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"Do you know how many copies of the book The Death of WCW I've autographed [...] and when the people come up to me with the book, they're scared to death! And I'm like, 'are you kidding me, gimme the book, I'll sign it!'" — Vince Russo being a good sport (2006).
"Oh SHIT! It's VINCE RUSSO!"Vince Russo aka "Vic Venom" and "Vinnie Ru" is a former head writer for the WWF, WCW, and TNA, and is one of the most controversial figures in Professional Wrestling history (and one of the few non-wrestlers in the business who generates such controversy). Essentially, he is to the wrestling industry what Rob Liefeld is to the comics profession.Russo's biggest success was when he (along with Vince McMahon) was able to turn the WWF around during the Monday Night Wars with its "Attitude" branding, resulting in the company's biggest period of success since the Hulk Hogan era, and a resurgence in popularity for the industry as a whole.He would try to emulate this success when he, along with writing partner Ed Ferrara, jumped ship to WCW in 1999. However, without McMahon's editing and input, his storylines were...variable in their quality. And that's putting it kindly. Not only that, he failed to realize that the WCW audience had different expectations than the WWF audience: instead of catering to them, he attempted to transform WCW into a poor man's WWF, which alienated the existing fanbase and put off any new viewers (who just switched over to WWF). Although the biggest factor in WCW's death was probably AOL Time Warner executive Jamie Kellner (who made no bones that he hated wrestling) being in charge of their programing, Russo's booking during 1999 and 2000 didn't help.His infamy is such that when it was announced that he had been re-hired by the WWE in 2002, the rest of the writing staff threatened a walk-out. As it turned out, Russo was swiftly demoted a few days later after a "big idea" he proposed bombed horribly; rumor has it that it would have been a restart of WWE's own failed WCW "Invasion" angle led by Eric Bischoff. He left for greener pastures at the fledgling TNA shortly afterward. (As a point of interest, Bischoff was hired by WWE a month after Russo's dismissal, though he eventually joined Russo at TNA). In 2012, Dixie Carter announced that TNA and Russo had mutually parted ways and that he would be replaced by Bruce "Brother Love" Pritchard. However, it was revealed two years later that Russo was still working for the company as an unofficial consultant, most likely because Carter had no one to replace him.note This incurred a much more serious problem for TNA, unfortunately: Spike TV has apparently not sat well with Russo and when he left in 2012, Spike's directive to TNA was not to bring him back at any point following. The discovery Russo had been indeed filling a seat at TNA caused enough of a backlash at Spike for them to break any further renewal negotiations for Impact Wrestling and now TNA's premiere television show will move to the Destination America channel in 2015.Having been a Professional Wrestling fan for so long that he proclaims to have "seen it all"note Or so he claimed; in truth Russo had never attended a wrestling match before being promoted to Cornette's partner at the WWF., Vince Russo's booking ethos is to try to shock and surprise the fans with something new. Unfortunately this usually amounts to something that doesn't make sense rather than something that is original, or something that the fans want to see. There is a reason why he is the Trope Namer for Shocking Swerve. Another issue is that he constantly tries to outsmart the Smark fans: the problem here is that the Smarks — due to being Smarks — don't buy it, and regular fans are just confused by things like wrestlers "breaking character" or references to backstage incidents that only hardcore fans would know.Ultimately, Russo's "creative" output will give an observer the idea that his writing is done from a play book (or trope book, if you prefer) the size of a religious pamphlet, and that he has relied on this limited source of potential ideas for the majority of his career within professional wrestling, rehashing the same concepts and ideas from multiple companies with multiple (and sometimes, the very same) characters.He has his own webpage now, where he shares his thoughts on modern wrestling: http://www.pyroandballyhoo.com/
Author Appeal: For some unknowable reason, Russo loves pole matches. Not only pole matches, but pole matches for the strangest things. A pet rat, a pinata, Viagra, Judy Bagwell (no, really; though this was on a forklift), and the keys to Mick Foley's office are just a few of the things that have been at stake in those matches. One particularly strange storyline from towards the end of Russo's time with WWE revolved around the Big Bossman kidnapping and cookingAl Snow's pet dog Pepper. This inevitably involved a "Pepper on a Pole" match. Yes.
Russo explained that since he thinks no non-gimmick singles match can be better than any other non-gimmick singles match, matches need different objects on top of poles to make them not just like each other.
Author Avatar: Especially throughout his run in WCW, and his 2002-2004 run in TNA.
Crying Wolf: His reputation is such that, in response to a series of (very real) backstage incidents between Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle over the latter's ex-wife, many observers claimed initially that it was all an angle devised by Russo and refused to believe it was real.
Discontinuity Nod: When Rey Mysterio Jr won the 2006 Royal Rumble as the #2 entry, the WWE said it was the first time that someone won the Rumble as the #2 entry. This was a reference to the widely hated 1999 Royal Rumble where Vince McMahon won the Royal Rumble. The booker for the 1999 Rumble was Vince Russo.
Dramatic Unmask: During the Nov. 2002 NWA-TNA pay-per-view, "Mr. Wrestling III" revealed himself to be Russo in disguise.
Even Russo Has Standards: Whilst the angle would appear to be his doing, Russo isn't actually to blame for the Immortal angle. In a ReAction interview a few weeks ago, even he said he didn't like this storyline, and was just being pressured by Hogan and Bischoff to keep going with it. When Vince Russo, the worst wrestling booker in existence, doesn't like a crappy idea? Chances are you should not do it. Unless him disliking convinced them it must be good...
Fake Defector: A number of wrestlers interviewed in The Rise And Fall Of WCW have claimed that, at the time, they suspected Russo was sent in undercover by McMahon to sabotage the company. He was so bad at his job, people thought he was trying to fail.
A small number of people have suggested the same about TNA, and suspect that McMahon has had him on the payroll since The Nineties solely to act as a "poison pill" for anyone who could pose a threat down the line.
Follow the Leader: What Russo tried to do in WCW is to copy the WWF product into the company, but he failed. Despite becoming renowned for his unorthodox swerves, most of his angles are reheated versions of memorable WCW/WWE storylines.
Fun with Acronyms: Does the WWF's Terri Invitational Tournament, WCW's Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title, or TNA's Sports Entertainment Xtreme and Voodoo Kin Mafianote Vince Kennedy McMahon ring a bell to anyone?
He's also credited with creating the name for TNA; he chose the acronym to help differentiate the company from WWE as a more adult-oriented product, since the company originally broadcast shows strictly on pay-per-view.
Gimmick Matches: Russo doesn't believe that one regular match can be better than another. Therefore, he uses these with damn-near obsessive regularity, especially "[X] on a Pole" matches, as stated above. Sometimes he'll even make a match with two separate gimmick matches stacked on top of one another, and usually with ridiculous stipulations attached.
Grey and Gray Morality: Russo believes that wrestling should be like this - that all characters should be shades of gray with no purely heroic faces or purely villainous heels. The problem with this potentially intriguing idea is that he's really not any good at it, and the characters he crafts tend to just seem wildly inconsistent in their behavior rather than morally complex.
Heel-Face Revolving Door: A trademark of his booking. It was so bad in TNA that not even Jeff Hardy had been immune to turning eventually, and by the time he did he hadn't played heel for almost a decade.
He still insists the Montreal Screwjob was a work, he defends giving himself the WCW World Championship, he defends giving David Arquette the World Championship, he insists that no American wrestling fan wants to see non-American wrestlers, and he doesn't believe in Face and Heel.
He more recently defended his love of pole matches by proclaiming that it's impossible for any one non-gimmick singles match to be better than a gimmick match.(!)
Iconic Item: Although Russo lacks a gimmick, he's never without his trademark NY sports team paraphernalia.
Loads and Loads of Characters: One of Russo's (few) strengths is his ability to manage a large number of parallel angles and involve everybody in the roster in some facet of the ongoing story. If Russo's writing the show, everybody will have something to do, even if it's comical or makes no sense. (Unless they're Japanese; see "Patriotic Fervor" below.)
The first time the chant was invoked (Turning Point 2006 during the Sting vs. Abyss Last Rites match, which featured a casket suspended from the ceiling which they called a Deathbed), Russo wasn't actually at fault. Dutch Mantell, later pegged as the guilty party, was most likely laughing during it. Or maybe not. Dutch defends himself.
People also forget that Vince Russo is usually not the only person involved in writing or booking. In an interview regarding his disastrous decision to put the WCW World Heavyweight Title on an actornote DAVID ARQUETTE!, Russo recalls that he proposed the idea (originally from an off-hand comment by Tony Schiavone) at a booking meeting filled with industry veterans and staff workers alike. Everyone involved not named Vince Russo recalls that the room erupting into laughter at Tony Schiavone's joke—and it was only afterwards that Russo decided that the joke was actually a great idea. They all enthusiastically agreed that it was a great idea. Arquette, however, hated the idea; as a wrestling fan, he thought the idea insulting.
Russo himself claims that all the times the "Fire Russo" chant has been heard have been with segments he's not involved with. Of course at the same time he claims that all the negative things attributed to him during his stint in WCW is wrong, and he defended the "No contest in a steel cage match" fiasco.
A tragic example: Somepeople blamed Vince Russo for the death of Owen Hart. While Russo came up with the harnessing spot, no one could have foreseen the tragedy that happened at the 1999 Over the Edge PPV. Hell, even Russo blames himself to this day for letting Owen do that spot(Steve Austin even mentioned comforting him and reminding him it wasn't his fault during the Owen tribute show). But it was an accident and let's leave it at that.
A more light hearted example: He wasn't responsible for angles like Katie Vick or Mae Young giving birth to a hand, as he had left the WWE by the time these angles hit the screen.
No Fourth Wall: Always. Be. Shooting. This is the ultimate tool in Russo's arsenal, as well as the perfect shield: When the smarks start complaining, and all else fails, tear the whole universe down. Russo deployed this tactic to justify some of his more radical decisions, such as placing the Championship Belt (or "prop", as Russo emphasized it) on actor David Arquette. Thus, the ante keeps upping: WWE is no stranger to this type of controversy, inducting such luminaries as Drew Carey into the Hall of Fame, yet the company refused to drop the act even for a second.
Paranoia Fuel: invokedOnce you've been swerved a dozen times, it's hard to believe anything that comes out of Russo's mouth ever again. It doesn't help that he's been known to deliberately make himself seem more vapid or delusional than he probably is.
I'm going to tell you something right now that you will absolutely not agree with, but I've been a wrestling fan my whole life and I will live and die by this. It's hard enough, believe me, I write this shit, it is hard enough to get somebody over. You will never ever, ever, ever, ever see the Japanese wrestlers or the Mexican wrestlers over in American mainstream wrestling. I'm an American. If I'm watching wrestling here in America, I don't give a shit about a Japanese guy. I don't give a shit about a Mexican guy. I'm from America, and that's what I want to see.
Pointy-Haired Boss: Russo's career has often been compared with failing upward. He was revived as booker for the EV 2.0 promotion, having been instrumental (or so he claimed) in bolstering ratings during his stint at WCW. When he left WWE for greener pastures, he parlayed this experience as an industry veteran to acquire more creative freedom than he ever had before. At one time in the company's history, he was rumored to be TNA's de facto third-in-command, beneath Dixie Carter and fellow veteran Jeff Jarrett (and also Hulk Hogan, once he became TNA's GM.)
Paul Heyman was invited to join him at TNA, but one of Paul's stipulations was, sensibly, the immediate removal of Russo, Hogan, Flair and their ilk before a repeat of the WCW debacle occurred. This proved impossible as Heyman had no clout to demand such a thing.
Post Modernism: Frequently attempts this by blurring the line between Kayfabe and reality. The problem is that he's just not that good at it. Other, smaller promotions, like Chikara, have experimented with post-modernism in wrestling with much more critical success.
It falls on both sides of the fence. Believing his audience was composed of people who "figured out" pro wrestling, all he has to do is monkey wrench their expectations and do something that leaves people saying "I don't think I've ever seen something like that before!" Detractors like to claim that Russo's reliance on style over substance disguises the fact that booking matches is one of his biggest weaknesses. Hence, "Always Be Shooting." Hence, gimmicks that effectively break the framework of the show we're watching. And that's something no one wants to see.
Real Life Writes the Plot: invoked Even as far back as his early WWF days, Russo's hunger for behind-the-scenes drama was powerful, and it reflected in his angles. This would prove a natural fit for Impact and its faux-reality TV gimmick. (In fairness, modern WWE also tends to do this with alarming regularity.)
Random Events Plot: If you're lucky, you may see an explanation for one of Vince Russo's plot twists, but don't count on it. He values stories that are confusing over stories that make sense.
Running the Asylum:invoked As much as they hate the guy, go on any wrestling board with a Book Your Own Angle thread and you'll find a disturbing amount written by Smarks who seem to have the same booking sensibilities as Russo.
Worked Shoot: Especially during his time in WCW, even though few if anyone really believed that what they were seeing was supposed to have been "real."
His public firing of Hulk Hogan at the 2000 edition of WCW's Bash at the Beach event is his Crowning Moment of Awesome, though it resulted in Hogan suing WCW. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed in 2002.
According to Eric Bischoff's book, Russo firing Hogan was a shoot. He'd gone into business for himself and screwed up what was to be a major angle in the process.
According to the WrestleCrap book, it was a worked shoot turned real shoot. The whole thing was planned to get the belt on Booker T, but Russo's promo against Hogan was so much more vicious than they had agreed on - it concluded with Russo calling Hogan a "big bald son of a bitch" and Hogan is notoriously touchy about bald jokes - that Hogan filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Russo for it.
Also, the ludicrous Kevin Nash vs. Scott Steiner vs Bill Goldberg match at the New Blood Rising 2000 pay-per-view. Russo promoted this as a 'real fight' between the three men. Not a Street Fight, or some other no-disqualification type match, but an actual three-way shoot between three wrestlers who didn't like each other in real life and didn't want to 'work' together or 'put each other over' (i.e. willingly lose) - so they would just fight instead. The buildup blew any sort of Suspension of Disbelief for casual fans, because if this was a 'real' fight, then what about all the other matches on the card between supposed rivals (And for that matter, every other Pro Wrestling match ever) - were they all fake, then?
Then came the match itself, which played out in standard Pro-Wrestling style, with no hint of any stiffness. The only nod towards 'reality' was Goldberg, who didn't come out at the start of the match and, when he did arrive, 'refused to cooperate' with Kevin Nash, not letting Nash Powerbomb him. He then walked out on the match, which led the commentators to remark that he had ‘deviated from the script’.
Tell him you want longer wrestling segments and less of everything else and he'll tell you everything else is where the high rating come in. Yet when Nitro decided to cut back on wrestling segments to test this Raw slaughtered it by a 2.5 margin.
The first week of the "Second Monday Night War", Raw got a 3.6 rating. TNA Impact got a 1.5, leading to Russo including the following in his blog: