Oh, what could have been...
|Photo courtesy of http://camelclutchblog.com|
For me, it was a clear choice for my top Raw moment. In the 1000 episodes that have gone to air, there was no other instance that stuck out more for me. Not many things give me goosebumps these days, but I re-watched it and had them for over 5 minutes. Let’s jump in our imaginary Delorian and go back to 2001, to the days where Raw could not be missed.
The WWE had recently acquired rival promotion WCW, and the "Invasion" angle was just picking up steam. At that same time, ECW was sadly bankrupt. They, too, were quietly purchased by the wrestling conglomerate, and their talent was spread through WCW and WWE. In a main event that saw Jericho & Kane facing off against Lance Storm and Mike Awesome, out from the crowd ran two notorious ECW alumni, The Whole F’n Show Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer. I immediately got excited that 2 of my favourites were now clearly part of WWE and making a huge impact. I picked up the phone and made sure my friend, fellow Good Hustle writer Collin Van Ooyen, was watching too. It was the only time in two decades of fandom that I felt obliged to make sure others were enjoying this glory along with me. With excitement typically reserved for Christmas morning, the night kept getting better.
|Rob Van Dam with a young Jerome Power (left), & Collin Van Ooyen|
What initially appeared to be the WWE coming to defend their comrades was actually a stable of ECW wrestlers who all turned at the same time and delivered a beat down to the two WWE guys (granted, Jericho should have been aligned with them as well considering his significant contribution to ECW, and later WCW, but that’s another story). Then, with Paul Heyman throwing down his commentating headset, we got his signature catch phrase that “This invasion has just been taken to the EXTREME” as RAW went off the air.
I was fortunate enough to follow ECW through many of their ups and downs. Through their breakthrough onto television and pay per view all the way to their final show. Collin and I were lucky enough to see the only ECW show ever held on Canadian soil when they made their way north of the border to Mississauga for a TV taping. We even got close enough to dab our ticket stubs in the blood of Steve Corino (our request to take home pieces of the broken table were denied by security). When ECW died, my love of wrestling started to die with it. Gone were the days of choices, options and variety. Now, you either like what Vince is feeding you or you've stopped watching altogether.
|Jerome & Tommy Dreamer|
The amount of excitement I had diminished week after week, much like my interest in what was then the only game in town. The egos in charge of the creative department killed the angle in only a few short weeks. What could have provided months, even years, of entertainment came and went faster than the XFL. Almost every one of the members of the "Invasion" were either written off television or became permanent curtain-jerkers or jobbers. Guys like Diamond Dallas Page, Buff Bagwell & Scott Steiner had one big run against a top guy and then disappeared. They couldn't get the likes of Goldberg or Sting to be part of the initial invasion, which might have been for the best considering the glut of wrestlers who were being booked at the time.
It wasn’t until 2005 that I became interested in the product again, when they decided to resurrect ECW for “One Night Stand”, which for me is the single greatest PPV they have ever done, and the only one I have revisited. It had everything that made ECW great - small and intimate venue at the Hammerstein Ballroom, hardcore matches, tables and all-around great wrestling from the entire roster. Hearing Joey Styles call the whole Pay Per View and listening to Paul Heyman shoot on the WWE guys in attendance made it that much better, because you could tell he was shooting straight from the heart. Most of all, hearing the fans at the show made me feel like I was at the live show at the Hersey Center all over again. Chants like "Holy Sh*t!" and "You f*cked up!" have become staples of the industry thanks to the fans, who became as big a part of the live shows as the wrestlers themselves.
|Jerome (left), Rhino & Collin|
Oh, what wonderful things could have been had it been in the right hands. Unfortunately I sit here now, watching videos from 10 years ago in a nostalgic trance, thinking about the good ol' days. Days that today's wrestling fans sadly know little about.
WWF - Raw 2001 - ECW joins the Invasion by JoCrazy