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Today in Wrestling History (July 7)

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Guest TSMAdmin

Today in Wrestling History (July 7)

by Jared "JHawk" Hawkins


Ever since I started this column last July 9, we've covered major title changes like Bob Backlund's loss to the Iron Sheik, the blowoffs to classic feuds like Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven, and matches that transcend wrestling like the Owen Hart Tribute match. But never have I covered a match that revolutionized the business quite like this one. Well, maybe the birth of Hulkamania.


So, as a way of celebrating one year of doing this little column, let's do the match and angle that turned professional wrestling around.


The story so far: The Monday Night Wars began on September 4, 1995 with the debut of WCW Monday Nitro on TNT. The show aired opposite Monday Night Raw, and to help make the show bigger, WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff went on a talent raid of ECW and the WWF. He signed stars like Sabu, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, and Eddy Guerrero, among others. And to everybody's surprise, rather than split the wrestling audience in half, the total ratings went from about 2.5 for Raw by itself to about 4.0 combined. But the war took a drastic turn toward WCW's favor in the spring of 1996.


The WWF had begun running its Billionaire Ted skits, which lampooned Hulk Hogan (The Huckster), Randy Savage (The Nacho Man), "Mean" Gene Okerlund (Scheme Gene), and of course, WCW owner Ted Turner. These skits actually helped people tune into Nitro, which gave Bischoff the opening to sign away two big name talents from the WWF -- Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.


The first blow came on May 27, 1996 during Nitro, where Hall came out from the crowd to interfere in a match between The Mauler and Steve Doll. He grabbed the microphone and declared one simple thing: "We're taking over." Two weeks later, Kevin Nash made his initial appearance, saying "This is where the big boys play, huh? Note the adjective: play. We ain't here to play." Never mind that "play" is a verb, it was great TV.


Anyway, Hall and Nash claimed they had a third member and demanded a six man tag team match against three of WCW's biggest stars. On June 16 at the Great American Bash, after making absolutely sure that Hall and Nash said on camera that they were not representing the WWF (which was done to avoid a lawsuit, but it was filed anyway), Bischoff accepted that challenge. But when he refused to say who WCW's three representatives were, Nash power bombed Bischoff through the stage. This was a big deal because at the time, Bischoff wasn't being beaten up every week like he is today.


The following night on Nitro, WCW announced their three representatives: Sting, Lex Luger, and Randy Savage. However, although Hall and Nash would continue to interfere at various points of Nitro and cause trouble, they refused to reveal who their third member was.


Of course, there were plenty of rumors going around as to who the third man would be. Bret Hart? That's the guy they wanted, but he was still technically under a WWF contract. Hunter Hearst Helmsley? Again, under contract, but that would have made sense considering his depushing following the infamous Kliq Curtain Call. Somebody on WCW's team? Lex Luger had just rejoined WCW on that first Nitro, and they had been teasing a Luger-Sting feud for eight months, so that certainly would have made sense. In fact, that was pretty much everybody's prediction, at least outside of the internet. And of course, you had outlandish rumors like Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan running around, but come on, HOGAN? The same guy who couldn't make a comeback without a "Hogan" chant going through the crowd? Yeah, right.


The scene was set for Bash at the Beach on July 7, 1996, from the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. But on top of the question of "Who is the third member" came another question: "Where is Eric Bischoff?" He hadn't been heard from since the previous Wednesday...and didn't show up to work the preshow edition of WCW Main Event.


Without any further ado... We take you to the main event of WCW's Bash at the Beach. Your broadcast team is Tony Schiavone, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and Dusty Rhodes.


Michael Buffer begins his introductions and introduces Hall and Nash, but there's still no third guy. Mean Gene Okerlund comes in to ask what's up, but all The Outsiders will say is "He's here and he's ready," but they've got enough to handle it for now. That will bring out "The Defenders of WCW".


Six Man Tag Team "Hostile Takeover" Match: Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and ??? vs. Lex Luger, Sting, and Randy Savage


Luger and Hall start. Hall with the toothpick throw, and Luger with a slap. Hall starts with some right hands. Irish whip, and Luger ducks a clothesline and hits Hall with a forearm smash. There's a shot for Nash that sends Luger to the floor as well. Luger tries to reenter the ring, but Nash grabs him. Nash holds Luger's neck over the top turnbuckle, but his head is in front of the turnbuckle as well. Sting comes in with the Stinger Splash and takes Nash down...but he also injures Luger with it. The match is at a virtual standstill as EMTs come out to take Luger out on a stretcher, and Schiavone actually apologizes that the match can't be stopped for injury. It's now 2-on-2. Hall and Nash gets some kicks on Luger as he's being carried out. Sting takes Luger's place as legal man (no countouts in a hostile takeover, I guess). Hall slaps Sting, so Sting tackles him down and just starts punching and kicking away at Hall. Inverted atomic drop. Faceslam. Tag to Savage, who comes off the top and gets met with a fist to the midsection. In comes Nash without a tag, and he takes Savage down with snake eyes. Savage comes back and clotheslines Hall and covers for the first two count of the match. Hall tags out to Nash. Savage uses his speed to avoid Nash and punches away, but Nash connects with a knee and a forearm and goes to work. Hard bodyslam. Elbowdrop, and Savage tries to move, but Nash lands right on Savage's head and neck. Ouch! Savage immediately tags out to Sting, and your broadcasters admit that WCW is done if Savage is seriously hurt. Nash with knees in the corner as Schiavone admits they're biased. Boot choke in the corner. Sting leapfrogs over a charging Nash and dropkicks him. Sting goes for a sunset flip, but Nash stops that with a choke lift. Heenan: "We're in deep...sand." Hall tags in and gets some shots in. Punches in the corner, and forearm from behind by Nash, and Hall takes Sting down with a fallaway slam for 2. Tag to Nash, and he levels Sting with a big boot after a whip. Nash simply shoves Sting down with his foot, then kicks the ribs. A series of forearms by Nash. Irish whip, Sting ducks a clothesline, and he comes off with a dropkick to Nash's knee. Tag to Hall, who knocks Sting down to prevent the tag. Hall lures Savage into the ring and tries to slam Sting, but Sting counters it into a small package that only gets one by the time Randy Anderson gets Savage back to the corner. Hall with a series of elbowdrops and some light slaps to the face. Hall with an abdominal stretch on Sting, and he occasionally grabs Nash's hand for extra leverage. That brings in Savage, which enables Nash to come in without a tag. Nash puts his own abdominal stretch on. He also grabs Hall's hand for leverage and gets the occasional shot to the ribs in, and eventually the referee checks on Sting's arm. It drops twice, but not the third time, and Sting gets out of it with an eyerake. Tag to Hall, who drops an elbow to prevent the hot tag. Irish whip and a clothesline for 2. Hall locks in a sleeperhold. Savage distracts the ref by trying to come in, so Hall sends Sting to the floor. Nash approaches, but Savage is over with a chair to back him off. The ref pulls the chair away from Savage as Hall comes out and brings Sting back into the ring. Series of punches, and a discus punch for 2. Tag to Nash. Nash with an elbow to the ribs, then he takes Sting down with a side slam and covers, hooking both legs, and Sting is out at 2. A couple of turnbuckle smashes, then a whip. Sting grabs the ropes, kicks Nash, then he ducks some punches while countering with punches of his own. Sting leaps and finally makes the hot tag to Savage, and Savage is cleaning house on both men. He rams them head to head. He tosses Hall over the top rope behind the referee's back, nails Nash, and comes of the floor with a flying axhandle to Hall. He rolls Hall back in, goes to the top and hits Hall with another flying axhandle, but when he turns to Nash, Nash low blows him. Everybody's down, but the crowd erupts, and here comes Hulk Hogan. Schiavone and Dusty nearly have an orgasm at Hogan's entrance, but Heenan yells "Whose side is he on?" Dusty essentially tells Heenan he's an idiot (and I could make a joke here but won't) as Hogan's entrance sends Hall and Nash running...but Hogan turns and drops the leg on Savage! The crowd is in shock as he does it again! And he high fives Hall and Nash, and Schiavone has just now caught on! Over the top rope goes the referee, and Hogan hits a third legdrop. Hogan covers, and Hall counts the very unofficial three count at 17:46 (no decision). **1/2


But here comes the part of the segment that made this match so memorable. Postmatch, the Outsiders and Hogan celebrate (complete with Nash doing the ear cupping thing). Fans are throwing garbage into the ring as Okerlund comes in to try to get the explanation.



Okerlund: Hulk Hogan. Excuse me. Excuse me. What in the world are you thinking?


Hogan: Mean Gene, the first thing you need to do is to tell these people to shut up if you want to hear what I gotta say!


Okerlund: I have been with you for so many years. For you join up with the likes of these two men absolutely makes me sick to my stomach! And I think that these people here and a lot of other people around the world have had just about enough of this man and this man, and you want to put yourself in this group? You've got to be ... kidding me.


Hogan: Well, the first thing you gotta realize, brother, is this right here is the future of wrestling. You can call this the New World Order of wrestling, brother! These two men right here came from a great big organization up north, and everybody was wondering who the third man was. Well, who knows more about that organization than me, brother?


Okerlund: I've been there, I've done that. You've made the wrong decision, in my opinion.


Hogan: Well, let me tell you something. I made that organization a monster. I made people rich up there. I made the people that ran that organization rich up there, brother! And when it all came to pass, the name Hulk Hogan -- the man Hulk Hogan -- got bigger than the whole 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 caliber matches! And as far as Billionaire Ted goes, Eric Bischoff and the whole WCW goes, I'm bored, brother! That's why these two guys here, the so-called Outsiders, these are the men I want as my friends! They're the new blood of professional wrestling, brother! And not only are we going to take over the whole wrestling business, with Hulk Hogan and the new blood, the monsters with me -- we will destroy everything in our path, Mean Gene!


Okerlund: Look at all of this crap in this ring. That is what's in the future for you if you want to hang around this man Hall and this man Nash.


Hogan: As far as I'm concerned, all this crap in the ring represents thse 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! And if it wasn't for Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff would be still selling meat from a truck in Minneapolis! And if it wasn't for Hulk Hogan, all these Johnny Come Latelies that you see out here wrestling wouldn't be here! I was selling out the world, 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 organization of wrestling, brother -- me and the new blood by my side -- whatcha gonna do when the new world organization runs wild on you? Whatcha gonna do? What are you gonna do?


Okerlund: Hey, don't touch me, I've got a fleet of lawyers! Tony, Bobby, Dusty -- dammit, let's go back to you.


Schiavone: Alright, we have seen the end of Hulkamania. For Bobby Heenan. For Dust--for Dusty Rhodes, G-Gene Okerlund...I don't know. I'm Tony Schiavone. Hulk Hogan, you can go to hell! We're outta here. Straight to hell.



Aftermath: The main problem most people have with this match is Heenan saying "Whose side is he on" when Hogan makes his appearance, because they feel that it took away from the shock value. But in my opinion, Dusty and Tony dismissing Heenan helped solidify exactly the impact this had. Even with the rumor that it would be Hogan, many people found it too ridiculous to be true, and Heenan had always been anti-Hogan ever since they were in the AWA together. You can form your own opinion as to whether Heenan was a help or a hindrance. But the atmosphere that was provided by the heel turn and the reaction of the crowd are what sticks in people's mind when they remember this angle.


Once the show was over, WCW had gained what many thought could be a permanent advantage over the WWF in the Monday Night Wars. Nitro had won the last three or four head-to-head meetings with Raw, and with the momentum of this angle, Nitro was unstoppable for another 79 weeks or so. Somehow the NWO immediately received main events and title shots even though their goal was to take over WCW. As for where Eric Bischoff was, he gave some explanation about meetings he was in all day, but it was revealed five months later that he had been there the whole time...as he had joined the NWO after his power bomb at the Great American Bash, which also explained the immediate title shots. This is probably the only invasion angle that ever worked, as the first chinks in the NWO's armor didn't show up until Starrcade, at which point the angle became watered down by unworthy members and oversaturation. It was downhill from there...but that's another column for another day.


Until SmackDown, send me some feedback and check out my archives.

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