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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, July 7, 2000

Shift more emphasis to Bash at the Beach

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
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This weekend, live from Daytona Beach, Florida, WCW presents Bash at the Beach. As much as anyone would have you believe otherwise, for the past four years, Bash and not Starrcade has been WCW's flagship pay-per-view.

Here, I'll prove it.

In 1996, perhaps the biggest event to take place in WCW in the 1990s shocks the world. In their first big pay-per-view match, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash dispatch three of WCW's finest in Lex Luger, Randy Savage, and Sting -- thanks to the first ever heel turn of Hulk (or should I say Hollywood) Hogan. This would set in motion a series of events that would light a fire under the belly of WCW and help them dominate the ratings for some time to come.

In 1997, Dennis Rodman makes his groundbreaking appearance in WCW, earning them some mainstream press. Not too much of a show, mind you, but significant nonetheless.

In 1998, Bash at the Beach was the site of one of Goldberg's first ever title defences, at the height of his streak. A squash against Curt Hennig, but historic nonetheless. That wasn't even the main event, though, as the circus that was Karl Malone and Diamond Dallas Page versus Hulk Hogan and Rodzilla (making his second Bash appearance) would follow. Also, Kevin Greene shows up and gets squashed by The Giant.

In 1999, not a whole lot happened, but look at the WrestleManias during the dark ages of the WWF. Hey, Randy Savage wins another world title here.

Finally, in 2000, we have a lot to look forward to. Kevin Nash takes on Goldberg in the return bout of a very old feud. Nash is not only the wrestler who won the title from Goldberg, but also the booker who booked the title change. Now the roles are reversed as Goldberg's mistreatment (by Nash, among others) has turned him into a bitter heel with the aid of the powers that be, and Kevin Nash is the sympathetic babyface. Hulk, or maybe Hollywood Hogan is taking on Jeff Jarrett in what could be the legend's last match, and a chance for him to actually pass the torch for once. Not holding my breath.

Miss Hancock and Daphne, in the match that our poll says readers are most looking forward to, will try to rip each other's wedding dresses off, and ultimately may turn the tide in the T&A war. WCW has some of the most gorgeous valets in wrestling, and this is their chance to prove it. It may seem insignificant, but it was a big part of the WWF's rise in popularity.

Meanwhile, the undercard is chock full of young and hungry competitors, eager for spotlight and finally getting some. Kanyon versus Booker T. Mike Awesome vs. Scott Steiner. Buff Bagwell versus Shane Douglas. This pay-per-view could be the catalyst of a whole bunch of revolutionary feuds. Let's cross our fingers and hope for good finishes to what could be very strong matches. Finally, at least Vampiro is on the card. That's something.

If the above arguable reason isn't enough to make my case, maybe some numbers will sway you. Buyrate numbers, of course. Regardless of what I'm trying to say here, WCW maintains that Starrcade is, indeed, the 'grand-daddy of them all', and they treat it as such. That means more promotion, more hoopla, and more thought-out matches than any other pay-per-view, Bash included.

Despite this, Bash has been a close second to Starrcade in terms of buys. In 1996, the year that the nWo first heated up WCW, Starrcade just barely edged out Bash 0.71 to 0.93. And that's despite the fact that Starrcade was the catalyst here, and obviously did not benefit from the hype it created. In 1997, thanks to the ultra-hot Sting-Hogan feud coming to a climax, Starrcade distanced itself from Bash, 1.6 to 0.89. That's about how the ratings should be, if we were to assume that Starrcade was indeed the big fish. But in 1998, Bash beat it out 1.42 to 1.15, and did so again in 1999, 0.39 to 0.23.

Since the WWF lost Hulk Hogan to WCW, WrestleMania has only come in second to other pay-per-views twice. Both instances occurred in 1997, during the beginning of which the WWF couldn't buy viewers, but by the end of which people couldn't get enough of one Stone Cold Steve Austin. Even then, the margins have been slim, and when WrestleMania beats out the other pay-per-views, it does so soundly.

I don't think this is in any way purposeful. WCW wants, and sincerely believes that Starrcade is their big pay-per-view. In many ways, it is, just because they say so. Whenever people imagine, think of, or talk about long-term WCW programs, the tangent always ends with 'and then Goldberg will take on Scott Steiner (or whomever) at Starrcade.'

But it doesn't matter. Since the formation of the nWo, Bash has been a creation out of control. Cool things just happen there, and now people know that.

In reality, it's a blessing in disguise. WCW should capitalize on this fact (too late for 2000), and shift some emphasis from Starrcade to the Bash. I realize that Starrcade has a history, and I'm not suggesting downplaying it so much as upplaying the Bash. Promote dual-'granddaddies' or make Bash at the Beach the 'grandmother of them all.' Whatever. Just promote Bash better. If nothing else, it'll help WCW focus on a new direction, and take some pressure off what has been a disappointing pay-per-view for two consecutive years now in Starrcade.

Meanwhile, here's the mailbag.

James Hillstead, from JCHillstead@email.msn.com, writes:
"Hey Eric, With what seems a decrease in ratings lately for both WWF and WCW. Are fans getting tired of re-cycled and/or tired angles? The lack of climatic finishes sticks out in my mind as one reason. Your thoughts."

Actually, I believe it's cyclical. Ratings usually decrease in the summer. Kids are away at camp, people take vacations and travel, others forget that some shows aren't in reruns, and more people are outside getting exercise. This happens to every show, even to internet sites. I don't think it's a sign that wrestling's getting stale -- yet.

BNeL10304@aol.com writes:
"Hey I know why you liked the pay per view so much...you were in a bar drinking beer, just about anything is amusing when you're doing that."

Actually, that's true. I'm a lot harder on pay-per-views when I paid for them in full and sit at home watching them. Easier on them when boozed up in a bar. Somewhere in the middle when drinking with lots of people at home watching them. Definitely affected my point of view.

Berdan, from MBERDAN@email.msn.com
"I was wondering if you could tell me why the WWF continues to job the Hardy Boyz. If you look over the last three or four months, you'll see they win only about 20% of their matches! That number is plain despicable, especially for what these guys do night in and night out. I saw that they do the job once again to T&A on Sunday Night Heat. In seven matches against each other, the Hardyz have won ones match, that's it! Does the WWF notice talent when it's under their noses, or do they have to wait until Jeff jumps ship to ECW or WCW and becomes a superstar to notice they totally misused the best talent out there?"

I totally agree. The WWF is being just plain silly about the Hardyz. I think they figure that Jeff and Matt are so darn good, they'll get over no matter what. Other teams require bigger pushes to get over. The end result is that garbage teams like Degeneration X are wasting television time and Edge and Christian are hiding their tag team titles from the Undertaker and Kane when the Dudleyz, the Hardyz, and the Acolytez all sit on their thumbs are pretend not to be bored.

In slight defense of the WWF, they actually have too many people for their television time now, and people have to fight for it. As a result, they have a lot of talented guys paired up and not getting the attention they deserve. From a company standpoint, that's very healthy. They have a deep roster that's not in danger of thinning any time soon.

That's it for this week. Have a good weekend, a good week, don't forget to write in, and thanks for reading the column. Ciao.

Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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