After the first instalment of looking at a forgotten WCW classic, let’s have another blast from the past, this time in the form of a match between two talented and rising wrestlers on the way up– one in his first ever main event match; the other more or less at the beginning of his main event run – that rose above chaotic circumstances and mayhem only moments earlier in the night to work its way up to greatness without ever quite getting due accolades.
Booker T had come off a match against Chris Kanyon earlier in the show and came out on the losing end while Jeff Jarrett was scheduled to defend his WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Hulk Hogan. As soon as the bell rung, Jarrett inexplicably laid down in the middle of the ring puzzling Hogan. Russo makes his way out to ringside, showing the belt to Hogan and throws it at him. Hogan goes into a tirade on Russo as Russo heads backstage which resulted in Hogan lashing out: “Is this your idea, Russo? That’s why this company is in the damn shape it’s in, because of bullshit like this” and before placing his foot on Jarrett’s chest, scoring the pinfall victory. Russo would come out later in the broadcast to nullify the result of the match, as he publicly fired Hogan.
It transpired that Hogan was booked to lose to Jarrett, but Hogan refused to lose (invoking his “creative control” clause in his contract to override Russo) due to Russo’s apparent lack of direction for Hogan’s character in the weeks following the planned loss.
These events led to the restoration of the title to Jarrett, which also set up a new impromptu title match between Booker T and Jarrett to take place in the main event with the Goldberg/Kevin Nash bout in between, thus leaving little time for Booker and Jarrett to plan the match to any great extent.
With the controversy still fresh in everyone’s minds, the match got under way and Booker started out the stronger of the two. After spending the first several minutes in the ring, Booker and Jarrett took to brawling through the crowd and made their way to ringside where Jarrett nailed Booker with a chair followed by a vicious Piledriver onto the announce table which, shockingly, did not break to gain the upper hand before rolling Booker back in the ring to continue on with the battle.
After grounding Booker with a sleeper hold, Booker fights his way out and both men trade momentum, with Booker gradually taking control. Jarrett, desperate to retain the title, resorts to shortcuts, taking out referee Billy Silverman with The Stroke and went outside to grab his signature acoustic guitar. Diving off the top turnbuckle with guitar in hand, Jarrett misses as Booker dodges the guitar shot and connects with a Bookend as Charles Robinson charges down the aisle to count the 1-2-3 in an epic ending, culminating in Booker winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship for the first time in his illustrious career, in his first match for the title no less, and the crowd went wild, doing Booker’s raising the roof taunt in unison with Booker close to tears and hugging the refs, a fitting end to a great, great match, all in less than 15 minutes of action.
Booker T and Jarrett would continue on with their feud and face each other with Booker’s title at stake the very next month at New Blood Rising before the rivalry ended in a San Francisco 49ers match, this time for the now vacant championship, on the October 2 edition of Nitro, with Booker T emerging victorious.
By the end of 2000, an otherwise terrible year for a company in terminal decline, both men proved themselves to be by far the years’ WCW MVP’s, possibly the only two bright spots, and their matches together in the second half of the year played a significant part in that common perception.
The Final Analysis
Some unkind critics have looked back on the match and harshly thought of it as being nothing more than typical late era WCW; unmemorable and not a patch on the halcyon days of the 1980’s and early to mid 1990’s. Another unfavourable factor going against the match was the timing, coming as it did when most wrestling fans in droves had already switched their allegiance away from WCW to WWE, meaning that Booker T’s emotional 11 year odyssey to the reach the top did not get the attention it warranted.
Nonetheless, the fans in the arena witnessed a gem of a match that had just the right mix of brawling and mat wrestling, deservedly finding its way onto both The History of the World Heavyweight Championship and WCW’s Greatest Pay-Per-View Matches: Volume 1 DVD sets. In the final analysis, time has proven to be kind to the bout at Bash At The Beach, truly the last great main event on a WCW pay-per-view – though the match at New Blood Rising came very close – one of the very best of 2000 across all promotions, and brightly stands out as one of the finest matches in the careers of both competitors.