By Any Means Necessary: An oral history of The Nation of Domination
WWE’s Attitude Era is closely associated to so many groundbreaking moments, but nothing quite compares to the seismic ascent of the Wu-Tang Clan of sports-entertainment factions, The Nation of Domination. Besides bringing the ruckus inside the squared circle, these were a barrier-breaking bunch who changed the game forever. Within its star-studded weight are WWE Hall of Famers, World Heavyweight Champions, in-ring mavens and a trail-blazing, eyebrow-raising People’s Champ – all proof that the greatness of its whole is equal to that of its individual parts. The Nation had many members in its day, but its most impactful roster was comprised of Ron Simmons, D-Lo Brown, The Godfather, Mark Henry and The Rock. These game-changing Superstars shook up the industry with unapologetic pride and absolute domination. This is the story of The Nation of Domination.
Before taking over the WWE Universe by any means necessary, The Nation of Domination got off to a slow start with Ron Simmons, then known as Faarooq, planting the seeds at Survivor Series 1996. He formally introduced the faction’s first multicultural incarnation at Royal Rumble 1997, featuring the likes of Crush, PG-13 and Clarence Mason. Savio Vega would join the ranks a week later.
D-LO BROWN: Before I got the call from WWE to come up, The Nation was already running strong for five months with Ron Simmons, Crush, Savio Vega and PG-13 as the two hype men. They also had Clarence Mason as the lawyer. I didn’t know exactly what the details were for my position, Jim Cornette just told me to be in New York on a Saturday. It was so freaking cool because I grew up admiring Ron Simmons.
MARK HENRY: I grew up watching wrestling, so I wanted to be like Ernie Ladd. I wanted to be like Tiger Conway, Sr., and Tiger Conway, Jr. I grew up watching Tony Atlas, Kamala, the list goes on. They were black role models for me in wrestling. I wanted to be like Ron Simmons and Butch Reed.
BROWN: To rewind back some years, looking at someone like Ron Simmons on TV, I saw a man who looked like me and he opened that door for me to even believe I could be in wrestling. When I saw guys like Butch Reed and Simmons, I was like, “Man, there’s actually black guys that don’t suck in the wrestling ring and are actually beating people up. I can actually do that.”
RON SIMMONS*: Talking to [Mr. McMahon] about [The Nation idea], I said, “You want this militant type, but you don’t want [my persona] to be too offensive that he alienates everybody.” So, in order to do that, we sprinkled [the group] with Crush, Savio Vega – all different nationalities.
BROWN: When I first joined The Nation, I was alongside Savio Vega, Crush, Clarence Mason and PG-13 for about three or four months. I came in around January 1997 and by March, I remember my first WrestleMania, WrestleMania 13 – it was The Nation vs. The Road Warriors in a Chicago Street Fight. By the time of Survivor Series, we had The Gang Warz and we’d all broken up by then and they went on to create their own factions – Savio with Los Boricuas and Crush with The Disciples of Apocalypse. This led to the addition of a few members.
By Any Means Necessary
A week after Savio Vega and Crush caused Faarooq to lose a match against Ahmed Johnson and The Legion of Doom on the June 9, 1997, edition of Monday Night Raw, The Nation leader fired his entire roster, except for D-Lo Brown. That following week, he introduced the WWE Universe to the newest recruits: Kama Mustafa, formerly known as Papa Shango, and Ahmed Johnson. This marked the beginning of a new chapter, but The Nation’s road to domination would experience a few bumps along the way.
THE GODFATHER: This is a true story, the thing about me is I love wrestling, I respect the business, I’ve made money in this business and I’m in the Hall of Fame. Man, I couldn’t have had a better career in WWE. But what most people don’t realize is, wrestling was always my second job. I always had clubs in Las Vegas. I’ve probably made as much money in the clubs as I’ve made in wrestling, but that was my job. I got into wrestling because I was such a crazy dude that it was a way for me to escape and have fun. At the time, I was coming back as Papa Shango, more menacing and a little bit more serious. I showed up at TV, I don’t remember where it was, thinking I was going to be Papa Shango or the reincarnation of Papa Shango, and Vince called me to the office and said, “Change of plans, we’re going to call you Kama Mustafa and we’re going to put you in The Nation of Domination. You and Ron Simmons are going to wrestle The Undertaker in a Handicap Match.” That’s how I got put into The Nation, right there.
HENRY: Godfather had been around forever. Him and Undertaker were best friends. They had been around since the beginning. He was coming off Kama the Fighting Machine and Papa Shango.
GODFATHER: I became part of the crew, and I was cool with it. At the time, I didn’t know Ron Simmons that well, and that was my first time really meeting [him]. But, from there, we became such close friends.
"Ahmed, he just didn’t get it, and we did."
- The Godfather
BROWN: From there, Godfather, just became crazy more confident. Ron was like the dad of us all, he was just running the ship. We knew this was [his] vehicle so, we were going to jump on it and make it successful.
HENRY: Even though The Nation was a functioning group, everybody didn’t get along. I think everybody hated Ahmed Johnson. I can’t speak for everybody, but I could tell you he was not liked and he was a damn liar. He would rather tell a lie and climb a tree than stay on the ground and rake the leaves.
GODFATHER: Ahmed, he just didn’t get it. I’ll let it go at that. He didn’t get it, and we did.
SIMMONS**: Me, being the man that I am, said, “Listen, this is what they want to do with you. The man likes you, he sees nothing but promise in you.” Then they say, “Let’s put him in The Nation.” First word that come out of [Ahmed Johnson’s] mouth was that he wants to be the leader. Here’s a problem right from the beginning.
GODFATHER: He just never picked it up and got it. I think it was more about him, than about everything else. [Whereas] with us, it was about the business and doing a good job. I think [Ahmed] was in it more for himself and trying to launch his career, and we were all trying to get our group over as a whole – not individually.
HENRY: I think [people] not wanting to be associated with him is what killed him. Ron Simmons hated his guts. He got into a fight with D-Lo over something dumb and D-Lo ended up stretching him and we had to pull D-Lo off him.
BROWN: He was only in the Nation for a minute, literally a minute.
On the night of Aug. 18, 1997, a new member joined the ranks of The Nation of Domination. A young Superstar with beaming potential, he struggled to endear himself to the WWE Universe in the months since his November 1996 in-ring debut. His name was Rocky Maivia.
GODFATHER: Vince called me and Ron Simmons into the office when they were going to put Dwayne [“The Rock” Johnson] in The Nation and honestly, I didn’t know who he was. I knew his father, Rocky Johnson, really well. Ron knew who he was, and so Vince said he was going to put [Dwayne] in The Nation and once [fans] got through hating the kid, he would be the biggest thing wrestling had ever seen. That’s a testament to Vince, because he was right.
SIMMONS**: [Dwayne] was struggling for a minute [at that time]. They tried to do the same traditional thing with him. But [after joining The Nation] he found his niche, he found him and what works for him.
"My goals were to not let The Nation down and go out there and perform at a high level"
- Mark Henry
HENRY: He was always thinking of something. A lot of times, you’d be talking to [Dwayne] in the car about anything and then all of a sudden it would be one-hundred percent silence. Then, you’d look over there and he’d have a look on his face. You’d be like, “Man, what you thinking about?” and he’d go, “I’m tryna figure out how to get this in my match.” He would have the matches in his head and copy it in the ring. He lived wrestling, twenty-four hours a day. That was the difference between him and everybody else. We would have wrestling on our minds, three or four hours a day. Even when he wasn’t wrestling, he was thinking about it. So, that’s why he was who he was.
SIMMONS*: My fondest memory is when we were getting ready to go live during Raw with [Mark Henry] and [he] was just walking into The Nation. [Laughs]
HENRY: Well, me and Dwayne were talking about it in the car and [he] was saying, “Hey, I think that we gonna bring you in to The Nation and have you be like the muscle.” I’m like, “That’s cool.” When they came to me with [the idea], I was already up for it, I just acted like I didn’t know nothing. [Laughs] I kept my mouth shut and did what I was told.
GODFATHER: Mark Henry, he came in willing to learn.
SIMMONS: [Mark] was still young. He was still distracted with a lot of things out there. That was the thing that I always wanted to try to get across to him: Once you get focused on what you really want to do in this business, man, you are going to be unbelievable.
HENRY: I think my maturation process went in overdrive when I had Ron Simmons and Dwayne both saying, “Hey man, this is what you need to do...” I had been in the business for a while, but it was like master class being able to sit, watch, stand up ringside and be security. My goals were to not let The Nation down and go out there and perform at a high level.
BROWN: We were all trying to work forward for a goal to make this Nation thing work. We all wanted to add to the puzzle of what we were, and we wanted to bring our uniqueness to it. Being in the Nation allowed you to experiment and try to find the thing that would add to your character. Rocky learned his talking style and mannerisms, it gave me a chance to find my niche with my strut and my headshake and the things that became me.
We Are The Nation
In the months after The Rock and Mark Henry’s arrival, The Nation plundered the likes of Los Boricuas, The Head Bangers, and The Disciples of Apocalypse. By Dec. 1997, The Rock added championship gold to the group when he became two-time Intercontinental Champion. As the momentum spilled into the new year, rivalries with D-Generation X and a power trip would alter the course of The Nation.
GODFATHER: When that entrance theme song hit, “We are The Nation…,” people hated us. They just hated us [Laughs], and we loved it. We’re a bunch of hard-hitting dudes, nobody would step to us.
HENRY: It was no punks in that group. The last thing you wanted to do was get into a physical altercation with us. That wasn’t on people’s minds too much. But there were a couple of times where we had to go into the building with blankets over our heads in the backseat because if the people saw us in the car, they would beat the car to death. They totaled the car coming out of The Garden. We couldn’t even make it to the airport. Like, they beat the car to where the carburetor got shoved in. It was completely totaled.
GODFATHER: I’ll tell you one thing that happened, I live in Las Vegas and Randall Cunningham was a good friend of mine and I remember one time he came to me in the gym and said, “Hey bro, I don’t know if you guys know what you’re doing but you’re getting a lot of heat and the Nation of Islam, they don’t like people making fun of them [so] be careful.
SIMMONS*: When it got out in the streets, you had to keep that separation with [Nation of Islam] to let them know [it was] no disrespect, because there was a time where we were in Chicago, I was at the [hotel] front desk doing something, I’m [dressed] in full Faarooq [gear], and lo and behold they were having a conference there. So, [one of the members] spotted me at the desk, and said, “This is wonderful! Would you come in, brother, and just say a few things for the crowd, just to get the conference started?” I was like, “Just give me a moment, I’ll be right back.” So, I call [JBL] and I’m like, “John, please rush down here right now. They think I’m Faarooq for real, just come down and say anything.” That’s how strongly it came over.
HENRY: My favorite was battling DX.
Here, you got these four, five strong and young black men standing up for themselves.
- D-Lo Brown
BROWN: Matches to me are blended together, except my matches with X-Pac. I could probably tell you everything that happened in every match. The chemistry was there. Our bad matches were really good. Our styles meshed and we both took it upon ourselves that we were kind of the underdogs of our groups and we were going to make our matches that main match to have.
HENRY: Everybody that was in DX, it wasn’t uncommon for Ron Simmons to be wrestling Shawn Michaels and The Rock wrestling Triple H, and me and D’Lo against Billy and Road Dogg. That’s three matches on the card without Godfather wrestling. We were stacked.
BROWN: I think the peak of The Nation was right before Rocky started to take over. When [he] started taking over, we kind of had an understanding that The Nation was going to start falling apart. So, I think it was right before Rocky started to step up as the alpha male of the group.
HENRY: There was nothing that was going to get higher than that because Dwayne and Ron they did such a good job, and the whole turning everybody against each other made for great TV.
BROWN: We were at our highpoint and then we knew that the writing was on the wall that The Nation was going to soon start dwindling off.
HENRY: Dwayne was going the opposite direction, and he was The Rock. Me and D-Lo went our merry way, and The Nation eventually kind of dissolved. Kama became The Godfather and started doing his own thing. Me and D-Lo was what was left of The Nation, and D-Lo started the chest protector thing and became his own deal. I went away to Calgary, Canada, and then I came back as The World’s Strongest Man and never looked back.
BROWN: When the Nation was done, we all left Nation better in our careers than [when] we started. I usually think when factions break up, you may have your standalone guy, who the faction was built around, keep going. Other than like DX, guys don’t leave factions and everybody still starts doing stuff.
SIMMONS*: As you know, most of those factions like that can turn out to be either great or [disastrous] but, in this case it just so happened that all of us came into it with individual personalities and we had something that we’ve already built off of and the best part out of it was this: that we all cared and loved each other. That’s the biggest thing.
BROWN: Here, you got these four, five strong and young black men standing up for themselves. I think it played at a time when good guys were bad and bad guys were good – so, we were really good.
GODFATHER: These were all guys that had come up the hard way. Everyone in that group was tough as nails, and we all understood that and it was good to be part of that group.
BROWN: It felt like we gave legitimacy to any wrestler of color, that you could go do it and you could be controversial, successful and be whatever you wanted to be if given the opportunity.
HENRY: The Nation came in and said we ain’t taking no shortcuts, I don’t care who you are or what group you in. We’re here to dominate, so get the hell out of our way. That’s the way it came across and that’s why it made for great TV.
* This quote originally appeared on an episode of Table For 3, available exclusively on the WWE Network.
** This quote originally appeared on an episode of Legends with JBL, available exclusively on the WWE Network.