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In Defense of… 06.28.06: The nWo Split (Part 2 of 2) [REPOST]

In Defense of…

By JP Prag

Issue #60

The nWo Split (Part 2 of 2)


Hello people who are working during a power outage In Defense Of…! It’s getting rather warm in here without AC, so let’s get right into this. Oh, all right, go back and read Part 1 of this case first?

Still not enough words? Well then there is always Hidden Highlights (the reader-approved most positive article in the IWC). Although, JT and I did cut back some of words for out own sanity…

Anyway, 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 am really looking forward to Independence Day (U.S.). July 4th is my third favorite holiday, after all. What are my favorites? Well at #2 is Thanksgiving (U.S.), because I love huge meals with the family. And at #1 is Passover, because the only thing better than a huge dinner with the family is to add a show into it for eight days! If you don’t know anything about Passover, then that joke so didn’t work on you.


All right, enough reminiscing over hard boiled eggs in salt water. Stenographer, tell us what we already know!

Since it is the ten year anniversary of the founding of the nWo (boy are we old), it seemed appropriate to defend a much lambasted time in the nWo’s history. After Starrcade 1997, the year and half long storyline with Sting was over and the nWo needed a new direction if it was to survive. The organization was still the biggest money maker in WCW, and WCW was still dominating the ratings, buyrates, and attendance world. And I use the word “organization” for a reason. People forget (especially WWE fans and management) that the nWo was not a “storyline” or a “faction” in the common sense of the word. The nWo was, by design, a separate organization in the world of kayfabe. It was a radical new direction for North American wrestling, one that had never been seen before, and one that has not been seen since. Sure, there have been super groups and major stables, but nothing touches on the creation of a whole new organization and identity quite like the nWo. Talk about separate brands all you want, but the lines between nWo style and WCW were very clear.

Now, with the longest storyline in modern wrestling history over with, the nWo still had a lot to offer. The problem was, how could they offer it? The answer came in a long brewing dissention in the nWo ranks. Storylines around the hatred between Savage and Hogan had been ongoing for a while, but with Hogan losing the title Kevin Nash and others were thrown into the mix. The split, coming at Spring Stampede 1998, was built up so much, but yet there was still an incredible mystery of who would be involved, and what they would do. Finally, after two years as heels, major players of the nWo turned face as the crowd demanded. But just because they were face, that did not mean they were WCW or pro-tradition. In a radical twist, they were allowed to go on being themselves without turning their back on everything they created.

The Wolfpac had:

Meanwhile, nWo Hollywood was no B-team (that wouldn’t happen until after the nWo had reformed in 1999). With the likes of Hogan, Bischoff, the Giant, Dennis Rodman, Scott Steiner, Buff Bagwell, Miss Elizabeth, and other, team Hollywood was a forced to be reckoned with.

Though the nWo was full of talent, because they were feuding with each other, other wrestlers in WCW got a better chance to shine. Goldberg was beginning his meteoric rise, yet was mainly staying away from the nWo. Ric Flair returned and helped bring along Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko. Benoit had his Best of Seven Series with Booker T, who was also breaking out of the tag team ranks and moving up the singles file from Television to US Champion. Malenko actually spent a good deal of time fighting with Jericho over the Cruiserweight title, which of course let to the Man of 1004 hold promo. On the other end was Raven in a three-way feud with Saturn in Kanyon, introducing hardcore wrestling to the mainstream mass.

Yes, the nWo split had led to many great programs in WCW, whether in itself or around the rest of the organization.

Of course, with all of that going on, the split eventually had to come to an end.

Topic 1: The End

The number one complaint about the nWo split was that it stopped the nWo from having what it needed: an end. There was to be some huge blowoff match that would destroy the nWo once and for all.

Well sorry kids, but the nWo was not the Empire, and no one was going to be Luke Skywalker. Han Solo, maybe. But no Skywalker.

Let me ask you this: did the Horsemen ever get their comeuppance? Did someone thoroughly destroy them? What about DX? What about the Dungeon of Doom? What about the Un-Americans? What about the Dudley Family (in ECW)? What about S.E.X.?

None of these stables or organizations ever got the huge blowoff ending that everyone seems to think is possible. We have been conditioned by huge blockbuster movies that once there is a major battle, that’s the end of it and everything is fine again. Happily ever after.

You see, in a movie or video game, you can have a huge blowoff and say that is the end. But in a weekly show (or in real life in general), there a consequences for all these actions. Even if there was some elimination style match that the nWo lost that caused them to be over, you would still have the problem of what to do with the guys next. How do you stop them from being the nWo?

Perhaps you recognize the problem. It is what happened during the InVasion. Vince had won the war, but there was a consequence to that: he had to do something with WCW. And once the InVasion was mucked up and he got that victory over the Alliance, there were still more consequences. He still had an additional 60 people sitting around. They could not just suddenly stop being who they were, and he could not suddenly forget what the stipulations of Survivor Series were. Sure, there was one last match, but it really was no ending. It couldn’t. There are no endings in wrestling because the people always exist after the fact. Even when someone is retired in a match, at some point they will appear again, and everyone will automatically believe it is time to get revenge for that last match. The blowoff was meaningless because it ends up right where they last were.

I think the best way to look at this is this quote from a song:

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

The end of the main WCW vs. nWo storyline was just the beginning of the nWo split. And the nWo split had one obvious end: the nWo reunion. The story did have an ending, it just was not the necessary expectation that people had. The nWo split ended with the Fingerpoke of Doom. And it is not like that was the end either! That actually led to weeks of 5.0 ratings for WCW, not the destruction that many promised.

The nWo ended abruptly because of unforeseen injuries. Three-quarters of the main players in the nWo in 1999 were out with one injury or another. And then when the nWo reformed a few months later, almost everyone got injured again. THAT is an unforeseen circumstance that cannot be planned for. Who knows? Maybe there could have been something that really ended the nWo in a decisive way, or maybe the nWo was going to exist for another year with a huge storyline. We’ll never know because life threw us a curveball.

Still, the nWo split was just phase 3 of the nWo. It prolonged the nWo for a reason: because it was successful and could continue to be so.

Billionaire Ted says…

Even though the nWo split had to eventually reach an end, in the meanwhile it had to be worthwhile. We have previously gone through the storyline and kayfabe reasoning behind the split, but does that make a lick of difference to the average fan?

If you read the IWC today, people will complain about how the nWo split was the downfall of WCW, how it signaled the end of all the hard work everyone had done, and that it was a complete mistake. My first problem with this train of thought is that WCW did not end until 2001, three whole years later. It would take a lot more to kill WCW than that. Back in the case for the Fingerpoke of Doom we saw the same argument, that the fingerpoke destroyed WCW. Yet as noted in that case and above, the fingerpoke of doom led to weeks of 5.0+ ratings, hardly the devastating end of WCW.

Well, that’s true here as well. Except the nWo split was even more successful than the original nWo! How do I know this? I did the math.

From May through December 1997, during the biggest buildup to the highest payoff match in WCW history (Sting vs. Hollywood Hogan), the average Monday Nitro rating was a 3.8. From May through December 1998, during the turmoil of the nWo split and the rise of the Wolfpac, the average Monday Nitro rating was a 4.4! That’s right, the nWo split and other storylines in WCW actually INCREASED interest in WCW, not the opposite. So no, the nWo split did not drive away viewers in droves, but actually brought them to new heights not before seen in WCW or wrestling anywhere.

As a matter of fact, Nitro was the first show to break the 6.0 rating barrier when on August 31, 1998 it scored just that rating. That’s right, four months after the nWo split and WCW hit the highest rating mark in history, a record that would not be broken until March 1, 1999 when RAW scored a 6.3 rating (and WCW still scored a 4.3 that night).

Nitro wasn’t always winning ratings, but combined with RAW it was biggest audience ever seen in Wrestling. Raw wasn’t winning every week either, with wins going back and forth. Everyone likes to talk about the 83 week winning streak for Nitro, but it is not like WCW was dead the week they lost one to RAW. There was a long period of back and forth, and an even longer period when Nitro was getting big ratings, larger than those seen in the nWo vs. Sting storyline, but they just weren’t as huge as RAW’s numbers. We talked about a number of times, but in those days when Nitro scored less than a 4.5 it was considered a terrible sign and that nobody watched WCW anymore. Today, when RAW scores a 4.0 rating it is seen as a huge triumph. Last week, SmackDown! scored a 2.2 rating. It does not seem so bad in retrospect.

Anyway, even though more people were watching WCW than ever because of the nWo split, did that necessarily translate into more dollars. Well, there’s one sure fire quick look; let’s browse the PPV buyrates for about the same period listed above.

WCW PPV Buyrates

In total the winners are…

1997: 2

1998: 6

Tie: 1

That’s right, PPV buyrates actually WENT UP for the most part in 1998 with the nWo split, much higher than during the Sting vs. nWo storyline. True, the summer of 1998 was bolstered by mainstream media attention, but why do you think people like Jay Leno and Dennis Rodman would even consider getting involved in WCW? Because WCW was huge, and the nWo split was a captivating and interesting focus for all of WCW.

I also personally know how much impact the Wolfpac made on my wallet. At that time, I was selling many wrestling shirts at the flee market. Some sold OK, some did not move, but there was one shirt I could never keep in: The Wolfpac. It wasn’t even that greatly designed, and looking at it now, it is actually rather embarrassing. Yet that was the biggest seller by far. I still see nWo Wolfpac and Hollywood shirts, license plates, bumper stickers, flags, and everything else around today. The nWo cemented its legacy in its own personal war, and the monetary and cultural impacts are still very prevalent today.

What did it all do in the end?

Besides the faded shirts that around today, the nWo split began something that we see now. Even though the nWo had made it cool to cheer the badguy, the split made it possible for someone to be the true anti-hero. With a face Wolfpac, others could more readily be accepted as faces. Austin was already well on his way up in the WWE, but the Wolfpac turning face made his job much easier. DX was able to become an effective face unit because the Wolfpac had paved the way (poetic, considering the membership). Even today, people like Eddie Guerrero could cheat to win, while someone who wanted to play by the rules was booed. Chavo Guerrero helped Rey Mysterio cheat on SmackDown!, yet people love him for it.

True, the nWo was just a reflection of the changing times that Eric Bischoff was able to capture. But once people were able to accept the bad guys as good, it became easier to flip everything.

Also, the idea of a long term storyline with a twist took center-hold. Look at a storyline like Test/Steiner, or Jericho/Christian/Trish/Lita, or even Edge/Hardy/Kane/Lita. A story can have many lives with the same characters, and it is a storytelling device still very much in use today. Is it always used correctly or effectively? Probably not, but the inspiration is the key in this case.

Additionally, the impact of the nWo and the split is still being seen today. In Japan, the invasion storyline continues with many of the same people, yet just a slightly different name. Right now, ECW keeps invading RAW, and vice versa. ECW isn’t really ECW of old, it’s a new twist on the nWo. And with people jumping and moving apart, it’s the same idea as the split. You have your megapowers, just with a slightly different twist.

No, the impact of the nWo split is quite obvious today, and will be for years to come.

Take out the spray paint one more time

Since the day the nWo formed, there was a thought that there had to be some huge ending, some insane blowup to finally put the idea to rest. Instead, the nWo used the ending of a year and half storyline to launch a new direction: a split. The ideas were sound in kayfabe, and that translated into a success in ratings and buyrates. Each nWo faction was strong and driving interest in WCW, while also allowing time for the rest of WCW to develop and catch up. In actuality, the nWo split did more to increase ratings, buyrates, and merchandise sales than even the original nWo did. After all, if you couldn’t decide your loyalties, didn’t you need two different color shirts?

Today, the effects of the nWo split are seen everywhere, from storylines to character development. Although the compression of time makes us forget just how long and interesting the nWo split was, and everything that came out of it (and what happened at later points in time), we cannot lose the knowledge of the true success the nWo split.

The defense rests.

Hung Jury

Well everyone, that wraps up our twenty-seventh case. So what do you think?

And please take into consideration the rules (well, they’re more what you might call guidelines than rules) of a fair court system:

(1) All parties, events, circumstances, etc… are innocent until proven guilty. In this court, the defendants have already been found guilty without trial, and so therefore this is an appeals court. Finding a defendant guilty means you disagree with the evidence presented.

(2) The jury must find the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. That means that if there is doubt in your mind that the defendant is guilty, then you cannot find the appellant guilty. Reasonable doubt means that the average person, looking at the facts presented, could not find the defendant guilty on all counts despite personal feelings.

(3) This is a court of fact, not fiction. Fantasies of what could have been or should have been do not fly here; especially fantasies of the impossible (such as a wrestler not getting injured at an untimely moment). All we have is what did actually occur and the intentions of those being accused.

(4) A defendant cannot be judged by events outside the case at hand. For example, if we were trying a particular contract signing by a wrestling promoter, you cannot use that ten years later that wrestler died from a heart attack relating to the drug use that the wrestler started when he signed with the promoter. One has nothing to do with the other in terms of the case at hand.

(5) You do not have to like the accused before or after the case at hand, and a vote of not guilty does not change your personal preferences. You can make it clear that you feel the accused is the worst thing you have ever seen, but if the facts compel you to see that the accused cannot be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, then voting guilty would be unconscionable.

And if you have any more questions about the rules, my writing style, the In Defense Of… creed, or what I do and don’t do or why I do or don’t do it, please see Issue #52.

Keeping the rules of this court in mind…

IN THE CASE OF THE IWC VS. the nwo split, the nwo split HAS BEEN ACCUSEd of being a terrible mistake in wcw that lead to the end of the promotion. it was a waste of time that hurt wcw and the rest of the wrestlers on the roster, and only served to further beat a dead horse.


Once I started writing this part, I realized that the points were actually rather concise. Maybe I could have done this in one long 14 page paper (and avoid writing a stenography), but it’s good to write a couple of short ones here and there. Actually, you know what? Maybe this is the length the articles are supposed to be, and I’ve just been going overboard for the last 30 issues or so!

All right, these past two cases have been interesting, and I did need the break after Jeff Hardy, but now I’m ready for a huge challenge. I need something that is beyond reproach. I’m looking for a case on the Ultimate Warrior level. There must be something that people ask me for on almost a weekly basis. Something incredibly topical to today, yet has a ton of history to explore. And yet, somehow involve another Jeff. Oh yes… that is it... When we return it is: In Defense of… Jeff Jarrett (Part 1 of 3)!!!!

Next week, it’s time for the Chosen One to take the stand!

In the meantime, be sure to check out Hidden Highlightsthe most positive article in the IWC, as voted on by you, the readers! Don’t forget to send JT and I your Hidden Highlights for RAW, ECW on SciFi, Impact, SmackDown!, Heat, or any other show you saw this or any week!

Until then, the next time you read some throwaway line presented as fact, challenge it. The truth matters, and you have a right to know.

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


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