In what many saw as the biggest coup in pro wrestling history, WCW made the announcement that wrestling superstar and former WWE Champion Hulk Hogan had agreed to join the promotion. It was the first shot of many showing the wrestling world that WCW was playing for keeps and willing to put up a fight against the WWE for wrestling supremacy. Hogan’s debut was something else as WCW held a tickertape parade in his honor at Universal Studios where he was greeted by “Mean” Gene Okerlund and his first WCW opponent, Ric Flair. The two would sign the contract to face each other at Bash at the Beach for Flair’s title and the rest would be history.
In the end, Hogan pinned Flair as expected and became the WCW Heavyweight Champion for the first time. The scene was almost a flash back to Hogan’s days in the WWF, paralleling some of the WWF’s major events on pay-per-view and NBC. In fact, looking back to Feb. 23, 1990 when the WWF aired a live one-hour Main Event special on NBC, the parallels to this show are astounding.
Sunday, Ric Flair played Randy Savage’s loud-mouthed, popular heel role; both were managed by Sensational Sherri. A smaller, aging Hogan replaced a roided-up, younger Hogan. NBA star Shaquelle O’Neal replaced then-boxing champion Buster Douglas. A full-looking Orlando Arena replaced Joe Lewis Arena.
It was almost like WCW stole the WWF’s Feb. 23, 1990 script. In 1990, Gene Okerlund held the mic for Savage and Sherri. Sunday, he held the mic for Flair and Sherri. In 1990, before the match, Buster Douglas held the title belt high in the air. Sunday, O’Neal held the title belt high in the air. In 1990, Sherri took one bump after another. Sunday, she did the same. In 1990, Douglas chased Sherri back to the locker room for interfering in the match. Sunday, Mr. T carried Sherri to the locker room for interfering. The script of each match had many similarities and in the end, as in most Hogan matches, Hogan mounted a superman comeback, gave Flair the big boot to the face and a legdrop for the three count.
What set this match apart from the match against Savage in 1990 and many of his other matches was the anticipation many fans felt in seeing the two top drawing cards of the 1980s and two competing world champions finally square off on national television. What also set this match apart was its length – almost 20 minutes.
While WCW was elated with the enthusiasm of the fans and the pretty television pictures the post-match celebration created, they were even more happy when early buyrate estimated came in around a 1.0, considered on the high-end of likely scenarios. Originally, Hogan and Flair hoped for a higher buyrate than 1.0, but recently everyone came to accept a 1.0 figure a success.
Although the “ride of your life” that Bischoff had mentioned was a rather slow build, it did eventually pay off in two year’s time. The foundation laid here was solid, regardless of what the buy rate was on that first PPV. You guys retread a lot of ground from the WWF days, but Hulk Hogan in WCW was still huge. Besides, I don’t think the defection of Hollywood Hogan would have meant nearly as much had Hogan’s early babyface run in WCW not been a thing.
Personally, I was just excited to finally get that Hogan/Flair match that WWF never delivered on.