One of the most controversial stars of the last 20 years, Kevin Nash succeeded at the highest levels in both World Wrestling Entertainment and World Championship Wrestling. He became one of the most recognizable stars in the industry and created a Hall of Fame-worthy career for himself.
A heavyweight champion in both organizations, Nash has always managed to remain relevant, even as his age caught up to him. Call it the coolness factor or the fact that he is a political mastermind backstage, but either way, he has longevity in the business that most could only dream of.
Truly a talented big man when motivated, Nash worked Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Undertaker in some great matches while in WWE and had surprisingly good chemistry with Rey Mysterio during his days in WCW.
An incredibly smart performer whose ability to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to pop culture helped revolutionize WCW and fuel the success of the New World Order, Nash does not get enough credit for knowing the audience.
While he has garnered the reputation of a selfish backstage politician whose poor booking decisions contributed to the downfall of WCW, Nash did equally as much to ensure that the promotion reached levels of success that it had never experienced before. Without him, the Monday Night Wars may never have existed.
It is difficult to make that sort of impact. Hundreds of wrestlers will come and go over the years without ever being a tenth as important to the history of the business as Nash is.
In celebration of his career, here is a look back at some of the big man's most memorable matches and moments.
The Dark Days of WCW
To say that Nash's first stint in WCW was a disaster would be like saying Trish Stratus was only moderately attractive.
As Oz, he was ripped right out of the classic film The Wizard of Oz, which Ted Turner had purchased the rights to air on his networks. It was an awful gimmick whose shelf life proved incredibly short.
Vinnie Vegas was next up for Nash, and it was a dated gimmick whose lack of success was never in question.
Luckily for Nash, Shawn Michaels would be watching WCW television, and the 7-footer would catch his eye. By the summer of 1993, he would be employed by Vince McMahon's WWE and well on his way to becoming one of the biggest stars of the decade.
Then There Was That Time He Was Super Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2...
The Royal Rumble and The Triple Crown
As Diesel, Nash spent months as Shawn Michaels' bodyguard, interfering in matches and helping the Heartbreak Kid to victory.
At the Royal Rumble in January 1994, he delivered his breakout performance, eliminating Superstar after Superstar and garnering the support of the crowd as a result. With every man he tossed over the top rope, chants of "Diesel" grew louder, leaving Vince McMahon to see dollar signs in the heavyweight.
First, he won the Intercontinental Championship from Razor Ramon with an assist from Shawn Michaels.
From there, he and Michaels captured the WWE Tag Team Championships from The Headshrinkers and went on to defend them for three months, defeating rivals Ramon and the 1-2-3 Kid in an absolutely outstanding match on the WWE Action Zone program.
After a split with Michaels, Diesel was left on his own for the first time in WWE. He shut all of his doubters up quickly, defeating Bob Backlund in eight seconds to capture the WWE Championship inside the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden. That win was the start of a year-long title reign that saw Big Daddy Cool, as he was known, reign over WWE.
There are many who point to the fact that Diesel drew the least money as champion in company history. When one takes into account that the best opposition they had for him at that time was British Bulldog, King Mabel and Sycho Sid, one can hardly put the blame squarely on his shoulders.
Heel Turn and Departure from WWE
In November 1995, Diesel dropped the WWE title to Bret Hart in one of the best No Disqualification matches of all time. After the bout, he introduced a new side of himself to the WWE fans. A brutal post-match assault of Hart led to a far nastier, meaner Diesel than before, though it would not be until the Royal Rumble in January 1996 that he officially turned heel.
The Undertaker became the target of Diesel's aggression, leading to a match at WrestleMania XII. The former heavyweight champion proved to be The Deadman's toughest challenge to date, but even his onslaught was not enough to tarnish The Phenom's blossoming undefeated streak at the show of shows.
His last major match with the McMahon-owned promotion came in April '96 when he lost a hellacious No Holds Barred bout to real-life best friend Shawn Michaels. It was, unquestionably, Diesel's finest performance and really demonstrated just how good he could be when he cared about what he was doing.
NWO and WCW
In May 1996, Kevin Nash returned to WCW for an angle that would shake the wrestling world to its core and change things forever.
He and Scott Hall (formerly Razor Ramon) debuted for the company as invaders from WWE. They repeatedly promised that they were not alone, and they claimed they would be joined at Bash at the Beach 1996 by a third man who would lead them in taking over WCW.
That third man turned out to be Hulk Hogan. Together, the three of them formed the New World Order and made life a living hell for the WCW Superstars for the better part of two years.
Ego and repetitive booking necessitated the split of the faction and any chance the company had of ever really putting WWE out of business.
Nash remained a headliner after the demise of the group, however, and wrestled in the main event at Starrcade 1998 against the juggernaut that was Goldberg. With the top prize in wrestling at stake, Nash booked himself to defeat the undefeated star in the evening's marquee match.
Critics immediately pointed at the outcome as evidence of Nash's self-centered booking approach hurting the overall product. It is difficult to argue against them when the act was so blatant.
Nash remained with the company until its demise in March 2001.
Return to WWE
In 2002, Nash returned to WWE as part of the nWo. The group's infiltration of the company was meant to be a ratings boost, but the nostalgia accompanying Hulk Hogan's return proved too powerful. The Hulkster became a babyface just one month into his run, and Nash and Scott Hall were left to carry on the group by themselves.
Unfortunately for Nash, he suffered a torn quadriceps in a match on Raw and was sidelined for nearly a year.
When he returned to the ring, he feuded with Triple H over the World Heavyweight Championship. While their match at Judgment Day 2003 was every bit as bad as most expected it to be, their Hell in a Cell match a month later far exceeded expectations thanks to the presence of special guest referee Mick Foley and his willingness to get physically involved in the match.
Nash would briefly feud with Chris Jericho, losing a Hair vs. Hair match to Y2J on the August 11 episode of Raw, but Nash would soon disappear from television again, not to return to WWE for eight years.
Nash's time in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling was a mixed bag.
There were times in which he was involved heavily in storylines and times where he kind of floated around aimlessly.
As part of the Main Event Mafia, he aligned himself with Scott Steiner, Kurt Angle, Booker T and Sting to wage war on some of the bright young stars in the company. One of those stars was the highly talented Samoa Joe, whom Nash competed against on more than one occasion.
The former heavyweight champion's biggest claim to fame was the backstage work he did with the X-Division stars in an attempt to help them get more over. It was his influence in those segments that led to Jay Lethal adopting the "Macho Man" Randy Savage persona and showing off his personality through imitations.
Nash would leave the company in 2010.
One Last Go-Round
In 2011, Nash returned to WWE for a storyline involving CM Punk and Triple H.
What was to be a high-profile bout against Punk, however, never occurred after Nash failed a physical and was sidelined. When he finally did pass, Punk had moved on to bigger and better things, and Nash instead feuded with The Game.
He and Triple H competed in a Ladder match at the December 2011 TLC pay-per-view. Triple H won and sent Nash packing.
The big man continues to make rare appearances, including several times as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble.