Vince Russo (January 24, 1961) is an American writer, known for working for American companies, most notably the World Wrestling Federation, World Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
Russo came from humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York, where he managed two video stores before becoming involved in wrestling. He closed up shop once Blockbuster started to become popular. He also attended the University of Southern Indiana and received a degree in journalism.
In the early 90's Vince Russo ran his own AM Radio Program named "Vicious Vincent's World of Wrestling". The show was on every weekend for two hours. The program had a year long run before being taken off the air, the last show being the one year anniversary celebration. Vincent paid for the program with his own money as a hobby. His Co-host was the Mat Rat, a man that spoke in a meek gravely voice to fit the character he portrayed and the two would poke fun at each other during the show. Skull Von-Cross also made guest appearances occasionally. The program accepted phone calls from listeners to chat or answer questions. If Vicious didn't like the question or comment, the caller would be "flushed" with a sound clip of a toilet flushing. During the first few months of the program there were no problems, but the shows ultimate failure was due to its own audience. Prank callers would call the show on a basis of about 1-2 calls per show and they were usually harmless and quickly forgotten. As the months progressed the pranks had accumulated to almost 75% of the shows phone calls. It would get to a point where Vicious Vincent would tell the callers to hang up their phone since he would no longer answer calls for the rest of the show. There are a few memorable incidents. Most prevalent was a child calling the show every week claiming to be "Yoshi the little green dinosaur." An obvious reference to the character in Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo video games system. Vicious Vincent would become extremely agitated at these calls each week and would rant, scream, and sometimes just sigh in frustration. At one point he claimed to have phone tracing equipment and would track down "Yoshi" but the calls still came. Eventually, other pranksters caught on and the show was flooded with pranks. The station had no delay so some cursing and vulgar comments made it to air. A regular caller named Heavy-T would call the show regularly and talk in rhymes and raps about wrestling and was well liked by Vincent and the Mat-Rat. On the one year anniversary show, an impostor Heavy-T called in and had the hosts convinced it was the original until he rapped "Every week I listen its almost perpetual, yo Vince, are you and Skull really homosexual?" After that the show was cancelled and never aired again.
World Wrestling Federation
Russo first came to the attention of the World Wrestling Federation as the host of a syndicated wrestling show, Vicious Vincent's World of Wrestling. He was hired from there and became a writer, then editor, for WWF Magazine under the pseudonym of Vic Venom and eventually from his contact, he became a writer for the World Wrestling Federation. He was promoted to the WWF Creative Team, then being headed by Vince McMahon, Jim Cornette, Jim Ross, Pat Patterson and a few others in 1996. In 1996, Monday Night RAW hit an all-time ratings low of 1.8 (WCW Monday Nitro, Raw's chief competition, was in the midst of an 84-week winnings-streak against Raw head-to-head, see Monday Night Wars). With WCW eclipsing the WWF, McMahon knew he needed a change, and called upon Russo to make changes to the televised product. He was known for edgy, controversial storylines involving sexual content, on-camera profanity, swerves or unexpected Heel turns, frequent face and heel turns, false finishes and worked shoots in matches. This came to be known as "Crash TV."
Russo would eventually become head writer for the WWF along with his partner, Ed Ferrara. His storylines were helpful in bringing WWF ahead of World Championship Wrestling in the Monday night ratings. Russo had helped WWF-owner Vince McMahon win the Monday Night Wars with rival WCW due to his keen ability to craft storylines that streamlined week after week and continued like a soap-opera.
Russo claims that he was the man who had "The Ringmaster" change himself into one of the most successful WWF superstars ever, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. This is debatable, however, as Austin's transformation came gradually as he received more interview time and Austin himself has said it was his wife who came up with the "Stone Cold" nickname. Russo also had "Rocky Maivia" turn heel and be known as "The Rock." And also was the man behind creating D-Generation X to start feuds with WCW's nWo. Other storylines in the Russo-written WWF include the so-called "Gang Warz" were gangs of wrestlers of different races battled each other, and the oft-criticized Brawl for All tournament, a series of fights between WWF superstars that was not staged. Certain Russo's storylines also had incestous overtones, such as those involving Ryan & Ken Shamrock, Vince & Stephanie McMahon. Though they never progressed beyond subtle hints, these storylines were controversial.
World Championship Wrestling
On October 5, 1999, Russo and Ferrera left the WWF and, not long afterwards, signed with its chief rival, WCW. Russo stated that his reason for leaving the WWF was an altercation with Vince McMahon that arose out of a complaint by Russo regarding his workload. SmackDown! had just been introduced as a new WWF show, and Russo was not happy about having to write two more hours of wrestling every week, instead preferring to spend more time with his family (especially in light of the fact that he long been feeling overworked, less passionate and burnt out by the pressures of working in the WWF creative team for so long). McMahon simply told him to "Go hire a nanny," resulting in the alleged altercation. Additionally Russo has stated (in the RF Shoot Video series) that the desire to seek a new challenge (by going to WCW), as well as his own personal interest in whether or not he would be able to repeat the same successes without the guidance of Vince McMahon, were also strong contributing factors to his move.
"The Powers That Be"
In WCW storylines, Russo and Ferrera simply came to be known as "The Powers That Be," contributing to the notion of a mysterious and secret power source whom everyone in WCW was obliged to obey. This notion was strengthened by the fact that Russo and Ferrera rarely appeared on camera. Writing-wise, they attempted to make WCW Monday Nitro similar to RAW, with edgier storylines, more lengthy non-wrestling segments, an increased amount of sexuality on the show, more backstage vignettes, expanded storyline depth, and the utilization of midcard talent in a more effective manner. Norman Smiley, Ernest Miller, Billy Kidman, and others became three dimensional characters on Nitro rather than undercard competitors; "Screamin'" Norman Smiley in particular became a very popular character during Russo's tenure. They also introduced several WWF-style storylines in WCW, notably holding a tournament for the WCW World Heavyweight title. Bret Hart, having been underused in WCW for over two years, triumphed in the end to win his first-ever WCW World title.
Problems with Russo's writing
However, without Vince McMahon to oversee their work, their writing often became repetitive and incoherent; this infuriated some fans. Russo attempted to use the same Crash TV style in WCW that had made him successful in the WWF, only at an accelerated pace; this included constant heel/face turns, retirements, and title changes. Nitro became a haven for confusing storylines, which resulted in lower ratings. Russo and Ferrera often focused on poking fun at the WWF, rather than writing a captivating wrestling product as they had done while actually in the WWF.
Russo's writing style created a large turnover in title changes (the WCW World Title changed hands every 2.6 weeks on average under him). Swerves and everything being a "Shoot" were emphasized; wrestlers did supposedly unscripted interviews using "insider" terms that were only recognized by the Internet fanbase and the wrestling community itself, and chaotic broadcasts became the norm.
Russo booked actor David Arquette to win the WCW World Title, and at one point toward the end of his WCW stay even booked himself to be champion. However, Russo explained both of these incidents during an interview with WrestleCrap Radio, saying he believed that he needed to produce television that would, in a sense, be a publicity stunt. Russo stated that when Arquette won the title, he did not pin a wrestler, he pinned Eric Bischoff, and that this was a realistic event, according to Russo. He even revealed that Arquette went to Hollywood the following weekend, where Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner were filming 3000 Miles To Graceland and did a photo shoot with Arquette holding the belt. Russo believed that he had to do something to get people's attention; however, Graceland was a box office bomb.
The situation involving Russo himself winning the title was explained by Russo with a similar mentality. Vince Russo beat Booker T in a steel cage match. Goldberg entered the cage from under the ring and speared Vince Russo through the cage wall seconds before Booker T exited the cage. Russo would surrender the title at the next WCW Monday Nitro, and in an outlandish turn of events, would show on Nitro a brain operation he had due to a concussion he sustained in the cage match.
Russo de-emphasizes the cruiserweight division
Russo began to de-emphasize the cruiserweight division as well as the luchadores and foreign talent; these were two of the things that distinguished WCW from the WWF. In the case of the luchadores and foreign talent, he argued that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get them over with the fans if they couldn't speak enough English to do a Promo. In the cases of some wrestlers, such as Kaz Hayashi and La Parka, Russo would have them do promos in their native language and then use comical subtitles which had nothing to do with what they were actually saying. This was done for comic relief, as the wrestlers would either be squashed or have their match interrupted by an established star. The WCW Cruiserweight Championship itself was devalued as non-wrestlers such as fellow writer Ed Ferrera (as the controversial "Oklahoma"; a parody of commentator Jim Ross) and Daffney were booked into title reigns under Russo's watch.
Days before the live pay-per-view event Souled Out, Russo received two phone calls, one from Bret Hart (then WCW champion) and another from Jeff Jarrett, both saying that they were injured. This required Russo to alter the plans he had in mind for Bret Hart and the then new nWo. Russo and his booking committee sat down to determine what would now happen at Souled Out. One of the ideas included the idea of putting the now vacated WCW Title on the shoot fighter Tank Abbott, a former UFC fighter with little wrestling ability. In an attempt to do something believable, the idea was originally to have a "rumble match" in which Sid Vicious would be an early entrant in the match and would last all the way to the end when Tank Abbott would come into the match and eliminate him with one punch. Russo claims that Abbott may not have held the belt for more than 24 hours if this title change had actually occurred. However, the day after he and his committee came up with the idea, he was removed from the position of head writer and told to start working with something else. Russo declined the offer and left the company for three months before finally being called back.
Russo and Bischoff team up
Russo's immediate replacement was Kevin Sullivan, a longtime wrestler. Sullivan was unpopular with WCW talent and disputes between him and the wrestlers led to one of the largest exoduses of WCW wrestlers in the history of the company. Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero all left for the WWF during this period, tired of being held down by the backstage politics of WCW. As a result, Sullivan was ultimately relieved of his duties and Russo was reinstated as booker, after a three month absence, alongside Eric Bischoff, who had just returned to WCW as well (as a creative director). The idea was that Russo and Bischoff would reboot WCW into a more modern, streamlined company that would reward the younger talent instead of holding them down.
The premise of the WCW revival was that a changing of the guard was in order. The Millionaire's Club, consisting of WCW's veteran stars such as Hogan, Flair and Diamond Dallas Page, were accused of preventing the younger talent from ascending to main event status and feuded with The New Blood, consisting of WCW's younger stars such as Billy Kidman, Booker T and Buff Bagwell. In theory, the younger stars would finally get an even playing field to break out as big stars in wrestling. A lot of the newer stars were seen as being relatively green or lacking the charisma and/or ability to truly get over with fans, however, and while the new storyline sparked initial interest, it ultimately failed to turn around the ratings, as fans begin to see the storyline as a ripoff of the WCW vs. nWo storyline from 1996–97 and WCW continued its downward spiral.
Their strategy imploded, however, as Bischoff and Russo frequently locked horns. Russo was then involved in a very controversial incident with Hulk Hogan. Hogan was booked to lose a match against reigning world champion Jeff Jarrett at Bash at the Beach; however, Hogan refused to lose the match, invoking his contract's "creative control" clause to override Russo. In the end, Jarrett "laid down" for Hogan and Hogan did a shoot on Russo, put his feet on Jarrett, and scored the pinfall victory, awarding the belt to Hogan. Russo, though, would come out later in the broadcast and nullify the result of the match, publicly firing Hogan and restoring the title to Jarrett, setting up a new title match between Jarrett and Booker T. Whether or not the whole incident was a shoot or a "Work" is still debated, but Hogan never resurfaced in WCW, and even filed a lawsuit against WCW (which was dismissed in 2002). Russo, on his new promotion's website, claims the whole thing was a work with both Hogan and Bischoff in on the deal, but were double-crossed by Turner executive Brad Siegel, who didn't want to use Hogan any more because he cost so much for an appearance, hence making the whole thing an actual shoot. Hogan claims in his autobiography, Hulkamania, Russo made it a shoot and no one else. Bischoff, in his autobiography states that the part where Hogan walks out and Jarrett lies down was a work. The plan was then to crown a new champion at Halloween Havoc, only for Hogan to come out afterwards and ultimately win a champion versus champion match. However after Bischoff and Hogan left the building fifteen minutes after the incident, Russo came out and "fired" Hogan in a shoot before making a World Title match that night - destroying the months of storylines that would follow.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
Russo obtained a buyout from his Time Warner contract after the demise of WCW. Months later, he was going to work with the upstart World Wrestling All Stars Promotion as head booker but ultimately backed out of the role. The first WWA PPV was apparently booked with his ideas before his decision to back out.
Later Russo returned to WWE, but quickly left after noting that "things weren't the same." It has been speculated that his return (along with his unceremonious demise) in WWE was a "ruse", intentionally conceived from the outset by Russo who simply wanted out of his Turner contract to be able to work with rival organization Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). Knowing that Vince McMahon's money and eagerness to work with him (during an essentially creative 'nadir' in WWE) would grant him this, rumor has it that once signed by McMahon (and hence free from his Time Warner contract), the idea he put forward to deliberately outrage McMahon (and in so doing, cause his release) was an entire restart of the WCW invasion, including previously un-signed talent such as Bill Goldberg, Scott Steiner and Bret Hart. Some found this ironic, because as preposterous as it seemed to McMahon at the time, many of these went on to sign with WWE in the coming months.
Russo debuted as the masked wrestler "Mr. Wrestling III". With this gimmick, he helped Jarrett win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Jarrett did not want his help in the storyline and the two became involved in a feud. Russo created his own faction of wrestlers he dubbed Sports Entertainment Xtreme (S.E.X), recruiting the likes of Glenn Gilberti, Sonny Siaki, B. G. James, Raven, Trinity, and others. S.E.X faced the more traditional TNA wrestlers led by Jeff Jarrett. Eventually Russo would leave his on-screen role and Glenn Gilberti would become the de facto leader of S.E.X.
Russo returned to TNA yet again and created a new faction of wrestlers led by NWA Champion A. J. Styles. Russo called for S.E.X's disbandment and commanded his new faction for a time. Eventually he was once again written out of storylines after being defeated by Jeff Jarrett during a TNA PPV. In reality, Russo fell out of favor as head booker and never again had any real behind the scenes power.
Some time later, Russo would again return to TNA Wrestling strictly as an on-air character, becoming the Director of Authority in the storylines. This time, however, he was a Face, claiming to have changed his ways. This was likely inspired by Russo's real-life conversion to Christianity. Russo would eventually leave this role as well.
After leaving wrestling Russo became a Born Again Christian and formed an online Christian ministry, which quickly folded. Following this he returned to wrestling, operating the Ring Of Glory independent promotion, which also folded. He has since written one book, called Forgiven: One Man's Journey from Self-Glorification to Sanctification (ISBN 978-1550227048), and has announced plans of writing another book.
In January 2006, Vince appeared on Trinity Broadcasting Network's (TBN) flagship program Praise The Lord hosted by Steve "Sting" Borden and featuring fellow guest Shawn Michaels. During the appearance he denounced things he's booked in the past. Russo returned to TBN on April 26, 2006, to share his testimony with inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. For this he was joined by Kenneth Copeland, former NFL tight end, now minister Mike Barber, and actor/wrestler/producer Tom "Tiny" Lister.
Return to TNA
On September 21, 2006, it was announced that TNA President Dixie Carter has hired Russo to be a part of the new TNA Creative Team, replacing Mike Tenay and Scott D'Amore and will be booking along with Jarrett and Dutch Mantell. Russo is the lead creative member, and will ultimately make the decisions regarding TNA booking. His first bookings occurred at the September 25 bookings of TNA iMPACT!.
Whilst Russo may have contributed to WCW's demise, his current run as head booker of TNA has resulted in an increase in weekly [ratings. TNA reached a landmark high 1.2 with an episode that featured A.J. Styles & Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle & Rhino as its main event. Even though TNA's ratings have slightly risen with Russo booking the show, much of the Internet Wrestling Community have began a backlash against Russo due to his booking technique which promotes more sports entertainment style storylines and less actual wrestling, which is different to TNA's tagline 'We Are Wrestling'.
On February 14, 2012, it was announced by TNA president Dixie Carter that Vince Russo and TNA has parted ways. A message was posted on Dixie Carter's Facebook page saying, "TNA and Vince Russo have mutually parted ways as of this week. The separation is amicable and professional. We are glad for the opportunity to have worked together and wish each other nothing but good luck and success in the future."
- Tag teams and stables
- Wrestlers managed
Championships and accomplishments
- WCW World Heavyweight Champion (1 time)
- Russo was featured on the cover of the Wrestlecrap book The Death of WCW along with Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Although the book portrays him in a negative light, he's been known to autograph copies if approached.
- His booking of Jushin Liger losing and regaining the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship on WCW Monday Nitro is not recognized by New Japan Pro Wrestling in the title lineage.
- Used an instrumental version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" as entrance music in WCW.
- He is an avid fan of the San Francisco Giants and would occasionally wear a Giants jersey on WCW TV.
- Is known for matches which are unique. Some are bizarre, such as the Judy Bagwell on a forklift match. It featured the mother of Buff Bagwell being tied to a forklift rather than a pole. Other matches include the Fight for the Right Tournament that was used during November 2006 in TNA.