The year was 1999 and “hardcore” wrestling was at its peak in popularity. With promotions like ECW pushing the envelope of extreme wrestling, the rule book went out the window and various weapons were welcomed. Several other promotions copied ECW’s model for success. It started with the WWF creating the hardcore championship in 1998. It’s popularity helped WCW to mimmic everyone else and start their own hardcore division.
Now keep in mind, WCW’s boss Eric Bischoff was not a fan of this type of wrestling and frowned upon it. He did, however, see potential value in creating a division simply to try and offer it to a section of fans who enjoyed that style. So the idea they came up with to crown the first ever WCW hardcore champion was in the most unique of ways…inside an actual junkyard. The match would take place at the Bash at the Beach pay per view which emanated from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The Junkyard Invitational consisted of a weird mix of wrestlers including hardcore wrestlers, technical wrestlers and luchadors. The official list of competitors were Fit Finlay, Ciclope, Jerry Flynn, Rocco Rock, Johnny Grunge, Hak, Horace Hogan, Brian Knobs, Hugh Morrus, La Parka, Lord Steven Regal, Silver King, David Taylor and Mikey Whipwreck. Since Bischoff had no real passion or knowledge of hardcore wrestling, he assigned Arn Anderson to produce the segment for television.
While the junkyard setting was certainly different, it did create a host of issues. For one, lighting inside the area was very poor. A helicopter had to be used to get aerial shots to see the action. The junk in there was real and not gimmicked for anyone’s protection. There were no clear direction of how this match would go in an unsafe environment. The basic concept was to fight your way ou of the junkyard. The first person to escape would be declared the winner.
Public Enemy were brought back to the company on a pay per appearance contract for this event. The match itself was very difficult to watch, if for nothing else…the lighting was sub par and the wrestlers weren’t dressed in their identifiable ring gear. Rather, the wrestlers were mostly dressed in street clothes. There were bonfires and explosions….tires and chunks of metal were used as weapons. Add to that, Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan overselling the match as this incredible spectacle. It was awful.
In the end, it was Fit Finlay who climbed the fence that led to the junkyard’s exit and he was declared the winner. What did Finlay get for his troubles? A trophy made of….well….junk. The match was a costly one for a number of reasons. According to Dave Meltzer, the production of the match cost around $100,000. Eric Bischoff disputed that figure and said it cost around 15 to 20 thousand dollars to produce. Regardless of how much the cost to produce the match was…the most costly portion of this match was the actual injuries that were suffered.
Concussions, lacerations, neck injuries were all caused by fighting in this uncontrolled environment with many of the wrestlers losing bookings because of their legit injuries. While Finlay was the winner of the first and only Junkyard Hardcore Invitational…he wasn’t the original winner booked. According to Jim ‘The Sandman’ Fullington who wrestled in WCW as Hak…he was the man who was booked to win the match. Unfortunately, he admitted that he showed up late to the production meeting and was more than likely a little less than sober and the match went to Finlay instead. Overall, a bad match with an even poorer outcome.