Hulk Hogan has detailed his worries before turning heel for the first time in well over a decade when he turned his back on WCW and formed the nWo with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall twenty-five years ago.
The wrestling business changed forever at Bash At The Beach in 1996 when Hogan was revealed as the third man to join The Outsiders and form the New World Order. This set WCW on the course for their run as the top company in the entire wrestling world before the WWF found their own new attitude.
Speaking to Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated, Hulk Hogan discussed the change in direction as Hulk morphed into Hollywood. Hogan said he knew he could be a heel but for him, it was all a question of timing.
“I knew I could work as a heel because I’d watched so much of Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson and ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham and The Great Malenko. They’d chop, kick and beat the crap out of you, but then they’d backpedal, cross their heart, and drop to their knees the moment the babyface would make his comeback. For me, the problem was the timing. I didn’t know if that was the right timing to do it.”
Hogan then discussed how loved he was by the wrestling audience, and how that turning his back on them concerned him:
“It wasn’t as intense as it was from ’89 to ’91, but there were still people who loved me as a babyface. I was so focused during that stretch with doing movies, and I still wanted to come back in the red and yellow. Eric had mentioned the idea to me, and I thought I could be a really intense heel. But turning, after all we’d been through to reach that point, it really concerned me.”
One regret Hogan does have from the Bash At The Beach was his choice of footwear. Rather than his usual wrestling boots, Hogan donned yellow cowboy boots which in retrospect he feels could have been a clue to what was about to happen.
“I immediately worried it was going to be an angle alert. I was thinking that as soon as I was headed to the ring, telling myself I was an idiot for doing it. Those boots were really slippery, too, and I think you’ll see me grab the rope before I take a step and hit those leg drops on Randy. Had I been wearing my wrestling boots, it would have been a much bigger production. It was such a rookie move on my part.”
As for the moment when he dropped his dreaded leg drop on Randy Savage, Hogan says the three men needed the right reaction from the crowd for it to work. Hogan also added that Nash and Hall were paramount in the change of presentation from Hogan, telling Hulk he just needed to be cool.
“We needed a certain kind of heat. I was someone they had loved and believed in, so in order for this to work, there needed to be the right reaction. That’s what we got when people in the crowd started throwing water bottles, trash, and everything else at us in the ring. That’s what we needed, and we got it.”
“Going into this, I didn’t know Kevin and Scott, but they ended up changing my entire career. I had a certain way of doing interviews, but I remember Kevin and Scott saying, ‘You don’t need to get every word in’ and ‘Just be cool.’ That changed everything. I was still in that machine-gun cadence of doing the Hulk Hogan promos, and they changed the way I delivered interviews.”
WCW President and eventual nWo member Eric Bischoff also recently discussed the legendary angle and the pressures on Hogan that made him think twice about turning his back on the legions of Hulkamaniacs.