The WCW invasion of the WWF should have been one of the biggest angles in wrestling history. That’s not what happened…
The Failed WCW Invasion of the WWF
From the formation of the nWo to David Arquette winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to generate buzz, WCW rode a ratings roller coaster in the late 1990s. However, that would all change with an announcement by Tony Schiavone on January 4th, 1999.
Tony Schiavone’s Call on Monday Nitro Terribly Backfires
On January 4th, 1999, a pre-taped episode of Monday Night Raw was on the air when rival WCW play-by-play announcer Tony Schiavone purposely gave away the spoiler that Mick Foley was going to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship against The Rock.
"That will put butts in seats," Schiavone would sarcastically mutter on air, advising the Nitro television audience not to bother turning on WWE programming.
It backfired terribly.
Schiavone’s announcement led to over half a million viewers switching channels from Nitro to Raw.
In that edition of Raw, Mankind captured the big belt for the first time with an assist from Steve Austin, resulting in one of the biggest pops in pro wrestling history. Many believed this turned the tide in the “Monday Night Wars.
“I didn’t realize that Raw had been taped,” Tony Schiavone reflected about his announcement on his podcast, What Happened When.
“I got to thinking, ‘Is there someone in the backstage area of Raw calling here and stooging what was going on?'”
Finger Poke of Doom
Meanwhile, on WCW Nitro that same night, a moment infamously now remembered as the Finger Poke of Doom occurred.
In a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match-up between Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash, Hogan poked Nash in the chest, prompting Nash to throw himself theatrically onto the mat to allow Hogan to pin him.
This blurred the lines between fiction and reality for wrestling fans; WCW fans were left dumbfounded.
It is a moment forever burned in the minds of wrestling fans and considered by many the beginning of the end for WCW.
“It would have been [worth it] if Bill [Goldberg] wouldn’t have f***ing put his hand through a limo a couple of weeks later because he got all [angry] because Scott [Hal] said something on TV,” Nash noted in an RF Video interview.
“[Goldberg] would have mowed through all of us to finally get to Hogan, beat Hogan, get another strap, and get another run. We had seven months of television planned right there.”
Vince McMahon Purchases WCW
On March 26th, 2001, Vince McMahon announced that he purchased rival wrestling promotion, WCW. Finally, the war had come to an end.
For 83 weeks, WCW beat WWE in the ratings with edgy content and compelling storylines, but now Vince’s theme music hit and his son Shane McMahon appeared on the Titantron.
“Surprise, Dad! You’re in Cleveland, Ohio, and I’m here in Panama City, Florida, standing in a WCW ring,” Shane would declare.
“That was just the opportunity I was looking for because the deal is finalized with WCW, and the name on the contract does say ‘McMahon.’ However, the contract reads ‘Shane McMahon.’ That’s right; I now own WCW!”
Jim Ross, on commentary, would follow Shane’s shocking announcement by exclaiming, “I cannot believe what I just heard. Shane McMahon has bought WCW, and Mr. McMahon is in absolute shock!”
Paul Heyman would also chime in, “Shane McMahon has screwed his old man, and now the fight at WrestleMania is for so much more!
Where the WCW Invasion of WWF Storyline Went Wrong
Fans were left wondering what would happen next. What stars would invade, and would Sting come down from the rafters to take down The Corporation?
One person that was missing from the invasion was Eric Bischoff, the man who almost put WWE out of business.
During an interview with Inside the Ropes, Bischoff revealed why he wasn’t involved in the storyline.
“They wouldn’t tell me what they were interested in me doing; there was no real commitment. Nothing Jim [Ross] said made me excited to have another conversation.”
Bischoff then reflected on the WCW Invasion storyline’s potential but how it didn’t execute well.
“What [WWE] did sucked. It was horrible from the beginning. It just didn’t make any sense.”
There was a lack of star power on both shows from the company Vince had just bought. One of the major reasons the invasion didn’t do well was that WCW headliners like Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan, and Lex Luger had guaranteed contracts, meaning they sat at home and got a paycheck.
Instead, many mid-carders from WCW, like Buff Bagwell, Mike Awesome, Raven, and Rhyno, would make their WWF debuts. It was exciting, but they weren’t exactly the WCW stars fans had hoped would be walking through the forbidden door.
“It was a bad judgment call on my part,” DDP revealed during an interview with Inside the Ropes, reflecting on his “stalker” storyline in the WWE.
“In retrospect, we (WCW) were the enemy for two years. We almost put them out of business- like big time. I understood that what Vince was trying to do was show WWF [up here] and WCW [down here].”
DDP would return to the WWE on a few occasions as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble in 2015, but he never got his moment to shine in the promotion.
Vince was committed to showing the wrestling audience that WWE was still the juggernaut in the business and, by doing so, booked WCW stars as inferior.
WWF Invasion Pay-Per-View
The WCW Invasion of WWF storyline climaxed at the Invasion pay-per-view on July 22th, 2001, where the two companies pitted their stars against each other for brand supremacy.
On the show, DDP and Booker T would join Rhyno and The Dudley Boyz to represent WCW, while “Team WWF” consisted of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and “The Brothers of Destruction,” Kane and The Undertaker.
In a twist, Stone Cold betrayed his team and put Booker T over in the finish.
The next night on Raw, Austin joined The Alliance claiming Vince betrayed him after backing Angle and The Rock.
A Shining Star During the WCW Invasion Storyline
Despite the lackluster storylines and misguided use of former WCW stars, one who thrived during this time was Booker T.
He reminisced on his run during the storyline on his podcast, Reality of Wrestling.
“I won titles in both companies; it’s not like I came over, and they squashed me,” he noted. “As far as my career in WWE, it’s been stellar.”
It may have taken more than a year to pay off, but WWE fans would get the dream match they always wanted.
The nWo debuted in the WWE at No Way Out pay-per-view on February 17th, 2002, to a huge ovation.
Soon after, Hollywood Hulk Hogan stood in the ring with The Rock and challenged him for a match at WrestleMania 18. Icon vs. Icon. The reception these two received was electric. The Rock ended up victorious.
While the WCW Invasion storyline had some positive moments, it ultimately fell flat.
Chris Jericho, a WCW star who made his WWF debut in 1999, admitted on The Kurt Angle Show that he thought the execution wasn’t as sharp as it could have been and that Vince left a lot of money on the table.
“There are a million things [the WWE] could have done,” Jericho stated. “They could have run that Invasion pay-per-view for a year!”
One wonders how things would have been different if the biggest stars like the nWo had immediately arrived to play and if Vince didn’t look at most of the WCW talent as fodder to be fed to his “WWE superstars.”
It could have been so much more than just another angle.
Sadly, it wasn’t.
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