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Vince Russo the Man, The Myth, the flop
?There is one word that we start and end every conversation with: logic. Once you lose the logic of the situation, then you lose your realism and you lose the audience.?
Above is a quote from Vince Russo in late 1999 in the New York Times. The quote seems to be a very smart approach to booking a wrestling show. However Russo himself didn?t follow it. In my first column on this site I want to destroy the rumors, the lies, and the bullshit that goes along with Vince Russo?s run in WCW. I want to prove once and for all that Vince Russo was the final nail in the coffin for WCW.
Its September 10th 1999, WCW at this point was on the downward spiral thanks to Eric Bischoff?s horrible decisions. WCW?s ratings were down, there house show numbers were down, and by this point WCW Buy Rates were becoming a joke. So WCW searched for a new booker to turn the company around. WCW found WWE?s head of writing Vince Russo and his partner Ed Ferrara. The two were credible replacements and Russo wanted out of the WWE because he wanted some job security and to move out of Stanford Connecticut. So Russo was brought into WCW thinking that he be the savior for WCW.
However when you look at the facts was Russo seriously the best idea too bring in? While Russo may have thought of some great storylines he also thought of some straight up crap. Such as the Terri Runnels fake pregnancy angle. Also Vince McMahon approved all of the great storylines. Also you can?t be sure exactly what idea was Vince Russo?s as he worked on a committee. However Russo?s first show was on October 18th 1999 and you could sum it up as a disaster. Russo?s first show was just total overkill as he booked so much stuff into the show that everyone ended up burned out by the end.
Russo?s first show drew a 3.30 rating which was a .7 gain from the pervious show. So many considered Russo?s booking to be the reason however many argued that Russo?s booking had nothing to do with it. Kevin Nash who wrote the previous show that obviously had little thought but into it, many consider this the reason the ratings were so low. Russo however no matter what critics say didn?t do anything for Ratings as his first 3 shows drew a 3.33 average, which was lower then the 3 previous month?s average under Bischoff. Russo however did seem to pull the wool over the WWE?s eyes as he stole the WWE Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett and brought him over to WCW.
Russo and Ferrara however went into their first PPV, which should have been a sign of what was to come under Russo. A lot of the show made little to no sense such as Goldberg beating Sid Vicious by blood stoppage but the very next match Ric Flair bleed a lot worst then Sid and the match wasn?t stopped. Also Bret Hart who was supposed to be groomed to be the next WCW Champion lost to Lex Luger. Then in the stupidest angle of the night, Hulk Hogan vs. Sting ended by having Hogan walk out in street clothes laying down and leaving. Sting was the new WCW champion, however Russo was trying to push the fact that he told Hogan to lose and Hogan didn?t want to. However Russo never used the angle again and Hogan wasn?t seen for months. Later on in a non-title match Sting lost to Goldberg and was handed the WCW title. Are you confused yet? That?s Russo at his finest.
The WCW title held up and placed into a 32-man tournament. Now any smart wrestling fan knows a tournament is only as good as its booking. The first match was a sign of things to come in the tournament when Bret Hart no only beat Goldberg but won his WCW US Title. Too make the tournament more confusing WCW brought back Nash who retired months earlier on TV, and had no explanation of why he returned. The tournament continued with less sensible booking as Madusa a woman was booked into it twice. Wrestlers lost the first round match and advanced and most matches were less then a minute.
The tournament was finally put out of its misery at WCW Mayhem which Bret Hart beat Chris Benoit in a good match but no one cared thanks to the horrible booking. Mayhem it self was a complete disaster as almost every match on the card was bad and the Canadian crowd booed the show out of the building. Why wouldn?t they though, WCW did a horrible job building up the show. Russo?s booking made less and less sense as the weeks went on. A perfect example of this was a Falls Count Anywhere match between Bam Bam Bigelow and Brian Knobs where Bigelow was counted out. Also Russo booked a No DQ main event on a Nitro between Nash and Sid that ended in a DQ.
Too say Russo?s booking was just bad would be an understatement. However the November 15th on Nitro was when Russo went too far. On this show Russo booked a new character by the name of Oklahoma, the character was Ed Ferrara mocking Jim Ross and his Bell?s palsy. How Russo thought this would help WCW no one knows but they even brought in Ross? real life friend Steve Williams as a sidekick. During his debut Ferrara did Commentary during a Pi?ata on a pole match with 5 Mexican wrestlers. Williams was booked to run into the ring and attacked the 5 wrestlers. Problem with that was that Russo didn?t really bother to tell any of the wrestlers and Williams put El Dandy, Psicosis, and Juventud Guerrera in the hospital for real.
WCW was struggling under Russo and worst Russo wouldn?t adapt too the ratings. Russo however had a plan it seemed as he was talking about a big angle he had planned for Starrcade. The problem however was Russo copied the Montreal Screw job, which was a real event. Bret Hart beat Goldberg thanks to Roddy Piper playing the role of Hebner and ringing the bell. Obviously Starrcade, which was WCW biggest PPV, was another disaster. Most of the matches once again sucked and the crowd once again turned on the show. Most of the matches were less then 10 minutes, on a PPV mind you. Fear not Russo had another idea to fix the problem that he caused the night before for Nitro.
What was this brilliant idea Russo had? It was to bring back the New World Order. Bret Hart, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash returned and beat up Goldberg. Later that night Russo?s angles once again got him in trouble and he almost cost a wrestler his career. Goldberg stormed around in the backstage area and claimed he was going to kill every member of the New World Order. Goldberg ended up finding the limo that had the new Russo character of the evil scriptwriter. Russo planned to have Goldberg smash the limo?s window with a pipe that would be hidden in by Goldberg?s arm. Goldberg however lost the pipe when he was destroying stuff and decided to uses his elbow. Goldberg while breaking the window also shredded his arm thanks to the glass. Goldberg lost 31.5 liters of blood and almost lost his arm. The stunt however did nothing for the ratings as WCW was again crushed by Raw by over 2.0.
Russo started to lose it once the Internet who he lived by destroyed his shows week in and week out. On WCW Live Russo claimed nothing was his fault saying Standards and Practices wouldn?t allow him to run angles like Ed Ferrara making fun of Jim Ross? Bell palsy and Piper calling Rhonda Singh fat. However most people were asking the simple question how were lame angles like that going to turn things around. Russo continued to confuse fans and wrestlers alike when Psicosis was handed the Cruiserweight title and Russo?s explanation was ?The West Hollywood Blondes Angle was dropped?.
By the end of December Russo?s booking became so bad that people were actually being put in harms way for stupid pointless angles. The biggest example of this was when Sid Viscous was supposed to be locked in a car and Bret Hart ran over it with a Monster Truck. Hart was again placed in danger weeks earlier when Russo booked him to speed out of the arena in a car but Bret almost had a car accident because the ramp was iced down. All these stunts did nothing for ratings as WCW started to lose more and more ratings. So WCW ended 1999 losing 15 Million Dollars between Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff.
Russo started off 2000 making an interesting decision and that was to cut the 3rd hour of Nitro. However doing this Russo put himself on the line, as WCW needed a 4.6 to keep advertising revenue up. Russo figured WCW would go up with Football season ending and cutting an hour should have added a couple of points to the ratings. However WCW also had more problems with Russo as Business under him was collapsing. Their biggest PPV of the year for WCW, Starrcade drew dismal .3. Russo however moved on and thought with Football ending and cutting and hour expected Nitro to do huge numbers.
The first show of the year was just like all of Vince Russo?s other shows was just horrible. The show started another tournament for the Tag Team Titles, which was worst then the WCW Title tournament just 2 months earlier. The tournament showed Russo wasn?t learning as he had only 3 real teams and David Flair and Crowbar won it. The first show of the year also showed how dumb WCW was as it was in North Carolina which was a strong hold for the company since the Jim Crocket days and now WCW fans just weren?t showing up. Mostly thanks to the fact that WCW for years booked Ric Flair the home town hero like a complete loser. Anyway the first show that was two hours and had no football game on drew 3.29. The same as the average was. This obviously should have been a wake up call to WCW.
Another Russo problem popped up as Bret Hart was forced to retire from active competition thanks to an injury by Goldberg in their Starrcade match. This injury cost Russo his main event at his next PPV as Hart was too defend his WCW Title against Sid. Then more problems for the PPV came up as Jeff Jarrett wasn?t cleared to wrestle thanks to an injury by Jimmy Snuka in a Cage Match. This left WCW without 3 matches as Benoit and Jarrett were going to have the best of 3 series on the PPV. Russo however had a plan to crown a new champion this was to hold a battle royal and let Tank Abbot win. This idea was what many think was the straw the broke the camels back as Tank Abbot was not over and just a bad idea. Finally Bill Busch couldn?t take anymore as he knew it was a horrible idea and didn?t know anything about Wrestling. Busch removed Russo from head booker and offered him a spot in a writing committee which Russo declined and he just went home to collect pay checks.
So Russo?s first run was over and to destroy any myths or rumors of his record in the company, here are the final numbers. WCW Nitro ratings went from a 3.08 to a 3.10 but more like a 2.9 since they eliminated the 3rd hour. Russo by not picking up the ratings lost millions in advertising revenue. Attendance went from 4,600 averages for a show to 3,600 per a show. The Buy rates actually dropped in half from .52 to a .26 between Halloween Havoc and his last PPV. Russo obviously didn?t help WCW at all and if anything hurt the company. Russo booking raised many questions like why weren?t any of the Mexican or Japanese Wrestlers being pushed?
?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.?
That quote is from an interview from Wrestleline.com before he began in WCW. WCW should have thrown up a red flag when they saw Russo say this considering a racial remark almost 8 years earlier got Bill Watts in trouble too. In my honest opinion Russo put up red flags all over the place which should have been signs too WCW. Facts like Russo working in a committee and under Vince McMahon?s supervision were also perfect examples of things that could of have made WCW think about hiring Russo.
Anyway Russo wasn?t done in WCW, just 3 months later Russo was brought back to WCW this time with a new partner. Russo was brought back with Eric Bischoff the man he replaced. This on paper seemed like a brilliant idea as both men were given credit for helping bring a company to a higher scale. WCW however failed to realize that both also helped take a company to a lower level and had huge egos. Russo returned to a company that was even worst then he left it. WCW lost Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Perry Saturn thanks to WCW?s own stupidity. However Russo and Bischoff did have the services of Hulk Hogan, and Ric Flair which really wasn?t a fair trade. Flair while still popular was booked horribly to the point that it wasn?t going to help much and Hogan who had been shoved down WCW fans throats since 1994 was no longer the same man from years back.
Russo and Bischoff however thought of something to do with the old veterans that fans were tired of and the new young stars that fans didn?t know. This was to create a feud between the two calling them the New Blood and the Millionaires Club. There first show back actually saw a jump in the ratings but sadly WWE still crushed them and it was only a 3.06. However it was a step in the right direction and the feud came off without a hitch as they stripped all the current champions of there titles and pushed the New Bloods hard. Even Kidman beat Hulk Hogan in two straight matches just weeks after Hogan in an interviewed said Kidman couldn?t? sellout a flea market. However a sign of things to come Hogan dominated the matches and Kidman won with help so Kidman never got put over he just won on flukes.
However WCW?s first PPV of the Bischoff-Russo era was a success on many levels as Fans were happy with the show. However Russo and Bischoff quickly lost there way as The Millionaires Club started to dominate the feud. Then Russo?s madness came through again as he booked David Arquette to win the WCW title. Even though WCW Title was booked horribly for the past year and a half this was the finally nail in the coffin as a B List actor won the same title worn by Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Sting, and Hulk Hogan. Russo too this day has claimed many times it was a smart move since WCW got media coverage. Which was true as WCW was on USA Today?s cover and a couple of other media outlets however Nitro the next Monday showed what a mistake it was as Nitro drew a 2.46 to Raw?s 7.40. Then WCW Slamboree happened and proved without a shadow of a doubt that Arquette winning the title was the worst idea ever. The gate for the show was horrible and funny that Tickets sold pretty well until May 1st which just so happen to be the day Arquette was booked to defend the title at the PPV. Too end all questions of how bad of an idea Russo had; the buy rate was so bad WCW didn?t even release it.
Too make matters worst the booking for the shows got worst as May continued with confusing storylines and horrible shows. One stupid thing Russo and Bischoff did was have the announcers claim there would be no more disqualifications and of course being WCW the next 3 matches ended in disqualifications. WCW also booked a stupid storyline where ?Blood? would fall from the ceiling and it would knock out the older wrestlers. However WCW failed to realize that you need to be pin point with that idea as one night the blood fell missed its target of Kevin Nash, and landed on the fans in the front row. That wasn?t the only problem as the blood constantly missed its target but it would fall on two wrestlers yet only the older one would be affected. This just left many people confused and scratching there heads.
Too illustrate the problems in WCW they actually in one week changed the hands of the title 5 times. Ric Flair won the title from Jeff Jarrett and was ?injured? so the title was given back to Jarrett. Jarrett then lost the title to Kevin Nash, who gave it back to Flair since he never lost and Flair lost it back to Jarrett. The problem that really shows WCW?s stupidity was the fact that Ric Flair winning the title the 1st time actually helped WCW?s ratings and showed a big improvement over the previous segment. Great American Bash showed how little Russo understood booking as he booked the show to have almost all Gimmick matches like the previous month. Now the point of having a gimmick match is for the gimmick match to have a point but Russo never understood that and by the end of WCW a gimmick match meant nothing.
Then came Bash at the Beach. Leading up to the show Russo and Bischoff were no where to be seen as neither bothered to show up. Russo got mad because WCW wanted him to bring back Kimberly Page, Lex Luger, and Miss Elizabeth who were all sent home over the past month. Reasons they were sent home really had no way of helping the show. Such as Kimberly who was booked to do something physical with Scott Steiner who scared the hell out of everyone, Lex Luger didn?t want to work a program with Chuck Palumbo, and Elizabeth didn?t want to wrestle. No one was sure how any of though 3 ideas Russo had for them could save WCW.
WCW however went into Bash at the Beach which could be considered a complete disaster again. The main event though was another example of why WCW was going into the toilet. The match was Jeff Jarrett vs. Hogan for the WCW Title. Hogan came down, Jarrett laid down and Hogan covers him with a confused look and gets the pin. Russo then came out and trashed Hogan and finished by calling Hogan a bald son of a bitch. However many didn?t know what to think if it was just a shoot or a work. Well the answer is actually very simple and very obvious.
The thing was a work between Vince Russo, Hulk Hogan, and Eric Bischoff. The plan was for Hogan to act angry leave with the title and come back at a later date to wrestle the current champion at the time. Also when Russo gave his speech and called Hogan a bald son of a bitch, Hogan felt double crossed and actually did get angry and walked out. Now I?m sure someone won?t believe this but ask yourself the question of why was Hogan vs. Jarrett held 2nd to last on the card originally? Also ask why did there just happen to be two WCW World Titles in the building that night? Also during the time of the event there was a rumor that Booker T was going to win the WCW Title so it was obviously a work that was booked to be a shoot and Russo took it too far.
It was obviously in this incident and in many others that Russo loved the shoot angles. The problem with them is that most of the time they come off fake and stupid which is the death of a shoot angle. Also the next night on Nitro the ratings didn?t improve which showed that yet again the angle was stupid. Anyway around this time Vince Russo was given full power by WCW and Bischoff was pretty much sent home. Many people knew Russo was a complete flop and reportedly a memo was sent out to WCW employees called ?Ten Questions not to ask Vince Russo?. One question being what does the 2nd W in WCW stand for? Also how many young hungry wrestlers does it take to screw up a company? Obviously Russo?s lack of attention to Wrestling and pushing young guys who weren?t ready were catching up with him. In fact at one point a WCW employee did a year long study asking WCW fans past and present what was wrong with WCW. The number one answer being too much Sports Entertainment and not enough wrestling. Russo got pissed of course and threw the study out not believing it. Once again another red flag.
WCW putting Russo as head of creative was just another dumb mistake WCW couldn?t afford. WCW over the past couple of months lost Hogan, Flair was injured, and Goldberg was turned which turned more fans off. Russo continued to book more shoot angles as Goldberg ?walked out? on a match and many more stupid angles that no one cared about. Russo by this point had completely lost it and started to go on WCW live saying WWE was falling apart without him. Problem however is WWE was making record numbers without Russo. In 1999 WWE ended up making 251 Million Dollars but in 2000 they made 379 million dollars. That was all without Steve Austin, Undertaker, and Vince McMahon for parts of the year.
WCW New Blood Rising should again been a perfect red flag for the people in charge at WCW. At first they sold tickets pretty well that?s until they announced the matches and the angles on TV and the shows once again went to hell. WCW actually gave away 3,000 free tickets and only 1,300 actually showed up. Did this make Bill Busch or anyone else look at WCW? Nope they continued to allow Russo to have control. August 28th was a show that many wrestling insiders had there eyes on as WCW was the only show on the air that night with Raw preempted. WCW shoved everything into the show and Goldberg and Russo were involved in the main angle. Goldberg kidnapped Russo and drove to the desert which he was met by Bret Hart. Hart said he was there to get revenge on Vince Russo for Survivor Series 1997 however Hart turned on Goldberg and left him down in the desert. This angle just showed how stupid Vince Russo had gotten, Bret Hart was injured and couldn?t wrestle still so this angle made no sense because there be no pay off. Also why Hart was waiting in the desert in the first place? Nothing came of the angle and 3.52 was the rating for the show which meant fans once again saw a horrible show.
Obviously the show continued to struggle as September 4th another wrestler turn and Kevin Nash was handed the belt by Vince Russo in the War Games match on Nitro. Between that night and September 25 Booker T won the title back and on that night Booker T was booked in a Cage Match with Vince Russo. The point of this was because Russo was in front of his home town of Long Island New York. However Russo being booked against Booker for the title saw only 200 extra tickets being sold the whole week. The Cage match between the two saw tons of interference showing Russo still had no clue about the point of a cage match. The finish saw Goldberg spear Russo out of the cage and Russo was officially the WCW Heavyweight Champion.
Russo not only was starting to become insane with his booking but was getting injured as he was not a trained professional wrestler. Russo suffered a couple of concussions thanks to him playing professional wrestler. Anyway the night he won the title many wrestlers thought WCW would win thanks to WWE switching too the National Network. WCW however was once again destroyed by over 3 points in the ratings. Next Russo decided to vacate the WCW and put it up for grabs in another stupid gimmick match called the San Francisco 49er match. The rules were just dumb as four boxes were places in all the corners and one had the world titles. Booker T won the match but he winning was an example of how far WCW has fallen. That title change marked the 20th time in less then a year that the title changed hands. Now from 1949 to 1980 the title changed 20 times, noticed the difference?
Russo booking showed the day there big PPV Starrcade had its Tickets go on sale. The final number on the final day was 926 tickets. Now WWE?s Wrestlemania 17 sold 48,395 tickets the first day. Finally Russo left the road as he cited brain damage from wrestling and could no longer continue on the road. November 16th marked the end of the Russo era as he continued to be hurt stay home for the rest of WCW. The company was sold to Vince McMahon in March of 2001 for just a mere 3 million dollars when less then a year earlier a company actually offered 500 million dollars to buy it.
WCW in 2000 actually manage to lose 62 million dollars and most of this was under Vince Russo?s power. The biggest example of how bad WCW had gotten in July of that year they lost 7 million dollars. Now keep in mind the most WCW ever lost in a year until 1999 was 6 Million dollars. Under Russo they topped them in a month. WCW is now dead thanks to morons like Vince Russo and Bill Busch who didn?t learn from mistakes.
When Bischoff was removed from power, WCW was still savable. All they needed was an angle or wrestler to catch fire and the fans would have returned. While Russo can claim what he wants his run in WCW is followed with bad angles and horrible wrestling. Too make matters worst if WCW looked around Russo could have been saved from destroying the company. No matter what some dumb Russo loving smark may try and tell you, Russo was the nail in the coffin. As the old saying goes Numbers don?t lie. Unlike Russo and a couple of dumb supporters the numbers don?t lie!
Now I like to thank you for reading and also thanks the Death of WCW, and http://www.Gerweck.net for the information I got for the column. Thanks for reading and send some feed back.
Other columns by Jason "Xtremefalls" Simmons can also be read at http://www.obsessedwithwrestling.com . You can also interact with Xtremefalls and the rest of the IYH fans and hosts at IYH message board.
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