Vince Russo. Professional Wrestling’s answer to Marmite.
For me, he is the greatest writer in the history of sports entertainment. No one comes close. The numbers also back that up. He helped revolutionize the business by ushering in the Attitude Era which saw a boom period for WWE like no other. We had Austin vs McMahon, the rise of The Rock, DX causing havoc, and every single member of the roster feeling like a big deal and having something to do on a weekly basis.
Russo gets a lot of negativity for focusing more on story and ratings as opposed to match quality and length. Wrestling doesn’t sell, that’s been proven time and time again. However, there’s something about the wacky art form that, when done correctly, will get people to tune in en masse. You have to give them a reason to watch other than wrestler a is going to fight wrestler because it will be a really good match. No one is going to care about that. Pro wrestling has always been about the characters. Gorgeous Goerge, Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena. None of these are exactly stellar between the ropes, but they were larger than life which caused fans to gravitate towards them in huge numbers.
Another reason Russo doesn’t get the love and respect he deserves is jealousy. Names like Bruce Prichard, Eric Bischoff, and Jim Cornette live and breathe pro wrestling and they can’t bring themselves to admit that a casual fan ripped up the rule book and made the entertainment platform that they love so dearly one of the most talked-about shows and events on the planet. He will never be fully appreciated for what he accomplished which is a crying shame. Fans lambast how creatively bankrupt WWE is currently and yearn for the Attitude Era to return, all the while bashing Russo for a woeful job as a writer. Irony at its finest.
Russo gets a lot of heat for how he failed in WCW following his controversial switch from WWE in 1999. Didn’t Bischoff also fail there, not once but twice? It was a toxic environment filled with egos, creative control and aging stars refusing to do the job for the younger talent. Basically what is happening in AEW today with Chris Jericho, but because he’s popular he is being allowed to get away with it. Russo had both hands tied behind his back when he headed for Atlanta, and try as he might, there was just no saving the sinking ship. However, go back in history and have a look at the ratings which steadily rose in the first six weeks under the pen of Russo. The guy knows how to create interest in a dead product.
The most hate he gets from hardened fans is for his decision to make Hollywood actor David Arquette the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. It was designed to boost ratings, get more media coverage and ultimately more eyeballs on the product. He succeeded in all those things. I didn’t like it however when Russo made himself World Champion. That seemed like it was done just to shock people. I know Vince McMahon did something similar in WWE, but it was done better. This just made WCW look weak and desperate. I’m sure Russo himself regrets it too. He certainly regrets stepping into the ring with a pissed off Goldberg, that’s for sure.
Russo is often lambasted for his ridiculous match stipulations, with almost everything ending up on a pole including viagra and even Buff Bagwell’s mother. He’s not great at coming up with wrestling match concepts because he’s not from that side of the business. He doesn’t have the mind of a Dusty Rhodes or Pat Patterson, but he does know what interests the casual fan.
I’m not a fan of pole matches, and in truth, they did more harm to WCW than good, but Russo was trying everything to succeed. You can’t hate a trier. All he needed was a proper wrestling guy on his side to help with those sort of things, that’s why he was so successful in WWE because he had Patterson and Vince McMahon to be guided by.
His tenure with TNA is unfairly buried. During his time with Dixie Carter’s promotion, it was never as bad as it was when Bischoff and Hogan were inexplicably given the reigns. They killed that company, not Russo. Russo was always focused on the youth, attempting to make superstars of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and others. All Bischoff and Hogan cared about was cashing their cheques and getting jobs for their buddies. Who remembers The Nasty Boys? Dire stuff. Russo cares too much about his work. He’s also too honest, which has caused him numerous problems over the years. As Vince McMahon once said, “it takes a real son of a bitch to be successful in this business”. Russo is simply a nice guy with a tremendous creative brain that was eaten alive by the darkest corners of pro wrestling.
Today, Vince Russo runs his own podcast network called The Brand where he dissects weekly wrestling shows. The passion to help is still there. He wants to help in any way he can. He’s gone on record to say he doesn’t want the insane travelling schedule anymore, but would gladly accept an advisory role. For me, that’s a no brainer.
What do WWE or even AEW have to lose by asking Russo for his opinion? He can boost their viewership, no doubt about it. I don’t understand why people are so quick to ridicule Russo, yet continue to praise Paul Heyman and Bischoff, who both failed miserably when in power. And let’s not forget, Heyman has creative control of Raw right now. The less said about that the better. Russo has an undeniable talent for scripting wrestling, and the business is a sadder place without him.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @JK_CFC3. Thanks for reading!