Guest Booker review

wrestling

On May 27, 1996, Scott Hall jumped the rail during a broadcast of WCW Nitro and the words, “You know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here” tilted the professional wrestling industry. Hall, a former WCW performer during the early years of his career, became a star in the early 90s for the WWF as the Scar face inspired Razor Ramon. While not technically a main eventer, Razor was one of the biggest stars of Vince McMahon’s “new generation” that launched after Hogan’s exit from the promotion. The Razor character was over and he could go in the ring with anyone, a valuable asset for any roster. A side note, despite all the struggles that Scott Hall had during the course of his career outside of the ring, make no mistake, when he was on, he was as good as anyone. Just a few weeks after the Cuban accent was heard on Turner programming, Kevin Nash joined one of his real-life best friends as perceived “invaders.”

The wrestling recession of the early 90s, which wasn’t helped by the steroid scandal that saw Vince McMahon acquitted in federal court, led to some lean years financially for the WWF. Eric Bischoff, a third tier TV announcer, was named the president of WCW during this time and knew he had to do something to jump start the organization. With Ted Turner’s check book open, Bischoff offered the former Kliq members a deal they couldn’t refuse, more money and more days off. Not only were Hall and Nash going to make top level cash to depart from the McMahon empire, they were set to be among the highest paid talents on the WCW roster, second only to Hulk Hogan.

This jump is what ultimately started the Monday Night war and brought arguably the greatest era in the history of the business to a record audience. Eric Bischoff has earned a lot of the criticism about how he ran WCW, but he undoubtedly deserves credit for generating legitimate competition to the WWF. The competition among the two television franchises demanded the best each group could offer each week. If one program wasn’t up to par, fans could channel surface to the other show. The business moved at a frantic pace and changed drastically in the span of 4-5 years.

After a myriad of botched decisions and political jousting, WCW was sold to Vince McMahon in 2001. The war was over and a chapter in the history of sports entertainment industry concluded. Some can argue that maybe the WWE had a chance at main stream success with CM Punk in 2011, but they didn’t take advantage of it. Some might say that if the WWE had given Daniel Bryan the chance he deserved earlier, maybe he could’ve had main stream success before injuries led to an early retirement. As I’ve said before, if WCW was still around, you can bet that Punk would’ve been given a better run. Daniel Bryan wouldn’t have been pushed aside for months either. As mentioned, competition would’ve pushed management to present their best product. When you take into account the ripple effect of the WCW sale, it emphasizes the impact that the Monday Night war had on the direction of the product.

This edition of Kayfabe Commentaries Guest Booker allowed Kevin Nash to discuss his departure from the WWF and book hypothetical scenarios for The Outsiders if they would’ve stayed in the WWF in 1996. Kevin Nash is known for being one of the smartest pro wrestlers of the modern era and he made a career of maximizing his value. For as much criticism as Nash gets for the lack of in ring skills, it’s important to remember that five star matches don’t pay the bills. It’s the ability to get viewers to buy tickets or pay-per-views to see the match, whatever type it is, that draws money. Is it important to be able to go bell-to-bell? Absolutely because it provides a longevity and performers that can go in the ring generally have a longer run than those that are built mostly on just a character. For example, Kevin Nash worked as a top guy for a five years, 1995-2000 between his time in the WWF and WCW. He didn’t have a Hogan or Austin type of run, (keep in mind there was a lot of political red tape at the time too) but his time as world champion provided him with enough of a name that he made money for the rest of his career, working for TNA and relatively brief stints in the WWE. John Cena, regardless of if someone is a fan of his style or not, isn’t exactly a technical wrestler, but he can go inside the ropes. If Cena is booked to work a 25 minute main event, he can deliver a quality match. The ability to be versatile as a top guy is the reason that Cena had a 10 year run and Nash worked half that time as a main eventer. That being said, Nash still makes money today based on his work from 20 years ago, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Again, as amazing as aerial wrestling can be, you can have the match of the year, but if 20 people watched it, does it really matter? The performers that can get over with a character and can go in the ring were the top guys in the history of the business for a reason. Flair, Austin, Foley, Cena, etc. Granted, all different styles, but the common denominator is they could draw money and deliver a solid match.

However, Nash’s bank account isn’t based off of how many five star matches he had, and this production gives some insight into the decision to sign with Turner’s group. Nash’s WCW deal was structured to increase his salary each year he worked there over three years, which saw him earn nearly seven figures for the final year of his initial contract. Ironically, it wasn’t the amount of money that was his deciding factor to ink the deal, but rather a guarantee for a certain amount. As mentioned previously, the WWF had some lean years in the early 90s and while it’s common place today, during the Diesel main event run, there was no downside guarantee. So, despite being a major star in 1995, Kevin Nash didn’t know the minimum money that he could make for a particular year. It was extremely interesting to hear that he didn’t ask Vince McMahon to match Bischoff’s offer, just to guarantee a certain amount, which McMahon couldn’t do at the time.

Nash actually worked as the booker of WCW during the latter stages of the company and talked about the staff of the creative team at the time, including the infamous Vince Russo. He also has a very comical assessment of Greg Gagne, who claims to have been the person that got Hulk Hogan to sign with WCW and also takes credit for the NWO angle. Another hilarious story includes the events that prompted both Hall and Nash to be given an $800,000 bonus when Turner executives thought that the WWF’s hype for the eventual reveal of the fake Razor/Diesel skit was somehow a power play to get the duo to return to McMahon’s company.

As for the booking segment of the presentation, it can get a little convoluted at times because of the nature of the project, but it’s kept mostly simplistic. When asked about the cast of cartoon characters that were featured in 1996, Nash suggested a cult leader type character to create a stable that allowed certain performers to assume more edgy characters and Raven was mentioned as a possible leader. It was also explained how a heel Razor Ramon could’ve been booked throughout the remainder of 1996 and the impact it would’ve made in the title picture. Assuming The Outsiders never left, the curtain call incident didn’t happen and Triple H’s King of the Ring push didn’t get delayed a year so would he have won it as scheduled? More specifically, how would Nash book himself if he continued his career in the WWF?

As mentioned prior, the booking segment of this edition can get a little murky at times because of the domino effect booking differently would’ve had on other angles at the time, but the discussion about The Outsiders’ actual departure makes this presentation worth watching. It’s extremely interesting to hear Nash detail the decision making process to jump to WCW and the start of the New World Order. Nash is one of the most entertaining personalities in wrestling and this interview is another example of it. So, I’d recommend this edition to anyone that’s a fan of the Monday Night war era, and it provides intriguing insight into one of the most influential decisions in pro wrestling history.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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