On episode 27 of Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard, the former WWE producer got in-depth on the subject of the nWo in WWE. According to Prichard, the nWo experiment was a failure insofar as it was a good idea, but it was poorly executed.
"I think it was a failure. The nWo experiment in the WWF was a failure. I think the idea was good. The execution was not. There are a lot of things, hindsight being 20/20, that maybe we should have done a little differently." Prichard reflected, "it just wasn't meant to be."
In the fall of 2001, Ric Flair became kayfabe co-owner of WWF, much to the dismay of the villainous Mr. McMahon. Behind-the-scenes, at that time, the company's braintrust started talking about the possibility of bringing in The Outsiders, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Prichard recalled that Shane McMahon called Scott Hall about a possible return to WWF and the discussions tanked.
"I do remember something a little bit about that, but these were simply just conversations taking place, 'hey, what are you doing?', 'when's your deal up?', 'would be interested in going to work when your deal's up and coming back and making some money?'. I don't know that Scott was in the greatest place at the time. But I do remember rumblings back and forth and a conversation with Shane, that Shane was pretty disillusioned as far as doing anything."
Eventually, talks would progress and expand to include the nWo's third man and Hall, Nash, and Hulk Hogan would be brought in at the appropriately titled No Way Out (2002) pay-per-view in time to build for WrestleMania 18. Prichard claimed that there was concerns over bringing all three of them back to WWF. Apparently, there was some reluctance to bring Hogan back as a heel given that he was always a babyface in WWF, and more significantly, there were concerns over Hall and Nash disrupting the locker room.
"[Nash's] name was brought up from time to time, but the sentiments were always pretty much the same and that's what they were, that they just would be a cancer in the locker room and do we need that right now with the locker room that we have? That was unanimous for the most part. The agents, the writers, everybody. Somewhat, yeah [that was McMahon's opinion as well]. It probably wasn't Triple H's take, no. Triple H was an advocate for them to come back."
Prichard continued, "Vince's philosophy was 'have a happy dressing room - if you have a happy dressing room, I don't care what the business is as long as I don't have a bunch of strife and bulls--t in the dressing room'. We had a happy dressing room at that time. We had guys working together, making money, and busting their ass. There was concern about bringing in a disruptive force that might have jeopardized that."
Uncertain about whether to bringing in the nWo, McMahon had a vote in a production meeting and the trio was unanimously voted against being brought back. The group was brought in anyway, as the allure of having Hogan back in the fold was too intriguing for McMahon to pass up, in Prichard's estimation. The former 'Brother Love' suggested that McMahon and then head of Talent Relations Jim Ross probably talked to the talent about Hogan, Hall, and Nash coming in and reassured them that those guys would be treated like everyone else and would not have creative control. Backstage at No Way Out, the three of them stuck together and Hall and Nash were "inseparable".
"Hall and Nash were inseparable that day. I definitely remember that. But they all tried to make themselves a part of the crew. They tried to talk to everybody, to say, 'hey man, we're just here to work, brother, and brother, brother, brother, brother, brother, and not cause waves.' But they were nice as could be. I remember I had missed a couple of TVs. It was one of my first TVs back. And they came up to me and said, 'hey, I understand that you voted against us to come in.' And I corrected them right away. I said, 'no, I wasn't a part of that vote.' I said, 'but I would've just for the record, so we know the reason why and the reason why was because in their past incarnation, they had been disruptive and we didn't want that again in the locker room.' And that was it. 'But the decision was made, you are here, let's make it work.'"
Prichard shared that the plan all along was to bring the nWo in as Mr. McMahon's henchmen; however, McMahon did not want to have an Eric Bischoff type of role in the nWo.
"That's interesting. That question was asked and the response was 'what? Good God, no!'" Prichard continued, "Vince has that weird thing about him. He doesn't want to do anything like the other guys did, but 'let's bring back the guys that kicked our ass for all these, those many weeks, in the ratings. So that'll be enough. That'll be enough of that. I don't want to recreate too much of it.' It was just weird. It was weird."
On the topic of the Steve Austin/Scott Hall feud, Prichard said that pairing Austin and Hall was the idea all along, as Austin vs. Hogan could be saved for later and The Rock vs. Hogan could be set for WrestleMania 18.
"I think everybody agreed that Austin/Hulk was the bigger match [than Hogan vs. The Rock] that we had to get to, so the feeling was, 'why give it to them first? Let's build it even more' when you've got Rock right here and they were interchangeable at that point in their careers. So the idea, from our vantage point, was to do Hulk and Rock and then eventually get to Hulk and Austin at some point, whether that be the next WrestleMania or not."
Prichard divulged that Austin tried to get out of WrestleMania match with Hall saying that Hall would not make it Toronto, Canada in light of Hall's very public "personal demons" and McMahon tried to alleviate those concerns. In Prichard's view, the whole feud was a miss and the duo had no chemistry. Prichard professed that Austin was upset about being programmed with Hall, but 'The Bionic Redneck' was having his own issues at the time.
"Well, there [are] also a lot of things that people didn't know and Steve had health issues. Steve wasn't in a good place. Steve wasn't in a good place mentally. Steve wasn't in a good place physically as well, so add that to the nWo situation with Scott Hall not being there, the no chemistry. It was a perfect storm for a s--tty match."
Hall was released by WWF at the Monday Night RAW following the Insurrextion (2002) event. Legend has it that Hall was extremely intoxicated on his way to the United Kingdom, fell asleep backstage at the pay-per-view, and showed up at RAW in what podcast cohost Conrad Thompson generously described as "less than perfect condition".
"There [are] probably a lot of elements of truth to that in that Scott did have problems and I do believe that Scott was probably reprimanded and talked to on several different occasions for his behavior outside of the ring."
As for Nash not having a WrestleMania 18 match, Prichard suggested that there were concerns of his work and WWF brass did not want to have too many questionable performers in top matches at 'The Showcase Of The Immortals'. Prichard insinuated that Nash would conveniently turn up injured when it was time to work. With respect to Nash's infamous quad tear, Prichard described it as just another example of how the nWo in WWF was "snakebit" from the beginning.
"It just goes back to the nWo storyline coming in was snakebit and just the hits kept coming." Prichard added, "so Kevin getting hurt and tearing his quad was the nail in the coffin for the nWo experiment in WWE."
During the podcast, Prichard acknowledged that WWE's nWo was guilty of what WCW did to kill the faction and that is adding too many members. Prichard explained that X-Pac was brought in because the group needed a good worker who could bump. Similarly, The Big Show was added to pro wrestling's least exclusive club because they needed a big guy since Nash was not working. Booker T was used just for his WCW ties. Notably, Shawn Michaels joined nWo as a means of reintroducing him to the WWE audience.
"The idea to bring Shawn back, obviously, Shawn was feeling a little better, feeling a little froggy, thinking about coming back, and it was another way to introduce a new old character back into the fold. The last time that Hall and Nash were in WWF, they were together. They were feuding against each other, but everybody knew The Kliq and the friendship between Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels, so it was a way to kind of reintroduce him. But we weren't really sure at this point… there wasn't even talk of Shawn coming back full-time. It's just a 'let's test the waters [and] see what's out there. Maybe Shawn will get the bug.'"
On The Rock vs. Hogan at WrestleMania 18, Prichard said the crowd was hot and that it was great that the guys adapted to the crowd.
"That crowd was on their feet the entire match. They loved it. I thought both guys did a great job of kind of switching roles. They tried to get them. They tried to get them in that traditional… with what they went into the match story, but both guys adapted and they went with the crowd. Hogan went babyface and Rock went heel, but it's one of the… it is a teaching tool for young talents to go and watch how these two guys listened to the audience, they changed how the match was laid out, and went with it, and didn't let the audience get to them. They took the audience for a hell of a ride and that was the main event of the show for sure."
Although Prichard does not think the plan all along was to have Hall and Nash turn on Hogan at the conclusion of his WrestleMania bout against The Rock, the nostalgic WrestleMania crowd confirmed for WWE that Hogan would go back to the red and yellow and that McMahon was eager for 'The Hulkster' to return to that super babyface status once again. Apparently, Hogan and The Outsiders were drafted to different brands because there was no upside in having Hogan vs. the nWo and McMahon had other plans for Hogan as a babyface act. Supposedly, Triple H pushed for Hogan to have that super babyface role.
"Triple H definitely wanted to work with Hulk. Triple H volunteered [to do the honors] and I want to say that it was Triple H's idea to put Hogan in that picture because of the reaction he got, 'oh my God! To work with that babyface Hulk Hogan as hot as he was at that point?' Yeah, that was good s--t."
Triple H would drop the Undisputed WWF Championship to Hogan at Backlash (2002). Prichard said that the decision to put the world title on Hogan was not the plan all along, but it was great for nostalgia as a short-term deal.
"I thought it was a great decision for nostalgic purposes. Hulk was probably the hottest talent in the company at the time. The audience was so happy to see him back. They were getting behind [him]. They were buying every damn thing he did."
On the subject of Hogan's WWE departure in 2003, Prichard stated that it stemmed from money and called it "a long, convoluted, crazy story."
Check out the podcast here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard with an H/T to WrestlingINC for the transcription.