Beach Battles, Part 1

“On an island in the sun

We’ll be playing and having fun

And it makes me feel so fine I can’t control my brain”

Oh my gosh, summer is going by so fast! Beach trips, pool parties, cook-outs – I hope you’ve gotten your share or at least have a few things planned before the equinox happens and everything goes pumpkin spice latte.

Fall has risen to become the most hyped season in recent years, thanks to about 1.5 million dumb Facebook memes about bonfires (I love fall, but come on).  That’s all well and good, but there’s another season that absolutely never needed hype because it rocks BY IT’S VERY NATURE.  I’m talking summertime.

For one, school’s out. SCHOOL’S OUT. If you went to a normal 9-month-out-of-the-year school and then went to college, the first 20-something years of your life conditioned you to believe that summer is the end-all, be-all of times on the calendar.  Sure, there’s Christmas Break with it’s presents and family – but can a week playing Super Nintendo and eating cold turkey sandwiches really beat 10-12 weeks of doing absolutely nothing?  Never.

When the wonder of youth fades and you become a grizzled adult, you start to hate on summer a little for the heat. Or all the traffic on I-95.  Still, you can’t deny that little something inside of you that says, this is summer, this is special.

Even wrestling has historically marked summer with special events. Look no further than WWE’s Summerslam, which reaches its 30th anniversary in a few weeks.  Summerslam has risen to top all but Wrestlemania as WWE’s biggest annual event.  I like to think it’s the very magic of the summer that has propelled the PPV to such a lofty position.

Someday, when I finish all of the Mania Main Thoughts columns, I’ll tackle Summerslam.  But today, we’re starting a look back at the OTHER big summer PPV’s.  The beach parties of summer’s past.  Today, we’re taking a look at Beach Blast!

When it comes to total number of annual PPV events, WCW was actually ahead of the WWF for a while in the early 1990’s.  When WWF moved the Royal Rumble to become their 4th annual PPV in 1989, WCW jumped their number of annual PPVs to 5 with the addition of shows like Halloween Havoc and WrestleWar.

In June of 1992. WCW added a 6th PPV to their calendar. This event would serve as the precursor to their annual Great American Bash show.  The Bash, with its patriotic theme and scheduling around the 4th of July each year, was WCW’s calendar response to WWF’s Summerslam.  This brand new June PPV would be more of a thematic response.  Enter Beach Blast!

For the next 3 columns, we’re going to take a look at the Beach Blast main events, along with its successor, Bash At The Beach.  Are you ready to catch this wave? Let’s go!

WCW BEACH BLAST 1992

WCW WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH

The Steiner Brothers (c) vs.

“Dr. Death” Steve Williams & Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy

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We are kicking off Beach Battles at a weird time in WCW history.  “Cowboy” Bill Watts was brought in as WCW Executive VP in 1992 and Beach Blast was his first PPV.  Watts had some…interesting views on pro wrestling.  Watts took an “old school” approach, and some of his most memorable decisions during his tenure in WCW was removing the mats from around the ringside area and banning moves from the top rope. While this limited a lot of the high risk action that fans love, there are some hard-hitting classics in the Bill Watts-era. So you have to take the bad with the good.

One thing that I’ve never seen discussed but becomes clear when looking at WCW during this time is that Bill Watts loved tag team wrestling. He must have.  How often were the WCW World Tag Team Titles featured in the main event of a PPV?

I’ve never seen Beach Blast ’92 before today, but I remember the build-up VERY well.  When I was a kid, we weren’t able to get PPV’s on our cable system.  I’d have to wait to see the TV shows taped after the PPV, or worse, till when the results were printed in the wrestling magazines to find out what happened.  But heading into Beach Blast there were two HUGE stories.

First was Sting and Cactus Jack.  The maniacal Cactus Jack had been causing problems for WCW World Champion Sting for quite a while.  To highlight how personal the feud was, their clash at Beach Blast wouldn’t even be for Sting’s title.  And to hint at the brutality that would occur, the match would be Falls Count Anywhere On The Gulf Coast. This feud could not be contained in the ring!

(I like to imagine there was a meeting with Jack, Sting and WCW officials to determine the boundaries within which constituted the Gulf Coast.  “OK, if you go past the parking lot of the Route 90 7-Eleven out by Browns Landing, that fall does not count.”)

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Drew Rick Rude’s back. Nailed it.

If that match weren’t enough, you had a 30-Minute Ironman Match between two of the best workers of the early 90’s or any era – United States Champion “Ravishing” Rick Rude and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.  Falls Count Anywhere and Ironman matches were fairly abnormal back in 1992, so seeing both of these on one show, featuring the company’s top champions no less, was a heck of a draw.

So why, then, was the main event for the WCW World Tag Team Titles?  When I first saw this on the WWE Network, I thought there was some kind of mistake.  That the show had been re-ordered or something for the tape release.  Nope, this is how it went down.  Sting/Cactus Jack, then Rude/Steamboat, then a 6-man tag match, then Steiners/Williams & Gordy.  A strange decision to be sure, but it would get stranger when you saw the finish.

I’m not taking anything away from the Steiner Brothers.  They were easily two of the top faces in 1992 WCW.   And the feud was red hot.

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We came to Japan to drink beer and win championships. And they’re all out of championships.

The dawn of 1990 saw “Dr. Death” Steve Williams & Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy on a tear as The Miracle Violence Connection (one of the greatest tag team names ever) in All Japan.  The pair would eventually win the AJPW World Tag Titles 5 times.  Rick and Scott Steiner also had a big run in Japan, but with rival promotion New Japan, where they won the IWGP Tag Titles for the first time in 1991.

The Steiners and the MVC never clashed in Japan, so the thought of them meeting in WCW was a literal Japanese dream match.

Williams & Gordy were brought into WCW in 1992 to add some international flavor to the NWA World Tag Team Title Tournament.  While the whole Ric Flair incident fractured the relationship between the NWA and WCW, their partnership was still holding in 1992, and WCW promoted the tournament to crown the first ever NWA-sanctioned World Tag champions as a big deal.

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Nerd Alert!

Williams & Gordy were heavily favored to win the tournament, as were WCW World Tag Team Champions the Steiners.  The tournament’s first round was set to be held at Clash Of The Champions XIX.  The way the tournament was seeded, there was a good chance that the two favorites would clash in the 2nd round.

Now, here’s where history gets a little funny.  Beach Blast 1992 was aired live on PPV on June 20, 1992.  Clash Of The Champions XIX was set to air on June 22nd on TBS – just two days later.  However, the Clash had already been taped on June 16th – four days earlier – in Charleston, SC.  We’ll pretend we don’t know what happened, though.  (Which was a lot easier in 1992.  If it had been 2018 WWE, we would’ve already seen the results and 10 different GIFs showing the whole finish before the match aired.)

So, long story short, before they took the NWA World Tag Team Titles, Williams and Gordy looked to take the WCW World Tag Team Titles and establish themselves as the biggest team in all of the US.  To do that, they’d have to get past the Steiners – twice.

So that (FINALLY) brings us to the first ever Beach Blast PPV!

The show kicks off with 90’s-era beach-themed intro graphics that had me double checking to see if this was “Saved By The Bell”.  Tony Schiavone and Eric Bischoff (looking like the douchebaggiest of 90’s catalog models in his Hawaiian shirt) welcome us to the show.  Tony calls Mobile “a city rich in United States history.”  OK? I mean, it is our 12th largest port.

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Somewhere in Mobile, a strip club is missing its angels.

Tony throws it over to Jim Ross in a Hawaiian shirt, which I will call plum awful.  JR’s commentating partner Jesse Ventura gets his own entrance from the stage, which has been decked out with sand dunes, surfboards and big-haired 90’s girls in bikinis that fit the way bikinis only fit in the 90’s.  They’re all oiling down Jesse, who is in a tanktop and shorts.  We are keeping it loose for this show people!

Bill Watts makes his appearance with Tony and Eric to hype the show and I’m fast forwarding to the main event.  I’m also getting a peek at the big bikini showdown between Missy Hyatt and Madusa – which is co-hosted by Johnny B. Badd.  But I thought he…? Nevermind.

You can see Williams and Gordy awkwardly standing on the stage (it’s literally a stage, there’s no entrance curtain) as the announcers hype the match.  Their music finally hits and we have our challengers!  The on-screen graphic identifies them as “Dr. Death” Terry Gordy.   A simple ampersand goes a long way.  As cool as “Miracle Violence Connection” sounds, I don’t think they went by anything but Williams & Gordy in WCW.  That’s a shame.

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Dr. Death Steve Williams feeling sexy in this little black number.

The Steiners are out second (identified as Rick Steiner Scott Steiner – why can’t we use tag team names? Why can’t we use ampersands?  Were they not out yet in 92??).  The crowd is crazy for them.  Let me also say that Jim Ross is totally creaming his jeans for this match, throwing out college athletic statistics like we’re watching SportsCenter NCAA highlights at 2x speed.

Scott and Gordy start the match, and they slowly feel each other out.  Gordy bitch slaps Scott, so the future Big Booty Daddy responds with a double leg takedown. We’re on like Donkey Kong, daddy!

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GGGGRRRRRRR!!! OOOWWWWW!!!

Rick and Williams tag in, and, amidst Jim Ross’s sports facts, he mentions that Steve Williams earned the nickname Dr. Death in junior high. “HE EARNED THE NICKNAME DR. DEATH IN JUNIOR HIGH?!”, asks Jesse Ventura.  There’s a shallow grave behind a middle school football field somewhere – only Steve Williams knows the name and number of the dead.

The match settles in and I hear the timekeeper announce that 5 minutes have elapsed.  Wrestling Rule #47: Whenever the timekeeper pipes up about how many minutes are left, you know we’re going to the time limit.  But why would they do a time limit draw after just having a 30-minute Ironman match?  That’s not happening, right? This must just be some weird Bill Watts thing.

Back to the match and this thing is STIFF.  It’s hard to describe how a match full of submission holds and where a CLOTHESLINE is a high spot can be intense, but there’s a ton of intensity here.  The teams trade grappling holds and suplexes, with MVC cutting corners just enough to show they’re heels.  Eventually, Scott is left in the ring and he is just ground down and brutalized by Williams and Gordy.  As the MVC works Scott’s leg, Jesse notes that Steiner will not be walking around tomorrow.

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Drink it in, man! No, seriously, let’s go get a drink.

Scott is beaten down for a LONG stretch and Dr. Death eventually locks the battered Steiner Brother in what looks like an early version of the Walls of Jericho.  Scotty somehow wills himself to the opposite corner and hot tags Rick.  It looks like they’re going for a “ref missed the tag” spot, but the ref let’s the tag go ahead in a weird bit of botchery.  Nevertheless, Rick is in like a house of fire and nearly kills himself with all of the energy.  JR calls it a modified slam.

Rick can’t keep the pace and finds himself overwhelmed. Rick being brutalized now and eventually gets nailed with a sit-out powerbomb. That gets 2. Timekeeper announces that there are five minutes remaining and OMG we’re really doing this, aren’t we?

Rick gets posted by Dr. Death but comes back with a decapitating Steinerline.  Scott is back in and he hits the second rope, but Terry Gordy clotheslines him off.  Scott slowly falls to the floor, in what should have been an MVC DQ, but who’s counting?

Well, the timekeeper is counting and there are 3 minutes remaining. The crowd is on fire and Jesse notes that, if this were an amateur competition, MVC would easily be up on points.  A good nod to the fact that, if this goes to a draw, Williams & Gordy won the war.

MVC hit their second rope powerslam, but Gordy goes for the cover and he’s not the legal man.  Williams goes for the cover but that only gets 2.  Rick hits the triangle button and we are in COMEBACK CITY. Two big Steinerlines take down the bad guys and Scott gets the hot tag with less than 1 minute remaining.

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Plenty of time!

Scott, MENSA representative that he is, takes time to play to the crowd as the timekeeper counts out the clock from 10.  Scott hits the Frankensteiner on Bam Bam, but doesn’t even cover for the pin before time runs out on the match.

Gary Michael Cappetta announces that the match ends in a draw and the Steiners are STILL your WCW World Tag Team Champions.  The Steiners did not beat Williams & Gordy, they merely survived. Crowd is more forgiving of this show ending than I am.  I just don’t get why you would put a 30-minute time limit draw on last after the hot 30-minute Ironman match with Rude and Steamboat.

Anyway, the Clash airs two days later and MVC handily defeat their first round Australian opponents.  (I’d tell you who they were, but one guy was so obscure he didn’t even have a Wiki.)  Williams and Gordy then beat up the Steiners’ first round opponents for good measure, giving the Brothers a win by forfeit.

MVC challenges the Steiners to their quarter finals match THAT VERY NIGHT, and the Brothers accept.  Bad decision, as Williams & Gordy would beat the Steiners.  They’d beat the Steiners again, this time for the WCW Tag Titles, at a house show a couple of weeks later, then cap it all off by winning the NWA World Tag Titles in the main event of the Great American Bash.

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And New x2!

The Steiners would leave WCW in November, victims of the Bill Watts era.

Match Rating: 8.0

Surf Rating: 7.0. When I was a kid, I always imagined Beach Blast actually happened on the beach. I was kind of sad to see it was just in some Civic Center in Mobile, Alabama.  I know Mobile is on the Gulf Coast, but it’s not exactly Surf City.  WCW made up for it with the sand on the stage, the totally gnarly graphics, the announcers in their beach gear and, of course, a bikini contest.

WCW BEACH BLAST 1993

Sting & “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith vs.

Big Van Vader & Sid Vicious (w/Harley Race & Col. Tom Parker)

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Beach Blast returned to PPV in 1993, this time replacing the Great American Bash in July. The landscape in WCW had changed drastically over the year, in part thanks to the departure of Bill Watts.  Eric Bischoff would rise up to take Watts’ place, and the emphasis that Watts had put on old school wrestling was replaced by Bischoff’s more entertainment-oriented approach. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

The exit of Watts also signified the return of icon Ric Flair, who would take on Barry Windham in the semi-main event for the NWA World Title.  When Flair left WCW (as champion) in 1991, there was a split with the WCW and NWA World Title.  For a stretch of several months, both titles would be represented on WCW programming.

Speaking of the WCW World Title, it would be Big Van Vader – not Sting – who walked into Beach Blast as the company’s top champion in 1993.  Vader had defeated Sting for the strap at the ’92 Bash, but was unable to hold the title long thanks to multiple injuries.  The Mastodon would rehab and return to defeat champion Ron Simmons by the year’s end.  Vader wasted no time in renewing his war with Sting, but he also found time to brutalize Cactus Jack and a recent transplant from WWF – “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith.

Smith, who was hot off of a run with the WWF Intercontinental Title, faced Vader for the WCW Title at the first ever Slamboree PPV in May.  The Bulldog ended up winning the match, but not the title, thanks to Vader getting himself disqualified for using a chair.

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Did we just become best friends?

As the feud between Bulldog and Vader heated up, both enlisted the help of other wrestlers to watch their back.  At Slamboree, Col. Tom Parker reintroduced Sid Vicious, making his return from a headlining run in the WWF.  Sid destroyed Van Hammer in a stretcher match, and I’m sure that caught Big Van Vader’s eye.  Vader and Sid teamed up to form The Masters of The Powerbomb – truly a force to be reckoned with.  In fact, I’m going to say that only the Brothers of Destruction could rival the MotPb when it comes to pure tag team power.

To counter, Bulldog enlisted ultimate good guy and Vader-hater Sting to form the Super Powers (one was from England and one was from America, get it?)  With these two teams full of nothing but rage and pure hatred for each other, a clash was inevitable.   And that clash would happen at Beach Blast.

But not before WCW produced one of their memorable mini-movies.  If you love kids playing volleyball, beach confrontations and ONE-EYED MIDGETS BLOWING UP BOATS, then this will be your jam.  Just check it out.  Unfortunately, WWE has blocked all of the YouTube uploads of this thing, but you can still watch it at this link.

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Nobody interrupts us when we play volleyball with kids and their moms! NOBODY!

Basically, The Masters of the Powerbomb and their evil managers interrupt the Super Powers’ All Ages Beach Party Extravanganza to urge them to accept tickets to retirement. (I don’t think that’s how retirement works, actually.)  Sting considers, given the sheer size of the bad guys, but then he and Bulldog are like, no way dude.  The bad guys laugh as only bad guys can when they know bad guy things that the good guys don’t know.  What the good guys don’t know here is that an evil, one-eyed midget, dressed like a shark, planted a bomb on their boat.

A pair of little girls tip off the Super Powers about the shenanigans, but by the time Sting discovers the bomb, it’s too late.  Bulldog spears Sting into the water just in time to avoid being decapitated by exploding debris. No word on how they got back to land, since I’m assuming the radio was on board the exploded boat.

This movie is usually induces eye rolls from wrestling fans because it’s silly as heck, but I dare you to find any 90’s wrestling fan who DOESN’T remember this, or the White Castle of Fear, or Spin The Wheel, Make The Deal.   They were HUGELY effective in selling the PPVs, and even now, 25 years later, I was excited to finally watch the Super Powers get their retaliation for Vader and Sid’s murder plot.

So here we are. Beach Blast ’93 went down in Biloxi, MS – another third tier beach town.  (Why couldn’t we go somewhere with a beach name – Virginia Beach? Myrtle Beach? Venice Beach?)  WCW did another bang up job setting the entrance up to match the theme, complete with sand, a tiki bar and more modestly dressed bikini girls.

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If you’re wondering what she’s thinking, she’s not.

Eric Bischoff and Missy Hyatt (in a pink swimsuit) welcome us to the show.  Tony Schiavone is on play-by-play, looking like the biggest doofus on the Gulf Coast in his orange nose sunscreen and dated shades.  Jesse “The Body” Ventura is hanging at the tiki bar with the bikini babes, and gets the same entrance as in ’92.  If you’re keeping score, this year, Jesse has on a tye-dye tank top, which looks way cooler and way more “Body”.

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Beach Blast ’93 has a pretty decent undercard.  There’s Flair/Windham for the NWA Title, but the Horsemen are in full effect tonight, as they also take on the Hollywood Blondes for the tag titles. Unfortunately, it’s the Paul Roma version of the Horsemen, so they kind of suck.  The Ironman Match also returns to Beach Blast, as Dustin Rhodes takes on Rick Rude for the vacant US Title.  That match would end in a draw, which I like for an Ironman match. If you hadn’t noticed, Rick Rude is the workhorse of your 1992-1994 WCW.

But now it’s time for our MAIN EVENT.  Bischoff and Missy discuss the match, and Missy states that Vader and Sid are “gonna stomp the pants off” of Sting and Bulldog.  Not a brain in her head, people.

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How sweet are these jackets, bro?

The Super Powers make their entrance wearing AWESOME matching jackets.  They’re red, white, and blue with tassels. Sting’s has a scorpion on the back and Davey Boy’s has a bulldog.  Also, Sting’s has blue shoulders with white stars and Davey’s has the union jack. I WANT THESE JACKETS!

Sting and Sid Vicious start things off and Sting is hitting him with some sweet moves, including a beach-themed sunset flip.  Sid kills all of that dead with a vicious chokeslam and Sting is murdered.  RIP Sting, 1959-1993.  In lieu of flowers, send a spatula to scrape him up off the mat.

Sid tags Vader and Davey Boy is in to check on his buddy.  The faces end up on the floor and the heels celebrate.  The heels celebrate, that is, until they take a couple of top rope shoulderblocks.  What do you think of THAT, BILL WATTS?!?

The match settles in and, unfortunately for the British Bulldog, that means he eats crap for about 10 minutes from Vader and Sid.  Every time Bulldog begins to fight back, he gets pounded back down.  At one point, Sting starts jawing Vader and goes for a slap across the Mastodon’s face.  Vader pulls off his mask and is all, you want the bull, son? Sting does not want the bull, so Davey Boy eats it some more.

Bulldog eventually mounts a comeback, but Harley Race steps in to keep him from making the hot tag to Sting.  Can I just say that I don’t think any former world champion has made a more successful transition from wrestler to manager than Harley Race? The guy knew how to draw heat and also how to keep the focus on his wrestler. I’m not saying he was Bobby Heenan, but the team of Harley and Vader was magic.  Anyway, Vader accidentally splashes Harley when Bulldog ducks and Race is dead.  So nevermind.

Sting is in and he’s a HOUSE OF FIRE. He’s throwing punches like a metaphor.  Vader eats knuckles, Sid eats knuckles, and then Sid does this.

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Sting! Sting! Look what I can do!

He hangs there long enough to look ridiculous, then just recovers and gets back in the ring.  Only to eat ANOTHER punch and end up in the same position.  This time he bounces right back into the ring, you know, the way you should when you end up with your butt on the second rope and legs in the air while holding the first rope.  I guess this was a do over?

Tony Schiavone says Sting is “literally cleaning house” and I didn’t realize people had been misusing the word literally for that many decades.  Also, let me take a moment to wonder why Big Van Vader presumably paid good money to buy pants that say “Vader” on the leg, but didn’t check to see that the “V” is covered up by the singlet he wears over them.  This just seems like something that could’ve been avoided, Ader.

Things start breaking down and Bulldog gets crushed by a Samoan Drop from Vader.  The big man climbs the ropes and SMASHES Davey Boy with a Vader Bomb.  Sting breaks up the pinfall, and Sid comes in to retaliate.  Sid and Sting brawl onto the ramp, and Vader hits the top rope again for a MASSIVE MOONSAULT.  Bulldog’s guts explode out of his eyes, nose and butthole.  Sting has to dive back in over the top rope to break up the pinfall.

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Splat.
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NOOOOO!

Bulldog miraculously recovers and it looks like we’re setting up for a hot tag. Instead, Davey Boy hits a crucifix and scores the pin out of nowhere. A little anti-climatic.

The faces celebrate on their way out as Vader and Sid throw a tantrum. Vader goes to swat at Tony Schiavone, saying he didn’t lose the match.  Tony says, “Anything you say, I believe it.”  That’s some journalistic integrity there, Tony.  Vader f’s up Tony’s chair.

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Take that, stupid.

The Vader/Bulldog and Sting/Sid feuds would continue for a while.  The two teams would beef up and face off in a 4-on-4 WarGames match at the Fall Brawl PPV. On WCW’s October tour of Europe, Davey Boy defeated the Mastodon for the WCW Title, but the decision was reversed.  On that same tour, Sid would get all stabby with Arn Anderson and end up released.  Bulldog would be released for legal reasons not long later.

Match Rating: 6.0

Surf Rating: 7.5. Again, the locale does not scream “BEACHY”, but the set and everything makes up for it.  I liked the addition of the tiki bar, and Tony Schiavone’s ridiculous getup was at least memorable.  Then of course, you have the mini-movie, which should be required viewing every summer. You’ve got to watch out for those bomb-toting shark midgets!

WCW BASH AT THE BEACH 1994

WCW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH

“Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) (w/Sensuous Sherri)

vs. Hulk Hogan (w/Jimmy Hart & Mr. T)

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So here we are. Where it all began again.

In June of 1994, WCW announced that they had signed perhaps the best known wrestler in the history of the sport – Hulk Hogan.  Hogan, the longtime flag bearer for the WWF, had left the Fed in mid-1993.  While Hulk’s reason for leaving was to star in a new TV series – Thunder In Paradise – WWF fans had been souring on the Hulkster for a while.  After a 9-year run on top of the company, I guess anyone can get stale.

Thunder In Paradise wasn’t the monster hit that Hulkster had anticipated, so Hogan went back to what he knew.  In a move that seemed unthinkable, Hulk opted to sign a contract with WCW – shocking the wrestling world.  It was such a coup that the company held a special signing party at Disney’s MGM Studios that June.

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Has the check cleared, brother?

Hulk would shake the landscape of WCW immediately.  His first order of business was to face WCW World Heavyweight Champion, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

Flair had defeated WCW Champ Vader at Starrcade ’93, and had since been having a kind of “greatest hits” run, taking on old rivals like Barry Windham, Ricky Steamboat, and Sting. Flair also returned to full heel-dom around this time, taking on a returning Sensational Sherri – now Sensuous Sherri – as his manager.

The big story here is that WCW got to promote the dream match that WWF had largely denied fans.  With Flair, the man who ruled the NWA in the 80’s, and Hulk Hogan, the guy who put the WWF into the stratosphere, it was often wondered by wrestling fans what would happen if the two were to square off in the ring.  Fans thought they’d see the dream match when Flair signed with the WWF in 1991, but, outside of a few house shows, it never happened.

Now, WCW had both men under contract and they weren’t going to waste a moment getting that match on PPV (and the money in their pocket.)

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Is there any way we can make Hulk a little bit bigger on this?

So it was decided that Hulk Hogan would make his in-ring WCW debut to take on WCW Champion Ric Flair at Bash At The Beach, the PPV formerly known as Beach Blast.  (I can only assume they changed the name to get the word “Bash” in there.)

So the first Bash At The Beach goes down in Orlando, Florida, a slightly beachier town than Mobile or Biloxi.  Watching this PPV kick-off, things look more “big time” than they had at the previous shows.  The set still has its sand and beach paraphernalia, but there’s also a big video wall and pyro for the entrances.  Forgotten country singer Daron Norwood is even there to sing the National Anthem. What, you don’t remember “Cowboys Don’t Cry”?

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Oh say can you see this sweet American flag button down?

An opening video tells us that tonight will be champion vs champion – it’s barely acknowledged that Hulk Hogan is the challenger in this situation.  It’s pretty much the greatest foregone conclusion in the history of wrestling.

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Any chance Hulk Hogan will be pinned tonight, Ric?

Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan and Mean Gene Okerlund welcome us to the show.  I read Jesse Ventura is also there, but I didn’t get to see if he made his bikini girl entrance.  All three announcers are in suits instead of beachware, and I’m glad they got rid of that hokey nonsense.

Tony tells us that Sting was not medically cleared to compete in the TV Title match tonight, then shows footage of Sensuous Sherri clawing his eyes during a match with Flair. Interesting that WCW would opt to keep Sting off of what they viewed as their biggest show ever, but I’m also glad he didn’t curtain jerk in a TV Title match against Lord Steven Regal.

The show had an interesting undercard, with a Steve Austin/Ricky Steamboat US Title Match that caught my eye.  I also noticed Vader is taking on The Guardian Angel, the former Big Boss Man. I’d forgotten about the Vader/Angel feud, but it went on for quite a while in ’94.

So let’s get to the main event.  You know this match is extremely important because you’ve got Michael Buffer out for the super special introductions.  First out is on-screen WCW Commissioner, Nick Bockwinkel, who missed his queue.  Next out to a huge pop is Shaquille O’Neal, then a hometown hero with the Orlando Magic.  Shaq is here to hand the winner the championship belt, which is a thing they always have in every championship match.

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They could’ve made this a ladder match with Shaq holding the belt.

Next out is your WCW World Heavyweight Champion, accompanied to the ring by Sensuous Sherri.  I’m not going to complain about the champion coming out before the challenger, but y’all know I hate it.  Hulk Hogan is out next (to his brand new WCW theme “American Made”).  Hulk is accompanied by his manager, “The Mouth Of The South” Jimmy Hart and his hetero lifemate Mr. T. Seriously – The A-Team has been off of TV for SEVEN YEARS at this point.  WHY IS MR. T HERE???

We also get a glimpse of several semi-celebs in the audience. There’s Hulk’s Thunder In Paradise co-star Chris Lemmon, who is seen with Hulk’s family.  I think I see Ric Flair’s family at ringside too, but that’s not confirmed.  We also see Evad Sullivan – Hulk Hogan superfan – behind the announcers.  The less said about that gimmick the better.

So the match – I looked at the little dot that started this thing on the WWE Network, and there were like 50 minutes of show left to go. I couldn’t believe it.  Then I realized this was a Hulk Hogan match and it all made sense.

First off, the entrances took 10+ minutes.  I don’t mind that – WCW is trying to sell this as the greatest match of all-time.  Once the match started, well, it’s a Hulk Hogan match.  Lots of stalling, lots of posing and LOTS of interference thanks to Sensuous Sherri.

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Are you trying to wrestle me, brother?

They say Ric Flair could wrestle a broom stick, but I don’t think he can wrestle Hulk Hogan.  It’s just too much of a styles clash.  Ric Flair matches are psychology. Hulk Hogan matches are crowd work.  And you can’t wrestle Hulk Hogan and not have a Hulk Hogan match. It’s all he knows.

Fortunately, Hulkster wasn’t as bad as we would (and will) see him get.  There are still things you could classify as moves, but they’re all in between the silliness.  In all though, there’s just something that doesn’t ring true about this match.

There’s the fact that no one (NO ONE) thought Hulk would lose his debut match.  And then there’s Sherri – she interferes so much that it stops making sense.  I mean, sure, she’s Flair’s manager, but why does she hate Hulk Hogan THAT much? Did he say some junk about her off camera?  It would’ve been better to have Bobby Heenan out there with Ric – at least Hogan and Heenan have a history.

I’m not saying Sherri didn’t do a good job – she’s maybe the best female manager of all time. And she got the crowd to hate her. It’s just lacking in the personal issue department.

So what happened in this match besides Sherri interfering? Well, there were THREE Hulk-ups.  Sherri did a top-rope splash on Hogan once, then missed another.  The original ref got taken out with a high heel. Sherri actually took a bump from Hogan in the ring, and Hulk didn’t even pretend like it was an accident. And Flair worked a nice chinlock for a while (before the second Hulk-up).

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Midmatch Chinlock Break!

As we start to head home, Flair is finally able to lock in a figure four, but Hulk makes the ropes.  Hogan mounts a comeback and hits his own figure four.  Sherri tries to interfere, but Mr. T forcibly removes her. He pities the fool.  In the calamity, Sherri tosses Flair a pair of brass knucks.  Wham to Hulkster’s face – 1-2-NO! Hulk Hulk’s Up (#3) – big boot, legdrop, new champion.

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And New, Brother!

Hogan celebrates in the ring as the crowd eats it up.  Shaq enters to hand the belt over, and we’ve got the big moment with all the good guys in the ring.  At this point, there’s still like 10 minutes of PPV left.  The announcers recap the match as we get footage of Hulk walking the halls.  He sees Brutus Beefcake (making his WCW debut) and tells him this is what they said they were gonna do.  He sees Jim Duggan (making his WCW debut) and tells everyone that the Hack is Back!  Hulk then enters the media room for his standard Mean Gene interview.  Something about folding Ric Flair up into a ball, having Shaq slam dunk him and then Hank Aaron hit him with a bat.  That’s a true thing that was said that I just related.  Brian Pillman is standing around for some reason.  Bobby Heenan sulks and we go off the air.

Overall, the Hogan/Flair rematch at Halloween Havoc would be the better match (unbelievably, it was even more overbooked), but this was OK.  Did it feel like the biggest match of all time? No, it could’ve used some more buildup I think.  I just didn’t buy a personal issue in this match.

Match Rating: 6.5

Surf Rating: 5.0. Props for the set again, and for the location change to Orlando, but honestly the beach vibe was overshadowed by the Hulkamania of it all.  Nothing to speak of from a beachy perspective from the undercard either.

That wraps up Beach Battles, Part 1, but we’ll be back soon with Part 2, featuring 1995-1997 and the beginning of the New World Order, brother!

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