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On This Day in Pro Wrestling History... 11 Years Ago, WCW/ECW Invasion Failed + Survivor Series 2012 Prediction & WWE Video Reviews
By Mr. Tito
Nov 18, 2012 - 12:47:36 PM
ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY... The "Invasion Angle" officially ended at Survivor Series 2001 on November 18th, 2001. For those newer to pro wrestling, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF - later becoming World Wrestling "Entertainment" (WWE) due to legal issues) saw legitimate competition during the late 1990's. Its chief rival was the "Billionaire" Ted Turner and later Time Warner corporation owned World Championship Wrestling (WCW). With a New York Yankee type spending spree, WCW eventually bought the right roster through 1996 and creatively had one of the best angles of all time in the New World Order hostile takeover angle. WCW's competitive Monday night program, WCW Nitro, would actually beat WWF's Monday Night RAW for 83 consecutive weeks between 1996-1998, and it wasn't until the night after Wrestlemania 14 where that streak was broken.
Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), owned and operated by Paul Heyman (thus, why he's relevant in today's WWE), wasn't quite a direct rival to the WWF but it was a promotion growing with time. ECW presented a more adult-themed product that the WWF would ultimately attempt to imitate for the Attitude Era's racy storylines during the late 1990's. ECW, however, provided both WWF and WCW with a wealth of talent to raid. Luchadors and smaller wrestlers who made it big in Japan but didn't have interest from the WWF (Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, etc.) were given a chance in ECW and raided by WCW heavily. WCW castaways Mick Foley, Brian Pillman, and Steve Austin went to ECW and then soon pulled for the WWE. ECW's ability to create new talent helped to grant them a loose deal with the WWF for cash and also a developmental ground for wrestlers in need of repackaging (such as Al Snow - the "head" gimmick came from ECW).
By 2001, both WCW and ECW died a monetary death. WCW lost millions after 1998 due to expensive contracts signed of many former WWF superstars acquired. If you watch the WWE Classics Roundtable regarding the NWO, Kevin Nash said that he sat out the entire 2001 year and made over $2 million from the 5 year deal he signed! Expensive contracts and high production costs did not lead to high ratings in the long-run and AOL/Time Warner executives were looking closely at expense numbers after the AOL and Time Warner merger. In fact, their cancellation of WCW shows on TBS/TNT impaired WCW to scare away potential buyers of the promotion through March 2001. Thus, it let the WWE buy WCW for a reported $5 million and WWE chose which contracts they wanted on their payroll (opted not to buy Sting, Bill Goldberg, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Ric Flair at the time - TOO expensive). Some WCW wrestlers, like Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page, opted out of their WCW deals for a chance at WWF stardom. ECW, on the other hand, was running up debt in attempts to keep up with WWF/WCW on production costs, Pay Per View, and trying to pay wrestlers a higher salary not to jump to WWF/WCW.
After Wrestlemania 17, talks began to formulate on what to do with the WCW brand. This is where the "brand extension" discussions began that ultimately led to the WWF rosters splitting during 2002 instead. The WWF soon realized that they no longer had competition but the fear of letting a competitor rise still existed. The early discussions was to have a WWF show and then have a rebranded WCW show (another show on TNN/Spike TV or possibly having WCW take over Smackdown on UPN, rumor had it). Slowly, throughout the course of the Summer of 2001, WCW wrestlers began appearing on and interrupting WWE shows. How the WWF and WCW brands would be treated as separate was because Shane McMahon owned WCW, as shown by the cliffhanger ending to the last WCW Nitro, to challenge his father Vince McMahon. Thus, Shane would run the WCW brand while Vince still ran the WWF brand for 2 competing companies. Eventually, all of the wrestlers and talent hired from WCW received their shot and on one fateful Monday Night RAW on July 2nd, 2001...
The WCW "brand" was given the main event slot on the 7/2/12 RAW and were given WCW announcers to call the match (Scott Hudson and Arn Anderson). Instead of showcasing the current WCW Champion Booker T against possibly a former WCW Champion in Diamond Dallas Page, the bookers at the time thought Booker T vs. "Buff" Bagwell would be adequate for wrestling fans to enjoy. It was an utter failure of a match and the live arena not only cheered against it ("BORING"), but wrestling fans online griped heavily about it. Reportedly, Vince McMahon was furious backstage at how bad the segment went and thus looked to "fix things" during the following week.
As ECW's credit card ran out, the promotion could no longer afford to pay its talent or to hold big events. Thus, the promotion just died during early 2001... During February 2001, Jerry "the King" Lawler walked out of the WWF in protest after his then wife, Stacy "the Kat" Carter was released. Thus, a color commentator spot was open and Paul Heyman was actually hired for the role, provided his availability from ECW dying. With the WCW invasion angle being deemed as a "failure" after just ONE night of trying, Vince McMahon sought to shake things up by thickening the "Invasion" of not just the WCW promotion, but ECW as well. WCW and ECW were now teamed up and called the "Alliance". But it wasn't just Paul Heyman leading the ECW charge... Vince McMahon owned the WWF, Shane McMahon owned WCW... The ECW brand would need a "financial backer" and thus Stephanie McMahon was the owner of the ECW brand, and together with her brother Shane, they attempted to take down their father.
WCW/ECW vs. WWF was a big creative failure. For one, the WCW Titles were turned into a joke. Between July 2nd through November 18th, the WCW World Title traded hands 5 times, U.S. Title saw 4 title changes (after being vacated!), and the WCW Tag Titles switched 4 times. Worse yet, these title changes occurred randomly on RAW or Smackdown and were also won by WWF specific wrestlers. Speaking of that, any possible "dream match-ups" were watered down because the WWF gave away many WCW/ECW vs. WWF matches randomly on free television, even the syndicated shows.
The biggest problem was the WWF and WCW/ECW listed rosters. For one, the WWF wasn't willing to buy the expensive AOL/Time Warner contracts. Thus, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner, Bill Goldberg, and Sting were left on the sidelines, waiting for their contracts to expire to consider WWF entry. WWF didn't have confidence in Booker T or Diamond Dallas Page, with WCW Titles on their resumes... To make-up for the lack of starpower for the WCW/ECW brand, WWF wrestlers would "turn" and join the WCW/ECW Alliance. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin actually turned HEEL for the second time in 2001 when he joined the Alliance. This confusion over the WWF and WCW/ECW rosters, the title inflation, and giving away "special" matches on free television ultimately ruined any chance of the WCW/ECW invasion to succeed. In addition, WWF actually created many new fans during the Attitude era who had absolutely no attachment to the WCW/ECW brands or its wrestlers. State of confusion!
The initial excitement over the WCW/ECW brands during the Summer of 2001 pushed ratings above 5.0 during early August 2001. However, for the RAW before Survivor Series 2001 on November 12th, 2001, RAW did a 4.1 rating. The fan rejection was quite obvious and the WWE set to officially kill the angle at Survivor Series 2001 with a Team WWF vs. Team WCW/ECW match along with several "title unification" matches, with the exception of the World Titles which merged when Chris Jericho won the unification tournament at the following Pay Per View.
On this day in pro wrestling history, Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Kane, Big Show) defeated Team Alliance (Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Shane McMahon (!!!) to officially "end" the Alliance angle from the WWF. The funniest part about the Alliance dying at Survivor Series is that the following night, Ric Flair showed up on RAW to announce that Stephanie/Shane sold Flair their shares of WWF stock in order to fund the Alliance. WWF needed WCW starpower and actually brought it in the day after the WCW Invasion angle officially died.
Following the failed WCW/ECW Invasion angle, nobody backstage was held accountable. After all, Vince McMahon controls the final creative decisions of the WWF but he could be leniant on his new "lead writer" since late 2000, daughter Stephanie McMahon. 11 years later, who remains in charge? Vince McMahon as the ruler of the WWE with Stephanie McMahon as the lead writer (EVP of Creative Operations, to be exact). And what do you see on RAW/Smackdown shows to this day? Confusion over RAW/Smackdown rosters, title inflation, and giving away "special" matches on free television between the 2 brands. The "RAW Supershow" has been especially confusing and its credibility issues could be resulting in the under 3.0 ratings. History, or similar booking decisions, are repeating themselves.
In addition to signing Ric Flair after Survivor Series 2001, the WWE would bring in Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall to reprise the New World Order during February 2001. Scott Steiner joined the WWE during October 2002. Bill Goldberg made his official WWE debut following Wrestlemania 19 for a 1 year stint during 2003-2004. Sting never joined the WWE and has instead opted to be a loyal TNA wrestler instead. Sting has actually cited the mistreatment of WCW stars as a significant reason for not joining the WWE. Granted, the AOL/Time Warner contracts were expensive, but we'll never know if this starpower being present could have at least made the WCW brand seem a little more credible in WWF fans' eyes.
BONUS: SURVIVOR SERIES 2012 PREDICTION!
On this day in current pro wrestling history, which is 11 years from the material discussed in today's column...
I predict that CM Punk will LOSE the WWE Title to John Cena. I can envision the following TWO scenarios happening:
(1) Ryback hits CM Punk with the "Shell Shocked" finisher but John Cena clotheslines Ryback over the top rope and thus John Cena pins CM Punk instead to become WWE Champion.
(2) Mick Foley costs CM Punk the WWE Title, thus giving John Cena the WWE Title.
WWE ratings for RAW are down and holding consistently below 3.0. When ratings drop, the WWE panics and often attempts to do something drastic in the short-term to "spark" the ratings. Thus, a title switch and to the #1 superstar in John Cena could shake things up a bit. In addition, The Rock has a Royal Rumble 2013 title shot. The WWE could dangle the possibility of Rock vs. John Cena II happening at Royal Rumble 2013 only for the dastardly CM Punk to regain the WWE Title at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Pay Per View next month. Provided either scenarios listed above, I believe that a CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Ryback REMATCH could be set in stone for TLC and with the TLC gimmick actually present.
So thus, I'm predicting that CM Punk loses tonight with John Cena as the new WWE Champion... CM Punk regains at TLC in the Triple Threat rematch. Then, at Royal Rumble 2013, CM Punk loses the WWE Title to the Rock and then we'll get John Cena vs. Rock II for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 29. John Cena will then collect another WWE Title reign...
QUICK VIDEO REVIEWS!
I enjoyed the CM Punk DVD, very much. Easily, the best WWE documentary ever put together. The match selection is a bit light, as I believe that CM Punk's best matches are yet to come in the WWE... I figure a sequel DVD to cover events since Money in the Bank 2011 will do great business. RECOMMENDED for the Punk documentary. A-
I recently obtained the NWO Revolution Blu Ray. I'd recommend the Blu Ray version, as the WWE Classics Roundtable discussion with JJ Dillon, Michael "PS" Hayes, Mean Gene, Jim Ross, and Kevin Nash was a nice addition. The documentary on disc 1 is pretty good... Seems to avoid any insider details, as I can imagine the WWE wants to play nice and not insult Hulk Hogan for future business... But it was good overall, had some nice commentary, and fun footage. The match listing, however, is a bit on the light side as the NWO era did not produce consistently strong main event type matches. My mind was blown when I saw Steve Austin/Rock vs. Hulk Hogan/Kevin Nash/Scott for the night before Wrestlemania 18 as an included match. I can't believe that match actually occurred! Overall, an enjoyable for the WCW mark that I used to be... B, and recommended only if you enjoyed the NWO... Might bore today's fans.
Have a great Survivor Series Sunday!
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