Vol. 38: The Great American Bash ’85: Freedom Challenge

The inaugural edition of The Great American Bash was held on July 6, 1985, at The American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Much like the early Starrcades and the first WrestleMania, the show was carried on Closed Circuit television because Pay-Per-View TV was still largely a new concept.

2:15 – The Event

Jim Crockett Promotions had great success with Starrcade. Shortly after they bought the 6:05 PM timeslot Dusty convinced them to run a second major show, this time in the summer. After all, JCP still had their own territory in The Carolinas and now they had control of a Georgia territory as well. It only made sense to use talent from both territories under the GAB banner. On top of that, The Crocketts already owned a baseball stadium so they had a large venue to hold it in. As for the programming, it is worth mentioning that wrestlers, especially heels, would have multiple feuds at once. So when going over these storylines and feuds, other names will be involved that might not make the card.

12:15 – The Angles

JJ Dillon was the manager of Ron Bass. Approximately one month prior to the event, Bass unsuccessfully challenged Ron Garvin for the NWA National Championship. Shortly after that, Dillon started courting Landell as a new protege over Bass. This caused Bass to turn on his manager.

Ole and Arn Anderson were the third incarnation of The Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Buzz Sawyer and Dick Slater had been feuding with them over the titles. The Andersons had tried to blind Buzz Sawyer and even attacked Buzz’s brother Brett.

Paul Jones had his Army, which consisted of Superstar Billy Graham, The Barbarian, and Abdullah The Butcher. Manny Fernandez, Sam Houston, and Buzz Tyler were all relatively new to the scene. Houston had been on TV for a number of weeks as an enhancement talent who repeatedly would get pummeled in matches. More recently, he started getting noticed after scoring some victories.

Paul Jones and his Army also had an enemy in “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant. They attacked Valiant and struck him in the neck with a cane. The blow caused so much damage to his throat that he was unable to speak. As a result, Valiant had to write his thoughts on a chalkboard instead of talking. Valiant challenged Jones to a match to get revenge. Jones, who was an accomplished wrestler we talked about on a previous episode, promptly accepted the challenge. What Jones did not realize was Valiant specifically asked for a Dog Collar Match instead of a standard match. Once jones learned of the match stipulation, he desperately wanted out of the match. As a compromise, both men were allowed a second man to be in their corner. Valiant chose Buzz Tyler while Jones picked Abdullah The Butcher.

The Russians (Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff, and Krusher Kruschev) held both the NWA World Tag Team Titles and the NWA World Six-Man Tag Titles. They also had the advantage of The Freebird Rule where any two of the three could defend the Tag Team Championships. The Road Warriors were the AWA tag team champions and were effectively making their in-ring debuts for Crockett on this show. AWA promotor Verne Gagne sent tapes of Road Warrior highlights and promos to set up a title-for-title match.

Another up-and-coming superstar was Magnum TA. He was gaining popularity very quickly because he would often win his matches in under a minute. This made him a “dragon slayer” of sorts because he would take on all comers. Magnum had previously worked with Kamala in Mid-South, so Kamala was brought in as a proverbial dragon for him to slay.

Ric Flair and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship were in the US Champion Magnum TA’s sights. Since this was the 1980s and the middle of The Cold War, the story was that Koloff was ordered by The Kremlin to capture the NWA World Title from Ric Flair. A series of vignettes aired that showed Koloff vigorously training. Nikita even knocked out David Crockett. Flair petitioned that Koloff not be suspended or fired for the incident because he wanted to get revenge for David in the ring. Flair put the title on the line against Nikita in a match with Crockett as the special guest referee. So Flair was a babyface in the Carolinas and in the context of this match, even though he was a heel just about everywhere else.

Dusty was a constant presence on Crockett programming, often cutting multiple promos during a single episode. On the 6/8 edition of WCW, Dusty was part of the commentary with Tony and David. He had suffered cracked ribs at the hands of Abdullah The Butcher. Blanchard, knowing Dusty was injured, would taunt him from the ring during matches. Dusty eventually hit the ring to go after Tully. Baby Doll scratched Dusty in the eyes with her nails and Blanchard attacked the ribs. Afterward, Tully would question how Dusty could deal with him if he got stopped so easily by a woman. Dusty managed to up the ante and added a stipulation that if he won the title, he would get Baby Doll as a valet for 30 days. It’s a pretty safe bet this angle probably couldn’t be done today.

1:03:45 – The Card

“Nature Boy” Buddy Landell d. “Cowboy” Ron Bass – Most of the match saw Landell Bass smack around Bass and Dillon attacking him when Landell would throw him to the outside. Bass fired up and was making a fiery comeback when the bell sounded to signify the time limit expiring. After the match, Bass got a measure of revenge by putting Dillon in The Claw.

NWA National Tag Team Champions The Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Ole & Arn Anderson) b. “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer & Dick Slater when Ole pinned Sawyer – All four men brawled before the match began. The match itself was packed with action with the babyfaces getting the shine in the opening minutes. The heels managed to cut off Slater and got the heat on him. Sawyer eventually got the hot tag and twice seemingly had the pin on Arn. However, while the referee was distracted, Ole managed to break up a pin with an elbow drop. He and Arn then switched places before the referee turned around. Unfortunately, the ref did not see that the illegal man was making the cover and counted the fall anyway.

“The Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez, “Avalanche” Buzz Tyler, & Sam Houston b.”Superstar” Billy Graham, The Barbarian, & Abdullah The Butcher when Houston pinned Graham with a roll-up – Going by the names involved it would seem that Fernandez was the most experienced guy on the babyface team. The heels got the heat on Houston, who looked like he weighed 160 pounds. However, unlike the last match, there was no hot tag. Houston hit a body press on Graham. The heels broke the pin, leading to all six men getting into the ring and brawling. During the melee, Houston managed to roll up Graham and get the pin.

“The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant p. Paul Jones in a Dog Collar Match – Jones tried to put the collar on Abdullah rather than wear it himself. While the referee was trying to keep Jones and Tyler apart, Abdullah hit Valiant with a spike before the match even started, putting Jones at an advantage when the bell finally sounded. Jones dominated the early part of the match until Valiant made a comeback and caused Jones to collide with an interfering Butcher. Valiant managed to follow up with an elbow drop to get the pin.

AWA World Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal w/ Paul Ellering) d. NWA World Tag Team Champions The Russians (Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev in a double-disqualification – The Russians got the heat on Animal until Hawk got the hot tag, and ran wild. The Road Warriors lifted Koloff for a top rope powerslam when Kruschev struck Animal from behind with a chair. Hawk managed to wrest the chair away from Kruschev and used it himself. The bell rang while The Road Warriors cleared the ring of the Russians. The match was then officially announced as a double-disqualification.

NWA United States Champion Magnum TA b. Kamala (w/Skandor Ackbar) via disqualification – The champion got brutalized throughout the match but refused to get pinned. A bloodied Magnum made his comeback and hit a series of dropkicks. Ackbar broke a pin attempt, causing a disqualification. While Magnum did not get the pin, he still was able to bodyslam Kamala and hit the Belly-To-Belly Suplex.

NWA World Heavyweight Champion “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair p. Nikita Koloff to retain the title – Koloff dominated much of the match with Flair getting occasional bursts of offense. Ivan tried to help Nikita hit a spike piledriver on Flair. It looked like Ivan missed. A fan ran into the ring but security quickly intervened to break it up. Nikita lifted Flair for a slam only for Flair to fall on him for a quick pinfall.

After the match, Kruschev ran out and helped triple-teamed Flair. Other wrestlers unsuccessfully tried to make the save.

“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes p. NWA Television ChampionTully Blanchard (w/Baby Doll) in a Steel Cage Match to win the title and the services of Baby Doll for 30 days – Tully and Dusty went back and forth with both of them getting busted open. Dusty pinned Tully with a piledriver. That is notable because, at the time, the piledriver was a banned move. However, since this was an unsanctioned cage match, moves that were normally illegal could be used.