That Was Then 12.12.07: Rating The New World Order Members
Posted by Sam Caplan on 12.12.2007
I get my grading pad back out and this time, I go through the NWO members, from Hulk Hogan all the way down to the Harris Twins, and grade them on how good (or bad) they were for the famous supergroup.
Much like we did with the Four (Thousand) Horsemen, this week we're going to break down the OTHER biggest wrestling stable of all time, the New World Order. In many ways the NWO goes beyond just a wrestling stable and can be looked at as an integral part of WCW itself (for better or worse), but it's often viewed as one big entity and rarely are the individual members looked at to have their value to the group appraised. We're going to take a look and see if the NWO was greater than, equal to, or less than the sum of its parts.
The Original Members
Much like Ric Flair was to the Four Horsemen, Hulk Hogan was the center around which the NWO was built, and no version of the group that didn't include him lasted long or had much success. Hogan revealing himself to be the mystery third man at Bash At The Beach 1996 was among the most shocking moments of the 90s, as nobody ever expected Hogan to work as a heel ever again. Instead, he became the most hated man in the business, both for his on-screen character as well as his behind the scenes political games. More often than not, he was the WCW World Champion despite the best efforts of men like Lex Luger, Sting, Bill Goldberg, and Diamond Dallas Page. In fact, during this period of his career he went beyond being just a headline wrestler and became almost like a dictator in his demeanor, complete with his cult of personality following him around and bowing down before him. Though there were others whom people thought would have picked to be the third man, none of them would have had the impact that Hogan had and the NWO would not have become what it did.
He's the guy who started it all. As shocking as Hogan turning heel and joining the NWO was, Scott Hall's first appearance on Nitro on Memorial Day 1996 was up there. Though it of course was later revealed that he no longer worked for the WWF, the whole idea of a hostile invasion by disgruntled former employees of the competition got over huge with the WCW fans. Whatever the NWO was doing, Scott Hall was right in the thick of it, and his constant disappearances just helped get him even more over. Despite everything else that he became known for in his personal life, when his actual wrestling career is the subject, his association with the NWO is always the first thing off everyone's tongue. During his time with the group, he also held the WCW US Title twice, the TV Title once, and several WCW World Tag Team Titles, most of which were with best friend Kevin Nash. He also won World War III in 1997.
Though he was always a half a notch below Hogan in the pecking order of the NWO and WCW in general, Kevin Nash was as important a member of the group as anyone. He was one of the original three members along with Hall and Hogan, and when the group split in half in 1998, he led the NWO Wolfpac faction against Hogan and NWO Hollywood. He held several WCW World Tag Team Titles and won World War III in 1998, but also won the WCW World Title at Starrcade 98 and was the man who ended Bill Goldberg's undefeated streak. His subsequent loss of the title to Hogan in the infamous "Fingerpoke Of Doom" incident, though often pointed to by some as the beginning of the end of WCW, has passed into the annals of wrestling legend and is still talked about today, nearly nine years later. He also held a lot of political power backstage and helped keep Scott Hall employed a lot longer than he probably otherwise would have been. Hogan, Hall, and Nash were the original members, but through it all they remained the most important members.
Other Key Players
He originally opposed the NWO, and it was Savage who Hogan legdropped when he turned heel and officially formed the NWO. However, after about three or four months of fighting Hogan and company, he decided to join them instead. He ended up doing what he spent most of his career doing, playing second fiddle to Hulk Hogan, but he was still a very important part of the group, taking part in many of their most important team matches against WCW, and Savage was able to do what Hogan was not when he beat Sting for the WCW World Title in 1998. His feud with Diamond Dallas Page was one of the biggest of 1997, rivaled only by Hart-Austin and Hart-Michaels in the WWF.
Joining the NWO was the catalyst for Scott Steiner finally breaking away from his brother Rick to become a singles wrestler, something that a lot of people had wanted to see him do for years. Unfortunately, this was around the same time that he became incredibly injury prone, and though he'd remain a member for as long as the group lasted (and he was healthy), he spent more time on the sidelines than actually wrestling. Still, he did win the TV Title and the US Title while in the group, and the jump to the NWO helped eventually springboard him to the WCW World Title. He was also named the new leader of NWO Hollywood during Hogan's brief "retirement" in 1998.
The most notable thing Bagwell did while in the NWO was get his neck broken. He was a member of a nothing tag team before he joined, became a member of a nothing tag team after he joined, spent almost a year on the sidelines because of the injury, and never amounted to anything other than a nice body and a crappy attitude when he came back. He never became the star people expected him to be when he was a rookie, yet he expected the wrestling world handed to him on a silver plate. How he even became recognized as an elite member of the NWO is beyond me.
The Guys Who Weren't There The Whole Time
Winning the Giant over the first time was a huge deal for the NWO because he had just come off a pretty good WCW World Title reign and had been one of WCW's leaders against the NWO, so recruiting him weakened WCW considerably. He went on to win World War III for the NWO in 1996, but after being defeated by Lex Luger at Starrcade 96, he was booted out of the group, and when he rejoined in 1998, he lost constantly before finally being kicked out a second time. In the end, he amounted to a big scary guy in the corner and little more.
Here was a guy who had the potential to be a key player in the NWO, but thanks to an ill-timed neck injury and political misfortune, he wound up out of work instead. He won the Cruiserweight Title fairly quickly and took part in some important matches, but due to his short stint it's hard to really consider him an important member.
As big a deal as he apparently was in Japan, he meant almost nothing when he joined the NWO, at least in the US. While he wasn't around enough to do much jobbing, he never accomplished anything significant, either.
The Great Muta
See what I wrote about Chono and substitute Muta's name.
Hennig joining was a big deal for the NWO and a great angle, mainly because his treachery in light of Arn Anderson's very real retirement resulted in the death of the Horsemen, albeit temporarily. He also won the US Title and, unlike most of his NWO cohorts, won the title totally cleanly and defended the title in much the same manner...most of the time. His treachery continued after the split when he initially joined NWO Wolfpac before turning on them and joining NWO Hollywood. His importance diminished a bit after losing the US Title, but he was still an important player up to the point he got the boot in early 1999.
Hey, he main evented two PPVs and appeared at ringside for a third, so he does deserve some mention. Unlike some of the non-wrestling slugs who have found their way into PPV matches, Rodman actually looked like he put some time and effort into learning how to make himself passable before getting in the ring. While he wasn't Lou Thesz, he did seem to have a basic understanding of the rudiments of working a match, psychology, and getting crowd heat. I don't know how much his name value actually added to the buyrates of the shows he worked, if it did at all, but if you're going to try to gain exposure by using a celebrity, there are worse people they could have hired than Dennis Rodman.
NWO Wolfpac Members
It actually pained me to see Sting join the NWO, even though it was the Wolfpac and not the original. For one, he had spent almost two years fighting AGAINST them, but when he joined he went from being THE guy in the company to Kevin Nash's howling idiot buddy and a midcarder at best. Being stuck in the NWO rivals getting pinned at Starrcade 97 as one of the worst things to ever happen to Sting's career. Then again, he did co-win the WCW World Tag Team Title, so at least it wasn't a total wash.
Much like Sting, Luger joining the NWO meant that he went from headlining to being an also-ran and standing there like an idiot while Nash cut all the cool promos. See, the thing they didn't seem to understand is that by joining the NWO, unless your name is Hogan or Nash, you can kiss any hopes of main eventing goodbye, and both Sting's and Luger's main event pushes more or less disappeared completely after joining. At least Sting got a short title reign out of the deal, Luger didn't even get that. Oh wait, he was US Champ for three days in 1998. So I guess it was worth a little more than nothing.
Konnan meant nothing to the NWO, much like most of his career in the US. His joining the NWO was supposed to be a big deal, but it wasn't...much like everything else he did in the US. He ended up being the jobber who got killed before Nash, Luger, or Sting came in and cleaned house. Mexican legend my ass.
NWO 2000 Members
On the one hand, he won two WCW World Titles and is one of the greatest wrestlers who ever lived. On the other hand, his stint with the NWO (the official one, not when he was hanging out with them in 1998) lasted all of a cup of coffee and ended, along with his career, at the hands of Goldberg and his superkick of death. I always thought it was ironic that the superkick was the move that ended Bret's career. Anyway, I have no doubt that Bret would have been a huge part of the NWO and WCW had his career continued, but it didn't, so we'll have to compromise on the grade a bit.
Thanks to a timely falling out with WWF management, Jarrett jumped ship to WCW at the same time his great buddy Vince Russo took over the book, and as a result he was put in the NWO almost immediately and given the Barry Windham role as US Champion to Bret Hart's Ric Flair. It's too bad that NWO 2000 fell apart as quickly as it did, because I think that this was the most appropriate role for Jarrett, definitely better than doing something stupid like making him World Champion. Unfortunately, as soon as the NWO ended this is exactly what was done, and he's never looked back. Next time you think about that kick by Goldberg, just remember that it was because of that kick that Jarrett got to be World Champion and thank him for it. As if we didn't already have enough reasons to hate the motherfucker.
Ron & Don Harris
These guys were here for exactly one reason: as a favor to Jeff Jarrett by his Bookin' Buddy Vince Russo. When the rest of the 2000 members disappeared and it was just Jarrett and the Harrises, everybody knew it was the end of the road. To this day, I don't even like thinking of these two as being members of the NWO, but it happened, so let's just accept it and move on.
The B-Team (Stevie Ray, Horace Hogan, Vincent, Scott Norton, Brian Adams
If it weren't for the fact that they were the second-tier players to the more important guys after the 1999 reunion, they'd all be lumped in with the NWO jobbers (next section). As Scott Keith once put it, I think that Vincent's entire purpose in life was to stand on the ring apron making hand gestures. Instead of doing what people expected and feuding with his brother, Stevie Ray was put in the NWO and forgotten about. Horace and Adams were the guys who showed up at the party and then slept on the couch for the next three months. Norton might have meant something in Japan, but in the US he was just Stevie Ray's bitch. The Adventures Of The NWO B-Team was a very entertaining series, but that was the only good thing to come out of this subgroup.
The Jobbers (Big Bubba Rogers, The Disciple, VK Wallstreet, NWO Sting)
These are the kinds of guys that people would always have in mind when complaining that the concept of the NWO was diluted by letting lower-level guys into the group. None of them added anything, and if anything may have done the opposite. The group was downright feared when it was just Hall, Nash, and Hogan attacking everybody backstage, but does anybody fear VK Wallstreet? These are the guys who were just there for Sting and, later, Goldberg to beat up while the main players made their escape. They all contributed exactly zero, and were probably happy just to be getting a paycheck.
The Non-Wrestlers (Ted Dibiase, Rick Rude, Eric Bischoff, Nick Patrick, Dusty Rhodes)
You would think that having names like these in the group would add some kind of legitimacy, but the truth is that outside of Bischoff, none of them meant anything to the group. Every one of them just stood there without saying a word while Hogan would ramble on for what seemed like hours. The evil referee angle that brought Nick Patrick into the group was an interesting one, but once he was exposed as the "NWO referee", there was no intrigue left to the character and he just became another face in the crowd, and that crowd was getting quite large by that point. Eric Bischoff, as President of WCW, was an important character to have in the NWO and was often viewed as the second in command after Hogan, but he was alone in this group in meaning anything, and if I didn't know better, I would think the others just had jobs because somebody liked them and wanted to give them a paycheck. All of them would have probably contributed more to the NWO by getting beaten down by them instead of joining them.
Grade: D (and that's just for Bischoff)
* * *
When you break it down like this, it's pretty clear that once you got outside of the top six guys and the NWO 2000 members, the NWO really was filled with a lot of dead weight. WCW probably realized this and tried to fix it with the 1999 reunion and then the NWO 2000 remix, but the damage was done by that point and other factors killed those groups before they even got going. Then again, there's a line of thinking that the whole angle dragged on way longer than it should have and would have probably gotten diluted even without all the nobodies cluttering the party. In fact, you can draw a pretty good parallel to the Horsemen and say that once you get past the original members, it changes the dynamic just enough that it just isn't the same.