On March 23rd, 2001 the wrestling world changed forever. The Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW didn't end with a whimper, but a huge bang. When the WWE bought WCW, instead of quietly shuttering the doors and closing shop, Vince McMahon had a simulcast with the final Nitro, gloating about his victory the entire way. The ripples from this day are still being felt in the wrestling world 14 years later.
But what if it went the other way? As Robert De Niro told Al Pacino in Heat - "there's a flip side to that coin." What if RAW opened with Eric Bischoff, or God forbid Vince Russo, gloating about how they just purchased the WWE and that WrestleMania was cancelled?
There are a lot of reasons why this would have been nearly impossible, but let's just assume that AOL/Time Warner went crazy and made Vince a Godfather type offer that couldn't be turned down. WrestleMania X-Seven? Never even happens. WCW's clown car in 2001 (see: New Blood Rising 2000 if you don't believe me) keeps rolling along, with Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo at the helm. And then they're handed the keys to the wrestling kingdom in North America. What could go wrong? Or even, what might have gone right? Could WCW have pulled itself out of the crazy booking death spiral with the help of WWE's loaded talent roster, both behind the camera and in front of it? Here are 10 things that might have went down in this alternate universe.
10 Sting Wrestles The Undertaker Throughout the Decade
Sting's WWE debut in late 2014 immediately sent the wrestling community into a furor over the prospect of seeing Sting vs The Undertaker at the next year's WrestleMania. The WWE had other ideas and set up Sting and Triple H instead.
The Undertaker was a loyal company man in WWE, but there's no reason to believe he wouldn't have immediately joined WCW. And at that time, both were in their late 30s, which is a better prospect than watching two 50 year olds in the ring. It's extremely doubtful WCW would have resisted putting these two at the top of the PPV card early and often.
9 Jeff Jarrett is a 20-time World Champion
Jeff Jarrett was unceremoniously fired on live television right after the purchase. This wasn't a storyline, just Vince McMahon getting some revenge on someone that left WWE on unfriendly terms. It was a little confusing at the time, since Jarrett was still in his prime and wildly popular. However, if WCW had continued on, Jarrett would have kept an iron grip on the top much like HHH and John Cena did throughout the 2000s.
Already a four-time champ at the time of the merger, so it's easy to see Jarrett dominating the top of the card in WCW. He had a good look, legitimate wrestling pedigree, and was getting pretty entertaining on the mic.
8 Vince Russo is Considered the Best Booker of All-time
I'm not going to laud Vince Russo's creative vision(s) here. Full stop. But if this did go down, you'd have to look at it a little objectively and say that Russo is definitely one of the most successful wrestling writers of all time. In this world, he pioneered the Attitude Era, leading all of pro wrestling to new heights. Then he jumped ship to WCW and put the WWE out of business!
You'd have to look at it without the seething hatred toward his weird and gross storylines and celebrity world title reigns. This isn't lauding his on air personality (toxic) or wrestling skills (worse than Great Khali), but just his ability to get asses in the seats.
7 The Cruiserweight Division Lives
The WWE added a light heavyweight division in 1997 and continued the WCW Cruiserweight Title after the Invasion for a few years. However, it's been largely ignored and the title mothballed since 2007.
WCW always held Cruiserweight wrestling and lucha libre up as great showcases for a different style of wrestler. It's true that the WWE has had small guys win the "heavyweight" title, but an actual Cruiserweight division and title would give them more room to shine. If WCW had stayed in business, it's very likely the title would still be going strong and putting on great matches to this day, much like TNA's X Division title.
6 Benoit, Guerrero, and Jericho Get Buried
While Vince McMahon's pettiness has already been documented above, it's also possible that the sword would have cut both ways. The above three left WCW's sinking ship to become bigger stars and World Champions in the WWE. But if WCW ended up the last place standing? It's certainly possible they would have been left out in the cold.
This would rob us of several classic matches over the last 10 years or so, but these three stars would probably have landed on their feet. They would likely have done fine when every indie, not to mention international promotions, lined up to pay them and let them wrestle.
5 Bret Hart Never Shares the Ring With HBK or Vince Again
After the infamous events of Survivor Series 1997, it seemed like it was a safe bet that it was the last time those three would be in the same ring. Until December 2009, when Hart gave HBK a hug and kicked off a (fake) feud with Vince McMahon. It was a moment fans had been clamoring for since that night in 1997.
If WCW survives? It never happens, at least not on TV or PPV. There's no money in it for WCW, unlike WWE, which had been profiting off the Montreal Screwjob for years. Time heals all wounds, but money can definitely help it go along a little faster.
4 Sting vs Triple H Still Happens - at Starrcade 2015
Their match at WrestleMania wasn't a perfect mat classic, but it was still fairly entertaining. And it could still happen in this alternate universe - just at WCW's flagship, Starrcade, instead of the "Showcase of the Immortals."
In this version, Triple H steps into a WCW ring, though it isn't for the first time like Sting (he was briefly with WCW in the early 90s). He would have gone down with the WWE ship, a company man to the end, just like Sting was for WCW. Maybe Triple H is joined by WCW Hall of Famers Scott Hall and Kevin Nash for a mini Kliq reunion.
And last, but not least, this match ends with Triple H tapping out in the middle of the ring to the Scorpion Deathlock.
3 The Rock Leaves Wrestling Sooner, and For Good
In 2001, The Rock was just on the verge of his super-stardom. Immediately after Wrestlemania X-Seven, his first movie premiered, The Mummy Returns, where he played a small role. That would turn into a starring role in Scorpion King, which started the rest. The Rock would still have several more classic matches though - putting over Brock Lesnar, wrestling Austin twice more at WrestleMania, and his more recent matches against Hulk Hogan and John Cena.
But if the WWE went away? The Rock would probably also go away, and for good. It would be much easier to shed his reputation as "just a pro wrestler" if he became a full-time actor. His classic first match with Stone Cold would go down as his last big match performance.
2 John Cena Never Becomes "John Cena"
At the time of the Invasion, Cena was just a blue-chip prospect in WWE's OVW developmental territory. He would probably not get let go due to the hype already surrounding him, but it's completely possible he would have gotten lost in the shuffle and never had the opportunity to get over with his rapper gimmick.
Cena is a polarizing figure, but he's had several great matches and undoubtedly carried the pro wrestling world as WWE's franchise for the last 10 years. It's hard to imagine the wrestling world of the 2000s without John Cena.
1 Would Vince Work for WCW?
Well, if it's hard to imagine wrestling without John Cena, it's downright impossible to imagine it without Vincent Kennedy McMahon. As an announcer, manager, owner, booker, on-air authority figure, and even active wrestler, Vince McMahon has done it all. And it's hard to believe that after WCW's win in the Monday Night Wars, that he would disappear forever.
However, it's hard to believe that he would swallow his pride and work for WCW in any role. Bischoff coming to WWE was a little different - he was always an employee. However, in the end, Vince is too talented of a wrestling mind and performer to stay away too long.