Ring Rust Radio had former WWE, WCW and TNA writer VINCE RUSSO on the show this week, and it was a great episode with plenty of exclusive content.
Vince Russo interview transcript:
Donald Wood: Recently you closed your Pyro and Ballyhoo website and started The Brand on The Relm Network, and you also write for several other websites. While you have been keeping busy, TNA did not bring you back when you offered your services for free and there were rumors—that you denied—that Lucha Underground was not interested in bringing you in. Do you still feel you have something to add to the wrestling business or are you content being on the outside looking in now?
Vince Russo: That’s a really good question and it’s really like a double edged sword. I am content doing my thing on the Realm network, there is no doubt about that. Vince Russo not having any chains, rules, and nobody telling me what to do is beyond a freeing experience, it’s incredible. However, what I do for a living at vincerussobrand.com depends on wrestling therefore, I make a living off of professional wrestling. When I watch WWE and TNA on a weekly basis, I see how subpar the television shows have become. I see the drastic decrease in ratings and that concerns me. Without wrestling, there may not be a Vince Russo. I would love to help those companies, I know I can help them, I know what they are doing wrong, but when you offer your services free of charge and they say thanks but no thanks, there isn’t too much you can do. The answer to that question is for my own longevity, the wrestling business needs to prosper, and I am willing to help it. If they aren’t interested that’s up to them, but I more concerned about my own future.
Mike Chiari: From a fan’s perspective it feels like TNA is in shambles. Lucha Underground, ROH and NXT are all hotter brands, seemingly half the roster’s contracts are up, the live events are few and far between. Firstly, why do you feel like you’re capable of reversing the downward spiral, and also, what are some of fundamental changes you would make that you think would make TNA a successful promotion again?
Vince Russo: In my opinion, I watch TNA, it’s just wrestling 101. They are in the wrestling bubble, week in and week out they are telling wrestling stories, and a perfect example of that is the feud of Jeff Jarrett and Dixie Carter. You have a thirteen year feud between Jeff Jarrett and Dixie Carter, an ongoing story, and they way they introduce that story back to TV is through a King of the Mountain wrestling match? You don’t have to be Vince Russo to see that that is ridiculous. That’s bad fake wrestling; they came up with no creative whatsoever. If that story presented in the correct fashion and the right way, almost as a shoot with the history and reality of it, trust me it would have been a lot more compelling than Jeff showing up on a show and saying I am going to be in a wrestling match.
Brandon Galvin: It’s been mentioned in interviews that WWE has a team of more than 20 writers, but in the past you’ve mentioned how it was mostly you and Ed Ferrera working with Vince McMahon during the Attitude Era, which is praised for its storytelling. We joke how it seems odd that more than 20 writers can’t seem to come up with compelling storylines or storylines with continuity. Do you think that’s too many people working on creative? What do you think the perfect balance would be considering the team has to write for at least six or seven hours of television per week?
Vince Russo: You are absolutely right. They have a week to write a television show. When there are twenty people involved in the writing of that show, you are going to spend a lot of time running into each other. While you are running into each other for a good majority of the week, you suddenly get to crunch time. All of a sudden its Saturday or Sunday and you don’t have a complete show yet, so we will just finish it when we get to TV and that is what you are seeing today. I’ll just go back to the old Russo and Ferrara way of two guys wrote the show, brought it and pitched it to Vince, and that’s it. It’s a proven ingredient and formula that worked. Now I’m not saying Russo and Ferrara should go back to WWE, what I am saying is replace Russo and Ferrara with two other guys, make it simple, same vision, and you will have a much better product. There is no way that could be a compelling and intriguing show with all those writers involved in it.
Donald Wood: One of the segments we have on the show each week is called Dirtsheet Busters, where we go through the lies of guys like Dave Meltzer and other so-called reporters. As someone who has been a topic of conversation for Meltzer for years, what are your thoughts on him and dirtsheets in general, and what do you say to the people who compare you to Meltzer?
Vince Russo: Please don’t, absolutely not. I don’t even know how anybody in their wildest dreams can make that comparison. First and foremost, I have been there and done that for twenty years. Meltz has never been there and never done that, period end of story. Covering wrestling and being a part of the business for twenty years are completely different things. I’m not a rumor monger, I’m not on the phone all day trying to get dirt, I’m not making up things for sensational headlines that will effect peoples personal lives, that’s not me. Vince Russo is an entertainer through and through. Everything that comes out of my mouth is to entertain you. I don’t talk about rumors and here say and sources, that’s not my bag. My job is to entertain you through my podcast just as I did with my writing.
Mike Chiari: I’m sure most people who have been in your position as a creative writer have done a lot of things that they’re proud of, but have also had some regrets along the way. For you, whether its storyline related or interpersonal relationships or whatever it may be, what is your biggest regret from your time in WWF and your biggest regret from your time in WCW?
Vince Russo: I’ll say my regret is in the wrestling business because it doesn’t matter where I was; it falls under the umbrella of the wrestling business. My biggest regret as I stand here now, on the outside looking in, I’m 54 years old now, and my biggest regret is whatever company I worked for is I made them my number one priority. What that means is I put God behind it, my family behind it, my wife behind it, and my kids behind it. When I worked for those companies they my number one priority. Now when I sit back and see how thankless those individuals are that I gave my life to and put before my family, I am absolutely ashamed of myself. Shame on me, I should have never of done that and I should have known better. It was never about the money, it was about my pride, and wanting to be the best that I could possibly be. I am a goal driven guy and I made that my priority. I made Vince McMahon my priority, I made Dixie Carter my priority, my time at WCW was my priority. Looking back now, that was a huge mistake that I can never take back.
Brandon Galvin: You’re credited with a lot of success and failures from the Attitude Era across WWE and WCW, but one thing we’ve consistently praised you for was the handling of the midcard wrestlers. During the Attitude Era, whether it was good or bad, it always seemed everybody had an angle or character to work with. Why was it so important to you to make sure everybody had something to do and why do you think that’s missing from today’s product given how many talented wrestlers there are in WWE?
Vince Russo: Number one is real easy and I give credit to Jim Ross for this all the time. I say this in every interview and I’ll say it till the day I die. Jim Ross put together the talent roster at WWE. Once that talent roster was assembled, JR gave that roster to me and Ed Ferrara and told us that this is the team. At that point, if you are good enough to make the WWE roster and you are on that team, then it is up to us as the writers to give you a story, to give you a character, to give you a story line, to put you on TV every week with a purpose. Once you have made the roster you are a pro. At that time, our job is to help get you over and assist you in getting over. Everything from character to stories and dialogue. Whether you were Steve Austin, D’Lo Brown, Luna Vachon, it didn’t matter to us. You were on that team and our job was to help get you over. During that time, all Vince cared about was what is Austin or the Rock doing? That’s all he cared about. So I guarantee you, that’s the same mentality today. What is Cena doing? There is nobody standing up for those guys in the middle of the card who go out there every single week with no purpose. There’s no one putting the time or attention into these guys and girls that they have earned. They are on the roster because they are the best in the world but no one is giving them any good material.
Donald Wood: In one of your columns in May, you said, “Wrestling Will Die If It Doesn’t Grow,” saying that wrestling has stayed the same for the last 15 years. Despite this, WWE has changed to a PG format, Ring of Honor and many other Indy promotions have given fans something different and even Lucha Underground is offering something completely off the map. Do you view this as the growth the business needs or do you truly believe wrestling is going to die?
Vince Russo: I think as we speak, wrestling right now is a niche market. Look at your numbers. Less than five years ago, TNA was doing 5,000,000 people. Nowadays they are doing a quarter of that. Look at the fifteen-year decline of the WWE. The people watching wrestling in 2015 are wrestling fans that are always going to be watching wrestling. The problem is they have lost the casual TV viewers. Those were the 5,000,000 people that are now gone. Wrestling has already become a niche market. Anybody can study and look at the numbers, see where it once was, and see where it is today. I want to say this; I publically want to totally separate Lucha Underground from all of that. Lucha Underground is not a wrestling company, they are a TV show. They treat the product like a TV show, they produce it like a TV show, and they treat the wrestlers like TV stars. So in my opinion they are in a category all by itself because they are not a wrestling company, they are a TV company.
Mike Chiari: One of the biggest narratives with regard to you and your success in WWF, whether it’s true or not, is that it only happened because Vince McMahon acted as a filter. And then when that filter wasn’t present in WCW things didn’t go as well. Do you think that’s a fair criticism? And if not, what do you believe are the primary reasons for the lack of success in WCW in comparison to WWF?
Vince Russo: There wasn’t a lack of success. I am a numbers guy and people’s opinions and what I think and what you think doesn’t not matter. The only thing that matters is the numbers. To address the question, Ed Ferrara and I went to WCW and the first three months of the company we were running the show. We had our plan in place and we were doing what we wanted to do. Anyone can look it up, the numbers were there, and the ratings were up. It wasn’t until three months in when I went home because of politics that the ratings went right back down to the point where they were before we even got hired. As far as Vince as a filter, the whole premise of that is just ridiculous. The fact of the matter is he is still there now. So you got the same guy there now, that was there for the Attitude era, Vince Russo had no impact, Vince McMahon had to filter him, well Vince McMahon is still there running the show. How did they go from an 8.2 rating to a 3.5 million people? From a factual basis, someone has to explain that to me since the same guy is running the show.
Brandon Galvin: When you left WWE for WCW, it seemed that a lot of the top storylines you were working on were coming to a close. The Corporation and Ministry of Darkness were essentially no more and Stone Cold was battling injury. I’m sure when you left you still followed what they were doing, what were your thoughts on some of their top storylines at the end of 1999? More specifically, Stone Cold getting ran over by a car and Triple H interrupting Stephanie McMahon and Test’s wedding since those two segments have become two of the most memorable.
Vince Russo: I’ll be honest with you; the day I left WWE I never watched another show. I did not follow what they were doing. I didn’t even know about Austin getting hit by a car. I did know about the Triple H and Stephanie wedding angle and I did like that, I helped put it over. The Austin and the car I never saw that or was aware of it. When I went to WCW, I was focused on WCW and never watched a Raw show while working for WCW.
Mike Chiari: Someone you’ve been very vocal about lately is Chyna. She’s seemingly been trying to get back in WWE’s good graces and you sent out what turned out to be a pretty controversial tweet wondering why WWE doesn’t champion Chyna like they did Connor the Crusher. Firstly, explain what you meant by that tweet and also, touch on why you feel it’s so important for Chyna to get back involved with WWE or just wrestling in general.
Vince Russo: I don’t think it’s important at all for Chyna to get involved with wrestling or the WWE in general. I never said that and I don’t think that’s important at all. Any comment I ever made about Chyna is my concern for her wellbeing as a person. If she ever works for the WWE again, goes into the Hall of Fame, or wrestlers again, that’s absolutely of no concern to me, that’s Chyna’s business. I am more concerned about her health and her mental state of mind, and a tragedy happening. That’s what the comment was about Connor. Chyna needs help. If you have the opportunity to help Chyna, then reach out and help her. I know the Connor story and it is a beautiful story and I commend them for what they are doing. I just don’t agree with picking and choosing who you are going to help and who you aren’t going to help. If they have the money and resources to help Chyna, who needs the help on a completely different level, then why not help her? That’s basically what I was saying.
Brandon Galvin: It seems you’ve always written storylines for stables from DX and the Corporation in WWE to the New Blood and Millionaire’s Club in WCW to S.E.X. in TNA. As a huge fan of factions in wrestling myself, what is it about factions that draw you in when you’re writing?
Vince Russo: To me? Just getting guys on TV. Here is a great example: When was the last time we saw Sandow on TV? He is a great talent, they spent so many months building up with the Miz angle, the guy got himself so over with the crowd, and now where is he? One of my goals was to always make sure everyone was on TV and represented. If you had to form a faction to get everyone involved, that’s what I did. That was really my motivation behind that was to find roles for everyone. You could do a faction right now with all the people in the WWE right now whose careers they are literally killing. With lack of creative, story line, character, TV time, there are so many people right now that fall under that category. You could put them together as a shoot to get them over, get them on TV, but no one is really looking at that. They are just looking at the A story.
Mike Chiari: The inmates running the asylum is what a lot people point to when it comes to the downfall of WCW, and fans got to see that firsthand in the form of the Bash at the Beach 2000 situation with you and Hulk Hogan. How would you characterize your behind-the-scenes relationship with Hogan both in WCW and TNA, and what are your impressions of him now that your days working together are over?
Vince Russo: Number one, we didn’t really have a relationship in WCW. People seem to forget about that. They want to pin everything that happened at WCW on me. The reality of it is I worked there for nine months. I really didn’t generate that relationship with Hulk Hogan during my time there. I was really grateful that when he came to TNA, we were able to settle any differences that we may have had. I am very grateful and thankful for that. As his spot in WWE right now, I am thrilled for the guy. I don’t know where the wrestling business would be without Hulk Hogan. For him to be in the spot he is right now as an ambassador for WWE, he deserves that spot. I am absolutely thrilled for him.
Brandon Galvin: Triple H has been the center of dirtsheet reports for more than 13 years, with the focus being on him burying other wrestlers or securing his spot in the company because of his relationships with Stephanie and Vince McMahon. Before you left WWE in 1999 though, Triple H had already won the WWF Championship and becoming a staple in the main event scene. Do you recall what your stance on Triple H was, or what the company’s stance on him was, before you left? Did you ever see or hear anything about what the dirtsheets have reported in recent years or what fans accuse him of doing?
Vince Russo: No I never have, but I will say this: When Triple H was breaking into the WWE, and the Madison Square Garden incident happened, where he became the scapegoat, there was nobody in his corner more than me. When that character was first being developed, there was no one developing that character more than me. I used to write every single one of his promos. I only had one instance working with him that he really disappointed me. He straight out didn’t want to do a job to D’Lo Brown and I really had an issue with that. I never read or followed in any of that stuff about him, but I was very disappointed when I almost went back to WWE back in 2002 and found out more or less Triple H was not in my corner after all I did for me. Fast forward twelve years later and you see the position he is in and Stephanie is in and now it makes all the sense in the world. If you eventually want the power, than you want to keep a guy away like a Vince Russo away who from a creative stand point is going to produce better content and better TV than you can. A Vince Russo is a better writer and went to school for writing to be a writer and knows the art of writing. When that happened in 2002 and I learned he was working behind the scenes to keep me out of the WWE, I would be lying to you if I told you my opinion of him did not change.