This morning, I woke up and grabbed my smartphone to shut off my alarm clock. The screen was full of the same headline - "The nWo to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame." Immediately, my mind began to flood with memories of the influential WCW faction from my youth (well, after, you know, "is my kid awake?", "do I have coffee?", "are they shutting my power off today?" - the usual).
WWE.com announced this morning (although apparently both People and ESPN beat them to it, somehow) that along with former multi-time WWE Champion and big-shot movie star Batista, the original three members of the New World Order - 'Hollywood' Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall - as well as "Syxx/X-Pac" Sean Waltman (who already has a ring for his induction with Degeneration X) will be inducted into the hallowed and technically physically non-existent halls of WWE's Hall Of Fame.
So, I put together a list of five of the nWo's (you are legally required to write it like that) most memorable moments in both their WCW and WWE incarnations. Don't worry, there's only one WWE entry.
These may not be moments that the group themselves would like to remember, but they're moments that we will always remember - especially old guys like me that were around to watch them when they happened.
So, let's get started.
#5 The nWo debut in WWE
WWE's usage of former WCW stars following their purchase of their former rival has been, to but it generously, hit or miss over the years. Not that this was entirely their fault at first, what with most of WCW's biggest stars electing to let their contracts with AOL Time Warner pay them to stay home during the Invasion angle. But, eventually, those contracts ran out and those stars needed work.
On February 17th, 2002, the once unthinkable happened - Hogan, Hall. and Nash not only returned to WWE, but as the group once used as WCW's main weapon to put WWE out of business. The No Way Out (get it? No Way Out? NWO? OK, you get it, never mind) PPV opened with the faction's iconic theme music playing, TV screens switched to black and white, strobe lighting, and the three men headed to the ring, their intentions somewhat unknown.
As a group, the nWo didn't fare particularly well in WWE - although Hogan would go on to have a pretty memorable run, including a final run with the WWE Championship (trivia time: this would be the final reign of this championship before WWE switch from their previous name, the WWF). But, the moment of these three reappearing on WWE television was certainly a historic one.
#4 The "Fingerpoke of Doom"
Hey. I never said these would be good moments. Just memorable.
At the beginning of 1999, World Championship Wrestling was in a weird state. Kevin Nash was both WCW Champion - having defeated the until-then undefeated Goldberg at Starrcade the previous December - and leader of nWo Wolfpac, the babyface splinter group of the once villainous faction. Nash had won the title thanks to interference from his then-rival and former partner Scott Hall. Still playing the good guy, Nash offered Goldberg a rematch for the belt immediately during an episode of Nitro.
Because of storyline reasons way too stupid to get into right now, Goldberg wasn't able to make it for the match.
Meanwhile, the same month Nash won the title, his former stablemate "Hollywood" Hogan had announced his "retirement" from wrestling (and even declared he was running for President of the United States). However, he was in the building for that episode of Nitro, and Nash offered him Goldberg's spot in the match. Hogan accepted.
And then this happened...
This incident is often credited as the "beginning" of the end for WCW, especially considering that literally hundreds of thousands of viewers changed channels to WWE television to watch Mick Foley win the WWE Championship because WCW sarcastically told them it was going to happen. Ratings began to steadily drop following this episode and WCW never really recovered, eventually going out of business in 2001.
The New World Order may have been a major part of the reason that WCW overtook WWE in popularity in the late 90s - but it was also a major part of the reason why they lost that popularity. The "Fingerpoke of Doom" was a prime example of that.
#3 The Outsiders powerbomb Eric Bischoff off the stage
When both Scott Hall and Kevin Nash arrived in WCW (more on that in a bit), the implication was that they were still working for the World Wrestling Federation and "invading" their rivals. The now-WWE didn't quite care for this and sued the Ted Turner-owned wrestling promotion. So, at the Great American Bash 1996, WCW Executive Vice-President Eric Bischoff (you may have heard of him) directly asked the two if they were then-currently employed by the WWF. Both responded in the negative.
Now, during this particular point in wrestling history, WWF or WCW mentioning the other by name at all on TV was a rarity. Granted, the WWF had been running "Billionare Ted" "comedy" sketches blasting WCW, while Bischoff would give away WWF match results during Nitro, but refer to the company as the "World Whining Federation."
(Well, there was also this one time on WCW Saturday Night in 1992 when Randy Owen from the band Alabama asked him this question [skip to 0:45])
That's not the only reason this is memorable, however. For starters, it was the set-up for the epic six-man tag match for the following month's Bash at the Beach (more on that in a bit, as well).
Beyond that, it demonstrated what a dangerous force these "Outsiders" actually were. Whether he was portrayed as a WCW executive or Nitro's lead announcer, Bischoff was a non-wrestler and Hall and Nash attacked him without a second thought. That kind of brutality would carry on during the following months, before and after the nWo's official formation.
#2 Hall and Nash make their debuts
Technically, these are two moments, but it works.
Before May 27, 1996, when a wrestler was moving from one company to another, that performer would usually be repackaged, followed by weeks of videos hyping up their inevitable debut. At the very least, a significant amount of time passes before a performer leaves one brand an appears on another.
May 27, 1996 was eight days - eight days - after Hall's final WWF match (the infamous "Curtain Call" incident). The former Razor Ramon came to the ring through the crowd - establishing the fact that he wasn't supposed to be there, you guys! - told people they knew who he was (never actually saying his name because, yeah, we knew who he was) and that he was there to start a war with WCW.
The following week, he approached the commentary booth, where he was met by WCW stalwart Sting, and informed the former WCW Champion that he had a "big" surprise for him the following week.
That surprise was another former World Champion - Kevin Nash, aka Diesel.
Blurring the lines between behind-the-scenes reality and on-screen stories wasn't an unheard of concept at that point, but these two debuts took that line, put a foot down on it, and began to blur it as hard as it could.
#1 The Third Man
My apologies to any Orson Welles fans.
On July 7, 1996, at Bash at the Beach, the team of Sting, Lex Luger, and "Macho Man" Randy Savage took on the team of The Outsiders - Hall and Nash - and their mystery third partner. This partner would turn out to be none other than Hulk Hogan.
Oh, sorry. Spoiler alert.
Hogan would step out of the corner and hit Savage with his trademark leg drop, thus not only cementing him as the leader of the now-formed New World Order of WCW, but the company's top bad guy - something that would have been unimaginable just weeks - heck, days - earlier.
Even to this day, this might just be the most unexpected, shocking moment in the history of Professional Wrestling. Even the fans who were already booing the perennial babyface and his tired red-and-yellow shtick at WCW events across the country couldn't have seen this one coming.
When you think of WCW, chances are you think of the nWo. And when you think of the nWo, chances are you think of this moment.
What about you? What are your favorite nWo moments? Head on down to the comments section and share them with us and your fellow nWo-ites. Until then, remember to stay too sweeeeeeeet! *does finger gesture*