1997 was a very interesting year in the history of the WWF. A very clear transition from the cartoon era into the Attitude Era with mixed results along the way. Today we look at a storyline that dominated much of 1997, the battle between Farooq, Crush and Savio Vega and their respective factions – and latterly The Truth Commission – during the Gang Warz.
For me, 1997 is a fascinating year for the WWE. Not in the same car crash way that 1995 was but as a transitional period for the company.
While a year earlier he had been the Ringmaster, Austin had now become Stone Cold and Rocky Maivia had ditched the face character and was transitioning into The Rock. At the top of the card you had Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and The Undertaker as well as the debut of Kane and, by the end of the year, Triple H ditching his blue blood character in exchange for something that bit edgier and you had a company that was starting to go places.
Furthermore, the design of Raw was changed and the WWE began to move away from the cartoonish stuff that had been a fixture, and blighted them, for the years previous. Gone, too, largely were the ridiculous characters that had the gimmick of using wrestling to make waves in their chosen fields – Ice Hockey Players, Country Singers etc.
Another significant part of the time was the Gang Wars at the time. This all really started with the Nation of Domination – then featuring Farooq, Savio Vega and Crush. Once that grouping split and Farooq recruited African American superstars to the group it forced Vega and Crush to form their own stables – Los Boricuas and The Disciples of Apocalypse respectively.
With those stables formed, war commenced.
It created some quite chaotic television as matches featuring members of any of the factions often descended into a mass brawl.
Ultimately, it was all about the WWE trying to create something akin to the nWo, who were tearing it up and drawing huge numbers over in WCW. And parts of it worked. The Nation in 1997 were pretty bad ass and kept its members in prominent positions within the WWF. Hell, it didn’t look too out of place when Farooq got a title match against The Undertaker at the 1997 edition of King of the Ring.
As for DOA, it took 3 guys – Crush, Skull & 8-Ball – who had been with the company for a while and were underutilised and gave them something meaningful. Add in Brian ‘Chainz’ Lee and you had a group of big men that looked the part together. They looked like a stable with similar attire and riding to the ring on Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Ultimately, out of the three stables it was Los Boricuas that was the weakest. Other than Savio Vega, most wrestling fans will struggle to name the other members and that really hampered the groups chances. Although credit where credit is due for the WWE who somehow managed to get fans to care, even just a little bit, about Vega in 1997.
It was a storyline that rumbled on during the summer with matches leading to out of control brawls, something that would continue for some time in Raw during the Monday Night Wars and Attitude Era.
The Gang Wars were a moderately successful attempt from the WWE to move away from the cartoony stuff of before into an edgier style programme and the feud between these three stables undoubtedly helped. However, by the time the Truth Commission got in on the act it was really over.
Still, it was a time when even mid card talent were provided with storylines and vehicles – literally in the case of the DOA – to get over with the fanbase and the Gang Wars was successful in doing that. I’m sure it’ll divide opinion but for the few months it was going it gave a group of guys a meaningful programme and provided the fans with some entertaining matches, brawls and skits along the way.