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The nWo throws its black-and-white weight around

The nWo throws its black-and-white weight around. But Mike Flaherty’s favorite color will always be red

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Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle: D. Rich Freeda/WWF

The nWo throws its black-and-white weight around

Vince McMahon opened RAW (Mondays, 9 p.m., TNN) with a devilishly gleeful promo announcing that it was Fan Appreciation Night and that this show would represent a return to normalcy… which could only mean that the festivities would be anything but normal.

With the exception of a few low points (Scotty & Albert vs. Test and Hennig, Tazz vs. Goldust, Hall vs. Spike Dudley, and the increasingly unwatchable Stephanie McMahon), much of the action, backstage and in the ring, was near pay-per-view quality: intense, funny, and refreshingly gory.

I can’t remember the last time a single WWF show featured three brutal bloodlettings, the first and juiciest being the show’s opening segment, wherein the nWo (Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall) interrupted Steve Austin’s match with Booker T for a curtain-jerking beatdown. Because of a shot to the head with a plumber’s wrench, Austin staggered around the ring with a slow but steady stream of the red stuff, as the three thugs continued to pummel him for a good 10 minutes.

Next up was the Undertaker’s visit to the WWF’s Stamford training facility, where Ric Flair’s son David is currently preparing to join the roster. In the interest of forcing Ric to take him on at Wrestlemania, now less than two weeks away, Taker bounced David all over the facility’s men’s room, leaving him with a nasty runny gash on the forehead.

Finally, in the evening’s main event, where Kurt Angle battled Triple H inside a 15-foot cage, the Olympic hero raked H’s face back and forth across the chain link till he, too, was a scowling, bloody mess.

Needless to say, this is exactly the stuff that inspires advertiser boycotts by sanctimonious, pro-family loudmouths. But the truth is, as wrestling gimmicks go (and yes, it is a gimmick: the wrestlers aren’t really being busted wide open; the blood comes courtesy of a small, concealed blade they drag across their skin immediately after the moment of impact), the crimson mask is as classic as it gets. Those faint-hearted, roody-poos out there who can’t stand a little juice should go watch ”Ally McBeal.” Me, I want to give last night’s bookers a hearty high-five: Chalk one up for wrestling… and phooey to ”sports entertainment.”

What about you?