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Russo Ran Me Off from WCW
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By Paul Herzog

To quote one of my heroes, ďIíve had all I kin stands, I canít stands no moreĒÖ.

Over the last several years, Iíve returned over and over to the question, ďWhat would it take for me to stop watching professional wrestling?Ē I suffered through the gradual degradation of everyoneís wrestling skills, to the point that there isnít an actual wrestling hold in most televised matches. I held on after two of my all-time favorites, Arn Anderson and Ricky Steamboat, retired early due to injury. Smoky Mountain Wrestling went under, and I kept watching. Most of the worldís major talent came and left ECW, and Iím still there week after week. The WWF put Mark Henry in a ball gag, and I came back for more. Over the last couple of weeks, I think Iíve found it. It came from the man whom I should have expected itíd come from, Vince Russo. But the method behind the madness was something I never expected.

Everyone has to play a part in a professional wrestling show. The in-ring performers are there to give the impression of violence, which is committed as part of a story which plays out in and out of the ring, or just for its own sake. The booker comes up with how the story will play out. The ring crew is there to set up this theatrical stage. The production people add to the enjoyment of the audience in attendance with light and sound displays to accompany the theatre. The role of the TV announcers is to fill in story gaps when actions alone donít quite cut it, and to communicate the action in the ring. In that regard, itís the same role that announcers play at other sporting events. But itís also like the narrator in a book or movie, who acts as a tour guide, as it were, through the events that are taking place.

Not only have many of WCWís events recently been nonsensical and misguided, but Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson and Mark Madden are guiding me straight into the nuthouse. Itís not their fault, personally. Contrary to the beliefs of some, wrestling announcers do not have free reign, no more so than the wrestlers. What they say, and how they say, is monitored by the booker and promoter, to ensure that what they say is in lockstep with everything else that the promotion is doing. So when Scott Hudson says that ďTorrie Wilson is turning heel on Kidman,Ē heíd be quickly and strongly corrected for using that phrase if it wasnít Vince Russoís idea in the first place. The three-way finish at the last PPV further evidences this, where Goldberg didnít go along with a powerbomb and instead walked out of the ring. Russo put the announcing crew in an impossible spot there. There is no fine line between doing the role of a wrestling announcer, and communicating what just happened at that time.  So Schiavone and crew sounded like the worst smarks of Bill Wattsí nightmares, talking about Goldberg shooting, refusing to cooperate, and walking out.

The whole thing smacks of an ego so completely run amok that he feels the need to remind the viewers, as often as possible, that thereís someone writing this stuff.  The WWF has admitted the nature of the beast, but they donít talk about who is booking what, and I believe thatís contributed to their success.  Normal TV shows donít confuse the boundary between their imaginary set and their real lives, and why would they?  What possible sense would it make to put an interview with Matthew Perry in the middle of Friends, where he talks about how the writers have done his relationship with Monica, and perhaps plug his new movie?  In WCWís world, not only do they do that; they then turn right back around and go back to the story!  For what possible benefit?  Why?

The only thing I can figure is to feed Russoís ever-growing need for respect and acknowledgment of his skills as a wrestling writer.  Which makes him the biggest mark Iíve ever heard of, and believe me, Iíve met plenty, both in and out of the wrestling business.  If he reads this, and being the mark that he is, Iíll bet he loiters around various Web sites, probably doing searches for his name in printÖwell, Iíd love to hear from him.  See if thereís another answer to my question.  If anyone wants to try and help me figure it out, my E-mail is grapsfan@worldnet.att.net.  If you want to call me, drop me a line and Iíll give you my phone number.  If your intentions are good, Iím serious about this.  I want to know.

During his time with the WWF, the opinions and ideas of Jim Ross, Bruce Prichard, Pat Patterson and others balanced Russo, with the final ďyes/noĒ coming from the watchful eye of Vince McMahon.  In WCW, thereís no balance.  The man has final word over everything.  The result is not only the least watchable wrestling program Iíve ever seen, but also one of the most confusing shows in TV history.

Since my parents first got cable TV in 1981, Iíve been watching the WWF and the corresponding show on TBS, starting with GCW, moving through the Crocketts, and now on to the Turner era.  For 20 years, I was always partial to the Atlanta stuff.  Always.  Maybe it was just burned into my mind, but they were a wrestling company, whereas Vince McMahon called himself ďsports entertainment.Ē  I like wrestling.  I donít like the garbage I see on TNT and TBS now.  Itís a strange coincidence that one of the men I associated with everything good about professional wrestling, Gordon Solie, passed away as all of this mess was coming down.  Now that Gordon is gone to a better place, one less link exists to the wrestling shows I used to know and love.  One less link in the chain that has bound me to my TV set since I was six years old.

 Stick a fork in meÖI think Iím done.

Paul Herzog has spent far too many hours as a columnist for various Internet sources, and the Wrestling Lariat newsletter, over the past six years. He is a systems engineer at Tellabs in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and is lucky to have a wife that likes the wrestling business, too. He can be reached at grapsfan@worldnet.att.net.

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