wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Should WWE Rehire Vince Russo?

November 29, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Vince Russo

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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I’m going to guess Big Al is not the guy who Tank Abbott pulled a knife on at Superbrawl:

1. During the beginning and middle of the Attitude era I was in the military and was all over Europe of the time. A few years ago I asked why there was such hate against Vince Russo and if he did anything good. Mat Sforcina had said he wasn’t liked because of face and heel turns that sometimes made no sense and rapid title changes. But he he said the good in Vince Russo was he did help steer WWF towards the Attitude Era and also said “Vince is someone who will stay up all night coming up with ideas for the mid-carders.” That part has stuck with me. Now there are rumors of him being re-hired by the WWE. We also know from every TV show review that WWE doesn’t seem to know what to do with a certain character and certain characters are just floundering. If what Mat said was true wouldn’t it make sense to being him in just to see what ideas he can come up with the mid-card and maybe get some of them back on track?

Ehhhhhh . . . no.

Here’s the thing. It is true that, when people try to come up with something nice to say about Vince Russo, they often say that he wanted everybody on the card to have some kind of storyline or gimmick.

I’m going give a hot take here that bucks some conventional wisdom among wrestling fans, particularly those who congregate on websites like this one:

It is totally fine for lower card wrestlers to not have a storyline or a strong gimmick. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it’s preferable.

If you watch some of the worst booking that Vince Russo ever did – which was actually more in WCW and TNA than the WWF, where there were always more checks and balances on him – the shows feel creatively bloated, like there is too much going on. There’s something that is being sold like it’s a major angle in almost every segment of the show, sometimes segments try to highlight three to four characters simultaneously, and it’s ridiculously overstuffed.

I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of less is more. If everybody on the show is treated like they are in a major angle, then nobody in the show is actually involved in a major angle, because everything is equivalent.

You actually need some segments on a show where not much is happening and where wrestlers are just wrestling without shoving Viagra down each other’s throats, burying each other in deserts, or kidnapping each other’s mothers and hooking them to forklifts. (All of those, by the way, are real Vince Russo angles.) You need those “nothing happening” segments to allow the significant stories you want people to remember to breathe and to sink in.

Also, sometimes there is brilliance in simplicity. You know what makes for a great storyline? There’s this sport called “professional wrestling,” and everybody who is on this show wants to prove that they are the best athlete involved in that sport. Though obviously there are other story elements built in, that is a large part of what AEW is building itself around right now, and they seem to be doing just fine. Plus, it’s the main “storyline” of other professional sports, including wrestling’s closest cousin, MMA, and they are doing just fine.

So no, I’m not going to champion a Vince Russo comeback anytime soon. I was watching what he did in the 1990s and the 2000s as it was happening, and it was no great shakes, believe you me.

2. Speaking of Vince Russo, what is the beef between him and Jim Cornette? I really don’t know what the issue but if I remember correctly a couple of years ago Vince apologized and wanted to bury the hatchet but Cornette said no and stayed and angry. Does this make Vince look like the bigger person or did he do something so egregious to Cornette and Cornette did not want to smooth things over?

You can find Cornette’s take on this in myriad videos that are plastered all over the internet, but the very short version is that Cornette blames Russo for getting him outed from jobs in both the WWF and TNA. They also have radically different philosophies on how professional wrestling should be booked and have clashed due to that over the years . . . but costing Cornette his employment really seems to have been what set things off, particularly when he also blames Russo for costing several of his friends their TNA jobs, including Brian Armstrong, Dutch Mantell, Savio Vega, and more.

Regarding Russo’s effort to “bury the hatchet,” that occurred circa 2017 when he issued a video in which he purported to apologize to Corney but actually spewed forth a series of lame zingers and insults. If there was some sort of attempt at a legitimate apology before or after that, it was totally undermined by that particular video, so I do not think that Vinnie Ru is the bigger person, not by a long shot.

Night Wolf the Wise has some questions about current events . . . which normally I shy away from, but let’s doe this one . . .

1. So Ring of Honor is closing down next month. They are releasing their entire roster and hope to be back sometime in 2022. If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I thought Ring of Honor would close before Impact, I would have said you were crazy? What do you think the top 5 mistakes Ring of Honor made that lead to them having to close down?

The way that I’ve read and understand the story, ROH is not closing down. They’re going on hiatus and retooling the company a bit. There’s a fairly important difference in that closing down implies that they’re going out of business with no intention of ever coming back, while going on hiatus means that they are temporarily ceasing to produce a product but are actively developing a plan to come back.

TNA actually did something very similar in late 2014 when they were transitioning between airing on SpikeTV and airing on Destination America. They did not air any first run television between November 19, 2014 and January 7, 2015, but nobody said they were “shutting down” . . . and the same is true of Ring of Honor.

Thus I can’t really list any mistakes that caused them to close down, because I do not think the retool is the result of any particular mistakes. It’s just a company reexamining its business model the same way just about every company reexamines its business model from time-to-time, and they were no doubt lead here to a degree due to the impacts of COVID-19 on live entertainment.

2. Do you think they are coming back?

Yes. I have not read anything that states or implies anything to the contrary.

3. Assuming they do come back, what should be their focus going forward? And who should they rebuild the company around?

Back when ROH was in its glory days, the one thing that they always had going for them is they felt like they were ahead of the curve in terms of finding and showcasing new incredibly talented wrestlers. It always kept the product fresh and exciting. In more recent years, they’ve lost that edge by continuing to rely on guys who, though very talented, have been on the radar of pro wrestling fans for quite a while, for example Jay Lethal, the Briscoes, Rush, and so on.

My recommendation for ROH as it retools would be to focus on finding true unknowns who are solid performers and promoting them as a means of being a cutting edge product that hardcore fans will want to seek out. That will be difficult because there are so many promotions at or near Ring of Honor’s level for people to work in now, whether it’s MLW, New Japan USA, TNA, the NWA, or the like, but I suspect it will ultimately be worth the additional effort.

It’s time . . . it’s time . . . it’s M.N.M.N.B. time:

Why was the Vader’s corner slingshot splash called the Vader Bomb, and not his powerbomb?

Did the powerbomb have a name that I’m forgetting?

Nope, the powerbomb didn’t have a separate name. It was just the powerbomb. Why? It’s because, at the time that Vader started doing the move, “powerbomb” was still a fairly unique, cool name for the maneuver and hadn’t become the sort of generic wrestling term we may see it as being today. It didn’t need a cool gimmick name because “powerbomb” already WAS the cool gimmick name.

The powerbomb had been performed for many years before Vader and Sid popularized it here in the United States – in fact there are clips that show Lou Thesz doing it in the 1950s and some have written that it goes back into legitimate Greco Roman wrestling – but it largely went unnamed in professional wrestling until the 1980s.

sebkane is showing off:

Did the Road Warriors ever face the RnR Express? Also, in your opinion do you think the team of Ziggler and Roode is underrated and could be used a lot better?

I answered the first of seb’s two questions last week, but, as he pointed out in the comment section, I inadvertently neglected the second one . . . probably because I found the first half a lot more interesting, especially given its somewhat surprising answer.

Regarding Roode and Ziggler, I’m not watching much current WWE, but my sense is they are almost exactly where they need to be. Ziggler is a solid enough hand, but he’s been in the company for 18 years and is over 40 years old and hasn’t done anything in his career as of yet to set the world on fire, so a midcard tag team for him is as good a place as any. Roode doesn’t have the same tenure in WWE as Ziggler, but he’s even older, and he’s never really clicked anywhere without being paired with a much more charismatic partner or opponent (e.g. James Storm, Eric Young) aside from his NXT theme music getting him over as a novelty act for a couple of months.

They’re both good at what they do, but they’re also pretty far down the list of guys who I consider to be underutilized talent in the professional wrestling industry.

John is an innovative kind of guy:

Which wrestler was the first to use all the different wrestling moves?

When I was doing some research to answer a different question, I stumbled across a 2015 edition of this column authored by Mat Sforcina in which he answered this question as to several “basic” wrestling moves. Since that’s historic information which does not really change, I’ll just refer you back to Mat instead of reinventing the wheel. If you’ve got other specific moves that he did not address, feel free to note them.

Brad and Chris have asked two very similar questions, so I’m going to address them both in one shot, starting with Brad:

Spinning out of a discussion on the “MC! True Long Island Story Podcast”, can you come up with any reasonable guesses on who (in the US) has watched the most matches in person? My first guess was Jim Ross due to his longevity announcing plus other jobs early in his career such as a referee. But what about a ring announcer like Justin Roberts who has done his job at many house shows, in addition to TV shows? It seems unlikely a decades-long mega fan in the territory days could accumulate enough matches even in a weekly town.

And here’s Chris:

Would you say Bill Apter has been to more big wrestling events in North America than any other person involved in the wrestling business?

Though nobody has any firm statistics on this one, if I’m making an educated guess I think that there is an obvious answer that both Brad and Chris have missed:

Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

Vince has been the main creative and business force behind the WWF/WWE for forty-one years now, and he was involved in the company in other capacities for a decade before that. That would mean that he has been at a ton of wrestling show and seen a metric ton of matches.

Granted, the bulk of his experience has been at WWF/WWE shows while other guys, particularly journalists like Apter, would have been attending shows and watching matches for multiple different promotions, sometimes with those promotions overlapping. However, even guys like Apter have not been as active in wrestling as Vince for as long, so I would be willing to bet that he’s seen more shows and more matches even if he has been married to one company for the entirety of his career.

Paris is rallying the troops:

What do you think makes the best stable? If you were putting together a stable would you go for beef (bunch of muscle to back you up), wrestling skill (like a Team Angle), or just buds (like how DX seems like just guys who like to have fun with no tension or jealousy) or numbers (like the nWo – not in the end, more like when it was maybe seven core guys and a hot valet).

Honestly, it’s all dependent on context. As highlighted in the question, there are several different types of stable, and each type can be successful depending on what is needed in a given promotion at a given time in wrestling history. Sometimes, you’ll want to have a group of four where there is a clear cut primary singles star, a wrestler for the secondary title division, and a tag team, a model that worked well for most iterations of the Horsemen and the post-Shawn Michaels D-Generation X. Other times, you’ll want a small stable in which all of the wrestlers are more or less equal but have distinctive skills and/or personalities that complement one another, a la the Shield. Yet other times, you want a combination of new and veteran talent with the primary focus being elevation of that new talent, i.e. Evolution and, to a lesser extent, the Attitude Era version of the Nation of Domination.

There is no right answer to the question of “What type of stable is best?” as overall the needs to the stories being told by those in creative have to be taken into consideration.

Jesse fell down and broke his crown:

Let’s say WWE held a king of the ring every year since 2002 that it didn’t. Who do you think would have won each year and why? Feel free to use the number one contender status at Summerslam at will like WWE did.

First off, I was surprised by the number of King of the Ring tournaments there have been since 2002, which goes to show how unmemorable some of the winners of the tournament have been.

My picks for the “missing” Kings of the Ring would be . . .

2003 – Eddie Guerrero: Guerrero was hitting his stride as a popular secondary champion during this year, and the King of the Ring would be a nice additional feather in his cap as he worked towards becoming a WWE Champion in 2004.

2004 – Randy Orton: Orton was an ascending young heel at this point and wound up becoming a World Champion for the first time at Summerslam, which is exactly the kind of talent that the WWF/WWE liked to elevate with the tournament in the 1990s.

2005 – Mark Henry: Henry was mixing it up with top-level talent like Kurt Angle and the Undertaker in 2005/2006 and, though he rose to the occasion as a performer during this time, it always felt like he could’ve had more credibility if he “won the big one” on at least one occasion. KOTR would have helped with that.

2007 – John Morrison: I don’t see much of a need for a King of the Ring on either Raw or Smackdown during this year, so I would give the tournament to the ECW brand and use it to help establish the guy who they clearly saw as their up-and-coming star on the heel side, the former Johnny Nitro.

2009 – CM Punk: Yes, Punk had been a World Heavyweight Champion in 2008, but he won the championship via Money in the Bank cash-in, which in my opinion is always a weak way to a establish a new champ. This would help give Punk some credibility, and, if he were to win the KOTR while champion, there would be a unique story to tell.

2011 – Christian Cage: This was the year of Christian’s “one more match” angle with Randy Orton, and, though the two men had excellent chemistry together in the ring, I remember hate, hate, hating that storyline because there was never a good kayfabe explanation for Cage’s continued rematches. Giving him a KOTR victory in there would help out quite a bit.

2012 – Jack Swagger: Swagger was in a World Heavyweight Title match at Wrestlemania in 2013, which bothered me because he seemingly went from JTTS to World Title contender with no build whatsoever. This would help rectify some of that issue.

2013 – Daniel Bryan: As with many other Kings of the Ring, real and imagined, this would help set up Bryan’s Summerslam championship match.

2014 – Dean Ambrose: This was the year of the dissolution of the Shield, and it was apparent that WWE wanted to push Seth Rollins as a major heel and Roman Reigns as a major face coming out of that. Giving Ambrose this victory would help keep him on the level of his former stablemates and prevent him from getting lost in the shuffle.

2016 – Finn Balor: As with several other names on this list, Balor is a guy who wound up contending for (and ultimately winning) a major championship with that status feeling to me as though it came out of nowhere. This win would help Finn along the way in his journey to becoming the first Universal Champion.

2017 – Shinsuke Nakamura: Though it now appears he’s going to be midcard for life, WWE had higher hopes for Nakamura closer to his debut in the company, and this would be a good addition to the push that later saw him winning the 2018 Royal Rumble and challenging for the WWE Championship at that year’s Wrestlemania.

2018 – Samoa Joe: Yet another in the long line of “out of nowhere” world title contenders who could have used more of a build through this tournament.

2020 – Braun Strowman: For a guy who was supposed to be an unbeatable monster, Strowman sure seemed to have to lose a lot when he was put in the highest profile situations. This tournament win would help put some of the sheen back on him.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.

article topics :

Vince Russo, WWE, Ryan Byers