The collection of matches and segments I am watching for this series come from a 1992 Yearbook created by Goodhelmet, a longtime poster at the Death Valley Driver Forum and other wrestling places. A cross-section of the best (and worst of wrestling within a certain year), it is a great snapshot of everything of importance. The footage is taken from July 12-16.
This week on That Was The Year That Was the big focus is the Great American Bash pay-per-view, with two titles to be decided and a lot of high-quality action. I believe it also sees the first-ever match from the RINGS promotion in this series of articles as Volk Han, one of the most highly regarded proponents of shoot style, battled in front of an excitable crowd in Japan.
Before all the fun of the Great American Bash, there is a short WWF Special Report which saw Lord Alfred Hayes rather than Mean Gene take the lead. It always surprises me past the 80s when I see Hayes, as I always assume he left a lot earlier than he did. After advertising the WWF Magazine which has a ‘plethora’ of Macho Man memorabilia, he introduced a music video for the WWF World Heavyweight Champion. Macho Man’s theme accompanied clips of him spinning around, leaping off turnbuckles, and the like. A fun little video, if nothing to write home about.
Alongside a WCW World Heavyweight Title match, the big ‘draw’ of the Great American Bash pay-per-view is the NWA World Tag Team Title Tournament. The different governing bodies for the two titles necessitated Bill Watts explaining that they have different rules with regards to whether moves off of the top rope were allowed. NWA, yes; WCW, no. While Watts does a good job of explaining why there are different rules, likening it to other sports, this shouldn’t be necessary and was just confusing.
Having looked ahead on the disc and saw a match that partnered Jushin Liger and Brian Pillman against Ricky Steamboat and Nikita Koloff, I did wonder what angle might have created the need for it. However, it was a Quarter Final of the aforementioned NWA Tag Title Tournament, meaning it was face versus face without the need for a storyline. On paper, it was a fun styles clash and it largely lived up to my expectations. The speed of Pillman and Liger outwitting Koloff, before Steamboat was able to match pace with his opponents was a fun narrative. It was Liger who upped the ante with a moonsault and a rolling senton in what was an even contest for the most part.
Reading around, there was some suggestion that Pillman was a little bit off, but it wasn’t something I noticed personally. What did happen a couple of times was the referee was out of position on spots, adding a little bit of a sense of things being disjointed. Pillman matched Liger’s earlier offense by nailing a springboard clothesline and a top rope dropkick, but an attempted top rope crossbody on Steamboat saw Ricky roll through for the three count. A great opening match in the tournament and the pay-per-view as a whole.
Another match from the Quarter Final saw Rick Rude and Steve Austin up against Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham as the Dangerous Alliance versus WCW feud continued in some manner. This was unsurprisingly slower than the previous match, though Austin’s early bumping for Windham in particular was fun. It helped that Rude as a heel was also a great bumper, while an early tombstone reversal by Rhodes was a spot that always impressed me. Perhaps surprisingly, Windham was the face in peril, but it spoke to how good Rhodes is as hot tag as well as being the guy who got beat up.
A top rope dropkick by Rude definitely lacked the finesse of Pillman’s from earlier in the night in one of the only ‘off’ moments. The increased frenetic nature of the heels as they tried to keep the ring cut in half was great, all building heat for a huge pop when Rhodes was tagged in. Rhodes had time to nail an excellent back elbow off of the second rope on Austin before a schmozz saw him wipe Austin out with a top rope clothesline for the win. It lacked the heat of previous contests, but was what you’d expect from four excellent workers.
I love a good big guy versus little guy match and while Sting isn’t exactly little, Vader is definitely big as the two met for the WCW World Heavyweight Title. Vader was also one of the best wrestlers on offense in my opinion, allowing for the narrative to build around his ability to bully Sting, meaning the champion had to hit and move or get rolled over. What that builds to are spots such as Sting avoiding a splash and clotheslining Vader over the top rope, resulting in the crowd going absolutely crazy. It also leads to spots such as a sunset flip by Sting earning him nothing more than a vertical splash from the monster, instantly turning the tide.
What it boiled down to was how deep Sting was willing to dig into his playbook. They milked an admittedly impressive Samoan drop spot, while Sting also nailed a variation of a koppou kick and a DDT. That need that had been created to maximise the time on offense ultimately caused the champion’s downfall as he overshot a Stinger splash, hitting the ringpost and busting himself open. From that, he was easy prey for Vader, who won the title with a brutal powerbomb. A really strong title match and it is easy to see why people have always loved the series of matches between the two men.
The set only showed the finish to the NWA World Tag Team Title tournament as Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes fought their third match of the night against a relatively fresh Terry Gordy and Steve Williams, coming into their second match only. The lack of storyline after a big title change meant that the crowd sounded quiet, while the clip that was shown was chock full of rest holds – unsurprising considering the amount of wrestling each team had already done. After a brief brawl with all four men, Rhodes collided with Windham after a bulldog attempt on Williams and Doctor Death finished the match with a vicious clothesline. It is hard to judge a match from a short clip, but this match didn’t look overly exciting to me, mostly due to the constraints of the booking.
Volk Han is a name in wrestling that I’ve always heard a lot about in a very positive manner, yet I have never sought out his work. With that in mind, the next match on the set was from a RINGS event which saw Han take on Andrei Kopylov. Han’s look is one of a friendly spy who will be kind to you one moment before breaking your neck later that night – I like it. RINGS is another promotion where I don’t know the rules, but there seemed to be a limit on rope breaks as Han was soon ‘charged’ a rope break after Kopylov reversed a kneelock in the early exchanges. What helped this match for me, the non-shoot fighting fan, was the feeling of struggle. Though the majority of the match took place on the mat, things didn’t stop moving and the selling of Kopylov, in particular, helped sell the pain of some of the holds.
What also helped was how much the fans were behind Han, meaning they responded positively to each hold and rope break, no matter which man was in control. The exchanges on their feet seemed to be going Han’s way, only for Kopylov to drop him with what felt like a shoot equivalent of a flash knockdown. The finish felt like it came a little out of nowhere, but it was what I can only assume was an upset as a knee submission saw Han tap out. It didn’t maintain my interest the whole way through if I’m honest, though it was one of the better matches of this style that I have seen.
The standout match of this collection has to be Vader versus Sting, though there was nothing that felt like a completed waste of time from the pay-per-view or indeed from RINGS.
Looking around at other reviews of the show, it gets mixed reviews, primarily because of the length of the matches. I can imagine this might have dragged if I watched the whole card, yet getting snippets of it was fun enough for me. Check back in two weeks as I continue to follow 1992 wrestling as That Was The Year That Was.