nWo 18 Part IX: The Fall

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 VIII: Brand Split

The rise of the New World Order started at Bash at the Beach 96 and reached its peak around Fall Brawl 1997, when the group gained Curt Hennig after a brutal door shot in the WarGames match between nWo and the Four Horsemen. So when was the fall? And more importantly, who was at fault for the fall of the New World Order?

In the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, the film asked a question and then identified seven suspects. It was like a murder mystery and the great detective has to figure out the murderer. While I’m no Hercule Poirot, I feel this is the best way to discuss the fall of the New World Order. Hint: If you are old enough or knowledgeable enough to know what The Murder on the Orient Express is, this will likely end in a similar way.

Culprit #1: Starrcade 97

From its very inception, Sting had some involvement in the New World Order. When the nWo tricked WCW with an imposter Sting, the Franchise of WCW disappeared, only to re-appear in Crow garb. His image of redemption led to the expected match against him and WCW World Heavyweight champion Hollywood Hogan for the battle of the heart of the company. WCW was presented as a bit stupid during this, and for a good long while, Sting was even presented as neither member of nWo or WCW. He was a free agent. It was an interesting situation. Macho Man Randy Savage, one of the other members of the failed trio who faced the Outsiders at Bash at the Beach 96 even joined Sting as a free agent for a few weeks. This very interesting angle was ended unexpectedly when WCW just decided Savage should be in the New World Order because whatever.

But back to Sting and Starrcade 97. JJ Dillon finally made the match and one of the most anticipated wrestling matches ever would take place. The match was unfortunately marred by overbooking, as several run-ins and a supposed fast count that was pretty well on time, along with an appearance by Bret Hart to tie into his screwing in WWF took the moment away from WCW. Heck, Sting had to fight Hogan for the belt only a few weeks later and when he eventually lost the title, he was completely out of the picture. The entire company revolved their main event over the idea of someone getting their hands on Hogan and getting the belt back in WCW court and when it happened? It was handled so spectacularly awful, it was the beginning of the end of WCW. Or was it?

Did Starrcade 97 kill the nWo?: Yes, but it wasn’t the death blow. Starrcade 97 should have been WCW’s triumph, the day the nWo finally had to retreat and regroup. This would have led to in-fighting with the group (or rather, more than what was already occurring) as Sting beat Hogan, Hall and Nash from gaining the belt back. WCW would be riding high in 1998 with the New World Order unsure of how to come back. This would give viewers a reason to tune in, to see how the nWo tries to get back on top. Instead they just rebooted everything and Sting’s magic was snuffed out. It made WCW fans feel like the story was rigged and nothing was going to fix it.

Culprit #2: Bill Goldberg

Goldberg did everything Sting couldn’t. Goldberg ran through everyone, from WCW to New World Order talent. The unbeaten streak was a phenomenon, one that made fans wonder, “How many guys does Goldberg have to beat before he gets a title shot?” Goldberg got that title shot, not on PPV but on a Monday Nitro. And unlike Sting, he beat Hollywood Hogan clean in the middle of the ring. Goldberg looked unstoppable, and bookers at the time felt they needed to change this.

At Starrcade 98, Goldberg faced Kevin Nash, leader of the Wolfpac and former member of the black and white. This was a babyface vs. babyface match, the second Goldberg was saddled with after beating Diamond Dallas Page at Halloween Havoc. The finish saw Scott Hall using a stun gun on Goldberg, leading to Nash winning the title. Events afterwards (which I’ll discuss as culprit #3), led to a re-emerging New World Order as both groups came together. Was this the threat needed to make this Goldberg vs. nWo in 1999?

The problem is that Goldberg hardly fought for the World Title in 1999. He fought Scott Hall for stun gunning him and then took on “free agent” Bam Bam Bigelow before eventually leaving to film a Universal Soldier sequel. He wasn’t that immediate threat of the New World Order. If the idea was that Goldberg was out of opponents and a super powered New World Order would do the trick, they certainly didn’t do much on it.

Did Goldberg kill the nWo?: No. The problem was that Nash was a poor choice to beat Goldberg when he was a babyface, even if it led to his heel turn. Goldberg never even got his chance to destroy the group. The man is innocent. Let him out of his handcuffs! He didn’t touch Elizabeth!

Culprit #3: The Finger Poke of DOOM

If Starrcade 97 killed hope for fans, Starrcade 98 was a knife in the same wound as Goldberg lost the WCW World Title to “Founder of the nWo” Kevin Nash. Hollywood Hogan, supposedly retired, came back to wrestle Nash for the title on the next Nitro. It was the clash of nWo Wolfpac vs. nWo Hollywood we all wanted to see! Wait, on Nitro? Okay whatever… wait what happened? A finger poke? A FINGER POKE!?

Yes, the Finger Poke of Doom. This led to Goldberg getting beaten up by a re-united New World Order, black and red and white and black coming together. Not all joined in as Sting gave up his “Crab Sting” colours to come back to WCW. The finger poke was an embarrassment on the business and led to Hogan wearing flannel to try to look like Konnan. It was pretty sad.

Did the Finger Poke kill the nWo?: Yes. Starrcade is supposed to be the WrestleMania of WCW. We now had Starrcade 97 and Starrcade 98 where WCW looked stupid and the New World Order got to leave unscathed. The Finger Poke established the fact that even if WCW was the company, it was the New World Order in charge, and nobody was allowed to have heat like the New World Order. When only one person has heat, things will cool down.

Culprit #4: Reboots

You start with the New World Order. Then you got nWo Hollywood and nWo Wolfpac. Then they come together to make nWo Elite, with the leftovers making the nWo b-Team. Then both groups pretty much died in mid 99, to allow for Bret Hart, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner and Kevin Nash to form nWo 2000, which used a lot of silver in the logo for some reason. I guess to make it feel futuristic. How many times can you re-skin this cat?

Did the Reboots kill the nWo?: Yes, one reboot at a time. By the time we had Bret Hart and Jeff Jarrett wearing the colours it was clear the group had run its course. Instead of trying to make it something big and self-sustaining, it was handled like cheap heel heat. Piss in the flames. Even worse, nWo 2000 was supposed to feud with Goldberg and Goldberg put his fist through real glass on a limo window. A failed reboot in the WWF was just another failed reboot. 2002 wasn’t a long enough amount of time to start beating the horse again. Plus they looked really silly once Hogan left.

Culprit #5: World Wrestling Federation

Are we talking the 2002 reboot? No actually. We’re talking the WWF itself. Did it kill the New World Order? Afterall, when it first started, people really thought the New World Order was the WWF. With all of the former WWF names added, it really felt like it was making WCW vs. WWF on a WCW show. Why watch both shows when the war is on TNT? Teetering on bankruptcy, the WWF fought back with Austin vs. McMahon, Tyson at WrestleMania, the rise of The Rock and D-Generation X. D-Generation X specifically humiliated WCW by showing up to their headquarters and trying to break into an arena showing WCW Nitro with a tank. By 2000 there was no point to even attempt the New World Order anymore since the WWF was running away with the ratings war. Nobody wore an nWo shirt to the ring in March of 2000 anymore. By 2001 of the same month there was no more WCW.

Did the WWF kill the nWo?: Yes, but they also killed WCW. But it isn’t hard to kill a rival that’s constantly falling on its own sword and seeing its own men stab it in the back.

For those who didn’t know what the Murder on the Orient Express was (and didn’t stop reading to look it up), the end was that everyone involved was guilty in the murder of Mr. Ratchett. Out of the five culprits, I only exonerated one in Bill Goldberg. Everyone else had a hand in the end of the New World Order, with some stab wounds deeper than others. What’s unfortunate isn’t that the New World Order had to end. What’s unfortunate is it had to fade away instead of burn out.

But could anything have saved the New World Order? It’s a tough question to consider. If we’re talking throughout wrestling history? No, it would have died with WCW. A powerful nWo would not stop Jamie Kellner from trying to get rid of World Championship Wrestling from Time Warner AOL. Could it have at least lived until the final curtain call in 2001? Sure. None of the large stables that followed it in WCW like the New Blood, Millionaire’s Club, Dark Carnival, Misfits in Action, Filthy Animals, Natural Born Thriller’s, Team Canada or the Magnificent Seven actually captured the magic of the New World Order when many of them were attempting just that. Would it have been any better to see Sean O’Haire and Mark Jindrak as members of the nWo instead of NBT? Nope.

What about the WWF version of the New World Order? I discussed how it was just an imitation of the original nWo back in Part VI. Had it been stronger than what we saw and Vince McMahon truly embraced it, could it have survived? Well now we’re getting somewhere. Back in 2002, it could only be a nostalgia trip. The majority of wrestlers involved were just former WCW talent (and Shawn Michaels). It felt like a poor man’s D-Generation X in the way D-Generation X at times felt like a poor man’s Wolfpac (it eventually evolved into bigger than the Wolfpac). Even if it was first presented as poisonous cancer to the World Wrestling Federation, it never really got to take over. It was just a midcard stable.

But what if the WWE re-introduced the New World Order? The death of the nWo is July 15, 2002. This is about the 18th Anniversary of the group, a group in hibernation for 12 years now. What if we saw a return now? How could that work?

Next week is Part X: Brave New World Order?

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