Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vince Russo: A Re-Written Career

Disclaimer: Oh boy this is going to be fun. I Crossfire will openly praise and DEFEND Vince Russo online and point out the hilarious double and triple standards people have against this poor hard working man. I mean a few weeks ago I talked about revisionist history when it comes to TNA’s existence but with Vince Russo his entire career has been REWRITTEN to points of absurdity. Here is the actual truth:

Vince Russo is the Reason WWE is Still in Existence

The first of many things involving Vince Russo that gets distorted by fantasy and lies to smear Vince Russo’s genius and excellent writing ability. In 1996, the WWE was on life support. They were going nowhere fast under the vision of Vince McMahon’s idea of a wrestling federation: that being one white meat babyface overcoming the odds every single month and doing so because of the strength of his fans. (sound very WWE 2012) Before Russo took over and saved WWE, the show was being written by Jim Ross and Jim Cornette (that’s where Cornette’s jealousy of Russo begins).

McMahon saw WCW sprinting further and further away from him and needed to make a change so he took the two Jim’s out of lead creative roles and gave Russo the reigns. Russo jumped at the opportunity and he started doing an edgier show. It did help that Austin had just started his meteoric rise around the same time as Russo took over. Russo managed to keep McMahon’s vision but put a darker spin on it as Stone Cold Steve Austin was NEVER the white meat super good guy face that McMahon liked to build his show around, he was a heel that the fans just loved.

Russo putting Stone Cold in various situations made Austin look like the coolest Badass on the planet and made Austin a must see attraction. In 3 short years under Russo’s vision, WWE went from a distant second to WCW to being the clear cut number 1 wrestling fed on the planet and having a stranglehold on dominating the Monday Night War. A Jim Cornette led WWE would’ve led to WCW still being in business and Vince McMahon probably living in an insane asylum nowadays.

Rewritten Vince Russo History: Austin saved the WWE and would’ve done so without the need of Vince Russo stealing ideas from Paul Heyman in ECW to do so. The WWE did good in spite of Russo’s writing. If it wasn’t for Vince Mcmahon “filtering” Russo, it would’ve been an utter disaster. Look at all the swerves that didn’t pan out (more on that joke of an argument in a minute), look at all that lack of wrestling, the heel/face switches yada yada yada despite the fact all this led to ratings getting larger and larger and larger

Some of Vince Russo’s Biggest Swerves Were Genius or Not Really His Fault

The Deadly Games Tournament in 1998 was a Russo masterpiece and I mean that in a good way. The buildup to the show was about breaking The Rock’s spirit so he’d have to give in to Vince Mcmahon in order to succeed in the WWF. (he used this template with Hardy in 2010 but all those “smart” online fans never made that connection since they really don’t have a clue about anything really) Once we got to the show, Vince had The Rock in his back pocket and just needed to ensure The Rock making it to the finals. The nightstick being intercepted by the Rock to get the pin “in spite of McMahon”, the Chokeslam by Kane (future Corporate member) on The Rock got rid of the Undertaker and put Rock in the Finals. Along the way McMahon screwed Austin out of the title yet again to continue Stone Cold’s 8 month odyssey to the title at WM 15.

The Finals effectively made The Rock the biggest prick heel on the planet and considering how in 99, face Rock played second fiddle to Austin it kind of proved that turning Rock heel at 1998’s Survivor Series was the right move to help Rock stand out over Austin. Amazingly people trash this because they view it as a swerve for the sake of it, but if they took the time to actually look at what Russo did it was quite ingenious.

The “failed” swerve at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre 1999 was a stroke of genius again because Vince promised no Corporate interference but everyone watching in early 1999 knew that McMahon had an ace in the hole to screw Austin. (turned out to be the Big Show) The reveal that Paul Bearer was Kane’s father doesn’t make sense at all given the story that was told but guess what that was the point: Kane in 1998 wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed and Bearer needed an opening to get back in WWF after getting exiled due to the Kane/Taker alliance that Summer so conning Kane into believing he was Kane’s father was his way back in and that was a way for Bearer to regain Kane’s trust.

Now the failed swerve in WWF I’ll talk about is the Higher Power storyline that got over EIGHT MILLION VIEWERS IN MAY and JUNE of 1999. Russo’s job was simple make the Higher Power storyline interesting and Vince Mcmahon will get you a guy to play the part. As evident by the ratings, Russo did his part. Vince McMahon didn’t deliver Mick Foley as the higher power, he didn’t deliver Jake “The Snake” Roberts as the higher power, he didn’t give Russo anyone to use and so they went with Vince McMahon himself thus ruining the angle. People blame Russo for this despite the fact that he did his job and McMahon didn’t do his. Real history should lay the blame at the feet of Vince McMahon but in the rewritten history it was Russo’s and only Russo’s fault.

I’m not saying Russo hasn’t had failed swerves that would be insane because when you write 15+ years of TV, you’ll have a few duds here and there (the Slammivarsary 2009 one might be his worst swerve ever). I mean not every Seinfeld episode was gold, not every Simpson’s episode is gold but Vince Russo isn’t as hit or miss as the online rewriters would like to have you believe because a lot of them either have a grudge against Russo or they weren’t even around to actually see these events unfold live and in person.

Vince Russo not Being a Fan of Actual Wrestling

That is a real-life ideology Russo has and honestly who can blame him. No one was watching the WWF in 1998 because of the actual wrestling. That couldn’t have been the case even if Russo wanted it to be that way because WWF didn’t have the talent at that time, that’s why WWF TV in 1998 was so epically great and their ppvs stunk. When it came time to actually wrestle, the WWF didn’t have what it took to get the job done. Not with a near handicapped Stone Cold, a very green Rock and HHH, an Undertaker that didn’t become the wrestler he would a decade later, a Kane who was and always has been a decent wrestler at best.

In 1998 the best wrestler on the WWF’s roster was Owen Hart, the second best might’ve been X-Pac or it might’ve been D’lo Brown or it was one of those guys in KaienTai. Point is, the WWF would’ve died if Russo booked the show the way the IWC wants him to because the actual wrestlers didn’t show up in WWF until 2000 and that’s when Russo was long gone.

It’s very tough for a guy to change his ideology and to be honest everywhere he went the ratings have increased when he booked the show that way. If he had Benoit, Jericho (for more than 2 months), Tazz, Malenko, Guerrero, Kurt Angle, HHH (at his peak in 2000), Brock Lesnar, RVD and Rey Mysterio then maybe he’d have used them the same way that Paul Heyman used most of these guys in 2002-2004. Who knows but he simply didn’t have the wrestlers to use as a way to hook in viewers so he put the wrestling aside and made the show all about storylines and characters much to the chagrin of online smarks.

Vince Russo Isn’t The Reason WCW Died

One of my favorite rewritten parts of Russo’s career. He was entering a job that was all set up for failure, I am sure Russo probably knew that but he was a bit cocky, he was arrogant and rightfully so considering the overwhelming success he had in the WWF at that time. WCW execs or Time Warner execs whoever paid his salary gave him a king’s ransom and expected huge results that were just not realistic. (The IWC still has that problem with TNA) The WWF wasn’t getting any weaker and they got an amazing influx of talent at the start of 2000 which came from Russo’s new employer WCW.

With bosses who didn’t understand wrestling, big name talent not playing ball because the previous regime didn’t exactly plan long-term and the talent he had being unhappy or jumping ship to WWF, WCW was on death’s door with or without Russo. Russo didn’t speed up the process of WCW’s demise, if anything he halted it because ratings for WCW in 2000 went up.

He did a lot of good in WCW and a lot of bad in WCW but that’s what happens when your desperately trying anything to regain market share going up against a company with the better name talent, better undercard and just better everything. If anyone thinks putting the title on Arquette was Russo’s idea then you’re an idiot. It was all politics and Russo’s hands were tied. Vince Russo didn’t kill WCW, if anything he did all he can to save that sinking company but he was simply no match for the WWF and the stars they had (which were made with the help of Russo himself)

Vince Russo’s Tenure in TNA was a Success

Yep, you’re reading that correctly. Vince Russo’s tenure(s) in TNA was a success. He was a part of the early TNA years where they got themselves established as an indy fed that might become a major player. Then he left and TNA “got really good” before it got “really bad” when he came back. That’s more Revisionist TNA history especially when now with Hogan and Bischoff there they are getting the Russo treatment. When he came back to TNA, the viewership numbers still had not hit a million yet.

In his 5+ years during his second run, he booked the shows that DOUBLED viewership numbers from around 800,000 to 1.6 million viewers weekly (1.8+ million if you count DVR). The rewriters of Russo’s career can try and dismiss this all they want but that is your opinion (and prerogative) while these numbers are FACTS set in stone. In a time period where WWE has lost a million viewers in those 5 years, TNA’s viewership in that time increased by the same million viewers WWE lost.

Opinions Can’t Cover Up Cold Hard Concrete Facts

Pundits can claim that if Paul “my claim to fame is booking HOF Pro wrestlers that fell in my lap on Smackdown 10 years ago” Heyman was booking TNA; they’d be in legit/direct competition with WWE. Pundits can claim that Jim “I’m a smart booker damn it despite failing everywhere I’ve been” Cornette would’ve made TNA direct/legit completion with WWE today. It’s simply fantasy as there is no basis for the claim other than blind love of these guys or blind hate of Russo.

Here is the reality: Every single place Vince Russo went, viewership numbers increased and in this business where ratings are all important that’s kind of a big FACT that can’t be dismissed. Though it has because of a personal vendetta against this poor guy who is just doing his job and judging by the numbers he has been successful at it. Now he is gone and it’s a shame that once again his success in TNA will be ignored: If over time TNA’s ratings increase it will be because of the new regime and if the ratings tank (and it has recently) then it will because Russo “screwed” things up so damn much that the new regime had no chance of success.

Adios Vince Russo, I wish you the best in all your future endeavours