Rodzilla on the rampage: Inside the sports-entertainment career of Dennis Rodman

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June 28, 2013

Bash at the Beach 1998 scored the second highest buyrate of any WCW pay-per-view, but, in the long run, it did more harm than good. That night, it became clear that the product was now serving the celebrity instead of the celebrity serving the product. Compelled by the box-office receipts the NBA stars had brought in, WCW courted talk show host Jay Leno for their next pay-per-view event before going into business with rapper Master P and the rock band KISS. By the time David Arquette won the WCW Title, it was clear the plot had been lost.

“It got to be too much,” Sullivan said. “Malone was a good athlete, but then they started bringing in guys that didn’t seem to have the dedication.”

Wrestling fans have been cautious about embracing celebrity ever since — there’s a reason a woman as beautiful and charming as Maria Menounos got straight-up heckled during the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame inductions.

See Rodman's controversial encounter with Randy Savage on Nitro

Rodman’s final WCW appearance came in a match against the legendary “Macho Man” Randy Savage at the Road Wild pay-per-view in August 1999. The show was held outdoors in the middle of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with aggressive bikers replacing actual wrestling fans as the audience. It was a rough crowd for anyone to perform in front of — let alone a notorious NBA star — but Rodman flourished. Or, at the very least, survived.

“I don’t think Rodman realized what he was getting into,” Kevin Sullivan remembered. “[Savage] let him know that he was wrestling the ‘Macho Man.’”

The Worm lost to Savage that night after getting stuffed into a portable toilet that was then flipped over. By that time, Rodzilla’s NBA career was through and his ability to draw major media attention had faded considerably. The fact that the bout went on before a Retirement Match between Hogan and Kevin Nash said a lot about how the company now felt about him.

Watch the crazy Road Wild brawl

Rodman’s relationship with WCW ended that night, but he did make two other forays into sports-entertainment. In 2000, he wrestled a match against Curt Hennig — father of Curtis Axel — in Australia. Eight years later, he won “Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling” reality show.

It was an anticlimactic ending to a wrestling career that, at one brief time, could have been viable. Had Rodman pursued it at a young age — or had he not come up short at Bash at the Beach ’98 — it’s possible he could have been a major parttime player in the industry. Instead, he's regarded in the same light as Leno and Arquette as a symptom of sports-entertainment’s celebrity obsession.

Regardless, Rodzilla — a man who most recently courted controvery with a goodwill trip to North Korea — left a favorable impression on nearly every competitor who was interviewed for this piece. Particularly Diamond Dallas Page, who fondly remembered boarding The Worm’s tour bus and finding it packed to the walls with beautiful women.

“He lived the gimmick,” DDP said with a laugh. “He lived the gimmick at a different level.”

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