A Fractured Fairy Tale: WCW’s Oz

Brian Damage

1991 was a very weird year for the company known as World Championship Wrestling (WCW). The company, now owned by billionaire Ted Turner, was feverishly trying to compete with its main rival the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). To do that, Turner hired an executive named Jim Herd to run the day to day operations of the promotion. ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes was the head booker in charge of creating the matches and storylines. Together, Herd and Rhodes created what was thought to be a winning gimmick that would put the company over the top.

Before we get to that particular gimmick, it should be noted that Jim Herd wanted more outlandish and cartoonish character on his wrestling promotion to evenly compete with those that the WWF had at the time. Characters like the Ding Dongs, a lumberjack named Big Josh and rapper named PN News were all brought in to replace the more realistic based wrestlers like Ric Flair, The Midnight Express etc. Around the same time, Turner Broadcasting purchased the MGM movie library. It was a very big deal for the Turner owned networks.

The crown jewel of that movie library purchase was acquiring the rights to the 1939 classic…’The Wizard of OZ.’ The Turner executives thought it would be a wonderful idea for WCW to help cross promote their big acquisition. Jim Herd and Dusty Rhodes came up with the idea to bring the wonderful land of Oz to life and thus the gimmick aptly named “Oz” was born! The only question was, who would receive the Oz gimmick? Enter Kevin Nash.

Nash was a rather imposing looking figure, who stood 6 foot 10 inches tall and weighed over 325 pounds. The only real downfall to Kevin Nash was he was relatively new to wrestling and was extremely green (no pun intended). Nash was teaming with Al Green (Again, no pun) as a Road Warrior ripoff team called ‘The Master Blasters.’ This was going to be Kevin’s very first push as a singles wrestler and apparently Nash couldn’t have been anymore excited about it. That is, until Dusty told him of the million dollar idea of his.

Dusty approached Nash and told him about the gimmick and his name would be Oz. Kevin Nash then sarcastically retorted…’You do know that Oz is not a person, but a geographical place?.’ Despite the sarcasm, Nash would be getting the new gimmick. Ted Turner executives were very excited to see what Dusty and Herd had planned. The set alone for Oz’s grand entrance cost the company over $100,000. It was complete with a castle, smoke machines and green laser lights. Oz would wear a long green cape, a rubber mask with a fake white beard and a wizard’s cap.

Nash’s hair and goatee would be dyed silver. His manager would be Kevin Sullivan who also wore a rubber mask and would be known as the Great Wizard. After a few weeks of teasing the arrival of the Powerful Oz, their debut was all set for the pay per view ‘Super Brawl’ on May 19th, 1991. The entrance featured someone over the loud speaker saying…“Once upon a time, in a land far away lived a wizard, but not the wizard of Oz…he was known as the Great Wizard and he ruled the Kingdom of Oz. And now our weery travelers are at the end of their journey…”

At this point, fans saw Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion appear with Kevin Sullivan dressed as the Great Wizard. The role of Dorothy was played by none other than Janie Engle who in reality worked in WCW’s talent relations. The other characters were supposedly played by WCW stagehands. Getting back to this “grand entrance,” the Great Wizard started shouting “Welcome to Oz!, Welcome to Oz!” to which you could hear some fans shout back “Shut the F Up!”Oz hadn’t even appeared yet and already the moans and groans from the audience was telling this tale.

Oz appeared to more moans, groans and boos…this wasn’t going very well…despite Dusty Rhodes (who was on commentary) selling this like Oz was the second coming of Hulk Hogan. Oz’s introduction and entrance took much longer than the actual match which lasted just 26 seconds against Tim Parker. The Great Wizard was once accompanied by a live monkey…but that experiment was even disastrous. According to Sullivan, the monkey was supposed to be trained, but was biting everyone in sight backstage and even humped Sullivan’s leg.

The monkey went wild during the Oz entrance and jumped off the stage. Sullivan yanked the leash that the monkey was on to get him back on stage and accidentally snapped the monkey’s neck killing it. Oz would have a few quick squash matches, but the writing was on the wall that this gimmick was not getting over at all. Despite the negative reactions that the Oz character was receiving, WCW was fully committed to continuing with it. That is, until the company was in financial straights and decided on budget cuts.

As much of a bust Oz was in WCW, it was a far different story in Japan. According to Kevin Nash, The Oz character was over big and he never fully understood why. He recalls a time when he walked out to the ring in Japan to face Shinya Hashimoto and he started hearing a chant of “Oz-a! Oz-a! Oz-a!” Nash wondered, “What are they saying?” Finally he realized they are saying, “Oz! Oz! Oz!” He then said, “Oh my God! This thing is over here!” Unfortunately for Oz, Nash had to eventually return to the states. The gimmick was ultimately dropped and Nash was repackaged.

The Oz character blew away like a tornado in Kansas and disappeared.

13 thoughts on “A Fractured Fairy Tale: WCW’s Oz

      • Ah, I can agree with that. I love Yano. He’s so fun to watch and I love his spoiler reputation. Japan’s approach to comedy I think is more subtle and less forced in comparison to what WCW was doing at the time. It’s why Jim Herd is so reviled as he just doesn’t know shit about wrestling and why no one has said anything good about him.

        Liked by 2 people

      • From what I understand Herd was a special kind of incompetent who never EVER should’ve been allowed to be in the wrestling business, much in a position such as he was. His decisions really, really hurt WCW so much that it never fully recovered until the NWO fade started.


      • Their pizza was never really THAT good compared other companies. The personal pan pizza was a nice gimmick in the 90’s, that’s about all. As for Herd, I wouldn’t trust to even run a lemonade stand in the desert.


  1. OMG, the Turner film library fiasco. Herd wanted Ric Flair to become Spartacus, there were rumor that a Rhett Butler wrestler was being prepared, with a Scarlet O’Hara valet. Reportedly a Dracula/Vampire wrestler was even going to show up. It could have worse, it could have been a 2001 Monolith that Nash had to portray.


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