Pro Wrestling is like art, everyone has a different opinion on it. What looks good to you may not look good to someone else. You may just see ink splats while someone else sees a masterpiece. Like any art, it has its critics. One of the biggest critic is Vince Russo. Without going into an in-depth chronicle of the career of Vince Russo (Brian Alvarez’ The Death of WCW does a great job of that), I’ll be brief….somewhat.
Russo was a video store owner in New York in the early 1990’s that hosted his own graveyard radio show on Sunday nights focusing on complaining about how hokey wrestling had become. After a few years of listening to him whine about it, somehow the World Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE) hired him as a freelance writer for WWF Magazine. From 1993 to 1996 he contributed fantasy angles, a heel column called Vic Venom and a children’s comic called Scoop Sullivan.
Around this time World Championship Wrestling (WCW for short) was gaining steam thanks to the creative brilliance of Eric Bischoff, the “executive vice president” of WCW. Bischoff shifted the focus of WCW away from the hokey antics of Hulk Hogan and focused more on live in ring action. He raided territorial promotions such as Extreme Championship Wrestling and Smoky Mountain Wrestling as well as made deals with promotions in Mexico and Japan to bring in top tier talent. His coup di grace was forming the New World Order in 1996 which was a heel conglomerate of the top stars of the wrestling business at the time including the now heel Hulk Hogan.
From 1995 to 1998 Bischoff kicked WWF’s owner Vince McMahon‘s ass on a weekly basis. Vince allowed WWF to fall behind because his hokey “New Generation” featured more family friendly cartoonery and personalities. The wise-cracking Todd Pettingill and his sidekick Stephanie Wiand hosted the weekend shows that featured goofy gimmicks such as a garbage man (Duke Droese), a dentist (Isaac Yankem), a clown (Doink), a pig farmer (Henry O Godwinn), an aristocrat (Hunter Hearst Helmsley), a race car driver (Bob Holly), a pirate (John Pierre Lafitte) and a country music singer using wrestling as a stepping stone (Jeff Jarrett). Not that Todd and Stephanie weren’t good at their jobs, Todd in particular was a hilarious personality, its that they embodied the family friendly cartoon atmosphere that drove hardcore fans away.
The final straw came in March of 1997 for Vince McMahon. He decided to air a taped Raw that was shot in Germany in a badly lit arena with a bunch of house show matches that didn’t mean anything. Running opposite was WCW Nitro that was gearing toward their Uncensored pay-per-view which would feature National Basketball Association superstar Dennis Rodman in Hulk Hogan’s corner. Nitro obliterated Raw in the ratings and even though it was Vince’s idea, he was mad at the whole creative team which consisted of Jim Cornette, Bruce Pritchard, Jim Ross and Pat Patterson. Junior members of the team such as Vince Russo, Ed Ferrera and McMahon’s son Shane were normally silent but Russo more or less told McMahon that the taped Raw was a garbage idea. Russo was then promoted to the big boy creative team where he was apart of it from March of 1997 to late November. He and Cornette butted heads so much that McMahon let Cornette go back to being a manager and promoted Vince to head writer. He remained as head writer from late November of 1997 to late September of 1999. In September of ’99, two things happened which changed the course of wresting history. WCW had went from number 1 to number 2 literally and figuratively by 1999. The final straw for Eric was when Nitro ran unopposed from 8 to 11 due to USA pre-empting Raw until 11 PM. When the ratings came out, the 11 PM Raw beat the 8 PM Nitro. Also WWF debuted the show Smackdown on UPN on Thursday nights opposite WCW Thunder airing on TBS. Smackdown killed Thunder and Turner Broadcasting’s bigwig Dr. Harvey Schiller (Eric’s boss) sent Eric home.
Around this time Russo was increasingly frustrated with his situation. He was now being asked to write two shows, the second for free since his contract wasn’t guaranteed and he had no time to see his kids. Say what you will about Russo the wrestling personality, but nobody should be forced to work for free, I don’t care who you are. WCW needed a new boss and somehow Russo managed to convince the Turner bigwigs that HE was responsible for WWF’s success, not McMahon or Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jim Ross, The Rock or the real stars. Russo went to WCW and within four months he was out of a job because he had no idea how to run a wrestling show from the business or production side of it. When Dr. Schiller resigned, he was replaced by an accountant named Bill Busch. Yes, an accountant and a video store owner were running WCW, that’s how messed up they were.
Russo unfiltered started driving ratings into the toilet by booking stupid angles, fake shoot fights, himself as world champion and David Arquette the actor as world champion. He claimed to have been trained by Johnny Rodz but never competed in the ring, and it showed. He physically was unimposing and because he didn’t know how to bump, he suffered one concussion after another which led to him being sent home for good. Russo later resurfaced in Jeff Jarrett’s Total Nonstop Action which he personally named TNA because he thought it was funny to name a company after the real meaning behind it either not realizing or not caring that the marketing side of the company was doomed to having to promote, market and finance a company that everyone outside of it would roll their eyes at because of the name. From 2006 to 2009 he co-existed with his old nemesis Cornette along with Jarrett and Dutch Mantel until TNA’s financial owner Dixie Carter sent Jeff home for getting into a sexual relationship with Kurt Angle‘s wife Karen.
Russo saw his chance and manipulated Dixie into foolishly firing Cornette and Mantel so Russo could take over unfiltered, just like WCW. Just like with WCW, TNA ratings sank like a rock which led Dixie to bring in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, two men who hated Russo. Russo was more or less sent home until Hogan and Bischoff left, but someone wasn’t happy with his involvement, Spike TV. The television Network that broadcasted TNA were unhappy with the sagging ratings and told Dixie to never let him near the company again. So what did Dixie do? She hired him as a secret consultant. This worked for a while until Russo made a boo-boo. He was supposed to email TNA announcer Mike Tenay with Impact’s format but instead he emailed PWI Insider Mike Johnson, no friend of Russo. Mike promptly emailed Dixie and asked what he was doing writing TV formats when he wasn’t supposed to be running and Dixie came up with a cockamamie story of how he was just saying “IF he was running the show.” Johnson, realizing Dixie was full of baloney, printed a column of how Russo was still writing for TNA and promptly emailed the Spike TV rep. Spike TV promptly cancelled TNA Impact and that’s where Dixie finally figured out that Russo was toxic. Somehow TNA hooked on with Destination America but Russo would have one last laugh. Russo emailed Destination America and said Dixie doesn’t know what she’s doing and HE’S the brains behind TNA. What did Destination America do? They cancelled Impact too. Finally TNA hooked on with Pop TV and Russo once again emailed the network saying Dixie didn’t know what she was doing, only they ignored him. Eventually Dixie fell into hardship but that’s a story for another day. Now TNA is just Impact Wrestling and neither Russo or Dixie have anything to do with it.
So rewinding back to Mike Johnson, that’s where the title of this article comes from. More or less Johnson got Russo thrown off of TNA so Russo now has a vendetta against him. Know who else Russo has a problem with? Dave Meltzer. The superfan and king of the dirtsheet Meltzer. Now I don’t agree with some of his “6 star” match ratings and overhyping routine New Japan Pro Wrestling matches, but at least he knows wrestling well enough to know the difference between a good match and a bad one. Russo doesn’t like Meltzer because Meltzer was one of his biggest critics during his failed WCW and TNA runs. Even when WWF from 98-99 was hot, the undercard mostly suffered due to Russo’s crash style. Now with WWE wanting nothing to do with him despite constant attempts to beg for a job, Impact wanting nothing to do with him and Lucha Underground telling him to get lost, he’s got nowhere to go. Now he runs a podcast with former WCW wrestler Disco Inferno. On this podcast is where he now rages war with pro wrestling with a segment called Castrating The Marks. If you are unfamiliar with what that is, its basically Russo and Disco making fun of Meltzer, Johnson or anyone that actually cares about wrestling. Yes, if you don’t like wrestling, Russo and his zealots don’t like you. One time Russo, looking about as athletic as a 45-year-old truck driver, mentioned how Finn Balor was not in shape. A fan tweeted a picture of Balor saying he actually was in shape and Russo said he must be homosexual. Rather than apologize, he went on a nonsensical rant that people who care about wrestlers bodies or anyone who chants “this is awesome” must be either gay or have gay tendencies. Yes, the same man who booked Viagra on a Pole matches is calling fans gay for saying Finn Balor is in shape or a certain match is awesome. Why? In Russo’s mind nobody wants to see actual wrestling, they want to see storylines and swerves. The fact WCW and TNA’s ratings flushed down the toilet when he was writing nothing but Jerry Springer angles and swerves continues to elude him or his zealots.
Here’s the thing wrestling fans, YOU have the advantage over him and his zealots. He doesn’t like you because you control him and he’s scared to death. He failed at WCW not because of TBS regulations, guaranteed contracts or the most famous of the zealots excuses “WCW was doomed anyway”, but because WE the wrestling fans changed the channel without looking back. Starrcade 2000’s ppv buyrate was 0.11, a NINETY-FIVE percent loss from just 3 years earlier. Russo’s zealots can claim guaranteed contracts all they want but WE, the pro wrestling fans, were the ones who pulled the plug on WCW. Then again in TNA the fans were the ones who turned off Impact Wrestling until he was gone. It took longer than we thought and it may never go back to the way things were from 2006-09, but at least there’s hope. Now with his podcast gone, its possible that maybe he’ll finally go away. Its been proven he doesn’t know a wristlock from a wristwatch about wrestling and we were the ones that exposed this fact. We complained with our tv remotes, internet/magazine columns and on our podcasts. So Russo wants to laugh at us for focusing on actual wrestling, exposing his lies and shutting down his misinformed zealots, well the joke’s on him. Castrate THIS, mark.