Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happy Anniversary, New World Order

A moment that will live in infamy
Screen Grab Credit: Mike Bridenstine
Fifteen years ago today, arguably the most important angle in wrestling history took place at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, FL. WCW's Bash at the Beach pay-per-view event saw the official formation of the New World Order, the "invading" faction of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan, at the expense of Lex Luger, Sting and (who else) Randy Savage. Eric Gargiulo has a comprehensive recap of the actual event and the months leading up to it at the Camel Clutch Blog. For a guy who bungled a lot of other stuff in the following years and even decades, Eric Bischoff really got it right here. Just reading that article reinforces that, as even now, I got goosebumps just reading the transcript of Hogan's promo after the turn.

Of course, Bischoff couldn't follow up on this moment in the long term, which is why WCW no longer exists as an independent entity today. Since I write about those transgressions a lot, I'm going to pass now and instead focus on the influence of this singular moment in time. Within the wrestling industry, you could argue that this was perhaps the most influential moment ever. There were so many elements at play here that have been attempted to be aped by any wrestling company. You have the top draw in wrestling history to that point turning against the fans. It was a ballsy move, even if Hogan's welcome in WCW was wearing thin by that time.

It was also the moment where WCW truly went national. Like Gargiulo wrote in his recap, until 1994, WCW was really only national in name only, as it was still more or less a "Southern" promotion. When they went out and got Hogan, Savage, Bobby Heenan, Gene Okerlund and recouped Ric Flair and Luger, the company really put the full court press on trying to expand its reach. It wasn't until BatB '96 when they had their huge moment. It was at a perfect time too, as the WWF was at a crossroads. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart had taken them as far as they could, and while the wheels were turning on Steve Austin, who had just won King of the Ring, it'd be a few months before his run would get started in earnest.

I think the most influential part of this event though was Hogan's promo at the end. It really was one of the first legit teases of breaking the fourth wall that I can remember happening at that level. Obviously, ECW had guys potshotting WWF and WCW, but they were still in the underground. The newly minted invaders had a national stage. Hogan was liberally referring to the company "up North" and talking about money and other things that guys didn't talk about back then on pay-per-view or nationally-broadcast cable TV.

The event even has had mainstream implications. Any time there's a betrayal or anything that the media likes to purport as betrayal, someone, somewhere is comparing it to Hogan's turn. The most recent example was last year, when LeBron James made the hideously misinformed decision to announce his intentions of signing with the Heat on ESPN. No sooner did he say "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" then did the comparisons to Hogan dropping the leg on Savage begin. They were a propos too, but only if you consider the fans of Cleveland to be WCW and not the Cavs organization. However, that's a whole other blog for a whole other blogger to tackle.

However, I think the lasting implication, at least for today and for future anniversaries, is that damn, it's been 15 years already? Fuck, I feel old. Seriously, while it does feel like it has taken place a long time ago (unlike 2000-01 WWF, which I feel is still fresh in my mind for whatever reason), it still is staggering to think that babies born on today's date in 1996 are in the middle of high school. And to see Hogan staggering around the Impact Zone, a shell of his former self, only hammers that point home harder. (And that's not even putting into context how the other players are faring from that night...)

Still, even for as much as the wrestling industry has changed in 15 years, it's still cool to look back on the dates that mattered. July 7, 1996 may have been the date that mattered most, regardless of how badly Bischoff and his cronies paid it off (or in a sense never paid it off).

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