Bash at the Beach has often emerged as World Championship Wrestling’s most eventful and sometimes most controversial PPV of the year. And the way things have gone in the company as of late, the 2002 edition is all but guaranteed to join the list of noteworthy BATBs in one form or another.
The main event pits eight men against eight with 50% company owners Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo backing a team apiece. The winning team will earn their co-owner 51%-to-49% advantage in those stakes, giving them the final say on the direction of the company.
The last time Bischoff and Russo were responsible for steering the WCW ship, it almost sank without trace. Russo has already vowed to drive the company straight into another war against the WWF (now known as WWE) and anyone else, while Bischoff claims he has learned from past mistakes and wants more of the same steady progress that has solidified WCW as a self-assured alternative since The Big Bang. Something has to give tonight!
Elsewhere, WCW World champion Rob Van Dam defends his title against a mystery opponent, whom Russo says is a figure from his past that will bring out the best in RVD as he continues to try and lure the champ to his Sports Entertainment Xtreme side of the company. Also facing an unknown foe is Jeff Jarrett, who continues to try and lobby for a World title shot whilst pleading his innocence in Russo’s recent return. JJ even pinned the champ in non-title action on Saturday Nitro.
JULY 28, 2002: WCW BASH AT THE BEACH – Jacksonville, Florida
Our pre-show action is a tag team gauntlet with the winning team getting a shot at the cruiserweight tag titles down the line. Drawing the proverbial short straws were Jay and Mark Briscoe and the team of Sonny Siaki and Jorge Estrada. The brothers won a brief tussle with the springboard doomsday device at 5:12 after being on the receiving end for the most part.
They’re immediately jumped by team number three, their rivals Jamie Knoble and David Kash. The ambush allows the former champs to put away Mark with a tiger driver from Knoble at 7:27, gaining a touch of revenge after two humiliating defeats to the teenagers in recent weeks.
In at four are the Maximos, who dazzle Knoble and Kash with aerial offence until Knoble yanks Joel off the apron and into the steel steps before a knee to Jose’s back sets up a vicious double underhook piledriver from Kash after 10:58 for a second straight win.
They were unable to make it three, however, as York and Matthews overwhelmed the tiring duo and a York leg lariat sent Knoble into a Matthews sunset flip for the three at 12:50.
Team number six, Brian Kendrick and Matt Bentley, took the fight to Y&M early but Matthews made the hot tag to York and Bentley was soon vanquished by their Full Effect double-team off the top after 17:33.
The Amazing Red found a partner of his own for the gauntlet in Paul London, though London immediately started brawling with Bentley as the last defeated team retreated up the entranceway. Kendrick and Red pulled them apart just as York and Matthews decided to perform stereo dives onto all four men. However, York seemed to hurt his leg doing so. Nonetheless, the tiring Y&M managed to fight off the fresh faces and Matthews reversed a London small package for the three-count at 21:11.
The eighth and final team were the Full Blooded Italians and they saw luck smiling on them, immediately doing a number on York’s bad leg and taking him out of the equation entirely before outnumbering the worn down Matthews until Maritato’s Kiss of Death earned them a future title shot in a total time of 24:46.
The pre-show concludes with footage of pep talks given by Russo and Bischoff to their sides. Eric stresses the importance of WCW continuing to do what they’ve done over the last 18 months while Russo tells his men that victory will allow them to shake some life into the “comatose vegetable” that is professional wrestling.
Ric Flair speaks after Bischoff to tell his side that he has opposed pretty much all of his team-mates at least once over the years but he did so for the right reasons in the right environment and tonight, he’s honoured to stand and fight beside them for the very same reasons.
Opening match: Tajiri vs Juventud Guerrerra
The opening contest of the PPV saw Juvi and Tajiri attempt to finally decide a better man in a match with no time limit and relaxed ‘there must be a winner’ rules. Neither man did much to exploit the stips and turn it into a brawl, though Juvi definitely bent more rules than Tajiri. He also had to fight out of the Tarantula rather than knowing it’d only last five seconds.
The competitive and fast paced bout ended with Tajiri escaping a Juvi Driver attempt, slipping into a waistlock and hitting a wicked snap German suplex before nailing the Buzzsaw Kick for the win at 18:25. He attempted to show respect to his foe after the bout and help him up, but was shoved away by a seething Juvi who trudged to the back alone.
Super Crazy and Psicosis vs The Rejected (Shane Helms and Shannon Moore)
Helms and Moore defeated Crazy and Psicosis when Moore drilled Psicosis with a foreign object just as he had Helms where he wanted him, allowing Shane to finish him off with the shining wizard after 11:57.
The heels seemed to be potentially setting up a spiked Vertebreaker on Psicosis post-match – something that would have got both men fired, but a chair-brandishing Crazy caused them to retreat instead.
Jeff Jarrett vs ???
Jeff Jarrett was flanked by CW Anderson for his bout against a mystery opponent, who turned out to be none other than Curt Hennig!
The two veterans had a technical contest with the younger Jarrett attempting to wear down the popular Hennig. As Curt mounted a comeback, it was Anderson hopping onto the apron that halted a Hennigplex attempt and allowed the Stroke to secure a second big victory of the weekend for the on-fire Jarrett in 8:31.
WCW World Tag Team Championship, Sicilian Stretcher match: America’s Most Wanted (c) vs The Mamalukes
Next, an ambulance was parked next to the traditional BATB beach set, stretchers and trolleys on each side of the ring and a ‘finish line’ of sorts just before the back doors of the ambulance. The winning team would be the ones to get both opponents over the line on a stretcher.
As one can expect, a wild brawl between the four men kicked off from the beginning and it was almost Glenn Gilbertti, Mamalukes manager, playing a crucial role as he took the attention of Black at ringside allowing the ‘Lukes to put Harris through a table.
Black decked Glenn and prevented Harris from going over the line on a stretcher. The champs then rallied and the ‘Wildcat’ wiped out Vito with a Catatonic onto a chair, appearing to injure the Italian’s shoulder and making him an easy wheel over the line for the first elimination at 12:00.
AMW then overwhelmed JTB before hitting the Death Sentence and adding a second for good measure, leading to the champs taking Johnny over the line to retain after a total of 15:41.
A groggy Gilbertti came at AMW with the stick ball bat after the bell but was disarmed and beaten up by James and Chris before being chucked into the ambulance alongside his team as AMW won their feud with Mamalukes once and for all.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs Low Ki
A lengthy MOTYC, both men went back-and-forth with high-octane offense and even kicked out of the other’s finishing move. Styles cut off Ki at the top and looked for a superplex only for Ki to reverse into a super Ki Krusher for the pin and the title after 22:21!
A tired and hurt Styles begrudgingly presented the belt to the new champ afterwards, and raised his hand. It should be noted that there was no sign of Elix Skipper and Christopher Daniels despite their recent claims of reuniting with Ki, though perhaps this was mostly because of their involvement in tonight’s pivotal main event.
Triple Jeopardy II for the vacant WCW United States Championship: Sean O’Haire vs Dustin Rhodes vs Shane Douglas
The mouthy Franchise got his backside handed to him early on before Dustin and Sean went at it themselves over who would get the pin. The brawl made its way to the BATB set where Douglas and O’Haire actually teamed up to put Rhodes through the set.
O’Haire missed an impressive attempt at a Seanton from above the big screen down to the fake beach a good 10-12 feet below when Douglas rolled out of the way. Shane and Rhodes then surprisingly teamed up themselves to leave O’Haire buried under a pile of props so that they could settle things one-on-one again.
Sean would eventually stagger back to the ring and clean house on both while Douglas was choking down Rhodes with a chain. O’Haire sent the Franchise outside and dropped Rhodes in position with a brutal chair shot but just when it appeared that he was one Seanton away from the title, he was pulled off the top rope by none other than K-Krush, who sent him plummeting through a table set up a while ago at ringside.
Krush escaped through the crowd as Douglas slithered back in with Torrie Wilson’s help and draped an arm over Rhodes for the pin and the title at the 16:26 mark.
WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship: The Jung Dragons (c) vs Los Guerreros
The Dragons finally earned a win over Los Guerreros to retain the WCW Cruiserweight tag titles. Eddie and Chavo’s plan to unify both sets of title belts were scuppered when the champs managed to pull off their biggest win yet despite the usual trickery from the challengers. Unleash The Dragon finished off Chavo in 13:25.
WCW World Championship: Rob Van Dam (c) vs ???
The WCW title bout was up next and was to the confusion of everyone introduced by Dave Penzer as a no-disqualification match. Out came the champion Rob Van Dam first, in a rare occurrence, before Vince Russo brought a masked man out to the ring.
It was only when the mystery opponent entered the squared circle that Mike Tenay recognised the outfit, noting that he believes it is very similar to one worn back at Halloween Havoc 1995… by one “Mr. JL”. Joey Styles immediately quipped “hang on a second, that’s not….” as he unmasked to indeed reveal old RVD enemy Jerry Lynn!
The bout began hot and fast and the two old rivals added another classic bout to their combined resume, introducing a lot of their breathtaking old spots to the WCW audience. The No DQ stip seemed in hindsight to be something that would have been mutually agreed anyway, judging by the way each man took advantage of the old ‘Extreme’ must-be-a-winner environment.
Despite Lynn having the edge over RVD and his unique offense more than anyone else on the roster, Van Dam would retain in 17:43 with a springboard Van Daminator followed by the Five Star Frog Splash.
RVD celebrated in the ring and around ringside after the bout as Russo helped bring Lynn around. He implored his new charge to attack Van Dam as he re-entered the ring but Jerry instead shoved Russo away! He went face-to-face with RVD and offered a hand in respect, which was accepted. Lynn left the ring and Russo changed tack, heaping praise on RVD and telling him he wanted him in SEX as his ‘xtreme’ champion. Rob faked pondering the offer for a moment before decking Russo with a high kick!
Main event, ‘The Battle For Control’: Team Bischoff vs Team Russo
Finally, it was time for Team Bischoff vs Team Russo for a 51% controlling stake in the company. WCW Commissioner The Cat, seemingly the one voice of reason between the two feuding co-owners, served as special referee with the purpose of ensuring this was settled in the ring. Per Cat’s rule, this 8vs8 tag would be one fall to a finish, but the Commish has the power to disqualify individual rule-breakers and eject them from the bout which gave the high-stakes contest some elimination match elements.
Russo’s team of Chuck Palumbo, Simon Diamond, Johnny Swinger, Elix Skipper, Christopher Daniels and New Church members Sinn, Slash and Tempest were led out by Stacy Keibler and Father James Mitchell, with Russo seemingly out of commission after that kick from RVD. Bischoff then brought out his team comprised of Sting, DDP, Kanyon, Lance Storm, Booker T (w/ Sharmell), Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman and in his first bout since Spring Breakout, Ric Flair.
A melee broke out to start before Cat restored order by threatening everybody with a DQ (and thus elimination). Flair’s first involvement saw him take several members of Team Russo to school one-by-one to a huge reaction until Swinger broke up a figure four attempt on Simon Diamond with a chair, causing Swinger to be ejected by Cat and making it 8vs7. However, Flair was hurt and the heat session began.
Ric eventually hot tagged out to Mysterio as Rey, Kidman, Kanyon and even Sting levelled their foes with a series of dives to the outside. Storm and Booker soon got involved and popped the crowd with surprising teamwork alongside guys like Page and Sting.
Booker nailed Daniels with the Ax Kick and Keibler hopped up onto the apron only to be yanked down by Sharmell as a catfight broke out. Security dragged both feuding ladies to the back but the heels used the situation to take over with some low blows before a Page clothesline missed Palumbo and decked Booker.
Storm leapt in and attacked DDP as Kanyon also got involved and by the time the rest of the team restored peace, Storm and Booker decided to walk out on the match and were formally eliminated by Cat as a result, making the bout 7vs6 in favour of Team Russo
The New Church members worked over Kidman until Billy evaded a Sinn/Slash double team and tagged in the Stinger. The painted man knocked down anyone who came at him and had Stinger Splashes for all before isolating legal man Palumbo. Daniels and Skipper made a late bid to halt his momentum but were tackled out of the ring by Rey and Kidman. The four cruisers brawled over the rail and into the crowd as Cat made the call that they were all out of the match, making things 5vs4.
They reached the merchandise stands as Cat informed Penzer at ringside of the ejection, just as Russo made his return to ringside and laid out Bischoff from behind with a baseball bat. Vince then tossed the bat to Palumbo only for Sting to block the wild swing. Cat returned to the ring and took the bat, sending both the Icon and Chuck to the back and bringing the big fight down to 4vs3.
Russo then hopped onto the apron and grabbed Miller’s attention, which led to the special ref being squashed in the corner by DDP when Simon shoved him off to block a Cutter attempt. The Church members attacked Kanyon at ringside as Russo attempted to enter the ring with the bat from earlier. As he lined up Page for a shot, Flair tackled him down and out of the ring.
Meanwhile, Diamond hit two rolling vertical suplexes on Page but the third in the Simon Series was reversed into the Diamond Cutter. Suddenly, what appeared to be the two masked men from the end of the Great American Bash hit the ring and destroyed Page and Flair, exiting the ring to check on Russo just before Miller could get his bearings and see what happened.
Diamond then slowly draped an arm over DDP as the groggy Miller counted 1…2…3. Total time: 19:49. Vince Russo is in charge of WCW!
As the masked henchmen helped Russo to his feet in the ring, the new 51% owner celebrated briefly before summoning Mitchell over and whispering something to him. Father James then ordered his three guys backstage as SEX hit the ring for a celebration which was met by fans hurling debris into the ring. As the announcers declared their biggest suspicions yet that Jarrett and CW Anderson always were in cahoots with Russo, the two masked men pulled off their hoods to in fact reveal… Sean Waltman and Scott Hall.
As if all of this wasn’t enough for the commentary team to digest, they were told of an incident backstage before they could sign off the PPV broadcast. Cameras cut to Rob Van Dam, lying backstage in blood with the New Church standing over him – a New Church that appeared to include a new face. A monster of a man.
Tenay’s closing words were “hang on, is that The Wall!?”