A Look Back at WWE's Infamous Curtain Call: The MSG Incident

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IDecember 17, 2011

The world of professional wrestling is synonymous with rumors, speculation, half truths and misinformation. But with one of pro wrestling’s most notorious incidents, “Curtain Call: The MSG Incident,” which applies here? You decide.

This incident occurred at a time when World Wrestling Entertainment, then the World Wrestling Federation, was just ending its “Family Friendly” phase. It was entering a new chapter that became what is known as “The Attitude Era.” It involved four of wrestling’s most popular superstars of all time: Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.

At a WWE House Show in the famed Madison Square Garden, May 19, 1996, Kevin Nash & Scott Hall were appearing in their final matches as WWE Superstars. Nash, as the persona Diesel, wrestled WWE Champion Shawn Michaels, in the main event. Hall, as the persona, Razor Ramon, wrestled Hunter Hearst Helmsley, earlier in the night.

After the Diesel-Michaels Match, wrestling fans were not at all shocked when Razor Ramon entered the ring and hugged Shawn Michaels. The two “Babyfaces”, were huge fan favorites, so the crowd was on it's feet. Shortly after, Helmsley entered the ring, and he hugged both Michaels and Ramon. Diesel joined the other wrestlers in a long group hug, then the four turned to the crowd, with their arms raised together. There was a mixed reaction: fans ranged from ecstatic to confused.

This final bow, now known as “Curtain Call”, forever changed the face of the professional wrestling. WWE upper management were flabbergasted when they saw what went down. Traditionally, the images of “Babyfaces” and “Heels” were always protected inside and outside of the ring. These four superstars had destroyed that same illusion for many wrestling fans. WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon was left shaking his head.

With this, Hall and Nash were on their way to Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling. The WWE was about to be turned on it's ear. Fan footage of the event surfaced, but the WWE was able to obtain this footage and use it in a storyline that paved the way for the birth of Degeneration X.

This was one of the most, if not the most, controversial wrestling stables of all time. Michaels and Helmsley, used this same footage to get under the skin of McMahon. 

Michaels, who was WWE Champion, and the company’s biggest ticket draw at the time, was exempt from punishment for his part in the incident. Hall and Nash were gone to WCW, where they were propelled into super-stardom.

As a result, the WWE suffered in the ratings . Helmsley became the target of McMahon's wrath. He was slated to win the 1996 King of the Ring Tournament; he was also slated to wrestle some of the company’s top talent. Instead, he had to wrestle in the mid-card against some forgettable characters, in some awful matches.

He did not win a single title until five months later, when he won the WWE Intercontinental Championship. This was a slight setback for Triple H, but it did not stop him from becoming a major player in the WWE. He, along with Shawn Michaels gave the WWE a much needed facelift to combat World Championship Wrestling's edgier story-lines, by upping the ante with the racy antics of DX.

The events that took place on that night, will always be remembered by fans as a reminder, that the line between reality and fantasy is extremely thin. They will also know that same line can be crossed at any time.


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