Last night on Monday Night Raw, WWE brought back a tried and true staple: The "they don't even work here" attack from some kind of "invading" wrestlers in the crowd. Always a good way to give off a chaotic "things are not going as planned" type of vibe (not necessarily a shoot angle), WWE did a good job using it to forward the current Rhodes family versus McMahon family/Big Show/The Shield feud.
As The Shield made its way to the ring right before the main event, Cody Rhodes and Goldust, in street clothes, jumped out of their seats and started beating the hell out of the three members to get revenge for their role in last week's attack on the brothers' father, Dusty Rhodes. The crowd in Chicago went nuts as the local independent wrestler security force stormed the area to kick Cody and Goldust out of the building.
This wasn't the first time Goldust was involved in this type of angle, though it wasn't quite the same. During an episode of Raw back in 1997, Goldust and his valet Marlena sat "incognito" in the crowd, dressed down and wearing black baseball caps. When the camera caught a glimpse of them, Jim Ross blurted out, "That's Dustin and Terri! I mean, uh..." Instead of being an invading force, they used the opportunity to get the jump on Triple H and Chyna, who they'd been feuding with for a few months.
Both were very effective, exciting angles, but there's one aspect WWE should have borrowed from the 1997 angle: Goldust should not have been made up as Goldust. If he was hiding out, trying to look inconspicuous among the fans, why was his face covered in black and gold paint? Everyone knows Goldust is Dustin Rhodes, and younger fans would've realized what was going on as soon as he and Cody attacked The Shield, so why not add an extra drop of realism?
Anyway, that's nitpicking now since the angle totally worked and got over great both live and on TV. It was a little incongruous, but it won't matter in the long run.
There are a few angles that come to mind as far as being the best examples of this trope working in the past. Obviously, the most successful one would be Scott Hall invading WCW on Memorial Day 1996 to kick off the nWo angle.
Initially, the idea, which got WCW sued, was that Hall (who went unnamed for a couple months) was still representing WWE as Razor Ramon in an attempt to invade and stage a "hostile takeover" of the company. While he didn't attack anyone, the angle just doesn't work if he doesn't come through the crowd. That set up his "outsider status."
While Hall had a similar look in WCW five years earlier as the Diamond Studd, his use of the Cuban/Scarface/Razor Ramon accent made a fairly strong inference, and WCW instantly had a hot angle that carried the company for a good 18 months before it started to lose steam.
Even though Hall and Kevin Nash (who had left his role in WWE as Diesel) declared early on that they didn't work for WWE, it didn't stop their momentum one iota because they built up steam by attacking WCW head Eric Bischoff and eventually unveiled Hulk Hogan as their mystery partner in their first match.
While it didn't have the overt interpromotional aspect, the most famous angle of this type before the nWo angle was also in WCW, back in late 1988. Jim Cornette's Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane) had been riding a wave of momentum, having just held both of the promotion's sets of tag titles and cementing their babyface turn in a loss to the Road Warriors.
As Lane wrestled a singles match, Cornette got a phone call, only to yell at and hang up on the caller. Seconds later, they were all ambushed. Fresh off a run in the AWA, Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman branding the cellphone that let him call Cornette) and The Original Midnight Express (Eaton's original partner, Dennis Condrey, and Condrey's original partner, Randy Rose) ran into the TBS studio to brutalize them.
There were two keys to what made this one of the most memorable angles in WCW history:
- Jim Ross screaming, "They don't even wrestle here!" as he freaked out and explained what was going on.
- Jim Cornette, clad in a white suit, bleeding all over the place. As then-booker Dusty Rhodes explained it to Cornette when planning the angle: "The fans have seen the Express bleed, but they've never seen you bleed."
Unfortunately, Rhodes was soon relieved on his duties, and his replacements (Jim Crockett Jr., followed by George Scott) weren't fans of the storyline. They killed it by booking this hot-blood feud in 20-minute draws at house shows around the country. It's a big "What if?" to wonder how it would have gone if they followed up on the amazing initial angle properly.
Finally, my favorite use of this trope came in Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett's USWA promotion in Memphis. In 1990, The Snowman, a black wrestler who had worked for the company before, was constantly doing interviews for "black" media (local radio stations, alternative newspapers marketed to the city's large black population, etc.), saying that the USWA wouldn't hire him because he was black.
Lawler and Jarrett realized that the best way to deal with the situation was to make money off of it. One day, during the live USWA show on WMC-TV 5, Lawler (then a heel) was cutting a promo on Kerry Von Erich when The Snowman emerged from the studio audience to yell at him.
Memphis wrestling was always daring, but it had never seen anything like this before. There were a bunch of weird camera angles and switches. Language too colorful for the Saturday morning time slot was used freely. Perhaps most importantly, they were having a heated but nuanced argument about racism in Memphis on the most popular TV show in the market.
Of course, this led to a series of matches between Lawler and Snowman, who decided to work as realistically as possible to get over the nature of the angle. Instead of the usual wild Memphis brawl, their matches were full of awkward takedowns, less punches than usual, both guys attempting to gouge each others' eyes out and all sorts of gnarly violence.
The subquent angles were pretty crazy, too, with a summit on race relations being held on live TV, Leon Spinks (of all people) helping Snowman win the Unified World Heavyweight title and much, much more.
Unfortunately, The Snowman walked out on the promotion with the belt. Figurehead matchmaker Eddie Marlin explained the situation and speculated that Snowman might have pawned the belt for crack. Well, his name is "The Snowman."
I think we can be pretty sure nothing like that will happen with the Rhodes family, but now I suddenly find myself wanting to see it.