The year was 2001 and the Monday Night Wars had been over for months. The WWF headed the way for professional wrestling as WCW & ECW closed their doors. And from the ashes came the “Invasion” angle, which saw WWF, WCW & ECW talent unite in a bid to take down Vince McMahon’s powerhouse with help from his children Shane & Stephanie McMahon. Mr. McMahon had his loyal superstars, but a defection from Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kurt Angle made life difficult. After months of back-and-forth, the fate of the company would be decided in an elimination match at Survivor Series. It would reward the winners control of the promotion, while the losers would fade away in to history.
On WWF’s side they had the Big Show, Kane, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, and WCW Champion The Rock. Y2J and The Rock had been feuding over the title, so they weren’t exactly best friends. Having three super heavyweights accompanying them was logical, although Paul Heyman and others questioned why Vince didn’t choose himself like Shane did. On The Alliance’s side, they had Steve Austin, Shane McMahon, Kurt Angle, Booker T and Rob Van Dam. Now… many say The Invasion angle was a flop and it’s totally understandable. Look at the lineup. How many are representing as a WCW Original? Only one. And what about ECW? Just one. You’d assume that a group representing the life of WCW & ECW would be better than that. Yes, Steve Austin worked for both promotions but wasn’t a huge star for either of ’em; they were merely stepping stones.
Think about the possibilities. What would an ideal Alliance setup look like? How about Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Goldberg, Sting and Rob Van Dam? Can you imagine the star power this match would’ve had if they put Austin on WWF’s side? Replace Big Show & Kane with him and Angle, and we get a massive lineup of: Austin, Rock, Y2J, Angle & The Undertaker vs. Hogan, Flair, Goldberg, Sting and RVD. That’s a legendary match encounter right there, and it’s not like any of them were nearing retirement. I rarely like “what ifs”, but on this occasion it’s warranted. The “Invasion” angle could have been huge, but instead they had to move Austin and Angle over to make up the numbers. Here’s something though… what would it look like if they used wrestlers who were part of The Alliance and we took out Austin, Angle and Shane O Mac?
How about a non-crazy Diamond Dallas Page? Or a Raven we can take seriously as a former World Heavyweight Champion? Rhino & Tommy Dreamer’s are two more who could have represented ECW if they made ’em a big deal. The Dudley Boyz would have made a great addition. There’s plenty of “extreme” candidates here, but only Booker T & DDP can be considered WCW main eventers. With a lack of star power, this made it difficult to take a WCW/ECW alliance seriously. Even back then, it seemed fairly obvious that the World Wrestling Federation would succeed somehow. But then, you also have to remember this was the back end of the Attitude Era where “anything” could happen. It wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility for Vince to shock us by having The Alliance come out victorious.
As for the match itself, it shares the highest rating of any Survivor Series match along with other men’s iterations from 2014 & 2016. Only this one had way bigger stakes, so as disappointing as it seems from a “what if” standpoint, I consider it to be the most memorable Survivor Series match of all time. What I really enjoy about it, aside from the action, is we get the backstage reactions from Team WWF and Team Alliance in real-time. It adds so much to the importance of each elimination, and the climax is all the sweeter for it.
Team WWF vs. Team Alliance
I enjoy Shane McMahon’s urgency from the offset. It tells the story that he’s invested so much in to this and he’s taking it upon himself to ensure no one is eliminated. He may have the least experience and should probably be replaced by a proper wrestler, but he justifies his place with how much of a thorn he is in the WWF’s side. Big Show looks great here too, he’s moving around with a flow you rarely see from a giant.
Taking several finishers to eliminate him made sense, but why didn’t anyone come in to break it up? Team WWF should have learned something from watching Shane McMahon repeatedly enter the ring. Getting rid of Shane O Mac first from the Alliance side made sense also, because he’s in there with legends and it’s not realistic for him to be eliminated after a Booker T or a Rob Van Dam.
Now, this is where I get a little frustrated, because there’s no way The Alliance should’ve been able to eliminate the Brothers of Destruction as easily as they did. I get it… they wanted to create jeopardy by making it a 4-on-2 situation, but this is Kane & The Undertaker we’re talking about. It also makes Booker T & RVD look like chumps to be eliminated by The Rock & Chris Jericho when they have Austin & Angle backing them up. 25 minutes in to the match and we’re left with four WWF Superstars. No one representing WCW or ECW. With no context, you’d have no idea this was WWF vs. WCW/ECW.
After Chris Jericho is eliminated, he makes one of the most illogical moves in the history of Survivor Series… he attacks The Rock! His job is on the line here. There’s no telling that if WCW/ECW got in power that he would be handed a job. So for him to attack The Rock… who yes, has been his rival up to that point, but is the last hope for the WWF? It’s ludicrous. Luckily, The Undertaker gets out there and tells him just how dumb he’s being. With essentially a handicap match, The Rock makes Kurt Angle tap out. Which doesn’t make sense because it’s not like Angle has taken much punishment, but it becomes clearer later. So the match ends like it starts, with The Rock taking on Stone Cold Steve Austin in a repeat of their WrestleMania match.
In terms of crowd reaction, the fans were chanting for the heel Steve Austin in the beginning. But as the match closes in on its last minutes, they turn to side with “Rocky” because they want the WWF to win. It’s tough on the fans because they love Steve Austin, but the story has been told well and they are in to it. There was also a suspected “mole” in Team Alliance, with the idea being planted by Vince McMahon leading in to the event. Many suspected it could be Steve Austin, but with him fighting as the sole survivor for The Alliance, this could no longer be a possibility. Throughout, Paul Heyman does a great job commentating with Jim Ross, giving us the WWF vs. Alliance mentality in verbal form.
I remember watching this in 2001; I was still relatively new to wrestling, and I was super interested to see who’d win. When Kurt Angle ran down to the ring I had no idea what was going to happen next; no exaggeration. I thought great… he has come to help Austin steal this. He grabs the WWF Championship and smashes Steve Austin in the face with it! Boom… the place erupts with a giant pop! Angle was the mule along. Him tapping to The Rock earlier makes sense now. The Rock takes advantage and wins the match for Team WWF. Heyman’s stunned reaction is priceless. Stephanie McMahon literally crumbles in front of our eyes.
Team WWF erupt triumphantly. Vince McMahon makes himself seen and holds his arms up in victory. The almighty conqueror, while The Rock looks at him slightly bemused. It’s like he’s thinking Vince is taking credit for something he didn’t do. It marks the end to an angle which should’ve have had way more, but at least we got this send off to remember it by. I’d say they did everything they could with what they had, which is all we can ask for. What do you think of this match? Please let us know in the comments, thank you!