Welcome to the ninth article of this series! Today we'll be looking at worked shoots, real shoots and shooting yourself in the foot.
If one had to draw up a list of Most Hated Men of the IWC I would imagine that Vince Russo would be high on the chart. For every action he did that helped create the Attitude Era in WWE, his creative footprint in WCW and TNA has left some wondering if he was all that he claimed to be. When he was hired by WCW, it was to help attempt to arrest the tide of the ratings war by obtaining what they saw was the originator of the new gritty style of wrestling TV that was taking the world by storm (interesting that when WCW was on a high, they were interested in poaching in-ring talent from other promotions; when things were going badly they started looking backstage).
Russo's style in WCW was even more frenetic than that he tried to employ on WWE with new storylines, feuds and title changes being introduced all the time in order to attempt and keep people's eyes glued to the TV. Long term storylines and title reigns were a thing of the past and it became immediately apparent that WCW would at least stop you from being bored.
The trouble would come when Russo's frenetic pace would meet an immovable object.
Bash at the Beach was a historic PPV for WCW. It was Bash at the Beach in 1996 where Hulk Hogan turned heel and formed the nWo along with the Outsiders- turning the whole of the pro wrestling world on its very head. It would be fitting then, that Hogan would be a part of this piece of history 4 years later.
According to Russo, he and his creative team wanted the World Title to be given to Booker T at the end of the PPV. However, before getting to that match, Russo had to get through a match between Hogan and Jeff Jarrett in which Jarrett was supposed to win after a ton of interference. Hogan, on very late notice, had told Russo that he was not happy with the finish- he believed instead that it would be better if he overcame the odds and walked out with the title.
Russo, thinking on his feet, convince Hogan that what would be better would be for he and Hogan to do a worked shoot where Russo would convince Jarrett to deliberately throw the match by just lying down in the ring in protest of Hogan's diva behaviour Hogan would grab the belt, cut a promo about Russo and then leave the building. After this time Russo would cut a promo on Hogan, claiming he was now fired from WCW and re-book a World Heavyweight Title match between Jeff Jarrett and Booker T- giving Russo the ending he wanted. Everything seemed happy.
Then things got screwy.
If Russo wanted a reaction from this angle, he got his wish. Soon the Internet was flooded with praise for Russo about finally putting Hogan into his place and not allowing him to hold either the title or the promotion for ransom. All seemed well- but Hogan was awaiting a call from Russo about what the next step would be. After all, with all this heat going on around the Internet, this angle seemed hot for something more- perhaps even a title vs title match between Hogan and Booker T.
But the call never came.
Russo has subsequently claimed that he did not call him due to the fact that he was writing Nitro as well as being pressured from the upper echelons not to get him back. To Hogan however, it looked like Russo had used his worked walk out at Bash at the Beach to paint him as being a selfish worker who cared nothing of the promotion that he was in in order to attempt to appeal to some of the fanbase who were complaining about the politics in the WCW locker room.
Put simply, it looked like Russo had hung Hogan out to dry.
The lawsuits that followed were eventually thrown out, but not before this whole affair had managed to end Hogan's tenure with WCW. Indeed, the whole matter has led to questions about when this stopped being a work and when it began being a shoot. Did Hogan know that Russo was going to fire him after he left the building? Why does Eric Bischoff side with Hogan and not Russo? And if Russo was not supposed to fire him after he left, what exactly was he supposed to do?
So what about Booker T, the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion? At least he got his title and he got a good run?
Nope- it lasted a month and a half- losing to Kevin Nash. Why? Only Russo knows...
Four years ago this same PPV witnessed the TV event that helped WCW develop a stranglehold over the ratings. There was an eerie symmetry about this one four years later. Both involved Hogan being booed out of the arena. Both attempted to blur the lines between truth and fiction. Both attempted to do something that the audience simply would not see coming. But this did not arrest the drought.
It would be safe to say that by this time period WCW was very much the no. 2 wrestling promotion and so this cannot be called significant in the sense that it turned the tide of the Monday Night Wars. Nor can it be called significant in the downfall of WCW- though losing Hogan in that fashion certainly would not have helped. What was important about Bash at the Beach was that it showed that the lunatics were running the asylum to all and sundry. While the Fingerpoke of Doom was bizarre and self-indulgent, at least it presented some twisted sense of unity amongst the top acts in the promotion. Bash at the Beach 2000 seemed like a bunch of babies chucking a tantrum because it wasn't their turn with the rattle.
Another actor that should be mentioned is that Bash at the Beach 2000 is one of the first real instances where the IWC's opinion began to count for something. There is little doubt that both Russo and Hogan probably reacted as much as anything to the news of what happened after the events of the PPV to see how the work had gone down. When the IWC had said that finally Hogan was shouted down, Russo thought the angle was going well. When Hogan saw it, he thought that his name was being dragged through the mud- particularly when Russo did not call.
Finally, Bash at the Beach showed just how bad Russo's style of 'Crash TV' could be when it all went wrong. By attempting to make things bigger, faster and more aggressive than ever before on WCW, Russo found himself cornered when Hogan put his hand up and disagreed with one of his creative decisions. Had he taken a more traditional approach to angles, he would have been able to adapt more easily.
That concludes article 9 of this series folks! Next time we will be looking into why you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find...you get Rey Mysterio.