When done right, celebrity appearances in pro wrestling can do wonders for a company. Indeed, while Stone Cold Steve Austin, D-Generation X, and Vince McMahon may have done most of the leg work to make WrestleMania 14 a booming success, it was Mike Tyson who put the event over the top. He garnered mainstream press the likes of which helped the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) overtake its chief competitor at the time, World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
Naturally, WCW attempted the same but on a much larger scale. In fact, they went so far over the line with bringing in celebrities that it seemed like every major pay-per-view (PPV) featured a major main event level player being made to sell for a green non-wrestler who could hardly execute a proper lariat, like NBA stars Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman. Even Master P and his No Limit Soldiers were brought in for an embarrassing program. Eventually, B-movie star David Arquette won the world heavyweight championship and the promotion lost all credibility with its fanbase, save for those especially delusional marks and firmly entrenched enemies of McMahon and the WWF.
The biggest celebrity to come through WCW doors, however, was undoubtedly Tonight Show host Jay Leno, who participated in the main event of the Road Wild PPV on this date in history (Aug. 8, 1998) at Sturgis in South Dakota.
Leno was a great get because they were able to run angles on his show to help build to the event. This drew criticism for the fact that the audience that watches Leno isn't the same audience that watches pro wrestling but the point of the entire program was to get the mainstream press to cover WCW and that's exactly what happened.
Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan invaded the Tonight Show one night and Leno showed up with security and Diamond Dallas Page to run them off. In the midst of the scuffle, Hogan challenged Leno to a match at Road Wild and DDP convinced Leno to accept the challenge.
So it was Bischoff and Hogan vs. Leno and DDP. Yes, this was actually the main event of a major show for a promotion that was quickly losing its audience to the WWF and desperately trying anything to get them to come back. Except running a PPV at the Sturgis rally was a terrible idea fueled by Bischoff's love affair for motorcycles. That's a story for another time but it's important to note because it made for a terrible atmosphere for a show that badly needed a crowd to help save what turned out to be one of the biggest piece of garbage events in history.
There isn't much to say about the match. Hogan selling for Leno just never felt right and the announcers were made to pass off Bischoff like he was some legitimate karate badass when his goofy kicks couldn't look any more ridiculous. DDP carried this thing but he was limited as well, so this was basically 15 minutes of crap fed to fans all for the sake of a photo op with Leno in a WCW ring.
After the jump, check out the Tonight Show angle they ran leading to the match and the match itself.