breaking kayfabe: wcw bash at the beach 2000

Pro wrestling is a funny business. It’s all a work, which is to say each show is scripted or not real. Unless it’s a shoot, which is the term used to refer to when wrestlers/on screen personalities break from the script — or break kayfabe — and it actually gets real. This is a rarity.

Then you have what’s known as the “worked shoot,” which is term made to describe a company and its creative team trying to deceive fans into believing something that is a shoot when it’s actually a work.

And there was no one writer in the history of the industry who was more in love with this concept than Vince Russo.

Back when World Championship Wrestling (WCW) had fell behind in the Monday night ratings war against the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in the late 90s, Russo was brought in to oversee the creative team in Oct. 1999 alongside his buddy, Ed Ferrara. Because he no longer had a filter for his insane ideas, Nitro and Thunder turned into Crash TV and the ratings plummeted, along with pay-per-view (PPV) buyrates.

No one was safe from Russo’s wrath, including the biggest star in the history of the business, Hulk Hogan. There is perhaps no incident in WCW’s short history that best illustrates the problems between the two — not to mention Russo’s affinity for worked shoot angles — than what transpired at the Bash at the Beach on July 9, 2000, at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.

In WCW, the year 1999 kicked off with “The Fingerpoke of Doom” and got progressively worse as the year wore on. Hogan had injuries piled on top of injuries and his character was stale, both good guy and bad. Once Russo came aboard, it seemed as though he had it out for the Hulkster. He wrote him off television in Oct. 1999 and didn’t have him return until Feb. 2000.

Russo’s deal, apparently, was that he didn’t want to the old fogies who had been running the show to continue clogging up the main event scene and he wanted to push the talent he wanted to push. That didn’t include Hogan. The problem with this, of course, is that Hogan had creative control written into his contract.

That means exactly what you think it would.

So when it came time for Bash at the Beach, John Laurinaitis met with Hogan and told him Russo wanted Hogan to lose to Jeff Jarrett at the show and after that, he didn’t have anything for him. Hogan didn’t like this one bit, so he hooked up with Eric Bischoff and the two approached Russo and came up with an idea that worked much better for them.

Their plan was to have Hogan win the title, leave the company with the belt, have Russo set up a tournament to crown a new champion, and have Hogan return at Halloween Havoc (or another major PPV) to claim that he’s the real champion. This scenario is obviously more appealing to Hogan and his sizable ego because it allows him to leave with the belt and come back in strong at a later date.

But Russo wasn’t down with this. At all. However, thanks to Hogan’s creative control, he made him believe he would go along with it.

So when it came time for the match, Jeff Jarrett came down for the match and proceeded to simply lay down. Russo himself walked to the ring and threw the world heavyweight championship at Hogan, telling him to go ahead and take it.

Hogan, looking baffled, gets on the microphone and tells Russo outright, “this is the reason this company is in the damn shape it’s in, because of bullshit like this.” He then puts his foot on Jarrett, the referee counts the fall, and Jarrett immediately gets up and exits. The announcers were totally caught off guard by this, as it’s been debated endlessly whether or not they were in on the entire ordeal or knew it was going to go down this way.

In their respective books printed years later, both Hogan and Bischoff said everything up to this point was planned and they left the arena right after this celebrating having pulled off an angle they thought worked flawlessly. The fans were rightfully pissed and everyone was adequately shocked to create buzz.

And then it turned into a shoot.

Russo proceeded to come back down to the ring, once Hogan and Bischoff had already left, and cut a big promo on Hulk, calling him a piece of shit and saying the match earlier wasn’t official and Jarrett was still the world heavyweight champion. He would, in fact, have a match later in the night against Booker T, where he would lose and Booker would become just the second black man to win the WCW heavyweight title.

On top of completely burying Hogan and shitting all over his name, Russo promised the fans they would never have to see him in WCW ever again. And that’s exactly what happened, as this marked Hogan’s final appearance with the company. He would later sue Russo for defamation of character for the promo he cut on him, claiming it greatly damaged his career. The suit was eventually tossed out and Hogan would go on to resurrect his career, albeit briefly, in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2002 when he went on a big nostalgia run and regained all his confidence.

So it started as a work but turned into a shoot once Russo double crossed Hogan because he didn’t like his politics and backstage maneuvering with his nifty contract and standing in the business.

Pro wrestling, ladies and gentlemen.

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