SI.com’s Wrestling Week in Review is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Kevin Nash on the NWO turning 20 & the WWE brand extension
This past Thursday, the NWO celebrated its twentieth birthday.
Kevin Nash remains extremely proud of the faction’s legacy and its contributions to the business.
“Whether people say the NWO grew too fast or it didn’t grow fast enough, all I know is that it was pretty much an angle for three years,” said Nash. “Right now, the programming–with no competition–has a hard time going three months with any kind of an angle.”
Nash spoke to Sports Illustrated after an appearance with the Worcester Bravehearts. Worcester, Massachusetts is also the site of the live Smackdown on Tuesday, July 19–which is the night of the brand extension draft. Nash does not expect to return as the general manager for either Raw or Smackdown.
“I haven’t heard anything,” said Nash. “I think they know I don’t want to work every week.”
Nash expressed concern over a lack of roster depth, which is necessary for the brand extension to succeed.
“There’s just not a lot of depth,” explained Nash. “We did the split in ‘02, but they’ve had a rash of injuries. A lot of guys are coming back now, but when you start splitting things up, it just shows the lack of depth there is all the way through.”
Despite concerns over the brand extension, Nash remains a fan of the product. He even gave The Club–AJ Styles, Luke “Doc” Gallows, and Karl Anderson–his blessing to use the “Kliq sign.”
“If you’re over enough to use that and the people don’t sh-- on you, you’re over,” said Nash. “I don’t mind it at all. I just didn’t like them bringing in Doc and Anderson, then having that six-man elimination match [against Roman Reigns and The Uso’s]. There is no reason to beat those two guys coming in the door. You’re missing heel talent and you’re going to beat these two guys? But they corrected it.
“It’s almost like, ‘No one can get over you except us,’ even though you were over someplace else. They make the reference to AJ like he was a Japan guy–he was a TNA guy. He was in Japan for like a year. And the thing is, he’s tearing the TV up.”
Nash also predicts a bright future for the WWE with Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns leading the company.
“I think all those Shield guys are really talented,” said Nash. “Name three guys that made more of an impact than those three guys coming in the door for that company. They’re three huge talents, and three huge talents they’re going to have [in WWE] for another ten years.”
Naturally, there are connections between Nash and Reigns–including similar booking when Nash was Diesel.
“Someone photoshopped his head and put it on Diesel and put my head on his body–and it looked good,” said Nash. “When I was Diesel, I bet you I hadn’t worked even 250 matches when I was champ. I broke in as Master Blaster and had maybe thirty matches with that character. They sh--canned that, I came back as Oz. I had twenty or thirty matches with that character, mostly in Japan, and then they sh--canned that. I came back as Vinnie Vegas and worked 75 matches that year as Vinnie Vegas. I came in as Shawn’s bodyguard and didn’t work anything that first year. Toward the end of the year, we worked a couple tag matches and six-man’s. What kind of pushed me in was somebody gimmicked Shawn’s drink and it came back positive for stanozolol. Shawn wasn’t even going to the gym, let alone taking stanozolol. It was ridiculous, but he got suspended–and then he got pissed when he got suspended, and I got thrown into that spot. I started working with Scott as the Razor Ramon character then, but I knew I was green even when I was champion.
“My whole thing was–nothing against the guys they put me with on the house–but they put me with [King Kong] Bundy and [Bob] Backlund, two very limited guys to a big man that’s not exactly a luchador. So I was limited and they put me with limited guys, and finally they had to bring Double J [Jeff Jarrett] in off the B-loop so I could work with him and Road Dogg [Jesse James] because they could bump and feed, and we could have a fast-paced match. I don’t think they did me any favors–my first pay per view was Royal Rumble against Bret [Hart]. We had a 30-minute draw with 95 run-ins, so it wasn’t like they passed the torch to me. They can say what they want to about the Diesel character, but when you look back at what they did with it–and not what I did with it–it sure is funny how once I lost the championship to Bret and turned back to having some edge, the character again became popular.”
Nash’s edge was a necessary ingredient in his success. That is not necessarily the case, he explained, for Roman Reigns.
“I’ve always said there are two kinds of people in this world,” said Nash. “There is somebody who gets you down in a fight and is putting the boots to you, and the guy on the floor says, ‘Hey, I’ve had enough,’ and you stop. Or you’re me, and I’ll break my shin open to try to kick you as you climb underneath the car because I’ll tell you when you’ve had enough. You either have that or you don’t–you’re either a prick or you’re not, and I’m a prick. I think that shows. If you’re not, you’re not. I’m glad he’s not. Every time I talk to him, he seems like a really well-adjusted, very nice gentleman. I think he’s got a great look, I think he’s very athletic, I think things will work out for him. It’s just a bad time for him right now, but he’ll be a big star for that company.”
Nash’s willingness to give back to the business–in WWE and beyond–is an integral part of his legacy. Ring of Honor world champion Jay Lethal, former IWGP champ Tetsuya Naito, and the Young Bucks all credit Nash with helping turn them into the stars they are today.
“I remember one time after a match–I was working with Creed [Xavier Woods] in TNA–and one of the higher ups pulled me aside and said, ‘I thought you gave him too much.’ I said, ‘F--- man, don’t you think I’ve gotten mine? Me beating him means nothing. Him beating me means something. People sit up and go, ‘Woah.’” Look at those Bucks–they have good s---. They do so many cool double things. I bounced around for them like a rubber ball. That’s the fun part of the business. That’s the sports entertainment–you can go out and entertain people. You could go out there and club somebody like a baby seal for six minutes and then hit your finish, but why would I want to watch that?”
Nash credits this philosophy to the education he received during his time in the most influential group in professional wrestling history–the Kliq, which, along with Nash, included Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman and Paul “Triple H” Levesque.
“Scott, Sean and Shawn were all [Curt] Hennig disciples. I was basically a disciple of Scott and HBK because I watched them from ringside every night, so my psychology was basically tailored to what they were doing every night. And then when Paul came in, he was in that same mode. When we talked business, everybody was on the same page. There were so many times in the car when we talked about things and angles that didn’t involve anybody in the car. ‘Taker was always a really hard guy to book. You can’t beat him. You could get heat on him, but you can’t beat him. So you’ve got to use talent smartly around him. If he was ever going to get beat [at a WrestleMania], Lesnar is the guy to do it. I wouldn’t bet against Lesnar if it was a shoot.”
Levesque continues to amaze Nash with his intelligence and ability to forecast the future of the business, which is why he believes wrestling rests in extremely good hands.
“Signing [Bin Wang] and starting to put a deal together in China, then having Cena speak in Mandarin–that’s some very James Bond s--- right there,” said Nash. “That’s knowing how important that market is and making sure you carve a niche in it. That’s where I’m proudest of WWE–it’s not a wrestling company, it’s an entertainment company–but it’s an incredibly well ru