Historically Significant Disasters of Wrestling #34: nWo Souled Out 1997

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Welcome Cagesiders to another edition of the Flops that we all care to forget, but your pal Vectron forces you not to. Today we examine a Bischoff Experiment and ask why he ended up with the goo all over his face.

Everybody loves the Beatles. Nobody I have ever met has ever disputed their claim on the Mount Rushmore of popular music. However, there is no doubt that at times they could get a little...self indulgent. Revolution No. 9, for example, will be argued by some as a daring musical piece. Most, however, will see it as a piece of narcissistic wank that maybe the group was believing its own press too much.

Believe it or not, the same thing has occurred on occasion in professional wrestling...

In 1996 the biggest thing to happen to professional wrestling in five years occurred when at Bash at the Beach Hulk Hogan turned heel and formed the nWo with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall and was pelted with garbage.

Y'see, amidst all the to-ing and fro-ing about what the nWo did for the business, not a lot is mentioned of the fact that for the first couple of weeks they were genuine bad guys. The audience felt betrayed that Hogan had shifted allegiances to the to the Outsiders and what seemed like his old company. It seemed like this would evolve like any other face/heel program.

However, as the nWo moved away from the notion of being 'WWE guys', a new identity began to be forged. Their cool adverts in the middle of Nitro nights with the funky porno music seemed to be generations younger from the old fogeys that were supposedly the 'faces' of WCW. Younger wrestling fans began seeing them as badass sonsabitches who didn't live by any rules but their own as they ran roughshod over the WCW. As kayfabe benefactors like Ted DiBiase and Eric Bischoff himself joined the group in late 1996, people were wondering what could be in store for the nWo in January 1997.

And this is where the mind of Eric Bischoff went to work.

As the nWo became more and more the point of difference between WCW and WWE and what was helping them lead the ratings in the Monday Night Wars, Bischoff decided to take the notion to the next level. Instead of having a WCW PPV, why not have a nWo PPV? One that would allow the nWo were essentially able to drive the agenda of the show rather than just be ostentatiously on a WCW show?

When one first watches nWo Souled Out the first thing that comes to mind is that Bischoff certainly does not do things by half measures. Gone were the gaudy, neon coloured WCW PPV sets that were known to many throughout the early 90s and to be replaced by a dark industrial vibe (amplified when the nWo gang apparently made their entrance into the stadium on the back of garbage trucks). There was a live band and dancers as well, all to attempt to create the idea that this was a different show with a different set of rules.

Instead of the usual WCW suspects on commentary, the announcers were nWo major players Eric Bischoff and Ted DiBiase, with the only referee being nWo employee Nick Patrick. WCW wrestlers would be essentially greeted by little fanfare by the announcers (with Eddie Guerrero being announced to the crowd as the 'Mexican Jumping Bean'...) while the nWo wrestlers would be given music, pyro and a whole dose of sycophancy.

I am sure what Eric Bischoff wanted everyone to remember about nWo Souled Out was that it was a fearless experiment that allowed the WCW brand to further explore the conflict between the nWo and WCW by moving into angle territories that had never really been explored before.

Unfortunately, what it actually is remembered for is revealing the worst of the nWo idea and how it could go oh so wrong.

Firstly, the notion of a crooked ref calling all the matches seemed to many viewers not to make for amazingly unpredictable television. Now, if there was a way for the babyfaces to offset this advantage then that would be an asset, but how are you going to fight back when the ref is paid off by the guys who are running the PPV?

To be fair, Team WCW did actually get a couple of wins, but with the nWo running roughshod over the company in the months beforehand, who would really have given them hope that they would?

It also made the WCW wrestlers look like a bunch of chumps "Ok, tell you what. We got a PPV coming up and we really would like you guys to come along. But the only ref is the crooked one that we pick. Oh, and you'll be ridiculed by us at every turn. What's not to like?"

Which brings us to Problem No. 2

As much as the nWo were going great guns at the beginning of 1997, it was doing so by burying WCW quite a bit. When they were booed it didn't matter as much as WCW fans would still loyally stand by their team and stew over the betrayal of Hogan to the side of those curs Nash and Hall.

When they became cool though, the jibes about WCW being out of touch and out of date suddenly began to hit home a lot more. When former WWE wrestlers came down to Atlanta they would invariably join the nWo. It was seen as the place to be and Eric Bischoff standing on a podium running his mouth off about how great the nWo was as opposed to that tired bunch of pensioners known as WCW did nothing to really put them over as babyfaces.

And sooner or later when you're putting yourself over, it's going to look a bit arrogant and silly.

Which is what happened with Problem No. 3

There is no doubt that Bischoff wanted this to be more than just a wrestling PPV and he pulled out all the stops to try and crystallise what the nWo 'brand' entailed at Souled Out '97. However some of it just came across as insufferable. And not the good kind of insufferable where the heel would get heat, but the bad "Oh God is there more of this" kind of insufferable.

This was encapsulated in the search for a 'Miss nWo' segments that played out during the night, where women were paraded down in some sort of motorbike gear to take part in a beauty contest where they promised to do all sorts of things to members of the nWo (I'll spare you the details).

Now, instead of getting models and attempting to legitimise the brand even more, the powers that be strangely decided to get women to volunteer without any expenses paid for (not travel or accomodation) to be part of the contest.

And what the fans got was a decidedly mixed bag.

Look, I'm not huge on the idea of objectifying women anyway but this seemed strangely archaic for a brand that wanted to come off as modern and zeitgeisty. My guess is that Bischoff thought that there would be women lining up to be part of a show where they had to essentially parade for no money in front of a bunch of strangers because the nWo was so cool. Either that or he was being ironic by saying that the nWo pulled semi-retired women.

Suffice is to say at the end of the night Bischoff judged the winner (Miss Becky) and then stuck his tongue down her throat before screaming "it's good to be King!"

Whatever the reasoning behind this, it just came off as self-indulgent- like an in-joke that the whole audience wasn't in on and as a result they felt cheated and ostracised.

And then there's Problem No. 4

The matches were mostly bad. With the exception of the Guerrero/X-Pac 1-2-3 Kid Syxx match, there wasn't anything on the card that stood up to scrutiny. Couple that with bad commentary which was more interested in the concept of the PPV it seemed than calling the actual matches and it made for tedious television at times.

But all these things are nothing compared to the real elephant in the room which I like to call Problem No, 5

If one was to look through the card of nWo Souled Out 1997 they would see one thing straight away: In 6 months the nWo had grown from a badass cadre of 3 guys who were tearing up WCW to a massive orginisation. What was more infuriating was that it wasn't a stable that could allow new guys to grow like say Evolution or the Horsemen, but rather just a place to be part of a gravy train. Who remembers Michael Wallstreet's tenure as part of the nWo? Or Big Bubba Rogers?

And that's why Souled Out is really a disaster. And a historical disaster at that. Because for the first time the audience can recongnise the fact that this isn't really a band of badasses running rogue in the jungles of WCW anymore. Instead they were more like a franchise of their own.

And with that came another massive problem. Feuds were in danger not of being shaped by babyface and heel, but rather WCW vs nWo. That's all very well for a couple of matches, but when that's up and down the card it makes a lot of feuds seem very similar, very fast- particularly when the top guys won't get out of the way for new blood to rise through.

And that's article 34! Stay tuned next time when we examine the powers of fire and blood!

#1 Owen Hart vs Stone Cold @ Summerslam '97

#2 December to Dismember 2006

#3 The Fingerpoke of Doom

#4 The Scott Steiner vs HHH Feud

#5 Ryback vs Mark Henry @ Wrestlemania XXIX

#6 Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon @ Wrestlemania XXVI

#7 The Jerry Lawler/Michael Cole Feud

#8 The Curtain Call

#9 Bash at the Beach 2000

#10 Royal Rumble 2014

#11 Warrior/Hogan II @ Halloween Havoc

#12 The Cena/Laurinatis Feud

#13 The Firing of Ric Flair From WCW

#14 The Brogue Kick of Doom

#15 Lesnar vs Goldberg @ Wrestlemania XX

#16 Immortal Revealed @ Bound for Glory 2010

#17 Sting vs Hogan @ Starrcade 1997

#18 Triple H vs Booker T @ Wrestlemania 19

#19 The Corre

#20 The Undertaker vs Big Boss Man @ Wrestlemania 15

#21 Jeff Hardy vs Sting @ Victory Road 2011

#22 Road Wild 1999

#23 The John Cena/Kane Feud of 2012

#24 Hulk Hogan's Mancow Interview of 1999

#25 CM Punk vs the Rock @ Elimination Chamber 2013

#26 The Reign of Bill Watts in WCW

#27 The Claire Lynch Affair Part One And Two

#28 Triple H vs Kevin Nash @ TLC 2011

#29 The Cactus Jack Amnesia Angle

#30 Hulk Hogan Leaving TNA

#31 HBK vs Hulk Hogan @ Summerslam 2005

#32 David Arquette: WCW Champion

#33 Katie Vick

The InVasion Saga

Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy

Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos

Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action

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