With Stomping Grounds just around the corner, Matthew Roberts fires up the TWM Time Machine ™ again and heads back to 1992 for some World Championship Wrestling action.
The TWM Time Machine™ didn’t know where to send me for a Stomping Grounds related Retro Review; in the end it decided upon a June PPV, the first of its kind and a name that didn’t last. Still, Beach Blast is a name that was quite good, despite only lasting for two years. The jury is out on whether or not we will ever get to Stomping Grounds 2021.
As if to highlight just what a different era it was back in 1992, the first thing that is hyped on the introduction video for Beach Blast 1992 is the “First Lady of WCW” contest between Madusa and Missy Hyatt…who said that the Bill Watts era was all about straight down the line good ol’ fashioned wrasslin’? Tony Schivonie and Eric Bischoff introduce things. Bill Watts (who never knowingly took a back seat to his wrestlers) hypes some of the matches and Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura are our commentators.
We kick off with a WCW Light Heavyweight Title match where Brian Pillman defends his belt against Scotty Flamingo. There will be some “ECW fans” I’m sure who would be astounded to see Pillman as a happy-go-lucky babyface never mind to see Raven (arguably THE greatest character ECW ever created) as the flamboyant rich kid Flamingo, in day-glo coloured outfits. Of course, the “wrestling” side of things was probably the “weak-link” in the Raven character (which is not to say that the wild brawls were not exciting, and perfectly crafted for the ECW audience) so it might also surprise some to see Flamingo be so proficient here – in amongst the cheap heel tactics of course. Bill Watts didn’t seem to like Pillman and his directives banning top-rope moves, and having no mats outside the ring didn’t help the Light Heavyweight division either. Still, the two managed to work around the limitations imposed on them to assemble a fast-paced and exciting match that Flamingo took in an upset victory. Although it’s not an upset in hindsight with the battles that Watts and Pillman had backstage.
Johnny B. Badd hosts the Evening Gown portion of the First Lady of WCW contest. At least it’s not the worst thing in wrestling to involve the words “evening gown”.
The in-ring action continues with Ron Simmons against The Taylor Made Man (Terry Taylor – and again as least this gimmick is not the worst thing in wrestling to involve Terry Taylor) in what was little more than a showcase for Simmons as Watts followed his Mid-South/Junkyard Dog template to push Simmons towards the World Title later in the year. Simmons certainly shows off his power here and if it’s background to his character you are after Jim Ross provides that by filling air-time with seemingly never-ending information about Ron’s American Football career. It’s fine for what it is, but shaving a couple of minutes off it wouldn’t have been a bad idea either.
Things don’t look up with the prospect of the veteran Greg Valentine taking on the up and coming Marcus Alexander Bagwell. But you know what, it’s not at all bad. Sure the fact that Valentine wins clean by submission (showing that it’s not just modern day WWE where the young guys get jobbed out to the past-it veterans to the empowerment of absolutely no-one) means that it’s all largely a pointless exercise but the storyline of the quicker youngster being dragged back down to earth by the wily veteran works reasonably well and Bagwell at least shows fire and intensity.
Things really do pick up with the next match as WCW World Champion Sting battles Cactus Jack in a “Falls Count Anywhere on the Gulf Coast” match. With the title NOT on the line, but whatever… Those who have read Foley’s first autobiography should know how much he loved this match (for a while it was his favourite match) and if the very fact it happened on a WCW PPV means that it’s a “forgotten” classic, it’s nevertheless worth the praise that Foley put on it. It’s a wild and crazy brawl and if the bumps Foley, in particular, takes seem “tame” when judged by the utterly insane things he would do in the future (and lets be honest, he still takes some dangerous bumps here) that cannot detract from a compelling and competitive brawl that achieves all you could want it to. Foley looks like the crazed man who would do anything to get over and/or win a match. Sting, as a counterpoint, gets a much needed edge as the ballsy face who is willing to dig as deep as necessary to get the win. Sterling stuff it must be said.
We’re two for two in terms of champions in non-title matches next as United States Champion Rick Rude takes on Ricky Steamboat in a Thirty Minute Ironman Challenge. As you may know, the man with the most pinfalls/decisions within the time limit wins. Given that it’s 30 minutes and both men could go, they eschew the usual slow, feeling-out period to go straight at it, with Steamboat dominating the early going. Still, it’s Rude who takes a 1-0 lead via a handful-of-tights assisted pin and then goes straight back in for the kill to go 2-0 up after a Rude Awakening. Proving his smarts he takes a DQ for coming off the top-rope with a knee drop in exchange for another pinfall in the aftermath to take a 3-1 lead. The big comeback naturally comes and Steamboat ties it up to 3-3 with a Tombstone and a backslide. With the fans firmly behind him, Steamboat tries everything for a pin, including his own attempt at a Rude Awakening, but Rude manages to power back and lock in a sleeper. With a minute left though, Steamboat is able to manoeuvre up and push back off the turnbuckles to get the three count that gives him a crucial 4-3 lead. Rude frantically tries to even things up in the brief time that remains but can’t and the bell rings leaving The Dragon as the winner. This was really a superb showing.
The Bikini portion of the “First Lady” contest brings everything back down to earth (though, Missy is the very popular fans choice in the arena) before what seems like a classic early 90’s WCW six man between Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes & Nikita Koloff and the Dangerous Alliance trio of Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton & “Stunning” Steve Austin brings the show back up. Sadly, it never quite gets going. The first third seems like it should be on a non-televised House Show rather than a PPV, the heat section on Dustin Rhodes doesn’t really get much heat and then we get a DQ ending when Arn Anderson hits a knee-drop off the top rope (sounds familiar, huh?). Not terrible by any means, but very disappointing given the names in there.
The final of the First Lady competition ends with Missy having to replace her “stolen” bikini (I thought the previous round was the “Bikini” contest, but there you go) with Jesse Ventura’s bandana (who said the Attitude Era was revolutionary?) before we get to our main event of The Steiner Brothers against Terry Gordy and Steve Williams. Say what you want about Bill Watts, and plenty have a lot of bad things to say, but I’ll always applaud him for bringing us stuff like this. In the way that the Great Muta in 1989 and Jushin Liger in 1991 opened the “mainstream” audience’s eyes to a different style of grappling, the hard-hitting nature of Williams and Gordy did the same in 1992. Remember, we didn’t have a thousand and one promotions just one click of a button away in the early 90’s! It’s intense, hard-hitting, ultra-competitive and compelling viewing. The only real problem is the non-finish as the thirty minute time limit expires. Of course 27 years later it’s easy to know beforehand the results of a show but even without that knowledge it kind of becomes clear to anyone who has spent any time watching wrestling that the match is headed that way. Still, it doesn’t take too much away from the effort or the quality.
This is fondly remembered as one of WCW’s better pay-per-views and watching it now that feeling stands up. There are three great matches (Sting/Cactus, Rude/Steamboat, Steiners/Williams & Gordy) backed up by a very good opener. Whilst the rest of the card can’t get anywhere near those crackers, there is nothing from the other matches that drags things down too much and as a whole it’s three hours that is a very easy watch indeed. And we’d all take that at Stomping Grounds wouldn’t we?
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