On Wednesday, because we are old, we celebrated the 19th birthday of the formation of the New World Order at WCW’s Bash at the Beach ’96 pay-per-view. To continue that birthday celebration, Nate Birch and myself are ranking the original 33 nWo members, before they splintered off into nWo Wolfpac and nWo Black and White and nWo Mauve or whatever.
As a note of clarification, the nWo was a gangly mess and they added and discarded people on a whim, so if we left out your favorite member — say, for example, the nWo inducted Larry Johnson as Grandmama on a random episode of Thunder and we forgot about it — take it in stride. Also, damn I want Grandmama in the nWo now.
Anyway, here’s our ranking of the 33 original nWo members. When you’re this, you’re this for life.
33. The Disciple
Brandon: Like any list that includes Brutus Beefcake and isn’t “best wrestling barbers,” Brutus Beefcake is at the bottom. Hulk Hogan always needed Beefcake around doing SOMETHING. When he was regurgitating his WWF act, Beefcake had to show up and regurgitate his. When Hogan was an unstoppable babyface who could defeat entire factions by himself, Beefcake had to show up as “The Booty Man” and be the same. When Hogan went Hollywood, Beefcake had to DRESS EXACTLY LIKE HIM AND FOLLOW HIM AROUND.
The Disciple’s role in the nWo seemed to be “help Hogan out with his matches against celebrities.” He tried to help Hogan defeat Jay Leno at Road Wild, then interfered in Hogan and Dennis Rodman’s tag team match against Diamond Dallas Page and Karl Malone to hit Page with a Stone Cold Stunner (!!) to give the nWo the match. Eventually he’d turn on Hogan to get fresh with The Ultimate Warrior in the rafters.
32. Jeff Katz
Brandon: At nWo Souled Out, teen radio show host and WCW Hotline operator Jeff Katz was tasked with finding the first “Miss nWo.” He accomplished this by asking weird local biker-moms questions they couldn’t hear, and making the best of their mumbled woos and answers.
You may know him best as the guy who raised $100,000 to Kickstart a revolutionary wrestling show and used the money to buy himself free lunch for the next five years.
31-30. The Dinner and a Movie Guys
Brandon: I’d honestly forgotten about this until recently, but the hosts of TBS’s Dinner and a Movie — a random movie with a movie-themed cooking show in the commercial bumpers — turned heel and joined the nWo at the final Clash of the Champions in 1997. Paul Gilmartin and Claud Mann apparently hated wrestling tradition and were swayed by the Macho Man Randy Savage to make nWo-themed food instead of WCW food. I know, right? This pissed off Mean Gene, especially when they removed their aprons to reveal nWo Macho Man shirts.
They got their just desserts moments later when Diamond Dallas Page showed up, wrecked their studio, ruined their food and killed them with Diamond Cutters. They never got their revenge, unless you count anchoring a bad cable movie show for 16 years.
29. Nasty Nick Hogan
Brandon: WCW lost to the nWo at War Games ’96 and was forced to pay for the nWo’s “paid announcement” commercials. Hollywood Hogan used that money to have a hotel room party and induct two new nWo members: NASCAR racer Kyle Petty (more on him in a minute) and “Nasty Nick At Night,” his son. What the nWo needed with a child is beyond me, and who the hell lets a kid into the same hotel room as Scott Hall? That’s just asking for trouble.
Hogan announces that they’ve talked to Nick’s mom, and that from now on he’ll be allowed to stay up and watch the nWo wrestle from 8-10 on nWo Monday Nitro. Everyone cheers. Years later, The Hulkster would use that same technique to put his daughter in charge of the TNA Knockouts Division.
Nick Hogan is still an active member of the nWo, by the way, because when you’re nWo, you’re nWo something something.
28. Louie Spicolli
Nate: Hey, it’s that guy Tommy Dreamer misnames his Death Valley Driver after! Yes, believe it or not, there was a time when Louie Spicolli was still alive and, like, doing things in wrestling. During his WCW stint the thing he was doing was being Scott Hall’s lackey. Spicolli wasn’t officially an NWO member, but everybody kind of figured him hanging around with one of the NWO founders made him an NWO member by osmosis. Hey, we’ve already listed two guys from a TBS cooking show and one of Brutus Beefcake’s less-celebrated personas, it’s not like Louie Spicolli fell short of some stringent NWO admissions bar.
27. Kyle Petty
Brandon: As I mentioned earlier, the nWo added NASCAR’s Kyle Petty to the group because the New World Order can’t just conquer pro wrestling, it must conquer ALL hillbilly sports tentpoles! Petty drove the nWo car from September of 1996 to September of 1997, spraypainting “RACECAR” on the hoods of any cars he beat. I don’t know, I don’t follow NASCAR. Whenever Petty would do well, the nWo would brag about it. Whenever he wrecked (as seen above), the guy who drove the Slim Jim Halloween Havoc car would show up on Nitro and sh*t-talk him. It was extremely important.
26. Miss Elizabeth
Nate: It’s sad to see Miss Elizabeth slumming it on the bottom third of any list, but well, WCW Liz was kind of sad. Miss Elizabeth should be turning Randy Savage into a psychotic jealous rage monster because she just looks too darn pretty in her nylon princess dress. She should not be turning Randy Savage into a psychotic jealous rage monster because she and Savage are divorced and she’s boning Ric Flair or whatever. Ech. Anyways, Liz always looked about as comfortable in the NWO as your mom did that one ill-advised time she went to watch your high school punk band play. If you knew you weren’t going to enjoy it, why’d you even come mom?
25. Michael Wallstreet
Nate: Mike Rotunda jumped to WCW in 1995 and became V.K. Wallstreet, because V.K. are Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s first two initials. Get it? That’ll show him for those Billionaire Ted skits! Nothing like two rich assholes “insulting” each other by screaming “YOU’RE A RICH ASSHOLE!” at each other. So anyways, by the time the NWO rolled around V.K. Wallstreet had been downgraded to Michael Wallstreet (probably due to lawsuit concerns) and didn’t really bring anything to to the group. Yeah, it’s still Mike Rotunda, but the saddest, most forgettable version of him.
24. Nick Patrick
Nate: Corrupt refs are always kind of a stupid idea, and never lead to anything particularly satisfying, but evil, Kenny Powers-looking Nick Patrick was one of the most under-the-radar entertaining things about the NWO. Also, come on, f*ck Randy Anderson. And hey, the NWO owed half their major victories to Nick, so the guy was pulling his weight with those beautiful, milky-white arms.
Nate: Vincent (WWF’s Virgil) was a member of pretty much every incarnation of the NWO. You probably don’t remember him, but trust me, he was always there in the background somewhere trying his best to avoid attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if he figured out a way to be in both NWO Hollywood and the Wolfpac at the same time once the group split. So, do you rank him highly for truly being NWO 4 Life, or do you bust Virgil down for, well, being Virgil?
The latter obviously.
22. Brian Adams
Brandon: I took his allegiance to WCW for granted, but how was I to know that he’d be letting go? Him joining the nWo cut like a knife.
21. Dusty Rhodes
Brandon: Don’t take The American Dream’s low ranking on this list as an insult; Dusty was great from the first second he was on screen until the last, but him joining the nWo as a 53-year old color commentator as a means to add heat to the Scott Hall/Larry Zbyszko feud was basically the least necessary thing of all time. Dusty joining was like Michael Wallstreet joining, on a grander scale. “We need someone to be heel in this match. The only heel thing that works for us is the nWo, because the only heel thing we DO is the nWo. Put him in an nWo shirt.”
Dusty’s promo where he explains why he joins the group is good, though, and features all the appropriate burying of Schiavone:
Brandon: Hiroyoshi Tenzan represents one of three spots on this list for guys who were primarily important to “nWo Japan”, but important enough outside of it to show up on US soil fairly regularly. Tenzan is the least important of the three, so he gets the lowest ranking. His most notable WCW matches are a match against Macho Man Randy Savage at Starrcade 95 that he dominates only to lose at the very end, and the rematch at NJPW’s Battle Formation in April of ’96 which, uh, he also lost.
19. Ted DiBiase
Nate: In theory, Ted DiBiase was the perfect NWO member. He was an obnoxious loud-mouthed rich guy, a quintessential WWF gimmick through and through. In a rare bit of cogent storytelling, WCW even established DiBiase as the guy bankrolling the NWO. Unfortunately DiBiase couldn’t get in the ring due to a neck injury, and by the time the NWO came around, Ted was giving off some pretty serious dad vibes. He just didn’t fit in with the rest of the 30 and 40-year-olds pretending to be teenagers that well. Once Eric Bischoff essentially replaced him as the NWO’s non-wrestling mouthpiece, Trillionaire Ted saw the writing on the wall and was soon done.
18. nWo Sting
Brandon: Hey, at least this version didn’t lose to Triple H at WrestleMania.
17. Curt Hennig
Nate: Curt Hennig did more under the NWO banner than a lot of other late additions to the group. He actually wrestled regularly, won the US Title and basically ran roughshod on the remnants of the Four Horsemen. Still, when somebody mentions the NWO, is Curt Hennig one of the first guys you think of? Is he 20th guy you think of? Really, anything Hennig did in WCW before his life-altering realization that rap was, in fact, crap was so much dust in the wind.
16. Masahiro Chono
Nate: Obviously, if we were roping NWO Japan into this ranking, Masahiro Chono would rank much higher, but he wasn’t really a major force in the American incarnation. Still, you’ve gotta love that late-90s WCW was a time and place where we to believe Brutus Beefcake, Dennis Rodman, Buff Bagwell and Masahiro f*ckin’ Chono just chilled out together wearing matching t-shirts.
15. Big Bubba Rogers
Nate: Big Bubba never really did much of anything in the NWO, being forced out only a few months after joining on some sort of weird contractual technicality, but whatever, Bubba earns a nice cushy mid-list placing just for being himself. Ray Traylor could show up at the funeral for one of my own family members with a hook and the Bluesmobile, and I’d still give him a begrudging Best.
14. Dennis Rodman
Nate: Most of the celebrity members of the NWO were just one-offs, inducted for ill-advised promotional reasons, but Dennis Rodman was actually committed to the cause. Or at least he was until whatever NBA suspension he was currently serving was up. During the spring and summer of ’97 the NWO pretty much revolved entirely around Rodman. He was loud, he was angry, and whenever he wasn’t on screen everybody else was asking “Where’s Rodman?” Really, it was kind of amazing that WCW got the dude, as he was basically all anybody wanted to talk about in the late-90s. He wore a dress once! And had colorful hair! Shrug. It was a more easily outraged time.
Brandon: If there’s a ranking on this list you’re gonna get mad about in the comments section, it’s Sean Waltman being this low. I wanted to put him at #6, because jokes, but as a character he’s just the worst. The term “X-Pac Heat” exists for a reason, and you can’t celebrate a guy for being “nWo for life” when he’s the only one to jump ship BACKWARDS and join D-Generation X.
12. The Giant
Nate: Thin, hair-having, pre-old man shrinkage Paul Wight is the giant dick-swinging man, but even this early in his career the guy was already an alignment-shifting cloud of chaos. He joined the NWO in late ’96 because DiBiase promised to give him a lot of money (bad investment, Ted) and just a couple months later he was already out of the group. He was still a memorable member because he joined the NWO early and was a doggone goddamn giant, but most of the guy’s matches with Kane feel longer than first run with the NWO was.
11. Rick Rude
Nate: Rick Rude feels like he should be an important member of the NWO. His debut, in which he appeared on Raw and Nitro on the same night due to Raw being pre-taped, was certainly auspicious. That said, aside from that introductory NWO promo where he ran down DX and the WWF, Rude was just another guy WCW paid to of stand around and look cool. Hell, they didn’t even get an NWO shirt. Instead they made a guy primarily known for his body schlep around in ill-fitting suits. Guys, sometimes WCW was kinda dumb.
10. The Great Muta
Brandon: The legendary Great Muta was advertised as being the “Sting” in the nWo Japan story, but he was more like the Diamond Dallas Page … a guy they tried to get in the group over and over, and he kept turning them down and kicking their asses. Unlike the Page story, Muta eventually decided to play ball, swerving omnipresent Asian wrestler manager Sonny Onoo during a match against nWo member Chono. Muta was past his prime but not yet into his weird, super cool SECOND prime, but I’m not gonna make a list with The Great Muta on it and put him less than #10. This could be a list of the 10 best characters on The Jeffersons and I’d be trying to sneak Muta in at 10.
Brandon: The hype man. The Flava Flav. He got so lazy there near the end that he couldn’t even get all the way up from his forward roll clotheslines, but Konnan is undeniably one of the most memorable aspects of the nWo experience. That’s thanks to his catchphrase, which is basically the longest catchphrase in wrestling history.
“Yo yo yo let me speak on dis! Orale! Arriba la Raza! We are somos los vatos locos For EEEEVER! We BOWDY BOWDY AND ROWDY ROWDY!” Add in variations for the BLACK AND WHITE TALKIN ABOUT HOW THEY FOR LIFE, weird references to strawberries and whatever else and you’ve got the only pre-match speech of the 90s that competed with the Road Dogg’s. Now please watch his music video. Now watch it again. Now watch the Disco Inferno version.
8. Scott Norton
Brandon: I hate ranking Vicious below Delicious, but Scott Norton’s ranking is already probably unfair. I love Scott Norton. The nWo was full of these childlish party guys who wanted to get drunk in hotel rooms with children and toss each other in the pool at Spring Break, and here was this tank motherf*cker who could kill you at arm wrestling who followed them around and loved to crush dudes. He’s the bouncer. He’s the one you keep around in case sh*t gets real.
7. Buff Bagwell
Nate: After a certain point the NWO just sort of became this big, black-and-white slime mold. Any new members that joined just fed the parasite without receiving much in return. The exception to this was Buff Bagwell, who looked at what the Halls and Nashes were doing and tried to emulate it with his own twist, instead of just putting on an NWO shirt and calling it a day. Dude had a novelty top hat with his f*cking picture on the top. Think you could pull that off? You could not.
6. Scott Steiner
Brandon: No wrestler in modern history has personified pure insanity like Scotty Steiner. Entering what everyone expected to be the twilight of his career, the former collegiate wrestling guy with a mullet and a singlet that looked like a Trapper Keeper turned into WHITE THUNDER, a perversely muscular pervert who could barely speak English but had to speak it all the time. Steiner turned into “Big Poppa Pump,” losing the hilarious blaxploitation nickname but gaining actual world championships (whoops!). He’s like Buff Bagwell on Bane Venom, and that’s the most wonderful, vain, threatening, insane thing I can imagine.
5. Eric Bischoff
Brandon: The Paterfamilias. The nWo version of The Tonight Show alone made him the most hated man of his era, and that was after like a year of calling every boot to the midsection a “back leg front kick.” Bischoff gave the nWo a hittable face, and actually gave them heel heat when they’d otherwise be a bunch of cool guys getting over on everyone. He’s essential. Also, he’s fun to beat up in the video games.
4. Randy Savage
Nate: Sting is remembered as the ultimate defender of WCW’s tattered dignity, but when the NWO was at its hottest as a heel stable, it was Randy Savage who was on the front lines fighting the good fight while Sting hid in the rafters. So, when Savage finally joined the NWO in early ’97, it was one of the last WCW/NWO flip-flops that really felt like it meant something. Surprisingly, despite being a total cartoon character and, on paper at least, not fitting in with the “straight shooters” in the NWO, Savage was actually great in the black-and-white and really gave the group a shot in the arm.
3. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
Brandon: The best version of Hulk Hogan, even if he was still occasionally the worst. Low key had the best nWo t-shirt.
2. Kevin Nash
Nate: Kevin Nash may not have given the slightest f*ck about entertaining anybody other than Kevin Nash during his WCW run, but that doesn’t change the fact that Kevin Nash was the blackened heart and soul of the NWO. The stable was basically a grotesque extension of Kevin Nash’s purported ego made up of large sweaty men in cheaply-printed t-shirts. Kevin Nash was the guy who made the NWO cool, and cool was what it was all about with the NWO. Can you imagine if the NWO had just been Hulk Hogan and Scott Hall hanging around together? Jesus. Nash lied, he was just there to play, but that’s what made the NWO work.
1. Scott Hall
Brandon: Scott Hall IS the nWo. He’s everything they stand for: irreverence, insincerity, God-given talent, undeniable charisma, weird backstage problems, the works. He’s all of it. Without him, the nWo wouldn’t have (and couldn’t have) happened. Without him, there wouldn’t have been a hook to keep things centered. Hogan would be Hogan and Nash would be Nash, and then Hall would wiggle his fingers and throw a toothpick in somebody’s face and you’d be like, “oh, okay, we’re good.” He’s the one in charge of taking surveys. He’s the one that f*cks up and bails before it’s over. He’s the man who buried The Mauler. He can never be replaced. He’s our choice for the greatest member of the original nWo, even if I’d like to give Scott Norton another serious conversation.