Scott Hall arrived in WCW less than ten days after the infamous curtain call incident. Kevin Nash would soon follow as well. Their invasion took shape at the Bash At The Beach, where they faced off against WCW heroes Sting, Lex Luger and “The Macho Man” Randy Savage. After The Outsiders devastated all three members of the team, Hulk Hogan stomped to the ring to deliver the leg drop heard around the world.
The greatest do-gooder in all of wrestling and by far the most recognizable figure in the industry, turned villain created the New World Order and became the scourge of the entire wrestling industry. It almost didn’t happen, but if we’re all being honest with ourselves, no matter how you feel about Hogan personally and professionally, the success of the nWo wouldn’t be quite as great without Hogan being the third man, fool rumor about Mabel be damned.
Hulkamania in WCW had grown old
By the time Hulk Hogan debuted with WCW in 1994, Hulkamania was already frumpy up north. It didn’t take long for WCW fans to tire of Hogan’s shtick, too. Eric Bischoff realized this and took a trip to meet Hogan while he was filming a movie to make him a suggestion to turn around. As Bischoff related the story on his 83 Weeks podcast, Hogan stroked his fu-manchu and told Easy E that he couldn’t turn his heel and Bischoff wouldn’t understand until he walked in his red and yellow boots. It’s easy to empathize.
Pro wrestling is the only sport that mixes fact and fiction, and when suddenly the world’s biggest babyface is on his heels, there’s plenty of validation and perhaps more importantly – his relationship with Make A Wish Kids. About a year later, when a red-hot angle called, Hulk Hogan reconsidered his decision, and when he asked Bischoff who the third guy was, he also answered the same question with his own two thumbs — he pointed to himself.
Sting was ready and waiting to be the third man
Bischoff’s claims over the years that the idea for the nWo was not taken by ex-WWE folks, but was in fact taken by ex-WCW folks who were upset with how it was being used. With that in mind, and knowing Hogan wouldn’t be the third man, Bischoff had talked to Sting about him being the guy to lead Hall and Nash. Until Bash At The Beach, no one at WCW was sure Hogan would show up, let alone his turn.
Whether or not Sting Turning Heel would have had the same impact from a wrestling perspective is debatable, but from a pop culture perspective, only Hogan could have had that kind of cultural impact. This influence ensures that nWo still sells t-shirts to this day.
Hulk Hogan was a pop culture icon
While Shawn Michaels was a handful in the WWE dressing room, he, conversely, was the top performer alive in 1996. Nobody could hold a candle to him in terms of ability. Since he was the WWE Champion, he would not be penalized for The Curtain Call. In a hypothetical world, what if he did. Bischoff has answered this question multiple times – with the dressing room behavior he didn’t want any part of the HBK in his dressing room. He also laughed at the ridiculous claim that Mabel was in talks to become the third man. It was always Hogan or Sting. That’s it. Those are the two that fit the plot best. Although no one knew the cultural implications, in hindsight it had to be Hulk Hogan.
Over ten years ago, Hulkamania set the wrestling world on fire. He’s been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on late-night TV, on TV shows in general, and of course, at the heart of Vince McMahon’s national expansion. While others within the sport have achieved top guy status, it can be argued that no one has ever achieved cultural icon status while on the run.
Even today, there’s a decent chance, barring maybe The Rock (due to his Hollywood status), that Hulk Hogan is the only name non-wrestling fans might know, which is why Hogan’s spin was such a hot topic in the first place .