Trying to make sense of this invasion is frying my neurons. To find a way to explain the angle without completely bashing Vince McMahon and the WWF is hard. I hesitate to say that Vince would import talent from two other defunct federations, spend the money and time and effort in an elaborate scheme to job them out, make them seem like complete wastes and fire them just as quickly. Yet, it is hard to draw many more conclusions than that if we look at what has happened with this angle since its inception.
One could say the Invasion officially began with the revelation of Diamond Dallas Page as the mysterious stalker who was harassing the Undertaker and his wife. Page, a former WCW champion, and legitimate star in his own right, came as a total and complete surprise to most, if not all fans. The news of DDP's arrival was so big and so surprising, that some news sources chose to deliberately sit on the story. DDP's arrival had, for all intents and purposes, sounded the opening shot of the WCW invasion.
Once the shock value wore off (oddly enough, during DDP's original promo), it began to set in that Page was a "bad guy", and had been harassing a "good guy". Since before this point, no other real WCW stars had debuted, save a few ill-conceived run-ins during meaningless matches. So DDP not only became synonymous with the WCW to the WWF-heavy crowd, but he also imprinted himself onto Shane, who, at the time was a face. If DDP, who stalked the Undertaker, symbolized the WCW, why should fans like the WCW? This question came to be answered quite quickly. At the following pay per view, King of the Ring, the Undertaker faced Page in an "unsanctioned confrontation", essentially a quote-unquote legitimate fight. Page walked into the arena, fulfilling his promise that he would come to King of the Ring, even if he had to buy a ticket. During the night, painfully dull and stupid "stalker" footage of DDP was shown, with such riveting clips as DDP eating lunch, which DDP reacted to with the zest and fervor of the Rock leaping into a Stunner.
In other words, DDP was becoming a joke. When he started to over-react, when he got squashed by the Undertaker, and simply walked off, he became a joke. He killed all of the WCW's face heat (even later that night, when Booker T ran in on the heel Austin, he got a sizeable pop that began to turn into boos). Since DDP, the symbol thus far of the WCW, was a joke, then WCW was also a joke. Having Shane face off against Angle in a Street Fight that same night probably also played a factor. Angle had already fought and won a hard match against Christian and lost another hard fought match against Edge. The Street Fight raised the bar for the WWF, and has a great argument for the most "hardcore" match in WWF history. Angle also planted the seeds for his eventual face turn on this night. Having Shane, who fans were ready to boo, following the DDP situation (and the numerous run-ins) take on Angle, was essentially what could be called the middle ground between face and heel-dom for both men. Both men were beginning to fight out of their traditional roles without acknowledgement to the fans that "Hey, Angle is kicking ass here" or "Shane really IS a pussy!"
Confusing fans is a very bad thing traditionally. The casual fan cheers for whom they are essentially taught to cheer for, and boos who they are taught to boo. As I alluded to in my last article, if the casual fan is not happy with whomever he is told to boo or cheer, he or she will simply change the channel or forget the show is on. That's the reason they haven't pushed Billy Gunn to the moon, because people would simply stop watching. Now we smarks on the other hand, are idiots enough to write articles and write emails and complain on message boards, rather than letting our feet do the talking. Your average internet-educated smark is going to cheer for who they want to cheer for, and is going to complain when their guy isn't getting a push they feel is deserved (see: Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho 1999 - 2001). Confusing casual fans as to who is a good guy and who is a bad guy (without breaking out the carny lingo), without establishing that "Hey, there's a split coming up here" is bad for business. When it happened with Austin and Rock, even though it made for a great feud, it created a horrible aftermath. Casual fans, who weren't let in on the "joke" behind why Austin all of a sudden turned evil, changed the station at alarming rates. There was no established basis for it and they didn't have any reason to speculate as to it happening. But I digress.
Having Angle and Shane in a match together that transcended the boundaries of what Angle had been shown capable of, as well as having DDP get squashed, combined with the surprise arrival of Booker T created a huge disparity in the fans' minds between what they thought they believed about WCW, and what they realized they believed about WCW. Suddenly, loyal WWF fans realized that "Hey, wait a damn second here, I HATE WCW". Not having Austin drop the strap to either Benoit or Jericho, and having a strong babyface presence aligned wit the WCW hurt it as well.The WCW title match between Buff Bagwell and Booker T completely solidified that.
Between having a horrible main event, the mats and lights changed, Paul Heyman and Jim Ross thrown off commentary and the WCW losing all of its face heat, fans completely rejected the match. It got so bad, that they outright cheered Kurt Angle (heel) and Steve Austin (heel) when they threw them out of the building. This isn't to say that the fans' response to the WCW was at all fair - but the irony cannot be ignored that fans were responding the exact way that the WWF had always trained them to. WCW was evil, and the WWF was good, and all of a sudden, they were trying to shove this inferior product down their throats. What did they expect?
The next week, the WWF, ever resilient as it is, decided to answer the fan's apathy (to insert one of my favorite Simpson's references here: "Fans responded with yawns... Angry yawns!"), when Shane McMahon took on DDP in a street fight that set the precedent for a night of twists and turns for the WCW. First off, this was the match that officially turned WCW heel about two weeks late and pretty much showed that WCW's face run was a botched angle that they could not save. Later that night, when Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam ran in, and signaled the rebirth of ECW, it seemed like a good thing. ECW vs. WCW vs. WWF. As I've said before, 1 on 1 is good, but 1 on 1 on 1 is even better. But rather than leaving greatness alone, they decided to name Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley the owner of ECW.
Hold it right there! ECW owned by a McMahon? In KAYFABE? I know the WWF audiences aren't exactly used to the other federations, but surely word had gotten out that ECW hated the WWF and WCW. Surely the wrestlers would have been able to express their disgust for working with WCW, and having to appear on WWF television. After all, it was WCW who stole talent like Mike Awesome, Raven, and Sandman from ECW, and the WWF grabbed onto Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Taz and Raven. For some of these men, ECW was a temporary stopover, but for others, who were essentially ECW mainstays, they would never reach the same heights that they had reached in their original federations, whether due to gross incompetence/mismanagement or Vince McMahon's apprehension to pushing something he didn't create himself. The most curious question of the Alliance, which, to this day, hasn't been answered, is why ECW wrestlers would ever want to work with the WCW wrestlers to fight against the WWF. Out of the two federations, the WWF had extended them the most courtesy (remember the original ECW invasion?). Neither did the WWF necessarily have the capital or backing of Ted Turner to steal ECW's wrestlers. Why wrestlers who had actively tried to get around the censorship in their weekly program on TNN would all of a sudden sit by the sidelines, or not revolt, or allow themselves to be turned into jokes makes no sense.
But out of the entire universe of talent from ECW and WCW, it's hard to deny that the WCW talent is worse off than the ECW talent. ECW and WCW both have their main-eventers, in Rob Van Dam and Booker T, respectively, but WCW is bogged down much more with WWF talent (now including WWF superstar Kurt Angle) than not. By contrast, the ECW 10 have essentially remained untouched, and haven't languished the way many WCW superstars (many of which have never even seen TV time) have. The fact that the biggest main-eventer in the entire Alliance, Austin, is a WWF wrestler has not escaped the minds of casual fans, and most of the time, the average internet fan will get it mixed up, since he is technically now with the WCW. Before, leaving ship to the other federation was a huge deal, because it meant that whoever left was no longer going to be involved in the show at all. Now it means that we are simply supposed to boo that person.
It is hard to explain why no one has left the Alliance (Except Torrie Wilson, I suppose - She's still listed at WCW.com). Why wrestlers see any incentive to join the Alliance in the first place is puzzling, considering that the Alliance's footing on WWF TV is at all times tenuous at best (or supposedly), and they are incapable of generating revenue to pay wrestlers with. It doesn't make the Alliance seem stable, and the WWF seem instable. Rather, it makes the Alliance, and the heels who join it look stupid, and those who stay with the WWF look smart. That the WWF would allow the Alliance even on television or into the locker room is strange. It was as if there was some secret deal at Invasion that mandated that half of the television time would be allotted to the Alliance -- and if that was the case, why didn't they simply solidify that in words, and make it known that that was the deal at Invasion (which they hyped as the biggest, most earth shattering PPV ever, and when it ended, nothing had changed)? The reasoning for WCW being allowed on television was that Linda McMahon used her divorce as leverage to blackmail Vince into allowing WCW superstars and ECW superstars on TV. But after the divorce angle was aborted, it should have stood to reason that with that weight no longer hanging over Vince's head, he would simply no longer allow ECW/WCW to be on TV. What, did he get used to it? If he did, why does he no longer want them to be on TV anymore? If he is under no contractual obligation to have ECW/WCW wrestlers on his program, and he doesn't want them there, what is the problem? Did Vince forget how to dial 911? If someone broke into your house, and held your wife at gunpoint, you'd probably be very upset (to say the least). You probably want this guy out of your house, and your probably want him dead. But the leverage he has is that he may shoot your wife if you try anything. Then, 5 minutes later, he drops the gun for no apparent reason and doesn't want to pick it up. Are you going to let the guy stay in your house anymore? Are you going to let him threaten your wife anymore? Did you just get used to it? I don't buy McMahon's feigned concern.
The biggest mistake in wrestling has always been to introduce elements that would bring about more questions than answers and never answering them. Making incomprehensible turns, like Triple H aligning with Stone Cold after Wrestlemania, or William Regal and Kurt Angle joining the Alliance, just for the hell of it, is bad booking. Especially when it comes off as something unplanned. In the case of Triple H, Triple H and Austin had just tried to kill each other not one month ago in an absolutely brutal 3 falls match. In the case of William Regal, there was no point in turning him to the Alliance, and his becoming the commissioner of the Alliance also brings up many questions for which there are no answers (i.e. Why does Regal have the power to book matches on WWF programming?). Turning Kurt Angle to the very side that JUST screwed him out of his WWF title, and straight into the arms of the man who pinned him, and the man who knocked him out to make it happen, flies in the face of sanity. I realize that in wrestling, surprise turns sometimes are good, but the good surprise turns have been the ones that had the audience going one way, and turn smacking them in the face with something completely different. Triple H's teased face run around No Mercy last year was a good example of this. But to pass Angle off as a huge babyface who all of a sudden, with no prior motivation, decides to join the Alliance, makes absolutely no sense (I haven't read the Smackdown spoilers, so I have no idea what his explanation is. But something tells me it'll be some sort of "You people weren't cheering me, you were cheering America" or something else of the sort - Of course, I may be wrong). While the WWF has generally been able to avoid having to answer certain plot holes or other spotty booking, the WWF should really be called to task for it's horrible job of running the Invasion. For many people, a match-up between WCW and the WWF was always a dream. But under the WWF-controlled WCW, match-ups like Austin vs. Goldberg and Rock vs. Booker T were either impossible given the current roster, or disappointments. The NWO-like attitude the Invasion probably should have had was given up in favor of having another McMahon family feud. I suspect that the WWF felt that the mere impact of having WCW vs. WCW or WCW vs. WWF would have been enough to satiate fans' appetites until Wrestlemania for more. However, the fact that they felt this could go on autopilot (and are there any indications to the contrary?) shows that they just didn't get it. The WWF looked to be in serious trouble before the formation of the Alliance -- simply a loosely assembled collection of renegade WWF stars and rogue WCW stars was enough, or should have been enough, to run with.
At Invasion, "the very future of sports-entertainment as we know it" was on the line, and the WWF lost. Now, I wish they had won. I think I greatly preferred the sports-entertainment I was getting before the Invasion than this mottled mess. JR should have just come out and said "If the WWF doesn't win Invasion, the shows will get boring, repetitive and annoying, by GAWD!" because that is what's happened. At Survivor Series, the WWF has a chance to redeem themselves. They can book the Alliance losing, collect their losses and call it a day on the whole thing, and run a "true" invasion when more WCW stars are finally released from their AOL/Time-Warner contracts. Or they can choose to drag this on for longer, and risk possibly losing many more people, should WWF Monday Night Raw turn into Alliance Monday Night Raw, rather than facing the consequences of their own poor booking. The question isn't whether the Alliance or the WWF will win Survivor Series, but how long the WWF can survive while continuing to lose viewership and popularity because of their own bad decisions.
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