Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic


Evidence of Russo
PLUS: New Year’s Revolution Roundtable results.

Vince Russo. The mere mention of this man’s name evokes a strong reaction from most hardcore wrestling fans. Is he the guy who created WWF’s “Attitude Era”, including the Stone Cold phenomenon, and single handedly turned the company around in 1996? Did he ruin WCW, and was he solely responsible for it’s demise?

Most insiders will agree that he’s neither. Russo suggested tons of edgy, outrageous ideas to Vince McMahon in the mid to late 1990s, many of which were terrible. Being the man he is, McMahon took the few innovative ideas of Russo’s he liked, tweaked them, and made them his own. However, he tossed the bulk of them back. Russo contributed to the change in “Attitude” in WWF, but certainly wasn’t responsible for it. Considering the fighter that McMahon is, he would have figured out the direction to go in order to compete with WCW and their ultra-popular nWo angle, even without Russo. That’s because McMahon was losing, and he doesn’t like to lose. It didn’t take Vince Russo to get McMahon thinking outside the box and change his product.

WCW was on its last legs and slowly dying before Russo ever made the jump. His negative influences and horrible creative decisions, while possibly among the last nails in the coffin of WCW, didn’t cause the company’s death. WCW managed to make it to death’s doorstep quite nicely without Russo. Fans are justified when they growl and moan about Russo putting the heavyweight championship on David Arquette, and then later on himself, but that didn’t shut WCW’s doors.

So what is Vince Russo all about? For that answer, one need only take a look at Total Nonstop Action Wrestling lately, because Russo’s fingerprints are all over the product since he returned to the booking committee.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Vince Russo’s Footprint in TNA

The first evidence I noticed of Russo’s involvement in the creative process was the many high-profile heel and face turns. AJ Styles, who more than anyone embodies TNA, was recently turned heel and began feuding with Rhino. Styles has been a popular babyface for quite some time, and while his heel act appears to be effective, it came about with no real warning, and no indication from a character standpoint. We’ll have to wait and see if this sudden shift in philosophy helps or hurts the triple-crown winner.

Abyss is clearly in some sort of moral quandary these days, with Sting working to bring him towards the light, and James Mitchell clutching Abyss’ leg, trying to keep him in the darkness and under his control. The other part of Abyss’ pseudo-face turn is the back-story we’re just learning. You know, the one that Tomko seems to know a bit about, and Mitchell has been using to manipulate Abyss. Seeing Abyss tremble and shriek in fear outside what looked like a prison or mental asylum means that there’s more to come in this unnecessary arc, and I’ll wager Russo doesn’t even know what that “more” is yet. I won’t hold my breath that the outcome will be anything good. This type of poorly written D-movie “drama” is right down Russo’s alley.

Last time we saw the Naturals on iMPACT!, they showed a decidedly heelish edge as well, right around the same time their long-time arch rivals, AMW, started acting like faces in their short war against LAX, the dominant heel team in the company. The Naturals and AMW practically own TNA’s tag team history from the beginning, and each team has played both sides of the heel/face fence at one time or another. Perhaps Russo’s plan was to breathe a little life into the feud one more time via a double turn?

Well, that idea was blown away by another staple of Russo’s booking, the tag team split. Sure, AMW has been teasing a feud for a long time, and perhaps it was due. Maybe the time has come to see what Harris and Storm can do against each other, and then against fresh singles opponents. But you’ll notice the actual break-up didn’t happen until after Russo got his hands back on the book. If there’s one thing Vinny Ru can’t handle, it’s a tag team that gets along and enjoys long-term success with no friction. He’s just got to get in there and break those bastards up! Russo’s been accused in the past of putting new teams together just so he can plan the break-up and feud. Clearly, he’s got something against consistent partners and teams who don’t hate each other.

Speaking of former partners and old teammates, the newly renamed Voodoo Kin Mafia are currently engaged in a deluxe Russo specialty, the attack of your “competition”, supposedly against WWE’s D-Generation X. Of course, the former New Age Outlaws were prominent members of several different incarnations of DX for years during their WWF days, but haven’t reached that level of success in TNA. So what do they do? They lash out at DX, who are currently riding a nostalgic wave of success.

Does anything come across as more pathetic than a challenge made to a group that will never accept? It’s like a local garage band inviting K.I.S.S. to a battle of the bands in a small youth annex in a tiny hick town, then trumpeting their “victory” when the painted ones fail to show up. It just calls attention to how bush league you are by reminding everyone about the other options available.

It was cutting edge and risky television when DX invaded WCW Nitro events about ten years ago, but things were very different. These two companies were much closer to being on the same level than WWE and TNA are today. Also, DX were big stars gaining a lot of publicity for WWF with their “attacks” in the war. Fast forward to the present, and VKM aren’t quite the stars they must perceive themselves to be, and nobody from WWE could care less if these two want to don ponchos and go to San Antonio. I can only imagine Vince McMahon’s lack of concern over VKM’s tirades. TNA should concentrate on making its own product better, and not worry about what DX is doing on Monday nights.

One positive effect of Russo’s influence on TNA’s product is that he feels strongly about developing ALL the characters on the roster, not just the main eventers. Petey Williams displayed a lot of personality and character growth in his face turn prompted by LAX during their attempt to burn a US flag. Williams’ turn is one I won’t complain about, because it was logical, and it was the result of a very powerful storyline involving a radical group of America haters. Petey didn’t change sides on a whim.

Brother Runt is also a beneficiary of Russo’s approach to character development up and down the card. His aggressive nature and possible drinking issues suit him well, and I look forward to seeing how his character grows over the next few months. Matt Hyson is a consistently hard worker, who must have an unbelievable pain tolerance, considering the crazy bumps he takes on his considerably small frame. So any time Creative makes good use of him it’s cool with me. I’ll give credit to Russo for this particular philosophy of his.

More evidence of Russo’s handiwork is the de-emphasizing of in-ring action. TNA is in the position it’s in now because fans appreciate their superior action between the ropes compared to WWE, but Russo always makes the squared circle secondary. What was the result of the main event on last week’s iMPACT! between Christian Cage and Kurt Angle? Oh, that’s right. The match didn’t happen because Samoa Joe and Angle were busy battling each other. TNA still could have demonstrated the hatred between the Samoan Submission Machine and the Olympic Gold Medallist, and also given us a proper main event in the ring on that broadcast. Just book somebody else against Cage, and show Joe and Angle brawling before and after commercial breaks. That would have worked out just fine.

What about Russo’s favorite, the item-on-a-pole match? That gimmick didn’t take too long to rear its ugly head, did it? And what’s worse, the nightstick-on-a-pole match between Abyss, Christian Cage, and Sting did not determine a #1 contender as it was originally intended to. Instead, all three men will vie for the ten pounds of gold at Final Resolution. More Russo ADHD on display there; he tells the fans that a match will have certain consequences, and then with no reasonable explanation, it doesn’t. That’s really poor storytelling and continuity.

Looking at the above evidence of Vince Russo’s influence on the current TNA product, you’ll notice I only supported one item, the fleshing out of characters for undercard performers. Everything else he does usually winds up hurting whatever company he writes for as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully Panda Energy and the Jarretts will keep Russo on a short leash, and let him do what he does best: contribute lots of crazy ideas to somebody who’s strong enough to keep him in check and separate the wheat from the chaff.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – People can be divided into three groups: Those who makes things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what’s happening. – Anonymous

Before you go, check out our Rasslin’ Roundtable for New Year’s Revolution, then compare our picks to PK’s Live Coverage to see how we did. Roundtable results for this first ppv of 2007 are listed below.

IP Staff Roundtable Results for New Year’s Revolution

Eric Szulczewski
RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 3-3
Total: 44-46

Iain Burnside
RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 3-3
Total: 45-36

David Brashear
RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 3-3
Total: 18-13

Vinny Truncellito
RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 3-3
Total: 54-38

RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 2-4
Total: 10-20

Danny Cox
RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 2-4
Total: 13-16

RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 2-4
Total: 23-15

Jeremy Botter
RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 1-5
Total: 7-14

Chris Biscuiti
RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 1-5
Total: 1-5

Matthew Michaels
RAW New Year’s Revolution (7 Jan 07): 0-6
Total: 27-25

Master Sergeant, United States Air Force