Any professional wrestling fan who was paying attention to the sport in 2000 may recall the schizophrenic horror/feel-good story that was World Championship Wrestling’s Bash At The Beach pay-per-view event. While I realize that most wrestling fans may describe WCW in the year 2000 as a whole as something of a macabre horror story itself, it can be said that the silver-lining on the dark cloud of miserable was that this year was the first time WCW mainstay Booker T would capture is first World Heavyweight Championship. However, as with most happy endings, there was an incident of shocking and controversial proportions that took place beforehand, much like the dangerous storm that comes before the rainbow could be visible.
Bash at the Beach 2000’s first shocking turn of events involved WCW head writer Vince Russo and wrestling legend Hulk Hogan. It was scripted for Hogan to lose a match against then-reigning World Champion Jeff Jarrett (who would later lose the belt to Booker T), however Hogan refused to lose the match and invoked the “creative control” clause in his contract to override Russo’s original script. Hogan felt that Russo had no plans for the direction of Hogan’s character after the planned loss and was very concerned. As the match came around, Jarrett literally “laid down” for Hogan (per Russo’s, who was at ringside, instruction), which resulted in Hogan doing a shoot promo (real/non-scripted) directed at Russo saying “That’s why this company is in the d-mn shape it’s in; because of bullsh-t like this,” and gained the victory by placing his foot on Jarrett’s chest long enough for the three-count. Later on in the broadcast, Russo would come out to the ring, nullified the result of that match, explained that Hogan’s belt meant nothing and that the real title belt would be defended later in the night by two deserving competitors, and then he publicly fired Hogan. To this day, it is still very unclear if this whole angle was a scripted story, a 100% real action/reaction/aftermath situation, or even a combination of both. As Russo promised in his promo, Hogan never returned to WCW and even filed a lawsuit against Russo for defamation of character, which was dismissed in 2003.
Earlier that night, Booker T had lost a match against Chris Kanyon, who pinned Booker after performing his “Kanyon Cutter” finishing move from the top rope following interference from Jeff Jarrett. Following the first World Championship match, Russo’s nullification of that match restored the title to Jarrett. This would allow another World Title contest to be set between Jarrett and Booker T, with the latter winning the match, becoming the 2nd African-American to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship (after Ron Simmons), after spending 14 years in the professional wrestling business. Booker won a total of twenty-one (two more title wins in the WWF making twenty-three) championship titles in WCW, making him the most decorated athlete in the history of World Championship Wrestling. Booker was also the reigning WCW United States Heavyweight Champion and WCW World Heavyweight Champion when he accepted and signed a contract with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 2001 after the WWF purchased WCW.