We all know that WCW releases sell well, and it looks like WWE has really taken that lesson to heart this year. This is already the second major WCW release we’ve gotten this year, with at least two more on the horizon (OMG! 2 and Sting). This release is particularly similar to the earlier WCW PPV Matches Vol. 1, so I was concerned that this release was going to feel completely superfluous. I assumed that since this release focuses on only ONE PPV, it would be a step down from that earlier DVD, which, if you remember, I didn’t love. Well, you know what they say about assuming…
Disc 1 of the Blu-ray runs 4 hours, 30 minutes, and Disc 2 runs 2 hours, 40 minutes, with 1 hour, 45 minutes of Blu-ray exclusive extras. It is rated TV-14. The only noticeable edits are Jesse Ventura’s commentary during the 1992 matches.
The match compilation is hosted by Dusty Rhodes, and the hosting segments are used fairly well. While we don’t get one before every match, they still appear more than did on the WCW PPV Matches release. It was a pretty nice balance. Dusty isn’t in full-on information mode like he was on the War Games Blu-ray, but he isn’t acting totally insane either. Again, it’s a fun balance. It’s Dusty, so you know you are going to get some goofy comments, and you certainly get plenty. He still gives some good historical insight into the matches as well. The matches are also grouped together pretty nicely, so the host segments work over a number of matches.
In the first half of the Blu-ray disc 1 we are presented with non-PPV Bash matches (and even a match NOT from the Bash!). Since these matches predate PPV, the majority do not have original commentary. New commentaries were recorded with Dusty Rhodes & Larry Zbyszko, and in the case of the Rhodes/Flair cage match, a commentary track from Dusty’s DVD is ported over. Rhodes & Zbyszko make for a fun team, and provide some historical information while clearly having fun revisiting the matches. At times, the commentary moves into the “so bad it’s good” territory (Rhodes even acknowledges that the commentary they are doing is objectively bad). You certainly don’t need to go out of your way to hear the commentary, but you will be entertained; it’s a nice addition. Dusty watching his own matches is particularly fun (especially in the Blu-ray extra match).
NWA Championship Match: Ric Flair vs. Nikita Koloff (7/85) – ★★ 3/4
Nikita Koloff’s wrestling style falls into the Bruno category for me; it hasn’t aged particularly well. Because of that, this match can feel a bit dated, especially given that it is around 25 minutes long. Once the action picks up towards the end, though, it is much more interesting to watch. We also get to see Flair’s awesome entrance (via helicopter) included before the match.
NWA Tag Team Championship #1 Contender’s Match: Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. Arn & Ole Anderson (7/86) – ★★★ 1/4
Here we have a perfect blending of styles between two very different teams. The action is great throughout, and the match does an excellent job making both teams look strong (although R’n’R probably comes out looking just a little bit better). Unfortunately, the match ends in a draw, but I didn’t find that that took away from the match too much.
NWA Championship Steel Cage Match: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes (7/86) – ★★★
We all know Rhodes and Flair have great chemistry, and that is certainly prevalent in this match. Dusty is one of the best at wrestling a slower pace, but keeping the match interesting the whole time. Just watching Dusty threaten to hit Flair for a few minutes is entertaining. While this may not be one of the greatest matches between these two men, it’s still a solid outing.
War Games Match: Road Warriors, Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, & Paul Ellering vs. Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger, & JJ Dillon (7/87) – ★★★ 1/2
Overall an enjoyable match, but I did get the feeling that there was a bit of learning curve in dealing with the new match type. The MVP of the match was JJ Dillon, who took a hell of a beating. The match really picked up once he got involved.
Sting & Lex Luger vs. Road Warriors (11/25/88) – ★★★ 1/2
While the storytelling in this match may not have been amazing, I still found this match incredibly entertaining. Both teams look dominant throughout the match, which keeps you on your toes about who is going to take the upper hand at any given point. The ending of the match is a bit of a disappointment, but it made sense based on everything that came before it.
NWA Television Championship Match: Sting vs. The Great Muta (7/23/89) – ★★★ 3/4
If you told me this match took place in some long-forgotten early era of ROH, I would easily believe you. The athleticism on display here is great, but there still is a good storyline to keep the match progressing nicely. I thought the ending to the match worked pretty nicely, but I wish that the match would have gone on a little longer. I enjoyed what we got quite a lot, but I think we could have gotten a little more of it.
NWA Championship Match: Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk (7/23/89) – ★★★★ 1/4
The Flair/Funk rivalry is one of the underrated rivalries in the history of NWA/WCW, and this match shows why. The intensity is off the charts, and the action is exhilarating throughout. The match switched modes from brawl to wrestling match pretty nicely, which also helped keep you on the edge of your seat. The entire post-match segment is included as well, which ends with a great promo from a bloody, mist-stained Flair.
NWA Championship Match: Ric Flair vs. Sting (7/7/90) – ★★★★
Sting & Flair are great rivals, and the chemistry between the two is outstanding. Even though I knew the outcome of the match, I still was excited the entire time. I felt like I didn’t know what was going to happen next, and the exchange of moves was very organic. The ending of the match also still feels like a big deal today.
Steiner Brothers vs. The Fabulous Freebirds (7/7/90) – ★★
Something was missing from this match. I never felt like the Freebirds really had a shot at winning, since the Steiners dominated the majority of the match. While the Freebirds were still hated by the fans at this point, the gimmick had reached a very odd point (they were dressed in a very androgynous style). The ending was also weird, since the ref kind of screwed over the bad guys.
NWA Tag Team Title Tournament Quarterfinals: Dustin Rhodes & Barry Windham vs. “Stunning” Steve Austin & Rick Rude (7/12/92) – ★★ 1/4
While these four men are each best known as singles stars, they worked well in a tag team setting here. While the action is all solid, the overall pacing of this match is a bit off. It starts off great, but the infamous “babyface in peril” segment goes on too long. After Windham finally makes a tag, the match then ends way too quickly.
WCW Championship Match: Sting vs. Vader (7/12/92) – ★★★★
There’s a pretty natural story to all Sting/Vader matches, but they work because Sting isn’t that much smaller than Vader. Like Flair/Funk, this is another WCW rivalry that I don’t think has really gotten its due. I never doubted that Sting had a chance to win in this match. Even if the story isn’t the most unique, the storytelling throughout is so well done that I got deeply invested into this match. We also get a nice post-match promo from Vader included.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (6/18/95) – ★★ 1/2
While there is a good storyline behind this match, I never felt that the action really matched up well with the story. At times, the match became too “traditional”, while at other times you could see a ton of hatred coming from Savage. The appearance from Angelo Poffo at ringside is fun, since he is unknown to modern day fans.
Falls Count Anywhere Match: Diamond Dallas Page vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (6/15/97) – ★★★ 1/4
While this match can only be described as “a mess”, it still is a fun mess. It’s very entertaining, but it’s fairly silly at the same time. You can certainly understand why this was such a popular feud at the time, though; the guys do have great chemistry, even through a heavily gimmicked match like this one.
Respect Match: Ultimo Dragon vs. Psicosis (6/15/97) – ★★★
The crowd was into this match a lot more than I thought they would be. This helped keep me engaged as well. When you watch a cruiserweight match, you usually just want a lot of high-flying offense, but Psicosis’s character (with Sonny Onoo in his corner) prevented the match from being just that. It helped give the match a story, even if there wasn’t as much high-flying as expected.
Chavo Guerrero vs. Eddie Guerrero (6/14/98) – ★★★ 1/2
There was some excellent storytelling going in this match, with Chavo having recently made his debut in WCW. The actual storyline behind the match seemed a little convoluted, but it didn’t take away from the match at all. There is some great action throughout, and it’s no surprise the two had such good chemistry, even this early in Chavo’s career.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match: Dean Malenko vs. Chris Jericho (6/14/98) – ★★ 3/4
Jericho/Malenko is yet another overlooked feud in WCW, and this match shows why the crowd got so into this rivalry. Malenko was never the most charismatic guy in the ring, but Jericho helped bring out the best in him. The ending to this match is a little goofy, though. I understood the reason Malenko would get angry and get DQ’ed, but the brawl backstage felt very forced.
Rowdy Roddy Piper & “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan & Bret “Hit Man” Hart (6/14/98) – ★★
Like a lot of WCW main events around this time, the star power is this match makes it fun. Of course, this match would have been a lot better in the late 80’s, but we’re getting it in the late 90’s here. I honestly thought this would be a lot worse than it was. It’s a fairly standard match, but there is nothing too terrible about it.
Ambulance Match: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Mike Awesome (6/11/00) – ★ 3/4
The Ambulance Match is one of the dumber gimmicks in wrestling history, and this match doesn’t help to disprove that argument. The match is also shockingly short for a match that shouldn’t end until one person is completely incapacitated. The ending, of course, is pretty dumb as well.
WCW Championship Match: Jeff Jarrett vs. Kevin Nash (6/11/00) – ★
Even before the “WCW booking” takes over, the match itself here is painfully dull. It gets more interesting once all of the interferences start, but by then this isn’t much of a match to begin with. Of course, the match does end with a Goldberg heel turn, one of WCW’s poorer decisions towards the end of the company. This is also fairly significant because it is one of the first appearances on WWE Home Video of Rey Mysterio without his mask.
Blu-ray Exclusive Matches
Steel Cage Match: Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA, & Baby Doll vs. The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette (7/86) – ★★ 1/4
While this match isn’t really anything special, this is one of those matches that is cool to see simply for the historical value. This is pretty early in Cornette’s career, so it’s fun to see him in the ring a little bit with the Midnight Express. The dream team on the other side of the ring is cool to see as well. Don’t expect anything awesome out of the match, but you will have fun watching it for sure.
NWA Championship Match: Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger (7/88) – ★★★ 3/4
Without question, Flair brought the best matches out of Luger over his entire career. This one isn’t any different. It’s a pretty long match, but Luger holds his own the entire time, and the match is put together very well. The runtime of the match flew by, which often doesn’t happen with matches of this era.
Russian Chain Match: Sting vs. Nikita Koloff (6/14/91) – ★★ 1/2
Sting & Nikita did about as well as you can do when given the Strap Match gimmick. Every Strap Match ends the same, and this one is no different. This match type can definitely be added to my personal list of least favorites. Sting & Koloff do have pretty nice chemistry, though.
Kevin Greene & Steve McMichael vs. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson (6/16/96) – ★ 1/2
I have no idea why this match goes as long as it does (including entrances, it is around 25-30 minutes). For two non-wrestlers in Greene & McMichael, they try to hold their own, but the match is simply too long to work. The antics at ringside are probably the highlight. I will say, I did feel a bit uncomfortable at the end of the match seeing Benoit and his wife in the ring together, but unfortunately we can’t do anything about that at this point.
WCW Championship Match: Kevin Nash vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (6/13/99) – 1/2 ★
To be fair, this is barely even a match. Savage beats the hell out of an injured Nash until Nash attempts to make a comeback, and then there is a screwjob finish with the WCW return of Sid Vicious. Typical late-era WCW nonsense.
It’s shocking to me that a Blu-ray focusing on only The Great American Bash is a better Blu-ray than a general release on WCW PPV matches, but it is superior in pretty much every way. In regards to the match selection, the highs are quite high, and the lows aren’t too numerous. The matches that are bad are what I like to call “WCW bad”; they still can be entertaining because of the insanity surrounding them, even if they aren’t very good. While you do get a lot of matches from Sting & Flair, I still felt like there was enough variety to keep things interesting. There also are very few “filler” matches; this felt like it really was the best of Great American Bash. In this way, this set reminded of last year’s In Your House Blu-ray, although the matches aren’t nearly as strong here as they were on that release.
The other major factor that this Blu-ray has going in its favor over Best WCW PPV Matches is that there are a good number of matches that are not available on WWE Network. This helps make the release not feel completely superfluous if you already have a subscription there. These matches were all pretty good “main event caliber” matches. As much as I enjoyed the matches on this Blu-ray, it would have been difficult to recommend it if everything here were available on the Network. However, this disc makes the set a much easier recommendation. Plus, you get the entertaining commentary from Dusty & Zbyszko. The Blu-ray extra matches ranged from great to pretty bad. I can’t say that this is a must buy on Blu-ray over DVD, but the first three extra matches are all pretty good, and the six-person cage match is a neat piece of wrestling history that was previously unavailable. I didn’t think I would be saying this going in, but I’m happy that my assumptions were wrong, and I can give this Blu-ray a pretty solid recommendation.
Get your Best of Great American Bash DVD/Blu-ray
– USA: This Tuesday! Gets yours now here on Amazon.com.
– UK/Europe: This Monday! Pick up your copy now from WWEDVD.co.uk.
– Australia: August 2nd. Pre-order now from WWEDVD.com.au.