Summer is winding down. School’s back in session (for America at least).
We only have a little time left then to look back fondly (and make fun of) the greatest summer wrestling moments. All the recent SummerSlam nostalgia has had me rewatching my favourite brand’s flagship summer show, WCW’s Bash at the Beach, on the WWE Network. It’s lots of glorious WCW bollocks, but it was also always an impactful show, sometimes the primary turning point in yearly storylines.
With that in mind, and recalling fondly the great WCW match-ups of Vader and the British Bulldog, here are my top five moments (and bollocks) from Bash at the Beach over the years…
5. Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Vader, and Kevin Sullivan on Baywatch – WCW Bash At The Beach 1995
The episode aired in a WWF-MTV Rock’n’Wrestling type co-promotion between Baywatch and WCW’s Bash at the Beach Pay Per View and is aptly titled “Bash at the Beach”. Ridiculousness ensues.
Lest you think Pam Anderson only swung toward the WWF via her WrestleMania XI guest appearance, the episode opens with Anderson saving Hulk Hogan from drowning after he loses control of his jet ski. The Hulk Hogan. No Rip Thomas here, we’re going full kayfabe on a fictional TV show. Hogan is in town to help good friend (snickers) Randy Savage to keep a “local youth center” from closing down. Why is it closing down? Because evil Ric Flair has bought it and plans to tear it down to build beach front condos. Flair has his gang of goons, Vader (wearing his mask in public) and Kevin Sullivan (with his Taskmaster paint in public), there to help him.
Of course, we’re not going to make this fight in the courts or the press or the realty market or any normal means. These are carnies. So Flair challenges Hogan and Savage to a deed for title match. Hogan must put the WCW title on the line against the deed to the youth center against Vader in the steel cage. Vader steals the basketball from the kids playing the youth center and pops it with his two hands to drive home the point that they are the heels. This youth center saved Hogan from a troubled upbringing in his own youth (kayfabe) so he and Savage are happy to accept the challenge (I don’t know what Savage’s role is here, much like most of his actual WCW run). Did Nick Bockwinkle sanction this title defense?
They imply through this whole thing that Pam and Hogan might have a thing going on. She joins him at the Youth Center for a training montage. Gross.
Then there’s a terrible cage match, Hogan wins because Hogan never jobs, and the children who live at the beach get to keep their beach front youth center. Macho Man joins Hogan and Pam and the kids to celebrate holding, I swear to god, a fistful of extra long Slim Jims.
So craptastic, it’s fantastic.
4. Hogan Leaves WCW – WCW Bash At The Beach 2000
Russo and Jarrett shoot on Hogan. Hogan shoots on Russo. Hogan exits ungraciously.
I’m no fan of Russo’s kayfabe shoots on kayfabe business, but this was a big moment. In their scheduled title match, Jarrett laid down in the centre of the ring for Hogan. Hogan, as shocked and disgusted as Sting wrestling a smacked out Jeff Hardy, makes the cover (because he’s Hogan and he still needs the visual pinfall) and takes the title. Russo comes out, they scream at each other a lot, Russo says Hogan can be happy because now he has his win, but he’s no real champ and Hogan cusses that crap like this is why the company was in the toilet.
Like Dustin Rhodes’ Seven shoot on Nitro, it’s a bit foggy on how much of the shoot was planned, and how much was in the moment reality. Either way, Hogan never appeared on WCW TV again, six long years after first making the jump from WWF.
3. Hulk Hogan debuts in WCW – WCW Bash At The Beach 1994
I don’t like writing so much about Hogan, especially since his arrival marked the end of my beloved WCW as I knew it. Out went the southern rasslers and down the card went the homegrown WCW characters. In came Hogan and all his WWF rehashes. Oh, and he destroyed the two heel stalwarts within the year (Flair and Vader).
But, Hogan and the Bash have had some big moments over the years.
The first was his first match in WCW. While his parade had been highlighted on WCW Saturday Night, and Hogan had made several TV appearances, including on the Clash of the Champions where Flair unified the WCW World and International titles by beating Sting. But this was his first time in a WCW ring. And of course he gets a shot at the belt. And of course he wins it. I have no doubts he would have rejected the offer to come to WCW had that not been the case.
For better or worse, Hogan arrived with a bang at Bash at the Beach 1994. The match was okay, with the added intrigue of Sensual Sherri (legally distinct) now in WCW and in Flair’s corner. It ended in the most predictable way possible. Big boot. Leg drop. Hogan gets the pinfall and the title.
2. Beach Blast Sting and Bulldog in a…Movie? – Beach Blast 1993
Before Hogan came along, Bash at the Beach debuted as Beach Blast, running under that moniker for two years.
In the 1993 edition, Sting and Bulldog allied as the “Superpowers” against the “Masters of the Power Bomb,” Vader and Sid Vicious. This is my prime childhood viewing window. When the Bulldog came over to WCW I was stoked. That he teamed with Sting was icing on the cake.
The movie WCW produced to promote this dream tag team match up was worse than a Baywatch episode about wrestling. Again, many youths are involved.
So Sting and Bulldog are just hanging out with some kids on a tropical island. As with the Baywatch episode though, heel wrestlers can’t let face wrestlers and kids just hang on the beach in wholesome peace.
Vicious and Vader approach with managers Col. Rob Parker and Harley Race. They offer a bribe to our ultra baby faces to not wrestle at Beach Blast. The faces turn this down of course.
The heels are undeterred. They enlist their heel dwarf to swim out to Bulldog’s and Sting’s boat while it is unattended. The little Bond-esque villain plants a bomb on the faces’ boat! He wears a fake shark fin while he does this, because reasons.
Sting, because his surfer character was always portrayed as unbelievably dumb and aloof, wanders onto the boat. But a smartened up Bulldog discovers the plot, and leaps and saves Sting at the last moment. Wonderful CGI explosions ensue.
The best of WCW’s beachy bollocks.
1. Hogan goes Hollywood, The NWO is Born – WCW Bash At The Beach 1996
You knew this was number one. Most wrestling fans can recall every bit of it. From wise Bobby the Brain asking “Whose side is he on?” to the trash filling the ring to the fan that tried to run in only to get the boots from Scott Hall, it’s an iconic moment burned in our collective conscious.
It was the right move at the time. Even if Bischoff and WCW held onto the NWO gimmick far too long, its initial run is one of, if not the most, intriguing storyline in wrestling history. Hogan needed to turn heel. The WCW never fully bought him over Flair and many, like me, were pissed that Sting and our other favourite WCW faces were knocked way out of the title hunt. WCW audiences started to boo the tired old Hogan schtick. Trading the red and yellow face for the heel black and white extended Hogan’s drawing ability out at least a couple of more years and adds complexity to a career that would have Cena-ed away into boredom.
The NWO itself revolutionised storyline and the look of late 90s wrestling. Reality-based storylines with edgy violence and hip lingo became the standard of the time.
And it was born here, in 1996, on the classic WCW summertime staple.
You can find me on Twitter @gritvanwinkle.