20 years ago today World Championship Wrestling ran one of the most important events in the history of professional wrestling, the 1996 Bash at the Beach. Though the “Austin 3:16” promo signaled a new direction for the WWF two weeks prior, it was this event that truly altered the landscape of professional wrestling overnight, changing the business forever in the process.
To honor the anniversary of one of the most monumental nights in WCW and pro wrestling history, Throwback Thursday on WrestlingDVDNetwork.com takes a look at just how well this event holds up after 20 years, thanks (as always) to the WWE Network.
Context is not an issue as all previous PPVs, COTCs, and NITROs are available on the Network.
WCW Bash at the Beach ’96 (WATCH)
Date: July 7, 1996 – Location: Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, Florida
Attendance: 8,300 – PPV Buyrate: 0.71 (>235,000)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, Dusty Rhodes, & Mike Tenay – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund & Lee Marshall
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: The Giant
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Konnan
WCW World Tag Team Champion: Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray)
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Dean Malenko
WCW World Television Champion: Lex Luger
After a short video package Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, and Dusty Rhodes, surrounded by security, talk about the main event and sell the uncertainty of the night, highlighting Eric Bischoff’s absence.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 2:20)
Special Guest Commentator: Mike Tenay
Psychosis vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr.
A rematch from their ECW days, Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Psychosis put on an incredible opening match in this one. It’s funny to go back and listen to how lost the announcers were calling many of these moves. What is standard fare today truly was revolutionary on a national level in 1996. In the end, Rey reverses a top rope splash mountain into a crazy hurricanrana for the pin at 15:18 to end a classic opening contest.
WINNER is Rey Mysterio, Jr. (Pin, 15:18)
After the match “Mean” Gene interviews U.S. Champion Konnan, who explains the finish of the previous match, and talks about the upcoming title match with Ric Flair.
— “Carson City Silver Dollar Match” (WATCH – 21:50)
Big Bubba w/Jimmy Hart vs. John Tenta
First Bubba shaved half of “Shark’s” head bald (“Shark” left the Dungeon of Doom and dropped all the gimmicks), then Tenta cut off part of Bubba’s goatee. The next night Bubba whapped Tenta in the eye with a sock full of “coins” before shaving off half of Tenta’s beard, setting up this match. This one is a bit odd as it’s two of WCW’s largest wrestlers in a “pole match”, of all things. Done for fun this works to a degree. Eventually Jimmy Hart climbs the pole for “Bubber” but Tenta intercepts “The Mouth”, grabs the sock, and gloms Bubba for the easy pin at 8:53.
WINNER is John Tenta (Pin, 8:53)
“Mean” Gene interviews Luger, Savage, and Sting about the upcoming “Hostile Takeover” main event.
— “Taped Fist ‘Lord of the Ring’ Match” (WATCH – 36:43)
Diamond Dallas Page vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
This one was for DDP’s virtually meaningless “Lord of the Ring” ring that Page won at Slamboree ’96 in the “BattleBowl: Lord of the Ring” tournament. Not only is the ring meaningless, but so too is this match. DDP kicks the second rope into Duggan’s plums and hits the Diamond Cutter for the pin at 5:40 to retain the “Lord of the Ring”.
WINNER is Diamond Dallas Page (Pin, 5:40)
Next we get a promo from The Taskmaster, World Champion The Giant, and Jimmy Hart with Okerlund about the upcoming battle with the Horsemen. Out in the arena the late Lee Marshall interviews Benoit and Anderson.
— “Double Dog Collar Match” (WATCH – 49:39)
The Public Enemy (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags)
ECW’s influence is plainly obvious in this match, and that’s saying nothing of The Public Enemy’s involvement. This isn’t as wild as past WCW “street fights” nor as crazy as ECW versions of the same gimmick, but it’s a stiff, fun brawl all the same, and the commentary is fun, as always. The finish is a train wreck when a Botchamania-made table doesn’t cooperate. Sags clotheslines Rocco with the same chain hanging Grunge over the top rope and drops a chain-wrapped elbow for good measure, scoring the pin at 11:27.
WINNERS are The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags) (Pin, 11:27)
Backstage Okerlund is surrounded by security outside of The Outsider’s dressing room. Talk of the identity of the Third Man and the whereabouts of Bischoff have reached a fever pitch.
— WCW Cruiserweight Championship (WATCH – 1:07:17)
Disco Inferno vs. Dean Malenko(c)
This match in almost entirely Dean Malenko. Disco gets a bit of offense in but not much. The last few minutes are full of false finishes and near-falls that eventually sees Malenko hit the Tiger Bomb before cinching in the Texas Clover Leaf for the submission win at 12:05. The commentators declare it a classic, but it’s anything but.
WINNER is Dean Malenko (Submission, 12:05)
— Singles Match (WATCH – 1:23:15)
“The Desperado” Joe Gomez vs. Steve “Mongo” McMichael w/Queen Debra & poofy dog
This was just an excuse to give “Mongo” a bit of ring time. “Mongo” is as green as owl doo-doo but Gomez does a solid job of covering up the flaws. “Mongo” hits the Tombstone Piledriver for the win at 6:45.
WINNER is Steve “Mongo” McMichael w/Queen Debra & poofy dog (Pin, 6:45)
Backstage “Mean” Gene, distracted by Woman, interviews Ric Flair about the forthcoming U.S. title match with Konnan. Elizabeth and Woman talk about spending Randy Savage’s money for the celebration party.
— WCW United States Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 1:36:23)
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/Elizabeth & Woman vs. Konnan(c)
Konnan was not just the U.S. Champion here, but the first AAA America’s Heavyweight Champion and the International Wrestling All Stars (IWAS) World Heavyweight Champion as well. This is a pretty good match. The clash of styles forces Flair to alter the routine and makes Konnan wrestle a more American style, all for the better. Flair is in mega heel mode here, using the ladies at every turn. In the end, Liz distracts the ref, Flair hits a sloppy back breaker, and Woman brains Konnan with the Japanese High Heel Shoe of Doom. Flair makes the cover, with feet on the ropes, of course, to score the pin at 15:40, ending Konnan’s sole U.S. title reign at 160 days. This marked Flair’s record-breaking 6th and final U.S. title reign, Flair’s first since November 24, 1980.
WINNER and NEW WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/Elizabeth & Woman (Pin, 15:40)
“Mean” Gene is backstage, listening at the dressing room door of The Outsiders. Gene says the Third Man is inside the room and that the Third Man’s voice is muffled but familiar, though Okerlund can’t quite make it out. Heenan suggests bribing a guard to find out.
— “Tag Team Grudge Match” – If The Horsemen Win They Earn a World Heavyweight Title Shot on the Next Night’s NITRO (WATCH – 1:56:58)
The Four Horsemen (Chris Benoit & Arn Anderson) vs. The Dungeon of Doom (The Taskmaster & WCW World Heavyweight Champion The Giant) w/Jimmy Hart
The real hook to this match was seeing Benoit and Sullivan fight it out again after their hellacious “Falls Count Anywhere Match” (1:17:55) at GAB ’96 the month prior. The match is built around Sullivan and Benoit fighting, which they do, but not much else. Arn Anderson looked to be a step off on this night. While Benoit and Sullivan brawl towards the announcers, The Giant hits the Chokeslam for the pin at 8:02. Sullivan and Benoit brawl back to the ring where Giant eventually makes the save.
WINNERS are The Dungeon of Doom (The Taskmaster & WCW World Heavyweight Champion The Giant) w/Jimmy Hart (Pin, 8:02)
After replays there’s a mediocre vignette setting up the main event. The Outsiders make their way out sans the Third Man. Okerlund hits the ring to ask where the Third Man is but Hall and Nash blow him off.
— “6-Man Tag Team ‘Hostile Takeover’ Match” (WATCH – 2:10:32)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Michael Buffer
The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash) & Mystery Third Man vs. Lex Luger, Sting, & “Macho Man” Randy Savage
This match is best remembered for the historic swerve at the end and the formation of the nWo, and the action is remembered as a footnote. In reality this match did live up to the hype. While it wasn’t a fight or war it was plenty intense with great timing, perfect psychology, and an anxious energy that still rings true after 20 years. After Luger is taken out and carted to the back it’s a two-on-two affair, and both teams shine. Suddenly, when it looks the bleakest for The Outsiders, Nash goes low on Savage and the match grinds to a halt. Hulk Hogan, who had been MIA from WCW since the April 15th edition of NITRO, comes to the ring, looking like the hero come to save the day. Instead Hogan drops the Atomic Leg Drop on Randy Savage and joins The Outsiders. Hulk drops two more Leg Drops before Scott Hall counts an unofficial three-count.
NO WINNERS declared (No contest, 16:59)
After the match Hogan shakes the hands of Hall and Nash and the three begin to celebrate. There is an edit, though it’s hard to notice, of a fan running into the ring and having the bejabbers kicked out of him! Garbage fills the ring as “Mean” Gene prepares for one of the most important promos in the history of professional wrestling (2:39:23). Hogan has cut a million and half promos through the years, but this one blows them all away. This heel turn and this promo set the New World Order in motion and set WCW on fire. After the promo Tony Schiavone tells Hogan to go to hell (“straight to hell”) before the final credits roll.
There is no way to undersell how important this event is in the history of pro wrestling.
This angle, the event, Hogan’s heel turn, the scathing promo, helped the wrestling business, still struggling to find itself after the crash of the ’80s boom, find its legs and move into the new frontier. The event itself is one of WCW’s best, with solid matches from top to bottom and a main event for the ages. If you’ve never seen this event from start to finish do yourself a favor and check it out.
You won’t be disappointed.
That’s a wrap on this week’s TBT – thanks for reading! Already signed up for the WWE Network? Then check out this amazing event and let us know what you think below.
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Until next week, see ya at ringside!
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