Missed Opportunities: The Invasion Angle
Exactly 14 years ago, Vince McMahon rocked the wrestling world when he purchased his greatest rival, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the entire industry leaving everyone speculating what the future would hold for the stars of WCW and more importantly the business as a whole. After the dust had finally settled, it came to light that Shane McMahon had actually purchased WCW from under his father’s nose and was going to do everything in his power to take over the industry. We all hoped this would lead to one of greatest storylines of all time, unfortunately what would result was one of the worst angles in the history of professional wrestling.
Instead of leaving WCW as a separate brand and creating their own competition, WWF ultimately chose to absorb their roster by injecting talent into their already existing programming. In doing this, the WWF took on far too much talent to adequately showcase on RAW and SmackDown. If that wasn’t bad enough, the WWF then decided to add Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) to the mix as well. It was later revealed that Stephanie McMahon was the new owner of ECW and was joining forces with Shane (and WCW) against WWF subsequently forming a group that would become known as The Alliance.
The feud between The Alliance and the WWF went on for some time until it finally came to a head at Survivor Series 2001, where both sides participated in a “Winner Take All” elimination tag match. The contest saw Team WWF (which consisted of The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane, and The Big Show) battle Team Alliance (which consisted of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, and Shane McMahon). In the end, Team WWF would emerged victorious after The Rock pinned Stone Cold Steve Austin with the help of Kurt Angle (who turned his back on The Alliance by attacking Stone Cold Steve Austin and defecting to Team WWF). Following the event, The Alliance disbanded. While WCW was put to rest, ECW was relaunched as the WWF’s extremely forgettable third brand (in addition to RAW and SmackDown). The WWF’s version of ECW continued to operate until February 2010 when it was finally put out of its misery. Don’t worry though, ECW being put out of its misery was great news because no one ever wanted to see another December To Dismember again.
Overall the angle was considered a massive failure and is regarded as one of the biggest missed opportunities of all time. This perspective can understandably be attributed to countless factors. Many people cite the lack of WCW’s big names, the abundance of titles, the heel Stone Cold Steve Austin, and ECW’s inclusion in the storyline as major factors and rightfully so.
When WWF purchased WCW they made the decision to not buyout the stars with huge guaranteed contracts. Due to this decision, WCW’s biggest superstars like Sting, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Goldberg were all noticeably absent from the The Alliance (and the Invasion angle as a whole). The WCW members who did make up The Alliance were primarily mid-carders (aside from DDP and Booker T of course). Although Billy Kidman, Gregory Helms, and Kanyon were all entertaining performers, they weren’t the names associated with WCW that everyone wanted to see.
The abundance of titles didn’t have to be a problem but it quickly became one. When championships become interchangeable they obviously lose value. For example, who cares about losing the Cruiserweight title if the next week you can go out and win the Light Heavyweight title. By having so many titles in rotation and regularly having them switch hands they all become devalued in the process. If the WWF would have just acknowledged the WCW titles and not required the champions to defend them things may have gone a bit smoother in the long run but what’s done is done. One would think the WWE would have learned from this and gotten rid of the US title at this point, but we can get into that debate some other time.
When Triple H tore his quad in May 2001, the WWF was stuck with another major problem. One of their biggest heels was out of action and they really didn’t have anyone to take his place. Despite the fact that WWF had turned Austin heel and had even paired him with Triple H prior to his injury, it wasn’t working. Austin as a heel makes about as much sense as pairing Paul Heyman with Curtis Axel.
Speaking of Paul Heyman, the WWF’s choice to include ECW in the Invasion was completely unnecessary. As much as I loved the original ECW, they were never an actual threat to WWF (or WCW for that matter). The story would have been fine without them and likely would have been better overall had it just been WCW versus WWF.
Although all these factors certainly played a role, the major problem was that the WWF had The Alliance lose too much. They were so focused on making WWF look dominant that they lost sight of the big picture and made the suspension of disbelief impossible. By the time Survivor Series 2001 and the “Winner Take All” match rolled around no one in their right mind thought for a second that The Alliance actually had a chance. Without the suspension of disbelief the pay-per-view and story fell flat and disappointed us all.
I can personally understand a lot of the mistakes that were made, but the “Winner Take All” match at Survivor Series 2001 was the one chance the WWF had to fix things and they blew it. In spite of all the previously mentioned reasons, the WWF could have easily fixed things and blown the minds of wrestling fans in one fatal swoop had they just let The Alliance come out on top at Survivor Series 2001.
Now I know what you’re all thinking, Vince McMahon would never let that happen, we have a better chance of seeing Curtis Axel in the main event of WrestleMania this year, or Roman Reigns losing a match to Heath Slater, but this choice would have worked wonders. If the WWF would have allowed The Alliance to win, everyone would have tuned into their programming the next night. Hypothetically speaking of course, in this scenario, it would have allowed The Alliance to do the one thing no one ever expected and taken over completely. This would of course lead to the WWF invading and struggling to regain power again. The company could have build this up over time and really milked it the right way.
Obviously hindsight is 20/20 but I’ve always felt The Alliance victory was the way to go. With that being said, the storyline led to some of greatest moments in the WWE’s history and as a fan will always be memorable. However, because of all the things the story could have been, and should have been, the Invasion Angle will forever be one of the greatest missed opportunity in the history of professional wrestling.