We all know the story. WCW puts up a tremendous effort to dethrone the WWF as the number one wrestling organization in the country. After hitting on a goldmine with the nWo, they drive the company into the ground.
Vince McMahon swoops in and drives the final nail in the coffin as he purchases his former rivals. The industry was shot with new life as fans were finally going to be given their superbowl matches. The top wrestlers in the industry fighting for one brand.
This should have been one of, if not the greatest, moment in sports entertainment history. The moment that fans have waited their entire lives for, the best from WCW fighting the best from the WWF. We were finally going to see who truly was the best of the best.
This should have been the beginning of the wrestling resurgence that Vince McMahon was looking for. What happened was a series of terrible decision making, and refusing to let bygones be bygones. What went wrong with the WCW Invasion?
When Vince McMahon appeared on the final WCW Nitro proclaiming that he had bought the company, it was a milestone. The two biggest wrestling organizations would become one. Fans everywhere were divided, this was either going to make the industry better than ever, or this would be what finally killed sports entertainment.
The first swerve happened on that very last Nitro as Shane McMahon came out and stated that he, not Vince, had bought WCW. He was going to take that company back to the top, and he would topple Vince's WWF.
Sounds like a good idea. The problem that the McMahons have repeatedly run into, is that they assume that people can't get enough of them. We can, and we did. No one wants to see Vince McMahon wrestle, especially not against Shane McMahon. We get it, you own a wrestling organization, that doesn't mean you should be a wrestler. George Steinbrenner owns the Yankees, but you don't see him batting cleanup.
The first mistake was made that very night. Instead of setting up WCW vs WWF, which is what everyone wanted, they set up Shane vs Vince, which nobody wanted.
The final Nitro aired on March 26, 2001. We didn't see a single WCW wrestler until Lance Storm showed up and interfered in a match on May 28th. Now a lot of this was due to wrestlers still being under contract with Time Warner, but here is my issue with this.
This is sports entertainment history. This was the first time, ever, that the two biggest organizations in the industry would come together. If you cannot get the best wrestlers due to contract stipulations, then wait. Fans have waited forever already, they will wait a little longer if it means a bigger and better payoff.
WCW had a lot of great, big name talent when it got sold: Goldberg, Rey Mysterio, Kevin Nash, Booker T, Ric Flair, Sting, Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan, Scott Steiner, Diamond Dallas Page, the list goes on. They also had great up and coming wrestlers: Shane Helms, Jamie Noble, Evan Kouragous, Shannon Moore, Billy Kidman, Chuck Palumbo, Sean O'Haire, and Mark Jindrak.
Instead of bringing in the big guns, the WWF rushed into the angle and gave us the very first WCW match of Booker T vs Buff Bagwell. This match happened on July 7, 2001 and is widely regarded as one of the worst matches in television history. The invasion angle was almost killed before it even started!
Wrestling fans are extremelly fickle. They like what they like, and they hate what they dont like, and they are very vocal about both. They did not like where this was going.
Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, which was rushing into an angle with less than stellar performers, the WWF decided that what the fans really wanted was more McMahons. Instead of bringing in a big WCW name, they brought in Stephanie McMahon as the new owner of ECW and threw them into the mix.
When an angle is presented to you on a silver platter like this was, WWF vs WCW, you would think that it would be hard to mess things up. Give the fans what they want. The top guys from both organizations fighting to determine who really is the best wrestler today. Not only did this angle get messed up, but it caused many fans to give up on the industry all together.
It wasn't good enough that the WWF was fighting WCW, oh no, the WWF already proved that it was better when it bought the rival company. If WCW was really going to stand a chance in this war, they would need help from another organization that had just folded, ECW.
So ECW was brought into the fold except for the most part, they used wrestlers that were already in the WWF. Guys like Rhyno, The Dudleys, and Tazz had been in the WWF for a considerable amount of time, and yet they were the core of ECW. The one shining aspect of this new addition, was the premier of Rob Van Dam. He might not have had the biggest name in the business, but the true wrestling fan knew what this guy brought to the table.
So after all of the shenanigans we finally get to the pay per view event of a lifetime. "Invasion" happened on July 22, 2001 and featured nine matches (if you don't count the referee match, which I don't). Remember, this huge invasion angle was brought on by WCW being purchased by Shane McMahon, and when the big ppv finally happened, four of the matches were between ECW wrestlers and WWF wrestlers.
The main event, the biggest match in wrestling history was a complete flop. The Alliance team consisted of Booker T, Diamond Dallas Page, Rhyno, and the Dudleys. Only two of those wrestlers were ever in WCW. The big invasion team had more wrestlers that had been in the WWF than had been in WCW. What a joke!
The even bigger joke being that the end of the match saw Stone Cold Steve Austin defect to WCW. Ok, you take the WWF's biggest name and have him turn his back on the company that made him, only to go back to the company that had fired him via FedEx?!
If the average wrestling fan was annoyed with the angle before that, they hadn't seen anything yet. By Survivor Series the angle was to be killed, in a winner take all match up. In a similar setup, team WCW would take on team WWF with the losing team having to shut down their company.
Had the powers that be learned anything in the months leading up to this match-up? It didn't appear so. WCW's team consisted of Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, and Shane McMahon. By the end of the angle, the WCW invasion consisted of ONE WCW wrestler.
No big names had been brought in. No huge surprises to win the wrestling audience back. Nothing. The WWF took this huge opportunity and completely fumbled the ball. To make matters worse, months after the angle had died off, several big names were brought in. The next year saw huge superstars Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Rey Mysterio, Scott Hall, Goldberg, and Scott Steiner all come to the WWF.
Now what could have been done to prevent this catastrophe? Lots. The first thing would have been to focus on what was taking place, WCW vs WWF. At no point should the angle have involved Shane or Stephanie McMahon.
If they really wanted to bring credibility to the angle, they would have had Eric Bischoff represent WCW and Paul Heyman represent ECW. By doing this, Vince could have kept his air-time by leading the WWF vs Bischoff and Heyman.
The second thing would have been to utilize the talent that WCW had. Spend the money and acquire the contracts to the big name superstars. If we, the wrestling audience, is to believe the WCW has a chance at beating the best of the WWF, then you better bring in the big guns.
Did anyone really think that Lance Storm & Mike Awesome had a chance against Steve Austin & Kurt Angle? Of course not. Now replace Storm & Awesome with Kevin Nash & Goldberg and you have yourselves a pay per view that sells itself.
If any angle is going to work, the audience has to believe that either side could win. WCW only brought in two key wrestlers, Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page. The current heavyweight champion and a former heavyweight champion. Surely they would formidable opponents for the best that the WWF had to offer.
In his first matchup against the Undertaker, DDP was completely squashed, thus killing any future that he would have in the angle. The biggest name to come into the invasion was killed the minute he stepped into the ring. Had DDP won the matchup or at least put up a good fight, the momentum would have been much different.
One of the things that I think would have really helped the angle is if Triple H had not been injured. One of the WWF's biggest stars missed the entire angle with an injury. I'm sure HHH was devastated with missing one of the biggest angles in history and I really think that the angle would have greatly benefited from his presence.
The Invasion angle consisted of blunder after blunder. I can honestly say the only good thing I saw out of the entire debacle was the arrival of Rob Van Dam. The WWF had a golden opportunity in its hands and they messed it up in span of six months. Vince McMahon can still say that he put WCW out of business, and unfortunately, that's probably good enough for him.