*NOTE: I originally wrote this for another site last year, and it didn't get a lot of looks. This was one of my best pieces, so I figure I'd share it here.
Hang on a second! Just hear me out. Before you go off with your pitchforks and torches and whatever it is you riot with these days (legal: I do NOT encourage rioting.), let's get the following out of the way. From an overall standpoint, the New World Order, or nWo, was one of the most successful and influential storylines of our (or any for that matter) lifetime in wrestling.
I'll repeat this again in bold and italic so I'm not mistaken or misinterpreted: the New World Order, or nWo, was one of the most successful and influential storylines of our (or any for that matter) lifetime in wrestling.
It was a confluence of many factors that made the original incarnation work: the rise of the anti-hero, active competition from rival organizations, a huge break from the status quo in mainstream wrestling, and to quote a certain game show host, "luck, guts, and a great sense of timing". But what made WCW a whole lot of money and the company the top professional wrestling organization in the world would ultimately be their undoing. Like any good thing in life, too much became bad for their health. It reached a point of oversaturation, and their overreliance on the storyline led to the WWF, once thought to be dead and buried (even WCW executive VP Eric Bischoff said so once-not in those words exactly), caught, surpassed, and eventually bought out its competition for mere pennies on the dollar.
In the decade and a half plus since the original incarnation, there have been many attempts to replicate its original success, only for it to fail-sometimes spectacularly. But the signs of failure were right in front of them, if WCW (and WWF...and WWE...and TNA) only paid attention. For purposes of this article, I will focus on the original nWo and its 2000 reboot in WCW. We can pretty much sense why WWF/E's and TNA's reboots of the faction failed. Here are ten reasons, or more accurately, points in time where the most controversial--and most successful--stable of this generation got ruined.
- October-December 1996: The nWo gets away from its "mission statement" and gets big. One thing project managers are often told is to focus on the mission statement. If you get stuck, go back to that paragraph, or page, or series of pages that outlines what you're trying to do. If you remember, the original nWo consisted entirely (or mostly) of people that used to work for the then-WWF. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash made sense; they just left the company. Hulk Hogan made sense; he made the WWF the top wrestling company in the world. Ted Dibiase, Syxx, even Miss Elizabeth and Vincent made sense; they all worked there too. The Giant and Nick Patrick: not so much, but they needed bodies to infiltrate WCW from within. (Upon further review, The Giant did make sense. Hogan was one of the people instrumental in bringing The Giant to WCW.) Still, it made sense. That by itself made for a pretty elite group. Then they added Eric Bischoff and Marcus "Buff" Bagwell as a start of the infamous membership drive. In the next few weeks, they added Big Bubba Rogers, VK Wallstreet, Scott Norton, Masahiro Chono, and the Nasty Boys (by the way: most of this group worked for the WWF too). It's like an exclusive country club or a nightclub with one of those velvet ropes: when you let anyone in, it devalues the brand.
- January 25, 1997: The nWo on PPV... not a good idea. The nWo Souled Out PPV was both a critical and financial disaster. Forget the booking (I'll get to that later, by the way). The buyrate was awful: 0.47. Next time they would get a number that low: 1999. Oh, and this PPV was on Super Bowl Saturday. What were they thinking? (Side note: that infamous Miss nWo contest...good...freaking...God. What were they thinking?)
- August 4 and 9, 1997: Lex Luger wins, then loses the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to Hulk Hogan. This was the epitome of Hulk Hogan whipping out his creative control card (he wouldn't be the first in the group, nor it's the first time happening at an inopportune moment). On the 100th episode of WCW Monday Nitro, Lex Luger tapped out Hulk Hogan via Human Torture Rack to end the year-long reign of terror...only for that reign of terror to begin five days later at WCW Road Wild. I understand why WCW did it: you wanted to make a big splash on a milestone episode. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should. (And by the way, this isn't the first time they did this.) You had a sense that fans were starting to get tired of Hogan winning a lot.
- September 14, 1997: Curt Hennig swerves the Four Horsemen and joins the nWo.When you think WCW, probably the first thing that came to mind before the nWo's dominance was the Four Horsemen. They represented everything associated with WCW. They were basically the last line of defense against the black and white juggernaut. So what does WCW booking do? They have the nWo beat down the Horsemen in their own match: War Games, a double-ring steel cage environment where the only way to win was for someone on the opposing team to submit..Now wrestling fans badly-BADLY-want to see these thugs get their comeuppance. And there was one man left to deliver said comeuppance to Hulk Hogan and the nWo.
- December 1997-January 1998: Sting wins, then loses, then wins the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Ok, not so much lose as much as vacated the title. Or, more accurately, stripped of it. But Sting's world title win and making Hulk Hogan submit to the Scorpion Deathlock should have marked the beginning of the end of the storyline. It did not. The title gets vacated on Thunder due to the awful mishandling of the end of the match (how could you, WCW? This was the biggest night in your promotion's history, and you screwed it up something awful. And this is not counting the nWo's dominance of WCW talent at Starrcade.), leading Sting to speak for the first time on WCW programming in over a year with these words: "You got no guts!" (to JJ Dillion) "And you, you're a dead man." (to Hollywood Hulk Hogan). Sting would beat Hogan for the title at Superbrawl, only to lose the title three months later to newly-minted nWo member Macho Man Randy Savage (remember him? he was on the original three-man team fighting against the original nWo), who would then lose the title the next night to... Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Wait, what?
- May 4, 1998: Wait, there's more than one nWo now? (or, an nWo divided amongst itself cannot stand) When you've beaten everyone in the company you're feuding with, there's pretty much only one feud left: the ones you ride with. Think of being stranded on a deserted island. Once you eat all of the food available, there's a pretty good chance the thought of cannibalism is coming in. After all, you do what you have to do to survive. After teasing a breakup for months, the nWo (which was a pretty large faction by this point) split in two, with Kevin Nash leading one group (Wolfpac) and Hogan leading the other (Hollywood). Two of the three founding fathers of the New World Order: color me intrigued, the wrestling fan in you in 1998 would say. Now we get to find out which nWo is better. Or something like that. Later in the year, the Latino World Order (lWo) was formed, with Eddie Guerrero leading that faction out of frustration that he and his Hispanic counterparts were being overlooked. So you have three versions of the nWo? What...the...
- May 25 and June 1, 1998: Lex Luger and Sting join nWo Wolfpac. Wait, what? This was either (a) WCW booking itself to a corner, (b) Lex Luger and Sting whipping out their creative control cards (nearly every top name in WCW had it written into their contract by this point, or (c) both. I'm going with (c). Lex Luger and Sting probably got tired of being duped and beaten by the nWo so much, they joined them. The two men that were on the front lines more than anyone else in WCW's fight against the nWo were now wearing their colors. Yeah, that doesn't add up for me either. Don't get me wrong, nWo Wolfpac proved to be pretty popular. But still, this was pretty much an excuse to print money.
- January 4, 1999: FINGERPOKE. OF. DOOM. You knew I was getting to this. Quick background: Six weeks earlier (on Thanksgiving, no less, which is why you may or may not remember it. I personally choose not to), Hulk Hogan announced he was retiring from wrestling to run for President. Of the United States. Of America. You can roll your eyes now. Well, on that night in Atlanta, Hogan came to his senses because he wasn't campaigning; he was challenging Kevin Nash to a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match (which, by the way, was originally supposed to go to Goldberg, but he was "arrested" earlier in the show for "aggravated stalking"). Match time comes: Nash is with his reunited BFF Scott Hall representing Wolfpac; Hogan is with Scott Steiner representing Hollywood. Yeah, the leaders of the two nWo factions are about to engage on free (non-PPV speaking) television. And you tuned in just in time, too. About an hour earlier, you flipped the channel after Tony Schiavone said that Mick Foley was to beat The Rock for the WWF Championship. You saw that, and that was awesome (don't lie and say you didn't flip the channel. The Nielsen ratings showed a lot of people flipped the channel-as many as a half million people, enough to swing the head-to-head to RAW for that night). They're gonna engage. 40,000 people on their feet in the Georgia Dome. It's going down. It's on! IT'S ON! Hogan ready to swing on Nash...but pokes him in the chest and Nash goes down. Hogan wins. The four nWo guys hug it out and cheer and whoop it up like they just won the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Goldberg, just back from the police station (which was across the street from the Georgia Dome, by the way), runs in and beats down on the conspirators before getting jumped by Lex Luger and tasered by Scott Hall and humiliated by the rest of the newly formed nWo Elite. The one man that WCW built up on its own from scratch during the entire nWo saga (and arguably, during WCW's entire existence) was Bill Goldberg. And they emasculated him in a matter of hours. Kevin Nash was the lead booker (who eight days earlier, by the way, booked himself to end the 173-match winning streak and Goldberg's one and only WCW world heavyweight title run), and Hogan had 100% creative control of his character. And no one else, the wrestling fan, the worker backstage, no one mattered outside of the nWo. Hogan and Nash made the unwise decision of putting their interests ahead of everyone else. That's an easy way to piss off your fan base. WCW, seemingly moments away from winning their first head-to-head ratings battle in months against WWF RAW, would never beat its competition in the ratings again.
- December 19, 1999-January 16, 2000: The injury bug hit the nWo...hard. This was especially true of the 2000 reboot. Scott Hall, Jeff Jarrett, and Bret Hart all got hurt at some point almost as soon as "the band got back together". Well, not so much for Scott Hall getting hurt as much as his alcohol and drug problems reared its ugly head again. As for Bret and Jeff: Bret Hart suffered a concussion that ultimately ended his career at Starrcade on December 19. He was forced to vacate the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. On January 10, Jeff Jarrett was on the business end of a diving headbutt from Chris Benoit from the top of a steel cage. He suffered lingering headaches and was not cleared to compete at Souled Out. Jarrett became an ex-champion due to injury too, as he gave up the United States title. The injuries killed any chance of this nWo incarnation getting off the ground. They quietly faded away into the sunset by the spring of 2000, just as they quietly faded away in the spring of 1999.
- The nWo never got their comeuppance. This, more than anything else, is what makes every great wrestling angle work: the heel(s) has (have) to get theirs in the end, and at the right time, just like any good story. That never happened with the nWo as a group. And it didn't just work out that way in WCW-it happened in the WWE and TNA years later. There was never a satisfying conclusion that said, "this is the point where the New World Order went down". Instead, the nWo won out...over and over and over again, even when it didn't have to. It is in essence what made one of the most significant and successful wrestling angles of this or any other generation, such a failure.
Summary: the New World Order was one of wrestling's greatest success stories, but it was also another shining example of many hands getting in the way. It shouldn't have crash landed, but this storyline found its way there anyway.
So what's your best and worst nWo moment?