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The Piledriver Report 05.17.13: The History of Vince McMahon’s Wrestling Empire: Part Seventeen

May 17, 2013 | Posted by RSarnecky

The year 2001 would be the most historical year in wrestling history. Throughout the beginnings of professional wrestling, the industry was made up of territories. One particular promoter ruled over a specific territory, and each promoter agreed to never cross these promotional lines. Occasionally, a promoter would try to cross these lines, but then other promoters would send their best workers to the region in order to eliminate the rebel promoter.

After a disagreement with the NWA Board of Directors over who would succeed Buddy Rogers as the new NWA World Champion, Vince McMahon split away from the NWA to create the independent Northeastern regional group called the World Wide Wrestling Federation. Approximately 20 years later, Vince’s son turned this regional promotion into the first hugely successful national wrestling. One by one, the territorial promotions fell by the wayside. From World Class Championship Wrestling to the American Wrestling Association, they all became just memories to the wrestling public. However, one company was able to withstand the WWF’s national domination. That would be the NWA’s Carolina territory run by Jim Crockett. After a buyout by Ted Turner, this promotion was renamed World Championship Wrestling.

THE END OF THE WARS

In the late nineties, World Championship Wrestling would battle the World Wrestling Federation for the crown as the #1 wrestling promotion in the United States. While they were fighting for the top spot, Paul Heyman’s cult wrestling promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling became wrestling’s #3 major promotion. The fans haven’t had a true third brand since the AWA died years earlier. ECW played a huge role in the WWF/WCW war. Both companies raided ECW for talent, and both organizations stole concepts that first laid their foundation in ECW. After years of trying to survive the WWF and WCW’s “invasion,” ECW could no longer compete. On January 14th, 2001, Extreme Championship Wrestling held its final wrestling card in Pine Bluff, AR.

Over the years, Extreme Championship Wrestling was the home to the Dudley Boyz, Shane Douglas, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Taz, Raven, Stevie Richards, Cactus Jack, Chris Jericho, the Sandman, Mickey Whipwreck, the Eliminators, the Public Enemy, Chris Candido, Lance Storm, Bam Bam Bigelow, Al Snow, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, the Pitbulls, Justin Credible, Konnan, Mikey Whipwreck, New Jack, Psicosis, Rey Mysterio, Jr., Rhino, Terry Funk, and Tommy Dreamer. Most of those wrestlers would eventually leave the company for the higher and more stable pay of the WWF and WCW. The WWF and WCW’s acquisition mode during the “war” led to the contracts of wrestlers to skyrocket. In order to keep wrestlers in ECW, Paul Heyman had to compete with the big dollars that the big two were offering. This helped to lead ECW into bankruptcy. Along the way to bankruptcy, Paul Heyman started to bounce checks. With no income coming in, most of the wrestlers who remained loyal to Paul Heyman had to leave ECW for either the WWF or WCW. When the doors closed on that final day, the Pine Bluff card didn’t exactly host a show full of “main events in any arena in the country” as Gorilla Monsoon would say. The matches on the card included: Michael Shane pinned Oz. The Prodigy pinned Phoenix. Christian York & Joey Matthews defeated The FBI. Jack Victory pinned C.W. Anderson in a Street Fight Match. Yoshihiro Tajiri pinned Super Crazy. Rhino pinned Spike Dudley to retain the ECW Unified Championship. Tommy Dreamer & Danny Doring defeated Julio Dinero & E.Z. Money. Justin Credible pinned The Sandman.

After ECW was gone from the wrestling landscape, the battle for national wrestling dominance was down to two groups. The same two groups that had fought tooth and nail against each other since the McMahon wrestling expansion in the eighties. After a back and forth wrestling war, the year 2001 would provide the final victor between the WWF and WCW.

In 2000, Time Warner, which owned WCW thanks to the purchase of Ted Turner’s media empire in 1996, merged with America On-Line. Where the Turner/Time Warner partnership allowed Ted Turner to protect his pet wrestling promotion, the AOL merger did not. Ted Turner lost the power that he had before the merger with AOL. While Turner always remembered the professional wrestling helped to build his empire, the folks at AOL had no such loyalties. All they saw was the bottom line. The bottom line was that in all its years under Ted Turner’s ownership, World Championship Wrestling was only profitable for three short years during the Monday Night Wars. To make matters worse, in the year 2000, WCW was losing millions of dollars. AOL decided that it was time to sell off Ted Turner’s baby. Eric Bischoff tried to get a group together to purchase WCW. Next, Vince McMahon offered to buy the company. However, Viacom, the parent company of The National Network (the WWF’s broadcast partner), had exclusive rights to WWFE owned broadcasts. They told Vince McMahon that they would not allow WCW to be broadcast on any Turner station. Vince had to back out of any deal at that time. Eric Bischoff came back with a group called Fusient Media Ventures to purchase WCW once and for all. It appeared that Eric Bischoff would now own the company that he led to its greatest heights in the late nineties. However, an unexpected curveball would be thrown at Bischoff’s direction. Turner network head executive Jamie Kellner announced that professional wrestling would be cancelled from all of the Turner television networks. Since the deal with Eric Bischoff was contingent on the Turner networks continuing to air WCW programs, Fusient Media Ventures was forced to pull out of their deal with AOL. Who would buy WCW, and on which network would they air? That question would be answered shortly.

On January 21st, the WWF presented the Royal Rumble from the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. The Dudley Boyz defeated WWF Tag Team Champions Edge & Christian to win the tag team titles. Chris Jericho defeated WWF IC Champion Chris Benoit in a ladder match to win the Intercontinental title. WWF Women’s Champion Ivory pinned Chyna. WWF World Champion Kurt Angle pinned Triple H. Steve Austin won the 30-man Royal Rumble match.

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE

The final pay per view before WrestleMania X-Seven was held on February 25th from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV. The Big Show pinned WWF Hardcore Champion Raven to win the Hardcore title. WWF IC Champion Chris Jericho defeated Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and X-Pac. Stephanie McMahon pinned Trish Stratus. Triple H defeated Steve Austin in a Best 2 out of 3 falls match. In fall #1, Austin pinned Triple H in a regular match. In fall #2, Triple H pinned Austin. In fall #3, Triple H pinned Austin in a steel cage match. This match was named Pro Wrestling Torch’s Match of the Year. Steven Richards pinned Jerry Lawler. Due to pre-match stipulations, the Kat was forced to join Right to Censor; had Lawler won, the Kat would have stripped down to nothing. WWF Tag Team Champions the Dudley Boyz defeated Edge & Christian and the Undertaker & Kane in a table match. The Rock pinned WWF World Champion Kurt Angle to win the title.

Despite the Kat being put into the Right to Censor group, the WWF decided to release her two days later. Jerry Lawler, who was her real-life boyfriend at the time, decided to quit the WWF due to her release. The WWF had less than a week to find a new announcer when Monday Night RAW would air. Lawler’s replacement was very surprising, and also proved that Extreme Championship Wrestling was officially dead. On March 5th, former ECW owner, Paul Heyman made his RAW debut as a commentator on RAW. While controversial from the beginning with his line regarding coming to RAW to see titillating action, “but instead, we’re going to see bush” as Trish Stratus was about to get naked in the ring, he was a refreshing change. When Lawler announces on RAW, Ross is the straight man, with “The King” playing the cartoon character screaming about puppies. However, Paul Heyman was a straight man, so the team of Heyman-Ross gave the broadcasts sound more like a sports broadcast then an entertainment show.

As shocking as Paul Heyman’s WWF debut was to many observers, nothing would be as surprising as the WWF’s next move. On Friday, March 23rd, the World Wrestling Federation purchased the trademarks, archived footage, and several contracts of wrestlers of World Championship Wrestling from AOL-Time Warner for $3-$7million, depending on the source. Since many fans didn’t heard the news, they were stunned when they turned on TNT on March 26th to find Vince McMahon appear in the opening segment.

The night was originally billed as Nitro: Night of Champions, as every WCW title was to be defended. This stipulation was made the previous week when Eric Bischoff called into the show to announce the concept. At the point, it appeared eminent that Eric Bischoff was buying the company. However, later that week, the Jamie Keelner decision was made, and Vince McMahon swooped in to purchase WCW’s remains.

The final Nitro took place at Club La Vela in Panama City, Florida. The announcers were Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson. The show opened with Vince McMahon talking about purchasing World Championship Wrestling. He let the fans know that his decision on what he would do with WCW will be announced later in the show. RAW and Nitro were both simulcast in each other’s building. For the viewer’s at home watching Nitro, they would cut to RAW. For the fans watching RAW, they would cut into Nitro. It was a crazy, strange, and historical night. Ric Flair delivered an emotional speech where he talked about World Championship Wrestling, and said that it should go out with Ric Flair against his greatest opponent, Sting. The match results of the evening included: WCW U.S. Champion Booker T pinned WCW World Champion Scott Steiner to win the WCW World title and unifying the two belts. Rey Mysterio, Jr. & Billy Kidman defeated Yang & Kaz Hayashi and Shannon Moore & Evan Karagias in a three-way match to earn a WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Title Shot later in the show. WCW Cruiserweight Champion Shane Helms pinned Chavo Guerrero, Jr. WCW World Tag Team Champions Sean O’Haire & Chuck Palumbo defeated Lance Storm & Mike Awesome. Shawn Stasiak pinned Bam Bam Bigelow. Billy Kidman & Rey Mysterio, Jr. defeated WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions Kid Romeo & Elix Skipper to win the titles. Sting defeated Ric Flair in the final match in WCW history. After the main event, Vince McMahon appeared on Nitro’s big screen. He was gloating about inviting Ted Turner to WrestleMania to officially sign the contract for the WWF’s purchase of WCW. However, Shane McMahon walked into Nitro’s ring. He told his father that the name on the contract does read “McMahon.” However, it was signed Shane McMahon, not Vince McMahon. Shane had bought WCW under his father’s nose. Throughout the history of WCW (and the NWA) on the Turner networks, fans have watched wrestlers like Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, Dusty Rhoades, Magnum TA, Nikita Koloff, Sting, Terry Funk, the Road Warriors, the Midnight Express, the Rock n’ Roll Express, Barry Windham, Tully Blanchard, and Arn Anderson. However, on this night, the final image that these fans will have of the company that they have watched for decades was of Shane McMahon telling off the leader of the WWF (and his father), Vince McMahon.

April Fool’s Day (April 1st) was the date of WrestleMania X-Seven. Taking place from the AstroDome in Houston, TX, this WrestleMania is widely considered as the greatest WrestleMania in the history of the supercard. The event is the highest grossing in the company’s history and the highest grossing professional wrestling pay-per-view ever. A record-breaking attendance for the Reliant Astrodome of 67,925 resulted in gross receipts of $3.5 million. With ECW and WCW recently out of business, WrestleMania X-Seven is believed to be the culmination of wrestling’s “Attitude Era.”

WWF IC Champion Chris Jericho pinned William. Tazz & the Acolytes defeated Bull Buchanon, the Goodfather, & Val Venis. Kane defeated WWF Hardcore Champion Raven and the Big Show to win the title. Eddie Guerrero pinned WWF European Champion Test to win the European title. Kurt Angle pinned Chris Benoit. Chyna pinned WWF Women’s Champion Ivory to win the Women’s title. Shane McMahon pinned Vince McMahon. Prior to the bout, Shane acknowledged the WCW stars in the skybox, among them Stacy Keibler, Sean O’Haire, Lance Storm, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Hugh Morrus, Mark Jindrak, Mike Awesome, and Shawn Stasiak. Edge & Christian defeated WWF Tag Team Champions the Dudley Boyz and Matt & Jeff Hardy in TLC 2 to win the tag titles. This match was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Match of the Year. The Iron Sheik won the gimmick battle royal last eliminating Hillbilly Jim. Other participants in the battle royal included: the Bushwhackers, Duke Drose, Earthquake, the Goon, Doink the Clown, Kamala, Kimchee (Steve Lombardi), Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael Hayes, One Man Gang, the Gobbeldy Gooker (Hector Guerrero), Tugboat, Brother Love, & Sgt. Slaughter. Gene Okerlund & Bobby Heenan did guest commentary for the bout. The Undertaker pinned Triple H. Steve Austin pinned WWF World Champion The Rock to win the title in a No DQ match after Austin took a steel chair from Vince McMahon, who came to the ring and interfered on behalf of Austin. Vince assaulted The Rock with a chairshot to the head followed by 16 chairshots to the back, ribs, and legs. After the bout, Austin and McMahon shook hands.

AUSTIN-HELMSLEY ALLIANCE

On the next night’s RAW, Steve Austin continued his heel turn by not only joining forces with Vince McMahon, but also with Triple H. On that week’s SmackDown!, Triple H beat Chris Jericho for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. On the April 10th taping of SmackDown!, Triple H would lose the title to Jeff Hardy. However, Triple H would regain the gold on the next RAW. Steve Austin and Triple H had both major singles titles, but they hungered for more. They were scheduled to fight for the WWF Tag Team Championships at Backlash in a match where their World and Intercontinental titles would also be at stake.

Backlash took place on April 29th at the All-State Arena in Chicago, IL. X-Pac, Justin Credible, & Albert defeated Bubba Ray, D-Von, & Spike Dudley. WWF Hardcore Champion Rhyno pinned Raven. William Regal pinned Chris Jericho. Chris Benoit defeated Kurt Angle in a 30-minute Ultimate Submission match, 4 falls to 3 in overtime. Shane McMahon defeated the Big Show in a Last Man Standing match. WWF European Champion Matt Hardy defeated Christian and Eddie Guerrero. WWF World Champion Steve Austin & WWF IC Champion Triple H defeated WWF Tag Team Champions the Undertaker & Kane to win the tag titles.

Like most super teams in wrestling, the Austin-Helmsley duo had egos that were too big to last together as a unit. The seeds of dissention started to weed its ugly head at Judgement Day on May 20th at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA. William Regal pinned Rikishi. Kurt Angle defeated Chris Benoit in a Best 2 out of 3 falls match to regain his Olympic gold medals. WWF Hardcore Champion Rhyno defeated the Big Show and Test. WWF Women’s Champion Chyna pinned Lita. Late in the bout, Eddie Guerrero came out to watch the contest. After the match, the participants hugged out of respect as it was Chyna’s last appearance in the WWF. Kane pinned WWF IC Champion & WWF Tag Team Champion Triple H in a chain match to win the title after Triple H’s tag team championship partner, WWF World Champion Steve Austin, interfered and accidentally hit the champion over the head with a steel chair. Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit defeated Edge & Christian to win Tag Team Turmoil over the Acolytes, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn, the Dudley Boyz, X-Pac & Justin Credible, and Jeff Hardy & WWF European Champion Matt Hardy. Due to pre-match stipulations, Benoit & Jericho became the #1 contenders to the tag team titles.
WWF World Champion & WWF Tag Team Champion Steve Austin pinned the Undertaker in a no holds barred match after Austin’s tag team partner, Triple H, interfered and hit the challenger in the head with the sledgehammer as Taker attempted the powerbomb on Austin.

It was quickly becoming apparent that Austin and Triple H would be splitting up soon to feud at SummerSlam. However, their split would take place a lot sooner then anticipated. On the May 21st edition of Monday Night RAW, Triple H and Steve Austin put their titles on the line against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. The two Chris’ won the tag team titles after Triple H accidentally hit his partner in the stomach with a sledgehammer, meaning to hit Jericho who had Austin covered after hitting the Lionsault. While this action would have surely helped to create a rift between the two partners, the fans would never get to see what would transpire in a continuing storyline. Late in the bout, Triple H tore his quadriceps muscle when he broke Jericho’s Walls of Jericho that was applied on Austin. As a result of the injury, Triple H was on the DL until January 2002.

Monday Night RAW’s June 4th telecast featured the first Qualifying Matches for the King of the Ring tournament. Jeff Hardy pinned Matt Hardy. Rhyno pinned Tazz. On SmackDown!, Kurt Angle pinned Hardcore Holly and Edge pinned Test. The June 11th RAW helped to further along the build-up for the King of the Ring. Linda McMahon announced that Steve Austin would defend the WWF World Title against both Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho at the King of the Ring in a triple threat match. Later that evening, Kurt Angle defeated WWF Tag Team Champion Chris Benoit in a steel cage match by escaping over the top after Steve Austin, slammed the cage door into Benoit’s face as Benoit attempted to leave. After the bout, Austin brutally attacked Benoit with approximately 20 chair shots to the ribs, back, legs, and chest. In the King of the Ring Qualifying Matches, Christian pinned WWF IC Champion Kane and Perry Saturn pinned Steve Blackman. The King of the Ring Qualifying Matches continued on SmackDown!. The Big Show pinned Raven. Tajiri pinned Crash Holly.

WCW INVADES

The WWF concluded their build-up for the King of the Ring during the last seven days before the pay per view. On RAW, Diamond Dallas Page made his WWF debut as he revealed himself to be the Undertaker and his wife Sara’s stalker. He told the Undertaker at he would see him at the King of the Ring. In the King of the Ring Quarter-Final Matches, Kurt Angle defeated Jeff Hardy, Rhyno pinned Tajiri, Edge pinned Perry Saturn, and Christian pinned the Big Show.

The 2001 King of the Ring pay per view took place on June 24th at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ. To open the show, Diamond Dallas Page challenged the Undertaker to a match the next night where he would be the first WCW wrestler to step foot in Madison Square Garden, and beat the Undertaker. Later in the show, Page cut a second in-ring interview. After having to watch footage of himself throughout the show, he called out the Undertaker. Moments later, footage of DDP arriving to the arena was shown with the camera person turning the lens around to show it was Sara, with her then saying it was time for DDP to become famous. The Undertaker then came out and dominated a brawl over DDP for several minutes until Page eventually escaped through the crowd. In the King of the Ring Semi-Final Matches: Kurt Angle pinned Christian and Edge pinned Rhyno. WWF Tag Team Champions the Dudley Boyz defeated Spike Dudley & WWF IC Champion Kane. In the King of the Ring Finals, Edge pinned Kurt Angle. WWF Light Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy pinned X-Pac. Kurt Angle pinned Shane McMahon in a streetfight. WWF World Champion Steve Austin defeated Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit by pinning Benoit when Benoit seemingly knocked himself out after dropping Jericho with a back suplex off the top. Late in the bout, WCW World Champion Booker T came out of the crowd to attack Austin on the floor before putting him through the Spanish announce table and leaving back through the crowd when security came down to grab him. Due to pre-match stipulations, if Austin lost the match his partnership with Vince McMahon would be over. Rumors going into the match said that if Benoit or Jericho were to win they would jump to WCW with the championship. This was Chris Benoit’s last match for 13 months as he underwent neck surgery. This was also Booker T’s surprise debut.

The feud between Vince’s WWF and Shane’s “WCW” was about to begin. On RAW, Shane McMahon introduced Booker T to the crowd at WWF NY restaurant. Booker T challenged Steve Austin. Austin agreed to the challenge and brought Kurt Angle with him to the restaurant. By the time they arrived, Booker and Shane had already left the building. Moments later, Shane McMahon came ringside to interrupt Vince McMahon’s promo. He distracted Vince long enough for Booker T to come into the ring from behind. Vince threw a punch at Booker. However, Booker responded with a flurry of blows, ending with the scissors kick. Seconds later, the Acolytes, Kaientai, Raven, Justin Credible, K-Kwick, Dean Malenko, and several others ran to the ring as Booker escaped through the crowd. Earlier in the show, Diamond Dallas Page knocked the Undertaker out with a chair shot on the ramp, and the grabbed a lock of Sara’s hair before leaving the arena.

The “invasion” continued on SmackDown!. Torrie Wilson debuted as she asked Vince McMahon for a job.
Vince opened the show saying that Madison Square Garden was soiled be the presence of WCW talent on the previous night’s RAW. Linda McMahon came out to ask Vince to let Shane feature WCW wrestlers on RAW and SmackDown! the next week. He wasn’t going for the idea until Linda suggested that the WWF face WCW on the July pay per view. Albert pinned WWF IC Champion Kane to win the title in a No DQ match after Diamond Dallas Page came through the audience and hit the Diamond Cutter on the champion before leaving through the crowd. WWF Tag Team Champions the Dudley Boyz fought Matt & Jeff Hardy to a no contest in a tables match when WCW Tag Team Champion Sean O’Haire & Chuck Palumbo interfered, attacking both teams. After the bout, O’Haire & Palumbo were attacked by Rhyno, the Acolytes, Kaientai, the Goodfather, Bull Buchanon, Raven, K-Kwick, Hardcore & Crash Holly when they left the ring and attempted to escape through the crowd before being thrown in the ring and sent through tables. At the end of the show, Tazz confronted Steve Austin in the ring, demanding he apologize to Michael Cole for attacking him the previous week. Moments later, Austin attacked Tazz before WCW World Champion Booker T jumped Austin from behind and escaped through the crowd, with several WWF stars chasing after him. He escaped in Shane McMahon’s limo which was waiting outside the arena. On Sunday Night Heat, taped the same night, the Acolytes were attacked by Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo.

On the July 2nd, RAW featured WCW wrestlers competing in the squared circle for the first time. In a segment with Vince McMahon, Steve Austin, and Kurt Angle, the two wrestlers argued, with each man taking turns hugging Vince McMahon to prove that it was the other man who didn’t belong. Moments later, Shane McMahon interrupted, challenged Vince to the Inaugural Brawl at Invasion. The Undertaker defeated WWF IC Champion Albert via disqualification when Diamond Dallas Page interfered. WCW World Champion Booker T fought Buff Bagwell to a no contest when Steve Austin and Kurt Angle interfered. Austin, Angle, and Bagwell triple teamed Booker all the way backstage before throwing him out of the arena. Moments thereafter, Austin and Angle jumped Bagwell and threw him out of the arena.
On SmackDown!, Torrie Wilson and Vince McMahon discussed Torrie getting a job in the WWF throughout the show. Steve Austin and Kurt Angle were constantly interrupting the two all night. As the closing segment of the show, Linda McMahon caught Vince in a compromising position of having his pants down to his knees. In the first cruiserweight match on SmackDown!, Billy Kidman pinned WCW Cruiserweight Champion Gregory Helms to win the title. It was both wrestlers debut on WWF TV. Arn Anderson & Scott Hudson did commentary for the bout. WCW World Champion Booker T pinned Diamond Dallas Page after the Undertaker came ringside. After the match, Taker chased DDP backstage while Booker fought off an interfering Kurt Angle, hitting him in the head with the WCW World Title belt. Moments later, Shane McMahon tried to stop Kanyon, Stasiak, Storm, Awesome, Bagwell, Chavo Guerrero Jr., and DDP from beating down on the Undertaker. In an apparent setup outside, was attacked himself. As the show came to a close, Booker T was also jumped outside the arena.

While the WCW/WWF feud was going strong in the ring, and the fans were excited, the war was missing something. The ingredient that was missing was Ric Flair, Sting, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Scott Steiner, and Bill Goldberg. In other words, aside from Booker T, all of the major players in WCW were sitting home on their couches collecting a fat paycheck from AOL/Time Warner. To try and rectify the situation, the WWF decided to bring in the other wrestling federation to go under that year. That would be ECW. On the July 9th RAW, Paul Heyman delivered a powerful promo, in which he talked about ECW being the forgotten causality in the Monday Night Wars. That set up a match later in the night where the WWF teamed with WCW to take on ECW. Billy Gunn, the Big Show, Hardcore Holly, WWF Tag Team Champions the Acolytes (Team WWF), Kanyon, Shawn Stasiak, Mark Jindrak, & WCW Tag Team Champions Sean O’Haire & Chuck Palumbo (w/ Shane McMahon) (Team WCW) fought Tazz, the Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam, Justin Credible, Rhyno, Lance Storm, Raven, & WWF Hardcore Champion Mike Awesome (Team ECW) to a no contest when the WCW contingent joined forces with the ECW team in attacking the WWF team. What ever life was injected into the invasion storyline was quickly put on life support, as Shane McMahon announced that it was a set up and introduced the new owner of ECW – Stephanie McMahon. The invasion was no longer about the WWF, WCW, and ECW. It was just another extension of McMahon vs. McMahon. Despite not having the main event players of WCW, the feud could have survived as something extremely memorable if you had the WWF led by Vince, WCW led by Bischoff (who would eventually sign with the WWF anyways), and ECW led by Paul Heyman.

On SmackDown!, Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Paul Heyman cut an in-ring promo on the WWF, with the ‘Alliance’ roster in the ring. To try and cheer up a depressed Vince McMahon, Steve Austin sang ‘Kum-Ba-Ya’ and ‘We Are the Champions.’ Kurt Angle countered with ‘Jimmy Crack Corn.’ Moments later, Vince called Austin out to the ring in a plea to get the old ‘Stone Cold’ back but Austin shook his head and walked away. In the main event, The Undertaker & Kurt Angle fought Shane McMahon & Diamond Dallas Page to a no contest when a number of WCW and ECW wrestlers attacked Taker and Angle, with Chris Jericho and Kane attempting to make the save but also getting beaten down.

The July 16th RAW featured a series of “inter-promotional” matches. WCW Tag Team Champion Chuck Palumbo pinned WWF Tag Team Champion Farooq. Mike Awesome pinned Edge. Tazz defeated William Regal via disqualification when Tajiri interfered. WCW World Champion Booker T pinned Chris Jericho. Kurt Angle defeated Raven via submission in a hardcore match. After the match, Angle fended off several WCW wrestlers with a chair. The Dudley Boyz defeated Matt & Jeff Hardy. Trish Stratus pinned Terri. After the match, Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson attacked Trish before Lita made the save.
The Undertaker & Kane fought Diamond Dallas Page & Rhyno to a no contest when the Dudley Boyz, Booker T, Chris Jericho, Matt & Jeff Hardy, the Acolytes, Kurt Angle, Lance Storm, Tommy Dreamer, Shawn O’Haire, Chuck Palumbo, Rob Van Dam, and several others interfered. Steve Austin arrived outside the arena and fought through several Alliance wrestlers until making his way to the ring and helping to rid the ring of WCW and ECW stars. The show ended with Team WWF (Austin, Kane, Taker, Jericho, & Angle) alone in the ring.

On SmackDown!, Vince McMahon sang the theme song to “Welcome Back, Kotter” backstage in honor of the ‘old’ Stone Cold persona returning. Moments later, Austin offered to tune up the guitar and then broke it over McMahon’s head. In matches on the show, Diamond Dallas Page defeated Chris Jericho via disqualification when Jericho hit WCW referee Nick Patrick with a forearm. Christian pinned Lance Storm. The Undertaker, Kane, & Tajiri defeated Tazz & the Dudley Boyz. WWF Tag Team Champion Bradshaw pinned WCW Tag Team Champion Sean O’Haire. Torrie Wilson defeated Trish Stratus in an arm wrestling contest when Stacy interfered after WCW referee Nick Patrick attacked WWF referee Earl Hebner. Rob Van Dam & WCW Cruiserweight Champion Billy Kidman defeated WWF Hardcore Champion Jeff Hardy & WWF Light Heavyweight Champion X-Pac. WWF World Champion Steve Austin & Kurt Angle fought WCW World Champion Booker T & Rhyno to a no contest when Austin left ringside to find Debra backstage, after DDP appeared on the Ovaltron claiming to have kidnapped her, and Angle was beaten down by his opponents and the Dudley Boyz. Despite efforts from Kane, Jericho, the Undertaker, and the Acolytes to make the save.

The WWF/WCW/ECW pay per view InVasion took place on July 22nd at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, OH. Edge & Christian defeated Mike Awesome & Lance Storm. Earl Hebner pinned Nick Patrick. WWF Tag Team Champions the Acolytes defeated WCW Tag Team Champions Sean O’Haire & Chuck Palumbo in a non-title match. WCW Cruiserweight Champion Billy Kidman pinned WWF Light Heavyweight Champion X-Pac in a non-title match. Raven pinned William Regal. WWF IC Champion Albert, the Big Show, & Billy Gunn defeated Hugh Morrus, Shawn Stasiak, & Chris Kanyon. Tajiri pinned Tazz. Rob Van Dam pinned WWF Hardcore Champion Jeff Hardy to win the title. Lita & Trish Stratus defeated Torrie Wilson & Stacy Keibler in a Bra & Panties match. WCW World Champion Booker T, Rhyno, Diamond Dallas Page, & the Dudley Boyz (w/ Shane & Stephanie McMahon) defeated WWF World Champion Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, the Undertaker, & Kane (w/ Vince McMahon) when Austin turned on his teammates and hit the Stunner on Angle, with Booker T scoring the pinfall.

To counter Austin’s backstab against the WWF, Vince McMahon announced on the following night’s RAW that The Rock’s suspension has been lifted. SmackDown! featured Kurt Angle challenged WWF World Champion Steve Austin during an in-ring promo from the Alliance. Steve Austin rejected the offer but said Booker T would be happy to defend his title instead. During the show, WCW World / US Champion Booker T handed the US title over to Kanyon. Kurt Angle defeated WCW World Champion Booker T via submission with the ankle lock to win the title, despite Steve Austin interfering and hitting the Stunner on Angle after a Harlem side kick from the champion accidentally knocked out the referee. Late in the bout, members of the Alliance came ringside to help save Booker’s title only for a WWF contingent to make the save, with both groups brawling around ringside.

Kurt Angle wouldn’t keep the WCW World Championship for long. On the next RAW, Booker T regained the belt in a No DQ match after Austin’s interference. The Rock also made his return to the WWF, and said that he would remain loyal to the WWF.

August 19th was the date for SummerSlam, which was held at the Compaq Center in San Jose, CA. Edge pinned WWF IC Champion Lance Storm to win the title. Test & the Dudley Boyz defeated Spike Dudley & the Acolytes when Test pinned Bradshaw. WCW Cruiserweight Champion X-Pac pinned WWF Light Heavyweight Champion Tajiri to unify the titles. Chris Jericho defeated Rhyno via submission. Rob Van Dam defeated WWF Hardcore Champion Jeff Hardy in a ladder match to win the title. WCW Tag Team Champions the Undertaker & Kane defeated WWF Tag Team Champions Diamond Dallas Page & WCW US Champion Kanyon in a steel cage match to unify the tag titles. Kurt Angle defeated WWF World Champion Steve Austin via disqualification. The Rock pinned WCW World Champion Booker T to win the title with the Rock Bottom after Booker landed the scissors kick and performed the Spinaroonie. After the contest, the WWF lockerroom was shown celebrating The Rock’s title win backstage.

Despite not winning the WWF belt at SummerSlam, Kurt Angle continued his feud with Steve Austin. On September 9th’s edition of RAW, in-ring promo by Stephanie McMahon presented a brand new black pickup truck to Steve Austin. Austin went backstage to take a look at the truck and was attacked by Kurt Angle, who then drove off with Austin in the pickup. Angle was later shown threatening to tie Austin to a cement brick and throw him off a bridge into a river. After intimidating a blindfolded Austin for several minutes, Austin agreed to give Angle a rematch for the title at Unforgiven. Angle then shoved Austin backwards into a kiddie pool, with Austin thinking he had fallen into the river.

Unforgiven took place on September 23rd at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. WWF Tag Team Champions the Dudley Boyz defeated the Big Show & Spike Dudley, Lance Storm & WWF European Champion the Hurricane, and Matt & Jeff Hardy in an elimination match. Perry Saturn pinned Raven. Christian pinned WWF IC Champion Edge to win the title. WCW Tag Team Champions the Undertaker & Kane defeated Kronik. Due to the poor performance of the challengers in this bout, they were legitimately fired the following day. WWF Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam pinned Chris Jericho. WCW World Champion the Rock defeated Booker T & Shane McMahon in a handicap match. Rhyno pinned WCW US Champion Tajiri to win the title. Kurt Angle defeated WWF World Champion Steve Austin to win the title by avoiding the pre-Stunner kick to the midsection and turning it into the ankle lock for the submission victory even though Austin’s hand was gripping the ring apron at the time of the tap out. After the match, the ring filled up with WWF superstars and the Angle family as they celebrated the win.

Kurt Angle would hold the WWF World Championship until October 8th edition of RAW when he dropped the belt to Steve Austin after William Regal hit Angle in the head with the WWF belt.

On October 21st, the WWF presented No Mercy from the Savvis Center in St. Louis, MO. WCW Tag Team Champions Matt & Jeff Hardy defeated WWF European Champion the Hurricane & Lance Storm. Test pinned Kane. Torrie Wilson pinned Stacy Keibler. Edge defeated WWF IC Champion Christian in a ladder match to win the title. WWF Tag Team Champions the Dudley Boyz defeated the Big Show & Tajiri. The Undertaker pinned Booker T. Chris Jericho pinned WCW World Champion The Rock to win the title. WWF World Champion Steve Austin defeated Kurt Angle and WWF Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam in a No DQ match by pinning RVD.

The Rock would regain the WCW World Championship from Chris Jericho on the November 5th edition of RAW.

The Survivor Series took place on November 18th at the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina. WWF European Champion Christian pinned Al Snow. William Regal pinned Tajiri. WCW US Champion Edge pinned WWF IC Champion Test in a unification match. WCW Tag Team Champions the Dudley Boyz defeated WWF Tag Team Champions Matt & Jeff Hardy in a unification steel cage match. Test won a 22-man battle royal by last eliminating Billy Gunn. Other participants included: Albert, Bradshaw, Farooq, Perry Saturn, Billy Gunn, Chuck Palumbo, Sho Funaki, Crash Holly, Spike Dudley, Test, Shawn Stasiak, Diamond Dallas Page, Raven, Steven Richards, the Hurricane, Lance Storm, Tommy Dreamer, Justin Credible, Billy Kidman, Hugh Morrus, Chavo Guerrero Jr., & Tazz. Due to pre-match stipulations, Test was granted a year of immunity in which he could not be fired or suspended regardless of what team emerged victorious in the main event. Trish Stratus defeated Lita, Jackie, Ivory, Molly Holly, and Jazz to win the vacant WWF Women’s title by pinning Ivory. Team WWF – WCW World Champion the Rock, Chris Jericho, the Big Show, Kane, & the Undertaker defeated Team Alliance – WWF World Champion Steve Austin, Shane McMahon, Kurt Angle, Booker T, & WWF Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam in an elimination match after The Rock pinned Austin with the Rock Bottom shortly after Angle returned ringside and hit Austin with the WWF world title belt before leaving with the belt. Due to pre-match stipulations, the Alliance was forced to disband and all championships that were decided earlier in the night were reverted to WWF titles. All of the Alliance members, aside from title-holders and Test, were forced out of the company, only to return in the coming weeks. If the WWF team lost, the WWF would have been disbanded.

The next night’s RAW featured the return of Ric Flair to the WWF after a 9 year absence. He delivered a promo, in which he told Vince McMahon that he bought half ownership into the WWF from Shane and Stephanie when Vince’s two children “bought” WCW and ECW.

UNIFICATION

The last remnants of World Championship Wrestling was the WCW World Championship belt, which fit snuggly around the waist of The Rock. On December 9th at the Sports Arena in San Diego, CA, the WWF set to unify the WCW and WWF World titles in a four man tournament at Vengeance. The four combatants included Kurt Angle, WCW World Champion The Rock, Chris Jericho, and WWF World Champion Steve Austin. Scotty 2 Hotty & Albert defeated Test & WWF European Champion Christian. WWF IC Champion Edge pinned William Regal. Jeff Hardy pinned Matt Hardy. WWF Tag Team Champions the Dudley Boyz defeated Kane & the Big Show. The Undertaker pinned WWF Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam to win the title. WWF Women’s Champion Trish Stratus pinned Jackie. In the World Title Unification Tournament, WWF World Champion Steve Austin pinned Kurt Angle. Chris Jericho pinned WCW World Champion The Rock to win the title. WCW World Champion Chris Jericho pinned WWF World Champion Steve Austin to unify the titles after Booker T interfered and hit Austin with one of the belts.

The year of 2001 began with three major wrestling and three World Champions. By the end of 2001, the World Wrestling Federation was the only wrestling organization left standing. Chris Jericho would end the year carrying both the WWF and WCW World titles as the Undisputed World Champion of Wrestling. While the fans were sad to say good bye to WCW and ECW, they were about to say hello again to a returning wrestler. Come 2002, the game will begin…….again.

Sources for this article were taken from www.historyofwwe.com, en.wikipedia.org , www.wrestlinginformer.net, and www.thehistoryofwcw.com

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