Re-Writing The Book: InVasion, Month 3 (Taking Chances & Making Changes)

My archives have the first two parts, if you missed them.

What if the InVasion hadn’t failed?

Our story continues on Raw after InVasion, with both promotions at a heightened state of alert. For Raven, his old nemesis, Tommy Dreamer, has unexpectedly sold his soul and become the henchman of Vince McMahon. For Chris Jericho, he is still a wanted man by the WWF locker room. For everyone else, the previous night’s stalemate is ample reason to further the hostilities. But on this evening, all eyes are on the WrestleMania rematch between Vince and Shane, and towards whatever future might come of it …

Raw: July 23rd

Streamers, confetti and balloons welcome the viewers to Raw, and usher Vince to the ring. A 10-piece marching band plays a stirring rendition of Vince’s theme music to welcome him to the ring. He basks in the glow of his fabricated moment (ignoring the boos of the crowd) for a few moments, then begins elaborating. “A lot of you are probably wondering just why Monday Night Raw looks like a party. Well, that’s because tonight, there is a party. And despite the fact that none of you pitiful Cleveland simpletons deserve it, you’re all invited!” An “asshole” chant breaks out, but Vince brushes it off. “Last night at InVasion, I showed the world, and specifically Chris Jericho and Raven, that you don’t cross the boss; in fact, both of those castoffs aren’t here tonight … I’ve sent them home, without pay, while I do my damndest to void their contracts Last night, I showed the world that WCW’s finest are incapable of going toe-to-toe with the WWF’s best, especially their ‘champion’, Booker T, who got a championship-style ass-kicking last night. But there’s another reason to celebrate tonight. A lot of you might remember, several months back, only days before WrestleMania 17, I said that you to be a competitor, you had to be willing to grab your competition by the throat and gotta squeeze the life out of them! I did just that with WCW, and by God, tonight, I am going to do it again. Because tonight … tonight, I, Vince McMahon, will face the owner of WCW and crush him under my heel!” More hatred from the audience, and again, Vince ignores it. “But you see, beating Shane isn’t enough. No, beating him does nothing to flush out the poison he has injected into the heart of my company. Beating him will not kill WCW … not unless he is willing to put WCW on the line.”

This instantly draws out Shane, surrounded by several of his wrestlers. “You want me to put up WCW, Dad?” Shane chuckles. “Your grapefruits musta swelled up to the size of cantaloupes if you think you can beat me. You remember what happened at WrestleMania, don’t you?”

“Yeah, and it took that dirty, rotten cheating referee Mick Foley, your mother and that … that tramp Trish Stratus for you to beat me. This time, you’ll have to do it all on your own, Shane. You can’t beat me.”

“If you’re so confident you can beat me, Dad, why don’t you put up something?”

“Like what?”

“Well, you could nullify those Loyalty Agreements and let the superstars make their own decisions about who they wanna work for.”

“Unacceptable! Absolutely unaccept-“

Shane turns and starts to walk away. “Well, then I guess you don’t have anything I want …” Shane pauses, turns around, and sends Vince staggering backwards with the fiendish, Vince-like gleam in his eyes. “Except, maybe … Raw.” Vince can’t even form the words to respond, so Shane does it for him. “Yes, Dad, I’m serious. I’ll put up WCW, lock, stock and barrel; you get every contract, every property, to do with whatever you want … and you put up Raw. You win, and you own WCW. I win, and Raw becomes Nitro.”

Vince huffs and puffs for a minute as JR and Heyman try to second-guess what Vince will say. Finally, he brings up the microphone to his mouth and, with eyes closed, says; “If that’s what it takes to get you out of my life for good, it’s a deal.”

With the landmark challenge set for the main event, the rest of the show is spent with both locker rooms on pins and needles, waiting for their fates to be decided. The respective rosters are booked in matches with their own compatriots, but that doesn’t keep them from venting their frustrations and hatreds out on the competition; thusly, many matches are ruined by interference, and backstage, one ambush after another occurs.

But by the end of the night, everyone has retreated to their locker rooms to watch their fates be decided in the ring. A few wrestlers grumble about trying to sway the match in their direction, but before the match can occur, private security stations themselves around the ringside area and the stage. Vince gives the security a glare as he comes to the ring, but once the match begins, he never notices their presence. The match, a street fight like their first encounter, is a bloody slugfest, with chairs, garbage cans and everything the two can get their hands on. By the closing moments, both men are battered and beaten, barely able to stand.

So when the security suddenly converges near the stage as a group of WWF wrestlers try to break through, no one, save the audience, notices Austin come through the audience and hit a Stunner on Shane. When the security finally contains the situation and notices Austin’s incursion, he slips in between the announce tables and on his way through the crowd, giving the finger to everyone … until he bumps up against Mike Awesome, who boots Austin in the gut and powerbombs Austin through the announcer’s table. And when Vince can’t score the pinfall on Shane, he climbs out and steals a nightstick from a guard. But Shane ducks, grabs the stick and blasts his father in the head. The crowd counts along with WWF referee Earl Hebner as he makes a deliberately reluctant count that lasts a good six seconds … but hits three. Reaction shots from the locker rooms go up immediately, with WCW’s in a state of frenzied euphoria … and WWF’s one of abject astonishment (and, in the audience, Rob Van Dam, nodding in observant silence). Jim Ross bemoans what the fate of the WWF will be as Raw, both for the night and for the foreseeable future, goes off the air.

Smackdown: July 26th

With Raw no longer in the hands of the WWF, WCW forfeits their shared-time agreement on broadcast TV, leaving Smackdown the sole WWF TV outlet (but, in a poke in the eye, PPV time is still split). Nevertheless, Vince promises, in a videotaped message that leads off the show, that the company will continue to put forth the best sports entertainment available on television. And, he has two secret weapons he will unveil over the course of the evening that will not only help bring Smackdown to new heights. In fact, not only does Vince go out of his way not to mention WCW, but he acts as if nothing has changed at all.

Yet, for all his boasting, Smackdown’s contents are obviously a pointed jab directed at WCW. When Edge defeats Albert for the Intercontinental Title, Edge punctuates his win with a warning to WCW US Champ Billy Kidman that he is one IC Champ who Kidman won’t be able to steamroll. Likewise, The Dudleys pulverize Hardcore Holly & Crash, putting them through several tables apiece until paramedics have to intervene. The Undertaker goes berserk and bludgeons Big Show with an axe-handle after their match ends in a no-contest; while the paramedics come back to the ring to haul off the behemoth, Vince commends Undertaker on showing the spirit and will to win necessary to defeat WCW.

But the most surreal moment of the night comes when none other then color commentator Paul Heyman leaves the announce table and climbs into the ring. The crowd, mystified by him leaving his post, meet the former ECW owner’s arrival with silence. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he announces, “I have the honor and the privilege of welcoming to the ring a man of extreme character. A men who exemplifies honor and reliability. That man is a man you all know well … none other then former ECW World Champion, Tommy Dreamer!”

Tommy comes out to a most unfamiliar sound: a negative crowd reaction. A chant of “sell-out” pops up and catches on. From the ring, Heyman encourages Tommy to ignore the fans. “A lot of you are probably wondering what I’m doing here, introducing this fine young man. You see,” says Heyman, “not too long ago, when Vince found himself at wits end dealing with Raven, he professed he had no clue how to contain and neutralize Raven. He expressed these feelings to me, and I told him that I knew just the guy who could do to Raven what no one else could; drive him from the company. I told him that I knew a man of immeasurable character; a man with undying loyalty for his employer. And a man, above all, who hated Raven with the fiery hatred of a thousand Hells. I have brought to you fans a lot of quality entertainment over the years, but none am I more proud of then this man right here; the man who will finally give Raven what he wants after all these years: a release from the pain and torment he suffers in this mortal coil.” When the crowd responds with virulent hatred, Heyman lashes out. “Don’t you people know who this is? The Innvator Of Violence! This man drove Raven out of ECW! Raven is a pathetic, cowardly, gutless piece of crap, and Vince McMahon has given me carte blanche in getting rid of him!”

“The only thing Tommy Dreamer did was lose to me for almost 3 years,” says a voice that fills the arena. Tommy and Heyman look around in a panic, until the shadowed visage of Raven appears on the TitanTron. “What I did to Tommy Dreamer in ECW was beyond unspeakable, Heyman. What I’ve done to all my opponents has been the stuff nightmares are made of. But the one thing nobody will ever take away from me is that I was able to keep Tommy Dreamer at arm’s length for almost 3 years. Tommy Dreamer can’t stop me, Paul Heyman. Nor can you, nor Vince McMahon. A raven is a bird, free to fly as high and as far as it wants … and like the bird, Raven the man is free to come and go as he pleases. Every organization I’ve been in, I’ve been mistreated and kicked around and cast down. WWF gave me a croquet mallet and a Panama hat; WCW fed me to Goldberg and stuck me with a couple of idiot clown rappers; ECW threw me in barbed-wire deathmatches and caused enough physical scars to match the ones in my mind. No more, Paul. Send Tommy after me, Paul. Send whomever you can find. You won’t do any better then Vince can in breaking me. Quoth the Raven, nevermore.”

Raven’s declaration of strength isn’t enough to damper Vince’s spirit, though, and, after Austin successfully defends his WWF Title against Test, he greets his champion with some good news. “Steve, first of all, congratulations on another successful title defense. You are truly an embodiment of what it takes to be a champion.” Vince gives Austin a clap on the shoulder. “But you don’t have to go it alone anymore. Earlier, I’m sure you saw Paul Heyman and Tommy Dreamer come out and discuss some issues. But I have two more surprises in store for you, Austin.”

Austin, still breathing heavy from his match, says; “I hope it’s a match against that piece of crap Mike Awesome.”

“No, no, Austin. Better then that. I contacted his people earlier today, and next week, I can assure you that right here on Smackdown, you will have another champion-caliber athlete standing side by side with you against this WCW invasion … I have lifted the suspension on The Rock!”

The crowd explodes at the mention of the long-missing People’s Champ; likewise, the announcers come unglued at the mention of Rocky’s return. Austin’s reaction, however, isn’t quite as appreciative. “You tryin’ to tell Stone Cold something, Vince?” He thumps Vince on the chest. “You tryin’ to tell Stone Cold that he can’t get the job done? That he needs that gum-flappin’ punk The Rock to pull his ass outta the fire?”

“I just-“

“Blah, blah, blah, you’re an idiot! Do you know who I am? My name is Stone Cold Steve Austin. I am the World Wrestling Federation Champion. I beat that piece of crap Rock so bad, you had to suspend him for his safety. And I beat him for this belt I got. You think I wanna sit here and trade tags and drink tea with some guy who I hate?”

“Well, like it or not, Steve, The Rock is coming back, and he’s doing so next Thursday.”

“Well, you better just keep him outta my way, Vince, or else-“

Vince gets right in Austin’s face, his eyes almost leaping out of their sockets. “If you wanna sabotage the WWF, Steve, go right ahead. See how long you stay employed.”

Steve gestures to himself and Vince. “You and me, we’re gonna have to talk about this later.”

But Vince is already backed off and moving on. “Well, maybe the second surprise will go over a little better. To help this company in it’s fight to eliminate the threat against us, I have brought back someone else … someone who, at one time, had this company trembling under an iron fist. Ladies and gentlemen, the newest lieutenant under the WWF banner … my daughter, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley!”

Vince has to re-introduce Stephanie twice more before she finally comes out. When she does, she doesn’t look up, and, in fact, looks haggard and worn out. When she gets to the ring, she can barely meet her father in the eye. “I’ve been up every morning at the crack of dawn,” she says, “helping my husband, Triple H, through rehabilitation for his torn quad. Have you called to check on your son-in-law even once, Daddy? Or can you even be distracted long enough from your obsession with killing WCW to remember what goes on the real world?”

“Honey, I-“

“Save it, Daddy. I only came here because you asked me to. I’m not helping you.”

Vince’s eyes go wide; his Adam’s apple rises and falls almost absurdly. “W-w-w-what are you saying, Stephanie?” His lip curls; anger floods his eyes. His voice goes into a predatory growl. “You’re not helping Shane, are you?”

“No, Daddy. I don’t care about any of this. The wrestling industry has broken up my parents’ marriage, it’s ruined the relationships between you and your children, and it’s almost crippled my husband. I want no part of it anymore.” Stephanie takes a deep breath, closes her eyes and says; “Yesterday, I sold my interest in the World Wrestling Federation. I’m retiring from the company to spend time with my husband, who, hopefully, has enough good sense to stay as far away from you as he possibly can. You won’t ever see me again on this, or any other WWF show.” Stephanie drops the microphone and walks out, leaving her shell-shocked father behind.

Nitro: July 30th

The first Nitro in 4 months opens, not with a grandiose fireworks display, but of a video montage: legends and icons of WCW and its predecessor, the NWA, shown in their finest moments. Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Harley Race and Sting are but a few of the faces shown, before the footage dissolves to a shot of the arena in which Nitro will be held; the stage and ring are set-up, but the seats are empty. The only person in the arena is standing in ring: it is Shane.

“I am Shane McMahon,” he begins, “owner and CEO of World Championship Wrestling. Tonight marks the beginning of a new era for WCW; not just a return, or a rebirth, but a re-establishment. Tonight, WCW and Nitro will both begin anew and pick up where it left off, building on the foundation of wrestling that this company has prided itself on for years. This is a company rich with history and success despite overwhelming odds against it … and, just like it did for over a decade, it will succeed without the presence of a McMahon. The WCW that I am proud to present to you today will not live and die by my appearance on your television screens; WCW is about wrestling and wrestlers, not owners and executives. WCW is about presenting the best wrestling you can find each and every week … and you don’t need to see me every week for that. So, ladies and gentlemen-or, should I say, wrestling fans-sit back, relax, and allow me to be the first to welcome you back to WCW Monday Nitro!”

With that, the empty arena fades away and is replaced by a live shot of the sold-out arena, with the new set engulfed in fireworks and explosions. Scott Hudson and Mike Tenay welcome the TV audience to the brand new Nitro, while Commissioner Arn Anderson welcomes the crowd with promises of a night never to forget; every title will be on the line, which is only the tip of the iceberg for WCW’s new era, he promises.

But first is a blockbuster announcement from none other then free agent Rob Van Dam; he announces his intention, worked out through his agent, to wrestle in both federations on a trial basis, testing the competition on both sides; and, for his first test in WCW, he is put in a non-title match against WCW Cruiserweight Champion Shane Helms. Helms puts up a valiant fight, but goes down to the hot young free agent’s Five Star Frog Splash. When asked, following the match, on his feelings towards the level of competition in WCW so far, RVD can only shrug confidently.

As the night goes on, WCW’s new foundation continues to be established, as the Natural Born Thrillers faction reunite and take out Kronik; DDP squares off with old foe Chris Kanyon in a wild brawl that ends up being thrown out when the fighting takes both men out of the arena and into the parking lot; and Dean Malenko bests Chavo Guerrero Jr.

But the specter of the WWF and their psychotic campaign of extermination can’t be forgotten, no matter how many times the announcers insist this is a “new era”, especially when Mike Awesome, after beating Lance Storm in a physical match-up, demands of Commissioner Anderson that he make a match with WWF Champion Steve Austin. The crowd loves the idea of WCW’s resident monster gunning for the WWF’s point man, but Arn insists that there will be no more hostilities. The news doesn’t suit Awesome very well, who upends furniture and wrecks the locker room in frustration.

But even more perplexing are the events that go down during a match between Shannon Moore and Mike Sanders. An eerie sense of dÃ??Ã?á©jÃ??Ã?á  vu settles over the crowd as the match as two men come through the crowd and invade the ring. But, unlike Scott Hall’s invasion of a WCW ring six years prior, Moore and Sanders just leave quietly; Moore even tosses a microphone up to the interlopers on his way out. The crowd is in silent shock, but hanging on the edge of their seats as Chris Jericho and Raven survey their surroundings.

“For those of you who don’t watch that other company, this is Raven, and I’m Chris Jericho,” says Jericho to a rousing ovation. “And we are WWF superstars.” The crowd boos the mere mention of the competition; Jericho asks the audience to quiet down, and then adds; “Or, should I say … we were WWF superstars. I don’t know anymore, because I’m not allowed on WWF television anymore, by executive order from Vince McMahon. That’s right, me, Chris Jericho, one the greatest entertainers in the history of this business, one of the most popular superstars he has, has been banned from appearing on WWF television.” Jericho turns to his companion. “Raven here is so despised by Vince for not signing one of those stupid contracts, Vince gave Paul Heyman permission to bring in Raven’s greatest enemy, Tommy Dreamer, to torment and persecute him. They say Vince McMahon is a genius; yet, here he has two loyal employees, and he torments and tortures them because we happened to work for WCW once upon a time. We’ve said it, and we’ve shown it time and time again that we would never … ever … dream of jumping to WCW; there’s a reason we left it, and no matter who owns it now, WCW is in our past. But that’s not good enough for Vince McMahon. No, he wants us to cripple people. He wants us to end careers and destroy families. The WWF may be about wrestling and competition, but it is not about hurting people. Not like that.”

Jericho shakes his head, handing the microphone to Raven without even looking. While Raven speaks, Jericho stands in the corner, his head down on the turnbuckle. “Vince McMahon! You want to cast us into perdition? You want to torture us, and drive us to the edge of sanity? You have no concept of what real suffering is. Send your hired guns to bring us down; use your power to keep us from the ring. We will fight back, Vince McMahon. We will resist your every move, counter your attacks, stand in the face of every adversity. And when we storm the gates of your ivory tower, and bring you down to the depths of hell which you have driven us to … when we have torn from your hands the power you wield over your minions … then, you will be ready to learn what true suffering is. And Paul Heyman! You think bringing in Tommy Dreamer is going to scare me? You think sending someone I beat senseless for three years is going to put the fear of God in me? You never understood me in ECW, Heyman, and you sure as hell don’t now! Come at us with everything you have, Vince McMahon. Resistence is futile! Quoth the Raven … nevermore!”

Smackdown: August 2nd

No sooner as Smackdown started then the music of The Rock fills the arena, sending the people into a frenzy. The Rock, missing since early April, steps out onto the stage to a standing ovartion. He enters the ring, a microphone in hand and is about to speak when another voice cuts him off.

“Finally!” exclaims Vince. “The Rock has come back home!”

The Rock’s head snaps towards the stage as the Chairman comes out, a clipboard in one hand and a microphone in the other, marching proudly to the ring. When he tucks the clipboard under his arm and offers Rock a hand, Rock gives it a quick glance, then stares at Vince through his sunglasses. Vince, unperturbed, continues on as though nothing happened. “Rock, let me be the first to welcome you back to the WWF, and say that, speaking for everyone in the company, we missed you!”

The People’s Eyebrow goes up to full arch. When he speaks, his voice is low, almost creepy. “You stab The Rock in the back not one but two WrestleManias in a row. You suspend The Rock indefinitely, and when The Rock comes back, you steal The Rock’s catchphrase. So exactly HOW did you miss The Rock? Go ahead, explain that.” Vince opens his mouth to explain but gets cut off with; “IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW YOU EXPLAIN IT! Because the fact of the matter is The Rock doesn’t give a monkey’s anus about you or your stupid contract there! Oh yeah, The Rock’s been watching, The Rock knows what’s going down. Got yourself all worked up about WCW. Lost a couple matches at a pay-per-view. And now you think The Rock can help your company from going under, is that right?” Vince, mouth agape, barely has time to nod before Rock keeps up his stream of words. “Well, let The Rock make one thing perfectly clear, crystal clear: The Rock came back for the people.” The crowd starts to chant his name, but Rocky silences them with a gesture. “The Rock doesn’t care about WWF or WCW. When The Rock looks across the ring at his opponent, The Rock doesn’t care if it’s Steve Austin, Diamond Dallas Page, Rhyno, Lou Thesz, the ghost of Frank Gotch, The Gobbleygooker or yo momma, because in The Rock’s eyes, everybody is just another jabroni. ” The Rock extends a hand, which Vince tentatively accepts; he tries shaking it, but Rock’s grip is crushing. “And you’re the biggest jabroni of ’em all,” says Rock, then reels in Vince and drives him down with a Rock Bottom, to the ecstatic delight of the audience.

Despite Rocky’s attack on his boss, Vince still makes sure that The Rock is delivered the documents he had brought to the ring: a copy of the Declaration Of Loyalty agreement, and an authorization form for Vince to challenge, on Rock’s behalf, Booker T. The Rock mulls them over as the show continues, ignoring the urgings from his WWF brethren to sign the documents without due consideration.

But Vince earns himself another headache (this one not physically inflicted) when Big Show vents his frustration about Undertaker’s senseless attack, and Vince’s endorsement of it as “taking initiative”. Show demands a match against Undertaker, with a World Title shot available to the winner. Vince rejects the demand, stating that Undertaker is busy facing Albert. Show’s response is to crash the Albert/UT match, laying out both men with a chair, and choke-slamming Undertaker through the announce table. The outburst earns Show a hardcore match against Vince’s “hardcore assassin”, Tommy Dreamer later on in the evening. Tommy batters Show with everything he can get his hands on, but Show’s size and strength help him mount a comeback; the comeback is all the more assisted by Raven coming through the crowd and blasting Dreamer in the head with a Singapore cane. But Show and Raven are waylayed by reinforcements in the form of The Dudleys and Rhyno, and Dreamer ends up getting the win. Authorities have to insert themselves so Raven and Big Show can get medical attention.

Even RVD’s first WWF tryout match (against Jerry Lynn) has a dark cloud hanging over it, thanks to the presence of Paul Heyman at ringside. The match, like their previous ECW encounters, delivers the goods, and sees RVD pinning Lynn after a 5 Star Frog Splash. No sooner has the bell rung then Heyman is in the ring, blowing smoke up RVD’s ass. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to present to you my latest acquisition: Mr. Thursday Night, Rob Van Dam!” he bellows as he raises RVD’s arm. RVD tears his arm away, shaking his head. “Whatya mean, Rob? You’re here, on Smackdown! You’re on the team!”

RVD, though winded, manages to get out; “Nuh-uh, man. This is an exhibition. I ain’t making my decision till the week after SummerSlam.” RVD leaves the ring, leaving behind a speechless Heyman.

The Rock comes out for the final segment, the documents nowhere to be seen. “The Rock’s been backstage thinkin’,” he says, “and if there’s one thing The Rock likes being, is the World Champion. And there’s no doubt in The Rock’s mind, not a damn doubt in the world, that The Rock could take that belt off of Booker T, The Rock is still pissed about Stone Cold. Ya see-“

Vince’s music cuts off The Rock. Vince stomps down to the ring, but when Rocky fakes lunging for him, Vince backs off a little, obviously scared. “Rocky, I just came down here for one reason: do you have the Loyalty Statement?”

Rock raises the eyebrow. “You came down and interrupted The Rock for some stupid piece of paper? Well, let The Rock tell you something; The Rock says you need to the bathroom … since you obviously don’t have any balls, perhaps you should go to the little girl’s room …” The crowd eats this up and chants “you’re a woman” for a few seconds until Rock gets them to calm down. “The Rock says you should go to the bathroom, roll yourself up a couple feet of Charmin, and since that’s what your stupid contract is worth anyway, you might as well stick it straight up your candy ass!” This gets the rowdy crowd chanting for Rocky; Rocky lets them have their moment. “As for your little idea about me facing Booker T … The Rock don’t need Vince to talk for him. The Rock can do the talking just fine. In fact, The Rock says he’s not just gonna talk, but he’s gonna go to Nitro next Monday and layeth the smacketh down on all their candy asses!” Rock extends a hand; this time, Vince won’t take it. “C’mon, Vince. The Rock promises: no Rock Bottoms.” Vince measures the moment a bit further before finally taking Rock’s hand ever so lightly. Rock shakes it a couple of times, smiling like a car salesman, then pulls in Vince real close, his voice a low, earthy growl. “But let The Rock make one thing clear: The Rock still wants a piece of that beer-drinking, finger-flipping, cousin-kissing trailer park piece of crap Steve Austin, and after The Rock is through with Booker T, The Rock will get a piece of Steve Austin. Do you understand The Rock?”

The glass breaks, and Austin marches down. When he passes by Rocky on the way to the turnbuckle for his pose, he makes sure to hold up the belt in Rock’s face, mouthing it’s mine as clear as day. Once he’s finished with his pose (met with deep-seated hatred), Austin gets right in Rock’s face … with a cheesy grin. “Welcome back, Rock! Good to see ya!” He gives Rock a hug, which Rock responds to be standing as still as a statue. “C’mon, big guy! Let bygones be bygones! So I hit ya with a steel chair, so what? So Triple H hit you in the head with a sledgehammer, big deal! That’s the past, and now, The Rock is back, ready to go into WCW and take on that piece of trash Booker T! Now, I don’t know if you know, but I been lookin’ to get my hands on Mike Awesome, so maybe, when we’re at Nitro together, we’ll-“

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” The Rock yells. “What is this … ‘we’ stuff? There is no ‘we’. There is The Rock, going to Nitro.” Rock gets up alongside Austin, putting an arm around his shoulder, pointing off into the distance. “See that? See that, Austin? There’s The Rock! He’s gettin’ in his Lincoln … The Rock’s drivin’ to whatever jabroni junior high gymnasium Nitro is at next week. Look, there’s The Rock, gettin’ out of the car, looking fine in his $500 shirt … and there he goes, into that rat-infested gym, to their ring and laying the challenge down to Booker T!” Rock gets real close now, almost whispering. “Do you see all that, Stone Cold?”

Austin nods.

“You know what you don’t see?”

Austin shakes his head.

You don’t see your monkey ass anywhere near there!

Austin backs away, looking shell-shocked, and more then a little hurt. “Why, Rocky … you can’t mean that. We’re WWF, Rock. We’re a team!” Austin goes to hug Rock again, but Rock puts up an open palm.

“You hug The Rock again, and The Rock will guaran-damn-tee you’ll be taking your Steveweisers through an IV.”

Now, Austin’s face darkens. “But you need my help, Rock. If you couldn’t beat me at WrestleMania, how you think you’re gonna beat WCW?”

“Let’s get one thing straight, Austin. The Rock doesn’t need your help; The Rock doens’t need anybody’s.” The Rock takes of his sunglasses, squinting his eyes to narrow slits, speaking through clinched teeth. “And most of all, I don’t want your help.

Nitro: August 6th

No mention of the impending arrival of The Rock is made as Nitro signs on for their second episode. There is no reserved parking space for his limo, no private dressing room, and no red carpet. But, in light of the previous week’s surprise appearence of Chris Jericho and Raven, the presence of a WWF superstar on Nitro (peaceful or otherwise) underscores a truth that WCW can’t turn away from: even after establishing a separate show, the war isn’t over yet.

RVD’s second tryout match, this time against Mike Sanders, ends in DQ, thanks to the interference of the Natural Born Thrillers. RVD is left laying on the mat a beaten man as Sanders berates RVD for sitting on the fence, and serves warning for anyone who isn’t WCW through and through is a target for elimination.

The severity of the NBT’s actions against RVD underscores a striking reality: unlike WCW’s administration, the WCW superstars aren’t going to stick their head in the sand to the persistent threat of war that exists between companies. And it is none other than the first WWF turncoat, Dean Malenko, who throws down the gauntlet; after taking the Cruiserweight Title from Shane Helms in a classic WCW cruiserweight match, Malenko issues a very aggressive challenge to X-Pac, offering up his Cruiserweight Title as bait.

Malenko’s challenge acts sets off a chain reaction of wrestlers serving up challenges to the WWF, a bold step away from the policy of peaceful co-existence preached by the WCW brass. Arn is quick to confront Malenko about his offering up WCW titles in inter-promotional matches without WCW’s sanction, not to mention how this shot across the bow can’t even be legitimized without serious negotiations between the rival companies. But despite Arn’s attempts at containment, the floodgates open, and soon enough, challenges are being thrown out faster then Arn can keep track of: Kidman follows Malenko and offers his US Title against Edge’s IC Title, DDP challenges Kurt Angle, Kronik challenge The Dudleys, O’Haire & Palumbo challenge The Hardy Boys, and Chris Kanyon challenges Rhyno. The rash of challenges being thrown out prompts Arn to made a hasty address to the fans and the wrestlers that the challenges cannot be sanctioned or supported by WCW until and unless the WWF agrees to another inter-promotional event. The stonewalling by Arn sets everyone on edge, and the matches that follow look more like Ultimate Fighting matches then wrestling bouts.

So when The Rock finally shows up, not only does he not get any sort of preferential treatment, but the WCW superstars go out of their way to show their disdain for him and, by extension, his company. When he comes to the ring for his appearance, he gets no music, and the fans greet him with a stony silence that visibly unnerves The Rock. “Is this the kind of greeting you give to the most electrifying man in sports entertainment?” The crowd responds, not with cheers but boos; The Rock surveys the crowd and, when it becomes apparent there won’t be any “Rocky” chants tonight, he takes off his sunglasses and says; “Then The Rock says let’s make this short and sweet. The Rock wants Booker T.”

Booker’s music cues up, sending the partisan crowd into a fervor, but Booker doesn’t come out alone; standing next to the well-dressed champion are Mike Awesome, DDP and the Tag Champs, O’Haire & Palumbo. As the group enters the ring, The Rock starts in with the quips; “Nice shirt. You pick it out of The Rock’s trash?” Booker grins and even chuckles, but it’s quite obviously a humorless chuckle. “The Rock’s gonna make this quick, jabroni. The Rock’s seen your act, and while The Rock appreciates the flattery, it’s gone on long enough. There can be only one-just one-People’s Champion, and that’s-“

Booker puts up a hand in Rock’s face; Rock’s eyes bug out of his head, but Booker is as cool as an autumn evening. “You said you were gonna make it quick, Rock, so make it quick and say what you got to say?” The Rock opens his mouth, but Booker is right there to cut him off. “It doesn’t matter what you got to say!” The crowd goes nuts for Booker feeding Rocky’s lines back at him; Rocky, however, doesn’t take as kindly to it and glares a hole through Booker. “You forgettin’ where you are, Rock? You’re on Nitro, not Smackdown. This ain’t your show, Rocky; this is my show. Here …” Booker points a finger right in the face of Rock. “Here, you be the jabroni.” Booker pats the belt resting on his shoulder. “You want this? You want some of Booker T and WCW? What’s WCW get out of me facing you?”

“Does The Rock look like a deal-maker to you, Booker? Does The Rock look like Vince McMahon?”

“I can make that deal,” says another voice, a husky, southern growl. Everyone turns to the aisle to see Steve Austin coming to the ring. He stops when he gets to the ringside area, eyes locked on Mike Awesome. “Oh, yeah, son, I see you want a piece of Stone Cold. Why, if I didn’t have a couple beers on the way here, I’d come up there, stomp a mudhole in your ass and walk it dry.”

“Didn’t The Rock make it clear your monkey ass was to stay on Smackdown? The Rock doesn’t need your help, and The Rock doesn’t want your help.”

“Rocky, old buddy! I just came here to back you up. You’re here all alone, in WCW, with no friends, pissing people off with your big mouth like you always do … I knew you’d need a little back-up.” Suddenly, all the cheer drains out of Austin’s face; his eyes go as flat and emotionless as marbles. “And that’s what we’re here for.”

Before anyone has time to run back what he said, the “we”-namely, The Dudleys, Rhyno, Tazz, X-Factor, The Undertaker and the APA–swarm from the crowd and over-run the ring, catching the distracted WCW stars off-guard. Rock is shoved out of the way as the WWF stars invade the ring; Booker tries to lead his me, but the numbers game quickly asserts itself, and WCW can’t compete. When WCW sends out troops from the locker room, more WWF stars-Tajiri, Jerry Lynn, The Hardy Boys, Big Show and William Regal-jump into the aisle, armed with ballbats, forming a barricade in the aisle. WCW’s forces stop dead in their tracks, unable to compete with the numbers and their armaments …

… until Big Show swings and clobbers Regal in the back. The rest of the WWF forces in the aisle are caught in a momentary fugue, staring at the seething giant. Show rips the bat out of Jeff Hardy’s hands and snaps it over his knee; it breaks WCW’s reverie, and they pounce on the distracted WWF forces, leaving Show to turn his attentions to the ring. Show uses his bat to clear out X-Factor, the APA and Tazz before the rest of the WWF wrestlers realize the tables have turned. The break gives Booker and his cohorts a chance to regroup and strike back. Show makes a beeline for Undertaker, who bolts from the ring and into the crowd; Show follows Undertaker into the crowd, leaving the war behind in the ring, where WCW manages to make a comeback and drive the WWF forces from the ring. Austin, having showed his true colors and staying out of the fray, ducks into the crowd as well, glaring at Awesome from behind the barricade. The Rock, having been shoved out of the way and down to the floor, stares at his nemesis, Booker T, who mouths a simple two word response: it’s on.

Smackdown: August 9th

What everyone expects from the WWF-a triumphant video package boasting about their invasion of Nitro-doesn’t open up Smackdown. Instead, videotape shot outside the arena from earlier leads off the broadcast, as wrestlers arrive to the arena, only to find locked doors. “This was the scene as the WWF’s wrestlers showed up to work today,” says the commentator with a detectible amount of malicious glee. Scott Hudson’s evil smile is almost infectious to look at, and his happiness is visibly uncontainable. “That’s right, folks. The WWF’s locked out of their own show, and Vince McMahon is locked in! This is WCW, striking back!”

Vince stomps down to the ring (sans entrance music or a video, thanks to the truck being hijacked) and makes a beeline for Scott Hudson and Mike Tenay, sitting in the seats normally reserved for JR and Paul Heyman. Vince berates the announcers, who take it with cat-who-swallowed-the-canary grins on their faces. When Vince demands to know what is going on, Hudson and Tenay point behind Vince, who turns and freezes. On the stage is WCW’s entire roster, including their newest acquisition, The Big Show, led by Arn to the ring. Vince grabs a mike and dashes into the ring, screaming and stomping like a 7-year old throwing a tantrum. “THIS ISN’T YOUR SHOW! YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME! I’M VINCE MCMAHON, DAMMIT! I AM WRESTLING!

Booker fakes lunging at Vince; Vince skitters back, but loses his footing and falls on his ass. Several WCW wrestlers start laughing. Vince glares at all of them. “I will bury you!” He pounds the mat, repeating his threat over and over. Then, he fixes his gaze on Show, stabbing a finger at him and says through clinched teeth; “Especially you, you ingrate. I will ruin your career. I will have you tied up in court for so long, your children’s children will be bankrupt because of you. You’ll wish you were dead!”

Arn reaches into his jacket and pulls out a small manila envelope, and tosses it at Vince. “Read this, Vince.” Vince looks at it a moment, as if it were a snake that might jump up and bite him. “But I can save you the trouble. No one understands that a man has to do what he has to do to protect his more then me, Vince. For over a decade, I protected the interests of the 4 Horsemen and the ideals we held dear. We did just about every bad thing known to man or beast … but the one thing we didn’t do was break the law.” Vince’s eyes grow to dinner plates. Arn hunkers down to Vince’s eye level and holds up two fingers. “First, you sent your thugs into Nitro to attack WCW wrestlers at a WCW event. Your wrestlers are not contracted by WCW. Not only were they trespassing, but that’s assault. We could turn SummerSlam into a WCW event if we really wanted to, Vince, but we aren’t like that. We like the competition; it’s you that has a problem with anyone else trying to exist in this business. That’s why you made everyone sign those little agreements … and that was your second mistake, Vince. You made a unilateral decision and created those contracts without bothering to run it by the board for approval, or see if the language is even legal.” Arn stands up, looking down on Vince, who is as white as a ghost; his jaw keeps moving up and down as if to talk, but nothing comes out. “You can’t touch Big Show, Vince. You can’t keep anybody from exploring their options. Anybody who wants to escape your tyranny is more then welcome, and legally free, to check out their options in WCW … especially if you insist on persecuting them.”

Arn backs away, letting Booker, Awesome and Show step forward. Show grabs Vince by the lapels and hauls him to his feet. Show brushes off Vince’s jacket, which Vince watches in stupid silence, then stares down at his former boss with the rage of gods in his eyes. Standing next to him are Awesome and Booker. Booker talks while Show continues to keep Vince backed up against the ropes. “You done finally pushed us too far, Vince,” Booker says. “You wanna go to war with WCW? Well, we wanna war with you! WCW is ready to put you on your ass, sucka! Now can you dig that?”

Awesome looms in closer and adds; “You wanna send your boys to Nitro to challenge us? We’re here to accept your challenge, Vince! We ain’t hiding from you, dammit! We’re here to tell you it’s on!”

Show gets right in Vince’s face, nosetips touching. “And I want The Undertaker, Vince!” Show backs away a step, then gives his signal for the chokeslam and bellows like an angry dragon. Everyone steps back, leaving Vince quivering against the ropes … until Booker jumps back in his face and adds; “SUCKA!” With that, WCW peacefully leave the ring and the arena.

With WCW gone, and the WWF wrestlers finally allowed in the building, the show resumes, albeit with a different air: with virtually no spare time, many matches are held in street clothes and sneakers, and more resemble street fights then wrestling matches.

And, with Vince seething about the “violation” of his sanctity, his own wrestlers not only suffer in terms of performance, but all around; Kurt Angle is forced to wrestle both Albert and Edge in separate matches, when Edge’s original opponent, Jeff Hardy, isn’t ready to perform; the delay by Jeff nets him a week suspension and a fine. Crash Holly has to deal with a livid Undertaker, who beats him mercilessly; when he gets backstage, Vince chews him out for not putting up much of a fight, and books him in a hardcore match against Tommy Dreamer.

The match surprises no one, and is little more then a sanctioned mugging (and a not-so-subtle message directed at Raven), with Crash being busted open with a Singapore cane, and abused with every implement Dreamer can get his hands on. When the referee calls the match for excessive brutality and signals for paramedics, Dreamer assaults the referee and the medics, then continues beating on Crash while Heyman cheers his client on from ringside. Raven comes through the crowd and, after clobbering Heyman, waffles Dreamer with a chair. But the advantage evaporates when The Dudleys, Tazz and Tajiri rush down to the ring and help decimate Raven. Before Dreamer and his cohorts allow Raven and Crash to be taken away, Raven takes multiple shots with weaponry, finishing moves and, in a graphic display of savagery, a 3D through a table covered in thumbtacks.

But, despite the charge that everyone gets from seeing Raven get a good beating, Vince’s bruised ego takes its toll on the roster. When Rock finally arrives, he and Vince get into a heated argument over the “reinforcements” on Monday and how foolish it made The Rock look; Vince accuses The Rock of cozying up to the competition, and warns him that pushing the issue will earn him a seat on the outside looking in next to Jericho. The Rock reminds Vince that he is WWF through and through, and intends on bringing the WCW Title to the WWF … unless he keeps taking out his shortcomings as a leader on everyone else. When word catches of the argument, the locker room becomes a minefield of a two sets of polarized zealots: a group loyal to Vince, no matter what, and a group seeing cracks in the great “genius” of professional wrestling. The division is illustrated all the better by the main event, pitting the unlikely team of Stone Cold and The Rock against the lunatic Dudley Boys; within minutes, Austin and The Rock are at each other’s throats, yelling, screaming and, eventually, brawling, leaving The Dudleys’ Tag Titles intact through a no-contest, and the WWF fragmenting from the top down, only a week before the biggest event in the company’s history.

Nitro: August 13th

The feeling on Nitro as it opens up the final edition before the big inter-promotional collision at SummerSlam isn’t one of trepidation or nervousness, but of excitement and happiness. Any worries about the future of WCW and its World Title seem insignificant and even silly as Nitro gets underway. And when RVD comes to the ring and issues a challenge to both Billy Kidman and Edge in their title-for-title match, upping the stakes to a ladder match and even promises to deliver a decision after SummerSlam as to where he will sign. The fact that the announcement is made on Nitro is, in the minds of WCW, evidence that RVD is bound for WCW.

But the surprise arrival of Chris Jericho serves to remind everyone of what is at stake in the inter-promotional war: the integrity and future of not only a company, but of the wrestlers under the respective banners. This time, he comes down the aisle, not an invader but a guest. Yet, his discomfort is obvious as he paces back and forth in the ring, running his free hand through his hair.

“Ya know,” he begins, “I didn’t really wanna be here tonight, but since Vince still won’t allow me on WWF TV, I got nowhere to go. I’m not out here to cut a promo or anything like that; I’m not out here as Y2J, talking to Mr. McMahon. This is real life. Vince McMahon has become obsessed with destroying anything that gets in the way of his ‘one world’ vision. If that means people loses their jobs, their companies, their homes, he doesn’t care. And above all, Vince McMahon would rather die then be wrong; he lost Dean Malenko, and he lost Big Show because of his tunnel vision. And he banned me from WWF television; Chris Jericho, the man he tapped as the next Shawn Michaels. The man he said WCW squandered.” Jericho leans on the ropes, looking at the camera with eyes as cold as polar winds. “But I know how to play head games, too, Vince. I know how to work the system. You may have your locker room convinced I’m the biggest traitor since Judas, but the fans know different. And lemme tell ya something, Vince: the board of directors knows it. They know Chris Jericho is huge with the fans; they know I sell t-shirts, and video games, and toys, and most importantly, I sell tickets and pay-per-views.” Jericho starts pacing again, but his discomfort is gone; he talks with his hands, and the Jericho cockiness comes back in voice. “And when I told them that I was available for SummerSlam and not on the card, they were confused, Vince. And angry; real angry. Because, ladies and gentlemen, the board of directors of the World Wrestling Federation had been led to believe that I was injured, and would be out indefinitely.” Jericho pauses to let the tidbit sink in (which does so with an audible gasp among arena full of fans). “Let me repeat that, because I think it’s kinda important: Vince McMahon lied to the board of directors about the health of one of his most popular competitors because of a personal vendetta, based on unproven, and improvable, accusations. So, after I helped peel the board off the ceiling, they had a quick little meeting and offered me a couple things: they would lift the ban on my appearing on WWF television, and, since SummerSlam was kinda full on matches, they’d … well, I before I go letting the cat out of the bag, I wanna do the right thing. So, if I could have the company of Arn Anderson?”

The old Horsemen music cues up, and Arn comes out after a few seconds. Jericho and Arn shake hands and exchange a few pleasantries before Jericho lays forth his offer. “Arn, I called you out here because I respect you, and I want to present this to you man-to-man. I, along with Raven, have both been offered spots refereeing the co-main events at SummerSlam. I want to know from you: do you, WCW, have a problem with me officiating the Rock/Booker match, and Raven officiating the Austin/Awesome match.”

Arn doesn’t hesitate for a second. “Chris, I’ve known you for more then a few years. I know you’re a stand-up guy. If you say you and Raven can call this down the middle, I believe it.” Arn and Jericho shake hands again, sealing the deal. Jericho’s feet haven’t even hit the arena floor before the announcers ask the question: can Jericho and Raven be trusted?

But any skepticism of Jericho’s and Raven’s reliability isn’t to blame for killing the mood on Nitro; the incursion of WWF wrestlers does, this time as paying audience members. Unlike their previous invasions, this one is strictly, and unusually, peaceful, aside from heckling and holding up signage. By the time the main event-a non-title match between Booker T and Mike Awesome-comes around, the WCW roster has more then had enough of the heckling, and Booker & Awesome confront the WWF contingent. Austin splashes beer in the face of the already agitated Awesome, triggering a melee. When the cops finally get everyone separated, Austin is being led away in handcuffs, half the WCW locker room is acting as a human shield to keep Awesome from going after Austin, and the rest of the WWF group laughs and snickers as they leave Nitro.

Smackdown: August 16th

With only 3 days until SummerSlam, and massive heat on him for his litany of misteps, Vince addresses the fans and the employees of the WWF and, in the process, makes a series of major announcements: firstly, he announces that Smackdown will be headlined by two main events, being the return of Chris Jericho to take on The Rock, and, in a hardcore match, Raven versus Tommy Dreamer.

But the biggest announcement comes in the form of Vince declaring that he will not be present at SummerSlam due to important corporate issues that require his full attention, and will allow Paul Heyman to act as his lieutenant not only at the event, but starting immediately. Vince brings out Heyman, who vows to continue developing a strong contingent of wrestlers to combat the evil at their door, and crush anyone who stands in the way.

The Dreamer/Raven match starts out as yet another chapter in Tommy Dreamer’s campaign to eliminate and humiliate Raven, when The Dudleys and Tazz beat on Raven as he makes his way to the ring. The weakened Raven is easy pickings for Dreamer, who drags out a legalized mugging. But Dreamer’s confidence turns to laziness, and, as he tries to cover with a foot on his chest, Raven grabs a cane laying nearby and bashes Dreamer in the crotch. Raven manages to DDT Dreamer and get a pinfall, then high-tails it out of the ring area as Dreamer’s friends race down to ringside.

By contrast, the Jericho/Rock affair is more sedate in terms of violence, but with animosity between the two going into Sunday, the tension is as thick as a brick. Jericho holds nothing back, unleashing every move in his arsenal against The People’s Champ. But Rock is tentative, as if calculating not only the move, but the ramifications of it. With his pragmatic stance, it doesn’t take long for Rock to be on the defensive end of things. But Jericho’s advantage evaporates when Austin stomps to the ring, cussing up a storm about the “damned jackass traitor” and brandishing a chair; while Rock is on the floor, and Jericho is distracted with the referee, Austin bashes Jericho in the head, drawing a DQ. Rock doesn’t take kindly to Austin’s interference, and stops Austin from continuing to beat on Jericho. The two argue over Austin insinuating himself in business that isn’t his, with Austin insisting he’s helping out a “friend” who’s being threatened by “WCW trash”; Rock rips the chair out of Austin’s hands and moves to toss it away when Jericho wakes up and sees the chair in Rock’s hands. When Austin tries to hold Jericho back, Jericho decks Austin and goes after The Rock, only to be waylayed by Austin. The two brawl until Austin tries a Stunner; Jericho catches the leg, sweeps Austin off hsi feet and puts him in the Walls Of Jericho, torquing the surgically repaired spine of Austin in directions it wasn’t meant to go. Rock watches with wild amazement from the entrance ramp as Jericho finally releases the move, then leans over the ropes and, glaring at The Rock, vows revenge.

To be continued …

Yes, I ended it before SummerSlam. Slight change in format. Next issue will start with the PPV, and, hopefully, end right before Unforgiven. Space limitations are part of it … and the way the story is set up, the drama of it works out better this way. You’ll see. Trust me. Have I been wrong yet?

Pimps for my peeps …

Kurtis always gets a nod, for his posts and for real life. Ditto Bonto and Gohan.

Eric is always good to me.

Gordi also kicks ass. As do Hatton (my partner in modding our excellent forums), and Hevia. And one for Big Andy Mac. Can’t say I know the guy, but he wrote about Steve Corino, who is one my all-time favorites.

And elsewhere, we got D’Errico in Music, a new girl (yes, a girl!) by the name of Geli and a short but sweet diatribe from Liquidcross in Games, Coach Coogan in TV, and … well … I’m running out of space, so Movies, Comics, Figures and Moodspins (I write there, too!).

And a quick thanks to the pimp for my Death Of WCW review given by WrestleCrap. All I did was tell it like I saw it, RD.

Three months of the InVasion are behind us … but there is a lot more to come. With his roster questioning his leadership abilities, and the board of directors unhappy with his choices, how will Vince handle everything? How will Heyman handle the mantle of leadership at SummerSlam? Will Jericho’s perceived issues with The Rock be cleared up in time for the WCW Title match against Booker T? Can Mike Awesome step up to the plate and unseat Austin? Will Tommy Dreamer factor into the match, with Raven being the referee? And which company will Rob Van Dam pick? Two weeks (honestly, two weeks) will bring us to Month 4 …

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