20 years ago today, at WCW’s ‘Bash At The Beach’ pay-per-view, professional wrestling would change forever. While some would consider that a hyperbolic statement, it is a fact. After that PPV event, how professional wrestling was seen and its biggest star would be changed forever going forward.
Throughout the 1980’s, Hulk Hogan was synonymous with professional wrestling. Carrying the WWF along with him, Hogan would be the face of professional wrestling to mainstream America. Hulk Hogan was everywhere. Films, television, merchandise, he was a regular guest on Johnny Carson and David Letterman when the WWF toured the east and west coasts. Hogan’s red and yellow was alongside the red, white, and blue of the United States when he faced Sgt. Slaughter for the WWF Title in 1991 at the height of the Gulf War. As we all know, all good things come to an end. Hogan would tire of the grind and go into semi-retirement in 1993.
The Icon Returns
At the same time, Atlanta based World Championship Wrestling had a new leader in the form of Eric Bischoff. Bischoff had just been named executive producer and was tasked by then owner Ted Turner to compete with WWF and be the #1 wrestling promotion. Bischoff would convince Hogan to return to wrestling, but with WCW, in 1994 in a bid to compete with the WWF. Nostalgia reigned for a bit, but times had changed. The audience didn’t connect with Hogan like they used to, and over the course of a month or two of discussions, and one big leg drop would reinvent both wrestling and Hulk Hogan.
Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and The Third Man
Scott Hall and Kevin Nash would move from WWF to WCW in 1996 after signing lucrative guaranteed contracts, which had been unheard of in wrestling at this point. Both men were portrayed as “invaders” looking to depose WCW. They were put into a tag team match with Sting, Lex Luger, and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. Hall and Nash would talk about their “partner” in the weeks leading up to the match, but the partner would make himself known towards the end of the main event.
“Hollywood” Comes To WCW
Making his next appearance on WCW Monday Nitro clad in black, ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan and the newly christened New World Order would dominate WCW for the next two years. Hogan would also claim the WCW Championship and reinvent himself in the process. The biggest good guy of the 80’s would become the biggest villain of the 90’s, and in turn, make being the bad guy cool. The impact of Hogan becoming a villain and the NWO is still felt today. Nitro would air live each week, giving an element of unpredictability, which would lead to WWF airing RAW live every week, which it still does to this very day.
Very few reach the pinnacle of their chosen industry, Hulk Hogan has done it twice. Once during the 1980’s, and again in the late 1990’s and done it on opposite sides of the spectrum as both hero and villain.