AS I SEE IT - 6/17/2003:
How to do an invasion angle right...

by: Bob Magee

One of the recent subjects I've discussed in AS I SEE IT columns has been the recent creative problems within WWE, and how they've handled these problems after the fact. I suggested that WWE's equivalent of the "New Coke" marketing debacle was the way they handled the WCW/ECW "Invasion", and then compared the reactions of each company.

Well... this weekend, I got to see how an invasion angle was supposed to be done.

I knew something was up on Saturday, June 14, as I went into the ECW Arena when Combat Zone Wrestling's promoter Zandig said to someone before the doors opened "I may hate myself for doing this... but it'll put people in the seats".

I didn't know quite WHAT was up. There had been rumors started by two former XPW employees that they had a future booking with CZW, which made some think that were what Zandig was referring to. But whatever it was, we had an idea something unexpected was going to happen Saturday night.

How right we were.

On an sweltering evening at the ECW Arena... Philadelphia's Combat Zone Wrestling showed other promotions the right way to do an invasion angle.

IWA Mid-South Wrestling's Ian Rotten, Corporal Robinson and JC Bailey stormed the ring during the main event "I Quit" strap match between Zandig and Rockin Rebel. This "invasion" has been reported to be a total surprise to at least some of the CZW locker room; to well-known independent tape dealers Smart Mark Video (who do a considerable amount of business with IWA), and without question to the fans in the stands who sat through a sweltering night at the ECW Arena in one of the best-done angles ever in the company's history.

The angle was set up by a main event of Zandig taking on Rockin Rebel in a strap match with I Quit stipulations. The two went at each other with leather straps, a weightlifting belt studded with thumb tacks, and a Singapore cane.

Late in the match, with Rebel still on the top turnbuckle and a table placed in the ring, Zandig pulled out a sack full of thumb tacks, poured them over the table, and gave Rebel a super-plex onto the table covered in tacks.

Suddenly, storming in the front door of the ECW Arena came IWA Mid-South Wrestling's Ian Rotten, Corporal Robinson and JC Bailey, who jumped Zandig.

The crowd which had been running out of gas due to the oppressive conditions in the building (and the fact that it was 12:30 am), jumped up in a moment seeing these three.

As the IWA "invaders" and Rebel held Zandig to the ropes, they began to staple dollar bills to Zandig's chin and chest. They then dragged Zandig's wife into the ring, and tied her to the opposite ropes, forcing her to watch Zandig being nailed with the staple gun. They nailed Zandig with a vicious chair shot. then teased at hitting Zandig's wife with a chair. Zandig finally quit because he doesn't want the IWA group to go after his wife. This played into the angle, since Zandig's wife is known by most fans, working CZW merchandise tables and helping out fans at Arena and other CZW shows. She hadn't been involved in an angle in roughly five years, when she was used as a valet very briefly in the earliest days of CZW.

Then, as Zandig was laid out... in a wild display, Ian Rotten started inciting the crowd, saying that CZW was an poor imitation of IWA Mid-South, and that "this invasion is not through. We may see a 'Mad Man' (Mad Man Pondo), a 'Butcher' (Necrobutcher) or other hardcore maniacs in CZW in the very near future". Following this, the ring was littered with debris...then chairs flew ala the infamous Terry Funk incident from ECW's Hardcore Heaven 1994.

To end the angle, Frank Talent of the State Athletic Commission led police down to the ring, and carted away the "invading" IWA group in handcuffs. And no, it didn't remind you of a bad skit on Smackdown... precisely because you didn't see any of it coming, unlike the "arrest" skits we've seen there.

This IWA Mid-South "Invasion" angle is designed to lead to the summer series of shows in Dover, DE entitled "Summer, Bloody Summer", which begin on June 28th... then at the next CZW show at the ECW Arena on July 20th, and forward to the second annual Tournament of Death in Dover, DE (CZW's annual death match tournament) on July 26th.

What did CZW do right with this angle?

They allowed the heels (IWA) to get over in part one of the angle.

In order to do an invasion angle, the invaders (typically heels) have to get over on the babyfaces (the local promotion) at the beginning. Otherwise, you have no reason to watch what happens next. If you don't care what happens next, you don't watch TV shows, come to live shows, or buy tapes of the shows.

In the case of the WCW invasion angle, WCW talent was never allowed to get over in the way that would have been most needed to build an angle that would draw money.

They didn't allow personalities to get in the way of potentially drawing money.

Ian Rotten and Zandig aren't exactly on each other's Christmas card list. That was still the case as recently as the May 3rd 3PW show in Philadelphia where Rotten rolled his eyes at the very mention of CZW (yes, Rotten could have been working me, but his dislike for CZW had been long known).

But Rotten and Zandig are both smart, and they both like making money... and they know that many fans of hardcore wrestling in the Philadelphia-New Jersey-Delaware-New York area are fans of both their companies.

This isn't the first time Zandig's been willing to do this with people he isn't fond of. He was smart enough to work with Ring of Honor's Rob Feinstein (as well as 3PW's Jasmin's St. Claire) when XPW came into Philadelphia late last year, ready to rule or ruin the independent scene. CZW's doing business with ROH and 3PW has paid off for all parties concerned.

Presumably, Zandig and Ian Rotten hope the same will be true in this case as well.

In the case of WWF/E and WCW, personalities did get in the way. WWE had to be seen as the "victor" in the Monday night wrestling wars. WCW never got to get over. For that matter, neither did ECW in its part of the invasion. It's potential was killed deader than dead that minute Stephanie McMahon was named "owner" of ECW.

You didn't see it coming.

One of my number one beefs with wrestling promotions (name your favorite example here) with their angles is over-predictability. We only knew something might be up Saturday night only because 2 former XPW workers had posted what appears to be wishful thinking on their websites. It also seemed that access to the back prior to the show was a bit more limited than usual... a good clue that something's up before a show... but not a guarantee.

As I said earlier, it also appears that the "invasion" was a total surprise to at least some of the CZW locker room; to Smart Mark Video, and without question to the fans in the stands. That's why the angle had such an effect live... and hopefully when it's aired within the next 2 weeks or so on CZW TV.

As a side note, I'm reminded of the best surprise angle I ever saw live... which also happened in the ECW Arena, when on an April night in 1994, Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton invaded the ECW Arena unannounced in one of the best kept secrets in wrestling history. In that case, a number of people admit to the ECW locker room being kayfabed on Anderson and Eaton's role, with the crowd having absolutely no clue whatever that anything whatever was going down. The TV the next week airing the angle showed one of the wildest crowd pops in ECW history.

In both cases, people left that long-ago ECW show and this Saturday's CZW show blown away... a feeling that fans don't seem to be getting much these days from their mainstream wrestling television.

Until next time...


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