The Invasion (professional wrestling)

professional wrestling storyline

The Invasion was a wrestling storyline in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) that began after the WWF bought World Championship Wrestling (WCW). It involved the WCW wrestlers "invading" WWF television to try to "take over" the WWF.

The idea of a match showing the top 2 shows of the Monday Night Wars was considered to be a "dream match" show in the eyes of many fans, because it let fans to see which show would be superior. The storyline began when Vince McMahon's son, Shane McMahon, said on RAW that he bought WCW.[1] This led to many appearances of WCW wrestlers during RAW and SmackDown! after WrestleMania X-Seven.[2]

In June 2001, the storyline got more intense as more WWF storylines ended to make room for the central Invasion storyline. WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) merged to make The Alliance and challenged the WWF's control over the wrestling industry.[3] An Inaugural Brawl took place at the WWF Invasion pay-per-view, where Stone Cold Steve Austin defected and joined the Alliance.[4] Many inter-promotional matches occurred after the Invasion between The Alliance and the WWF, leading up to the climax of the angle at Survivor Series 2001, when Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, Big Show, The Undertaker, and Kane) defeated Team Alliance (Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Shane McMahon) in a Winner-Take-All match.[5]

A very large storyline that went for 5 months from June 2001 to November 2001, the storyline has been heavily criticized.[6][7][8]

History change

Monday Night Wars change

During the Monday Night Wars, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the top 2 North American wrestling shows, competed for ratings. Through developments such as the nWo and the Montreal Screwjob, fans compared the two promotions, and the Internet wrestling community was full of arguments as to which of the two was the best.

Among other things, however, mismanagement within WCW (such as allowing wrestlers themselves to book matches) eventually led WCW to a downward spiral from which it never recovered. The Monday Night Wars came to an end on March 23 2001, when the WWF bought WCW for what was considered to be a bargain price.

The final night of the Monday Night Wars occurred on March 26 2001: RAW primarily focused on the major storylines heading into WrestleMania X-Seven, while Nitro held their final episode with a Night Of Champions. Vince McMahon opened up Nitro and announced a simulcast later that night to address the future of WCW. Throughout RAW, McMahon publicly named several WCW wrestlers who would not be retained.[1] After Sting defeated Ric Flair in WCW's final match, the simulcast began. McMahon talked about the buyout of WCW and toyed with the idea of making WCW into a huge media conglomerate, much like the WWF.[1] He asked the crowd who he should keep under his belt by mentioning names of WCW wrestlers and asking for a reaction. Lex Luger received a negative reaction from fans, and Hulk Hogan, Buff Bagwell, Booker T, Scott Steiner, Sting, and Goldberg received positive reactions.[1] Vince then proceeded to fire them all, however, to the cheers of the RAW crowd and the jeers of the Nitro crowd.[1] McMahon then announced that he would sign the contract and make the purchase official at WrestleMania. Shane McMahon, however, appeared on Nitro and announced that he had signed the contract and purchased WCW out from under his father's nose,[1] planting the seed for what was considered a lucrative future storyline opportunity. The Invasion did not begin immediately afterwards, as the WWF was preparing for WrestleMania X-Seven, the year's largest show, mere days away.

The Invasion change

The WWF had effectively doubled the size of its roster through its purchase of WCW, and as a result, there was not enough screen time for everyone. The original plan was to find a time slot on TNN to continue running WCW as a separate entity. Polls were even put up on and to decide the name of the new show. These plans fell through when no TV station would touch WCW because of its reputation for losing money.[9] The WWF eventually carried out a brand extension, effectively reviving WCW under its own auspices and running two separate promotions, each with one of the WWF's two existing televised shows, RAW and SmackDown!.

As part of its plans, Lance Storm became the first WCW wrestler to appear on WWF programming, by running in during a match on the May 28 episode of RAW while a match was being held.[10] At King of the Ring 2001 on June 24, then-WCW wrestler Booker T interfered during the Triple Threat Main Event match for the WWF Championship and almost cost Stone Cold Steve Austin the title.[11] Also, Austin suffered fractured bones in his hand from the side slam he took from Booker into an announce table. The next night, a confrontation occurred between WCW owner Shane McMahon and WWF owner Vince McMahon. While Vince was in the ring, Booker T came from behind to deliver his trademark scissor kick to Vince.[12] The WWF roster ran to the ring to the aid of Vince, but Booker T and Shane McMahon escaped through the crowd.[12] This incident marked the official start of the Invasion storyline, to which RAW announcer Jim Ross announced, "The battle lines have been drawn!"[12]

The WWF eventually began to recognize WCW and tested the idea of a brand extension by giving WCW the final twenty minutes of RAW with Scott Hudson and Arn Anderson doing announcing duties in place of Jim Ross and Paul Heyman. During a match between Buff Bagwell and Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, WWF wrestlers Kurt Angle and WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin interfered in revenge by beating Booker T up, with Bagwell joining Angle and Austin by attacking Booker T.[13] A

Addition of ECW change

On the July 9 episode on RAW, Kane was scheduled to go into a handicapped match against Mike Awesome and Lance Storm.[3] Chris Jericho came out and offered to be Kane's partner, thus turning it into a tag team match.[3] Near the end of the match, Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho on Lance Storm. As the move was being applied, however, Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer ran through the audience and into the ring and started to beat on Kane and Jericho.[3] In response, WWF wrestlers consisting of The Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Justin Credible, Rhyno, and Raven ran to the ring. After a brief stand-off, the WWF group turned around and attacked Kane and Jericho.[3] This prompted Paul Heyman to leave the announce table and enter the ring. After high-fiving the wrestlers, he announced that ECW has been brought into the Invasion.[3] Heyman talked about how tired he was sitting beside Jim Ross and discussing WCW vs. WWF, stating that he felt that everyone had forgotten about ECW and announced, "This Invasion just got taken to the extreme."[3]

Later during the night, Shane and Vince McMahon bumped into each other backstage.[3] Shane told his father that ECW needed to be taken care of and pointed out that there were 10 ECW wrestlers under Heyman's belt.[3] He suggested that he would take five of his WCW wrestlers and have them team up with five of Vince McMahon's WWF wrestler's later that night to take out ECW.[3] Vince agreed but insisted that WCW would eventually meet its demise when all was said and done.[3]

At the end of the night, the WCW wrestlers came into the ring, accompanied by Shane McMahon. The WWF wrestlers then came into the ring and, before ECW entered, the WCW and WWF wrestlers started to brawl.[3] The WWF wrestlers cleared the ring but then were stormed by the ECW wrestlers and taken out.[3] After this, WCW's men came into the ring and high-fived the ECW men.[3] Paul Heyman and Shane McMahon then hugged and started to dismantle the WWF wrestlers.[3] Vince McMahon, stunned, came out and asked what was going on.[3] Shane McMahon responded that he was responsible for all the events that just transpired and announced that ECW and WCW merged to form The Alliance.[3] He then announced that the new owner of ECW was Stephanie McMahon.[3]

WWF InVasion change

At InVasion, the Inaugural Brawl took place between Team WCW/ECW and Team WWF. The WWF consisted of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Kane, and the Undertaker, who all wrestled against the team of DDP, Booker T, Rhyno, and the Dudley Boys.[4] Near the end of the match, all of the wrestlers were outside of the ring except Booker T and Angle. Kurt Angle applied the ankle lock on Booker T, who tapped out, but no referee was there to witness it. Stone Cold then dragged a referee into the ring, but then kicked Kurt Angle in the face, Stunned him, and placed Booker T on top of Kurt Angle and told the referee to count. Team WCW/ECW won the match due to Stone Cold's actions.[4]

The WWF gains momentum change

Shane McMahon, on the July 26 edition of SmackDown!, extended an invitation to The Rock, who had not been seen since the RAW following WrestleMania X-Seven, to the Alliance.[14] Also that night, Kurt Angle challenged Booker T to a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match, which Booker T accepted. The WWF gained momentum when Angle beat Booker T with an ankle lock, taking the WCW Championship away from the Alliance.[14] Angle's title run proved to be short-lived, as Booker T won it back on the July 30 episode of RAW.[15]

On that same RAW, The Rock returned for the first time since his suspension on the April 2 edition of RAW.[15] Shane and Vince McMahon were in the ring that night, and each tried to convince The Rock to join their respective side.[15] Shane McMahon took the liberty of reminding The Rock of how Vince screwed him out of the WWF Championship earlier that year at WrestleMania and also in a steel cage match the day after WrestleMania.[15] Vince McMahon replied that Shane was somewhat accurate in his accusations but ceded that it was wrong for him to back Stone Cold, as he was a rattlesnake that he should have known would eventually bite him.[15] He promised to The Rock that he had no intention of screwing him if he returned to the WWF but also ceded that he could not promise that he never would; if it was good for business, he said, then he just might do it.[15] He told The Rock that he was at least being honest with him and pleaded for The Rock to trust himself, stating that his future was with the fans and the WWF.[15] The Rock, however, Rock Bottomed Vince McMahon and proceeded to shake Shane's hand, but he then proceeded to Rock Bottom him as well.[15]

His return led to a WCW Title match between The Rock and Booker T at SummerSlam 2001, which The Rock won, marking the second time the WCW Championship belt changed sides to the WWF.[7] At that same pay-per-view, Austin retained his WWF Championship against Angle after Angle won by disqualification.[7]

The following RAW and SmackDown! showings featured primarily inter-promotional matches between the two companies. Austin stole Kurt Angle's medals during one of the shows, and on the August 30 edition of SmackDown!, tied them to a cinder block and threw them in a river.[16] The following RAW, Debra and Stephanie bought a new truck for Stone Cold, but Angle came up from behind and nailed Austin in the back of the head with a pipe. He put a cinder block and rope in the truck, put Austin in it, and drove away on the truck. He threatened to throw Stone Cold into a river if he did not get a title shot. Austin complied and gave him a shot at the upcoming pay-per-view, Unforgiven. Angle said, however, that Austin was "still going into the water", but instead simply embarrassed Austin by throwing him into a kiddie pool.[17]

The WWF gained even more momentum at Unforgiven, as The Rock retained the WCW Championship against Booker T, and Kurt Angle made Austin submit to the ankle lock, winning the WWF Championship from Stone Cold, putting both belts into the hands of the WWF.[18]

Jericho and The Rock Feud/The Alliance mounts a comeback change

The Rock

There were several inter-promotional matches after Unforgiven. Furthermore, a crucial plot point formed when, on the October 8 airing of RAW, Jericho and The Rock teamed up against Shane McMahon and Rob Van Dam.[19] Jericho's face was drenched in blood and, with a steel chair in his hand, accidentally nailed The Rock when he was trying to hit Shane McMahon.[19] This caused a stir backstage later on in the night when The Rock checked to make sure Jericho, who was being treated by EMTs, was in good condition but stated that Jericho made a big mistake in the match.[19] Jericho, irritated, countered that everyone makes mistakes, including The Rock.[19] The Rock responded that everyone should own up to their mistakes but was more concerned with Jericho's condition.[19] As he went to leave the room, Jericho made a comment to the EMT wondering "what the hell" The Rock wanted for him.[19] The Rock overheard this, walked back, and asked Jericho to repeat himself.[19] Jericho did just that, and The Rock countered that his mistake actually cost them the match.[19] Jericho countered that he maybe should have hit The Rock instead with a chair on purpose and proceeded to taunt The Rock by stating that he should knock the People's Eyebrow off of The Rock's face.[19] The Rock provoked Jericho to do just that, and a brawl ensued.[19]

Also that night, Stone Cold and Kurt Angle faced off for the WWF Championship, and William Regal, who sat at ringside to ensure a fair match would take place, hit Kurt Angle with the championship, thereby backstabbing the WWF and costing Angle the title.[19]

The feud between Jericho and The Rock built up to a match at No Mercy on October 21, where Jericho beat the Rock to win the WCW Championship, and Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Angle and Rob Van Dam to retain his WWF Championship.[20]

On the October 29 edition of RAW, Shane McMahon told his father, Vince McMahon, that a member of the WWF would jump ship to the Alliance that night. Later that same night, Kurt Angle backstabbed the WWF by hitting Jericho, The Rock, Undertaker, and Kane with steel chairs.[21] On the November 1 edition of SmackDown!, Angle, who originally led the WWF wrestlers, explained that he represented what is great about America—he was a winner, and his defection came from his decision to fight along the winning side. That side included Stone Cold, a man, Kurt Angle claimed, knew how to win.[22]

The end of the Invasion change

On the November 5 airing of RAW, Vince McMahon countered Kurt Angle's defection by stating that a member of Team Alliance would defect during a match at the upcoming Survivor Series. Stone Cold came out to confront Vince about it, and Vince stated that Stone Cold would be the one to defect. Because of this announcement, many Alliance members began to distrust Stone Cold, looking at him with suspicious eyes, to which Stone Cold denied the charges and called Vince a liar.[23] Stone Cold went on to interrogate members of Team Alliance, questioning Booker T and sitting Rob Van Dam down in a room with a light shining on him.[24]

All of this led to a "Winner Take All" match at Survivor Series 2001, which pitted Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane, and The Big Show) against Team Alliance (Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, and Shane McMahon).[5] The final three men in the match were The Rock and Jericho vs. Austin.[5] Jericho was eliminated and, to continue the feud between the two men, attacked the Rock, even though Jericho's future was on the line if The Rock lost. The Rock and Austin continued to battle it out, and the referee was knocked down in the match.[5] Austin stunned the Rock and pinned him, but there was no referee to count it.[5] Austin approached the downed referee to try to revive him.[5] As this was occurring, Angle ran to the ring, picked up the WWF championship belt, and nailed Austin with it, revealing himself to be the defector to which McMahon was referring the entire time.[5] The Rock followed this with a Rock Bottom and a pin on Austin, to which the referee woke up and counted Austin down to three.[5] Team WWF prevailed, thus ending the storyline.[5]

Aftermath change

The WCW World Heavyweight Championship was later unified with the WWF Championship to form the WWF Undisputed Championship. Here, Triple H holds both belts.

WCW change

After The Alliance was disbanded, the WCW World Heavyweight Championship would be simply renamed the World Championship, and later unified with the WWF Championship to form the WWF Undisputed Championship. The Undisputed Championship was originally represented with both the original WWF and WCW title belts, as the champion would carry both belts around, until being replaced with a single belt. At the beginning of the WWE Brand Extension, the champion would appear on both RAW and SmackDown! until then champion Brock Lesnar took the title to Smackdown. Eric Bischoff would reward Triple H with the former WCW championship belt, as he was the last person to have it, renaming it the World Heavyweight Championship. The Undisputed Championship would be renamed the WWE Championship, as having two world titles contradicted the term "undisputed."

Another WCW championship, the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, was rebranded as a WWE title and replaced the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship as the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.[5] Additionally, the WCW United States Championship was revived in 2003 as a SmackDown!-exclusive title, thus becoming the WWE United States Championship.

ECW change

Although the WCW brand effectively died once and for all following the end of this storyline, ECW was "temporarily" revived by WWE in 2005 for the purposes of a special "reunion" show, ECW One Night Stand, held on June 12 2005.[25] The build-up to this one-shot event featured former ECW talent putting over the virtues of the brand versus the WWE product and appearances by several former ECW wrestlers not under contract to WWE. In 2006, it was announced that WWE would be reviving ECW as its third "brand" (to complement RAW and SmackDown!). The second One Night Stand, held on June 11 2006, led to the official debut of the new ECW the following Tuesday.[26]

Other change

Test won the Immunity Battle Royal, which granted him immunity from being fired for an entire year, beginning a storyline in which he would bully other wrestlers simply because he could. Every Alliance member who held championships were also immune from being fired, such as Christian, the Dudley Boyz, and Rob Van Dam. William Regal got his job back by being the first to join Vince McMahon's infamous Kiss My Ass Club. The remaining Alliance members (with the exception of RVD) would associate themselves with Vince, who immediately turned heel, against Austin, who immediately turned face. Kurt Angle remained a heel, despite being the one responsible for the end of the Alliance. It was during this storyline that Stone Cold Steve Austin coined the "What?" catchphrase, which fans continue to chant to this day. Ric Flair would make a return and become the kayfabe co-owner of the WWE with Vince.

Reaction change

The Invasion angle was a large storyline that spanned for almost half of 2001 and brought about financial success for the WWF, such as the InVasion pay-per-view being one of the highest non-major event buyrates in the history of pay-per-views.[27] However, the Invasion storyline has come under criticism by wrestling fans and wrestling media,[7] with the storyline being called a flop.[6] Other media refer to the storyline as "one of the most poorly handled, ego-filled storylines in wrestling history."[8] The Invasion storyline was awarded the 2001 Gooker Award by WrestleCrap for worst gimmick, storyline, or event in wrestling.

The Weakness of the Alliance change

Throughout the storyline, many inter-promotional matches had WWF wrestlers winning over WCW/ECW wrestlers, usually cleanly. In contrast, most of the Alliance's wins were due to interference or disqualification. For example, it took Tazz assisting Raven at InVasion for Raven to beat William Regal.[4] The Rock, however, won cleanly at SummerSlam 2001, despite Shane McMahon's helping Booker T.[7]

One particular example of this was during the Inaugural Brawl at the InVasion pay-per-view. Besides Austin's turn in the match that was needed to secure a WCW/ECW win over the WWF, Slam! Wrestling alleged that the Alliance wrestled poorly in comparison to the WWF wrestlers:

"Portrayed as disorganized and inferior grapplers, the ECW-WCW Team had more than its fair share of mistimed moves which hurt their own team members while the "WWF squad" of course wrestled like a well-oiled machines. The weakening of the ECW-WCW dubbed superstars didn't stop there either. The WWF faction battered their enemy tag partners off the ring apron over and over again making them appear weak and more times than not, the ECW-WCW grapplers gained an advantage only by double-teaming or employing underhanded tactics. The message sent was loud and clear. The best of ECW-WCW is not good enough to hang with the WWF."[4]

It has been speculated that the reason for this was because Vince McMahon did not want the WWF to look weak while fighting the Alliance, as he worked very hard to put down his competition, especially WCW.[6][28][29] Smash Wrestling alleges that WWF wrestlers needed to defect to make the Alliance appear to be a credible threat.[27]

Overemphasis on the McMahons change

The Invasion storyline was presented with a backdrop of a McMahon feud. In storyline, WWF was owned by Vince McMahon, WCW was owned by Shane McMahon, and ECW was owned by Stephanie McMahon. Although the feud did not center completely around the McMahons, the family feud storyline had been done many times before.[30][31] In addition to this, the Stone Cold versus Vince McMahon feud was to start again when Vince McMahon hit Austin in the back of the head with a chair at No Mercy. As stated by a Slam! Wrestling synopsis of No Mercy 2001:

For fans who didn't catch it the fifth, tenth or twentieth time they've run the angle, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Vince McMahon are about to feud once again... First up was Vincent McMahon labeling Austin with a steel chair as he was waiting to put a dazed RVD away... Three minutes later, it was Shane McMahon's turn to hurl Kurt Angle out of the ring and into a steel ring post. Vince tackled Shane over the announce table and the two began pummeling one another. Back in the ring, Austin laid a "Stone Cold" Stunner on to retain the belt as a disgruntled Vince scowled. Gee, how many times have we seen that scenario play itself out before? Austin wins. Vince fumes. Fans snore. Whatever.[20]

The storyline also allegedly centered too much on the McMahons, who were getting more airtime than the wrestlers.[8]

It has been argued that the Invasion angle may have been more successful if Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff were perceived as controlling ECW and WCW, respectively, instead of Stephanie and Shane McMahon.[6]

Lack of big-name WCW talent/Overemphasis on WWF defectors change

Many fans had dreamed of a day where they could pit WWF and WCW wrestlers against each other, but the storyline's final match ended with four WWF wrestlers brawling it out. As a column in Online World of Wrestling stated:

"While it was good TV, it wasn't what everyone thought the WCW vs WWF would have been all about... When the fans of WWF and WCW reminisced about a WCW vs WWF match back in the glory days of Monday Night Wars of around 1997, their match would have probably gone like this: WCW would probably have a team of Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Goldberg, and Ric Flair against... maybe the WWF team of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and Mick Foley. Something like that anyway, obviously, even if Vince had done this thing right and signed some good WCW talent we would have had a match a little different due to... factors such as retirement or injuries or something, but still similar to that."[6]

It is important to note that 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. 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.[32] In addition, Scott Steiner was recovering from an injury.[32][33] Others, such as Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Goldberg, were not signed until well after the storyline finished.[32] Because of this, the WWF's opponent allegedly lacked the strong identity of WCW.

To bolster the ranks of WCW (in lieu of big WCW names), some WWF wrestlers (such as Stone Cold Steve Austin) defected and joined the Alliance.[4] Although both WWF and WCW featured talents who had worked for both companies, wrestlers such as Stone Cold had their greatest success in WWF and were seen by fans as WWF wrestlers. Kurt Angle had never wrestled a match for either WCW or ECW, but was a main player for the Alliance towards the end of the storyline. In fact, despite both being viewed as prominent WWF wrestlers, they ended up not only being main players of the Alliance, with Stone Cold being the leader that carried championship gold, but also playing a bigger role than the WCW and ECW stars during the Invasion. For example, the final two Alliance members were Stone Cold and Angle at Survivor Series 2001—Booker T and Rob Van Dam were eliminated only after Shane McMahon.[5]

Several top WCW and ECW talent who were top superstars in their previous company such as Diamond Dallas Page, Justin Credible, Raven and Tazz were put down into low-mid card matches, while lesser-ranked WWF wrestlers who defected to the Alliance, such as Test, were given a greater push.

References change

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