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Default June 16th, 2002: Great American Bash

June 16th, 2002

From the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa

Attendance: 14,366 (sell-out!)

Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart


American Dragon (w/Chavo Guerrero Jr.) vs. AJ Styles {}

The show started with a cruiserweight title match between two of the brightest young stars in the entire company. I viewed this as almost a test run of sorts, a chance to see how these guys work together. They opened the show tonight, but I could easily see this same match headlining a PPV in the future. I think there were flashes of that potential here, as the in-ring action was nothing short of fantastic. Between AJ's agility and high spots and Danielson's technical wrestling, you could argue that this might have been the best pure match on the show (or maybe second best, but more on that later.) It was held back from being truly great because the crowd only showed mild interest, but I expected that. Both guys are only at middle of the pack status at this point, and they're both babyfaces besides. This was a good match and a nice way to kick off the show, but I fully believe that these guys will have much more memorable matches with each other down the road.

Chavo constantly (and loudly) critiqued the match throughout, which distracted both guys at various points. He did not factor into the finish though, as the beginning of the end came when AJ broke Dragon's grip on an attempted Dragon Suplex and caught him with a back flip kick. From there he was able to go to the top rope and deliver the Spiral Tap to retain the title, which left Chavo shaking his head on the outside.

Grade: B
Yang vs. "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels

My attempts to get Christopher Daniels more over through talking segments met with only minimal success, so it was time to put him in the ring with a fellow cruiserweight and see what he could do. The initial results were promising. This was one of the shortest matches on the show, and that left both guys free to concentrate on delivering plenty of high spots to please the crowd. Both Yang and Daniels did well in that sort of match, and they delivered exactly what they were asked to.

Yang got the upper hand with some mat wrestling (which I thought came across better than it had in any of his previous matches) and went for his Yang Time finisher, but Daniels rolled out of the way. He quickly capitalized with Angel's Descent and won the match.

Grade: B

We ran a segment where Stacy Keibler and Kaz Hayashi cornered Arn Anderson in a backstage hallway. Stacy cited her appearance on the official Great American Bash poster as proof that she and Kaz are valuable to WCW and deserve more opportunities to show it. Torrie Wilson and Kidman overheard and took issue with that. Torrie said everyone knew the poster would've been better if she'd been on it instead, and she also rubbed Kidman's recent Nitro victory over Kaz in Stacy's face. Tempers flared, but Arn and Kidman kept the ladies apart. Stacy didn't do well off-script here and Kaz's nonverbal reactions were pretty bad too, but Arn did very well in his supporting role of trying to be the voice of reason. I'm not sure if this will lead to anything further aside from maybe a rematch tomorrow on Nitro; this was mainly an excuse to get all of these people onto the show. I also wanted to draw attention to the poster to set up something else for the future, so this helped with that as well.

Grade: C+
Alexis Laree vs. Daffney

I told these two to go all out and do their best to impress the fans. I thought Alexis did pretty well with that, but on the other hand the grueling pace seemed to take its toll on her as she was looking tired by the time the match entered the home stretch. This was the worst match on the show, but I was fine with how it turned out considering where both women are at in this stage of their careers.

We played off of the previous misting by Daffney that was the impetus for the feud, as Daffney teased the mist more than once during the match. It never happened though, and Daffney didn't need it either: she suplexed Alexis near the corner and hit the Banshee Knee for the clean win.

Grade: C-
Doomsday vs. The Natural Born Thrillers

A footnote here: initially the Thrillers were penciled in to wrestle Alex Wright and Jamie Knoble on this show as the latter's first PPV after they would've become a full-time team on Nitro weeks before, but Doomsday slid into the match after Wright suffered his torn quad. Get well soon, Das Wunderkind!

Eric Bischoff joined Mike and I on commentary for this match, and when asked why he was there he simply said "Empire business." As for the match itself, I thought the best thing for these two teams was the same wild, brawling type of match they've done before. I think that was the right decision and the match wound up being pretty good, as the two teams offered the fans something different than anything else on the show. They beat the crap out of each other and really laid their shots in. Bryan Clark was the big negative. He's in decline physically and I already knew he would be the worst performer in the match, but his performance was actually worse than usual.

Thankfully O'Haire was able to pick up Clark's slack and then some. He was the clear star of this match, thoroughly outshining everyone, including Palumbo. Ironically it would be Palumbo who scored the fall when he came off of the top rope with a diving shoulderblock on Clark.

Grade: B

Davey came out for an in-ring interview with The Brain. He thanked the fans for welcoming him back at Mayhem last month and said that even though he didn't win that match, simply stepping into that ring was one of the biggest victories of his career. He talked about how it had been a rough few years for him, but didn't really go into specifics. That was by design. I didn't want to focus too much on those very real and very serious issues in this segment, because it was due to take a ridiculous turn.

The Campaign came to the ring, with Lex leading the way in a gaudy red white and blue tracksuit. I kept everything carefully scripted here because most of the people who had speaking roles were spotty at best at delivering solid improv. Lex stuck to his script, which called for him to go on a wildly out of touch rant.

"This is the Great American Bash, Davey! How DARE you stand in this ring on this night of all nights and try and fool these people into thinking that you're some kind of hero! But Iowa is not fooled, Davey! Iowa remembers the atrocities you Brits committed against our forefathers until we fought our way out from under your oppressive rule and gained our independence! The Flex Express had a long trip back over from Japan, and I'm not about to come all that way and listen to your propaganda! This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and you aren't welcome here! So I suggest you pack up your things, have a cup of tea and go back where you came from!"

I think Lex's cocky, delusional patriot gimmick came across very well here and the fans reacted as intended, laughing at Lex and not taking him seriously. Davey continued on with the script, acting baffled by Lex's behavior. He pointed out that the American Revolutionary War ended over 200 years ago, and everybody else had kind of moved on by now. America and Britain were allies and friends now (he even referenced their old Allied Powers tag team in the process.) Lex would not listen to any of Davey's logical points and vowed to fight off the modern-day British invasion on behalf of the country he called home.

Heenan and Gene bantered in the background while this was going on. Bobby tried to get specifics from Gene on how they'd made it across the ocean on a bus, but Gene just shook his head and muttered '"don't ask." Gene was very underwhelming here, as he didn't really do enough to play up the absurdity of the scenario.

Grade: C
#1 Contender's Match:
Rey Misterio Jr. vs. The Destroyer (w/Father Isaac)

This is the third time we've run this match, but the first since Mike Awesome adopted his new masked gimmick. There was no US title on the line this time to provide a boost, but that was more than offset by the fact that both of these guys have seen their popularity rise in the eleven months since their last match at Bash at the Beach. The result was a very good match, which was better than either of their previous PPV bouts and better than anything on the show to this point. Tenay and I plugged that the winner of this match will challenge for the world title next month in Australia at Bash at the Beach.

You really can't do anything other than a David vs. Goliath format with this matchup considering the massive difference in size, so that's exactly what this was. Destroyer caught Rey on a springboard and tossed him to the mat, but the attempted Destruction Bomb was countered into a hurricanrana. Rey hit three springboard legdrops in a row, and that was enough to finish the match and make him the new #1 contender. Visually, I thought that was a better finish than Rey pinning this huge opponent with a rana, and it also protects Destroyer a bit as Rey had to deviate from his normal arsenal to put him down. Regardless, Rey wins the match and moves on to a world title program.

Grade: B+

DDP cut a promo about tonight's main event. It was pretty basic stuff: he recapped sneaking into Booker T's celebration and laying him out with a Diamond Cutter.

"You gettin' paranoid yet, Book? You holdin' that title belt real tight to your chest? I bet you are, because you got a look into your future Monday on Nitro. You know that after all that time you obsessed over getting that world title back, it can be taken away from you with a snap of the fingers, or should I say the snap of the Diamond Cutter? That's all it'll take, Book. One moment, one opening, one Diamond Cutter, and that belt is mine. Bang."

Nothing groundbreaking here, but the feud is so hot and the crowd is so invested that they reacted huge to this while watching it on the big video screen. As Dallas walked away from the backstage set, the camera caught a momentary flash of someone standing in the background. It was a blink and you'll miss it type of thing, and most viewers at home probably would've needed to go back, pause it and stare intently at the screen to make it out who it was. All it took was one hardcore fan to do so and post their findings on the Internet, though, for it to become clear.

Grade: A*
"Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner (w/Midajah) vs. The Unnatural (w/Father Isaac)

Steiner ran at Unnatural right at the bell and floored him with a clothesline before getting in mount position and forearming him across the face repeatedly. That set the tone for what this match was going to be all about. Scotty battered his opponent with strikes, threw him around the ring with suplexes and trash talked him all the while. That's not to say it was a one-sided squash or anything; Dustin got some offense in, usually by capitalizing on a mistake Steiner made in his eagerness to inflict pain.

The story was that Scott could have gone for and potentially gotten the win several times, but he was more concerned with trying to hurt Unnatural. That all led up to Unnatural poking him in the eye to thwart a Seiner Screwdriver, and then rolling him up for a pin seemingly out of nowhere. This was a solid match which would have been better if it had been a bit more give and take rather than Scott dominating for most of it, but it was done in this way both to appease Steiner and to advance the storyline.

Grade: B

Manami Toyota vs. Etsuko Mita {} (w/Eric Bischoff)

As far as talent goes, this is the best matchup we've presented in our women's division. As such, I told them to go all out and do their best to show the fans what our take on women's wrestling is all about. I thought both women rose to the challenge and upped their game accordingly. This was a great, back-and-forth athletic match. They wrestled with a smoothness that WWE's women could never hope to match while also executing moves you'd never see the scantily clad sports entertainment women use. Really the only thing the match was lacking was a true superstar reaction and investment from the fans, but I'm confident that that will come in due time.

Both women teased their established finishers (Toyota's Ocean Cyclone and Mita's Death Valley Driver) multiple times but were unable to hit them. A big high point of the match came when the two women traded punches, chops and headbutts while standing on the ropes, each trying to get the upper hand and deliver a big move. Toyota eventually gained the advantage and connected with a sunset flip powerbomb off of the top rope. Both women sold that for a bit before getting back up to their feet. And then...

Daffney suddenly entered the ring and spat her green mist in the faces of both women!

Grade: B-

Daffney was joined after the match by a woman wearing strange all-white garb, who Mike and I identified to the fans at home as Akira Hokuto. Daffney grabbed the microphone away from the ring announcer and gave Hokuto a bigger intro, calling her the "harbinger of havoc". She talked about the official warning she'd been given by the front office about using her mist. They'd told her that they wanted good, clean and orderly wrestling on their shows, especially from the women since women's wrestling didn't have the best reputation thanks to certain other wrestling organizations, and acts like spitting mist in women's faces caused only disorder. But, far from being chastised, she took it as a compliment. Both she and Hokuto thought that the women's scene would be a lot more interesting with less order and more chaos. And that's exactly what they were going to bring to WCW's women: Chaos! (That's the name of their team, if you haven't pieced that together yet.)

Hokuto did not just stand there and do nothing during Daffney's monologue. She put a beating on both Toyota and Mita the entire time, laying Mita out with a gutwrench powerbomb and dropping Toyota with a Northern Lights bomb. I thought the initial fan reaction to Hokuto's mysterious gimmick was above average even if her performance wasn't great, and Toyota sold the attack really well.

Grade: C-
Sting vs. King Corino (w/Eric Bischoff)

As has become customary for any PPV matches involving Sting or Ric Flair, this match was focused more on telling a story as opposed to having a great match. Sting's physical decline took its toll and diminished the match a bit, but I thought they did a good job at working around his limitations and telling an entertaining story. It was all about Sting attacking Corino's back and softening him up for the Scorpion Deathlock, while Corino spent his time targeting Sting's neck in a clear setup for the piledriver. Sting also kept an eye on Bischoff at ringside. Eric had his bat in hand, but Sting was aware of him and never gave him a chance to use it.

Corino went for the piledriver, but Sting countered with a back body drop. A furry of punches and backhand strikes backed Corino up into the corner, and Sting hurled him halfway across the ring with a hip toss. Corino got up and staggered back into the corner, where Sting pursued him for the Stinger Splash, only for Corino to sidestep at the last second. Sting crashed into the turnbuckles hard, and Corino quickly delivered the piledriver for a surprisingly clean pin.

Grade: B

The rest of The Empire (minus Etsuko Mita) came to the ring to congratulate Corino on his big win. It didn't stop there though; after a bit of bragging, Bischoff said he was in the mood to hit another grand slam. Candido and TAKA held Sting up, and Corino kept his arm extended as Bischoff made a big production of picking up the bat and taking a few practice swings. Before he could take a real swing at Sting's arm...

Ric Flair ran down to the ring, holding a steel chair! The Empire scattered to the floor as Ric swung the chair around indiscriminately, and as they retreated Ric dropped the chair and grabbed the microphone they'd dropped in the ring. This was the angry, intense, screaming side of Flair, who told Bischoff that he'd have to do a hell of a lot better than he did at Slamboree if he wanted to finish the Nature Boy. Better men than him had been taking shots at him for the last thirty years, and he was still standing. If The Empire wanted a war, Flair would give it to them!

"You think hitting my arm with a bat is going to finish me? I broke my back in a plane crash in 1975 and doctors told me I'd never wrestle again, and here I am in 2002! You wanna drive the Nature Boy out of WCW? Give it your best shot, jackass! WOOOOOOOO!"

I wasn't thrilled about him using profanity but such are the risks of handing Ric Flair a live mic, especially when the subject is someone he legitimately dislikes. I guess "jackass" isn't TOO bad though, and it did end this angle on an emphatic note.

Grade: A

The Hardys vs. True Heroes {}

We'd been teasing this match for months, literally from the moment Matt and Jeff first appeared on Nitro on January 28th. Now it was finally time to put both teams in the ring and see what they could do. I had high hopes here. All four of these guys are great individually, both teams have great chemistry, and obviously Matt and Jeff have tons of experience working together. Given all of that, I told them to go out and try to steal the show.

Did they succeed? Yes. Hell yes. Oh my god, without a doubt, yes. This match was nothing short of fantastic. The two teams delivered a nonstop barrage of exciting tag team wrestling that made these belts feel like a bigger deal than at any point in WCW history. The Hardys did lots of flashy aerial moves and double teams, while Storm and Punk wrestled a technical match, with the occasional cheap shot mixed in to get some heat on them. Everything these four guys did worked, and they had the fans on the edge of their seats the whole way. (Some might call it the ultimate thrill ride, but that sounds pretty dumb if you ask me.) I'm not ashamed to admit that even I was completely sucked in by this instant classic. A minor nitpick would be a lack of an epic story told within the match, but I don't think it hurt anyone's enjoyment of the work these two teams did. In my opinion, Matt did also struggle a bit at times with the pressure of trying to steal the show, but the other three guys had no such issues and that more than made up for it.

All four guys were awesome tonight, but Jeff Hardy's performance was on another level even in comparison to the other three, which is saying quite a lot. The fans were electric for every single thing Jeff did, whether it be a high spot like when he took both members of True Heroes out with the Whisper in the Wind, or even something as simple as playing to the sympathy of the crowd as Punk and Storm got heat on him. As long as Jeff stays clean, the sky is the limit. With him leading the way, this was not only a slam dunk match of the night, it was the best match in our history and one of the best matches anywhere in the world so far this year.

After over twenty minutes of thrilling action, the Hardys ended a streak of mat-based dominance from the Heroes when Jeff hit an enzuigiri on Storm. He made the tag to Matt, who came in and went to town on Storm, hitting him with a series of big moves and wisely keeping him well away from his corner where he could tag in Punk. Matt struck with the Twist of Fate! Charles Robinson counted once...


...Punk broke it up, by hitting Matt right across the back with a steel chair! The fans were understandably bummed at the dq finish, but I'm sure they quickly perked up when they realized that this finish was a natural set-up for a rematch.

Grade: A

Scott Steiner barged into the live chat area, with Midajah and his brother Rick trailing behind him. He tossed a producer aside, picked up a computer monitor and slammed it on the floor, smashing it into pieces. (The old WCW would've wasted thousands on a state-of-the-art monitor for this spot; we just used one of our old, broken ones.) He got right in the face of the camera man on hand to record the chat session (for website clips) and delivered an intense promo towards The Unnatural.

"You pinned me tonight, ya freak, but big deal! I coulda beat you any time I wanted to, but I wanted to beat you up instead! And that's just what I did! And I'm gonna keep doin' it, because I ain't done with you yet, boy! You made the biggest mistake of your whole life when you attacked me last month, and this ain't over until I say it is! It ain't over until I beat you up so bad, you'll beg Vince McMahon to take you back and let you dress in drag again!"

The usual Scott Steiner insanity here, but I thought he did a good job staying focused on the feud with Dustin instead of veering too far off into an unrelated tangent like he often does. He came across like a really intimidating presence here.

Grade: B-

Mark Jindrak vs. Shane Douglas {}

This match was always intended as a buffer between the tag title showcase and the main event, and after how amazing the Hardys vs. True Heroes match wound up being, that looked like a very good decision. Obviously this match wasn't going to come anywhere close to the one that preceded it, but it didn't need to. All we were looking for here was a solid match, one that would bridge the gap between the two featured matches without losing the crowd. They accomplished that, and Douglas deserves most of the credit. He knew he had to carry the limited Jindrak if this was going to be any good, and he did.

This match was technique against power, and in this case I don't think anybody was really surprised when Douglas outwrestled Jindrak and made him submit to the crossface.

Grade: B

As Piper promised, he had RVD as his guest on Piper's Pit in Rob's first appearance since losing the title to Booker T last month at Mayhem. Unfortunately, this was another poor performance from Roddy. He took more of a humorous tone as he asked Rob what was next in his career, which was very out of place. RVD did a better job and propped the segment up nicely. He dropped some of the laid-back, 'dude' aspects of his character and was more serious as he admitted that losing the title had been a big blow to him. But he wasn't going to go down the same path Booker T went and go off the deep end. He wasn't going to become bitter and whine all the time like Booker. Instead, he was going to bounce back, show his one of a kind skills and work his way back up the ladder until he was champion again. As he was talking, the lights suddenly went out. When they came back on...

RVD was laid out in the ring, and standing over him was Mortis and Father Isaac. Isaac said that RVD's talk of redemption and recovery was a wonderful fantasy. But reality would be much harsher on him so long as he continued on his current course. I thought Isaac was very good here, and Mortis did pretty well too when he was handed the microphone. He didn't say much, but he was effective.

"You call yourself one of a kind? The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives, and Salvation is the strongest pack around. You have two choices, Rob: join us and be born anew, or stand alone and be doomed to fall."

Grade: A

Diamond Dallas Page vs. Booker T {}

It was main event time. After that unforgettable tag match, I felt it was virtually impossible for this to go down as the match of the night. I was just hoping for a great match that would allow the show to end on a high note, and I had no complaints in the end. DDP's age is clearly catching up to him. He was gassed by the time this match ended. Luckily Booker had his working boots on. Book did a fantastic job here, essentially carrying Dallas and making sure the match didn't fall apart in the home stretch.

Working off of the TV build, the Diamond Cutter was a key focus of the entire match, with the idea that both men believed one opportunity at that move could mean the end of the match (and in Booker's case, his title reign.) As such, Dallas went for the move frequently, even just a minute or so into the match. It got a good reaction every time, and Booker sold his wariness of the move extremely well. At one point he ducked through the ropes to regroup after narrowly escaping the move, and DDP pursued him out there. That set off a brawl on the floor, which included probably the most memorable spot in the match: DDP went for the Diamond Cutter, but Booker countered with a back suplex on the floor.

Booker dominated when the match returned to the ring but could not put DDP away. Eventually Dallas ducked underneath a Harlem Sidekick and went on a run of offense, but his Diamond Cutter attempt was fended off when Booker saved himself by holding onto the top rope. That proved to be the fatigued DDP's last gasp, as Booker soon hit the Book End to retain the title at 20:53.

Grade: B+

Show Overall Grade: A

The tag title match was a 99, if you're curious.

Thanks once again to K-Nection for the poster.
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