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Wrestling / Vince Russo

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Pictured: A one-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion. What's he looking at?note 

"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).


Vincent James Russo (born January 24, 1961) is a former head writer for World Wrestling Entertainment, World Championship Wrestling, and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. He is also one of the few non-wrestlers in the business who generates controversy: when it was announced that he had been re-hired by WWE in 2002, the writing staff threatened a walk-out. He is also the primary reason for why TNA was dropped from Spike, based purely on his reputation.

Russo's biggest success came during the Monday Night Wars with the Attitude Era branding, resulting in WWE's biggest period of success since Hulk Hogan and a resurgence in popularity for pro wrestling in the U.S. He has been credited with Stone Cold vs. Mr. McMahon, The Undertaker vs. Kane, The Rock vs. Mick Foley, having a hand in the rise of D-Generation X, and he was the one who came up with the Brood. When Russo and Jim Cornette were booking Raw, it pulled 7.3 million viewers.


Russo is also blamed for WCW going under, but that iceberg hit long before he was called in. He tried to replicate his success on Raw with Nitro: get as many wrestlers over as possible, make it so fast-paced that it overloads the brain, and people will just have to see more. But without the editing and input he received in WWE, the results were...variable in quality. Also, Nitro's audience had different expectations from Raw's audience; instead of catering to them, he turned it into a poor man's Raw, alienating the existing fans and new viewers (who just switched over to Raw). Russo and Cornette are somehow bonded in whatever our core existence is.

Nowadays, he hosts his own podcast, The Brand, where he shares his thoughts on modern wrestling. Vince has posted the highlights on his YouTube channel.


Vince Russo's work provides examples of

  • Aborted Arc:
    • When Russo first crossed over to WCW, he came up with the New Blood angle. It was supposed to help new talent get over the established stars, who formed the Millionaires' Club in response. Billy Kidman was part of the New Blood faction who set out to kill Hulkamania. While WCW's website was rigged to give the "match of night" votes Billy Kidman might have won to Hogan, Eric Bischoff and Russo did book Kidman to pin Hogan (after Bischoff hit him with a chair) in a 2-on-1 handicap match. Unfortunately, none of the wins were clean, so it really didn't help Kidman. Hogan, of course, went on to beat Kidman in two straight PPV matches. This angle failed for a few other reasons:
      1. It was a company-wide feud, which is actually something which doesn't work too well, since everyone on the roster will be involved in something similar to everyone else.
      2. The crowd didn't take the New Blood seriously. They were viewed as rip-offs of the men they were trying to "replace" rather than people who were trying to make a name for themselves.
      3. Members of the Millionaires' Club were reluctant to job cleanly. The history books will show that Billy Kidman is the only man in history to have 3 consecutive pinfall victories over Hogan, but no one remembers that, because in reality they were all screwjob finishes where Hogan dominated 99% of the time. Sting didn't do many favors for Vampiro, either.
    • At one point, Stacy Keibler (billed as "Miss Hancock") was a regular on Nitro, and her gimmick according to Wikipedia was to "stand on top of the announcers' table and dance sensually." She was later linked to David Flair, inside and outside the ring, so Russo thought it would be a good idea to promote this with a pregnancy angle. The original plan was that the child was gonna be Vince Russo's; furthermore, it was supposed be revealed that Miss Hancock was actually Ric Flair's illegitimate daughter, so technically David had been trying to marry his half-sister. (If you think that's bad, Plan B was for the kid to actually be Ric's.) AOL-Time Warner pulled the plug on it before it could be revealed. Instead, Hancock feuded with the always-classy Major Gunns. It ended in a mud wrestling match, during which Ms. Gunns kicked Ms. Hancock in the stomach. A few weeks later it was revealed that she made the entire pregnancy thing up, and it was never mentioned again. Instead, she became Shawn Stasiak's valet for a brief feud with Bam Bam Bigelow until the company folded.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: There was a video of him invading Ric Flair's home and creeping at a young Charlotte. (Russo and David Flair were aligned at the time.) Russo also stole one of Ric's robes, before Ric's wife and his other children arrived home and kicked Russo out.
  • Alliterative Name: Vic Venom.
  • Answers to the Name of God: Russo building his own Popemobile, driven by Jeremy Borash, to stay safe from Goldberg. But that car isn't swerving enough for Russo's liking.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Russo got his start by operating and hosting an AM Radio show called Vicious Vincent's World of Wrestling. From there he got hired as a writer for WWE Magazine under the pen name "Vic Venom", had his own segment on the show Livewire, and even commentated on a handful of episodes of Shotgun Saturday Night.
    • Russo already appeared on several WWF programs during the Attitude Era under his Vic Venom moniker, like in this commercial for WWF Magazine.
  • Ascended Meme:
    • That famous shoot in which Russo bellowed, "You want Lucha Libres [sic]? GO TO JAPAN!" The term "Lucha Libres" would actually be taken up by the Rudos in Mexico.
    • "SWERVE" and "FIRE RUSSO!", both of which were acknowledged on Impact and in his podcast. He's even worn a "FIRE RUSSO" T-shirt.
    • And for Botchamania #300, he accepted their offer to do the introduction:
      Vince Russo: Well I'm gonna give ya Botchamania another day, I'm here to swerve ya. I'm gonna give you old reruns of Roseanne, how's that? [the intro of Roseanne is played instead of the intro to Botchamania]
  • Author Appeal:
    • For all of his faults, Russo always tried to push young talent. It never worked, but an effort was made, at least. (And when Russo booked himself into angles, the younger guys went over.)
    • For some unknowable reason, Russo loves pole matches. He puts different objects on poles to make the matches distinct from each other. Sometimes he'll even make a match with two separate gimmick matches stacked on top of one another, usually with ridiculous stipulations attached. 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 (!).
    • Vince Russo loves angles involving vehicles probably even more than his pole matches.
    • Wrestlers jumping off high things. At Slamboree 2000, Russo had Mike Awesome launch Kanyon off the top of a cage onto the ramp. The PPV ended with everyone acting like Kanyon was dead and being ambulanced out. It was exactly one year after the Owen Hart incident and in the same arena (Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO). There was also the time that Hawk threatened to jump off the TitanTron in an alcoholic stupor, only to have Droz shove him off. This was around the time Russo was still writing WWF TV.
  • Bastardly Speech. Russo finding God and confessing his past sins to the Impact Zone, claiming that he "sold his soul for ratings."
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Galen Chandler, Standards and Practices liaison. To quote Wrestlecrap, WCW creative would often run afoul of the actual Turner Standards and Practices division, with the folks in charge of making sure the network didn’t get complaints asking those in charge of wrestling to pull back on some of the company’s more outlandish stunts. And yes, there was in fact a man working there actually named Galen Chandler. Thus we got an on-screen character named the same.
  • Bodyguard Babes: He deployed them against Scott Hall in an October 1999 episode of Nitro. Yes, they won.
  • The Boxing Episode: Anyone who says that Russo never created anything good isn't giving him his fair due. Of course, he also came up with an unbelievable amount of awful stuff, so his WWF vs. WCW runs can be attributed to whether or not his torrent of ideas was being filtered through someone with good sense (even some of his dumber ideas managed to slip through in WWF, such as the infamous "Brawl For All").
    WrestleCrap: This is your chance to watch the complete Brawl For All boxing tournament from the “exciting” start to the stunning finish where Butterbean nearly knocks poor Bart Gunn’s head off.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Russo is never seen without his NY sports paraphernalia, and in WCW, he seemed to prefer bellowing out his promos.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "I sweah to gawd!", a phrase he is more and more associated with on the internet.
    • "Can I be honest witchu for a second...?"
    • "Bro..."
    • "What's next, Jeff?"
    • "We gotta put this to it's proper perspective"
    • "And bro, i hate to sound like a broken record..."
  • Charlie Brown from Outta Town: In the November 2002 NWA-TNA pay-per-view, "Mr. Wrestling III" was revealed to be Russo in disguise.
  • Denser and Wackier:
    • WCW from about 1999-2001. Every show felt like a fever dream, and the booking was all over the place.
    • From its first PPV till its jump to Fox Sports Net, TNA Impact became gradually less Russo-like; by 2003, one could even argue that most of the angles made sense (the occasional Monty Brown joining "Planet Jarrett" aside). Then, in late 2006, well, the prints started to become visible again after Russo was seen in the audience.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: The Dr. Claw-like booker of Nitro around 1999. At first, they didn't show Russo or mention him by name (although months earlier, WWF's head writer jumping ship made a fair amount of noise), but you could tell it was him by his accent and peppering his lines with insider terms. For instance, Russo's hand would gesture furiously at his "midcarders" to go "book it!" His heel stable was also named "Creative Control".
  • Discontinuity Nod: When Rey Mysterio Jr. won the 2006 Royal Rumble, 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 edition where Vince McMahon won the Royal Rumble. The booker for the 1999 Rumble was Vince Russo.
  • Evil Mentor: Russo tried to corrupt David Flair and become his "father figure". Ric accused him of living vicariously through David because, as a "skinny kid from the Bronx", he didn't have what it takes be The Man.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: Ultimately, Russo's playbook (or trope book, if you prefer) is the size of a religious pamphlet, one he's relied for the entirety of his career in professional wrestling, rehashing the same concepts and ideas from multiple companies with multiple (and sometimes, the very same) characters:
    1. The New Blood copying the WWF's blood-falling-from-the-ceiling spot, which most fans recognized as being The Brood's gimmick.
    2. The Filthy Animals as D-Generation X, using a hidden "Kid-cam" (G-TV) to catch the Nitro Girls in a compromising position.
    3. The Misfits in Action dressing up as the members of Team Canada to mock them v. D-X doing it to The Nation.
    4. Madusa v. Spice as Chyna v. Miss Kitty. (And "Asya" in a similar role).
    5. Ed Ferrera as a barbecue sauce-shilling announcer.
    6. Diamond Dallas Page briefly imitated The Rock for a while, doing the poses and rapping about how Flair likes to "spank it, whack it and jack it!"
    7. Shawn Stasiak as Mr. Perfect. (Okay, so Perfect was late 80's-early 90's, but still, let's be original.)
    8. Referees going "on strike".
    9. At one point, Russo seemingly showed up with a giant file folder labeled "Rejected Kane ideas." He scratched out Kane and wrote Vampiro.
    10. David Arquette wasn't the first non-wrestler to win a world title on the B-Show. Shortly before he left the WWF, he booked Vince McMahon winning the WWF Championship on SmackDown. The reason why the former is remembered and bagged on far more than the latter is the execution: Vince won the title from Triple H (a heel) with the aid of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (a face), and spent most of the match getting the crap beaten out of him. Furthermore, the "Mr. McMahon" character is probably one of the most famous heels in wrestling, and certainly the best non-wrestler heel character (though McMahon was already associated with body-building and had worked several matches during the Attitude Era). In both instances, it was to give his character heat and furthered the story of WWE. That's very different from putting the title on a celebrity or on Russo, who had no reason to be on TV other than the fact that he was writing the storylines.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • Russo always had an obsession with acronyms. Does the WWF's Terri Invitational Tournament, WCW's Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title, or TNA's Sports Entertainment Xtreme and Voodoo Kin Mafia note (Vincent Kennedy McMahon) ring a bell to anyone?
    • Just Over Broke. Best of luck, fellas.
    • The "Pretty Mean Sisters". Terri Runnels HATED the pun and lobbied for McMachon and Russo to change it, to no avail.
    • Sports Entertainment Xtreme in TNA. He's also credited with 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:
    WrestleCrap: After all, this was the man who would go on to create the Reverse Battle Royal and would probably have invented the Upside-Down Battle Royal if he had figured out how to cram cameras and lighting rigs under the ring.
    • He doesn't just book pole matches for titles, but for the strangest things: a pet rat, a pinata, Viagra, Judy Bagwell (that was on a forklift, no pole was big enough for Mrs. Bagwell), and the keys to Mick Foley's office are just a few of the things that have been at stake. One particularly strange storyline from towards the end of Russo's time with the WWF revolved around the Big Bossman kidnapping and cooking Al Snow's dog Pepper. This inevitably culminated in a "Pepper on a Pole" match, with the leftovers in a Styrofoam container on top of a pole. Interestingly enough, the "Pink Slip on a Pole" match between Mankind and The Rock was part of an excellent storyline, and it took place after Russo was shown the door.
    • TNA actually did a variant on this, inspired by Money in the Bank: the "Feast or Fired" match. Basically, it starts with a bunch of guys in the ring and four briefcases on poles. You leave the match if you get a case, and they're opened after the match. Three cases had contracts for a world, X Division, or tag title shot and the fourth had a pink slip.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Russo believes 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 the characters he crafts tend to just seem wildly inconsistent in their behavior rather than morally complex.
  • He-Man Woman Hater:
    • He didn't sound too different from how Andy Kaufman wrestled: the cowardly Hollywood heel. His writing partner, Ed Ferrera, even wrestled Madusa and others under the ring name "Oklahoma".
    • When Miss Elizabeth returned from her sabbatical, she insisted on a clause in her contract allowing her to abstain from matches. (She was then forty years old.) Russo still managed to book her into some brawls with the Nitro Girls and, later, Hogan and Lex Luger. Russo himself had a short-lived feud with the stable Elizabeth managed, Team Package, and he fought her twice in May 2000: once in a cage match, and again in a tables match. Both ended with Liz kicking him in the nuts.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door:
    • Russo believes that all characters should be shades of gray, with no purely heroic faces or purely villainous heels. It was so bad in TNA that not even Jeff Hardy was immune to turning eventually, and by the time he did, he hadn't played a heel for almost a decade.
    • Peak Russo was when he made himself a key character in the TNA Title storyline and turned literally once a week until the PPV:
      Wikipedia: After leaving for a brief period, Russo returned as an on-screen character on the May 28, 2003 pay-per-view where he would hit Raven with a baseball bat helping [Glenn] Gilbertti become the number one contender for the world championship. The next week on June 4, 2003, when Gilbertti fought Jarrett for the world championship, Russo would hit Gilbertti with a baseball bat which in turn helped Jarrett retain his belt. On the following week's pay-per-view (June 11, 2003), when AJ Styles and Raven fought Jarrett for the world title in a triple threat match, Russo teased hitting Styles with Jarrett's trademark guitar, but eventually hit Jarrett leading Styles to win the world championship belt.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Russo wrote the Big Bossman/Al Snow feud centering on Snow's dog Pepper. "Does it taste like... PEPPER? MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Credit where credit is due, Russo's main goal behind his booking decisions was that he wanted every second to be interesting. So even if he had to work with jobbers, he tried to make the jobbers do interesting things. Val Venis, D'Lo Brown, Ron Simmons, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Al Snow, Edge, Christian, Gangrel, The Hardy Boyz, etc. Everyone had a storyline when he was writing. (Russo's podcast is pretty interesting in this vein.) Sooner or later, people doing interesting stuff on TV week-after-week gets them over.
  • The Men in Black: Creative Control dressed in all-black suits.
  • Nerd in Evil's Helmet:
    • The man knows his pro wrestling history—including your old ring names, past gimmicks, and any embarrassing angle you were ever involved in. Also, his entrance theme was clearly an instrumental version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man", with a note tweaked here and there.
    • At Spring Stampede 2000, Russo cut a promo calling himself "Batman" because he had hit Ric Flair with a bat.
  • Negative Continuity: You could watch Nitro to see a storyline start, and by Thunder it was forgotten.
  • No Fourth Wall: Russo came about in the 90s, when the Hulkamanics from the 80s began to get smart to the idea of wrestling being pre-determined. Cornette is on the other end of the spectrum, wishing every audience was like Louisville, Kentucky in the 70s. It's basically the same argument, though: Russo's outlook was it's all fake, and Cornette's was you've got to make the "marks" think it's all a "shoot." The thing to take from both of them is that they think wrestling is dead—and maybe for them, it is:
    Russo: "I guess dis is da paht where I'm supposed da play da chickenshit heel, right?"
    • Russo liked to use pro wrestling meta phases in WCW. A lot. For instance, he even had the commentators and wrestlers make mention of the "creative team", or the "two idiots in the back writing this crap."
    • Russo's influence could be seen with Jeff Jarrett weeks into his WCW debut. Jarrett declared himself the "Chosen One" and renamed his finisher "The Stroke." The word "stroke" has a number of secondary meanings, like an act of hitting or striking someone. Also, when he adopted the name during his WCW run, people would use it as a slang term for clout (influence or power). Interestingly enough, clout also has a secondary meaning of "a heavy blow". It's also a guitar reference. When you strum a guitar, you alternate up strokes and down strokes, and it fit with his country singer gimmick. Jeff also gets hated on by fans who believe he got more TV time than what was earned, most likely due to his relation to Jerry Jarrett, one of the biggest promoters at the time.
    • Buff Bagwell vs. La Parka, Nitro, 1999. Bagwell, glancing at an invisible watch, stood there like a mannequin and refused to sell anything, before finally signaling La Parka to hit him and lying down for the pin, complete with a shrug take. After the bell rang, Bagwell borrowed a headset mic to ask, "Russo, did I do a good job for you? Who else do you want to beat me?"
    • There was also the infamous San Francisco 49ers Match, in which Booker T won the World Heavyweight Championship out of a box.note  You can read about that one at WrestleCrap.
    • Halloween Havoc '99. Madusa comes out in a bikini. She's carrying WCW Nitro Cologne. This was a real product. Bobby Heenan immediately buries it for smelling horrible. Madusa grabs a mic and screams that her role on this show is "BULLSHIT", before dumping the cologne all over Heenan.
    • At The Great American Bash 2000, Vampiro set a "Fake Sting" stuntman on fire, sending him tumbling head-over-heels from the top of the TitanTron to the ramp below. The commentary started referring to Sting by his real name. "Steve Borden...he's a father, man..."
    • David Arquette (Scream) was a total outsider who won the title in a tag team match, with the stipulation was that whoever got the pin was the champion. This is relevant because the man Arquette won the title from was his tag team partner: Arquette passed out from exhaustion and pinned Eric Bischoff (who, like him, was a non-wrestler), by accident. That alone ensured that no one was going to forget that moment for a while. The fact that it was for the World Heavyweight Championship meant it was going to be immortalized for all time.
    • New Blood Rising is quintessential Vince Russo. There are multiple worked shoots, everyone breaks character, the announcers talk about the script and use real names. The entire build was Nash, Steiner, and Goldberg fighting about who was gonna "go over", using that exact same phrase more than once. The announcers completely dropped kayfabe at the start of the match to talk about booking decisions and who would agree to be the one to job. They floated in and out of that for the rest of the match, with the smarkiest commentary this side of Matt Striker. ("Goldberg was supposed to go up for the Jacknife, but he swerved Kevin Nash!") To be clear, the given excuse for Goldberg no-showing was that he was injured; the announcers say that is awfully convenient, and imply that it's a fake injury to get him out of having to "job." They literally had a line about Goldberg refusing to follow the script and lose a match when he refused to be powerbombed by Nash.
    • Also from NBR: There was the 4-team tag team match. It ended because someone put on a referee shirt, which apparently automatically makes him a ref, and counted three.
  • Postmodernism: Russo has defended himself from accusations that he just hates pro wrestling by insisting that he only hates "fake wrestling", believing his audience was composed of people who 'figured out' pro wrestling. Other, smaller promotions, like Chikara, have experimented with post-modernism with much more critical success.
  • Power Stable: In WCW, he was leader of The Powers That Be and the New Blood. In TNA, he led Sports Entertainment Xtreme.
  • Random Events Plot: What made Russo so notorious as booker was his stubborn refusal to suspend disbelief and write logical extensions for his characters. Any wrestler under his guidance was a walking time bomb, capable of spouting complete nonsense at the drop of a hat, and switching allegiances for no reason other than it suited Creative's fancy.
  • Red Baron: "The Powers That Be," "Vic Venom."
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • In his book, Bob Holly claimed that Russo wanted to rename his finisher the Hollycaust. It was definitely called on-air by J.R. once—and never again. It's also used in one of the SmackDown video games as his Falcon Arrow finisher. Then he changed his finish to the Alabama Slam full-time. Holly says he wouldn't have been surprised if Russo wanted him to use it on Kidman, Goldberg, Paul Heyman, and basically all the Jews in WWE. (Russo did not see a problem with this and believed it was a final solution to the ratings slump.)
    • It's possible that Vince Russo's self-confessed beliefs about Latino wrestlers had a relation to his booking of their matches. The Piñata on a Pole Match which aired on the November 15, 1999 episode of Nitro is the nearest example of this, but Russo also booked stereotypical behavior such as Juventud Guerrera carrying around a bottle of tequila.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Sid Vicious returning to work, completely healthy, after being run over by a monster truck by Bret Hart.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Russo's belief when he was booking WCW...except that he believed they can be easily fooled and swerved.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: Instead of doing it in a traditional way, with big matches or angles, he would always resort to title changes or a gimmick match every week. There were 23 world title changes in 2000. At first it was a winning formula: They had that big reboot angle in 2000, followed by a tournament to find out who would challenge Jarrett at SuperBrawl. But his ideas got weirder as time went on, proving you can't really book "big TV" from week-to-week. If Russo limited himself to one big blowoff per month and one PPV a month, his legacy would be a lot better.
  • Worked Shoot:
    • His public firing of Hogan at Daytona Beach (Bash at the Beach 2000) is considered by some to be his finest hour. According to Bischoff's book, Russo firing Hogan was a shoot. However, in The Death of WCW, it is claimed that Daytona was a worked shoot-turned-real shoot: Russo's shoot was far more biting than they previously agreed on, and it was topped with Russo calling Hogan a "big, bald son of a bitch"—and Hulk is notoriously touchy about bald jokes. It even resulted in Hogan suing WCW. Later, on an 2004 episode of Impact, Jeff Jarrett attacked Hulk Hogan at a press conference. The attack was supposed to lead into TNA's first-ever $30 supercard PPV, with a main event of Jarrett vs. Hogan, but Hogan pulled out of the deal and later re-signed with WWE. He didn't appear in a TNA ring until 2010. Part of the issue with Hogan coming in went back to his defamation suit, which prevented him and Russo from working together; it was still in effect four years later.
    • 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.
  • Writer on Board: Throughout his run in WCW, and his 2002-04 run in TNA. He only lost one match in his entire career, a TNA tag team match from 2002. He also went over 16-time champion Ric Flair three times in either singles or tag matches. He even awarded himself the WCW Heavyweight Title belt!


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