Throughout the majority of the 1990s there was a war being waged in professional wrestling. WWE had been quickly asserting their dominance on the industry and then someone stood up to them in the form of Ted Turner and WCW. In 1995 they launched their very own Monday night show, Nitro, to go head to head with WWE Raw and that's when the war really got kicked up a notch. For an extended period of time WCW were somewhat successful in their plight, beating WWE in the Monday night ratings on a weekly basis for well over a year straight. That couldn't last though and eventually WWE came back, won the war, and bought WCW.
With the purchase of WCW by WWE the invasion angle began. WCW's, and ECW's, best wrestlers arriving on Vince McMahon's doorstep and going head to head with all the top stars in WWE. It should have been the stuff that dreams are made of. Unfortunately there were a number of hurdles to overcome. Many of WCW's top talents had guaranteed contracts and rather than lose them by going to WWE they decided to sit them out and get paid a tonne of money in the process. That meant the invasion wasn't what fans had always imagined and dreamed of. It did have its plus points though and here are ten of them along with ten reasons why the invasion didn't work out.
20 Failed: Putting Stephanie McMahon In Charge Of ECW
There is perhaps no moment more iconic when it comes to the acquisition of WCW by WWE than the one where Shane McMahon revealed live on Raw that he had bought his father's competition from right under Mr McMahon's nose. More on that later. Clearly Stephanie McMahon felt a little left out when it came to this massive angle involving her dad and her brother and wanted a piece of the pie so was given a promotion of her own to run, ECW. You have to have a certain something to be successfully associated with ECW and The Billion Dollar Princess does not have that something. Putting her in charge of pro wrestling's most extreme brand was something of a misstep by the man in charge of it all.
19 Worked: Bringing Bischoff Back
While the announcement that Stephanie McMahon would run ECW was a misguided and lackluster one, the decision to bring Eric Bischoff into the fold was something that shook the very foundations of WWE. For years the man who ran WCW had attempted to put Vince McMahon and his company out of business each and every Monday night, yet the WWE chairman himself brought him in and hugged him live on Raw no less. While Bischoff may have made some questionable decisions towards the end of his tenure with WCW there was no questioning his intelligence and the fact that he was a great on screen character. Clearly there was little-to-no ill will between the two parties either as Bischoff remained with WWE for five years, plus appeared at Raw's 25th anniversary show just last month.
18 Failed: Superstars Switching Sides
The basic premise of the invasion back in 2001 was that there were two sides battling each other. One side was made up of WWE Superstars and the other of wrestlers who had been signed when Vince McMahon acquired WCW and ECW. If it had been kept that cut and dry then maybe the angle would have been more successful than it was. Trouble is like so many things involving WWE, such as the drafts that came in the years that followed the invasion, the lines became blurred. People kept switching sides and allegiances and it became tricky to know who was fighting for which brand. Wrestlers who had once performed for WCW for the briefest time defected to the failed brand purely so they could fill out their side of the roster and it made the whole ordeal extremely convoluted.
17 Worked: The Acquisition Of Stacy Keibler
A big part of WWE's Attitude Era was the Divas Division. Women who weren't necessarily hired for the same reasons that today's female Superstars are in WWE. It was a very different time in pro wrestling and one where females didn't necessarily need to be that good in the ring, they just needed to be physically attractive. While WCW wasn't known for that in quite the same way WWE certainly made quite the acquisition from them during the invasion, Stacy Keibler. Keibler was introduced to the WWE Universe via Shane McMahon and will forever be remembered as one of the most attractive Divas to ever step foot inside a WWE ring. Plus the rivalry that paired her and Torrie Wilson together and pitted them against Trish Stratus and Lita was the perfect representation for the women of WCW versus WWE.
16 Failed: Goldberg's Initial WWE Run
There were a lot of WCW Superstars who were absent during the company's invasion of WWE, something we will cover in greater detail as we get further on in this list. One man who fans at the time were dying to see clash with some of WWE's top stars was Goldberg. That did happen eventually but the timing couldn't have been worse and it just didn't go well at all. Goldberg didn't want to be there and it showed. His first run with WWE lasted a year and even though it involved him having matches with the likes of The Rock, Brock Lesnar and Triple H it simply didn't live up to the hype. Thankfully he returned 13 years later and had a short second run in WWE that is well worth remembering.
15 Worked: The Cruiserweight Division
WCW famously got a lot of things wrong during the late 1990s. They also got a lot of things right though hence their ability to compete with WWE for the time that they did. Weirdly one of the things they got right they did pretty much by accident, the cruiserweight division. When first introduced the thinking behind it was likely well intended but the focus on bigger stars and the nWo basically left the cruiserweights to fend for themselves. That they did and stars like Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio were given a world stage to demonstrate their worth on. WWE tried to copy the idea with the Light Heavyweight Championship but that didn't exactly work out so when the invasion happened they adopted the cruiserweight division and its title as their own.
14 Failed: Going Too Far With The Burial Of WCW
Most promotion owners who managed to acquire their greatest rivals would have likely seen it as a huge opportunity. Talent who were so good that they almost put your company out of business coming across to work with you and your Superstars. If Vince McMahon did view it as that sort of opportunity he kept it well hidden. Even though the very top WCW stars didn't come to WWE straight away Mr McMahon still felt the need to hammer home the point that his company had won out by burying the new stars as often as he possibly could. He did it so much in fact that very few of them managed to ride out the storm and make a successful transition from WCW to WWE.
13 Worked: Rob Van Dam
One man who didn't let Vince McMahon's incessant need to bury former WCW and ECW Superstars affect him was Rob Van Dam. They tried to keep RVD down but the fans simply loved him too much. The former ECW Champion is a pretty unique Superstar and most WWE fans hadn't experienced anything like him before. It was slow going at the beginning of his time with WWE and like others at the time the powers that be attempted to have The Undertaker bury Van Dam, pun very much intended. The two had a match for the Hardcore Championship in 2001 and the trouble is it was a pretty great bout. Apparently even The Deadman enjoyed it and when you win Taker over the rest will surely follow.
12 Failed: DDP And The Undertaker
While we're on the subject of The Undertaker and burials we would be remiss not to mention perhaps the biggest burial The Deadman has ever performed. Diamond Dallas Page's introduction to the WWE Universe was an ill-thought out one. Even though your first feud in WWE being against The Undertaker is a big deal and a huge honor DDP wasn't exactly painted in the best light. The angle involved Page stalking Taker's wife with the tenured WWE guy desperately trying to get his hands on him. At SummerSlam 2001 he finally did and it resulted in one of the most one-sided PPV matches in WWE history. From that point on there was really no coming back for DDP's WWE career. Thankfully his credentials in WCW earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
11 Worked: The Olympic Milk Man
Imitation is apparently the sincerest form of flattery. Like any other realm of entertainment it's something that happens a lot in the pro wrestling industry. Younger wrestlers taking aspects of their heroes' characters and move sets in order to make up their own persona. There are a lot of examples of WWE reusing angles and segments that they have in the past which is always risky and you'd have thought when they did that with the most famous Raw segment of all time there would have been uproar. Somehow though it worked. A few years prior Stone Cold had drenched The Corporation with beer and in the summer of 2001 Kurt Angle did the same thing to Austin and The Alliance except this time he came armed with a milk truck.
10 Failed: Stone Cold Leading The Alliance
Stone Cold Steve Austin had a very up and down 2001. The year began with a Royal Rumble win and a WWE Championship victory a couple of months later at WrestleMania X-Seven. The heel turn that came with that is something Austin claims he wish he had fought not to do to this day. Stone Cold would later align himself with The Alliance during the height of the Invasion angle and become their leader. For some reason throughout that calendar year WWE were desperately trying to make fans hate The Texas Rattlesnake. There are a few stars that you simply can't do that with and Austin is one of them. Stone Cold should have been batting for team WWE for the entirety of the invasion angle.
9 Worked: The Reintroduction Of Ric Flair
Long term fans of WWE would have been looking forward to something very specific when Vince McMahon finally bought WCW, the return of Ric Flair. The Nature Boy had a short but successful run with WWE during the early '90s but soon returned to WCW. Although he didn't show up straight away it didn't take the 16 time World Champion long to come back. At the time though he made it clear to the clout backstage that he didn't want it to be in an in-ring capacity. We thank whoever it was that convinced him to change his mind. Apparently The Undertaker had a hand in it as he really wanted a match with Flair. That began Flair's final run as a pro wrestler (if you don't include TNA which we don't even think the man himself does) and one that was arguably one of the greatest of his career.
8 Failed: Too Many Titles
Superstars obviously weren't the only thing that Vince McMahon got his hands on when he bought out WCW and ECW. A lot of titles came along with both of those companies too. They both had their own World Champions, Tag Team Champions, the aforementioned Cruiserweight Championship, add all of those belts to the already existing ones in WWE then you have yourself an abundance of titles. Yes there were more stars on the roster but the amount of championships those new stars brought along with them greatly out balanced them. Eventually titles began to be unified but during the majority of the invasion angle there were simply too many titles in WWE, just take a look at how many The Dudley Boyz have in their possession in the photo above if you don't believe us. Not all of those were active in WWE at the time but you get the point.
7 Worked: The Rock VS Booker T
The one championship fans did want to see come across from WCW to WWE was the promotion's World Title. Their title at the time was of course the iconic big gold belt that Ric Flair had made famous during the 1980s and seeing that title on WWE television made fans feel like they had fallen into an alternate dimension. What there wasn't enough of during the invasion was special and unique angles, something we expected an abundance of. The Rock and Booker T didn't fail to deliver something special. This was the rivalry that truly felt like one of WWE's best going up against one of WCW's. Plus they both basically had the same finisher. Watching The Rock become WCW Champion on a WWE PPV at SummerSlam 2001 was a truly special moment.
6 Failed: Booker T And Buff Bagwell
One of the other big stars that accepted WWE's buy out of his WCW contract was Buff Bagwell. Unfortunately for Buff and WWE his introduction and run (if you can call it that) with the company wasn't anywhere near as successful as Booker T's wound up being. On his televised WWE debut Bagwell took on Booker for the WCW Championship. The match was terrible and ended as a no contest following interference from Stone Cold and Kurt Angle. The terrible match meant Bagwell was already a waste of time in Vince McMahon's eyes. Following an alleged fake injury and his mother apparently phoning in sick on his behalf Bagwell was released from WWE just a week later. All of this is still disputed by Bagwell to this day, almost 17 years after the fact.
5 Worked: Austin And Booker's Supermarket Skit
Sticking with the Booker T theme we currently have going on, one of the former WCW Champion's most memorable moments in WWE happened away from the ring. Booker had already proved to Vince McMahon that he could work well with WWE's top talent via his program with The Rock and made up for the mishap with Buff Bagwell. That meant a high profile feud with the company's top guy, Stone Cold Steve Austin. That brings us to the memorable moment in question, the segment between the two in the supermarket. On an episode of SmackDown Austin beat up Booker all around an actual supermarket, wrecking the place and creating some terrific television. It's a SmackDown moment that will live on for years to come.
4 Failed: The Return Of The NWO
Despite all the bad that they did towards the end of WCW's run the one thing that fans were desperate to see in WWE was the nWo. If Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall had been the ones heading up The Alliance's invasion then the whole thing could have been very different and frankly had the potential to be one of the best angles in all of pro wrestling history. Unfortunately the three men pictured above all decided that sitting out their massive contracts was the right option for them. It's hard to blame them. They did all eventually return to WWE as the nWo of course but the invasion had ended and it didn't have nearly as much of an impact as it would have had it happened a year earlier.
3 Worked: The Invasion PPV
Even though the invasion technically began before WrestleMania X-Seven that wasn't really when it got under way. The ball really got rolling when a pay per view based purely around the whole invasion took place in July of 2001 and was creatively named Invasion. The card was absolutely stacked. Champions from each promotion going up against each other, matches fans never thought they would see due to the wrestlers competing for different companies, all capped off with a ten man tag team match featuring the best stars from both WWE and WCW. To this day the PPV has the highest buy rate in WWE history (outside of WrestleManias) and now that all shows are streamed live on the WWE Network that record will likely live forever.
2 Failed: The Big Stars Staying At Home
The biggest reason that the invasion angle isn't remembered fondly by most fans is because of something that has been hit upon multiple times during this article, the lack of big stars. In the eyes of the fans WWE buying WCW meant stars like Goldberg and Sting finally competing under the watchful eye of Vince McMahon and stars such as Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash returning from whence they came. That was eventually what happened of course but none of those names showed their faces in WWE until after the invasion angle had come to an end. It's obvious why it would have been better with them as a part of it and perhaps WWE wouldn't have felt the need to make stars switch sides so often.
1 Worked: The Blockbuster Announcement
One thing that WWE got right without a shadow of a doubt when it comes to the invasion angle is the way that they announced it. It's something that couldn't be done nowadays with the presence of social media but in 2001 it was pulled off flawlessly and made for one of the greatest moments in pro wrestling history. Vince McMahon announced live on both Raw and Nitro that he had bought his competition, that he now owned WCW. Enter Shane McMahon. The boss's son appeared on WCW television while Vince was making his announcement to reveal that he had undercut his father and bought WCW in his place. That was the moment that the invasion truly started and began a war between Vince McMahon, his son Shane, and their respective companies.