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Vincent James "Vince" Russo (born January 24, 1961) is an Americanmarker writer of Italian origin, known for working for American professional wrestling companies, most notably the World Wrestling Federation and later World Championship Wrestling, where he also had a stint as World Heavyweight Champion. He is currently working as a writer for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

Early life

Russo graduated from the University of Southern Indianamarker (then known as Indiana State University Evansville) in 1983 with a degree in journalism. He worked for the school newspaper The Shield as an assistant sports editor and later as editor-in-chief.

Russo owned two video stores in Long Islandmarker, New Yorkmarker, but would soon go out of business once Blockbuster started to gain popularity. Russo also hosted his own local radio show from 1992 to 1993 called Vicious Vincent's World of Wrestling which aired on Sunday nights. Broadcast from AM 1240 WGBB in Freeport NY, the program ran for exactly one year, the final show being the one year anniversary.

Professional wrestling career

World Wrestling Federation

Russo was hired as a freelance writer for WWF Magazine following a letter that he had written to Linda McMahon, and would later become an editor under the pseudonym of Vic Venom. Bill Watts invited him to booking meetings and they would exchange ideas. He was eventually promoted to the WWF Creative Team in 1996. In that same year, Monday Night Raw hit an all-time ratings low of 1.8, as WCW Monday Nitro (Raw's chief competition), was in the midst of an 84-week winnings-streak against Raw head-to-head (see Monday Night Wars). With WCW eclipsing the WWF, McMahon called upon Russo to make changes to the televised product. Russo would contribute edgy, controversial storylines involving sexual content, on-camera profanity, swerves or unexpected heel turns, frequent face and heel turns, false finishes, and worked shoots in matches.

Russo would eventually become head writer for the WWF along with his friend, Ed Ferrara. With the angles that Ferrara and Russo created (along with Vince McMahon present to accept and decline ideas), many felt that Russo was instrumental in putting WWF ahead of World Championship Wrestling in the Monday night ratings during the Attitude Era. Notable storylines and characters during Russo's run as head writer include the Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon feud, The Undertaker vs. Kane feud, D-Generation X, the rise of The Rock, and the Mick Foley saga. Some of the more notorious storylines during this time, often cited by critics of Russo, include Beaver Cleavage and Mark Henry's involvement with a transvestite.

Vince Russo played a large role in turning the WWF's product around in the late 1990s. Within a year of Russo being the head writer of the WWF, they turned the ratings and business around and overcame Nitro as the biggest wrestling show on cable.

On October 5, 1999, Russo and Ferrara signed with WCW; Russo contends that his reason for leaving the WWF was the result of a dispute with Vince McMahon over the increased workload that he (as well as Ferrara) was facing, with the introduction of the new SmackDown! broadcast.

World Championship Wrestling

Russo and Ferrara attempted to make WCW Monday Nitro similar to Raw, with edgier storylines, more lengthy non-wrestling segments, an increased amount of sexuality on the show, more backstage vignettes, expanded storyline depth, and the utilization of midcard talent in a more effective manner. One of the most notable storylines included the "Powers That Be" angle, which implied a mysterious, unseen, and secret power source whom everyone in WCW were obliged to obey. Russo and Ferrara's tenure in WCW resulted in a ratings change almost immediately. The head-to-head ratings between Nitro and Raw changed an average of 0.5 in WCW's favor within the first three months. Nitro's rating had increased 0.6 on average during the two hours that both programs were airing simultaneously, while Raw's rating during the same period decreased 0.5. However, live attendance and pay-per-view buy rates increased for WWF while they decreased for WCW.

Criticisms

Russo attempted to use the same style in WCW that had made him successful in the WWF at an accelerated pace, including constant heel/face turns, fake retirements, and title changes. Russo and Ferrera often focused on poking fun at the WWF as well. Jim Cornette has in the past expressed a strong dislike towards Russo, partly due to Russo's style of booking, and partly due to his decision to create Oklahoma, a character that parodied WWF play-by-play announcer Jim Ross and his Bell's palsy.

Russo's writing style created a large turnover in title changes. His booking of Jushin "Thunder" Liger losing and regaining the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship on Nitro is not recognized by New Japan Pro Wrestling in the title lineage. (Liger lost the title to Juventud Guerrera, a luchador, after being hit over the head with a tequila bottle.) Swerves and scenarios treated as "shoot" were heavily emphasized, as wrestlers supposedly gave unscripted interviews using "insider" terms that were only recognized by the Internet smarks; chaotic broadcasts became the norm.Russo booked actor David Arquette to win the WCW World Title and at one point toward the end of his WCW stay even booked himself to be champion. Russo justifies Arquette winning the title with the fact that Arquette didn't pin a wrestler (he pinned Eric Bischoff) and that it was a realistic event with the intent to gain publicity. Moreover, Russo claims that his own title win was a result of a fluke (Goldberg speared him through the cage during a cage match against Booker T, resulting in Russo unintentionally winning the match) and that he willingly forfeited the title on the next WCW Monday Nitro. Under Russos leadership, WCW would continue to lose ratings, and eventually dropped to 2.5 in 2000.

Firing and rehiring

Days before the live pay-per-view event WCW Souled Out in 2000, Russo received two phone calls, one from Bret Hart (then WCW World Heavyweight Champion) and another from Jeff Jarrett (then WCW United States champion), both saying that they were injured, thus couldn't wrestle and forced to vacate their respective championships. This required Russo to alter the plans he had in mind for Bret Hart and the New World Order. Russo and his booking committee sat down to determine what would now happen at Souled Out. One of the ideas included the idea of putting the now vacated WCW Title on the shoot fighter Tank Abbott, a former UFC fighter but an erstwhile talentless wrestler. In an attempt to do something believable, the idea was originally to have a "rumble match" in which Sid Vicious would be an early entrant in the match and would last all the way to the end when Abbott would come into the match and eliminate him with one punch. Russo claims that Abbott may not have held the belt for more than 24 hours if this title change had actually occurred. However, the day after he and his committee came up with the idea, he was removed from the position of head writer and told to start working with something else. Russo declined the offer and left the company, with his immediate replacement being Kevin Sullivan.

During this period Russo managed to take the rating from a 2.9 and bring it up to a 3.5, although during his tenure, Nitro was reduced from three hours to two hours, losing significant ad revenue and skewing the ratings. As soon as he left, the ratings went back down to a 2.4 and he stated that he was not able to bring those fans back because they kept changing the channel so many times. Three months later, Sullivan was ultimately relieved of his duties and Russo was reinstated as booker, after a three month absence, alongside Eric Bischoff, who had just returned to WCW as well (as a creative director). The idea was that Russo and Bischoff would reboot WCW into a more modern, streamlined company that would reward the younger talent instead of holding them down. Their strategy soon imploded, as Bischoff and Russo frequently locked horns.

Bash at the Beach 2000

Russo was involved in an incident with Hulk Hogan; Hogan was booked to lose a match against reigning world champion Jeff Jarrett at Bash at the Beach in 2000, but Hogan refused to lose the match (invoking his contract's "creative control" clause to override Russo), due to Russo's apparent lack of direction for Hogan's character following the planned loss. In the end, Jarrett literally "laid down" for Hogan, which resulted in Hogan doing a shoot on Russo and scoring the pinfall victory by placing his foot on Jarrett's chest. Russo would come out later in the broadcast to nullify the result of the match, as he publicly fired Hogan. This action restored the title to Jarrett, which set up a new title match between Jarrett and Booker T.

As Russo promised, Hogan never resurfaced in WCW and even filed a lawsuit against the company (which was dismissed in 2002). Russo claims the whole thing was a work (with both Hogan and Bischoff in on it); Hogan claims (in his autobiography, Hollywood Hulk Hogan) that Russo made it a shoot, and Hogan was double-crossed by Turner executive Brad Siegel, who did not want to use Hogan any more due to how expensive Hogan cost per appearance; and Bischoff, in his autobiography, Controversy Creates Ca$h, contends that Hogan winning and leaving with the title was a work which would result in his return several months later - the plan was to crown a new champion at Halloween Havoc, only for Hogan to come out afterwards and ultimately win a champion vs. champion match - but that Russo's coming out to fire him was a shoot which led to the lawsuit filed by Hogan. Bischoff claims that he and Hogan celebrated after the event over the success of the angle, but were distraught to get a phone call saying that Russo interfered unplanned after Hogan left the arena.

World Wrestling Entertainment

Russo later returned to WWE in early 2002 but quickly left after knowing that "things weren't the same". It has been speculated that his return (along with his unceremonious demise) in WWE was a "ruse", intentionally conceived from the outset by Russo who simply wanted out of his Turner contract to be able to work with rival organization Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). Rumor has it that once signed by McMahon (and hence free from his Time Warner contract), the idea he put forward to deliberately outrage McMahon was an entire restart of the WCW Invasion, featuring previously unsigned talent such as Bill Goldberg, Scott Steiner, and Bret Hart. Other sources corroborate the suggestion that Russo's "big idea" was some kind of WCW Invasion restart, but make no mention of it ever having been a ruse. They imply that Russo's idea (and indeed, his very return to WWE) were in fact genuine, but the idea was so poorly received that Russo was immediately demoted from the position of 'Head Creative Director' to that of a "mere consultant". Russo, dissatisfied with the loss of creative influence, then left of his own accord (turning down a $125,000 per year stay-at-home ‘advisory’ role with WWE in favour of a $100,000 per year full-time position with TNA).

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling

Russo at a TNA event.
Russo joined Jeff and Jerry Jarrett's NWA-TNA promotion as a head booker, but he did not get to write any of the shows. Russo debuted as the masked wrestler "Mr. Wrestling III". With this gimmick, he helped Jarrett win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Jarrett did not want his help in the storyline and the two became involved in a feud. Russo created his own faction of wrestlers he dubbed Sports Entertainment Xtreme (S.E.X.), recruiting the likes of Glenn Gilberti, Sonny Siaki, B.G. James, Raven, Trinity, and others. S.E.X. faced the more traditional TNA wrestlers led by Jeff Jarrett. Eventually, Russo would leave his onscreen role and Gilberti would become the de facto leader of S.E.X.

Russo returned to TNA yet again and created a new faction of wrestlers led by NWA Champion A.J. Styles in 2003. Russo called for S.E.X.'s disbandment and commanded his new faction for a time. Eventually, he was once again written out of story lines after being defeated by Jeff Jarrett during a TNA pay-per-view. In reality, Russo fell out of favor as head booker and never again had any real behind the scenes power. Some time later, Russo would again return to TNA strictly as an on-air character, becoming the Director of Authority in the story lines. This time, he was a face, claiming to have changed his ways (which was likely inspired by Russo's real-life conversion to Christianity). However, he would leave again in late 2004 when Dusty Rhodes was "voted" the new D.O.A. over himself at Victory Road in an interactive "election" on TNA's website.On September 21, 2006 TNA president Dixie Carter appointed him as Head of the TNA creative team.

Personal life

Russo and his wife Amy have three children, sons William and Vincent (V.J.) and daughter Annie.

After leaving TNA in 2004, Russo became a Born Again Christian and formed an online Christian ministry entitled Forgiven, which quickly folded. As a born again Christian, Russo has expressed in his RF Video shoot interview a lot of regret for most of his storylines and angles that he created while in the WWE during The Attitude Era. He soon returned to wrestling, forming the evangelical Ring of Glory independent promotion, which closed after only two shows although a DVD was released. He also wrote a book, Forgiven: One Man's Journey from Self-Glorification to Sanctification (ISBN 978-1550227048), and has expressed intentions on writing two other books that document his time for both World Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. In late 2005, a 3-disc DVD boxset was released entitled Pro Wrestling's Ultimate Insiders which consists of interviews with him along with co-writer Ed Ferrara about their time in the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling. His latest book, Rope Opera: How WCW Killed Vince Russo (ISBN 978-1550228687) is set for a February 2010 release.

In January 2006, Vince appeared on Trinity Broadcasting Network's (TBN) flagship program Praise the Lord hosted by Steve "Sting" Borden and featuring fellow guests Lex Luger and Shawn Michaels. During the appearance, he denounced things he's booked in the past. Russo returned to TBN on April 26, 2006, to share his testimony with inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiarymarker in Angola, Louisiana. For this, he was joined by Kenneth Copeland, minister and former NFL tight end Mike Barber, and actor/wrestler/producer Tom "Tiny" Lister.

Championships and accomplishments

*WCW World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)


*Worst Non-Wrestling Personality (2000)


Notes

External links




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