“Which side is it on ?!”
This was Bobby “The Brain” Heenan’s request when Hulk Hogan entered “The Bash At The Beach” in 1996 to join Scott Hall and Kevin Nash – even though no one knew him at the time. Heenan’s natural hatred for Hogan has led him to suspect that something was on track (in kayfabe) It’s hard to think of another announcer’s call that is as singular and remembered as that in struggle. Maybe JR, “Like God as my witness, it’s broken in half!” O Jerry “The King” Lawler’s, “Here, he’s dead” – when they both described Mick Foley’s match with Undertaker in Hell In A Cell. Or maybe it’s just in my head. And it tends to be filled with Brain words though.
Before Heenan uttered these words, it was unthinkable that Hogan could do the heel. This was HULK HOGAN, decades before we knew it all we know it now. That was the type that created the WWF, in many ways. This was the guy who basically had all the kids who adored him not 10 years before. While Hogan may have been squeezed into the gills (like everything we know he is), he has certainly influenced a generation of males to eat his vegetables. How do you get to the heel? Fuck, it was synonymous with America. Baseball, hot dog, Hulk.
We now know what Hogan did essentially to save his career, since Hulkamania was somehow finished steaming in 1996. And WCW needed him, because there were still a lot of WWF juniors at the time. They were seen as a retirement home for wrestlers that the WWF considered top of the hill, as well as a southern joke (so in many ways, much like MLS is now). As Vince McMahon liked to joke, they were in the “wrasslin” business, while McMahon was in the sports-entertainment business. And, as we know even now, it’s much more American to make heels to get richer and ultimately swallow every aspect of your industry until it suffocates, like nWO did with WCW.
There are things that create so much buzz in wrestling that they attract a mainstream audience. Hogan might be the only one to have done it twice, first in WWF and then forming the nWO in Bash At The Beach in 1996. I only found myself fighting back in 2015 when Daniel Bryan went on a historic race and everyone had taken it. notice. . Generation DX was another, but DX was something of a response to the nWo in WCW. WWF hadn’t had a faction before, at least not one that was the top of the company. And not one that was clearly marked and not just a loose collection of single stars. The only similar thing was the Four Knights.
Hogan jumped to the dark side next to Scott Hall and Kevin Nash immediately created something that people had to see. Hogan did that ?! And the momentum from that WCW propelled beyond just a nuisance for WWF, but a current competitor – and, for (famously) 83 weeks, better, if you go by the TV reviews.
Hogan’s idea of turning the heel instilled in the public the idea that anyone can be anywhere in the fight. Only John Cena has never worked the heel, and there are many who will tell you that he should have it (maybe even Dinner itself). While McMahon has been vehemently opposed to him for so long, his company now runs on Roman Reigns flipping in a way that most have never thought of giving before. The nWo has been doing everything possible to fight for a quarter of a century race.
We now know that WCW was so busy with nWo that they basically let that faction run the society on the ground (if you want real dirt and some expert reports, read on “The death of WCW“By RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez). And the version I was supposed to wash in WWE was a shell of itself and something that McMahon was just too happy to mock openly while cashing in on the controls that his name brought.
But you can still see the effect of nWO today, 25 years later. The “Bullet Club,” whose jerseys made up at least 55% of any punk or metal show you’ve attended for about five years here, has spanned two different companies from across the Pacific (NJPW and ROH) and dominated the fight. outside of WWE. Due to the popularity of the Bullet Club, and of Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks ’in it, AEW training has become possible. And suddenly WWE had another competitor back, built on the back of one faction dressed in black and “Too Sweet’ing” the other. In the fight, everything comes back.
It’s also hard not to see the wire in AEW at the Inner Circuit, but it was just a response to Elite / Bullet Club. Fuck, even Sting is around.
In the end, it wouldn’t be out of line to screen the nWo as a group of older wrestlers desperately looking to stay relevant in the minor company after their first few days. And maybe that’s all it was in the end. But the strength of this has changed the industry forever, in ways we can still observe today.