Virtue's Rage: The People Vs Russo Part 1
Submitted by Virtue on 11/29/2019 at 01:50 AM

November 29, 2019

Twitter: @NoDQ_Virtue



PART 1: WWF through WCW 1999

Vince Russo once wrote the highly entertaining WWF and Raw magazines. He also once wrote WWF Monday Night Raw during the era of its highest ratings. As the 1990s progressed and Russo became a prominent part of the creative of WWF during the Monday Night War, it was unfathomable that he would ever become detached from the wrestling business. Without a question, his writing style helped pull Vince McMahon and WWF from the doldrums during the Monday Night War. During this same era, Eric Bischoff had been spending Turner money left and right to help get WCW to a position of dominance over WWF, which happened to work for 83 consecutive weeks. But somehow, someway WWF found its way back to the top again. It surely was not a coincidence that during this reemergence of WWF, McMahon allowed creative freedom to flow freely between fresh, rising top talent and the new head writer of his flagship television show. Top talents such as Mick Foley, The Rock, Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels have all publicly stated how Russo was instrumental in McMahon allowing them to have the freedom to showcase their character beyond just wrestling in the ring. Believe it or not, this is the exact business model that most likely needs to be reimplemented in today’s product.

In 1999, Monday Night Raw was not enough for McMahon and soon SmackDown debuted, which created extra workload for Russo and fellow writer Ed Ferrara. If that was not enough, it is documented by Russo himself that McMahon not only pushed his crew to work nearly nonstop, but there was no time to ever be sick or even worry about their families for that matter. Consequently, Russo and even Ferrara soon left WWF for WCW. I am going to be honest with you, in hindsight, I am kind of disappointed that Russo left the well-oiled machine in WWF for a sinking ship in WCW, but I get why he did it. I am probably far too calculating when it comes to working first and putting other things second, third, etc. To this day, some people say Russo did it for the money and his ego, but I highly disagree with those theories. It is no secret that McMahon treated people (and probably still does today) with a work first, work only mentality and family should come after the WWF’s business. Russo was head of creative of a now strong and swiftly rising WWF. He could have easily repositioned and solidified his worth to McMahon for a higher salary or even ratings-based incentive supplement. I even believe Russo could have earned that work-life balance sympathy from McMahon if he really tried to. But instead, Russo had enough of McMahon’s work first, work only mentality, and when the opportunity arose to make even more money in a McMahon-less environment, Russo did what was best for his family and left WWF for WCW. It really bothers me that not many of the so-called wrestling “journalists” out there ever mention this. It is as if they assume Russo is not telling the truth about why he left McMahon’s inner circle in WWF. Speaking of “inner circle”, Russo was instrumental and maybe even mostly responsible for helping bring Chris Jericho to WWF from WCW in the latter part of 1999. It is funny how things work out sometimes.

Speaking of so-called wrestling “journalists”, how do they keep finding ways to persuade many fans that Russo killed WCW? There seems to be merely an anti-sports entertainment bias that exists today, primarily by the people who crave longer wrestling matches with less storytelling and psychology. Russo began writing WCW Monday Nitro for the episode that aired on October 18, 1999. The five weeks prior to Russo writing his first Nitro, its ratings were trending downward like a waterslide. From 9/13/99 to 10/11/99, Nitro’s ratings dropped just over 21% from 3.3 to 2.6. Keep in mind, Russo and Ferrara were still writing Raw against these Nitros up until early October 1999.

9/13/99 (3.3)
9/20/99 (3.1)
9/27/99 (3.0)
10/4/99 (2.9)
10/11/99 (2.6)

As I mentioned, on October 18, 1999, Russo began writing WCW Nitro, which for the next six weeks averaged a 3.3 rating, gaining the lost 21% back. As for the next seven weeks after that, also known as the dreaded holiday season, Nitro still averaged a 3.1 rating from 11/29/99 through 1/10/00. As Russo was settling in and getting traction during the much difficult final (holiday) quarter of 1999, politics would set in and he chose to go home and sit out his contract, detaching himself from the wrestling business for the first time since joining it back in the early 1990s. For the weeks to follow his initial WCW departure, Nitro’s ratings would landslide to a range from 1.8-2.5 with no Russo at the helm, approximately a variable 20%-40% decrease in ratings. If the myth of “liars supposedly using numbers and figures to manipulate proving points” is true, then everything we learned in school about math and statistics is a lie. We know this is not and cannot be true as math is the foundation of science and reason proven by the greatest minds in existence such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Under the Eric Bischoff realm, WCW was always guilty of pushing the older veterans in the main event scene and reserving the younger talent for filler. For 83 weeks, this format worked well, but it ultimately stunted the megastar growth of many up and coming wrestlers. Upon his arrival to WCW, Russo immediately wanted to reboot a level playing field and create excitement within the company to help get Nitro back to prominence and compete with WWF. He lived it, experienced it, and actually helped McMahon implement this same model in WWF years prior that ultimately got WWF back on top in the ratings. But what ultimately happened to this vision and model in WCW in late 1999, and why did Russo go home after just three months?

To be continued…

Please stay tuned for the remainder of this discussion.

Part 2: WCW 2000 through early TNA

Part 3: TNA to Podcasting

Twitter: @NoDQ_Virtue

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