|If Russo never gets back to WWE, then maybe indie companies should take a fucking clue too|
Photo via Russo's Facebook Group
What does this cautionary tale have to do with wrestling? Well, I don't know if you've heard the news, but Vince Russo has been in contact with WWE. Yes, Vince Russo, the man whose number of crimes against taste and decorum in pro wrestling all for the short-term, unsustainable gain of the Attitude Era, wants back into WWE, the company that let him walk the first time and fired him the second time. For those unacquainted with the man, his list of offenses is long. He was the one who beget WWE's obsession with blurring the line between reality and kayfabe to the point that it influenced the entire industry. He didn't kill World Championship Wrestling, per se (those seeds were planted before he even got there), but he did light the pilot on the crematory oven. He did, however, kill any chance of any other non-WWE company appearing on a major cable network thanks to his and Dixie Carter's inability to keep away from each other, leading to Impact Wrestling getting the heave-ho from Spike TV.
Thankfully, Vince McMahon has not been "receptive" to Russo's overtures. However, it's not WWE you have to worry about in the future. Aside from the fact that Russo's damage to wrestling via his tenure with WWE is already done and accounted for, even if he were to go back to the corporate leader in pro wrestling, his voice would be but one in a room full of writers and other talking heads, with only one that matters anyway, that of McMahon's. However, Russo on the loose in other companies, whether corporate and run more poorly than WWE or those with an independent ethos, is what people should be scared of.
The amount of damage that Russo can do with WWE is minimal, but letting him go to a smaller company with fewer people in his way and more control is a disaster. People have varying opinions about the value of wrestlers and personalities, which is why he still gets to participate in the cottage industry of shoot videos. Confined on their own, they're mostly harmless avenues for frustrated and jealous people to vent to fans who wonder where their wrestling has gone. But once someone with money and a promotion starts using him or Jim Cornette or Rip Rogers as consultants, then the poison spreads.
Russo, since leaving WWE the second time, has done nothing but turn any bit of goodwill the former TNA ever built up into rubbish, although he had help from other booking also-rans like Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, Dutch Mantell, and of course, Cornette. The last one in that list also did a lot of heavy lifting into metamorphosing Ring of Honor from its critically-acclaimed first era into that husk that was the Davey Richards era, where he fought openly with Kevin Steen and El Generico. And yet not only do fans and pundits flock to what these people are saying, but indie promotions will continue to lean on them for influence and get burnt. I mean, look at Rocky Mountain Pro's fall from grace after hiring Russo to "get them ready for television." Many long-time followers of the promotion saw a marked difference after Russo got his mitts on the show, and none of them thought the change good.
The principles behind why people like Cornette or Russo or anyone who has booked/written for a successful promotion in the past need to be left behind is all rooted in their refusal to change. Like the Salton Sea can't flourish when the old water stagnates without vacating for new water to take its place, wrestling can't move forward with old thoughts anchoring it in the past. It's not to say the precepts of what makes wrestling good necessarily have to change. Lou Thesz, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, and Ricochet all execute on tried and true avenues differently. The path is the same, but the water volume going through may have different mineral or bulk debris content. To think that wrestlers need to emulate someone like Thesz completely to bring wrestling back to glory days instead of studying him, seeing what beats he hit, and constructing them in a modern way for a modern crowd is the same as planning on building your resort town in 2017 around the Salton Sea and not something more vibrant.
Of course, wrestling isn't the only place where shitty, stagnant old men keep trying to wrest control of an industry or an art to keep it in the past. It may not be the most prevalent place where it happens, but even if it's just cacophony of crotchety old (or young with old souls) people yelling in one specific corner of wrestling commentary, it feels pervasive. And it's only going to keep wrestling stagnant. It's not to say modern styles are without fault; it's just defaulting to Russo, who wants to cater to a kind of fan that doesn't exist anymore, Cornette, who wants to drop a nuke on a wrestling venue just because he doesn't like it, or any other curmudgeon who can't change is the opposite of constructive. People don't vacation by water that smells like sewage and biodegradation. Why should wrestling companies book as if beholden by imitating dead eras?