The Wrestling Episode: Hulk Hogan Battles Ric Flair On ‘Baywatch’


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The Wrestling Episode is our cleverly-named feature wherein we watch non-wrestling shows with wrestling episodes and try to figure out what the hell’s going on in them. You’d be surprised how many there are. You can watch the episode on YouTube here. If you have any suggestions on shows that need to be featured in The Wrestling Episode, let us know in our comments section below.

I’ve Never Heard Of Baywatch. What Is It?

David Hasselhoff hit it big in 1982 with Knight Rider, an action-adventure series about a police detective who gets shot in the face and is forced to fight crime with the help of a talking Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with the voice of an uptight school teacher. In 1989, Hasselhoff was like, “what if we do Knight Rider again, but the car is several women in matching swimsuits, and all the crimes happen on the beach?” Baywatch was born, combining the standing around and talking about things of popular procedural with the acting and production of the worst available soap opera. It got low ratings, put its production company out of business, and was canceled after one season.

The Hoff and the show’s executive producers saved the show with two important moves:

Baywatch turned into a massive hit and one of the most viewed shows in the world, running for 11 seasons (if you include the two seasons of Baywatch: Hawaii), a spinoff (Baywatch Nights), three TV movies, three seasons of a parody show and a terrible actual movie.

And There’s A Wrestling Episode?

Oh, so much more than wrestling episode. A pro wrestling PAY-PER-VIEW, re-contextualized into an after-school special for the Baywatch universe. And it starts with Hulk Hogan almost dying.

I Have To See This.

Normally this is where I’d share a screenshot and start making jokes about the episode, but nothing I type can be as funny as the actual intro. We join pro wrestling legends and then-WCW Superstars Terry “Hulk” Hogan and Macho Man “Randy” Savage in the middle of a high stakes jet-ski race.

Hogan falls behind due to a distraction from a waverunning blonde, who hits him with the Mr. Microphone commercial-quality pickup line, “Hey Hulkster, you’re sure looking good!” Hulk then speeds to catch up to Macho, makes the mistake of trying to pilot a jet-ski with a boner, and crashes. The ski smashes him in the face, knocking him unconscious. As a brief aside, I am legitimately shocked that Hogan sold for the jet ski, and didn’t immediately start shaking his head “no,” point at the ski and punch it until it was broken.

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With Hulk Hogan dead, the episode ends and Sting main-events the next pay-per-view.

So What Did We Learn?

  • do not look at a pretty girl before trying to pilot watercraft
  • Hogan couldn’t even lose a jet ski race to Macho Man on a TV show without outside interference and Macho having to cheat first
  • you know that’s not the end of the episode, right

Yeah, no, Hogan is pulled out of the water and resuscitated by the beach’s John Cena and Randy Orton — Pamela Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth, respectively — and starts burying Macho Man for “cutting out on him.” Come to find out Pam Anderson’s character Juice Robinson … [checks notes] sorry, “CJ Parker,” is a closet wrestling fan. How does she feel about the environment?

Later, Hogan returns to thank her in the bluest outfit this side of Dave Batista only to find out that the local Venice Boys Youth Center is in trouble. It’s important to both the lifeguards and to Hogan — he describes it as his “old stomping grounds,” and without it he would’ve been “wild out on the street” — but is under mysterious new management. Yep, Baywatch went from “Hulk Hogan dead by jet ski” to “let’s have a dance off to save the rec center” in like five minutes. Note: Hulk Hogan and Pamela Anderson acting in the same scene is like Ed Wood directing Tommy Wiseau.

Hogan comes up with the great idea that maybe he and Macho can help save the youth center. Hulk would’ve had to deal with “drugs and street life” if the gym hadn’t “saved his rear end,” and Macho confirms that he has “no idea what would’ve happened to us without this place, but it’s not a pretty picture, Hulkster.”

Wait, Did The Macho Man Grow Up With Hulk Hogan?

In the Baywatch cinematic universe he did! Venice Beach, Ohio!

So Who Owns The Youth Center? Another Wrestler?

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Yes folks, luckily for Hogan, the new property owner is ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair, a man he can wrestle to solve all his problems. Imagine if it’d been like, a non-wrestling stranger. What was he gonna do, ask nicely? Flair — alongside business associates The Taskmaster (who is wearing facepaint and a suit) and Big Van Vader (in his nicest clothes, a tank top and jeans) — reveals that the property will be “all his” in a week, he’s turning it all into condos, and that he’s arrived early to shut down the gym. If it’s not yours yet can you even do that? And why is it not yours yet? Did you not buy it?

Hogan has a great idea: a winner-take-all, no holds barred one-on-one fight in a ring on the beach for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and the deed to the youth center. Next week, I guess. Flair says it’s on, then weirdly screams that it should be a TEAM match involving Macho Man, because he wants to fight Macho Man, but, you know, a “team match” meaning two separate one-on-one matches. The team has to win both matches or nothing happens. You can tell this is a TV show and not a WCW pay-per-view because there’s nothing WCW loved more than being able to get in and out of a match stipulation without doing anything. Or like, both of the heels would win and the next five seasons of Baywatch are about how the heels own all the property and the lifeguards can’t do anything to stop them.

A quick note about this scene: In their own way, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan are two of the best talkers in the history of pro wrestling. They’re both huge TV stars. They know how to talk on television. Flair defined the charismatic, arrogant heel promo that could start off boastfully quiet and confident and end in screaming threats. Hogan defined the larger-than-life super hero, who stood for everything good in the (American) world and would cut promos about, like, pinning Andre the Giant at the bottom of the ocean and having to save Donald Trump from all the disasters his corruption of nature has caused. Whether you like them or not, they’re so good at what they do that they defined the entire genre.

Watching them try to speak on camera in this scene is brutally hilarious, though. Hogan is trying to be “movie star” Terry Bollea, so everything he says is monotone and flat, even when he’s trying to save a rec center from VADER. Meanwhile Flair’s never been in anything before, so he’s turning his acting UP, which is dangerous. He’s just dancing around in circles and screaming all his dialogue. It’s like watching Batman confront the Joker about a Venice Boys’ Center.

Additionally, here’s Vader smashing a basketball.

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(It’s the only tough thing he does the entire episode.)

Did Any Of This Spill Over Into WCW?

To keep kayfabe alive while they were filming this, WCW also shot an angle on the Baywatch set about Kevin Sullivan jumping the Macho Man behind the scenes and trying to choke him to death with some weights:

From The Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro 9/15/95:

The Dungeon Of Doom isn’t just trying to beat the good guys in wrestling matches; they are literally trying to KILL THEM FOR REAL, snapping their necks and trying to crush their throats with weights. Keep in mind that this is a heel faction that lives in a mystical castle and employs a fat man dressed like a shark.

Here’s what you need to know: the stars of WCW were asked to guest star on an episode of ‘Baywatch.’ If you don’t remember ‘Baywatch,’ it was 15 seconds of Pamela Anderson running down a beach in slow motion, followed by 59 minutes and 45 seconds of puberty blackout. The Macho Man is there, just casually pumping iron on the beach while a bunch of extras in Baywatch swimsuits stand around going YEAH COME ON LIFT WEIGHTS YEAH COME ON DO IT. The Taskmaster pops in from out of nowhere thanks to his BAYWATCH OUTFIT CAMOUFLAGE, shoves a beach dude in the face and tries to choke Savage to death with his own weights. When that doesn’t work, he gives Savage some weak clubbing forearms to the back (excellent Plan B) and THROWS SAND IN HIS EYES. Ric Flair makes the save (wearing full gear, including kneepads around his shins, on the beach) and Sullivan gets thrown off the set.

Now that the … two-match beach pay-per-view to save a local business has been made, Baywatch launches us into an inspirational fitness montage set to Hulk Hogan’s WCW theme, ‘American Made.’ I always thought it was interesting that the WWF and then WCW made such a big deal out of Hogan being literally filled with red, white and blue, and then made his signature color scheme “McDonald’s.”

But yeah, if you don’t love America already, PREPARE TO, because this guy was MADE HERE.

He’s got the stars and stripes running through his veins.
He was born and raised the American way.
He wears the heart of his country on his sleeve
He’ll fight for your freedom if you really believe.

Is that why Hogan turned heel a few months after this episode? Because we stopped clapping our hands? Anyway, thank goodness we learn how American Hulk Hogan is, which should help him against Ric Flair, Kevin Sullivan and Vader, all of whom are also from America.

After Rocky’ing his way up the four steps outside of the Venice Boys Youth Center, we send it to the final two matches from WCW’s Bash at the Beach ’95; Flair vs. Savage in a “lifeguard match,” and Hogan vs. Vader inside a steel cage. They try to play up the addition of the cage as a surprise for Hogan, because he’ll be at a huge disadvantage if he can’t hit his signature dives to the floor. I don’t know.

As a brief aside, I wish they’d extended the episode and done more with the Bash ’95 card. Sting fights Meng on that card. Don’t you want to see a Baywatch episode starring MENG? Also, Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. KAMALA. Don’t you wish I was recapping 60 minutes of Jim Duggan crashing a trash barge and Yasmine Bleeth having to act impressed about giving him mouth-to-mouth? Pretty sure Duggan breathes out of a blowhole in the back of his head.

Do They Just Show The Matches From The Pay-per-view?

No, even better: they show clips from the matches, edited with TV FIGHT SCENE SOUND EFFECTS. Again, I couldn’t do this justice without posting a clip. Every punch sounds like John Wayne knocking out someone in a saloon, and they had an “argh!” response to every punch. It’s one of the weirdest, funniest things ever if you’ve spent your life watching wrestling.

If you were wondering what a “lifeguard match” is, it’s a lumberjack match with all the wrestlers around the ring wearing tie-dyed shirts and backwards hypercolor hats. No idea. Savage defeats Flair on Baywatch with his signature finishing move, the … double axe-handle from the top rope. Weirdly enough, since this is an actual pay-per-view wrestling match, Savage actually won with the flying elbow. Like Randy Savage would. For some reason that wasn’t good enough for Baywatch, though, so they edit it to make it look like Macho finishes him off with jumping palms to the head.

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Hogan vs. Vader has the same problem. On the pay-per-view, Hogan wins the match. That’s not a thing you have to like, change in post. Hogan hits a leg drop and tries to escape the cage. Vader chases him up, gets punched back down, and Hogan escapes the cage to win the match and retain the championship. On Baywatch, Hogan doesn’t even use the leg drop … he hits a big boot on Vader, turns to pose, and they announce him the winner.

Did Hogan and Macho specifically request to beat these guys without using their finishers on a TV show? Hey Hulkster, you’re sure looking good!

Amazingly, that’s just the ending of the episode. No payoff of Hogan and Savage celebrating with the kids at the youth center, no Flair and Vader driving away in their limo with one of the wheels missing … just Hogan holding up the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, and then the Baywatch characters never hearing from them again. I’m guessing that at next year’s Bash at the Beach, Hogan returned with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to buy the Venice Boys Youth Center and spray-paint all over it.

Is That The Entire Episode, Then?

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Absolutely not. Lieutenant Stephanie Holden got the test results back, and she definitely has skin cancer.

The WCW stuff is mostly B-story for the important message of the episode: if you’re gonna be out in the sun, wear sunscreen. I emboldened that if you’ve never heard that before. Holden goes on a romantic date with her convenient dermatologist boyfriend, has a blemish diagnosed as cancer on the fly, and goes through a bunch of tests to confirm it. Along the way, she starts freaking out and wandering around on the beach making people apply sunscreen.

I mostly wanted to include this to show that Baywatch managed to combine a skin cancer awareness episode with an appearance from history’s orangest man, Hulk Hogan, and end it with Hogan triumphantly wearing nothing but underpants and a gross of bronzer to violently defeat a pale guy. Symbolism!

So What Have We Actually Learned?

And if you ever buy property, don’t wager it in a wrestling match against a guy who doesn’t lose.

(Check out our must-listen McMahonsplaining podcast with WWE superstar Big Show. Subscribe on iTunes or Google.)

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