DAR Wrestling: The Nation Of Domination

 By True God


The World Wrestling Federation was a place for entertainment in 1996. Sports-Entertainment is officially what it would be dubbed later on down the line, but professional wrestling at its core has always been an avenue for entertainment through athletic competition (choreographed competition, but nonetheless). As a young fan, I was immersed into professional wrestling because it seemed interesting at the time. To a kid who watched American Gladiators periodically, boxing (Mike Tyson's era), and even football, the physicality in pro wrestling seemed to be a fun display. The first wrestler to capture my attention was Bret Hart. He wasn't the most exciting, but he was good at what he did. Then, it became Shawn Michaels, who wasn't as technically sound as Bret was, and was a bit more flamboyant than Bret, but was more exciting in the ring for sure. As the years 1994 and 1995 went by in a hazy flash, it never truly occurred to me that wrestling had such a limited amount of black wrestlers, at least prominent ones. I was too young to witness the power of Bad News Brown or the Junkyard Dog, and while Mabel had won King of The Ring and was a main eventer for two whole Pay-Per-Views (and Kama Mustafa had the gold chain), that meant little to me. As 1995 came to a close, I do remember seeing a black wrestler come across the screen during an episode of Superstars, and it was a peculiar sight. This wrestler was wearing all red, had a hoop earring in, and seemed as if he was sweating entirely too much just during his entrance. That man was Ahmed Johnson. He won a squash match on Superstars, and instantly I would become a fan, solely because he was, you guessed it, a black wrestler. At the time, representation wasn't a focus for me in wrestling, because I was a kid who had better forms of representation in other areas. I grew up with posters of Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party on the right side of my wall, with posters of Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali on the left side of the wall, and saw all of those are inspirations and guidelines for what representation truly is. I think because I had that, I never noticed the lack of authentic black representation in professional wrestling, but as soon as Ahmed Johnson showed up, I wanted to see more black wrestlers on my screen in the WWF (that weren't Mabel). 

Enter Ron Simmons.





 

While Ron had been successful already in WCW and abroad, I had never seen any of his work. I rented old WCW tapes before to watch Sting and Flair, and even saw a match or two, but his significance was unknown to me at the time. The first black WCW World Champion was a legend by the time he got to WWF, and when he first arrived as Faarooq, I admit, I was a bit confused. Ron was a football legend, a WCW legend, and a big man dressed up in some concoction from Vince McMahon's mind with some awful looking helmet on.....all while being introduced to the WWF world by Sunny. Faarooq's arrival was strange, but even stranger was who he targeted: Ahmed Johnson. Ah yes WWF, put those only two black men on the roster against each other, that'll get the people talking. Unfortunately, that feud started off very weak, due to the stupid attire and booking of Faarooq out the gate, so I never really paid much attention to him. At least not with that damn helmet on. I figured Faarooq was going to be like the other wrestlers I saw and watched disappear, like the Max Moons, the TL Hoppers, The Goons, and Duke "The Dumpster" Droeses. In some way, I was right. That bulky suit and helmet wearing Faarooq I witnessed eventually did disappear, and that saved the career of Ron Simmons in the WWF. After a few months of pointless battling with Ahmed, Faarooq would ditch Sunny (no more white women) and enlist the services of Clarence Mason as his manager. On a late October 1996 edition of RAW, Faarooq stood next to Mason proudly proclaiming that his time had come and that he was making changes. While Faarooq was accompanied by Mason as he made this declaration, what stuck out the most had to be the three men behind him, which gave off a vibe eerily similar to the Nation of Islam with how they were dressed and stayed silent behind him. This would be the beginning of the faction that changed the course for Faarooq and eventually would lay the foundation for the biggest crossover star ever. That faction was the Nation of Domination. 



Now, let's be real. Faarooq was not the creator or even the inventor of the Nation of Domination. Down in the southern promotion USWA, which was truly a developmental territory for WWF in many ways, the Nation of Domination had been gaining attention, but it was essentially a joke of a faction down there. Led by PG-13, a tag team of short, wannabe tough white dudes, the USWA version of The Nation had Jacqueline (Queen Moisha), Mo from Men On A Mission (Sir Mohammad), Phantasio (Elijah), Tracy Smothers (Shaquille Ali), Brakkus, and of course, the infamous Kareem Olajuwon. How could anyone take this faction seriously with all these moving pieces and so many white people in it. That last part is important. If you're going to truly have a faction that is similar to the Nation of Islam and even showing similarities (minimally) to the Black Panther Party, how in the hell can you have white people as prominent members? That is a question we will likely never get answered, I suspect.  Once Faarooq made his change over, the Nation of Domination formed in the WWF, and PG-13 made their way to the roster to join Faarooq. This era of the Nation was awkward and was never booked properly. The other two star members of the group were Crush (a white man with braids) and Savio Vega (a Puerto Rican man), which once again made the group's fist in the air salute seem hollow and made it hard to take the group truly serious. While the feud with Ahmed Johnson and the Legion of Doom in late 1996/early 1997 led to some highly entertaining moments here and there, including an infamous Wrestlemania 13 match, the Nation needed a change and they needed to cut out some pieces that didn't fit. Basically, in order for this attempt at a pro black militant group to truly work, you needed to remove the white men and the Puerto Rican dude. A simple concept, but one that WWF took almost 7 months to realize. Once Faarooq's run to the main event ceased after a loss to The Undertaker at King of The Ring 1997, Savio and Crush were removed from the Nation, and Faarooq kept a trusted sidekick with him only. He fired Mason, Savio, and Crush, then remarked he would make a bigger and blacker version of The Nation. Yes! The WWF was finally going to get this right! They were going to bring in some black wrestlers and finally move Faarooq away from Ahmed Johnson, a feud that had ran its course over the year. This would have been interesting to see Ahmed get a run away from Faarooq while Faarooq attempted his descent back to the main event scene with his newfound direction, but of course, WWF did what they do best. They damn near ruined it out the gate. Faarooq and his trusted sidekick, now known to the world as D-Lo Brown, were making noise when they added the former Million Dollar Corporation member Kama Mustafa to the Nation, giving it a more authentic feel. Kama had added a little bit to the Nation, but it was obvious, there needed to be a second star. D-Lo wasn't going to be that and neither was Kama, so where would that second star come from? Could USWA have the next black world champion there? Could ECW lose a talent that would fit into the Nation? Where would the Nation find their next star? Those questions needed a fresh, new answer, and instead the WWF went the most predictable route possible, one that made little sense too. 

They added Ahmed Johnson. 



Truth be told, Ahmed never fit the Nation, mostly due to the yearlong feud he had prior to joining. Ahmed had washed his hands with the Nation and after the Undertaker feud, there was Faarooq and Ahmed fatigue. These were two alphas that needed to be separated and when they're not battling each other, they should be kept apart, not running together. Ahmed was a poor fit, didn't seem that believable as a heel (or as a wrestler in general honestly), and it just didn't work properly. At this time, Vince McMahon must have seen something that no one else saw or needed to see, because he would take the discarded Nation members (Crush and Savio) and give them their own race based factions. Essentially, in the humble beginnings of the Attitude Era, Vincent Kennedy McMahon wanted to start "Gang Warfare" on his television programming. Savio would start his faction up as the Los Boricuas, a team of fellow Puerto Ricans, while Crush would enlist white bikers to begin his faction, which was aptly called the Disciples of Apocalypse. These factions were of course stereotypical and racist, as the WWF excels in that area, but through all this, there was still an aura of authenticity within The Nation. The only thing holding The Nation back was the lack of a second star. Ahmed would get injured and have to depart the faction, which was honestly the best for all parties involved. A three man tandem of Faarooq, D-Lo and Kama didn't have enough power to truly become a force, they needed one more face to take them above and beyond.

Enter Rocky Maivia. 



Rocky Maivia, a third generation wrestler who had spent time in USWA as Flex Kavana, would join The Nation in the summer of 1997 and the rest is history. Now, at the time, Rocky didn't seem to have the brightest future in the company. After a failed Intercontinental Championship reign that led to more fans booing him and despising him, Rocky were away for a few months to recover from an injury before returning to join The Nation. After Rocky joined, he would cut a promo that opened many eyes to what he had the potential to be. His voice and delivery still needed a little bit of work, but we were witnessing the maturation of Rocky Maivia right before our eyes. The Nation would start to find their form as the "Gang Wars" continued, but it was becoming obvious during the end of 1997 that while Faarooq was still the biggest name in his faction, he didn't have the biggest star potential in the faction. Rocky had begun to surpass all expectations and his promos were becoming more and more entertaining. The addition of Rocky made The Nation less threatening, but more entertaining, an interesting trade off considering this is entertainment. The Nation still kept their aura of authenticity, but they took too many losses to be deemed as true threats to the World Title or the Tag Titles. Shortly after Survivor Series 1997, Rocky would embrace his new nickname and challenge Stone Cold Steve Austin for the Intercontinental Championship. This was the real beginning of the Nation's transition. While there could never be a true pro-black group in professional wrestling, the image of 4 black men standing proudly raising a fist on the program was still a special sight to see. As a result of Rock's ascension, The Nation became more focused squarely on him, leaving the door open for some friction for him and Faarooq. Logically, it would have made sense for Faarooq to kick The Rock out, as Rock had grown too big for his own good and his ego got the best of him. As 1998 opened, The Rock was the Intercontinental Champion, he was feuding with Ken Shamrock, and Faarooq was essentially second in command (not by choice). This would be further evidenced by the addition of Mark Henry to the Nation, as he turned heel on Shamrock during a tag team match against Rock and D-Lo. Mark Henry had the right appeal to boost the Domination of the Nation once again, but at this point, The Nation had lost that appeal. It was no longer a militant faction, it was simply an entertaining faction of black wrestler with some odes to their beginnings (the fist salute and the music). There are some moments that truly drove this home, but none more evident than when The Rock presented The Nation with personal gifts. This was a classic RAW segment with Faarooq and Rock having their friction teased more and more. It was building to that moment, the moment where it all crashes down, the moment where it all blows up.... right?

Right and wrong. 




Yes, the blow up happened, but it didn't crash anything down. Instead, it only seemed to make The Nation stronger. Despite the loss of Domination from the name, The Nation became more popular and focused than ever thanks to The Rock. Faarooq, the previous leader of The Nation, was kicked out but it led to a seamless transition and no loss of momentum. With The Rock leading the charge now, The Nation began developing their own personalities within the faction. Kama Mustafa was beginning to evolve into his Godfather persona, D-Lo Brown was starting to become more entertaining, and Mark Henry went from being the big enforcer to an attempted playboy. This was of course aided by the fact that Rock had now grown into a man with catchphrases, special moves, engaging promos, and star power. However, The Nation was only going to so far and by May 1998, it was evident that this faction likely would go their separate ways sooner than later so the star could spread his wings. The Nation still provided us with some entertaining moments during a feud with D-Generation X, but they officially jumped the shark when they added Owen Hart. Sure, Owen Hart was going through a time where he was being overlooked and perhaps joining the black faction was meant to be entertaining, but it just didn't fit. Sure, the promos made you laugh, but mostly for the wrong reasons. Owen Hart was a poor fit in The Nation and his arrival to me signaled the end of what was a two year run of ups and downs as a faction. The "nugget" jokes, the "enough is enough", and more were funny, but didn't fit the theme of The Nation and Owen would end up leaving in September 1998. Once Rock caught on with fans, it was inevitable that a split would happen, and we watched it come to fruition as Mark Henry and D-Lo Brown attacked Rock in October 1998, signaling the official face turn of The Rock and the new team of D-Lo and Henry. The Godfather would move onto his "pimp" persona, which caught on quickly due to the nature of the Attitude Era, and at this point, all of the members were set. 





The Nation of Domination's start, with PG-13 and all of the white wrestlers included, honestly should have killed any momentum the group would have had from the start. The fact that Faarooq persevered and managed to create two more editions of this faction to more success says a lot about Faarooq as a performer. I've always felt that WWF didn't utilize Faarooq properly during his Nation run, as a short term title reign for him would have been perfect. Regardless, Faarooq's ability and promo skills were on display the entire time during his Nation run, and in the later times, the rise of arguably the greatest promo cutter ever, The Rock, gave us an early glimpse at what The Great One can do. The Nation of Domination did what most factions are supposed to do: serve as a vehicle to bring a star on and create new ones in the process. Would Mark Henry have maintained his career had The Nation never brought him on? If the birth of Sexual Chocolate never happened during The Nation run would he still be legendary today? Would D-Lo Brown have been given a shot and become a champion in the WWF without The Nation? Would Rocky Maivia have become The Rock without guidance from Faarooq and The Nation as a vehicle? It doesn't seem that likely. The Nation of Domination gave us some interesting moments, some entertaining television, and most of all gave us legends. The Nation is the catalyst that many factions are modeled after, especially black factions, as early heel New Day showed small signs and The Hurt Business garnered some early comparisons as well. In a time where the other factions like The Oddities, Los Boricuas, D.O.A., and more from The Attitude Era were forgotten, The Nation of Domination stands firm and is remembered in wrestling history as one of the greatest factions of all time, even if history says they should have been booked stronger, bigger, better, and well.... blacker (from the beginning). 

-True

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