Are You A “Vince Russo Guy?” The Journey From Wrestling Fan to Wrestling Pariah

***Editors note: In Brian’s piece below he mentions the Mae Young and Mark Henry arm skit as being one of Vince Russo’s. In the interest of fairness, we should point out that Vince Russo was gone by the WWE by this point. We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused. Thanks, Craig (Editor)***

Brian Damage

Vince Russo, perhaps the  most divisive person in wrestling history (Image courtesy of www.allvoices.com)

Vince Russo, perhaps the most divisive person in wrestling history (Image courtesy of http://www.allvoices.com)

“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

“I Hate him….He ruined wrestling for everybody…he knows nothing…F@ck You Vince Russo! I Can’t stand him…” -Leilani Kai

“I hate Vince Russo. I despise Vince Russo. I want Vince Russo to die. If I could figure out a way to murder him without going to prison, I would consider it the greatest accomplishment of my life.” -Jim Cornette

“I think they should take Vince Russo and hang him by the neck somewhere in the back of the parking lot.” -Bret Hart

Those quotes are just a few by wrestlers, managers and fans who continually express their undying hatred for a writer/wrestling fan named Vincent James Russo AKA Vince Russo. There are countless others with just as much piss and vinegar for Russo…but is it completely justified?

Most look to Russo as the scapegoat to why WCW went under. Some even have conspiracy theories that he was sent by Vince McMahon to infiltrate WCW and destroy it from the inside. UGH! Others say he was a disaster in TNA wrestling. I have been guilty of feeling such disdain in the past myself( Not the silly conspiracy part), but is it fair? My answer is simple…no.

For all the hatred and grief Vince Russo continues to get years after WCW was sold to the WWE and for TNA….people forget the positives. Are there a lot of positives? Depends on how you look at his body of work and him.

First and foremost Vince Russo was/is a lifelong wrestling fan. He actually got to live the dream of every fan by working in the business and working at the highest level. Some fans are simply jealous of that success. Others HATE him for what he did or didn’t do in WCW and TNA, we’ll touch on that in a moment. He started out with his own local wrestling radio show in Long Island, NY and parlayed that into a writing gig for WWF magazine and then become head writer for the WWF during one of its most crucial eras. As a fan who got to work side by side with Vince McMahon in the WWE, get a huge paycheck to work less hours with bigger money in WCW and become a founding father of TNA Impact wrestling…not too shabby.

During the entire “WWF Attitude” era, Russo was one of the main cogs that helped launch it and make it into a ratings juggernaut. He was one of the individuals who came up with the idea to turn Vince McMahon into a character and feud with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He was the one who came up with the idea for the New Age Outlaws and wrote all their skits. He thought up the character of Kane and feud with the Undertaker. The character of Val Venis was his and say what you want, Venis was at one time over HUGE. As ridiculous as the Sexual Chocolate gimmick was, to this day is still remembered fondly by fans as indicated by the chants Mark Henry gets. Before the Sexual Chocolate gimmick…how many people remember Mark Henry wearing a stars and stripes singlet coming out to the entrance music Kurt Angle made famous?

With those success stories comes the argument, “Vince McMahon was Russo’s filter.” True, anybody’s successes or failures have to get passed McMahon first. It still doesn’t change the fact that they were Russo’s ideas. Yes, there were misses in his WWF stint, the entire Val Venis/Kaientai Choppy Choppy Pee Pee segment…the Mark Henry incest angle…the Mae Young giving birth to a hand segment etc…just remember, McMahon was the filter and he let those pass. What Russo did bring that changed the WWF/WWE forever…was realism. Before Russo was a slew of over the top characters like TL Hopper, Duke “The Dumpster” Drose, The Goon, Dr. Isaac Yankem D.D.S. and Mantaur. Then Russo came along and all of a sudden Dok Hendrix was being referred to once again as Michael Hayes, Austin, Kane, The Rock, The Hardy Boyz, The Brood etc…etc…

After feeling overworked and with an extra show to write with the emergence of Smackdown, he gets an offer NONE of us would refuse, a big fat paycheck from rival WCW to work less hours. It also gave Russo an opportunity to truly cement his legacy by turning around not one but two of the biggest wrestling promotions in the world. It seemed like a can’t lose, win,win situation, but in reality was a match made in hell.

How could Russo possibly succeed when the inmates were running the asylum? So many stars like Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Bill Goldberg had guaranteed contracts that also gave them complete creative control of their characters. Vince Russo didn’t sign those contracts, Eric Bischoff did. WCW didn’t have a go to boss like Vince McMahon either to bounce ideas off. So with no filter, infrastructure and no real control of the locker room, how could Russo win? I, like many others, complained that he pushed his guys like Jeff Jarrett. Thinking about it though, could you blame him? Nobody wanted to play ball with him, the politics and negativity became poison, so Russo went to people he thought or knew he could trust and Jarrett was one of them.

Does that mean Russo didn’t have any bad ideas? Of Course not…he had plenty. All the “Name the next gimmick” on a Pole match or over use of acronyms ( Like Lance Storm’s renamed Hardcore title…Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title (S.H.I.T) )or his constant swerves and hot shot face/heel turns…He had a bunch of things that seemed tired and cliche. Many of the wrestlers turned on him before he even got started so their discontent was shown on screen. The fact is, as bad as many of his ideas were, he wanted to do so much more, but many of the wrestlers didn’t allow it.He realized early on that WCW was aging and fast with guys like Sting, Hogan, Nash, Sid Vicious, Ric Flair, Bret Hart and DDP still being pushed. He wanted to push the younger talent like Booker T, Shane Helms, Billy Kidman et al… The established stars didn’t budge nor wanted to. The fall of WCW should not rest on Russo’s shoulders. As bad as he may have been, WCW always had the option of firing him. They did, but rehired him three months later. Showing WCW’s front office to be clueless. I compare fans blaming Russo killing WCW to blaming the 1986 Red Sox World Series loss on Bill Buckner. It isn’t fair, nor is it true. If any one person deserves the brunt of blame for WCW’s demise, blame Ted Turner.

Turner was the one who sold all of his controlling interest in his media empire to AOL/Time Warner. When he sold the company, he must have realized that a major conglomerate like that only looks at the bottom line and not with fanaticism. The bottom line was in the year 2000 alone, WCW lost 16 million dollars. AOL/Time Warner had no sympathy or fond memories to keep it going.

Fast forward to 2002 and the Jarrett family is starting an alternative wrestling promotion. Total Non Stop Action Wrestling was born. An old friend in Russo is called to head the creative side of the company. Russo still brought the gimmicks, acronyms and swerves and did so for 10 years off an on. Despite repeated chants and signs that read, “Fire Russo,” he was a driving force to the initial success of TNA and where it is today.

So he we are in 2013 and to this day Vince Russo is regarded by many as a failure. Failure does not apply to Russo. His story overall is a success story. A wrestling fan who for a brief period of time, became one of the most talked about, most powerful, influential people in all of professional wrestling. That isn’t failure that is achievement. Why the hate all these years later? Is it the demise of WCW? I covered that…not his fault. Is it TNA? The company is still in business to this day. Is it perhaps his acceptance and embracing Christianity? For some that is a definite, because I myself have been mocked and scorned for my beliefs. It is what it is. The bottom line of this story…hate Vince Russo if you like, but Vince did what many of us could only dream of doing. He is a husband and father of three and living his life his way. I was never a “Vince Russo Guy” before, but I am now. Respect success!

5 thoughts on “Are You A “Vince Russo Guy?” The Journey From Wrestling Fan to Wrestling Pariah

  1. This was very good….but you know who was in WCW and TNA and is still there. The duo of Click and Clack, Hogan & Bischoff, so that’s perhaps where the blame should fall.

    Like

  2. Just a correction on the Russo piece….he did NOT have anything to do with the Mae Young hand incident I was incorrect and apologize…Vince Russo was long gone by that time.

    Like

  3. Great read! For me, he is a bit like the comic artist/writer Frank Miller – they have great ideas and are tremendously creative but need an editor to sort the good from the bad and to get them to follow through with their ideas.

    Like

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