Everyone likes to say “hey, I’m a Paul Heyman guy” so I thought about who would be considered to be Vince Russo “guys.” So, here is a few guys who had their careers greatly benefited by Russo at one point or another.
Jeff Jarrett – WWF Intercontinental Champion, WWF World Tag Team Champion, WWF European Champion, WCW United States Champion, WCW World Heavyweight Champion, and NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
I think most people can agree that Jeff Jarrett is a fine wrestler in the ring, but has never had the appeal of a main event guy. Prior to Vince Russo taking the book in WWF in the mid 1990?s, Jarrett was an accomplished midcarder who won the Intercontinental Championship in 1995. When he left to WCW had continued his success but came back in late 1997 and was pushed heavily by Russo in the main event scene. It was clear that Jarrett was one of Russo’s favorites and vice versa when Jarrett jumped to WCW shortly after Russo and Ferrera jumped ship in 1999. Jarrett had his greatest success from 2000 onward winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship four times in a three month period and consistently involved in main event programs. Of course, his NWA success has to do a lot with his ownership of the company. Nonetheless, without Russo as the booker Jarrett’s rise up the ranks would have never been accomplished.
Dustin Rhodes – WWF Intercontinental Championship
Yes, Dustin had some good success in WCW with his cowboy gimmick but he is best known for being the bizarre Goldust. The character gave the WWF some interesting storylines and Goldust is easily one of the most controversial gimmicks in wrestling to ever be introduced. Russo’s ability to write for Goldust is one of his better accomplishments and proved that he was capable of making a new star. That is evident with the rise of Rock as well (who won’t be included in this). If you look back at Dustin’s career after Russo left, Goldust was never written the same way again. He had some mild success in 2002 with his comedy team with Booker T, but never reached the level he was at in 1996 when Russo was in charge of the gimmick.
Scott Steiner – WCW United States Championship, WCW World Heavyweight Championship
In my opinion, Steiner should have been a main event guy for WCW back in the early 1990s. I guess it’s better it happen later than never. Russo wasn’t around when Steiner was given the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in late 2000, but Russo did build Steiner up strong and to the point where Steiner was a credible champion. Some people forget that Steiner holds a victory over Goldberg at Fall Brawl 2000. Russo’s booking of Steiner is one of the better things about WCW during their dying days.
Norman Smiley – WCW Hardcore Championship
Smiley always had some charisma and personality but was never given a chance to showcase it on a regular basis until Russo came to WCW. Russo gave Smiley the Screamin’ Norman Smiley gimmick in the hardcore division and Smiley got over big with the WCW crowd. Smiley got so over that he was taken off television for several months. Russo showed with Smiley he was able to bring the best out of people and the unlikeliest of people could get over.
AJ Styles – NWA World Heavyweight Championship, NWA X-Division Championship and NWA World Tag Team Championship
Styles was probably the first original TNA talent to get a big push for the company and Russo made sure to highlight Styles on most of the shows from 2002 to 2004. Styles had countless heel to face turns and vice versa in the first year or so, but settled into his face role by early 2004. Styles got a big chance with the company thanks to Russo (and Jarrett) and may have not become a staple of the company had Russo not given him a chance early on in the existence of the company. Once Russo left, it took Styles several years to return to the main event scene. Russo was aware of the talent he had in Styles.
Booker T – WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Russo’s shoot on Hulk Hogan at WCW Bash at the Beach 2000 led to Booker T winning his first WCW World Heavyweight Championship. If you look back at the reaction Booker got that night, it was evident that the fans wanted Booker to be their champion for awhile and Russo did just that. Booker ended up being a cheap version of the Rock, even adopting the Rock Bottom as his finishing move. Nonetheless, Russo gave a guy like Booker T a chance in the main event, which rolled over into the WWE and continued to compete for a decade. Booker owes his chance and eventual success to Russo.
Those are just a few of the guys that accomplished a good deal of success thanks to Vince Russo. Who are some more guys that Russo helped in the wrestling business? Feel free to leave those names below and there may be a second part on this.
Thanks for reading.
— Bob Colling