25 Years Of The New World Order: What Could Have Been

July 7th, 1996 is a day that will live on forever in professional wrestling. A day that will go down as the day that WCW and Hulk Hogan  shocked the world by turning heel and forming the New World Order alongside Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. I was 10 at the time and could not fathom a world where Hulk Hogan wasn’t wearing red and yellow and talking about saying your prayers and eating your vitamins. Yet, here we were. It is a moment that still gives fans goosebumps even today, unlike anything that had ever been done before or since in professional wrestling. The nWo will go down as the single most influential faction in history. People may talk about The Four Horsemen and D-Generation X, but you still see dozens of nWo shirts in the crowds at wrestling events 25 years after they were formed. I haven’t seen other modern day factions try to model themselves after DX. The nWo was a once in a lifetime, lightning in a bottle that may never be seen again. It split and spawned multiple incarnations in the Wolfpac and the infamous nWo 2000. There are even hints of it today with The Bullet Club as far as the colors and even the hand sign.

However, as great as the nWo was for the business, it may have been a driving force in to the death of World Championship Wrestling. The nWo, in its initial incarnation, ran WCW from July of 1996 until roughly the end of 1998. It was a ratings juggernaut for Eric Bischoff and company, and a major reason WCW Nitro defeated WWF Raw in the ratings for 83 consecutive weeks. Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Randy Savage, Scott Steiner, you name it. They were all apart of the New World Order. The one criticism that the nWo rightfully gets is that nobody ended the nWo. There were some good talent pushed as a result of the nWo. Diamond Dallas Page finally found himself as a result. Sting had what was probably the best angle of his career against Hulk Hogan. Bill Goldberg was lighting the world on fire going against the band of rebels. Yet, nobody put the nail in the nWo coffin. They never got what was coming to them. They split off in to two groups and just dissolved with no resolution. As great as the nWo was, there are moments you can point to and say that was the catalyst for the mismanagement of the entire angle.

STARRCADE 1997

Starrcade 1997 was the most anticipated match in years in WCW. The match was the culmination of a year long build. Sting and Hogan had essentially been building to this moment ever since the day the New World Order formed in July of 1996. From the Fake Sting, to adopting the crow character, to going a full year without speaking or wrestling a match. It was a masterfully booked angle that could never be done today. All of the signs were there for Sting to be the one who took down the nWo. Having Sting soundly and cleanly defeat Hulk Hogan here could’ve been the trigger that signaled the end of the New World Order. Instead, it wasn’t. Apparently, some backstage issues came in to play resulting in the bogus finish that we saw where they tried to recreate the Montreal Screwjob and Bret Hart got involved. It was a convoluted mess that resulted in Sting capturing the WCW World Heavyweight Title but not nearly being the biggest moment that it could have been. This booking blunder was made worst when JJ Dillon stripped Sting of the World Title on Thunder in 1998 after a rematch between Sting and Hogan ended in a no contest. The solution was yanother match between Sting and Hulk Hogan at Superbrawl in 1998 for the vacant WCW Championship. WCW essentially went a month and a half without a World Champion.

Of course, Sting won the title at Superbrawl 1998 after another convoluted finish that became a staple in this era of WCW, but the moment wasn’t nearly as impactful as it would have been had it happened cleanly at Starrcade 1997. As great as the nWo was, it had a shelf life. Like everything else, there was only a certain amount of time before you had to wonder when the end was coming. It should have started at Starrcade 1997. Instead, it just further drove a wedge between what WCW wanted and what the fans wanted.

DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE

Diamond Dallas Page was a man without a gimmick for the early part of his career. He would come out in a fur coat, smoking a cigar, basically doing everything he can to actually get a reaction out of the crowd. Then, the babyface turn happened and he got in the crosshairs of the nWo. Randy Savage and DDP had an epic feud as part of this WCW vs nWo rivalry. If you ask Page, it’s probably the feud that put him on the map as a major player in WCW. The problem is, the follow up was horrible. DDP could have been another guy to dethrone Hulk Hogan. There wasn’t a move more popular than the Diamond Cutter in 1997 and 1998. DDP had gotten that move over more than himself. However, he never won the World Title from Hogan. He didn’t win his first WCW Title until Spring Stampede 1999. He then almost immediately turned heel before losing the title to a babyface Kevin Nash a month later at Slamboree. DDP was one of those softballs that was there for WCW to knock out of the park and instead, they fumbled the hand off.

TOO MANY MEMBERS

The nWo was a force with Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan. Even The Giant made sense. Eric Bischoff joining also made sense from the aspect of nWo we know how they have been getting in to the buildings. Once they started adding guys like Buff Bagwell, Vincent, and Stevie Ray, that’s when it became clear that the nWo we loved was no more. The reasoning, according to Eric Bischoff himself, was that they planned on splitting the two groups up in to WCW and nWo shows. Obviously, that didn’t happen which resulted in the nWo Wolfpac and nWo Hollywood being formed which was essentially in end. You had Horace Hogan and Stevie Ray as your main foot soldiers in nWo Hollywood. Lex Luger joined The Wolfpac after being one of the nWo’s main adversaries since day one. Then Sting joined The Wolfpac which officially made it a parody since Sting was the main guy in the fight against The New World Order. Now, he’s joining the babyface version? It made no sense and further killed what was a once great faction.

Bill Goldberg

I was there, in the building, the night Goldberg faced Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Title at the Georgia dome in Atlanta in 1998. As a twelve year old kid, I don’t think I have ever heard a building as loud before or since as they were when Goldberg lifted Hogan up for that Jackhammer. It was the moment that Sting should have gotten at Starrcade the year prior. It made Goldberg into a huge star almost overnight. it was a great moment even if it was on Nitro instead of a pay-per-view. The problem, as was often the case in this era, was the follow up. Goldberg immediately defended the WCW World Title at Bash at the Beach. Not against Hulk Hogan but against Curt Hennig. No offense to Curt, but at this stage of his career, he was not a World Title contender. Of course it wasn’t the main event either, as that spot still belonged to Hulk Hogan. Goldberg’s entire reign as WCW Champion was one mistake after another. Goldberg and Hulk Hogan never had a follow up match on pay-per-view which should have been automatic based on the response of their first march.

Goldberg won an nWo battleroyal at Road Wild that wasn’t the main event (Hogan got that spot as well) and Goldberg didn’t even compete at Fall Brawl. Goldberg finally got his main event against Diamond Dallas Page at Halloween Havoc 1998, three months into his championship reign, in what was Goldberg’s best match of his WCW Title run and probably his WCW run in general. It was a great match that was immediately followed up by Goldberg not being on the following month’s pay-per-view, World War 3. In both pay-per-view events he’s missed, there were number one contender stipulations that determined his next opponents.

So, naturally, Goldberg lost the WCW Championship the following month at Starrcade 1998 that continued the trend of bogus Starrcade finishes and ended Goldberg’s undefeated streak in the process. So, Goldberg was WCW Champion for six months, main evented two pay-per-views (losing his last one) and didn’t even compete on two pay-per-view events as WCW Champion. That, combined with the fact there was zero follow up to the Hulk Hogan match, made this probably the most mismanaged angle in WCW history. Goldberg was a slam dunk for WCW and he was never the same after his loss to Kevin Nash at Starrcade. Whenever you start to wonder what went wrong and why World Championship Wrestling went out of business, you can put Goldberg’s entire six month reign as WCW Champion near the top of the list. He could’ve spent those six months running through the nWo’s powerhouses like Hogan, Hall, Nash. Instead, he got Curt Hennig and a mini-angle with a young Chris Jericho.

NO RESOLUTION

Finally, the nWo also suffered from the fact that there was no resolution to the story. As if Kevin Nash defeating Goldberg at Starrcade ’98 wasn’t bad enough, there was the Fingerpoke of Doom on the January ’99 edition of Nitro where Kevin Nash dropped the World Title to Hulk Hogan after they conspired to have Goldberg arrested earlier in the night. Again, no pay off for Goldberg. 1999 was a huge mess for the nWo. The resolution to the nWo was the fighting within and then reuniting and then just slowly disbanding. It was the end of a three year angle that started hot and ended weak. It could’ve been Sting, Lex Luger, DDP, or Goldberg who finally took down the New World Order. Instead, they just took it down from within. A huge mistake in WCW’s history.

The nWo single-handedly catapulted the greatest era in professional wrestling, yet it also had a huge hand in eventually killing WCW. What could have been a great launching point for so many stars ended up as just a vehicle to speed up WCW’s demise. The nWo’s impact is still being seen and felt to this very day more than any other faction in the history of the business. The New World Order will go down as one of the greatest “What Ifs” in Professional Wrestling history. What was your favorite nWo moment? Do you feel the end of the nWo was a missed opportunity or are you happy with how things ended? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

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