Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vince Russo and TNA Part Ways

Russo's gone from TNA
Photo via the Pyro and Ballyhoo Facebook page
Days after news of Spike TV giving TNA Wrestling the ol' heave-ho, Vince Russo announced via his Twitter that he and the company were parting ways. If you didn't think Russo still worked for the company after being fired and rehired more times than Billy Martin with the New York Yankees, it was for good reason. He was rehired as a consultant on the sly against the wishes of Spike TV, which didn't want him associated with any wrestling show on the network. As Danielle Matheson noted at With Spandex yesterday, she had noticed a transition between the Bruce Pritchard-written run and a new run with Russo's stench on it that has run up to and through the current set of tapings in the can.

While all credible reports state that the split between Spike and TNA is pretty much final, I wouldn't be surprised if Russo's firing, which he reported as being a temporary "break" whose finality was initiated by him, was a last-ditch effort in order to preserve the contract extension, or at the very least, look more attractive to other networks who might pick Impact up. Either way, wherever Russo has gone in his career after leaving the WWF, disaster and turbulence has followed. I disagree with the notion that Vince McMahon "filtered" Russo, because WWF/E has gotten markedly worse in the storytelling department instead of better after his departure, but it's clear Russo just hasn't worked out in any other environment.

Matheson in her report also noted that Spike has undergone a massive shift in direction from a network geared only towards males to a more inclusive slate of shows with diverse protagonists, characters, and hosts. In response, TNA, instead of rebuilding the Knockouts Division and pretending to advance women in the company, doubled down on its misogyny. Two stories come across most egregiously. The first happened when Chris Sabin and Austin Aries feuded over Velvet Sky like she was a piece of meat and not an actual person with thoughts, feelings, and agency. The second is ongoing right now with Bully Ray's unquenchable desire to put Dixie Carter through a table, one that will be satisfied in an upcoming airing of the show.

Wacky conspiracy theories are also floating about the Twittersphere by sources both insane and credible that Russo has been a mole for Jeff Jarrett the whole time. Jarrett has been laying in wait, taking the Mitt Romney-route of collecting binders full of wrestlers, preparing for a time when it would be feasibly possible to launch his Global Force Wrestling promotion. Spike TV would be a nice landing spot for him if he didn't sign that waiver upon leaving TNA that prohibited him from running any kind of show on that network as long as the company was alive. Sending Russo there to sabotage the operation in order to close the company sounds sane enough to sound plausible. However, I don't believe it for a second, mainly because if Spike found out that Jarrett had anything to do with Russo, would it give GFW the time of day? Right now, too many people believe that Impact's end will signal the end of Spike TV airing wrestling anyway. I'm not sure Jarrett would jeopardize that by hatching what would amount to be a cockamamie comic book villain scheme.

Now, McMahon does seem like the kind of guy who would hire plants in order to crush his competition, but I believe those conspiracy theories even less. The theory that he sent Russo to WCW in order to sabotage it from the inside is bunk because Russo was leaving the WWF at his creative apex, and I doubt McMahon would send him away to destroy another company unless stories of Russo's influence backstage were greatly exaggerated. I believe the TNA theories even less because nothing WWE has done since the first week of the ill-fated "Impact-to-Mondays" experiment suggests to me that it ever thought of the company as a threat. WWE has treated ex-TNA, non-WWE/ECW/WCW talent like they have nuclear waste oozing out of their pores with the exception of Xavier Woods, and I haven't seen as much as a half-hearted, passive-aggressive jab thrown at TNA in a storyline ever. Any feud between the two companies has been fabricated by fans, journalists, and TNA employees.

To me, Russo's continual hiring suggests a fault of loyalty in Dixie Carter, one that superseded even warnings from the network her show was situated upon and companies that she wanted to work with like Wrestle-1. Loyalty isn't necessarily a bad thing all the time, but when the guy is proven not to move the needle monetarily or creatively, and everyone else hates him, then you gotta know when to cut ties. Hopefully, Russo continues to live out his post-wrestling booker life as a gonzo Twitter user and pay-site writer, because he doesn't need to be dragging wrestling promotions with him back into 1998 anymore.