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Default June 15th, 2003: Great American Bash

June 15th, 2003

From PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Attendance: 35,110

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

Official Theme Song: "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Billy Kidman (w/Torrie Wilson) vs. Brian Kendrick

I told these guys to go all out to try and get this show off to a hot start. I'm not sure if that was a bad idea for Kendrick or if he was letting the pressure of the moment get to him, but he looked off his game here. His performance was still not that far behind Kidman's overall though, so I still believe he has a bright future in WCW. This was a good match all in all, and it was successful in getting the fans into this show.

After about ten minutes of fast-paced cruiserweight action, Kendrick blew Torrie a kiss. She recoiled in disgust and climbed onto the apron to yell at him, but was very nearly knocked off the apron when a charging Kidman had to slam on the brakes to avoid crashing right into her. Kendrick took advantage of the situation by rolling Kidman up and stealing the pin.

Grade: 80
True Heroes and Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. Salvation (w/Father Isaac)

With Lance involved, I chose to let them call this one in the ring, with Lance obviously leading the way there. Punk didn't seem to be at his best tonight, but he was still the best overall performer in the match. He, Lance and Mortis were noticeably above the other three, though it's not like anybody was terrible. Sharing the ring with such talented workers was good for both Chavo and Destroyer. Chavo showed some great fire while brawling with the Salvation members, and Destroyer held up admirably with Lance's technical skills. This match wasn't going to blow anyone away, but it was fine.

The match eventually ended up with Mortis stranded in the wrong corner, being isolated and broken down by the teamwork of True Heroes. Storm took him down and locked in the Calgary Clutch, and Punk and Chavo made sure Alexander and Destroyer couldn't break it up before Mortis tapped out. Mortis is the most over member of his team and the second biggest star of the group outside of Unnatural, but he took the loss here as punishment for the failed drug test. Hopefully he'll clean up his act, or it's really going to limit his potential.

Grade: 75

The Empire cut a group promo backstage. Corino and Bischoff handled all the talking, with the rest standing in silent support. Palumbo was very underwhelming in his silent role, but fortunately he was just a bit player. They didn't make more than a passing mention of Austin, because the real focus here was on hyping the tag match against the Steiners. Corino said he was sure Scott Steiner had to cheat his way through his tests at Michigan, because there was no way he was smart enough to graduate from a legitimate university like that.

"No one with a college education would ever be stupid enough to call out Goldberg!" he said. "No one with half a brain would be dumb enough to call Goldberg's manhood into question! And tonight, "Big Poppa Chump", you're going to find out that Goldberg is still man enough to beat the living crap out of you AND your stupid brother!"

Goldberg paced back and forth with a snarl as Corino talked him up, and between Corino's promo and his angry behavior, he came across really well here.

Grade: 100

Hayabusa vs. "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson {}

Last month's match was about holding back and sacrificing match quality for the sake of the story, but there were no such restrictions in place this time. I let them call it in the ring, which was fine with Danielson there to lead it. I also told them to really go all out this time, and that was a mistake. Hayabusa did not do well at all, rushing through big spots and not looking nearly as crisp as usual. He was really off here, so it was up to Danielson to salvage what he could. Fortunately Bryan was up to the task. He did a great job here, saving the match with some good technical wrestling and ensuring it was still better than their Mayhem bout.

After Danielson narrowly kicked out of a Falcon Arrow, Hayabusa dragged him over to the corner for his Phoenix Splash. Bryan still had enough left to get up, cut him off on the top rope and execute a belly to back superplex that ended the match.

Grade: 79

The Jung Dragons came out after the match, all holding signs that read "Objection!" Stacy stood back and waved her sign, leaving the talking to Hayashi and Yang this time. Kaz explained that this match should never have happened, because not only did he pin then-cruiserweight champion Christopher Daniels and never receive a title shot, but he and Yang won a tag match against current champion Danielson and his #1 contender and again received nothing. Yang took over, saying he and Kaz were both victims of a massive conspiracy, and they objected! When Danielson looked as if he was going to go up the ramp and confront them, Yang quickly took several steps backwards. That was the indication that he's switching to a conspiracy victim gimmick like his partner, but Yang's is less cocky and more cowardly. I thought he did a good job with it, and the gimmick should get over really well. Stacy contributed a lot to the segment even without talking, as her presence does a lot to help the Jung Dragons get a bigger reaction.

Grade: 74
Hardcore Rules:
Rob Van Dam (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Bobby Roode (w/Ric Flair)

I'm not a big fan of hardcore wrestling, but it fit the story in this particular match, so I made an exception. Van Dam was right at home in this environment and turned in a great performance, no surprise after all the years he spent in ECW, and Roode adapted to it admirably well in his own right. But I'm not the only one who isn't a fan of these kinds of matches. Our crowd has grown used to great wrestling, and they didn't respond as well to this hardcore match. There was a lack of psychology here, but I guess that's to be expected when they spend most of the match hitting each other with weapons instead of telling a story. That just goes to show how good the work actually was and how much people care about Van Dam, because even with the lack of storytelling and the fans being against this style, this was still the best match of the show to this point.

The basic idea here was that with Heyman's influence, RVD had rediscovered his "hardcore spirit" and returned to his Philadelphia roots, and despite the best efforts of Roode and Flair to find a chink in the armor, this was a different Rob Van Dam than they'd been dealing with previously. He beat on Roode with a chair until he was barely moving, and likely could have just pinned him there, but instead did a sort of running legdrop that drove the chair into his face. Still not done, he hopped onto the top rope, did his finger pointing pose, and came down with the Five Star Frog Splash. Then, and only then, did he make the cover and end the match.

Grade: 84

They'd already won the match and made their point, but it wasn't enough for Heyman. He shouted for "MORE!", and Van Dam obliged. He gave the downed Roode several punches to the face, and Heyman began helping him set up a table in the ring. Flair entered to put a stop to it, but RVD knocked him down with a thrust kick to the face before returning his attention to Roode. RVD and Heyman rolled Roode onto the table, and he sent him crashing through it with a Five Star Frog Splash!

Flair got back up and tried to shove RVD out of the way so he could help Roode up, but Heyman punched him in the back of the head. Ric turned and grabbed Paul by his leather jacket, but that was all he got to do before RVD whacked him across the back with the chair. That shot dropped Ric to his knees, and RVD grabbed him by the back of the head and threw him into the buckles, where Ric slumped down. RVD and Heyman shared a look, and Paul crouched down and held the chair in front of Flair's face. RVD walked over to the opposite side of the ring, and despite the pleading of two referees and a few members of staff, he took flight and delivered a deadly Van Terminator!

More bodies came rushing out from the back, with Arn Anderson at the head of the pack. He yelled at RVD and Heyman, asking them what they thought they were doing. RVD just shrugged, smirked and did his finger pointing again as Heyman applauded. Arn shook his head in disgust and bent down to check on Flair, who was now donning the crimson mask. RVD's performance was good here; his mannerisms and swagger throughout the entire segment really worked.

Grade: 90
The Steiner Brothers vs. Goldberg and King Corino (w/Eric Bischoff)

This was never going to be about great ring work. This match was all about the story, and the story was Scott Steiner vs. Goldberg. The crowd really came alive any time those two shared the ring, though we kept such moments teasingly brief. Goldberg and Corino didn't mesh as a team at all, and everything was awkwardly paced as a result. Then again, I'm not sure Goldberg has ever really worked well with a partner.

Despite Goldberg and Corino being the two most over heels on the roster, this was the Scott Steiner show. Scott carried this match the whole way, from tossing Corino around with crisp suplexes to his great brawling exchanges with Goldberg. I don't know if it was the heat of the moment or what, but Scott seemed to take his already solid brawling to another level during this match. There wasn't a ton of selling on display here, but that didn't stop this from being a good match.

The brief teases of Scott vs. Goldberg finally boiled over into an explosive brawl on the outside. Scott held his ground and matched up physically with Goldberg like virtually no one else in WCW can do, but he should have been paying more attention to what was happening inside the ring. Rick's best days are behind him both in kayfabe and for real, so it wasn't much of a surprise to anyone when Corino dumped him with the piledriver to end the match, after which he and Bischoff had to pull Goldberg away from his fight with Scott.

Grade: 82

Shane Douglas vs. Sean O'Haire {}

We'd played up the idea that Douglas would need to have a strong game plan if he was going to defeat the physically superior O'Haire, and that plan consisted of attacking the champion as he was on the ramp. Rather than trying to go after him head on though, he attempted to go low and take his legs out with a chop block. Sean saw it coming though; he blocked it and knocked Douglas down with a clothesline on the ramp.

Thus began a fast-paced, all-out brawl. Douglas was adept at working that style of match so that was a plus, but they didn't tell a story that made a whole lot of sense. The idea was Shane knew he needed to outsmart O'Haire, so engaging him in what became a more straightforward brawl didn't fit. Both guys performed at about the same level, and the match was fine but didn't stand out. It came down to Douglas wrestling O'Haire down to the mat and going for the crossface, only to have Sean power out of it and hit the Widow Maker for title defense #12.

Grade: 76

We sent it to Roddy Piper and Bobby Heenan backstage, allegedly so they could offer their analysis of the three way main event, but that wasn't actually what happened. Bobby quickly hijacked the segment to condemn the actions of Rob Van Dam and Paul Heyman. An emotional Heenan shouted that Ric Flair was more than just a legendary champion and a Hall of Famer--in professional wrestling, he was a GOD! Bobby wished Ric a speedy recovery, and publicly begged someone to beat RVD and Heyman back to the bingo hall they came from.

Grade: 89

"Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels and Brian Adams vs. The Hardys {}

First things first: both Hardys were awesome tonight. The effort and desire to put on a great match were there. Maybe they would've done so with different opponents to work with, but tonight's match was merely passable. A lot of that is down to Brian Adams. He would've struggled to hold up his end even under the best of circumstances, and it was even more noticeable tonight because he was frequently out of position and seemingly lost as to what he was supposed to do. The match was also set back by a lack of a ring general in there to hold the story together, which seems to be a recurring theme with Hardys matches now that Lance Storm isn't in the picture.

Matt hit the Twist of Fate on Adams, and since Daniels and Adams had already used the one save they were allowed, Jeff turned around on the apron to play to the crowd as the match was ending. Daniels entered the ring anyway, attacked Matt and hit the Last Rites, which had Jeff shouting for the DQ. He, as well as Mike and I on commentary, were stunned when ref Marty Rubalcaba not only didn't disqualify the challengers, but counted three as Daniels covered Matt!

A postmatch replay revealed that, unbeknownst to everyone but the referee and Daniels himself, the Fallen Angel had tapped Adams on the back to make a blind tag just as he was about to be hit by the Twist of Fate. It had been a cunning move by Daniels, a good call by the official, and a stunning title change.

Grade: 78
We showed footage of a press event in Australia promoting next month's Bash at the Beach coming to the Land Down Under for the second straight year. Sting, Made in Italy w/Dawn Marie, Fit Finlay, Minoru Tanaka, Harry Smith and Konnan were all on hand to plug the show, which I'm strongly considering keeping in Australia every year as a new annual tradition.

Grade: 67
"The Hellraiser" Steve Austin vs. TAKA (w/Eric Bischoff)

I had considered making this a lengthy epic, but that didn't seem to fit in this particular situation with these characters. Instead they went for 13 or 14 minutes and worked a match that was all action. That worked well for TAKA, as the pace of the match really accentuated his flashy aerial offense. He looked great here, landing on Austin with a dive over the top rope and onto the ramp, as well as a beautiful top rope Asai moonsault. As great as he was, Austin was even better. The crowd loved him and popped big for everything he did. But for whatever reason, this match just never rose above being decent. Maybe it was the length, maybe the fans didn't buy TAKA as a physical threat to Austin. I don't know, but whatever it was, I have to consider this match a disappointment that failed to meet my expectations.

Obviously the story here was that TAKA had to use his exciting aerial moves to try and put Austin down, because if Austin got to turn it into a brawl it wasn't going to end well for The Empire. Austin did eventually get TAKA grounded with punches and kicks, and Bischoff could see things going the wrong way. Eric climbed onto the apron to provide a distraction, and it worked, as Austin stared him down long enough for TAKA to recover and connect with a springboard dropkick. It was a short-lived success though, because Austin fought his way back and hit the Stunner to win the match.

Grade: 78

Diamond Dallas Page vs. "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles {}

The story was clearly defined here. DDP wasn't the athlete AJ Styles was, especially now at 47 years old, but he had years of experience plus a feared finishing move to fall back on. Styles was consistently one step ahead of Page, who struggled to slow down the amazing athlete. Yet Mike and I stressed that one Diamond Cutter was likely all he would need to become a 3 time US Champion, and the veteran would be looking for that one perfect opportunity to hit it. Beyond the story, Page's declining physical skills were readily apparent here. He was never an elite worker anyway, but he's slowing down a lot now. It was up to AJ to carry this match, and he did so. Styles is a phenomenal worker, no pun intended, and he's right on the cusp of main event stardom. He took on the responsibility here, and with him leading the way, this equaled the RVD/Roode match as the best of the night up to this point.

DDP continued to look for that one chance to snap off a Diamond Cutter, and he finally created that chance for himself by using his veteran expertise to sucker AJ into thinking he was more weakened than he was. Styles was caught flat-footed and walked right into the Diamond Cutter! Dallas made the cover and hooked the leg, and Rubalcaba counted once...


...but AJ got a foot across the bottom rope just before the 3!

Dallas couldn't believe it, but he was too smart to waste time complaining. He pulled AJ up by the hair and went straight for a second Diamond Cutter, but Styles countered with a belly to back suplex. Page was slow to his feet, and when he did get up he was met by AJ's Phenomenon DDT. Styles dragged Dallas close to the corner, executed the Spiral Tap and retained his title over the three time world champion.

Grade: 84

The Unnatural (w/Father Isaac) vs. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. {}

Before the match, we aired a video package with pre-taped comments from all three guys. They didn't break any new story ground, but they did a strong job of repeating some of the same points previously made and it was slickly edited. The video definitely gave this a big fight feel and got the fans at home more excited for the match.

Grade: 100

The Unnatural seemed to be walking into an impossible situation here. He'd thrust himself into this match, which neither Rey or Eddie could be pleased about, and he'd stirred the two friends up and all but encouraged them to work together against him. To make matters worse, all three men were legal at all times, meaning Mysterio and Guerrero had all the time in the world to double team him if they so chose. Playing off of that build, the early minutes of this match saw The Unnatural battered from one end of the ring to the other by his two opponents. All of his attempts to fight back were promptly snuffed out, and it looked like only a matter of time before he was eliminated and we ended up with Guerrero vs. Mysterio for the title.

Rey was about to run the ropes for another attack on Unnatural, but Eddie suddenly wrapped him up in a schoolboy! Everyone was surprised as Nick Patrick slid into position and counted once...


...but Rey kicked out!

Rey popped back up to his feet and stared at Eddie, who just smiled, shrugged and made the "belt around the waist" motion to make his point clear. Rey nodded, understanding that Eddie had seen an opportunity to eliminate him and then just have a wounded Unnatural to finish off, and seemingly not holding it against him. But even if Rey understood, the two of them working together in this match was now a thing of the past. Guerrero and Mysterio locked up and jockeyed for position, and now all three men were officially out for themselves. Rey and Eddie went back and forth with some exciting fast-paced action reminiscent of their classic battles over the Cruiserweight title years ago while Unnatural sat in the corner and recovered. Eventually Unnatural got back up and dropped them both with a leaping clothesline, and thus the match proper really got underway with everyone in on the action in a true three way match. The slow build up to Eddie's sneaky pin attempt had gotten the crowd warmed up and ready for this next phase, as I'd given them the freedom to call this in the ring and judge for themselves when the right time to shift gears came, and they worked it perfectly.

It was tense as everyone found themselves on the wrong end of near-falls more than once, and it became a combination of looking to hit big moves to score an elimination while also watching your back and taking care not to find yourself in a precarious position out of nowhere thanks to the third man. Rey solved this dilemma by sending Unnatural to the floor with a tiltawhirl headscissors, then turning his attention to Eddie. He lifted Eddie onto the top turnbuckle and climbed up for a super hurricanrana. But Guerrero knew him well; he had that move scouted and had a perfect counter prepared. He beautifully turned it into a Black Tiger Bomb off the top rope, and Nick Patrick counted once...


...and a third time! Rey Mysterio Jr. was the first man out!

As the shock of that wore off, it began to set in that we were guaranteed a new World Heavyweight Champion. It was one fall between Eddie Guerrero and The Unnatural to determine who would leave Pittsburgh with the gold for the first time. The Unnatural came back into the ring, and he and Eddie began brawling. Unnatural won that battle and got a close call with his old Curtain Call move from his WWF days, but when he attempted the Unnatural Selection, Eddie blocked it, spun out and snapped off a trio of rolling vertical suplexes. He kept up the pressure with a brainbuster that brought about a long two count, and then he headed up top for the same move that he used to beat Hulk Hogan for the WWE title, the frog splash. He took flight to deliver the finishing blow that would bring him to the top of the mountain in WCW for the first time.

But The Unnatural got his knees up! Eddie took his shot and came up empty! The former Dustin Rhodes yanked him up to his feet and again went for Unnatural Selection, and this time Eddie had no counter. Unnatural hooked the leg, and Nick Patrick's hand came down once...


and a third time! After 14 years of effort and a grueling 33 minutes and 53 seconds tonight, the son of the American Dream had finally reached the same pinnacle his father reached three times before him!

Grade: 99

He was winded and his face paint was partially smeared, but The Unnatural had finally done it. He was joined in the ring by the rest of Salvation, who helped him to his feet. When Nick Patrick handed him the title belt, he barely spared it a glance before handing it to Father Isaac. Instead, he called for a microphone.

"Tonight is a night none thought would ever happen," he said through gasps. "Even I myself doubted it would ever come to pass, but it was only made possible by the support of my family. No, not my father the American Dream, or my sister the former cheerleader, or my half-brother the standout amateur wrestler in the state of Georgia. I'm speaking of my true family; Father Isaac who gave me purpose, and my brothers surrounding me who lent me their strength.

"If I'd won this title before I found Salvation, I'd have selfishly thought only of the ways it would benefit me. The adoration it would have won me, the money in my bank account. Now those things mean nothing to me. I won this title not for me, but for all of you. Now that I have won this championship I have greater influence and my voice carries more weight. Listen to me, and I will help each and every one of you find your own personal Salvation."

Dustin did a great job here despite his fatigue, and Mortis also came across well in his role of silent support.

Grade: 91

Show Overall Grade: 96
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