At first, to viewers of WCW Monday Nitro on Monday, May 27, 1996, it was a seemingly throwaway match. Steve Doll, who had made a name for himself as part of Well Dunn (as Steve Dunn) earlier in his career, was competing against Col. Robert Parker‘s The Mauler (a masked Mike Enos), in a match between two wrestlers that zero momentum. Its initial booking in the first place didn’t make much sense to the average viewer – but it soon would. Before the match ended, a tall man with slicked-back dark hair and a denim vest strode casually through the WCW crowd and jumped the barricade, and, after the initial shock of a fan seemingly entering the ring area, it became apparent this was no ordinary fan – it was WWF Superstar Razor Ramon, later known as Scott Hall, who had last been seen in a WWF ring at the previous month’s PPV, WWF In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies, in a loss to the somewhat recently debuting Vader. Only eight days earlier, he was on the card for the WWF in New York City at Madison Square Garden, where he competed against Hunter Hearst Helmsley. What was going on? Why was “The Bad Guy” interrupting the flagship wrestling program for WWF’s chief rival, WCW, barely a week after competing for WWF in its home field?
“You people… you know who I am. But you don’t know why I’m here,” he said after acquiring a microphone. “Where is Billionaire Ted? Where is the Nacho Man? That punk can’t even get in the building. Me? I go wherever I want, whenever I want. And where, oh where, is Scheme Gene? ‘Cause I got a scoop for you. When that Ken doll lookalike… When that weatherman wannabe comes out here later tonight, I got a challenge for him, for Billionaire Ted, for the Nacho Man. And for anybody else in… WCW. Hey, you wanna go to war? You want a war? You’re gonna get one.” And with that, the first major bombshell was dropped in what would soon become the Monday Night Wars.
In the days before the internet was as prevalent or accessible as today, the world of wrestling fans was full of questions. Things like contracts and their expirations weren’t generally wide known – for most viewers, they had no idea that Razor Ramon – or rather, the man who portrayed Razor Ramon on WWF television, Scott Hall – had given his 90-days notice three months prior (to avoid his contract from rolling over when it expired the week before his WCW appearance). Outside some forum users and tape traders, most fans were unaware of the infamous “Curtain Call”, the moments after Razor and Triple H’s bout at Madison Square Garden – where Triple H beat Hall – that saw The Kliq – Razor, Diesel (Kevin Nash), Triple H, and Shawn Michaels – break the kayfabian wall and unite in a group hug, with Ramon saying “Goodbye” to the Bad Guy, rather than his traditional “Say Hello To.”
The lines between reality and fiction had been blurred, far more than fans of the mid-1990s were used to since Vince McMahon had admitted it was all just “sports entertainment” in recent years. He was still talking like Razor Ramon. He still looked like Razor Ramon. Is it really Razor Ramon? And did WCW know he was coming into the building?
Two weeks later, the intrigue furthered when former WWF World Champion Diesel joined Scott Hall in the ring, creating The Outsiders, who asked WCW broadcaster Eric Bischoff, “So this is where the big boys play, huh? Look at the adjective… play. We ain’t here to play.” And thanks to the apparent hostile invasion of two of WWF’s top stars of the New Generation, the following week’s episode of WCW Monday Nitro on June 17, 1996 became the first time that Nitro beat WWF’s flagship program, Monday Night Raw, in the ratings. As the story continued to unfold, leading to Hulk Hogan being the third man and the creation of the New World Order (nWo), WCW would beat the WWF every Monday for 83 straight weeks, shifting the balance in power for the first time since the mid-1980s a decade previously.
WCW had been acquiring former WWF Superstars for years before Hall first interrupted Nitro during the Doll-Mauler match. Hulk Hogan, WWF’s top draw during the 1980s, had jumped to WCW in 1994, followed months later by his rival “Macho Man” Randy Savage. A year later, former WWF Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze (Madusa) returned to WCW and infamously dumped her WWF Women’s title in the garbage. While they had definitely piqued some new interest in WCW, none of them made the impact that Scott Hall (and shortly after, Kevin Nash) did.
By 1996, it was a new breed of fan who had latched on to the WWF and pro wrestling. They were the fans who watched WWF as kids in the 1980s, but stars like Hogan and Savage were old news – they were their parents’ wrestlers. Nash and Hall – or rather Razor Ramon and Diesel – were stars of WWF’s New Generation of stars that also included Bret “Hitman” Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and more. Both Diesel and Razor Ramon were seemingly in their WWF primes – Razor had only been with WWF for four years (1992-1996) and was a 4x WWF Intercontinental Champion, while Diesel was only in his third year in the WWF, and a former WWF World Heavyweight Champion, WWF Intercontinental Champion, and 2x WWF World Tag Team Champion. They were supposed to be part of the foundation of new stars to help WWF reclaim their 80s glory.
Seeing two of WWF’s top stars bolt the company at arguably their WWF peak to cause chaos in WCW brought a lot of the younger fans who were previously groomed on WWF television in the 1980s, and introduced them to a promotion that was mostly still a Southern promotion despite its national audience. WCW suddenly became cool to everyone, not just the holdovers from the Jim Crockett days. When Scott Hall declared “You want a war?” on his return to WCW on May 27, 1996, his character intended it to be directed at WCW management from the impending arrival of the nWo. But in reality, it was WCW’s first public declaration to Vince McMahon and the WWF that the war drums were sounding. And for 83 weeks, WCW – driven heavily by the presence of Hall, Nash and the nWo – scorched the battlefields to the dirt.
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