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2014 LOP Hall of Fame Inductee: The New World Order
By Mr. Tito
Apr 1, 2014 - 1:00:00 PM
Image by Snowman
NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW WORLD ORDER! I am quite proud, on this very day, to induct the New World Order stable into the LordsofPain.net Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. I should certainly be a snob like the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and just induct the original members as they did with KISS, but we'll be all inclusive with this induction. Certainly, the split 1998 NWO, the early 1999 reboot, the Vince Russo late 1999 version, and the WWE version of 2002 are lesser versions of the New World Order but they don't exist if the 1996-1997 version of the NWO wasn't so awesome. WCW kept going to the well with the NWO because it not only made AOL/Time Warner lots of money, but it single-handedly changed the pro wrestling business forever.
Before June of 1996, pro wrestling was still stuck in the 1980's model of "high on morals" babyface taking on "pure evil" heels. The wrestling model then encouraged you to cheer for the babyfaces and boo the heels. With Vince McMahon's strong push for commercializing pro wrestling through highly produced television shows, merchandising, and goofy gimmicks, pro wrestling looked fake. By the late 1980's, pro wrestling was known to be officially staged because Vince McMahon had to declare WWE as a form of "entertainment" to avoid licenses and other fees paid to state athletic commissions throughout the United States. As the WWE lost its starpower and popularity, the jokes about how fake pro wrestling's outcomes and storylines increased. What pro wrestling needed was something that looked "real".
Enter the New World Order. During mid-1996, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) fooled everyone into thinking that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were legitimately invading WCW. Both guys arrived without names and stated "you know who we are" while interrupting WCW shows in an unannounced fashion. This fooled fans into thinking that WWE wrestlers were on the attack and Hall/Nash fed into this psychology by violently attacking WCW wrestlers. It felt so real that WWE actually filed a lawsuit against WCW for copyright infringement over the Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) and Diesel (Kevin Nash) characters. WWE would have to later prove that they were just characters by introducing the world to FAKE Razor and FAKE Diesel (played by Glenn Jacobs, now Kane). It forced Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to openly admit that they were NOT working for WWE during Great American Bash 1996.
But by Great American Bash, everybody was hooked on what Hall/Nash were going to do next. It no longer mattered that Hall/Nash weren't working for WWE but what mattered is that two great talents were stolen from the WWE. Scott Hall was a strong midcarder, though due to personal problems, he wasn't able to consistently hold a main event spot. But Kevin Nash was a former WWE Champion and actually peaking after he lost his WWE Title at Survivor Series 1995. Diesel turned heel and that edge allowed him to have a pretty entertaining run to end his WWE career. Nash was peaking as a wrestler and then his contract was up shortly after Wrestlemania 12. WWE wasted Nash as a babyface for his entire WWE Title run and it was WCW's gain in 1996 when he debuted as a badass looking to violently assault WCW wrestlers.
Hall and Nash's debuts and early reign of terror in WCW felt real. Even know fans knew that pro wrestling was staged, you never knew when the next NWO beatdown was to occur. Then, Hall and Nash announced that there was a THIRD GUY and he would be revealed in a match against 3 WCW wrestlers at Bash at the Beach 1996. That third guy would turn out to be Hulk Hogan of all people. Hogan joined WCW during 1994 and tried the Hulkamania red and yellow gimmick for about 2 years. But it became stale fast with WCW's Southern viewers who didn't like Vince McMahon's style of promoting. Hogan was beginning to receive boos despite the non-stop babyface push that he kept receiving. Thus, it was perfect timing to turn heel. At Bash at the Beach 1996, Hogan turned by appearing to help Team WCW but opted to attack instead. He dropped his famous legdrop on Randy Savage, saluted Hall and Nash, and cut a scathing promo on WCW and its fans. Easily, the best moment in pro wrestling history.
After Hulk Hogan called them the "New World Order of Professional Wrestling", they took on the name of New World Order (NWO) and began to push that brand hard. It was the perfect name, too, because it playing off of real fears over that name. There exists many conspiracy theories of an elite group of individuals attempting to rule the world. Former president George H.W. Bush really stoked the flames when he actually talked about a "new world order" in a 1990 speech, which was inserted into the band Ministry's song "N.W.O.". The WCW Creative Team were geniuses by using this controversial name into the pro wrestling stable of heels.
WCW saw exponential growth in their fanbase... But it wasn't just for the older Southern style of pro wrestling that they pushed for years. It was for the NWO stable and "what will they do next?". Part of the charm about the NWO was how unpredictable their actions were and who would be added to the group next. After Hall, Nash, and Hogan, the NWO would expand significantly. They added the Giant (now Big Show in WWE) and then added about anyone with a former WWE resume. That included Sean Waltman (Syxx, later X-Pac in WWE), Ted Dibiase, Vince (Virgil in WWE), and others. WCW was in a major hiring spree of former WWE stars that eventually, they'd lure someone like Curt Hennig out of in-ring retirement to join the NWO. The group kept expanding and expanding... Throughout 1997, WCW didn't quite hit the saturation point on group membership but fans were growing tired of Hulk Hogan's dominance in the Main Event scene.
As you watch the WWE Network for 1996-1997 WCW Pay Per Views, you'll notice that the undercard for each show is incredibly strong but the main events for the WCW Title with Hulk Hogan are underwhelming. Fans, again, were growing tired of Hulk Hogan dominating at the top. However, WCW had a top babyface to finally take him down... WCW's Creative Staff rebranded Sting from the blonde spiked surfer dude to portraying a character like the Crow comic book and film character. Sting went from having flashy colors to going black and white with his facepaint and a black trenchcoat. Sting, himself, went from a typical babyface wrestler to a larger than life character that fans wanted to see take down the NWO. That was supposed to happen at WCW Starrcade 1997.
But the Starrcade 1997 Hulk Hogan vs. Sting match was a booking disaster and record number Pay Per View numbers at the time saw the WCW Titanic sinking before their very eyes. Instead of going for a clean win and letting Sting defeat Hulk Hogan, WCW created controversy with the finish as referee Nick Patrick was accused of a fast count in favor of Hulk Hogan even though the count looked legitimate. This finish ruined Sting's big moment and his value as a top drawing babyface soon diminished. Then, Hulk Hogan later recaptured the WCW Title to keep the NWO as "business as usual". However, wrestling fans were hungry for change and they were getting a refreshing brand of pro wrestling with Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and the Rock in the WWE throughout 1998 and then further into 1999.
NWO was dying a slow death but WCW kept going to the well. They split the group into two groups, NWO Hollywood led by Hulk Hogan and NWO Wolfpack led by Kevin Nash. NWO Wolfpack was pushed as a babyface group and it pushed almost everyone to belong to some form of the NWO. When Sting joined and turned his Crow paint into red and black, it looked bad. Then, NWO Hollywood tried to have various celebrity matches involving Dennis Rodman/Karl Malone and also Jay Leno. That's right, Jay Leno. The NWO Hollywood brand pretty much died when Hogan's high profile feud with the Warrior at Halloween Havoc 1998 busted and made Hogan look very bad. Hogan "retired" shortly thereafter. But at the first WCW Nitro of 1999, the NWO made its returned with a combined supergroup of NWO Hollywood and NWO Wolfpack members and Hogan regain his WCW Championship by pointing a finger at Kevin Nash's chest. Wrestling fans were insulted by another iteration of the NWO and WWE gained viewers by this frustration along with pushing Austin, Rock, and Foley (later Triple H).
NWO died quickly during early 1999 but in a desperation move during late 1999 because his early bookings failed, Vince Russo reformed the NWO with Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett, and Bret Hart. In fairness to Russo, however, Jarrett and Hart were injured shortly after forming the NWO to even give this version of the NWO a fair chance. Still, wrestling fans had already seen 4 other versions of the NWO already between the original, Hollywood and Wolfpack versions, and the early 1999 reboot. They were burned out... After WCW died during March 2001, the WWE had the opportunity to buy Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Hulk Hogan's contracts... However, WWE would have had to pay millions for each AOL/Time Warner contract. They waited until 2002 to bring all 3 guys in as the original NWO. This version, however, would not last long. Hogan was getting over quick as a babyface again to bring back the red and yellow, Scott Hall soon exited the company for personal reasons, and Kevin Nash endured serious injuries. WWE tried to add various WWE wrestler to the group, such as Shawn Michaels, but it just didn't catch on during 2002. That was the last official version of the NWO, although other promotions have tried NWO clones with Hall, Nash, and/or Waltman.
It's sad to see what the NWO became after 1997 because they were truly a revolutionary force in pro wrestling. They added realism to professional wrestling storylines and character. Instead of having gimmick names like "Diesel" or "Razor Ramon", Kevin Nash and Scott Hall acted like human beings with tremendous egos who wanted to legitimately take over a company. Fans lived through the Hall and Nash characters, as they'd like to overthrow their management at their workplaces and say what goes. The same feeling would occur with fans who lived through the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin character. The NWO ended the era of ridiculous gimmicks and pushed for a more mature brand of wrestling. The timing couldn't be more perfect as all of those older WWE wrestlers in WCW needed to evolve and their older fans returned to see their favorites in a new heel role. Even better with the NWO, it forced wrestling fans to watch the entire 2 and later 3 hours of WCW Nitro. Because the NWO could attack at any moment, you didn't turn the channel on the midcard matches. It helped get all of the younger and cruiserweight wrestlers over. Guys like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio were seen, for the first time, by a larger audience and their popularity on the WCW midcard surged, as did others.
NWO changed professional wrestling forever. It changed how heels/faces are viewed, how wrestlers get over, and best of all, the NWO pushed Vince McMahon to improve his own stale WWE brand. By WCW becoming the #1 company with the NWO storyline, Vince McMahon cut the ridiculous gimmick bullshit, expanded RAW to 2 hours and went live, and started to push new stars like Austin, Rock, Mick Foley, and later Triple H. The biggest shame is that WCW couldn't do anything beyond the great NWO gimmick and they died a quick death through March 2001.
I STRONGLY recommend watching the NWO: The Revolution DVD/Blu-Ray or checking it out on Netflix or WWE Network. There, you'll see how the NWO was formed, grew, and became a force in pro wrestling. It's must see television if you're a wrestling fan curious about its rich history.
It has been my honor to induct the New World Order into the LoP Hall of Fame.
Comments and debates are welcome on Twitter. Bring it on. @titowrestling
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