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Shawn Michaels on the NWO: “Kevin and Scott leaving made me want to work with Hunter even more”
Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of the formation of the New World Order, when Hulk Hogan hit his famed leg drop on Randy Savage at WCW’s Bash at the Beach pay-per-view and revealed himself as Kevin Nash and Scott Hall’s third man.
Instantly, the NWO became a powerhouse, even though it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Adding too many members eventually watered down the group, and story lines weren’t kept as fresh as they needed to be in order to extend the narrative, but that does not change the group’s impact and lasting significance.
When Hogan turned heel at the Bash on July 7, 1996, it marked the first match for Hall and Nash since their WWE farewell at Madison Square Garden on May 19. That was a Sunday house show, which included Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeating Razor Ramon (Hall), as well as Shawn Michaels successfully defending the WWF title in a steel cage against Diesel (Nash). The four performed the infamous “Curtain Call” in the ring, which was as close as they ever came to forming an on-screen faction together in WWE.
“We always wanted to put a group together here,” says Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who works now as WWE’s executive vice president of global talent strategy and development, as well as the leader of the NXT brand. “There was a lot of talk within the group about it. Kevin wanted to call us The Sportsmen, where we all wore sports coats. I’m not sure I wanted to do that part, but we all wanted to have a group.”
Groups were eventually formed, but only after The Kliq—the name attached to Michaels, Nash, Levesque, Hall and Scott Waltman backstage—had split. Nash and Hall became The Outsiders in WCW, then set the industry aflame when they added Hogan to lead the NWO.
“Kevin and Scott were the beginning of it all, and bringing Hogan into it was the icing on top,” says Michaels, who is currently one of the top coaches at WWE Performance Center. “Now I know people complain and say they went too far down the road with too many members, but it was still so cool. That’s a monumental time in the wrestling business, and those guys were a big part of it.”
“Scott leaves, which is massive, but if Kevin doesn’t leave, nothing changes,” Levesque adds. “And then Kev leaves. We knew they were forming a group. Hulk turning heel and running with that group added a whole new refresh. It was the biggest thing in the business.”
It didn’t take long for Michaels and Levesque to also be paired together.
“Kevin and Scott leaving made me want to work with Hunter even more,” Michaels says. “And we had Chyna, and there was chemistry there. Then we started doing DX.”
D-Generation X, which also featured Chyna and Rick Rude, debuted in the summer of ’97, with the wheels originally put in motion by the departures of Hall and Nash.
“We wanted Billy [Gunn] and [Road] Dogg with us, but right from the start, we wanted to wait and hold,” Levesque says. “They’d either get over on their own, which would be bigger for us, or we’d get them over. Then they started getting over on their own. Shawn gets hurt, Kid comes back. In the end, it all panned out.”
Despite WWE and WCW running opposite shows on Monday nights, Michaels noted that he always wanted to see Nash and Hall succeed, regardless of which company signed their paychecks.
“I didn’t get a chance to watch all the time, but I’m one of those people that was entertained by it when I did,” Michaels says. “The NWO turning 25, and still being so popular, I think it’s huge.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Forget the story line—a DUI is dangerous for the person behind the wheel and puts the lives of others at risk. I hope that this time is a wake-up call for Jimmy Uso.
- The multiple camera changes detracted from an otherwise outstanding moment, as Edge continued his program with Roman Reigns by putting a beating on Jey Uso last week on SmackDown.
- The Great American Bash had its share of highlights, including crowning new women’s tag champs in Io Shirai and Zoey Stark, as well as Adam Cole defeating Kyle O’Reilly. I was particularly excited to see the return from injury of Tegan Nox, who is a star in the making.
- Zelina Vega is back in WWE, returning last Friday on SmackDown. Though she will certainly receive some criticism after deleting her tweet supporting unionization, seeing her back in WWE, especially as an in-ring performer chasing the SmackDown women’s championship, adds a lot of intrigue to the show.
- MJF was spectacular in his main-event performance last week on Dynamite, where he defeated Sammy Guevara.
- Jim Ross made a mistake at the end of Dynamite, calling the show “WWE Dynamite.” Obviously, it wasn’t a good moment for him, but it doesn’t change the fact that JR is still the greatest announcer ever in wrestling, and he continues to add a lot to the current product in AEW.
- The Icons documentary on Lex Luger, which was supposed to premiere on Peacock over the weekend, was postponed. I had a chance to speak with Luger last Thursday, so I requested—and received—an advance screener of the Icons episode to prepare for our interview. I thought this particular Icons was excellent, both raw and brutally honest, and I hope changes aren’t made when it finally does air.
- Kenny Omega is teasing a match against AAA star El Hijo del Vikingo, who would make an amazing opponent for him after he wrestles Andrade at Triplemanía in August.
- WWE reached a settlement with investors in a case that tied back to claims that WWE was being misleading regarding its media rights deals in Saudi Arabia.
- Is The New Day the greatest tag team ever in WWE? In my humble opinion, and this is based solely on runs in WWE, it’s some combination of New Day, Demolition (who were ranked tenth on the WWE list), the Hardys, Usos and the New Age Outlaws, with the Dudleys just missing my all-time top five.
Bandido challenges Rush for Ring of Honor title at the ‘Best in the World’
There is a new No. 1 contender for the Ring of Honor championship, as Rush puts the ROH title on the line on Sunday at the Best in the World pay-per-view.
This is a rematch from their meeting at the 17th Anniversary Show in 2019, where a then undefeated Rush was victorious in a 15-minute affair. Rush is now in the midst of his second run as ROH champ, while Bandido has yet to hold singles gold in the company. Only 26, a chance to wrestle Rush and headline the pay-per-view is an outstanding opportunity as he seeks to reach another level of brilliance in the ring.
“I have the heart and the courage to face great challenges,” Bandido says through a translator. “I don’t know if this will be the end of Rush’s title reign, but I am sure that I will leave my soul inside that ring.”
A masked luchador from Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico, Bandido has followed in the lucha libre tradition of not revealing his real name. He has been on the brink of stardom since helping headline the six-man tag main event at All In in September 2018, teaming with Rey Mysterio and Fénix against Kota Ibushi and the Young Bucks. He also starred for CMLL in Mexico, and he works a style that is both captivating and entertaining.
While it is more likely that he will join the list of those defeated by Rush—a group that includes Brody Lee, Shane Taylor and Jeff Cobb—this match is an incredible platform for him to showcase his skill, particularly as an underdog babyface.
“I think what characterizes Rush most in the ring is he’s so dangerous,” Bandido says. “He goes to huge levels and that’s where he finds his strength. I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Bandido has a history against Rush, and this is a great story of good versus evil. With the match taking place in front of a limited capacity crowd at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Baltimore, the opportunity exists for Bandido to rally the crowd behind him in his attempt to dethrone the champ.
“I want to do more than just have this opportunity, because I want to win it,” Bandido says. “Becoming champion is what I’ve been looking for since I got to ROH, and that is what I will keep working to do until I make it happen.”
Tweet of the Week
When Page finally challenges Kenny Omega, it is going to be must-see viewing.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.