“You should tell the truth A and B so when you work them C the audience will believe it” – Jim Cornette recounting how Jerry Jarrett described his booking style
I’ve done some posts already, and most who know me understand my love still for Professional Wrestling, even if it sounds like a childish thing for a man in his early 30’s to enjoy. I got started watching during the early beginnings of the Monday Night Wars (1995 – 2001) and been hooked since. One of the biggest disappointments to me as a fan was the way Vince McMahon’s WWF handled the InVasion angle, which, for those who aren’t familiar, was the aftermath story they did when McMahon purchased WCW in March of 2001 when WCW was booted off any Turner broadcasting networks (TNT, TBS, etc). What followed should have been the biggest angle in wrestling history, considering the way the legit feud had fueled the popularity of Wrestling to enormous heights in the late 90’s. What ended up happening was probably the biggest fumble in wrestling history and caused many fans to stop watching.
What this column is about is rebooking (rewriting for those who want to go the sports entertainment route instead of calling it wrestling) the InVasion, and considering the opening stuff I have on my notes is long already, this will have to be broken down into at least 2 parts, possibly more. Before I go into my vision, let me get a couple of opinions out there that I believe made it hard for the WWF to make a good story possible for fans. One of the biggest complaints about the InVasion was lack of talent on WCW’s side, and it can be said that reason alone is what made it hard for anyone to take the credibility at all. The problem at the time was most of WCW’s top talent had contracts that were high in the money payout (millions per year in many cases) and those names would have been crazy to turn down the ability to stay at home with families and get paid well vs taking a cut and being on the road with the WWF. McMahon and co. had the ability to purchase those contracts, and for the most part decided not to go with those options. Here is a list of the WCW talent they did get
- Lance Storm
- Hugh Morrus
- Booker T
- DDP (Diamond Dallas Page)
- Billy Kidman
- Shane “Hurricane” Helms
- Chris Kanyon
- Mike Awesome
- Sean O’Haire
- Shawn Stasiak
- Stacy Keibler
- Kronik (Bryan Clark and Brian Adams)
- Buff Bagwell
- Chavo Guererro
- Chuck Palumbo
- Mark Jindrak
- Torrie Wilson
Officials and Staff
- Scott Hudson
- Arn Anderson
- Nick Patrick
- Charles Robinson
- John Laurenitis
Looking at that list, there are a couple of names there that are big, but mostly nothing to write home about. The bigger names (Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Goldberg, Sting) declined the paycut and therefore unavailable. Ric Flair and Rey Mysterio Jr had issues with their contracts that was out of McMahon’s hands to try and fix so they weren’t available. The last name, Scott Steiner was considered, but he was injured so there would be no way he would be on there either. Having looked over the names on the list of talent McMahon couldn’t or didn’t bother to pay well to convince them not sit it out, there really is maybe two names that could have represented WCW well and give it credibility. The first one didn’t want anything to do with WWF and only recently has signed on and that is Sting. I don’t think McMahon could ever have really got Sting no matter what because it was a mindset. The other one was Bill Goldberg. If there was anyone who could have made WCW look like it was legit, it was him. Considering at that time McMahon was a legitimate billionaire, he could have offered Goldberg something good to get him to appear, and he should have. For this rebook, I will be using the fact that Goldberg was the only one of those huge names that McMahon was able to get out of staying at home. I will also be using a couple of names that weren’t on any of these lists, but going to pretend McMahon worked out a deal to get them to sign on, you’ll see in a bit.
The rest of the problems with the InVasion really was the way the story was told. It became a Vince vs his son Shane and daughter Stephanie instead of WWF vs WCW. It shouldn’t have been this way at all. The other major problem was that the WCW brand name itself was so bad, considering the horrible booking that helped lead to it’s demise along with the lunatic behavior of Officials and Talent behind the scenes. WCW needed to fix it’s name before even being considered a possible threat to the WWF again. Lastly, there were talks at the time of giving WCW a show on USA or maybe SmackDown but it was rejected by the networks because of its shitty brand name so Vince had his hands somewhat tied on what to do with the show. Alright so enough of this nonsense lets get on to the booking!
Final WCW Nitro TNT March 26th, 2001
(Not seen on TV: WCW officials don’t announce anything to the wrestlers, no WWF officials appear backstage, it is told to the talent that a deal is being worked on and to be prepared for live events and to keep silent on anything going on or lose the ability to work in the future for the company. WWF also does not make a statement that they have purchase WCW it is kept silent and not acknowledged either, focusing more on WrestleMania 17 that is coming up at the end of the week.)
Nitro goes on pretty much the way they did it, with the exception of Vince McMahon not showing up on TNT programming, or Shane McMahon for that matter. There initially, at the time, was reports of Eric Bischoff calling live to the show, which is what he does, and states that WCW is in negotiations for finding a new TV deal, and to check out WCWWrestling.com for updates as well as live event information because those will continue. The only thing of note on WWF Raw is that Jim Ross or Paul Heyman make a small acknowledgement, possibly a joke that the WWF still has their show on that can be seen across the entire world.
Downtime and a couple of weeks after the end of Nitro
WCW’s website is announcing live dates, and the newer dates are very close in location to WWF live events and shows. Eric Bischoff (who in this version made a deal with McMahon to be the “owner” and president of WCW) does appearances on radio interviews discussing the future, and keeps stating that a deal is being worked on but keeping hopes up and that live events are already happening, to check the website.
April 16th WWF Raw Is War
The only thing of note regarding the InVasion is that a WCW wrestler (Buff Bagwell) ambushes Vince McMahon in the backstage area. It is filmed to look like a shoot (real) as Buff is yelling for a contract or for Vince to help WCW. McMahon looks legit scared as if it was a fan running up to him backstage. Security and police grab Bagwell and quickly get him out of there. Jim Ross states on the segment “That’s what can happen on Live TV folks.” Nothing else is brought up about it in order to make it look like it really was unscripted.
Week of April 23rd WWF Raw is War, WWF Smackdown
Almost the same thing happens this week on Raw.3 or 4 WCW Wrestlers have “purchased” tickets, but they are in seats scattered across the arena, and not up front, again to make it look like it is an unscripted thing, and doesn’t bring attention immediately. Cameramen and announcers don’t acknowledge seeing the wrestlers, until about the halfway point of the show when the wrestlers meet up with each other with signs getting a WCW chant going, and causing a commotion. Again police and security are called and “arrest” the wrestlers quickly and get them out of the arena.
On the SmackDown program, the only acknowledgement is an off statement by Paul Heyman on commentary saying that a bunch of sore losers are confronting and causing problems in the parking lots at live events, almost as if he wasn’t supposed to say anything but couldn’t help himself.
(Not seen on TV: Eric Bischoff is on radio programs like Wrestling Observer Live laughing and almost encouraging this behavior if only to get a buzz for WCW.)
This type of stuff keeps going on for a couple of weeks, mostly unacknowledged, but still seen mostly on Raw due to the fact that it is a live show. You can visibly see more security on the show as if they are now constantly scanning for potential problems before they happen, none of the wrestlers do anything to get in the ring or attack wrestlers live on TV.
May 28th WWF Raw is War
It is the Memorial Day show for the WWF, and Vince McMahon has finally had enough. There was a shot earlier on the show of Chris Jericho arriving and he gets yelled at by a 3 WCW wrestlers who are there with the live crowd in the parking lot, Jericho does his best not to acknowledge it, but can’t help himself and yells back, it is quickly cut away from on the show. McMahon comes down to the ring to address the issue.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, over the past couple of weeks you have been seeing some interruptions during the broadcast of WWF television. It’s no secret that over the years the WWF has had a bit of a rivalry with rival promotions, one of them being WCW “Wrasslin”. They lost the ability to get programming at this time on any television station, and I never acknowledged it because, quite frankly, there is no need to kick a sick dog on it’s last leg. Some of these “Wrasslers” have taken the opportunity to try and get TV time on my dime, and that I absolutely will no longer tolerate. The safety of the WWF superstars and officials have been at risk with confrontations outside arenas and live events, and tonight I am making a stand. I have been told this behavior has been instigated, if not encouraged by their current president, a man I have had much animosity with, Eric Bischoff. Well Mr Bischoff let me state this, I have beaten you down to the point that no one wants to see you, or your wrasslers on any broadcasted screen, but i’m a business man Mr Bischoff, and if you are willing to come to Titan towers this week, the invitation is welcome in order to help curb these unwanted interruptions. As far as I’m concerned, at this time we will no longer be acknowledging these problems, and will take proper legal action for anymore interruptions until we can work these things out.”
Nothing else is brought up about it other than Jim Ross stating that it was a pitiful attempt by a wrestling organization to try and create some buzz by messing with another promotions wrestlers and officials.
June 4th WWF Raw is War
Vince McMahon comes out and states that Bischoff did come in for a meeting but it ended with no agreement, other than Bischoff asking for time on TV to work on an agreement to end issues. McMahon asks Eric to come out. Eric comes down looking a little humble but also very serious look on his face.
McMahon starts by doing his usual Mr. McMahon stuff, takes some liberties with Bischoff’s pride and then allows him to speak. Eric states that he is an opportunist, does a little bit of a shoot on how Sunday Night Heat (which was on MTV at the time) should be called no heat (due to the fact that the show was not getting high numbers). He offers a proposal to have one match. McMahon’s choice vs Bischoff choice at the King of the Ring. If McMahon wins Bischoff gets his guys to stop crowd interruption and parking lot interruption. If Bischoff wins he wants a one hour live program, preferably Sunday Night Nitro on MTV. McMahon agrees, and asks who his pick is. Bischoff says, in almost on old nod to the NWO creation in 1996,
“Don’t worry about my guy, he’s ready, just get yours.”
The rest of Raw is McMahon trying to convince Stone Cold, The Undertaker, or Chris Jericho to no be the choice to no avail. Eventually Kurt Angle who had been campaigning for it is given the shot with reluctance from McMahon.
In the weeks leading up to the King of the Ring, Kurt Angle is trash talking WCW and Eric Bischoff stating that he could beat anyone on that roster.
June 28th WWF Raw is War
This is the week leadup to the King of the Ring PPV. Angle is again trash talking WCW, Bischoff, and whoever the mystery opponent is because he’s an Olympic gold medalist and can’t be beat by a bunch of flunkies. The rest of Raw goes on without a hitch with JR and Heyman speculating on who the mystery opponent is, and hoping that McMahon didn’t bite off more than he could chew. Jim Ross pumps up the situation a bit along with Heyman stating that Bischoff is an opportunist and not to underestimate what he can do.
June 24th WWF King of the Ring PPV
Angle comes out and cuts a promo stating to hurry up and get this over with because he has other things on his mind like a title shot, and this will be quick.
No music is played, and Bischoff comes out of the side area (not the ramp) with someone we haven’t seen on any of the interruptions, DDP (Diamond Dallas Page).The crowd is going nuts, doing DDP chants, and Page looks focused. JR and Heyman mention that Page is a multi-time WCW champion, tough and dangerous with his diamond cutter which could be critical considering Angle has had neck issues in his history.
Match goes on for awhile, both individuals showcasing how good they both are in the ring. Lots of times where it looks as if Angle might get the victory, but DDP keeps kicking out and frustration is setting in for Kurt Angle. The finish comes with DDP getting a clean victory (no interference or use of illegal tactics) over Angle with the Diamond Cutter, which leaves Angle unconscious, and makes WCW look like a legit threat. McMahon stands at the entrance shocked and mad, as Bischoff and DDP celebrate the victory, then quickly head out through the crowd to avoid any issues with WWF Wrestlers or officials.
I’m going to end this rebooking at this point. It is a lot to take in, and probably too much to do all in one post. More to come!
Coming up in Part 2: WCW Sunday Nitro and rehabbing WCW’s brand name