BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Twenty years after the New World Order first invaded WCW to kickstart the most lucrative era in pro wrestling's history, the nWo is still over with fans.
Way over, in fact.
It was evident in 2015 at WrestleMania 31, when a surprise nWO run-in during a Triple H vs. Sting match elicited arguably the loudest reaction from the crowd of the night. It was just as evident on Friday, as fans gathered to celebrate the legendary heel faction during an "nWo night" promotion at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard.
The affection of the crowd served as no surprise for nWo founding members and WWE Hall of Famers Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, who joined stablemate Sean "X-Pac" Waltman as guest managers of the Bridgeport Bluefish independent minor league baseball team.
But none of them were willing to take it for granted -- not after the highs and lows each has experienced, both personally and professionally. This was especially true for Hall, who has dramatically rebuilt his life over the past three years after substance abuse nearly ended it.
"I always find it really flattering when people are going to line up and wait in line for hours to tell you how cool you are and to take a picture with you," Hall said. "I always have time for that. It makes you feel good."
The towering Nash, a former college basketball player at the University of Tennessee before coming to fame more than a decade later as Diesel in WWE, didn't hesitate when asked what the high point was for the nWo since its dramatic 1996 debut at the WCW pay-per-view "Bash at the Beach."
"I think it's right now, managing the Bluefish at 57 years old," Nash said.
"I was just going to say the same thing," Hall interjected. "Here we are still getting paid to be with our buddies to fly to New York and hang out in Bridgeport for a few hours, all because of this thing we did 20-something years ago? Yeah, it's pretty special."
Despite what became a rotating door of members during "The Monday Night Wars" era, Nash considers the core of what made the nWo so special to be Hall, Waltman and himself, along with Hulk Hogan, whose shocking heel turn provided the backbone to the faction's success. He's also well aware of the influence the nWo has on today's wrestlers.
One has to look no further in WWE than Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and A.J. Styles, members of the The Club, who previously made a name for themselves in New Japan Pro Wrestling as The Bullet Club, alongside Finn Bálor. The heel faction not only carry themselves in a nWo-like manner, they adopted Hall and Nash's iconic "too sweet" hand gesture that The Club still uses today.
Waltman, 44, who still wrestles on the independent circuit, has been surprised by how many nWo fans are upset that Gallows and Anderson have borrowed the gimmick. But neither he, nor Hall and Nash, agree.
In fact, it's quite the opposite.
"Little kids come up to me now who couldn't have been a glimmer in their father's eye during the nWo run," Hall said. "And they come up [doing the hand gesture, and say] 'Hey, what's up Scott?' I'm like, 'Hey Buddy.'"
Nash sees what The Club is doing as a tribute, saying that in music "there are cover bands all over the place." He also made light of the idea that Gallows -- whom Nash calls "a sweetheart" -- is performing any kind of gimmick infringement on his character. He did so by referencing the bald head of the 6-foot-8 Gallows.
"I had five moves and one was the hair flip," Nash said. "I was known for my hair. If [Gallows] can't do one of my five moves, he can't really infringe me.
Few ideas, if any within the world of wrestling, are truly original concepts pulled out of thin air.
"We stole cutting the T-shirt like Mike Tyson and now I saw Big Cass the other day with a T-shirt cut like Tyson," continued Nash. "Everything gets stolen from somebody. We stole from Tyson, they steal it from us."
The full-circle irony in this situation is that even the nWo concept itself was "borrowed." Its creator, former WCW president Eric Bischoff, saw the success of a similar invasion angle while attending a New Japan show in early 1996 and adapted it soon after.
For Hall, 57, the connection with Gallows and Anderson goes deeper as his son, 25-year-old Cody Hall, was signed to New Japan in January 2015 and debuted as a trainee, or "young boy," of The Bullet Club.
"I'm happy for anybody who gets an opportunity or a break in the wrestling business," Hall said. "Those guys were part of the Bullet Club in Japan and my son Cody said they treated him good. If you treat my kid good, you're in with me."
Over the past two decades, Japanese wrestling has played a factor in where all three of these guys have been and where they continue to go -- and it has been making a big impact of late in the modern WWE as well. When it comes to which of today's WWE superstars the nWo members believe can be a crossover superstar for years to come, Waltman had one name in mind above the rest.
"I'm going to go with a little bit of a different answer than some people say," Waltman said. "I think Shinsuke Nakamura is going to be a really big deal. Besides the in-ring skills, the charisma is amazing. I don't compare him to anybody because he's like the original."
Hall was just as quick to mention Bálor and current WWE Universal champion Kevin Owens as "young guys who are really delivering the goods." But he backed up Waltman's words on Nakamura, a native of Japan who captured the NXT championship last month, saying he could become the first foreign-born wrestler to be the true face of the WWE.
"He's kind of like Liberace and Prince stuffed together, he's just crazy," Hall said, before Waltman added the names of Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury. One of the biggest struggles that a wrestler can have is fighting their way to that kind of relevance, and it certainly didn't come that easy for any of the members of the nWo.
Hall, who went on to tag team fame in WCW with Nash as The Outsiders, recalled the hits and misses of his early characters and how difficult it was to feel comfortable in the mid-1980s as top babyface "Big" Scott Hall in the AWA.
"For me, I was really struggling because I was Scott Hall in the gym, and Scott Hall in the grocery store, and in the ring," Hall said. "Until I got a gimmick, a look, and got to be a character, that's when I started making strides. As Scott Hall, I didn't have a gimmick so I didn't know what to do. Once I became the 'Bad Guy' [as Razor Ramon with WWE in 1992] it was a little easier for me to gain insight."
Nash, who has transitioned to acting in recent years with memorable roles in a pair of "Magic Mike" films, believes his most forgettable wrestling character to be Oz -- a short-lived WCW gimmick, memorable only for the epic entrances.
But Nash believes each stop on his journey was equally important, with the Oz character getting him a match in Japan at the Osaka Dome in October 1991. The show marked the first time wrestling fans of any kind had chanted his name.
"When I came out and the smoke cleared I was like, 'What are they saying?'" Nash said. "I thought, 'Oh my God, for the first time in my life I'm over.' So you never know. You go 12 hours in the opposite direction and not exactly kosher becomes [accepted], so I don't know. If you make it, all the pieces fit in the puzzle. I do believe in the butterfly effect where if you take some piece out of it, you don't end up here."
Asked whether the nWo could have the same impact had it debuted today with WWE, considering the evolution of the business and the difference in backstage politics, Nash had no doubt.
"I think once you know how to get over, you know how to get over," Nash said. "I mean, it would be at everyone's expense but we would get over. I mean, it would be guaranteed money. It wouldn't be [Ted] Turner [WCW] money though, I'll tell you that."
On this night, the home team won, 8-6, over the South Maryland Blue Crabs, with the entire Bluefish team wearing special black nWo jerseys. Nash, the most outgoing of the trio, jokingly gave himself the credit, saying he had never been brought to a baseball game as part of a promotion (he estimates 50-to-60 games in all) without the home team winning.
This may not have been the bright lights of WrestleMania or a venue as large as the Osaka Dome, but 20 years after the nWo debuted, they're still drawing nostalgic crowds.
Nash could only chuckle when asked why.
"Ask Paul McCartney why he still puts 60,000 people in the seats," Nash said. "There's only one, baby! There's only one! For life. We're not dead yet."