Seventeen years ago yesterday, professional wrestling changed forever.
Much like when Hulkamania arrived on the scene on January 23, 1984 after Hulk Hogan pinned the Iron Sheik for his first WWF title, Hogan pulled the greatest swerve in wrestling history on July 6, 1996 with his infamous heel turn by joining the New World Order.
It seems whenever wrestling wants to rewrite itself, it can look to the man with the 24-inch pythons to help create another historical event.
Hogan’s heel turn did a great many things in a short amount of time. It proved that even the most popular of heroes in the ring could make the jump successfully to the “dark side” of the business. It also helped prove that the nWo were one of the greatest stables ever (at least in the beginning).
It also proved the genius of Scott Hall and Eric Bischoff, who masterminded the project until the emergence of Vince Russo, et al., which destroyed WCW and its foundations.
While Hogan has been criticized for many things in his career (steroids, his stronghold in the WWF title, WCW), the creation of the nWo and its place in wrestling history is one thing he can say was a high point in his career; the impact of the nWo is the reason many of the stables today and in recent years have succeeded (because of “new age” cool) or failed (because they could not keep up).
Speaking of the nWo and other stables (like The Shield), we finally see the Wyatt Family in full effect Monday night on Raw. Welcome to the “Big Show” boys. The Wyatts, with their cryptic, Raven-like promos that leave us shaking a bit and feeling eerie from listening to Bray Wyatt (Windham Rotunda) talk like he is a disciple of a cult.
It might be the best stable to come to the WWE since Mr. McMahon, the Corporation and its rule of the company.
My only concern about the Wyatts and their entry into the WWE is the company’s ill-advised lack of a “face” stable to combat The Shield, so what happens to two “heel” factions that want to run roughshod over the WWE?
And because the WWE has taken the right steps to build this group up (Bray Wyatt along with Eric Rowan and Luke Harper), in the words of fellow Bleacher Report columnist Tom Clark, their first appearance had better be, “EPIC.”
This is also the “Go Home” edition of Raw before the “Money in the Bank” pay-per-view, so it is a must-see and it must deliver. Eight matches are on the playbill for the evening in Philadelphia, with each one playing a huge role in the summer swing of the company.
Here are some questions the WWE needs to answer for us on Monday night.
What’s the story between CM Punk and Paul Heyman?
The look on Punk’s face said it all when he saw his “best friend” Paul Heyman get slapped around by Alberto Del Rio, eliciting anger and fear from Punk.
It was good to see Punk continue to get back to his former self and prove to be the “Best in the World” today.
There needs to be a bridged gap to get some resolution of this situation, and it needs to happen without the interference of Brock Lesnar. I do think a feud between Punk and Curtis Axel works well.
What will the response be to the Wyatts?
Hopefully it will go according to plan. Everything really depends on how they enter 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore. The best thing about The Shield's debut is that they were unexpected, came in through the crowd and took everyone off their feet with their in-your-face approach.
Can the Wyatts have their own style that will get over with the WWE Universe?
What happens between Chris Jericho and Ryback?
“Cryback” is slowly losing steam and he needs to get over, again. We all know if a wrestler needs to get over, there is no better wrestler to help them with that than Jericho. This is one of those cases. Ryback’s rise and fall is dramatic and he needs to win a major event, especially a pay-per-view. Ryback is way too talented to become an Ahmed Johnson-type.
Is Dolph Ziggler now a lone wolf?
I sure hope so. I also wonder what is going on with Big E Langston and whether or not we will see Ziggler and AJ together in the “City of Brotherly Love.”
Ziggler hasn’t been fully embraced as a face, in my opinion. Had he and Chris Jericho had buried the hatchet and shook hands inside of trying to outdo each other, it would have gone a long way toward Ziggler getting over even more with the fans.
If he soundly beats ADR and can beat the Money in the Bank contract winner, then he should solidify himself as another WWE Superstar who made the jump effectively (much like Shawn Michaels or Randy Savage).