How Scott Hall & Kevin Nash's WCW Debuts Led To WWE Buying Their Competition

Scott Hall & Kevin Nash signing with WCW leads to Vince McMahon buying their competition

It began as a scripted angle in one company. Their rival company claimed that the scripted angle was deceptive and misleading, resulting in actual legal issues over said scripted angle. By the time those issues were fully resolved, the original intent of the scripted angle (which was now long dead) latently mirrored reality in a way that was never intended. In this case, the ones who took issue with the scripted angle ultimately benefited from its occurrence.

In February 1996, just one day after filming a vignette (that never aired) in which he challenged Goldust to a Miami Street Fight at WrestleMania 12, Scott Hall did something much more pointed - he faxed a letter to Vince McMahon, informing his boss of four years that he was giving his notice.

The 37-year-old former four-time Intercontinental champion had received "The Godfather offer" from WCW honcho Eric Bischoff - $750,000 a year for three years, all guaranteed, with a maximum of 150 dates per year. Additionally, Hall's WCW contract had a "favoured nations" clause that would bump up his salary, should WCW offer a heartier contract to any wrestler at his level. Though he'd done well for himself in WWE, the ageing Razor Ramon did the math, and knew that huge paydays for a reduced schedule was the right play.

Hall's WWE contract was set to expire shortly before that of best friend Kevin Nash, aka Diesel. In Nash's three years in WWE, the seven-footer won every conceivable championship available for him, and he received a sustained Hulk Hogan-like push throughout 1995. WWE's rough business from that time period aside, Nash was enough of a commodity that Bischoff reached out to him shortly after he locked down Hall. Initially, Nash had wanted to remain loyal to Vince, who had put maximum faith in him when no other promoter or booker had, and wasn't all that keen to jump ship.

However, with a pregnant wife at home, and a chance to earn unfathomable money for such a light schedule, not to mention his disdain for the booking of his recent world title match against Bret Hart at the February In Your House, the 36-year-old decided to follow his buddy to Atlanta. One week after Hall faxed his notice to McMahon, Nash did the same, letting Vince know that he was done with WWE as of June 6 of that year.

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After taking a rather controversial bow inside Madison Square Garden that May, Hall and Nash put their WWE obligations behind them, and were set to begin life anew in WCW. At the time, WCW's upper card was filled with a who's who of squared circle royalty - Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Sting, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, and The Steiners, as well as 24-year-old Paul "The Giant" Wight, were the "big boys" of the oft-referenced "Where the Big Boys Play" campaign. So it appeared that finding reasonable space for stars like Hall and Nash may have been a challenge. Little did anyone know what Bischoff's ambitious plans were for the incoming heavyweights.

Eight days after raising arms and sharing hugs with his blood brothers in the Kliq, Hall appeared at Monday Nitro in Macon, Georgia. Grinning ear to ear, Hall emerged from the audience, presented as a cocky interloper. By stepping over the guardrail like some overzealous spectator, the idea was that Hall didn't actually work there, otherwise he would have walked down the entranceway like any other WCW talent. Instead, he was treated as an intruder by the announcers.

Then came the promo - Hall referenced WWE's polarising "Billionaire Ted" sketches from that year, running down the likes of Randy Savage, Mean Gene Okerlund, and Ted Turner, while referring to each by the names assigned to their likenesses from those broad parodies.

Later that night, Hall confronted announcer Bischoff at the commentary stage. For months prior, Bischoff had stuck it to McMahon by revealing the results of taped episodes of Raw, taking an aggressive tack as he presented his own show as superior to the not-always-fresh competitor. Hall directed barbed, and apparently retaliatory, remarks at Bischoff. The operative word in Hall's tirade was "we", as in "We are sick" of you running your mouth. Bischoff, boosting the intrigue, asked who "we" was supposed to be, since Hall presently stood alone. In his closing statement, Hall made it clear: "We are taking over".

Scott hall wcw debut

Hall's use of "we" was open-ended, and called for speculation - by referencing Bischoff's dismissive comments toward WWE, while simultaneously using the Billionaire Ted references to put down WCW, Hall came off as pro-WWE as, say, Razor Ramon might have been. Hall also spoke in the same affected accent as his Ramon character, a put-on that he'd never used as a wrestler until joining Vince in 1992. To a less-savvy viewer, this wasn't Scott Hall barking at Uncle Eric - this was Razor Ramon.

Important people in WWE noticed this. The following week, one day after Nash's WWE contract expired, and just three days before Nash's own debut on Nitro, WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt sent a letter to Nick Lambros, TBS's Vice President of Development and Administration.

The letter claimed that the ongoing angle with Hall infringed upon the intellectual property rights of WWE, and was an attempt to create confusion among consumers. By seemingly acting under his Ramon guise, Hall's actions and words represented that of a familiar WWE star sent to wreak havoc on its competition.

McDevitt's letter went on to say that the burden was on WCW. They, he believed, had to prove that this angle was not designed to confuse the Monday night wrestling audience, and not crafted to mislead the fans into thinking that WWE was staging an invasion of WCW.

McDevitt believed WCW could not prove otherwise, and demanded that they drop the angle altogether, or else WWE would file a lawsuit that sought injunctive, monetary, and exemplary relief. In other words, WWE wanted WCW to kill the storyline, or they would sue for any money they believed was theirs, based on WCW indicating (though not in precise words) that WWE was the backer of Scott Hall's intrusion. For their part, WCW initially ignored McDevitt's demand, debuting Nash as planned on Nitro three nights later, in the company of Hall. Unlike the case of Hall, however, it was a little harder to prove that WCW was infringing on the Diesel character by having Nash there, since Diesel's speaking voice was pretty much Nash's own voice.

Kevin nash wcw debut

In a bit of an aside, as it turns out, while WCW ultimately chose to call the two by their real names, they were actually looking to give them stage names with similarities to their WWE personas. As Guy Evans' book ‘Nitro’ reveals, the company did trademark searches, looking to simply call Hall "The Bad Guy" (which was Razor's nickname), and label Nash "Axel", to play on the same powerful truck theme as the Diesel handle.

In Nash's first appearance for the company in three years, he basically echoed Hall's threats, that they were coming in to wipe out WCW, starting from the top. Bischoff promised to further address Nash's challenge at the Great American Bash pay-per-view just six nights out.

Two days following Nash's appearance, McDevitt wrote another letter, this time to David Payne, who was part of Ted Turner's legal counsel. In this missive, McDevitt made it clear that a lawsuit was coming, claiming once more that WWE's intellectual property had been infringed upon. 

WCW countered in part with their internal e-mails, which discussed the Bad Guy and Axel names, to show that WCW wasn't intending to present Hall and Nash as "Razor Ramon" and "Diesel". The problem was, WCW broadcasters hadn't referred to either man by *any* name so far. As far as the viewers at home knew, these men *were* Razor and Diesel, and that kind of passive line-blurring didn't sit well with McDevitt. 

Come Sunday's Great American Bash in Baltimore, when Bischoff interviewed Hall and Nash on the entrance stage, there was a moment of necessary reality shoehorned into the constructed story - Bischoff, point blank, asked both men if they worked for WWE. Hall and Nash each said no, and then the evening's angle, which resulted in Bischoff being powerbombed off the stage, continued on without any more overt asides.

Eric bischoff great american bash 1996

It should be noted that the next night's Nitro walloped Raw by more than a full ratings point, 3.4 to 2.3. This was the first of the noted "83 weeks" in which Nitro defeated Raw head to head, a streak that lasted until April 1998. The prior week's battle, in which Nitro concluded with Nash's first appearance to back up Hall, was a narrow win for Raw, and the last time WWE won for close to two years.

Eight days after the Bash, the Monday night battle between Nitro and Raw was the second half of a twin-bill, as WCW and WWE met in the courtroom earlier that day. For WWE's part, they requested a temporary restraining order that would keep Hall and Nash from appearing on WCW programming, citing the apparent deception on WCW's part that portrayed them as WWE's hired guns, even though Hall and Nash, to be fair, did say on-camera that they no longer worked for McMahon.

As part of WWE's filing, the company demanded that WCW should have to state on each of their programs (several times over) that Hall and Nash were WCW employees, that WWE was no longer affiliated with either man, and that there were no interpromotional matches coming between WWE and WCW. Additionally, WWE's complaint noted that WCW should be forced to tell its audience that, if they want to see WWE performers, they could see them on Monday Night Raw at 9 PM ET on the USA Network. Yes, WWE wanted WCW to plug Raw several times during Nitro, as one hell of a make-good.

WCW, represented by attorney David Dunn, argued that wrestlers switched companies frequently over the preceding years without changing their personas, and it's true - Ric Flair, Vader, Jake Roberts, and Rick Rude, among others, remained unchanged following a move to the competition, so the idea that it was wrong that Hall and Nash resembled Ramon and Diesel was a bit absurd.

Where McDevitt did have a reasonable point was that WCW had not formally named Hall and Nash on their broadcasts so far. They would use their real names as their professional handles soon enough, but Bischoff, Tony Schiavone, and other announcers never said "That's Scott Hall and Kevin Nash."

By intentionally leaving them unnamed, WCW seemed to be wanting its audience to draw their own conclusions. The judge asked Dunn to have WCW scale back any familiar characteristics of the two, specifically Hall co-opting Razor's unique accent, which Dunn agreed to.

Ultimately, the judge didn't make any major rulings, putting off all further case matters until the middle of July, so no restraining order was granted. That meant that Bash at the Beach on July 7 could go on without any modification or yielding. Not only were the now-affirmatively-named Hall and Nash in action that night for a monumental main event, so too was Hulk Hogan, who turned his back on WCW, revealing himself as the "third man" of what became known as The New World Order.

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The nWo became the talk of professional wrestling, and continued picking up steam throughout the summer of 1996. The string of Nitro ratings victories went on unabated, and WCW only turned up the heat during the two weeks in which Raw was pre-empted by US Open tennis coverage on their home network.

On those two shows, former WWE wrestler-turned-manager Ted DiBiase debuted for the company, three months after leaving New York. Though not fully revealed at the time, DiBiase was cast as the nWo's benefactor, the fourth man. One week later, the mighty Giant joined the group, helping his new stablemates decimate a horde of WCW wrestlers in an anarchic show-closing scene.

Meanwhile, as the ongoing legal matters continued, WWE presented a storyline that has lived in infamy for over 20 years since - the return of "Razor Ramon" and "Diesel". During a special Friday episode of Raw on September 6, Jim Ross announced that the two were on their way back to the company, which was news to everyone - including Hall and Nash.

The storyline, in which Canadian powerhouse Rick Bognar was costumed as Razor, and Glenn Jacobs was repackaged as "Big Daddy Cool", is considered one of the big all-time flops in wrestling history. 

It's been speculated that the angle was done to bolster WWE's case, showing that they owned the Razor and Diesel gimmicks, should WCW do anything further to cross creative boundaries. After Sean "1-2-3 Kid" Waltman turned up in WCW to rejoin Hall and Nash around that time, WWE was apparently considering making indy wrestler (and future ECW World Champion) Steve Corino into the new 1-2-3 Kid, but those alleged plans never came through. 

If you believe Kevin Nash, prior to Bognar and Jacobs' regrettable reveal, Bischoff and other Turner execs were beside themselves with anger. Eric Bischoff denies that this happened, but Nash claims that WCW officials thought he and Hall had secretly negotiated to go back to WWE, and had each man sign an amended deal that gave each of them an additional $400,000 per year to stay. 

Fake razor ramon

James Dixon's 'Titan Shattered' claims that Hall and Nash had each signed preliminary "deal memos" with WCW upon leaving WWE, but had not formally inked their full contracts, hence the panic on WCW's part. The sham versions of Razor and Diesel may have been a laughingstock, but if Nash's story is true, the angle from WWE unintentionally ended up costing WCW an additional $800,000 per year.

After that, life went on for both companies. Hall and Nash (huge contracts and all) remained among the biggest stars of the industry, aiding WCW during a wildly prosperous period. WWE, meanwhile, went back to the drawing board, looking for new silver bullets while letting the faux Outsiders slowly fade into nothingness. 

That would seem to conclude this tale, but there's still one more loose thread; the battle inside the courtroom that continued to plod on.

Somehow, WWE's initial legal action against WCW dragged out all the way to the Summer of 2000, a period in which WWE was slaughtering an ailing WCW in every facet and form. The Outsiders were no longer must-see TV, Hall's days with the company were numbered (he was let go months later), and Bischoff was no longer calling the shots.

The case was formally settled out of court, and one term of said settlement proved very interesting - it decreed that in the unlikely event that WCW's assets were ever to be put up for liquidation, WWE would have the right to bid on them.

The following year, when Turner broadcasting head Jamie Kellner cancelled Nitro and Thunder, WWE did just that, swooping in and acquiring many of WCW's most desirable assets, effectively buying the company (for a paltry sum) and winning the lengthy war.

So let's recap: WWE stars Scott Hall and Kevin Nash jumped to WCW, who, for storyline purposes, subtly portrayed the two men as invaders sent from WWE to kill the company. WWE filed real-life litigation over infringement and consumer deception, taking issue with the portrayal of both Outsiders as McMahon-endorsed invaders. The outcome of the legal action some years later resulted in WWE gaining the right to poach WCW's assets should the company ever go up for liquidation, which they wound up doing, thus killing the company.

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Written by Cultaholic