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WCW Raw - Booker T vs. Buff Bagwell


Sphinx
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Just watched this again on the Network.

I'd forgotten WCW were supposed to be faces at this point. Pitching the outsiders invading as being the good guys is a pretty tough sell. People tuned into WWF because that's what they like and then the outsiders invading are supposed to be the good guys. I know Austin and McMahon were heels but they don't completely represent WWF.

I'm not sure Buff Bagwell had been given much exposure before this episode. The fans in the arena paid to see a WWF show and were probably pissed at a main event with someone they knew a bit of from his run-ins and someone who they barely knew if at all. Obviously there would have been a fair amount who watched WWF and WCW and knew who they were but you have to try book to your main demographic. I think they could have eased the WCW roster in even more by not having the first match as a main event of Raw. That way the audience aren't as pissed at the main event not being WWF guys and you get to establish some of their characters more and the fans won't shit on it as much.

The quality of the match wasn't horrendous but you'd hope the guys would really pull something quality out of the bag given the circumstance. Even if it's just supposed to be a fairly simple short match before Austin and Angle run in, I felt it lacked energy. There's a few things that are sloppy in the match but the main issue is down to the booking I feel.

Other things of note were Arn Anderson not standing out on commentary at all and Scott Hudson saying that Booker T would be facing Buff Bagwell for the WWF title before they go to an ad. I guess this has been in a book or podcast but was there any reason they couldn't get Tony Schiavone for commentary?

Given the opportunity, what would you have done differently for this first match? Who would you put in the match? Would you have booked it at all?

I was never a WCW guy but from what I understand a Booker T vs. DDP match may have been a better shout. You could still do run-ins with Austin, Taker and Kane if needs be.

 

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As you say: pitching WCW as the good guys was going to be a hard sell in the WWF after spending the last however many years “at war” with them and lambasting them in your programming. To then have them come in and go, “Oh, no, they’re good, cheer them!” is just crazy thinking. I can’t help thinking Vince knew WCW would get shat on and did it just to see the likes of Booker get booed to the high heavens for his own enjoyment. “Look, Linda. They hate WCW! Hahahaha!”

It’s been covered a million times before, but the “Invasion” was hampered by not having any real star power. There were WCW vs. WWF dream matches, but none of them contained the likes of Hugh Morrus, Kanyon etc.

The rumour was that the brand split was supposed to accommodate WCW and the WWF getting their own TV shows. If the WWF were that set on WCW being its own brand then they should have just done that from the off I feel. I would have loved to have seen a proper, WWE-backed WCW. Then when the big stars became available, go with the “first time ever”, “dream” matches. It was barely a year later when the nWo débuted in WWE; you could have had the WWF’s Rock face WCW’s Hogan a WrestleMania X8; Nash versus someone like Kane, Scott Hall vs. Austin if you still go with that match, and so on.

If this had happened and WCW was treated as an equal, we might have then had Sting sign sooner than he did, given he and Vince had spoke on numerous occasions but not closing the deal until some 13 years later. So the Undertaker vs. Sting dream match that people clamoured for could have had more possibility of happening.

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It's easy to look back on it now as a tough sell, but things weren't actually too bad until before that match. The reaction Shane got when he announced that he'd stolen WCW from under his dad's nose was fantastic and Shane was still pretty popular until after his match with Angle at King of the Ring. The first big tease came when Lance Storm did a run in, attacking a heel, and it got a great pop from the audience then. Then they introduced a WCW siren the next week and Hugh Morrus interfered, then I think Stacy Keibler was the next to show and both of those went down a treat as well. Booker got a great pop when he put Austin through a table and attacked Vince as well. 

I think the plan initially was for WCW to run it's own house shows and even have a TV slot - which I think this match might have even been a showcase for with a view to pimping it out to prospective broadcasters. Pity really, because had it gone better or if they'd have put something different on, it might have generated more traction. Linda McMahon's promo about welcoming competition - although delivered horribly - made perfect sense as a way to present them. The key thing there being they were presented more as competition as opposed to invaders. It's been said time and time again by interviewees on both sides that during the peak of the Monday night wars, the fierce competition made one try to outdo the other and vice versa. Some sort of promo from an impassioned WCW star explaining that they don't want to invade the WWF, they want to make it better, and occasionally have dream matches at big shows etc would have been a nice way to potentially tie things together. 

After that you would effectively have what the Raw/Smackdown-based rivalries have been about since then, to varying degrees of success. Ultimately though, a WCW without all of it's big names would have still died on it's arse. 

 

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Yeah, the thing with WCW being faces is that you have to remember the context - Vince was the top heel, and it would arguably have seemed a harder sell to expect people to get behind a babyface Vince as the head of the WWF, particularly when the biggest name WCW talent they had were Booker T and DDP, who logic dictates would have been brought in as faces. Even, allegedly, the reason Buff Bagwell got this match was because the crowd cheered pretty loudly when Vince said it the previous week as he was listing off names of WCW talent in a promo.

On the other side of the spectrum, the top WWF guy was Steve Austin, who had recently turned heel at his own suggestion, so was unlikely to turn back face, backed up by The Rock, who was off TV, Triple H was out injured, and Kurt Angle was a career heel. So it's not unreasonable that the WWF would have been a Vince-led heel Corporate stable, while WCW were just a continuation of Shane's "rebel son" angle that had begun before the WCW purchase. 

Obviously the match was a bit of a shambles, felt cobbled together, and just felt so odd that it was never going to give WCW a fair go of things. 

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That really is the moment the WWF vs. WCW thing died on its arse. Obviously running WCW as a separate promotion was a non-starter because the TV companies weren't interested in it but there was still mileage in an invasion if WCW was the invading heel group. Having them as the babyface with a no-mark like Linda McMahon playing Mommy to force Vince to let Shane lark out in his playground was ridiculous. Least said about Booker and Bagwell the better.

They did salvage it somewhat with the ECW "alliance" which led to the Invasion PPV doing a great number. From there, they needed to dripfeed some bigger stars into the angle. I'll argue forever and a day that they HAD to go and get Goldberg. They needed to pay him what he was worth and they would have reaped the rewards from Bill vs. Austin, Rock, Taker and (eventually) Trips. I don't buy the "upset the locker room" argument. There was no parity pay in that locker room. The big stars got what they deserved and Goldberg would have been no different. The people who would have worked with him should have been bright enough to know that a big buyrate with Bill meant more money for everyone. And lame fuckers like Bradshaw crying about it means fuck all anyway.

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That Raw was in Tacoma I believe, but Raw one week later was in Atlanta. If they had have left the match to the later Raw it might have gotten a better response. Definitely would not have been shat on as badly anyway.

After it was received so badly, Vince basically gave up on the idea of running WCW as a separate brand. Deep down I don't think he wanted it to succeed anyway.

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12 minutes ago, DCW said:

That Raw was in Tacoma I believe, but Raw one week later was in Atlanta. If they had have left the match to the later Raw it might have gotten a better response. Definitely would not have been shat on as badly anyway.

 After it was received so badly, Vince basically gave up on the idea of running WCW as a separate brand. Deep down I don't think he wanted it to succeed anyway.

I did not know this and am now gutted they didn't throw that sweet sweet XFL money at Goldberg for him to spear Steve Austin to kick an angle off during this show. 

@Liam O'Rourke and the podcast lads described something brilliant they could have done to this effect but can't quite remember what is was or which pod it was on.

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I honestly think the reason they didn't fork out for the top guys was either that Vince figured the WCW brand was more crucial to the story than any individual talents, so "WCW vs. WWF" would draw whether you had Bill Goldberg or Chuck Palumbo in the black and red T-shirt, or because Vince honestly thought he was bulletproof and, having crushed the competition, could book anything and the fans would lap it up. I think he assumed the WCW fanbase would automatically all migrate en masse to the WWF, rather than that he'd spend the next couple of years trying to chase after them.

Post-Invasion, I always think about the nWo's run in the WWF. They gave away Rock & Austin vs. Hogan, Hall & Nash as a RAW main event. That's a match that could have done huge pay-per-view numbers - the best of the WWF vs. the invading force, Austin and Rock on the same page, Austin and Hogan squaring off for the first time, and it's a 10 minute TV match. For a couple of years there, I honestly think Vince thought that he'd conquered the world and didn't have to worry about what to do with the big stars, because they had nowhere else to go. Really the beginning of the trend for "the company is the draw".

 

Really, it needed Sting or Goldberg at the very least or, without that, DDP pushed far more strongly as a top level WCW guy. That, less than six months after the first WWF vs. WCW pay-per-view, it was all over, the name WCW was barely mentioned in favour of "The Alliance", and the team representing "WCW" in the final battle saw WCW represented by such notable alumni as Shane McMahon, Kurt Angle and Steve Austin, and the undercard had interpromotional dream matches like Edge vs. Test, is madness.

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1 hour ago, DCW said:

That Raw was in Tacoma I believe, but Raw one week later was in Atlanta. If they had have left the match to the later Raw it might have gotten a better response. Definitely would not have been shat on as badly anyway.

That's pretty crazy. There were certain elements that needed to be sorted out either way in presentation that the Atlanta show may have temporarily masked but that'd have been a great way to do the first match.

I guess it was worth more to them to buy Goldberg's contract out and pay him a star wage than have Booker T and then Austin as the figurehead of WCW. On another note, I didn't realise Austin asked to turn heel. I thought he said he realised shaking hands with Vince was a mistake when it happened. Unless he meant that he'd still go heel but also not buddy up with Vince.

I confess that I've not seen the Raws and Smackdowns before that in years so I can't remember the reactions of certain parts. To me, it seemed like a bit of a mess before the match had even kicked off.

With regards to Vince not really wanting it to succeed deep down, I imagine they scrutinised WCW heavily so they already had their guards up. But at the same time, with the state WCW ended up in, I don't blame them for scrutinising heavily. Many had never been in the more professional environment of WWF.

(I'd quote more but I'm on my phone and I'm not sure how to go about it multiple times)

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I just think it was an ego trip for Vince to make WCW look as third rate and crap as possible. It was his to do as he'd won the war however he probably burned 2 years of must see TV by not paying the money the names wanted or waiting till they were available. Vince rewrites history as it fits. He probably thought shoving wcws b/c team out there to stink would show everyone how rubbish wcw was compared to his products.

Such a botch considering within 18 months he had: Goldberg, hogan, nash, hall, naitch, bishchoff, steiner anyway. Hell I'd imagine sting would have signed to if all those were there at the same time. 

The money it would have done would have eclipsed all that went before or after it. 

 

 

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They didn't fork out for the big names because they'd have had to buy out their Time Warner contracts.  IIRC the top guys had contracts with the parent company and those would have cost a fortune to break, plus those guys were on guaranteed money so made top dollar just sitting at home.  Once those contracts expired, they started trickling into WWE.

The only guy to rip up his Time Warner contract and take a lower pay was DDP, and look how they used him...

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41 minutes ago, Loki said:

They didn't fork out for the big names because they'd have had to buy out their Time Warner contracts.  IIRC the top guys had contracts with the parent company and those would have cost a fortune to break, plus those guys were on guaranteed money so made top dollar just sitting at home.  Once those contracts expired, they started trickling into WWE.

The only guy to rip up his Time Warner contract and take a lower pay was DDP, and look how they used him...

Yeah - I always thought it was more that Vince did want to bring them in, but they chose to sit at home on their Time Warner guaranteed contracts rather than take a pay cut to whatever Vince was offering - with one or two exceptions obviously.

 

It is easy to blame Vince for the angle bombing compared to what it could have been, but given the big names came in time anyway, there is some mitigation that Vince was trying his best with what he had been able to get.  If Hulk et al had wanted to make it a success, they could have followed DDP and joined up, but chose (rightly for financial reasons, wrongly for the business) not to.

 

What's the old saying - you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear?  He could have done better than he did, but ultimately didn't have the resources to make happen what we all wanted to see.

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I guess sitting at home and picking the pay up would be an attractive proposition despite missing out on the extra wages he'd have got by joining - and the money on top he could have haggled them for signing. It depends how beat up/mentally fried they were, if they wanted to spend time with family, and how money oriented they were.

WCW certainly weren't strong enough to have Smackdown as their show and be viable competition without at least one of those star names. And, as I said, Schiavone would really have added to it massively.

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1 hour ago, Loki said:

 

The only guy to rip up his Time Warner contract and take a lower pay was DDP, and look how they used him...

How many years, I wonder, did this (and Booker's first 18 months) add on to the delay for Stinger to decide to finally go to the big dance? We could have had Sting vs Undertaker before "the Streak" would have needed to be the story if his buddies had been treated a little better. Mania XIX, planned differently, could have featured Hogan, Goldberg's first match for the company, and The Undertaker vs Sting. Just a thought.

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2 minutes ago, air_raid said:

How many years, I wonder, did this (and Booker's first 18 months) add on to the delay for Stinger to decide to finally go to the big dance? We could have had Sting vs Undertaker before "the Streak" would have needed to be the story if his buddies had been treated a little better. Mania XIX, planned differently, could have featured Hogan, Goldberg's first match for the company, and The Undertaker vs Sting. Just a thought.

Sting was out of his contract by 2003, when he started appearing for TNA and that Australian Workd Wrestling Allstars promotion.

it must have been earlier as well, as I’m sure I read he was slated to be Kurt’s opponent at WrestleMania X8 before Kane filled the spot.

Edited by Your Fight Site
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