201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die #10: The Outsiders vs. Sting, Lex Luger and "Macho Man" Randy Savage
[A long time ago in a War Rig far, far away, a young War Boy named 'Plan wrote an excellent column series called 101 WWE Matches to See Before You Die. It was perfect, so perfect that it's now a book you can buy on Amazon! There was just one problem; it only focused on WWE matches! Thus, as a fellow War Boy, I've taken it upon myself to take a look at the other stuff, compiling a list of 201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die. This right here is entry #10. Enjoy! And buy 'Plan's book!]
Perfection; we all want it, we all strive towards it, and only a handful of things (undefeated sports teams, Paige, Yvonne Strahovski and Ivelisse) reach it. There’s nothing in the world harder than getting everything to fall into place for a moment (or moments) that go 100% completely right. Of course there’s nothing more rewarding then when it all does due to the rarity of perfection. Surprise surprise, this is especially true in wrestling, where even the greatest of matches, promos, whatever usually contain some sort of flaw that prevent them from reaching lofty perfection. The exceptions are so rare you can count them on one finger. Amazingly one of those exceptions happens to be one of the two most famous matches of all time, a story now twenty years old and still as breathtaking as it was all the way back on July 7th, 1996.
That was the day World Championship Wrestling’s Bash at the Beach 1996 took place, an event that triples as one of the most important PPV’s of all time, one of the greatest PPV’s of all time AND shockingly one of the most underrated PPV’s of all time. The latter fact is due to the number of excellent bouts littering the card, from Rey Mysterio vs. Psicosis to Dean Malenko vs. Disco Inferno (you read that right!) to Ric Flair vs. Konnan. The former is due to the main event, a match built on the back of the greatest wrestling story ever told. Two months prior to Bash at the Beach, former WWE wrestler Scott Hall shockingly arrived on WCW Monday Nitro and declared war on WCW. Two weeks later his good pal and former WWE Champion Kevin Nash joined him, and a week after that the two left WCW boss Eric Bischoff in a broken heap after Nash Jackknife’d him off the stage at The Great American Bash. Weeks of chaos, mystery and borderline riots followed and a match was made at Bash at the Beach between Hall and Nash (now known as the Outsiders) and a WCW team consisting of legends Sting, Lex Luger and shockingly “Macho Man” Randy Savage (a WCW star most known for his time as WWE’s second in command to Hulk Hogan). The questions regarding this bout were numerous; were Hall and Nash sent to take over WCW for WWE (the lines were that blurred)? Could WCW fight back against these invaders? What would happen if Hall and Nash emerged victorious? And most importantly, who would be Hall and Nash’s partner, the mysterious third man who the Outsiders promised all the way up to Bash at the Beach?
Such questions led to Bash at the Beach being a tense night from opening bell all the way up to Michael Buffer’s announcement of the main event. Tensions were raised when Eric Bischoff proved to be missing from the show, while “Mean” Gene Okerlund’s attempts to find out the third man’s identity throughout the night failed. Finally, after Buffer’s famous “Let’s get ready to rumble!!!!” call it seemed like we’d finally get to see who the third man was…until Hall and Nash walked out to the ring by themselves. What was going on? The announcers Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan (doing career work on this night) flipped out. Fans looked on confused. “Mean” Gene frantically rushed down to ringside to question Hall and Nash about the third man, only for him to be told the third man was there but not needed at the moment. Now the plot really thickened; did these Outsiders really have the gall to go up against three of WCW’s best by themselves and expect to win? When would the third man come out? Did they scam everyone in WCW (wondered out loud by Heenan)? Somewhere M. Night Shyamalan was dousing himself with water due to all these twists.
Not five minutes later wrestling fans were dealt yet another one. No sooner did the match begin did Luger find himself wrapped up with Nash around a turnbuckle. Sting, seeing an opening, ran from the opposite end and nailed the Stinger’s Splash on Nash. There was just one problem; he also nailed Luger, who collided with the turnbuckle and crashed unconsciously to the floor. Before anyone could comprehend what happened a gurney was being brought out for Luger and he was taken to the back, motionless. Suddenly things had changed again; WCW had gone from a 3-2 advantage over the Outsiders to it being evened up at 2-2, with a potential 3-2 disadvantage on the way if the third man showed himself. The announcer’s paranoia and terror went up to a full blown 9,000, to the point where they started accusing everyone of potentially being the third man, including each other. Fans in Daytona Beach and at home did the same, but with an added wrinkle. Certainly it was odd that Sting would Stinger Splash Nash when he knew his best friend would be hit as well right? And how was it that Nash came out of the move relatively unharmed but Luger, also a former WWE star, was hurt so much? At this point, any and every scenario of who the third man could be was in play.
That tension wisely kept the match going even as things slowed down. Once it became 2-2 the match was all about the Outsiders being in control, first taking it to Savage (who appeared to tweak his leg during the beat down) and then against Sting. The middle half of the match, while unspectacular, tapped into what exactly made Sting such an effective babyface for so many years. He scratched, he clawed, and he did everything he could to steal any momentum away from Hall and Nash, only to be blocked off every step of the way. The tide finally turned when Hall went for a backdrop, allowing Sting to get a kick in while Hall was leaning over. The next sequence may be the most underrated of Sting’s career. Acting as if complete and utter desperation had taken a hold of him, Sting connected with a flurry of his patented strikes, all while managing to duck out of the way of Hall’s attempts to put the Stinger down. This flurry built too; it started out slow, then escalated and escalated until finally Sting was able to rock Hall. He then proceeded to back up and knock down Nash (preventing him from interfering) and made one desperate lunge over Hall to try and tag Savage in. It worked and Savage came in like he was shot out of a cannon, delivering a minute or so of effective fast break offense before being floored by an unseen Nash low blow. All four men were now down and all possibilities were on the table.
It’s at this point a roar could be heard around the arena and no sooner did it start to grow did Hulk Hogan appear from the entrance ramp. It was the first time Hogan had been seen since early spring when he and Savage defeated the Dungeon of Doom, and it appeared he was riding in on the white horse to save the day for WCW. Schiavone and Dusty popped like the fans in the crowd but Heenan, forever paranoid and forever anti-Hogan, skeptically asked “whose side is he on?!”. His partners in the booth scoffed and you have to imagine every fan watching the show did as well; Hulk Hogan a bad guy? The third man? Not in a million years. And indeed it looked like Heenan would be proven wrong again as Hogan ripped off the shirt and backed Hall and Nash out of the ring, the odds once again in WCW’s favor even if the third man showed up. And then it happened. With one last look out into the crowd and a deep breath, Hogan backed into the corner and…well you know the rest.
You’ve heard the sound of disbelief I’m sure but never quite like this, and certainly not at a wrestling event. The best way to describe is a hushed combination of shock, horror; flat out utter bewilderment. And it didn’t end there. No sooner had Hogan dropped his first leg drop on Savage did he drop a second one. Hall and Nash made their way back into the ring and high fived Hogan, confirming he was indeed the third man. Sting made an attempt to save his partner but was easily subdued by Hall and Nash, as was referee Randy Anderson. Hogan proceeded to hit one more leg drop on Savage and mockingly covered his former friend to win the match (the actual result was a no contest, and without question this match is the greatest no contest bout ever). By this point the fans (save for a very happy guy in the front row wearing an ECW shirt) began to comprehend what had happened and started throwing trash into the ring in disgust, and one fan even attempted to attack Hogan. A heartbroken “Mean” Gene returned to ringside and tried to get answers from Hogan, who proceeded to cut the promo of his life, trashing WCW for their treatment of him and the fans for turning on him, all while declaring that he, Hall and Nash would rule the wrestling world as the “new world order of wrestling”. By the time Hogan’s speech had ended the show was wrapping up, fans had reverted back to a state of disbelief, Heenan and Rhodes all but quoted Pink Floyd’s “What Shall We Do Now?” and Schiavone damned Hogan straight to hell. And yet me telling you that last part doesn’t even scratch the surface of how powerful those closing moments were.
We all know the rest; for the next two years the nWo would indeed rule the wrestling world with their guerilla warfare tactics, black and white t-shirts, “Rockhouse”, fancy catchphrases (“4 life” and “Too Sweet”) and just overall coolness, all while remaining at a high level until excess, stupidity and ego drowned both the stable and WCW as a whole. But the fall of the nWo and WCW has done little to diminish the main event that started it all; the match is today recognized as perhaps one of the two most famous matches in wrestling history (right there with Hulk vs. Andre from Wrestlemania III) and has found its way into pop culture in numerous situations (most recently clips of the match have been used jokingly to refer to Kevin Durant’s signing with the Golden State Warriors over his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder). None of that does justice to just how great this match and everything leading up to it was. There were twists, fake outs, mysterious motivations, action, suspense, tension and much more all balled up into one story that grabbed wrestling by the balls and ultimately gave WCW momentum that they almost rode to wrestling glory. It was all of that and more that turned The Outsiders vs. Sting, Luger and Savage from an otherwise ordinary tag match into one of the best. It was all of that and more that turned the match into a legendary piece of wrestling history that we’ll be talking about another twenty years from now. It was all of that and more that helped WCW, for at least one night, reach perfection.