Jonathan Watson sent this recap in.
Vince Russo gave a rare interview to Inside The Ropes (http://www.facebook.com/theinsidenetwork) where he spoke about HBK costing Foley his main event at Mania in 99, The wrestling business today being vanilla, why he feels title belts are props, why he left TNA and why the only time he was successful was in the WWF. Here are the highlights.
How he got his start in WWF – I was doing a wrestling radio show in Long Island, New York which I was Funding with my own money. I started running out of money. I wrote a letter to Linda McMahon, knowing if I wrote to Vince he probably wouldn’t answer it. I wrote a letter to Linda McMahon introducing myself, telling her what I was doing and saying I’d love an opportunity in the World Wrestling Federation at that time. WWF being stuck in same rut as 1995 – Here we are, twenty years later almost and in my opinion the wrestling business is at the same exact spot. In my opinion at that time WWE was about ten years behind with what was going on in society at that time. I feel here we are in 2012, and I feel that the wrestling industry is at the same exact place, I think time has passed them by. They’ve become irrelevant. There’s nobody willing to make the changes that need to be made to bring the product up to speed. What led to Vince going with the Attitude idea and pushing the envelope – I remember it was a RAW where it was being simulcasted they were shooting in the States and overseas. The rating came in the next day and it was rock bottom, it was maybe a 2.1, I mean it was really really bad. I went into work the next day and literally as soon as I sat down at my desk, Vince’s assistant called me that he wanted to see me. I went up to Vince’s office, he had all his key people in the room. He had the RAW magazine in his hand. I was worried, I was ready to be fired. He took that RAW magazine and slammed it down on the desk and said “this is what the show needs to be” I was absolutely shocked. I thought it was going the other way. I had no dream that it was going to go that way.
Was the original plan for WrestleMania XV to be triple threat Austin/Rock/Foley – Absolutely. That’s the way it was booked but someone who wasn’t involved had a very different opinion about it and they kinda got in Vince’s ear and Austin’s ear and next thing I know Mick was out the picture, I wasn’t happy about it, I thought Mick deserved it, but you do what the boss tells you so we made the change.
Just to clarify, was it Shawn Michaels that was in Austin and Vince’s ear – Could have been.
Did Ferrara’s Oklahoma gimmick go too far? – Absolutely. There’s no question about it. But that’s where it was at the time. I look at that now and I think ‘how could you do that?’ Thankfully I’ve had probably 3 or 4 conversations with JR since, I was able to apologize and get it all off my chest. Being 51, looking back at that now, yeah it was wrong.
Seeing title belts as props – The first time I saw wrestling, it was clear to me it was entertainment. I knew it wasn’t real. The characters were great, over the top. The storylines were straight out of soap opera digest. To me, it was entertainment and that’s why it always was. You have this title belt, it’s not real, these matches aren’t real, nobody is winning this belt. We’re writing it that way. So you use that belt as part of the entertainment. I feel that way to this day. When I saw Capt Lou Albano and the Valiants, I got it, I understood what it was. That was always my philosophy.
Why have TNA struggled to create their own brand name stars? – Because I think there’s a lack of patience. Ratings don’t happen overnight. Ratings happen when you commit to something and you stay the course. That’s why the attitude era worked. Vince stuck with it, we didn’t let the rating affect us on a weekly basis, we rode it out. Unfortunately, that was never the mindset at TNA. There was a lot of emphasis on the rating week to week, then creative is being directed to jump all over the place. It might take a year, but if you stay with it and believe in it, it’s going to work. It’s not going to work if every 6 weeks or 2 months you’re changing course and going in a different direction. I feel TNA has been guilty of that for a very long time.
Russo, Bischoff and Hogan in TNA together – Why didn’t it work? -It’s simple, you can’t have these three strong personalities in opinions working together, you can’t. I worked very peacefully with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. In working together like that, everyone really trying hard to get along and wanting to get along, what each person is doing, is compromising your ideas and beliefs so everyone gets along. In my opinion it’s not a good business. There needs to be one boss, laying out the direction. If it’s working great, if it’s not, get rid of him and bring the next guy in. I’m a firm believer in that. In my opinion all these cooks in the kitchen, trying to get along, you end up with a product that’s very vanilla.
Was it the “too many cooks in the kitchen” that led you to leave TNA? – Yeah it was. It was kinda like, OK it was, me, Eric and Hulk, that’s cool. Then you’re gonna bring in Bruce Prichard. It gets to a point where it’s too much. It gets to a point where I feel like I’m wasting your time and I’m wasting my time because I can’t be the real Vince Russo. You’re not getting what you paid for. Once another chef was added to that kitchen, I just took a step back, and for the good of the company somebody had to bow out and I decided it would be me.
Anything he wanted to do in TNA that he couldn’t? – To be me. Not compromise myself. The only time in my career that I was successful was in the WWF. Vince McMahon gave me the ball and he let me run with it. There were no committees. There was no 6 other peoples opinions. He trusted me, he gave me the ball. That was the only time in my career that I was allowed to work that way. I know what kind of environment I need to be put in to be successful. Committees in the wrestling business, do not work. Someone need to show me a committee in the last 15 years that worked. You need to have a head writer, let him bring in his crew, if they run with it and it’s a pass great, if they fail, get rid of them. Anything else is going to be vanilla and is going to be a so-so product which is what you’re seeing now in the wrestling business and not just in TNA.
Is his bad relationship with Jim Cornette due to different philosophies? It definitely is. The relationship isn’t bad on both parts. I don’t have a problem in the world with him. I don’t bad mouth him, I never have. It lies with him, not with me. All it is, is different philosophies. I think for some reason Jim has taken it to the extreme. That’s his deal, that’s not mine.
Quick Fire thoughts:
Hulk Hogan – Legend. He is the guy.
Ric Flair – I think of wrestling
Sting – Out of those, I had the closest relationship with him, I think of gentleman.
Dixie Carter – Confused
Jim Cornette – Great wrestling mind
Vince McMahon – The creator
The full interview is up at the show’s facebook site at http://www.facebook.om/theinsidenetwork where he talks about his relationship with Bret, the montreal screwjob, Stone Cold being one of the most paranoid WWF Champions of all time and more.