After finding their feet in May in their new regular timeslot with a double PPV special offer, June saw WCW return to their traditional once-a-month special events rota. And they seldom get more special than the Great American Bash.
With the shadow of The Magnificent Seven no longer looming over the Eric Bischoff-led promotion, two of WCW’s ‘Aces’ of recent years will do battle for the World title in our main event between champion Booker T and challenger Goldberg.
But while the Seven are officially no more, Jeff Jarrett still blames Ric Flair and his Spring Breakout-inspired change of heart for the demise of the faction. The two of them go head-to-head tonight, while Sting attempts to make Lex Luger see the light once and for all now that Buff Bagwell is on the shelf and no longer in Lex’s ear.
All that plus four other championship matches are on tap at Baltimore Arena, the venue of so many GAB events in the past.
Opening match: Jason Jett vs Chavo Guerrero Jr
With Shannon Moore accompanying Chavo to the ring, Jett brought Lash Leroux out with him to even the numbers. The contest remained between the two men involved for the most part, with Lash preventing any attempts Moore did make to help Guerrero.
One such instance of Shannon being neutralised at ringside led to a flustered Chavo falling victim to the Crash Landing at 11:28, which continued Jett’s great start to life in WCW. Post-match, Chavo berated Moore for failing to help, despite the fact the former Three Count member did indeed try his best to do exactly that.
Cruiserweight tag team titles: Kidman and Misterio Jr (c) vs The Jung Dragons
Kidman and Rey retained for the second straight PPV, despite Leia Meow’s attempts to swing the match in her charges’ favour more than once. Kidman popped Rey up for the assisted super huricanrana for the win in 15:49. Failure to capture the titles earned Kaz and Yang a whipping from Meow, post-match.
Cruiserweight title: ‘Sugar’ Shane Helms vs Kid Romeo
Helms’ run as ‘The Man’ in the cruiser ranks continued with a hard-fought win over another of 2001’s success stories in the junior ranks, one half of the first ever cruiser tag champs. Romeo’s hubris proved his downfall, as his nonchalant cover attempts and big move setups led to Helms reversing an attempted Last Kiss by slipping out behind and locking Romeo’s arms in for a Vertebreaker hoist, connecting for the three count after 12:17.
Diamond Dallas Page and Dustin Rhodes vs Lance Storm and Mike Awesome
The growing feud between Rhodes and Awesome was the story of this tag team encounter. Dustin, still not at 100% after run-ins with the Career Killer on Saturday Nitro, seemed more focused on hurting Awesome than defeating him. And when he prioritised trying to put Mike through a table of his own at ringside, a Storm intervention allowed he and Awesome to introduce the Texan to the wood instead.
With Rhodes incapacitated, Page tried to fight off his opponents but succumbed to the 2-on-1 when Storm shoved off his Diamond Cutter attempt, sending Dallas into a hard Awesome clothesline. When the Maple Leaf was strapped on, DDP fought and fought to survive but with nobody to help him out, had no choice but to tap out at the 15:33 mark.
United States title: Chris Kanyon (c) vs Rob Van Dam
The two finalists in the tournament last month for the belt vacated by World champ Booker T were to meet once more for the strap. This time, there were no semi-finals to survive earlier in the evening. And RVD was out for revenge, considering the way Kanyon stole the win.
However, take two ended in controversy. When cheating to win failed, Kanyon simply cheated to get himself disqualified after 13:07 when he grabbed a chair out of desperation at ringside and plunged it into Rob’s midsection.
Kanyon then rolled his rival into the ring and prepared a swing to the head, only for RVD to duck before connecting with a Van Daminator! He placed the chair on the champ and looked to add some more revenge with the Five Star Frog Splash, but Kanyon gingerly rolled out of the ring and retreated backstage with his belt to boos.
Sting vs Lex Luger
The latest instalment of a match that has taken place throughout WCW’s existence was heavily speculated by commentary to perhaps be the last. Sting certainly hoped to not only defeat his old friend, but finally get him to denounce his villainous ways.
The match was brief, running only 5:46, which benefitted both veterans and kept the crowd invested from start to finish. And when the dust settled, it was a trifecta of Stinger Splashes that sent The Total Package crumbling to the floor, where the Scorpion Deathlock extracted the tap.
After celebrating the win, Sting approached Lex in the corner. The Icon extended his hand and, after some hesitation, Luger responded with a handshake and a hug! The gravitas of the moment wasn’t lost on the crowd of mostly diehard WCW fans.
WCW Tag Team titles: O’Haire and Palumbo (c) vs The Steiner Brothers
After beating every duo put in front of them over the last six months, it seemed there was no denying that the biggest upside of the Natural Born Thrillers stable was the pairing of Sean and Chuck, who previously held tag titles with other partners within the faction.
However, their biggest test yet came in the form of Scott and Rick, as the brothers continued to ally in the wake of the Magnificent Seven ceasing to exist and immediately set their sights on the titles they helped make famous.
Were the relative greenhorns up for this test? You bet they were.
O’Haire and Palumbo scored arguably their biggest win yet, retaining the belts after a Jungle Kick and Seanton combo to Rick in 12:11. Scott stormed off with Midajah after the bout rather than check on his brother.
Ric Flair vs Jeff Jarrett
This grudge match had a big fight feel, thanks in large part to the buzz of Flair’s face turn and his first singles match of the new era in ‘Flair Country’. Not only that but the Nature Boy was dressed to compete, removing his robe to reveal his classic trunks and boots as opposed to the casual garb he used to wrestle in previous months.
Both men worked on the others leg, and there was plenty of cheating from either side in a ‘dirtiest player’ tit-for-tat. However, Jarrett’s determination to finish Flair with the figure-four leglock to add insult to injury backfired when his attempt to lock it on for the third time in the bout was countered to a small package for the three count at 21:34.
Ric enjoyed a lengthy and emotional celebration: after spending the last couple of years hating what he did for a living and taking things out on the roster in abuses of power, he felt loved, he felt like his younger self and he felt alive. All the while, Jarrett sat on the apron, disconsolate.
WCW World title: Booker T (c) vs Goldberg
Finally, in the big showdown between two of the company’s top current stars, Goldberg dethroned Booker T for the WCW World title in an epic main event.
Each man avoided the other’s big moves several times and the defending champ kicked out of a Spear out of nowhere, but Goldberg turned a Book End attempt into a Jackhammer to finally regain the championship that had eluded him, by hook or by crook, for nearly three years after 15:58.
Booker, who had put so much emphasis on how badly he needed to win this contest in pre-match interviews, walked away from a handshake attempt from the new champion and looked to be absolutely seething as he went up the aisle while Goldberg celebrated. There could only be one top dog in WCW, however, and for tonight at least that man was ‘Da Man’.
Rick Steiner and Lex Luger’s contributions tonight were their last matches. It appears Bischoff was finally convinced that the DFG’s negatives outweighted what he brought to the table, and he served solely to help bridge the old era to the new before being allowed to sit and collect the rest of his deal.
Luger, meanwhile, was more than happy to call it quits and collect his last remaining Time Warner paychecks. Sting himself sold Lex on the storyline of the two working together one last time, which will conclude once and for all in coming weeks.
Coming up next: WCW sets off for the beach – Bash at the Beach!