When you think of great wrestling factions, you think of The Four Horsemen, The Hart Foundation, D-Generation X, Evolution, most recently, The Shield, and many more. One that stood out the most in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was the New World Order (nWo).
With the nWo potentially returning to TV for the first time in 12 years on this Monday’s Raw, were going to re-visit the time when they came to WWE in 2002.
The New World Order took over WCW in 1996. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had recently returned to WCW under their own names and called themselves “outsiders” as well as repeated mentions of having a third guy, which turned out to be Hulk Hogan. It was one of the more shocking heel turns in wrestling history.
This trio of wrestlers would cause havoc until 1998, before the group would split. They would return in the nWo Elite/Wolfpac/Hollywood forms over the next two years. Monday Nitro became revolved around the different nWo groups rivaling each other and saturated the overall faction and TV product. They would reform again in the latter part of 1999, only to fold completely just a few months later with factions like The Millionaires Club and The New Blood coming up. Those two groups would battle until the infamous shoot done by Vince Russo. There wasn’t a good quality video of it online, so here’s Russo explaining it in his eyes.
I could give you a long history of everything the nWo did from ’99-’02, but were just going to focus on what happened when they came to WWE.
Vince McMahon would buy WCW in 2001 as the company was losing a ton of money and never was going to make it. Almost immediately after the purchase, WCW wrestlers would slowly start coming onto WWF (as it was known as back then) shows. It wouldn’t be until No Way Out 2002 that Hall, Hogan, and Nash would return to the company to reform the New World Order once again.
In story-line, McMahon said he hired the trio to be his “thugs” and destroy WWF, as Ric Flair was the on-screen 50% owner of the company. With the huge reaction that they got, nothing could go wrong, right? Placing them in feuds with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock couldn’t fail, right?
Rock had defeated Hogan at Wrestlemania 18. Hall and Nash did not appreciate the head of their group losing, so they assaulted him following the completion of the match. You could say the decision to turn Hogan face was forced due to the cheers he was getting from the crowd, since he was a heel. To replace him, they brought in X-Pac and Big Show to the group.
nWo did not last long in WWF, however. Nash would injure his biceps during an attack on Bradshaw and would be forced onto the sidelines for months. It would kill much of the momentum they had left. Hall would start feuding with Bradshaw, who was a solid wrestler, but a certain step down from Steve Austin. The former would be fired after the infamous “Plane Ride from Hell” that featured Hall as a drunken mess and “semi-conscious.” He wouldn’t be seen in the company until the most recent WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, where his “Razor Ramon” character was inducted.
Once Nash returned, he would go onto introduce Shawn Michaels as the newest member of the nWo. HBK was returning following a four year retirement due to a severe back injury. Flair would become a member and so would Booker T, but the group was just never the same. They were completely disbanded once X-Pac was released, Nash got injured again, and when Big Show got traded to Smackdown.
Reasons why the nWo failed included the WWE but also the fans too.
The short answer for the fans is the crowd reaction that was given to Hogan once he returned. I don’t blame them at all for wanting to cheer him. He’s an icon of the wrestling industry and is a popular attraction wherever he goes. The only thing is that back then, if you wanted to bring back the nWo, they had to be heel. The original group was always the cool looking heels that got over great as the bad guys of WCW. You couldn’t start them off as good guys in WWE. The crowds, however, forced the hand of WWE after only about two months of existence. Hogan would stay in the company until 2003, when his contract was terminated.
The foolish acts of Scott Hall tore apart the reunion too. With his drinking habits and other backstage problems, he was fired just months into his last stay with WWE. It did not help either that once he was in a top feud with Steve Austin for Wrestlemania 18, he was placed in a feud on Raw with Bradshaw. The poor booking hurt his character and turned it into somewhat of a mid-carder, which is not what the character of Hall was supposed to be. Replacing him with X-Pac and Big Show did nothing for the group and they lost most of their momentum.
The rest of that loss of momentum can be attributed to Kevin Nash’s not one but two arm injuries that he suffered. They put him out of action for several months at a time. The second injury stopped the nWo story-line completely and we have not seen the group together since.
Monday’s Raw should be a fun one. We will likely be seeing the return of Hall, Nash, and Hogan together for the first time in twelve years on WWE programming. There is no doubt that it will be a great night to be a wrestling fan, but you have to wonder how this group could have been in 2002 with better booking and just a little bit of luck.