Certainly, WCW was not about to let Arn Anderson be forgotten. To their credit, they dedicated the next week's Nitro to The Enforcer, with a nice two-minute retrospective on his career.
Of course, as any fan at that time remembers, that night's Nitro was marred by the nWo's skit mocking Arn's retirement speech. Regardless, the dedication was nicely done.
Meanwhile, Arn went to work as a road agent, working behind the scenes, managing the shows and making sure the wrestlers are taken care of. In fact, Arn was spotted by a reader escorting David Penzer at a house show in Springfield, Illinois on 9/4/97. Likewise, he was spotted at a show in Chicago, Illinois on 9/7/97 and gave a Horsemen salute to the fans in the parking lot after the show.
On 10/18/97, in Houston, Texas, Arn would be more than a road agent. He escorted Chris Benoit and Steve McMichael to the ring, and actually delivered a wicked elbow shot to Vincent's head during the match, enabling his fellow Horsemen to get the win. (Picture 1, Picture 2, Picture 3, Picture 4) Arn would be spotted again behind the scenes at a show in West Plains, Missouri on 11/9/97.
The next time I saw Arn was in real life, at Halloween Havoc. He didn't appear as part of the card, but I was in Vegas at the time and had the incredible fortune to run into Arn in one of the casinos. He was, obviously, still working for WCW, albeit behind the scenes.
The following month's issue of WCW Magazine would go on to have a feature on Arn Anderson and his career. The article talked about what a great wrestler he was, and what a great man he was outside the ring. The article went into great detail about how tough the adjustment to retirement was for him and how hard it was for him to give his retirement speech on August 25th.
Later in the year, Arn would receive a tremendous accolade from Pro Wrestling, winning their annual Lifetime Achievement Award, an award previously won by the likes of Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino and Verne Gagne. The list of lifetime achievers in professional wrestling doesn't get any better than that.
After an on-screen absence of over two months, Arn would go on to cut a promo on the 11/2/97 edition of WCW Worldwide. Arn said that the Horsemen had been idiots in the past, and Flair was, right now, the biggest idiot he knew, trying to take on the nWo on his own.
Arn began to make semi-regular appearances in front of the camera, the crowd just about taking the roof off the place whenever he did. He and Ric Flair made a joint appearance on the 12/15/97 Nitro, to present a $15,000 check to the Charlotte, NC police department, as a donation to their memorial to the 22 officers in the department's history that have died in the line of duty.
In the early part of 1998, as Bill Goldberg made his rapid ascent to the top of the wrestling world, he credited Arn Anderson as the man whose ring style he most emulated. In fact, it was, and still is, rumored that Arn Anderson worked closely with Bill Golberg on his ring style, mannerisms, and interviewing skills.
Arn would also once again make his presence felt at house shows. On 1/3/98, in Columbia, South Carolina, he enabled Ric Flair to get a win against Curt Hennig by preventing an nWo run-in. He would also escort Ric Flair to the ring for a match against Davey Boy Smith in Abiline, Texas on 2/7/98, although Arn did not get involved in that match. Arn was seen backstage at Springfield, Missouri 2/13/98, Johnson City, Tennessee on 3/8/98 and Hammond, Indiana on 3/21/98, but was not officially part of the public shows.
In March, Arn once again made appearances in the local promos on WCW Worldwide, even hinting at a Four Horsemen reunion. Then, in early April, Ric Flair's legal troubles started. The story of Flair's legal troubles with WCW has been fuzzy, so I don't have enough facts to go into it here, but suffice to say, that Flair's being out of the picture made it impossible to reunite the Four Horsemen. On the 4/9/98 edition of Thunder, Flair's legal troubles were brought out in front of the camera, and Arn came out and confronted Eric Bischoff about the problems Bischoff was giving Flair. A WCW vs. nWo brawl ensued, leading us to believe that the WCW members of the brawl, namely Lex Luger and Rick Steiner, were going to become Horsemen. But, as things turned out, Flair's legal troubles doomed things for the time being.
Arn would go on to make a public appearance at University of Alabama on April 30th, giving a short speech and signing autographs. The May, 1998 issue of WCW Magazine would contain a feature article on Arn's upcoming book, Arn Anderson 4 Ever: A Look Behind The Curtain. And, the weekend of May 23rd, Arn and Ric Flair did a set of rare public appearances in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area. Doug, from Mesquite, TX, had this to say about the event:
AA and Flair did a radio show at 9:00 am CDT in Baton Rouge. I caught most of the show except for the few minutes that I was passing under power lines on I-10. Most of the callers addressed questions to Flair regarding his current legal situation. Flair responded that he expects to return to WCW in the future.
At around 10:10, Ric and Arn arrived at the Baton Rouge Hilton to a wide series of "WHOOOOO!!!"s by the 300+ fans waiting in line for autographs and pictures. The line moved pretty quickly. When I finally arrived in the autograph room, Ric and Arn were sitting at a raised table giving autographs for the fans. I got in the picture line and it took only a few minutes before I was standing between Ric and Arn getting my picture taken. I shook both of their hands. A very memorable moment for me. I am about 5' 11'' and both Ric and Arn are about the same height, maybe an inch or two taller. The autograph session continued until around 12:15.
At around 12:45, Arn's agent played a video highlighting AA's career. He then introduced Arn to the crowd gathered at the luncheon. Arn came in and spoke about his career and family. Arn also talked about the meaning of the four fingers in the Four Horsemen. After Arn finished his speech, Ric came to the podium. Ric talked about his feelings for Arn and how he believes Arn is in the top five professional wrestlers of all time and why. Ric talked about how upset he was with the parody that the nWo did on Nitro about Arn's retirement. He mentioned that he hopes to be back in WCW soon. He also mentioned that he was happy with the success of the Baton Rouge event and would like to do more of them across the country.
Ric and Arn appeared at a local restaurant at 6:00 pm for autographs and pictures. The crowd was not as large as the earlier session and, as a result, those who attended had more time with Ric and Arn.
I'm glad I made the trip. I met two legends of wrestling. I can't think of any other wrestlers in history that I would have made the trip for. I think the quote of the day happened when Flair said that if he ended up in the WWF that he would be beating Austin within an inch of his life within a matter of minutes. In the end, there is nothing earth-shattering to report. It was just a good time for fans of the Four Horsemen.
After April, the Four Horsemen rumors died down until the 6/24/98 Thunder broadcast. It started up again with Chris Benoit pleading with Arn to reunite the Horsemen, and Arn turning him down. On the 7/2/98 Thunder, Mongo gave a one-on-one interview, basically daring Arn to put the Four Horsemen back together. Mongo came out again on the 7/8/98 Thunder, and pleaded with Arn again, even going so far as to play a tape of one of Arn's best interviews.
At Bash at the Beach on 7/12/98, Arn came the closest to physical involvement that he'd gotten since his retirement by holding onto Chris Jericho backstage at Bash at the Beach so Dean Malenko could get his hands on him.
At this point, the possible reunion of the Four Horsemen really began to heat up...