“WE ARE THE NATION… OF DOMINATION!”
The famous opening words of the Nation of Domination entrance music. It still resonates with those of us who actually lived through the humble beginnings of the Attitude Era. If you were at a WWE show during the late 1990s and heard that powerful chant come crashing into the loud speakers, followed by an intense, booming drumbeat, as a wise man once said, you knew business was about to pick up.
The Nation of Domination began in November 1996 when future Hall of Famer Ron ‘Faarooq’ Simmons dropped a terrible gimmick (more on that later) in what would prove much more than just your standard gimmick change for one of the countless WWE newcomers who were poorly packaged upon arrival to Titan Tower. This one, simple character swap would serve as the beginning of a new breed of heel in the WWE, one etched in sensitive subject matter, with a harsh, unforgiving brutality awaiting any goody two shoe babyface who dared get in its way.
The N.O.D. would not only kick off the rise of consistent stables that the WWE was sorely lacking at the time, but also helped guide the direction of the company into the Attitude Era and for years to come. The Nation through almost any of its variations was indeed just that, a Nation of individuals all sharing a common goal, who were nothing short of dominant. Fast forward twenty years later and here we are still talking about them. It just goes to show not only just how important the Nation was to the sports entertainment landscape, but serves as a fact that makes me feel, really, really old!
Without further ado, here are 20 Things You Need to Know About the Nation of Domination.
20 Birth of a Nation
Faarooq debuted the Nation of Domination in late 1996, joined by then WWE manager Clarence Mason and PG-13, a tag team of white boy, wannabe hip hoppers who’d rap over the theme music with lyrics like: “don’t dis the man, or we’ll bone rush your mother”. One has to wonder if Vince knew what bone rushing meant, but let’s face it, he probably did! Crush, also managed by Mason at the time, was doing a ex-convict/biker gimmick and would soon join Faarooq’s cause, followed by nice guy, sort of jobber Savio Vega who turned heel a month later to round out the squad.
The Nation would soon include new members, as Faarooq would occasionally "fire" members from the group, only to bring in new ones. Needless to say, the original members of The Nation in no way resembled the version you may remember.
19 Johnnie Cochr… I Mean… Clarence Mason
Clarence Mason was an obnoxious, loud mouthed manager/attorney who was good at his gimmick because in real life he was an actual lawyer. A lifelong wrestling fan, he debuted in 1995 hot on the heels of the O.J. Simpson trial as a parody of Johnnie Cochran, serving as legal council for Jim Cornette’s crew of Owen Hart, the British Bulldog and Yokozuna.
Clarence was the first man to join Faarooq's Nation on an episode of Livewire, WWE’s much forgotten Saturday morning, call-in "reality" show, and remained a N.O.D. mainstay until the summer of 1997. Eventually, Faarooq would become the main mouthpiece of The Nation. That is of course, until the master of the microphone grew into his own when joining the group.
18 The Unknowns
Three wrestlers, two rappers and a manager makes six, more than plenty for a stable. But this wasn’t just a mere group, it was a Nation. WWE hired a collection of unknowns, men dressed in tuxedos and militant garb like Faarooq who would escort its members to the ring, making the Nation appear more like its namesake.
It’s not actually known just who these men were. Some say they were nondescript actors, others that they were indy workers. Regardless, one of the more consistent of these featured unknowns wound up being a young wrestler who would go on to become known as D’Lo Brown.
Needless to say, the stable seemed entirely too big, as many members didn't really serve a purpose. The group would become more tightly knit in later versions and all members eventually served a purpose for the group.
17 Real World Politics
During WWE's New Generation Era of the 1990s, Vince focused his gimmicks on silly reflections of society by turning wrestlers into garbage men, plumbers and race car drivers rather than the more real world truths that would become the focus of WWE television during the Attitude Era. The Nation was at the forefront of those winds of change.
Loosely based on the Black Panther Party and Nation of Islam, the N.O.D. were extremists who saluted with fists in the air, swearing to get the job done by any means necessary. They were a revolutionary example that made the WWE, a company whose entire business philosophy is based on falsehoods, start to feel real. While the group was controversial, the era was all about making noise in the media and the more controversy WWE introduced, the more popular they seemed to get. Let's just say The Nation of Domination came around at just the right time.
16 Four Iterations
Four distinct versions of The Nation of Domination existed over its two year legacy. The original lineup disbanded when Faarooq fired nearly everybody after the 1997 King of the Ring. He promised a “bigger, better, badder and blacker Nation” with D’Lo Brown by his side, and would soon add Kama Mustafa, Ahmed Johnson, Mark Henry and a wrestler you may have heard of named Rocky Maivia.
The Rock would, of course, take over leadership from Faarooq after WrestleMania XIV, calling his group simply The Nation. Finally, when nearly everyone eventually abandoned the stable, it left a short lived tag team between Brown and Henry who used the Nation name for a month before going their separate ways. All groups in wrestling are made to eventually end when individuals are ready to spread their wings on their own. The Nation served its purpose in the grand scheme of things.
15 Gang Rulz
After Faarooq cleaned house and built his second Nation, the stage was set for gang warfare. From the ashes of the original N.O.D., Savio Vega introduced a quartet of Puerto Rican gangsters called Los Boricuas and Crush followed suit with his biker gang, The Disciples of Apocalypse. Everything came to a head at Survivor Series 1997, where stable battles had reached such a fever pitch that they subtitled the event Gang Rulz. That night would of course go down in infamy as the Montreal Screwjob, sadly not for being a pay-per-view of faction action that simply wouldn’t have happened without the debut of the Nation a year earlier.
It's crazy to think that a wrestling program would actually openly have a gang narrative on their wrestling program. This was an era where there was nothing the WWE wouldn't try. It's probably best they never do it again, but fans haven't forgotten these days.
14 Vince’s Answer to the nWo
Prior to the Nation, stables were never a big thing in WWE. Sure, you had the Heenan Family and the Million Dollar Corporation over the years, but these were more or less managerial arrangements. When WCW formed the nWo, Vince’s back was against the wall and he needed an answer. The WWE had some growing pains when trying to find the stable that would be the answer to the nWo, but there's no doubt that this group was a big part of WWE programming.
The Nation was by no means a copy of the nWo, but was most certainly their first response. It opened a floodgate for factions in the late 1990s, paving the way for the new Hart Foundation, D-X, the Brood, the Corporation, the Ministry of Darkness, the J.O.B. Squad and Kai En Tai among others.
13 The End of Ahmed Johnson
How ironic that Ahmed Johnson gets slotted at no.13! The Pearl River Powerhouse was Vince’s dream, a monster with the personality of a wet rag intended to become the next Hulk Hogan. Despite Ahmed’s three year stint seeing him become the first African American Intercontinental Champion, he was an injury prone mess who was stiff in the ring. His greatest rivalry was with, you guessed it, Faarooq.
They feuded for close to a year until Johnson turned heel and joined The Nation, though short lived after Ahmed suffered roughly his two thousandth injury. Johnson came back and was out of The Nation, again feuding with them. Things never turned around for Johnson and alas in early 1998, Vince finally gave up on his potential prize pony and put him out to pasture.
12 USWA Origins
During the 1990s, Vince used his relationship with Jerry Lawler and "The King’s" United States Wrestling Association (USWA) to send down talent and fine tune potential gimmicks. Remember PG-13? The whack rappers mentioned in #20? Those boys worked in USWA where they started the Nation of Domination early to test the waters. This indy fed version would include such members as Mo from Men on a Mission, bodybuilder and atrocious wrestler Brakkus, future Hall of Famer Jacqueline, forgettable magician the Spellbinder and even USWA mainstay, WWE jobber and perhaps the whitest wrestler in the world, Tracy Smothers, taking on a militant alter ego named Shaquille Ali.
The promotion would eventually go defunct in 1997 after Lawler sold the company to Mark Selker. The talent from that promotion would eventually be absorbed by the WWE and some went to WCW as well.
11 The World’s Strongest Man
Mark Henry acquired an impressive background in weightlifting before joining WWE in 1996 where he was pushed as a babyface. An injury and the need for more training stalled his career until he returned in 1997 to little fanfare and was put in The Nation. It paid off in the long game as being in the N.O.D. planted the seeds for Henry to one day become a monster heel. There's no way Henry was ever going to get over as a green babyface with such a simplistic gimmick.
Aside from Faarooq and The Rock’s legend status, Henry is the only Nation member still active on the WWE roster, though he’s been privy to bad gimmicks over the years. It took a long time for him to find his groove as he seemed to be put in one bad situation after another. Sexual Chocolate, anyone? How about oral confrontation with a transvestite? Poor Mark Henry!
10 You Better Recognize
D’Lo Brown was, intentionally or not, the face of the Nation. Though never obtaining stardom like The Rock, Faarooq, or even The Godfather, D’Lo was the Nation’s longest serving member. From a nameless unknown to its final stalwart with Mark Henry, D’Lo used the Nation to rise through the ranks of WWE with his signature head swagger and chest protector. He became one of the better gimmicks during the Attitude Era and seemed a sure bet to one day become WWE Champion.
It may have happened too if not for one tragic night when a botched move left Darren Drozdov a quadriplegic and D’Lo never quite the same, both in and out of the ring.
Brown would eventually win multiple titles, in singles action, but never seemed to be able to take that next step to the top of the card.
9 A History of Backstabbing
It’s not unlike a heel faction to be a group of backstabbers, but of all the great bad guy stables, the N.O.D. takes the Benedict Arnold sized cake in pulling the rug out from under somebody. Savio Vega, Ahmed Johnson, Mark Henry and Owen Hart all joined The Nation by double-crossing a tag team partner. The stable would also turn on each other to mark an exit from the group like betraying Ahmed before bringing in Rocky or everyone turning their backs Faarooq to make The Rock their leader. Nearly every member stabbed someone in the back at one point or another during their tenure with the Nation.
The Nation of Domination was a group that helped guys get ahead and joining them meant instant heat. This would help all members go on to have successful careers. For all their faults, most members in all versions were very successful.
8 Faarooq's Feud (or Lack Thereof)
Yep, backstabbing in The Nation didn’t exclude the man who started it all. After WrestleMania XIV, The Rock made a bid to usurp Faarooq along with The Nation, thus crowning Rocky their new leader. Faarooq floundered as a babyface for a while, getting some resemblance of revenge, but nothing ever really materialized. The real shame here is that as the Rock grew so rapidly in popularity and profile, Faarooq never got an honest shot at a decent feud to get over.
The Rock quickly moved on to a feud with Triple H, which would go on to be one of the greatest rivalries of the era. After his feud with The Rock, Faarooq's career as a singles star was essentially over in WWE, but that didn't mean his career was doomed.
Fortunately he would instead go on to share beers with a man named Bradshaw, and his time in the WWE spotlight was far from over.
7 Not a Lot of Gold, but Two Hall of Famers and Counting
It’s weird how few title runs members of The Nation had while as a unit. Sure, D’Lo held the now defunct European Championship on two occasions, but let’s face it, that title was always a bit of a joke. The Rock was Intercontinental Champ for nearly a year while in the Nation, but he didn’t even win it. It was given to him by Vince McMahon who stripped the gold from Stone Cold Steve Austin during their feud. The Texas Rattlesnake even stole it back and threw the title belt off a bridge into a river. Not a lot of prestige there!
Thankfully with Faarooq and the Godfather, the Nation now has two members in the Hall of Fame, with more certainly to come. The Rock can go in any year now, as it's not a question of if, but when. Mark Henry's career is winding down and he will likely go into the Hall very quickly after hanging up his boots. D'Lo might be the odd man out, unless the group is inducted as a unit.
6 Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy
Charles Wright was a gimmick changing machine. Some were terrible (I’m looking at you, Papa Shango), others like the Supreme Fighting Machine, Kama, deserve honorable mention. Wright joined Faarooq’s Nation as Kama Mustafa. When Rocky Maivia took over, Rocky became the Rock, D’Lo Brown became a Superstar, Mark Henry… well, he just kind of stayed Mark Henry, but Wright would finally find his calling.
As the Godfather, a pimp escorted to the ring by his Ho Train, Wright was one of the most popular stars of the Attitude Era in a gimmick that never would have existed if not for the Nation. The gimmick was far from his previous ones. It was so good, it almost makes us forget about the Goodfather days! Almost!
Wright was made for this gimmick and ironically enough, he would somewhat live out his gimmick in real life, as he went on to manage a strip club in Las Vegas called Cheetahs.
5 Well Enough is Enough, and it’s Time for a Change!
Not many people remember Owen Hart was a member of The Nation, a period that would be a relative blip on the radar of his legendary, tragic career. Hart’s contractual obligations kept him in WWE after the Montreal Screwjob, making him a fan favorite. When his good guy gimmick went stale, he surprisingly not only wound up in the Nation but served as its co-leader with The Rock. Owen's last couple of years with the company saw him go all over the place, as the WWE chose not to capitalize on his momentum in late 1997 coming off the Screwjob.
Owen was the first non-African American in the Nation since Crush and Savio Vega a year prior, an example that the group no longer focused on racial ties. As The Nation became embroiled in a feud with Triple H’s new iteration of D-X, all of it led to…
4 One of the Funniest Moments in the History of Raw
Of all the amazing things the Nation did during it’s tenure, it’s kind of sad to think their most iconic moment was a parody of them performed by D-Generation X. D-X arrived to the ring dressed as The Nation, led by Triple H as “The Crock”, and featured unknown Jason Sensation impersonating Owen Hart in one of the funniest impressions ever seen. The Nation and D-Generation X would have one of the better feuds of the calendar year in 1998 as the two stables were polar opposites. There was no doubt though that it was because of the rivalry between Triple H and The Rock as to why it was so successful.
While the skit wasn’t without insensitivity, X-Pac doing black face to impersonate Mark Henry was not only racist but unnecessary and stupid, it was indeed a hilarious bit that escalated the Nation/D-X feud and pushed the boundaries of the Attitude Era.
3 Racism in the WWE
Racism rears its ugly head everywhere in the world and the WWE is no exception. The Nation gimmick itself, certainly its second iteration, was established as a group who were sick of being held back due to the color of their skin. They didn’t promote racism, but rather used it as a catalyst and a pillar woven into their very fabric. The problem was they were heels and their justifiable disgust of racism cut in promos was booed by the crowd. WWE would unfortunately take it one step further and several steps too far.
The Nation got caught in the middle of a feud between the Hart Foundation and newly formed D-Generation X when it appeared that the Harts destroyed the Nation’s locker room and wrote racially explicit graffiti on the walls. While it was alluded to that D-X did the deed to set up the Harts, it was never actually confirmed on TV. The next week, D-X even went as far as referring to Bret Hart as the Grand Wizard and implied the Foundation were members of the K.K.K. It was disgraceful. WWE played with fires that were not only unnecessary but way too real. What's worse is the whole incident was simply a way to push a feud that the Nation really had nothing to do with. The following week on Raw, Faarooq and the Nation confronted Vince McMahon on why there is racism in the WWE, rightfully and ironically so, in what was an uncomfortable moment to say the least.
But was and is there racism in the WWE? During the same episode of Raw where The Nation’s dressing room was vandalized, Jeff Jarrett returned to the company in a “shoot” promo where he complained about, among other things, being booked by Vince against “a black man who can’t even speak the English language”, referring indirectly of Ahmed Johnson. In a 2013 interview with Ahmed, long retired from the sport and the company, the former Superstar flat out referred to Vince as a “racist from the word go” and even compared him to the devil!
Okay, so you’re Vince McMahon and it’s 1996. You just lost two of your biggest stars to Ted Turner and he’s gaining momentum, making your New Generation of lame gimmicks look like child’s play next to the big boys of WCW. Luckily you've signed Ron Simmons, a great wrestler and the first African-American World Heavyweight Champion. So you push him as the next big thing and have him feud with your top guys, right? Nope, because you’re Vince McMahon, dammit!
You bill Simmons as Faarooq Asad, a gladiator in a dorky helmet, needlessly managed by Sunny, and put him in a feud with in-ring train wreck Ahmed Johnson. You can just picture Simmons first trying on his attire, standing in front of a mirror and saying “DAMN!”. Thankfully by the end of 1996, he was repackaged and the Nation was born. This is certainly a part of his career Simmons would like to forget.
1 The People’s Champ
The Nation gave birth to not only one of the greatest, most iconic wrestlers of all time but a household name. Like Faarooq, the Rock was setup in the WWE with a horrible gimmick as the blue chipper son of a legend. Ironically this WWE debut happened at Survivor Series 1996, the same night Faarooq introduced the Nation of Domination. Nice guy Rocky would backfire with the fans, who’s chants of “Rocky Sucks” and signs reading “Die Rocky Die” killed any and all of his babyface momentum. Despite having all the looks and ability in the world, the third generation superstar's career looked doomed thanks to being saddled with an awful vanilla babyface gimmick.
Rocky needed repackaging, so they put him in The Nation. What’s more, they let him become the Rock, the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. The rest, as they say, is history, but it’s a plain and simple fact that without the Nation there would be no Rock and therefore, no Hollywood action hero Dwayne Johnson either.