get anything at all. Here he, once again, got waffled from pillar to post but at least understood the rules and how to break them. ***½ 


#1 Contender’s Match 

Ole & Arn Anderson vs. Rock N’ Roll Express 

This is a cracking concept match. The old school veteran technical bullies against the flashy youngsters. It’s been done over and over, but that’s because it’s a good idea. There is this ridiculously high pitched “rock and roll” chant.  

It’s not for Arn Anderson, that’s for sure. Arn mocks Ricky Morton’s broken nose and threatens to re-arrange it for him. Morton catches Arn with a DDT and that hurts Arn’s nose. The irony. Oh, it’s pure poetry, baby. Arn’s selling for both guys is genuinely fantastic. It feels natural that he keeps walking into RNR spots because they’re so quick. The crowd goes wild for RNR just working leglocks on the heels.  

I wish you could hear this photograph. It’s a riot. The Horsemen, by virtue of being such dirty bastards, would always generate the most incredible reactions for their matches. Put a massively over face team in there too and we’re cooking. The worst part of this match is that it has a 20:00 time limit. We get to 15:00 and they have barely started! Morton spends most of the last five minutes getting beaten up. Hot tag to Gibson, right at the end, but before he can get anything the timer runs out. ***¾. This was really good, but I spent the whole match thinking how great this would be if they had longer. It was energised and the crowd loved this. Everyone played their role to perfection.  


Jimmy Valiant vs. Paul Jones 

Not content with taking Shaska Whatley’s hair on this tour, Valiant wants to shave Paul Jones’ bald too. Valiant tries to get a chant of “bald headed geek” going, presumably aimed at Baron von Raschke, who’s at ringside. Jones is effectively retired as a wrestler at this point, making limited appearances. The match is all about ‘loaded this’ and ‘hidden that’. All the seconds pile in for a fight after Jimmy pulls out his own evil glove but Shaska runs in with a chair and hits him very softly with it for the Paul Jones victory. Valiant, now a “bald headed geek” gets his head shaved. Revenge is long form though, as Jones would get a return bout at Starrcade and lose his hair.  


Nikita Koloff vs. Magnum TA 

TA is over as shit. This is part of a best of seven series for the US title, which was Magnum’s but is currently vacant.  

Nikita is still a ‘vibes’ wrestler. He looks the part but as soon as he locks up, the mystery is over. He’s only been wrestling for two years, so it makes sense that he’s not yet the finished article. It doesn’t help that they don’t do much here and often stop to have a chat about it.  

Magnum bleeds heavily, which is not helped by just about every match getting colour in it. A reoccurring issue with the NWA at this point. The match has little bursts of excitement, usually where Magnum takes over, but most of it remains sluggish Nikita control segments. Magnum wins out of nowhere with a sunset flip. Tommy Young providing the assist by kicking Nikita off the ropes on the sunset flip. If Magnum lost here, Koloff won the series so he kinda had to win. The match was fine, for the most part, but slow compared to the rest of the card.  


Midnight Express & Jim Cornette vs. Road Warriors & Baby Doll 

This is another MXP + Cornette IG match. The last time Baby Doll beat the crap out of Cornette. The idea being that she isn’t a liability to her team like Cornette is for his team. The Midnight’s spend the whole match getting beaten up. It feels like a precursor to the Roadies winning the tag belts. Something that wouldn’t happen until late 1988. Bobby Eaton isn’t in the mood, like he can be. He does come off the top of the cage once but it’s clear to see he’s not busting his ass here. Cornette gets dragged into the ring, Baby Doll socks him one and the faces win. Crowd was hot throughout this, but it never really got going.  


NWA World Championship 

Ric Flair (c) vs. Dusty Rhodes  

This time it’s in a cage so Flair can’t get deliberately disqualified by throwing Dusty over the top rope. We avoid the famous Dusty Finish by nature of having the cage to prevent DQs and count outs and such. To this point I’ve only really liked one Flair-Rhodes match, from the Crockett Cup, which was a bloody mess. Speaking of blood, Dusty gigs in this one too.  

As the match meanders back and forth, I’m again left wondering why Dusty never once wanted to work the Flair match? Just try it out one time?  

As you can see Flair blades and there has been so much blood on this show. I’m almost numb to it at this point. It’s interesting that Flair lifts the crossbody off the cage, which he beat Harley Race with back in 1983, and Dusty just kicks out at his leisure. Harley was in WWF at the time, so that’s probably fair play. Dusty has no big statement move to get the job done, he just catches Flair in an inside cradle for the pin. That’s Dusty’s third and final world title. **¾  

There’s no doubting Dusty’s popularity and he’s over as shit here. The sense, from the crowd, that they’d finally got to see Dusty win the big one after he came up short so many times over the previous year is overwhelming. They know they’ve seen something special. I still have no idea why Dusty won here, when they had Magnum TA in the wings and primed. The only excuse is that Rhodes was the booker and fancied one last moment in the sun.  


Dusty would lose the belt back to Flair on a house show in St Louis a few weeks later. Dusty remained Crockett’s creative force until he defied Turner executives and bladed on a show in 1988. He was fired for breaking the rules and went to the WWF, where Vince stuck him in polka dots for a laugh. This is Dusty Rhodes finally done as a main eventer though.  


The 411: 

This was a tidy little show. 13 blade jobs, as again the NWA is Blood N Guts wrestling. Some highlights include the Andersons vs RNR, Tully vs Ron Garvin and various acts being insanely popular with the crowd. Sam Houston even got huge pops here.  

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