Typically, when WWE looks back on the 1990s war with WCW, it’s always with a big pat on the back for emerging victorious. With more of an impartial view, Dark Side of the Ring recaps the product battle in the ring, but focuses more on the clash between Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and Jeff Jarrett that culminated at the 2000 pay-per-view Bash at the Beach.
Both Russo and Bischoff make plain their opinions of one another right off the bat, with Bischoff suggesting “I think Vince Russo is motivated by attention,” and Russo countering with “Eric represented everything I despised in the wrestling business.” Russo helped turn the fortunes of the WWF, but found himself clashing with Vince McMahon over the lack of a pay raise when the programming doubled to include both Raw and Smackdown. He left for WCW to replace Bischoff and said he immediately felt mistrust coming back his way — especially from Hulk Hogan.
In walks Russo with his vision of “Crash TV” intent on offering shock value to improve faltering ratings, which Russo says was working, but he’s relieved of his singular duties as well, and Bischoff is brought back to run the ship together with Russo.
Bischoff says he went into the partnership with an open mind, but soon became of the opinion that Russo’s creativity was limited at best. They devise an on-air storyline to bring their management clash to the ring, with Russo representing younger talent and Bischoff heading a faction of the older, more established stars, which brings us to Bash at the Beach.
Russo polled his creative team as to who should be the next champ, and a unanimous vote for Booker T sets the course. Russo plans for one more big title defence for the current champion, Jeff Jarrett, at Bash at the Beach, where Jarrett would win against an impressive showing by Hogan.
Hogan, though, with his contract giving him control over the finish of his matches, is refusing to lose on the day of the show. Bischoff continues to push for his reality-infused writing, pitching the idea that Hogan acknowledges his creative control on-air to secure the belt. Russo, intent on keeping the belt on Jarrett until he loses to Booker T, goes to Jeff and devises the plan for Jarrett to simply lay down for Hogan in the ring. Jarrett doesn’t like it and is having second thoughts, even to the point of delaying his entrance while his theme music played on loop.
In the end, of course, the bell rings and Jarrett lays down in the middle of the ring. Hogan wins the belt and Bischoff explains that everything at this point was going according to his and Hogan’s plan. He and Hogan leave the arena and take a 30-minute flight before landing and hearing about Russo’s impromptu shoot promo in the ring moments after the main event. Russo returns to the ring and spills his side of the story to the audience, laying bare the creative battle against Hogan and Bischoff, announces a new main event for the WCW title, which Russo says still belongs to Jarrett. In this new main event, Booker T wins the belt from Jarrett.
During Russo’s rant, he delivered plenty of personal barbs against Hogan, which, according to Bischoff, upset and angered the star wrestler. Back to Russo, though, he explains that all of this was going exactly as planned and as he laid out for both Bischoff and Hogan. The swerves and half-truths, it seems, are still in play 23 years later.
The show plays an audio clip of Hogan calling into a Tampa area radio station the day after the event, airing his grievances and promising he’d get even with Russo. He filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Russo and WCW, which is thrown out twice. Dave Meltzer gives the best description of this murky “He said, he said” episode by saying it’s a case of trying to decide who to believe between two dishonest people. Bischoff, for his part, follows that by calling Melzter a scumbag and a useful idiot.
There’s very little new, “case-closed” information in this episode, but it’s certainly a fine recap of one of the final nails in the coffin for WCW.
- Slam Wrestling’s Dark Side of the Ring story and review archive
- Vince Russo story archive
- Eric Bischoff story archive
- Slam Wrestling’s Jarrett Family story archive