There are few names in professional wrestling that get a reaction like Vince Russo. Seemingly, everyone who has heard of the outspoken New Yorker has an opinion on him, ranging from ECW's head honcho Paul Heyman to the outspoken wrestling mainstay Jim Cornette. The majority of the time, Russo's name is attached to negativity; and whether it's during interviews or videos he posts online, he finds himself one of the most reviled figures in the industry.
For those who don't recognize the name, Vince Russo famously began his career as a writer for the then WWF Magazine before making his way to the creative team. After serving as arguably the top storyline writer for the WWE during the Attitude Era, his reputation brought him to WCW. However, without the human filter known as Vince McMahon, his outlandish storylines didn't help revitalize WWE's main competition. He's most recently been a part of TNA's creative team for a better part of the last decade, while also working under the roles as magazine reporter, on-air personality, and currently a podcast host.
Everywhere Russo goes, controversy follows. Remember, he is not only the man responsible for making actor David Arquette WCW Champion, and later himself, but he is equally credited with the success of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mankind, among others. Whether you are a fan or hater of Vince Russo, there is no denying that he has some valid points when he critiques the current WWE product.
Here are 15 times that he was right in his analysis of Vince McMahon's operation.
15 PG Rating Isn't A Problem
One of the most common complaints about WWE for nearly a decade has been its shift from PG-13 to PG. Fans feel like the more family-friendly approach has been detrimental on the product with its lack of blood, profanity and so on. After all, the WWE's most successful period saw them embracing all of these adult themes! Surely, if anyone would be a promoter of that mindset it would be Vince Russo?
Wrong. Russo has no problem whatsoever with WWE's PG rating, and if anything is a promoter of it. He rightly points out that the rating means absolutely nothing to the quality of the show - if WWE can create characters and storylines that fans are invested in, no one would even notice.
14 Use Of Legends
WWE has a recent tendency to return to the well of popular stars of days gone by. Look no further than their divisive use of Stone Cold, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels and The Rock at WrestleMania 32. Fans in live attendance undeniably love being present for the rarity but audiences at home either love or hate when legends return.
Why would anyone hate the return of those they love? Simple, every time WWE utilizes a legend they do so at the expense of an active member of their roster.
How can wrestlers in their prime possibly be expected to gain the support of fans when they are getting embarrassed and beaten up by 50-year-olds? These short-sighted moments for a quick ratings boost see people whose prime was 15 years ago coming along and easily dispatching the current stars for no good reason.
13 WrestleMania Entrances - Where Are They?
WrestleMania is the biggest event on the sports entertainment calendar and as such, it is given all the grandeur and frills to make it feel that way. One of the most exciting parts of the experience for fans and talents alike used to be seeing superstars doing something extravagant to reach the ring.
Shawn Michaels ziplining in, the mini-rings at WrestleMania III, John Cena's gangster ride, Randy Savage being carried in like a Roman emperor, among many more classic entrances that are unforgettable for those watching.
But where have they gone? The only superstar who gets a special entrance every year without fail is, unsurprisingly, Triple H. One more act may get one each year, but when it comes to being treated like the star of the show, only Triple H gets the true benefit.
12 WrestleMania Cards Don't Matter
These last couple of years the WrestleMania card has been dubbed "the worst in history," and not many have been able to come out against that statement. However, and most wrestling fans won't want to hear this, the card no longer matters at WrestleMania.
To clarify, the card doesn't matter toward the success of the show. In terms of quality, it clearly does. But WrestleMania has proven to be a juggernaut regardless of what is on the show.
Russo and Glenn Gilberti even argue that WrestleMania itself has become a bigger brand than WWE. While the weekly ratings and stock has been dipping for the company, WrestleMania grows every year.
11 We've Seen Every Match Before
Long gone are the days of jobber squash matches. NXT still puts on the bouts to build their stars without damaging others, but WWE lacks the self control. It isn't just using established roster members are enhancement talent that causes match combinations to be run dry though.
The worst offender is the endless repetition of a match in place of telling an actual story. If WWE is set to have two wrestlers face off against each other at the pay-per-view, they will have those two wrestle each other almost every Raw and SmackDown in the build-up and generally repeat this pattern for a three month feud.
Take Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler; during the six month period between October and WrestleMania the duo had dozens of one-on-one matches against each other. How can it still be an anticipated match-up?
10 Finishers Have No Value
Russo is far from alone on this point with Stone Cold among the critics of this recent trend, but wrestlers are destroying their own finishing moves just for a one-off surprise of a near fall.
Take John Cena and his U.S. Invitational - every single week John Cena would hit an Attitude Adjustment, and his opponent would kick out of it. His weekly opponent would hit their finisher, and Cena would kick out of it. Both finishers' effectiveness are depleted.
In fact, how can they even warrant being labeled 'finishers' or 'finishing moves' when they currently get kicked out of more often than not? Kicking out of an opponent's finisher used to be saved for something truly special and it had impact. Now it is almost expected.
9 Lack Of Vignettes
It used to be the case that 90% of wrestlers debuting would get a month's worth of vignettes in anticipation of their arrival. The vignette serves numerous purposes - it makes the audience aware of the act's existence, it clearly defines their character and it creates anticipation for when they finally appear.
Once again, NXT still exhibits these and their benefits. WWE mostly bypasses the process and as a result many acts do not reach the level of success they otherwise would due to audiences not having a clue who they are unless they have watched them in NXT or wherever they came from. That's increasingly unlikely given the target audience now being children and families.
8 WWE Ignores The Audience
Vignette introductions are far from the only time WWE fails to consider their audience. Most of the time, they won't even acknowledge them!
There is no greater example than the main event of WrestleMania 32. The crowd predictably rejected Roman Reigns, and did so loudly, as you would expect from around 100,000 booing people.
The way WWE chose to address this inevitability wasn't to build a clever story, instead they simply turned down the crowd audio in a literal attempt to drown out the audience.
7 Viewers Need A Hook To Keep Watching
Traditional professional wrestling has made way for sports entertainment and with that comes an acknowledgement that Raw is ultimately a television show. A basic rule of producing a TV show is to give the viewer a hook to return from commercial breaks instead of channel hopping.
Russo likes to point out that in his reign there wouldn't be a single ad break that wasn't preceded by some kind of hook to entice the audience back. Whether it be the arrival of Stone Cold into the building or the announcers promoting the match after the break, some sort of activity would happen to make the show feel must-see at all times.
Currently the opposite is true, with WWE promoting a 'can miss' culture by repeating big moments every 15 minutes or so to allow viewers to tune in and out whenever they feel like it.
6 A Loss Doesn't Hurt
Modern fans have a mindset that is bordering upon obsessive over wins and losses in individual matches. A single loss can cause an uproar from the internet, and sometimes the crowd in attendance as well, but one loss is not the end of a wrestler's career.
The truly important part is the storyline surrounding the match and outcome of it, most importantly, that there is one. If a loss follows a strong story - or better yet, is followed up by one - then a wrestler can actually end up in a better position for a loss but at the very least, will not be damaged by it.
5 Babyfaces Need To Follow Through On Claims
The ultimate aim of any babyface is to have the fans rooting for them and believing in them. If they never follow through on what they say though, they will not get fans behind them.
For example, a few months ago, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens were feuding. After Owens cheated him early on Raw, Ambrose claimed backstage that he would get revenge on him before the night was over. The main event saw Owens as part of a heel group gang attacking Ambrose's friend Roman Reigns, yet Ambrose was nowhere to be seen.
Bret Hart once told Russo that he would only promise victory in interviews he had before matches he knew he was booked to win, to keep the audience believing in his statements. WWE should take note.
4 Characters Need Consistency And Differentiation
Each wrestler needs to have their own clearly defined character. You would think this is a sentence that is common sense but just try defining some of the members of the current roster. Once you get past the WWE's buzz words for their stars, you find it is surprisingly difficult.
The reason for this is that even when there is a clear character initially, it gets so blurred over time that it becomes undefinable. This is because of a lack of consistency to wrestlers' actions. Due to a weak writing team and a backstage culture that discourages wrestlers to speak out, all wrestlers end up acting the same as each other whether it fits their character or not.
3 WWE Needs To Show Faith In Their Acts
Speaking of WWE neutering their acts with weak scripting, the company need to start giving their wrestlers freedom back. Some of the greatest stars and talkers in the history of WWE came from an atmosphere that saw them giving bullet points to hit and a microphone to do so. No script. This sink or swim attitude saw natural charisma shine instead of the current stranglehold. At the end of the day, if WWE doesn't have any faith in their wrestlers to go out with a microphone and capture the audience, why even hire them?
On the flip side, Russo likes to point out that these performers have a live microphone any time they are in the ring and therefore have the opportunity to take their future into their own hands, if they dare.
2 If Wrestlers Don't Take It Seriously, The Audience Won't
This is a basic principle in any kind of storytelling. Characters have to take their scenario seriously or no one watching can buy into their plight. Imagine if the protagonist of your favorite TV show or movie suddenly started making jokes about the danger they face. You wouldn't take it seriously yourself.
For example, if the first episode of The Walking Dead's seventh season sees Rick Grimes making childish jokes and toilet humor when talking to or about Negan, his threat level will be instantly removed. There would be little to no interest in seeing the eventual showdown between the two groups, and understandably so.
1 The Announcers Fail To Tell The Story
Arguably more than any previous point on this list, this is the most important of them all. The announce team fails to tell the stories being told by the performers. Whether this be failing to acknowledge it, belittling it, or other such sins, this abysmal commentary hampers stories and in the worst cases, completely kills the drama.
Two big examples jump out from WrestleMania 32. AJ Styles could have been protected from his loss by the announcers, if they had simply pointed out that Styles had got caught up in the moment of his first WrestleMania and put too much effort into impressing the crowd - hence going for another high-flying maneuver that allowed the wily veteran, Chris Jericho, to capitalize.
Even worse is the story of Shane McMahon. His entrance showed him to be a family man, as he entered with his children who sat in the front row with Shane's wife and his mother, Linda McMahon. The first story question; why is Linda there to support Shane when he is feuding with Vince and Stephanie? Not even remotely mentioned.
Second, and arguably the biggest faux pas, when Shane is climbing the cell and standing before leaping off there was not a single mention of him taking this life risking move in front of his family! Jim Ross would have been screaming about the ramifications of this decision and how much controlling WWE means to Shane, but not the current Raw announce team.
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