Harvey Dent once said, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” This now iconic line of Dark Knight dialogue effectively accomplished two things: (1) it provided attentive viewers with foreshadowing as to how the film would end; And (2), it made it abundantly clear that Harvey Dent was watching WCW’s Bash at the Beach in 1996.
Make no mistake about it, at the time, Hulk Hogan was a hero. Arguably the greatest “face” throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, Hogan’s name had become synonymous with wrestling- and to this day, he’s considered to be one of the all-time greats. Before World Championship Wrestling’s pay-per-view in the summer of ‘96, the Hulkster was adored by every man, woman, and child who was even a passing fan of professional wrestling. Not only were they taken by his hot dog-colored skin and questionable acting chops, but they longed for the positive American values he represented at the time. On that fateful evening in Dayton Beach, Florida, however, everything changed.
With 8,300 Hulkamaniacs in attendance, Hulk Hogan achieved the greatest heel turn in the history of the business. Allow me to paint the scene:
Plans for the betrayal were set in motion on May 27, 1996. Scott Hall, previously Razor Ramon of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), made his first WCW appearance on Monday Night Nitro, making his intentions of a brand invasion crystal clear. Hall challenged Eric Bischoff, Executive Vice President of WCW, to select three of his best wrestlers to take on Hall and two yet-to-be-determined partners.
The first of the partners was eventually revealed to be Kevin Nash, also coming over from the WWF, who became one half of The Outsiders. Over the next several weeks, Hall and Nash continually interrupted WCW events, prompting Bischoff to accept their challenge and give them a three-man tag team match. The opponents? Randy Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger. The venue? Bash at the Beach.
Though The Outsiders already knew the three men they’d be taking on at the pay-per-view, they kept the third member of their faction under wraps. Even when the match, dubbed the “Hostile Takeover Match”, began, the duo wasn’t yet accompanied by their mystery partner.
Even still, the Outsiders held their own against Savage, Sting and Luger, with the latter eventually being knocked out cold and forced to leave the match. When the match resumed, the teams battled back and forth, with Hall and Nash gaining the upper hand. That’s when everybody’s favorite American, Hulk Hogan, trotted briskly down the ramp to raucous applause. The Outsiders fled the ring, leaving a nearly-defeated Randy Savage lying face-up on the mat, and it appeared that the Hulkster had saved the day for WCW…until he bounced off the ropes and delivered an atomic leg drop to Randy Savage, revealing himself to be the third man.
Stunned, the crowd began to throw trash into the ring as they watched Hulk Hogan take the mic from “Mean” Gene Okerlund and deliver a speech about the future. “You can call this the new world order of wrestling, brother.”
And so they did.
The nWo went on to become one of the most iconic factions in wrestling history, allowing WCW to rival the WWF in ratings- which remains unprecedented still more than twenty years later. The stable dominated wrestling for years to come, and it all began with Hulk Hogan and the greatest heel turn in the history of wrestling entertainment.
(Featured Image Credit: WWE)