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It had been relatively quiet where WCW had been concerned in the lead up to Bash At The Beach 1997. The show marked one year to the show where Hulk Hogan had finally turned heel and sent wrestling on a left turn from its previous course. Television ratings were a juggernaught at the time but stories were a little more listless.
The Piper/Flair turn, which had been abandoned on more than one occasion, finally took place on the fourth Nitro in June, as Piper started attacking the Horsemen and Flair fought back. It was a logical pairing between two of WCW’s old hands – well, it would’ve been save for the fact a new unwritten WCW rule said neither could actually be called old (although Kevin Nash was, allegedly, allowed to maintain calling them “fossils”). Whether that was true or not didn’t really matter, Piper and Flair were two of WCW’s most recognisable names and a feud was logical, even if by this stage efforts to have it run as a traditional heel/face programme were pretty futile.
Otherwise eyes pointed to the main event, a pairing of Lex Luger and The Giant against Hulk Hogan and 2x NBA All Star Dennis Rodman. Rodman was the latest in a line of sportsmen appearing on WCW shows following appearances by both Reggie White and Kevin Greene in the past couple of months. Rodman was a massive star, one that the WWF attempted to bring in to pair alongside Goldust (which likely would’ve been a disaster), but he arrived as another way of placating and legitimising Hogan and a way of giving WCW some mainstream coverage that even during all of this hot run they were still lacking.
Wrath & Mortis (w/ James Vandenburgh) vs Glacier and Ernest Miller
An interesting choice for opening match and, I have to say, this was a surprisingly decent match. For all of the faults of this concept/style, Wrath and Mortis make quite a good tag team, and the kick and striking style of both Glacier and Miller is pleasing even if they’re not over. Wrath puts Glacier’s head between a steel chair and the ring post then Mortis hits a big sidekick. That looked great. The match finishes with Vandenburgh wrapping a chair around Mortis’ foot, Mortis boots Glacier in the stomach and that will do that.
The Ultimo Dragon vs Chris Jericho for the WCW Cruiserweight Title
Depends what you’re looking for in a match – technically this was excellent, a really intricate and often excellent back and forth match with more counters than I think I’ve ever seen in a single contest. The crowd just didn’t really go with it, both guys are babyfaces which stunts their chances a bit. Still, there was a fuck up on the top where Jericho whiffed a kick and Dragon fell to the floor anyway, but after Jericho attempts a powerbomb that is countered – twice – he rolls up Dragon for the three to retain the title. Not a great match, per se, but hard not to admire the athleticism on show.
Masahiro Chono & The Great Muta vs The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott)
For what feels like the fourth time, the Steiners are just one win away from a tag title shot against the Champs who never defend their belts. This was OK, but the NWO Japan team aren’t really much of anything, save being useful for the Japanese press in attendance. Still, even when they’re flat the Steiners are very impressive to watch, as Rick catches Muta doing a handspring back elbow and hits him into a German suplex. It finishes cleanly with a Bulldog off of Scott’s shoulders for the three. Maybe, finally, the Steiners will get their title match.
Juventud Guerrera, Hector Garza and Lizmark Jr vs La Parka, Psicosis and Villano IV (w/ Sonny Ono)
I’m not even going to try and describe the majority of this. Six guys working phenomenally hard in a match that by normal standards made no sense and was even harder to follow. At one point, Bobby Heenan says: “Tony, I’ll give you a hundred thousand dollars if you can tell me who’s legal”. We get the star submission, which will never not look ridiculous, and Juventud using Garza as a platform to get some incredible air for a dive to the outside. It was the lack of psychology we’ve come to expect from these guys, and an equally random finish – as Villano IV switched out with Villano V, only for Five to get pinned (he’s fresh, remember) off of a dropkick.
Kevin Sullivan (w/ Jacquelyn and Jimmy Hart) vs Chris Benoit in a Retirement match
The Benoit/Sullivan feud last year got over via sheer osmosis, problem was I think by the time we’d got here it had probably fizzled out a little. That didn’t stop a barmy conclusion with Benoit at one point in a legitimate handicap match having to fight off both Sullivan and Jacquelyn in equal measure, then Jimmy Hart taking the bump of the night as he climbed on top of a lifeguard chair (on the set) and Benoit toppled it, sending him flying. For all the brawling though, this was still a mismatch as it was hard to be invested when Benoit had Sullivan in the crossface. It ends with Jacquelyn destroying a wooden chair over Sullivan’s head and Benoit picking up the win.
Steve McMichael (w/ Debra) vs Jeff Jarrett
Just a reminder that McMichael and Kevin Greene had a really fun match a month previously. This was not good… stalling followed by some insipid and boring action (with some insipid and boring commentary). Then we get to the finish; I’ll start with the good bit, which was a lovely slight of hand with by Debra to get the case to Jarrett. Everything else was flat as Jarrett defeated Mongo with a haliburton shot and confirmed the turn that was coming for months.
Scott Hall and Randy Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs Diamond Dallas Page (w/ Kimberley Page) and Curt Hennig
They didn’t really help Hennig here, as everyone thought Page’s mystery partner was going to be Sting. This was a flat match, I think WCW expected Hennig’s presence to mean a lot more, but I wonder whether the whole thing, turn included was a bit too obvious. We got some useful interaction between Page and Savage, before a screwed up finish where Page, I think, was trying to pull the ropes down but ended up not really doing it. Henning then just punches Page, fucks off, and Page gets finished off with an Outside Edge/elbow drop combo. Not what it could or should have been.
Ric Flair vs Roddy Piper
This was fun. Flair’s meant to be the heel, but nobody is really having it – but that doesn’t matter. This was a classic match, lots of brawling and classic spots – Flair pulled Mark Curtis in before low blowing Piper in open ring. The Horsemen come out, Benoit signposts a diving headbutt way to easily and ends up hitting Flair after Piper moved. McMichael hits a jumping tombstone for a nice near fall. After that Piper gets Flair in a sleeper and Flair passes out cleanly. Fun match.
Lex Luger & The Giant vs Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman (w/ Randy Savage)
Savage was essentially out there just to be an extra piece in case Rodman lost his step, but much like Kevin Greene last month, Rodman’s athletic prowess helped ensure he had a great debut. Plenty of histrionics, don’t worry about that – Rodman stood mid-ring for minutes before doing anything after he tagged in, but the place exploded when he hit an armdrag on Luger – he even managed to keep his sunglasses on.
The criticism of this match, if there could be one, was quite how long it went. Sure there’s something to be said for what this match is for (the media) so there’s certainly added value in dragging it out and ensuring Rodman got as much “face time” as possible (the stand-off between him and Giant was another big media moment) – but the match almost went around the loop about 2 or 3 times. Still, it was never boring.
Out walks “Sting” (Kevin Nash in a Sting face-mask that apparently cost $2,000 to make), he whacks Giant with the bat but the commentators sell it like it’s actually Sting. Hogan then inadvertently hits Rodman, Luger racks Hogan and Hogan submits. Luger then racks Rodman and Savage for good measure. On balance a really good main event, progressed about 2 or 3 storylines going forward – the one thing it didn’t do was setup a scenario for Rodman’s second contracted match, but that wouldn’t be for a while yet.
Score Rating: 6/10
Go Back And Watch: Depends what you’re into. There’s some impressive matches early on if you don’t mind a lack of psychology, and the semi-main and main are both worth watching but otherwise this show is a little flat.