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A Look Back
1985-2000: The NWA/WCW Era
In 1985, the first Great American Bash was held under the NWA banner. On July 6 of that year, at the Independence Arena in Charlotte, N.C., Ric Flair defeated Nikita Koloff in the main event to retain the NWA World Championship. Also that night, NWA Tag Team Champions Krusher Krushchev & Ivan Koloff took on AWA Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors and the legendary Dusty Rhodes took on Horseman Tully Blanchard in a Steel Cage Match for the NWA Television Championship.
The next year, the Great American Bash evolved. Instead of one event, there were 13 held throughout the southeastern United States, with the entire tour being called The Great American Bash. It began in Philadelphia on July 1, and culminated five weeks later in the NWA’s home base of Atlanta. On the penultimate show of the tour, Dusty Rhodes defeated Ric Flair in a Steel Cage Match to win the NWA World Championship.
The Bash followed the same format in 1987 before returning to a single event in 1988. That year, the Bash debuted on pay-per-view; live from Baltimore on July 10, the event was subtitled “The Price for Freedom.” In the main event, Ric Flair defeated Lex Luger to retain the NWA Championship when the match was stopped due to Luger’s bleeding. That show also saw the first and only appearance of the Triple Tower of Doom Steel Cage Match, as a team captained by Jimmy Garvin defeated Kevin Sullivan’s squad.
The Bash again emanated from the Baltimore Arena for the next three years, including the first event under the WCW banner in 1991. That night, Lex Luger defeated Barry Windham inside a Steel Cage to finally capture the WCW Championship.
In 1992, the Bash moved back to Georgia, and it took on a different format. The 1992 Bash was the home of the final three rounds of the NWA World Tag Team Championship tournament, which was won by Terry Gordy & “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. Also that night, Vader defeated arch-rival Sting to become WCW Champion.
After two years off, the Bash returned to pay-per-view in 1995. The show, held at the Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio, was headlined by Ric Flair defeating Randy Savage. From 1995-2000, the Bash was WCW’s annual July pay-per-view; usually held once again in Baltimore, the Bash had its share of memorable and historic moments.
In 1996, Rey Mysterio made his WCW debut, and Scott Hall & Kevin Nash powerbombed Eric Bischoff through the stage. Later years would see matches pitting brother vs. brother (Rick vs. Scott Steiner), uncle vs. nephew (Eddie vs. Chavo Guerrero) and father vs. son (Ric vs. David Flair), as well as one of the few matches where WWE Hall of Famers Hulk Hogan & Bret Hart joined forces.
When WCW was bought by WWE in 2001, The Great American Bash lay dormant for three years. It was resurrected in 2004 as a SmackDown pay-per-view, and has since become the brand’s annual July tradition.