Recently wrestlinginc.com posted part two of their interview with Vince Russo. In the interview they discussed his time in WCW and more. Below are the highlights for you to check out:
Wrestling INC: When did WCW first make contact with you?
Vince Russo: I made contact with them in September of 1999.
Wrestling INC: What made you want to make the jump? Were you burnt out or wanted new challenges?
Russo: It was a couple of things. I was burnt out and didn't appreciate Vince adding SmackDown without a heads-up or help. Number two, Vince was adding a show that would bring in millions of dollars in revenue and our salary did not go up one cent. I went into Vince's office at that point and I was starting to breakdown because he was milking me dry. Part of what I was telling Vince is that I'm away from home, my kids are young, I wasn't seeing my kids at all, and I was neglecting my wife. I'll never forget Vince looked me in the eyes and said 'I don't know what the problem is. I pay you enough money to hire a nanny to take care of your kids.' When he said that to me as a man, father, and husband, that was the end of the line. I was slapped across the face with how little he cared about me as a human and how little he cared about my family to even come up with the idea of hiring a nanny for my kids. At that point in time, there was no turning back for me. I was done and because of that I would never take back or rethink anything I've done or have any regrets. That was the lowest thing Vince could have said and it was the end.
Wrestling INC: What was Vince's reaction when you gave him notice? I know online, there was a sense of doom and gloom from WWE fans.
Russo: What sucks is the minute I got on the plane to go to WCW, I knew it was over. There's no way I could have met with WCW and not said anything to Vince. That's me. I met with WCW on a Saturday and they wanted to keep me until Sunday. Keep in mind, RAW was Monday so on Sunday I actually signed a contract. I had to fly from Atlanta back home and there was a stopover in Philadelphia, so I got into Long Island at about 2 a.m. In the layover from Philadelphia, I had to call Vince on the phone and tell him. I had no choice, RAW was the next day.
Back then, if you had one conversation with WCW there was no two weeks notice. I had to explain to Vince what happened and at the beginning he thought I was ribbing him. I told him this was no joke and I start work with them tomorrow. At that time, Vince was floored. There was a point where he tried to make it ugly by sending every lawyer after me and WCW. I said 'Vince we don't have a contract. We never had a contract. You never cared enough to give me a contract. You're going to send a lawyer based on what?' I eventually said I'm not going to let this get ugly, that's not how I want this to go. I shut it down and told Vince I wasn't going down that road with him. I made a decision that was best for me and my family. Finally, I got Vince at the end of the conversation to say I hope our paths would cross again and I said, so do I. Rewind back a week and he should have thought twice about those comments about my family and me. There was nothing, is nothing, and never will be anything more important to me than family. When he made light of that in his office, to me, right then and there it was over.
Wrestling INC: At that time, WCW might have had the most stacked roster in the history of the business. There were lots of the older talent on top and much of the younger talent staying put. When you went into WCW, what was your vision for what they were doing and where they should go?
Russo: The vision was to flip the roster to get the middle guys out of that middle slot and start rising them to the top to be built around. With this format, I went into WCW with a giant target on my back from the veterans. I still went ahead with the plan because it was the right thing to do. As much as these guys are going to kill me, bury me behind my back, try to get me out quicker than I came, I stuck to the plan because I knew it was the right thing to do. To this day, I don't regret that because that's what needed to be done at the time.
Wrestling INC: Did you feel right off the bat that the top guys weren't responsive?
Russo: I knew it the minute Hulk Hogan laid eyes on me. It wasn't just Hulk. [Ric] Flair back then had a lot of stroke with the office. The minute I met Hulk, I could feel it and that's the sad thing. At that point in time, I was a huge fan of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. WCW still had those guys main-eventing weeks before I came. I wanted to put those guys in the proper light. I wanted to put them on a pedestal where they still had major impact in that company, but I didn't think they should be the main event of Nitro every other week. It's not like I was going to progress the midcard and these guys were out the door. That's ridiculous. I was an idiot if I did not understand that Hogan and Flair were the ratings and drawing card. They needed to be put in the proper situation where they are almost looked at as royalty. A wrestlers' mentality is if they're not in the main event wrestling, then they're not the main event. I don't think that's true. In their mind, if they weren't on top the way they felt they should have been, then there would be issues.
Wrestling INC: When you came into WCW, who were some of the midcard wrestlers you wanted to push up to the main event level?
Russo: [Chris] Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko. There were a slew of guys in that middle card. There were a lot of guys in that middle who weren't able to move anywhere. Rey Mysterio was there at the time. I knew what was coming with that psychology and didn't back off because I knew it was the right thing to do.
Wrestling INC: What were some of the backstage differences between the WWE and WCW
Russo: There was one and it's what eventually killed me in WCW. When I was in the WWE, Vince McMahon had my back a million percent. I never for one second had to concern myself with politics. If you screwed with me, you screwed with Vince. That's how successful we were at the time. At WCW, I had zero protection.
The minute I walked in there, I was fair game. People were talking behind my back, plotting behind my back, and looking to bring me down. I had the same work mentality that I had from the WWE — all I cared about was writing the best possible show I could. While all this was going on, I didn't try to counteract it, defend myself, and protect myself because my job was to write the best show possible. My mentality was if higher-ups, who was Bill Busch at the time, if he wants to listen and believe these people then so be it. In my mind, I'll be gone and these guys will be in charge and I knew what those guys were capable of. My whole thing was I know what's going to happen, but I'm not going to worry about defending myself every second.
Wrestling INC: Was it harder working with talent in WCW compared to WWE?
Russo: No question about it. In the WWE, I gained the trust of everybody. What we were doing worked and the ratings kept growing. As the ratings rise, the guys make more money and that's all they care about at the end of the day. There was trust and we did work together. For WCW, people have to realize I was there for three months before I went home. That's how much time I was there with Ed writing the TV and working with the talent before I went home. To have to prove myself and show my intentions were good, that was more than I could handle.
Wrestling INC: What are things you would have done differently when you first joined WCW?
Russo: I went in with the best intentions and was fairly confident that I knew what needed to be done. I thought I got us off on a strong foot. I left myself wide open to be buried right behind my back, but I did that knowingly and have no issue. There isn't anything I would have done differently.
Wrestling INC: I wanted to bring up the Bash at the Beach 2000 incident with Hulk Hogan. It was booked for Jeff Jarrett to lay down for Hogan and later you would cut a promo with Booker T then defeating Jarrett for the title later that night. Is that true, or was it a shoot?
Russo: What you saw to my knowledge, recollections, and conversations that day, what you saw on TV was exactly what was supposed to happen. It was according to script and plan. From beginning to end, everything laid out exactly how it was supposed to be laid out.
Wrestling INC: Was the plan then for Hogan and Eric Bishoff to comeback and feud with you guys?
Russo: There was no plan at that time. You have to understand, on Friday before we left for Bash at the Beach, agent Johnny Ace said Hulk Hogan was given a storyline and agreed upon it. So I'm walking in Sunday, thinking there's no issue. All of a sudden at three in the afternoon I get this monkey wrench thrown at me that Hulk's not doing what he already agreed to do. At this point, I need to get this show done. There's no time to think about where we're going from here. I had to get us through that night. From where we went, it wasn't discussed in detail. I know Hulk said 'I'll have my belt and Booker T can have his belt and then I can return and we can go from there.' I wasn't thinking that far ahead. I just wanted to get this night done and once this is over we can talk about it.
Wrestling INC: Right after that Brad Siegel decided to stop using Hogan.
Russo: Yeah, that's what really put me in a bad spot and that's what I regret because I told Hulk when I get back to creative I will call you. When we got back to the office, Brad Siegel called me to ask what happened. I explained everything and told Brad I would call Hogan. Brad Siegel, the head of the network, said 'Vince don't call Hulk because we can't afford to put him on TV.' This is the head of the network saying don't call Hulk. Am I supposed to call Hulk after the head of the network told me not to? I should have called him. I gave him my word and probably should have said there are issues with Brad Siegel and you need to talk to him. That's what I should have done, but I did not call Hulk based off the head of the network and that's what kicked the lawsuit into gear.
Wrestling INC: Up until that point, WCW had been spending money left and right. What was happening in the company? Did you feel like they were going through financial troubles? Where they looking to sell? What are your thoughts on those times?
Russo: I knew they were paying Hulk an ungodly amount of money to appear on TV, so I didn't think anything of it. The number was so high, it's ridicules. For Brad Siegel to want to save that kind of money, there really were no red flags for me. There was a lot of money, so I didn't give it a second thought. Not having Hulk on the show will probably save them a lot of money.
Wrestling INC: Where you ever made aware that WCW could be sold or the financial status
Russo: Nothing. It was all locker room talk and the hearsay, but there was so much of it you knew it was true. They never said anything to us publicly or gave us a heads-up. Everybody was talking about it being more than a rumor.
Wrestling INC: You suffered a concussion in a match with Goldberg around the time the sale rumors were getting started. Did you see yourself eventually coming back?
Russo: Let me back you up. I suffered the concussion in a cage match with Ric Flair at the Phillips Arena. I kept going out there and getting hit in the head. The Goldberg match was the final hit to the head. At the time, I was suffering post-concussion syndrome and WCW sent me to doctors so it's on record. I went to TV after the Goldberg thing and there was all this talk of them selling and I said 'I'm out here literally killing myself against doctors' orders and still trying to write a successful TV show.' I'm done killing myself for a company where nobody cares. They're already looking to sell the company and there's no appreciation. I went to Brad Siegel and told him I shouldn't be anywhere near a wrestling ring with post-concussion syndrome because it's way too stressful for me to write the show. I used that to completely get myself away from WCW to go home and see where the chips fall.
Wrestling INC: What was your reaction when you heard WWE purchased WCW?
Russo: I didn't even care. Wrestling was the last thing on my mind. I was probably done with wrestling when I went to WCW. I signed a two year contract and they wanted me to sign a three year contract and I said no. My idea was if I can suck this up for two more years, save some money, then once and for all I can be done with it. I was just happy to be home and away from it.
Wrestling INC: As a result of the purchase, did you see the future of the business changing forever
Russo: I was so far removed from caring if there even was a future of the wrestling business. Those thoughts didn't cross my mind at all.
Wrestling INC: Does it bother when people blame you for WCW's demise? It seems like you're often used as a scapegoat when there were lots of problems with the company.
Russo: I was involved in the creative of WCW for nine months. None of the Vince Russo bashing started until I became a character on TV. That character on TV was not me. It was a confident New York character that I amped up times 1,000 to make people hate me. To this day, I think a large part of the wrestling internet community thinks that's the person I am. None of this started until I showed my face on WCW TV. I worked for the WWE for five years and there was no mention of my name. You put me on WCW and here's a New Yorker you hate. That was my job and that's what I got paid to do. It blows me away more than anything, that people to this day believe I'm the person portrayed on TV.