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411 Exclusive Interview (Full Transcript): Vince Russo On What Happened Backstage to Triple H After Curtain Call, WWE vs. AEW, Why He Didn’t Push Samoa Joe as Face of TNA in 2006, & More

March 29, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Vince Russo

411 recently spoke with former WWE creative head Vince Russo for the first edition of the 411 Wrestling Interviews Podcast (the full audio of the podcast can be heard below, followed by the transcript and YouTube video). Russo is no longer part of the wrestling industry, but he continues to offer his commentary about the current events in wrestling today on his various online shows, such as his Westwood One podcast, Truth With Consequences.

In the interview, Russo talks about WWE botching how they booked Ronda Rousey from the start, if WWE has anything to fear in AEW, why he thinks vindictiveness was at the root of WWE picking Baron Corbin as Kurt Angle’s WrestleMania 35 opponent, why he didn’t push Samoa Joe as the face of TNA in 2006, what exactly happened backstage with Triple H after the Kliq curtain call, why Triple H doesn’t have the right mind to change WWE, the Triple H/Batista and Kofi Kingston booking, and more.

Jeffrey Harris: WrestleMania season is well underway. WrestleMania Weekend is right around the corner. It’s in New Jersey, and you’re from the New York area. Do you have any plans to be around WrestleMania Weekend event in the next couple of weeks?

Vince Russo: Bro, are you nuts? Bro, let me tell you what’s happening around me the start of WrestleMania season. What’s happening around the start of WrestleMania season is Major League Baseball [MLB] kicks off. Next Thursday is the first official day of MLB season. I am far and away a much, much bigger fan of baseball than I am wrestling, so I am looking forward to [getting] that season started. I got my fantasy teams in place. I’ll be honest with you, bro, and people can call me bitter. Call me whatever you want. I have zero interest in WrestleMania. It’s bad enough that I have to watch it because I have a podcast. I podcast every day of the week over at RussosBrand.com. I do shows every day of the week, so watching wrestling and watching WrestleMania is part of my job. If it was not part of my job and it was not earning me a paycheck, I would have zero interest in watching WrestleMania.

Jeffrey Harris: Since you are keeping up with the product, there’s a lot of talk about what the main event for WrestleMania 35 will be. We have Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins. The other world title match we think might be Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan, and the Raw women’s title match, Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch. Do you think this is the year women are going to main event WrestleMania?

Vince Russo: No, I don’t think so because I would think — and I don’t have any inside information — I’m not one of these guys who calls around because I don’t care. Literally, it’s not important to me. I would think, and I would believe, that they’re going to put the title on Seth Rollins, and if that’s what they’re going to do, then that’s how they have to end WrestleMania. That’s the WrestleMania moment, you know, Seth Rollins beating Brock Lesnar, and nothing against the women, nothing against Daniel Bryan and Kofi, with the WWE, that is the WrestleMania moment. And I would think that’s how they have to end the show.

Jeffrey Harris: But with the whole women’s revolution and how Ronda Rousey, an Olympic medalist and UFC champion, has come in and dominated the WWE women’s division, would this be a great opportunity to sort of capitalize on that movement and give the moment to Becky Lynch to end the show?

Vince Russo: Yeah, it could be, bro, and I’m not arguing that at all, but again, just keeping in mind having worked for the WWE and again with my podcast now having followed them closely, I just know how they work. And if I’m just going by just their behavior and the pattern, it’s all about that WrestleMania moment. I’ve got a show on Westwood One, Truth With Consequences, and we looked at WrestleMania 10. And WrestleMania 10 ended with that Bret Hart moment. That’s what they look for, bro. That’s the footage that they’ll play over and over and over again. That’s why I have to believe the most important thing for them that’s gonna happen on that show is Seth Rollins winning the title. Now, I could be totally wrong. But again, I’m just going by patterns and the way they do business.

Jeffrey Harris: Recently, Ronda Rousey has been getting a lot of controversy online for making comments like, “Wrestling is scripted,” “I own all these women,” etc. Her husband, a [former] UFC fighter [Travis Browne], showed up on TV. To use some insider terms, there’s a “worked shoot” sort of style with Ronda right now. They’ve had her turn heel, and I’m just curious what you think of that because some of this seems reminiscent of your sort of era?

Vince Russo: Yeah. Well, I mean that should’ve been Ronda’s character out the chute. They totally killed Ronda Rousey’s character when they came over. I swear to god, bro. When I look at it now, I ask myself the question, did Vince McMahon even know who Ronda Rousey was? Did he have any idea who she was? Did he watch UFC? Did he watch her over there? Did he watch any of her interviews? Because in typical WWE style, we’re going to sign Ronda Rousey and we’re going to make her a babyface and give her all the babyface attributes. She’s going to come down the ramp smiling, and she’s going to give her gloves to the kid. All that WWE bull****, and that was never Ronda Rousey in the first place. They literally put her in a position where she had to “act.” She wasn’t being natural. She was trying to be somebody she wasn’t. And they did so much damage to that character coming out of the chute.

And again, like the WWE because they don’t get it right the first time, well now, we got to circle it around because that didn’t work. Now, we got to make her a heel. You could tell in this role, she is much, much more comfortable, and that should be the story. She comes from the MMA world. She should be able to kill any woman in the wrestling business. That should’ve been the story from the get-go. They had to make mistakes first to come around to it. I love the touch of her husband being there last week. I thought that was great. But like I said, I don’t know why, again, typical Vince [McMahon], typical fashion, she’s gonna be a babyface, and they just killed her coming out of the gate.

Jeffrey Harris: Not to pile onto WWE, but sometimes it gets expressed that Vince McMahon and WWE are out of touch with their audience and out-of-step with their audience. I’ll give you an example. Now, they’re pushing Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin at WrestleMania, which is supposed to be Kurt Angle’s final match of his wrestling career. The reaction so far has been negative, and they’re making that part of the storyline on TV. And I’m like, this is Kurt Angle’s last match, and do you really want that as part of your storyline that fans just aren’t into it when you remember something like Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair. Do you think WWE, rather than simply trying to give the fans what they want, they try to do things their way without really listening to the audience?

Vince Russo: Well bro, there’s more to it than that. I don’t think it has anything to do with giving the fans what they want. I don’t think it has anything to do with them doing it their way. Here’s what it has to do bro. I worked for the WWE, okay, so I’m not talking out of school here. They are a very, very vindictive company. They will personally embarrass, belittle, degrade, punish a WWE talent in total disregard to what the fans think, what’s the right thing to do. That’s exactly what they do. Bro, I know Kurt Angle. And look at the history of Kurt Angle. Kurt Angle left the WWE and went to TNA. That was Kurt Angle’s decision. Now bro, I’ve learned better than anybody, when you leave the WWE, and you leave them and it’s your choice to walk away, when you make that decision, you are blackballed. You are the enemy. Nobody walks away from us. We fire you. Nobody walks away from us.

So, trust me. The way I’ve been treated, I understand clearly, when you walk away on your own terms, you are the enemy. They will go out of their way to bury you and make you look bad. That’s exactly what they’ve done with Kurt Angle from day one. They brought him in as the authority figure. Stephanie McMahon cut off his nut sack every single week. Kurt Angle never got a payback. He had to sit there with his hand on his crotch. Finally, he’s going to have his last match, his last big match, and who is it against? Baron Corbin. That’s their way of getting back at Kurt Angle. They’re childish. They’re juvenile. That’s the way they’ve always been. That’s why I have zero interest in ever going back to that company again on a full-time basis because of things like this.

Thank god Kurt Angle is a pro. Kurt Angle knows what’s going on. Kurt Angle expected it. Kurt Angle had to beg them to even take him back. And thank god. I’m sure he’s making a lot of money and laughing all the way to the bank, but that’s just the vindictive nature of the WWE. That’s the way they’ve done business. That’s the way they’ve always done business.

Jeffrey Harris: Now to All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which is set to debut on May 25 with Double or Nothing. The story is that WWE Superstars who are approaching the end of their contracts are waiting to re-up with WWE to get a lay of the land and may be thinking about making a jump to another promotion. And WWE is concerned about talents leaving. Now, I don’t know how true this is, but the way it looks like to me, even if it’s temporary, the guys and women have leverage. And they’re using it right now to get bigger deals in WWE or maybe, possibly signing a big money contract elsewhere. Do you think this is a good thing for the business, with talent having leverage again?

Vince Russo: Oh no, bro. Anytime that more work is involved, that’s a great thing for the business. That’s a great thing for the boys. I’m pro-boy, bro. When I was working at TNA, and I was asked flat out by one of the wrestlers, “Do you think wrestlers should unionize,” while I was working with TNA, and it could’ve got me fired. I said, “Absolutely, yes. Without a doubt.” So, I am pro-wrestler. I’ve always been pro-wrestler. If this means more money for the wrestlers, more jobs, bigger paydays, I am 100% for it.

Jeffrey Harris: Should WWE be worried about AEW? Because they’ve already sold out the MGM Grand Garden arena when WWE has a bit of a fan attendance issue right now, and they do have the backing of two billionaires in the Khan family.

Vince Russo: Bro, I don’t think so. I’m just being honest with you. As much as I would like to say yes, I don’t think so. You know, the WWE has been the only game in town for so long. I mean when you look at the Saudi Arabia deal, when you look at the FOX deal, when you look at the money they’re bringing in, because quite frankly they’ve been the only game in town for such a long period of time, I think that’s silly to believe [that the WWE is in trouble].

Let’s be honest. There’s such a level of arrogance when it comes to the WWE, that I would love to see somebody come along that’s a threat. I really would because it would take them down a few notches and force them to put their egos in check, but the fact that they’ve been the only game in town for so long — and I mean I think it’s great that AEW sold out the MGM Grand — but you’re talking about — okay, they sold out All In. Now, six months later, there’s another big show they sold out. Bro, of course they can sell out big shows. There’s no doubt in my mind if they did one big show every three or four months, it would be a sellout. No doubt in my mind, but when you’re talking about competing with Vince McMahon, you’re not talking about four shows a year. You’re talking about TV. You’re talking about weekly programming. You’re talking about house shows. You have so many areas that you have to compete with them from, and I mean, starting at ground zero, that’s not easy. And again, I can tell you that based on experience with TNA. That’s what we experienced at TNA. So, I want them to be successful. I want the boys to make money. But them being a serious threat to the WWE, I just don’t know about.

Jeffrey Harris: To rewind a little bit, if you can take me back to TNA in 2006. At the time, I thought if there was one guy you want to build the company around, if there’s one guy you want to put the rocket ship on and build the roster around and make the face of your company, it was Samoa Joe. And I guess, what was happening in TNA, that they just didn’t see Samoa Joe as that guy. Did Samoa Joe have a bad attitude? Was he tough to work with? [What was it?]

Vince Russo: It was a couple of things, bro. And again, I want to clarify this with people because I’m gonna say this, and then I’m gonna have heat with Joe, and people are gonna hate me. I worked with Samoa Joe for a very long time. As a human being, forget the wrestling, forget the business, I’m talking about as a human being. I thought Samoa Joe was a great guy. I love Joe. He was a family man. He was a standup guy. So, from a personal level, I love the guy. But now, we’ve got to look at the professional level, and there were two sides of it for me why Joe was never the top guy at TNA. And I’ll be honest with you, bro, I still see the same traits as the WWE.

Now, you got to understand. This is my professional opinion, and that’s all it is. It is my professional opinion. It has nothing to do with how I feel about the guy as a man. No. 1, one of the of the problems we had with Joe at TNA is — keep in mind because of finance constraints, many times we would have to shoot five-six-seven, sometimes two months worth of TV. So, sometimes all the talent would come. We would shoot either a month of TV, six weeks of TV, eight weeks of TV, whatever it would be, and then they would come back, and we would shoot the next month or the next two months. It wasn’t weekly. Well bro, one of the problems that we had with Joe, and I still see it today, was his weight would always fluctuate. And sometimes, Joe would come to tapings looking great, and then we would see him in two months, and he would put on a lot of weight. And we would have to say, “Joe, bro, you gotta get in shape.” He would come back to the next TV looking slim, looking great, and then the next TV, he would come back and put the weight back on.

There was really inconsistent with his physical appearance. And bro, the weight really played into his work. We never knew what Samoa Joe we were going to get. And bro, listen, I’m 58 years old. I’m a fat slob, bro. I just got back from cardio now. I hate doing cardio. I hate dieting. I know how difficult that is, but on the other side of the coin, I’m not a professional wrestler for a living. When you’re a professional wrestler, that’s kind of part of the routine. The dieting and the working out and the being in shape. We never knew what Joe was going to show up for TV tapings.

No. 2 for me, being a writer and being a producer, and part of this was on me. I take responsibility for this. I worked with him for a long time. To me, Joe is very one dimensional. He cuts those promos, “I’m gonna kill ya,” “I’m gonna eat ya,” “I’m gonna do this,” “I’m gonna do that.” You know, straight away in the promo shots, spitting at the camera, that’s one dimensional, bro. And after you hear it over and over and over again, and “I’m gonna do this to AJ [Styles],” “I’m gonna do this to this one,” “I’m gonna do this to that one,” and then you lose, you have no credibility. You know, Bret Hart told me — I’m going back 20 years ago — Bret Hart said to me, “Vince. Before I cut a promo, I know who’s going over. So, if I know I’m doing the job, when I cut my promos, I never say I’m going to win. I never say I’m going to go over because if I do that, I will lose all credibility.” Joe has done that in every angle.

Now you gotta understand, that’s on the producers. That’s on the producers to know, Joe’s doing a job. Don’t make him keep him going out there, [saying,] “I’m gonna do this to you,” “I’m gonna do that to you,” because when he doesn’t and he continues to say it, it doesn’t mean anything. And like I said, a lot of that is on the producers and a lot of that is on the writers. But from a professional standpoint, that was my experience in working with Joe.

Jeffrey Harris: Now, to rewind a little more, I know you have your issues with Bruce Prichard. I was listening to his podcast, and he did credit you that in 1999, you were the mastermind for pushing Triple H into the main event and giving him his main event run, which apparently, Vince McMahon just didn’t see Triple H as a main event talent back then. Is that accurate?

Vince Russo: Bro, you know what that was all about? It goes back to — this is why I’m telling you things based on experience. Let me put it to you this way. If I was there this past run while Kurt Angle was working, and Stephanie was cutting off his balls every week, and they’re booking him against Baron Corbin, I would’ve said, “Are you out of your freaking minds?! This is Kurt Angle! Stop with your petty baby bull****!” That’s what I would’ve done. That’s what happened with Triple H. Bro, do you remember the “Curtain Call” at Madison Square Garden?

Well, here’s what happened. Curtain Call happened at Madison Square Garden. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall went to WCW. Shawn Michaels was the champion, so they weren’t going to touch him. So, who was going to be the whipping boy? Triple H. They were gonna bury Triple H, and they were gonna torture Triple H. And they were gonna humiliate Triple H. And they were going to make his life miserable for doing that one thing. And because I was there, I was able to say, “What are you guys, Children? First of all, nobody believes wrestling is real. So, you’re getting all upset with this freaking ‘Curtain Call.'” I mean, at the time, Bruce Prichard and Jim Cornette wanted Triple H fired. They wanted him fired. That’s how pissed off they were.

So, now the guy was in the doghouse. Couldn’t open his mouth. Couldn’t say a word. Luckily, I was there, and I was like, “Will you guys freaking grow up? Will you get over it? This guy has talent. This guy has a look. This guy can make the company money. Get over your freaking ego, power trip bull****, and let’s get behind this guy because this guy could benefit the company and make a ton of money for the company.” No one’s there to do that for Kurt Angle because I would. I would be in Vince McMahon’s office saying, “Baron Corbin, bro?! Like are you out of [your mind]? This is an Olympic gold medalist, Vince. Check your ego at the door that he left the company 20 years ago, and now, we’re finally gonna get payback,” and all that bull**** that goes with wrestling. There’s nobody there to do that anymore, bro.

Jeffrey Harris: Now, fast forward 20 years, and Triple H is the Chief Creative Officer, married to Stephanie McMahon, and wrestling Batista in a big match at WrestleMania. Do you think Triple H is an A+ player who is good for business and has the right mind to be an executive for WWE?

Vince Russo: No because Triple H now is doing exactly what they did to him, and he’s doing it because of ego, bro. Listen, when you’re a wrestler, you have an ego. And because you have an ego, it’s very hard to put you in management positions because you’re going to have built-in feelings for other wrestlers you know and other wrestlers you work with. You’re going to have your favorites and guys that you don’t like. You’re not going to be able to be subjective, and that’s going to affect everything. That’s why you can’t put wrestlers in roles like that.

When I talk about Triple H having an ego, the Batista promo should be an exposé of Triple H. Batista should be saying, “Let’s call a spade a spade. You don’t even love your own wife. You’ve never loved your wife. First of all, you kicked Chyna to the curb, and you saw Stephanie as your ticket to the throne. And once you worked her and once you worked your magic and once you had her, then you started making your moves. You’ve buried people. You’ve stepped on people. Look what’ve you done to Kurt Angle, yadda, yadda, yadda.” I’m work-shooting with that now, but that should’ve been the freaking promo bro, not “Oh, well, Triple H hired me as his muscle, and he used me.” That’s fake wrestling bull****. But the reason you can’t cut that real-to-life promo on Triple H is because his ego won’t allow that. So, that’s the problem. You’re gonna go out there. You’re gonna be fake wrestling half-pregnant as opposed to shooting with it, working together and making it a great angle.

Jeffrey Harris: The thing that weirds me out, and other people have pointed this out, is that Batista beat Triple H every single time. So, why does Batista need to face Triple H?

Vince Russo: Well, that’s the thing. We don’t know that because they haven’t told us. I mean, I’m watching that promo, “Gimme what I want! No, we’re doing it on my terms. Gimme what I want!” And I’m saying to myself, “Guys. You’re not telling me the story here!” You don’t understand why Batista is so upset with Triple. And I know a lot of that is because Batista was trying to get work again at WWE, and Triple H wasn’t returning his calls and blowing him off like he was a piece of ****. Then, all of the sudden, Batista makes this movie that makes millions of dollars. Well, tell us that! Don’t make us guess! We don’t know what’s going on behind-the-scenes. So, that’s the problem. We don’t know. They don’t tell us. They kayfabe us.

Why does Vince McMahon have a stick up his ass when it comes to Kofi Kingston? Why do you keep running Kofi Kingston through the mill? You’re not telling us! So, I’m sitting there and I’m wondering, why is he wrestling 10 people? What is Vince’s issue with Kofi Kingston? It’s not that, “Oh, you’re only a B+ player!” That’s such wrestling bull****. It’s stupid. It’s juvenile. They’re not explaining these stories to us.

Jeffrey Harris: Last thing, do you have any projects or anything you’d like to share with the audience?

Vince Russo: I really got three things going on that I’ve been doing the last five years. I have a podcast. You can go to RussosBrand.com. I do like 10 shows a week for under a dollar a week. Wrestlers on there every week. I do shows with Big Vito LoGrasso, Stevie Richards, Disco Inferno. They’re on there every week. I have a different show everyday. I’m also on Twitch. I go on there practically everyday and talk to the wrestling community. And lastly, I do a show on Westwood One, Truth With Consequences. What that really means is my whole career, I’ve told the truth, and there have been consequences. And I don’t give a **** because I’m not a worker. I’m not a liar, and I can look myself in the mirror. And that’s the most important thing to me. It’s on Tuesday morning. It drops at Tuesday mornings at like 3:00 am, and there’s a Patreon that goes with that.

Thank you to Vince Russo for taking the time to speak with us. You can check out his online shows at his aforementioned website, RussosBrand.com, Twitch.tv/VinceRussoLive, and Westwood One’s Truth With Consequences.

If using any news or quotes, please credit 411mania.com and please embed the podcast audio player or YouTube video of the full interview in your post.

Intro
WrestleMania weekend (0:17)
What match should go on last at WrestleMania (3:40)
How Ronda Rousey has been booked (7:20)
Baron Corbin being picked at Kurt Angle’s opponent (10:15)
If AEW is good for wrestling (14:00)
If WWE should fear AEW (15:35)
Why Samoa Joe wasn’t booked as face of TNA (18:10)
Triple H’s main event push and the curtain call (23:35)
Triple H’s mind for being a wrestling executive (26:38)
Triple H/Batista and Kofi Kingston storyline booking (29:00)

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