Invasion 10 yrs later: FS reprint
November 14, 2011
I wrote the following for my "Storm Front" article for "Fighting Spirit" Magazine, back in May, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
May 28th 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of when I invaded RAW in Calgary and started the WCW Invasion by super kicking Perry Saturn. When I drove to the Saddle Dome that Monday afternoon, I had no idea I was going to be debuting on RAW. All I was told was that I was to come to the event to meet with Jim Ross to discuss my future with WWE. All the other WCW guys were flown to Connecticut to meet with JR, but I was told with RAW being in Calgary that week, it would be easier for everyone if I just came down to the show and met with him there.
I was both excited and a little bit nervous. I'm not a particularly social able guy, especially on first meetings, so I find it awkward introducing myself to others. Like many of you I'd heard countless stories of guys getting heat in WWE for not introducing themselves properly to everyone, so I was heading into this meeting with a very cautious enthusiasm. Walking into the building I was reciting the mantra in my head, "I've got to say hi to everyone, I've got to say hi to everyone", hoping to start things off on the right foot. I wasn't super nervous because I did know a lot of people in WWE already, but with WCW dead and gone, WWE was the only show in town, so I didn't need heat right out of the gate.
The first person I see when I walk through the door is Jim Ross, who is standing maybe 30 feet away talking to Brian Christopher. My initial thought was great, there's Jim Ross, I can introduce myself to him and he will show me around and everything will be fine. As I approach them I'm waiting for JR to see me, hoping he will pause his conversation and I'll be able to say hello. As I get closer neither guy acknowledges my presence and their conversation seems quite serious. So now I'm in no man's land, a new guy's worst nightmare. Interrupting Jim Ross's conversation seems rude, and might get me heat, but he's the guy I'm here to meet so I can't just walk past and ignore him, that will definitely get me heat.
Unsure what to do I slow my pace coming pretty much to a dead stop, hoping I'm far enough away to not appear like I'm eaves dropping but close enough to be noticed with a look on my face I hope reads, "when ever you have a minute, I'd like to say hello." Finally they stop talking and JR turns to me with a look on his face that clearly reads, "What the hell do you want?" I quickly introduce myself to both men, receiving barely a curt nod from both, and proceed down the hall to the locker room thinking, very quietly and to myself, "What a grumpy bastard Jim Ross is"
Once in the locker room I ran into Johnny Ace (JR's equivalent from WCW) who introduced me to most of the guys and asks me if I'd seen JR yet. I quickly described my awkward encounter, omitting the "Grumpy Bastard" comment, and John tells me that the conversation I interrupted was Jim Ross firing Brian Christopher who had gotten caught at the airport with... shall we say... questionable substances in his procession. Brian is of course the son of Jerry Lawler, one of JR's closest friends, which went a long way in explain his grumpy mood.
Later that night I got to sit down and have my talk with JR who, as it turned out, was neither grumpy nor a bastard, and we became friends and stay in touch to this day. In a strange coincidence 4 years later when I sat down with JR to discuss leaving the WWE roster as a performer to become a trainer for their developmental system, we were again in the Saddle Dome in Calgary, and as crazy as this sounds, it was Brian Christopher first night back with the company.
After that is was pretty much smooth sailing for me, I had a ton of friends already in WWE, like Chris Jericho, JBL (worked with him in CWA in 1995), Justin Credible, The Dudleys, Edge, Christian, to help smooth the waters, and with all of us WCW guys coming in together, after that initial invasion, I managed to skate in under that radar, while guys like Palumbo and O'Hare got heat for being too green, and Buff Bagwell got heat for being...well for being Buff Bagwell.
My only other misstep was several months later when Stone Cold Steve Austin joined the Alliance. I remember this night very well. Everyone in the Alliance was in the ring as Steve made his way down the ramp. Steve did his regular entrance going to all 4 corners of the ring. We all got out of his way but I remember he stopped very briefly to look directly at me, with a confused look on his face. I didn't think much of it at the time but as soon as we all got to the back Steve walked up to me and said (not an exact quote), "God damn it kid, how about you show me some excitement out there. It's supposed to be a big deal I'm joining the Alliance."
I immediately tried to explain that my whole gimmick is that I'm serious and never smile, and I was just trying to stay in character, as Steve Austin walks off looking a little bit pissed off. At this point I realize I just commit a bigger sin than not introducing myself; I just told the biggest star in our industry "Yeah, but". Yeah but is a huge mistake and something you should never do and I knew instantly I had to nip this in the bud, before Austin had a chance to realize what I'd said and spread the word that I thought I had a better read on the wrestling business than the biggest drawing card in our sport.
It took me a while to find my opportunity but I finally tracked him down and managed to pull Austin aside to explain myself. I immediately apologized to him for my lack of enthusiasm in this ring, and took full responsibility for misreading the situation, and thanked him for pointing out my mistake. This may seem like blatant butt kissing to some of you, but there is a ladder of seniority and respect in our business and the rungs of that ladder that Lance Storm and Steve Austin stood on at the time made a little bit of butt kissing not only warranted but geographically convenient. Steve was extremely cool about the whole thing and I'm not even sure he noticed my "Yeah, but" blunder, but I was glad to have cleared the air with the Texas Rattle Snake.
There is a lesson here for aspiring workers, the goal when entering a new locker room isn't to avoid getting heat that is almost impossible; the goal is to put out the small fires so the heat doesn't spread. Good luck with that everyone!
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