July 7th, 1996.
WCW Bash at the Beach saw the company sending in three of its top Superstars to battle The Outsiders, who seemingly were sent by the competition to destroy WCW. The main event of the night featured Sting, Lex Luger, and Randy Savage taking on Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, with the heels stating that although the third member was in the building, the duo was capable of defeating the babyfaces without his help.
During the closing moments of the match, Hulk Hogan came down to the ring amidst a sea of cheers, which soon died down as Hogan joined forced with Hall and Nash in possibly the greatest heel turn of all time. Today, this incredibly important moment completes 23 years, so let's take a stroll down memory lane and see how it changed pro-wrestling forever.
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#5 Hogan's waning career was revived
By the mid-90s, Hulk Hogan wasn't the megastar he once used to be. The 80s saw Hogan get featured in the first 9 WrestleMania main events in some capacity, and he became the biggest Superstar in pro-wrestling. As the 90s kicked off, Vince began looking for a young gun to replace Hogan, and after several failed attempts like Lex Luger and Warrior, he chose to go with Bret Hart.
Hogan went to WCW, but the aura of the American hero was fading at a rapid pace. After multiple attempts at convincing Hogan to go ahead with the heel turn, Eric Bischoff succeeded. Hogan turned heel and his popularity suddenly skyrocketed again, with his heel persona becoming a hit with the new generation of fans.
#4 nWo hogged the spotlight for years
Not everything was right with the formation of nWo. With Hogan becoming a top star again, the nWo began taking over the main event scene, with top members of the faction getting featured in high-profile matches on a regular basis. WCW didn't pay heed on creating new stars who would take the helm upon nWo's demise.
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Incredibly talented athletes like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Booker T, and many more never got a chance to break out of the mid-card and showcase their skills as main event stars. The majority of these Superstars left for WWE, one after the other. By the late 90s, WCW realized its mistake and began pushing young wrestlers, but it was too late at that point of time. The group that was responsible for turning WCW into a top wrestling corporation, was also the reason why WCW died a slow death.
#3 It forced Vince McMahon to drastically change his product
The mid-90s was a terrible time to be a WWE fan. The watered down product was not helping the company, and fans were walking away in droves. The lowest point of this era came at SummerSlam 1995 when Diesel met King Mabel in the main event of the night, resulting in one of the worst matches in the company's history.
nWo's arrival made matters worse for Vince McMahon, and he finally decided to tweak his product to tend to the modern wrestling fans who were getting tired of the same old formula of clear-cut babyfaces and heels. In one of the most iconic segments of all time, Vince McMahon addressed WWE fans in a backstage promo, stating that the WWE product was about to get a massive overhaul. Thus, the Attitude Era came into being.
#2 Megastars like Steve Austin and The Rock were born
It's interesting to think what would have become of globally recognized Superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock if Hogan had never turned heel.
When Vince McMahon decided to change the creative direction of his product, one thing that he focused on was to create new stars who would carry the WWE into the new millennium. One of the most cringe-worthy characters of the time, Rocky Maivia, got repackaged as The Rock. The Ringmaster, on the other hand, was given the gimmick of a no-nonsense anti-hero named Stone Cold Steve Austin.
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The characters took off in a way no one had ever imagined. Austin still holds the record of selling the most number of T-shirts, with his "Austin 3:16" T-shirt becoming an instant hit with the fans. The Rock is now one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. Would these two have had this kind of success had it not been for the nWo? It's certainly an interesting topic for discussion.
#1 Pro-wrestling became cool again
Professional wrestling witnessed a boom period in the 80s, with the Rock 'N' Wrestling Connection in full swing. By the mid-90s, fans were tired of WWE's product and ridiculous characters like The Gobbledy Gooker and Nailz. WCW wasn't doing any better, as Hogan's superstardom had died down and his babyface persona wasn't working with the fans. His heel turn kicked off a chain of events that made pro-wrestling fun to watch again.
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For the next three years, both companies battled in a rating war, famously dubbed as "The Monday Night War", with both Bischoff and McMahon trying to come up with exciting storylines and intriguing matches to bring in the fans to watch the shows. This resulted in Raw and Nitro garnering millions of viewers on a weekly basis. Suddenly, wrestling had become cool again!