Rev your engines for WCW Road Wild
Since 1938, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has been an annual tradition in America. During the first week of August, motorcyclists from all over the country descend on Sturgis, S.D., for the gathering that includes races, stunts and other two wheeled activities. In 1996, WCW decided to add to the famed rally and held the first Road Wild event — originally known that year as Hog Wild. ( PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
“It was a great idea … for Eric Bischoff,” former WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko told WWE Classics. “It was an excuse for him to ride his motorcycle into Sturgis and participate in the rally.”
The brainchild of the WCW President, a motorcycle enthusiast who thought the rally and sports-entertainment would be the perfect blend of Americana, the event was obviously unique. In lieu of an indoor arena, the ring was set in a Sturgis field.
“The heat was the worst,” Malenko said. “The ring was set up in a parking lot at the base of a mountain. There was nothing but gravel and dirt; it was very hot.”
Although the event aired on pay-per-view, the audience was admitted for free. And while there were some seats set up for the crowd, many fans watched the action from their motorcycles and revved their engines as opposed to cheering for the action inside the squared circle.
“There were some weird looking people,” the former United States Champion said. “You know, very different from what we were used to, but it was crazy — definitely a different and distinctive experience.”
The unique crowd also stood out in former WCW star Billy Kidman’s memory of Road Wild.
“I remember it not really being a wrestling crowd,” Kidman explained. “Being that it was free for anyone there, they really just wanted to see a show without being invested in the competitors.”
While the crowd was unfamiliar with WCW’s stars, Kidman told WWE Classics that the revving of the engines wasn’t at all distracting. It was just more difficult to feed off of the audience at the outdoor event.
“The acoustics of being outside were just bad, so it was hard to feel any energy from the crowd revving their engines,” recalled Kidman. “The sound would just fade away, not allowing us to get a sense of the audience’s emotions to draw from.”
The most famous match of WCW Road Wild came in 1998 when Jay Leno teamed up with Diamond Dallas Page to battle Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. ( WATCH) Kidman was involved in training the talk show host for the match and recalled dressing as Leno and performing his patented Shooting Star Press in a training vignette.
“It was really hard to access Sturgis just because it is so far from Rapid City [a major city in South Dakota],” Jericho explained. “The place was packed and finding a place to stay was tough, but it was great for Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan because they would ship their bikes up there and ride around Sturgis.”
Jericho also reminisced about the spectators sitting on their choppers during the event. However, in true fashion, the former WCW Cruiserweight Champion did his best to get under the skin of the mostly Harley Davidson–riding crowd.
“I wore a kimono to the ring and talked to the audience about riding into Sturgis on my Kawasaki,” Jericho remembered with a laugh. “The engines starting revving, boos came pouring in and everyone watching wanted to rip my head off.”
Although Y2J fondly recalled his 1998 Cruiserweight Title defense against Juventud Guerrera with Dean Malenko as the special referee, a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert the night before is the lead singer of Fozzy’s favorite memory of the famed rally.
“There were about 15 to 20,000 people in this huge campground and the band were huge WCW fans,” Jericho explained. “I remember myself, Dean Malenko, Chavo Guerrero and Eddie Guerrero watching this amazing concert from in-between the stage and the fan barricade. As weird as Sturgis was from a wrestling standpoint, there were some really great memories to be had.”
Kidman, Malenko and Jericho each vividly remembered the audience and the environment at Sturgis, praising the novelty of the event, but remain baffled that Road Wild offered free admission each year.
“The novelty of Road Wild was great,” Kidman told WWE Classics. “But to do it for free every year just didn’t make sense from a business standpoint once that novelty was gone, it’s not something WWE should ever try to replicate.”
“It was different but not something that needs to be done again,” Malenko said, sharing Kidman’s sentiments.
“It was a unique idea initially,” Jericho explained. “Financially it wasn’t that great of an idea, but it was a really different vibe that you’ll never see again. The outdoor parking lot, the bikers revving their engines — it was a strong spectacle. After doing it a handful of times, that was it. It’s done.”