Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2001)

The botched Invasion Angle ends with a premature whimper at Survivor Series 2001....

Survivor Series 2001 - Greensboro Coliseum - 11/18/01

The 2001 installment was the big blowoff to the most disappointing wrestling angle of all time, The Invasion.  The WWF had purchased WCW in March of 2001 and retained all their talent, except the guys everyone wanted to see fight the top WWF stars.  Hogan, Flair, Sting, Goldberg, Nash & Hall were all still under contract to Time Warner for another year and would've apparently cost too much money (for this billion dollar entertainment juggernaut).  So instead the top WCW guys Vince got were Booker T (fine wrestler but still unproven as a main eventer), Diamond Dallas Page (who got killed dead by The Undertaker in his first WWF program), and Buff Bagwell (No I'm serious, they thought he was gonna be a WCW cornerstone.  Unbelievable.).  To supplement the rather anemic WCW contingent Vince merged them with all the former ECW talent, calling them The Alliance, and made the WWF Champion Steve Austin their leader.  Because if anyone in the company would want to bring down Vince and the WWF, it's the guy who became a pop culture icon thanks to Vince and the WWF (this would be like Sting becoming the leader of the nWo in 1996).  For three months the non-WWF wrestlers were made to look like total chumps, with the exception of the white-hot Rob Van Dam who, despite being part of the heel anti-WWF faction, was the most popular guy in the company.  As a result this whole angle died a slow death, and Survivor Series 2001 was a way of putting it out of everyone's misery.

The main event was a traditional elimination match (for the first time in eight years), where the losing team would cease to exist as a wrestling organization, and its members would all be fired (unless they possessed championships or won the Immunity Battle Royal, or it just didn't make sense for them to be written off TV).

The first match was a throwaway featuring European Champion Christian (an Alliance guy) beating Al Snow (a jobber guy).  This was your standard RAW-quality match.

Next was a complete waste of time as turncoat William Regal (one of several WWF guys who joined The Alliance for seemingly no reason) handily defeated rising star Tajiri in under three minutes.  Hey, how 'bout instead Tajiri challenges Christian?  That would've been great.

Third was a unification match for both the WWF I-C Title and the WCW US Title.  The WWF's Edge fought The Alliance's Test in a pretty solid eleven-minute match.  Edge walked away with both belts, but we'd see more of Test on this show.

The first noteworthy match was next as the WWF and WCW Tag belts would be unified.  The Hardy Boyz faced The Dudley Boyz in a Steel Cage match.  This could've been a little better, but it was still very watchable and featured fine Hardyz-as-underdogs storytelling.  The Dudleyz won the match to ensure they'd still have jobs.
Test then reappeared on the show to redeem himself by winning the Immunity Battle Royal, thus keeping his job if the WWF happened to win the main event (given that Christian, the Dudleyz and Test were all fairly important WWF-signed Alliance characters who were now immune to firing, you could kinda see which way this was headed).

'Scuse me for a sec....TRISH I F*CKIN' LOVE YOU!

Next up, Trish Stratus put herself on the map as a serious women's wrestler by winning the belt in a six-woman elimination match (which somehow only lasted four minutes).  The match was forgettable but Trish's genuine emotion at finally becoming Champion made for a nice moment.

Finally we arrived at the main event, and for the first time since 1993 the main event of a Survivor Series card was an actual Survivor Series match.  Team WWF - The Rock, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Kane and Big Show faced Team Alliance - Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Shane McMahon (yup, three out of the five were WWF stars).  This was one helluva main event elimination match, spanning nearly 45 minutes and boiling down to WCW Champ The Rock vs. WWF Champ Steve Austin.  The whole match had an epic feel to it, and was a fitting end to a big money angle (even if the angle itself sucked harder than an industrial strength ShopVac).  My only problem with the match itself was this: the participants entered individually, in the order they would eventually be eliminated.  Everyone got knocked out of the match according to their position in the team's hierarchy.  On Team WWF it went Big Show, Kane, Taker, and Jericho.  On Team Alliance it went Shane, Booker, RVD, Angle, and finally Austin, leaving Rocky as the sole survivor.  This was simply way too predictable and the bout just became an exercise in how to execute a good Survivor Series match.

One of the most stacked-but-pointless matches ever.

The aftermath of this show was of course utterly ridiculous.  Pretty much every Alliance member (even those not holding a championship) would be back on television within a few months anyway, all the big-name WCW talent Vince had been too cheap to sign in 2001 ended up signing as soon as their contracts were up (Ric Flair showed up on RAW the very next night!), and Kurt Angle, despite being revealed as a WWF mole who singlehandedly saved the WWF from extinction, went back to being a heel, as the Alliance's heel leader Steve Austin immediately became the top babyface again exactly one night after his attempt to destroy the company failed.  This is what's known as a reset.

The Invasion Angle would go down as the worst-botched in wrestling history, and had Vince just bought out all the top WCW talent it could've been a self-writing masterpiece.  Imagine the magnitude of a Survivor Series headlined by Steve Austin/Rock/Undertaker/Kurt Angle/Chris Jericho vs. Hulk Hogan/Goldberg/Ric Flair/Sting/Booker T.  Just epic.

This show was middle-of-the-road, even without the terrible setup.  The main event was very good and a couple of the title matches were solid, but the rest was throwaway fluff.

Best Match: Team WWF vs. Team Alliance
Worst Match: William Regal vs. Tajiri
What I'd Change: The entire Invasion (Hmm, maybe a Wrestling Do-Overs column is in order....).  Also the first match should've been Christian vs. Tajiri and the extra time saved could go to the Women's match.
Most Disappointing Match: Oddly the main event just because of how predictable it was.  Christ, mix it up a little, will ya?
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Trish Stratus could actually wrestle!  She would of course go on to become arguably the greatest women's wrestler of all time.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Better than WrestleMania X-Seven and/or SummerSlam '01? - Not even close.

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