Thursday, July 25, 2013
From The Musty Yellowed Pages--1987 Great American Bash Program
I have no one to thank more for my particular copy than an anonymous group of elderly women. Around twenty years ago I was at a library book sale in a neighboring town. In the back of the crammed basement, I spied this wrestling artifact tossed among the children's books. Needless to say, once I figured out exactly what I had discovered, there was no putting it down. It was but a few years earlier that I had gotten into learning about wrestling's glorious past, and the 1987 War Games video was something that I was already very familiar with. Upon arrival at the checkout table, the gracious ladies who were in charge must've found my love for the publication charming. Although my family made other purchases, the ladies told me that I could have the red, white, and blue relic absolutely free. My JCP program collection was off to an amazing, and quite affordable, start.
Manny Fernandez, Skandor Akbar, Lex Luger, Arn Anderson, Dusty Rhodes, J.J. Dillon, Paul Jones, Ricky Morton, Jimmy Garvin, Ric Flair, Nikita Koloff, Jim Cornette, Tully Blanchard, Steve Williams, Magnum T.A., Ivan Koloff, Robert Gibson, The Barbarian, Bob Caudle, and Road Warrior Animal. Amazingly, I even managed to have each signature signed in blue. It was more of a coincidence at first, but it certainly adds to the flag motif. Beginning with Dusty Rhodes, twenty signatures fill the cover. My rule was that as long as the talent is shown and/or mentioned inside, they're welcome to sign the cover. The twenty illustrious names are
Interestingly, the program does not kick off with War Games coverage. The tag team and UWF championship sagas are instead featured at the front. Following a Business Reply Mail card advertising NWA tapes from Turner Home Video, a great photo of eight of the ten men from the original War Games match is shown. "The American Dream" appears more cocky than any of the Four Horsemen in this photo, but that's simply "Dusty being Dusty." Curiously this photo does not include Paul Ellering or JJ Dillon. Regardless, it's a great shot that would induce a boatload of memories from any NWA fan.
A page made up solely of graphics breaks down that first War Games match. It's obvious from the effort shown here that the company truly felt that a lot was riding on this one match. They had every right to believe that they had something special in their hands, as this was a concept that lives on with so many fans to this day. One can only wonder why no effort was made to put this on pay-per-view. While they obviously hoped to make this a concept to pop the individual live gates, it is interesting to ponder if anything could've played out differently had they opened the match up to thousands of other curious fans via pay-per-view.
The following ten pages are photo capsules of each of the ten men involved in that first "Match Beyond." Ellering and Dillon are not omitted here and are highlighted in photos showing both their wrestler and managerial sides. It should be noted that the photography in this program is glorious and vibrant as it is in many of the JCP publications. It's a shame that more items like these weren't made by the company, but that all goes back to the much-discussed marketing problems of the company that extended far beyond the Ted Turner purchase of the company in 1988.
Following the War Games profiles, many other wrestlers, matches, and angles which were important on the '87 Bash tour are featured. The company was obviously hurting with the loss of Magnum T.A. just a few months earlier. Fortunately, Magnum was well enough to make appearances by this time and gets a full page to himself. Text and photos discussing his appearance in Dusty's corner against Tully Blanchard on television appear, but a notation of Magnum now being in the corner of Dr. Death in a battle against Dick Murdoch is mentioned.
Initially, so many of the autographs on my copy were obtained at the 2004 Fanfest over Thanksgiving weekend. One of the wrestlers to sign it was "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin. After signing the cover, Garvin asked me if this was the program with "the great bloody picture of me against Flair." I assured him that it was and we flipped to it where he took the time to sign it again. Not only is the shot another example of the great photography, but a rare example where a wrestler recalls something about a piece of memorabilia. Remember, in that era talent rarely had to the time to see these items let alone collect them. This is sadly why many wrestlers have no clue as to what is out there, but it also makes it all the more special when a recollection is made when obtaining an autograph.
This has always been one of my favorite wrestling items between what it represents, how it ended up in my collection, and now that I've had so many of the original participants sign it. These are the items that keep the memories of these events and concepts alive. WWE may own the footage, but you're only going to see what they want you to see. It's these vintage pieces that show you just how epic, raw, and real it was to many fans...and continues to be today.