Seaton: The Bash That Birthed A Lawsuit

The story of Bash at the Beach 2000 is a bit of a convoluted one for several reasons. First, the people involved are pro wrestlers, which means everyone’s lying about something. Second, what happened in July 23 years ago basically led to the death of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Vince McMahon’s nearly 40 year stranglehold on the wrestling business.

It’s still worth telling because it’s the story of how several bad decisions killed a company whose world title lineage could arguably be traced back to the days of Abraham Lincoln. Plus it’s just a doozy of a tale involving several dumbasses.

Two people basically controlled WCW in the summer of 2000. Eric Bischoff, the President of the company, was a power-hungry TV executive who managed to con Ted Turner out of two hours every Monday night to air wrestling that beat the rival WWF for 83 weeks straight during what fans refer to as “The Monday Night Wars.” Vince Russo, WCW’s head writer, was the guy who oversaw some of the raunchier days of WWF’s “Attitude Era” and could arguably be said as one of the guys who helped make “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars back in the 90s.

How could these two manage to kill an entire wrestling promotion with those accolades? Simple. Russo and Bischoff are both egomaniacs who get high off the smells of their own farts.

Both guys also had competing visions for what WCW should be. Russo thought WCW was a place where older wrestlers lived out the last years of their career and desperately needed younger talent as the faces of the promotion. Bischoff knew his big stars made his TV shows a lot of money in the past, so he was very hesitant to go with anything other than talent who were proven successes.

Anyway, in late June or early July of 2000, Russo pushed Booker T, a charismatic Black wrestler, as his choice for the next WCW World Champion. His thought was Booker could be a great young face of the company for the next decade.

The third guy who had some control in WCW had other ideas. Remember how I said Russo and Bischoff “basically” controlled WCW? One other guy, Hulk Hogan, had quite a bit of pull in how storylines played out and who got to be champion. That’s because Eric Bischoff, during his last set of negotiations with Hogan, gave the aging grappler “Reasonable Creative Control” over the way his character was portrayed.

Hogan would beat this “reasonable creative control” clause to death his last year in WCW. With the summer’s “Bash at the Beach” event coming up, Hogan planned to exercise this clause to keep Booker T out of the spotlight and the title on the Hulkster.

Russo’s idea for the main event was to have Booker T beat the current champion, Jeff Jarrett, for the title the night of the Bash. Hogan disagreed. He said the right way to do business was for HOGAN to beat Jarrett at the Bash. Hogan would then disappear for a year while WCW held a tournament to crown a new champion. When the new champion was victorious, Hogan would reappear with the belt and remind everyone who the “real” champion was and that would start the next program.

If Hogan’s idea sounds excessively self-centered and convoluted to you, congratulations. You just figured out Hulk Hogan’s entire brain.

Here’s how the event actually played out. When Hogan and Jarrett were finally in the ring, Jarrett stood there for a minute or two. He never touched Hogan and barely acknowledged the other man until Vince Russo marched to ringside, threw the WCW title belt in the ring, and commanded Jarrett lay down. When Jarrett did so, Russo instructed Hogan to cover him for the pin. Hogan would stare at Russo in disbelief before grabbing a microphone and announcing to no one in particular this was why WCW was doing poorly—“Because of bullshit like this.” Hogan then placed one foot on Jarrett, the ref counted to three, and Hogan left the building with the WCW World Championship belt.

Everyone in the building was stunned silent. No one had any idea what had just happened, from the fans to the boys in the back. And it was all bullshit.

You see, Hogan and Russo had one final meeting where they agreed to that particular finish of Hogan’s match with Jarrett. The two men agreed to tell no one it was all a “work,” or predetermined outcome. Not even the wrestlers, producers or agents in the back. This practice is called “working the boys” and is egregiously stupid to do in a business where you’re literally trusting someone with your life every time you get in a ring.

What happened after this is in dispute, but I’ll tell you what I think happened.

Hogan got on a plane with Eric Bischoff after that match and left town. Russo didn’t feel like he’d gotten the moment he wanted at the Bash for Booker T, and he’d gotten sick of Hogan’s consistent refusal to play ball. So he grabbed a microphone and headed to the ring about twenty minutes later to explain to the crowd watching both live and at home what happened.

In a scathing, unplanned rant Russo told the fans Hogan never cared about anyone but himself and he’d abused his position in WCW for years. Russo said the fans would be the ones who mattered most going forward, and that later on in the evening there would be a match to determine who the legitimate WCW champion would be—Jeff Jarrett or Booker T.

“And I promise you, you’re never going to see that bald son of a bitch Hulk Hogan in this ring again” was how Russo ended his rant. And that line was enough to get Hogan on the phone with his lawyers.

Hogan sued WCW and Vince Russo. The suit alleged Russo defamed Hogan during his televised rant and that WCW had breached Hogan’s contract by not honoring the creative control clause. What happened in the suit is hard to say truthfully, because like I said everyone in this story’s full of shit.

Russo claims he was the winner because a judge found it highly unlikely one pro wrestling character could defame another. Hogan and Bischoff disagree because allegedly WCW and Turner brass settled with Hogan for seven figures.

Hulk Hogan would never step in a WCW ring again. Months later, WCW would close up shop and be sold to Vince McMahon and the WWE after AOL and Time Warner executives decreed no more wrestling would ever appear on TBS or TNT.

Three men’s egos killed one of the most successful pro wrestling promotions in the world in the span of a couple of months. Think about that the next time you think you made an egregious mistake at work.

Anyway, that’s the story of the worst pro wrestling pay per view as far as I remember. It’s definitely the worst produced in 2000 for sure. Happy Friday, and remember no matter how bad your week’s been, at least your ego didn’t put hundreds of people out of work!
See you next time!

3 thoughts on “Seaton: The Bash That Birthed A Lawsuit

    1. Anonymous Coward

      As if I didn’t already have enough reasons to dislike Hulk Hogan. I never paid much attention to pro wrestling but his lawsuit against Gawker had the unfortunate side effect of trashing with marketing dreck

      1. CLS

        It’s wild how roughly five years of Hogan playing a self centered jerk on TV ended up exposing the self centered jerk Hogan was in real life.

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