Bash from the Past
It was a Sunday morning in 1997. My dad, brother and I all sat around the table with a pot of coffee. My dad and brother would be going through the newspaper while I played with the dog or read my latest Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine. My dad read aloud an article he came upon. Dennis Rodman was set to team up with Hulk Hogan at the July Bash at the Beach pay per view. My brother and I couldn’t believe it. What were they going to do? Who were they going to fight? I began to speculate right away that maybe Hogan would become a fan favorite again and team up with Rodman to take on Hall and Nash. Where they were going to go with it was up in the air, but I began to anticipate WCW’s next installment of Bash at the Beach.
The 1994 Bash featured the incredible Hogan-Flair clash that started a tradition in WCW. The following year WCW used the event to culminate their two biggest feuds of the year as Randy Savage squared off against Ric Flair, and Hulk Hogan took on Vader. 1996 will always be memorable as the night Hogan turned his back on his Hulkamaniacs and launched the New World Order with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. 1997 harkened back to the old SummerSlam main events that featured big tag team matches, but with a celebrity twist. Rodman and Hogan teamed up as heels representing the NWO to take on WCWs Lex Luger and the Giant. The fans went nuts for Rodman as he executed some of the most basic wrestling moves. At the time Rodman was on fire and WCW capitalized on his celebrity to boost their pay per view. It wouldn’t be the last time WCW used Rodman.
In 1998 Rodman made his return to the NWO and teamed up with Hogan once again. This time Rodman would be outshined as Karl Malone would team up with Diamond Dallas Page to represent WCW. Recently Kevin Nash and Randy Savage had splintered off from the NWO to form the Wolfpac. They quickly recruited longtime WCW defenders Lex Luger and Sting. Their next recruit was set to be Dallas Page. As Page atop the Nitro ramp ready to put on the Wolfpac colors, Rodman and Hogan attacked him with a pair of steel chairs. Page would then bring in Malone as his ally to face Hogan and Rodman at the Bash at the Beach. The Bash show changed drastically just days before the event. The original co-main event was set to be another celebrity match as Curt Henning and the Giant were set to take on Bill Goldberg and Kevin Greene.
However, days before the show J.J. Dillon ordered a title match for Nitro between Hogan and Goldberg. Malone and Page prevented any NWO interference as Goldberg soundly defeated Hogan to become the WCW Champion. The Bash card now changed as Hogan would no longer headline the show as a champion, but as a man now looking for revenge on Page and Malone. Goldberg would be moved into a singles match to defend the title against Henning, and Greene now found himself in a singles match with Giant. For all of the big shows WCW would put on in 1998, none would be bigger than the Bash at the Beach show.
Things seemed to taper off in 1999. The show was not as big as it had been in years past, but it still kept the tradition of the tag team match as Sid Vicious and Randy Savage squared off against Kevin Nash and Sting. The match did serve as an end to the Nash-Savage feud that had been going for a couple of months. As a result of losing the match, Nash would turn heel the following night on Nitro. Nash and Hogan went on to wrestle in a retirement match at the next month’s pay per view, but regardless of the rules, both would be back for the final Bash at the Beach show in 2000.
A lot of things can be said about the direction WCW took in late 1999 and 2000. For all of their mistakes, WCW still managed to do a few things right. Despite having so much going on every week on Nitro, they managed to build up to two very big matches at the Bash at the Beach. The first main event featured the final encounter in the pay per view trilogy between Nash and Goldberg. Each man had one win over the other. This time things were different as Goldberg played the heel. The WCW contract of Scott Hall was on the line as Goldberg defeated Nash and shoved the contract down his throat. It was the other main event that had fans scratching their heads as to what the heck was going on. Jeff Jarrett was built as the golden child of the Russo regime. He had been the top heel in the company for months and was set to face Hulk Hogan for the WCW title. Instead of a climactic clash, fans saw Jarrett lay down in the ring as Hogan covered him and left with the belt. In case fans weren’t confused enough, Vince Russo then hit the ring and proclaimed that we would never see Hogan ever again. The audience was then told that Jarrett would face Booker T later in the night in a “real” title match. On that night, Booker T became WCW Champion for the first of five times. He would actually be the final WCW Champion when they went off the air in March of 2001. As for Russo’s promise, we would see Hogan again. Actually, you see Hogan now on TV in the same company as…Vince Russo.
For all their mistakes, WCW had their moments. The Bash at the Beach pay per views are gone now, but they remain in the memories of fans to this day. They were WCW’s equivalent of SummerSlam, featuring matches you wouldn’t see on any other pay per views, even Starrcade. Like he first WrestleMania shows, Hulk Hogan’s name would be synonymous with the Bash pay per views. The first show trumpeted in is triumphant entrance, while the final show featured his tragic exit.