nWo 18 Part IV: Strength in Numbers

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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 III: The Adjective Player

The advantage of gang warfare is strength in numbers. This is no different for pro wrestling and no different for the New World Order. Had Scott Hall come on his own he probably would have had a decent enough career in World Championship Wrestling. Had he brought in Kevin Nash with him to form The Outsiders, they would have easily been one of the strongest tag teams in the business. But by adding the third man (we will discuss Hollywood Hogan more next week), they became more than just outsiders. They became a unit that could beat most men one on one but in a trio were the most unstoppable force in WCW.

Sure, groups like Kevin Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom and the Four Horsemen might have had higher membership numbers, but they certainly didn’t have the quality. Just look at the Four Horsemen. Rarely was that a group of three marquee, top players. You need more than just strength in numbers, and the original incarnation of the New World Order understood that. It wasn’t just quantity but quality. As a collective unit, you’re only as good as your worst member. When the only guy in your group to not be a former World champion is Scott Hall you’re looking better than the Dungeon of Doom (worst member: Braun the Leprechaun) or the legendary Four Horsemen (worst member: Mongo).

At first, the New World Order hung tight to the quality portion of their group. There was not going to be hanger-ons. This was evidenced by former WWF wrestlers like Big Bubba Rogers (Big Bossman), Michael Wallstreet (I.R.S.) and the Booty Man (Brutus Beefcake) doing their best to get in the good graces with the nWo only for Hogan, Hall and Nash to beat the crap out of them for their efforts.

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But the idea of just being about quality didn’t last long. It was clear that Eric Bischoff and WCW wanted the New World Order to truly look like an invading promotion and not just a simple faction. Soon entered Ted Dibiase, playing a role similar to the Million Dollar Man in the WWF. Dibiase’s first contribution was to “buy” The Giant. The Giant had just lost the WCW World’s Heavyweight championship to Hollywood Hogan at Hog Wild (an event where Booty Man tried to join the nWo and got beat up for his efforts. He would eventually join as The Disciple) but went ahead and joined the New World Order, citing Dibiase’s money as the influence. Much like J.J. Dillion wasn’t one of the four in the Four Horsemen, Dibiase wasn’t the fourth man in the nWo. That would become The Giant.

The Giant was a good choice to make the group look bigger and stronger, but it ruined the aura that this was WWF invading WCW. The Giant was a homegrown WCW guy. However, he did present quality over quantity. The New World Order just recruited the former WCW champion. It also felt like now WCW was at risk of losing members not because of a secret plan, but just out of avarice and being at a disadvantage. A lack of loyalty and trust cost them one of their top stars.

Soon after, it felt like this happened again when Sting looked to join the nWo. Sting was interesting since he was the back-up plan in case Hogan didn’t want to turn heel. Everyone thought Sting betrayed WCW, but Sting himself said it wasn’t him. Sting then proved it at Fall Brawl by beating up the imposter Sting and walking out on his bretheren in WCW, and on Nitro made it clear he was a free agent. WCW didn’t even lose Sting to the nWo this time, but to their own doubts. Even so, “Imposter Sting” stuck around as the fifth member.

The problem though was that it wasn’t the real Sting. This was the first dilution of the New World Order formula. Now we were looking at quantity over quality, even if it worked for storyline means. The sixth man was now introduced, comically named Syxx-Pac. Syxx was the former 1-2-3 Kidd, and fit the group quite well as their entry into the Cruiserweight division. He eventually formed the original Wolfpac inside nWo with Clique friends Hall and Nash. But in a month, the group now added the former Virgil, now called Vincent. After that they added Miss Elizabeth. Then Eric Bischoff finally revealed he was behind the New World Order, exposed by Rowdy Roddy Piper. Then Marcus “Buff” Bagwell joined. Then Michael Wallstreet and Bubba Rogers, once shunned, were now brought in. Scott Norton and members of New Japan Pro Wrestling were now included in the group, as the fourth man in The Giant was now booted from the group for wanting a title shot against Hogan.

By 1997, the group was growing rapidly. There was some purpose to this. One thought to many was that WCW would eventually allow the New World Order to be their own separate show and promotion, so it was almost a talent exchange. Scott Hall mentioned this in the first DVD about the nWo made by WWE. It was no longer going to be about babyface WCW versus heel nWo but the WCW show and the nWo show. This, however, never came to fruition. There was also just the need for shock week in and week out, and putting a New World Order shirt on a guy like Buff Bagwell or Konnan completely changed their careers and made them bigger stars. The group leaned hard on strength in numbers, allowing it to carry them over the weeks to beat WWF Raw in the ratings. Unfortunately, it made them a hard group to follow.

The group got so big in fact that in-fighting began between some of its top members. It was clear that so many egos couldn’t sustain. Macho Man Randy Savage (whose entry into the New World Order was one of the clumsiest turns and deserves deeper coverage another time) started fighting Hollywood Hogan for leadership and told him about the dissention. That dissention led to the nWo Wolfpac led by Savage and Kevin Nash. What was interesting about the Wolfpac was that while it had former nWo guys like Curt Hennig and Konnan, they soon added traditional WCW babyfaces like Lex Luger and Sting. Eventually both sides began fighting each other as much as they fought WCW, before coming back together at the start of 1999. Oddly, they stuck more to the Wolfpac colours (with Hogan even wearing flannel to show how cool he was now) instead of the original Black and White.

By 1999, the steam was just gone from the New World Order because it got too big. It felt like anyone could be a member if they were willing to stab a buddy in the back. Guys like Brian Adams were joining that very few cared about. It looked so bad that when the reformation occurred, they ended up leaving a lot of the guys wearing black and white shirts behind in an nWo B-Team, including members like Stevie Ray and Horace Hogan. That’s also where Vincent got left behind. It was an admittance that there were a lot of members that never really belonged.

It’s easy to see which iteration of the New World Order looked stronger. When Hall, Nash and Hogan first formed, it was unlike anything we saw before. If you are younger and want to understand the feeling, go look at the Miami Heat in 2010 when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined up with Dwayne Wade. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel fair. That’s what things were like with the nWo. There was certainly a stronger core back then. Once they added members, the old adage of “you’re only as strong as your weakest member” showed glaringly with the additions of The Disciple and Michael Wallstreet. It became just about having a lot of guys in the ring to show your dominance. It was growing your gang just for the sake of it. And that weight helped pull the New World Order under and eventually lose their war.

Unfortunately, this ends up being what’s remembered. WWF tried to do the same when they combined the Ministry faction with the Corporation. It was a big pile of wrestlers in the ring. TNA Wrestling eventually tried to re-create New World Order with Immortal, but having a big pile of wrestlers is just that. Even the WWE formed the Nexus so seven guys looked impressive, not thinking that when one of those guys is Justin Gabriel, it eventually becomes hard to care about.

Was there strength in numbers for the New World Order? Yes and no. By having too many wrestlers, it made it easy to win a couple matches by interference or to outnumber the WCW core, but it made it hard to care about the individual rivalries within. Despite only being a trio for a month, the original members of Hogan, Hall and Nash are the best remembered incarnation of the group. They proved it wasn’t quantity, but quality, that made strength in numbers so effective. Hogan didn’t need Brian Adams, Horace Hogan, Stevie Ray and The Disciple to win the WCW World’s Heavyweight title from The Giant at Hog Wild. All he needed was Hall and Nash. Adding members might have served the purpose of making the nWo feel like an invading promotion or a street gang, but it took away the focus of seeing three extremely powerful men come together and shock the foundation of an entire company.

Next week is Part V: The Third Man

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