This is part 2 in an editorial series, to read part 1 be sure to CLICK HERE.
Hulk Hogan turned on WCW and founded the nWo at Bash at the Beach ’96. Contrary to folklore, WCW management knew FOR SURE what Hogan was going to do when he marched down the aisle at the main event’s conclusion.
Hogan had no choice. His career was at a crossroads. His star had undeniably faded.
Hogan’s turn – sold impeccably by Tony Schiavone; nearly ruined by a slurring Bobby Heenan – certainly provided an awesome promo, an electrifying moment, and a monster jump-start for the “New World Organization.” (Hogan didn’t get the name right that night in Daytona Beach.) Fan reaction live was venomous. GARBAGE EVERYWHERE.
Hogan’s turn was also the beginning of the end for the nWo angle.
Hogan’s worth to WCW was always mostly about notoriety. Hogan took so much, the tangible gains were few. His PPV take was onerous. But the time Hogan got his cut from nWo merchandise, WCW actually LOST MONEY on every T-shirt sold.
Like Kevin Nash says on WWE’s nWo DVD, he and Scott Hall made the invasion REAL. Hogan joined and started cutting fake wrestling-style filibuster promos that were straight out of Memphis. Those could be edited for the black and white “paid announcement” spots.
Live, not so much.
BTW, those “paid announcements” were AWESOME. Soundbite, soundbite, soundbite. Perfect for America’s deteriorating attention span. WWE would do well to revisit those.
Hogan diluted the nWo’s cool factor. HE’S NOT COOL. He’s a fake wrestling goon. Hogan turned the nWo into fake wrestling. Worse, he made the angle his. It didn’t belong to Hall and Nash anymore, the cool guys who said and did cool things.
Once, Hogan brought his young son, “Nasty Nick,” into a promo wearing a dragon mask, then later suggested, “How ‘bout we use Nick as a mascot?”
Nash: “How ‘bout NOT?”
It was a paradox: Hogan had a HUGE NAME. No one represented WWE more. He gave the nWo credibility. Star power. But he wasn’t cool, and he big-footed the angle terribly.
What to do? You can’t say Hogan in the nWo didn’t work. But…
The best thing would have been for Hall and Nash to turn on Hogan after 2-3 months. Boost the cool factor. Boost the heel factor. Hogan does an injury angle, returns after 2-3 more months to join the fight against the nWo. Put the nWo angle back in the right hands.
But there was no chance of that. Eric Bischoff gave Hogan too much credit for the angle’s success, and there was no shortage of Hogan ass-kissers to rubber-stamp that notion. The minute Hogan’s turn clicked, his power returned, and multiplied. Hogan not only owned the nWo angle, he owned WCW. Had creative control over everyone and everything.
Until Hogan joined, everything was about the angle. After, everything was about Hogan. It wasn’t REAL anymore. It wasn’t ORGANIC anymore. It was FAKE WRESTLING. It was effective, and remained effective for months. But a bad end was guaranteed.
To be fair, there wasn’t a better choice to be the third guy. Hogan did a good job as a heel.
But as a long-term “cool heel,” no. There was a better way. The way the angle fizzled, and didn’t lead to WCW’s re-launch as a brand name, seems to confirm that. The nWo angle was supposed to lead to the end of WCW being perceived as a second-rate Xerox of WWE. WWE invades; WWE gets a foothold; WCW ultimately wins, thereby proving superiority.
Instead, you can argue that the nWo angle led to the end of WCW. It was the single biggest angle in wrestling history, but it had ZERO RESONANCE. How’d that happen?
Of course, other mistakes were made…
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM, Pittsburgh, PA(105.9) . Check out his web page at WXDX.com. Contact Mark by emailing wzmarkmadden@hotmail. com. FOLLOW MARK ON TWITTER: @MarkMaddenX