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    Thursday, May 12, 2016

    Thursday Night Tanders (5/12/16): Remembering the Best and the Worst of Bash at the Beach

    Don't look now, but it would seem that the name Bash at the Beach, which used to be one of WCW's summer pay-per-views, is becoming a thing again. As we reported recently, that's what WWE is going to call its Hawaii live event, which takes place on June 29 as a WWE Network exclusive. And while that show promises some interesting, potentially epic matches, including John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens vs. Brock Lesnar, the name Bash at the Beach also induces equal amounts of awe and cringes, depending on which WCW Bash at the Beach pay-per-view you're thinking of.

    So with that said, join me, the Throwback Tito, as he returns from yet another extended absence to bring you the best AND the worst of WCW's Bash at the Beach pay-per-views, with a quick recap of the state of WCW at the time, and after those PPVs aired.



    When it was first held in 1994, Bash at the Beach was, booking-wise, just another WCW pay-per-view event. It was, however, notable for its beach theme, and the fact that these events took place in either California or Florida. In 1995, WCW had Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Big Van Vader, Ric Flair, and even Kevin Sullivan guest on a Baywatch episode also entitled Bash at the Beach, in an effort to promote the event. And while the PPV did have more of a big-time feel that year, it was nothing compared to the historic events that took place in its 1996 edition.

    To give you an idea of what was going on at that time, Bash at the Beach 1996 took place several weeks after the former Razor Ramon and Diesel terrorized WCW, ostensibly debuting as two invading WWF stars now using their real names, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, respectively. They were the two latest additions to a fast-growing list of disgruntled ex-WWF talents who were all fed up with the company's kiddie-centric programming, less prominent pushes, a lack of pay, or all of the above. Aside from Hogan, Savage, Nash, and Hall, there were the likes of Lex Luger, Ray Traylor (Big Boss Man in WWF, Big Bubba Rogers/Guardian Angel in WCW), Jim Duggan, and the Nasty Boys, all more than happy to work lighter schedules for more money, all thanks to the deep pockets of Billionaire Ted himself, WCW (and CNN) owner Ted Turner.

    When the Hulkster wasn't busy wrestling to increasingly lukewarm WCW crowds in the mid-'90s, he was lead star of Baywatch-lite TV show Thunder in Paradise.
    Speaking of Hogan, this was also a time when fans were growing tired of the Hulkster's wholesome superhero shtick. The mid-'90s ethos of angry, world-weary grunge and alternative music and increasingly edgier TV programming (including cartoons like The Simpsons and Beavis and Butt-head) just did not jibe with Hogan's "say your prayers, eat your vitamins, lemme tell you something, brother" persona. And while he was reluctant at first to admit that his Hulkamania act was getting passe, it didn't take much convincing from Eric Bischoff for the Hulkster to turn to the dark side.

    It all happened at the main event of Bash at the Beach 1996, as WCW's hand-picked babyface trio of Savage, Luger, and Sting took on Hall and Nash—The Outsiders—in what was supposed to be a six-man tag team match. The Outsiders had long been teasing the appearance of a third man, but with them dominating the match despite the manpower disadvantage (eventually evened out when Luger was knocked out cold), it looked like they might not need a third man after all.

    Yet, that third man arrived, though it didn't look that way at first. With The Outsiders still looking strong, Hogan entered to huge applause, seemingly out to save his friend, the Macho Man. But instead of running in for the save, Hogan landed two Atomic Legdrops on Savage, revealing himself to be the third man. And, as he explained after the match, he did it because he was bored. He did it because he was tired of playing to an increasingly ungrateful legion of fans. He did it because he and his new friends The Outsiders were the New World Order of wrestling. And for that, he got showered with boos and pelted with debris, with the usually congenial Tony Schiavone telling the Hulkster that he can go to hell.

    "And as far as Billionaire Ted, Eric Bischoff, and entire WCW goes, I'm bored, brother. That's why I want these two guys here, these so-called Outsiders, these are the men I want as my friends. They are the new blood of professional wrestling and not only are we going to take over the whole wrestling business, with Hulk Hogan, the new blood and the monsters with me. We will destroy everything in our path, Mean Gene."
    - Hulk Hogan, justifying his formation of the nWo to Mean Gene Okerlund, Bash at the Beach 1996

    The New World Order was born at Bash at the Beach 1996, and while they were mostly booked as heels, their don't-give-a-fuck attitude and near-kayfabe-breaking promos did make them the prototypical cool heels. Heck, Hulk Hogan wasn't known as such anymore—he was now Hollywood Hogan. Of course, anyone who knows their WCW history will also tell you that the nWo eventually became too large for its own good. But on that evening at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, they made wrestling history with a shocking heel turn from a man who once could do no wrong in storyline, and the debut of a stable that would soon become one of the greatest factions of all time. More importantly, it also helped WCW become the king of the Monday Night Wars for the rest of 1996, all of 1997, and most of 1998.


    Fast forward four years later, and a lot had happened since then. At that point, though, WCW was a total clusterfuck. And it wasn't just because the nWo grew to such large numbers that you had people like Vincent (a.k.a. "Wrestling Superstar" Virgil), Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman, and Horace Hogan (Hulk/Hollywood's less talented, much less charismatic nephew) joining the fold. That was just part of the problem.

    On January 4, 1999, WCW committed two colossal mistakes. The first was having Tony Schiavone sarcastically, disdainfully remark that former WCW midcarder Mick Foley was going to "put some butts in the seats" as WWF Champion. That, in itself, forced many fans to change the channel and watch WWF's taped RAW episode to see how Foley, wrestling as Mankind, defeated The Rock for the title. The second big mistake? Why, it was the infamous Fingerpoke of Doom, where Hollywood Hogan regained the WCW World Heavyweight Championship from Kevin Nash, with a farcical poke to the chest that Big Sexy oh-so-memorably oversold. Yes, it was all a convoluted ruse to reunite the warring nWo Hollywood and Wolfpac sub-factions, and the fans absolutely shat on it.

    Those two mistakes helped send WCW into a creative—and eventually financial—tailspin that they never recovered from. And by the summer of 2000, Vince Russo was in charge of Creative, also appearing on television as a heel authority figure, and booking nonsense behind the scenes, including a WCW World Heavyweight title win for untrained, 150-pound actor David Arquette, more unexplained face and heel turns than you can shake a stick at, and numerous attempts to break the fourth wall with insider talk that went past the heads of casual, non-dirtsheet-reading fans.

    Photo c/o The Armbar Express. Jeff Jarrett lies down on the ring (per Vince Russo) so that Hollywood Hogan can exercise his creative control and win the title. Hogan was fired later that night—in real life, on pay-per-view TV.
    For 2000, Bash at the Beach was again held at the Ocean Center, the site of Hogan's now-legendary heel turn, the birthplace of the nWo as we now know it. But instead of Hogan dropping his leg on a close friend and ally, we saw Hogan lackadaisically pinning Jeff Jarrett for the WCW World Heavyweight belt, as Russo instructed Jarrett to lie down on the ring for him. You'd think Hollywood Hogan would be pleased as punch to win as easily as he did in the Fingerpoke of Doom debacle, right? He actually wasn't, as he barked that "this is why the company's in the state that it's in, because of bullshit like this," before walking out in a huff.

    After a brief, nonsensical-as-usual segment with Vampiro, Russo hit the ring for what would be an epic pipe bomb promo—that is, if you were drinking the Kool-Aid he'd been serving up since joining WCW in late 1999. Depending on whom you ask, this was either a pure shoot or a worked shoot, though most will tell you that it was a pure shoot promo, where Vinny Ru denounced Hogan for his backstage politics, and how his creative control clause allowed him to get the title earlier, while praising guys like Jarrett and Booker T who still "gave a shit" about WCW. He promised that WCW was never going to see "that piece of shit" Hogan again, effectively firing him for real, and declared that Jarrett was STILL WCW World Heavyweight Champion and would defend the belt later that evening against Booker T.

    Photo c/o WCW Worldwide Tumblr. Vince Russo shooting on Hogan in a profanity-filled promo that had everyone scratching their heads. What was a work and what was a shoot, and what was to be a swerve? You never knew with this guy.
    Oh, and did we say Russo also called Hogan bald? The Hollywood Hulkster has always been sensitive about his age or anything that makes him appear old (see: Lesnar, Brock), and calling him bald was, and still is akin to a slap in the face.

    Jarrett vs. Booker took place as Russo had promised, and all things considered, it was a pretty solid match at a time when WCW programming was jam-packed with bad, negative-star matches. Booker would beat Jarrett to win his first World Heavyweight title at Bash at the Beach 2000, starting his path to becoming a FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME champion. But if you consider the Hogan vs. Jarrett farce, Russo's totally-uncalled-for promo, and a cavalcade of crappy matches including Daffney vs. Ms. Hancock (Stacy Keibler), Vampiro vs. The (KISS) Demon, and Goldberg vs. Kevin Nash, this was, by far, the worst Bash at the Beach in WCW history.

    Photo c/o Sportskeeda. After Vince Russo left WCW as head writer, Scott Steiner was World Heavyweight champ for 120 days. During the Russo era, you were lucky if you were World champ for a MONTH.
    Still, this wasn't the end of WCW's post-Fingerpoke of Doom tailspin. Two months later, Russo would defeat Booker for the World Heavyweight title when Goldberg interfered and speared him out of the cage in a Cage Match. (Head writer, main authority figure, world champion. Only Vince Russo can book himself to be all of the above at the same time.) A month later, in October 2000, a concussed Russo resigned as head writer, but not before playing hot potato with WCW's title belts and booking a plethora of swerves in his one year with the company. And while the booking did improve slightly post-Russo, with Scott Steiner reigning as World Heavyweight champ for a comparatively long four months, it was too little, too late, as WWF's buyout of the company was finalized on television on March 26, 2001.


    What are your favorite WCW Bash at the Beach moments? Any other memories of WCW's glory days, or maybe its booking follies post-Fingerpoke of Doom? What other matches do you hope to see at the revived WWE Bash at the Beach next month in Hawaii? Let us know in the comments section!

    The Throwback Tito is Enzo Tanos, a freelance writer and the drummer/manager for garage rock band The Myopics, where he hopes to debut his masked lucha drummer persona “Sin Verguenza” in future gigs. A wrestling fan since childhood, he’s old enough to remember watching Outback Jack’s pointless vignettes, and One Man Gang’s transformation to Akeem.
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    Item Reviewed: Thursday Night Tanders (5/12/16): Remembering the Best and the Worst of Bash at the Beach Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Enzo Tanos
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