ROPE OPERA: How WCW Killed Vince Russo

Five years after the publication of his first autobiography, FORGIVEN, Vince Russo published his second autobiography, and while I enjoyed that first book, this is the one I’d be more looking forward to. This is because it wasn’t until he was hired to write for WCW that I even heard the name, Vince Russo, as he was strictly a behind-the-scenes figure in WWF. But when he moved to WCW that was news. I didn’t have a computer at the time, and the internet was still a relatively new thing, culturally speaking, but one of my best friends and fellow wrestling fans did have one, and he used to report wrestling news to me all the time. So he told me about the big news that Vince Russo and his writing partner Ed Ferrara, who were the two main writers for WWF, were now hired to take over writing for WCW after Ed Bischoff was fired.

At the time I had been as much a fan of WCW as I was WWF, as I noted in a previous review I often spent Monday nights with my TV remote in hand, switching back and forth between Nitro and Raw. But around this time, which was the fall of 1999, WCW was getting increasingly bad. But they still had great wrestlers, in many ways a better roster than WWF, but they just had bad storylines. My friends and I would spend many hours on the phone, doing our own fantasy booking, talking about how we would fix WCW, how’d we’d book the shows and PPVs. When Russo and Ferrera came along they did what Russo was always best at, adding a bit of a dose of “reality” to the storylines. So it was publicly acknowledged on the show that these new guys were in charge. Never actually named on the show (besides a brief mention by Buff Bagwell once), they were simply referred to as “The Powers That Be,” and we’d often see various wrestlers meeting with Russo in his office, although Russo was always off-camera, at most we’d see one of his hands as Russo set various rules and made decisions. Those first three months were, in my opinion, great. Characters were revitalized, including B and C-listers like LaParka and Norman Smiley, Jeff Jarrett was brought over from WWF and did some of the best work of his career, and it culminated in a tournament that saw Bret Hart finally win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

Then Russo was sent home, for reasons which were not clear on the internet, and WCW went right back down the toilet. After another 3 months, the shocking news was that Vince Russo and Ed Bischoff were both coming back to run WCW together. And when they did, the shows quickly got good again, as they devised a storyline where the older established wrestlers, dubbed “The Millionaires Club”, took on the younger wrestlers, dubbed “The New Blood,” with Russo and Bischoff surprisingly united as leaders of The New Blood. That storyline was also great…for a little while. Until things started falling apart again. And I always wondered what had been going on, and that’s what this book primarily deals with.

Picking up where Forgiven left off, the book starts with Russo and his two sons cleaning out his office at WWF HQ in Connecticut, as they prepare to move to Atlanta to begin their new lives. After that he jumps back and forth a bit, giving more details of his past, from his college years to more stories from his time in WWF, as he explains his time in WCW which was almost immediately beset but petty office politics, both from some of the wrestlers and other officials in the company. He talks about his motives behind some of the storylines he wrote, like why he thought it was important to reevaluate how to use iconic wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Rick Flair to everyone’s advantage, to his fights with TNT’s Standards and Practices.

He goes all the way through his initial removal from his duties, to when he was brought back to run the company with Eric Bischoff, who suggested he become an on-air personality, which he agreed to with some trepidation. It’s all here in this book, Russo doesn’t hold back. The struggles to work with Bischoff, dealing with the egos of the wrestlers, and controversial storylines like Goldberg’s Heel Turn,  Bash At The Beach, and World Champion David Arquette. All the way up to the sale of WCW in 2001, after which he thought he was done with wrestling for good. He used some of his savings to open a CD store in Georgia, along with an enigmatic employee known only as “The Dawgman.” Eventually, growing somewhat bored with running a store, even as the owner, he met with Vince McMahon and was rehired to write Raw and Smackdown again…for about two weeks. He explains why that didn’t work out, and how he was called by Jeff Jarrett and convinced to help him write scripts for the new PPV-only wrestling show that Jeff and his father Jerry were creating, which Russo came up with the name TNA for.

Then we get the early years of TNA, including the eventual takeover by Dixie Carter, and the brief period Russo was put on hiatus when Hulk Hogan was first supposed to join the company (that wouldn’t pan out, but Hogan would join several years later), and Russo details what lead to him becoming a born again Christian and how that changed his life.

I should say, even he acknowledges here that Russo gets a bit preachy throughout this book. He’s constantly adding references to the glory of God and Christ and His blessings yadda yadda yadda.

Overlooking that, there are a lot of good stories here, if you were a fan of wrestling from that era I think you’ll enjoy this. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of Vince Russo, if you go into this with an open mind you may think differently.

Chacebook rating: FIVE STARS


P.S. I remember after Vince Russo left TNA for good in 2014, he said he’d be writing a third book, called Total Nonstop Agony, about his time with that company, which I was also looking forward to but, to date, no third book has been forthcoming.

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