2001 turned out to be a very tumultuous year for professional wrestling. And no, it did not involve an interestingly named supercomputer. Extreme Championship wrestling, known for it's psychotic wrestlers and hardcore antics, overspent, and didn't have the money to pay the wrestlers anymore. Several were due back pay for months. So Paul Heyman, the owner, did the only thing he could, he filed for bankruptcy. This allowed Vince McMahon to pick up much of the talent of the fallen fed. Heyman himself signed with the WWF1.
Meanwhile, in Ted Turner's World Championship Wreslting, Eric Bischoff had excellent an excellent mid-card in the Cruiserweight division. He noticed how the more fantastic moves combined with the faster action held the attention of the crowd, which is the most important part of professional wrestling. He brought back the cruiserweight tag title which helped to expose those wrestlers more. However, his main event was not pulling its fair share of the work. Big Poppa Pump held the title as a heel, and there was no face that could pull off a good feud with the Genetic Freak. Good wrestlers were wrestling, but the crowd did not care, call is Sean Waltman syndrome.
In the land of Vince McMahon, Stone Cold Steve Austin was in a feud with Triple H. The former stunning one proved to fans that he could still wrestle at the culminating match-up at No Way Out. HHH won the best two out of three falls match cleanly. Stone Cold was still at the heart of the WWF storylines.
Something big was around the corner though, something reeeeeeal big. On March 26, 2001 the world saw the end of an era. That was the night of the final Monday Night Nitro ever! Vince won the war, after it looked real bad for the struggling WWF during the height of the nWo. His competition was defeated. Several people were interested in buying the fallen federation that was WCW. After about two months, Vince, being the only buyer left, spent about $10 million to buy WCW. Eric Bischoff was the head of another group interested, Fusient Media Ventures, but that deal fell through.
On Nitro, the final WCW match ever was Ric Flair and Sting, the two people who arguable made WCW a name in the wrestling business. After their great match, someone appeared on the Titantron (Humungusly giant TV above the entranceway for the wrestlers. That person was Shane McMahon. Shane came on both shows at the same time (Nitro went from 8-10, whereas Raw from 9-11pm) and he announced that Vince couldn't do anything, because he had already bought WCW!
Now, there are two different worlds going on here. The first one is reality. Shane did not purchase WCW, Vince did. In the magical world of professional wrestling, where the women are all surgically enhanced and flailing fists solve all the worlds problems, imagine a George W Vs. Saddam Hell in a Cell match, Shane bought WCW. Instead of doing anything remotely intelligent, like keeping Nitro and running against his father, Shane brought WCW to Vinny Mac. This is actually TNN's fault. TNN, The National Network, as they now want to be called, would not give Vince a timeslot for a WCW program on their network. WCW had a sweet TV deal with TNT and TBS because the fed was owned by Ted Turner, who also owns both networks.
About this time, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit (pronounced Ben-WAH), two of the best, under pushed wrestlers in the WWF, besides some other people, yes, I know, took on the Tag Team of Stone Cold and HHH, the main heels at the time. This match was spectacular, especially the finish. In a botched table spot (a series of set up events that lead in a wrestler or wrestlers being ungraciously slammed through a table) Triple HHH, AKA Paul Levesque, completely tore his quadriceps on his right leg, IIRC. Somehow, with the bottom half of one leg not holding on with much, HHH was able to finish the match! Holy aspirin, Batman! Needless to say, HHH would miss the rest of the year. He'd comeback with an ego rivaling Hulk Hogan and a work ethic rivaling the Big Show in terms of poorness. Did I mention he's boinking Vince's daughter?
Who's boinking who is not the issue here though. The WWF had to scramble to make new storylines, as HHH was a main eventer. The elevated Jericho and Benoit, and the two would both go after Austin and his World Title. At King of the Ring, Austin again managed to escape with his title, despite the run in interference from Booker T. This marked a change in tactics. Originally, WCW wrestlers came into the WWF and kept to themselves. Vince only put them in matches with other WCWers, so that the crowds would recognize them and they could keep their wrestling style. Some of these matches were really good. Others just proved what the fans had known for a long time, like that Buff Bagwell is a horrible wrestler.
Taking a page out of the past, on July 9th, 2001 Paul Heyman came down to the ring with several wrestlers who had wrestled for ECW. He announced that ECW was back in action, and that they'd be going against WWF/WCW to prove who was better. The main event that night was a 20 man Tag Team match, pitting The WWF, The APA, Bob Holly, Billy Gunn, and the Big Show, with WCW, Chris Kanyon, Chuck Palumbo, Sean O'Haire, Mark Jindrak, Shawn Stasiak with Shane-o-Mac against ECW, Tazz, The Dudleyz, Tommy Dreamer, RVD, Justin Credible, Rhyno, Raven, Lance Storm and Mike Awesome. The WWF came down to the ring first, followed by the WCW. Before ECW could make an entrance, team WWF was jumped by team WCW. The WWF did what they do best and laid the smackdown on WCW. Team ECW ran in from the crowd and charged the ring, giving the WWF a whuppin like none other. Team WCW enters the ring and they celebrate with ECW. Vince comes out on the entrance way and asks what in tar nation is going on. Shane tells him that he's smarter than his pops, and announces the beginning of The Alliance. He challenges the best the WWF has to offer at Invasion, the next Pay per view event. Shane did the most horrible thing ever and announced the owner of ECW. No, it wasn't who it was supposed to be. It wasn't Paul Heyman. Instead, it was his silicon-enhanced sister, who's been off and more often on the storylines ever since the Undertaker lead the Ministry of Darkness, some 2-3 years before. I wanted to shoot myself in the head. Stephanie, while nice eye-candy, can be really annoying, I find her voice rather screechy.
As with everything recently the WWF has done, or so it seems, this invasion could have been better. The WWF had gotten its hands on very few big names from the fallen feds. They nabbed Booker T, DDP, and Rob Van Dam, but couldn't get Bill Goldberg or Sting at all, Nash, Hall, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Big Poppa Pump, Scott Steiner would all wait until their fatty contracts with WCW wore out. Booker T wouldn't come into his own until the end of 2001 and 2002, when he was paired with Golddust, making one of the funniest tag-teams ever. DDP's gimmick was nixed just when it was getting good, the positively page gimmick, not him stalking the Undertaker. RVD was kept at bay for the WCW show that would be made, but that never happened.
With economic difficulties looming, and a lack of interest in professional wrestling all-together, The Alliance Angle culminated on November 8, at Survivor Series, another WWF Pay Per View event. This event saw the unification of several duplicate titles. The now defunct Intercontinental title, yes, we know it means the same thing as the World title, being joined with WCW's US Championship, thankfully Edge beat Test to become champion. The Dudley Boyz, the only tag-team to hold the WWF, WCW, and ECW tag straps beat the Hardy Boyz. This match was followed up with an Immunity Battle Royal, meaning whoever wins can't get fired for one year. Test, who lost earlier in the night, would beat up Scotty Too Hotty and take his spot in the rumble. Test, much to the delight of all his testicles, and no one else, won the battle by hitting Billy Gunn with the big boot. This was followed by a 6-woman free for all, which saw the arrival of Jazz, a wrestler from ECW, think Chyna, but black and smaller, without the need to attempt to look "pretty." Trish Stratus would win, later she would get some wrestling skills and actually make this division watchable.
The main event was a winner take all 10 man elimination match. One of the things going on in the storylines coming up to this pay per view was all this talk of who's gonna jump ship. People pointed fingers at Austin, who had begun his WHAT? gimmick at this point, and Kurt Angle, the best wrestler the WWF has ever seen. Team WWF consisted of The Rock, Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane and the Big Slow, err, I mean the Big Show. They went against the Alliance, consisting of Austin, Angle, Booker T, RVD and Shane McMahon, yes, he wrote himself in the main event, he's a McMahon, it happens, too often. Any who, people are eliminated, when you're pinned, you're out, until only Austin and The Rock remain. After the Rock pulled out a Stone Cold Stunner of his very own, Kurt Angle ran down to the ring with a title belt in hand while the ref was busy being "injured." Angle clocked Austin with the belt while he was trying to revive senior official Earl Hebner. Rock hit a rock bottom on Austin and got the win for the WWF, did you honestly think the alliance would win?
The Alliance consisted nothing more of a bad nWo rip-off. Several problems haunted this storyline. First and most importantly, WCW was stupid. During the success of the nWo they signed several names to several large contracts. Now, what would you do? You have 4 months left on a contract for 1 million dollars per year, do you go nullify said contract and go to work in a dangerous industry for less money, or sit at home and get checks in the mail for watching Sally Jesse Raphael? Yeah, the main-eventers from WCW did the same; they sat at home and collected paychecks. Another thing that hurt the gimmick was the fact that Stone Cold Steve Austin was the head of the alliance. This guy, along with the Rock and Mick Foley made the WWF watchable again in the late 90's, so why was he going with the alliance? We know he hates Vince, hell, I hate Vince, but really now. The same goes with Test and Kurt Angle to a lesser extent. Test was just horrible to watch in the ring, although now he's improving with the addition of Stacy Keebler recently. All that was achieved was that the uniqueness of an invasion was gone when two of your best wrestlers jump ship and do more for your enemy than anyone invading does.
I wish I could say that this was the storyline in professional wrestling. This actually turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year.
1: They were the WWF then, so I referred to them as such. Now they are World Wrestling Entertainment
, or simply the WWE
. Remember kids, fear the pandas, for they have good lawyers
not to mention watching the past 5 years of professional wrestling