Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the Vince Russo review! The last time I reviewed Russo’s creative ideas up to 1999, so today I will be jumping to the year 2000 (via the magic of the WWE Network) and review Russo’s second run as WCW’s head creative writer alongside Eric Bischoff.
Will Russo’s creative pros outweigh his creative cons? Or will I regret ever visiting WCW 2000? Let’s see.
Pros: Millionaire’s Club vs New Blood
During WCW’s reboot show in April 2000, a roster-wide feud began between the younger undercard talent (Kidman, Booker, Vampiro etc.) and the older, more established main-eventers (Hogan, Sting, Flair etc.). According to Russo the initial idea was to have the New Blood be the babyfaces and the Millionaire’s Club the heels. However, the popularity of the established talent meant that the Millionaire’s Club ended up being the heroes, against the cocky, entitled New Blood.
While I don’t think the roles were correct, I really like the idea of a roster-wide feud, as it allows each roster member to be involved week-to-week in some capacity. Splitting the roster into two different groups entirely meant that whether a wrestler had a gimmick or not, they did have some sort of character identity because of the New Blood and Millionaires Club divide.
Given that, I think WCW really dropped the ball with this one, and it could’ve been a great way to elevate the next generation of wrestling talent all in one big storyline. Unfortunately, the established talent just ended up destroying the younger New Blood faction, making them all not seem they were good enough to survive “where the big boys played”.
People will slate the creative output of Vince Russo until they’re blue in the face. But Russo as an on-screen character is incredibly underrated. As an on-screen bad guy, Russo is the most obnoxious, annoying person ever – which is what a bad guy is supposed to be. I think Russo as a heel on-screen authority figure could be well executed providing he wasn’t the one writing his own script.
Father vs Son: Flair vs Flair
While I think David Flair vs Ric Flair was poorly executed, the idea of having Ric Flair’s son fight his dad because he no longer wanted to exist in his father’s shadow is genius. The only problem with this feud is David Flair was a god awful in ring wrestler, and character.
However, this storyline could’ve been the passing of the torch between father and son, had David Flair been a decent enough wrestler to come across as a legitimate threat to the Flair legacy. One could imagine that if David was as good as his father in-ring, and had the natural personality and charisma his father had, then this feud could’ve been rather good.
A new ‘vigilante’
Throughout 2000 Sting was involved in a blood feud with his former tag team partner Vampiro. During the feud, Sting was burnt alive by Vampiro in a human torch match and for several weeks, Sting was kept off television. Eventually, Sting would return to WCW – however this time he wore a mask. The commentators got over the fact that Sting was burnt from head to toe, and his skin was burnt to a crisp.
While I think the face-painted Sting is an iconic visual, the idea of Sting being a full-on vigilante who had to wear black clothing to cover his burnt body (very similar to Kane in many ways) was especially intriguing.
In 1999 the Sting character had become somewhat stale due to being watered down by his involvement as a member of the NWO Wolfpack. I really feel like this new version of Sting could’ve been a refreshing rebirth for the character, and I would’ve liked to have seen where the feud with Vampiro went. However, the gimmick was dropped immediately, and Sting removed the mask to reveal he wasn’t actually burnt.
Also in 1999 Hulk Hogan reverted to his red and yellow roots, and ditched the ‘Hollywood’ Hogan moniker. Yet fans began to tire very quickly, and once again started to resent the immortal gimmick that drove Hogan to turn heel many years prior.
In 2000, Hogan began a work-shoot feud with Billy Kidman, which began when Hogan said Kidman couldn’t “draw, brother!” During this feud, Hogan didn’t sport the black and white ‘Hollywood’ attire, nor the red & yellow ‘Immortal’ attire, but instead his brand-new F.U.N.B attire which came along with a whole new personality. No longer did Hogan have the “red, white, and blue running through his veins” and hit people with the big boot and leg drop. Instead, Hogan smashed into limos driving a hummer, started power bombing guys through tables, and just overall just became a bit of badass.
I know Hogan is an extremely controversial figure in the wrestling business – but looking back on it, the badass hummer driving Hulk Hogan was damn refreshing.
Cons: Trash brawls
Hardcore title matches in the WWE were fun, and often quite enjoyable – but WCW hardcore title matches were absolutely awful. Not only was the wrestling extremely poor, but even the comedy spots were badly executed. I like the idea of having a hardcore title, but not when it’s centred around awful, poorly put together matches. Instead, WCW could’ve capitalised on the popularity of ECW at the time, and just booked the hardcore title like it was the ECW Championship, having a legitimate force like Mike Awesome hold the belt.
However, Staziak did not have the charisma or wrestling ability that Hennig did. Another example, Chuck Palumbo was named the ‘Main Event’ and feuded with the ‘Total Package’ Lex Luger over the bodybuilder gimmick, completely copying his entrance, theme music, and entire look. The problem with this was Luger was in ridiculous shape compared to Palumbo, so it didn’t really make any sense and the younger talent just looked like Aldi rip-offs of established gimmicks. Not to knock Aldi by the way, I do my food shopping there all the time.
As many wrestling fans know, Vince Russo has a very unique style of television writing which is referred to as ‘crash-style’ (which I mentioned in the first Russo Review). While ‘crash-style’ television can sometimes be incredibly enjoyable (e.g. episodes of WWF RAW throughout 1999), WCW 2000 did not capitalise on the exciting pace of ‘crash-style’ television. Instead, storylines, character development, and wrestling quality were all completely out of whack. The motivation of a character would often change week-to-week, matches didn’t last more than five minutes before other wrestlers made a run-in, and often storylines would make little to no sense at all.
If you the reader were to ask me if I’d recommend WCW 2000, it would have to be an unconvincing ‘no’. While the initial regime of Russo returning to WCW had an exciting feel to it, it soon went south and the product became very difficult to watch. Especially when I committed myself to review every Nitro and PPV…