In the glory days of the nWo, the organization could seemingly do no wrong. Their segments on WCW television shows were generally the highest rated, and their merchandise sold like hotcakes. In fact, then VP of WCW and mastermind behind the entire nWo angle Eric Bischoff claimed that the group would be around forever, and would, in fact, supplant the WWF as the dominant brand name in pro wrestling. For this was the angle that brought WCW to the forefront of the industry.
Therefore, it certainly made sense when the decision was made in late 1997 to turn the flagship program of WCW, Nitro, over to the heel contingent. Shortly prior to Starrcade 97, which was to feature the year-in-the-making match between Sting and Hulk Hogan, Bischoff gave nWo Nitro a trial run. The nWo b-squad (consisting of lifelong midcarders like Buff Bagwell and Stevie Ray) hit the scene and immediately began demanding that the production crew start tearing down anything with the WCW logo on it.
Every sign, every banner, even the gigantic metal “WCW” were all laid to waste. In their place, they put up custom designed nWo Nitro banners and set pieces, and even showcased a spiffy video opening to the show. Heck, they even made the poor saps doing the work trade in their shirts and proclaim that they were, in fact, nWo for Life.
Not only that, they ran off the Nitro announce crew. Tony Schiavone? Gone! Larry Zybysko? Gone! Bobby Heenan? Gone! Two out of three ain’t bad, I guess. In their place were Eric Bischoff, Rick Rude, and Kevin Nash.
It was actually interesting to listen to the trio commentate the matches, because despite being heels, they were very liberal with handing out compliments to the babyfaces on the show. Still, this made sense – classic booking says that you don’t want to talk about how horrible someone is, because if you beat them, that means you beat someone horrible, which in turn makes you look like a joke yourself. But when you consider this was the bad boy faction of the nWo we’re talking about, you’d think they’d have been a bit more brash.
Finally, the time arrived to pay homage to the man who made all this possible: Hulk Hogan.
Indeed, the majority of nWo Nitro was less a wrestling show and more a celebration of the life and times of Terry Bolea. It seemed as though the entire show was spent just kissing Hogan’s backside. Not only that, but Bischoff spent the better part of 20 minutes just presenting Hogan with presents like giant banners of his likeness and motorcycles featuring his image. He even dropped down to one knee and placed a ring (in the shape of the WCW world title) upon his finger.
It looked for all the world like he was either going to propose to the Hulkster or blow him mid ring. Maybe both.
Of course, since the show took place just scant days prior to Christmas, Bischoff was in a very festive mood. To the delight of tone deaf fans the world over, Uncle Eric did his best Bing Crosby impersonation and belted out yuletide classics like “White Christmas” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
But it would be the Stinger who had the last laugh this night, as he sent the Hulkster a present of his own:
Can’t say I really blame Hogan here – if I saw that thing staring back at me, I’d probably fill my drawers too.
The show may have been built around Hogan, but in reality, this night truly belonged to Eric Bischoff. Go back and watch this show and you will really get a good feel for what life was like for him at the time.
Look at him. He looks so young, so vibrant, so full of life. This was a man not only on top of the world, but completely unafraid to let people know about it. This was a man who knew that he had created the greatest angle in the history of pro wrestling, and was about to create a wrestling monopoly all his own. This was a man so ballsy that he called out Vince McMahon on a regular basis and flaunted his ratings victories like a child with a new toy.
nWo Nitro should have been his wake up call. With Starrcade just days away, and set to deliver arguably the best promoted match in the history of the company, you’d have thought that this Nitro would have had incredible ratings, possibly the highest ratings for the company ever.
That didn’t happen. In fact, the show actually dropped almost a half point, and the originally scheduled idea of having nWo Nitro on a weekly basis was scapped forever. The elaborate sets, the shirts, the video production all amounted to nothing more than a colassal waste of money.
It didn’t take long before Bischoff saw his empire rapidly collapsing like the proverbial house of cards. His jet black hair literally turned gray as he watched the nWo crumble, and leave in its wake was a WCW that fans had been trained not to care about.
Less than five years later, the company would cease to exist. And Bischoff would be owned, lock, stock, and barrel, by Vince McMahon.
Somehow, I doubt he’ll be singing too many carols this year.
Bischoff Sings! : “I’m dreaming…of a white Christmas!”
Bischoff sings AGAIN: “We wish you a merry Syxx Pac, we wish you a merry Syxx Pac, we wish you a merry Syxx Pac, and a Hollywood New Year!”
Note from RD: Ironically enough, Bischoff would fire Syxx Pac (Sean Waltman) less than six months later.