83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff – Bash at the Beach 2000
Release Date: 05/20/2018
Recap By: Jeff Rush
“Vince Russo is… a very likable guy. You (Conrad) like him because you don’t really know him, and I felt the same way. I was like ‘You know, this guy’s pretty cool.’ He’s got that blue collar, New York, kind of down-to-earth, you know. He seems like he’s being very transparent and honest. He’s a very charming guy. And I thought ‘Well, what the hell?’ I don’t have to like somebody to work with them; I just have to trust them. My first impression was I think I could like this guy, and he doesn’t give me any reason not to trust him, so ‘Hell yeah, we’ll try to make it work.’”
The PPV took place on July 9, 2000 and only drew 4,447 paid fans. This was roughly half the amount of fans that attended the famous Bash at the Beach 1996.
Bischoff’s return to WCW
Eric was not with WCW for the first several months of this year. Conrad recalls Bischoff saying he’d seen the Radicalz show up on WWE TV in late January and thought he’d probably be getting a call sooner than later. He was back by March.
Eric worked behind the scenes with Ed Ferrara for the first 6-8 weeks before returning to television. He wanted to make sure there was a plan in place before he showed up as a character on the show.
As Eric tells it, WCW was “stuck” with Vince Russo at this time. Him being brought back was an attempt to make things work with what they had.
Eric arranged to first meet with Russo at a restaurant near where he kept his private plane. Conrad gives him ample s**t about what he feels was a douchebag move. Eric says he wanted to be discreet.
Eric says Russo had convinced WCW brass that he was the sole reason for WWF’s success. Being ignorant and desperate, WCW felt they had gotten the “mother load” with Russo. It took them a month and a half to realize that wasn’t the case.
Brad Siegel told Eric he felt that everything Russo wrote was dark. There was no creative ebb and flow and none of it made any sense.
Eric agreed to come back in a role that allowed him to oversee creative; he didn’t simply want to be an employee. Siegel had ultimate say, but Bischoff oversaw Russo.
Eric likens the job at that time as similar to how things work in WWE present day.
Bischoff’s style at this time was to have a long-term plan that unfolded in six-month arcs. He accepted that things would change along the way, but felt this at least provided a sense of direction. The problem with Russo, he feels, was what Russo refers to as his style – Crash TV.
Eric defines Crash TV as not knowing what you’re doing and throwing s**t against the wall to see what sticks. He says if Russo is ever passionate about anything, he’ll “bro” you to death and sell you on something you know you don’t want. He says the way he knew there was “nothing under the hood” with Russo was to hear him out, and then ask him what the plan was for the following week. He says this would get a deer-in-the-headlights look out of Vince every time.
Bischoff didn’t want to bigfoot his way around things upon his return, so he would intentionally hear Russo’s inane pitches out. He says prior to his departure in 1999, he’d inappropriately bigfooted his way around corporate all too often. Eric says he disparaged people in finance in front of others at meetings, telling them they didn’t know what they were talking about. He knew when he came back that’d he’d messed up. He says Ted Turner had always been there to save his ass in the past whenever he was trying to get his way and meeting resistance. “Even threatening to play the card” usually got him his way. Turner was gone now, and he knew he had to be smarter now.
(At face value, the story of WCW is the story of failure. It’s even implied in the title of this show that the heights of success the company reached had an expiration date. The moments of each episode where Bischoff becomes contrite and admits to previous missteps are usually some of the highlights. Not because you want to hear him admit he’s failed, though that does seem to do the trick for most people. For me, it’s more about seeing another side to a person who’s only ever shown you their arrogant face. It really makes for a fascinating listen.)
Eric acknowledges that people who’ve never been in the business can have reasonable, educated opinions about what they’re seeing. However, he says when you’re actually in the business, you have to be able to separate great moments from great storylines. He feels anyone can write a great match, but that Russo was a creative vacuum who had no ability to craft a storyline.
Eric throws back to last week’s topic, Bret Hart, a handful of times in this episode. One instance came here when he cited the “steel plate” angle between Hart and Goldberg as an example of a great moment that was not part of a great storyline.
As he extolls on this attribute in convincing fashion, Conrad concludes by telling him he still approved David Arquette as champion. Eric pops.
Neither Bischoff nor Russo were present at the go home Nitro prior to the PPV. Eric says that show took place over the July 4th holiday, that he never works then. It’s a time for family and he plans things out a year in advance. Crazy how much his life changed, yet remained the same, since he first began planning this celebration in the summer of 1999.
Bischoff was trying at the very least to get a 30-day plan out of Russo as opposed to a 30-minute plan. He says Russo had no concept of what a storyline arc was. His brain didn’t work that way. He was pressuring Russo heading into this PPV to get things together, but says Vince’s anti-Hogan sentiment was driving him nuts. Forcing Russo to justify his writing made him crack and caused him to depart from TV for several weeks.
Building to the PPV
Conrad reads Meltzer’s analysis of the booking heading into the PPV, including Hogan not appearing on the final Nitro to set up his match with Jeff Jarrett on the show. Eric says Hogan didn’t refuse to do anything other than things he felt made no sense. Hmm.
He feels, according to the plans they’d laid out, it didn’t make sense to have Hogan at that Nitro.
About those plans:
Bischoff says he was trying to make chicken salad out of chicken s**t. He says people were disgusted with the chaotic booking since the start of 1999. They knew they had to get their feet back underneath them and wanted a clean slate. The title had been flipped so many times and now they wanted to create stakes and make the title important.
Eric doesn’t remember the exact planned finish at the PPV, but the end result and catalyst for the next 90 days was to have Hogan literally walk out with the belt as champion, quitting the company. Eric’s character, which was perceived as being “Hogan’s boy” would beg and plead with him to stay. It was meant to “work the boys” and come off as a shoot.
From there, a tournament would be established to create a new champion. It would culminate at Halloween Havoc with two heels squaring off in the finals. Just as they were introduced and the match was set to begin, Hogan would come out, stroke his Fu Manchu, and wag his finger and declare himself to still be champion. The two would then fight for the right to face Hogan.
(No. No, no, no. I lived through WCW 2000 the first time and this sounds TERRIBLE. Russo has done a lot to change his perception over the past 18 years, but at this point, I was 100% on board with his anti-Hogan platform. Hulk had been on top as the primary focus of WCW from the time he entered the company in 1994, throughout the run of the NWO, finally seeming to “pass the torch” to Goldberg in 1998, only to bigfoot his way back to the top with the Finger Poke of Doom angle in early 1999. Every time you thought things were finally moving away from Hogan and onto a new face or faces, he would pop back up. I cannot imagine how frustrating it would have been to be lulled yet again into believing he was finally going away over the course of a multi-month tournament set to crown a new champion only to have him show up in the finals and sit at the top of the heap once more.
I know this is the sort of talk that makes Bischoff roll his eyes and disparage those of us who “think we know” how things work when we’ve never been inside the wrestling business. But this was the summer of 2000. One of my favorite WWF PPV’s took place the same month as Bash at the Beach and was headlined by a trio of matches that showcased fresh new talent in the form of Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Kurt Angle. All three men lost their matches to more established talent, but all three were put over strong in the process and propelled to the top of the card heading into the post-Attitude era. Flipping the channel to see Hogan stroking his Fu Manchu (a visual that makes me shudder to this day) is about the least compelling programming WCW could have offered up at that time.
This is not to say I was anti-Hogan just because it was the cool thing to do. I was completely sick of him dominating WCW. When he had his nostalgia title-run in WWE two years later, I kind of loved it. It was fun to see him win the tag titles with Edge and even do battle with the Undertaker. But it was understood then that we were watching a nostalgia act, not the face of the company.
Furthermore, by July of 2000, we were only seven months removed from the last time the company had hit the reset button with a World Title tournament. I don’t believe this was the right time or end result that would have saved WCW. Obviously, Russo was not capable of carrying out any sort of concrete plan either, but this structure laid out by Bischoff makes me believe that there simply wasn’t anyone capable of handling that task.)
Bischoff doesn’t recall what Russo’s exact pitch was to close out this show, just that it was dark, hot shot, BS that did nothing for Hogan.
On the day of the show, Russo, Bischoff, and Hogan sat in Bischoff’s motorhome on the phone with Brad Siegel. Eric and Vince laid our their plans and in short order, Siegel made the call to go with Bischoff’s plan. Eric notes that Hogan’s creative control gave him the power to overrule Siegel if need be. Dear god.
Lt. Loco (Chavo Jr.) defeated Juventud Guerrera.
Eric calls this match a Russo clusterf**k.
Mike Awesome was beginning the horrible gimmick where he was attracted to “larger women.”
(You might read such a thing and think we’ve grown a lot as a society since 2000, but I can tell you this gimmick was super cringey even back then.)
Bischoff makes a joke about how being attracted to plus-sized women was his gimmick from Souled Out. I didn’t know what that meant, so I quickly searched through the Wikipedia pages of all four Souled Out events and came up empty. I have to say, though – check out the poster for Souled Out 1997. It makes the NWO look like a classic rock band from the 70’s with an upcoming show at a casino near you.
Big Vito defeats Norman Smiley and Ralphus to retain the Hardcore Title.
“That’s a real PPV match, folks,” quips Conrad.
Bischoff liked the Ralphus character. He confirms that Jericho discovered him. Eric then compliments Jericho, saying from very early on, he took control of as much of his character as he was able to. “He owned his s**t from the get go.” I don’t know if that’s hindsight thinking on Bischoff’s part, but pretty cool that he feels that way, regardless.
Daphne defeats Miss Hancock in a Wedding Gown match.
Everyone involved, from David Flair to Crowbar to the referee Mark Johnson, ended up pantsless and throwing cake at one another. Bischoff comments “Crash TV, bro. Bro. Bro.” It’s funny. Even though this was a total rehash of Russo’s booking from a year prior in the WWF, it’s the sort of crap WWE would continue to air for at least another ten years. Yes, Russo loved it, but so did another Vince.
Conrad gives Eric s**t for green lighting such segments, and Bischoff explains he had to choose his battles. If allowing this sort of stuff made it easier for him to bigfoot main event level angles, so be it.
Eric then qualifies what he’s about to say as something that will be boring for listeners looking for dirt and secrets. He says although he’s known for firing people, and cites Steve Austin and the Honky Tonk Man as examples, before apologizing to Austin, he didn’t really fire that many people. He should have been able to replace a lot of people in the office, but could only suggest transfers. He learned this the hard way when he was released in September 1999.
Bischoff says this was around the time he realized he had nothing with Russo. He’s not blaming the death of WCW on Russo or even himself. He says AOL-Time Warner killed WCW.
Kronic defeated Shawn Stasiak and Chuck Palumbo for the WCW Tag Team Titles.
Conrad: What’s you’re favorite Kronic match?
Eric: (Laughs) You’re such a d**k.
Chris Kanyon defeated Booker T with interference by Jeff Jarrett
Conrad reviews how awful and silly the show has been to this point.
Mike Awesome defeated Scott Steiner by DQ in a match with a sloppy finish.
Bischoff confesses to not being good at booking finishes. He says this is why he hired Johnny Ace. Kevin Sullivan was good a certain types of finishes. Dusty convinced Eric that Sullivan could get good heat. Eric never had a Pat Patterson who cold book a tremendous finish and tie it into the ongoing storyline.
Vampiro defeated the Demon in a graveyard match.
“They ended up in a river,” screams Conrad, adding that they wound up in a grave “and lit it on fire!”
Eric says “So?” Conrad asks if he feels no shame, to which Bischoff replies “I do, but what do you want me to do, throw myself out in front of a f**king truck?”
Conrad then mocks Bischoff for telling him last week no one knew how much money the company had lost. Bischoff says he’s been very open about the fact that from late ’98 until he was let go in ’99, his head was not in the game. When he returned, he was saddled with Russo and had very little control over things.
“If I accept any more responsibility, I’m going to have to go out and slit my wrists,” he concludes.
Shane Douglas defeats Buff Bagwell.
Torrie Wilson was involved in this match and Bischoff sleazes all over how hot he thinks she is.
Hulk Hogan pins Jeff Jarrett after Jarrett laid down for the three count.
Conrad reads through how things played out, with Hogan getting on the mic and telling Russo this is why the company is in the toilet.
(I watched this again earlier in the week and was reminded how weird it all was. According to Bischoff, this was all still part of the plan, but was supposed to come across as a shoot. If that were the case, Hogan comes off looking really petty. He’s flabbergasted as to why Jarrett is just laying down. He’s confused and annoyed by Russo storming off. But through it all, he still manages to cover Jarrett for a three count to win the title. Not a good look.)
Bischoff calls the whole thing absurd and says it’s hard to follow.
Conrad then goes over Russo’s infamous promo where he claims to have come back to the company for the sake of all the hard working wrestlers in the back. He names Booker T, the members of MIA, and Jarrett. He concludes by telling Hogan to kiss his ass.
Eric left the building along with Hogan prior to this promo. They didn’t hear about it until after they got off a plane and to Hogan’s house when their phones started lighting up. He says Russo went into business for himself with that promo and that it wasn’t how things were supposed to go.
Goldberg defeated Kevin Nash in a match for Scott Hall’s contract.
Booker T defeated Jeff Jarrett to win the WCW Title.
Conrad says that Vince Russo has claimed Booker T’s title win here is the proudest moment of his career.
Bischoff says Russo’s always gotten himself over as being the underdog’s hero. He points to the fact that Russo even played that card this month after being disinvited to be a part of All In. Eric calls his religious perspective convenient.
He reiterates that the World Title situation at this show was supposed to end with Hogan walking out as champ and says Russo pulls shenanigans but plays the underdog card to justify it.
Eric then talks about how Hogan told him “I love getting fired,” in reference to a successful settlement he reached with the company for the way Russo went into business for himself at the PPV.
Conrad says Booker T claims to have been told the night before the show that he would become champion at the Bash, but doesn’t recall who told him.
The day of the show
Eric’s father passed away on the Fourth of July. He attended the funeral on the morning of the PPV. As a result, he had very little contact with anyone leading up to the day of the show, other than some back and forth with Hogan over what they wanted to do. He says this was the only correspondence he was concerned with. He arrived to the show approximately 45 minutes late. He knew this in advance and told Russo not to start the production meeting until he got there, as he suspected he would hijack things.
When he arrived, the meeting was wrapping up and he knew something was going on. He confronted Russo and he and Hogan went back and forth with him.
Eric says the only thing that makes sense to him is that Russo is the one who called Booker T the day before and that everything that night was premeditated.
Conrad says Russo has maintained that the only people who knew the original plan for the night were him, Bischoff, and Hogan, and the plan was to work everyone else.
Eric says they had to work everyone because people were feeding Meltzer information.
We then step back for a moment while Bischoff explains his distain for Meltzer and dirt sheets. He says third-string and mid-card guys would feed Meltzer information hoping he would write positive things about them or at least not bury them. More so, he says the office also relied on the Torch and Observer. Upon his arrival as an announcer, he figured this out pretty quickly. He knew a guy who was considered the wrestling expert who did nothing but sit in his office reading the Observer.
Eric says seeing the negative and adverse impact Meltzer’s reporting creates is why he despises the sheets. He again cites the “Mabel as the third man” rumor report that was mentioned last week.
(Periodically throughout the show, Conrad stops Bischoff to tell him something he just said needs to be a new tee shirt design. Guys, give me a Mabel As The Third Man option, and I’m buying that thing.)
Eric concludes by saying he respects Dave Meltzer, but abhors what he feels Meltzer did to the business during this time.
Conrad inquires about what led to Russo departing three weeks prior to the PPV. This sets Bischoff off on another five-minute tangent about Russo.
Bischoff decided he was done following the PPV. He had a meeting with Brad Siegel where he assumed Siegel would agree with Bischoff’s position and allow him to run things moving forward. Instead, Siegel tried to work things out between him and Bischoff.
Eric says this was because every executive in control of each division had stock options that were based on performance. In the middle of a merger, the last thing anyone of them wants is to get let go and lose their options. He says this was the position Siegel was in. As a result, he couldn’t fire Russo, as that would be admitting he made a huge mistake and put him at risk of losing his job, and options.
(Eric consistently prefaces stories explaining what was happening on the executive side of things at this time as boring stuff that no one will be interested in. I couldn’t disagree more. We’ve read Death of WCW, we’ve seen the shoot videos and heard all the s**t every wrestler associated with the company during it’s downfall has to say. We know the product sucked. Until now, we haven’t really been given the why and how from the corporate perspective. It’s gold. Please keep it coming.)
Conrad then reads a long excerpt from Hogan on Bubba the Love Sponge about how Hogan says things were to go at the PPV. Bischoff disagrees with what was said. He says Hogan is his best friend, but that we all remember things from our own perspectives, and that maybe Hogan believes things went a certain way, blah, blah, blah. He loves Hulk and isn’t going to talk any actual smack.
Eric says things did take a toll on Hogan mentally, that all of Russo’s anti-Hogan stuff eventually did get into his head. The swerve at the PPV also hit him pretty hard. He says it was a mistake to trust Russo and to leave the building that night when they did.
He hadn’t spent 25 years being Hulk Hogan, so he wasn’t as emotional about how things unfolded as Hogan was. He was fine moving on, but knew that night that Hogan would sue.
Conrad relays a report from the Observer about Russo getting worked up and cussing out Hogan and Bischoff earlier in the day. He asks Eric if it’s true.
“F**k no. Russo is the most passive aggressive, non-confrontational pu**y I’ve ever done business with.”
So there you go.
Hogan told a story to Bubba that he had “his blades” on him when he went to the ring that night to protect himself. Bischoff says he loves Hogan like a brother, but that did absolutely not happen. He cuts Hogan slack here, though, saying Hogan was going through a tough time.
Conrad reads a ton more about the fall out from the Bash. Bischoff does the “What does Meltzer or Keller know about running a wrestling company?” argument. He feels you have to create moments where the audience doesn’t know if what they’re seeing is real or not, or else you sink.
It looked like we were about to wind this episode down without any sort of argument between Conrad and Eric. Then Conrad begins unloading on Bischoff for letting things flounder while the company bled money, telling him he was fishing and “farting into his couch,” while Russo was developing Graveyard matches. Things felt like they were starting to get hot when Conrad pressed, “Where were you?” and Eric joked meekly that he was on his couch. Conrad appreciates Bischoff’s ability to own up to being over it by this point.
Eric asks if he could tell us a story about “The UPN deal” really quick. We don’t get to it, as Conrad wants to circle back. “How much longer do you want to kick my ass tonight?” Bischoff asks.
We hear more comments from Russo about how he feels Bischoff set him up to fail and was obsessed with power. Conrad asks for Eric’s opinion on this, to which Bischoff says Russo’s ability to whine rivals Bret Hart’s.
Eric says he has stories from TNA about how badly Russo was exposed; calling him more horrible things before saying he would sit down for a beer with him. That would be one awkward beer.
Conrad states that Bash at the Beach 2000 is arguably the PPV of most consequence in the history of pro wrestling. Eric says he believes Bash ’96 takes that crown. Conrad clarifies that he means negatively speaking.
Illustrating his point, he says the guy who made WCW profitable for the first time ever (Bischoff) is out of here following this show. Then there’s the guy responsible for the boom in wrestling two decades prior (Hogan), he’s out of here. Lastly, you have “the guy who’s responsible for turning things around for the WWF, creatively,” (Russo) approaching the end of his tenure.
Bischoff takes exception to that last part.
“You’re premise is based on a lie, on a fraud… I’m not going to let that fly on this show.” He says that’s Russo’s story, not reality.
Notable responses to Twitter questions
– Bischoff never spoke with Russo about the Bash shoot, only to Brad Siegel
– Eric was never going to be a witness for Hogan’s lawsuit.
– Russo had 100% free reign prior to Bischoff’s arrival
– Jeff Jarrett was always a mid-card guy.
– There was never a moment where Bischoff felt he and Russo would succeed in turning WCW around.
– Bischoff knew at the end of the Bash that the company “was dead in the water.”
– Eric hates gimmick matches. The Judy Bagwell on A Pole match was the defining moment of Vince Russo’s creative career.
– There was no heat between Hogan and Jarrett, only a lack of trust.
“I don’t have to like anybody that I work with, it’s not a prerequisite. But I have to have a level of trust. I have to believe there’s at least a modicum of honesty. It doesn’t mean I have to agree or disagree. It doesn’t mean I have to absolutely see things the same way, or even remember things the same way other people remember them. But when people just outright lie and manipulate and con, I’ve got a problem with that. And that’s Vince Russo, in my opinion.”
Review: This was a fun throwback for anyone who lived through this era in WCW. Personally, this was the last WCW PPV I ever ordered. While Bischoff clearly had things figured out by this time, I was left feeling hopeful coming out of this show, believing Russo was truly onto something with his embracing of the younger talent. You can argue that the same corporate politics that hampered Bischoff eventually doomed Russo, but I believe his post-WCW resume speaks for itself.
Eric and Conrad are beginning to find a nice groove. This was the first episode that felt completely free of any eggshell moments on either side. Conrad will still apologetically rephrase questions Bischoff doesn’t understand in a courteous way you’d never hear him do with Bruce, and Eric will facetiously ask Conrad to stop beating him up here and there, but things are coming together nicely.
At just under two hours, you get all the Russo and garbage era WCW you’d hoped you would out of this topic. There were also some cool reveals, such as Hogan and Bischoff’s perspective on the Russo’s shoot interview. I had no idea they hadn’t even hear about it until after getting off a plane at Hogan’s house.
Of course, there was no shortage of inspired insults lobbed at Dave Meltzer and the topic of the week. For you’re convenience, I’ve included the greatest hits below. Rating: 8/10
Nothing under the hood
Creative basket case
A f**king douchebag
Clusterf**k finish guy
Not that bright of a bulb
Fraud of a human being
Hard to listen to
Sucking on the teat of the Hart family for way too long.
Scum sheet writer
The original click bait
A mid-card guy