NWO: WHEN GOOD ANGLES GO BAD
The buildup lasted three weeks. Longer than it took for their heat to evaporate once they finally appeared. Meet the nWo, circa 2002.
If you want to compare the two editions of Hogan's Hillbillies, trying to figure out why one worked, the other doesn't, here's all you need to know:
NOW: Monday night's RAW. Scott Hall, feeling feisty and looking for a Wrestlemania tuneup match, is going to pick his opponent's name out of a Bingo hopper. After throwing away a few names that don't meet with his approval, he finally picks one (Spike Dudley) that meets with his satisfaction. Hall asks Nash and Hogan, "But you guys are gonna be there, right?" Boring squash ensues, followed by bored viewers channel surfing.
If the same situation were THEN: We're back in WCW, Monday Nitro. Scott Hall picks his opponent's name out of a Bingo hopper. The first name he picks, doesn't matter who it is, the three nWO players go looking for him backstage and beat the holy hell out of him in his dressing room. Then towards the end of the show they hit the ring and say, "Scott was going to wrestle [whoever], but the poor bastard had an accident in the back, so there won't be any match for Scott tonight." But then Page, or Goldberg or Giant appears at the top of the ramp with the standard "Oh yeah? You want a match, you got one!" Surprise opponent rushes the ring, chaos ensues, nWo get upper hand through superior numbers, prompting other surprise stars (Piper? Sting?) to make the save. Insanity achieved.
So simple, so effective. Yet for some reason Vince refuses to put any thought into a long-term design for the nWo angle. In fact, it seems he's completely abandoned it from the get-go. I'm stumped as to why, but one fact is undeniable: Vince and Flair were the two players in the angle at the beginning. Their hatred for each other was the thing that prompted Vince to go slightly insane and bring in The Poison, right? Yet from the instant Hogan, Nash & Hall came on-site, neither Vince nor Flair have had anything to do with their program. Have a clue, Vince: it was just this kind of lack of continuity in the writing that killed WCW.
There's no doubt in my mind that the only reason Hogan agreed to come back was a guaranteed program leading to his face turn so he could go out in a blaze of glory at next year's Wrestlemania. But if things continue in this comically-awful fashion, all bets are off. A little research would have told WWF writers what they needed to do with the nWo should the boys sign on, and that is:
1. Recruitment. In short order, Hogan/Nash/Hall had Savage, Bischoff, Giant, and a slew of B-teamers in their little gang. When Bret Hart hit WCW, it was as a member of the nWo. They broke up the Steiners, getting Scott to turn on his brother in a title match. Why haven't they approached Jericho yet?
2. The High Ground. The old nWo operated from a position of power, meaning they held all the titles (World, Tag Team) that mattered. Why are writers involving them in non-title pissing contests?
3. Roster Backlash. Who hates them? Who's considering joining? You mean to tell me that when the boys went for a backstage stroll on Monday, they didn't run into one single solitary wrestler in the hallway? A perfect opportunity squandered. I know: How about setting up a 3-man tag match with Booker, Page and Big Show for starters?
Know your characters, Vince. Then have your writers give them character-appropriate things to say and do. If you don't, then the signing of the nWo really will be your undoing, but not for the reasons you think.