I would have given whatever lined my pockets in 2000 (very little, I assume) to have a space in the crowd in the Ocean Center on July 9th. WCW had lined up Bash At The Beach 2000 – the 21st century revamp of a staple of the PPV schedule.
Fans were…well, ‘treated’ to a myriad of oddities, including a Wedding Gown shambles featuring far too much of David Flair and a Graveyard debacle between Vampiro and The Kiss Demon. The. Kiss. Demon. THE KISS DEMON WAS A THING IN WCW 2000. And believe it or not – that is NOT the most shocking occurrence of the night.
WCW World Championship
The WCW World Heavyweight Championship (otherwise known as Big Gold) was regarded to have one of the most impressive lineages in wrestling history, with some of the biggest names like Ric Flair, Sting, Goldberg and Kevin Nash listed as previous champions. But by the time Bash At The Beach had rolled around, everyone had agreed that the belt’s prestige was waning, if not totally gone. Slamboree 2 months prior was proof of this, as the championship found itself around the untrained and malnutritioned waist of actor David Arquette. If a Q-rate actor holding a company’s A-rate title doesn’t speak enough, then this match will fill in the blanks.
Jarrett vs Hogan
Having sat patiently through some actual garbage, the fans were now poised and ready for the World Heavyweight Championship match. And after a minute of Jarrett’s music playing, but no Jeff, out comes…Vince Russo. At that point, you can feel the support for JJ turn into actual venom and hatred as it dawns on the crowd – we’re in for some nonsense, that’s for sure. Hogan’s music hits, and the crowd erupts. In that moment, Hulk is there to save the day. He cuts a typical Hogan promo, promising to take back what was rightfully his in an epic tussle to be remembered for the ages. Telling Jarrett to get to the ring so he can ‘powerbomb his ass for his brother Big Sexy’, Hulk is ready for the clash of a lifetime. Or so he thought.
Within 80 seconds, from bell to bell – the illusion of ‘kayfabe’ is broken forever. The world champion lies down for the biggest star in the world, jobs, and leaves. Barry Horowitz would be so proud. Absolutely bemused and facing a manic and rampaging crowd, Hogan grabs a mic and tells the crowd that; ‘This is why the company’s in the state it’s in, because of bullshit like this.’ We then cut to a shot of Vampiro, returning from the frankly god-awful Graveyard match from earlier in the night, and as he passes Hogan, the fans in the arena and at home realise that this is the LAST time we will ever see Hulk Hogan in WCW. Hulkamania is effectively done for.
Russo’s Worked Shoot
The live crowd don’t even really get a chance to process what’s happening, as out comes Russo again for one of the more notorious promos that wrestling has ever heard. Scathing is a light turn-of-phrase to describe it. In fact, when you think of a ‘shoot’ promo – this is one of the first things that comes to my mind. He tears into Hogan, the backstage politics, the lack of attention for stars like Booker T and the Filthy Animalz – but the focus is all on Hogan, as he would no doubt want it to be. This promo also contains one of the most iconic lines of the entire decade – “And Hulk Hogan, you big, bald son of a bitch…KISS MY ASS!” You can’t really get more blunt than that.
So, what EXACTLY was supposed to happen? Bearing in mind this is WCW – home of the Russo-trademarked ‘swerve’ – of course this was going to occur. Russo and Jarrett had this all planned out, and Eric Bischoff was an equally big part of the scandal. The original plan was to have Booker T be the champion at the end of the PPV, with creative being unanimous in their decision. Hogan however, was not happy about this and used the fabled ‘backstage politics’ to get his way, which was caused the shocking in-ring title change.
Jarrett vs Booker T
The main event of the PPV was changed on the fly to Jeff Jarrett vs Booker T, with Booker getting the rub and becoming the second African-American champion in the company’s history and the fans were given a decent finish to the event – the one that they surely deserved from the get-go.
With Russo reaching breaking point and flooding the company with ridiculous booking decisions, Bischoff leaving the company in the same month and then Vince himself taking leave by the end of the year – it was clear in the eyes of everyone that WCW was now a sinking ship, riddled with holes and these decisions were weighing them down. Desperation had taken over. It wouldn’t be long until the company was sold on to its competition, and any traces of WCW were all in the hands of the maniacal Vince McMahon.
Four years prior – Hogan had joined forces with noted WWF defectors Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, forming the nWo and changing the face of wrestling forever. And four years later – the face is shifted once more as Hogan is dismissed from the company, and the flame of the company is extinguished.
But, this wouldn’t be the last of the Hulkster…brother.