Welcome to another delightful edition of the Phat Daily Column. This week, like every Saturday, we go back into time...... However, for this week, we are NOT doing the NWO column. I'm at home for this weekend, and I don't really have the time to discuss 3 years of wrestling. So instead, we'll discuss the very first Russo era in WCW. So let's get on it.
The problem with Busch is that he didn't know how to run WCW. Wrestlers found it very hard to trust him since he didn't know much about the business, and plus for the fact that he let the group of "good ol' boys" run the company at first. Good ol' boys meaning the likes of Kevin Sullivan and company. After Bischoff was fired, we had lots of boring storylines, which reminded me of the old style wrestling. Time Warner and Bill Busch began looking for something to "spark" WCW.
That's when WCW noticed that the WWF didn't quite sign their writers to official contracts. Vince Russo, Ed Ferarra, Bill Banks, and Terry Taylor were all working without contracts, and WCW began talking to Russo, mainly. Russo was the head writer at the time (Notice that I said head writer, and not booker), and he was reportedly getting burnt from the new Smackdown show on the scene. WCW talked money and backstage control of the operations with Russo, which he didn't have in the WWF. His role in the WWF was to be a Head Writer, which meant that he was the main man writing the storylines that was asked by the WWF booking staff (Vince McMahon, Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, Terry Taylor, Shane McMahon, among others). The bookers would give Russo and Ferarra (a good comedy writer at that time) their ideas, and Russo would translate that into written storylines. That's your little proof that he didn't make the ideas for the WWF, but he just wrote the storylines that were requested of him. That was his job.
But Russo wanted the opportunity to prove that he was a vital part of the WWF's success, he wanted to be able to present his ideas himself instead of writing for other ideas, and he wanted to stroke his ego by turning around the horrible WCW. So he took the job, and he took it without notice in the WWF. If you are at a job, you should know that you SHOULD give at least a 2 week notice prior to leaving. Russo and Ferarra didn't, therefore, they will be forever blacklisted in the WWF. So for those of you who are WANTING for Russo to return to the WWF, dream on. He was unprofessional when he left.
So Russo is now for WCW, as is Ed Ferarra. WCW paid them hefty contracts too, which put a lot of pressure on them to produce. Russo tried to do some crash TV on his first week in WCW, where he helped to book Halloween Havoc 1999. The result was a big disaster! Russo tried to do SHOCKING endings to the already Good Ol' Boy booked show. Bad, bad show! Go ahead and rent it if you really think Russo can perform miracles.
Before we get to his first Nitro, let's talk about what Russo had against him. For one, WCW just went through 2 long years of wrestlers telling the bookers what to do. Guys like Nash, Hogan, and all of the other egos controlled the storylines. Russo now controlled the storylines, which created conflict with their egos. Two, WCW was competing to steal the WWF's fans now, and to NOT create a new fan base. That's bad. Three, Russo kept the last bookers, like Kevin Sullivan, on his booking team. Not good at all, as we'll discuss in a little bit. Four, he completely Ric Flair, which angered lots of classic fans. Five, after thinking that he was burnt out from two WWF shows, he has to do two WCW shows. Since he was already burnt out then, he would only get worse....
All of those factors doomed Vince Russo and crew from the start, although they didn't know it yet. Their first Nitro was a booming success! It far dwarfed the shows before it, without Russo. It featured a more intriguing show than the oldie crap we saw before Russo, which gave channel flippers more things to see. However, lots of complaints from oldschool WCW fans, who didn't like the Crash TV format in the WWF. He did do a pretty good storyline, however, with the World Title controversy. It produced a pretty good storyline, which proved to be a decent start for Russo.
Bret Hart finally won his world title, deserved world title at that, and things seemed to be decent. However, Russo kept pushing the envelop, and did some crazy things leading up to Bret Hart's title win and after that. Russo did his Creative Control angle, which wasn't bad at first. Then, it got out of control... That was Creative Control idea was his thinking that he would eventually win the ratings war. He would use himself to put over wrestlers. Sure, it worked with the Harris Boys at first, but it would get worse, later, with Roddy Piper. Why anybody wants to bring him back to television is a mystery to me.
Before we get more into that, let's discuss the Revolution. Russo PROMISED to do more with wrestlers like Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Shane Douglas, but he actually put the screws to them. So, Russo put them in the Revolution to get them involved. Please. Russo has done this with various factions, like the New Blood and Misfits in Action, in the future, to where he shoves in wrestlers who he doesn't want to have singles roles. Eventually, Chris Benoit kept proving himself over and over again, and Russo had to give him some titles. Benoit kept getting better, and Russo finally decided that he couldn't keep up the walls that this guy was banging down. It was time to push him... well, it was time to put him against Jeff Jarrett, which was his idea of putting someone over at the time.
Jeff Jarrett is another story. During the summer of 1999, the WWF booking crew had the idea of have Stone Cold Steve Austin feud with Jarrett for a little bit. Stone Cold, now in full Hulk Hogan ego mode, REFUSED to work with Jarrett! He did the same with Triple H and Mr. Ass, who the WWF wanted to push as singles wrestlers. Jarrett was angered, because Stone Cold wouldn't let him get to the next level. Jarrett was becoming a very hot heel in the WWF, but he was getting held down. To make matters worse, Jim Ross put the screws to Jarrett. As coordinator of talent, Ross hid the fact that Jarrett's contract was actually coming up soon. Since Ross is a loyalist to Austin, he let it run out! Jarrett and Russo were great friends in the WWF, and where would Jarrett go? WCW of course! After Jarrett left, Bill Banks, a minor writer (still is), hopped along to WCW too. Terry Taylor would mess up the WWF's storylines, you know, the Big Show Cancer angle, before deciding that he wanted out too.
So WCW's booking team is strong now, right? Not quite. Russo was striving to push very sleezy angles. We're talking lesbian angles (which he tried in the WWF, but failed), mud fights, and just some very raunchy angles. The Standards and Practices of Time Warner, began to come into play. Anything on Time Warner is supposed to be family oriented. Russo's storylines weren't! Therefore, they clashed. But instead of Russo toning his material down, all he did was complain on how he wasn't able to be creative in WCW. Please. How hard is it to make an intriguing storyline without sleeze? It was hard for Russo, and instead of trying to tone himself down, he became wreckless. He was unable to come up with toned down storylines, so he pushed for some very stupid storylines. You know, the Hugh Morris father angle.
Russo was frustrated with ideas, so he reached to the bottom of the barrel, and he pulled out the New World Order. The team consisted of Bret Hart (who was champ), Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Jeff Jarrett. They would later bring in the recovered Scott Steiner too. But the fact remains that Russo only brought back the NWO because he was fresh out of ideas. Do you remember the Nitro when the NWO tried to explain their formation? If you can watch that without tears, then you are a die-hard NWO fan.
But things got worse. Russo's Creative Control angle got worse, when Roddy Piper became involved. Anything with Piper is bad anyway, but this one took the cake. At Starrcade 1999, it was Bret Hart vs. Bill Goldberg, with Roddy Piper as the referee. In a bad moment in wrestling history, Russo tried to recreate Survivor Series 1997 (if you don't know what happened there, then you are stupid) by having Piper call for the bell when Bret slapped Goldberg in the Sharpshooter. It's an instant failure, although Russo was hoping it would save his ass.
The Month of January would become hell for Russo. Injuries EVERYWHERE! Goldberg drilled Hart with a vicious Superkick during Starrcade, so what does Russo do with his injured star? He books him in a hardcore match against the NEW commissioner, Terry Funk. Funk, by the way, was a last minute decision for the commissioner. Russo promised a new commissioner one week, without actually finding someone. Well, he did, as it was Ric Flair. Since Russo gave Flair no respect from the start, Flair declined Russo's offer. Russo should have watched who he screwed, because you never know when it would come back to bite you. Then, they wanted Goldberg to punch his hands through the windows on the Limo. Yeah, that was smart, as Goldberg would now be out with an injury. Then, Jeff Jarrett got a bad concussion after he took a mean Jimmy Snuka splash off of a cage.
Add to this that the Good Ol' Boys, led by Kevin Sullivan, was pushing for Russo to get fired. They had reason, because Russo wasn't writing good material. Injuries really hurt Russo, because he was unable to push anybody else. The shit really hit the fan the week before Souled Out 2000. Scrambling for competitors to fill in Bret Hart's place to wrestle Sid Vicious for the World Title, Vince Russo had an idea! He was going to put in Tank Abbott, who at the time was very hated in the locker room and did NOT draw ratings (as he never did), and then have Abbott become the NEW World Champion. Bill Bisch thought that was a very bad idea, and then decided that it was time for Russo to go.
It should be noted that the Nitro before Russo's firing, the first ever 8-10 Nitro was held. It did a decent rating, but Russo was never able to live it out. I loved the Nitro where he brought back Snuka, Santana, and Steele, which was his last Nitro. I wouldn't doubt that Jarrett's injury during that show could have helped to seal his fate.
So after all of the bad booking in December and the quick fix attempt Russo had at reviving WCW, he was fired on the Thursday or Friday before Souled Out 2000. Kevin Sullivan was then named the Head Booker of the company, and that my friends, really stirred the pot. However, that's a different column! But you should know that Sullivan had no other wrestlers to book in the main event, BUT Chris Benoit. He knew Benoit might revolt, and even though Sullivan hated Benoit for stealing his wife away from him, he at least knew that Benoit was the best that he had at the time. Better than Sid.
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@That's all for today. I HOPE to get the NWO history up for Next Saturday. I need to do a little research on that one before I can devote a lot of time to write that sucker. Speaking of writing, I'm sure I have lots of typing to do tomorrow, as I'll hype the Royal Rumble... So just chill.....
Backyard BBQ: The Absolute BEST in Backyard Wrestling!
Take Care, and Thanks for Reading.