The Invasion: WCW's Final Appearance
As we all know, Vince McMahon was able to purchase WCW in early '01. Was it the merger that did WCW in or was it WCW's poor business decisions and horrible program that put them out to pasture. As I've covered over the past 7 weeks, it was a little bit of everything. Sure the AOL/Time Warner Merger is what finally put WCW out of it's misery, but you can't ignore the fact that they were in misery to begin with. I've covered, at length mind you, how they found themselves in that misery.
Regardless of how WCW got there, in early 2001 the company was sold to Vince McMahon. He was able to purchase trademarks, the extensive video libraries, and a majority of the talent contracts. On March 26, 2001 TNT aired it's final episode of Monday Nitro which was being simulcast with the live Monday Night Raw episode. We all know what happened on this night. Shane McMahon, who was in a program with Vince on air, walked out at the end of the night and exclaimed that he bought WCW out from under Vince's nose. Vince and Shane would go on to have a match a Wrestlemania 17 and their feud would continue. Not long after Mania, though, it would be said on Raw that Stephanie McMahon, like her brother, went out and purchased ECW and soon, wrestlers from both WCW and ECW started showing up on WWE programming along with some of their titles. Shane and Stephanie would join forces and their newly acquired companies to form the Alliance and they would try to invade and take over the WWE.
On paper, this was a wrestling fans wet dream. We had seen these companies do battle every Monday night for years, however, we had never seen actual WWE wrestlers face off against actual WCW wrestlers. This was going to be the greatest wrestling angle in the history of all of wrestling. I wish that were the case. Yet again, WCW screwed itself and screwed the fans. While the WWE did acquire a lot of contracts from WCW; none of them were of the names that we most associated with WCW. So no Goldberg, Sting, Hall, Nash, Hogan, Luger, Big Poppa Pump, etc. Instead, the biggest name we got for the Invasion angle was Booker T. So, initially, we had guys from WWE like Austin, the Rock, Trips, 'Taker, Kane, Angle, etc going up against the likes of Booker T, Lance Storm, RVD, the Dudleys, Tazz, etc from the alliance. These were not the dream matches we wanted to see. Why didn't we see the mega stars from WCW in the Invasion Angle? Because those stars had guaranteed contracts from Turner and they were content sitting at home and riding out those contracts instead of actually working. They were in no hurry, so these guys took some vacations. Because of that, WCW's last showing as a wrestling organization was a pitiful one. They had no stars on the Alliance's side, so the Invasion Angle didn't turn out how fans envisioned it would.
We eventually got most of those big names over to the WWE at some point, however, they weren't there as WCW members anymore, they were part of the WWE machine now. Could you imagine the Invasion angle, though, with guys like Hall, Nash, Goldberg, Hogan, Flair, Luger, etc involved? We would've gotten to see epic encounters like Austin vs Goldberg, Austin vs Hogan, 'Taker vs Goldberg, the Rock vs Nash or Hall. The possibilities would've been endless.
What do you think of the Invasion Angle and WCW's final showing? Did you like it? Did it suck? Let me know you opinions.
*Thanks for all the support and responses that I received throughout this thread series. I enjoyed the discussions and debates and look forward to doing more in the future. This is the last thread in the Death of WCW series.*
I'm of the opinion that the Invasion angle had the potential to one of the (if not the) single most pivotal moments in wrestling history. That overarching angle could've carried years worth of storylines and ran longer than the nWo or perhaps even Hulkamania. However, it was ultimately squandered for reasons both outside of WWF/E's control as well as within.
Things started out ok enough with some of the more fringe WCW wrestlers jumping the rail, getting involved in matches, etc. Considering the huge amount of talent in both WCW (and even ECW) that were ready-to-hire after the company's demise, a slow burn type of scenario could've easily played out. Start with the smaller names over the first few weeks/months in appropriately carded matches, move to the mid-tier talent over the passing year or so, with the big names nearing the end of their guaranteed Turner contracts and (probably) willing to negotiate.
Sadly, that's not how things happened. Even more upsetting is that's not how I believe things were even remotely planned from the jump. WCW was always WWF's biggest competition, surpassing them in ratings for a year and a half in the 90's. Vince gloating that he "bought his competition" in the way that he did on the final Nitro was absolutely a work. Still, I have no doubt that the sentiments behind that gloating were absolutely a shoot.
The Invasion storyline was one of the few times in the history of WWF/E that Vince McMahon eschewed money in order to marginalize and bury the competition after it was already good and dead. The effective WWE vs. WWE ending to the angle at Survivor Series is evidence enough. The fact that Ric Flair, the face most synonymous with WCW, appeared on Raw the very next night seals the deal for me. The future appearances of the nWo, Goldberg, Steiner, et. al. are the supporting details.
Looking at things on a more macro level, I believe the Invasion angle is precisely the point where Vince McMahon began to lose touch with the audience or at the very least, the fan base that he had built over the 80's and 90's. His decisions become far more questionable starting in the early 2000's and arguably extend to today. To that end, the Invasion angle not only disappointed fans waiting and hoping for those WWF vs. WCW dream matches, but alienated them further with the decisions that would take place afterwards as well.
I was extremely excited at the time but it turned out to be a major disappointment.
It merely served to prove (through McMahon eyes) that WWE was superior to WCW.
It didnt help that it was mainly B and C grade WCW stars that joined the raid initially.
Imagine if WCW had Goldberg, Hogan, Sting, Flair, Nash, Hall all at the beginning?... but that was nigh impossible due to their time Warner contracts. Maybe Scott Steiner would have been more of a threat had they all come in at once, rather than being slowly staggered through as and when they were available... after the invasion was buried.
The 2 biggest stars who took part were DDP (who was never a Flair or Sting) and Booker T (only recently established as a Top WCW guy). Having DDP lose to Undertakers wife in 5 seconds underlined WCWs inferiority.
The WCW invasion roster was so Watered down that they had to team WCW with ECW... many of the ECW guys (Dudleys, Tazz) had been under contract to Vince for 2 years! And the leader of the invasion stars amongst the wrestlers was the newly turned heel Steve Austin ... betraying the WWE team.
Due to the disappointment of this invasion, Shane never ran WCW as a separate company as initially intended. The brand spilt came so we essentially had 2 WWEs instead of a WWE and a WCW.
The genesis of the Invasion started out great. But The problem wasn't so much the wrestlers themselves. So you didn't have the top tier talent of Goldberg and the like. Between RVD, Booker T, and the Dudleys, you could've built the story around those guys. Where I truly think they went wrong was incorporating Austin as the crown jewel of the takeover, and even he sort of played second fiddle to Stephanie and Shane. Now, what I think would've worked, if he hadn't have been injured, would be to have Triple H be the centerpiece of the takeover. I imagine that if he hadn't have been sidelined, Trips would've shot right back into the title picture.
While WCW was sold for 2.5 million, the "Invasion" wasn't worth $2.
Like WCW as a company, it's "big stars" were shells of what they were in the mid to late 1990's. Injuries, age, and inactivity had taken their toll on the likes Hogan, Sting, Hall, Luger and Nash. DDP and Scott Steiner were not "spring chickens" by any stretch of the imagination and we weren't going to see the likes of Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Sid or even Jeff Jarrett who inexplicably was the "face" of WCW in the 2000's. The only exception was Goldberg. The only star WCW had created. Let's face it. Even if the "stars" came in they would not be what they were even just a few years ago.
Also the fact is most the main WCW talent achieved their success in the WWF. I always thought of Hogan, Hall and Nash as "WWF guys". Even Lex Luger achieved more notoriety in the WWF in the mid-'90's than he ever did in NWA/WCW. Sting, Goldberg, DDP and Steiner were the only true WCW born talent.
Now you take that roster (which was a blend of Hogan/New Gen Era) vs Trips, Rock, Kane, Angle, Foley even 'Taker all in their primes and it's a generational mismatch.
But with all that said it still would've been better than what we got which was total shit. Buff Bagwell, one the only recognizable WCW "stars" was fired before he even started, Booker was solid but he had nowhere near the star power to carry WCW. The others? Kidman, Palumbo, O'Haire, Lance Storm. C'mon. Please.
it would've never worked. WCW would've been driven into the ground wether or not they had the main event stars along for the angle. Look what happened when nWo, Sting, Goldberg, Steiner all came to WWE, they got shit on. The only guys who came out of their respective returns looking good was Hogan and Flair and the only reason they did was because they were just too big of names to be dragged through the mud; the fans didn't allow it.
But yeah... back on topic, WCWs other top stars would've been treated same as Booker and Page were because Vince is petty.
Well aside from the fact that most of the WCW top tier stars were not available at the time of the invasion, one other main reason it failed, in my opinion, was simply that: the WCW guys were never DOMINANT.
Yeah, we all know it had to do a lot with Vince, and with him proving to the world that "his guys" were better. But ultimately, you just sacrifice a huge, huge angle with almost infinite potential with that.
Because that's the reason why nWo worked: When Hall and Nash first appeared, they didn't take sh*t from nobody, did what they wanted, and played their "outsider" role to a T. Then, once Hogan joined and the nWo was officially formed - the nWo DOMINATED. They kept adding more and more guys (arguably too many at some point, and not only top tier guys), but for the first period, the nWo was incredibly dominant, keeping the World Title on the heel Hogan for a very long time, while the "invaded" WCW could barely muster any sort of resistance.
Enter Crow Sting.
That was what should have been the ultimate blow-off, at Starrcade 97, for Sting to cleanly beat Hogan. We all know it didn't quite come to pass that way, but the time from Hall & Nash's arrival, to Sting's return, that was perfectly executed.
And the same thing could have been done with the invasion, even though they would have arguably needed some of the bigger names for that. Have guys like Goldberg, Hogan, Sting, Luger etc. come in and really DOMINATE the WWE guys for a time, even the top tier people like Austin, Rock and Taker. Have them be taking completely by surprise by the WCW guys' onslaught, to gather sympathies for the "underdog" WWE guys.
But alas, it was not meant to be... I must admit, I didn't actively watch wrestling at the time, it was hard to catch on TV over here, but I caught up on some stuff of that time since... and it was actually the Hogan/Rock match at WM18 that got me back into watching regularly - because obviously THAT was one of the types of matches that could (and should) have happened during the invasion as well.
WWF could have made the invasion work if only they waited for a slow build. But Vince at the time was too impatient which is uncharacteristic of him considering the slow build Austin had from his face turn to winning the title.
I actually enjoyed the invasion angle. Although I will be the first to admit it could have been so much better. I also didn't like how it ended with WCWs top stars being Austin and Angle, 2 WWF guys.
I think the best bet would have been to have had Shane merge with ECW and have them take over smackdowns time slot. WWF and WCW should not even acknowledge each other at this point. In February bring in the NWO to "invade" WCW with bischoff and have them join WCW and challenge WWF.
Scott hall would come through the crowd and interrupt a WWF match just like he did to start the WCW/NWO angle.
Now you have Hogan, Hall, Nash, Flair, Booker T, DDP, and top the ECW guys to invade WWF.
Wrestlemania 18 would be WWF vs WCW. Possibly could get Sting and Goldberg for the event.
Given the current situation at the time, it was the best thing WWE could have done. I mean, what do you people really want? The big names, Hogan, Nash, Hall, Goldberg, Sting would have never agreed to work in a losing angle against WWE's top stars. Never. So even if WWE would have waiting 2 or 3 years to book a fully blown out Invasion angle, it wouldn't work either!
It was what it was and it was great TV as the ratings prove. Could it have been booked better? Sure. But forget the wet dream of seeing Sting, Goldberg, and the NWO vs Undertaker, Austin, Rock and DX. It couldn't happen and it was never going to happen for one simple notion. Wrestling is good vs evil. You can't boo Sting and you can't boo Goldberg like you can't boo Austin or The Rock. Plus neither side would afford to lose to the other.
It was what it was and you can't change that.
Look at how history went on. Hogan came in as a heel and turn face instantly in order to survive the anti-WCW environment of WWE. Hall and Nash didn't even last. Goldberg was second to HHH. Steiner never last. Sting never signed for the company. DDP didn't last and Booker T was reduced to a comedy act even when he won the WH title he was a comedy act. Asking for Vince to sign WCW stars and have them go over his own talent or be booked equally to them may seem nice and logical to you fans, but it's nonsense.
WWE > WCW, that was the notion Vince wanted to pull and that was what everyone would do.
The Invasion angle fans dream would definately print millions even maybe billions of dollars. But it's way utopical for the wrestling bussiness and the egos that work in the wrestling bussiness and I'm not talking just about Vince. Austin didn't want to work with Hogan. Goldberg wanted to look unbeatable. NWO/Kliq would likely want to run the main event.
Simply put, you can't book such a big angle with so many names involved when there are so many egos in the way.
PS: WCW didn't even do right their big angles when they were AT WAR with the WWF because of the egos of their big stars, like Nash, Goldberg and Hogan and you expect those guys to be part of an Invasion angle where their side was going to lose? Give me a break.
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