Vince Russo. The very name creates a slew of emotions among wrestling fans, most of it negative. Many say he is single-handedly responsible for the death of WCW, which may be a bit much. It cannot be denied however, that Russo is responsible for some of the worst stuff in wrestling in the last decade and a half and that he defends it still on “hey, if you’re talking about it, it worked” just speaks volumes. Yes, he had good ideas in WWE and helped push mid-card guys like the Rock and HHH but when let loose without an editor, Russo’s love of “shocking” swerves and wild ideas runs too much out of control and just hurt instead of help his company out. He pushed WCW to their end and you can’t deny how so much of TNA’s troubles are because of him as well.
Trying to pick the worst of Russo’s various ideas and creations is a daunting task, not helped by how some stuff attributed to Russo really wasn’t him. Then again, a lot is and it’s shown by how wild it is, often making no sense and the fact Russo has the attention span of a three-year old just makes it worse. His obsession for gimmicks and “breaking the fourth wall” ruins so much of his actually good ideas and when his ideas are bad…well, the results speak for themselves. Here are the 15 worst ideas and creations of Vince Russo and why the man is remembered more for the bad than any good.
15. Mark Henry and Sammie
In 1999, Russo was showing the signs of the over-the-top shenanigans that would mark his later WCW work. Among them was Mark Henry pushed as “Sexual Chocolate,” hooking up with Chyna who introduced him to her female friend Sammie. A date seemed to go bad as Henry told the crowd he and Chyna had never hooked up and begged her not to show a video.
She did as we learned “Sammy” was a transvestite with Henry hacking up after kissing “her.” That was followed by Henry confessing to a group on having been a sex addict who lost his virginity as a child. It was a pretty bad storyline for Henry that pushed too many boundaries and how even before WCW, Russo’s love of sex-themed storylines was taking over.
14. Last Rites Match
Some say this was Dutch Mantel’s idea but Russo has taken credit for it. To cap off a big feud between Sting and Abyss, they fought it out with candelabras around the ring and a casket in the middle of the ring which they kept calling a “death bed.” The ring also had “tombstones” around it, with Abyss acting like one was really made of stone but then Sting picked it up like the paper mache it was.
Abyss hit Sting in the stomach with a candelabra which somehow bust him open (I don’t get it either) and then waved his arms. The lights turned blue and the coffin (death bed) was lowered from the ceiling. They took turns putting a guy in and then escaping before Sting hit Abyss with the “tombstone” and then locked him in. A match notable for the “Fire Russo” chants echoing through the arena and still among his dumber match ideas.
13. Lockbox Challenge
Russo has a real issue with simple matches. A gimmick match can’t be a gimmick match, it has to be something sensational. In this case, you had the Knockouts fighting it out to get keys to unlock one of four briefcases held at the entrance ramp. The “action” was just terrible to watch and highlighted by Lacey Von Erich doing a moonsault that landed her on her feet and dropping an elbow which missed.
So we got the box openings at last: Velvet won a contract for any match she wanted, Tara (the champion) found her pet tarantula, Angelina opened hers to find the Knockouts title and become champion and Daffney was forced to do a striptease in the ring. It’s even worse than it sounds and helped turn the Knockouts from a strong division of workers to a joke.
12. Turning Goldberg heel
By the summer of 2000, WWE was firmly in control of the Monday Night War and WCW was going down. They needed something big, something epic, something to get folks back watching. Russo’s genius solution; take Goldberg, the one truly over hero the company had and turn him heel. It was a poor decision that made no sense, with no build-up to it at all and Goldberg never comfortable in the role. It was soon dropped as fans just didn’t buy into it and yet another black eye on a company that hardly needed any more to handle at that time.
It’s true WWE has done some bad stuff for Jim Ross over the years but even McMahon has to admit this was low. Russo and Ross had never gotten along in WWE, Russo feeling Ross held him back while Ross thought Russo was an egotistical jerk. So when he joined WCW, Russo decided to hit back by having Ed Ferrera dress up as “Oklahoma,” in a cowboy hat and mocking JR’s bells palsy with Steve Williams as his bodyguard.
It was truly insulting, Russo just getting his grudge out in public, taking cheap shots and shows how petty Russo can be.
10. Re-Creating Montreal
The Montreal Screwjob is one of the most important events in wrestling history and shifted the tide of the Monday Night War forever. So of course, Russo thought you could replicate that feeling despite the fact the Screwjob rested on how real it was. At Starrcade ’99, Bret Hart defended the WCW World title against Goldberg. The bout was a tough affair with the ref bumped and Roddy Piper stepping in as the official. As Bret got Goldberg into the Sharpshooter, Piper immediately called for the bell despite how Goldberg quite obviously never submitted.
To have Bret play Shawn Michaels was a surreal sight but the real damage was the kick to the head from Goldberg that would end up ending Bret’s career. Just painful on multiple levels all for Russo’s desire to get a big splash.
9. Pole matches
Russo’s love of gimmick battles is well known but pole matches are just his obsession. No one knows why exactly but the guy just had a thing for pole battles as shown by how he had all the Mexican luchadores in WCW fighting over a piñata. Then there was the Judy Bagwell on a forklift battle, Shane Douglas going for “Viagra on a pole,” Tank Abbott and Big Al going for leather jacket on a pole, etc… It was just ridiculous.
Watching two guys fighting to climb a pole for the dumbest reasons was stupid yet somehow Russo thought it was brilliant and kept going for it, ignoring how much fans loathed it, which is a recurring theme for Russo.
8. Tank Abbott
Despite a great look and build, Abbott was known for one of the worst professional records in the UFC in 1999. That didn’t stop WCW from signing him on as Russo took a shine to the guy and wanted to promote him as a legitimate bad-ass, sort of the same thing WWE did with Brock Lesnar years later.
The problem was Abbott just wasn’t that good in the ring and didn’t connect with the fans and made no impact. But in 2000, when Bret Hart had to vacate the World title, Russo had the idea of Abbott winning a battle royal for the belt. It was an idea so bad that it basically led to Russo being kicked out of the company for a time and Abbott never did become the guy Russo thought he was.
7. Dustin Rhodes
There’s something about Dustin Rhodes that Russo just seems to find fascinating as he constantly tries to “tweak” the guy. First came his turn in WWE as “The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust,” getting truly freaky. Then in WCW, came vignettes of Dustin as Se7en, shown in white makeup and dark coat creeping at kid’s windows, creepy to say the least.
He got a big entrance levitating to the ring…and then took to the mic to “go off script” and say this was dumb and he was giving it up. Then in WCW came “Black Reign,” in black makeup and outfit and seemingly a split personality. A truly talented guy who didn’t deserve for Russo to saddle him with so many bad looks.
6. David Flair and Stacy Kiebler
The gorgeous Stacy Kiebler was taking off as Miss Hancock thanks to her terrific legs and being a great young talent. She was paired up with David Flair in a variety of stuff involving Daffney which included mud pit matches and more before a big “wedding” storyline was made. Shortly afterward, Stacy announced she was pregnant but that the father wasn’t David.
The original idea was Russo himself would be the dad and the idea of him and Stacy was disgusting to say the least. Russo then proposed another idea: That RIC Flair was the father which was just as terrible. Thankfully, Russo was pushed out of WCW before this resolution so the whole thing was dropped yet the very ideas of these make you want to vomit.
5. Himself as WCW World Champion
Russo’s mentality here was that he was the “top heel” in WCW so why shouldn’t he be the champion? Of course, that ignores the tiny fact that no one wanted a massively out of shape writer holding the WCW title. But of course, Russo pushed it, getting himself beaten down badly in a cage match against Booker T when Goldberg entered the cage (when, of course, the point of the match is to keep a guy out) and hit a spear on Russo to knock him through the cage wall and win the belt. Thankfully, he didn’t keep it long but that he believed himself as champ was a good idea for even a minute illustrates Russo’s unique take on the business.
4. Reverse Battle Royal
True, it’s not been confirmed but given Russo was chief writer of TNA at the time, there’s little doubt who’s responsible for this. It just fits his “logic:” 17 guys outside a ring where eight have to fight their way to go over the top rope and inside. Thus, you had wrestlers brawling it out and unable to compete such an incredibly easy task.
Then, it became a regular battle royal to toss guys over the top and to the floor, making the earlier fighting even dumber. Finally, the last two had a regular match to be decided by pinfall.
Incredibly, TNA tried a couple of these as if thinking that it could be improved when in truth there was no way a match so utterly stupid in concept should have even reached the air.
3. San Francisco 49ers match
Even by his standards, this is a ridiculous Russo idea. For a Nitro set in San Fran, he decided to have Booker T and Jeff Jarrett face off for the title in a match where four boxes were hung around the ring. You didn’t have to pin your opponent or make him submit, just open the right box. One contained a photo of Scott Hall, the second a blow-up doll and the third had a loaded glove to use. Eventually, the final box just opened to drop the title belt, the ref picking it up and thankfully, we didn’t get Russo deciding this meant the ref was the World champion. Nothing sums up Russo’s “titles are props” mentality more than this.
2. Breaking the fourth wall
Possibly the worst theme of Russo in WCW was his constant need to push “this is all an act” on fans. You had guys openly talking of going “off-script” and “shoots” and such and while Russo seemed to think this was fun to push the limits, it also ruined the illusion of wrestling. It’s like going to a movie and seeing the green screen instead of CGI or cracking up and carrying on with the show.
Wrestling fans wanted to keep to some illusion of things but Russo’s insistence of “this is all a work” hurt so much of the product and helped kill kayfabe not to mention just made the shows look even worse than they already were.
1. David Arquette World Champion
What else could top the list? True, it was Tony Schiavone who made the remark in a meeting but it was meant as a joke. With Arquette doing promotion with WCW for the “Ready to Rumble” movie, he cracked they should give him the title and for some reason, Russo thought it was a great idea. He was alone in that, even Arquette knowing it was a terrible idea but went with it and gave the money he made to the families of Owen Hart and Brian Pillman.
Yes, it got WCW some publicity but slapping their World title on a third-rate actor was just a horrific move that made them a complete joke. No matter what else they could do, WCW could never recover from this travesty and that Russo still defends it as “it got people talking” proves he can’t see how terrible it was for wrestling as a whole.
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