Former WWE Commentator and Head of Talent Relations Jim Ross spoke on Grilling JR about the failed WCW / ECW Invasion angle that occurred in 2001. Having a front row seat during the era, JR also dealt with talent acquisitions during that time and spoke about conversations he had with WCW President Eric Bischoff to come in and represent the company in a match with Vince McMahon.
The WWF held an Invasion pay-per-view that consisted of matches between Alliance members versus WWF stars. The Alliance got the better hand in the main event 10-man tag team match after “Stone Cold” Steve Austin turned on Team WWF. Of all the notable missing links to WCW during the Invasion angle, Eric Bischoff was a major one being he was the face of the company as its President during their hottest period. Ross spoke about contacting Bischoff prior to the event to have a match with Mr. McMahon where he would lose and then never reappear on television. Bischoff declined the offer and joined the company a year later as the RAW General Manager.
“We didn’t have a good plan and Eric is a pretty smart guy,” Ross said. “He could see it was a short term deal, he was going to be used. He was going to be brought in, going to be beat, going to be humiliated as a part of that process to some degree and sent on your merry way. If I were Eric, I wouldn’t have done it either, it was short term.
“We chatted, but we had an icy relationship which I will take responsibility for. There were some open wounds but I think he made the right decision. Vince was thinking short term as if Eric really needed the money and had to have a job immediately to get relevant again on television in this world. Eric didn’t have that same train of thought, I think Eric made the right decision but it was just to test the waters. I do remember the phone call and I think that led to him and I getting back on the same page, my ego got in my way of being taken off the air in WCW when I didn’t think it was necessary. I took it personally and I outgrew that in later years. Eric and I are friends now. He made the right call for him and it worked out fine for him and WWE, he had a good run there.”
The Invasion pay-per-view also featured WWF referee Earl Hebner defeating WCW referee Nick Patrick. Ross mentioned that along with plans to have himself face Eric Bischoff in a match, McMahon also wanted Ross to face Paul Heyman on the show. JR talked about the idea being nixed by McMahon, but said if his boss wanted the match, he would have done it.
“Paul always had ideas but putting two cows on ice doesn’t mean it’s going to be ballet,” Ross said. “Here’s what happens there, eventually I was involved in a lot of matches, none that I wanted to be in but the minute by minute ratings killed me. It was like watching Nascar, I don’t think they were watching to see me win or have this technical expertise, they were watching for a train wreck, car wreck. If Heyman and I shoot this angle, how do we blow it off? It seemed to me if I recall correctly nobody had the idea of how we were going to blow it off. How do we pay it off or are we just going to half ass this thing? I wasn’t really interested. I worked with a lot of guys that can work including Eric, because I remember him hitting me the head with a cinder block.
“So it’s not that I wouldn’t do business, it’s just where do you go with it? What are we doing here? Are we going to help get Paul over? I’m not looking to wrestle. I don’t remember a lot of details with that conversation other than ‘Vince, I don’t know why we’re doing that. I’ll do whatever you want.’ And I would’ve done it. It’s not that JR nixed it and I have veto power over creative. We all know that’s not true. If Vince had wanted that match or angle to be shot, we would’ve shot it but he was like me in the sense of where do we go with this thing? What does it lead to? I don’t know what that answer is. It wouldn’t have been a Funk Briscoe classic, Heyman and JR. Good god almighty, can you even imagine that? Would’ve been hideous.”
Ross was asked whether or not Eric Bischoff’s inclusion in the WCW/ECW Invasion angle would have helped save the storyline. At the time, Austin had continued his run as a heel and Ross believes that was a major issue the company was dealing with along with the failed Invasion angle.
“I don’t think it would’ve trumped the fact that we didn’t have anybody ready for Steve which he saw the writing on the wall,” Bischoff said. “Eric would’ve played his role out perfectly, would he have been better than Heyman? They’re different characters. Eric could’ve played that Austin card, I FedEx’d your ass a letter that you’re fired and what are you going to do about it?
“Nothing. Eric could’ve pulled that off like a champion, that’s another way of looking at it. It’s frustrating to look back at 27 years ago, but it’s easy to figure out problems when they’re in hindsight. I could do a lot of things over in my life if I had the benefit of hindsight. Would have made better decisions in a lot of areas. At the end of the day, it seems as if it worked out for everybody pretty good. At the end of the day, financially, they ended up well but in 2001, the creative was not at its all time best.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.