The InVasion: 2001 Gooker Award Winner

17 Submitted by on Thu, 02 January 2014, 15:00

WWF, 2001

When Bryan Alvarez and I decided to write The Death of WCW, he said something that I will never forget. After laughing about all the horrible stuff the company did to cause its own demise, we started to get down to business and really think about the company and its rich history. “You realize,” Bryan told me, “that as we write this, we’re both going to get very depressed.”

I was stunned. What the hell was he talking about? Had I agreed to do the book with a guy that was off his rocker? How on earth could I be depressed about a company causing its own death with a plethora of horrible decisions, stupid booking, and egomaniacs running it right into the ground?

As we worked on the book, I became all too familiar with what Bryan said. I AM getting depressed. It is so hard to watch these classic bouts with Ric Flair, Vader, Sting, the luchadores…and realize that style of wrestling is gone. That there is no longer any real, major league alternative to WWE. And while I have always been a WWE/WWF fan, I have learned just how much we are really missing out on over the past few months.

My depression was becoming severe. But it was about to be overcome with a much stronger emotion: raw, unbridled anger. Unfathomable frustration. And flat out hatred.For I was about to write the epilogue chapter of the book, in which we take a look at the aftermath of WCW going out of business. When Nitro was cancelled. And when the WWF bought the company and prepared the long awaited cross-promotion matches fans had been dreaming about for years.

And let’s make no mistake about it. The thought of WWF vs. WCW was something that fans had wanted since the two companies became the standard bearers for the wrestling industry in North America. Fans would debate who would win a world title showdown between Goldberg and The Rock. Hell, look at the Apter mags; a month didn’t go by when a fantasy showdown between the two leagues didn’t get ink.

It was the last thing wrestling fans believed was real, that innate hatred the two companies had for each other. And it was the one thing that every wrestling fan would be willing to plunk down their hard earned money to see: a once in a lifetime showdown between the WWF and WCW.

And as I write this, I cannot help but get even angrier than I was when I wrote the chapter. See, I’ve had time to think about it. And the more I think about it, the more pissed off and angry I get. My fingers fly over the keyboard in a fury, slamming the keys down harder and harder, as if seeking some type of release from what I am about to write. And there is no way around it other than to say that the WCW-WWF InVasion was the biggest disaster in the history of not only the WWF, but quite possibly the pro wrestling business as a whole.

Personally, and I want this to be go on record, I think Vince McMahon is an absolutely brilliant man. Over the years, I have seen him overcome odds, change with the times, and fight like hell to come up with a formula of wrestling that many, many people enjoy. Sure, over the past year or so, I’ve found the WWE product lacking. But I’ve been there before with him, and I’ve seen him come out the other side with something I really enjoyed. Men like Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Roddy Piper, Ted DiBiase, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Randy Savage…all were given their opportunity to shine under Vince’s leadership. Classic storylines like the Hogan-Orndorff feud, Austin vs. McMahon…those were done in the WWF. I’ve had more fun watching WWF programming than I ever did watching wrestling promoted by any other company, hands down.

I think that it is due to all the great times that his company has provided me that I get so agitated; it’s because I know they can do so much better, put out such a more entertaining product, because he has done it in the past. He knows how to do it. And when he doesn’t do his best, I get incredibly frustrated.

And never in my life was I more frustrated with the WWF than during the so-called InVasion.

Where to even begin.

Ok, so Vince McMahon and the WWF finally achieve the lifelong goal of being the only game in town. The purchase of WCW (and months earlier ECW) gave not only McMahon what he wanted, but also gave a glimmer of hope to wrestling fans. WCW had been a shell of its former self during 1999-2000 and was in DIRE need of being revamped and repaired. And if anyone could restore WCW to its former glory, it would logically be the guy that just made himself a billionaire by creating storylines and characters that sold out arenas and set television ratings records.

The final Nitro was an event in and of itself. I don’t think a single wrestling fan wasn’t on the edge of their seat March 26, 2001. And odds are that most of us fell out of those seats when Vince McMahon appeared on TNT, opening up the last ever WCW show, proclaiming that the fate of the promotion was in his hands. It was an event so unlikely that even the word “surreal” couldn’t describe. It was more powerful than that, it was more bizarre than that. It was more impossible than that.

By the end of that night, we all wanted to know what was going to happen to WCW. And then, as Vince, in a simulcast on both Raw and Nitro, threatened to shut their doors forever, who of all people should appear in the WCW ring but Shane McMahon. According to the storyline, Shane had purchased the company out from under his father’s nose. And according to Shane, WCW was about to kick the WWF’s ass all over again.

And that, my friends, is when we should have noticed that something was very wrong.

But we didn’t.

We didn’t because we wanted to believe. We wanted to believe that somehow, some way, this rivalry between WCW and the WWF WAS real. And we held onto that belief because now, finally, we were going to be getting WCW vs. the WWF.

That’s just what happened. WCW stars such as Lance Storm and Hugh Morris began to randomly attack WWF superstars like…Perry Saturn.

Hmmm…you know, maybe it’s just me, but if I was going to stage a massive invasion against the WWF, I’d probably start by attacking, I don’t know, The Rock or someone. It seems a bit anti-climactic that the long-awaited and much anticipated war between the WWF and WCW started with WCW midcarder Lance Storm going after WWF midcarder Perry Saturn. But that’s how it started.

Over the next several weeks, more midcard attacks would happen. This did little to establish WCW as a legitimate threat, but hey, we were finally starting to see the interpromotional war we’d always wanted. Now we just needed some big WCW stars to hit the scene. And over the next few weeks, both Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page showed up, giving the war some much needed star power.

The only problem was that these WCW guys were obliterated by the more established WWF superstars. Page, in particular, was pummeled every which way in his feud with the Undertaker. In fact, the poor guy got the crap kicked out of him so often, it was almost a relief when the feud finally ended…with Page being pinned by Undertaker’s WIFE.

Slowly, fans started to realize that this invasion really wasn’t much of an invasion at all. It was just WCW jobbers fighting WWF jobbers, and WCW superstars getting their asses kicked by WWF superstars.

Thankfully, Vince had the answer as to what was wrong with the InVasion. It was simple.

It needed Shane versus Vince.

Yes, what this WCW vs. WWF war really needed was more McMahons. Because the fans “didn’t care” about the WCW guys (because they were made out to look like idiots), they needed to have the focus on performers the fans did care about. Guys like Shane and Vince. The WCW workers, whom the feud should have been built around (because they were, you know, the guys WRESTLING) were shoved into the background as afterthoughts. Yes, they wrestled on the shows, but they were never really promoted as a real threat to the WWF. They were portrayed as pathetic losers.

Perhaps it was because Vince never really wanted to acknowledge that WCW was on equal ground with his own creation. He had, after all, refused to even acknowledge their existence on WWF television until the late 1990′s, when Nitro was beating Raw’s ass in the ratings. They were the only wrestling company to successfully compete with him, and not only that, beat him at his own game. It was a humiliation that a man of Vince’s fragile ego seemed unable to endure. Therefore, it probably shouldn’t have come as much of a shock that when he finally got the chance to pit the two companies “against” each other, that he had the WWF side completely annihilate WCW.

With WCW getting their ass kicked on a weekly basis, the booking committee came to the conclusion that something would have to be done in order to salvage the situation. And so began the next brilliant booking decision of the invasion.

In addition to WCW, Vince McMahon had also acquired the assets of ECW. Despite having given Vince a veritable blue print for his vaunted “Attitude,” ECW and its owner, Paul Heyman, didn’t have the funds to compete with McMahon or Bischoff on a national level, and both of the larger companies raided his talent or stole his best ideas more or less at will. By the end of 2000, ECW was in shambles, with Heyman bouncing checks to his workers on a weekly basis. The company collapsed, and McMahon, ever the opportunist, was there to pick up the pieces.

With the WCW invasion falling apart, McMahon knew something needed to be done to save the angle. Therefore, during a July Raw in Atlanta, an ECW faction was formed when Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer showed up out of the blue. All the men on the WWE roster who had ever competed for ECW joined them. Heyman himself entered the ring, giving a spirited promo about how much he hated McMahon for stealing his concepts and his talent. He also claimed that ECW was going to join forces with WCW to form “The Alliance”, whose sole goal was to kick the crap out of the WWF.

This was truly a landmark moment in wrestling. This is what the invasion should have been all about: the two promotions that McMahon ran out of business had joined forces to form the “Alliance.” Their goal? Kick the shit out of McMahon and the men who drove them into bankruptcy. All was right again with the world.

Until, of course, the final two minutes of the program, in which the viewers at home were introduced to the new owner of ECW: Stephanie McMahon.

Yes, Vince’s daughter was brought to the forefront of the Invasion alongside her brother Shane. Again, the entire focus of the so-called “Invasion” was shifted away from what fans had been dying to see for years, which was ECW or WCW versus the WWF. This not only alienated the hardcore ECW fans who might have bought into the storyline, but also many long-time WWF fans who had been bored to tears already by the McMahon feudin’ family angle.

Over the next several months, the terms “WCW” and “ECW” virtually disappeared, and the name “Alliance” was used instead. This “InVasion” was becoming more watered down on a weekly basis, and was about to get even worse, as the Alliance was ready to import a new major star.

Goldberg? Ric Flair? Hulk Hogan?

No no no – those guys were all under Time Warner contract, and were “too expensive” to bring in. Please remember that.

No, the major star turned out to be Steve Austin. The guy who brought the WWF to the promised land, and the guy who was more closely identified with the company than perhaps any other superstar. But that’s who jumped ship, and hopped on the Alliance “bandwagon.” He would soon enough be joined by Kurt Angle, who had never competed for any pro wrestling company but the WWF.

So we had Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Shane and Stephanie McMahon…and if you looked past all them (and it was hard to do since they got the majority of mic and ring time), then you just might have seen some guys from WCW or ECW (although, to be fair, in the case of the ECW guys, most of them had been with the WWF even longer than they’d been with their former employer).

In essence, the InVasion had NOTHING to do with WCW and ECW versus the WWF. It had NOTHING to do with what the fans had wanted to see for YEARS. It had to do with the same guys who had been main eventing for the WWF for years being in the main events once again.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the final showdown between the Alliance and the WWF at Survivor Series 2001, in which the loser of the match would be forced out of wrestling forever.

The first man introduced as part of Team Alliance? Duh – Shane McMahon. Next up was Austin, the man who was the embodiment of the WWF since McMahon introduced his “Attitude” concept in 1996. Then there was Angle, who had never competed anywhere but the WWF. Rounding out the team as afterthoughts were Booker T and Rob Van Dam, who were eliminated midway through the match so as not to take the focus away from anyone who, you know, hadn’t worked for the WWF the majority of their careers. And so, in the final match to determine the survival of WCW and ECW, the last two men in the ring were Austin and the Rock. Rock pinned Austin and WCW and ECW were gone forever. And t he first person they showed after Rock pinned Austin was naturally the embodiment of ECW herself, Stephanie McMahon.

In a final bit of irony, who should appear the very next night on Raw? Ric Flair. Over the next year, WWE would bring in not only Flair, but Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Goldberg as well: all the guys they “couldn’t afford” to bring in for the InVasion.

I don’t think words can express my incredible disappointment with the InVasion (although I just spent 2,000 of them trying). And I know that all of you feel the same way. This was to be our personal nirvana…a pro wrestling Woodstock we could tell our kids about.

It started as the angle that everyone wanted to see.

It became the one that no one wants to remember.

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17 Responses to "The InVasion: 2001 Gooker Award Winner"
  1. Alan says:

    The InVasion storyline was total, pure crap, & IMHO, they have never really recovered from it. It’s a sad statement when the WWF/WWE botched an ECW relaunch not once, but TWICE. It was sad how bad this angle was. It should’ve been-and could’ve been-great, but Vince & his massive ego killed it.

  2. tyler says:

    I look at the invasion with the idea of ” love it for what it is instead of hating it for what it’s not” there were a lot of awesome matches and some good stars made rvd main evened a ppv and hurricane got a push he would’ve never gotten in wcw and the booker t rock feud was awesome

  3. Ben says:

    Man, I remember the InVasion angle leaving me so deflated and disappointed I was wondering why I still bothered watching wrestling at all anymore. Alas the love for silly wrestling is rooted deeply in me and I’ll probably never stop watching for good. I got close, though, a couple of times and that was one of those times.
    How on Earth could you have a WCW Invasion without Eric Bischoff and Sting? OK, at the time I never ever expected to see Bischoff in the WWF, but Sting was an absolute must. He was THE WCW guy. And where were Hogan, Hall and Nash? Ric Flair? Goldberg?!! Sigh, maybe at least Scotty Steiner?
    Nope, all we got was Booker T and DDP. COME ON! As for the ECW guys, most of them had been in the WWF already for years. It was pathetic.
    To see The Rock, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle be the final guys to fight over WCW’s fate was just… SAD. I felt insulted as a fan.

    • Guest says:

      Hall was probably shooting up while Flair was probably going through another divorce….burnsauce.

      • George Rose says:

        Here’s what I would’ve done:

        Instead of Vince vs Shane & Stephanie, it would be Vince vs Paul Heyman, and the storyline would’ve kick-started the night after Wrestlemania 17.

        I’d have heyman make his debut by walking through the crowd and cutting a promo on Vince and the company, and hinting that there would be a Invasion ahead. Later on that night, during a mid-card match, Goldberg makes a impact by interfering in the match and taking out both competitors. And then halfway through the evening, I’d then have Booker T and DDP take out Earl Hebner and put him through a table in the ring.
        At the end of the night, vince comes out to confront Heyman and as he’s about to call for security to escort Heyman out the building, Goldberg then returns and takes out Vince. It then starts a huge storyline which involves Sting,Triple H, The NWO, the Rock and many more.

  4. The Gold Standard says:

    My personal reason why the InVasion angle failed goes back to XFL, WBF, and Vince’s first delve into movie making….he didn’t create the idea. Yes wrestling had been around before Vince, but not with the theatrics, gimmicks, and showmanship that came about in 1984. Vince knows what he wants to see because he was the architect.

    When Vince started the WBF, ESPN had been showing body-building competitions from time to time. Vince didn’t start the body-building craze, so he didn’t understand it. He tried to make body-building shows like WWF, instead of the fad that it was.

    Fast forward through poor first round movies with Hulk Hogan (who’s so orange he looks as wooden as his performances) and the XFL. Vince didn’t create the action movie genre, hype for watching football, or anything associated with America’s love for these two things.

    Vince also didn’t create the “Dream Match” idea that the Apter Mags did. Vince didn’t really understand what the fans felt about this idea. Since Vince didn’t own any of the PWI mags, Vince didn’t create all the buzz. So Vince’s poor understanding killed the InVasion angle. If Vince were more worldly in his understanding of society and alittle more relaxed about pushing his company first…we may still have InVasion Matches people would want to see

  5. Shane aka RamboHomerMcFly says:

    I remember when I heard that WCW had been bought by Vince and a quick, horrible thought entered my mind: what if the wcw guys just get DESTROYED.
    I put the idea out of my mind, thinking that surely Vince wouldn’t kill such a huge angle.
    Then I hoped & prayed it wouldn’t be true but deep down, I knew that his ego wouldn’t give these men their due. It wasn’t even about them, it was about Vince & Ted and Vince had finally won. So, of course, wcw (and the wrestlers who worked for them) had to be presented like once they entered a “real” promotion, they couldn’t handle it.
    And when Stephanie took the reigns for a re-vamped ECW, that was the last time I watched wrestling on any consistent basis.
    Though I’ve had many disappointments in life that meant much more, I loved wrestling back then and I didn’t really “get” why someone would be so horrible to something I cherished so much.
    I understood of course, really, but psychologically understanding it & emotionally accepting it were 2 very different things.
    It was like Vince was a drunken father, beating up not only his own kids, but his neighbor’s kids as well…for no reason other than he could. Like RD, it made me angry. still does. there’s nothing so crushing in life as missed opportunity that could have been avoided.

  6. Tony Wilson says:

    Things began going wrong for WWE in 1999. Having just come off the hottest year they had ever had, it seemed like all was well for Vince and Co. That was, until Austin took time off to have surgery, and Undertaker and Foley went home to nurse injuries, which left us with nothing but HHH vs. Rock, and Rock vs. HHH, and HHH vs. Rock, and Rock vs. HHH for what seemed like years.

    The first thing they did wrong was when they allowed Austin to become a heel. I don’t fault Austin for being burnt out and wanting to do something different, but the timing was all wrong, and I’m sorry, but I just don’t find The Rock compelling as a face. His movie-star looks and third-generation credentials (read “nepotism”) make him much more palatable as a heel, in my opinion.

    But when the so-called InVasion occurred, that’s when things really took a turn for the worse. When you think of WCW, names like Sting, Ric Flair, and Goldberg immediately spring up in your mind. But instead, we got Lance Storm, Buff Bagwell, and Hugh Morrus (get it? Because when you say it, it sounds like….ah, nevermind). The only legitimate WCW superstars were Booker T and DDP, and they got destroyed by the WWE establishment.

    The more I think remember about the InVasion angle, the more it pisses me off, because it more than seemed like Vince did absolutely everything he could to say to the fans, “I don’t care what you want, this is MY company, and you can all suck my enormous grapefruits!”, which is something that he still continues to tell us to this very day.

    • Guest says:

      Wait Rock only got where he was because of nepotism…never mind the fact that Rock’s early tenure as Rocky Maivia was considered terrible?

      And yet Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon both won titles and were thrown into various feuds.

  7. Austin 3:16 says:

    Again. Why was Kurt Angle in the main events during this time? Not knocking down the guy but when I count the top WWF and top WCW superstars during the Monday Night Wars (1997-2001), he doesn’t belong there.

    Man the InVasion sucked money balls but I still remember the excitement when WCW guys started showing up and I was like “Can’t wait to see Goldberg, Hollywood Hogan, Sting, Flair and Eric Bischoff”. Of course, none of them appeared.

  8. Nottingham's 'Mr Sex' says:

    This was the angle that completely nailed the ‘Vince Is A Genius’ myth.

  9. Taiyah Jackson says:

    Some of the WCW wrestlers’ absences were out of the WWF’s control. Many of WCW’s top wrestlers had contracts with AOL Time Warner, WCW’s parent company, and were willing to sit at home rather than wrestle for less money; Booker T, the reigning WCW Champion at the time of WWF’s purchase, was a notable exception, agreeing to a buyout of the remainder of his contract with AOL Time Warner in order to wrestle for the WWF immediately. McMahon had the option of taking on any contract he wanted with his purchase, but chose to let AOL Time Warner continue to pay out what were considered bad deals. Ric Flair and Rey Mysterio were not signed until the end of the Invasion because they were tied to their contracts, and therefore their absence was out of the WWF’s control. In addition, Scott Steiner was recovering from an injury. Others, such as Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Goldberg, were not signed until well after the storyline finished. (Wikipedia)

    • BringTheNoise says:

      So offer them more money. They all ended up on sweet deals with WWE in the end anyway. Invasion drew 750,000 buys with WCW/ECW represented by Booker, DDP, Van Dam and a bunch of midcarders and nobodies. How many would it have drawn with Sting, Flair, Goldberg and Hogan? And how much more cash was on the table if the angle had been done right, and lasted for more than 5 months?

  10. popthetart says:

    I remember this so vividly, Everyone i knew who watched wrestling up until this point finally stopped watching after Kurt Angle defected to the Alliance. “Benedict Angle” is what we called this moment. It was that moment when everyone in the room realized how much of a slap to the face this was to the fans. This was our Payoff for choosing WWE. It would have been 200 times better if WCW won and took over the WWE. bringing in all the WCW people who weren’t around yet, and the NWO angle would have made more sense. Truly a giant kick in the grapefruits to all fans. I seriously think this was sabotaged by Triple H/McMahon family. So when Hunter came back this was done and out of the way for him to deliver some of the worst wrestling angles and stories ever thought up, and for Vince to show through manipulation that his WWE superstars were light years ahead of WCW talent.

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