June 1, 2011
July 14, 1991.
A date that shall forever live in infamy.
To most wrestling historians (read: virgins), it’s one of the darkest days ever in the annals of the pseudo-sport, a day so horrendous that most long-term fans have all but erased it from their collective memories.
To those that refuse to forget the past, however, that day remains one that is talked about in the gravest of intonations, a low point for American pro wrestling that many say has yet to be topped, despite the best efforts of Vincent Russo and the WWE’S crack team of sitcom writing retards. Just why is that date such a horrible one, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you, folks. . .because that was the day The Great American Bash ‘91 happened.
Over the years, a lot of smarks have debated as to what is the single worst wrestling PPV ever. Although there are scores of contenders, the 1991 Great American Bash is oft considered to be the gold standard for crappy cards, the Pay-Per-View equivalent of Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Personally, I don’t think it’s the absolute worst PPV ever, but yeah, it’s got to be WAY the hell up there whenever you talk about horrendous wrestling shows. Really, the card was destined to suck from the beginning, for two glaring reasons. Millennial fans, prepare to take a few notes.
For starters, Ric Flair had just left the company. Seeing as how he was the promotion’s biggest draw, saying “adios” to the Nature Boy would be a kiss of death on par with Dirk Nowinski getting cut from the Dallas Mavericks. Now, the reason he left the company (and reason numero uno that WCW sucked long and hard for the entire year) was because Jim Herd was in charge of booking. Herd was a guy that really had ZERO business running a wrestling product, but then again, you can say that about 90% of the guys that have had booking duties over the last twenty years. Even so, Jim Herd was responsible for some of the absolute dumbest ideas to ever be presented on TV, including trotting out pro wrestlers based on licensed characters like Spider-Man and Beetlejuice, forcing long term wrestlers to adopt idiotic gimmicks (you’ll be seeing plenty of examples a little later on), and ultimately, changing the direction of the company from an old-school, Southern Rasslin’ haven into a WWF-lite live action cartoon. Herd, in all of his wisdom, made the call to fire Ric Flair (you know, the guy that makes more money for your company than anybody else on the roster), and a few days before GAB ‘91, Flair and the big gold belt show up on WWF TV. So, the entire card had to be improvised on the fly, and the end result. . .well, let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.
While most folks would simply avoid the show at all costs, I feel the need, nay, the obligation, to present it to you, humble reader. Twenty years later, is it still the zenith of PPV awfulness, or has Father Time softened the blows considerably? Well, there’s only one way to find out: ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourself for the Rocktagon recap of The Great American Bash 1991!
Our show begins in typical early ‘90s WCW fashion - with a long, tracking shot of people in atrociously outdated hairdos and wardrobes as public domain music from SportsCenter plays in the background. We are coming to you LIVE from the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland - home of John Waters and overrated NFL linebackers that stab people, ostensibly. Our opening match-up is, of all things, a scaffold match, and features what may very well be the most messed up tag-team cast of all time: in one corner, we have PN News and “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton, and in the other, “Stunning” Steve Austin and “The Computerized Man of the ‘90s”, Terrence Taylor. That’s right, we have a fat rapper from Philadelphia (who’s actually a white dude from the Midwest in real life) joining forces with a poodle-haired Southern Territory wash-up to do battle with Stone Cold and the goddamn Red Rooster. For those of you not familiar with the concept of scaffold matches, they suck. It’s basically a bunch of guys standing on this narrow plank of wood, throwing punches at each other at half-speed until one of them takes a MEGA-BUMP OF DOOM to end the match. In the case of this match, there’s actually an additional gimmick involved, in which the competitors can “win” the bout if they secure a flag from their opponent’s side of the scaffold. So yeah, as soon as Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone tell us that, you already know how the match is going to end. Needless to say, this is one of the absolute worst things to ever happen in a WCW ring, and believe you me, that covers a whole hell of a lot of “awful” over the years. The match concludes with Eaton retrieving the opposition’s flag, which then unfurls into this totally inconsequential spot where Taylor and Austin throw powder into the eyes of Eaton and PN News. . .which results in a grand total of nobody falling from the scaffold.
After some mini fisticuffs following the contest, the show is thrown to Jim Ross and a BLEACH BLONDE Tony Schiavone. Dear lord, that has to be one of the most heinous sights I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to numerous Huddle Houses across this great United States of ours. Tony S. and J.R. talk about the recent departure of Ric Flair, basically doing everything they can to put over the fact that it severely hurts the company. Well, shit, how about that for some marketing: first, offer up a gimmick match that doesn’t deliver what it promises, and then whine on and on about how your top draw refused to re-sign with the company. JIM HERD BOOKING FTW.
Up next, we have a promo featuring Eric Bischoff, Arn Anderson and Paul Heyman, who is wearing the single gaudiest looking windbreaker / sweatpants combo in the recorded history of man. Anderson cuts a kind of cool promo where he talks about committing aggravated assault against Rick Steiner and possibly raping Missy Hyatt in the ring. J.R. and Tony run down the night’s card, which ranges from ick (Lex Luger vs. Barry Windham) to ugh (Sting vs. Nikita Koloff in a “Russian Chain Match”) to oh my god, send death now (El Gigante vs. One Man Gang). Diamond Studd is out next, with his manager, Diamond Dallas Page. And in case you kids have lacking memories, Diamond Studd and Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall are one and the same. DDP cuts a gloriously homoerotic promo as some random skank from the crowd has the “honor” of yanking Scott Hall’s pants off to reveal his wrestling apparel. Yeah, nothing gay about this. Nothing gay at all. Hall’s opponent this evening is “Z-Man” Tom Zenk, who comes to the ring with a bevy of really, really nasty looking chicks. Zenk also has the added advantage of looking JUST LIKE Journey front man Steve Perry, pending Steve Perry was on a lot of ‘roids and Quaaludes. Zenk catapults over the top rope and clotheslines both “The Diamond Studd” and DDP. Page pulls down the top rope, so Zenk takes a tumble to the outside. I really don’t know what’s worse on the eyes: DDP’s American flag windbreaker, or Zenk’s Cramsicle orange undies. You know you’re in a bad era for fashion when the guy with the best looking haircut in the match is Nick freaking Patrick. Cue the world’s all time record holder for longest abdominal stretch rest spot. Hall with a choke slam, but it only gets a 2. Jim Ross says Tom Zenk just hit Hall with a “comeback-like kick”. Yeah, that’s the technical name for that, I think. DDP distracts Zenk, which allows Hall to land a botched bridging belly-to-back suplex for the win.
Ironically, our next bout features Hall’s future tag team amigo, Kevin Nash, back when he was wearing a polka dotted robe, a turban, and being managed by Kevin Sullivan in a Santa costume. Tonight, Oz’s opponent is none other than “All-American” Ron Simmons, who really could’ve stunt doubled for Carl “Apollo Creed” Weathers around the timeframe. Why the dude was never repackaged as a hyper-patriotic boxer, I’ll never understand. Yeah, this isn’t exactly a catch-as-catch-can classic here. Tony S. spends half the match talking about “leg strength” while J.R.. makes references to everything from the 1987 Orange Bowl to “Married. . .With Children.” This is simultaneously the most apathetic and easily impressed crowd I’ve ever seen - the assholes start chanting “BOR-ING!” three seconds into the match, and pop like Hogan was coming out at the sight of a mere clothesline. You know that when the most exciting moment of a match is the old “let’s test our strength” rest spot, you’re watching a real turd of a bout. Mercifully, Simmons ends this one with a shoulder block to get the “W” around the ten minute mark.
In case you were wondering, here’s the “Top Ten” for WCW, circa late June 1991.
10. Johnny B. Badd - Macon, Ga.
09. Ron Simmons - Warner Robbins, Ga.
08. Diamond Studd - Tampa, Fla.
07. El Gigante - Argentina
06. Arn Anderson - Minnesota
05. Beautiful Bobby Eaton - Huntsville, Ala.
04. Stunning Steve Austin - Hollywood, Calif.
03. Sting - Venice Beach, Calif.
02. Barry Windham - Sweetwater, Tex.
01. Lex Luger - Chicago, Ill.
The question as to why you should give a half damn, unfortunately, is something that I cannot answer.
Hey kids, do you want to see The Rock N Roll Express EXPLODE! Well, too bad, because we have Robert Gibson taking on “Richard” Morton anyway. For all you young ‘uns that don’t recall the territorial days, the RNR Express was one of the biggest draws in the Southland, and WCW’s decision to split them up and feud against one another is further proof that the company was more than likely being operated by sea monkeys at the time. But on the plus side, we get to see Terri Runnels dressed up like a cast member of Designing Women, so make of that what you wish.
Two minutes into this thing, and it’s already better than anything we’ve seen on the show thus far. Then again, that’s sort of like saying the two minutes of not having your gum line drilled open during a root canal is better than the two hours and forty five minutes of precisely that. Ah, the York Foundation gimmick - for those of you too young to recall it, it was basically a heel stable created by Alexandria “Marlena” York, who walked around with a calculator that was supposed to be a prototype Palm Pilot. She would pretend to hit buttons on the thing, which told her what moves her wrestler should anticipate, so she would whisper into their ear what moves they should plan on executing and avoiding. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That sounds really, really stupid,” but you know what? Well, actually. . yeah, it was pretty stupid after all. Never mind.
Hey, the referee in this one is Bill Alfonso! And also, LOL when Gibson yells “Shit!” on camera after Morton does that old-assed “I’m going to slam the back of your knee against this here ring post” spot. Morton works Gibson’s leg for approximately a quarter century. Remember that one Shawn Michaels / Marty Jannety match from Royal Rumble 1993? You know, the one Jannety was supposed to win, until he showed up at the arena piss-drunk? Well, this match is sort of like that one, only nowhere near as fluid. A figure four spot gives us a good two minutes to take a pisser. The crowd chants “Morton sucks!”, but if you ask me, they still make some pretty damned good salt. The story here is that Gibson is basically fighting on one leg, with Morton ruthlessly attacking his “exposed” knee brace for the duration of the bout. Gibson changes the tide of the bout by dropping a DDT out of nowhere. Whatever you do, don’t tell Rachel Carson that. LOL at Jim Ross for calling an enziguri a “karate kick”. And WTF at MS Word for Autocorrecting “enziguri” to read “émigré”. Gibson and Morton drop kick each other simultaneously on the entrance ramp. Oh hell, do I smell a “Rocky II” finish coming up here? Morton grabs York’s “computer”, clocks Gibson over the back of the head, and scores the pinfall, which leads to Jim Ross saying one of the most amazingly stupid lines ever: “the computer was the difference!”
Time for a backstage promo featuring Dustin Rhodes and the Young Pistols.. If you don’t recall exactly who the Young Pistols were, let me refresh your memories. . .uh, I’m not really sure who they are. I think one of them is Tracey Smothers (perhaps best to you young Turks as “Freddy Joe Floyd” during an ill-fated stint in the WWF circa 1996), but that other dude? No effing clue, folks.
It looks like we’re about to have ourselves a good old fashion three on three elimination tag match. Believe it or not, WCW actually recognized a trios tag title for a brief period of time, and the tri-holders of the straps going into this PPV is the triumvirate of the Fantastic Freebirds (consisting of Jimmy “Jam” Garvin and Michael “P.S.: I Hate The Black Folks” Hayes) and a generic looking dude in a graffiti themed luchador ensemble called “Badstreet”. Get it, because the song the Freebirds come out to is called “Badstreet, Atlanta, USA”! For those of you that care (and that should be a grand total of none of you), the guy underneath the “Badstreet” hood is actually Brad Armstrong. The team is being managed by none other than Oliver Humperdink, who’s clad in white-trash pawn shop apparel and going by the name of “Big Daddy Dink”. If you ask me, honestly, I think this stable was going places.
OK, so the other guy in the Young Pistols is named “Steve”. Anybody out there want to help me with that last name? OK, so J.R. tells us it’s Steve Armstrong. Jeez, just how many Armstrongs were there in WCW in the early ‘90s? Bonus points to Jim Ross for finding a way to throw in a Jim Bakker reference during this molasses slow train wreck. Actually, I take that back. . .a train wreck would entail some level of excitement, so I suppose a more apropos analogy for this snoozer would be a fender bender between two Yugos. Steve Armstrong is eliminated first, following a double DDT from Hayes and Badstreet. In an absolutely idiotic booking move, Hayes is then eliminated because he threw Armstrong over the top rope after he had already been eliminated from the match-up. You kids ARE aware of the old “no throwing your opponent over the top rope” NWA rule, right? Well. . .I don’t feel like giving you kids a history lesson, so try Googling it sometime, why don’t you?
Tracey Smothers gets eliminated after yet another double DDT, but then Garvin gets eliminated immediately afterward when Rhodes clotheslines the shit out of him right after the bell sounds. OK, I’ve got to admit, that was a pretty cool moment. Dustin Rhodes ends up winning the whole she-bang after he bulldogs Badstreet at damn near the 20:00 minute mark of the match.
Oh my god, I had totally forgotten about the “Yellow Dog” storyline. You see, in 1991, Brian Pillman was kayfabe fired for some stupid ass reason or another, so he was repackaged as a generic, canary colored lucha-type called, you guessed it, “The Yellow Dog”. If you recall Hulk Hogan’s “Mr. America” storyline from 2002, it’s pretty much the same shtick here, with the Yellow Dog swearing up and down that he isn’t Brian Pillman, even though it’s just about the most obvious thing in the world. And in case you were wondering, he does in fact come to the ring with an actual yellow dog, who goes by the oh-so clever name of “Man’s Best Friend.”
Pill-Dog’s adversary tonight is Johnny B. Badd, or for you Millennial turds, Marc Mero. . .if your memories even stretch back as far to 1998, anyway. Legit LOL moment when the camera pans to a young man holding a sign that reads “We (heart) Johnny B. Badd” and Jim Ross says that he hopes his parents don’t see him. Oh, early ‘90s homophobia, how we miss you. And from veiled homophobia, we traverse to the domain of brazen homophobia when Pillman looks into the camera and yells “Johnny B. Badd? More like Johnny B. GAY!”
Oh god, I’ve legit laughed aloud twice during this match now, following this exchange from the announce duo:
Jim Ross: “He certainly resembles Flyin’ Brian on certain moves he does.”
Tony Schiavone: “Well, let’s be honest, he comes into Flyin’ Brian’s music. He says that he’s the number one Flyin’ Brian fan in the world so. . .yes, he does.”
This match is pretty much the closest we’ve come to anything even remotely approaching “decent” thus far on the card, and even then, these two have had far better match-ups against one another. Am I the only person out there that remembers that freaking AWESOME match these two had at that one Clash of the Champions show? Yeah, apparently. God, I really wish J.R. would stop calling everything a “karate kick”. The Yellow Dog nails a cross body splash on Badd, but before he can make the pin attempt, Teddy Long (yes, that Teddy Long) runs into the ring to try an unmask him, resulting in a DQ loss for Badd. Although this match pretty much sucked, the unbelievably un-P.C. announcing is reason enough to go out of your way to see this one. Hit it up on YouTube if you get the chance (and tell ‘em The Rocktagon! sent you, BTW.)
Cue a horrible backstage skit where Eric Bischoff walks in on Missy Hyatt taking a shower. Well, at least he has enough time to namedrop Jason Hervey, anyway.
You know what this dookie maelstrom of a card needs? A LUMBERJACK match, and I mean that literally, since one of the in-ring participants is a dude pretending to be a logger. His opponent? A French executioner, naturally. Makes sense to me. OK, so the names “Big Josh” and “Blackblood” may not mean much to the common man, but they actually had a modicum of success before and after their gimmicks here. Big Josh later went on to portray the evil version of Doink the Clown, and Blackblood is actually Billy Jack Haynes. I’m sure that information is important. . .somehow. At this point in the show, the crowd is absolutely deflated. Hell, can you blame them? There really isn’t much to talk about here - if you’ve seen one lumberjack match, you’ve pretty much seen them all, and nobody involved in this match-up seems to have any aspirations to make this one a different kind of affair. Jim Ross, as always, is priceless on the play-by-play: after Blackblood catches Big Josh with a boot in the corner, J.R. aloofly says “I guess Big Josh’s scream must’ve alerted him.” Anyway, Big Josh wins it after Dustin Rhodes whacks Blackblood in the knee with an axe handle. . .the funny thing is, a few seconds before that, Blackblood teased dropping a legitimate axe on Big Josh’s face. Now, I’m not saying that would have made the match better, but let’s face it, it wouldn’t have made it any worse, either.
At this point in the show, I’d advise the religious of you reading this to make proper amends to the Creator of your preference, since there’s really no telling if we’ll survive what’s coming up: ladies and gentlemen, I present unto thee, El Gigante vs. One Man Gang. That’s right, Akeem the African Dream taking on Giant Gonzalez. . ..may the combined grace of God, Jesus, Muhammad, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu and “Macho Man” Randy Savage all be upon us.
The match begins with Kevin Sullivan cutting an absolutely incomprehensible promo (we’re talking Ultimate Warrior levels here), before we see what may very well be the strangest damn thing ever in the history of WCW. . .
That’s right: a seven foot tall Argentinean comes down the aisle in the company of FOUR midgets. I…forget it man. Just forget it. The bell sounds, and the midgets all attack Kevin Sullivan. El Gigante cheap shots One Man Gang, and it is on. If you remember that one episode of Celebrity Boxing where Manute Bol fought William “The Refrigerator” Perry, you pretty much know what to expect here. Also, I can’t help but stand in AWE of just how much El Gigante looks like UFC Heavyweight Junior Dos Santos. Go ahead, look at their mug shots side by side, and tell me if you can decide who is who. Sullivan and OMG take turns hitting Gigante with a monkey wrench. Say what you will about El Gigante, but the dude had some pretty impressive looking overhand rights. His suplexes always looked like shit, but hey, he at least had quasi-respectable looking punches. OMG tries to throw some powder in Gigante’s eyes, but his plan backfires, and El Gigante gets the pinfall after hitting OMG with the shittiest looking clothesline you’ve ever seen. Yeah, it was pretty horrible, but at least it was kept relatively short, for our communal sakes.
We get a recap of the Sting / Nikita Koloff feud, although to be honest, I’m still not exactly sure how a “Russian chain” differs from the chains we have here in America. Koloff is billed as “The Russian Nightmare”, even though he’s from Lithuania. Eh, close enough, I suppose. If you’ve ever seen a “strap match” of any kind before, it’s basically the same deal here. The object is to beat up your adversary and drag his carcass around the ring until he touches all four ring posts. Granted, most of the times, these kinds of matches suck, but there has been the aberrational bout that hasn’t, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for this one to be the exception and not the rule. You know something I could never figure out about pro wrestling? Why is it that wrestlers STOP pounding their opponents head against the turnbuckle after TEN strikes? Just once, I want to see a guy throw in an eleventh one, you know, just to keep the crowd on its toes. Also, how thankful I am that Koloff’s trunks only cover half of his buttocks. I mean, really, how am I supposed to sit through a fifteen minute long gimmick match without some Soviet beef to keep me glued to the television screen?
Yeah, the build-up to this match was pretty memorable, but the match itself is pretty unspectacular. Jesus, there are more nut shots in this bout than there are all of the Home Alone movies combined. Oh, and the ending? Pretty lame, with Nikita scoring the victory after Sting splashed him into the turnbuckle, thus quantifying Koloff’s fourth consecutive ring post touch. After the bell, the two scrap some more, and Sting hits Koloff in his big, Bolshevik ball sack one more time with the chain before exiting stage right.
A video package rolls, promising the upcoming Lex Luger / Barry Windham bout will be “one of the greatest matches ever”. And as soon as we get back to the announce desk, deafening “We Want Flair!” chants pick up across the arena. I really don’t know what’s worse here: the fact that the steel cage they’re using is only a few inches taller than the wrestlers, or the fact that the WCW brass didn’t even take the time to properly spell Barry Windham’s name on his walkout. Actually, we can heap third option on the pile of suck, as the interim World Championship Belt looks like something the Tin Man crapped out. “WE ARE A WORLD CLASS ORGANIZATION,” indeed. Those “Flair” chants aren’t dying - while this isn’t an utterly horrible match, there’s simply no way the crowd is going to get into it for that very reason. Believe it or not, the match actually picks up around the ten minute mark. Sure, it’s by no means a great match, but compared to what we’ve had to sit through so far tonight, it’s like capping an all day Ed Wood movie marathon with a screening of The Godfather II by comparison. Around the 13:00 minute mark, Harley Race and Mr. Hughes make their way ringside. You know what this means - fluke finish and horribly misguided heel turn commencing in 3, 2. . .
Race whispers something to Luger through the cage. Lex immediately rushes over to Windham, lands a piledriver, and that’s all she wrote. The thousands of rat-tailed cretins in attendance tonight celebrate as if incest was legalized by the Maryland legislature, until Race raises Luger’s hand. Mass befuddlement ensues.
Our main event for the evening, if you can dare imagine it, is a mixed gender tag match. No, that doesn’t mean that it involves four transgender people pretending to scuffle, it’s actually a throw down between Arn Anderson and “The Psycho Yuppie” Paul E. Dangerously against Missy Hyatt and Rick Steiner. Before Hyatt can step into the cage, The Hardliners (Dick Murdoch and Dick Slater dressed up like teamsters) kidnap her. Oh, the old “bait and switch” routine. . . I knew this show was lacking something. Paul E. clocks Steiner over the head with his cellular phone, but the Mutt Faced Gremlin no sells it. Arn Anderson gets Steiner-Lined, Paul E. eats a Lariat, and this thing is over and done with in less than two minutes.
Jim Ross sums it up rather nicely when he says “I’m glad we don’t have any more matches here tonight.” For once, I think we can all safely say that the man in the announce booth is speaking for every one watching at home. We’ve got a hard sell for Halloween Havoc ‘91, and this show, thankfully, is over.
Needless to say, this PPV certainly deserves mention when debating the worst wrestling shows of all-time, but I STILL don’t think it deserves the illustrious title of the absolute worst EVER like so many believe it deserves. Really, the faults and flaws of the company at this point are pretty obvious, and if you needed an explication behind the company’s concomitant waywardness, I think this is all the photographic evidence you need to figure out how this show ended up blowing so unfathomably hard.
Talk about a gruesome twosome of booking: Jim Herd AND Dusty Rhodes pulling double duty, making sure the company sank faster than a cracked glass canoe. Hell, I reckon the catering company could have done a better job of putting on a pro wrestling show - and on a semi-related note, if anybody is reading this in Baltimore right now, send me an e-mail and let me know if Stuf-N-Turkey is still in business, will you?
Eventually, WCW managed to right its wrongs by firing the shit out of Herd and Rhodes, thus bringing in perhaps the two greatest bookers of the early 1990s, Kip Allen Frye and Bill Watts, who decided to excise the cartoony nonsense for more athletic, realistic wrestling. The result? The great technical wrestling boom of 1992, which many smarks consider to be the absolute zenith of American pro wrestling in the decade.
So, at the end of the day, is GAB ‘91 as bad as everyone says it is? Well, I have a pretty high threshold for suck in all its incarnations, and while it is pretty damned bad through and through, there’s than enough WTF moments to keep you interested, and there’s even a glimmer or two of somewhat decent wrestling to be found amidst all of the malarkey. Granted, you REALLY have to be in the mood for some Schadenfreude, but if you are really, really bored/high, you might find yourself, begrudgingly, enjoying the derailed train before your very eyes. That, and since I didn’t spend $29.95 on it, I can kind of look back on it with less vengeful eyes. Do you have to see this show? No, not really. Are you missing a part of wrestling lore if you skip out on it? Well, there are some sort of memorable moments, but by and large, no. You know what you’re getting into with this show, and if that sits well with you, I say jump right in.
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James Swift is a freelance writer and author of two books, “How I Survived Three Years at a Two-Year Community College: A Junior Memoir of Epic Proportions” and “Mascara Contra Mascara: A Tale of Two Masks“. Follow him on Twitter at JSwiftMedia, or subscribe to his YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/JSwiftMedia.
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).