Today marks 20 years since the New World Order was officially formed when Hulk Hogan turned his back on the fans and joined up with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash at the 1996 Bash at the Beach. In the two decades since, there have been a number of incarnations of the group in both WCW and WWE and during that time, countless memorable moments involving the group.
For the purpose of this list, I will only consider moments that were predominately nWo moments. While Goldberg winning the title from Hollywood Hogan and The Rock vs. Hogan at WrestleMania X8 were big moments, they weren’t specifically nWo moments. The Top 20 moments in nWo history listed below take into account how memorable the event was and how big of an effect it had on the business, the group or those involved. When possible, I have provided video clips.
20. nWo Monday Nitro
About an hour into the December 22, 1997 episode of Monday Nitro, the nWo stormed the set and transformed the show into nWo Monday Nitro. The process must not have been well thought out as it took north of 20 minutes before the show finally got back on track.
Besides new banners and graphics, not much changed in terms of presentation for the remainder of the show. Kevin Nash, Eric Bischoff and Rick Rude took over on commentary, but that didn’t last long as towards the end of the show, Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan joined the commentary team with Rick Rude.
nWo Monday Nitro was apparently going to be a permanent change, with Thunder being WCW’s show, but likely due to the drop it ratings during the show, the idea was scrapped.
19. Rick Rude Joins the nWo
On November 17, 1997, Rick Rude appeared on both Raw and Nitro on the same night. This was made possible due to Raw being a taped show and Nitro being live.
Rude’s contract had lapsed and he decided to jump ship to WCW, joining up with the nWo. It was his disapproval of the Montreal Screwjob just 8 days prior that led to Rick Rude leaving the WWF.
Today, this is still talked about as one of the most shocking moments of the Monday Night Wars.
18. The Giant Joins the nWo
The Giant has joined and left the nWo on a number of occasions in the past, but the first time that he put on the black and white was the most impactful.
With the crowd expecting him to come to the aid of his fellow Dungeon of Doom compadres, The Giant shocked everyone by joining the nWo and attacking his former teammates.
Not only was The Giant the first active wrestler to join the nWo beyond the original three, but he was also the first WCW wrestler with no ties to the WWF to join. The Giant’s turn set the precedent that a pure WCW wrestler could join the dark side as well. Subsequently, it helped set the stage for the WCW locker room to start pointing fingers at one another, eventually leading to Sting being ousted and becoming the “Crow” character.
17. Shawn Michaels Joins the nWo
With the nWo already in shambles only a few months after entering WWE (Hall was fired, Hogan left the group and Nash struggling to stay healthy), Kevin Nash had no other option than to turn to a friend from his past to help revive the group. On the June 3, 2002 episode of Raw, Nash introduced the returning Shawn Michaels as the newest member of the nWo.
After WrestleMania 14, Shawn Michaels did not compete for over four years. While there had been constant talk about him returning to action during his hiatus, nothing ever materialized. With HBK joining up with the nWo, it was apparent that he would finally be making an in-ring return. While Michaels finally had his return match just 2 months later, it was unfortunately not as a member of the nWo, as the group disbanded just over a month after HBK’s arrival.
16. Kevin Nash Drops The Giant on His Head
A match between the two giants of WCW at Souled Out 1998 became known for the finish where Kevin Nash botched a powerbomb, seemingly breaking The Giant’s neck. In reality, The Giant was lucky to come out relatively unscathed, but WCW took the opportunity to turn the incident into an angle.
On the following episode of Monday Nitro, the powerbomb was banned indefinitely with the consequence for performing the move being an automatic DQ as well as a fine. The Giant ended up being sidelined for a couple of months, before returning to exact revenge on Kevin Nash. However, he was never able to earn a clean singles victory over Kevin Nash.
Kevin Nash claims that Hulk Hogan attempted to stir up trouble between the two big men as he allegedly approached The Giant after the incident, claiming that Nash purposely dropped him on his head. Nash claims that the fact that The Giant was wet from a coffee spot earlier in the match and was significantly heavier than the last time they attempted the move as the reasons why he was unable to perform the move properly.
15. Curt Hennig Joins the nWo
Upon entering WCW in 1997, Curt Hennig was immediately approached by the Four Horsemen. In the infamous promo (that was later parodied by the nWo), Arn Anderson offered Curt “his spot” in the Horsemen. After accepting the offer, Curt Hennig joined up with Chris Benoit, Ric Flair and Steve McMichael as Team Horsemen in the War Games Match against the nWo later that year.
At Fall Brawl 1997. Curt Hennig claimed to have a shoulder injury and thus entered last in the War Games Match. Once he finally entered, he shocked everyone by turning his back on the Four Horsemen, siding with the nWo. After threatening to slam the cage door on Ric Flair’s head, Curt Hennig was able to get Steve McMichael to surrender the match. However, Curt Hennig still went ahead and slammed the cage door on Flair’s head in brutal fashion.
14. Scott Steiner Joins the nWo
The Steiner Brothers had been together as a tag team for a decade until that all came to an end at SuperBrawl VIII in 1998. During a WCW World Tag Team Title Match with The Outsiders, Scott turned on his brother Rick, joining sides with the nWo and helping Hall and Nash get the win. This would prove to be the genesis for the Scott Steiner that we know today.
After joining the group, Scott Steiner underwent a total makeover, now bleaching his hair and part of his goatee in a similar fashion to “Superstar” Billy Graham. Scott also displayed a more brash attitude, speaking harshly and posing frequently in his matches.
Scott Steiner would remain with the nWo until 1999 and at one point even served as the leader of nWo Hollywood.
13. Hogan Runs a Truck into The Rock’s Ambulance
Upon entering WWE in 2002, the nWo immediately began targeting top stars such as Steve Austin and The Rock. The most memorable incident occurred on the February 18th episode of Monday Night Raw when the nWo locked The Rock inside of an ambulance and Hollywood Hogan then drove a semi truck into the side of the ambulance at full speed. This incident led to The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan’s infamous encounter at WrestleMania X8 a few weeks later.
Once WWE underwent the Brand Extension in March of 2002, Monday Night Raw received a new theme song and intro video which included a clip from this incident.
12. The nWo Arrives in WWE
Although the nWo’s first actual appearance in WWE at the 2002 No Way Out pay-per-view was somewhat underwhelming, the build-up to their arrival which featured a number of promos and references by Vince McMahon were memorable.
Following the conclusion of the Invasion angle, it was announced that Ric Flair was now 50% owner of the company (having bought the shares of both Stephanie and Shane). Vince McMahon could not live with this and in an attempt to kill off his own company, he decided to enlist the help of Hollywood Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash of the New World Order. This was revealed on the January 11th episode of SmackDown, when a sobbing Vince McMahon spun around in his chair to reveal the nWo logo, announcing that the group would soon be coming to WWE.
11. nWo Wolfpac
In mid-1998, the nWo started to suffer from dissension in the ranks with both Randy Savage and Kevin Nash having their grievances with Hollywood Hogan surrounding the WCW World Heavyweight Title. As both Savage and Nash pursued the gold, Hogan’s jealousy got the best of him as he took it as an affront to his leadership of the group.
Once Randy Savage (with help from Kevin Nash) became WCW World Heavyweight Champion at the 1998 Spring Stampede, it was apparent that the nWo as we knew it would no longer exist. The defecting Savage and Nash were soon joined by Konnan and new members such as Sting and Lex Luger to form the red and black version of the nWo: The Wolfpac.
10. The nWo Parodies the Four Horsemen
Before the DX parody of The Nation, there was the nWo’s parody of the Four Horsemen. Following the arrival of Curt Hennig to WCW and the Four Horsemen offering him a spot in the group, the nWo took it upon themselves to mock this heartfelt segment with one of the first full-on parodies in wrestling history.
With Kevin Nash as an overweight, drunk Arn Anderson, Buff Bagwell as the towel throwing Curt Hennig, Syxx as the uncontrollably crying Ric Flair and Konnan as the football spinning Steve McMichael, the nWo took a major dig at the Four Horsemen. While the Horsemen were reportedly cool with the representation of their characters at the time, Kevin Nash claims that Arn Anderson specifically took offense to his portrayal after the fact, due to others stirring the pot.
9. Dennis Rodman Joins the nWo
During the late-90s, not only was WCW at it’s peak in terms of popularity, but the Chicago Bulls were in the middle of their dynasty run with superstar players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. On the March 10, 1997 episode of Monday Nitro, when it was revealed that the NBA’s most controversial figure, Dennis Rodman was now a member of the nWo, WCW earned major mainstream exposure. Not only did Rodman just appear on Nitro, but he even went on to compete at Uncensored and Bash at the Beach in 1997.
Not only did Dennis Rodman appear on WCW television and compete in a handful of matches, but he would frequently skip practice during the NBA Playoffs to do so. Despite the distraction, Rodman and the Chicago Bulls went on to win the NBA Finals in 1997 for the second year in a row.
After the Chicago Bulls won the NBA Finals in 1998, Rodman would return to WCW once more to compete alongside Hollywood Hogan at the 1998 Bash at the Beach, where the two took on Diamond Dallas Page and Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz. It was an interesting dynamic as the Bulls had just beaten the Jazz in the Finals for the second year in a row a month prior to the pay-per-view.
8. The nWo Takes Over The Tonight Show
One of the key things that WCW excelled at early one was finding ways to gain mainstream exposure. With tie-ins with other popular shows such as NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the company was able to reach a much wider audience. In August of 1998, the company took it to a new level when Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff both appeared on the show to confront Jay Leno, leading to an altercation and the nWo actually taking over the broadcast.
Following the incident, Eric Bischoff continued to run his own Tonight Show themed segments on WCW Monday Nitro to further the storyline that culminated in a match at the 1998 Road Wild. At the pay-per-view, it was Jay Leno in action as the partner of Diamond Dallas Page against the duo of Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Surprisingly enough, it was Leno who earned the victory for his team, pinning Eric Bischoff.
7. Eric Bischoff Joins the nWo
A year before Vince McMahon became a heel on-screen authority figure by screwing over Bret Hart, Eric Bischoff innovated in his role as the mastermind behind the nWo. For weeks prior to the November 18, 1996 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, Bischoff had made excuse after excuse as to why he was unable to sign Roddy Piper to a contract. It wasn’t until this night that Bischoff was surprised to see Piper actually appear before his eyes in front of the live crowd. Piper immediately outed Bischoff, stating that he was a liar and that Eric never tried to contact him. When it was apparent that the jig was up, the nWo stormed the ring to come to the aid of Mr. Bischoff.
With the head of WCW now a part of the New World Order, it logically made more sense in terms of the storyline as to how the group could continue to run roughshod over the entire show and do as they please. With WCW wrestlers now at the mercy of their evil boss, it added an interesting dynamic that wasn’t replicated until the Mr. McMahon character in 1998.
6. Kevin Nash Debuts on WCW Monday Nitro
“Look at the adjective: play.” Despite Kevin Nash needing a lesson or two in grammar, the moment that he first appeared on screen next to Scott Hall was huge. At the time, the two men remained nameless and were known only as “outsiders”. The intent was to play off of their success in the WWF and make the fans believe that Razor Ramon and Diesel were invading WCW on behalf of the WWF. It worked to perfection and WCW actually got sued over it.
While Scott Hall had appeared on WCW Monday Nitro a couple of times before, the moment that he brought in another face from the WWF helped legitimize the angle. Not only was one big WWF star there, but now two were appearing on WCW television. The precedent was set that at any moment, another WWF superstar could appear alongside them.
5. Hollywood Hogan Becomes nWo World Champion
Once the original trio of the New World Order had come together at the 1996 Bash at the Beach with Hall, Hogan and Nash, the next step was for the group to start the hostile takeover. The best way for the nWo to grab some power early on was to capture the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. At the 1996 Hog Wild pay-per-view, Hollywood Hogan did just that by defeating The Giant.
With the outsiders now holding WCW’s most prized possession and emblazoning it in spray paint with the nWo logo, the WCW locker room now had the focus of trying to take back what was theirs and restore it to it’s glory. This helped further the story and protected the nWo as a credible threat.
4. Kevin Nash Launches Rey Mysterio Head-First into a Trailer
The infamous backstage brawl that took place on the July 29, 1996 episode of WCW Monday Nitro is known for the spot where Kevin Nash tossed Rey Mysterio into the side of a trailer like a lawn dart. The angle was played to perfection to the point that fans actually thought the attack by the nWo was real. The police were called and arrived at the scene thinking that an actual gang fight was going on. One of the biggest selling points of the nWo early on was that everything they did seemed very real and this segment was the prime example of that.
3. Scott Hall Invades WCW Monday Nitro
Although it took place in the middle of a nothing match between Steve Doll and The Mauler, the invasion of WCW Monday Nitro by Scott Hall on the May 27, 1996 episode of the show was a total shock. After jumping the rail and entering the ring with a microphone, Scott Hall played off the real life heat between WCW and the WWF, claiming that if WCW wanted a war, they were going to get one.
The angle seemed very real with WCW playing it off as if Hall was Razor Ramon and representing the WWF. The fact that it was heavily implied is what led the WWF to file suit against WCW soon after.
2. The Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting Feud
While the encounter between Sting and Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade 1997 was admittedly a flop, the year-long feud between the two is arguable one of the most compelling angles of all-time.
Since the beginning of the nWo, the group had tried to plant the seed that Sting was joining the group. It started out with an imposter Sting being seen with the nWo, causing the rest of WCW to be skeptical of the Stinger. Fed up with the accusations, Sting disappeared into the shadows and soon reemerged as a new dark, brooding character. This new Sting continued to work as the vigilante of WCW, appearing from time-to-time to fight off the nWo. For the better part of a year, Sting attempted to get his hands on Hogan, but Hollywood continued to duck him.
Once the match was finally signed, the anticipation of Sting vs. Hollywood Hogan was at such a high level that Starrcade 1997 ended up earning the biggest buy rate in WCW history. Unfortunately, the match was executed poorly with a botched, convoluted finish, effectively wasting the tremendous build-up.
1. Hulk Hogan is the Third Man
“Hulk Hogan is the third man in this picture.” When The Hulkster turned his back on everything that he represented for over a decade to join forces with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the “New World Order of Wrestling, Brother”, the wrestling industry was changed forever.
Ever since Scott Hall and Kevin Nash invaded WCW in the Summer of 1996, they had claimed that a third man would be joining them at the Bash at the Beach. Both Bret Hart and Sting had been originally rumored to be the third man in the nWo, but in retrospect, the group would have never reached the heights that it did if it had not been Hulk Hogan in that spot. With the crowd waning on Hulk Hogan and the boos in his direction continuing to increase, it only made sense for Hogan to finally make the turn. Although Hulk Hogan took some time to mesh styles with The Outsiders, once it clicked, the nWo became the hottest thing in the wrestling business.