nWo 18 Part I: The Bad Guy Brings a War

Welcome to the 10 part instalment looking back at the New World Order, quite possibly the greatest wrestling faction of all time. With World Championship Wrestling and the World Wresting Federation going head to head on Monday night’s and battling each month for Pay Per View domination, it seemed to be a give and take battle each week. But with the creation of the New World Order, WCW broke through and gained an advantage that lasted for nearly two years of Monday Night domination. Come take a trip back and remember that when you’re nWo, you’re nWo for Life.

Our journey begins on Monday, May 27, 1996 on TNT’s Monday Nitro. The Mauler was fighting Steve Doll in what appeared to be a complete inconsequential match for the viewers. It was right at the first hour of the show. Suddenly, attention was turned to a man decked in denim walking through the audience and eventually over the guardrail unopposed. With his hair slicked back tight, it was unmistakable as to whom it was. What was confusing was why he was there.

You may need to bring your brain into 1996 mode. The Internet is scarce and slow. Kayfabe was still pretty much alive, even after the Zahorian Steroid Trials and the drug bust of Iron Sheik and Hacksaw Jim Duggan, which exposed two hated rivals driving in a car together. The inner workings of the business wouldn’t be blown wide open for more than a year when Bret Hart gets screwed by Vince McMahon at Survivor Series. For most viewers, this was Razor Ramon, a WWF Superstar, appearing on WCW. While the Internet dirtsheets at the time were very aware of his departure from WWF, and Hall had just become even more infamous after the Madison Square Garden Curtain Call happening a little more than a week before his debut, for most fans this was still Razor Ramon, Chico, hair slicked back showing up on WCW television. We’ve lived through the demise of WCW, the Invasion and seeing everyone from Buff Bagwell to Bill Goldberg appear in the WWE. If AJ Styles showed up in the WWE tomorrow we’d be surprised due to his placement as IWGP Heavyweight Champion in Japan but this isn’t new really to us.

In 1996, it was new. And it felt real.

Hall walked into the ring with a microphone and cut a promo that was razor sharp and swiftly walked the line of kayfabe and shoot. His references to “Billionaire Ted” and “Nacho Man” were direct insults used by Vince McMahon in a WCW parody commercial a few months earlier. When he talked about a war, nobody was asking between who. Everyone knew: WWF vs. WCW.

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Later on, Hall spoke to WCW commentator Eric Bischoff about how Ted Turner needed to get his three best men to face against Hall and friends. He used very specific words: “We’re taking over.” The next week, Hall had a confrontation with Sting and promised a big surprise. That surprise would be none other than Big Daddy Cool Diesel, now going by his real name of Kevin Nash. It truly felt like an invasion from the north.

There’s something about the career of Scott Hall that has lent itself to great debuts. His original debut in the WWF with the Razor Ramon vignettes were some of the best ever produced by the WWF. He then helped in the debut of 1-2-3 Kidd, losing to an unknown rookie with a well timed moonsault and launching his career. It also pushed Ramon’s move from heel to babyface. Now he’s walking into WCW, his former stomping grounds where he was the Diamond Studd and taking wrestling debuts to another level. Not since has a wrestler made a more impactful entrance. While Chris Jericho might have had the pomp and circumstance as Y2J, Jericho was merely a great wrestler who had a great career. Scott Hall launched a revolution. Scott Hall was the fire that set wrestling ablaze in ways it has never seen before.

It’s interesting how it all started with Hall. Hall was not the biggest star in the New World Order, overshadowed by big Kevin Nash and the Immortal Hollywood Hulk Hogan. He wasn’t a former World champion and finished his career as a guy who had every bit of talent to be at the top but just never won the top honours. He was always one of the biggest stars in the WWF but never had the whole company behind him. Hall was an excellent big man and an excellent talker, smarter than many give him credit for. His attitude might have been garbage at times but there’s no denying his charisma. Hogan had to be a surprise. Nash had his detractors. Everyone loved Razor, and for Razor to be the first man in the New World Order? It made perfect sense. He wasn’t the biggest star, but he was just the right guy for everyone to pay attention to.

What’s interesting is that the wrestling world wasn’t immediately caught up with the nWo. It took a few weeks before WCW took over the ratings war and held it for the rest of 1996. There was patience in the angle, the kind of patience we rarely see today. There were seven weeks between Scott Hall’s debut and the biggest turn in wrestling history at Bash at the Beach 96. This was a major angle, but it didn’t take up every second of your Nitro time back then. Hall interrupted a nothing match and then had a promo later in the show. That was it. That’s all it needed to plant the seed. It wasn’t about the opening week, it was about creating momentum. With the New World Order and later Bill Goldberg, WCW proved the box office power in creating a mammoth with patience compared to just trying to have the biggest debut possible. As I said earlier, Hall might not have had the kind of exciting entrance that Jericho had, but the importance is incomparable.

I’m going to detail more on the history of the angle and the importance of what it all meant, but it’s important to understand right now that Scott Hall’s promo was all about creating the aura of things to come. It launched the greatest television era of professional wrestling. It nearly killed the World Wrestling Federation. It defined crash television. It told you that at any moment, something could happen your friends won’t believe if they miss. It showed you didn’t have to switch a championship title to surprise a viewer. It meant you could blur the lines without breaking kayfabe. And it meant that there was no war waged better, than a war with yourself. We were truly entering the New World of professional wrestling.

Next week is Part II: New World Origin

Photo via WWE.com

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