Vince Russo recently talked to Donald Wood and the rest of the Ring Rust Radio crew. Courtesy of The Deco Elbow Drop, here are some highlights:
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 Relm 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.
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 were 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.