"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 RRRUUUUUUUSSSSOOOOOOOOO!Vince Russo aka "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 AOL Time Warner executive Jamie Kellner, who made no bones that he hated wrestling, in charge of their programing was probably the mostly likely factor in WCW's death, Russo's booking during 1999 and 2000 didn't help.Having been a Professional Wrestling fan for so long that he proclaims to have "seen it all", 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.His infamy is such that when it was announced that he had been re-hired by WWE in 2002, the rest of the writing staff threatened a walk-out. His tenure at WWE ended 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; as a point of interest, Bischoff was hired by WWE a month after Russo's dismissal) and he was demoted to an advisory role, one that he quit soon after.After this, Russo came on board to TNA, and has been a regular booker (for the most part) since the company started business. Russo was a member of TNA's booking committee. 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 first believed that it was all an angle devised by Russo and refused to believe it was real. In 2012, Dixie Carter announced that TNA and Russo had mutually parted ways and he was replaced by Bruce "Brother Love" Pritchard. However, it was already formally announced that Russo had left TNA in October 2011.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.
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!" The problem is maybe we HAVE Seen It All and thus the only way to go beyond that is to effectively break the framework of the show we're watching (and that's something no one wants to see since...you know, we like to be ENTERTAINED by what we choose to watch on TV, even if it isn't entirely new or unique but simply effective
Arch-Enemy: Jim Cornette hates Russo so badly, he stopped eating his Trademark Favorite Food Wendy's triple cheeseburgers and went on a diet. Why? So he can live long enough to outlast Russo so he can piss on the man's grave.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 at a 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.
I Reject Your Reality: Let's see. 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 defends the David Arquette title reign by arguing that since people are still talking about the angle nearly a decade later, it was a success and a "money-maker". Because no-one ever talks about or makes movies about bad things that have happened in history...
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 any other non-gimmick singles match.
Iconic Item: Although Russo lacks a gimmick, he's never without his trademark NY sports team paraphernalia.
Incompetence, Inc.: 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. Paul Heyman was invited to join him at TNA, but one of his 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.
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 that something is incoherent or embarrassing.
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.
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. They all enthusiastically agreed that it was a great idea.
Funny that Arquette himself hated the idea; as a wrestling fan, he thought the idea insulting.
Also, everyone involved not named Vince Russo recalls 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.
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.
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 entire universe down. Russo deployed this tactic to justify many of his most 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 Jay Leno and Drew Carrey 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 stupid 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.
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.)
Smart Mark: Is one, and his attempts to shock other Smarks into thinking wrestling was real never worked because Smarks are, well, Smarks.
Hypocritical Humor: As much as they hate the guy, go on any wrestling board with a Book Your Own Angle thread and you'll you find a disturbing amount written by Smarks who seem to have the same booking sensibilities as Russo.
Take That: After Russo left WWE, he's apparently been obsessed with bashing them every chance he gets, both in WCW and TNA. He still believes his talents were overlooked and wasted by both companies.
And before that, he was doing the same thing to WCW when he was working for the WWF in 1997-1999.
Trolling Creator: His trademark "swerves" have an element of this. It isn't enough to upset fans' expectations: Russo will unfailingly go in a direction that will rile them to the maximum degree. Hype for AJ Styles? Have Sting bury him out of nowhere. Petition to promote a comely valet to full-time performer? Invite her into the ring, call her a strumpet and summon your twin bodyguards to knock her senseless. Fans becoming sick of the pole match? Increase the pole matches exponentially!
What Could Have Been: Near the end of WCW, the Stacy Keibler pregnancy angle was started, that ran to nowhere. But rumor says that Vince Russo planned to book himself as the father of the child.
This would have been followed by Ric Flair "announcing" that Stacy was the "product" of an "affair" he had had some 20 years before, which would have made her and his son David "half-siblings." Instead, the angle was abandoned and she was made Shawn Stasiak's valet for a brief feud with Bam Bam Bigelow as the promotion died.
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 conclude 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.