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Russo 2000 vs. McMahon 2000:
"Who Books the Booker?" 

July 31, 2003

by Rick Scaia   
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


[NOTE FROM THE PRESENT DAY: Three years ago, Vince McMahon's 2 year run as an incredibly effective on-screen heel was still going full blast... meantime, Vince Russo was not exactly setting the world on fire trying to play the evil boss of WCW.  I took at a look at the reasons why, and asked the question, "Who boos the booker?"....

Today, the discussion is pertinent, because a ubiquitous Vince McMahon is not longer one of my favorite things on WWE TV.  Some of the reasons are ones discussed here, relative to the 2000 version of Russo...  Vince has been on a bit of a streak of always coming out on top this summer, for one.  And two, in the era of General Manager, and with the acknowledgement that LINDA McMahon is the business-side boss of WWE, Vince also suffers from the "Exactly where does his power comes from again, and why is it greater than Stephanie's or Linda's?" issue within storylines.

It's nice bit of dovetailing between problems of the past and potential problems of today.  At least, I thought so.  I guess I'll just implore you to read on and decide for yourself.  Enjoy!]

OOpinion: "Who Books the Booker?"  

Originally Published by Wrestline.com on September 1, 2000

This is half follow-up on some of the things I talked about two Fridays ago... and half a totally fresh direction I am compelled to go when it comes to talking about the Head Cheese in Charge of WCW.

You see, wisely, the whole "reality" fetish seems to have fallen by the wayside, and in record time.  But there is still a lot of what I talked about a few weeks back that is pertinent to this discussion...  essentially, I'm talking about the parts of my arguments where I talked about what Vince Russo "gets," and what he doesn't.

For a foundation:  Vince Russo ain't stupid.  He's a fan of this business, and he knows what works.  He's a proven success.  He helped steer the WWF ship in a very necessary direction about 4 years ago.  Since coming to WCW, he has vastly upgraded the "A-List" talent roster (eliminating old guard and inserting younger guys), and has good justifications for why the B-Team is serious subpar.  Honestly, just go back to the column from two weeks ago if you need more background.

But here's our jumping off point...  I think an important discussion to have right now is not about what Vince Russo is doing behind the scenes.  He's on an OK track.  He still tries to be too fine, too fancy, too frilly with the storytelling, but it beats the hell out of "the Dog" and midgets blowing up boats and other bona fide WCW brain farts of the past.

What I want to talk about is what Vince Russo needs to do to make himself a viable and valuable part of the on-screen product.  For all the noises he's made about not wanting to be "one of the boys," he sure spends an awful lot of time on my TV.  Maybe it's true that his "character" is needed to stir the pot and keep things moving on TV...  afterall, look at how incredible the "evil ruler" gimmick worked for Vince McMahon between 1998 and 2000!

Unfortunately, Vince Russo is not Vince McMahon.

And I'm not talking about ability to perform as a heel.  Russo's got a completely different, but equally effective, type of heel charisma about him as VKM.  In terms of just getting a crowd to hate you within a few sentences, the two are both very good.  But Russo lacks in two other very important areas....

One:  Russo does not have the dual smart/mark foundation establishing exactly what his "power" is and why he can wield it.  For McMahon, ownership of the WWF doesn't need an understanding of how the wrestling business works; you can think it's real or know it's a total work, but if the Owner of the Company is involved, you know the extent of his influence.  Russo is a "writer," and to smarts, that means everything; but to everyone else, it's kind of a non-issue.  They don't buy Russo's power, and that makes for confusion when Russo's calling some of the shots, but Commissioner the Cat is calling others.

Two:  Vince Russo is simply not as willing to look bad as Vince McMahon was. Yes, Russo is willing to bump.  Yes, Russo is willing to play the coward. But at the end of the show, he can't leave the audience thinking "what a jackass."  I mean, Russo is dragged to the desert and is slated to die in a hole on Monday...  but before the show is up, Bret Hart saves him in an ingenious scheme.  For contrast:  one of RAW's most bizarre finales had Vince McMahon wetting himself as a final image.  The owner of a billion dollar company is willing to piss his pants (in simulated fashion) on TV to end a show, but Vince Russo's always gotta have the ace of Spades up his sleeve...  doesn't make sense, does it?

What do I suggest?  Simply put, Russo's right, he does kind of HAVE to be on TV at this point.  His character is a necessary one to tell the stories he wants to tell, and short of carting someone else out there to be the figurehead for the "creative team," there's no reason it shouldn't be Russo himself.

But if we're carting him out there to be the diabolical despot of WCW, let's do two things.  First:  firmly establish exactly what his power is, and why he wields it.  And we MUST do this in a way that is acceptable to smart and markish fans alike.  Unfortunately, as much as I've had to come around on the Cat's entertainment value lately, the only way I see this working is to merge the capacities of "booker" and "commissioner" into one all-encompassing "administrator" position that Russo would hold.  If we can do this while incorporating a quickie feud with the Cat, fine.  Otherwise, let's just straighten this "power struggle" out so that we can move on with believable and compelling storylines.

And second:  fer chrissakes, let's humble Vince Russo.  I'm not talking about taking bumps or getting beat up.  If anything, Russo knows as well as anyone that "paying your dues" by getting your ass kicked makes you (subconsciously or otherwise) a face with the fans.  Let's not make Vince Russo's BODY vulnerable to punishment, let's make his CHARACTER vulnerable. Like Mr. McMahon, he'd still wield ultimate power when all was said and done....  but on a week to week basis, would it kill Russo to build some drama by making himself look genuinely bad/stupid/weak?  Which then opens the door for him to wreak horrible, horrible vengeance the next week...  and so on and so on.

Vince Russo does NOT have to buy WCW and then urinate in his pants on national television to meet these requirements...  but he does seem intent on playing the "Mr. McMahon Archetype."  So I don't think I'm too far off base by suggesting that he adopt some of the Mr. McMahon character's more marketable characteristics.

Vince Russo could become WCW's most valuable non-wrestling on-screen personality...  I just don't see it happening in the characterization's current form.


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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