This past Sunday marked 20 years since the 1996 Bash at The Beach. Most of you reading this will already be aware of the significance this event holds in not only WCW, but wrestling history. However, for the benefit of those who have no idea what happened at Daytona Beach on July 7th 1996, you best continue reading this bonus edition of The Way We Was…
With “hundreds of thousands” of fans attending last year’s Bash at The Beach, how did WCW top that? They didn’t, but in fairness the previous statement was a complete lie told on more than one occasion by Tony Schiavone. This year WCW brought the beach indoors with deck chairs, surf boards and enough sand to construct a moderately sized desert island. Joining Tony on commentary were ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes and Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan. To set the scene for you, Bobby was on edge, Dusty was in bullish mood and Tony used the term “this sport” three times before the first match. Why all the tension I hear you ask? Well, for those that do not follow The Way We Was on a regular basis, a couple of as yet unnamed ‘Outsiders’ – formally Razor Ramon and Diesel in the WWF – have been making threats about a war with WCW. Moreover, at The Great American Bash they powerbombed WCW boss, Eric Bischoff, off the stage and through a table. These ‘Outsiders’, along with a mystery partner, are booked against Team WCW (Sting, Lex Luger and Macho Man Randy Savage) in the evening’s six man tag main event.
Before we jump into the first match I should mention the two recurring topics raised by the commentary team throughout the show. 1 – Where is Eric Bischoff? Having returned to work at last week’s Nitro, Bisch has not been seen at the Ocean Centre all day. 2 – Who is The Outsider’s third man? By the end of the show we’ll get closure on one of these talking points at least…
Having made his WCW debut at last month’s Great American Bash, this was just our third look at Rey Mysterio Jr. and our first look at Psychosis, who was making his first appearance for the company. Mike Tenay joined the commentary team to help clarify the history, culture and movesets of not just the wrestlers in the ring, but Lucha Libre in general. In contrast to WWE’s treatment of smaller non-American wrestlers, the respect and interest shown by the other announcers gave the impression that these cruiserweight Luchadores might be a recurring theme going forward in WCW. I’m not going provide a commentary on the entire match, just accept my word that it was extremely entertaining. Psychosis – who’s hardly a powerhouse – made use of his size advantage while Rey’s head scissor themed offence proved extremely popular with fans. According to Tenay, 21 year old Rey had been wrestling for 7 years at this point, but apparently his rivalry with Psychosis dated back 8 years. Maybe they went to rival High Schools? Anyway, the end came after Rey reversed a top rope Splash Mountain attempt into a Hurricanrana/Frankensteiner. Tenay actually introduced us to the word “hurricanrana” during this match, wonder if it’ll stick? With Bobby Heenan struggling to call the replay – he called the finish a “dissent-horse backflip” – Mean Gene asked Konnan to call it, which he did perfectly.
Winner – Rey Mysterio Jr.
Konnan was on hand because he had some promo time with Mene Gene. Apparently he was wrestling in Mexico the previous night and travelled to Florida via California. No wonder K-Dogg looked fucked.
What is a ‘Carson City Silver Dollar Match’ and why is it taking place at Daytona Beach, not Carson City? This would be a logical question to ask, and one I asked myself. It is basically a random object on a pole match, and the object this time was a sock filled with coins. The Carson City bit is a reference to the variety of silver dollars supposedly occupying the sock. Thus, the gist of this match was the former Big Boss Man and Earthquake smacking each other in the face with a sock full of collector’s items. The reason for this oddly specific stipulation was due to Bubba battering Tenta with such a weapon a few weeks ago. All well and good, but this feud has been largely focused on Bubba bullying Tenta and shaving first his hair and then his beard. This left me wondering why this wasn’t a hair vs. hair match instead? Anyway, as you can imagine the action wasn’t great but because the match was essentially a race up a pole, it was actually fairly entertaining. Apparently this was a no disqualification match too, hence why Bubba was allowed to choke Tenta with his belt and tape him to the ropes. He then tried to cut even more of Tenta’s hair, but Big John landed a low blow to grab the scissors and cut himself free. This is where the massive – and I do mean massive – flaw in this match became obvious; the pole was far too big! As a result, Tenta used the scissors to try to cut away the ratchet straps securing the pole to the ring post, and thus lower the pole to the ground. He was not successful. Ultimately Jimmy Hart threw the health and safety handbook out of the window and climbed the pole to grab the money-filled sock. Unfortunately for him, Tenta was waiting and grabbed the weapon from him. He then smacked Bubba on the jaw with the coins to claim the win.
Winner – John Tenta
This match was rubbish and it made no sense. Thankfully it was relatively short and we got to see the Diamond Cutter, so that much was fair enough. As it was a Taped Fist Match you might think that quite a storied rivalry had brought us to this point, but you’d be wrong. Hacksaw – the USA chanting, flag waving babyface – has made a habit of using tape to cheat in his matches of late, found himself randomly booked against DDP, who is receiving a gradual but sustained push. In order to give this bout some kind of backstory, last week’s Nitro featured an angle where DDP lost his ‘Lord of The Ring’ ring, only for Hacksaw to conveniently find it and cheap shot Page. DDP is the heel and Hacksaw is the babyface, remember. The only moment of note before DDP sprung his Diamond Cutter ‘outta nowhere’ was him taping Hacksaw’s legs together around the ring post, only for the referee to immediately intervene and free the 2×4 wielding buffoon. What a pointless waste of time…
Winner – Diamond Dallas Page
Backstage Mean Gene suggested that the leader of The Dungeon of Doom, ‘The Taskmaster’ Kevin Sullivan, is the weak link of the group. The strongest link and WCW Champion, The Giant, denied such claims and put Sullivan over. Elsewhere, Lee ‘voice of Tony the Tiger’ Marshall interviewed Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit. Anderson was dressed as a PE teacher from the 1970s while Benoit delivered a promo that was quite uncomfortable to hear in hindsight, as are a lot of his promos to be fair.
A four person dog collar match that was also a falls count anywhere match. This rendered the dog collar stipulation redundant given that to win a pinfall had to be made, rather than touching consecutive turnbuckles. Anyway, at least it provided a different weapon with which these guys could hit each other with in their sixth televised gimmick match in the space of five months. Yes, this was the same match these guys usually have only they were chained together and rolling around in sand. FYI, Brian Knobbs lookalike Johhny Grunge was chained to Brian Knobbs and Rocco Rock to Jerry Saggs. The end came after a table refused to break in two separate table spots so The Nasty Boys used one of the chains to clothesline Rocco Rock instead. The teams continued to fight after the decision, but nobody cared.
Winners – The Nasty Boys
I feel like I’m supposed to say this match was good because Dean Malenko was in it, but I found it really boring. The commentators tried to put Dean over as “emotionless” and “expressionless”, until a visibly irate Malenko ran to the ring and confronted The Disco Inferno. As with much of this card, the match was booked first and a half-arsed storyline was inserted later. In this match, Dean was upset that Disco entered the ring during his match a couple of weeks ago… to dance. Malenko still won said match – against Hardwork Bobby Walker – but apparently ‘The Iceman’ was still hot under the collar about it two weeks later. In what could be the beginnings of a character change, The Disco Inferno tried to resist his natural urge to dance and take a more serious approach. He still has some work to do though, because Malenko claimed the convincing win using his Texas Cloverleaf submission.
Winner – Dean Malenko
And the award for worst match of the night goes to – these guys. However, this was one of the few matches that actually had a backstory. Unfortunately it’s so dull that I won’t bore you with details of it. Just know that newcomer Joe Gomez doesn’t like The Four Horsemen because they beat him up last month and Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael is the newest member of The Horsemen. Mongo won with a Tombstone Piledriver and arrogant cover. However, the big story was on the outside and the lack of Pepe, who has apparently been replaced by another dog! From what I could see the poodle being carried by Debra wasn’t even wearing a funny costume. I shall keep you posted as to just what the hell is going on here…
Backstage, Mean Gene was on the verge of getting laid. After months of flirtatiously groping the announcer during interviews, Woman suggested that tonight could be Gene’s lucky night. A reluctant Gene suggested a pole vaulting contest may follow the evening’s wrestling action. Also, Ric Flair clearly hadn’t done his homework on his opponent after calling Konnan “the man of 1000 holds”. Wrong guy, Naitch…
This was entertaining enough, if not anything special. To his credit, Flair gave much of the match to Konnan who – as usual – came across as a good wrestler but with little in the way of a personality. Despite losing the match and the US Title, Konnan was protected in the finish too. Liz and Woman both got on the ring apron way too early, with the former distracting the referee for an age before the latter could hit K-Dogg with her shoe. Yes, that old chestnut again. Flair even used the ropes for leverage while making the cover, so Konnan didn’t lose too much credibility in defeat.
Winner, and new United States Champion – Ric Flair
Having concealed his erection, Mean Gene was snooping around outside The Outsiders dressing room. The muffled voice of the third man was enough for Gene to surmise that it belonged to someone he had met before, possibly in WCW, but not quite enough for him to tell us who it belonged to. Useless as this information sounds, I’m amazed Gene divulged it hear and not on his hotline.
With the alliance between The Four Horsemen and The Dungeon of Doom very much a thing of the past, this contest was quite rightly referred to as a ‘grudge match’. This feud is largely centred around Sullivan vs. Benoit, with respective stable mates The Giant and Arn Anderson present on this occasion to add variety to the rivalry. The Dungeon duo jumped The Horsemen during their entrance, but The Giant was soon lured away by Steve McMichael who provided a distraction for The Horsemen. The WCW Champ did promptly return, but not before Anderson and Benoit had gained the upper-hand on The Taskmaster. It’s worth pointing out that Sullivan was in his home town, meaning the crowd were even more into this one than regular Horseman matches. Eventually The Giant received the hot tag, which reignited the action. While Benoit and Sullivan brawled in the aisle and into the commentary position, The Giant hit Anderson with a chokeslam for the win. Sullivan and Benoit continued to fight in the ring after the match, with Benoit getting the best of the veteran. This prompted Horseman valet, Woman, to come out and call Benoit off. This mystified the commentary team – and most fans presumably – because Woman has not been acknowledged on-screen as Kevin Sullivan’s wife, yet. Eventually The Giant returned to the ring and chased Benoit away. He then carried his fallen leader to the back.
Winners – The Giant & Kevin Sullivan
Here we go, pretty much the only thing this event is remembered for; The Hostile Takeover Match. The Outsiders were out first, to the music used in the promo videos i.e. an instrumental version of Seal’s Crazy – which is not dubbed on the WWE Network, yet. With only ‘The Big Mang’ and ‘The Medium Sized Mang’ to be seen, over-priced ring announcer Michael Buffer got confused by the lack of a ‘Surprise Buddy’ and Mean Gene had to interject. The still officially unnamed invaders said that the third man was in the building but the two of them could handle things for the time being. Fair enough, so out came Sting, Luger and Savage for a three on two handicap match. This being wrestling, their advantage was short lived. Luger got sandwiched after Sting hit a Stinger Splash on the artist formally known as Diesel in the same corner the Total Package was standing. Poor Lex was stretchered out of the arena. So, much of this six man tag was regular tag match, with the crowd red hot for WCW original Sting. During these exchanges Bobby Heenan repeatedly referred to The Outsiders as “Hall” and “Nash”, but Dusty and Tony did not. As good as the action was and as hot as the crowd was, the unmistakable feeling of anticipation could be felt to the point that it seemed like fans were not as invested in the action as they could be. After Nash hit Macho Man with a sneaky low blow, Hulk Hogan made his first appearance in three months by marching to the ring to apparently either seek justice from the referee or possibly take Lex Luger’s place on Team WCW. Wrong and wrong again. By staying in-character Bobby Heenan almost ruined the surprise by asking “but which side is he one?” Granted Heenan’s character has always hated Hogan, but this probably wasn’t the best time for such a comment. After surveying the situation for a second Hogan did not hesitate in delivering his patented leg drop to Macho Man, who was still on the canvas from the low blow. To leave us in no doubt Hogan then embraced The Outsiders before landing another leg drop, with Hall sarcastically counting the three after Hogan pinned Savage.
Winner – No contest
With the commentary team disgusted by his actions and fans showering the ring with garbage, Hogan delivered his first heel promo in over 15 years, and first since becoming a mainstream celebrity and household name across the world –
“Mean Gene the first thing you gotta do is to tell these people to shut up if they want to hear what I’ve gotta say.
Well the first thing you’ve gotta realize brother is that this right here is the future of wrestling. You can call this the New World Order of wrestling brother. These two men came from a great big organization up north and everybody was wondering about who the third man was. Well who knows more about that organisation than me brother?
Well let me tell you something, I made that organisation brother! I made the people rich up there. I made the people that ran that organization rich up there. And when it all came to pass, the name Hulk Hogan, the man Hulk Hogan got bigger than the entire organization brother! And then Billionaire Ted amigo, he wanted to talk turkey with Hulk Hogan. Well Billionaire Ted promised me movies brother. Billionaire Ted promised me millions of dollars. And Billionaire Ted promised me world calibre matches. 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.
As far as I’m concerned, all this crap in this ring represents these fans out here. For two years brother! For two years, I held my head high. I did everything for the charities. I did everything for the kids. And the reception I got when I came out here, you fans can stick it brother. Because if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, you people wouldn’t be here. If it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff would still be selling meat from a truck in Minneapolis. And if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, all of these “Johnny come latelys” that you see out here wrestling wouldn’t be here. I was selling the world out brother while they were bumming gas to put in their car to get to high school. So the way it is now brother, with Hulk Hogan and the New World Organisation of wrestling brother, me and the new blood by my side. Whatcha gonna do when the New World Organisation runs wild on you? Whatcha gonna do?”
As a wrestling show this was good, but not a patch on last month’s Great American Bash. The Horseman/Dungeon match was heated and entertaining while Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Psychosis was excellent. That said, if you just want to watch some old school WCW and see a few god matches then the May PPV has more to offer than this one. However, let’s be honest, most people want to watch this show because of what happens during the main event, and in that regard there is no bigger show in 1996 than this. The first time I watched this match was around ten or twelve years ago, and it had very little impact on me because I was essentially satisfying my curiosity. This time however I have benefitted from being able to watch Nitro leading into the event, which has made this match and Hogan’s heel turn so much more impactful. In the absence of a time machine, the next best thing you can do to really appreciate the genesis of the nWo is to watch a few episodes of Nitro on the Network prior to watching this main event. It’s not the same as experiencing it first hand, but it’s 100 times better than watching this match without any context.
You can read all previous ‘The Way We Was’ pieces here.