On March 23rd, 2001, the landscape of professional wrestling changed forever when Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation purchased its greatest rival, World Championship Wrestling. A month prior, the number three promotion in the United States was also purchased by the WWF, Extreme Championship Wrestling. Thanks to these purchases, Vince McMahon essentially ruled wrestling.
But the stigma of wrestlers still being associated with their former companies was only heightened when men and women of the once active WCW and ECW joined forces under the command of McMahon’s own children – Shane and Stephanie – to take down the company currently employing them. In an effort to push back this potentially dangerous alliance, friends and enemies alike in the WWF joined together in hopes of victory. The real question isn’t whether or not either side was successful, but if this pay-per-view event is a classic.
July 22, 2001
1. Edge & Christian defeated Lance Storm & Mike Awesome
2. Earl Hebner defeated Nick Patrick
3. The APA defeated The Natural Born Thrillers
4. Billy Kidman defeated X-Pac
5. Raven defeated William Regal
6. Chris Kanyon, Shawn Stasiak, & Hugh Morrus defeated Billy Gunn, The Big Show, & Albert
7. Tajiri defeated Tazz
8. Rob Van Dam defeated Jeff Hardy to win the WWF Hardcore championship
9. Lita & Trish Stratus defeated Torrie Wilson & Stacy Keibler in a Bra & Panties match
10. The Alliance defeated Team WWF
It Begins: Kicking off this event were men pretty familiar with each other during their travels before arriving in the WWF. Mike Awesome made history by being the first WCW wrestler to invade the WWF during a “Raw” episode in Madison Square Garden, winning the company’s Hardcore title. His title reign didn’t last long at all, but the first shot had been fired. Siding with Awesome was fellow ECW/WCW alumnus Lance Storm. Former WWF Tag Team champions Edge & Christian followed their roaring ovation with typical E & C high impact offense that eventually caused Storm to be back dropped onto Awesome after Mike had been pitched to the floor. The high-risk offense proved to be just that when Christian slipped on a dive off Edge’s back, almost spiking himself on floor headfirst. With Christian out of it, Awesome took his chance and slammed Christian against the steel ring post.
Christian took a beating aimed at his midsection; leading to several near falls and Edge begging for his brother/partner to fight back. Christian did just that, but things were suddenly off between the partners. Edge, during his team’s comeback, took a super kick that was aimed at Christian. E & C eventually got back on one accord as the fans became more and more loud in their support of their team. Seeing Edge about to be power bombed by Awesome, Christian unleashed the spear to cause a crumbling Awesome to be pinned by Edge.
A very exhilarating opener that, sadly really isn’t talked about when this event it brought up.
Rules? Who Needs Rules: Of course, the referees of the rivaling companies couldn’t get along. So why not throw them into a match? WWF Senior Official Earl Hebner and his WCW counterpart Nick Patrick rolled around the ring, trading punches as the crowd went absolutely ballistic. With Mick Foley as the impartial referee, Hebner was able to spear his way to victory after Patrick argued with Foley over a possible slow count. You would think this had no right to be a Right, but it was kept short, intense, and the fans loved it.
Battle Lines: The APA of Faarooq and Bradshaw took it upon themselves to carry the WWF midcard flag against WCW Tag Team champions Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo after the WCW champions started attacking WWF people. The match featured a lot of punching and kicking until O’Haire tried to dominate Bradshaw and ended up taking a DDT. Faarooq got the tag, leading to another donnybrook between all four men until Palumbo took Bradshaw’s Clothesline From Hell before being pinned.
A pretty average match that the fans were really into. Actually, the fans made this match feel better than it was. Nothing inherently wrong, but nothing inherently memorable either.
It’s All on You: With the WCW-ECW alliance down three to nothing at this point of the show, Alliance leaders Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Paul Heyman cornered WCW Cruiserweight champion Billy Kidman to tell him the pressure was on him to turn things around for his group. Rather than be worried about the position he was forced into due to failure, Kidman accepted the situation with open arms. Those open arms had closed fists on the end during his bout with WWF Light Heavyweight champion X-Pac. Though the pro-WWF supported their men and women throughout the show, X-Pac didn’t get the same love as Kidman wowed the crowd with his high flying offense that included some cross body blocks, a hurricarana, and even X-Pac’s own X-Factor to counter a power bomb.
But this wasn’t some kind of one-sided affair. X-Pac had his moments after using a cross body block of his own. Unlike Kidman, X-Pac tried to keep things grounded when he took control. With X-Pac in control, he had the chance to hit the real X-Factor. Rather than go for the pin, Pac wanted to execute a bronco buster that failed thanks to Kidman throwing his right boot up. The Kidman kick was obviously low, but the referee let it slide so Kidman could finish off his fellow champion with shooting star press.
Right behind the opener for Match of the Night at this point. Kidman brought out the best in X-Pac and vice versa. Good stuff, for sure.
The Animal Invasion: Former ECW World champion Raven had the chance to keep his group’s momentum going by taking on WCW alumni and then-WWF commissioner William Regal. Regal was able to avoid and sidestep Raven in the early going, but it was Raven’s brawling ability that allowed him to turn things around. Regal fired back with knees to Raven’s face, but his attacks were weakened thanks to Raven’s assault using the barricades and his own body. Regal eventually stopped the Evenflow DDT, causing a collision that sent Raven to the floor and left Regal in the ring to be attacked by Alliance member Tazz. With Regal hurt, Raven capitalized with the Evenflow DDT to pin Regal.
Once again, nothing truly special, but not bad either.
Japanese Avenger: Tajiri entered his match with Tazz fired up after a pep talk from William Regal about regaining control in this war. Tajiri ran into the ring, throwing a spinning heel kick topped off by the moonsault for a quick near fall. Though he took a couple of suplexes, Tajiri was able to throw a combination of punches and kicks that stunned Tazz long enough that he was prone to the handspring back elbow and Tajiri’s tarantula. Tazz turned things around, looking to suplex Tajiri on his head before choking him out. “The Human Suplex Machine” ended up feeling the seemingly blinding green mist after Tazz instinctively shoved the referee out of the way. Tajiri quickly capitalized with his buzz saw kick, putting Tazz’s lights out.
A very energetic match that didn’t steal the show, but kept things moving and gave the fans something to get into.
Hurts to the Extreme: The longest reigning ECW TV champion in history, Rob Van Dam, entered the WWF ring once again to take on a man who, when Van Dam helped ECW invade the WWF in 1997, was nothing more than fodder for him in Jeff Hardy. Fast forward four years later and Jeff Hardy was a megastar, tag team specialist and the WWF Hardcore champion. What better title to go for than the Hardcore title when you’re RVD? Van Dam fired the first shot, attacking Jeff’s brother Matt before the match with a chair. Rather than come in with a rage in his heart, Jeff tried to outwrestle and outmaneuver his challenger to give the fans something to pop for every time they hit one of their cool moves like RVD’s rolling thunder.
The action eventually spilled outside and into the crowd so RVD could showcase his flexibility by executing a spiral leg drop from the apron to slam Jeff Hardy across the top of a barricade. Though Jeff Hardy recovered from the big bump, he took a fall moments later when RVD pushed him off a ladder to set up some action on the ramp. Without warning, RVD hit the Van Daminator to knock Jeff off the stage!
This proved to be the beginning of the end for Jeff Hardy as RVD dragged the champion back in, looking to finish him off. Jeff did a great job stopping RVD’s biggest flying maneuvers, but succumbed to the Five Star Frog Splash when the challenger avoided his Swanton Bomb. Three seconds later, RVD was the new WWF Hardcore champion.
Exhilarating spot fest featuring both men just going all out and trying their best to excite the crowd (and they succeeded nicely). An argument can still be made for this being the best match of the show.
Do I Have to Break This Down: The semi-main event happened to be a Bra & Panties match between WWF reps Lita and Trish Status taking on WCW’s Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler in a match where both women of a team had to be stripped down to their bra and panties to lose. Seriously, do I have to go into details why or why not this is a Right? Girls in skimpy clothing strip each other down to their underwear. If you like that kind of stuff, this match is for you. If not, too bad because that’s what happened and the fans ate it up.
It’s “Hollywood” Steve Austin: With the score in favor of the WWF, Vince’s group came to the ring with determination in their eyes for the main event. The Undertaker looked to avenge his wife’s honor by beating up her stalker, Diamond Dallas Page. Jericho and Kane had tasted the force of Rhino’s Gore and The Dudleys’ 3D. Kurt Angle hated the whole situation and was serious again after spending some time being a goofball. And Steve Austin just wanted to kick butt because he was acting as bad as Angle in recent weeks.
The action kicked off outside of the ring as everyone brawled. The leaders of their respective companies/groups watched as Team WWF’s domination slowly descended into a beating of Undertaker, Jericho, and Angle. It wasn’t unusual for another fistfight to break out at any moment, leading to big situations like Austin seemingly injuring his left knee to occur. As referees got bumped, people were put through tables, and the McMahons attacked each other, Kurt Angle took his stand and put the WCW World & U.S. champion Booker T. in the Ankle Lock. Out of nowhere, Austin kicked Angle in the head to set up the Stone Cold Stunner. Jim Ross went ballistic at announce table due to Austin turning on the WWF and costing his own team the victory.
The images of Hulk Hogan turning on WCW to join the then-unnamed nWo were obvious, but the match was nothing like that historic bout in 1996. For almost thirty minutes, ten men beat the life out of each other before the Austin turn. It’s not a bad match whatsoever, but Austin turning on the WWF after kicking butt for a majority of the match and the hype not being matched hurts its standing in history.
Getting Names on the Card: Showing the shallow depths of WCW’s talented roster, Shawn Stasiak, Hugh Morris and Kanyon were put together to take on Big Show, Billy Gunn and Albert. It didn’t take long before this less than five minute bout deteriorated into Wrestler A hitting Wrestler B with big maneuver, only for Wrestler C to do the same thing to Wrestler A. Replace “A”, “B”, and “C” with “Gunn”, “Morrus”, and “Stasiak” and you have the finish of Stasiak taking out Gunn so an unconscious Morrus could pin him. After the match, the WWF guys beat up the victorious WCW guys. Nothing to see here; move along now.
Is It A Classic: The prospect of a WWF-WCW pay-per-view sounded so good before this show aired, but that dream also featured names like Ric Flair, Sting, Goldberg and Hulk Hogan. Here, you had the WCW B-Team featuring a couple of main eventers and ECW stalwarts trying to make something special happen that just wouldn’t. Ignoring the disappointment, you have ten matches with a majority of them going less than eight minutes. Though it looks like the show is full of positivity, even the borderline Right matches are easily forgotten. It’s hard not to repeat the word “disappointment”, but it sums up this show perfectly.