When WWE bought out WCW in 2001, the possibilities seemed to be endless. Fans dreamed big as big stars seemed to be on their way to the worldwide leader, with pay-per-view blockbusters seeming unlimited. This is not that story.
This summer series will examine talents, moments and matches that crumbled under the weight of their immense potential.
WCW's violent, accelerated collapse of 2001 changed professional wrestling for the worse in the grand scheme of things.
Wrestling was back to its monopolistic ways. No longer was there viable competition. The major threat WCW had presented over the past five years had brought out the best in WWE. Now the worldwide leader could relax.
The wrestling market was going to inevitably shrink. But before it did, the obvious plan to keep departing wrestling fans interested was to simulate competition with the defunct WCW brand.
WCW's death meant top-flight WCW stars potentially crossing over, giving way to dream matches that could have consistently broken pay-per-view records.
Sting vs. The Undertaker? Goldberg vs. Austin? NWO vs. Degeneration-X?
On the final night of Monday Nitro, Vince McMahon himself teased the possibility of WCW top stars being signed by WWE during a victory celebration of sorts.
Buff Bagwell and Scott Steiner both tested well in the impromptu focus group. But as was the case with the WCW brand in the WWE, the potential was endless while the payoff was pathetic.
WWE aired WCW matches during segments of Raw. An ill-fated WCW Championship match between Bagwell and Booker T was an awful wrestling contest as WCW put its worst foot forward.
Bagwell would soon fall by the wayside as a story within a story of wasted potential. Booker T would more than salvage himself with a Hall-of-Fame caliber career in WWE.
WWE quickly did away with the idea of standalone WCW segments. Instead, it opted to use former WCW talents as invaders, giving way to possible dream match scenarios.
Sean O'Haire, Lance Storm, Chuck Palumbo and Chris Kanyon. No, this isn't a list of wrestlers turned insurance salesmen in 2001. This was the invasion.
Booker T and DDP were two strong additions to a WCW stable of wrestlers per the storyline. Unfortunately, they were the exception.
ECW would soon join WCW to form The Alliance, however many of the ECW talents had already worked with WWE, which undermined the purpose of an "invasion" in the first place.
Shane and Stephanie McMahon served as leaders of The Alliance alongside then-WWE color commentator and former ECW Owner, Paul Heyman. The veil of an invasion had been pierced as the feud more closely resembled WWE vs. WWE.
The promising bounty of dream matches initially thought possible upon WCW's collapse largely fell flat even with WWE top star Steve Austin defecting.
WWE would go on to predictably win the simulated war at Survivor Series as the WCW brand officially died on November 18, 2001.
WWE attempted to recreate the Monday Night Wars with a cannibalistic brand split that pit Raw against SmackDown through a series of annual WWE Drafts. Slowly, but surely, SmackDown would be promoted as the B-Show while Raw remained the flagship. The brand split era ended quietly in 2012 after a four-year experiment.
At worst, the Invasion should have been one last blast for WCW, with its premier talents working with WWE's top stars. At best, the brand could have been revitalized by popular demand following a series of compelling inter-promotional feuds and matches.
Neither would happen. WCW went out with a whimper while ECW went into a coma. The wrestling market would shrink as WWE was left to deal with the spoils and struggles of being king.