On the latest Grilling JR podcast, Jim Ross recalled his memories of the 2001 WWF Invasion pay-per-view, which featured stars of WCW and ECW in an all-out brand war.
“It was surprisingly good. We all thought it would be solid, let’s say, but it was more than solid. It was outstanding. I think the reason is people wanted to see something new, and it was a new concept in that respect where two brands are dueling. So it was a successful show. I remember it fondly. But I can’t dwell on what could’ve been, should’ve been, or how we could’ve followed up and done better. The bottom line is always gonna be we didn’t have all the players. Somebody is gonna say, ‘Well, why didn’t you get them?’ Because they were under contract making a lot of money to do nothing. They were able to heal their wounds, and none of them were spring chickens. I was pleasantly surprised it do so well.”
But then, the WWF had to figure out what to do with the WCW talent they had acquired from the buyout.
“All options were being explored. Long discussions about Monday Night RAW becoming a non-WWE brand show? I don’t recall that, but everything was on the table. We were cleaning slates and were gonna start over and how could we make all of this work. We could’ve supported a WCW show if we had the players. We weren’t gonna get them. It still comes back to the same thing – we didn’t have Goldberg, Hall, Nash, Hogan. We didn’t have a lot of elements we needed to make this thing an impressive brand.”
But what about adding the ECW brand into the Invasion?
“I think the inevitability of utilizing talents on ECW, I thought it was a no-brainer. Again, because of a variety of issues, we didn’t have accessibility to a lot of people. The ECW guys we brought in originally were really good workers. They were hungry and a lot of them dreamed their whole life of being in WWE. They knew it was stable work, and they knew they were getting paid on time. It added quality depth we didn’t have.”
Jim Ross then spoke about how many gimmicks were added to the matches at the event.
“The reason the show was booked was a winner. But we had too many gimmick matches. I forgot about Earl Hebner wrestling Nick Patrick in a battle of referees. How can that be good? I love both of those guys and they’re both really good referees, but not so great as wrestlers. I think that hurt us a little bit there. I think we went a little too gimmicky on it and not to anybody’s betterment.”
And, of course, when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin turned heel again at the end of the show.
“He still wanted to be a heel. I’ve said this many times in the meetings I had with the three of us and then private meetings with Vince. ‘We owe him that, JR. We owe him the opportunity.’ And he said his instincts have been pretty good as Stone Cold, so maybe he’s onto something. Maybe it’ll be right place, right time, and it clicks. I just thought it was poor casting. I expressed myself to both guys that I didn’t think it was gonna work. It’s hard in the pro wrestling business to build a viable, money-drawing babyface. When you find that person and have that execution, you don’t want to screw with it.
You want to make that stronger, and you do that by building stronger villains and putting the babyface in jeopardy……it didn’t make sense to me. It was just stubbornness I think if you want to cut the bullshit. Sometimes you can’t make things work if the audience doesn’t want it to work. They did not want it to work as it relates to Steve being this hated villain where I want to pay my money to see the shit get kicked out of him. That never crossed the fans’ mind, in my estimation.”