RondaRousey.com’s Classic Match series takes a closer look at significant and super cool matches from wrestling history.
WWF’s “Invasion” angle of 2001 was fantasy warfare made real: It was several months of WWF’s best squaring off with the “Alliance,” the combined forces of former competitors WCW and ECW, which had both been acquired by WWF earlier that year. In theory, it was the realization of everything fans had dreamed about during the years when WWF and WCW went head-to-head on Monday nights and ECW blew minds with its hardcore approach
But in practice, it wasn’t always as compelling as hoped. Many of WCW’s biggest names weren’t part of the Invasion due to contract issues, and as such, WWF migrated many of its mainstays over to the Alliance, creating parity between the sides but also confusing the issue. Simply put: With “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Kurt Angle—two of the biggest WWF stars of that era—on the side of the Alliance, it clearly wasn’t much of an “invasion.”
Yet, one part of the Invasion storyline that definitely delivered was the match that brought it all to a close: The main event of Survivor Series 2001, featuring Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane, and The Big Show) against The Alliance (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, and Shane McMahon). First of all, let’s take a moment to truly appreciate that lineup, as it is clearly an unimpeachable squad of icons from the Monday Night Wars and a testament to how loaded with star power the company’s roster was at that time.
Not only was the match a traditional five-on-five Survivor Series elimination match, the winner-take-all terms meant that whichever side lost would go out of business (likely not a stipulation approved by the SEC). The tension was heightened by the fact that the Alliance side was presented as a tightly-knit team, while Chris Jericho and The Rock were feuding at the time and would have to (try to) put their differences aside. (To be fair, Austin and Angle also had a very unusual relationship at the time, involving cookies, guitars and a series of hilariously bizarre backstage segments.)
Unsurprisingly, Big Show found himself a target early in the match and was pinned after a barrage of big moves culminating with a top-rope elbow drop from Shane McMahon. McMahon—the on-screen owner of WCW, with his sister Stephanie in control of ECW—was pinned shortly after, following a Tombstone Piledriver from Undertaker and a Lionsault by Jericho.
Things didn’t stay even for long—as traditional pro wrestling logic dictates, the bad guys took a big advantage, with RVD eliminating Kane, and Angle eliminating Undertaker (with a very large assist from Austin, who Stunnered Taker). That left Rock and Jericho as WWF’s only hope—if they could get along.
Well, they tried their best. The Rock eliminated Booker and Angle, with Jericho pinning RVD with vintage finisher Breakdown (basically Miz’s Skull Crushing Finale). So with Team WWF up 2-1, it looked like victory was just about certain—until “Stone Cold” pinned Jericho, and Jericho, in typically impetuous Chris Jericho fashion, responded by attacking The Rock. Luckily, Rocky recovered from this, and what followed was 10 minutes of classic Rock vs. “Stone Cold” action (the match-up that spawned three WrestleMania matches, including the main event earlier that year). Ultimately, Angle resurfaced and turned on the Alliance (and his longtime rival) and nailed Austin with the WWF Championship belt, securing Team WWF’s victory.
Team WWF vs. The Alliance is frequently cited as the best elimination tag team match in Survivor Series history, and it more than lived up to the pedigree of its performers and the weight of its stipulation. While the “fired” Alliance wrestlers pretty much all ended up back on TV sooner rather than later, it really was the end of an era (even though WWE revived ECW, in a very different form, from 2006 to 2010).
The brand vs. brand spirit of Team WWF vs. The Alliance lives on with the Team RAW vs. Team SmackDown matches that have come to define Survivor Series in recent years, which you can watch on the WWE Network.