Over the last decade and a half, the business model of the WWE has been a difficult one to figure out. It was fairly cut and dry in the 90's, once the Attitude Era was kicked off by the unceremonious turfing of Bret Hart: Create new stars in short order. It was an effective formula, one that jumpstarted the then WWF to tremendous creative and financial heights, and effectively burying their competition. Gone were stars like Bret, Shawn Michaels (who was forced out due to a gruesome back injury and a nasty attitude coupled with a nasty addiction to painkillers), Hogan, Hall, Nash, Vader. In vogue were fresh faces like Rock, Austin and, yes, the newly minted main heel Mr. McMahon. It was a time of tremendous prosperity for the WWF, a period remembered fondly by both hardcore and fairweather fans to this day. When WWF did the unthinkable and purchased the fetid remains of WCW in March of 2001, many thought it would be the continuation, and to a point, the coronation of WWF and the ultimate angle that would net Billionaire Vince even more billions.
You couldn't have been more wrong, and WWF, from now referenced to as WWE, became the world's ultimate self fulfilling prophecy.
You see, WCW, even while in a dumpster fire through most of 2000 and 2001, still had some viable, fresh opponents for WWE Main events. Unfortunately, most of the major ones were bound by contracts in which they received guaranteed money if they remained loyal to the binding deals. WWE was not about to pay WCW talents more than WWE talents, so, during the purchase of WCW, WWE let those contracts run out, those talents fester, while the wholly underwhelming Invasion storyline featured such stars as Mike Awesome, Booker T. and Lance Storm. No slouches to be sure, but certainly not Sting or Goldberg. And the WWE proceeded to treating them as also rans, as the politics of the "boys" in the locker room began running rampant. The biggest example of this was the Diamond Dallas Page saga. Page was an established WCW Superstar, and, depending on who you speak to on what day of what week of what year, was only there because he was Eric Bischoff's "boy" and next door neighbor. Fuck that, Page was entertaining as WCW's version of the "People's Champ." He sure as hell resembled a "People's Champ" than WWE's version, the Rock. Page looked like a white trash truck driver and spoke with a noticeable disability to properly convery the English language. Think Dusty Rhodes. Rock was the prototypical Vince McMahon babyface...except in this era, he was a total heel. Anyway, DDP shows up on WWE TV as a STALKER for Undertaker's wife...which is fine in theory if you are solely a WWE fan, but if you followed both, you knew Page's wife was a smoking hot Playboy model. That is far from portending to a hot storyline. Anyway, it culminated with two awful matches, the first at SummerSlam 2001, where, in a steel cage, Taker and his storyline brother Kane, just totally fucking destroyed Page and friend Kanyon (who should have had a much more productive WWE career...but that is another story entirely). I mean, total, unadulterated slaughter, all because, as was Page's wont, he wanted to script the entire match and Taker took offense to it. Kind of ironic to think of nowadays, huh? Add in a terrible match between...once again...Taker and Kane (notice a trend here?) with Kronik, WCW's last dominant tag team, where Taker and Kane said Kronik couldn't keep up with their high tech offense (Clothesline, punch, bodyslam, punch, clothesline, punch...did I mention punch?) cost them their jobs. It was off to the races for WWE.
Then 2002 happened. And WWE would never be the same. That is coming in part 2 tomorrow.
Be well all.