Love Him Or Hate Him, Kevin Nash Has You Right Where He Wants You
If you’re under any illusions Kevin Nash cares what your opinion of him is, you’re sadly mistaken. ‘Big Sexy’ has made a career out of saying things meant to do nothing other than get a rise out of people. Nash’s prime years in pro wrestling were 15 years ago, and yet his name remains a part of everyday pro wrestling conversation. Why? Because he knows how to work the fans and the industry alike. Plenty of folks in and around wrestling, be it the fans or even the wrestlers themselves, love to go out of their way to criticize Nash. “He couldn’t work, he couldn’t draw, he booked himself, he manipulated with backstage politics”, all seem to be the standard lines. The interesting thing about all these claims, however, is that when looked at objectively, they don’t actually hold any water.
“Kevin Nash couldn’t work.” This is one of those statements that has become more prevalent over the last decade. Fans of spot monkey wrestling love to attach it to anyone of Nash’s ilk. If you’re a big man, a la Nash or Hogan or Big Show, you can’t work. Well, it’s not really that simple is it? ‘Working’ doesn’t necessarily mean doing moonsaults until the cows come home. ‘Working’ is fan reaction based, meaning if people are sitting on their hands, you’re not ‘working’.Hulk Hogan is one of the best ‘workers’ of all time. Why? Because people pop for the guy each and every time he does something. Nash showed up in pro wrestling on one leg. I’d say he’s had a pretty good run all things considered. His role as a ‘big man’ was not to out and frogsplash every night of the week. A successful big man’s job is to look convincing. There’s nothing convincing about a big man leveling you with a punch, then taking to the top rope for a flying elbow. Big men stay grounded, they wear you down, they grind on you, and ultimately, they put you away with their hands, not their acrobatics. Considering all this, Nash played his role to perfection. His punches always looked good, his elbows in the corner looked legit, and the way he threw his finisher, the jackknife powerbomb, looked devastating. No, Nash didn’t go out and have “5 star matches” every night of the week, but what’s a 5 star match anyway? Shouldn’t a quality match be good storytelling? Not according to fans of the spotfest match. According to them, two guys flying all over the place so fast, you can’t even keep up with what’s going on, is much more important than getting an actual story across. Opinions are fine, but if everyone knows the matches are predetermined, fans making an emotional investment in the story is the only true way to win over the masses. To that end, Nash always knew his role and employed his abilities to great success, reaching the highest levels of pro wrestling.
“Kevin Nash couldn’t draw.” This one always makes me laugh. People like to point to Nash’s year-long run with the WWF title during his days as Diesel as proof of his inability to draw money, but has anyone ever actually bothered to research his run during that time? After being pushed as a monster, eventually defeating Bob Backlund in 8 seconds to win the World Title, the WWF effectively buried their own world champion. In Diesel’s very first title defense against Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels interfered. Sorry, but you don’t book interference in a monster world champion's very first title defense. That cuts his legs right out from under him and kills momentum with the fans. Nash was then fed the likes of Sycho Sid and Mabel, neither of whom will ever be confused for sprinters. How exactly do you make your massive, 7 foot tall world champion look like a million bucks when he needs help to win matches against smaller wrestlers and is then booked in major angles with guys as big or bigger than he is and with even less mobility? Just doesn’t make any sense. If you look at the whole picture, Nash was hardly booked the same after he won the title as he was before winning it. He was essentially booked to fail.
Concerning his second run in WCW, it’s hard to say he didn’t draw money there. He was one of three guys in that company who fans actually came out to see for the better part of 2 years. During the infancy of the NWO, he was every bit as over as Hulk Hogan or Scott Hall, and the Outsiders made Hogan cool again to fans. Were it not for the NWO, the WWF’s ‘Attitude Era’ might have never even occured. It was the NWO/WCW angle that forced WWF to up their game. If nothing else, Nash deserves a small amount of credit for that.
“Nash booked himself and used backstage politics.” This whole thing with Nash booking himself all stems from one moment: Him beating Goldberg at Starrcade ‘98, then participating in the infamous ‘finger poke of doom’ bit, dropping the belt to Hogan the following Nitro. What’s funny is, this is exactly why people should claim that Nash tried to put himself over by booking his win over Goldberg. By that point, fans were already turning on Goldberg, that’s a fact. He was getting boo’d to the point where WCW was having to pipe in artificial “Goldberg” chants into the venues in which he appeared. Nash has said many times the idea was to get the World Title off of Goldberg to build him back up again. At that time, Nash was a massive babyface, having formed the NWO Wolfpac. What better way to swerve everyone than to turn heel and gift wrap the title right back to Hogan, thus lighting a fire under the fans and setting Goldberg back motion towards beating down the entire NWO to get back to Hogan and the title? That’s what was planned, but thanks to Goldberg almost cutting his hand off by putting it through a car window, it never happened. How again is that Nash’s fault as the booker?
As for backstage politics, name one successful pro wrestler who hasn’t been a good politicians backstage. Nash has said it 100 times, he only thought he knew politics when he was a member of the Kliq during his first WWF run. It was during his NWO run in WCW, watching how Hogan and Randy Savage worked, that he received his PHD in the art of backstage maneuvering. Do people not think Rock was a politician? What about Steve Austin, Dusty Rhodes, HHH and John Cena? My point is, criticizing Kevin Nash for successfully pulling off the very thing that virtually every other top name in the business has done is simply unfair.
I’m hardly saying Kevin Nash is a saint, but I don’t think he’d ever make that claim anyway. It’s dog eat dog, and Nash, whether you love the guy or hate his guts, was more often than not, the big dog in the fight. Call it politics, call it whatever you like, I call it success. Those with nothing nice to say about Big Sexy love to look for every little way they can to put him down and make his career seem like a joke, but when it gets right down to it, how many pro wrestlers over the last 20 years have made more money that Kevin Nash? In the end, isn’t that really what pro wrestling is all about? It’s entertainment to us, we’re the ones on the outside looking in. To those on the inside, those who work so hard to make a lasting career out of the art form, shouldn’t their bottom line be the amount of money they make from it, not the amount of times someone tells them their match was a Match of the Year candidate? If anything, Kevin Nash is one of the last few truly ‘old school’ performers out there. He’s not a mark for himself, he’s a mark for the almighty dollar, and from where I stand, that hardly makes him a bad guy. It just makes him smart.