Friday, 22 July 2011

WWF Invasion - Retro Review

For years wrestling fans around the world had dreamed of this moment, and 10 years ago this month it finally happened as the combined forces of World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling went up against their counterparts in the mighty World Wrestling Federation in one of the biggest non-big four pay-per-view events ever. But does it still stand up after all these years? That’s what I’m hoping to find out by taking a look at Invasion.

The show began with tag team action as Lance Storm and Mike Awesome took on Edge and Christian.

Storm was hoping to be serious at the beginning of this one but found himself cut off by Edge & Christian’s entrance, with Christian carrying Edge’s massive King of the Ring trophy.

Now while a certain rattlesnake may have found Storm boring I certainly didn’t. The guy was one of the most complete wrestlers I’ve ever seen, and this match was a great example of his work. Everything he did was just so smooth, so perfect.

Awesome also put in a good night’s work here, working well with Storm as the former Team Canada cohorts took Christian apart.

As for E&C it was another top notch performance, and when we got the inevitable four man brawl they put in some great team work.

Team WWF took the win in this one. As Awesome was about to put Edge away with the awesome bomb Christian took him down with the spear, with Edge taking the win for his team.

Then came the match I wasn’t looking forward to seeing again, as senior WWF referee Earl Hebner faced senior WCW referee Nick Patrick, with Mick Foley as the special referee.

You know what? This wasn’t as bad as I remember it. Okay, these two weren’t exactly trained professionals, and at times it looked like a brawl in a car park but they managed to put together some good moves.

It was like a lumberjack match at times, especially when Patrick’s fellow WCW refs attacked Hebner when he went out to ringside, but this stopped when Foley sent them to the back as the WWF refs were allowed to stay.

Hebner took the second win for Team WWF here, getting the pin after a bowling shoe ugly body block. Patrick wasn’t too happy with the decision and argued with Foley, only to find himself on the receiving end of Mr. Socko.

More tag action followed as WWF Tag Team Champions the APA, Bradshaw and Faarooq, faced WCW Tag Team Champions Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo. An interesting side not for this one is the referee, future Smackdown GM Teddy Long.

Despite the fact that announcers Jim Ross and Michael Cole told everyone that Palumbo and O’Haire basically didn’t deserve to be in the same ring as the APA the former Natural Born Thrillaz put in a great effort, especially with their team work. They more than held their own against their opponents.

But overall this was four powerhouses beating the hell out of each other, and it was pretty entertaining, but although O’Haire and Palumbo looked great they didn’t get the job done, with Bradshaw pinning Palumbo after taking him down with the clothesline from hell.

Then it was on to the battle between WWF Light Heavyweight Champion X-Pac against WCW Cruiserweight Champion Billy Kidman. Oh, and despite what people say, I quite like X-Pac’s entrance music.

Despite the WWF stars being portrayed as beloved baby faces Mr. Waltman was once again on the receiving end of what has become known as X-Pac heat, which meant that the crowd loved everything Kidman did.

These two were the perfect match for each other, pretty even in almost every department, and these two factors made for a pretty impressive match. In fact it reminded me of what TNA’s X Division would offer the following year.

Team WWF suffered their first loss of the night here when Kidman countered Pac’s bronco buster with a big boot south of the border, finishing the job with his always impressive shooting star press, giving the coalition (they weren’t known as the Alliance then) their first win.

Two men who are polar opposites philosophy-wise met next as Raven faced WWF Commissioner William Regal.

If you only know Raven from his recent TNA stint then this match will surprise you. It pitted his brawling style against Regal’s polished technical wrestling, and was pretty entertaining at that.

It may not have lasted that long but they put together some pretty good sequences, and although he put in a good showing Raven needed a little help from one his friends to get the job done. As Raven was recovering at ringside Taz (or should that be Tazz) came down and suplexes Regal, with Raven getting the pin after the Raven effect DDT.

The six man tag match saw the Big Show, Billy Gunn and WWF Intercontinental Champion Albert (with that great entrance music) taking on Shawn Stasiak (minus his tape recorder), Chris Kanyon and Hugh Morrus.

Out of all the matches here this was probably the one I remembered the least. It was okay, but it was also one of those throwaway kind of things. It began with each member of the WWF team press slamming their opponents before settling down into a regular match.

But as was the custom the coalition team cheated to get the upper hand, and as Gunn was about to take Morrus down with his one and only finisher Stasiak came in and took the bad ass out with a reverse DDT. Then there seemed to be some confusion over who was going to get the pin until Stasiak rolled out of the ring and Morrus pinned gun with his arm draped over him.

Team WWF had the last laugh though as they took out all of their opponents with various power moves, making them look like winners even though they’d been beaten.

Taz made his second appearance of the night next, taking on Yoshihiro Tajiri.

This was back when the human suplex machine was starting to look less like a wrestler and more like a rubbish bin collector. But despite his choice of ring attire he put in a pretty good effort here, pitting his no-nonsense brawling and suplex style against Tajiri’s fast paced attack, and while this won’t go down as one of Taz’s best efforts it wasn’t that bad.

The end saw Taz going for the pin, only for Tajiri to counter with the trusty old green mist. The Japanese star then connected with a short kick to the head to get the pin.

The only title match of the evening saw Rob Van Dam challenging Jeff Hardy for the WWF Hardcore title.

This was the one I really wanted to see again, mainly because it was back when these guys actually gave a damn and weren’t content just to pick up their pay.

It was an awesome encounter, with Hardy and RVD matching each other move for move, and with plenty of big bumps, especially from Hardy, when RVD pushed over a massive ladder and sent him crashing down onto the concrete floor.

There was also a brief brawl through the crowd and on the ramp, where RVD took Hardy down with a Van Daminator. They eventually made their way back to the ring, where RVD placed the Hardcore belt onto Hardy before coming down with the five star frog splash. A three count later and Van Dam had won the Hardcore title, and if you’ve only seen Hardy and RVD in their recent TNA outings then I urge you to check out this match.

With this being the Attitude era the show needed some T&A, with Trish Stratus and Lita taking on Torrie Wilson and Stacy Kiebler in a bra and panties match, with Mick Foley once again acting as the special referee.

This will go down as one of the all time classics. Who am I kidding? It will only be remembered for one thing, and not because Trish and Lita were clearly the more accomplished wrestlers in this match.

So let’s just cut to the chase and remind you all that Trish and Lita won the match.

The main event was the “Inaugural Brawl”, with Team WCW/ECW, the Dudley Boys, Rhyno, Diamond Dallas Page and WCW World and United States Champion Booker T, accompanied by Paul Heyman and Shane and Stephanie McMahon, facing Team WWF, Kane, the Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and WWF Champion Steve Austin, accompanied by Vince McMahon.

I absolutely loved this match 10 years ago, but watching it for the first time since then I noticed a few things I didn’t back then.

It began with a mass brawl when the Undertaker attacked DDP during his entrance, and before Austin had made his appearance. But when the rattlesnake arrived the sides were evened, and it eventually settled down into a regular match.

But from the moment the action proper began, it was obvious that Team WWF were booked to be far superior to their WCW/ECW counterparts, and as good as some of the exchanges were in hindsight you could see the early signs of why this angle fell flat.

Don’t get me wrong though, because this was a very good match, a highly charged affair with an rabid crowd (where have I said that before) who clearly wanted the WWF guys to win. There weren’t any real standout performances here, although I did find DDP’s a little disappointing.

Of course the match degenerated into a mass brawl, with Taker and DDP disappearing through a crowd and Bubba Ray, Rhino and Devon going through various tables. Back in the ring the two legal men, Angle and Booker, were looking for the finish, and after attempted interference from Shane and Vince Angle applied the ankle lock.

One big problem though. Both referees were taking a snooze on the outside, and after Austin pushed the WWF official back into the ring before breaking up Angle’s hold and taking him down with a stunner. He then pulled Booker onto Angle, and a three count later the WCW/ECW team had their win, with Heyman, Shane, Stephanie and Austin celebrating their win with a few brewskis.

In conclusion - it’s ten years since this show took place, and despite the overall disappointment with the WWF vs. WCW/ECW angle InVasion is still a very good show. In hindsight it could have done with just a few tweaks here and there, but overall the action was solid, even the Patrick/Hebner match, and it was nice to take a look back at the time when WWF and WCW stars faced each other on pay-per-view for the first time.

So in all WWF InVasion gets the big thumbs up. It still stands up well after all of these years, but it’s just a shame that the best show the angle produced came so early on.