On This Day: June 16, 1996 – Great American Bash 1996: Benoit And Sullivan Have A FIGHT

This is another very old one but it’s an interesting show.  It’s one of the first 30 reviews I’ve ever done so I know the quality is very low.

Great American Bash 1996
Date: June 16, 1996
Location: Baltimore Arena, Baltimore, Maryland
Attendance: 9,000
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes

Another random review here in light of the 4th of July. This show is famous for one incident and semi-famous for one match. The main event was a total waste with Giant defending against Luger. Other than that your big match is Flair and Anderson vs. Kevin Greene and Steve McMichael, two former NFL players which for some reason was a huge deal, or at least built up as one.

Other than that, it’s really kind of forgotten as most WCW shows from this era were. The NWO was just over the horizon as they would unite for the first time a mere 21 days after this. Hall and Nash were around at this time as there was still the theory that everything was a HUGE angle with WWF but no one really was sure.

This was huge at the time and the Attitude Era was being conceived based on the things that were about to happen. On that basis, the thing that happens here was huge, but other than that I’m not sure how much there is. Let’s go with it, and happy 4th of July!

We open with Heenan in the back PANICKING. He’s managing Anderson and Flair as Savage manages the football players. We get short promos from all major parties involved. Luger says he’s going to get a third belt to go with his tag and TV title. Is there a need to put two titles on one guy and then have him in the world title match? Giant says no, he won’t, and we’re on the air.

We get the presentation of the American flag by a guy we’re supposed to forget is a wrestler I guess. Oh apparently we’re supposed to know him. I guess that’s ok. Dusty and Tony explain the two big matches because the video/promos we just got didn’t explain them well enough I guess. They acknowledge the death of Dick Murdock. That’s kind of nice.

Fire and Ice vs. Steiner Brothers

There must be a winner apparently, as this is one of many matches they’ve had but we’ve never had a winner, so the Steiners have to beat them up on PPV instead of trying to find a good feud for one of the best tag teams ever. I love their theme music for some reason.

Fire and Ice are Scott Norton, who is a far bigger star in Japan, and Ice Train, who never did anything. They’re just two big guys that got put into a tag team so they’d have something to do I guess. It’s weird to see a four man match with Rick Steiner being the smallest guy in the ring.

Scott is huge here as the evolution into the singles guy wasn’t quite there yet. Norton and Train are the really weak kind of team who fought all the time but were made a team out of respect. That can work, but I’ve never been a fan of it. Steingers are incredibly over here as the problem was simple: they were WAY too big for the tag titles, so what do you do with them?

Dream’s voice is really very annoying. Tony just sounds like an idiot that makes Cole look great on the mic. Faces, or at least the bigger faces, run off the heels as they do their weird looking pose with Rick running around and sliding between Scott’s legs. There’s just something not right about that.

The Steiner line amuses me as it’s really a jumping shoulder block with an arm extended. This may or may not be for the #1 Contender spot. They can’t simply just SAY that it is or not but rather “this will move them very high up the ranks”. Is it that hard to just SAY the winner will be the #1 contenders?

My goodness Fire and Ice are generic as all goodness. They’re just two big strong guys that I have no reason to care about at all. Norton has one of the trademarks of bad wrestlers as he uses a shoulder breaker for his signature move. They hit their tag finisher on Rick, and as Scott comes running in Norton FREAKING LOOKS AT HIM.

My goodness at least try. Top rope finisher from the Steiners as this is just a mess. Scott hits the WORST frankensteiner of all time as Norton pretty much rolls forward instead of jumping. Nick Patrick counts two and says that’s it as even he wanted this load of garbage to end.

Rating: D+. Holy goodness this was just a train wreck. The styles just completely sucked. The Steiners just weren’t what they used to be at this point and I think a lot of that can be attributed to Scott changing his style. Rick was already a power guy. They didn’t need another one. Fire and Ice completely sucked though, so that has a lot to do with it.

In the back, Jimmy Hart and Kevin Sullivan talk about how this feud isn’t about the Dungeon of Doom against the Horsemen but Sullivan has been beating them all up anyway. Sullivan was just a guy that flat out wasn’t that good. He was too small and did little more than punch.

US Title: El Gato vs. Konnan

This is a prime example of the odd stuff about WCW at the time. They would bring in these random guys, in this case Tanaka of the Orient Express dressed as a Luchador. This was the attempt to make a cross cultural promotion, but there was just one problem: no one cared about the Mexican heritage or whatever. Gato had ONE match, and he gets a US Title shot.

That’s the stupid part of it. He’s a good wrestler, but these matches were just completely random and there was no emotion to them at all. Dusty references people listening to this on the radio. As weird as that sounds, it might actually have happened. JR did WWF Radio for years.

Dusty goes on to make stupid jokes about how Gato is quick as a cat. Problem #2 with this: they’re doing a mat based match. Mexican wrestling is supposed to be high flying. Instead we get top wrist locks etc. Also there’s no Mike Tenay, who was one of the few guys that actually knew what he was talking about in this stuff.

Oh, but apparently he’s going to be there later for Mysterio’s match with Malenko. Oh that’s great. We get a Mexican wrestling expert for a match between two Americans. I’m so painfully bored right now. Gato runs into the corner but gets rolled up for the pin.

Rating: D-. My GOD this was awful. No one gave a second thought about it, the match was dull as watching molasses dry in a freshly painted white room, and the ending came out of nowhere. WCW just thought that if they had foreign wrestlers that things would work great. It’s not that simple. If you have foreign wrestlers, they have to do something that Americans don’t do, like high flying. I don’t want to see a Mexican wrestler do arm bars for 70% of a match. My goodness this was horrid.

Sting is in the back and talks about how Regal’s Britishness is just a bit off. This is a comedy interview and it’s ok I guess. He goes into normal Sting mode and it’s a huge improvement.

Lord of the Ring: DDP vs. Marcus Bagwell

This is for the Battlebowl Ring, because WCW didn’t have enough titles so they made the ring that was won in a battle royal earlier in the year a title as well. This was actually a very interesting time and angle for DDP. DDP had done an angle where he won something like 6 million dollars playing bingo, which yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds.

He started losing money though and eventually got thrown out of the company due to a stipulation in a match. Eventually he came back broke and worked his way up, winning the TV Title and some other things, before going face and being one of the main fighters against the NWO. It was a really long and drawn out process, but it got a guy like DDP WAY over, so it worked. He’s the classic example of a guy that can take one single move and make a career out of it. That’s quite impressive.

The match comes about as the American Males FLIPPED A COIN before we went on air. Seriously, that’s the amount of thought put into this. They flipped a freaking coin. I’m getting sleepy watching this. It’s just so generic and there’s so little thought put into it. Page does a spot that he almost always did as he gets knocked into the front row, prompting Tony to make his “he didn’t pay for that seat” joke.

They recap his comeback with him having a benefactor which was never explored. Bagwell is one of the luckiest wrestlers of all time and proof that an NWO shirt on you can keep you employed. He was the most generic wrestler ever, which is an exaggeration but I felt like saying it. *Norcal says your face is exaggerated*

He did nothing of note ever and was somehow always on the midcard. Was Bischoff getting some sweet Judy Bagwell loving? DDP misses an Orton punt to the ribs, causing him to land on his back. Tony makes a punter joke, which is par for him I guess.

Bagwell’s genericness is making me want to stab something. He’s just so BLAND. Oh and the crowd is dead. No one cares and this is almost a ten minute match. The ending is awful too as Page just grabs him and Diamond Cuts him. Well that was riveting.

Rating: F. Man alive this show sucks. It was boring, it was bland, and no one wanted to see it. I can’t get over the freaking coin toss thing. Bagwell was awful and Page was overrated. What were you expecting here?

Giant and Hart talk about the title match with Luger tonight, which might be the worst main event feud in WCW history. Giant still won’t shut up about beating Hogan. Gene looks sleepy.

Cruiserweight Title: Rey Mysterio vs. Dean Malenko

This is Rey’s debut apparently, so let’s give him a title match! It’s always cool to see mega stars like Rey debut like this. You ever notice that the Cruiserweight Title almost always came down to the heel not flying that much and facing a guy that jumped everywhere? Rey grabs a headlock to start which gets him absolutely nowhere.

Tenay used to drive me crazy but here he’s required almost. They both sit out and it’s a double nipup for a standoff. Malenko takes him to the mat but Rey speeds it up and sends Dean to the floor with an armdrag. He adds in the Jericho springboard dropkick to send Dean to floor. Rey is 21 here but has been wrestling since he was 14 which is insane.

Rey tries some of his leverage stuff but gets sent to the floor. They speed things up a bit but Dean hits the floor to break the momentum as he’s rather smart. Dean goes after the arm and Rey is in trouble. Hammerlock slam as Dean channels his inner Anderson. We hear about the Cruiserweights in the division which really was an incredible collection of talent.

We hear about Rey being in AAA as is Konnan. The more I hear about AAA the more I like it. Rey speeds things up again but Dean takes his head off with a clothesline. We hear about NJPW and Eddie winning the Super J Tournament. Notice what WCW was doing at the time: they were pulling talent from EVERYWHERE and drawing in as many fans as they possibly could. Very smart business as there are more fans in the world rather than in America.

Dean works on the arm more and Rey is in trouble. Dean gets an overhead belly to belly while hooking the arm around like a hammerlock. That was pretty cool looking. Notice here that he’s throwing on a bunch of holds but they’re different, which makes it less boring. Anyone can throw on an armbar 5 times, but throw on different moves and you get a potentially different reaction, which is a good thing.

Off to a surfboard which is always cool looking. Dean drops him back out of it and into a bridge for two. Right back to the arm by Dean and Rey is in big trouble. Butterfly suplex gets two and Dean is frustrated. Rey gets to a rope but the referee is like whatever and lets them keep going. Rey gets a leverage move to send Dean to the floor and hits a springboard sommersault senton to take both guys out.

Springboard missile dropkick gets two as the fans are WAY into this now. The move that would become West Coast Pop gets two. Dean sends him to the apron and Rey goes up. Top rope Frankensteiner puts Dean down but another rana attempt is countered into a powerbomb and the feet go onto the ropes for Dean to get the pin and retain. Awesome match.

Rating: A-. Standard great match with these two. Malenko may have been pretty dull as far as charisma goes, but dang he could go in the ring. Mysterio was always fun to watch when he still had knees, and this was no exception. This right here is what began to carry WCW in the NWO years. They would do the heavy lifting and the main event guys would get all the credit.

Lex Luger says he’s completely focused on Giant. This just screams WORST TITLE MATCH EVER. The build is Luger got chokeslammed on a table. It’s just generic and no one cares, but that could be said of the whole PPV.

Big Bubba vs. John Tenta

Oh dear. This is over the Dungeon of Doom, who was one of the worst big stables ever, cutting half of Tenta’s hair and goatee. Tenta was supposed to be a big face or something I guess but of course nothing ever came of it. These two have the exact same style so this isn’t going to work. Non American object gets Bubba in control. Soon thereafter, I see some interesting looking paint on the wall and I lose my focus. Thankfully this is about five and a half minutes and ends with Tenta slamming Bubba. Afterwards he cuts off Bubba’s beard.

Rating: D. Again, there’s no point to this match. It’s just two guys beating on each other and no one cares at all. Tenta never did a freaking thing in WCW and would be gone very soon to be Golga in the Oddities in WWF. Bubba would turn face after the NWO beat on him.

We go to Gene in the back with the football players and their wives. I still don’t get why this was considered a good idea. McMichael tried really hard but just never got it. However, considering he was a good football player and made an attempt at wrestling, that’s at least impressive.

Chris Benoit vs. Kevin Sullivan

This is falls count anywhere. Now this was a very interesting story to say the least. The idea is that the Dungeon and the Horsemen want to team up to fight Hogan, but these two hate each other too much. As for the real life story, these two HATED each other. There was a storyline where Benoit stole Sullivan’s storyline wife. To play up the storyline, they traveled together.

However, it soon became real life as Nancy Woman Sullivan left Kevin for Benoit. The feuds you would see on TV would often be shoots instead of works, with these two really beating the tar out of each other. It’s this match where Benoit allegedly became a big deal, and if I remember it right, that’s a very fair assessment to make.

They’re beating the living tar out of each other very early on and if these shots aren’t legit, they’re the best fakes I’ve ever seen. Almost immediately they’re out in the crowd. They go up into the stands and go into the men’s room. Benoit gets his head slammed in a stall door which has to freaking hurt. For some reason there’s like 25 people in there, which shows how interested the people were in this show.

They fight over shoving the other’s head into the commode. Dusty loses his freaking mind over a woman being in the men’s room. Sullivan lands a great shot with some toilet paper as this is just a wild fight. You really can see the mega star in Benoit just begging to be unleashed, but alas it wouldn’t happen for several years. In a very painful spot, Benoit is thrown down the stairs in the arena.

Jimmy has been standing in the ring the whole time. They say why would people want to come in and declare war? That would make a lot more sense if guys like Benoit got to fight them. Benoit vs. Nash when Nash was worth something. How’s that sound? Tony for some reason can’t get the difference between a chair and a table.

We have a D-Von Special as we get one of the old school tables, as in the oens that don’t break. They sit the table on the top rope and Benoit wins with a snap suplex off the top, which looks VERY painful. Dusty says you don’t want to get caught in the bathroom with Benoit. Anderson runs out to save Sullivan from Benoit but beats up Sullivan with him, officially reforming the Horsemen to a MASSIVE pop. The Dungeon runs out for the save as the Horsemen leave together.

Rating: A. DANG this was a wild fight. Benoit looked like a star out there and he and Sullivan just beat the tar out of each other. Benoit had everything you could want, and he didn’t even use the Crossface yet. How WCW screwed this up is truly beyond me. This match was just pure brutality, making it a very fun match all around. Not great from a technical perspective, but it wasn’t supposed to be at all. Very fun and a pure breath of fresh air given how bad this show has been so far.

In the back Gene is with the women and Flair but Benoit and Anderson come in. Anderson says that Benoit is officially one of them, giving him the biggest endorsement you can get in the sport. Everyone says that they’ll get the football players tonight.

Sting vs. Steve Regal

Their respective teams have been feuding so we get a singles match here that actually doesn’t sound too bad on paper. The pop for Sting is easily the biggest of the night as he’s so over it’s uncanny. They start off pretty fast which is expected but then as also can be expected, they slow things down a lot and get down on the mat where both guys can go, but Regal can go better.

Regal is actually out wrestling Sting here, which isn’t something that you can say that often. Regal is a good guy to have in a role like this as he can just beat on people with all kinds of moves and can get people on the mat where he’ll own them. There’s little better than a guy that can get someone down on the mat and work them over while making them look weak.

The thing that looks better is the guy that can beat him. Regal calling Sting Sunshine is just funny. He plays the cocky British heel so perfectly well that he’s just great. Sting is good enough to keep up with him on the mat which a lot of people can’t say. The announcers all of a sudden have an attitude about the outsiders invading, which hasn’t been here all night.

This was where the thing started to go downhill, as eventually WCW was pushed down our throats as this huge and perfect wrestling company that we had to love, which WCW just wouldn’t accept anything otherwise. That’s just dumb all around. I really like the way Regal just beats on Sting and locks in the Regal Stretch like it’s nothing, but it’s stupid to see Regal just let the hold go because Sting won’t give up.

It’s not like the hold is going to make him feel better, so why would you just break it? That makes no sense at all. Sting hulks up and gets kneed in the chest on a splash attempt. That means nothing as he knocks Regal down and has him tapping in about three seconds. I HATE that ending. He got his head handed to him for 15 minutes and then takes over inside of a minute? That just doesn’t work at all.

Rating: B-. This was a decent match, but DANG the ending messed it up. Regal dominating the entire time worked, but there should have been more of a comeback and less domination as it makes Regal’s offense look bad. Of course Sting was going to win here, but I didn’t like the way it was executed at all.

Ric Flair/Arn Anderson vs. Kevin Greene/Steve McMichael

This is another attempt at crossing over with football, which just never works for one reason: football players can’t wrestle that well because they get a crash course in wrestling. Now there have been players that have gotten long training and are wrestlers for a long time who become good wrestlers and Mongo got close to doing that, but not when they do it in the off season or after retiring for the most part.

Heenan manages the heels here for no apparent reason. Savage manages the faces because he hates Flair, which is fine as it gives them a lot more credibility. Greene walks like a robot. His wife is hot though so that helps a lot. Rhodes makes a great comment that the football players who have been learning to wrestle shouldn’t try to wrestle. So wait, they wasted their time for the last few months? That’s a great endorsement there Dusty.

Arn and Mongo get down in a three point stance because that’s a brilliant idea where Mongo of course dominates him. Tony says that Mongo left the Bears for money. Remember that line. This really is just getting stupid all around. What’s commonly forgotten about Flair is that he was a college football player as well at the University of Minnesota, so the three point stance isn’t exactly a foreign concept to him.

Very soon we start to see the problem: the football guys know about 5 moves each, two of which are boots and punches. You can see that Flair and Anderson are completely carrying them and calling the whole thing, including hearing Flair call spots to Mongo, which might be due to the extreme close-ups in the corner.

Flair whispered, but with the camera 4 inches from him you can’t really blame him for that. The heel women chase away the face women. The announcers are still trying to make this sound epic and are still failing on every level. Mongo gets beaten on forever until the hot tag to bring in Greene for more punches, tackles and slams. Another five minutes or so of beating on Greene until Flair gets the figure four on.

Debra, Liz and Woman come back but Debra is dressed up now and Liz has a briefcase. You know what’s coming next. The shirt and money are in the case and Mongo hits Greene with it to join the Horsemen and end the match, drawing a huge pop as this is Horsemen country. Post match, there’s a huge beatdown by all four Horsemen. Benoit and Savage fight as I drool over the idea of that feud. You can see Flair say good job to Green after he pins him and the Four Horsemen are back!

Rating: C-. This was just pretty bad to say the least. I’ll give the football guys credit though as they were at least trying very hard. The turn at the end was clearly the most important part and while the match went on too long, it wasn’t terrible for what it was. Could have been better but it also could have been worse.

Now we get the really famous part of the show as Bischoff calls out Hall and Nash, but not by name. This segment was really more about clearing up a lawsuit that WWF filed against WCW over the use of copyrighted characters because they said that Hall and Nash were acting too much like Razor and Diesel.

They get their match in three weeks but they first have to say they don’t work for the WWF. The Outsiders want to know who they’re facing because they have a third guy and want to know who their opponents are. Eric says they’ll find out the next night on Nitro but that doesn’t sit well with the big boys, leading to a jackknife off the stage to another huge pop. You can really tell how much the people hated the old school WCW style and were craving something new. Of course the mystery guy would be Hogan while they would face Sting, Luger and Savage.

The cleanup takes longer than a Vince McMahon promo as Tony does the UNTHINKABLE and leaves Dusty alone on commentary. However, since this is live PPV and we’re on a time limit, forget Eric’s possible paralyzing injury and let’s have the main event!

WCW Title: Giant vs. Lex Luger

And so we begin the most lackluster main event that I can ever remember. To illustrate the match, Luger charges and gets his head kicked off within 2 seconds. It’s power vs. power again and since it hasn’t worked twice tonight, it has to work the third time right?

Sting chases off Hart who keeps interfering as Giant just beats on Luger forever with all kinds of power moves. Giant for those of you that don’t know is Big Show minus about 100 lbs and when he was one of the hottest things in wrestling because he really could move all around the ring at a fast pace.

However, he sucked as a world champion because he’s the kind of guy that a big face is supposed to take down, not the kind of guy you give the belt to for months at a time like WCW did. This is as much of a formula match as you’ll ever find with Giant beating on Luger and Luger keeps kicking out until he hits about 6 steel forearms in a row which Giant stays up from. Luger racks him but collapses under the weight. Giant pulls the strap down and chokeslams him for the pin to end what might be the worst PPV I’ve ever seen.

Rating: D+. If there’s ever been a match where the booking killed it, this is it. There was no reason to either have this match or at least have it go on last. It just shouldn’t have happened like this as the Horsemen reuniting was a far bigger and better deal as well as being marketed as the main event. This just shouldn’t have gone on last as it just had no momentum at all and the ending was just flat as possible.

Overall Rating: C-. This is a hard one to grade as there are two awesome matches on it and then the rest is just awful. The stars were in the wrong matches which is weird because it allowed the young guys to shine, but it made for an awkward show. The young guys made the show watchable, but that’s not enough to really save it. Watch the Cruiserweight Title and the falls count anywhere and that’s about it. Oh and the Hall/Nash stuff if you’re a history geek.

 

Remember to follow me on Twitter @kbreviews and pick up my new book on the History of Starrcade from Amazon for just $4 at:

 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D2UKOG0

2 comments

  1. Stingfan says:

    Sting and Regal had a much better match on a Nitro in 94 that’s on YT. Should check it out. Sting really holds his own on the mat.

  2. Stingfan says:

    Ergh, WCW Saturday Night 1994. Not Nitro, obviously. Boneheaded mistake.