JULY 9, 2001 - The True Unofficial End of WCW

Published on 8 July 2024 at 23:15

Twenty-three years ago, in this humble writer’s opinion, World Championship Wrestling officially died in Atlanta, GA on the July 9 edition of Monday Night Raw.


After the World Wrestling Federation purchased the assets of WCW, including 24 contracts, several trademarks and licenses, and the incredibly valuable tape library, on March 23, 2001, the initial plan was to keep WCW running as a separate entity under the WWF umbrella.


For months, the plans were to run television tapings to jump-start the WCW brand. However, tapings in Trenton, NJ, Bethlehem, PA, Fairfax, VA, and Jacksonville, FL were either canceled or never came to fruition. Also, discussions were always looming of WCW gaining a late-night television spot on Saturday nights on TNN, which were reported prominently by many internet websites, including Dave Meltzer on his Wrestling Observer Live radio show on Eyada.com.


In spite of these setbacks, WWF continued to push forward, beginning to integrate WCW into their weekly programming, hoping to push forward a television product for their new purchase. 




WCW began “invading” the WWF on May 28, with Lance Storm superkicking Perry Saturn on the Raw from the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. With Shane McMahon already shoehorned in as the owner of WCW, back from March 26, 2001, Storm’s intrusion would be the first of many.


Over the next several weeks, that theory would prove true. Various WCW wrestlers began making their presence felt, including Hugh Morris on June 4, 2001, Stacy Keibler on the June 14 SmackDown, and Diamond Dallas Page on June 18, announcing he was the “stalker” of the Undertaker’s wife.


It wasn’t until King of the Ring on June 24 from East Rutherford, NJ when the Invasion picked up into overdrive. During the triple threat WWF Championship match between Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho, WCW World and United States Champion Booker T ran in from the crowd and put Austin through a table with a belly-to-back suplex! 


Coincidentally, Booker broke a few bones in Austin’s back from that move!


The following night on Raw, inside Madison Square Garden, WCW started their assault early. After a WWF Hardcore Championship match between Rhyno and Test, which "the Man Beast" won, Mike Awesome, last seen on television during the final Nitro as a member of Team Canada, ran up through the parking lot, clobbered Rhyno with a wooden plank, Awesome Bombed Rhyno on a ladder, and pinned him for a three-count! 


WCW now owned a WWF Championship belt!


Later in the evening, Booker T and Shane McMahon were playing a cat-and-mouse game with Mr. McMahon, Stone Cold, and Kurt Angle, with the former talking trash at WWF New York, the infamous restaurant located at Times Square. Austin and Angle left “the World’s Most Famous Arena” and headed straight towards the restaurant. 


When they arrived, the duo learned that the WCW pair had left minutes prior. As Mr. McMahon stood in the ring perplexed, watching on the TitanTron, Booker T and Shane hijacked the ring, taking out the WWF boss. With the WWF roster running down the ramp, Booker and Shane ran through the crowd, escaping harm.


The following SmackDown, also held in MSG, started off ominously. Linda McMahon, CEO of the WWF, made her way down to the ring and confronted her estranged husband. In the middle of divorce proceedings, Linda announced that WCW would start having matches on WWF programming, beginning on the upcoming Monday’s Raw


Mr. McMahon, ever the business strategist, upped the ante, announcing that the WWF would change the name of the Fully Loaded pay-per-view to Invasion, and that there would be WWF vs WCW matches for the event itself.


The July 2, 2001 Raw from Tacoma, WA hosted the first ever World Championship Wrestling sanctioned match on WWF television. With Scott Hudson and Arn Anderson handling commentary duties, WCW World Champion Booker T would defend his gold against none other than BUFF BAGWELL.

Before Booker had the chance to put Buff away, Stone Cold and Kurt Angle ran down and attacked the WCW World Champion. After a three-on-one assault to the dressing room, Booker was unceremoniously dumped outside into the street. Buff began to celebrate, but the WWF Champion was unrelenting, beating the Hell out of Bagwell and tossing him out as well.


To say the match didn’t connect was an understatement. Booker vs Bagwell was universally panned by both fans and critics alike watching at home and in the crowd. Obviously, there would be growing pains with implementing WCW into the WWF Universe, but on this first strike, it did not connect.


SmackDown on July 5 fared a little bit better in Seattle, WA, Billy Kidman defeated WCW Cruiserweight Champion Gregory ”Shane” Helms for the title, while Booker T successfully defended his WCW World Championship against DDP, thanks to interference from the Undertaker. After the match, the WCW roster not only beat up the Undertaker in the parking lot, but Shane-O-Mac as well.


The July 8 Sunday Night Heat would host another WCW sanctioned contest, as World Tag Team Champions Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo defeated Shawn Stasiak and Kanyon to retain the gold.


It would also be the last WCW-exclusive match ever to air on television.




July 9, 2001 was truly “the end of an era” in professional wrestling.


First, the revolutionary Wrestling Observer Live on Eyada.com was officially going off the airwaves, due to financial issues on behalf of Eyada.


Being the final show on the platform, Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez went all out and had all of their popular guests make final appearances. One of the main topics discussed was that night’s Raw from Atlanta, GA.

There were some interesting tidbits reported:


  • Former WCW commentator Mark Madden discussed the rumor of “Us vs Them vs Them” with WWF vs WCW vs ECW.
  • Jeff Marek discussing the negative connotation of the WCW Raw coming to Toronto in September 2001
  • Buff Bagwell getting released from his WWF contract, a week after only match on RAW


With this news being unleashed, all bets were off on what was going to happen on that night’s television. Regardless, the end of Wrestling Observer Live was a sign of things to come for the night in general.

Raw began with Shane McMahon facing DDP in a street fight. The Undertaker, wanting to destroy Page by any means necessary, joined the match and made it a 2-on-1 handicap match. However, mere moments later, Shane-O-Mac pulled a flim-flam job and leveled the Undertaker with a kendo stick. After a decimation of “the American Badass”, DDP finished the job and delivered a vicious Diamond Cutter to the Undertaker’s wife Sara. WCW had struck again!


It was only the beginning of the surprises.


Later on in the night, WCW’s Lance Storm and Mike Awesome were facing the WWF’s Chris Jericho and Kane in an interpromotional match. All of a sudden, Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam, wearing ECW shirts, ran in and started a beatdown of Y2J and the Big Red Machine. Tazz, the Dudley Boyz, Raven, Justin Credible, and Rhyno ran down to, at first glance, save their WWF comrades from being attacked.


Suddenly, everyone’s attention turned to the prone Jericho and Kane. All ten men started assaulting them, with Paul Heyman leaving the commentary desk and surveying the damage. Then, with microphone in hand, “the Mad Scientist” began unleashing an extreme soliloquy towards Jim Ross, WWF, and WCW, stating that “this invasion has been taken to the…EXTREME.”


ECW had, as Mark Madden predicted, joined the Invasion.


Vince and Shane McMahon, mortal enemies at this stage of the game, decided to end this ECW intrusion immediately, booking a 10-on-10 fight. The ECW contingent would face a team of five WWF guys and five WCW guys.


The WWF/WCW unit didn’t even survive the start of the match, as it broke down into a war. Then, with ECW coming through the crowd, the five WCW guys and the ten ECW performers jumped what was left of the WWF at ringside. Shane-O-Mac and Heyman shook hands and announced a MERGER of WCW and ECW, and that the new owner of ECW was STEPHANIE MCMAHON-HELMSLEY!

Stephanie passed a stunned Vince McMahon on the ramp and entered the ring, celebrating with Shane, Heyman, and a newly-merged WCW/ECW to end the show.




After packing a multitude of stories into one two-hour program, the industry had changed immensely.


WCW was no longer being looked at as a separate entity; it was now part of a storyline that would venture into the Summer and the Fall of 2001. Almost immediately, interpromotional matches were the norm on WWF television, and championships were being passed around like hot potatoes. Its luster was lost.


Instead of the focus of promotion vs promotion, the rivalry turned into McMahon vs McMahon in many senses. By November 18, 2001, at Survivor Series, the WWF defeated the Alliance in a “Winner Takes All” five-on-five elimination match to win and kill WCW and ECW once.


To many, including this die-hard fan, this might have been the most disappointing storyline in wrestling history. WCW was officially dead, never to return.


But why? What led to everything falling apart?


For starters, the negative stigma of the WCW name. Due to the Monday Night Wars, many WWF fans hated WCW outright.


Second, the lack of WCW stars that were able to come into the WWF due to many being under high-paying Time Warner contracts that they did not want to come out of.


Finally, the atmosphere of Tacoma, WA for the Booker T/Buff Bagwell match. The fans’ lack of reaction towards anything WCW had caused plans to change immediately. According to an old Dave Meltzer article in the Wrestling Observer in the 2010s:


But it was on the first night of the beginning of the angle, in Tacoma, when the WWF fan base were so completely negative on everything WCW, including a test run match of Booker T vs. Buff Bagwell with Scott Hudson and Arn Anderson as announcers, that Vince changed his mind on everything.


I can recall that Monday night watching just how badly the crowd reacted, talking to a high ranking WWF executive about how, knowing Vince, that reaction being so negative was probably going to make him drop the idea.


I was told it was impossible, because everything had been laid out, with schedules, rosters, etc.


The next morning, Vince made the call his inner circle said he wouldn’t. He ordered everything changed. WCW would not continue as a separate company, but would just be used as an invading heel group in a feud with WWF.


Here is one of the more ironic things. With Raw coming to Atlanta, GA, the base of World Championship Wrestling, the week AFTER Tacoma, why not run the first WCW matches there? In this writer’s opinion, it would have garnered a more positive reaction than in Tacoma most certainly.


Regardless of which, there is also another point to be made. Remember when WWF was negotiating a television deal for WCW to be on Saturday late-nights with TNN, but weren’t able to seal the deal? 


Well, in 2001, beginning on August 25, WWF began a two-hour show called Excess from 10pm-midnight on…TNN! Ironic.


I could personally go on and on in this article on my views regarding this, but the facts are indeed the facts.




July 9, 2001 was the “unofficial” end of World Championship Wrestling. In hindsight, it felt full circle that the promotion was prepared for the figurative slaughterhouse in Atlanta, GA, the home base of the promotion for over a decade. 


In spite of WWF’s initial efforts, whether it was with good intentions or not, WCW wasn’t going to work. To many in the WWF offices, WCW was a dead brand. And once the failure of Booker T and Buff Bagwell took place in Tacoma, WA, the WWF had all the evidence they needed to pull the plug a week later in Atlanta.


Hold up your drink of choice and raise it to the air. We salute WCW. Good, bad, or indifferent, having WCW around made the wrestling industry a better place. Twenty-three years, the wrestling industry truly changed forever, and to oldheads like myself, it never really came back.


And it just makes me sad. Long live WCW. July 9 will forever live in infamy, especially on this website.


Bankie Bruce

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