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WCW’s first foray onto pay per view after the formation of the New World Order happened in August 1996. While you might be forgiven for thinking that in the days after the group debuted the product immediately exploded, things were much more up and down both on television but also on pay per view.
The Sturgis rally represented somewhat of an indulgence for both WCW but also President Eric Bischoff. A year prior at Bash At The Beach WCW took the chance to air an open air pay per view from Huntington Beach, California. Specifically on an actual beach in front of a crowd that, if you purely believed the announcers, was somewhere in the six figures. In reality it was more in the region of about 5,000 people. Critically, none of them paid a single dollar to attend the show. Then, like now, WCW were throwing away a significant live gate all for the sake of making something look good.
While it might have been a nice idea, and while it certainly gave Bischoff and the other bike riders on the roster the excuse for a beano to South Dakota, the pay per view (both with and without hindsight), created some significant issues. While hosting a group of bikers in the crowd some knew wrestling, many didn’t. The ones that did probably weren’t keeping up with WCW storylines which, when you’ve just turned the biggest babyface in the history of wrestling isn’t a great sign.
The entire show was built around two matches. Despite all of the drawbacks of a pay per view that was, at best, awkwardly timed (never mind having a Clash Of The Champions six days later), they threw both barrels at the show, with Outsiders Kevin Nash and Scott Hall taking on the team of Lex Luger and Sting and “Hollywood” Hogan taking on The Giant for the World Title.
The show was preceeded by a two hour live WCW Saturday Night, with almost nothing of note beyond a really nice sit down interview with Ric Flair (a protracted version of which aired on the pay per view). It did mean that those chosing to watch Saturday Night and then the pay per view would have to sit through five hours of live content.
Ultimate Dragon vs Rey Mysterio Jr for the WCW Crusierweight Championship
Adding to the unique setting was the entire ring being on a raised platform itself, resembling a two tiered square cake. Those hoping for dynamic cruiserweight matches would be let down as the flying to the outside was limited, but both guys put on a real nice display of lucha action. Dragon hits a big moonsault, but Mysterio follows that with a real nice looking hurricanrana counter from the top for the win.
Scott Norton vs Ice Train
A very brief match, with Train sporting a serious amount of shoulder strapping. Not long enough to be good or, dare I say it, bad, but I did appreciate that given that Ice Train was sporting an injury that Norton simply finished him off with a submission move targeting that injury. Simple, doesn’t happen enough.
Bull Nakano vs Medusa
They both come out riding motorcycles (Medusa a Harley, Nakano a Honda – naturally), the winner gets to smash up the losers bike. This match had a lot going on in the short five minutes it went, Nakanko and Medusa (apparently the only female wrestler in America at this time) have worked matches far better than this, and offered a few teases of that with a lovely set of throws by Medusa’s hair and a nice frankinsteiner. Heenan and Dusty are becoming even more unbearable on commentary, Nakano hits a belly to back suplex with bridge, Medusa kicks out at two but the ref counts to three anyway. After the match, Medusa gets a hold of the sledgehammer and does a pretty lousy job of smashing up the bike.
Dean Malenko vs Chris Benoit
A nice long match, but one that turned into an overbooked mess that the crowd eventually turned on. We get a tombstone reversal, a dangerous looking high angle superplex from Benoit and an early tease of a Walls of Jericho from Benoit. Normal time runs out, so we get over time. Overtime runs out, so we get more overtime (the crowd boo that), and after all that Benoit picks up a roll up victory after Woman distracts Malenko. Very good action, but booked within an inch of its life and in front of the wrong crowd to ever truly mean anything.
The Steiners (Rick and Scott) vs Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray w/ Sister Sherri and Col Parker)
We’re in the South... and some members of the audience maybe (shall we say) aren’t as accepting as people that don’t look the way they do as they perhaps should be. So… after being pretty docile they got pretty riled up when the Heat came out. Lots of booing and engine revving created quite a unique if unfortunate climate to have the match work in but, credit to both Booker and Stevie for turning a negative into part of the match.
The match itself was pretty good, and while I don’t want to trivialise an audibly racist crowd, the atmosphere actually gave the match an extra intensity. Ordinary things were being cheered and booed with a vigour that the show otherwise lacked. Of course, after a lot of real nice action we had to have a fucked finish, right? Both Sherri and Parker get on the apron, but Booker and Scott take some powder to the face, but Parker hits Scott with a cane and Booker picks up the win to retain the titles. Lots of boos.
Eddie Guerrero vs Ric Flair (w/ Woman and Miss Elizabeth) for the WCW United States Heavyweight Title
These days you are getting Flair’s greatest hits a lot of the time, and I think he realised that in front of a crowd that wasn’t particularly savvy for wrestling there was no great benefit in doing any more than what was required. Still, this was still Eddie Guerrero vs Ric Flair and it was still quite good. We get a figure four from Gurrero and a nice swinging DDT. Guerrero hits a frog splash but can’t get the win and hurts his knee in the process. Flair locks in the figure four and gets the victory by pinfall as Guerrero in theory passes out.
The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash) vs Lex Luger & Sting
The sun has as good as set on this show as we get to the first of the two big matches. There’s a lot of star power here, and a lot of storyline too, but this wasn’t the crowd and – to an extent – this wasn’t the in ring work to get us through it. At Bash At The Beach there was always the thought that the main event was an average match made good by the consequences… well this was the average match without the consequences. Quite a basic match, Sting rallies after playing the face in peril, we setup with a scorpion deathlock on the platform and a Torture Rack on Hall in the ring, but as Luger picks up Hall, Hall kicks referee Nick Patrick. Patrick staggers, “inadvertently” takes out Luger by the knee before doing an extraordinary quick count and the Outsiders take it. A really shit finish to a pretty flat match.
“Hollywood Hogan” vs The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) for the WCW World Heavyweight Title
We have seen this match before, six months ago in fact, with Hogan as a babyface. That worked well with Hogan working his atypical babyface style and The Giant working as a heel. This one, with the tables sorta turned (Hogan a heel but being cheered by an unaware crowd, and Giant in theory going babyface) should’ve been different. Instead it was much worse!
There was a ton of stalling, an inexplicable amount of stalling. We eventually get to a really long resthold, a bit of offense from Hogan – including back rakes, which would make sense save the fact he did them as a babyface too. Giant then Hulk’s up… yes, which is quite a nice spot. He hits a big boot, then shapes for a chokeslam, but out run the Outsiders. Giant fights them both off but Hogan grabs the title belt, hits Giant with it and wins the title. Really, really flat match front of a tired crowd.
After the match, Booty Man comes out with a birthday cake for Hogan while wearing an NWO shirt (one with a skull on the front, which looks quite cool). After some time wasting, Hogan attacks Booty Man. The logic being that if Hogan will do that to his “best friend” (a storyline that doesn’t really work given that Booty Man turned on Hogan first 18 months prior), then what will he do to Ric Flair.
Score Rating: 4/10
Go Back And Watch: Eh… Take it or leave it. Noteworthy for the view, I suppose.