Dawn of the NWO: Hogan wins WCW Title.

After the Bash at the Beach PPV, the next few Nitro’s aired in Orlando, which was not too far from the 96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Hogan was not on the Nitro following Bash at the Beach, but throughout the episode various wrestling personalities gave their reactions to Hogan turning bad. (The following week NFL star Kevin Green would put his two cents in) It was here that Macho Man referred to Hulk as Hollywood Hogan, the first time that phrase was used. The Outsiders did appear that night. Nash explained that Hogan was on set doing a movie. In this outdoor arena there were three large letters on set which spelled out WCW.

The following week the Outsiders posted the letters NWO in what looked like home made banners over the WCW letters. The night ended with a Lex Luger/Bubba match which the Outsiders broke up. At this point Hogan made his first appearance in which he was dressed in black (however the black and white NWO shirt would appear later). He cut a promo on how Hogan is bigger than wrestling, the fans can stick it for booing him, Macho Man blamed him for his divorce, and without Hogan, neither the fans or the next generation of wrestlers would be here. He then teases who else will join NWO, and challenges the Giant for a match at the Hog Wild PPV, proclaiming he’ll win the world title and make it the NWO belt.

In the next few weeks the Outsiders do more reality based angles. On 7/22, the Outsiders go in the control truck and mess with the camera etc. Security throws them out. The following week, 7/29, was their infamous backstage attack. During a match, Jimmy Hart runs out to the ring and yells for help. The camera goes backstage and the Outsiders are beating up people with baseball bats. Rey Mysterio Jr, leaps onto Kevin Nash, who lawn darts him, throwing him head first into a trailer. They take off in a limo, and in following segments the paramedics are seen tending to the wrestlers. The paramedics take Rey’s mask off, and Rey covers his face with his hands. Announcer Tony Schiavone notes that in Mexican wrestling they never take their mask off. Hogan is not seen during this segment, but Rey is heard saying there were four attackers, leading to a mystery of who the fourth man would be. These segments were filled with people yelling in pain, and others shouting about how they (NWO) can’t come in here and do this. It had a real life feel to it that most wrestling fans hadn’t seen. Bischoff claims that the Orlando police were called by people who thought this was really happening. I do believe what Bischoff says, but if anyone out their reading this can confirm this I’d appreciate it.

Also of note in that particular episode, the WCW sponsored race car, #29 driven by Greg Sacks, is acknowledged. That previous Saturday #29 won the 500K Busch Grand National Series event in Talladega Alabama.

On August 5th the first NWO video promo aired. Craig Leathers, a wrestling director and producer who worked with Bischoff, designed the NWO logo that would appear in the video, and later on the wildly successful T-Shirts. Nash recalls “It looked like something a bunch of guerrillas would just throw together.” (1) In the segment it was said to be paid for by the NWO. Nash had the understanding that story line wise they weren’t working for WCW. In the story line if the NWO wouldn’t appear on a taped segment, they would get edited out. Hence it the NWO video package was presented like a commercial paid for by the NWO.  The WCW company didn’t fully understand this concept. For example early on WCW made a new set of T-shirts, there was a shirt for Hogan, Flair, Sting, and the Outsiders. They were all black and white shirts with matching outfits. Nash insisted these Outsider shirts couldn’t be sold by WCW because in the story line they don’t work for WCW. However, 10,000 shirts were already made, so Nash had vans set up in the back of arenas at WCW events with hot girls on bullhorns selling them bootleg style. (2)

The Hog Wild Pay Per View was on 8/10 at the Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis SD. (In later years it was changed to Road Wild because of a possible trademark issue with Harley Davidson). It was actually on a Saturday, as opposed to Sunday when most PPV’S were. The next day was Hogan’s birthday, which was noted in the broadcast. The PPV opened with this statement in text, “Due to the previous intentions conveyed by the NWO‭ (‬New World Order‭)‬,‭ ‬WCW would like to emphasize that ‬all views & ‬opinions expressed by the NWO, do not reflect those of World Championshiop Wrestling,‭ ‬Inc.‭ ‬a Turner Company.”

During the main event, announcer Larry Zybysko called Giant the Eight Wonder of the world, something Andre the Giant was reffered to as. ‭ ‬Bobby Heenan, also in the announce booth, said he managed Andre in front of 93,000 against Hogan, this was referencing Wrestlemania III, considered one of the all time great wrestling events. Hogan won the belt at Road Wild, and after the match Hogan spray painted in black the letters NWO onto the WCW Championship belt. Hogan’s belt was then reffered to as the NWO title. In the context of this story line, the NWO now ruled the wrestling world.

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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

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.