The Beginning of the NWO

Eric had spent time in Japan watching Japanese wrestling and recalled a New Japan Pro-Wrestling Angle where a rival faction “invaded” the company. This helped Bischoff develop the idea of Hall and Nash, who he had just signed to WCW from WWF.  appearing to be WWF stars invading WCW.

On the May 27th edition of Nitro, during the Mauler vs Steve Doll match, Scott Hall came down from the crowd and into the ring. In the episode you can see the audience look away from the ring watching Hall, who they would have recognized him as Razor Ramon. The announcers played up on the idea, wondering aloud what he’s doing here, just as they did when Lex Luger showed up on the first Nitro. Hall entered the ring and the match had already stopped. The normal wrestling thing to do would have been to have Hall beat up one or both of the wrestlers, but Maul and Steve and the referee simple left the ring in shock. Hall got on the mic to say “You people you know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here. 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 o where is skeen gene, cause I got a scoop for you. When that Ken Doll look alike (Bischoff), when that weather man wanna be comes out here later tonight, I got a challenge for him, for Billionaire Ted, for the Nacho man, and for anybody else in uh dubuya C dubuya. Hey, you wanna go to war, you wanna war, you’re gonna get one.”

(As a side note, WWF had been airing skits making fun of Ted Turner, Hogan, and Savage. The skits featured a “Billionaire Ted” character, skeen gene, and old actors playing geriatric versions of Hogan and Savage.)

Bischoff’s initial idea for the story was that Hall was “a rebel, pissed off, coming back to WCW with a chip on his shoulder. The chip was that he had been disrespected at WCW. The company had held both him and Kevin back (giving them ridiculous gimmicks etc), and now they wanted revenge. They were the Outsiders. They had reached a level of stardom at WWE and decided to come back because they’d been disrespected.” (EB 211)

At the end of the broadcast Hall comes out again, this time approaching the broadcast booth He says to Eric “You got a big mouth, and we, we are sick of it.” Bischoff asks who he means by we, to which Hall responds “You know who. This is where the big boys play, what a joke. You go tell Billonaire Ted to get three of his very best We are taking over. You wanna go to war, you wanna war, you got one. Only only lets do it right, in the ring where it matter s not on no microphones not in no newspapers or dirt sheets lets do it in the ring where it matters.We are coming down here, and like it or not, we are taking over” At that point the show ends.

At the end of the next week’s show, on June 3rd, Hall confronts WCW star Sting and tells him “Just relax chico.” Chico was something the Razor Ramon character would say. Sting slaps Hall, and Hall says “I got a big surprise for you next week.”

The end of the June 10th show had Hall coming to the broadcast booth to confront Bischoff. Kevin Nash appears behind Bischoff, and soon Nash grabs the mic saying “You’ve been sitting out here for six months running your mouth. This is where the big boys play huh. Look to the adjective, play, (play is not an adjective) we aint here to play. Now he said last week, that he was gonna bring somebody out here. I’m here. You still don’t have your three people, and you know why? Because nobody wants to face us. This show’s about as interesting as Marge Shot reading excerpts from Mein Kampf.
… You couldn’t get a paleontologist to get a couple of these fossils cleared. You aint got enough guys off a dialysis machine to get a team. Yeah where’s Hogan? Where’s Hogan, out doing another episode of Blunder in Paradise? Where’s the Macho Man huh, doing some Slim Jim commercial? Hey were here.” Bischoff replies that tomorrow he’ll be in Atlanta to figure out who the three WCW guys will be. Bischoff then challenges Hall and Nash to show up this Sunday at the Great American Bash PPV in Baltimore.

At the PPV Bischoff asks Hall and Nash point blank if they work for the WWF. They both say no. They still tease their surprise third partner, saying that when they meet their WCW opponents they “are going to carve them up.” which was another Razor Ramon saying. Bischoff says he’ll reveal the three WCW team members tomorrow on Nitro. Then Kevin Nash power bombed Bischoff through a table.

(Side note: It should also be noted on that same PPV NFL star Kevin Green teamed with Mongo Michaels (the former Nitro announcer) against Flair and Arn Anderson. Mongo turned on Kevin and joined Horsemen.)

That next day on Nitro, June 17th, Mean Gene uses the term Outsiders for the first time to refer to Hall and Nash. It is explained there was a list of talent, Hogan, Giant, Flair, Luger, Sting, Macho Man, and going by their win loss records, Luger, Savage, and Sting would represent team WCW. They would have a match against the Outsiders at the July 7th PPV Bash at the Beach. During the next two weeks Hall and Nash are seen in the crowd on Nitro. First they come through the crowd with baseball bats, the next time they’re shown to have tickets to be there. Both times security comes out and they Outsiders leave. On the July first episode Nash is heard saying “Get the fuck off” to security, and chants “Attica” as they get kicked out.

The mystery at this point was who the third person would be. Bischoff actually wasn’t sure himself who it would be at first. He actually approached Sting about it. Sting agreed but was not overly enthusiastic about it.

Hulk Hogan had been off WCW TV for a while, as he was filming a movie called Santa with Muscles. Hogan asked Bischoff to meet him in LA, and Hogan asked who the third man was. Eric still wasn’t sure, but Hogan said it would be him.

Early on in his career, Hogan was a heel managed by classy Freddie Blassy, but the traditional red and yellow Hulk Hogan character that the general public was familiar with was always a good guy. By the mid 90s the Hogan gimmick was growing stale. In fact on early episodes of Nitro the crowd can be heard booing Hogan, particularly in matches in Charlotte and across the south against Ric Flair. In early 96 Bischoff went to Hogan’s home and actually pitched the idea of Hogan turning heel. Bischoff recalls, “He stroked his Fu Manchu (mustache) for what seemed like twenty minutes. Then he said “Well, brother, until you’ve walked a mile in my red and yellow boots, you’ll never really understand.” After which Hogan basically showed Bischoff the door. (EB 205)

Wrestler and booker Kevin Sullivan also talked to Hogan about being heel, citing the WWF’s Undertaker, a walking dead man that the crowd cheers for. (Monday Night Wars 2)

Even after talking with Hogan in LA, Bischoff still wasn’t sure if Hogan would really go through with it. Sting was on standby, but once Hogan showed up at the arena, Eric knew he would do it. (217) He says only about 12 people knew Hogan was about to turn heel (MNW2). Hall and Nash didn’t even know, nor did the announcers. During the PPV they played up on who the third man would be. Mean Gene was backstage talking about how he heard a familiar voice talking in Hall and Nash’s locker room, but couldn’t be sure who it was.

When the main started, Macho Man Randy Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger came to the ring, Luger and Savage wearing face paint like their partner Sting. Hall and Nash came out without their third partner, which further fueled the speculation of who it might be. Mean Gene got in the ring before the match started asking about the third man, and was told to just wait, everyone would find out soon enough.

The match started, at first appearing to be a three on two handicap match. However, Lex Luger accidentally knocked his partner Sting off the apron, and Sting appeared to be hurt and was carried to the back. The match continued, now seemingly two on two. Near the finish of the match, Hulk Hogan began walking down the aisle to the ring. Again, Hogan hadn’t been seen by wrestling fans in several months. They cheered Hogan as he entered the ring and tore his shirt off. Nash and Hall left the ring, and Macho Man, the legal man on team WCW, was hurt, lying on the mat. Suddenly Hogan hit the leg drop on Savage, threw the referee out, and Hall counted the one, two, three. Hogan high fives the Outsiders and Mean Gene comes to the ring. The crowd was so shocked they were throwing trash into the ring. Here Hogan cut an evil promo where he told fans to stick it. Words can’t do it justice, but the NWO was formed.

This new group was to be called the New World Order, or NWO. Bischoff thought of NWO on the spot. (Biscoff 218) New World Order was a phrase that had been used a lot in 90’s conspiracy culture. The first President Bush used the term to describe the new era of international relations after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Of course people took it to mean something more sinister.

Regardless, NWO as a wrestling story line became one of the hottest angles in history. Hogan can be seen in all his evil glory here.

Bischoff, Eric with Roberts, Jeremy “Controversy Creates Cash” Simon and Schuster 2006

Monday Night Wars Documentary Episode 2: Rise of the NWO

The Origin of WCW Monday Nitro

It is important to look at the early days of WCW to see how Nitro got started. Eric Bischoff was a third string announcer for the company who ended up getting the Executive Producer position because upper management wanted someone to run WCW that wasn’t a “wrestling guy.”

WCW was known for hiring ex-WWF wrestlers, though it should be noted that one of the first things they did was hire Mean Gene Oakerland and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Ric Flair suggested these announcers get hired first so they could help make stars in WCW. (Flair 226)

One of the first things Bischoff did was move the TV tapings to Disney MGM studios in Orlando Florida. WCW hadn’t been making money running live events, and now they were in a position where Disney was paying them to produce television and was supplying a fresh audience as people toured the various studios where TV shows were being filmed.

One of those shows being filmed was Thunder in Paradise, starring Hulk Hogan. Hogan had left the WWF in the early 90s, and at that point in his life honestly thought he was done with wrestling. While still in the WWF, Hogan was approached by the producers of Baywatch, Doug Schwartz and Greg Bonann, to do a pilot about two ex Navy seals that ride around in a boat fighting crime. It was not picked up as a series right away, but eventually Rysher Entertainment, the company that produced Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, got the show a syndication deal about a year and a half after the pilot was shot, with Hogan as executive producer. (Hogan 225)

Thunder in Paradise was shot on sound stage A, where three thousand people an hour went through the glass walkway on the studio tour. (229) Later, WCW filmed on sound stage B, but the way the tour was set up, people saw B before A. So basically everyone watched the WCW wrestling show, then saw Hogan filming Knight Rider on a boat and wondered why he wasn’t wrestling.

Bischoff got the idea to see if Hogan would be interested in wrestling again. Since Ric Flair knew Hulk previously, Bischoff asked Flair if he would talk to Hogan. (Flair 232) One day Flair approached Hogan on the set of Thunder in Paradise. Both Bischoff and Flair went back to the set several times to meet Hogan.

Hogan was reluctant at first, but he missed wrestling, and there were backstage events for the Thunder in Paradise show that were a factor as well. Keith Samples from Rysher Entertainment did not like some of the deals being made regarding the show, and wanted to bring a producer from Robocop in. However, Hogan was asked to take full responsibility for the show as well. By this point Hogan had enough, saying “The hell with it, pull the plug I don’t care.” (Hogan, 231, 232).

Before signing on Hogan wanted to meet with Ted Turner himself. He met Turner and Bill Shaw, the president of WCW. Hogan’s WCW contract gave him over half of his merchandise sales,though WCW didn’t have much of a merchandise machine at that point) (Hogan 238) and 25% of the Pay Per View revenue. (Flair 233).

Hogan was immediately put into a feud with WCW Champion Ric Flair. Flair had briefly been the WWF a few years prior, and one of wrestling’s great mysteries is why a Hogan/Flair match never happened at Wrestlemania. That dream match finally happened at Bash at the Beach in 1994, where Hogan became the new WCW champion. Flair had long been the face of WCW, as Hogan was the face of the WWF. Bischoff says “In a way-and in retrospect, because I didn’t think of it this way at the time-we were creating a war between the two brands.” (EB 119) He ads “We weren’t looking for a confrontation with Vince, although some people thought we were. Admittedly, some of our statements made it look that way.” (EB 119) Around this time he and Bill Shaw were interviewed by the Miami Herald and both said they dreamt of beating Titan in the wrestling industry. The Herald quoted Bischoff as saying “The biggest challenge we have ahead of us is making people realize we do have a better product. I think the consensus is we are better. But not enough people know that” (EB 119)

Much criticism has been levied to Bischoff over the years about giving Hogan creative control in his contract. In his book, Bischoff says it was the first time WCW spelled it out in the contract, and he reasoned that Hogan was an established brand, the biggest name in wrestling, he wasn’t going to “throw him into the lion’s den to be shredded up by a bunch of insecure people with their own agendas.” (EB 122) He quotes Hogan himself as saying “They’re going to look at Hulk Hogan as the guy who’s going to come in and have too much control over their lives, and they’re going to do everything they can to make that unsuccessful. The only way I’m making this move is with creative control. So if the situation is not comfortable for me, I won’t have to do it.” (EB 122) Also, it is important to remember that WCW was not a strong brand at the time. Hogan feared that if WCW crashed and burned, that the Hulk Hogan character would go down with it. (EB 120)

The next big hire was Macho Man Randy Savage. Macho Man had been an announcer for the WWF, as they were beginning to go with younger in ring talent. Still feeling he had a lot to offer, he had meetings with Bischoff and Flair. Later, Bill Shah asked if Savage was worth half a million dollars and Flair agreed that he was. (Flair 245) Savage would debut on December 4th, 1994, on WCW Saturday Night.

In early 1995 WCW went through some company restructuring, and Bill Shah was out of the company, Eric Bischoff became president of WCW, and now reported to Harvey Schiller, the head of Turner Sports. (EB 146-147)

Eric Bischoff’s goal was to simply turn a profit. In fact he made a bet with Harry Anderson, who worked on the financial side of Turner, that he could make WCW turn a profit. The deal was if he did, Anderson would get on his hands and knees and give him one dollar in front of WCW employees. (EB 148)

One idea he had to make a profit was to sell their TV footage overseas. Now that they had big stars like Hogan and Macho Man that were recognizable in Europe and Asia this was a good opportunity. Star TV in China was paying top dollar for footage at the time. The problem for Eric was Rupert Murdoch owned Star TV, and famously didn’t get along with Ted Turner. (EB 149) This led to the now infamous meeting between Bischoff and Turner.

At the meeting was Bischoff, Ted Turner, Scott Sassa, who oversaw Turner’s TV networks, and Harvey Schiller. Eric did his presentation on the Star TV deal, and just a few short minutes in Turner interrupted. “Uh, Eric, What do we need to do to become competitive with Vince.”

Eric was prepared to answer every possible question about the Star TV deal, but was not ready for this. Thinking off the top of his head he simply said “Well, Ted, I think we need to have prime time.”

Ted Turner then looked at Scott Sassa and said “Scott, I want you to give Eric two hours every Monday Night on TNT.” He then asked how soon the show could be ready. Eric said perhaps by August, Turner agreed. What was soon to be called Monday Night Nitro would debut on September 4th, 1995, and the Monday Night Wars began. (EB 150 151)

Bischoff, Eric with Roberts, Jeremy “Controversy Creates Cash” Simon and Schuster 2006

Flair, Ric with Greenberg, Kieth Elliot “Ric Flair, To Be The Man” Simon and Schuster 2004

Hogan, Hulk, with Friedman, Michael Jan, “Hollywood Hulk Hogan” Simon and Schuster 2002

WCW Acquires Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.

From the time WCW started Monday Nitro, airing head to head against WWF Raw, they offered some innovation to the wrestling business by airing live, showcasing Japanese and Mexican stars, and giving away the results of their competitor. However, some of the stories and characters were still cartoon-ish and reflected 1980’s sensibilities. Starting in the spring of 1996, WCW acquired two new stars, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall,

In the early 90’s Kevin Nash had a short stint in WCW as part of the Master Blasters tag team, under the name Steel. From their he had a silver haired wizard gimmick called OZ, and finally Vinnie Vegas. Scott Hall also had a stint in WCW around the same time under the name Diamond Studd. Neither were very successful in WCW, but both would go on to find success in the WWF. There Nash would wrestle under the name Diesel and become WWF champion, and Hall wrestled under the name Razor Ramon, a pseudo Scarface type character, and become Intercontinental champion. This was in a time when WWF was focusing on younger talent, and older established stars like Hogan and Macho Man had moved to WCW. However, Nitro eventually needed fresh young faces as well.

Eric Bischoff says “Nitro at the time was starting to get some traction. The numbers were growing, revenue was growing, the company was growing you know. We needed some fresh faces, so I contacted Scott hall and Kevin Nash.” (Monday Night Wars documentary episode 2)

Scott Hall was contacted first. WCW offered him a contract for around 1.2 million, for around 120 days of work. Hall says that you could make the same money in WWF, but there you’d work 300 days. Soon Nash was offered a contract as well, but was not eager to go back to WCW. “I had probably the worst three years of my life in WCW.” Nash recalls. “I was happy there and had no desire to leave. (MNW2)” In an attempt to negotiate he told Vince, “This is the offer they gave me….I want to stay, if you can match the offer I’ll stay.(NWO DVD)” Vince explained that if he matched that offer he’d have to do the same for his other big stars. Nash was still hesitant to leave. He explained to his wife that he felt like WWF was his family. His wife, who was six months pregnant at the time, patted herself on the stomach and said “This is your family.”

Scott Hall also left reluctantly. “I felt like I sold out. I wanted that guaranteed money to secure my kid’s future….not to excited about the prospects. (MNW2).” He also recalled some advice he got from a wrestling legend. “Chief Jay Strongbow told us years ago in this business you can make friends or you can make money, and I remember looking at Kev and like kid/xpac and going I’ve already got some friends, I’d like the money.” (NWO DVD)

In retrospect, WCW and Eric Bischoff get criticized for offering guaranteed contracts, but as Bischoff explains “WCW still did not have a great licensing and marketing business. In WWE (then WWF) someone like Nash or Hall could make considerable money from their cut of the licensing and merchandise.We didn’t have that, which was one reason we had to continue guaranteeing contracts.” (Biscoff, 209)

Hall and Nash both saw their WWF contracts end within six days of each other. Once Hall and Nash were on board, Bischoff planted the seed of what would become one of the hottest stories in the history of the business.

Sources

Monday Night Wars documentary Episode 2: Rise of the NWO

NWO DVD set from WWE

Eric Bischoff Autobiography, Controversy Creates Cash

WCW Monday Nitro 1996: The Pre-NWO days.

WCW continued their war with WWF Nitro in the early episodes of 1996. The January 8th episode hyped the upcoming Clash of the Champions wrestling event on TBS, Bischoff saying fans could watch it for free “Forget about the Royal Fumble,” referring to WWF’s upcoming January Pay Per View the Royal Rumble that Bischoff calls an “over priced PPV.” Clash of the Champions aired on January 23rd, the main event having the Giant and Ric Flair defeating Hogan and Savage. Also of note is Hogan’s entrance included his real life wife Linda, Woman (who formerly managed Ric Flair), Debra McMichael, two other women, and the WCW debut of Miss Elizabeth. This event had the only time WCW mentioned the WWF parody skits airing on Raw, and only back handedly. The WCW 900 number is plugged and one of the selling points is Mike Tenay interviewing Eric Bischoff about the WWF skits.

The taunting continued on 1/29 when Bischoff says “Forget about it Vince, get a job at a Pizza Parlor buddy.” Later former WWF women’s wrestler Madusa (known in WWF as Alundra Blayze) lost to Sherri Martel to which Bischoff says “Madusa should have stayed in the WWF she could have taken on 90% of the male athletes in that division.” Steve Mongo McMichaels adds “She’s a lot more of a man than Goldfarb I’ll tell you that,” referring to WWF star Golddust. Later Bischoff refers to Goldust as the “Rupal impersonator.”

A month later on February 26th Bischoff reffered to the “World Whining Federation.” “DQ Yokozuna in a handicapped match,‭ ‬Jake the Snake Roberts,‭ ‬you talk about picking up some bones here,‭ ‬over Isacc Yankem and Diesel over Bob Holly.‭ H‬e’s still around?”

A few months later on April 22 the broadcast opens with Bischoff “We are not like the world whining federation which a‭ ‬taped canned show,‭ ‬happened a couple weeks ago. Let me save you some time and put your remote control down.‭ T‬he‭ ‬Rupal impersonator, the transvestite Golddust defeats Savio, regains the intercontinental title YAWN‭ ‬Mankind‭ ‬defeats Auto Montoya,‭ ‬bigger yawn.‭ ‬And Vader defeats Batu Oh Boy”

A month before that one of the stranger WCW events occured with Uncensored 1996. The main event being a triple cage match between the Mega Powers, Hogan and Savage, vs the Alliance to End Hulkamania, which consisted Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Meng, The Barbarian, Lex Luger, The Taskmaster, Z-Gangsta and The Ultimate Solution, with the now heel Woman, Miss Elizabeth and Jimmy Hart. Z-Gansta was actor Tiny Lister, known among wrestling fans as villain Zeus from Hogan’s WWF produced No Holds Barred Movie. The character Zeus even had a few appearances and matches in the WWF. On the 3/18 episode of Nitro Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan introduced Z-Gangsta saying “Everybody in the world knows this man and what he did to you in the late‭ ‬80s.”

There was another extremely large wrestler in the ring. His real name was Robert Swenson. Taskmaster, in the ring on live TV, called him the Final Solution. The character was not affiliated with Nazis in anyway, but apparently WCW creative weren’t aware that the Final Solution was the name for the Hitler’s plan to kill all the Jews. By the time the Pay Per View aired the next Sunday, the name was changed to Ultimate Solution. It would be Swenson’s last pro wrestling match (he had a brief wrestling career in the late 80s). A year later he went on to play Bane in the Batman and Robin movie, considered by many fans to be the worst comic book movie ever, (he also had a small role in the aforementioned No Holds Barred movie). Swenson passed away in August of 97, and was perhaps the most unlucky guy in the history of pop culture.

Even without the unspeakably offensive name this match is still known as one of the dumbest things ever in wrestling. Hogan and Savage of course beat the eight other wrestlers, but it is somewhat note worthy that it was Hogan’s last major match before his infamous heel turn. He had a handful of appearances in subsequent Nitro’s, but by mid April he was off the air for a few months. The real life reason was he was filming a movie, Santa with Muscles. There was no in ring story to explain his absence, looking back, one would think they could have had a brutal defeat of Hogan at Uncensored to have an in ring story for his absence.

Of course Hogan would return to WCW at the July PPV Bash at the Beach, and his return would mark one of the greatest moments in professional wrestling history.

20 Years Ago Today: Hogan Turned Heel And Joined NWO.

Twenty Years ago today was World Championship Wrestling’s Pay Per View called Bash at the Beach. The main event was a six man tag between Macho Man Randy Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger, against Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and a mystery third partner.

Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were in WCW in the early 90s, but did not achieve superstar status. Both of them went to WWF where they did become big stars. By the mid 90s, WCW, under the leadership of Eric Bischoff, launched Monday Nitro head to head against WWF’s Raw. Needing new talent, he was able to sign Kevin Nash and Scott Hall back to WCW. Both wrestlers were happy in WWF, but WCW offered more money and less days on the road.

Both Hall and Nash’s WWF contracts expired around the same time. Eric Bischoff had the idea from a New Japan Wrestling angle about wrestlers from another company invading theirs. Scott Hall walked into the ring on Nitro on 5/27 promising a war was coming. Kevin Nash soon followed, and subsequent weeks of Nitro showed the two, dubbed the outsiders, in the audience, going backstage, and generally disrupting the show. The idea was that two WWF wrestlers were coming to sabotage WCW. Soon a challenge was issued for a three on three match at Bash at the Beach. The Outsiders teased a mystery third partner, following a lot of speculating on who it would be.

Hogan himself had not been on WCW TV for some time, as he was off filming a movie. I believe it was the TV movie Assault on Devil’s Island, which aired on Turner TV the next year. A few segments about his career aired on Nitro from time to time, and at one point the Nitro announcers said they heard Hogan offering to be on the team to fight the Outsiders.

When the PPV came Hall and Nash came to the ring without their third partner. The match began, and Sting got (in story) injured and had to be taken to the back. Later on, Hulk Hogan came walking down the aisle. The fans cheered as people presumed he was coming to help his friend Macho Man, who was the legal man in the match. This was the first time WCW fans would have seen Hogan in months. The ring cleared as he entered, except Macho Man who was laying on the mat.

Bischoff, as well as WCW booker Kevin Sullivan had talked to Hogan during the course of that year about Hogan turning heel (heel is a wrestling term for villain). Hogan was reluctant, as he’d been a face for around ten years, (and as such was the biggest star in the history of the business. He actually was heel in his very early career). By 1996 the Hogan gimmick was getting old. In the 1990s the anti-hero was in, the traditional good heroes were not in vogue. People liked things at that time that had more of an edge. In fact, in early episodes of Nitro, especially when he was in the south fighting Ric Flair, Hogan was getting booed by the live audience.

Once Hogan saw how hot the outsiders were, he decided that he would be the third man, and the wrestling business was never the same. Bischoff later said that if Hogan hadn’t agreed to turn heel, the third man would have been Sting. Sting was the traditional WCW hero. While a Sting heel turn would have been shocking, it of course would not have had near the impact that Hogan had.

So the crowd was shocked when Hogan dropped the leg on Macho Man and sided with Hall and Nash. People were so mad they actually threw trash in the ring. Mean Gene got in the ring and Hogan immediately cut a vicious heel promo where he said he was bigger than the business and told the fans to stick it.

No one ever could have guessed that Hogan would have turned heel. It was the one thing in wrestling people never thought would happen. This is honestly one of the great regrets of my life. I wish so much I could have been watching this live on pay per view, or even have been in the audience. To see Hogan come down the aisle, assuming he would make the save, and then watch him drop the leg. Just to feel the shock of that moment. “Oh my god! HOGAN TURNED HEEL!!!! HOGAN TURNED HEEL!!!!” Simply the greatest heel turn ever.

Watch Hogan in all his evil glory here.

Beyond the Mat Documentary Retro Review

In March of 2000 comedy writer Barry W. Blaustein made his directorial debut in Beyond the Mat, a documentary about professional wrestling. He wrote, directed, and produced this documentary about something which he loved all his life, but admits always feeling embarrassed about it.

Beyond the Mat starts with the filmmaker’s own childhood, explaining how he was always a wrestling fan.He recalls seeing a wrestling show as a kid, and feeling befuddled when after the show he saw one of the wrestlers meeting their own family backstage. Seemingly in that moment that wrestler appeared to be a normal family man. Hence, the essential question of this documentary is, who are these people that become pro-wrestlers?

Blaustein starts at the top with the WWF. At the time of this filming the WWF was worth close to a billion dollars, which the filmmaker says is more than the New York Knicks, Rangers,and Mets put together. During a business meeting we hear that WWF was, at that time, the #2 license (I presume this means in retail products) and that they were fighting it out with South Park. WWF is compared to the Muppets, in the sense it’s a family business involving fictional characters. Vince McMahon is interviewed, and gives a very interesting insight into his business. He explains that a lot of people don’t understand what they’re really about, saying “We make movies.” He goes onto say he makes monsters, and compares WWF to the old Hollywood Studio system.

Writer Vince Russo is seen backstage with Sable (Russo would go on to write for WCW). We also see the wrestler and former Denver Bronco Droz, who apparently early on was going to base his wrestling persona around his ability to vomit on cue. It is noted at the film’s end that shortly after the film wrapped, Droz was paralyzed in the ring. There are also a few wrestlers that briefly get screen time sharing their gripes against Vince, including Justin Credible, Koko B. Ware, and Al Snow. While it’s not clear in the initial viewing, Blaustein’s audio commentary reveals Al Snow is in fact talking about his previous run in WWF where he had a different gimmick called Avatar.

World Championship Wrestling is not covered in this film at all. It is only mentioned twice in passing, once by an indy promoter and once by an ECW fan. From the time I saw this in the theater I wondered why that was the case. On the same commentary Blaustein reveals he approached WCW but they would not sign the necessary paper work to let him film. He says WCW wanted creative control of the project. Interestingly enough, he adds that even though they are not covered, WCW programming still ran adds for the show and apparently discussed it on air.

Vince McMahon/the WWF were not as cooperative at first either. The commentary reveals that Ron Howard, who produced the film, lived near Vince McMahon, but amusingly only had a slight understanding that he was somehow involved in the wrestling business. After several meetings Vince finally agreed, but later wanted to control the project, offering to cover the film’s budget. Vince’s request was declined. Apparently after the movie came out WWF stars were told not to do press for the film, nevertheless, Blaustein and WWF star Mick Foley appeared on Larry King Live around the time of the film’s release.

Back to the documentary, Balustein’s favorite wrestler, Terry Funk, is profiled next. Extreme Championship Wrestling is also profiled along with Funk, as Funk wins a match at the first ECW Pay Per View. ECW was a renegade ultra-violent promotion based out of Philadelphia that had a rabid international fan base. Blaustein says in the film “No fans scared me more.” Just after this documentary was made ECW had a TV deal on TNN.

Later, due to health problems, Funk decides to retire and have one last match (It should be no surprise to hear his retirement doesn’t last long). His “last match” is in Amarillo Texas, where he lives and is a local celebrity. His opponent is then WWF champion Bret Hart. WWF and ECW wrestlers are show in the audience. Personally I didn’t see any WCW wrestlers in attendance, but ECW’s Shane Douglas says that only Terry Funk could have brought together people from WWF, ECW, and other promotions. Two fans are also interviewed who came all the way from England for this match.

From Funk the film segues into Mick Foely, perhaps the most unlikely WWF champion. His friendship with Terry is highlighted, and the climax of the film is his brutal I Quit Match against the Rock at the 1999 Royal Rumble, which his wife and two young children had front row seats for.

Also of note are the segments with Jake the Snake Roberts, who was at a low point in his life at the time, and was heavy into drug use. At the time Jake objected to how he was portrayed in this film. He has subsequently got himself through treatment and has been clean for a while. I imagine his feelings on this film might have changed over time.

WWF female superstar Chyna is briefly portrayed, as is former WWF star Koko B. Ware, Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, ECW’s Spike Dudley and New Jack, and a small California based promotion. From this promotion two indy wrestlers get a WWF try out.

Beyond the Mat is perhaps an unintentional time capsule of a time when wrestling was the in thing. Blaustein on his commentary observes, correctly in retrospect, how wrestling was hot at that time, but adds “I know that will go away pretty soon.” While it is disappointing that WCW is not covered, it seems that was beyond the filmmaker’s control. The goal of the film was to cover the types of people that become professional wrestlers, and I would say it had mostly succeeded at that.

Monday Night Wars Documentary Review Part 8: The Austin Era Has Begun

Stone Cold Steve Austin is undoubtedly the most popular star to come out of the Monday Night Wars. Some wrestling fans even argue he was more popular than Hulk Hogan. Episode 8 of this documentary focuses on his story, and opens with Austin himself saying he had to fight and claw for everything he ever had.

His time as Stunning Steve is covered in WCW, where he went from singles competition, to tag team, then back to singles where he had a great match with Ricky Steamboat. Early frustrations are shown as we see a WCW clip of Mean Gene hyping Hulk Hogan, then going to interview Steve Austin. Austin on camera calls out Gene for hyping Hogan when he’s supposed to be interviewing him.

Bischoff is shown saying how Austin was starting to be irritable to be around, was always hurt etc. Eventually Bischoff let him go. From there he went to ECW, while he was injured he cut promos ripping Bischoff and Hogan and the rest of WCW. It’s here his eventual Stone Cold persona started to come out.

From ECW he went to the WWF where he was the Million Dollar Champion, managed by Ted Dibiase. However, when Dibiase went to WCW Austin was on his own, and had more of an opportunity to develop his character. He’d seen a documentary about a bald hitman for hire, and thinking about that cemented the Stone Cold Steve Austin character. His King of the Ring victory is covered with the famous Austin 3:16 quote, as is his “I Quit” match at Wrestlemania with Bret Hart. His injury at Summerslam in 1997 led to him further developing his mic skills and anti-authority stance.

The Goldberg/Stone Cold comparison issue was inevitable, as it is suggested that Goldberg was WCW’s response to Stone Cold. Leave it to CM Punk to question that analysis, and rightfully so. Their similarities were only superficial, their actual characters were completely different.

The episode ends with Vince selling the idea that Austin was the biggest star wrestling ever had.