A Bash is Born
Fans of old school wrestling should be happy to hear about the upcoming WWE DVD
United We Slam: The Best of the Great American Bash. The DVD is scheduled to come out on
July 15, 2014 and features highlights from the Bash’s twenty plus year history.
Originally conceived as a special event for Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP), The Great American Bash would evolve into a national tour, an annual pay-per-view for World Championship Wrestling, and ultimately a pay-per-view for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The Bash would become one of the biggest shows in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), its rich pedigree reaffirmed by the fact that it is the only show from the WCW era to be used as a WWE pay-per-view.
The first ever Great American Bash would take place in July of 1985. Moviegoers were flocking to see Back to the Future, Cocoon, and Rambo: First Blood II while the music world would see artists from across the globe gather together to perform at Live Aid, an extraordinary multi-city concert established for African famine relief. In the world of professional sports, Pete Rose was on his way to breaking Ty Cobbs’ all-time hit record, a record he would break on September 11, 1985.
Professional wrestling had seen a momentous event of its own earlier that year when Vince McMahon launched the first ever Wrestlemania. Rival promoter Jim Crockett Jr. (of Jim Crockett Promotions) had taken notice and while his company had its own annual supershow Starrcade, he undoubtedly felt it was time to steal some of McMahon’s thunder with a big event of his own. The result would of course be, the first ever Great American Bash.
While there were still several organizations doing business against the WWF, Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) was arguably the biggest rival to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The company boasted an impressive roster of talent and a national slot on cable television’s TBS Superstation. To the fans dissatisfied with the WWF’s more cartoonish approach to wrestling, JCP’s more traditional brand of wrestling was a welcome alternative and they rallied to support the company with the hope that their style of wrestling would survive.
The fans got their chance to show their support for JCP when the promotion announced a stadium show known as the Great American Bash. While the show wasn’t a closed circuit event like Starrcade and Wrestlemania, it still received a tremendous amount of coverage in wrestling magazines and became the big show of the summer of 1985. The success of the first Bash affirmed the hopes of wrestling fans who felt there was room in the world for a wrestling product besides the WWF.
On July 6, 1985, JCP held the Great American Bash at Charlotte Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The show was headlined by a match between National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion Ric "Nature Boy" Flair and "The Russian Nightmare" Nikita Koloff. JCP television announcer David Crockett had been appointed special referee after Koloff clotheslined him on national television during an interview segment (to fans who disliked Crockett’s over the top cheering for babyfaces, this was one of the greatest moments in the promotion’s history). Flair overcame Koloff’s weight and strength advantage, utilizing his experience to defeat Koloff and retain his championship.
Other matches on the card included a cage match that saw “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes defeat Tully Blanchard for the World Television Title, a successful U.S. championship defense for Magnum T.A. over Kamala (a match highlighted by Magnum delivering a belly to belly suplex on his much larger opponent), and a successful National Tag Team Title defense for Arn and Ole Anderson against Dick Slater and “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer.
Other bouts included a dog collar match between Jimmy "Boogie Woogie Man" Valiant and Paul Jones, a Buddy Landell vs. Ron Bass bout, and a six man tag match between the babyface team of Sam Houston, Buzz Tyler, and Manny Fernandez against the heel team of Billy Graham, Konga the Barbarian, and Abdullah the Butcher.
For many fans though the biggest match on the card was the much anticipated title vs. title bout between the American Wrestling Association tag champions the Road Warriors and the National Wrestling Alliance tag team champions the Russians (Ivan Koloff and Krusher Krushchev). By 1985, the Road Warriors were firmly entrenched as the hottest tag team in
wrestling but many fans were beginning to take notice of JCP’s powerhouse team the Russians.
This was a classic battle to see who truly was the baddest of the bad. Regrettably, the fans would only get an appetizer rather than an entrée since Nikita Koloff’s appearance against Flair necessitated teammate Krusher Krushchev taking his spot (Like the Fabulous Freebirds, the Russians were a three man team that could select any two of its members - Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff, and Krusher Krushchev to defend their tag team championship). The fans would have to settle for the team of Ivan and Krusher rather than Ivan and Nikita.
Like most title vs. title bouts, this one ended inconclusively with both teams being disqualified. Eventually, the fans would get to see the real dream match when Nikita teamed with his storyline uncle Ivan against Hawk and Animal in subsequent matches.
The inaugural Bash was an unabashed success with a reported 27,000 fans in attendance and a gate of $300,000  . The Bash’s success gave JCP hope that it could turn the tide against the WWF. While JCP would not survive against the WWF, the Bash would live on when JCP was bought out by Ted Turner and became World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
After WCW was purchased by the WWE, the WWE ran the Bash as a PPV from 2004 until 2009. As a fan of JCP and WCW, I hope that the Bash DVD will focus on the JCP and WCW years. The WWE didn’t exactly set the world on fire with its version of the Bash. One of the biggest lowlights of the WWE years was when Paul Bearer was buried alive in cement after the match during the WWE’s first edition of the Bash. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the WWE rolled out a Punjabi Prison Match for the 2006 Bash. One can only speculate what the WWE would have done had it kept the Bash around.
Despite these reservations, I have a feeling that the upcoming Great American Bash DVD will be good. The WWE has proven itself with releases such as The Rise and Fall of WCW, Starrcade: The Essential Collection, War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches, and The Very Best of Monday Night Nitro - DVD’s that capture the best of WCW and remind long-time fans why the promotion was once great.
 Pro Wrestling History. Great American Bash... July 6. 2008