NWA Great American Bash '88: The Price for Freedom

Live from Baltimore, MD

Airdate: July 10, 1988

Attendance: 13,000

Hosted by Tony Schiavone & Jim Ross

Match 1 for the NWA World tag team titles: Tully Blanchard & the “Enforcer” Arn Anderson (champions w/ JJ Dillon) versus Sting & the “Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff


Rating: ***1/2

Summary: Very exciting tag match where Nikita and Sting came up just short.

After the match, Nikita and Sting grab and wear the belts thinking they won. Unfortunately, Cappetta announces the time-limit draw. The challengers think that Blanchard submitted and clear the Horsemen from the ring. Sting and Nikita as tag champions? I’ve seen worse.

Match 2 for the US tag team titles: The Fantastics (champions) versus the Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette)


Rating: ****

Summary: These teams can do no wrong in the ring together no matter the outcome. Excellent work, gentlemen!

After the match, Fulton finds the chain in his tights, tries to convince Young about it, and then knocks Eaton from the ring with it. Upon Cornette’s release from the shark cage, the Fantastics chase him into the ring and whip him with Young’s belt until the Midnight Express saves him.

Bob Caudle briefly interviews Cornette, but the Fantastics run him off.

Match 3 (tower of doom): The Road Warriors, Jimmy & Ron Garvin, & “Dr. Death” Steve Williams (w/ “Precious” Paul Ellering and Precious) versus Kevin Sullivan, the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff, Mike Rotunda, Al Perez, and the Russian Assassin (w/ Gary Hart and Paul Jones)


Rating: *1/2

Summary: Convoluted mess that may have been a good idea in theory but not in execution.

After the match, Sullivan locks the door with Precious still inside. As Sullivan tries to get Precious, Jimmy climbs the Tower of Doom to rescue her. While Sullivan chokes Precious, Hawk ultimately jumps down to the bottom cage and levels Sullivan to a big ovation. Jimmy then escorts Precious from the cage as they embrace. Aw.

Match 4 for the NWA US title: Barry Windham (champion w/ JJ Dillon) versus the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes


Rating: ***

Summary: Windham did everything he could to bring Rhodes to his level; however, it only partially worked. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a bad match.

Afterwards, Rhodes is still OUT COLD as Williams comes out to check on him.

Back in the dressing room, Ron Garvin takes a briefcase full of money from both Dillon and Hart. Aha! So THAT was his motivation!

So let’s set the table for the main event…

In 1987, Luger joined Jim Crockett Promotions and became an associate member of the Four Horsemen until they kicked Ole out of the group. From there, he styled and profiled his way with the Horsemen and won the US title beating Nikita Koloff. Seeing his future climb skyward, Luger wanted to win the World title, but Flair was a fellow Horseman.

However, when Dillon asked for the Horsemen to voluntarily leave the ring during a Bunkhouse Stampede match, it was the final straw for Luger. While Blanchard and Arn exited without question, Luger dumped Dillon over the top rope to the win the night’s main event and severed his ties with the Four Horsemen.

Next, Luger teamed up with Windham and beat Blanchard and Arn for the NWA World tag team titles at the initial Clash of Champions. Their reign would not last as Windham turned on Luger allowing the Horsemen to regain the belts.

Fast-forward to Clash II where the Horsemen jumped Luger coming out of a limousine and bloodied him for the first time in his career. With the best measure of revenge against the Horsemen being a victory for the World title over Flair, Luger had his sights set on the big prize.

Match 5 for the NWA World title: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (champion w/ JJ Dillon) versus the “Total Package” Lex Luger


Rating: ****

Summary: Another great match by Flair as he made Luger look great although I wonder about the outcome.

After the match, Sting, Nikita, and Williams come to the ring to congratulate Luger. As the Baltimore faithful exuberantly chant “Luger,” Cappetta announces that due to the laceration on Luger’s head, Flair wins the match and retains the title. Changing their tune, the Baltimore faithful chant “BULLSHIT,” and I can’t disagree.

Conclusion: Similar to AWA Super Sunday, a terrible injustice occurred here. Whereas common sense and fan reaction dictated that Luger win the belt here, politics and older old-school booking prevailed.

Since Jim Crockett Promotions was losing ground in terms of competition to the WWF, having Luger as World Champion made all the sense in the wrestling universe. While it may not have saved Jim Crockett Promotions, it may have led to a bigger influx in business with Luger at the helm.

This is, by no means, a criticism of Ric Flair. On the contrary, it is a criticism of Jim Crockett Promotions for failing to elevate a wrestler whose time had come in the paying customer’s eyes. Using a state’s law preventing the intentional use of blood in wrestling is not an excuse for failing to elevate Luger here.

Most certainly, this was a definitive turning point for Jim Crockett Promotions, and the effect will be felt going forward.

BONUS FEATURE: Check out a rare backstage video from the Bash tour. Kids, don’t try this at home.

See you for WWF WrestleFest ‘88!

Rating: 5.40

Comments? Suggestions? Send them to me at rsg@rockstargary.com and follow me on Twitter (@rockstargary202).

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