By Todd Matthy
The fate of pro wrestling was decided in 2001 when WWE purchased WCW and shattered the dreams of every wrestling fan with the subsequent “Invasion.” I’m not going to bore you with the details but the biggest storyline in wrestling history became the biggest bomb in wrestling history…and it was designed to be. Vince McMahon’s ego wouldn’t allow WCW (and ECW) to portrayed as equals to the WWE, driving off millions of wrestling fans that have not returned. So how could it have turned out differently?
Kayfabe Commentaries turned to Vince Russo and Jim Cornette to rebook the Invasion. What would they have done? And whose version is better? Click below to find out.
Before I review both discs, it is important to give you a history of the rivalry between Jim Cornette and Vince Russo. Their rivalry is the biggest one since WWE and WCW. It began when they were on the WWE creative team. Jim Cornette’s philosophy of wrestling was that the fans wanted to see a good in-ring product with stories and characters that are believable, that build toward big matches. Russo believed fans wanted to see edgy storylines filled with mature content, unexpected turns from good to bad, and “shocking” moments with little in the way of actual wrestling matches. For most of 1997, they were able to work together with Vince McMahon balancing out their ideas to build momentum toward the legendary “Attitude Era.” During this time, Russo would force Vince too choose either him or Cornette as Head Writer. Vince chose Russo. Cornette would go on to train new talent through Ohio Valley Wrestling while Russo would eventually jump to WCW where he would be sent home after receiving a concussion and declining ratings.
Cornette would go on to blast Russo in the press, blaming him for the death of WCW, the shortening of numerous careers, the lack of believability in wrestling, and the devaluing of the belts. He also took personally Russo’s attacks on Jim Ross and constantly calling the business “fake.”
The two did not cross each others paths until they worked together at Total Nonstop Action Wrestling from 2006-2009. Russo would once again, make the owners choose between him and Cornette. They chose Russo and Cornette is currently serving as Executive Producer for Ring of Honor Wrestling. The rhetoric got so heated that Russo got an order of protection against Cornette.
Jim Cornette starts his version of the Invasion off with a bang. The first week, he has Vince McMahon standing in the middle of the ring and taunting Ted Turner about how he’d won the wrestling war. However, Vince is not satisfied with his victory. He wants to embarrass and punish Turner for competing with and nearly putting him out of business and since he can’t punish Ted, he’s going to take out his frustrations on someone he can punish: the WCW roster. Vince gives the WCW roster an ultimatum; either quit and never work in the business again or have your career destroyed by being jobbed out to every WWE wrestler. This prompts the WCW roster, led by Ric Flair, to come out of the audience and surround the ring. Ric tells Vince that if the WCW wrestlers are going down, they’re taking his Superstars with them, warning Vince that things will get rough whenever a WWE wrestler gets in the ring with a WCW one. This prompts Steve Austin to lead the WWE roster out onto the stage ending the show with a standoff. From there Cornette plots out a year long story with each company treated as a separate entity and only meeting in matches where the “Wrestler’s Code” is suspended. Belts switch, people are injured, and fights breaking out between the rosters until Wrestlemania 18, where both rosters collide.
Vince Russo’s Invasion starts off slow. He begins by having the final edition Nitro be the final episode of WCW. After the final Nitro, Scott Hall shows up the next week wanting his old job back. Over the next two weeks, Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan, both seeking their old jobs, join Hall. Vince not only doesn’t give them back their jobs he tears them down publically, prompting the three of them to start attacking WWE’s top talent as the NWO. To get rid of the NWO, Vince makes a deal with Eric Bischoff and lets him bring in WCW wrestlers to handle the problem, thus opening the gates of Troy.
After watching the two sessions, the differences between the booker’s philosophies are abundantly clear. Cornette’s version has a set beginning, middle, and end. He knows where he wants to be at what date, where certain elements need to be, and ultimately the ending. There is a clear direction. Russo describes step by step how the WCW wrestlers get in the door. He’s created some exciting moments in his buildup that would’ve played out great on TV but once the WCW guys are in place he stops. The only indication of an ending he gives is perhaps a match between Bischoff and Vince at Wrestlemania. Russo doesn’t give us matches, he doesn’t give us actions the WCW wrestlers perpetrate now that they are with the WWE, and he doesn’t give us a conclusion.
While there are flaws in both versions, it is obvious that the version to go with is Jim Cornette’s. Cornette not only sets up the story but has a direction mapped out for his tale to take. Not only that, Cornette uses the splitting of the two brands as an opportunity to develop new talent, so that WWE has a direction to take once the Invasion is over. Russo has none of that. He doesn’t even have one of his trademark swerves or “Object on a Pole” matches prepared. Nothing.
Overall, both editions of “Guest Booker” offer fascinating looks into the creative minds of two men who have had a lot of stroke behind the scenes in WWE, WCW, TNA, and ROH. Their wrestling philosophies are on display and it’s very interesting to hear each ones creative process when it comes to writing wrestling television. If you’re thinking of starting a wrestling company or want to write wrestling, I highly recommend you check out both editions, they are two vastly different versions of the same story from two vastly different philosophies.