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

Monday Night Wars Documentary Review Episode 2: The Rise of the NWO.

Episode 2 of the Monday Night Wars documentary on the WWE network covers the NWO, the heel stable led by a villainous Hogan that pushed WCW Nitro ahead of WWF Raw in the ratings.

After a short recap this episode starts out with the careers of Scott Hall/Razor Ramone, and Kevin Nash/Diesel. Both of them were formerly in WCW but floundered there. Nash’s various horrible gimmicks are shown, such as Oz. He’s on camera saying those were the worst 3 years of his life. It also shows the cartoonish gimmicks WWF was still using, such as Doink the Clown, and some character in a Bison outfit. Eventually Hall and Nash became big stars in the WWF, as older stars like Hogan and Savage went to WCW, and WWF began focusing more on younger talent.

However, as WCW was having success with its older talent, it started needing some younger blood as well. Nash and Hall’s contracts were both up within 6 days of each other. The contract negotiations are covered, and it’s interesting to see the conflict between the loyalty to WWF and not really wanting to go to WCW, and the lure of money and family pressures, especially from Nash. It’s noted that they were offered around1.2 million for around 120-150 days of work. They said guys might have made that in WWF but worked 300 days.

Documentation is shown on screen for how WWF sued WCW for copyright infringement as Vince McMahon alleged that WCW portrayed Hall and Nash basically as Razor Ramone and Diesel. Hall is shown talking about carving people up and doing his toothpick bit on both WCW and WWF programming. They don’t talk about how the lawsuit turned out. I’d read somewhere that one of the results was that WWF would have first dibs if WCW was up for sale, but I’d like to get that confirmed.

As Nash and Hall were having success in WCW, the story line teased of a third man that would join them. Meanwhile Hogan was not getting the crowd reactions he once had in the 80s. Kevin Sullivan is on camera saying he was in Hogan’s ear telling him to turn heel. He told him to look at WWF’s Undertaker, a dark foreboding undead character is their hero. Bischoff went to Hogan’s house talking to him about it Hogan’s responded with “Until you walk a mile in my red and yellow boots you’ll just never really understand.” And showed him the door.

Originally the NWO’s third man was going to be Sting, but Hogan called Bischoff to inform him that he in fact was the third man. This led to perhaps the greatest heel turn in history as Hogan joined Hall and Nash at Bash at the Beach in July of 1996.

In WWF Hall and Nash’s wrestling gimmicks were Razor Ramon and Diesel. WWF attempted to stir things up by having other wrestlers play those gimmicks. This tactic is portrayed as not being received well, and Nash says it led to WCW offering them an even more lucrative contract, thinking they actually were going to leave.

New Japan pro wrestling had a similar NWO type story that Bischoff is said to have borrowed from. This episode lightly touches on this, as well as the backstage resentment at how the NWO ran over everyone in the ring. The NWO’s own PPV Souled Out is mentioned, I would have liked to have heard more about that. It’s also a great mystery to me why the NWO never actually had their own television show. I know Bischoff talked about it and wanted it, but I never heard anywhere why that never happened.

This new type of story line with the New World Order is shown to lead into WWF creating the attitude era, which is the topic of the next episode.

The First Time WCW Nitro Aired Head to Head Against WWF RAW

On September 4th, 1995, the first shot of the Monday Night Wars was fired as World Championship Wrestling (WCW) debuted Monday Nitro. However, they chose this date to debut because the USA network was airing the US Open and not WWF Raw. Hence the first time Nitro actually went head to head with Raw was on 9/11/1995. Here we will analyze both programs that aired that night.

At this point it was two weeks since WWF’s Summerslam was on Pay Per View, and Raw opened with highlights from the ladder match between Shawn Michaels/HBK and Razor Ramon. Vince McMahon told the audience the main event of Raw would be HBK vs Psycho Sid (also known as Sid Vicious) for Michaels’ Intercontinental Championship belt. The opening match that night would be Razor Ramon vs the British Bulldog. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler call the action. Lawler makes a joke about the Bulldog needing a pooper scooper as McMahon welcomes us to a new season of Raw.

The intro video to Raw is a far cry from what came later in the Attitude Era. The visuals are exciting, with various wrestlers beating each other up in the ring, but the music is very low beat. The show’s theme song had very relaxed vocals calmly stating “I like it Raw.”

Nitro’s introduction is much more exciting, with a more energizing guitar riff accompanied by images of explosions going off through a city interspersed with in ring action. The first match of Nitro that night was the German Wunderkind Alex Wright vs Sabu, who was hyped in a vignette on Nitro’s debut episode and was fresh out of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). Sabu wins the match, but then after the match lays Alex Wright on a table outside. Then he climbs up on the turnbuckle and jumps out of the ring, landing on Wright and crashing through the table. This prompts the referee to reverse the decision and award the match to Sabu. This trend would continue for several Nitro’s afterwards. It was a great idea, not letting the extreme superstar be extreme, but like many great ideas WCW had, in the long run it didn’t build to anything.

Having said that, the Sabu/Wright match was a great segment. Compare this to the first Raw match, and we can see how WWF was still partly (but not entirely) stuck in it’s 80‘s style cartoonish gimmicks and wrestlers whose gimmicks were occupations. Apparently Razor Ramon had been feuding with Dean Douglas, a heel/villain whose gimmick was a school teacher and had an interview segment called the Report Card. A flashback clip is shown of the two brawling. Back to the Bulldog/Ramon match, after a ref bum Douglas does a run in, followed by the 1,2,3, Kid who came to help Ramon. Unfortunately for Ramon, the Bulldog gets a victory via DQ.

After a commercial break McMahon interviews Ramon and Kid in the ring, after a dated promo with a voice over in rhyme for an upcoming show. “So why are these teams both scheduled to meet? Cause our fan friendly prez (Gorilla Monsoon) thought it’d be neat!” McMahon has his own bad jokes as well. As the 80‘s style Gold WWF logo is on the screen Lawler cracks on McMahon’s suit. To which Vince answers it’s a French cut, J. C. PenYay.

Nitro has Mean Gene do a brief interview with Ric Flair while Lex Luger walks out. They briefly speak but it doesn’t lead to much.

Next on Raw is a match between the two cowboys called the Smoking Guns and the team of Brooklyn Brawler and Rad Redford. Billy Gunn in later years will be known as Mr. Ass and join DX.

Nitro’s segment at this point is US champion Sting vs VK Wallstreet, who also had a promo vignette last week, and was previously known as I.R.S. in the WWF. More importantly, this segment was the first time an infamous move was made during the Monday Night Wars. Raw was taped, meaning the matches that aired that night were previously filmed/they happened already. Nitro was a live show. As Sting comes down to the ring, Eric Bischoff says “Hey and by the way, in case you’re tempted to grab the remote control and check out the competition, don’t bother, it’s 2 or 3 weeks old. Shawn Michaels beats the big guy with a super kick you couldn’t earn a green belt with at a local YMCA. Stay right here, it’s live it’s where the action is.” Mongo McMichaels joins in saying “Who cares about that. They named it (RAW) after a bunch of uncooked eggs. This thing sizzles here ladies and gentlemen, period.” Bischoff giving away the results to Raw on his live show became an infamous part of the Monday Night Wars. It’s curious why he waited 20 minutes into the program to do this, and why he didn’t give away all the results, but the shot was fired. Raw eventually would start being live every week, and continues to do so to this day.

After this match Randy Savage defeated Scott Norton, who started his feud with Savage the previous week. Meanwhile on RAW the dentist Isaac Yankem D.D.S. defeated Scott Taylor with a DDT he called D.D.S. for some reason. He also did a chokeslam. Yankem would eventually be the monster Kane, brother to the Undertaker, but at this time he came to the ring to the sound of a dentist drill and wore fake rotting teeth. This was followed by a What’s Happening In Your House segment. In Your House were Pay Per Views that aired in between the months of the bigger shows like Summerslam, Survivor Series, etc. This segment is hosted by Todd Pengril, who tried to come off like a late night talk show host, making jokes about the TV show Mad About You on the NBC network. Matches of this upcoming Pay Per View included Bret Hart vs the pirate Jean Pierre, who apparently stole sunglasses from a young fan that were given by Bret Hart. Psycho Sid is seen walking to the ring briefly as this segment ends. Later in the broadcast there’s an ad for the next in your house with a kid parting at home with the Smoking Guns and the Bushwackers as his disgruntled mom catches him at the end. It looked like a throwback to the Beastie Boys classic video “Fight for Your Right to Party.”

At ringside Barry Dyzysnky is shown telling the TV audience how they can buy their own Shawn Michaels leather hat and sunglasses. The match gets underway as Vince calls Shawn Michaels a modern day Evil Knievel, the 1970’s daredevil who was known for jumping motorcycles across great distances. Of course as Bischoff has already told us, Shawn wins the match.

Back at Nitro the main event is Hogan vs Luger. Luger was brought into the WWF initially as a heel, but once Hogan left WWF Luger was repackaged as an all American patriot ala the next Hulk Hogan. Wrestling fans at the time would have been clamoring to see a Hogan/Luger match, and might have been surprised it was given away for free on WCW TV. Of course the match did not have a clean finish. Hogan hit the leg drop and was about to go for the pin when the heel stable the Dungeon of Doom arrived to attack Hogan. The Dungeon of Doom was led by the Taskmaster/Kevin Sullivan, and included members Kamala, the Zodiac, (Brutus Beefcake in the WWF), Ming (Haku), and Man Shark (Earthquake). It also included the Giant, but he did not appear on this episode. Sting and Luger ran in to make save Hogan, prompting an argument about Luger’s loyalties. Much to Macho Man’s disagreement, Hogan agrees to let Luger join his team for the upcoming Wargames Pay Per View, as Vader was apparently out.

In comparing the two shows one noticeable difference is Nitro seemed to definitely move it’s stories along more. Raw’s main event almost had no meaning, and the beginning was more of a recap of Summerslam. The first Nitro had a great cliffhanger to the next episode with the Luger/Hogan match announced, followed up this week with Luger joining Hogan’s team. Also of note is while Hogan main evented the first two Nitro’s, then WWF champion did not appear in the ring on this night.

While looking back now WWF is criticized at that time for having cartoony characters, WCW’s Dungeon of Doom looked like they could have been a WWF stable, and while WWF did still have teachers and dentists as wrestlers, they were starting to have edgy content as well. Shawn Michaels was just about pulling his pants down at the end of Raw while dancing around the ring to the delight of the female audience. The character Goldust, a sexually ambiguous character who dressed in gold and painted his face was already introduced by this point. On this night he would appear on a pre-recorded promo calling out the Undertaker.

So you could argue that wrestling in 1995 for both companies was somewhere in between the cartoonish gimmicks of the past and the edgier content that was about to dominate in the coming years. Either way, it was a neck in neck race that night, with Raw scoring a 2.5 rating and Nitro just behind with a 2.4. Wrestling was off to the races, and it was only going to get more wild from here.