The New World Order
Over the years, WWE has tried and tried again to pull off an “invasion” storyline and proven that they can’t execute one to save their lives. As much as I love a good invasion storyline, the only person to successfully pull one off was Eric Bischoff with the NWO invasion of WCW. Yes, I am a Bischoff apologist. The Outsiders, Hall and Nash, came into WCW seemingly uninvited. It was assumed, without explicitly saying it (another McMahon flaw), that these two invaders were from WWF. Then, there was a mystery third man, which turned out to be Hulk Hogan in the most shocking heel turn in wrestling history.
Now, the powers that be in WWE will look back on this and say that the only reason they got over was because people thought they were from WWF. That Scott Hall’s choice of words of: “You know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here,” were an admission that everyone in attendance at WCW Nitro would know this WWF Superstar. Of course, in WWF’s eyes, the mere allusion to the competition by WCW was a major faux pas. But somehow, as a ten year old boy sitting on the edge of my brother’s bed watching this storyline unfolding live, I didn’t see it that way. To me, it was the greatest thing to ever happen in what was my early experience with wrestling.
And therein lies the problem with WWE. Vince McMahon seems to have this rule that you should never mention the competition as not to give them credibility. But when it comes time to buy out said company and bring them in for an Invasion angle…why would your audience care? All you’ve done is spoonfed them your own product without addressing the elephant in the room. Despite the fact that when Vince McMahon bought WCW, most of their top names were still riding out their generous contracts, WWF went ahead with an invasion angle anyway. To round out the rival roster, what was left of WCW (maybe the only notable member being Booker T) teamed up with the remnants of ECW.
So, let’s say you’re in-the-know during the late 90s wrestling boom (which pretty much everyone was) and you do acknowledge the existence of WCW and ECW. You’re going to be aware of the very simple fact that ECW loathes WCW. That Paul Heyman loathes Eric Bischoff. And now you’re going to wash your McMahon hands, say that it’s all water under the bridge, and pair them up? On top of that, WWF turned what should’ve been WCW vs. WWF into a McMahon family feud. Stephanie would take control of ECW and Shane would control WCW; while the two team up to destroy their father. Once again, taking any credibility away from those products and relinquishing any believable animosity.
Now, when those old WCW contract finally expired and WWE was able to acquire top tier names like Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan; naturally it was time for an NWO invasion. This was an epic invasion and Vince McMahon would bring the trio in as a lethal dose of poison to kill his own creation. In fact, the build up to this was perfect and the first few weeks of this could not have been better. This also led to what could easily be considered Hulk Hogan’s greatest match, against The Rock at WrestleMania 18. The respect Hogan gained for The Rock would turn the Hulkster face once again, and a good old fashioned Kevin Nash blown out knee would subsequently disintegrate the NWO.
In an attempt to keep the NWO alive, RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff would add a new member to the faction. It’s also worth noting that there was no affiliation between Bischoff and the NWO at the time, so this made zero sense. Bischoff simply came out at the beginning of a match and said, “Booker T! You’re the newest member of the NWO!”
No reason. No explanation. Just random new member. Shortly thereafter, Shawn Michaels would return and join the NWO, which to be honest, was pretty damn cool, and kick out Booker T. But as time went on, nothing was really going to salvage this story arc, and the latest incarnation of the NWO was washed away into obscurity and onto the WWE Network library.
Forcing a rival to join a faction is never a good idea. If an invading group has certain ideals, convictions, and purpose…what would be the point of wanting someone who opposes those views to join you? This is more or less what destroyed The Nexus. Originally, NXT was a newer version of Tough Enough and the participants in this competition became disgruntled and bitter to the point that they invaded the WWE. The Nexus’ debut was one of the most successful invasion segments in wrestling history, when at the end of Raw, a large group of relative unknowns entered the arena and violently attacked everyone. And really…everyone. Not just the wrestlers; but the referee, the commentators, the timekeeper, and the ring itself. Yes, they tore up the ring to the tune of no commentary. It was certainly a memorable moment for Raw.
The Nexus was made up of the names like Wade Barrett, Ryback, Daniel Bryan, and Husky Harris (who we now know as Bray Wyatt). The group would go on to feud with John Cena, who would be put into a precarious predicament! Cena would be put in a match where a loss would mean he would have to join The Nexus! Ooooooo! …why?
John Cena represented the whole idea that The Nexus was rebelling against. John Cena was the establishment. Why would they want him to join? Anyway, the team lost some credibility and would later reveal a new leader in CM Punk. This, of course, did make some sense and was truer to form. But due to the fact that the entire product was floundering and needed to be brought back to life, Punk had a higher calling. In 2011, CM Punk would cut a promo that would shake up the WWE for the next few years, bringing a sense of reality back to the company. While Punk was changing the WWE forever, The Nexus was slowly phased out and never really recovered.
Speaking of Daniel Bryan and forcing someone to join a team, The Wyatt Family would later have a similar storyline where he would be forced to join the faction as punishment. This lasted all of about one week.
Some people may point to ECW in the mid 90s having a successful invasion, but much like their invasion in the mid 2000s, both led to the desired result of simply promoting the brand and having their own show. ECW took over RAW one night in the 90s and helped with their success. After their collapse, ECW came back in the mid 2000s and held two classic “One Night Stand” pay-per-views, but we try not to clump that in with the ECW Sci-Fi show…
While leads me to the current product. The Survivor Series Smackdown invasion worked for what it was, but it was never meant to have long term repercussions. The invasion culminated at Survivor Series, and that was that. All in all, the Smackdown vs. Raw feuds over the years were never believable. There’s no real motive or brand loyalty or any other deep seeded reason for these two brands to hate each other.
Just Another NXT Women’s Invasion
And now we have a sort of lackluster invasion of some women of NXT. Considering this was the entire premise of the Women’s Revolution a couple of years ago upon bringing in the likes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch; it seems they’re trying to same trick again on both brands. On Raw, we have the return of Paige, accompanied by Sonia Deville and Mandy Rose (Rose, who I haven’t even seen on NXT in a long, long time). And on Smackdown, we have Ruby Riott (they added a “T”), Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan. While I’m all for bringing in new NXT women’s division talent to the main roster, with the exception or maybe Riott and Morgan, these aren’t the best NXT had to offer. I’m a fan Of Logan as well, but some of these girls just haven’t had the exposure on NXT that we’ve come to expect in someone to get called up. Oddly enough, the two teams also don’t seem to be in cahoots.
Even though the trios have the exact same dynamic of: Punk Rock chick leader + gritty powerhouse + gorgeous blonde, we’ve yet to see any relation. I will give the benefit of the doubt as always and hope there’s more to this storyline, but as it stands, that may just be wishful thinking and these women may not get the desired invasion impact they’re looking for. Just another victim of WWE’s stubbornness to put over an outsider.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston. He hosts the comedy podcast, “So Now I’m the Asshole” on Fans.FM and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke