During the latest episode of the Grilling JR Podcast, Jim Ross covered an infamous episode of Raw in August of 2001 where Kurt Angle drove a milk truck and sprayed a ring full of WCW talent and champion Stone Cold Steve Austin. Before Angle arrived, the segment involved all of the WCW talent having a Stone Cold appreciation night for their champion after he defeated Angle the night before at SummerSlam. Ross talked about the WCW invasion angle and why it wasn’t a success.
“They had no momentum, nobody was on a big winning streak, there were no major wins,” Ross said. “Overall, the guys playing the role of guys in WCW who were actually under contract to WWE, they had no momentum.”
Ross continued to mention how the lack of momentum for the wrestlers involved on the WCW side is similar to the lack of momentum tons of wrestlers have today. Ross used very strong words to describe his thoughts about talent who refuse to lose and continue to build storylines.
“I see that a lot in wrestling today,” Ross said. “This guy wins and then this guy wins. I often hear, ‘We want to keep the talent happy.’ Well here’s what I say: F*** the talent. How’s that? That’ll make a headline.
“You have to do what’s best for the overall story and the company that’s paying the tab. If the talent can’t understand that concept, then and only then would I say ‘f*** the talent’. Grow up, you’re playing a fictional character. You’re cast this way. “
The obvious reason as to why the WCW Invasion storyline did not work in WWE was because of the lack of main players from WCW. The biggest faces of WCW did not come over to WWE during the Invasion because they were given guaranteed contracts by WCW that allowed them to stay home and make great money without having to work. Ross talked about the issues regarding the Invasion and how he doesn’t blame any of the top talent in WCW for not coming over to WWE immediately.
“Nobody that’s got a brain [would have],” Ross said while defending the decision for WCW talent to stay home. “They were not getting any younger. Their bodies need healing. You get better, you feel better, your health gets better. What are you going to do? Drag the NWO out of their homes kicking and screaming, and forsake those massive checks they got every single week from TimeWarner? Hell no.
“I don’t blame those guys one bit. Not one bit. It was a situation where you hoped some of these guys we brought in, some of these guys might break through, some of these guys might break out, and quite honestly, that never happened.”
During the beginning of the Invasion storyline, Stone Cold Steve Austin turned heel by defeating The Rock at WrestleMania 17 with the help of Vince McMahon. Austin is arguably the greatest babyface in WWE history and was one of the main reasons the WWE had so much success during the Attitude Era. Ross talked about the decision to switch Austin from babyface to heel, and why he always despised the switch.
“I think Austin turning heel in his home state, in his home market, at WrestleMania, was ill planned,” Ross said. “Getting Steve over as a heel was never going to work. It’s just a miscasting. All these great directors in Hollywood kept John Wayne as a baby face. I was a big believer that the audience was never going to accept Steve as a villain, and they didn’t.”
Ross also talked about the head of the WCW Invasion side of things in Paul Heyman. He mentioned how he worked with Heyman in WCW and saved his job there several times.
“I salvaged Paul’s career on more than one occasion to be honest with you,” Ross said. “He was so polarizing in WCW that the booking committee wanted to get rid of his ass. I’ve always thought one of the reasons was because Heyman might have been smarter than all of them. Nobody wanted to work with him, and I said I’ll work with him. I enjoyed working with Paul.
“WrestleMania 17 was one of my better memories as a performer. Paul was one of the catalysts in that process. Heyman has to be managed. In a booking world, he doesn’t work well on a committee; he never did and never will. He needs autonomy, he needs an open checkbook so to speak.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.