Here They Come, Yo, Here They Come
RIP Terry Gordy
So here we are, watching the biggest angle in the history of North American wrestling (and arguably the biggest EVER) take shape, and nobody seems to have any idea what'll happen next.
Including the people behind it.
The WCW (now ECW/WCW) invasion has taken about seven unexpected twists and turns since Shane showed up on Nitro on March 26. The first mistake, in my view, was that we didn't see or hear anything from WCW (aside from Shane's vague and infrequent appearances) after that until Lance Storm kicked Perry Saturn in the head in Calgary. I know, it would have spoiled the "surprise" factor somewhat, but it was important to keep the WCW name out there until the time had come to invade, and the WWF could have done a better job of that.
The way I would have done it if I were running WCW is simple: Have Shane crash Raw or Smackdown (or even Heat) each week just to talk to people about how things were going. The stuff where Vince and Regal were punishing wrestlers seen talking to Shane was interesting, and I think more should have been done with it. I also would have started running WCW house shows as soon as I had the champions under contract and enough other guys to run a card, again, to make people aware that the WCW brand is back. A couple of months of this, and then, with WCW firmly on the minds of fans, I launch the invasion. But I'm sitting at home writing this for a REASON.
Anyway, Madison Square Garden - sacred ground for the WWF - was the perfect place to ramp up the invasion. Shane had the balls to bring his troops in to steal a WWF championship and beat up Vince in the WWF's home away from home? In a building that has never held a WCW event? The crowd ate it up with a spoon. This was the big splash WCW needed to make to show people how serious this was.
The nadir for the angle was, obviously, the Booker T-Buff Bagwell WCW Title match the next week in Tacoma. The match was crap, and the crowd knew it, letting loose with a chorus of indifferent boos. Two good things came out of this: 1) the WWF realized that they'd done too good a job of training its fans to hate WCW over the years, and getting them to root for WCW was going to take too long (if it could be done at all); and 2) Bagwell got canned the next week for completely stinking up the joint. (Aside: How is it that it took the WWF two weeks to figure out what nobody in WCW could in 10 or so years?)
So someone cooked up the idea of having ECW jump into the fray. ECW, a brand that WWF fans respected. In story purposes, resurrecting the ECW brand and joining forces with WCW was the beginning of Shane's "whatever it takes to beat Vince" philosophy, and Paul Heyman as the mole helped bring the ECW faction together, as well as posing the question of how long Shane and Heyman had this planned.
In Heyman, ECW had what Shane's WCW didn't - a recognizable leader. Someone the fans knew and respected who could pump up his organization and his cause. (More on this later.) But when the decision was made to turn the invaders heel, Stephanie was brought in as the "new owner" of ECW. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley? Owning ECW? Sacrilege, say the hard-core ECW fans! She's a damn dirty CORPORATE BITCH. Fans hate her, and seeing "ECW Owner" next to her name on chyron will make them hate her even more.
Steph doing this to get back at Vince also makes sense when you remember that Austin, not Triple H, was Vince's boy during the days of the Two-Man Power Trip, and that Austin (Vince's boy) put the blame on Triple H when they lost the tag titles to the Chrises. Steph even said that somehow, she was going to make sure that Austin got what he deserved. Now, obviously she wasn't talking about THIS back then, but it's fun to pretend that she was. Well, for me, anyway.
It also hurts WCW that the "big names" - your Flairs, Goldbergs, Nashes, and Steiners - aren't involved for various reasons. Without question, WCW would look stronger with them in the fold, and in the short term, the ECW element might not have been necessary if WCW had those guys, particularly with Flair as the leader/spokesman of the group. But it doesn't, and you can only work with what you have. Although, part of me thinks that Vince prefers it this way, as the roster he has now gives him a chance to do what he's always done better than WCW - create new stars.
Let's ALSO remember that the WWF is missing three people who certainly would have played major roles in this angle - Rock, Triple H, and Chris Benoit (you could add Jerry Lawler and Eddie Guerrero to that list if you wanted). While Vince already knew Rock wouldn't be around right now, I seriously doubt he thought he'd be buying WCW two weeks before Rock left. HHH would be in the thick of things just because he's HHH, while most fans know of Benoit's past with WCW. All of these things combined have forced the WWF to retcon half of this and make up the other half as they go along, and that's why I'm not as up in arms about the glaring inconsistencies (I haven't even MENTIONED Test's role in this - he and Shane are tight, and he's sore about being fingered as the mole, but will he want to jump and end up under Stephanie's thumb again?) as other people are. A lot of things have happened that nobody expected.
There's another reason I'm a little more willing to forgive some of the plot points in question. Quite simply, this angle HAS to work. And it has to work RIGHT NOW. This isn't like giving a wrestler his first upper-midcard or main-event push, where, if it doesn't work, you can pull him back, tweak a few things, and try again in a few months. This is IT. The WWF is going to have to do everything in its power to make sure it succeeds, because you can only do an invasion once. If something falls flat, you'll now see them try something else immediately.
Because if this fails, all of a sudden, the future doesn't look good for Our Great Sport.
But if it succeeds, it's potentially the greatest thing ever.
PREDICTIONS FOR THE DANCE HALL CRASH
Before we get started, in the interest of spicing things up a bit, I'm going to try something a bunch of us did last year when we were talking about Bash at the Beach 2000 and see how it flies. I want to say that Chris McMurtry's the one who actually did it, but I don't quite remember. What he did was run the matches in TNM 7 (a wrestling simulation program, if you don't know) and threw the results out there as possible outcomes.
You should know that I didn't book any spots or endings. I turned time limits off, and made the main no-DQ, since that's what they're gonna do anyway. I'm taking the star ratings out, though, for two reasons: 1) I don't like star ratings, and 2) if I DID like star ratings, I'd think my TNM criminally under-rated matches.
Seriously, this card has the potential to rock hard. Of all the actual matches (not counting the chick fight and the referee foolishness), any of them could be Match of the Night except for this first one, and even this one won't suck if all four guys come to work:
When Tag Team Champions Collide: Just Send Beer Money vs. Sean O'Haire & Not Lex Luger
Palumbo & O'Haire broke up a Hardyz-Dudleys tag title tables match and cut them to pieces, with O'Haire even dropping a Seanton on Matt. Then the WWF "B-Team" ran out - with Faarooq and Bradshaw leading the charge - and killed them damn dead. I mean KILLED THEM. Butch said the last time he saw a beatdown like that, there were riots afterwards.
The kids got back by ambushing the Acolytes on the following Heat. The APA then won the WWF tag titles, thus, this match. This isn't a unification match, nor should it be.
TNM Says: Acolytes (10:16 clothesline [not from Hell] --> Bradshaw pin) Sean O'Haire & Chuck Palumbo
What I'd Do: Pumped up from rallying the troops, the APA comes out on top.
What They'll Do: It wouldn't surprise me if the WCW champs prevail.
Cruisin' On A Sunday Afternoon: The Ladies Love To Hate X-Pac vs. Billy Kid Man
X-Pac cheated to win the night after King of the Ring and took the Light Heavyweight Title from Jeff Hardy. Kidman beat Gregory Shane Helms two Smackdowns later to win the WCW Cruiserweight Title as X-Pac looked on. Two weeks ago on Heat, X-Pac all but challenged Kidman to a match.
The benefit to this is that at least now, X-Pac's never losing for a REASON. And did you notice on Smackdown, he STILL got booed?
TNM Says: Kidman (9:17 Shooting Star Press --> pin) X-Pac (The crowd WAS solidly against X-Pac, by the way)
What I'd Do: The first major TV move I would have made: Put both titles on the line and put Kidman over.
What They'll Do: X-Pac's probably winning this.
Tag Team Bra & Panties Match: Torrie the Fembot & StacyLegs Keibler vs. Twitch Stratus & Lita
The following is an excerpt from an actual AIM conversation last week:
Radical Rob T: Oh LORD
Well, I can answer it now; it IS both. We all know about Lita and Matt Hardy, and Trish has been putting the moves on Jeff ever since he sort of, but not really, saved her from a Big Show temper tantrum. Lita and Trish still don't like each other very much, but they've put that aside ever since they spotted a visiting Torrie & Stacy try to suck the boys' faces off on Smackdown last week. Nice to see Keibler finally get some standards, but I wonder what Kidman thinks of all this.
TNM Says: Yeah... I made it a Survivor Series-style match. It ended up with Torrie & Stacy keeping all of their clothes. Trish was "stripped" (eliminated) first, then Lita.
What I'd Do: This is a FAMILY website. Jesus. (No, it's not. - CRZ)
What They'll Do: I see Trish and Lita winning.
They're Hardcore?: Chicks Dig Him vs. The Whole Show
When the ECW-WCW merger happened, a GIANT plot hole opened up concerning the Hardcore Title shot Rhyno earned against then-champion Mike Awesome. This was fixed somewhat when Jeff Hardy, with help from Edge & Christian (E&C helping a Hardy Boy? That's, what, the sixth sign?) beat Awesome to bring the strap back to the WWF.
A "clear-eyed" - heh - Rob Van Dam made his presence known on Raw, when he helped the Dudleys beat, then beat down, the Hardyz. One Five Star Lo-Down later, "a message was sent", as they like to say.
Did you know that Jeff has held four different titles this year, and it's JULY?
If there isn't a ladder involved, I will be very upset.
TNM Says: Rob Van Dam (9:35 Five Star Frog Splash --> pin) Jeff Hardy (RVD wins WWF Hardcore Title)
What I'd Do: Jeff retains with help from brother Matt.
What They'll Do: I get the feeling the WWF is losing this title again.
Referee Ruckus: "Blind" Earl Hebner vs. "Cheatin'" Nick Patrick
These two men are directly connected to, in my opinion, the reasons we're even IN this situation in the first place. You all know that Hebner was the referee in Montreal (at the time, Bret's jump was supposed to be the killing blow to the WWF), and Patrick's inability to count was one of a million things that caused Starrcade '97 a month later to fall apart. (starting a downward spiral of WCW suck that eventually led to, well, the WWF BUYING their asses.)
Since we've all come together, Patrick's been blatantly biased against WWF wrestlers, while Hebner's tried to keep things on the level.
You know who should ref this match? JOSH MILTON.
What I'd Do: There should be a "winner refs the main" stipulation here. And Patrick should win.
What They'll Do: HEBNER cheats to win - well, as much as you can cheat in a knock-down drag-out.
Messrs. Photogenic vs. The Poor Man's Kurt Angle & Mike Adequate And Still Not Canadian
On the way to their split, Edge and Christian took offense to Awesome calling himself "the most awesome superstar in wrestling" or something to that effect, so they rescued the WWF Hardcore title. This prompted Storm to call them out as everything wrong with this business, decrying their "offbeat shenanigans." Awesome beat Edge with Storm's help, while Christian beat Storm with Edge's help.
I still don't like the Storm/Awesome pairing. I also don't like the Canadian Maple Leaf.
TNM Says: Storm & Awesome (9:35 Running Awesome Bomb --> Storm pin) Christian & Edge
What I'd Do: The Two True Canadians prevail.
What They'll Do: E&C will win, but in a way that furthers their impending split.
Tazz vs. Tajiri
People who saw Tajiri in ECW know that what we're seeing now in the WWF is really Tajiri Lite. Even aligned with William Regal, the fans have really taken to his antics and his kicks, which will do for him what the German suplexes did for Benoit in May and June. Mark my words.
My guess is that Tazz choked out Tajiri because he didn't rejoin ECW with the others. On Raw, Tajiri made him think he had, but it was all a SWERVE as he kicked him in the back of the head, then rolled him up into the rope-assisted Tarantula.
TNM Says: Tajiri (4:45 savate kick -> pin) Tazz
What I'd Do: I'd put Tazz over only because he and Tajiri have wrestled the same number of matches in 2001.
What They'll Do: They're probably thinking the same thing.
The Inaugural Brawl: Hello My Name Is, Hell On Wheels, Big Red, Olympic Villain Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho vs. Booker T, Horny Dallas Page, Those Soulless Bastard Dudley Boys, and Rhi(y)no
It's the WWF's top five guys against WCW/ECW's top five guys, and I shudder to think who would have been on the WCW team had ECW not been brought into the middle of things.
Somebody will turn in this match, but it won't be Austin.
TNM Says: Team WCW/ECW (D-Von flying legdrop 9:27 -> pin Kane) Team WWF. It's going a LOT longer than THAT, I'll tell you.
What I'd Do: The way they've played this thing from the WCW/ECW standpoint, if they lose here, it's over. And it'd seem lame for them to still be popping up on TV just because they've got the Hardcore title or something. Heels win, no one switches sides.
What They'll Do: Team WCW/ECW wins when ANGLE, angry over the utter lack of respect he's been shown (being left behind to get killed at the end of Smackdown was the last straw), turns on the WWF.
And don't expect Rock to show up.