It would be an understatement to say that the nWo revolutionized storytelling in professional wrestling. From the moment Scott Hall arrived in WCW, uttering the infamous line, “you know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here,” wrestling fans were taken on a journey the likes of which had never before been seen. Not only did it seem like real WWE (WWF at the time) stars were walking away from the company to “invade” WCW, the nWo witnessed the birth of Hollywood Hulk Hogan, the first time Hogan would turn heel since his run as the red and yellow American hero.
But imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and over the years, many others have tried (sometimes successfully) to recreate the magic of the nWo. Here are five times they got it right and five times they fell on their faces.
10 Best: The Bullet Club
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s bullet club boasts a remarkable group of alumni: AJ Styles, Finn Bálor, The Young Bucks…the list goes on. Borrowing directly from the nWo, the Bullet Club wear black and white and frequently greet one another with the Kliq’s infamous “two sweet” hand gesture.
While they may be borrowing liberally from the nWo, the Bullet Club can back it up, as their members constantly deliver incredible matches in the ring. When you see a Bullet Club member making their way to the ring, you know you’re in for a treat.
9 Worst: J.O.B Squad
One of the biggest mistakes promotions have continued to make over the years is thinking that putting together a bunch of consistent losers and making them a faction somehow makes them seem more rebellious and cool. In reality, it just makes them seem like a bunch of miserable people who love company. Consisting of Al Snow, The Blue Meanie (who has the honor of appearing twice on this list), Bob Holly, Duane “Gillberg” Gill, and Scorpio, the “Just Over Broke” squad only lasted from November 1998 to February of 1999. Hard to believe the Gillberg character didn’t have more in the tank.
8 Best: LWO
It’s hard to really consider the LWO a ripoff of the nWo, they were more of a conscious parody. But what made the LWO special, much like The Bullet Club, was their members. Led by the late, great, Eddie Guerrero, the group featured lucha libra legends like Rey Mysterio, Jr., Juventud Guerrera, La Parka, Pyschosis, and more. The LWO was great as a showcase for lucha libra in WCW, a style that could sometimes be overlooked in favor of the heavyweights. The LWO staked out it’s own territory and is remembered fondly by wrestling fans to this day.
7 Worst: The Nexus
Made up of a group of rookies from the first season of NXT (when it was still a far cry from what it would become), the Nexus made a name for themselves when they interrupted a John Cena vs CM Punk match on Raw and dismantled both wrestlers, the ring, and even the commentary team (this was the infamous ‘strangled with a tie’ incident that lead to Daniel Bryan being released from the company).
Putting a bunch of up and coming rookies together seemed like a good idea, but the group lacked coherency and charisma. Plus, lumping so many guys together made it hard for individual personalities to stand out. As invasion angles go, this was a pretty weak one.
6 Best: The Shield
The Shield is arguably the best faction in the history of WWE. Made up of legitimate wrestling superstars Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose, The Shield first made their presence known in November of 2012 at the Survivor Series, when they triple powerbomed Ryback through a table.
Coming to the ring through the audience and decked out in protective vests, The Shield were the epitome of cool. Ambrose was the mouthpiece, Rollins the high flyer, and Reigns the muscle. It’s no wonder these three went on to do such big things in WWE.
5 Worst: Aces and Eights
It's cliche to make fun of TNA at this point, but they definitely earned it with the Aces and Eights storyline. While the Bully Ray reveal at Brooke Hogan's wedding was a fun twist, on the whole, the storyline just didn't go anywhere. Adding Taz to the group was a weird choice and made the already grating commentary even more unbearable. Overall, the group suffered from the same issues so many failed stables do: too many members, not enough direction. A definite fold.
4 Best: bWo
ECW was paradise for a hardcore wrestling fan. While the promotion is largely remembered for its innovations in the field of violence and extreme wrestling, one of the greatest parts about ECW was Paul Heyman's choice to really let his talent be themselves. The Blue World Order, consisting of Stevie Richards (Big Stevie Cool), The Blue Meanie (The Blue Guy), and Nova (Hollywood Nova), was an example of just that. A gimmick that in most promotions would have died out and fallen under the category of pointless parody got over huge and became a fan favorite. There was even a bWo Japan for a short time.
3 Worst: The Band
TNA strikes again. The Band, consisting of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Syxx-Pac (aka X-Pac) had the potential to be a fan's dream: an nWo reunion featuring some of the crew that started it all. However, this was in 2010, a long long way from Bash at the Beach 96, and the fire that was there at the formation of the nWo just wasn't there any more. Not only that, but Hulk Hogan, who was with TNA at the time, actively turned down a chance to join the group. That should tell you all you need to know.
2 Best: DX
Arguably the greatest response to the nWo of all time, Degeneration X, starting with founding members Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and eventually Chyna, were a perfect mix of in ring prowess and potty humor. Fans couldn't wait to see what they'd do next, whether it was talking back to Sergeant Slaughter, cursing on television, or driving Brett Hart up the wall.
When Shawn left and DX added the New Age Outlaws and X-Pac, things only got better. The Outlaws were the perfect addition to the group, and X-Pac has always been a bonafide heat seeker (for better or worse). DX isn't just one of the best nWo knock offs, they're one of the best factions of all time.
1 Worst: nWo (WWE version)
The magic just wasn't there anymore. When Vince McMahon brought back the nWo in 2001 to "inject a lethal poison" into WWE, it's not that they weren't cool. It's just that fans didn't want to see it. More specifically, they didn't want to see Hollywood Hulk Hogan. They waned the old Hogan, the one they cheered for as kids who had been gone from WWE for so long. Just watch the Hogan vs Rock match at Wrestlemania X8 -- the crowd is one hundred percent behind Hogan the whole time.
Sorry brother, sometimes there's just no going back.