Former WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff has admitted that the popularity of the company in 1997 wasn’t solely down to the nWo.
When Hulk Hogan turned heel at the 1996 Bash at the Beach and joined Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, proclaiming that what fans were witnessing was a New World Order of professional wrestling, everything changed.
Wrestling suddenly became popular again, shifting from the cartoon driven era of the early-mid nineties to a more gritty, realistic genre that drew in fans of all ages. The rise of World Championship Wrestling forced the World Wrestling Federation to adapt or perish bringing about the beloved Attitude Era.
However, underneath the popularity of the nWo were names such as Sting, Randy Savage, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. Men who may not have always been in the main event scene during the company’s existence but were known for gripping bouts that were the bread and butter of the company.
Now, Eric Bischoff himself has taken to his 83 Weeks podcast to give credit to the unsung heroes of WCW and state that the popularity of the company wasn’t only due to the nWo:
“Well in fairness, I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. But certainly the nWo being the most significant of them. Great television is a combination of a lot of little details all clipped together correctly and there were a lot of things that led to this. Again nWo being the biggest, there’s no question about it, but the introduction of the live format. The introduction of a format that appealed specifically to target the 18-49 year-old demo [graphic], that now 20-some odd years later peripheral wrestling personalities are writing about ’18-49 demos’, well guess what? That didn’t exist before me and before Nitro.
We were building on that, the Cruiserweight Division was becoming more popular as we brought more talent into it. The entire format of the show became more polished and fine-tuned in ’97 than it was even in ’96. So there were a lot of reasons for it but I think to say ‘well, it was because of the nWo’ is not necessarily fair. The Cruiserweight Division, the format itself, a lot of the different things that we were doing and presenting the product in an entirely different way, almost every week had a lot to do with it but there’s no argument that the nWo was the most significant factor.”
While the nWo was bubbling away on the surface of World Championship Wrestling, the group were often not the highlight of pay-per-view events. An example of this was Halloween Havoc 1997 which may have been headlined by a Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper bore, but will always be outshone by and remembered for Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero.
Credit for the interview: 83 Weeks