Sunday, 24 July 2011

WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 - Retro Review

It was one of the biggest moments in professional wrestling history, and it happened 15 years ago this month as Lex Luger, Sting and Randy Savage faced The Outsiders and their mystery partner in the main event of World Championship Wrestling’s Bash at the Beach.

The show began with a battle of the masked men as Psicosis went up against fellow luchadore Rey Mysterio Junior.

Now this was one of the things WCW did best back then, tremendous opening matches featuring some of the best smaller guys in the world. Psicosis and Mysterio knew each other so well they were able to but on an outstanding match.

It began with an exchange of submission holds early on, progressing nicely as Mysterio countered Psicosis’ submission attempts with plenty of high flying moves. It was a joy to watch, especially when Psicosis took Mysterio down with a senton from the top rope while Rey was on the floor.

The ending proved to be just as spectacular. As Psicosis was about to take his man down with a splash mountain off the top rope Mysterio countered in mid-air with a hurricanrana to get the winning pin. Awesome stuff.

The next match saw Big Bubba, accompanied by Jimmy Hart, went up against John Tenta in a Carson City silver dollar match. This was basically an object on a pole match, with the object being a sock full of silver coins.

This won’t exactly go down as the most memorable moment in the careers of these now sadly departed stars. What you had hear was a 350 pound guy taking on a 500 pound guy in a match where they have to climb a ten foot pole to grab an item. Yep, you read that right.

It was basically the two big guys beating the hell out each other, and it really wasn’t that good. It was pretty obvious that neither Bubba or Tenta would be able to climb the pole, and in the end Bubba got Jimmy Hart to climb the pole and grab the coins for him.

But when Hart came down the pole he didn’t find Bubba waiting for him. Tenta had already taken him out. He quickly grabbed the coin bag from Hart and clobbered Bubba in the face, with the former and future Boss Man falling like a sack of spuds. A three count later it was over.

The gimmick match action continued with Dallas Page taking on Jim Duggan in a taped fist match, with Page’s Lord of the Ring title on the line.

This was quite entertaining in it’s own way. Page’s tactics were obvious early on when he taped Duggan’s legs around the ring post and cut the tape from his fists. From there he did a good job of countering Hacksaw’s brawling style.

Duggan had his moments, but in the end it wasn’t enough as Page took him down with the diamond cutter for the winning pin.

Old Hacksaw had his revenge though, taping his fist and knocking Page out with a big right.

Yet more gimmick match action followed as Public Enemy, Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock, went up against the Nasty Boys, Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags and in dog collar match.

This was basically four guys beating the hell out of each other, and was actually quite laughable at times.

They began by brawling around ringside, eventually making their way to the beach entrance set as they hit each other with surfboards, life preservers and an inflatable shark, and that’s probably the only time you’ll see that phrase in one of my reviews.

After a few moments in the sand they made their way back to the ring, which is where we got the laughable sight of a table failing to break not once but twice. It was obvious that the original ending and the on the fly one went out of the window.

So what looked like the new ending came when Knobs hanged Grunge over the rope, and Sags whipped Rock into Knobs’ chain, with Sags pinning his man seconds later.

The most ironic moment came in the post-match brawl when the indestructible table finally broke.

The first title match of the evening saw Disco Inferno challenging Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight title.

Before this match I had always viewed Disco as a dancing fool. But when I first saw this match all those years ago my opinion changed a little.

Although Malenko dominated for the most part Disco was able to keep up with him, and, for the most part, he eschewed his dancing routines in favour of real wrestling action, and it was this that almost took him to a title winning pin. Almost.

But in the end Malenko came out on top, proving once again that he was one of the best in the world, taking Disco down with a double under hook power bomb into a cloverleaf for the submission win. Great stuff.

The singles action continued with Joe Gomez taking on Four Horseman Steve McMichael, accompanied by his lovely wife Debra.

This was Mongo’s third ever match, and it clearly showed. It wasn’t pretty, and there were times when he looked a little lost, especially when he tried to run the ropes, and when he went for a roll-up.

He came out on top in the end though, taking Gomez down with a tombstone for the win.

The second title match saw Ric Flair, accompanied by Miss Elizabeth and Woman, challenging Konnan for the United States title.

This was back when Flair and Konnan could wrestle. These two put together a pretty good match, with Konnan more than able to keep up with his illustrious opponent.

Of course, Flair did his usual moves, the staggering front bump and the one where he’s caught and slammed off the top rope, but his performance here was as sound as I’ve ever seen.

The ladies had a part to play as well, with Woman kicking Konnan south of the equator while Elizabeth distracted the referee. Mrs. Sullivan would also play a vital part in the ending, knocking Konnan out with the heel of her shoe so Flair could get the title winning pin.

Hostilities between the Four Horsemen and the Dungeon of Doom resumed next as Chris Benoit and Arn Anderson took on Kevin Sullivan and World Champion The Giant (aka the Big Show), accompanied by Jimmy Hart, with a member of the Horsemen getting a title shot if they manage to pin either Sullivan or the Giant.

The DOD attacked the Horsemen attacked the Horsemen as they made their entrance, but when Steve McMichael clobbered the Giant with his briefcase the champ chased Mongo backstage, leaving Sullivan alone with Anderson and Benoit.

The Giant returned a few moments later, but by that time the Horsemen were taking Sullivan apart. Eventually the Taskmaster got the hot tag, and while Sullivan and Benoit brawled up the aisle and to the announcer’s platform the Giant choke slammed Anderson for the winning pin.

But the action continued after the bell as Benoit and Sullivan continued their brawl, with the Crippler dragging Sullivan back to the ring. It was then that Woman ran down, pleading with Benoit to stop his attack before the Giant returned to halt the assault.

The main event was dubbed the “Hostile Takeover Match”, and pitted Team WCW, Sting, Lex Luger and Randy Savage against the Outsiders, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, along with their mystery partner.

After Hall and Nash made their entrance, without the mystery third man, Gene Okerlund came down to the ring and asked the Outsiders where the third man was. All they said was that their partner was in the building, but they didn’t need him yet, making this a handicap match.

It soon became two against two though. As Nash held Luger in a front face lock across the corner post Sting connected with a stinger splash, knocking Luger out cold, unable to carry on.

With the sides evened up Hall and Nash did a good job of isolating the Stinger, taking him apart with various holds until he managed to get the big tag to Savage. The Macho Man looked mad as he went to work, but a low blow from Nash while the referee’s back was turned stopped the assault.

Then it happened. None other than Hulk Hogan walked down the aisle and entered the ring, and when it looked like he was there to help Sting and Savage he leg dropped the Macho Man. The referee was then sent flying out of the ring before Hogan delivered another leg drop, with Hall making the count as Hogan went for the pin.

As fans threw their rubbish into the ring to voice their displeasure Hogan told Mean Gene that the New World Order had arrived, and that the fans could “stick it”, the show ending with Tony Schiavone saying “Hulk Hogan, you can go to hell!”

In conclusion - it’s been 15 years since I’ve seen this show (and I watched it back then on a German channel), and overall it has it’s ups and downs.

There’s some pretty good matches on here. The Mysterio/Psicosis encounter was a great way to start the show, while the Malenko/Disco and Konnan/Flair were solid encounters with great storytelling. However, others, including McMichael/Gomez, Tenta/Bubba and Duggan/Page were a let down.

But despite the good matches here this show will always be remembered for the main event, Hulk Hogan’s heel turn and the birth of the New World Order. It certainly was a match full of drama. It was well executed and it built up nicely to Hogan’s appearance. The interview at the end really made it though, and without it the whole situation wouldn’t have had that wow factor.

So does Bash at the Beach ‘96 get the thumbs up? Yes, but not a big thumbs up, because out of all the matches here only half of them delivered.