One of the most used gimmicks in wrestling is an invasion angle. We’ve been treated to some that were spectacularly successful such as the nWo in WCW. On the flipside, others have been less successful: the WCW/ECW invasion of WWE in the early 00s, anyone? One invasion angle is rarely discussed and that’s Jim Cornette’s NWA invading the WWF in late 1997/early 1998 and that will be the focus of this ‘Well That Didn’t Work‘ piece.
To set the scene, it was late 1997 and the then WWF were being hammered in the ‘Monday Night Wars’ with their show Raw is War trailing WCW Nitro and Vince McMahon was growing increasingly desperate.
Months earlier Vince moved the WWF title from Bret Hart to Shawn Michaels at the Survivor Series prompting the Hitman to leave the promotion for WCW while the focus shifted towards Michaels and his D-Generation X cohorts Triple H and Chyna. With the WWF attempting an ‘out with the old and in with the new’ power shift, it seems bizarre that the decision was made to bring in the world’s oldest wrestling sanctioning body the National Wrestling Alliance. But that’s exactly what happened.
On the episode of ‘Raw is War’ which was shown on 5 January 1998, Jim Cornette brought in NWA promoters/officials Howard Brody and Dennis Coralluzzo and sanctioned a match between Jeff Jarrett and Barry Windham for the NWA North American Heavyweight Championship .
The following week on Raw, the Rock and Roll Express debuted and joined the group and were awarded the NWA Tag Team Titles in the process. Jarrett would enter the 1998 Royal Rumble, although only lasting a minute before being eliminated by his future tag partner Owen Hart. The very next night the NWA gained a new member when Blackjack Windham turned Blackjack Bradshaw and joined the group.
Cornette’s group soon dropped gold when The Headbangers beat The Rock and Roll Express for the tag straps while Jarrett left the group and vacated the North American title. Cornette would debut a new version of the Midnight Express, this one made up of Bob Holly and Bart Gunn, and they would go on to defeat The Headbangers for the titles. After that win, NWA World Heavyweight Champion Dan Severn debuted on Raw and joined the NWA members by joining in the beat down of The Headbangers.
This new Midnight Express would go on to feud with The Rock and Roll Express throughout March and April with Holly and Gunn coming out on top. The stable slowly died off as Windham left for WCW and Severn turned his attention on a singles run, leaving only Cornette and the New Midnight Express – a team he hated having to work with.
The NWA’s last hurrah occurred at the 1998 King of the Ring where they challenged The New Age Outlaws for the WWF Tag Team Championship but lost. On August 14, 1998, The New Midnight Express lost the NWA World Tag Team Championship to the Border Patrol at an NWA event. After the title loss, The NWA wrestling stable broke up.
So what was the point? Well, the WWF had hoped this might lure some WCW fans their way that had grown tired of the way that WCW had changed from its old NWA days to the new nWo era. The problem was that most NWA fans weren’t into the WWF’s programming or their cartoon product of the past.
I would suggest that the NWA Invasion failed for some of the reasons that teams such as the New Midnight Express and the New Blackjacks failed. Namely, the new versions lacked virtually everything that made the original grouping a success and you can also throw in that, by this stage, the NWA brand meant nothing like what it once did.
You can read all previous ‘Well That Didn’t Work’ pieces here.