Wrestling’s Last Great Angle

Mark Madden

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No, I don’t mean Kurt.

Given the abject lack of creativity in wrestling – MYGOD! (Fill in the blank) is the new GM! Business is about to pick up! – I’ve reconciled myself to the idea that the New World Order invasion may turn out to be the business’ last great angle. Name anything since with similar buzz and results.

Vince McMahon vs. Steve Austin worked, no doubt. But that was because McMahon, on-camera, went from longtime peripheral figure to surprise focal point and because Austin was always a superstar waiting to happen.

The nWo angle came out of nowhere. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were returning to WCW, and it was assumed they would become part of the regular roster.

Then the invasion angle started. It was hardly original, pirated from Japan by Eric Bischoff. But Hall and Nash were presented as outsiders, then “The Outsiders,” and the deviation from their WWF characters was so slight that WWF sued, I did a bunch of funny WCW 900 #s, then got deposed for hours on end.

The nWo angle worked because the fans were allowed to choose. Not long after Hall and Nash first appeared, WCW planted fans with pro-nWo signs at Nitro. “These guys have fans!” the announcers trumpeted, and pretty soon they did. WCW shows became like real sporting events. Most of the fans rooted for WCW, but some rooted for the nWo, and the result was an electric atmosphere.

More important, it was an atmosphere unique to wrestling. It wasn’t real, but it really felt real. When was the last time, say, John Cena did something that felt real?

Give Bischoff credit for having the guts to let the fans choose. Wrestling promoters are control freaks. If the fans love something the promoter wants them to hate, the promoter thinks the fans are wrong and reacts accordingly (and incorrectly). Bischoff was – at the time – an exception. Being right didn’t matter as much as being successful.

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