“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas A. Edison was one smart dude. Just ask The Diamond Studd, Sterling Golden and Vinnie Vegas. They were, of course, early names of Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash, who would join forces to create one of the greatest factions in wrestling history: the nWo. On the other side of history we have what is already being proclaimed as a monumental failure, Retribution. They are the latest example of how to set up a faction for abject failure.
After putting so much effort into hyping the group the WWE seems intent on burying them deeper than Jimmy Hoffa. As a group, they have yet to even win a match in the WWE. It takes a certain level of booking negligence and incompetence to extinguish a promising spark before it can even catch fire. With the nWo as the benchmark for success, let’s dig through the rubble of Retribution and find out how the group collapsed faster than my last meagre attempt at a soufflé.
Why is the nWo one of the greatest groups in all of wrestling history? Because their initial members were already main event names, draws, and former champions before they even invaded WCW. While the nWo would water down its ranks when they allowed Brian Adams, Horace Hogan, Disco Inferno, Scott Norton, Pete the concession stand operator, and Ashley the ring supervisor, and others to join, for the first couple of years it was a revolutionary faction and one of the main reasons why WCW overtook the WWE in popularity and the ratings.
What about Retribution? Unless you watch NXT you probably have no idea who Mia Yim, Dominik Dijakovic, Shane Thorne and DIO Madden are. Well, you might know Yim, who has had an incredible career in SHINE, SHIMMER and most notably in Impact Wrestling. Considering that on average only about 700,000 of Raw’s average of two million viewers watch NXT, you can be forgiven if you didn’t know anything about any of them prior to Retribution. None of them have won any titles in NXT or headlined a pay-per-view except for Yim, who fought Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship at TakeOver: Toronto in 2019.
Why should fans care about Retribution? Why should fans fear Retribution? They have no reason to because their star power is that of a string of burned out Christmas tree lights.
Fear and Loathing
Retribution has had their rebellious shenanigans to be sure. They have disrupted broadcasts, assaulted WWE employees and talent. Overall, pretty low rent stuff exposing how horrible WWE security is. They have vowed to take the “corrupt” WWE to task, to change things, but their words have been empty threats. They have been low level pests unable to cause a crack in the WWE establishment or the system itself. They have fallen in line like any heel jobber team, gaining the upper hand only with the numbers on their side and being tossed around like crash test dummies when their enemies are on even terms with them.
As J.R. would say, that’s some weak sauce, right there.
Meanwhile, the nWo changed WCW from the very beginning. They altered championship titles. They recruited members which included the top brass and influencers including referee Nick Patrick, office execs like Eric Bischoff and Dusty Rhodes. They threw the entire organization into turmoil for years.
Tipping over cars, punching out janitors, breaking windows, and lighting generators on fire just doesn’t compare.
Signed, Sealed and Delivered
One of the biggest flaws in the entire Retribution angle is they were appeased by being given WWE contracts. That makes no sense on so many levels.
A. They already work for NXT so they already had WWE contracts. Their NXT pasts don’t seem to matter though in the WWE universe even though every fan knows the score.
B. Why would granting Retribution contracts stop them from causing mayhem when their overall goal is to change the established system? We haven’t even seen any political maneuverings on their behalf since they signed up which one would expect if they want to change the system “from within.” All Retribution has done is wrestle matches, lose, and talk tough.
C. One of Retributions gripes is they haven’t been used to their full potential in the WWE. How can they claim that when they weren’t contracted employees and therefore the WWE has no obligation to push them?
When Scott Hall and Kevin Nash showed up in WCW, they were intruders who threatened to disrupt Ted Turner’s organization on behalf of the WWE. It was later revealed that Eric Bischoff had been working with the nWo all along, which is why they were granted the authority, the standing and the opportunities they had been since the very start. Yeah, continuity matters.
Dead and Buried
Three months after the nWo began, “Hollywood Hogan” won the WCW World Heavyweight championship and made it the nWo World Heavyweight championship. The Outsiders would claim the tag team belts two months later at Halloween Havoc. In short, the nWo made good on their claims to take over the company and to hold all of the power.
Retribution on the other hand talks the talk but cannot walk the walk. They promise and threaten power shifts and change but have delivered nothing but loss after loss and empty promises.
It All Starts At The Top
From the very outset the nWo had an impressive pedigree with Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Ted DiBiase and The Big Show as the initial group. No offense to Mustafa Ali, but he isn’t in the same league yet as those five legends. He may be one of the very best of his generation, a great person and shining example outside the ring for the WWE, but he doesn’t have the star power that a faction like Retribution needs if they are to be taken seriously by anyone.
History Is Not Repeating Itself
Like Eric Bischoff or not, how the nWo was booked in WCW for the first part of their historic run was genius. The Outsiders claiming to be sent from WWE to end WCW, which they later recanted for legal reasons. Hulk Hogan turning heel. The paid messages by the nWo on WCW TV. A civil war that has been often replicated but never duplicated… even in the WWE. It is why so many fans still wear the classic black and white T-shirts to this very day.
Maybe Retribution was never supposed to be another nWo. The way they have been booked though it is a certainty that they never will be. The faction could have been the next big thing if the group wasn’t paraded down the wrong path from the very start. Everyone in Retribution is very talented. As a collective though, they are growing weaker and more ridiculous as the weeks and months go by. One hopes that for the skilled folks in Retribution that this is not failure but just one way, one path that didn’t work at all.