The WCW/ECW Alliance Ends & Hulk Hogan's Forgotten Return: The Cultaholic Time Capsule - November 2001
Take a trip to 20 years ago...
Hard to believe it's been 20 years since WCW died. For the second time.
What should have been the ultimate holy war between the WWF and WCW gradually wore thin for reasons plentiful, limping into its grave at the 2001 Survivor Series. Two decades later, fantasy bookers and lamenting viewers still ponder how the whole thing ended up being such a mess. After all, when WCW's last hope is a guy they fired six years and two hairstyles ago, it's safe to say that WWF probably jumped the shark somewhere along the way.
The end of the Alliance is going feature prominently in this week's time capsule, as I pore through the Wrestling Observer from 20 years ago, to see which little news nuggets managed to catch my sight. Understandably, the general state of WWF (post-Alliance and onward with a new direction) is going to dominate this column. If you weren't a fan then, you're about to see why older fans are so cynical. And if you *were* a fan back then, well, prepare to re-acquire that involuntary eye tic.
Put on some Puddle of Mudd; we're going to get through this together.
Away we go.
1. The WCW/ECW Alliance is killed off at Survivor Series, when The Rock pins Steve Austin to end a ten-man elimination bout between the Alliance and WWF
An excellent bout to finish off the rivalry, but man what a waste of a million-dollar angle. Four months earlier, Invasion was the most-bought non-WrestleMania WWE pay-per-view of all time, and anticipation was at a fever pitch. By November, poor story-telling and the relegation of the outsider wrestlers had everyone going, "Well, let's just get it over with."
Of note from the final fall, this was the first time after four years of feuding on and off that Rock scored any sort of high profile pin on Austin. He'd get to do so one more time, albeit under bittersweet circumstances.
2. Ric Flair, Jerry Lawler both return to WWF on Raw the next night
The Alliance sure could've used Flair when the angle was taking place - after all, who's more identifiable with that company (aside from maybe Sting)? Flair's comeback was finalized the afternoon of show day, and his return took place in his native Charlotte at night's end. The new angle is that he'd bought Shane and Stephanie's shares of the company, thus he and Vince were now 50/50 partners. This was, of course, the catalyst for the eventual brand extension.
As for Lawler, he walked out of the company earlier in 2001, after wife Stacy "The Kat" Carter was let go. The two split later in 2001, and though Lawler found work with upstart orgs WWA and XWF, "The King" was back on Raw after Survivor Series, once Paul Heyman was kayfabe-ousted.
3. The "reset button" gets hit on WWF programming, with the Alliance no longer a thing
Without much story explanation, Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle reverted back to being full-time heels, while Steve Austin just kinda-sorta meandered back to the babyface side of the fence. Rob Van Dam was functionally a babyface within The Alliance anyway, so his turn was easier to enact.
It was as if the last four or five months of TV had all been a dream - a horrible, horrible dream. If only that were the case.
4. Mick Foley departs from WWF after recent creative dissatisfactions
Foley was brought back as on-screen Commissioner during the death throes of the invasion, but he was very quickly lost in the shuffle, and Foley reportedly wasn't too happy with many of the creative pitches.
He and Vince mutually agreed to part ways, and Foley filmed a somewhat awkward farewell that aired at the start of the post-Survivor Series Raw. He would not return to the company until June of 2003.
5. Survivor Series draws barely 10,000 fans to the Greensboro Coliseum, with only 8,000 paid
For comparison, the WWF drew over 20,000 fans to the 1999 King of the Ring in the same building. If you need an indication of just how ice cold the once hotly-anticipated invasion angle had become (and how little fans cared about the inevitable ending), this is really all you need to know.
6. Jazz debuts during a six-pack challenge at Survivor Series for the vacant Women's Title
Kind of an unusual debut in that Jazz was introduced as the final new member of The Alliance, so that when the group was exiled at night's end, Jazz had to go away with the rest of the losing troupe. Debut, then go home - quite a start.
Jazz eventually returned to TV along with all the other banished Alliance members. There weren't any explanations for how any of them were able to return, because, you know, whatever.
7. Linda McMahon blames "weakness in television creativity" for WWF's declines at the latest investors call
Though many investor calls over the years have featured quite a bit of "finessing" when it comes to bad news, Linda flat out blamed the poor invasion angle for causing much of the metric declines over the prior quarter. She even deflected questions about whether the XFL or 9/11 had any role in business being down, instead laying blame at the feet of ineffective creative (as well as stars like Rock, HHH, and others being out for different reasons).
8. Hulk Hogan wrestles his first match in over 16 months, defeating Curt Hennig at a taping for the short-lived XWF promotion in Orlando
Hennig was even seconded by Bobby Heenan, in his first managerial appearance in over five years.
The upstart XWF was one of several new promotions that attempted to cobble together as many unsigned names as possible to fill the void left by WCW and ECW. It wouldn't be until TNA's birth in 2002, however, that one stuck around long-term.
9. Martha Hart threatens a lawsuit against sister-in-law Diana Hart-Smith over Diana's book "Under the Mat", alleging libel
The widow of Owen Hart issued a press release writing, in part, "The book is filled with distortions, misstatements and unjustified slurs that attempt to destroy the reputation of my family and me, and undermine the memory of Owen. I have no choice but to deliver a formal libel notice."
Other Hart siblings, as well as former Stampede announcer Ed Whalen, also publicly disavowed the book. Under the Mat was eventually removed from sale in January 2002, as part of a settlement, and Diana later expressed regret for having written it.
10. A stage play entitled "My Darling Judith", starring Joanie "Chyna" Laurer, is cancelled shortly before its opening in Ontario
The production would've been Chyna's first stage production, and her first high-profile performance since parting ways with WWF earlier that year. Low ticket sales are apparently to blame for the cancellation.
11. Rico Constantino loses a "loser leaves" handicap match in Ohio Valley, marking his final appearance in developmental before joining the main roster
Already 40 years old, Rico then spent the next four months working house shows and dark matches before debuting on TV as the flamboyant "stylist" for Billy and Chuck.
So who were the individuals that defeated Rico in that handicap match? They would be manager Kenny Bolin, and The Prototype, the man we all know better as John Cena.
12. William Regal is in need of an operation on his nose, after an injury to it leads to him suffering serious nose bleeds during five or six ensuing matches
One such match was his abbreviated bout with Tajiri at Survivor Series. Apparently, Regal's injured nose became so sensitive that even minor contact was enough to "turn the faucet on". Perhaps Regal was grateful he wasn't working with old rival Finlay in this period (see Uncensored 1996 for explanation).
13. Diamond Dallas Page admitted on a radio show that by choosing to forgo the remainder of his WCW contract to be part of the invasion angle, he cost himself half a million dollars
Sacrifice five hundred large to play Undertaker and wife Sara's stalker? Where's the "undo" button when you need it?
14. Mark Henry is written out of Ohio Valley Wrestling in order to prepare for the upcoming Arnold Classic
The WWF wanted to re-debut Henry after the contest, using the publicity from it to reintroduce him to the audience. Henry hadn't been seen on main WWF programming since early 2000, and had been in developmental both picking up in-ring experience and getting his body right.
In fact, Henry had leaned out so much in this period (cutting so much weight that he looked like an entirely different person) that Dave Meltzer noted he'd probably have to put a lot of that weight back on just to compete in the contest. Nevertheless, Henry did take home first prize.
15. Several WWF talents compete on NBC game show The Weakest Link, and give some particularly unforgettable answers
From Booker T mistaking Thanksgiving for Columbus Day, to Stephanie McMahon thinking "Kit Kat" was a restaurant chain, game show blooper reels picked up plenty of fodder on that night.