Vince Russo’s been a busy man for the last three weeks.
Two years after leaving TNA (Dixie Carter, saint that she is, said was amicable), Russo isn’t ready to deprive the curious masses of his thoughts and opinions.
As such, he’s opened a new blog called; “Pyro & Ballyhoo” which breaks from Russo’s normal line of work and covers all aspects of the entertainment business. The site is, essentially, a collection of Russo’s feelings on the worlds of film, music, sports, and social customs. Yes, he’s serious. Guy even covered Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter, congratulating the inconsistent Giants starting pitcher.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Russo is staying away from the world of pro-wrestling. Three weeks ago, having watched RAW (and looking to increase site hits), Russo went on a tirade, criticizing what he watched and pretty much claimed that WWE’s ratings were in the toilet because of his absence.
But that hasn’t been the end of it.
In order to promote the site further (and clarify his remarks), Russo has gone on a tour of sorts, making several dubious claims and portraying Vince McMahon as an individual who has no teeth left due to the fact that he’s crushed his competition and become complacent. One of his stops on the tour was a podcast with Stone Cold Steve Austin — somebody who Russo claims he hasn’t seen in 15 years. The more interesting interview, however, came when he showed up last night on WRESTLEREACTION via Skype.
In the interview, Russo talked about several aspects of the WWE, from the lack of bite in terms of booking, to the mishandling of major characters to RAW simply being too long.
Strangely enough, I find myself agreeing with Russo on several points — including the quality and length of WWE programming — but that’s another article which I promise to get to.
Before I go on, I feel it necessary to initiate the uninitiated.
Vince Russo was a writer for WWE for almost a full decade, starting out as a company journalist, cutting his teeth on editorials for WWF Magazine as “Vic Venom”. After four years of freelancing, Russo was promoted to the Creative Team and was tasked with turning the Monday Night Wars to WWE’s advantage. In 1997, after becoming RAW’s head writer, Russo ushered in “The Attitude Era” where face characters became anti-heroes, villains were almost demonic and sadistic, angles more dangerous and sexualized, and profanity liberally peppered into every segment and spot.
Without Russo, we would never have gotten The Corporation or Stone Cold Steve Austin battling to the death and it’s very possible that The Rock would have never seen the fame he enjoys.
Russo left the WWE in 1999, citing disputes with the McMahon family over the size of the workload assigned and went to WCW later the same year. Ironically, Russo was there to fix WCW whose ratings had fallen into the toilet due to the product he had created in the WWE.
I hadn’t seen Russo since the WCW had folded, though I was told stories about his shoot interviews a’la James Cornette and that he had become a Born-Again Christian — which had actually influenced a decision to alter a tell-all autobiography where he had originally criticized several wrestling organizations and employees.
Watching last nights’ interview was fascinating because I had always thought of Russo as an abrasive individual whose ego (paired with Hulk Hogan’s) and penchant for chaotic shows and sudden left-turn swerves had caused the downfall of WCW. But, no. Russo passed the buck and blamed the Time Warner-AOL merger for WCW’s epic crash.
Russo went on to make so many other claims that I feel compelled to point out the truth:
- Russo claimed that when he started with WCW, “the ratings were at a 2.9″ and, three months later, it was “a 3.6″. The ratings DID see a surge about a month after Russo was a writer but they stabilized again and fell back down to 2.9 by the three-month mark. Even with the Russo-Bischoff “reboot”, the ratings stayed about the same, hit one more slight surge in late summer/early fall and then took a final nose-dive. Buy-rates for WCW PPV shows were atrocious: Starrcade saw a 75% decrease from the prior year and Souled Out barely beat an ECW PPV. (Sources: Monday Night War Ratings, Wikipedia, Vince Russo – World Championship Wrestling, Wikipedia)
- Russo made some booking choices that ran afoul with fans:
- At one point, he had booked actor David Arquette to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Arquette held the title for 12 full days and actually defended it at Slamboree where he finally lost it…to Jeff Jarrett in a Steel Cage Match which went 15 long minutes and included Diamond Dallas Page as a third competitor. Hell, at one point, Russo had booked himself to win the belt — even though he claims that his very short reign was “unintentional”.
- Booked Madusa to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Personally, I don’t have an issue with the equality thing…but Madusa wasn’t a “cruiserweight” nor was she even skilled. The whole thing came off as entirely silly.
- The Millionaire’s Club (headed by Hulk Hogan and pretty much all the members of the nWo) which was horrible on every single level and their even more ridiculous feud with The New Blood. It went nowhere and ended up falling apart with every single title match being a fight between the two factions. It ended with a legitimate beef between Russo and Hogan. Hogan wanted to be champion and Russo didn’t want that. The whole thing ended in an uncomfortable shoot where Jeff Jarrett laid down on the mat and let Hogan pin him. Hogan openly criticized Russo in front of everyone. Russo came out during the next segment, stripped Hogan of the title and then fired him. Hogan and Bischoff weren’t seen in WCW again.
- Booking Goldberg as a heel. ‘Nuff said.
- Booking Sting in a tourney for the United States Championship. ‘Nuff said.
- Booking Tank Abbott, a former UFC Fighter, as a contender for the WCW Championship — which ended up getting him canned.
- Russo claims that Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan weren’t to blame for WCW’s downfall either…but Hogan was booked in the infamously stupid “Fingerpoint of Doom” spot…and only one of two guys could have booked that: Russo or Bischoff. Hogan also clashed with Russo in a spot at Bash at the Beach in 2000, by refusing to lose to Jeff Jarrett, simply because Hogan liked being champion. Bischoff enabled Hogan because Hogan brought WCW fame and fortune. I could go on and on about Hogan and his ego…but this isn’t that article.
The interview comes to an end with Russo proclaiming that people have their opinions of him based on a majority ruled by a mob of people who, seemingly, believe their own reality. That really isn’t how it works. There’s fact and there’s fiction. Russo failed to fix WCW. He never got the ratings up to a “4” which, realistically, was where WCW needed to be.
The fair way to sum it all up is that it wasn’t completely Russo’s fault…but the rule of the game of life is to own up to your mistakes. Russo seems a good, wise man, but for all the attempts to better himself and “set the record straight”, he needs to start by admitting his failures.
Chief among these is the fact that, for all the good he’s done for the business, Russo still hasn’t learned how to be humble.
Doing so is a big part of how one achieves greatness.