Back in March 2001, Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) officially won the Monday Night War against World Championship Wrestling (WCW) when they purchased the dying company for what amounted to just a few million dollars.
It was, without a doubt, one of, if not thee, most historic deals in pro wrestling history.
The big question after it all went down was just what exactly could fans expect. The possibilities seemed endless, with visions of Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bill Goldberg and Sting vs. Undertaker dancing inside our heads. Even the New World Order, which had been beaten to death at that point, was suddenly a hot item again. Surely McMahon and company would use them far better than Vince Russo and the rest of the brain trust at WCW had.
Except nothing happened. Not at first. Shane McMahon appeared on the final episode of Nitro for a simulcast with Raw to announce he had purchased the company from under his dad's nose in storyline but then, silence. The reason for the lack of activity was WWF trying to figure out exactly what the hell they wanted to do with an entirely new company with an entire roster of wrestlers.
The fans didn't want the war to end; not really. Sure, they had long ago aligned with the WWF, as evidenced by the ratings, which reached unheard of heights during this era. But fans feared a climate without a solid number two promotion to oppose the big dog in the yard.
The original plan, after WWF cobbled one together, was to make WCW a separate brand altogether. Think Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) purchasing Strikeforce but continuing to operate it as a separate promotion without stealing all its top fighters.
That's what McMahon and company were going to do. But it didn't even come close to working out.
They struggled to find a television deal and fans were less than enthused with the idea once they realized the roster of talent representing WCW. Once the Invasion angle kicked off, no one was happy at the situation. The biggest star to come over and sign a deal was Booker T and he was treated like a punching bag.
The reason for this, of course, was WCW had been doling out guaranteed big money contracts to all of its top stars, a contributing factor to their going out of business. So when the WWF bought them out, they were given the option of buying out the considerable contracts of these big name stars, like Goldberg, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and so on and so forth.
But because the money was so big -- among other politically charged reasons -- McMahon chose not to buy them out but rather wait out those fat contracts and sign them to lesser deals once the money ran out and they came calling for work (which happened with each and every one of them).
Again, this led to a WCW roster that was depleted of all the big names fans had come to identify the brand with. Lance Storm was great and all but when you thought WCW, Storm isn't the guy that popped into your head.
Nonetheless, the WWF pressed on with plans to create a second show -- much like they would later do with the brand split between Raw and Smackdown -- and decided to do a test run of sorts where they would try out a new format at the tail end of an episode of Raw.
And it was on this date in WWF/WCW history (July 2, 2001) that the infamous Raw from Tacoma, Washington, went down.
The decision was made to give the final 20 minutes of Raw to WCW. They did this by completely transforming the set, bringing out new announcers, changing the ring apron, the music; everything suddenly went from Raw is War to Monday Nitro.
The match that was chosen to kick this project off was a WCW heavyweight championship match between titleholder Booker T and challenger Buff Bagwell. To think, these were the two biggest stars they could rustle up for this particular show, which proved to be disastrous.
It didn't take long before the crowd turned on the match. Bagwell had worked his first match in months at a house show the night before and he was badly out of shape. He blew himself up quick and started working rest holds that killed whatever heat they had. Considering WCW had come to be known for a faster paced workrate with guys who could really go, this was all the ammunition the Tacoma crowd needed to go from unhappy to restless to ready to riot.
Reports from fans on the scene stated the situation quickly devolved into outright hostility. McMahon, sitting at the Gorilla position, hated everything about the entire segment, from the match to the commentary to the reaction from the fans. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kurt Angle eventually ran in to further the Invasion storyline and the entire idea of breaking off WCW into a separate promotion was scrapped soon thereafter.
Bagwell was so bad in his short stint with the WWF that this turned out to be his only televised appearance and he was released shortly thereafter. The tales of his decline are legendary, from his faking injuries to his mother calling up the company to request he be given time off while complaining about his treatment. Considering how utterly useless he was at this point, the decision to cut him loose was an easy one.
Booker, meanwhile, would overcome his early woes and go on to have a long and successful career that is still going to this day, though he left the company for a while to work with TNA, the eventual successor (as the number two in the U.S. at least) to WCW.
The Invasion storyline turned out to be a big flop, too, but we'll get to that later. In the meantime, watch the fateful final segment on the Tacoma Raw below.