With nearly every sports organization on the planet on pause at the moment as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel it’s an opportune time to reminisce about some special moments in sports history.
The world of professional wrestling is no stranger to celebrity involvement. After all, WWE was essentially built on that very idea.
The very first WrestleMania featured such stars as Muhammed Ali, Cyndi Lauper, Liberace and Mr. T, with each playing a large role in the ensuing success of WWE.
WWE’s chief competitor in the 1990s was World Championship Wrestling, owned and operated by Ted Turner for a majority of that period. Turner was able to provide WCW with adequate enough funding to chase the similar A-list celebrities who WWE had been acquiring.
Using that financial muscle, WCW was able to acquire the services of one of the most controversial NBA stars of the 1990s: Dennis Rodman.
Rodman’s time in WCW wasn’t limited to a one-off appearance, though. “The Worm” appeared on WCW television dozens of times spread across 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Bash at the Beach 1995
“Rod the Bod” first sprung up on WCW television in July 1995, joining Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach. Rodman had just completed his second season with the San Antonio Spurs, a tumultuous campaign in which he clashed with management, missed time due to a motorcycle injury and lost to an underdog Houston Rockets team in the Western Conference Finals.
Rodman may have already earned his “bad boy of basketball” image by this point, but the Hulkster wasn’t anything close to a bad boy. Hogan was still donning the traditional red and yellow that he was known for in the 1980s, representing all things good in the world. Nevertheless, Rodman joined Hogan for a pre-match promo, and then stood on the outside of the ring for the main event cage match, helping Hogan defeat Vader to retain the WCW Championship.
In March 1997, Rodman, now with the Chicago Bulls, joined Hogan, who had made the switch to “bad boy,” was sporting the black and white and leading the NWO stable. Hogan announced the recruitment of Rodman ahead of Uncensored, which was set for Sunday, March 16.
The PPV was just one day after the Bulls had completed a back-to-back. Rodman grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds in a win on Saturday in Chicago, and was helping Hulk Hogan to a win the next day in North Charleston, S.C.
Rodman was introduced as “The Real Hot Rod” as a dig at Rowdy Roddy Piper, whom Rodman actually helped eliminate from the match. Rodman also supplied a can of spray paint that Macho Man Randy Savage used to hit Lex Luger with, which helped give the NWO the win. Rodman was back on the court Tuesday, pulling down 17 rebounds in an overtime win over the Seattle Supersonics.
In June, just three days after Rodman and the Bulls had captured their second consecutive NBA championship, “Rodzilla” was back inside the squared circle, once again aligning himself with Hogan to set up a match at Bash at the Beach in July. Rodman was all over WCW programming in the lead-up to the Bash on July 13, where he and Hogan teamed up in a match against Lex Luger and The Giant. That’s right, Rodman actually got in the ring and wrestled, albeit in a losing effort.
“I thought Dennis did a phenomenal job,” former WCW wrestler Diamond Dallas Page told the WWE Network earlier in 2020. “He embodied the heel, he embodied the showman.”
Rodman would make a few more sporadic appearances on television in 1997, including at Road Wild in August where he celebrated among other NWO members after Hogan recaptured the WCW Championship.
At Bash at the Beach ’98, Rodman was once again in the ring and was once again teaming with Hogan. This time, however, Rodman would be going up against another basketball player in the form of Karl Malone, who was teaming with DDP.
Before the show, though, Rodman had some work to do on the basketball court. The Bulls were seeking a third straight NBA title, and Rodman was a vital part of that team. But that didn’t stop “The Worm” from partaking in some extracurricular activities during the season – and even during The Finals.
On June 8, just one day after Chicago had taken a 2-1 series lead over Malone and the Utah Jazz, Rodman skipped a practice in order to attend and participate in a WCW Monday Nitro.
Hogan told the WWE Network that he recalled getting a phone call from Bulls head coach Phil Jackson saying, “Where’s my guy at? Where’s my guy at?’ I’m going, ‘Rodman, I’ve got Phil Jackson blowing up my phone, you’ve got to go back.’ He goes, ‘I don’t want to go back.”
Rodman did make it back to the court, despite saying otherwise. In Game 4 of The Finals, just two days after the Nitro in Detroit, Rodman came off the bench to pull down a team-high 14 rebounds in a win for Chicago.
Rodman and the Bulls would indeed go on to capture their third straight championship. Rodman would then set his sights back on the wrestling ring, where he and Hogan would defeat Malone and DDP at The Bash.
After winning another NBA Championship, Rodman was released by the Bulls ahead of the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. Rodman signed on with the Los Angeles Lakers, but would play just 23 regular-season games before being released.
In the summer of ’99, Rodman was once again off to the squared circle. “The Worm” kicked off a feud with Macho Man Randy Savage ahead of a match at Road Wild in August. The 1-on-1 match lasted over 11 minutes and included Rodman being thrown in a port-a-potty. Macho Man eventually scored the victory over Rodman.
Rodman finished up soon thereafter with WCW and went on to pursue only a handful of more opportunities inside the wrestling business altogether. Those appearances, though, were small in scale compared to Rodman’s foray into World Championship Wrestling.
Rodman’s wrestling career left a memorable mark for those outside of the ring, fans during the Attitude Era, and his work inside the ring left an indelible impact on those he worked with.
“He wouldn’t show up on time (and) we’d have ring times set aside for all of us to work out, we all had very busy schedules” said Hogan. “He’d come walking in an hour-and-a-half, two hours late. You could smell booze all over his breath. But when the red light went on, and we were live in front of the camera, he was genius.”