Vince Russo is one of the best known creative minds in the wrestling world. We were honoured to spend some time with the wrestling supremo and to learn from him. What strikes you most immediately about Vince is his decency. He is genuinely passionate about the wrestling business and cares deeply for the talented athletes that are the focus of it. Now fixing his attention on running the entertaining and dynamic Pyro and Ballyhoo website, he is staying as creative as ever. His characteristically straight talking interview follows.
You played a major role in some recent UK shows, what's your impression of the British scene?
I'm pleasantly surprised. It's a lot different than the United States. I'm definitely a fan of the entertainment aspect of wrestling which is characters and storyline and it was very refreshing to see that the emphasis in the UK appears to be on that - or at least 50/50 split. That's less and less of an art form in the US. My first show at IPW:UK I was really taken back because that was the type of wrestling that I grew up watching and that appealed to me. I was pleasantly surprised to see that brand of wrestling and thoroughly enjoyed it.
You published open letters to Vince McMahon about the booking of WWE's Raw TV show. Do you know if the creative team tried to adopt any of your suggestions?
It's really hard to say. That's a very big organisation, so I'm sure somebody at some point read some of the stuff that I wrote. Vince McMahon is a very stubborn man and will do things his way even if it might not be the right way. When he gets on a path he thinks is correct, he'll try to go down that road regardless. So I don't think at this point anyone will sway Vince as far as the direction of the company goes.
The Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania are on the horizon. How would you book them?
Well I'd definitely book Roman Reigns to win the Royal Rumble because I think he has the most mass appeal and could draw people to the sport. Something I'd really like to see but I don't think they'll go in this direction at all, is for Daniel Bryan to face Dean Ambrose. Daniel Bryan is coming back and his first opponent is Kane, who like lots of WWE guys means nothing anymore, and so I'd much rather see two guys against each other who the fans are interested in seeing.
Why do some people say NXT is better than the main WWE roster?
We have to be really careful because NXT does better as far as the internet wrestling community goes. I don't know if the mainstream would look at NXT the same way. I think the jubilation about NXT has more to do with the WWE being so bad right now and people are looking for any halfway decent alternative. If the WWE was cooking on all four burners right now, I don't think anybody would be paying particular attention to NXT.
What do you think of newer talents like Adam Rose, Roman Reigns and Rusev?
When I was writing creative for WWE, the first thing I would try to do when there was a new character, was to try and sit down and talk to them and really try and discover who they were and when I got a little titbit here or there, we would try to build on that, so they wouldn't have to go and try to act but rather be themselves. I think more of that is needed. I don't know how much he's like his character but it comes across as phony to me. A lot of these guys they just have to let be themselves and something will develop, if you saddle them with something and it doesn't work you really hurt them. I think Roman Reigns needs to just be left alone, to see how he does and go from there. Over-producing him will kill him before he gets started. As for Rusev, it's all about Lana.
Randy Savage is going into the WWE Hall of Fame, who else should?
There's just so many people. It's such a mockery, it's so political. Wrestling is a very tough life and you have to sacrifice so much to make that a career. My theory is that if you worked for WWE, everybody should go in. Why not give that retired wrestler his last moment of glory in the sun - who does that hurt. When I look back and I see Chyna not in, King Kong Bundy, Big Boss Man, Davey Boy Smith, I mean how are these guys not in the Hall of Fame? The fact that there are politics involved is really sad - I'd put everyone in.
What do TNA need to do to improve their numbers on the new network?
There's a lot they need to do. As somebody who worked there for a very long time, I know the holes and there are many of them. There's really nobody in a management position right now that understands wrestling and if you're a wrestling fan or a writer like I was, it's so easy to see in the way the show is laid out and presented. You have to know and understand the fundamentals of wrestling, use that as a base and build up from there. They have a guy in charge of creative now who doesn't have that base, it's not his background and that really hurts the product.
What's the best rib [practical joke] you have pulled?
This was in my book, it was an office rib and on somebody people don't know, but it's my favourite. When I was working at WWE, some 25 years ago, I hired this kid called Bill Banks who was a big wrestling fan but really green around the gills. WWE at that time had a nursery facility and every Halloween the kids would go trick-or-treating in the main building. I told Bill that we had to be in full costume for when they came. He drove to work on Halloween with Kevin Kelly, who had an empty brown paper bag but told Bill it contained his costume. Eventually I went and told Bill to get dressed as the kids were coming. He shut the door and I literally gathered every single person on the floor. When he opened the door, he was dressed head-to-toe in a full Riddler outfit, it was so funny.
Humour, empathy, intelligence, business acumen and passion. Vince Russo has the full set. He continues to be bursting with ideas which can now be tracked through his website. Be warned though. Just like the TV shows he inspired, once you've tuned in, you'll be hooked.