Though WCW hadn’t won a Monday night against the World Wrestling Federation since April 20, 1998 and the tide in the wrestling wars has shifted against them, the early summer of 1998 was a creative high for the company. From the sometimes clever drama of the nWo split to the classic best-of-seven series between Booker T and Chris Benoit to Chris Jericho’s “conspiracy victim” storyline, WCW was on a bit of a roll. At least in the mid-card.
The event was just the beginning of a white hot summer for WCW that would include appearances by Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, and Jay Leno, which would bring some much-needed publicity WCW’s way. Then September and The Warrior happened, but that’s for another TBT.
Thanks to the clusterflub that was the last half hour, this event was panned by many critics at the time while, not surprisingly, the WCW faithful enjoyed it.
So, was this event a hit or a miss? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
Edits are few and far between while context on the Network is complete. All prior editions of both NITRO and Thunder, as well as all previous PPVs, are currently on the Network for you to enjoy right now!
WCW/nWo Great American Bash ’98 (WATCH)
Date: June 14, 1998 – Location: Baltimore Arena, Baltimore, Maryland
Attendance: 12,810 – PPV Buyrate: 0.75 (>273,000 homes)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, & Bobby Heenan – Interviews: Lee Marshall & “Mean” Gene Okerlund
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Hollywood Hogan
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Goldberg
WCW World Tag Team Champions: VACANT
WCW World Television Champion: Fit Finlay
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: VACANT
The event opens with a vignette juxtaposing the patriotic beauty of America against the chaos of WCW.
In the arena Tony welcomes us to the show as the pyro screeches to life. After Tony, Bobby, and Tenay chat about the big tag team main event pitting Hollywood Hogan & Bret Hart against Randy Savage & Roddy Piper Tony tosses to “Mean” Gene at the top of the stage who attempts to explain the drama between Sting and Giant and the fate of the WCW World Tag Team titles to be decided in the main event.
Back at the announce position talk turns to the classic best-of-seven series between Chris Benoit and Booker T. We see footage from the go-home Thunder first of the finish of the seventh match in which a Bret Hart attack on Booker T led to Benoit alerting the referee and taking the loss, giving Booker the series win by DQ. Next we see footage from the same Thunder of Booker T refusing the series win and asking J.J. Dillon, Chairman of the WCW Executive Committee, to throw out the seventh match and allow Booker T and Chris Benoit to redo the match at Great American Bash , which Dillon agreed to.
— “WCW World Television Championship Number One Contender’s Best-of-Seven Series Match #7” – Winning Will Wrestle World Television Champion Fit Finlay Later Tonight (WATCH – 4:09)
Chris Benoit(3) vs. Booker T(3)
This was the series that turned both Benoit and Booker T into legitimate superstars in WCW and was the catalyst for the eventual split between Booker T and Stevie Ray, who would join nWo Hollywood in August. This is a great, physical, back-and-forth match and a stellar opener that employs great psychology to tell a simple, yet compelling story. In the end Booker T survives the diving headbutt and lands two Harlem Sidekicks before landing a stiff missile dropkick for the pin at 16:18 to take the series four matches to three.
WINNER is Booker T (Pin, 16:18)
After replays we go back to the WCW internet location where Lee Marshall interviews Chavo Guerrero, Jr. about Chavo’s upcoming match with nephew Eddie later tonight.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 28:28)
Saturn vs. Kanyon
Someone dressed as “Mortis”, Kanyon’s old gimmick, distracts Saturn as Kanyon sneaks into the ring and takes the fight to Saturn. Early on Kidman and Lodi come to the ring before Riggs and Horace join a bit later for a four-on-one attack on Kanyon that changes the complexion of the match. These two tell an interesting story, managing to pack a slice of the entire Kanyon/Flock angle into this one match. Though the crowd is in and out this is one helluva match. In the end two “Mortis” figures appear from nowhere, rolling Saturn and Kanyon back in the ring, before the two figures brawl to the floor. In the ring Kanyon manages to hit the Flatliner on Saturn for the win at 14:47.
WINNER is Kanyon (Pin, 14:47)
After the match one of the “Mortis” figures drops Kanyon with the Evenflow DDT and reveals himself to be Raven. Back in the ring Raven chastises Saturn for losing to Kanyon and Saturn goes after Raven. The Flock attempt to make the save but end up dropped at the hands of Saturn, who gets a big babyface pop as Horace escorts Raven to the back.
After replays we see footage from the go-home Thunder of Dean Malenko relinquishing the Cruiserweight title to J.J. Dillon and Dillon making the match between Chris Jericho and Malenko to determine the new Cruiserweight Champion.
— Vacant WCW Cruiserweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 48:40)
Dean Malenko vs. Chris Jericho
This was, ultimately, the blow-off between these two, ending one of the most memorable angles of the era. From the Ted Turner letter to visiting Washington, D.C. to the “Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis” rule, to being a “conspiracy victim” to being taken to task by his father on the go-home Thunder, this was the angle (like the best-of-seven series for Booker T) that set Jericho apart from everyone else and should have been Jericho’s launching pad to bigger and better things in WCW.
This is a great match. The keen psychology, not always present in Cruiserweight division matches, helps tell a decent story that sucks the crowd in. In the end Jericho goads Malenko into losing his cool by slapping the former Champion and yelling, “Come on Malenko! You’re nothing, just like your dead father!” Malenko snaps and beats the bejabbers out of Jericho, hitting Jericho with a steel chair at 13:49 to give Jericho the win and the Cruiserweight Championship. This marked Jericho’s fourth and final Cruiserweight title victory.
WINNER and NEW WCW Cruiserweight Champion, Chris Jericho (Disqualification, 13:49)
After the bell Malenko and Jericho continue to brawl throughout the arena, ending up in the parking lot where Jericho flees across the street, ducking into a building to escape!
Next we return to WCW’s internet location where Lee Marshall interviews Eddie Guerrero about his upcoming contest with nephew Chavo in which Eddie tries to apologize his way out of the match.
Up next we see a vignette for Juventud Guerrera. Juvi sits, Juvi walks, Juvi fixes his hair, Juvi stares into your soul as the beautiful flamenco music serenades us… Whoa, that was intense.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:11:17)
Juventud Guerrera vs. Reese w/Lodi
With a better big man this match may have actually worked. With Reese, more actor than wrestler, this is painful to watch. After some David versus Goliath storytelling Van Hammer sneaks to ringside and gloms Reese with a steel chair as Juvi goes for the hurricanrana, helping Juvi get Reese over where Juvi grabs the legs and scores the pin at 8:46 for a decent pop.
WINNER is Juventud Guerrera (Pin, 8:46)
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:24:53)
Chavo Guerrero, Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero
Chavo, beginning his unhinged gimmick, is looking to simply prove he’s not a loser, not gain his freedom. Eddie tries to talk his way out of the match until Chavo slaps the taste out of Eddie’s mouth! This a solid, WWF-esque match that is all about the “movie”, the psychology, rather than a wrestling clinic, which it could also be called. Heenan’s commentary for this match is another thing to keep on the lookout for. In the end Eddie’s desire to humiliate and hurt his nephew backfires when Chavo ducks out of the way of the Frog Splash and, after Eddie blocks the Tornado DDT, Chavo hits a beautiful springboard Tornado DDT for the pin at 14:45.
WINNER is Chavo Guerrero, Jr. (Pin, 14:45)
At the announce position Tony, Heenan, and Tenay chat about the tag team main event to come and how Piper and Savage, who will wrestle immediately afterwards, can manage to get along to win. This is followed by footage from the go-home NITRO of Savage and Piper brawling.
— WCW World Television Championship (WATCH – 1:45:58)
Booker T vs. Fit Finlay(c)
This isn’t a bad match but the crowd, having seen so much with more yet to come, is a bit burned out. The story of the match, Finlay working over Booker T’s injured left knee, isn’t sexy but it works. Near the end the fans are more interested in a fan being ejected than the match itself and Finlay, especially, is rattled. Booker T manages a comeback before Finlay turns Booker inside out with a lariat. Finlay goes for the tombstone and Booker tries to reverse it when the spot falls apart. In the end Finlay posts himself and Booker lands a kneeling piledriver for the 1-2-3 at 13:13 to win the World Television title. This ended Finlay’s lone World Television title reign at 41-days and marked Booker T’s fifth (of an eventual six) TV title wins. After the match Stevie Ray comes down to celebrate with his brother.
WINNER and NEW WCW World Television Champion, Booker T (Pin, 13:13)
— WCW United States Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 2:04:08)
Konnan (sub. for Curt Hennig) w/Rick Rude & Curt Hennig vs. Goldberg(c)
Curt Hennig, originally slated for this match, was out with a supposed knee injury. Goldberg was 99—0 coming in and the second hottest wrestler in the industry behind only Stone Cold Steve Austin. Goldberg’s mother, it is announced, is home recovering from surgery after breaking her hip. The crowd is mega hot for Goldberg who makes short work of Konnan, surviving K-Dawg’s offense before closing the show with the spear and Jackhammer to win at 1:57 to retain the U.S. Heavyweight title and improve to 100—0.
WINNER and STILL WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, Goldberg (Pin, 1:57)
After the match Hennig (his knee in perfect condition) and Rude turn on Konnan, beating the dog doo out of K-Dawg until the WolfPac, Nash and Luger, make the save as Hennig reveals an nWo Hollywood shirt underneath his WolfPac red and black. As the dust settles we see replays of Goldberg’s dominating win over Konnan.
Next we see a promo for next month’s “mid-summer classic”, Bash at the Beach ’98.
— “Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:14:16)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Michael Buffer
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (nWo WolfPac) & “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. nWo Hollywood (Bret “Hitman” Hart & WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hogan) w/Disciple
This marked Hogan’s very first Great American Bash match and last until the Kidman fiasco in 2000. An historic match, this marked the first televised pairing between Hogan and Hart and one of if not the very first televised pairing between Piper and Savage in either the WWF or WCW.
The story here is all about Piper and Savage trying their hardest to work as a team while everything goes against them. Piper takes the brunt of the punishment until “Hot Rod” cleverly gloms Hart with a steel chair and Savage gets the hot tag. Savage looks to have the match in hand when Piper, whipped into the ropes by Hogan, knocks Savage off the top rope, injuring Savage’s knee. After Hogan posts Savage’s knee Hart ends the match with the Sharpshooter at 11:41.
WINNERS are nWo Hollywood (Bret “Hitman” Hart & WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hogan) (Submission, 11:41)
As Hogan and Hart celebrate in the aisle “Mean” Gene enters the ring to talk with Piper about how the two could possibly carry on and fight. Piper ignores Gene and tries to help Savage to his feet only for Savage to clothesline Piper to start their scheduled match.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:31:40)
“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Savage is all over Piper until Savage hits the elbow from the top, further injuring his right knee. After Savage cracks the referee Piper goes low, eventually cinching in the figure-four leglock as a second referee runs in to hear Savage submit at 1:38.
WINNER is “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (Submission, 1:38)
— “nWo WolfPac vs. nWo Hollywood Grudge Match For Control of the WCW World Tag Team Championship” (WATCH – 2:36:22)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Michael Buffer
The Giant vs. Sting
On the June 4, 1998 edition of Thunder Lex Luger and DDP defeated Giant and Brian Adams to win the World Tag Team titles. The switch was immediately voided by J.J. Dillon, however, since Giant’s partner, Brian Adams, wasn’t cleared to defend the straps in Sting’s place. Thus the Tag Team titles were held up with the winner of this match, Sting or Giant, to not only take control of the World Tag Team titles but be allowed to chose their own partner. Giant had already announced that Disciple would be his partner while Sting hadn’t yet announced his choice.
Giant comes to the ring smoking what looks to be an Eve Ultra Light 120 Menthol cigarette (hi Ma!); like The Sandman, only effeminately. This period of time was a return to form for Sting who, after being largely silent for the last twenty-some months, was finally showing some of the fire and charisma that made “Stinger” one of the sport’s top draws once upon a time. The match itself is a glorified NITRO main event, though. Giant dominates the match until Sting makes the comeback, hitting the Stinger Splash before slamming The Giant. Sting lands two Scorpion Death Drops but Giant kicks out of both. In the end Sting stops a charging Giant and lands a sloppy tornado Scorpion Death Drop for the pin at 6:41 to win the third and final World Tag Team title of his WCW career.
WINNER and NEW WCW World Tag Team Champion, Sting (Pin, 6:41)
Sting celebrates, holding both Tag Team titles high as he leaves the ring, before we see replays of the finish.
Tony talks about what to expect on tomorrow night’s edition of NITRO before signing off. We see one final Bash at the Beach ’98 promo and the show is history!
Great American Bash ’98 is a tale of two cards. Much of the show features the youth and (expected) future of WCW—Benoit, Booker T, Jericho, Eddie, Chavo, Goldberg, etc.—in one solid match after the next (with the exception of Reese/Juvi) while the last thirty-plus minutes is a pro wrestling “Jurassic Park”, with Piper, Hogan, Hart, Savage, and Sting under-performing in matches mired by lousy booking and some not so great action. This was becoming the problem with WCW; the undercard often over-delivered while the main events fell flat.
The bulk of this show has held up extremely well, however, and deserves a second look. If you haven’t seen it, and you’re already subscribed to the WWE Network, then check it out and let us know your thoughts in the comments. Just try not to judge the entire event on the lousy main events.
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Thanks for reading – until next week see ya at ringside!
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