As everyone saw play out on Sunday night in the final episode of The Last Dance, Dennis Rodman famously skipped practice with the Chicago Bulls during the 1998 NBA Finals to take part in an episode of World Championship Wrestling’s “Monday Nitro” alongside Hulk Hogan. What The Last Dance failed to mention is that Utah Jazz star Karl Malone also got involved with WCW that summer (although he made sure to wait until the Finals were over), teaming with Diamond Dallas Page to take on Rodzilla and the Hulkster at “Bash at the Beach.”
What a lot of people also might not know is that Dennis Rodman was encouraged by then-WCW President Eric Bischoff to “raise the heat” with Malone during the Finals to help sell the story that would play out a short time later.
Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone were both great fits for professional wrestling
Dennis Rodman and pro wrestling were a match made in heaven, especially in the late ’90s. The “Golden Era” of wrestling was long gone and even Hulk Hogan himself had to adapt, which he did better than anyone could have expected when he turned heel (became a “bad guy” to those unfamiliar) and formed the New World Order in WCW. The nWo was the hottest thing in wrestling for years. It was edgy. It was cool. And it nearly forced Vince McMahon and WWE out of business. As he always does, Vince adapted, started the “Attitude Era,” and bought out his competition in 2001, but WCW beat WWE in the ratings for 83 consecutive weeks at one point, and bringing in Dennis Rodman was genius. He had the look. He had the charisma. He had everything you’d want in a pro wrestling star and looked natural alongside Hogan.
On the flipside, Karl Malone was never the most charismatic guy. But at 6’9″ and 250 pounds of solid muscle, he was obviously a monstrous individual that looked like a wrestler. Before he ever became a big star in the NBA, “The Mailman” actually wanted to be a professional wrestler. So when DDP asked him if he wanted to get involved with WCW, Malone was ecstatic. DDP took the idea to Eric Bischoff, who saw so many dollar signs and began to craft the storyline.
Dennis Rodman was told to get after Karl Malone in the ’98 Finals, as long as it didn’t disrupt a game
As pro wrestling fans know, storylines are usually mapped out well in advance and knowing that Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone were eventually going to lock horns in a WCW ring, Eric Bischoff wanted to capitalize on the fact that his cash cows were battling one another in real life for the second straight year in the NBA Finals, a series Rodman and the Bulls obviously won. Therefore, as he once said on the “After 83 Weeks with Christy Olson” podcast, Bischoff somewhat encouraged Rodman to get after Malone a little bit if the situation came up as the Bulls and Jazz battled it out.
“I got ahold of Dennis through his manager at the time, Dwight Manley. I said ‘Look, nothing during the game. I don’t want to be accused of screwing up a game, be it playoffs. But if there’s any chance when you guys are kind of in-between, or if you’re off the court you know near the court there’s cameras running, if you guys could like push and shove each other a little bit, you know kind of raise the heat, raise the temperature just a bit. I wouldn’t be disappointed if something like that were to happen. I’m not telling you to do it!’
“I’m just telling you if something were to happen like that, I’d be pretty happy about it.”Former WCW President Eric Bischoff on Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone
So do you think this is why this went down?
“The Mailman” looked better in the match but “The Worm” once again came out on top
As far as the actual match is concerned, Hulk Hogan & Dennis Rodman vs. DDP & Karl Malone at “Bash at the Beach” was certainly not one of the all-time greats. But it did what it was supposed to do. It brought a ton of mainstream media attention to WCW and made a lot of people a lot of money.
While Karl Malone was clearly the better wrestler (Hogan even said that he’d never been tossed around by anyone as he’d been by Malone), it was Rodman’s team who once again got the win after some outside interference from The Disciple, who was better known as Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in WWE.
While that was it for Karl Malone in the ring, Rodman returned to WCW the following year for a program with “Macho Man” Randy Savage and also later appeared on “Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling.”