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Let's Talk About...Vince Russo's first stint booking WCW, October '99- January '00
King Kamala
post May 16 2008, 09:44 PM
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It's time for the return of TSM's General Wrestling Folder's favorite semi-regular feature, Let's Talk About...

Today, we'll be talking about the first of Vince Russo's short stints at the helm of WCW's writing staff. The stint lasted from (and correct me if I'm wrong) the October 11th, 1999 edition of Monday Nitro to shortly before the Souled Out '00 PPV in January. Now this run tends to get overshadowed by the craziness of Russo's second stint running the show in WCW but this first stint has its own fair share of Russorific crap.

Honestly at the very beginning, I kind of liked what Russo was doing. It may not have been good wrestling but it was semi-interesting television and it was a hell of a lot better than the stuff WCW was doing from May to September of '99. There was some decent stuff from that era. For the first time in his entire run in WCW, Bret Hart got a consistant push and was backing that up with some of the best matches he had in WCW. Russo also pushed La Parka and Chavo Guerrero Jr's Amway Salesman gimmick is one of my favorite guilty pleasures in wrestling (and probably 10X more entertaining than anything he's done in the past four years or so). Halloween Havoc '99 and Mayhem '99 while not really great wrestling shows are interesting trainwrecks.

While he wasn't totally exposed as a hack during that run (that would come in his second run), there sure was a lot of crap. For one, he completely destroyed the Cruiserweight division and it never really recovered.His utter contempt for the division really showed. with everything from Oklahoma and Madusa swapping the title to the luchadors fighting over a pinata to randomly jobbing out the visiting Jushin Thunder Liger. Just terrible. And then there was the vague, uninteresting Corporation knockoff, Powers That Be faction that went on to be replaced by the even lamer nWo revival. As I've pointed out before on this board,Russo seemed to have a thing for lame half-baked stables, especially in his WCW run. It seemed like Russo became incredibly desparate after it became clear that there was no quick fix for WCW's woes and was willing to do anything to fix them. Did we really need to see nWo 2000 only about six months or so after the tired as hell nWo was finally put to pasture?

If I could describe Russo's run in WCW in one word it would be desperation. He was absolutely desparate to prove that he was behind the vast majority of WWF's late 90s success. Problem was WCW was not WWF. Russo's Crash TV style, while mildly intriguing at first, grew more tired and tired every week. By the time, he was canned and replaced by the even worse short lived Kevin Sullivan regime, you would think WCW would have learned their lesson...

What are you thoughts on the first months following Vince Russo's jump from WWF to WCW? Apologists and haters alike, let's talk about WCW from October '99 to January '00.
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MillenniumMan831
post May 16 2008, 10:37 PM
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I may be the only one on TSM who enjoyed the 32-man WCW Championship Tournament. Does it age well? I'm sure it's horrendous now. But it was intriguing at the time which was a HUGE step up from the summer of 1999.

Russo did wonders for the WCW midcard. He gave every on-air talent some sort of purpose and direction. Did a lot of it miss? Sure, but I'd rather he swing and miss than just be complacent. Remember, this was before Russo was exposed and we knew he was completely unadaptable.

When thinking of Russo's 1st run, think of the summer of 1999 and ask yourself which was more tolerable.
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LivingLegendGary...
post May 16 2008, 10:47 PM
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QUOTE (MillenniumMan831 @ May 17 2008, 12:37 AM) *
I may be the only one on TSM who enjoyed the 32-man WCW Championship Tournament. Does it age well? I'm sure it's horrendous now. But it was intriguing at the time which was a HUGE step up from the summer of 1999.

Russo did wonders for the WCW midcard. He gave every on-air talent some sort of purpose and direction. Did a lot of it miss? Sure, but I'd rather he swing and miss than just be complacent. Remember, this was before Russo was exposed and we knew he was completely unadaptable.

When thinking of Russo's 1st run, think of the summer of 1999 and ask yourself which was more tolerable.


I don't remember too much of that tourney now, but I remember being psyched back in the day. I always loved the big tournaments. Even when I was younger, I disliked the shortened King of the Ring's because I didn't think they meant as much as winning "like Bret did". I remember it being a fairly fun tournament for the time, but can only vaguely remember the final four now.
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King Kamala
post May 16 2008, 10:53 PM
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As bad as it got at times, Russo's first stint was a hell of a lot better than what came before it (Summer of '99 crap) and what came after it (Kevin Sullivan's downright horrible stint which IMHO is the worst television WCW ever produced). Given that, maybe it's understandable why WCW brought Russo back.
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tommytomlin
post May 16 2008, 10:57 PM
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It was also the victim of some horrible luck, with the injuries to Goldberg and Hart. Putting aside the lack of originality, nWo with Hart/Nash/Hall/Steiner/Jarrett v Goldberg/Sting/Benoit/Sid et al would have been a step-up from anything in 1999.
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post May 16 2008, 11:03 PM
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QUOTE (MillenniumMan831 @ May 17 2008, 12:37 AM) *
I may be the only one on TSM who enjoyed the 32-man WCW Championship Tournament.


I was going to say that the 31-man plus 1 woman Championship tournament was one of the few things that I can remember liking from this era. Also, he brought back the Varsity Club, with is one of the few paths to my heart.

But the rest was not very good. He strongly deemphasized the wrestling aspect of the product, which was always something that WCW had over the WWF. But, at least we got so see Jerry Only in a cage match, right?
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Naked Snake
post May 17 2008, 12:18 AM
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I liked how he would start building the next PPV on the Nitro after the previous PPV. Look at the Judgment Day buildup, absolutely horrible, with big matches being announced 2 weeks before the PPV.
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Guest_Smues_*
post May 17 2008, 01:00 AM
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His 2nd stint was worse, but his 1st was still shit. Yes, the 31 + 1 man tournement was decent and fairly well booked, but that was about it as far as competence goes. And as far as that tournement goes, he had the last two rounds at the November PPV, scrapping the usual gimmick for the November PPV, much like he did the year before in the WWF scrapping the Survivor series matches for a ... yes that's right, vacant world title tournement. And that November PPV (I'm sure he renamed it from WW3, but I can't remember what it was that year) was average at best, and the only watchable PPV Russo had in his first tour of WCW. Starcade sucked, and Halloween Havoc was just a clusterfuck all around.

And don't forget that blasted "Powers that be" bullshit that was all over Nitro. Russo constantly saying how it wasn't about him when interviewed then having his power that be character be all over the fucking place. Oh but we don't actually see him so it's ok! There was one particular Nitro in November where you could really see the hand of Russo at work and I knew right then and there that the company was fucked. Among the awful things in that Nitro were: all the luchadores having a pinata on a pole match, Dr. Death coming out with Not Jim Ross (complete with fake bells palsy symptoms) to beat the shit out of the luchadores and take the check that was in the pinata (and if I recall correctly it fell off the pole right off the bat anyway,) and Tony Schiavone saying something to the extent of "The Powers that be have waived Kevin Nash's retirement. That was a really lame angle anyway."

Eat my ass Vince Russo, eat my ass. And let's not forget he got turfed because he tried to put the WCW title of Tank Abbot. Yes, Mr. I could fucking kill you right now Tank Abbot.
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Epic Reine
post May 17 2008, 01:12 AM
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Starrcade '99 is a guilty pleasure for me just because it's so horribly cluttered and overbooked to perfection with outside interference, gimmick matches and non-finishes galore. It's so bad in a funny way.
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LivingLegendGary...
post May 17 2008, 01:31 AM
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The November Pay Per View that year was changed from World War 3 to Mayhem. I think the WW3 gimmick was pulled and event renamed to Mayhem before Russo jumped though. They had already named their video game Mayhem, as well as a CD I believe, so they chose that event to tie-in as well.
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FroGG_NeaL
post May 17 2008, 03:29 AM
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WCW Monday Nitro - November 8, 1999

Go there. Read the recap if you want, but all you have to do is look at the pictures.
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Chazz
post May 17 2008, 07:12 AM
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QUOTE (King Kamala Classic @ May 17 2008, 12:53 AM) *
As bad as it got at times, Russo's first stint was a hell of a lot better than what came before it (Summer of '99 crap) and what came after it (Kevin Sullivan's downright horrible stint which IMHO is the worst television WCW ever produced). Given that, maybe it's understandable why WCW brought Russo back.


Agreed. Even his bad stuff still managed to entertain me, while Sullivan's just made me turn the channel.
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Hasbeen2
post May 17 2008, 10:26 AM
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Anytime the words angle or storyline were used, I did change the channel.
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King Kamala
post May 17 2008, 12:38 PM
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How could anyone forget the time when Curt Hennig lost a Loser Leaves Town match to Buff Bagwell at Mayhem only to wrestle the next night.

I'm trying to remember the Powers That Be. I can remember the members (Curt Hennig, Creative Control, Jeff Jarrett, La Parka, the mysterious shadowed Russo) but I can't remember any of the specifics of that angle.
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Hunter's Tor...
post May 17 2008, 12:57 PM
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QUOTE (Smues @ May 17 2008, 03:00 AM) *
His 2nd stint was worse, but his 1st was still shit. Yes, the 31 + 1 man tournament was decent and fairly well booked, but that was about it as far as competence goes

That tournament was absolutely terrible. Virtually every match sucked and it was a never ending festival of run-ins and screwjobs.

Russo's first stint in WCW proved that he was completely overrated as a booker and is one of the worst out there. Creative? Sure. But creativity doesn't do any good if the results are numbers falling across the board. Russo desperately needs an editor, a very good one, to make his bullshit have any value, merit or meaning. Enjoy his 'work' if that's what you like, but don't deny that is was the total antithesis of what the WCW audience wanted.

If the best, and only, defense of Russo's first, laughable stint in charge of WCW, is that at least it was better than the previous regime, then that just about says it all.
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BUTT
post May 17 2008, 03:31 PM
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That tournament wasn't particularly well-booked. Its only saving grace was that it was, in fact, a big tournament and wrestling fans love those. It could have been done much better. Russo's booking acumen is exemplified by giving away the first ever Bret Hart vs Goldberg match, which actually could, if built up right, have drawn some money on PPV, free on Nitro the day after Halloween Havoc, in a first-round tournament match which also incidentally was for the U.S. title, and actually having it end in a pinfall, despite Russo knowing by that point that those two were going to main event Starrcade. And don't even get me started on that Starrcade match.

Buyrates dropped steadily during Russo's tenure. His first show, Halloween Havoc, the success of which he had little if anything to do with since he only booked one week of TV leading up to it, did a not-bad-for-the-time .55 buyrate but I'd chalk that up to the two or three month long buildup for Goldberg-Sid. I'm sure it wasn't for Hogan-Sting since that match did something like a .3 the month before. (I've always believed that the matches for Halloween Havoc should have been Sting successfully defending the title against Hart and Hogan beating Luger, not Sting-Hogan and Hart/Luger, and then Sting takes the title to Starrcade and loses it to Goldberg, with Hart vs Hogan as co-main event. That's a story for another time.)

I wonder how different things would have ended up if they had given the book to, say, Jimmy Hart, who did a good job with Saturday Night, no matter how small-time that would have been. Sure, he's a Hogan-ite, and more Hogan is definitely not what WCW needed at the time, but I'm sure he would have taken a much more common sense booking approach than the Russo/Ferrara regime.
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EVIL~! alkeiper
post May 17 2008, 04:14 PM
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Mayhem '99 was one of the worst PPVs I ever watched. Russo was horrible.
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Hunter's Tor...
post May 17 2008, 04:26 PM
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When Russo arrived in WCW, it was salvageable. It would have required a lot of hard work, with a head booker who had both the guts to lay down the law to talent and the backing of those higher up to do what needed to be done. There was a ton of potential there.
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Guest_Smues_*
post May 17 2008, 05:24 PM
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That 11/8/99 Nitro was bad, and the 11/15/99 one was even worse IMO. It's the one I was referencing above. And I know this was way more prominant in Russo's 2nd reign of terror, but I can't remember if during his 1st reign of error he started his whole "Everything you watch on WCW TV is a work, except what is live RIGHT NOW, that's a shoot. Oh but in 5 minutes we'll tell you it was a work but THIS IS A SHOOT BROTHA!" crap. I'm thinking maybe that wasn't until the 2nd reign, so I guess I'll have to wait for that thread to attack that. But since this is about the first reign, and we've agreed Starrcade was awful, I'll mention motherfucking Medusa winning the CW title (Russo was turfed when Oklahoma won it the next month so I can't bitch at him for that), Vampiro took FIVE MINUTES and outside interference to beat Oklahoma, and the powerbomb match. Yes, the match which was booked so that NEITHER MAN HAD TO JOB, and they still had a goofy finish, with Nash winning via PHANTOM POWERBOMB OF DEATH. Fuck Russo, he deserves ALL the hate thrown at him.
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Hunter's Tor...
post May 17 2008, 05:26 PM
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Don't forget about the main event with another boring and pointless rehash of Montreal.
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Chazz
post May 17 2008, 05:27 PM
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Another thing that doomed Russo's reign was the fact that he got little to no cooperation from some of the top tier guys in regards to helping to put over younger, mid card wrestlers. This is something that Russo was used to happening when he worked for WWF/E. Speaking of something he was used to while in The WWE/F, it didn't help Russo's cause when some lazy, spoiled workers would take months off to heal minor injuries because they had gauranteed contracts thanks to Eric Bischoff.(Who, in my opinion, doesn't get nearly enough blame for the death of WCW.) These were 2 major factors that Russo apparently didn't anticipate ahead of time,(or if he did, he overestimated his abilities to deal with them), and it ended up burning him in the end.
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Hunter's Tor...
post May 17 2008, 05:31 PM
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The older wrestlers being uncooperative doesn't take away from the fact that even with a talented roster, Russo couldn't book his way out of a paper bag.
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Chazz
post May 17 2008, 05:41 PM
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It doesn't matter how good the writer/booker is, if the top guys weren't willing to put over/help out the younger, mid card guys to create new stars for the future, then the company was doomed to fail. And fail it did.
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Hunter's Tor...
post May 17 2008, 05:43 PM
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QUOTE (Chazz @ May 17 2008, 06:41 PM) *
It doesn't matter how good the writer/booker is, if the top guys weren't willing to put over/help out the younger, mid card guys to create new stars for the future, then the company was doomed to fail. And fail it did.

While that may be true, the point is that a good writer/booker can still at least produce good television. Something Russo failed miserably to do.
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Chazz
post May 17 2008, 05:52 PM
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QUOTE (Hunter's Torn Quad @ May 17 2008, 07:43 PM) *
QUOTE (Chazz @ May 17 2008, 06:41 PM) *
It doesn't matter how good the writer/booker is, if the top guys weren't willing to put over/help out the younger, mid card guys to create new stars for the future, then the company was doomed to fail. And fail it did.

While that may be true, the point is that a good writer/booker can still at least produce good television. Something Russo failed miserably to do.


Well, then I guess we agree to disagree. Not to get too far off the topic, but who is someone that you consider a good writer/booker? Under the same circumstances, do you think that person could've helped to turn WCW around, or was it a lost cause?
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Lt. Al Giardello
post May 17 2008, 06:57 PM
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QUOTE (MillenniumMan831 @ May 16 2008, 11:37 PM) *
I may be the only one on TSM who enjoyed the 32-man WCW Championship Tournament. Does it age well? I'm sure it's horrendous now. But it was intriguing at the time which was a HUGE step up from the summer of 1999.


I thought it was VERY, VERY, VERY fucking stupid to have Goldberg/Bret Hart in the 1st round of the tournament... And have Goldberg eliminated in the 1st round. Horrible booking all around.

Not to mention for no reason, Madusa giving 2 chances in the tournament. ANYONE could've booked this better. It had alot of potential but was horribly booked.
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Corey_Lazarus
post May 17 2008, 07:08 PM
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Lost cause, if only because the establishment known as Turner continued to change who was running the show, and the "top tier" talent was uncooperative to the point where they refused to put ANYBODY over (the only minor exception is Nash/Booker from Fall Brawl '00, which was so past-due it didn't matter).
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Kahran Ramsus
post May 17 2008, 07:30 PM
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In a way it was worse than than the Sullivan Saga afterwards. Don't get me wrong, Sullivan was a terrible booker too, but he was handicapped by having the roster absolutely gutted in January. The World Champion would never wrestle again and the next one immediately bolted for the competition upon winning the title along with the heart of the roster from a workrate perspective. Jarrett, the US Champion, was injured at the time. Goldberg who was still WCW's biggest star had a career threatening injury of his own. With those kind of handicaps Sullivan had no chance, even if he had been decent booker.

Russo on the other hand had all those guys and still stunk.
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Chazz
post May 17 2008, 07:41 PM
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Didn't The Radicalz end up jumping to The WWF/E because Russo was being replaced after 3 months on the job by Sullivan? I mean I'm sure there were other factors involved in their decision to leave, but I still think that was a big endorsement of sorts by those 4 for Russo. Either that, or they just hated Sullivan with a passion.
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Vampiro69
post May 17 2008, 07:43 PM
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QUOTE (FroGG_NeaL @ May 17 2008, 03:29 AM) *
WCW Monday Nitro - November 8, 1999

Go there. Read the recap if you want, but all you have to do is look at the pictures.


That review is very strange to look back on. You have Chris Benoit not wanting to strike a woman.

The plus side had the debut and retirement of the Seven gimmick and more classic Sid moments.
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