The story of Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall coming together to create the N.W.O (New World Order) and change the course of wrestling history as we know it (both in the ring and outside) has been well documented and well covered. Hogan turning heel and revealing himself as the mystery third man on July 7, 1996 at the Bash at the Beach pay-per-view show rattled the wrestling world and instantly turned him from wrestling’s beloved babyface into the most hated villain. The mystery and chaos created by Hall and Nash, also known as ‘The Outsiders’, in the preceding weeks was so well planned and crafted that it is STILL talked about and reveled in today, 26 years later.
Eric Bischoff, President of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) at the time came up with this brilliant idea and deserves a good amount of credit, for sure. He deserves credit for the idea and for the selection of the wrestlers chosen. The timing lined up as both Hall and Nash had expiring contracts with WWE (WWF at the time). Their contracts expired one week apart, with Hall being first. Nash was size and power and while not the most skilled nor technical wrestler, he was a good talker and constantly delivered good promos. Hall was the more polished wrestler, both in the ring and on the mic. To this day Hall is credited by many as being one of the smartest minds in the business. The effectiveness of this Invasion Angle would not have worked if Hall did not elicit the reaction he did from his very first appearance on Monday Nitro.
So how would one go about recreating the impact that this storyline had? Truth is it would almost be impossible. The internet and social media have no doubt changed how wrestling (and all sports) is covered. With ‘dirt sheets’ and the many wrestling websites available nowadays, contracts expiring and wrestlers signing with a different promotion would be known way before the wrestler sets foot in the new promotion’s ring. With ‘inside sources’ providing info and 90 day no-compete clauses in some cases, it’s almost unforeseeable to catch the majority of fans off-guard. Also, let’s not forget that in today’s world, just about everyone knows that wrestling is scripted and that one couldn’t just show up at a rival’s promotion without anyone knowing. While not impossible, it’s highly unlikely to work today. But for the sake of this article, let’s go back to the days of kayfabe, where what you saw on television was real and true. Which wrestlers of today could we use to recreate that NWO Impact. Who would be the Hall and Nash? Who would be the mystery 3rd man that shocks the wrestling world?
These would be my picks: Seth Rollins, John Cena, and Roman Reigns
Picture this… it’s Wednesday night, AEW (All Elite Wrestling) Dynamite is airing on TBS. Just as they’re coming back from a commercial break you see Seth Rollins coming through the crowd, working his way to the ring. We’ll skip Hall’s initial all-denim look (it worked back then, somewhat, it wouldn’t work now, thankfully), but Seth Rollins and Scott Hall compare in many ways. Both are great in-ring wrestlers, both can brawl or get technical, both can deliver on the microphone, and both have their own style. More importantly, both are natural heels. They make you hate them so much, that you end up liking them and will happily “boo” them (not so easy to do). Rollins showing up in an AEW ring would be just as shocking as when Hall did it in WCW.
Let’s get to the big man! Roman Reigns following Seth to spear AEW President Tony Khan in the middle of the ring would match when Kevin Nash delivered a powerbomb to Eric Bischoff. With Reigns and Rollins being former members of the SHIELD faction (more on this later), you have that instant association, that instant connection as when you paired Hall with Nash. Choosing this 2nd wrestler is not a throw away. Imagine Bobby Lashley or Drew McIntyre being the 2nd man; both are great wrestlers that make a good team with Seth, but they would not have the same impact as if it was Roman.
Time to talk John Cena! It should not come as a surprise that I’m picking Cena as the 3rd man. In fact, many might consider him the boring choice as it’s too obvious. And that’s true, John Cena would be the obvious (and maybe only) choice. That said, think of the impact. The ultimate babyface, the ultimate WWE product, the former Blue-Chipper and Doctor of Thug-a-nomics, the Make-A-Wish Foundation darling, Cena turning his back on his fans and appearing in an AEW ring would deliver shock value. Cena trading in his ‘Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect’ mantra would be like Hogan trading in his “say your prayers and eat your vitamins” schtick.
Going back to the SHIELD… with Jon Moxley currently in AEW, this PERFECTLY lends itself to replaying the STING aspect of the angle, where they teased that fan favorite wrestler Sting was turning his back on WCW and joining Hall and Nash. With Moxley’s (aka Dean Ambrose) instant connection to Rollins and Reigns from their Shield days, Tony Khan can go nuts and capitalize on this. The other fun aspect here is choosing who steps up to challenge this new trio trying to take over AEW. Imagine MJF (wherever he may be) having to team with Wardlow, Kenny Omega, and/or Cowboy Adam Page, or Chris Jericho forming a temporary alliance with Eddie Kingston and Miro… the possibilities are endless.
There you have it. In this writer’s humble opinion, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and John Cena would be the three wrestlers I choose to go ‘invade AEW’. These three would have the star power needed to be able to match Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan forming the NWO. We’ll never get to see it happen, but I’m going to enjoy this What If scenario.
Stay tuned for Part II of this article, where I talk about how I would book a takeover/invasion angle in today’s wrestling world.