“All right. We have seen the end of Hulkamania. For Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, for Dusty Rhodes, for “Mean” Gene Okerlund, I don’t know…I’m Tony Schiavone. Hulk Hogan, you can go to hell! We’re outta here. Straight to hell.” With those words, World Championship Wrestling lead announcer Tony Schiavone somberly concluded Bash at the Beach 1996. This was the birth of the nWo.
The reason behind Schiavone’s impassioned damnation of Hulk Hogan is legendary. It was on this day 24 years ago that Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash formed the New World Order. It forever changed the landscape of professional wrestling. To fully understand the magnitude of Hulk Hogan’s actions that night, we need to go back two years. In the summer of 1994 Hulk Hogan, the longtime face of the WWF left the company for World Championship Wrestling.
To say the Ted Turner-owned company rolled out the red carpet would be an understatement. A parade was held, and the official announcement was made at Disney’s Universal Studios. It was a major moment in WCW’s storied history.
For nearly two years Hogan played the conquering hero. WCW quickly capitalized on the Hulkster persona that made him the biggest star in pro wrestling. However, as time went on the audience began to sour on being told to say their prayers and eat their vitamins.
Pro wrestling was on the cusp of an edgier attitude. It was something then WCW President Eric Bischoff could see on the horizon. With the desire to be the number one wrestling promotion in the world and the backing of Ted Turner’s deep financial pockets, Bischoff concocted a plan. This plan had three major components that led to WCW eventually supplanting the WWE as the number one wrestling promotion for a period.
The Birth of the nWo
Signing Scott Hall & Kevin Nash
By the start of 1996, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were two of the biggest stars in professional wrestling. During their time as Razor Ramon and Diesel in the WWE they had risen to the top of the company, the two were major components of the “New Generation”. Both men’s contracts were expiring and the thought of lighter schedules and more guaranteed money from the Turner backed WCW, were too enticing to ignore. Bringing in two of WWE’s biggest stars was a major coup for Eric Bischoff. The way Hall and Nash were presented to the WCW audience was an absolute game-changer.
The Birth of the nWo
You Want a War?
On the May 27, 1996, episode of WCW Monday Nitro, Scott Hall calmly walked through the crowd, hopped the guard rail, demanded a microphone, and entered a WCW ring. What proceeded was a declaration of war on WCW.
“You people, you know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here”
Watch the full promo below
The wrestling world was a buzz. Fans weren’t sure what was happening, with the former Razor Ramon shockingly arriving on WCW television. Later that episode Hall returned and warned that he was not alone and that his partner was coming soon. The announcers never addressed him by name, nor did they say if he was or was not from WWE. Something that only added to the intrigue.
Two weeks later Hall was joined by Kevin Nash on Monday Nitro and the invasion was officially started. Heading into the Great American Bash pay-per-view, WCW continued implying that these Outsiders could in fact be WWE invaders. Something the WWE took legal action against with a copyright infringement lawsuit for how Hall had been portrayed on WCW television.
To counteract this, Eric Bischoff bluntly asked Hall and Nash if they worked for WWE during the Great American Bash. Both men answered no before Nash put Bischoff through a table with a powerbomb from the entrance ramp.
By this time the main event for WCW’s July pay-per-view Bash at the Beach was set. It would be Hall and Nash along with their mystery partner, facing off against WCW defenders Lex Luger, Sting, and the Macho Man Randy Savage. That mystery partner would not only change WCW but all professional wrestling.
The Birth of the nWo
Hulk Hogan Joins the Dark Side
With the world of pro wrestling asking, “Who will be the third man?” Eric Bischoff needed someone that would not only shock the world but solidify the heel trio.
Initially, Bischoff wanted Sting to be the third man.
Using the longtime WCW diehard as the mystery partner would have been one of only a handful of choices that could have been as impactful as choosing Hogan.
But, as fate would have it, Bischoff’s conversation with Hogan a year after his initial idea to turn heel was turned down, changed everything.
Bischoff discussed this conversation during a Talk is Jericho podcast earlier this year on Chris Jericho’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Rager At Sea: Part Deux.
“I sit down, smoke a couple of Cuban cigars, my head spinning off my shoulders, I shoot a couple of beers, and he says, ‘who’s the third man going to be?’ I’m thinking, ‘well, I’m not going to tell him because then he’ll tell Jimmy Hart and Jimmy’ll tell everybody.’ So I said, ‘well, who do you think should be the third man?’ I went, ‘oh f–k, here we go again. I’m going back to Atlanta.’ He said, ‘you’re looking at him, brother.’ I went, ‘okay!’ Because he saw the momentum. He saw what was going on with Scott and Kevin.”
Listen to the full podcast here
The match plays out like your typical six-man tag, with Hall and Nash holding the advantage for most of the contest despite being outnumbered.
Holding off on the big reveal until the very end of the match was brilliant booking as the intrigue and suspense built to a crescendo. With Luger incapacitated, Sting reeling ringside and Savage left alone with Hall and Nash, Hulk Hogan emerges from the locker room.
Tony Schiavone and Dusty Rhodes on commentary sell the moment like their hero had finally arrived to save the day. However, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, a man with a turbulent history with Hogan, ponders “But whose side is he on?”
Side Note: It’s a small moment in the grand scheme of the heel turn, but Hogan’s actions bring some vindication to Heenan’s character.
A character whose long time claims that Hulk Hogan was a bad guy deep down inside finally came to fruition.
Hogan enters the ring and Hall and Nash scramble to the outside, with Savage down Hogan drops the most infamous leg drop of all time. Hall and Nash join Hogan in the ring and for good measure, he gives Savage a second leg drop. With the crowd and announcers in total dismay, Mean Gene Okerlund enters the ring to get to the bottom of such a nefarious display. With trash raining down from the crowd, Hogan gives an explanation of why he did what he did.
“Well, the first thing you’ve gotta realize brother is that this right here is the future of wrestling. You can call this the New World Order of wrestling brother. These two men came from a great big organization up north and everybody was wondering about who the third man was. Well, who knows more about that organization than me brother?”
Full Hogan promo below.
The gamble to turn Hogan heel and pair him with two of the hottest stars in the industry at the time paid off in spades for WCW. It was the greatest heel turn of all time. It was also an enormous factor in WCW’s 84-week win streak in the Monday Night Ratings War with WWE. Iconic moments happen in pro wrestling all the time but the formation of the New World Order could be the most iconic, brother. This was the birth of the nWo.