ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY... The pro wrestling landscape was changed forever when a former WWE superstar suddenly showed for the competitor's show, WCW Nitro. No, I'm not talking about Lex Luger showing up on the first edition of WCW Nitro during 1995. That talent jump was very important because it legitimized WCW Nitro as a competitor but didn't put World Championship Wrestling (WCW) on top. For 1995 and the first half of 1996, ratings between WCW Nitro and WWE Monday Night RAW were tight. It wasn't until another former WWE superstar showed up and weeks later, brought another former WWE superstar, that WCW began distancing itself from the WWE. Then, the biggest babyface of all time turned heel and WCW dominated the Monday Night ratings race for 84 consecutive weeks between 1996 to 1998.
Who was this former WWE Superstar, you ask? The man that oozed machismo... Formerly Razor Ramon in the WWE but eventually working under his real life name Scott Hall, Hall made his WCW return ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY on May 27th, 1996. Hall actually worked for WCW before as the Diamond Studd but once that gimmick dried up, he jumped to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) for much greener pastures. There, he remained a strong fixture in WWE's upper-midcard as a 4 time Intercontinental Champion. While he doesn't get credit for it, Hall solidified himself as the Intercontinental Champion by defeating Shawn Michaels in the Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 10, one of the greatest matches of all time. He would never have a WWE Title run, as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Kevin Nash were in line ahead of him (we could go into other reasons, but not necessary for today).
When Hall's contract came up during 1996, he had a lucrative option out there... Through his old friend Diamond Dallas Page, who managed the Diamond Studd in WCW, Hall began some quiet negotiations and the guaranteed money that WCW was offering was off the charts for its time. Hall's buddy, Kevin Nash who was known as Diesel in the WWE, also had his contract come up during 1996. Probably being amazed at what he was hearing from Hall, Nash began to consider. As he states in a "YouShoot" interview, Nash may have been inspired to take the WCW offer after arguing with Bret Hart regarding their Steel Cage match at In Your House - Rage in the Cage Pay Per View during February 1996. The match ended with the Undertaker pulling Kevin Nash through the ring to allow Bret Hart to escape the cage, but Bret Hart refused to take the Jacknife Powerbomb before that finish out of fears he'd look weak heading into Wrestlemania 12. Nash got serious about the WCW offer after that.
Both Hall and Nash reportedly came to Vince McMahon with their WCW offers to see if he'd match the offers. He refused. Vince knew that offering guaranteed contracts would present a slippery slope to him as a wrestling promoter. Vince's salary structures at the time were based on the house, Pay Per View, and merchandise sales, presenting a model where active wrestlers had to earn their keep. WWE wrestlers were paid well at the time but they had to be healthy and had to present some drawing power themselves in order to earn a nice WWE paycheck. WCW's offer was different. Not only was it a higher rate of pay, but it came without strings attached. Guaranteed money no matter how healthy the wrestlers were or if they were successful as draws or not. The ballgame was changing thanks to the Time Warner Corporation backed World Championship Wrestling. Vince was going to let Scott Hall go anyway based on some personal issues, but Kevin Nash was a tougher one to let go. Then again, Nash had his shot at being WWE Champion and Vince might have felt that he got everything he could out of the Diesel character.
On May 27th, 1996, Scott Hall, in street clothes, arrived at WCW Nitro through the crowd and interrupted a WCW match. He got on the mic and belittled the WCW brand, suggesting that a war with WCW was coming. The biggest thing is that he gave the impression that he was there on his own and not part of the WCW show. In other words, that this was a legitimate WWE invasion. The best line was Hall saying "you know who I am, but you don't know why I'm here. You wanted a war and now you got one". Wrestling fans, in the early days of the internet, were buzzing. What on earth did they just witness? The beginning of a WWE invasion of WCW? That's what it appeared and the WCW booking staff had no problem stoking those flames. More WWE allusions were to come in the following weeks and things became interesting when Kevin Nash joined during the 3rd week. Both Hall and Nash were just seen on WWE programming in 1996 and fans bought into a legitimate WWE invasion of WCW.
But the WWE lawyers weren't. They filed a lawsuit against WCW on the very basis that WCW were using WWE intellectual properties on WCW programming. Hall and Nash went unnamed for a while and the WWE lawyers argued that WCW presented them as WWE employees. Better yet, the whole reason why the WWE debuted fake versions of Diesel and Razor Ramon characters was to prove that the characters were WWE's and that WCW stole them to give fans the wrong impression. While the fake Razor and Diesel (Kane played the fake Diesel, by the way) were tacky for their time, there was a method behind their madness. Years later, this lawsuit would go in the favor of the WWE and part of the settlement would provide the WWE with the ultimate weapon: the ability to match ANY offer to buy WCW. WWE used this to squeeze out any competive offers to buy WCW during March 2001. Despite getting sued years later, WCW's gamble during 1996 proved to be highly effective for many profits earned for the WCW business.
At Great American Bash 1996, Hall and Nash had to actually admit that they were NOT working for the WWE. Despite this admission, the angle still worked... Hall and Nash hyped that there was a "3rd Man" and challenged 3 other WCW superstars to a match at the Bash at the Beach 1996 Pay Per View next month. After the challenge, Hall and Nash brutally attacked known WCW executive Eric Bischoff with Hall punching Bischoff and Nash powerbombing Bischoff through gimmicked platform by the stage. This show of brutality may have erased the "we're not from WWE" admission heard earlier. For the next Pay Per View build up, the hype of the "3rd Man" dominated WCW Nitro and the wrestling world. Speculation fueled WCW Nitro's ratings... But could they pay it off?!?
WCW had a 3rd WWE free agent in mind. Bret "the Hitman" Hart's WWE contract was also up. Hart's last WWE committment was Wrestlemania 12 when he lost to Shawn Michaels in the Overtime Ironman Match and Hart was pondering a legitimate WCW offer. In fact, between Wrestlemania 12 and just before Survivor Series 1996, there were ongoing negotiations between Hart, WCW, and WWE over a new contract. Hart was unable to come to terms with WCW by the time Bash at the Beach 1996 rolled around but he could have still joined WCW afterward. It almost happened but Hart signed a 20 year with the WWE instead that paid him up front. Vince made his choice on Hall and Nash, but couldn't part with Hart... Yet. The contract, as you all know, had a 1 year opt out clause and Vince famously exercised that in 1997. But for 1996, Hart didn't join WCW. They went with an in-house employee, instead, and made history.
Hulk Hogan joined WCW in 1994 and continued his "Red & Yellow" babyface ways as seen throughout the 1980's and early 1990's with the WWE. From 1994 through 1996, WCW forced Hulkamania down the Southern fans' throats and with time, it was wearing thin. Things came to a head when Uncensored 1996 was such an utter disaster with the "Doomsday Cage Match" in which Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage fought a ridiculous cage match with no known rules. Hogan took time off after this show and with the WCW fans burned out from Hulkamania, his absence went sort of unnoticed. Thus, when considering who could be the "3rd Man", Hogan wasn't easily predicted as the guy. Sting became the guy whom everybody assumed would be the 3rd man, especially since he was in the Bash at the Beach 1996 six man match (teaming with Randy Savage and Lex Luger). The Dirt Sheets of the time were suggesting that Sting would be the guy and it was discussed. Quite possibly, WCW management threw Sting's name to the dirt sheet writers or internet sources of the time to hide the real 3rd man. Pro Wrestling Illustrated's weekly news insider claimed to have called it, but all indications at the time were that Hogan was taking time off from the business.
As the Bash at the Beach match went on, Lex Luger sustained an injury to give the impression that Team WCW was shorthanded. When Hall and Nash were getting the upper hand on Sting and Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan arrived to an animated crowd. Then, he put his back the corner, pushed off, and delivered a legdrop to Randy Savage. Giving a "thumbs up" to Hall and Nash, he then delivered another legdrop to Savage. Fans were SHOCKED in attendance and watching on Pay Per View. Hogan was leading babyface in the pro wrestling industry for over 10 years and he turned in a grand fashion that will never be seen again. This completed the work that Scott Hall began on May 27th, 1996, on this day in pro wrestling history...
The New World Order (NWO), the hostile takeover angle of WCW started by former WWE superstars Scott Hall and Kevin Nash joining former top WWE babyface Hulk Hogan, was set up perfectly. Scott Hall, on May 27th, 1996, sold to wrestling fans that he was an outsider and still a WWE employee. He kept selling that in the weeks to come and fans bought it. Better yet with Hall, it was something new for the wrestler. The Razor Ramon character had run its course and WWE wasn't serious about making him a WWE Champion. The "bad guy" that fans had come to love had a new avenue in the wrestling world. He made the most of it, too... Fans ate it up when Hall got on the microphone and asked if they were there to see "Dubya Cee Dubya" or to see the "NWO" because it was "just too sweeeeet!". Hall wouldn't get a crack at the WCW Title, as many didn't between 1996-1998 with Hulk Hogan on top, but he was certainly over in his role. His buddy Kevin Nash would get over, too. "Big Sexy" became a top star in WCW and sustained a good wrestling career after the NWO fully dissolved.
Hall's career and life has been a rollercoaster since this May 27th, 1996 WCW return to begin the NWO angle. Quite possibly, his career in WCW should have been bigger but personal demons always seem to take control. As you may have seen from recent news postings, Scott Hall is currently working under Diamond Dallas Page's Yogo program to rehab his life. Critics will attack Hall for his personal problems, but those same critics haven't had millions of dollars thrown at them and haven't worked on the road for much of the year. Oh, and the demands to stay in shape and take physical damage in the ring. Hall has had his problems just like many others have had in this demanding pro wrestling industry. However, Hall is lucky enough to have survived it and working with DDP, he may continue to live to tell people about it.
But on this day in pro wrestling history, Scott Hall's May 27th, 1996 WCW return to begin the New World Order angle changed the wrestling landscape... FOR LIFE!