It’s time once again for everyone to take a trip with Addie to Bizarro Land! This week I would like to be honest with you. This week I would like to talk about a man who has been called the anti-Christ of professional wrestling. A man who has been credited, single handedly by some, with killing World Championship Wrestling. This man is, ofcourse, Vince Russo. A lot of what I just wrote is true, but this is Bizarro Land so today I am going to talk to you about the good of Vince Russo.
He Paid His Dues
Vince Russo worked his way up in the ranks of what was then the WWF. He began in 1992 as a freelance writer for the WWF Magazine and became the editor in 1994. In 1995 he helped to create RAW magazine, an edgier and less PG publication, and it was this magazine that caught Vince McMahon’s eye in 1996.
WCW was riding the crest of the nWo and beating WWF in the Monday Night wars consistently. On October 14, 1996 RAW got a 1.8 rating. Vince Russo himself has told the story of being summoned to Mr. McMahon’s office where Pat Patterson, Bill Watts, Jim Cornette, and Bruce Pritchard were already in attendance. The Chairman slammed down a copy of RAW Magazine and asked “why aren’t we doing this on TV?”
This lead to Russo joining the writing team and come 1997, Vince was the lead writer of Monday Night RAW.
The Ratings Focus
When Vince Russo started on the creative team, and later when he became the head of the team, his mandate was very clear:
BEAT WCW IN THE RATINGS
Little else in the world mattered to Vince McMahon in the late 1990’s and Vince Russo took that mandate to heart. In the beginning it was a team effort with Russo, Cornette, and Pritchard handling the bulk of the booking duties. While Cornette and Pritchard had a lot more experience than Russo, it was Vince Russo who knew that things HAD to change if the WWF was going to survive. They needed to take a new approach, something that hadn’t been seen in wrestling on a big time scale. So he stole some things from ECW and Howard Stern and WWF Attitude was born.
By 1998 with Vince Russo at the helm of Monday Night RAW, along with Ed Ferrara, that 1.8 rating consistently moved into the 5’s and in 1999 the ratings were in the 6’s. On two occasions in 1999, May 24th and July 26th, Monday Night RAW had a rating above 7.0. By 1999, WWF had taken wrestling ratings to heights that it had never dreamt of before and the head writer of that era was Vince Russo.
The Mid Card Focus
When WWF Attitude was running strong the middle of the card was also being utilized, perhaps better than it ever has been before. Not only were there modern (for the time anyway) gimmicks like the Godfather and Val Venis, but the mid card had storylines that built on practically every RAW. The Brood and Hardy Boyz, Val Venis and Kaientai, Jeff Jarret and Chyna, Al Snow and the Big Bossman all were undercard feuds with storys which gave the talent a purpose to be on the show. Far too often do we see two wrestlers with a match on RAW that serves no purpose other than to say “Hey! We’re still employed”. The mid card in 1998 was the elevation of The Rock and HHH but it also involved all of DX vs the Nation which gave 10 guys (yes INCLUDING Chyna) a reasonable purpose to be on your television.
They weren’t all hits (Beaver Clevage anyone?) but the effort was there to involve every member of the roster in some form or fashion. Hardcore Holly, while not in a direct feud right away, had a running gimmick of being a Superheavyweight and I would argue that Bob Holly was never more entertaining then at point in time. Likewise, the Big Bossman had two of my all time favorite funniest angles with Al Snow and The Big Show. While the Big Show angle was slightly after Russo’s time, the Bossman character had been laid out during his tenure and the results were gold! (I still laugh when I eat Pepper Steak). Regardless of who was featured on the undercard of a Monday Night RAW show in 1998 or 1999, I knew that there would be a point to what was on my television. Whether I liked what was on my television is another story all together but my point here is that there was very very little filler on RAW.
So there you have it. Sure, Russo and Ferrara went to WCW and there is plenty that is written about that, just as there is about Vince Russo’s TNA history. I’m not here to defend any of that (c’mon this is Bizarro Land, not Moron Land) but the fact remains that Vince Russo at one point was good for the wrestling business. Very good, in fact. A lot of times that gets lost in the shuffle.
Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear from you! Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org