On Wednesdays we talk bout Wrasslin’. Or Sports Entertainment or whatever other label those that enjoy this thing want to call it.
I was a proud Wrestling fan for 20 years or so. It was this angle that drove me away, and the WWE has never given me a reason to go back. Maybe I just got older, maybe I developed other interests, maybe after the demise of WCW there was not a wrestling product aimed at the maturing audience. Maybe none of that matters, well outside the key demographic WWE targets I am not so sure they care. So be it.
With all of that being said I want to take another hard look at the angle, the storyline that drove me away from the world of pro wrestling. Last week we talked about the reality of what was going on for WWE the company. Today I want to look at how this angle was booked, how it was presented to the fans, and why almost universally hated.
Let us start with a few truths about wrestling fans of 2001:
- The fans were not ready to boo Stone Cold Steve Austin
- The fans were not ready to boo Shane McMahon
- The fans were not ready to cheer for Vince McMahon
- Stephanie McMahon has about as much to do with ECW, ECW!, ECW!, ECW!, has I do with sanity…
This angle was likely doomed from the beginning. With the ego of Vince, the general hatred of all things WCW from the WWE Universe, and a locker room of Superstars who were not very welcoming to an entire new roster of wrestlers coming in and threatening their standing within the company. Not to mention the cost it was going to cost WWE to buy out large guaranteed contracts to give this angel the star power it really needed.
Given all that it seems that the WWE should have taken the long view of WCW, the asset, over shoehorning it into the middle of WWE story lines that were growing stale. Of course the rush to present the Invasion angle has everything to do with the injury sustained by Triple H in May. He would be gone for the balance of 2001, added to the fact that The Rock was already absent while filming a movie.
That is why the Stone Cold heel turn never made any sense to me. Even Steve Austin has said many times on his very popular podcast that he wished now that he hadn’t done that. My real problem with the turn is this…WWE knew The Rock was going to be leaving. So why turn Stone Cold heal? Who was going to be his nemesis? Was the plan to elevate some other talent to the number one babyface position? Was that suppose to be The American Badass version of The Undertaker? Whatever the case the heel turn really never got any traction with the fans…even as the heel leader of what was to become known as the Alliance…fans still cheered him and chanted What! What! What! What!
My main issue with WWE storylines at the time was there was way to much focus on the McMahon family. For the three years prior we had had our fill of the McMahon’s and their shenanigans. I think this is the biggest negative in the career of Vince McMahon…he goes to the well way too many times…and before everyone gets all crazy…Vince is a genius and he changed the world of pro wrestling long before Eric Bischoff and his NWO.
This angle had a mountain to climb and the WWE did it no favors. Some things are out of control of the writers…injuries happen but really this angle suffered from a lack of good timing. For example..we saw the WCW “young superstars” at Wrestlemania in the beginning of April…we would not see them again until Lance Storm Invaded Raw on May 28th. The WWE was trying to get a TV deal for a WCW themed show, maybe even on Saturday night. It was coming up with a plan to split the rosters and run two distinct brands…however it did nothing to build up any momentum…it did nothing to advance the storyline. The WWE as a whole did nothing to make the WCW product more attractive.
Nearly two months had gone by without seeing any WCW talent on TV…Shane McMahon was still a big part of WWE angles, and was doing crazy shit in the ring and out of it…and was introduced as the Chairman of the WCW…yet no wrestlers…of course on the very next Raw we saw WCW “take over” and the infamous match between WCW champ Booker T and Buff Bagwell.
This match was such a monumentally bad idea. Not that Booker T couldn’t have great matches, he is in the WWE HAll of Fame, and it was WWE who put the strap on him, but the very next week Raw would be in Atlanta…home of the old WCW, and there was a very likely chance this match would have gone over better with a crowd that very likely would have had some WCW fans in it.
On top of that Buff Bagwell had no business wrestling for the WCW Championship. He has a great look, but is a terrible performer. Ya know how he got over? They put him in a black NWO shirt. That is how WCW got everyone over. Seriously it wasn’t even hard…back in 1996 and 1997 I could have gotten anyone over with a black NWO shirt. I could have gotten The Goon over, I could have gotten the Goobeldy Gooker over, I am not even joking. Having Booker T defend the belt against that piece of crap Bagwell was a joke and was soundly called out by the WWE Universe. Even having a WCW Championship match on WWE TV was something that was pretty ill advised…which led to the next problem with this angle.
There were way to many championships. Some would argue that WWE already had too many straps, add in a collection of WCW belts and the whole thing became a befuddled mess. As the angle played out it would seem championships would change hand on every TV show. With no rhyme or reason…and WCW straps would be won by WWE affiliated wrestlers so it became quite difficult to tell who was on what side.
Belts can be used for a lot of things…They can give legitimacy to a wrestler or his stable…but the simple fact in this case the WCW belts were so devalued by the WWE fans they didn’t do a thing put make a rushed storyline murkier. Think about two World titles, two Tag Team championships, the European title, The Intercontinental title, the US title, the Hardcore title, the Cruiserweight title and the Light Heavyweight championship. That’s 10 belts for five hours of TV and Pay Per Views. Far too many…
I have so much more to say that we shall continue this next week.