• J.P. Prag

In Defense of… 06.21.06: The nWo Split (Part 1 of 2) [REPOST]

In Defense of…

By JP Prag


Issue #59


The nWo Split (Part 1 of 2)


Intro


Hello everyone who is a big fan of weekend barbeques, and welcome back to In Defense Of…! After a short week off, we came back to do the case for the European Championship, which can be read here.


And with 84.4% of the vote, The European Championship has been found:


NOT GUILTY!


A Television/European championship, I believe, is very necessary. It really does give people lower on the card something to fight for. And I’ll be honest: my favorite championship of all time is the WCW Television Championship, especially when Steven Regal was the champ. That was the only title that was always defended, even when the World Heavyweight Championship (and champion) would disappear for a while. And what an upset when Prince Iakea won it!


Now, perhaps this is your first time clicking on In Defense Of…? Maybe you didn’t read about the European Championship, Jeff Hardy, DDP, Hulk Hogan, the World Heavyweight Championship, Scott Steiner, the Ultimate Warrior, Vince McMahon in the Death of Owen Hart, Larry Zbyszko, Scott Hall, New Jack, the McMahon-Helmsley Era, Mike Awesome Leaving ECW, Sid Vicious, the Undertaker, the Sport of Professional Wrestling, Lex Luger, WCW Thunder, the Brand Extension, Goldberg, Vince not buying out WCW’s contracts, Earl Hebner Screwing Bret Hart, Dusty Rhodes: Head Booker, The Finger Poke of Doom, Kevin Nash, the Elimination Chamber, or even Eric Bischoff. It might be that you still dream about spray painting your enemies to this day. Well, for those new to the concept, this article has a pretty simple premise:


Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum wrap. Some writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!


And that’s what I intend to do.


Me? I’m the One and Only JP, and I have now officially killed the warranty on my car… two and half years before I finished paying the bank for it.


Some dame walked into my office and said…


Way back in September, Andrew Strom said:


I am a really big fan of the entire nWo era, including the Hollywood/Wolfpac split. I know you are a busy man, but maybe in your backlog you can throw in defending the nWo split for me. A lot of people in the IWC seem to dislike this time period, but I thought it was really cool and profitable for WCW. I remember going to Great America (a theme park in Illinois, which may give you a clue where "nWo 4-Life country" is...lol) and wearing a Wolfpac T Shirt and getting (I kid you not) over 50 reactions from people including "Too Sweet", "Wolfpac in the House", and even some heckling from an nWo Hollywood fan (even though I assured him I was a fan of all colors of nWo).


Well wait no longer! The backlog of nine months has brought you to the forefront today!


Why this?


Is it the ten year (!!!!) anniversary of the founding of the nWo, and there has been little denying the impact of the nWo on the sport of professional wrestling. Before the nWo, WCW was losing tons of money, the WWE was full of clowns, and ECW was just starting to define the word “Extreme”. Despite having two major powerhouse wrestling organizations, wrestling was in an incredible lull. Hulkamania had long since waned, the Horsemen had long since been a dominate force, the “New Generation” was met with yawns and empty seats, and the old guard were spinning in circles.


Entire the nWo. Eric Bischoff, inspired by an invasion angle he saw in Japan, originally conceived the concept when he was in the AWA. Since that company went out of business before he could do anything, the idea was tabled for another six years. When the time came, he launched the angle to great success, making WCW profitable, almost putting the WWE out of business, and creating a revolution in the sport that eventually morphed into Austin, DX, and the Attitude Era that catapulted the competition into heights thought impossible.


But before that could happen, the nWo had to go through many changes. At the end of a year and half storyline, WCW was without direction, without a central arc. In order to change this, the nWo split. But there were a plethora of other reasons why this happened. Though many lament this as the “end of WCW” (once again three years before WCW went out of business), we’ll show why the nWo was not only necessary, but profitable, and actually helped WCW for quite a while.


People forget: the nWo wasn’t really a “storyline” in the sense of the word that we use it. Vince McMahon saw it as a storyline. But the nWo was a revolution, a separate organization, a change from the past. It’s ok for it to grow and change and be different. It’s not about a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is about the spirit of angle and the characters involved; it is about all the possible ways they could be used. This was another one of those ways.


What’s the story here?


411mania’s own Stuart Carapola in his That Was Then: The New World Order 1998 said:


At the first PPV of the year, Souled Out, Hulk Hogan got some good news: due to the circumstances surrounding their two previous meetings, the WCW World Title had been held up and Hogan would meet Sting at Superbrawl to determine the true champion. Although Hogan was happy to get this news, there were other people who weren't quite as happy with the news. Among them was Sting, who had given up the title and now had to beat Hogan again to regain it. Also, Scott Hall was not thrilled to hear this because, by virtue of his win at World War III the previous November, he was scheduled to challenge for the WCW World Title at Superbrawl, although he was informed that his title match would be pushed back to Uncensored the following month rather than be cancelled outright.


However, before Superbrawl came, dissension started brewing amongst the leaders of the NWO. The chief dissenter was Randy Savage, who had again become tired of being a second banana to Hogan. Hogan tried putting Savage in his place by preventing the NWO from interfering in Savage's match against Lex Luger at Superbrawl. Without interference from the NWO, Luger put Savage in the rack and got the submission. Savage would get some revenge later that night, coming into the ring and knocking Hogan out with a foreign object, allowing Sting to get the pin and regain the WCW World Title. Hogan was livid that Savage, who was supposed to be on his side, cost him the title that meant more to him than anything. They ended up facing one another in a cage match at Uncensored, and were fighting tooth and nail when Sting (who had successfully defended the WCW Title against Scott Hall earlier in the evening) got in the cage and tried to help Savage against Hogan, but rather than allow Sting to get between them, the two NWO members instead put their differences aside and beat Sting down two-on-one to close the show.


They seemed to reconcile that night, but the tension between the members of the NWO would continue. Kevin Nash was granted a shot at Sting's title on Nitro after Uncensored, but Hogan's interference (ostensibly on Nash's behalf) caused Nash to be disqualified and lose his shot at becoming WCW World Champion. Everything came to a head at Spring Stampede. Sting, angered at Savage's betrayal, agreed to put the WCW World Title on the line in order to get the Macho Man in the ring. In the meantime, Hulk Hogan would team with Kevin Nash to face longtime NWO nemesis Roddy Piper and the Giant (who had been chasing Nash since Nash skipped their Starrcade match, then almost crippled Giant with a botched powerbomb at Souled Out) in a baseball bat match. The NWO side got the bat first and Hogan used it to put Piper down for the count, but then Hogan turned on his partner and laid Nash out as well. In addition to his already addressing his issues with Nash, Hogan still had a score to settle with Savage. Any reconciliation between the two men had disappeared the second Savage accepted a shot at the title Hogan perceived to be his. Hogan got involved and, ironically, attempted to help Sting beat Savage by attacking the Macho Man, but Nash got a little revenge on Hogan by powerbombing Sting and putting Savage on top for the pin and the WCW World Title.


The official split came the night after Spring Stampede. Hogan came out and announced that the NWO had split in two, and that Nash and Savage had been booted out of Hogan's half (now called NWO Hollywood), and were no longer welcome in the group, then challenged Savage to defend the WCW World Title against him that night. Savage accepted, and they met again in the main event of the evening. After interference from Bret Hart, Hogan had ended his former friend's title reign after only one day, and was again the WCW World Champion. Nash and Savage responded by announcing that they were forming their own faction of the NWO, called NWO Wolfpac. The Wolfpac, which would use red and black colors instead of the traditional black and white that NWO Hollywood was using, already included Nash's partner Scott Hall, and in the weeks following, they recruited Konnan and Curt Hennig to their side, and even managed to draw WCW loyalist Lex Luger to their side as well.


The battle lines were drawn.


That all makes sense to me, or does it?


Face? nWo? What?


The oft repeated complaint against this is that a face nWo made no sense. Why didn’t the nWo members just leave the nWo and join WCW against the Hollywood members? Why would they stay in the nWo?


That’s where I bring you back to this point: the nWo was not a “storyline”. The nWo was a separate organization (in fayfabe), and they had one mission: to take over the world of professional wrestling. Kevin Nash did not want to just be a fan favorite and win praise, his character was always about winning the big money. As a member of the nWo, he had made the most money in his career. As one of the founding members with Hogan and Hall, he (in fayfabe) was a part owner of the organization. If he walked away from that, he would be giving up all the time and effort and money he had invested in the nWo.


Randy Savage was always a loose cannon, even when he joined the nWo. But he was no WCW loyalist. In his time in WCW, he was always pushed aside in favor of Hogan, and in turn Hogan turned against WCW. He was the man who first gotten beaten down by the nWo, he was the one who always paid for the negligence of WCW management. When he joined the nWo, it was in an effort to take over, to take his place, and make WCW pay. Just because his hatred of Hogan was now being backed up by others, it did not change anything. He fought with Hogan while in the nWo because he was nWo. Again, the nWo was an organization, not a stable. They even said at the first Souled Out that they knew one day nWo members would have to wrestle each other, but not before they had taken care of WCW. Until then, they were a team. Unfortunately for the ideal, being a team was not working out. That did not mean, though, that he had given up on the dream of the nWo.


Konnan was a man who was always on the outskirts of the nWo, yet was a major superstar in Mexico. To him, being in Hogan’s, or anyone’s, shadow was intolerable. He was tired of being pushed to the side, but he knew going back to WCW was not the answer. In WCW he was hardly given much opportunity either, with a rare US title shot here and there. He saw how WCW just brought in his brethren from Mexico, used them to pop the crowd, and then forgot about them. His Latino passion, as is visible in his current LAX story, was on fire then. In order to make a stand, he needed the nWo. They were the best opportunity for him.


Speaking of opportunity, that brings up to Curt Hennig. Hennig was always an opportunist, and ready to switch sides when need be. At first, he thought that with the powerhouses in the Wolfpac, that they were sure to succeed. But it quickly became obvious to him that they were not strategists, and that the nWo Hollywood had the brains. Although he and Ric Rude could have served that function well in the Wolfpac, the Wolfpac had a more, “Let me show you what we can do” attitude than the sneakier Henning would have liked. So he and his friend Rude quickly changes sides back to Hollywood, where their skills were more appreciated. Beside, Hennig sure as hell could not go back to WCW. After turning on the Horsemen, he was completely hated by the remainder of the WCW locker room. There was no place safe for him than back in the hands of the nWo.


And of course, there was the last man to change sides: Scott Hall. It was just taken as defacto truth that wherever Nash went, Hall would follow. But people forgot that Hall was his own man, and was striving for independence. Hall was able to get his World Title shot because of the nWo, and all the money he ever needed. But it was the infighting of the nWo that caused Scott’s title shot to get delayed. Specifically, Savage and Nash continually interfering in the affairs of Hogan and Sting made his shot get delayed. And when he had his shot, his so called brothers were not there to help him. Then the nWo infighting cost him from ever getting a rematch. No, he knew it was Hulk Hogan who gave him his greatest success, and he was prepared to follow him, until he went to rehab.

Henning, Hall, and Rude, though, failed to realize how disarming Kevin Nash was. Without changing a thing about himself, he was able to create an aura of “we’re not the sneaky nWo, we’re here to help.” But Nash never stopped being Nash, as would be demonstrated by the Fingerpoke of Doom at the end of the split. But because he was so disarming, Nash was able to lure away WCW’s prize: Lex Luger. For so long, Luger had fought against the nWo and was the face of WCW all summer. But that fight had taken a lot out of him. When he saw the nWo Wolfpac as a changed force, he thought that they could help rebuild WCW. How naïve he was. But Nash used that naiveté to his advantage by slowly manipulating Luger over time to the philosophy of the nWo. That’s why, when the nWo merged, Luger was able to follow. He realized that he was fighting the wrong battle, and the nWo was the way to go.


And the last piece of the puzzle: Sting. I’ll let 411mania’s own Mathew Sforcina cover this one:


But Sting then decided to focus on fighting the nWo. Thus, he challenged Hall and Nash, The Outsiders, to a match for the tag titles, choosing Giant as his partner, despite the fact that they were nWo Wolfpac, to Sting, the nWo was the nWo.


Then Giant, a bit before the show, joined nWo Hollywood, Hogan's side, because he hated Nash so much. Thus Sting was left in a bit of a bind, but the match had been signed, so he went through with it.


And was then shocked when Hall turned on Nash and he and Giant won the tag titles.


Sting by this time had found a higher power, had become a born again Christian. And thus, when he looked at the three factions, he saw absolutes. He saw that nWo Hollywood was evil. And yet, he saw that WCW was chaos. And thus, that left the middle ground.


And therefore, Sting took it, and joined the nWo Wolfpac, which at the time was the best option, and also had his pal Lex Luger in it.


You see, everyone turned against Sting, and he needed someone to trust. The only person he trusted was Luger. The war with the nWo had left WCW in ruins, and yet each faction of the nWo was strong. He had fought for so long for nothing, so now it was time for him. Enough with being WCW’s savior, he just wanted to be with his friends again. And so, Sting became the final piece of the Wolfpac.


The B-team


Yes, I did just say that the nWo factions were both strong. Because of the compression of time, people often equate nWo Hollywood with the nWo B-team. They are not the same thing! The nWo B-team only came into existence AFTER the nWo Wolfpac and nWo Hollywood merged to become nWo Reunion (Black, White, and Red). Before that, the nWo Hollywood was meant to be a devastating force. Let’s look at who was in this crew (via Wikipedia):

While not as many super champions as the Wolfpac, Hollywood still had its fair share of power and glory. Besides, Hollywood was designed to make Hogan look good, while the Wolfpac was the people trying to break out of Hogan’s shadow in one way or another.


Of course, the nWo members were not the only ones who found opportunity in the split.


Opportunity


Because the nWo was feuding with itself, this actually left WCW to have storylines around the other wrestlers in the organization that were not nWo related. The most fruitful of these was the rise of Goldberg.


Over the year, Goldberg has been quietly gaining wins and momentum. People were chanting his name, his popularity was growing. But for the most part, he stayed clear of the nWo. The Wolfpac kept Hollywood in check, and Goldberg was more concerned with his growing streak than having an agenda with the nWo. Of course, this would greatly change by the time the nWo reunited at Starrcade, and even before that when Goldberg took the belt off of Hogan and beat Hall earlier in the evening. But these run ins with the nWo were not the norm for Goldberg, who was the first new wrestler not really involved with the nWo in any discernible way.


Also, Ric Flair returned from suspension and began to bring along Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit more. Though his main feud was with Eric Bischoff, the Horsemen still had separate programs, mostly involving the tag team championships. Eventually, this would morph into the feud of the Benoit/Malenko team vs. the Mysterio/Kidman team, but that was still a bit off. The foundations, though, were built right here.


Booker T took most of 1998 to move away from the tag team ranks and begin his new singles career with the Television Championship. He and Chris Benoit had their memorable Best of Seven series (to get a shot at Finlay!) as well. Meanwhile, Malenko and Jericho continued their feud over the Cruiserweight Championship, which of course paved the way for Jericho to spend an entire commercial break listing out his 1004 moves.


Raven had made his WCW debut and quickly began assembling a flock. This, too, also led into the three-way feud of Raven, Saturn, and Kanyon, and its incredibly strong mix of hardcore and workrate.


Yes, plenty of other people used the nWo feuding with itself to build up what WCW was about. So many say WCW was without direction or characters, but there were a dozen stories and characters listed for you right there. There was a WCW beyond the nWo, though the nWo did have a central role to play.


RECESS!


Strange place to stop? Maybe, maybe not. There is quite a bit to go, and I just don’t have the time to get to it all this week.


When we return it’s the reasons why the conclusion of the split makes all the difference, looking at how much money the split made, and the long term implications of it all.


So tune in next week for our black and white and red conclusion of In Defense of… The nWo Split (Part 2 of 2)!!


Be sure to check out Hidden Highlights in the meantime! Don’t forget to send JT and I your Hidden Highlights for RAW, SmackDown!, Heat, Velocity, iMPACT, or any other show you saw this week (that includes house shows and indy events, you know)!


Until then, the defense rests!


Know a particular person, event, organization, storyline, etc… in wrestling history that needs a defense? E-mail the One and Only JP at lookforme@mikefine.com, and I’ll be glad to hear your case.

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