- This article is about the storyline. For the pay-per-view, see WWF InVasion.
The Invasion was a professional wrestling storyline in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now known as WWE) that ran from March–November 2001 and involved stables of wrestlers purporting to represent World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) – which merged to form The Alliance – placed against a stable of wrestlers purporting to represent the WWF. The storyline began shortly after the WWF's acquisitions of WCW and ECW in March and April 2001, respectively, and concluded with a "winner takes all" match between The Alliance and the WWF at the 2001 Survivor Series.
The idea of a supercard featuring the two top promotions of the Monday Night Wars was considered to be a dream match scenario in the eyes of many fans, as it would allow the fans to see which promotion would be kayfabe superior. The angle began when Vince McMahon's son, Shane McMahon, announced on Raw and the final episode of Nitro that he (kayfabe) bought WCW from under his father's nose. This led to several run-in appearances of WCW wrestlers during Raw and SmackDown! over the months after WrestleMania X-Seven.
In June 2001, the angle grew in intensity as the WWF storylines somewhat abated to make room for the central Invasion storyline. WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) merged to form The Alliance and challenged the WWF's control over the wrestling industry. An Inaugural Brawl took place at the WWF Invasion pay-per-view, where Stone Cold Steve Austin defected and joined the Alliance. Many inter-promotional matches occurred after the Invasion between The Alliance and the WWF, leading up to the climax of the angle at Survivor Series, when Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, Big Show, The Undertaker, and Kane) defeated Team Alliance (Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Shane McMahon) in a Winner-Take-All match.
Monday Night Wars
During the Monday Night Wars, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the two top North American wrestling promotions, competed for ratings. Through developments such as the creation of the New World Order (nWo) and the Montreal Screwjob, fans continually compared the two promotions, and the Internet wrestling community was full of debate as to which of the two was superior.
Among other factors, however, mismanagement within WCW (such as allowing wrestlers themselves to book matches and various instances of corporate politics) eventually led WCW to a downward spiral from which it never recovered. The Monday Night Wars came to an end on March 23, 2001, when the WWF bought WCW for what was considered to be a bargain price.
The final night of the Monday Night Wars occurred on March 26, 2001: Raw primarily focused on the major storylines heading into WrestleMania X-Seven, while Nitro held their final episode with a "Night of Champions". Vince McMahon opened up Nitro and announced a simulcast later that night to address the future of WCW. Throughout Raw, McMahon publicly named several WCW wrestlers who would not be retained. (Though most would wrestle for the WWE in the ensuing years, he did legitimately fire Jeff Jarrett on TV due to animosity between the two dating back to when Jarrett blackmailed McMahon for payment when Jarrett was booked for a match at the 1999 No Mercy when his contract having expired the day before.) After Sting defeated Ric Flair in WCW's final match, the simulcast began. McMahon talked about the buyout of WCW and toyed with the idea of making WCW into a huge media conglomerate, much like the WWF. He asked the crowd who he should keep under his belt by mentioning names of WCW wrestlers and asking for a reaction. Lex Luger received a negative reaction from fans, and Hulk Hogan, Buff Bagwell, Booker T, Scott Steiner, Sting, and Goldberg received positive reactions. Vince then proceeded to fire them all, however, to the cheers of the RAW crowd and the jeers of the Nitro crowd. McMahon then announced that he would sign the contract and make the purchase official at WrestleMania. Shane McMahon, however, appeared on Nitro and announced in kayfabe that he had signed the contract and purchased WCW out from under his father's nose, planting the seed for what was considered a lucrative future storyline opportunity. The Invasion did not begin immediately afterwards, as the WWF was preparing for WrestleMania X-Seven, the year's largest show, which was mere days away.
The WWF had effectively doubled the size of its roster through its acquisition of WCW, and as a result, there was not enough screen time for everyone. The original plan was to find a time slot on TNN to continue running WCW as a separate entity. Polls were even put up on WWF.com and WCW.com to decide the name of the new show. These plans fell through when no TV station would touch WCW because of its reputation for losing money. The WWF eventually carried out a brand extension, effectively reviving WCW under its own auspices and running two separate promotions, each with one of the WWF's two existing televised shows, Raw and SmackDown!.
As part of its plans, Lance Storm became the first WCW wrestler to appear on WWF programming, by making a run-in during a match on the May 28 episode of Raw. Hugh Morrus made his WWF debut on the June 4, 2001 episode of Raw attacking Edge. At King of the Ring 2001 on June 24, then-WCW wrestler Booker T interfered during the Triple Threat Main Event match for the WWF Championship and almost cost Stone Cold Steve Austin the title. Additionally, Austin suffered fractured bones in his hand from the side slam he took from Booker into an announce table. The next night, a confrontation occurred between WCW owner Shane McMahon and WWF owner Vince McMahon. While Vince was in the ring, Booker T came from behind to deliver a scissor kick to Vince. The WWF roster ran to the ring to the aid of Vince, but Booker T and Shane McMahon escaped through the crowd. This incident marked the official start of the Invasion storyline, to which Raw commentator Jim Ross announced, "The battle lines have been drawn!"
The WWF eventually began to recognize WCW and tested the idea of a brand extension by giving WCW the final twenty minutes of Raw with Scott Hudson and Arn Anderson doing announcing duties in place of Jim Ross and Paul Heyman. During a match between Buff Bagwell and Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, WWF wrestlers Kurt Angle and WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin interfered in retaliation by beating Booker T up, with Bagwell joining Angle and Austin by attacking Booker T. This match did not go over well at all with the audience in attendance at the Tacomadome. One source cites that the match should have showcased the best of WCW but instead featured too many restholds and not enough action. The audience jeered at the wrestlers with chants of "This match sucks!" and "Boring!" A WWF source close to Vince McMahon said that Vince had "absolutely hated" the segment.
Up until this point, the WCW contingent were being built up to being malcontent faces rising up against the heel Vince McMahon, because of Vince's bluster during the final Nitro broadcast and Shane's usurping of the WCW ownership. Originally, WCW talents were meant to attack strictly heel WWF wrestlers. The strongly negative reaction of the core WWF viewership to the WCW product and talent, however, coupled with the reality that a WCW wrestling program to appeal to WWF fans would not come to fruition, led to the entire WCW contingent to abruptly turn heel. One example was the heel gimmick of then WCW Alliance Member, Diamond Dallas Page, whose first appearance in the WWE was built up over several weeks in a storyline in which he was portrayed as an anonymous stalker sending invasive videotapes to the babyface, The Undertaker.
Addition of ECW
On July 9 on Raw, Kane was scheduled to face Mike Awesome and Lance Storm in a handicap match. Chris Jericho came out and offered to be Kane's partner, thus turning it into a tag team match. Near the end of the match, Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho on Lance Storm. As the move was being applied, however, Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer ran through the audience and into the ring and started to beat on Kane and Jericho. In response, WWF wrestlers consisting of The Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Justin Credible, Rhyno, and Raven (all former ECW wrestlers) ran to the ring. After a brief stand-off, the WWF cavalry turned around and attacked Kane and Jericho. This prompted Paul Heyman to leave the announce table and enter the ring. After high-fiving the wrestlers, he announced that ECW has been brought into the Invasion. Heyman talked about how tired he was sitting beside Jim Ross and discussing WCW vs. WWF, stating that he felt that everyone had forgotten about ECW and announced, "This Invasion just got taken to the extreme."
Later during the night, Shane and Vince McMahon bumped into each other backstage. Shane told his father that ECW needed to be taken care of and pointed out that there were 10 ECW wrestlers under Heyman's belt. He suggested that he would take five of his WCW wrestlers and have them team up with five of Vince McMahon's WWF wrestler's later that night to take out ECW. Vince agreed but stubbornly insisted that WCW would eventually meet its demise when all was said and done.
At the end of the night, the WCW wrestlers came into the ring, accompanied by Shane McMahon. The WWF wrestlers then came into the ring and, before ECW entered, the WCW and WWF wrestlers started to brawl. The WWF wrestlers cleared the ring but then were stormed by the ECW wrestlers and taken out. After this, WCW's men came into the ring and high-fived the ECW men. Paul Heyman and Shane McMahon then hugged and started to dismantle the WWF wrestlers. Vince McMahon, stunned, came out and asked what was going on. Shane McMahon responded that he was responsible for all the events that just transpired and announced that ECW and WCW merged to form The Alliance. He then announced that the new owner of ECW was Stephanie McMahon.
Stone Cold's leave and return
Stone Cold, who had turned heel at WrestleMania and formed an alliance with McMahon when he helped Stone Cold win the WWF Championship, took a change in character during this time. Instead of being a beer-drinking redneck, he was more emotional and tried to cheer-up Vince McMahon, who was clearly stressed from the threat of The Alliance, by doing something generous like giving Vince a cowboy hat as a present. During a July 12 SmackDown!, Stone Cold played "Kumbaya" and "We Are the Champions" for McMahon, to which Vince was unresponsive. Later that night, Vince McMahon came out and asked Stone Cold to come to the ring, announcing him as the man that would lead Team WWF into the pay-per-view and into victory. Upon entering, Vince McMahon told Stone Cold that he had changed quite a bit since WrestleMania, and when the WWF goes up against The Alliance at the upcoming pay-per-view, he did not need a Stone Cold that gave him hugs and gifts and baked him cookies. He needed the "old" Stone Cold who was a "beer-swilling, foul-mouthed SOB" and the "old" Stone Cold that "didn't take crap from anyone." He asked Stone Cold to knock him down, even yelling to the crowd, "If you want Stone Cold to beat the living hell out of Vince McMahon, give me a hell yeah!" to which the crowd responded enthusiastically. Stone Cold, however, shook his head and proceeded to leave the ring, turning his back on Vince McMahon. Later that night when Diamond Dallas Page and Shane McMahon went up against the Undertaker and Kurt Angle, many members of the Alliance interfered. Kane and Jericho came to help their team, but the Alliance's numbers were too many, and without Stone Cold to back up his teammates, Team WWF was overwhelmed.
On the July 16 edition of Raw, Stone Cold was shown drinking and playing pool at a bar downtown. During the night, Vince McMahon held a WWF meeting backstage. Undertaker and the APA gave a motivational speech on how they should not tolerate the Alliance any longer. After they were finished, Brooklyn Brawler wheeled Freddie Blassie into the room so he could address the wrestlers and pump them up for the night. As the WWF wrestlers united, Stone Cold could be seen watching the events on the television at the bar. He proceeded to slam his cue stick on the pool table and left.
Later that night, DDP and Rhyno faced Kane and the Undertaker. During the match, there was interference from the Alliance. In response, The Hardy Boyz, the APA, Jericho, and Kurt Angle came to help their WWF allies, but more Alliance members came in and overwhelmed the WWF wrestlers. Backstage, many WWF and Alliance wrestlers were fighting each other, and the WWF seemed to be on the losing end of things. A truck was seen driving up to the arena, however, and Stone Cold came out with his cue stick and proceeded to beat down any WCW and ECW wrestlers in his path. He then came to the ring, trash-talking on the way down, and beat down the Alliance wrestlers, giving Stunners to most of the men in the ring. The WWF wrestlers had cleaned house and were standing tall. The WWF seemed to be in good shape for the upcoming pay-per-view with Stone Cold's return.
At InVasion, the Inaugural Brawl took place between Team WCW/ECW and Team WWF. Team WWF consisted of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Kane, and the Undertaker, who all squared off against the team of DDP, Booker T, Rhyno, and the Dudley Boys. Near the end of the match, all of the wrestlers were outside of the ring except Booker T and Angle. Kurt Angle applied the ankle lock on Booker T, who tapped out, but no referee was there to witness it. Stone Cold then dragged a referee into the ring, but in a swerve, kicked Kurt Angle in the stomach, hit him with a Stunner, and placed Booker T on top of Kurt Angle and told the referee to count. Team WCW/ECW won the match due to Stone Cold's betrayal of the WWF.
The next night, Austin claimed he joined the Alliance because they appreciated him. He cited Vince's hugging of Angle and calling The Rock on the phone as signs that Vince did not appreciate Austin and accused McMahon of grooming Angle to be the next WWF Champion.
The WWF gains momentum
Vince McMahon, on the July 26 edition of SmackDown!, extended an invitation to The Rock, who had not been seen since the Raw following WrestleMania X-Seven, to the Alliance. Also that night, Kurt Angle challenged Booker T to a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match, which Booker T accepted. The WWF gained momentum when Angle made Booker T submit with an ankle lock, taking the WCW Championship away from the Alliance. Angle's title run proved to be short-lived, as Booker T won it back on the July 30 episode of RAW.
On that same Raw at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, The Rock returned for the first time since his kayfabe suspension on the April 2 edition of Raw (In reality, he was given the "suspension" to film The Mummy Returns). Shane, Stephanie, and Vince McMahon were in the ring that night, and each tried to convince The Rock to join their respective side. Shane McMahon took the liberty of reminding The Rock of how Vince screwed him out of the WWF Championship earlier that year at WrestleMania and also in a Steel Cage Match the day after WrestleMania. Vince McMahon replied that Shane was somewhat accurate in his accusations but ceded that it was wrong for him to back Stone Cold, as he was a rattlesnake that he should have known would eventually bite him. He promised to The Rock that he had no intention of screwing him if he returned to the WWF but also ceded that he could not promise that he never would; if it was good for business, he said, then he just might do it. He told The Rock that he was at least being honest with him and pleaded for The Rock to trust himself, stating that his future was with the fans and the WWF. The Rock, however, gave Vince a Rock Bottom after some bickering between Shane and Vince, and proceeded to stare down Shane before cheekily smiling and shaking Shane's hand, faking a defection to the Alliance and a heel turn but he then proceeded to Rock Bottom him as well and give him a People's Elbow. He picked up the microphone and emphatically asserted, "Finally, the Rock has come back... to the WWF." The Rock had chosen a side, and that side was the World Wrestling Federation.
His return led to a WCW Title match between The Rock and Booker T at SummerSlam 2001, which The Rock won, marking the second time the WCW Championship belt changed sides to the WWF. At that same pay-per-view, Austin retained his WWF Championship against Angle after Angle won by disqualification.
The following Raw and SmackDown! showings featured primarily interpromotional matches between the two companies. Austin stole Kurt Angle's medals during one of the shows, and on the August 30 edition of SmackDown!, tied them to a cinder block and threw them in a river. The following Raw, Debra and Stephanie bought a new truck for Stone Cold, but Angle came up from behind and nailed Austin in the back of the head with a pipe. He put a cinder block and rope in the truck, put Austin in it, and drove away on the truck. He blindfolded Stone Cold and threatened to throw him into a river if he did not get a title shot. Austin, fearful for his life, "broke down in tears" and agreed to give Angle a title shot at the upcoming pay-per-view, Unforgiven 2001. Angle said, however, that Austin was "still going into the water", but instead simply embarrassed Austin by throwing him into a kiddie pool.
The WWF gained even more momentum at Unforgiven, as The Rock retained the WCW Championship in a handicap match against Booker T and Shane McMahon, and Kurt Angle made Austin submit to the ankle lock, winning the WWF Championship from Stone Cold, putting both belts into the hands of the WWF.
Almost every other championship had changed hands during this period of time, being exchanged between WWF Superstars and Alliance members. For example, The Undertaker and Kane beat Diamond Dallas Page and Chris Kanyon in a Steel Cage Match at Summerslam to become co-holders of both the WWF and WCW Tag Team Titles. Also, X-Pac beat Billy Kidman to become double champion of WWF Light Heavyweight Champion as well as WCW Cruiserweight Champion.
Jericho and The Rock Feud/The Alliance mounts a comeback
There were several interpromotional matches after Unforgiven. Furthermore, a crucial plot point formed when, on the October 8 airing of Raw, Jericho and The Rock teamed up against Shane McMahon and Rob Van Dam. During the match, Jericho mistakenly struck The Rock with a steel chair, costing them the match. The Rock confronted Jericho backstage after the match, leading to a brawl between the two. The two of them began a feud, although they often tagged together, had similar gimmicks of hurling comedic insults at Stephanie McMahon, and at one point won the WWF World Tag Team Championship.
Also that night, Stone Cold and Kurt Angle faced off for the WWF Championship, and then-WWF Commissioner William Regal, who sat at ringside to ensure a fair match would take place, hit Kurt Angle with the championship, thereby backstabbing the WWF and costing Angle the title. On the following SmackDown!, Linda McMahon promptly fired Regal from his position as WWF Commissioner, and named Mick Foley as his replacement. Regal was then declared the Commissioner of the Alliance by Shane and Stephanie.
The feud between Jericho and The Rock built up to a match at No Mercy 2001 on October 21, where Jericho beat the Rock to win the WCW Championship (Jericho's first world title), and Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Angle and Rob Van Dam to retain his WWF Championship.
On the October 29 edition of Raw, Shane McMahon told his father, Vince McMahon, that a member of the WWF would jump ship to the Alliance that night. Later that same night, Kurt Angle backstabbed the WWF by hitting Jericho, The Rock, Undertaker, and Kane with steel chairs. On the November 1 edition of SmackDown!, Angle, who originally led the WWF wrestlers, explained that he represented what is great about America—he was a winner, and his defection came from his decision to fight along the winning side. That side included Stone Cold, a man Angle claimed knew how to win.
The end of the Invasion
On the November 5 airing of Raw, Vince McMahon countered Kurt Angle's defection by stating that a member of Team Alliance would defect during a match at the upcoming Survivor Series. Stone Cold came out to confront Vince about it, and Vince stated that Stone Cold would be the one to defect. Because of this announcement, many Alliance members began to distrust Austin, who vehemently denied the charges and called Vince a liar. Stone Cold went on to interrogate members of Team Alliance, questioning Booker T and sitting Rob Van Dam down in a room with a light shining on him. That same night The Rock won the WCW World Title from Chris Jericho, but Jericho assaulted The Rock in the ring following the match.
All of this led to a "Winner Take All" match at Survivor Series 2001, which pitted Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane, and The Big Show) against Team Alliance (Stone Cold, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, and Shane McMahon). The final three men in the match were The Rock and Jericho vs. Austin. Jericho was eliminated and, to continue the feud between the two men, attacked The Rock, even though Jericho's future was on the line if The Rock lost. The Rock and Austin continued to battle it out, and the referee was knocked down in the match. Austin stunned the Rock and pinned him, but there was no referee to count it. Austin approached the downed referee to try to revive him. As this was occurring, Angle ran to the ring, picked up the WWF championship belt, and nailed Austin with it, revealing himself to be the defector to which McMahon was referring the entire time. The Rock followed this with a Rock Bottom and a pin on Austin, to which the referee woke up and counted the three count. Team WWF prevailed, thus ending the storyline.
It was also on this night that several titles were unified; Edge defeated Test to unify the WCW United States Championship and the Intercontinental Championship, while The Dudley Boyz beat The Hardy Boyz in a Steel Cage match to unify the WCW Tag Team Titles with the WWF Tag Team Titles. The final ECW member, Jazz, made her debut during a Six Pack Challenge for the vacant Women's Championship, which was won by Trish Stratus.
After The Alliance was disbanded, the WWF was faced with a title crisis; that is, they had so many championships (due to them acquiring all of WCW's championships), each individual title became devalued. To combat this, the WWF began to unify many championships. First, the WCW World Heavyweight Championship (simply renamed the World Championship) was unified with the WWF Championship to form the WWF Undisputed Championship.
At Survivor Series 2001, two championships were merged with two other championships: Edge, the WCW United States Heavyweight Champion at the time, defeated Test to become the WWF Intercontinental Champion, while the US Title was retired. Meanwhile, The Dudley Boyz defeated The Hardy Boyz to win the WWF Tag Team Championships while retiring the WCW World Tag Team Championships.
Another WCW championship, the WCW World Cruiserweight Championship, was rebranded as a WWF title and replaced the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship as the WWF Cruiserweight Championship. Additionally, the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship was revived in 2003 as a SmackDown!-exclusive title, thus becoming the WWE United States Championship.
The Undisputed Championship was originally represented with both the original WWF and WCW title belts, as the champion would carry both belts around, until being replaced with a single belt. At the beginning of the WWE Brand Extension, the champion would appear on both Raw and SmackDown! until then champion Brock Lesnar took the title to SmackDown!. Eric Bischoff introduced the World Heavyweight Championship represented by the former WCW Championship belt and awarded it to Triple H. The Undisputed Championship would be renamed the WWE Championship, as having two world titles contradicted the term "undisputed."
It should be noted that not all of WCW's titles were used on WWF television. The WCW Hardcore Championship and the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship were never mentioned nor shown on WWF television, nor was the WCW World Television Championship, which had been quietly retired just a year before WCW went out of business. Although Tazz briefly appeared on WWF television with the ECW Championship in 2000 (while under contract with the WWF) after reigning ECW Champion Mike Awesome unexpectedly signed with WCW, none of ECW's titles were shown on WWF television during the Invasion angle due to ECW's assets being held up in bankruptcy court; the WWE purchased ECW's assets in 2003 and later reintroduced the ECW Championship as part of ECW's revival as a WWE brand.
After further consolidating of titles that included a brief retirement of the WWE Intercontinental Championship in 2002 and the permanent retirement of the World Tag Team Championship & the WWE Women's Championship in 2010, the WWE currently has six titles: two world champions (WWE Championship, World Heavyweight), two mid-card champions (Intercontinental, United States), a tag team champion (WWE Tag Team Championship), and a women's champion (WWE Divas Championship). Only the WWE United States Championship has an undisputed lineage with a WCW title, although the World Heavyweight Championship is considered at least a spiritual successor to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship with both having been represented by the Big Gold Belt.
Although the WCW brand effectively died once and for all following the end of this storyline, ECW was temporarily revived by WWE in 2005 for the purposes of a special reunion show, ECW One Night Stand, held on June 12, 2005. The build-up to this one-shot event featured former ECW talent putting over the virtues of the brand versus the WWE product and appearances by several former ECW wrestlers not under contract to WWE. In 2006, it was announced that WWE would be reviving ECW as its third brand (to complement Raw and SmackDown!). The second One Night Stand, held on June 11, 2006, led to the official debut of the new ECW the following Tuesday. WWE Champion Rob Van Dam was awarded the ECW World Heavyweight Championship for his victory over John Cena, thus officially reviving the title for the ECW brand.
Fallout after Survivor Series
Alliance member Test won a battle royal at Survivor Series that featured both Alliance and WWF wrestlers battling for the right to be immune from termination for a year. Over the next several weeks Test began using that immunity to his advantage, attacking and bullying other wrestlers for no reason. Whenever he would be called on it, he would bring up his immunity from being fired. Shortly after Survivor Series, however, this was eventually forgotten.
The immunity was also extended to any Alliance member who held a championship at the conclusion of Survivor Series. The Dudley Boyz, who held the tag team championships; Rob Van Dam, who was the Hardcore Champion, and Christian, who was European Champion also saw that extended to them. Of these wrestlers, everyone except RVD (who was already cheered by fans despite being in the Alliance) remained a heel after the Alliance. Also receiving immunity was Stacy Kiebler the manager of the Dudleys, and Tazz who was a commentator on SmackDown!.
On the Raw the night after Survivor Series, WWF Commissioner Mick Foley resigned. Vince McMahon celebrated his (assumed) complete and sole ownership of the WWF and his final victory over the Alliance. He then fired the Alliance's Paul Heyman from his broadcasting position and replaced him with a returning Jerry Lawler. He later had his daughter escorted from the building by security, and made Alliance commissioner William Regal become the inaugural member of the infamous "Kiss My Ass Club" in order to retain his job.
McMahon also announced that he would strip Alliance leader Stone Cold Steve Austin of his WWF Championship and award it to Kurt Angle, who had portrayed himself as the hero of Survivor Series the entire night and bragged about his actions to other face wrestlers. In doing so, McMahon completed a slow heel turn he had begun at the beginning of the night.
Before McMahon could announce his new champion, Ric Flair (who was making his return to the WWF after leaving in January 1993) announced that he "bet on a winner" at Survivor Series. When pressed, Flair revealed to McMahon that he was not in fact the sole owner of the WWF as he had originally thought. When Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon had bought WCW and ECW earlier in the year they had sold their shares in the WWF to "a consortium", and that Flair was the man who had bought them, making him half-owner of the WWF.
Immediately after making the declaration Austin made his return and attacked Angle for costing him the win at Survivor Series and McMahon for attempting to strip him of his title, ending the heel run he had begun at WrestleMania. He turned face by aligning himself with Flair and reclaiming his belt.
The Invasion angle was a large storyline that spanned for almost half of 2001 and brought about financial success for the WWF, such as the InVasion pay-per-view being one of the highest non-major event buyrates in the history of pay-per-views. The Invasion storyline has come under criticism by wrestling fans and wrestling media, Other media refer to the storyline as "one of the most poorly handled, ego-filled story lines in wrestling history."
The weakness of the Alliance
Throughout the storyline, many interpromotional matches had WWF wrestlers winning over WCW/ECW wrestlers, usually cleanly. In contrast, most of the Alliance's wins were controversial due to interference or disqualification. For example, it took Tazz assisting Raven at InVasion to beat William Regal. The Rock, however, won cleanly at SummerSlam, despite Shane McMahon's assistance to Booker T. A few other critics also noticed the over emphasis on Stone Cold Steve Austin. Critics believed that Austin was the only credible superstar on the Alliance.
One particular example of this was during the Inaugural Brawl at the InVasion pay-per-view. Besides Austin's turn in the match that was needed to secure a WCW/ECW win over the WWF, SLAM! Wrestling alleged that the Alliance wrestled poorly in comparison to the WWF wrestlers:
"Portrayed as disorganized and inferior grapplers, the ECW-WCW Team had more than its fair share of mistimed moves which hurt their own team members while the "WWF squad" of course wrestled like a well-oiled machines. The weakening of the ECW-WCW dubbed superstars didn't stop there either. The WWF faction battered their enemy tag partners off the ring apron over and over again making them appear weak and more times than not, the ECW-WCW grapplers gained an advantage only by double-teaming or employing underhanded tactics. The message sent was loud and clear. The best of ECW-WCW is not good enough to hang with the WWF."It has been speculated that the reason for this was because Vince McMahon did not want the WWF to look weak while fighting the Alliance, as he worked very hard to put down his competition, especially WCW. Smash Wrestling alleges that WWF wrestlers needed to defect to make the Alliance appear to be a credible threat.
Overemphasis on the McMahons
The Invasion storyline was presented with a backdrop of a McMahon feud. In the storyline, the WWF was owned by Vince McMahon, WCW was owned by Shane McMahon, and ECW was owned by Stephanie McMahon. Although the feud did not center completely around the McMahons, the family feud storyline had been done many times before. In addition to this, the Stone Cold versus Vince McMahon feud was to start again when Vince McMahon hit Austin in the back of the head with a chair at No Mercy 2001. As stated by a SLAM! Wrestling synopsis of No Mercy:
For fans who didn't catch it the fifth, tenth or twentieth time they've run the angle, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Vince McMahon are about to feud once again... First up was Vincent McMahon labeling Austin with a steel chair as he was waiting to put a dazed RVD away... Three minutes later, it was Shane McMahon's turn to hurl Kurt Angle out of the ring and into a steel ring post. Vince tackled Shane over the announce table and the two began pummeling one another. Back in the ring, Austin laid a "Stone Cold" Stunner on to retain the belt as a disgruntled Vince scowled. Gee, how many times have we seen that scenario play itself out before? Austin wins. Vince fumes. Fans snore. Whatever.
The storyline also allegedly centered too much on the McMahons, who were getting more airtime than the wrestlers.
It has been argued that the Invasion angle may have been more successful if Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff were perceived as controlling ECW and WCW, respectively, instead of Stephanie and Shane McMahon.
Lack of big-name WCW talent/Overemphasis on WWF defectors
Many fans had dreamed of a day where they could pit WWF and WCW wrestlers against each other, but the storyline's final match ended with four WWF wrestlers brawling it out. On TSN's Off the Record, Booker T was asked by host Michael Landsberg why the Invasion—which he stated should have been one of the biggest money angles in wrestling history—was in his words a failure on pay-per-view. Booker responded:
"That wasn't the true WCW. I mean, we didn't have guys like Goldberg. We didn't have Sting. We didn't have Kevin Nash. We didn't have all the major players in the WCW to face the WWF superstars."
Some of the WCW wrestlers' absences were out of the WWF's control. Many of WCW's top wrestlers had contracts with AOL Time Warner, WCW's parent company, and were willing to sit at home rather than wrestle for less money; Booker T, the reigning WCW Champion at the time of WWF's purchase, was a notable exception, agreeing to a buyout of the remainder of his contract with AOL Time Warner in order to wrestle for the WWF immediately. McMahon had the option of taking on any contract he wanted with his purchase, but chose to let AOL Time Warner continue to pay out what were considered bad deals. Ric Flair and Rey Mysterio were not signed until the end of the Invasion because they were tied to their contracts, and therefore their absence was out of the WWF's control. In addition, Scott Steiner was recovering from an injury. Others, such as Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Goldberg, were not signed until well after the storyline finished. As for WCW's other top superstars, Sting has for many years had avoided joining the WWF and was still under contract AOL Time Warner, while Lex Luger and Macho Man Randy Savage would never reappear in the company on TV (in May 2011, Luger rejoined WWE in a backstage role related to the company's Wellness Program, while Savage died from a sudden heart attack shortly after Luger rejoined WWE). Fans were confused by McMahon's decisions seeing as the WWF would make more than enough to cover all these wrestlers contracts in 2001. Because of this, the WWF's opponent allegedly lacked the strong identity of WCW. In correlation with WCW, ECW was also missing most of their key superstars such as The Sandman, Sabu, Balls Mahoney, Little Guido and Tony Mamaluke (all of whom would later join WWE's relaunched ECW). Other wrestlers such as Shane Douglas, Masato Tanaka, Terry Funk, New Jack, 2 Cold Scorpio and Mikey Whipwreck would also be missing from the storyline.
To bolster the ranks of WCW (in lieu of big WCW names), some WWF wrestlers (such as Stone Cold) defected and joined the Alliance and were pushed as the leaders of the Alliance. Austin, who had worked in WCW and ECW but had found his greatest success in the WWF and was seen primarily as a WWF wrestler, was pushed as the leader of the Alliance and a more important player during the Invasion than the bona fide WCW or ECW members of the Alliance. Several top WCW and ECW talents who were top superstars in their previous companies, such as Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T., Rob Van Dam, The Dudley Boyz, Justin Credible, Raven and Tazz, were put down into low-mid card matches, while lesser-ranked WWF wrestlers who defected to the Alliance, such as Test, were given a greater push. Sting would cite this as the reason he would never sign with the WWF despite being offered a contract after seeing other former WCW employees having to "start from the bottom of the ladder again."
In the final Survivor Series main event between the WWF and the Alliance, the Alliance was represented by three WWF wrestlers. Two of three wrestlers, Shane McMahon and Kurt Angle had never wrestled a match for WCW or ECW prior to the Invasion. Only two bona fide WCW or ECW wrestlers, Booker T and Rob Van Dam, were in the match. McMahon, Booker T and Rob Van Dam were the first wrestlers eliminated on the Alliance's team, resulting in the last survivors representing the ostensible WCW/ECW entity being two WWF wrestlers.