MOONEYHAM COLUMN: Russo's time runs out in TNA
Many thought it would have happened long before now.
But when TNA president Dixie Carter made it official Tuesday that Vince Russo was no longer with the company, reaction was far from muted.
“Have I died?” was the succinct three-word response from longtime Russo foe Jim Cornette.
“It’s been a Happy Valentine’s Day for the Cornette household. Love is in the air,” chimed in wife Stacey Synn Cornette.
“A cancer has been removed,” commented TNA co-founder Jerry Jarrett. “It’s a positive for the company no matter who they put in that position.”
Carter’s declaration that Russo had left TNA came days after rumors had begun swirling about Russo’s future with the company.
“TNA and Vince Russo have mutually parted ways as of this week. The separation is amicable and professional,” Carter tweeted Tuesday. “We are glad for the opportunity to have worked together and wish each other nothing but good luck and success in the future.”
In other words, in WWE parlance, Russo was “future-endeavored.”
Russo, who had enjoyed runs with WWE during the ‘90s and later with now-defunct WCW, was part of TNA from the company’s beginning in 2002. He left briefly in 2004 but returned two years later as one of the company’s head writers. Russo was moved down the pecking order last year when former WWE official Bruce Prichard was appointed to an executive position overseeing the creative staff.
Russo, 51, was conspicuously absent at TNA’s Against All Odds pay-per-view last Sunday night. Dave Lagana, a former lead writer for Smackdown and booker for Ring of Honor, filled in at the show and is expected to replace Russo in the company hierarchy.
Lagana joins Prichard on the creative staff along with Matt Conway, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan.
“Had the opportunity to work with David in WWE and learned to respect his knowledge of story structure and detail,” tweeted Bischoff.
Few non-wrestlers have created more controversy than Russo.
Cornette, whose feud with Russo dates back to their days in WWE in the early ‘90s, predicted in 2010 that Russo’s days in TNA were numbered.
“Hogan and Bischoff sold ‘em a bill of goods,” the fiery current Ring of Honor executive said at the time. “From what I understand now, Dixie is starting to see through Hogan. Of course, she has yet to see through Russo, which has been her bigger problem for a lot longer, but now you have a company paying a fortune in salaries — probably two or three times more than what they were paying a couple years ago — to do ratings half as good.”
Cornette, whose old-style, Southern-based approach often clashed with his New York-bred adversary’s harder-edged, “less wrestling” creative direction, was one of Russo’s most vocal detractors during his WWE tenure and predicted then that Russo would “fall flat on his face” in WCW.
“He has no respect for the wrestling business or anybody in it,” said Cornette, “and that’s going to be more obvious there where they won’t have anyone to control him. I think The Ultimate Warrior deserved the money he made more than Russo. I had always in the past thought The Ultimate Warrior was the epitome of a guy making money with no talent. Russo has tried to make this business a joke.”
Dutch Mantell, who worked on the creative staff with both Russo and Cornette in TNA, wasn’t surprised when Cornette was released from his contract in September 2009.
“Vince didn’t like Cornette’s booking because he considered Southern booking too hokey. Cornette hated Vince’s booking because it made no sense. Vince didn’t like Jimmy being from the South, and Jimmy thought Russo sounded too New Yorker. Vince claimed Cornette couldn’t book Madison Square Garden, and Jimmy claimed that Russo couldn’t book a table at Denny’s for lunch.”
Russo, a constant lightning rod of controversy who popularized the crash style of television wrestling, was credited with being one of the main reasons behind WWE’s resurgence during the Attitude Era in the late ’90s. He also was a driving force behind the de-emphasis of the company’s in-ring product.
Russo never achieved that level of success in WCW where many blamed him for the eventual demise of that company.
“I don’t think Vince liked the business ... I don’t think Vince respected the business,” said Jerry Jarrett. “His greatest contribution to TNA was the Dupp Cup. Or maybe it was the midget in the trash can.”
An informal poll among fans produced an overwhelmingly positive reaction to Russo’s ouster.
“Russo’s last good, original idea had to be approved by Vince McMahon,” wrote Terry Taylor of Madison, N.C.
“No more old WCW storylines,” echoed Andy Cavendar of Bruceton, Tenn.
“Will this mean they’ll now have fewer than 50 storylines?” asked Will Trotter of Kingsport, Tenn.
Some fans suggested that perhaps too much of the blame was being assigned to Russo.
“Fans will now need to find a new scapegoat as they will soon realize the problem with TNA runs deeper than Vince Russo,” wrote Daris Brown of Charleston.
“Everybody has an opinion I’m sure ... but only time will tell. One thing about it is that if it goes bad, they can’t blame Russo,” stated Bill Hazelwood of Greenville, S.C.
“It doesn’t really matter if Russo is there or not, since the success he had in WWE was because Vince McMahon was the one that had the final say at the end of the day. In TNA, everybody is bickering about everything and that will continue with whoever is head of creative,” wrote Daniel Whitehead of North Charleston.
“All I’ll say is better the devil you know,” commented Simon James of Wallaroo, South Australia.
“Now if Dixie will can Hogan and Bischoff, maybe they can evolve the promotion,” wrote Shane Cantley of Myrtle Beach.
Pete Griffin of Nashville, Tenn., took a more pragmatic approach.
“I am just a fan with no insider information about what Vince Russo was or wasn’t doing for TNA. What I can say is this is just like a sports team making a change at the head coach spot. Obviously TNA felt that Russo was not maximizing the potential of the roster and they had to find a different perspective.”
Among other responses:
“Vince Russo received way too much credit for the success of the WWE Attitude Era, not enough blame for the downfall of WCW, and he helped mire TNA in mediocrity. Without Russo, TNA now has the opportunity to rightfully claim the No. 2 spot ... they have the talent and the talent has the desire. One thing that will continue to hold them back are the taped shows. It is difficult to get ratings and people to watch when the entire show is posted on the Internet days before it airs.” — Jerry Wiseman, Sylva, N.C.
“From my viewpoint, how can a guy keep his job when he does not help the company create or boast ratings? Russo had the power of the pen and, with Hogan and Jarrett, ruined this wrestling company’s future.” — John Hitchcock, Greensboro, N.C.
“What’s good about Russo being gone is new fresh ideas for TNA, but just like wrestling has shown us, when has there been a fresh new idea in years? Everything is a copy of another storyline. The bad thing about Russo being gone is with all the outlandish storylines, he has ruined TNA to the point of no return.” — Adam Helms, Charleston
“Vince McMahon made him better than he really was.” — Shannon Elliott, Hanahan
“Russo is a selfish jerk, but so is Hogan.” — Michael Rubin, Boca Raton, Fla.
“In WWE, everything had to pass through Vince McMahon. In some ways, TNA has turned out to be like WCW. To quote the old adage, ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’” — Brian Westcott, Meridian, Idaho
“All the great things he and Vince (McMahon) did in the ‘90s have been eclipsed by the ego he developed in the past 10 years. You can’t live on yesterday.” — Paul Jones, Summerville
“What TNA should do is a lot less talking and a lot more wrestling. Go back to old school wrestling. Watch some old NWA, World Class, AWA and Mid-South — now that sells.” — Phillip Sullivan, Longview, Texas
“I’m just waiting for Russo to con his way into ROH. Wouldn’t even surprise me.” — Jake McClain, Atlanta
“And somewhere Jim Cornette is smiling ...” — David Garrick, Vance, S.C.
-- Old School Championship Wrestling is holding its first show of the year Feb. 26 at the Hanahan Rec Center (behind Trident Tech off Rivers Avenue and next to Hanahan Elementary).
“February Feud” will feature a main event pitting former ECW, WWE and TNA star Al Snow against John Skyler. OSCW also will present its first women’s title match with former WWE hardcore champ Bobcat vs Pandora.
Bell time is 6 p.m. Doors open at 5.
Adult admission (cash at door) is $10; kids 12 and under $5.
For more information, call 843-743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.