Following Vince McMahon's purchase of World Championship Wrestling just prior to WrestleMania 17, the wrestling world was buzzing with talk of what could come next.
After one of the most successful events in company history at WrestleMania 17, WWE had all sorts of momentum in its favor in order to build what we become known as the "invasion."
At WrestleMania 17, Shane McMahon was able to defeat his father, Vince, in the ring. On top of that, Shane was fresh off beating Vince to the punch by purchasing WCW himself, as per the storyline.
Had the power in the McMahon family shifted?
In the weeks following WrestleMania, WWE fans were left to wonder just when they would get a glimpse of anything related to WCW.
That answer came on May 28, 2001. On that night's episode of Monday Night Raw, Lance Storm interfered in a match. Storm became the first former WCW Superstar to appear on WWE television.
This was a curious decision because it was pretty random. But at the same time, it was very intriguing because it showed WWE was clearly going to build to bigger things slowly.
In the weeks that followed, these attacks would continue, as Superstars such as Hugh Morrus and Mike Awesome made their debuts. In the case of Awesome, he would take advantage of WWE's 24/7 rule attached to the Hardcore title. After pinning Rhyno backstage, Awesome became champion in his first appearance.
At the King of the Ring pay-per-view on June 24, 2001, Steve Austin would successfully defend the WWE title in a Triple Threat match. However, he nearly lost the title due to an outside attack from Booker T.
Booker T, the final WCW champion before the sale, was the biggest name to appear to that point, and he made his mark on WWE's biggest name.
Fans knew WCW was for real at this point, and it appeared the WCW contingent would be a major threat to WWE.
The following night on Raw, Booker T interjected himself into a confrontation between Vince and Shane, attacking the elder McMahon.
As Shane and Booker T left together, things were getting very interesting. But soon after, WWE would make one of its biggest mistakes during the course of the invasion angle.
With the WCW title on the line, the company allowed Booker T to defend against Buff Bagwell in the main event of Raw.
The ring crew changed the ring apron. The lighting was changed. Scott Hudson and Arn Anderson came out to call the match, replacing regular Raw announcers Jim Ross and Paul Heyman.
WWE was seemingly trying to recreate WCW Nitro, and the crowd that night hated it. The match itself should be on any list of the worst matches in Raw history.
With the WCW brand damaged by this blunder, WWE knew it needed to do something to spark interest again.
ECW Joins the Invasion
The WWE was missing many of the major stars from the old WCW. To make up for it, it tried to make a splash by adding ECW into the mix.
This made the July 9, 2001 episode of Raw one of the best in the history of the series.
A Handicap match pitting Kane against both Awesome and Storm was set up. But Chris Jericho didn't feel Kane should have to go it alone, and he soon came out to team up with Kane.
Late in the match, Jericho and Kane were suddenly jumped by Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam. A contingent of Superstars ran out, seemingly to help Kane and Jericho.
However, viewers that had been loyal ECW fans may have already seen the surprise that was coming.
The group of men that ran out consisted of Taz, Rhyno, The Dudley Boyz, Raven and Justin Credible—all former ECW Superstars.
It soon became clear to Jericho and Kane as to what was going on. The group attacked both men as the crowd went wild.
Later that night, Stephanie McMahon revealed herself as the new owner of ECW. Now, the WWE had three separate brands in one, with a member of the McMahon family as owner of each.
Once again, WWE had the wrestling world in the palm of its hand. Would the company be able to capitalize on it?
The group of former WCW and ECW stars would be known collectively as The Alliance. This group's main objective was to destroy the WWE.
Yet there was one major problem. WWE never acquired any of the top stars from the old WCW.
During the time frame when WCW dominated WWE in television ratings, guys like Sting, Ric Flair, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Goldberg and Scott Steiner featured regularly on Monday Nitro. None of those names were anywhere to be found.
Yes, all of those Superstars had guaranteed contracts as a result of the AOL/Time Warner merger, but it really hampered the entire storyline.
WWE chose not pay top dollar for any of these names, going instead with the guys it could get. That left WWE with a shell of what was once known as WCW.
Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page would be the most recognizable stars from WCW. But instead of using Page as the hard-working fan favorite that he was in WCW, WWE decided to have him do something entirely different—stalk The Undertaker's wife, Sara.
Who comes up with this stuff?
The lack of star power hampered this event. Still, it brought in one of the highest buyrates for a non-WrestleMania pay-per-view in WWE history.
Here was the card for the event, which took place on July 22, 2001 in Cleveland, Ohio.
- Edge and Christian vs. Lance Storm and Mike Awesome
- Earl Hebner vs. Nick Patrick
- The Acolytes vs. Sean O'Haire and Chuck Palumbo
- Billy Kidman vs. X-Pac
- Raven vs. William Regal
- 6-Man Tag: Chris Kanyon, Shawn Stasiak and Hugh Morrus vs. Big Show, Billy Gunn and Albert
- Tajiri vs. Tazz
- WWE Hardcore Title match: Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy
- Bra and Panties match: Trish Stratus and Lita vs. Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler
- Inaugural Brawl: (Team WWE) Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, Kane and Chris Jericho vs. (Team Alliance) Booker T, Diamond Dallas Page, Rhyno and The Dudley Boyz
The Alliance actually won the main event when Austin turned on Team WWE, joining The Alliance. This was the move WWE decided to make to compensate for the lack of star power in The Alliance. With this victory, The Alliance suddenly posed a threat.
The invasion angle started with so much promise, but WWE just didn't seem to know how to handle the expanded roster it had acquired.
It had the ability to go in so many different directions. WWE knew it had monopolized the industry, and that is why it tried to create competition within its own ranks.
But the reason it didn't work was simple.
Fans of WCW remembered Goldberg being unstoppable. They remembered the New World Order revolutionizing the industry. They remembered great cruiserweight matches. They remembered legends like Flair and Sting.
Because WWE's version of WCW was void of all of these things (though WWE brought most of them in later), it was unrecognizable.
Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page, who had formed an obsession with Undertaker's life, were not what people had in mind.
Even though The Alliance had proved superior in the Inaugural Brawl, people weren't going to care until they could get the dream matches they had longed for.
Austin vs. Goldberg. Undertaker vs. Sting. nWo vs. D-Generation X. These were the matches people wanted to see. These were the matches fans discussed when having the conversation that all wrestling fans had...
What if WWE and WCW ever faced each other?
It actually happened in July 2001, yet it felt so empty. ECW was thrown into the mix for no other reason than to bring life to something WWE knew was already dying out.
Coming off the win at Invasion, The Alliance would need to do much more if it was going to take over the company.
When WWE purchased WCW, it looked like there were possibilities that would keep fans entertained for many, many years to come.
They would find out that the entire idea of WCW and the invasion of Superstars from other companies would have a very short shelf life.
Next week, Turning Point examines the 2001 WWE Survivor Series.