Current wrestling fans haven't the appreciation of the past that they should. Long before the biggest party of the summer was the WWE's SummerSlam event, the National Wrestling Alliance and oft-brilliant booker Dusty Rhodes developed a sweltering super card known simply as The Great American Bash.
Developed under Jim Crockett Promotions, the Great American Bash had everything you could possibly want from the greatest wrestlers in the world. Over the year, the Bash would showcase such epic contests as WarGames: The Match Beyond, The Texas Death Match, and the first major encounter between Sting and Ric Flair.
But as time went on, the premise dissolved as World Championship Wrestling dissipated with stale, repetitive programming. By the end of the WCW Great American Bash era in 2000, fans were being treated to Human Torch matches and more Kevin Nash or Jeff Jarrett than was conceivable at the time (10 years later, TNA finds it acceptable).
When the WWE decided to revive the concept in 2004, fans were pensive, but excited. After all, old school fans remembered when the Great American Bash had a superior quality and excellent talents. It doesn't hurt, either, that nearly all fans had been clamoring for some rise in WCW crossover since the demise of the Atlanta-based promotion in 2001.
What followed over the next six years were some of the most forgettable and obtuse matches in WWE pay-per-view history. Entering 2010, The Great American Bash had already been renamed to again distance itself from the “failure” of WCW. Then, it received the proverbial ax in favor of another “concept” pay-per-view, Fatal 4-Way. And sadly, this is definitely for the best.
WWE never had a clue of what to do with The Bash, and certainly had no earthly idea how to give it anywhere near the importance it once had. How exactly do I know this? Here's ten matches from the WWE era of the Great American Bash that will make you beg for 10 more years of the Fatal 4-Way.
After an intriguing build during the spring and summer of 2009, it was put up or shut up time for a budding young star on the RAW roster.
Since being drafted to RAW, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin worked the crowd as one of the best heels on the brand, constantly calling out John Cena and claiming victory over “The Champ” at every no-show. Initially annoying, The Miz's antics proved to be a bright fusion on an otherwise dim card. When the time came for Cena to finally get his hands on the Miz, fans wondered just what kind of outcome WWE could deliver.
Sadly, it was the most predictable, unsatisfying match on the entire card. From the first punch to the final bell, Cena pummeled the Miz in just over five minutes before scoring a decisive squash victory. Scoring almost no offense, The Miz may have been the only one to embrace the 2009 name change to “The Bash.”
It was hard to find a consistent holder of the United States Championship in 2006. Stars won and lost the belt at random, and just when it looked like there was no hope, up-and-comer Bobby Lashley stepped in as a viable option in a sea of pretenders.
But Lashley succumbed to the dreaded Elevated Liver Enzyme fiasco of Summer 2006, leaving him incapable of competing for that very belt in a triple threat match against Finlay and William Regal. Instead, fans were treated to the match sans Lashley, giving us the unwanted dream match from WCW, circa 1998.
Regal and Finlay weren't bad by any stretch, but their mat style and ground-and-pound nature, combined with several random appearances of Hornswoggle, was just too much for the crowd to swallow.
This was billed as a no-disqualification match in an effort to procure a winner from a feud that few paid attention to on Friday Night SmackDown! This was also the opening of the door for Dolph Ziggler to move on to bigger and better things (like losing to John Morrison every week). This was also the rehash of the Kane/Khali rivalry.
But most importantly, this was putrid, vomit-inducing crap.
Ever want to see a match that is so chaotically bad it is good? Then turn your attention yet again to the 2006 Great American Bash for the impromptu battle between Mr. Kennedy and Batista. For you see, this was the third contest on the docket that lived up to the subtext “Card Subject to Change.”
Batista's original opponent, Mark Henry, tore his knee and leg to shreds just a week earlier on Saturday Night's Main Event, leaving the creative team to call on Mr. Kennedy to return from his perpetual injuries a bit sooner than expected. What followed was an exciting and fast-paced affair that would have been great, had not Batista almost killed Kennedy.
Both wrestlers showed their in-ring instabilities against one another so often during their 10-minute escapade that Kennedy's scalp was split open to the point of an exposed cranium. The match ended, unsurprisingly, without any viable or acceptable conclusion.
Let's be real here: The Sandman can't wrestle, and Carlito chooses not to wrestle more often than not. When the two got together for a fantastic idea in 2007, a Singapore Cane on a pole match, we were sure to get a rocking good time.
Item on a pole matches are, in general, very boring. They slow to a crawl with less high risk bumps than a typical ladder match and can't seem to consistently keep within their own rules. Does the match end when you retrieve the item, use it on your opponent, or pin your opponent?
Whatever the case, this was as lame a pole match as you could get with fewer cane shots than you could desire.
Muhammad Hassan was one of the most controversial figures in wrestling history. The days of the evil foreigner changed remarkably in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The WWE recognized the change, and waiting just over three years before unveiling an Arab-American sympathizer in Hassan. The fans, both casual and knowledgeable, ate it up.
A series of unfortunately timed events occurred during the summer of 2005, however, when Hassan's malicious attack on The Undertaker with a group of masked thugs coincided with bombings in London. The response? SmackDown's carrier station, UPN, refused to air an programming that featured Hassan.
Grasping for straws, the WWE changed their plans to make Hassan a champion and buried him once and for all in a one-sided affair against The Undertaker. Such a massive burial is still talked about to this day, thanks to its moral and ethical implications. Hassan never wrestled another match for the WWE. Fans never forgot it either, tuning out in droves thanks to the overtly bizarre pay-per-view.
Under no circumstances will fans on any professional wrestling product in the 21st century accept a no-finish as a pay-per-view main event. No exceptions. Too bad the WWE isn't listening.
When Batista hopped over to SmackDown! as part of the WWE Draft in 2005, he brought the World Heavyweight Championship and a boatload of charisma with him. Batista had recently established himself as the real deal, winning the Royal Rumble, main event of WrestleMania 21, and taking out Triple H three times. Still, he was only a mere speed bump for former WWE Champion, JBL.
In what was a baffling array of run-ins and weapons, Batista was disqualified after JBL was made to look more than competent during the contest. A disqualification of a face champion on a pay-per-view for the purpose of prolonging the feud for another terrible match at SummerSlam? Yep, it happened.
WWE's first incarnation of the Great American Bash was not without some important history: JBL defeated Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Championship, a move that would change the landscape of the WWE for nine months. But to mention this event without mentioning this main event (yes, it went on after the title match) would be a great disservice to schlock fans around the world.
The Undertaker was in a bind. Pesky Paul Heyman had told him previously that if he didn't “do the right thing” and lay down during his two-on-one handicap match against the Dudley Boys, he would encapsulate Undertaker's on-again-off-again manager Paul Bearer in a concrete tomb. Sound silly? It gets better.
After seemingly forever, the Undertaker's moral dilemma was conquered when he chased of Heyman and defeated the Dudleys. Then, despite his win, he STILL suffocated his manager in the glass container with concrete. Inexplicably, Bearer survived (yet was never seen on WWE TV again).
Making matters better, or maybe worse, the WWE accidentally streamed the rehearsal of this sequence online just hours before the event hit the air. Wrestling isn't fake, it's staged, and in this case, VERY staged.
The sheer dynamic here is way, way off. Even when Kane worked a semi-decent match against Khali at WrestleMania 23, there was no way he could do it again with the Animal in the back pocket as well, yet that didn't stop WWE from booking this atrocity in 2007.
Khali had won an over-the-top rope battle royal to become the World Heavyweight Champion prior to this three-way match, but the somewhat ill-fated side-rivalry between Kane and Batista had no heat to a crowd that found the former stale, and the latter, out of date.
If you feel badly for anyone having to pay to see this match, then you should also feel badly for Kane, who was put in the contest solely to make the others look better. Think about that. Without Kane, we might have had Batista vs. Khali straight up, a shoo-in for the number one ranking.
Two big, slow, athletes? Check. A complicated, poorly planned gimmick match? Check. Impossibly dull action? Check. Distorted camera angles? Check. Elevated liver enzymes? Checkmate.
Prepare yourselves for not just the worst Great American Bash match ever, but easily one of the worst of all time.
In the midst of a major, breakout feud with the Undertaker, the immobile Great Khali was slated to have his own concept match dismantle the Deadman. Known as the Punjabi Prison match, the WWE layered the outside of the ring with bamboo cages and perplexing rules that basically indicated that victory was only attainable by escaping the structure.
Escape, mind you, would be only one botched element of this true Chamber of Horrors. Khali had recently been pulled from the contest due to elevated liver enzymes, causing WWE creative to rebook the contest with then-ECW Champion, the Big Show. At this point, wrestling purists shed tears just reading the half-dozen mistakes in that very sentence.
The contest was a boring, plodding punch and kick brawl that featured narrow escapes, rest holds, and a botched finish when the Undertaker and Big Show accidentally broke the outer layer of the prison, thus ending the match. Despite that fact that the Big Show is clearly the first one out (his feet never left the ground), Taker is given the win.
This is easily the worst match the WWE has produced on any pay-per-view in over a decade. Sadly, it was also one of the last indelible images of the Great American Bash.