Hulk Hogan. Kevin Nash. Scott Hall. X-Pac. New. World. Order.
The NWO was a lot of fun while it lasted, and at one time was the hottest thing going in professional wrestling. The faction brought about some memorable and iconic moments but we have to admit that it led to a few weird and questionable decisions along the way. Famed for their brash, arrogant and disrespectful actions, the four men ran roughshot over WCW, and eventually WWE, for the better part of their careers.
The New World Order is in many ways synonymous with WCW. The group dominated the top of the card for over two years during WCW’s hottest and most important period, in addition to infiltrating the lower ranks of the company as the group expanded to include every Tom, Dick and Harry you can think of. When we take a step back and try to pinpoint what creative decisions helped WCW over the hump to being a legitimate competitor to WWE - and quite arguably winning the war for a sustained period of time - the nWo is almost always the answer. Sure they had other top acts like Sting, Diamond Dallas Page, and Goldberg who all got over, but they all benefited more from their rivalries with the group than anything else they did within those hallowed walls of WCW.
Nonetheless, the nWo had a very different run in WWE - less celebrated, but still featured for over a year coming out of the Invasion angle. The group has been subject to its fair share of reunions on WWE television, bringing us right up to the four men being inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame 2020. Now seems like as good a time as any to take a look back at the best and worst moments from the groups time in WWE.
Best: The Initial Reveal
After The InVasion, Ric Flair was revealed as the new co-owner of WWE alongside Vince McMahon. The odd couple dynamic of two wacky business partners who don’t get along angle followed, but, with McMahon’s back to the wall, he looked to do something dramatic. In his own words, he meant to kill WWE, and so he turned to his old enemy - The nWo.
McMahon turning around his chair to reveal the iconic nWo logo was a fun and legitimately surprising moment. The key reason that the inotial Invasion angle fell flat was the absence of most of WCW’s top stars. The mid card talent gave it their best shot but simply couldn't match the star power that the NWO brought to the table. Vince's reveal signaled that Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall were on their way to the company, and with them the possibility of a number of dream matches, some of which we eventually got witness.
Worst: Scott Hall Fired
Scott Hall is one of the most polarizing figures we've ever seen in professional wrestling, but he can accredited as being the single star that initially launched the New World Order when he made his surprise debut on Monday Nitro fresh off of his Razor Ramon run in WWE. So an nWo without Hall was almost impossible to envisage, and that’s what WWE was faced with when the group “fired” him for dropping the ball too many times.
The reality is that Hall had asked for his release from WWE to deal with the many personal issues and demons plaguing him. Nonetheless, Hall being admonished from the group felt like a big blow and a signal that the faction would never come close to recapturing its WCW glory.
Best: Backing Sting
This was an absolutely beautiful moment that still give some goosebumps when I watch it back. One of the reasons that the nWo got so explosively over in the 1990s was the element of surprise around the group. For one night in 2015, Hollywood Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash gave us a reminder of that magic when they made a surprise run-in at WrestleMania 31 to have Sting’s back against Triple H and DX.
There were some glaringly obvious logical issues to overcome in the nWo supporting their most famous rival but the moment nonetheless cashed in on nostalgia for the Monday Night War. Seeing the group go back to their roots, seemingly still at war with the WWE, was a once in a lifetime moment. Moreover, the moment of their arrival electrified the crowd, going a long way toward taking a lukewarm Sting vs Triple H match and giving it the energy of a WrestleMania classic. The match was on its knees, but the arrival of both the NWO and DX would breath new life during the home stretch and give us a moment we will likely never forget.
Worst: Nash Tears His Quad
Kevin Nash is a legitimate bad-ass giant, and it’s to be expected that he’d struggle with his health in the latter stages of his full-time wrestling career. The same can be said for Andre The Goants and The Big Show after all. Unfortunately for Nash, his run with WWE as part of the nWo was largely hampered by injuries. One of the biggest letdowns of all for him and the group came fresh off of his return from a bicep injury. Seconds into his first match back he tore his quad.
With Hulk Hogan already having left the group and turned face in the wake of his legendary battle with The Rock, and Scott Hall out of the company altogether, Nash getting put on the shelf long term may well have been the final death knell of the nWo’s WWE run.
Best: Rock Vs. Hogan
WrestleMania 18 was a fantastic PPV overall, but it will forever be best remembered for one match: The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan. This match felt intergenerational for WWE’s top star of the 1980s clashing with one of the tip-top stars of the 1990s, in addition to the Interbrand feel of top stars from WWE and WCW during the Monday Night War era clashing in front of a stadium crowd.
It was more than just the Icon vs Icon match that it was billed as. It was the man responsible for WWE's rise into the mainstream during the 80's vs one of the two men, alongside Stone Cold Steve Austin, who catapulted WWE into it's most popular and successful era. It was two of the men on professional wrestlings Mt. Rushmore going head to head.
With an electric crowd and Hogan and Rock each playing their parts to perfection, the match way over-delivered and eradicated any doubts around Hogan's ability to go against a top guy. The match arrived at instant classic status and it was by far the best-received bout for an nWo member in WWE.
Worst: Stone Cold Vs. Scott Hall
While The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan stole the show at WrestleMania 18, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall felt underwhelming. Despite similar components casting WWE vs. WCW, and WWE’s past vs its present, the bout was just mediocre. A lot of that comes down to it being hard to buy Hall standing a chance against one of WWE’s biggest stars. Hogan beating The Rock? Sure, you could buy into that purely because of who Hulk Hogan is. But Hall? Not even close. Additionally, Austin himself has spoken in a multitude of interviews about his resentment at essentially being saddled with a mid-card match, something he had never really been accustomed to over the years.
The nWo’s arrival had offered up so many dream matches, but this one revealed itself to be a nightmare rather than a dream. The limitations of mixing and matching stars from different eras and styles doesn't always work, and finding spots to keep WWE’s most important talents happy meant this one was doomed from the start.
Best: Announcing Booker T’s Membership
One of the hallmarks of the New World Order in its prime was an ability to create chaos and genuinely unpredictable situations. Another hallmark, and one often mocked by wrestling fans, was the groups penchant for hiring 90% of all active wrestlers in the world at the time. Okay so that's a slightly exaggeration, but the nWo had over 40 members through its tenure.
The group may not have had a better acquisition in its historical run than tbe moment where they announced Booker T was joining the ranks. Booker was an extremely surprising addition considering his mid card status at the time. What made this addition so good was how he expressed his own personal surprise at the announcement, with all indications that the group didn’t ask but rather told him to join and assumed he would want to.
This choice gave a spotlight to a seriously underrated talent, and more importantly set up a layer of intrigue and internal conflict from the beginning while also putting in motion the hilarious secondary story of Goldust trying to join the group to reunite with his tag team partner.
Worst: Putting Over Brock Lesnar
The New World Order made a one-night return in honor of Hulk Hogan’s birthday celebration on Raw. It was a fun, if toothless, nostalgic appearance... until 'The Beast Incarnate' Brock Lesnar crashed the party.
Lesnar was coming hot off the heels of ending The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania and was about to challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2014. On one hand, it made total sense to essentially feed the nWo to Lesnar, making him look as strong as ever, in the lead up to him winning the title in a similar fashion. On the other hand, seeing this once mighty group decimated by a single performer, only for Cena to step up and defend them neutered any credibility the New World Order still had.
The nWo were a pack of feral animals, going about business however they wanted with little regard for a body else. Having somebody like John Cena, the ultimate babyface, come to their rescue was a bizarre choice.
Best: HBK Kicks Out Booker T
In what would be one of the last major turns of the New World Order’s story in WWE, they announced the GOAT Shawn Michaels as their latest member. HBK not only took his place within the group, but he immediately signalled that he was the new top dog by hitting Sweet Chin Music on Booker T to send him packing.
The nWo didn’t last much longer in WWE, between a real-life injury to Kevin Nash and Michaels transitioning to a full time in ring return and program with Triple H. Nonetheless, the addition of somebody with the resume of HBK gave us the sense that the group was trying to trim the fat to re-elevate itself back to the big time. This move was a throwback to the elite version of the nWo, and once again sparked interest and demonstrated that the faction still had potential.
Worst: Vince McMahon Announces It’s Over
It seems fitting to end on this one.The New World Order should have gone out with a bang, whether that be an implosion of the talent involved or a loss to another big faction. What in fact happened was rather unsatisfying. The nWo simply dissolved and fizzled away because of their lengthy injury list and there just not being enough interest in the group anymore.
Vince McMahon took the mic to announce the group was done. They didn't get to bow out on their own terms, no swansong, no huge moment. The once passionately anti-authority group that answered to no one was put out to pasture by wrestling’s biggest authority figure of all time.
In fairness, it was probably the best thing for the nWo to call it quits while they could still walk unaided. With so few of the original members left and Kevin Nash constantly picking up injuries, the group had lost what made it so special. It was the right time to disband, before the great memories and moments became further tarnished.
Nonetheless, it was an underwhelming and disappointing ending for one of the most important and influential groups we have ever seen. Their legacy will never be forgotten, and their place within the WWE HOF is well deserved.