|Image Source: Wrestling Punks|
Written By: Mark Armstrong
Watching the WWE Network series The Monday Night War rekindles memories of the WWF vs. WCW ratings battle. Yet fewer people remember what should have been the biggest storyline feud in wrestling history – erm, the WWF vs. WCW. Well, WWF vs. WCW/ECW. Although I enjoyed it at the time, I appreciate that it could have been better executed and generally lived up to the anticipation that people had had for years regarding such a rivalry. But how could it have been done? What exactly was the ‘right’ way to book the Invasion? Here’s my take …
Dateline: March 26, 2001. Vince McMahon announced that he has bought WCW, only for Shane McMahon to announce that in fact he bought WCW. Shane beats Vince in their Street Fight at WrestleMania X-Seven, and makes only brief televised appearances thereafter.
Here’s were I change history. During that time, Shane makes a flippant comment that he sold WCW to a mystery investor: since his primary purpose for buying it in the first place was to annoy Vince, he no longer requires the brand.
Over the next few months, nothing happens. However, now and again we hear stories of wrestlers randomly being attacked, which are only slightly acknowledged on TV. The plot thickens when, during a live Raw match in Atlanta, a masked man attacks a popular performer (say, one of the Hardyz). Similar things happen over the next month or two, and after one or two more similar run-in’s, the masked man is caught. But before he can be unmasked, another masked man runs in to his aid.
The attacks start becoming more frequent, and the number of masked assailants also increases to an army of around a dozen. They also begin attacking big-name WWF stars. Finally, one is totally caught by a large number of superstars, but they are all stunned when he is unmasked to reveal WCW Champion Booker T! Suddenly, another masked man interferes and shockingly hits several Diamond Cutters; yes, it is Diamond Dallas Page.
It all leads to the first official WWF vs. WCW battle, in the main event of Survivor Series 2001. Team WCW win after a betrayal by so-called WWF star Chris Jericho, who reveals that the WCW invasion has only just begun, and that things will only get worse for the WWF. With that, Stone Cold Steve Austin hits Y2J with a Stunner and stomps a mudhole in him, only to be whacked in the back with a steel chair by another masked man. He immediately unmasks to shockingly reveal Hollywood Hulk Hogan!
Austin’s beatdown of Y2J on Raw the next night is so brutal that Stone Cold is suspended from active competition, but he can make appearances, one of which is at Vengeance to call out Hogan. Instead, Y2J returns with his new manager Ric Flair! Austin is taken out and, to make matters worse, to offset the Raw beating and avoid a lawsuit, Jericho is given a WWF Title shot on the PPV, and defeats The Rock for the gold. This leads to Austin vs. Y2J at Royal Rumble 2002, where Flair and Hogan interfere to get Jericho the win. In the meantime, WCW interferes multiple times in the Rumble match, and after the returning Triple H wins, he is beaten down by the WCW crew.
At No Way Out, Austin and HHH face Jericho and Flair, with Hogan again interfering. Austin catches him, only to be shockingly attacked by Kevin Nash and Scott Hall! The nWo reunites and brands Austin, whilst other WWF stars plan to destroy WCW names.
The first truly major card of the war is WrestleMania X8. Here, the night is filled with inter-promotional matches, the standout bouts being Austin vs. Hogan for the first time ever and Y2J vs. HHH for the WWF Title. HHH brings the gold home to the Federation, but Hogan vanquishes Stone Cold with nWo assistance. They then vow to take the prize back from HHH and make it “the nWo title.”
On Raw, a bombshell hits: because of the chaos, it’s revealed that the WWF has been losing money rapidly for months, and the only solution was to sell 50% of the company. Stephanie McMahon bought the stock but regretfully sold it onto a higher investor. On the same night, the brains behind the WCW invasion will be revealed (Shane sold him the brand, remember). Both are the same, and it is … Eric Bischoff!
Bischoff reveals that he has bought SmackDown! This is now the WCW show, with its own stars, titles etc. The two companies keep within their own brands, but inter-promotional problems remain. After Hogan uses his nWo influence to dethrone HHH, it all leads to SummerSlam 2002, and a Hogan-Austin rematch for the now-WWE Title. Stone Cold looks like he is about to win, but The Outsiders pummel him. The Rock clears house, and sets up Hogan for a Rock Bottom, only to be attached by WCW/nWo’s new secret weapon … Goldberg! He Spears and Jackhammers Rock so hard that he injures him, and during the run-in, a cheap roll-up gets Hogan the win.
At Survivor Series, Hogan is finally dethroned inside the Elimination Chamber by newcomer Brock Lesnar. Meanwhile, the WCW crown is traded between WCW and WWE stars, eventually leading to a dual-brand Royal Rumble in 2003. But the nWo team of WCW continues causing carnage, leading Vince McMahon to make a big decision: call Paul Heyman, make a deal to bring back ECW and have Team Extreme help WWE to win the war.
But it’s a trap! In a major multi-man match at WrestleMania XIX, ECW turns on WWE and forms The Alliance with the other invaders. This is counter-balanced by Hogan rekindling his red and yellow roots after one last match with Austin which he loses, and returns to WWE in the process. Also at that Mania, Shawn Michaels returns to active combat to beat WCW’s Chris Jericho, the World Titles return to their respective brands, and Goldberg makes his in-ring debut in WWE to beat The Rock.
As 2003 continues, the war nears its end, and a bout promoted as The Final Battle headlines Survivor Series 2003. Controversially, though, the match has no finish: as The Undertaker prepares to win by being the man to finally pin Goldberg in WWE, he is stopped by the debuting Sting! As the road to WrestleMania XX begins, it is made clear that this show really will end the war, from settling the long-standing grudges to unifying titles to, most importantly of all, holding one last match which will see the winner’s company triumph and the loser’s company enter extinction.
At WrestleMania XX, Vince McMahon faces and beats Eric Bischoff. Shawn Michaels loses to recent WCW defectee Kurt Angle. Sting faces The Undertaker but, to compete with the Stinger’s mind games, it is the original Taker who returns and keeps his Streak alive. The Rock and Hulk Hogan finally face off in a dream match with MSG providing the rabid Toronto-like atmosphere. A fresh up-and-comer in Randy Orton beats the returning Mick Foley in a brutal, star-making No Holds Barred match. One more future headliner, Edge, returns from a neck injury to win the first Money In The Bank Ladder Match. Evolution’s Batista and defectee Ric Flair lose to The Outsiders in a Tag Team Title unification match. Booker T wins an Immunity Battle Royal. Christian unifies the Intercontinental and United States Titles. Trish Stratus is the last Diva standing in the war and is Women’s Champ. After recent defections, WCW World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar beats WWE Champion Triple H and ECW Champ Rob Van Dam in the unification match, only to lose the Undisputed Title later that night to the winner of the 2004 Royal Rumble, rising star John Cena.
And, in the main event of this historic WM card (which brings some later innovations forward in time, I know), it is the first ever match between WWE’s Stone Cold Steve Austin and WCW’s Bill Goldberg, with the winner’s company surviving. Each trade big moves before a frenzied atmosphere, and nearly everyone you can imagine interferes. The finishers come after this and, with the drama so high, Austin finally gives Goldberg three Stunners to win the match and to finally win the war for WWE! Goldberg leaves WWE after WM XX, but Austin then shockingly announces his retirement due to injury. Nevertheless, Vince McMahon thanks him for everything, especially his performance and victory on this night. Austin and Vince hug and share beers … only for Austin to Stunner Vince in one last feel-good match to end WrestleMania XX.
Now, think of everything that did happen in the Invasion and in the WWF/WWE in general from 2001 to 2004. Compare it to this version of events, and although some classic matches and moments may not have happened in my alternate reality, can you honestly say that this story would not have been far better?