The 2001 calendar year for WWE was one of the most interesting in company history. They were coming off a fantastic 2000 that was arguably the best year ever and did a tremendous job of building up to WrestleMania 17 in 2001, which most fans consider to be the greatest WWE event of all time. Everything seemed to be rosy. The biggest news item of the year was clearly WWE's purchase of rival promotion World Championship Wrestling. If WWE tried to buy WCW in 1998 it would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There was no way it was going to happen then. Once the AOL Time Warner merger happened, it made WCW available for purchase because they were no longer considered a major asset. In 2001, due to WCW's inept booking that cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, McMahon spent $4.2 million for the entire company. The figure shocked a lot of people at the time because we knew how big WCW was, so for WWE to buy them for "only" $4.2 million was a steal. That included their entire tape library as well as dozens of talents on the roster. Since the wrestling business was making Vince McMahon and his company a lot of money, he decided he wanted to own a professional American football league called the XFL. Why? Because people that are rich like to be richer. The problem was that the XFL, which played its first game on February 3, 2001, was a huge money loser for WWE and it became a laughingstock in the sports world. By the time the Los Angeles Xtreme won the first and only XFL Championship Game on April 21, nobody really cared about the league and that was the end of that. Mark it down as a huge money loser for WWE and pretend like it never existed. The on screen product was a mix of hot and cold. There were plenty of great PPV events through the year with awesome rivalries on screen involving the likes of Steve Austin and Kurt Angle as well as the incredible tag division, but due to all the outside forces going on it was a really confusing year. There were too many heel turns. Far too many title changes. It was hard to know who was in charge of what show at what point because of all the authority figures too. In terms of its financial success, WWE had a strong year. WrestleMania 17 did a huge number in North America (worldwide hadn't caught up yet) and the July PPV called Invasion is actually still the highest non-WrestleMania event in terms of PPV buys a reported 770,000 people paying for the event. The big question all these years later is why would they waste the potential biggest storyline ever on a random PPV event in July when they really could have built it up until the next WrestleMania at least? That's something we may never know. There are a lot of things that WWE did right in 2001, but here's a look at the reasons why the WCW (and ECW) Invasion angle failed even though everything was there for WWE to make it the biggest storyline of all time.
John wrote at WhatCulture from December 2013 to December 2015. It was fun, but it's over for now. Follow him on Twitter @johnreport. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments as well.