nWo 18 Part III: The Adjective Player

Welcome to the 10 part installment 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. Last week was Part II: New World Origin

“So this is WCW, where the Big Boys come to play. Look at the adjective: play. We’re not here to play.”

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So it wasn’t the best line to enter with. He probably meant, “Look at the adjective play” without having a delay, and was referring to the adjective “big” for big boys, since he later refers to how the measuring stick has changed in WCW. It still sounds silly to not say verb.

But there is no doubt that Kevin Nash was more than just an original member of the New World Order. He was also the most consistent member. From the New World Order to the offshoot nWo Wolfpac, the nWo Elite and nWo 2000, even the WWE version of nWo and TNA version of the Wolfpac (which had to call themselves “The Band” because they didn’t have the trademark), Kevin Nash was there. It’s interesting how a man who stands so tall rarely stands alone.

Despite being an imposing figure, Nash had a rough time standing out in his first run with WCW in the early 90s. First as Steel in the Master Blasters tag team, he moved on to become Oz, managed by Kevin Sullivan dressed as Merlin the Wizard. By 1992, he was now a wisecracking mobster named Vinnie Vegas, who jumped from Harley Race’s squad of hosses to the Diamond Mine, led by Diamond Dallas Page. It was in the Diamond Mine he first teamed up with future nWo alumni Scott Hall, who back then was also trying to find himself as The Diamond Studd. With little working out, he jumped to the World Wrestling Federation.

Now packaged as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, Nash was the bodyguard of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. Having a strong name close by, Diesel was able to make a big name for himself in the process. Too big of a name maybe. After splitting from HBK, Diesel became WWF World champion out of nowhere against Bob Backlund in a house show. He was now forced to stand by himself for the first time in his career. Despite being WWF World champion for almost a year, the title reign was right in the middle of one of the worst drawing eras in WWF history. The New Generation might have been running on Diesel Power, but it wasn’t running very far. That long time title run helped taint Nash’s name as a main event player and gave WCW ample time to catch up with Hulk Hogan as champion.

Come 1996, Kevin Nash was following old stable mate Scott Hall to WCW after losing to the Undertaker at WrestleMania. It’s important to note that his departure coincided with the Curtain Call (or MSG incident), where he hugged backstage friends Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon and Hunter Hearst Helmsley and broke kayfabe on a house show. It was the first time in over a year that Nash was standing tall with others instead of standing tall alone. After Scott Hall promised a surprise the week before, in came the surprise: Kevin Nash. For wrestling fans, it wasn’t just Kevin Nash. It was Diesel. Just like it wasn’t Scott Hall but Razor Ramon. Nobody said names yet. Not even who they were representing. It was all to create the illusion that this wasn’t just a bunch of debuting WCW wrestlers. This was the WWF invading World Championship Wrestling.

While Hall wasn’t a former WWF World champion, Nash was. Nash brought a ton of legitimacy to the invaders. More importantly, he didn’t have to come into WCW and carry the company like he ended up doing in the WWF. Nash could still be the big man to Scott Hall (Hall loved to call himself “the Medium Sized Guy” next to Nash) and be a major player without the expectation of being the top player. This was even more magnified when Hollywood Hulk Hogan joined. Nash might have been WWF champ one time, but he was never on the Hulkster’s level.

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Once the New World Order started growing, it was clear that Nash wasn’t just going to be a bit player. While Hollywood Hogan was the leader with the soon turning Eric Bischoff on one side, Kevin Nash was creating his “Wolfpac” with Hall and Sean Waltman. A group within a group, it gave Nash more opportunity to be a focal point instead of just Scott Hall’s tag partner in The Outsiders. Eventually this led to fighting between Hogan and Nash inside the New World Order, and eventually Nash turned on Hogan and split from the New World Order. However, it wasn’t really splitting from the nWo but allowing for a babyface group of New World Order members, not surprisingly called nWo Wolfpac. Donning red and black instead of black and white, it emphasized the cooler hip-hop image of gang warfare instead of Hogan’s version, which felt at times more like a biker gang.

It made sense to break the New World Order up due to how different Nash and Hogan were. Hogan was an oldschool heel and did everything he could to get the fans to hate him. Nash cared more about being cool. He was more of a rock star, and the bandannas and hand signs made it hard to hate the New World Order. If this was a group of invaders, they shouldn’t be easier to like than your local heroes. The Wolfpac wasn’t just Kevin Nash but also had Konnan, who brought an Latino flavour and heavily emphasized the hip hop aspects of the nWo. Pro wrestling rarely feels cool, but the Wolfpac was definitely cool. And Kevin Nash, or “Big Sexy” as he was now called, was in the center of it.

At this point, Kevin Nash was not just a headline player in WCW but also behind the scenes. While The Clique was influential in the WWF, in WCW Nash eventually became the head booker of WCW. Even before that he was influencing storylines and doing what he thought would work. This eventually led to him even being the guy to beat Goldberg’s undefeated streak and to take the WCW Worlds Heavyweight championship at Starrcade 98. It wasn’t long before he went right back to standing beside Hogan, but after Starrcade 98, it was hard to not watch WCW and not see Nash. 1999 was the year WCW took the pedal off the acceleration and by 2001 they were no more. What’s important is that Kevin Nash tried to once again be a top player in WCW and unfortunately for him, much like his WWF runs, any time Nash was on top? WCW business failed.

Whether it be behind the scenes or on camera, Kevin Nash was truly an invader to WCW. If anyone realized the concept of destroy WCW, it was the Big Man. While I’m sure his intention wasn’t to do so, the damage he created was more than just storyline. While other invasions failed by having the locals come off too strong, the New World Order eventually failed because invaders like Nash were the ones looking too strong. He constantly beat his biggest rival in The Giant and tried to be the man next to Hulk instead of the man standing next to Hulk. And that’s truly where he lost himself. Kevin Nash was best when he represented the New World Order and was expected to stand next to someone. When it was time to be a leader, he just didn’t have enough to accomplish it. As the second man to help shape the New World Order, he brought an image of cool along with Scott Hall that’s still remembered to this day. For every bit of credit he deserves for the rise, he deserves the same, if not more, blame for the fall of the New World Order.

But it’s still important to recognize that much like there was no nWo without Scott Hall or Hollywood Hogan, there certainly wasn’t without Kevin Nash. And while sometimes it feels like Nash has merely lived off the accomplishments of others in the New World Order, he’s truly been the big spoon to stir the drink. Nash was more than just a former champion in 1996 but one of the most imposing, powerful figures in the wrestling business. He wasn’t just tall, he was tall and dominant. Scott Hall brought the war, but Kevin Nash raised the stakes. He was an outsider with marquee power and cast a long shadow. Kevin Nash rarely stands alone, and that’s what makes him that much more dangerous. Adjectives modify nouns. They help you describe. They can make them stronger, weaker, bigger or smaller. That’s why Kevin Nash was the Adjective Player.

Next week is Part IV: Strength in Numbers

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