WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MONDAY WITH TONY SCHIAVONE & CONRAD THOMPSON
Episode 21: WCW Bash At The Beach 1996
Release Date: July 3, 2017
Recap by: Dominic DeAngelo
Top Newsworthy Items:
-Hogan’s infamous heel turn
-Who could be the “third man”?
-The major players in the heel turn
-What did (and didn’t) the announce team know going into the main event?
Subjects covered (with timestamps):
(5:20) Four Horsemen recap
(8:50) Bash At The Beach’s overall impact / house draws
(15:15) Wrestling Observer reader poll
(22:20) Two weeks after Hall debuts, Nash shows up. What’s going on backstage in this moment?
(27:50) Bischoff was careful with his wording when it comes to Hall & Nash
(37:40) Go home Nitro: Hall & Nash bought “tickets” with microphones
(40:48) Harlem Heat vs. Steiners
(43:35) Bobby Walker vs. Billy Kidman
(45:50) Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. Fire & Ice
(50:45) Tony is haphazardly dressed for BATB ’96
(53:56) Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Psychosis
(59:35) Mean Gene interviews Konnan / John Tenta vs. Bubba Rodgers
(1:11:00) DDP vs. Jim Duggan / backstage interviews
(1:20:40) Dean Malenko vs. Disco Inferno / Joe Gomez vs. Steve McMichael
(1:26:15) Ric Flair vs. Konnan / Elizabeth & Woman
(1:32:35) Benoit & Anderson vs. Giant & Kevin Sullivan
(1:37:50) Third man plans
(1:42:35) Hall & Nash vs. Sting, Luger & Savage
(1:49:35) Heenan’s line / Hogan as a heel
(2:02:35) Wrestling fans were changing back in the mid-1990s
(2:07:00) Twitter questions answered
(2:13:30) Anything else Tony wanted to cover? / The real difference between Hogan & Terry Bollea
(5:20) The Whataburger story was a big hit last week. Tony sees even today how The Four Horsemen had an impact on wrestling today.
(8:50) Bash At The Beach happened nearly 20 years ago. He says when he watches it, he doesn’t feel like it’s that long ago, but then realizes the kids in the stands are like 30-years-old. This one night really set the table for the Monday Night Wars. This NWO idea was one of the first WCW storylines that they actually had been ahead of the game in WWE. Tony & Conrad consider Hogan’s heel promo that night as one of the greatest WCW had to offer and credited it for it’s impact on blurring the lines between what was reality and what wasn’t. Bash At The Beach sold out. Paid attendance was 6,400. 2,000 paying customers were turned away only had a $72,000 gate.
(15:15) Wrestling Observer reader poll: 74% thumbs up, 12.6% thumbs down. Tony thought it was a great show after it ended. This was one of the shows where a lot of the guys hung out backstage after the show. Tony ranks this as the #1 most important show in WCW history. This was the beginning of WCW being red hot. Conrad thinks it’s a short list: Bash At The Beach ’94, BATB ’96 and Starrcade ’97 was the top three. Best match: Rey Mysterio vs. Psychosis. Worst match: John Tenta vs. Bubba Rodgers. Conrad was curious if Tony knew the three-on-three match was a sure thing going in. He did. Scott Hall credits Larry Zybysko for his infamous Nitro appearance. He may be old AF, but he’s still a smart guy and always had great ideas.
(22:20) Two weeks after Hall debuts, Nash shows up. What’s going on backstage in this moment? Tony still wasn’t sure at this point who the three WCW guys would be. Everything was up for debate and speculation. After Nash arrived, Tony thought it could have been anybody (whether WCW or WWF). This kind of speculation doesn’t happen these days. Tony says Bischoff was to credit for “working the boys.” Everybody was taken off guard for this. Tony doesn’t feel everybody in the locker room doesn’t need to know everything. “Working the boys” was spectacular when it worked. It’s like any other thing: the more people are pulled into a secret, the more likely it will get let out. He thinks it was a good thing.
(27:50) Bischoff is careful with his wording when it comes to Hall & Nash. Because of contract litigation, they had to reveal they weren’t affiliated with the WWF, but Conrad doesn’t think it hurt the angle at all and neither does Tony. What did everyone think of Bischoff taking a Nash powerbomb before Austin ever stunned McMahon? Many thought it was a damn good angle, and there was a thought Eric was putting too much emphasis on himself. Now people thought even more of that moving forward. Eric was a difficult guy to work for but he was a good boss. Most of them were behind it, but not everyone. WCW team is revealed to be Sting, Luger, and Savage. On one of the Nitros, Hall and Nash show up with bats, distracting Sting and Luger enough for them to lose the tag belts to Harlem Heat.
(37:40) Go home Nitro: Hall & Nash bought “tickets” with microphones. Both get escorted out of the arena. There was no physical altercation going into the PPV. Tony loved the build-up to the big angle. You don’t always need physicality. This was one of the old-school ways things were built. Take Blackjack Mulligan vs. Ric Flair in 1978, who never touched each other until the big match. Tony’s favorite Jim Powers match was this one on the BATB ’96 card because it was a “dark match.” Tony calls Dave Meltzer “the dump on glass coffee tables.”
(40:48) Harlem Heat vs. Steiners. HH retains via DQ after five minutes. One star for the Observer. Sherri was previously fired before because of drug and emotional problems. She just had trouble keeping it together here and there. Sympathetic figure for sure and she had to get her life together before she could work full-time. A sad story.
(43:35) Bobby Walker vs. Billy Kidman. Walker wins in 2.5 minutes. Why have a two minute match on a PPV? Tony doesn’t remember “Hard Work” Bobby Walker. Conrad reminds him that he was the nephew of Thunderbolt Patterson. Super funny exchange. This was a dark match.
(45:50) Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. Fire & Ice. Two minutes. Ricky and Robert were too Southern for Eric. Eddie Guerrero vs. Steven Regal, which goes three minutes. These were all dark matches while some other ones with not as much talent were on the main card. The dark matches were to get the crowd into the show.
(50:45) Tony’s is haphazardly dressed for BATB ’96. Conrad begins to blame Tony’s dress code for being shut down. Lois dressed him.
(53:56) Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Psychosis. Right smack dab in the middle of Rey’s prime. So many big moves here. 4.75 stars. Everybody loves it. Tony says this was the beginning of Rey Mysterio. Mike Tenay laid the groundwork for getting the cruiserweights over with this match. Bobby Heenan is burying this match with mocking move names and the appearance of the wrestlers. Tony thinks Bobby was just being funny. Conrad says that the two guys still don’t have star power to take that type of burying. Tony thinks Heenan did put these guys over. Conrad feels like it took away from the match. “Where’s Bischoff” was a topic that Tony think hinders some of the matches.
(59:35) Mean Gene interviews Konnan. Tony thinks Konnan was a great performer and was a good promo. He thought this was one of the most entertaining parts of the show. The fact that Konnan was well traveled made him a better champion. John Tenta vs. Bubba Rodgers. John Tenta comes out half shaved. Tony doesn’t think his hairdo mattered in public considering John’s size. This is a Carson City Silver Dollar match (bag of coins on a pole). No one thought either Bubba or Tenta could climb that pole. To Tony, that was a great WCW clusterf*ck. Sounds like a Dusty idea. Tony says you have to admit that the fans popped when Tenta hit Bubba with the silver dollars. 1.25 stars. Jimmy Hart climbed the pole to get the sock. Tenta wins in 8 minutes. He puts coins over Bubba’s eyes but the visual was ruined by Bubba talking the whole damn time. Tony says this wasn’t Bobby’s worst shows of all time. He loves Bobby Heenan.
(1:11:00) Gene interviews Savage, Sting & Lex Luger. They are all wearing Sting face paint, which was Sting’s idea. DDP vs. Jim Duggan in a Taped Fist Match. Duggan is about the worst wrestler in the business and DDP is the most overrated or underrated depending on who you talked to (according to Meltzer). Tony says that’s a BS line by Meltzer, but the match did stink. Gene returns with The Dungeon of Doom and Lee Marshall is with Benoit and Arn Anderson who talks about The Outsiders. All the Benoit/Sullivan stuff started happening at this point and Tony thought it was all a work. Nasty Boyz v. Public Enemy in 11.5 minutes. Double dog collar match. Nasty Boyz win. ECW-esque with a botched table spot. 1.25 stars. Tony said on-air “that was a mess.” No blood and Tony thought that it was weird. Heenan had some great comments though. Not knocking on the guys but exactly what they do. A match not made for TV and there wasn’t a lot of fanfare for it.
(1:20:40) Dean Malenko vs. Disco Inferno for Cruiserweight belt. 12 minutes, Dean wins. Probably the second best match of the show. Conrad feels Dean never got his due. 3.25 stars. Tony thinks it was a good match and good story told. Inferno had a chance to win, but blew it by being too vain. Tony loves Dean Malenko. Backstage, Dean was a very funny guy. The fact that he was serious and could wrestle made it a great gimmick for him. Dean was a lot like Eddie Guerrero in that he could make a good match out of anybody. How does Tony think Disco’s career would have gone with a less serious gimmick? Conrad doesn’t think it allowed him to reach his potential. Glenn Gilbertti loved the wrestling business, but the question is what gimmick would you have given him? Joe Gomez vs. Steve McMichael. Meltzer gives it a negative half a star. Who is the worst wrestler in WCW history? Van Hammer and Todd Champion all get mentioned. Joe Gomez was brutal in this match. A good guy, kind of, but a terrible meathead. Tony doesn’t think you could blame Mongo for this match. Conrad says the Tombstone Piledriver was phenomenal.
(1:26:15) Ric Flair vs. Konnan. Flair wins in 15.5 minutes with interference by Woman & Elizabeth. Match was good until the finish. Flair’s sixth reign as U.S. Champion. 2.5 stars. Tony thought the match was okay. He thought the way Woman screamed took away a lot from the match. He agrees with Meltzer that the finish wasn’t good. Conrad can’t believe that these women didn’t live longer than the men. Tony says both are tragic wrestling stories. Doesn’t make sense that Flair is back down in the U.S. Title ranks. Tony asked how many times have you seen Flair and Konnan on a PPV match? Seeing these two in the ring together was something refreshing. Tony agrees with Conrad’s speculation that Bischoff was trying to give the belt a rub again.
(1:32:35) Benoit & Anderson vs. Giant & Kevin Sullivan. Giant & Sullivan gets the win after chokeslamming Arn. Sullivan doesn’t sell a whole lot in this match. Blurring of the lines with Benoit/Sullivan/Woman. Was this uncomfortable with everyone? It was uncomfortable, but Tony had no guidance here, so they did nothing to further the storyline. Tony thinks Giant didn’t need to use the scream as he was an engaging guy in the first place. He did an excellent job at protecting Arn on the chokeslam. He credits Kevin Sullivan with genius. To Tony, Arn Anderson gave the best interview on the show. He tied everything together. The best ever.
(1:37:50) Lex Luger was the original plan for the third man. Mable was a top candidate, and so was Crush, but everyone agreed Bret Hart would be the best choice. Anything less would be a letdown. Lots of folks believe that this would be Bret Hart and a lot of people thought Sting. Another popular theory was the British Bulldog. Did Tony remember any speculation? Bret Hart was the rumor he heard most about, the storyline with Hogan was also a chance. As an announce team that night, they still didn’t know. Tony thought that it was going to be The Giant. He also thought it was interesting trying to read what was going on in the back. He noticed Sting was in the back kind of by himself listening to Luger and Savage talk. Tony didn’t know until it happened, but he knew the possibilities.
(1:42:35) Hall & Nash vs. Sting, Luger & Savage. No decision. Rest is history after Hogan came out. Three stars. Hogan comes out to a pop, and then leg drops Savage twice. One of the most intense scenes in wrestling. Folks throwing trash was one of the first times that’s happened in a big WCW event. Hogan cuts one of the greatest promos in wrestling history. Gets people very fired up. Tony thinks the way the match was laid out was okay. The promo was spot on for Tony because it shows Hogan could and did have great promos. The trash in the ring wasn’t planned. Hogan did a great ad lib with that. A great scene and a spectacular finish. Okerlund coming in the ring tied everything together with their history. Hogan couldn’t have done a better job. Meltzer sums everything up that the show was average, but credits Tony for doing a good job for the show. Meltzer’s credit shocked Tony. Tony saying “Hulk Hogan, you can go to hell” was unscripted and unplanned. He didn’t know it would pack as much punch until Brian Knobbs mentioned it to him after the show.
(1:49:35) Tony brings up Bobby Heenan’s famous “but whose side is he on” line. When that happened, he thought Heenan knew something he didn’t, but looking back on it, it works when you consider Hogan & Heenan’s on-air history. Everybody reads too much into that. Meltzer reports that Hogan agreed to do this 11 days before. His contract was ending and people were feeling his popularity was waning. Will people take their kids to see a villain Hulk Hogan? Will anyone buy bad guy merchandise? A big risk for Hogan. Plan B was Sting in case Hogan decides not to do it. How different would the business be if Sting was the guy? Tony doesn’t think it would have been as big. To him, Hogan was the best choice. The NWO got hot, and Hogan deserves a lot of credit for that. Nash said Hogan saw the money train and Tony agrees. Hogan was always in charge of his storyline. Hogan was smart enough to know where the money was. He absolutely pulled it off. Bischoff didn’t arrive to the building until later today. Angle of Bischoff missing was blown off the next night on Nitro. Kevin Sullivan had Hogan stay with him, and tried to insulate Hogan from the other boys so he wouldn’t change his mind. Great move by Kevin Sullivan. That strategy worked. Someone could have gotten in Hogan’s ear and changed the course of the NWO. If this didn’t work, would it have hurt Hogan’s drawing power? Tony felt there was still a lot you could do with Hulk Hogan even if he didn’t turn heel. He was still the biggest star in his business. He wasn’t the same Hogan he was in 1994 though. Hogan claims in his book that no one sold him on the idea of turning heel. It was him alone. Despite what Hogan said in his book of it having to be approved by Ted Turner never happened according to Tony. He thinks Hogan had to be coaxed into doing it.
(2:02:35) Wrestling fans were changing back in the mid-1990s and now it was kind of hip to be heel fans. They were turning on the babyfaces. The Four Horsemen went from being the heels that you hated, to becoming cool to throw up the four fingers. If you go back and look at it, WCW portrayed Hall & Nash as pure heels, but fans still ate them up. Tony didn’t have a conversation with Hogan after the show, but he did see him and everybody was thrilled with what was going on. A moment that was big on many levels and Tony was thrilled to be apart of it. Everybody thought that it was 100% across the board that it was going to work.
(2:07:00) Twitter questions answered: Bobby got zero heat as far as Tony knew. Tony doesn’t think Bret Hart would have been as big as a Hogan heel turn. Tony wasn’t fed his apology line the next night on Nitro, but did it to further the storyline. All this stuff was before he was fed lines. The fan that tried to get into the ring was arrested. Tony thought it was funny Gene got hit in the head with the soda. Hogan’s 1995 “dark side” run wasn’t a heel practice run. Tony says to Twitter user @TwoDogsHumping, you should put a steak on a very hot grill and sear both sides to trap in the flavor, let it bake with a lid on top and go f*ck yourself. Tony didn’t mind the rubber sharks but thought it was stupid for them to hit each other with it. Alternate plan would have been for Hogan to be the lead guy against the NWO in this hostile takeover.
(2:13:30) Anything else Tony wanted to cover? Tony thinks that he felt really good about the commentary team of him, Heenan and Dusty.
Score and review (10 out of 10)
Call this NWO / WCW fanboy bias or just call this historic wrestling significance, but I’m giving this show a straight-up perfect 10 (without any tongue-in-cheek Ty Dillinger joke).
Tony delivers on his insight to one of (if not) the biggest angles ever in wrestling and he, along with Conrad, do it with the hilarity and chemistry of what fans of WHW have come to know and love. This episode absolutely encompasses what a nostalgic wrestling podcast can bring from an entertainment perspective. Even in my fury of typing out this recap, I didn’t want Tony or Conrad to stop talking when (1) they were covering moments of who could and couldn’t have been the third man, (2) anything related to Bobby Heenan or (3) any time either deemed appropriate for a witty joke or comment. This is a must listen for fans of the show or fans who have any interest in listening to a new wrestling podcast they’re unfamiliar with, because damn it, this show is excellent and needs to be heard by the wrestling masses. And if you feel otherwise, “you can go straight to hell.”
About the Author
Dominic DeAngelo has a weekly column on PWTorch.com, “Rising Star, Fading Star” and runs a sports, entertainment and lifestyle blog in the Pittsburgh area called The Keystone Statement. In addition, he writes book reviews for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His wrestling top three are Scott Hall, Bret Hart & Bruno Sammartino. Follow him on Twitter @DominicDeAngelo and visit his site www.keystonestatement.com for good articles and the two podcasts he hosts, “The Keystone Cast” & “Here Comes Everybody”