Thursday, 19 March 2020

PPV REVIEW: WCW Bash at the Beach 1994

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Event poster
July 17, 1994
Orlando Arena, Orlando, Florida

As most regular Retro Pro Wrestling readers will know, our attempt to cover every PPV from Wrestlemania 1 - 30 has been done mostly in chronological order since we hit the mid-1990s.

At time of writing, we're half-way through covering the year 2000,  with next week's review scheduled to be Bash at the Beach 2000.

That show is important for two reasons:

  1. It's the last ever Bash at the Beach PPV
  2. It features the last live appearance of Hulk Hogan on a WCW wrestling show.
When you think about it, that's somewhat fitting; a true case of everything coming full circle.

After all, it was six years earlier, at the first-ever Bash at the Beach pay per view in 1994 that Hogan made his in-ring debut for the company, challenging Nature Boy Ric Flair for the WCW  title in a much-publicised match.







So, this week, it felt appropriate to take time out from reviewing pro wrestling as it was at the turn of the millennium and jump back to the start of Hogan's WCW career.

With that in mind, join me as we go back to the year 1994 as the first Bash at the Beach show came to us live from Orlando, Florida.

Live From Orlando, The Match of the Century

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, Gene Okerlund
Unsurprisingly, tonight’s opening video package focussed on the main event pitting ‘12 time WCW champion’ Ric Flair against ‘five-time champion’ Hulk Hogan in the match of the century.

WCW’s PPV openings get a lot of stick around these parts, but to give credit where it’s due, this was a pretty good little video by 1994 standards.

The video was followed by the ever-present voice of Tony Schiavone, who welcomed us to this historic occasion and introduced us to his broadcast colleagues Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan (or Bobby ‘The Brain’ Hernandez as my autocorrect would have it) and Mean Gene Okerlund.

Schiavone and Okerlund were hyped to see Hulk Hogan tonight but Herman, naturally, wasn’t so impressed.

Displaying the kind of passion that would be completely gone from his character by the end of his WCW run, The Brain cut a scathing promo on The Hulkster in which he promised that by the end of the evening, everyone in Orlando would be pointing at him and calling him a loser.

God bless you, Weasel, you were one of a kind.

Sensuous Sherri Injured Sting

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Daron Norwood sang the national anthem
Out in the ring, country singer Daron Norwood gave us a respectable rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner before we went back to the men with the microphones for more chatter.

This time, Schiavone, Heenan, and Okerlund discussed the fact that Sting wouldn’t be here tonight after he was injured by ‘Sensuous’ Sherri on WCW Saturday Night.

Flashing back to that show, we saw the Stinger lock Flair in the Scorpion Deathlock as Hogan sat on a chair at ringside watching on. At that point, Sherri came out dressed a bit like Charlie Chaplin and raked his eyes.

Hogan intervened, lifting Sherri for an automatic drop and copping a good feel of her bum in the process.

All hell broke loose, with Flair and Sherri escaping as Jimmy Hart, Mr T, and Mr T’s giant earrings all stormed the ring.

All this was shown to tell us that Johnny B. Badd had replaced Sting in tonight’s TV title match.

Finally, eight whole minutes into the broadcast, we got on with that match.

World Championship Wrestling World Television Championship
WCW TV Champion Lord Steven Regal (w/ Sir William) vs. Johnny B. Badd

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Johnny B. Badd challenged Steven Regal for the TV title
Clocking in around 14 minutes, this was as good an opening match as you were going to get in 1994.

Certainly, there was no way the WWF would ever showcase a bout like this one back at that time.

A proper wrestling match, this one had a lot to like about it and only lost this writer’s interest for a few brief moments in the middle.

After a solid, back-and-forth effort from both men, Steven Regal retained his gold with a sloppy-looking roll-up and a handful of tights.
Your Winner and Still WCW TV Champion: Steven Regal

Afterwards, Johnny B. Badd extracted a modicum of revenge for the loss by giving Sir William (Bill Dundee) by giving him a back body drop.

Yeah, that’ll show him.

Lord Regal is Sick of These Bloody Legends

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Antonio Inoki was honoured by the company but then disrespected by Steven Regal
After a word from our commentators, Mean Gene Okerlund stood in the ring to present some kind of plaque to Antonio Inoki.

Okerlund gushed over Inoki and only just stopped short of telling us that the Japanese legend was the greatest human being who ever lived. He then gave him the plaque in recognition of what an awesome dude he was.

Okerlund never actually told us what the plaque actually was. An award perhaps? An induction into a Hall of Fame? A lifetime achievement thing? We didn’t know. It was just ‘Antonio Inoki is cool. Here’s this thing.’

And here was another thing - an interruption by Lord Steven Regal. With confetti from Johnny B. Badd’s confetti gun plastered to his sweaty back, Regal returned to the thing to bemoan these bloody legends like Inoki getting all the recognition while he got none.

The TV Champion claimed to have been in Japan recently and beaten all of the top stars but didn’t see Inoki anywhere in sight.

Feeling disrespected, Inoki took his jacket off and stalked Regal around the ring, only for the Englishman to take a powder at the urging of Sir William.

This was kind of pointless, but at least Regal was his usual entertaining self.

Killing even more time, we returned once again to the announce table where Bobby Heenan has been replaced by Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura.

Vader (w/ Harley Race) vs. The Guardian Angel

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Big Van Vader (w/ Harley Race) faced The Guardian Angel (Big Boss Man)
The Guardian Angel stood for law and order. We know this because Schiavone told us about 15 times.

Apparently, he also stood for respecting copyright, which is why Ray Taylor had ditched all other aspects of his Big Bossman gimmick.

This was a weird one because it was not a bad match, but Angel made Vader look like a total chump.

You know Vader, right? Big, huge brute of a monster heel? Yeah, well Guardian Angel picked him up and threw him about the place as if he were Duane Gill.

Vader mounted a comeback, of course, but after he squashed Angel with both the Vader Bomb and his famous moonsault, Angel got up again a second later and continued fighting like it was nothing.

The finish was silly too. The referee took a tumble, so Harley Race gave Vader a nightstick. Guardian Angel stole it and teased hitting his opponent with it but never actually touched him.

The referee came to, saw Traylor merely holding the stick, assumed the worst and called for the bell.

Man, that was so disappointing.
Your Winner by Disqualification: Vader

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Jesse Ventura joined Schiavone to call a few matches
On the plus side, it was awesome to hear Jesse Ventura on commentary again. The last time I reviewed a show with Jesse on it was Wrestlemania VI, and I wrote that seven years ago, so it’s nice to hear him again.

After a brief shot backstage of Chris Cruise and a chubby Mike Tenay manning the WCW hotline, Ventura and Schiavone introduced us to a video which recapped the feud between Dustin Rhodes and the team of Bunkhouse Buck and Terry Funk.

To be honest, I didn’t really follow it, but it had something to do with Funk going after Dustin because he couldn’t get to Dusty Rhodes, and the future Goldust asking Arn Anderson to be his partner so he could face them.

Then, because this show was all about wasting as much time as possible, we were shown a clip from the pre-show shenanigans.  A female wrestler called Molly McShane beat two radio guys in what looked like an awful match with Jimmy Hart as referee.

Finally, we were ready for some more action, and about time too. We were 45 minutes into the show by now and we’d seen, at most, 20 minutes of actual wrestling over two matches.

Bunkhouse Buck & Terry Funk (w/ Col. Robert Parker & Meng) vs. Dustin Rhodes & Arn Anderson

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Bunkhouse buck puts a hurt on Dustin Rhodes
All that time-wasting was worth it because this was great fun.

Dustin Rhodes wrestled the entity of the match for his team, putting up a valiant effort against the two wily veterans and, of course, paying tribute to the American Dream by dropping bionic elbows with gusto.

Yet the real star of the show was Terry Funk. Middle-aged and crazy as ever, the Funker got knocked goofy in the early going and sold it for the entire match, flopping around the place and generally acting like he had no idea where he was at any moment.

It was the kind of commitment to selling that you just don’t see these days, and it was a thing of beauty.

As for Arn Anderson? Well, if you didn’t see his inevitable heel turn coming from a mile away, you must have been blind.

After watching his partner wrestle the whole of the match, Anderson finally tug in and planted Dustin with a DDT. He dragged a fallen Funker on top of the young Rhodes and this brilliant bout was over.
Your Winners: Bunkhouse Buck and Terry Funk

Post-match, Funk and Buck joined Double-A in a Dustin Rhodes beat down until Doug Dillinger came down with Randy Anderson and Greg Gagne to break it up.

Mean Gene called Anderson’s then one of the most disposable things he’d ever seen, but Double-A said he’d only talk to him if he joined them at the party they were heading to.

To Be the Man...

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Mean Gene Okerlund interviews Ric Flair and Sensuous Sherri
After a quick interview with baseball legend Hank Arron in which he claimed to be rooting for both Hogan and Flair, Schiavone and Heenan wasted more time with their tween-match banter before throwing it back to Mean Gene.

Standing backstage with Sensuous Sherri and World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair, Okerlund asked Flair for his comments on tonight’s main event.

Sadly, we didn’t get a ‘Mean WOO Gene’ from Flair, but we did get one of his usual stellar promos.

The Nature Boy was elated to see his buddy Arn Anderson back on the right side of the heel/face divide, but he was even happier to be facing Hogan tonight.

He couldn’t wait to walk that aisle, style, and profile and remain our world champion.

For her part, Sherri reminded us that to be the man (woo) you had to beat the man and that tonight, Hogan was the one with everything to prove.

This was good stuff from both.

World Championship Wrestling United States Championship
WCW United States Champion Stunning Steve Austin vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat


WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Ricky Steamboat challenged Stunning Steve Austin for the US title
Sadly, Ricky Steamboat didn’t have that cheesy theme song from Slam Jam Vol. 1 that was all about what a great guy he was for not cheating on his wife.

He did, however, have the whole breathing-fire-and-wearing dragon wings to the ring with him.

Meanwhile, Stunning Steve Austin came down using a theme that would later be used for Marty Jannetty, Greg Valentine, and a bunch of others.

The two men locked up and gave us a match that was so, so good.

Stunning Steve was a brilliant smarmy, devious heel, trying every dirty, underhand trick in the book to get the better of his opponent.

It also helped that both he and Steamboat were excellent wrestlers. Together, they gave us a long, compelling match that was a joy to watch.

After trading the advantage several times, the dastardly Austin reversed a Steamboat pin attempt and got the three by putting his feet on the ropes.
Your Winner and Still WCW United States Champion: Stunning Steve Austin

Out in the back, we were shown Pretty Wonderful speaking to Chris Cruise about their upcoming title match for the WCW Hotline.

Elsewhere in the arena, Hotline lover Mean Gene accepted his invite to Bunkhouse Buck and Terry Funk’s party. Along with Anderson and Col. Robert Parker, the group glugged champagne that looked awfully like cheap beer and gloated about getting one over on The Natural Dustin Rhodes.

World Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
WCW World Tag Team Champions Cactus Jack & Kevin Sullivan (w/ Dave Sullivan)  vs. Pretty Wonderful (Pretty Paul Roma & Mr Wonderful Paul Orndorff)

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Pretty Paul Roma teamed with Paul Orndorff to challenge Cactus Jack & Kevin Sullivan for the WCW tag team titles
Neither of these duos may have been the greatest tag teams of all time, but they did achieve something pretty special here:

Helping to redefine the very meaning of the word ‘tedium.’

Whereas the previous encounter had been a tour-de-force of exceptional pro wrestling, this tag team title match was a snore-de-force of lifeless mediocrity.

At one point, things became so dull that the crowd started entertaining themselves with repeated, area-wide Mexican waves.

This wasn’t just something you happened to spot in the background, either. The cameras opted to focus on it and the announcers opted to talk about it because it was a thousand times more interesting than the ‘Cactus Jack Fifty-Hour Armbar Extravaganza’ going on in the ring.

Around the same time, cameras also cut to WCW President Bill Shaw ignoring the match and having a chat with Hank Aaron.

Seriously, the match was so boring that not even the president of the company had any interest in it.

Pretty Wonderful won and not a single person in the crowd looked as if they cared.
Your Winners and NEW WCW Tag Team Champions: Pretty Wonderful

At this point in the show, there are still 43 minutes on the clock with Schiavone and Heenan telling us it was time for the main event.

Seriously?

A few minutes were killed with Michael Buffer introducing WCW Commissioner Nick Bodkwinkle and Shaquille O’Neal to the ring to lend an air of gravitas to the occasion, but otherwise, this thing was on.

World Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship
WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair (w/ Sensuous Sherri) vs. Hulk Hogan (w/ Jimmy Hart & Mr T)

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Hulk Hogan made his WCW in-ring debut, capturing the world title from Ric Flair
On a somewhat related note, I think this might also be the WCW debut of Michael Buffer, though I wouldn’t want to put money on that.

He spent so long introducing everyone and going off on some random tangent about the moon landings that we only had half an hour left to watch Hogan and Flair wrestle.

The two only used twenty of those minutes for actual wrestling, but oh how they used them well.

Hogan will always have his detractors (from an in-ring standpoint and otherwise), but this was an incredibly fun main event.

Sure, it was mostly just Hogan and Flair playing their greatest hits coupled with an abundance of Sherri Martel interference and a single instance of Hogan busting out the kind of technical wrestling he usually reserved for Japan, but all of that combined made for a great performance in front of a red hot crowd.

The best Hulk Hogan match in years by a good mile, this 21-minute encounter ended predictably with a win for The Hulkster, but man, did we get a lot of good stuff before then.
Your Winner and NEW WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Hulk Hogan

WCW Bash at the Beach 1994 - Brian Pillman crashed Hulk Hogan's celebratory promo
After the usual Hogan post-match celebration, we found him walking down the corridor where he bumped into his buddy Ed 'Brutus' Leslie and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

Hogan and his boys then went into a room for a big celebration. Speaking to Mean Gene Okerlund, Hogan cut a big, long promo in which he said that "everything that was once old is now new" and basically gloated about being our new champion.

The best part of all this was the random appearance of Brian Pillman, who edged ever closer to the Hulkster as the promo went on, permanently smiling like somebody who had no clue what was going on.

Or, who knows, maybe he was just a big fan of WCW's newest and biggest superstar.






And so, Hulkamania had well and truly arrived in World Championship Wrestling and the organisation would never be the same again. As for Hogan's debut, it had been a great start, that's for sure. Wrestling his best match in years, Hogan had gotten his WCW run off in a much better way than it would eventually end at this very same event six years later.

The rest of the show wasn't bad, either. Sure, the tag team title match was atrocious and the Vader/Guardian Angel lacked a little something, but combine a hot main event, a decent opener, and the Austin/Steamboat classic, and what you're left with is a pretty good show.

The greatest WCW event of all time? Absolutely not, but if you're bored and looking for something to watch, you could do far worse than the first WCW Bash at the Beach PPV.




Other 1994 pro wrestling reviews:



Other WCW Bash at the Beach reviews
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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.