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Volume 68, Issue 52, Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Arts & Entertainment

Russo loses power struggle with Jarrett

That Wrestling Article

Ed De La Garza

Vince Russo may as well be dead to the rest of professional wrestling.

After working in relative obscurity for the National Wrestling Alliance: Total Non-stop Action as the head booker, Russo, who once claimed to have been the brainchild behind World Wrestling Entertainment's rise to prominence in the late 1990s, was apparently let go by the organization.

Russo was the head booker for NWA: TNA. Panda Energy bought a majority stake in the company, which began as Jerry and Jeff Jarrett's attempt to compete with WWE by presenting a weekly two-hour pay-per-view. Panda, based in Dallas, will assume the wrestling company's finances and marketing strategies while the Jarretts will handle the actual product. Jeff Jarrett should be the company's new head booker.

There are two ways to look at Russo's departure.

Russo attempted to innovate wrestling and accentuate its soap-opera story lines. He did it by using edgy characters such as Steve Austin; by running shoot-style angles (the WWE's repeated mockery of the infamous Montreal Survivor Series); and by attempting to bury Hulk Hogan during a live PPV.

His stories kept people on edge and generally tended to make the shows more interesting. But he was full of himself.

He may not have had as much to do with WWE's success as he liked to believe. He went into World Championship Wrestling determined to repeat his "success," but his ego wouldn't let him work with the higher-ups in the company. He was demoted; the company crumbled; he was asked to work with Eric Bischoff and then let go before WCW's final death throes.

His most recent stint at NWA: TNA was a failure. Much like his first run-in with WCW bookers, Russo tried to write "edgy" story lines, but the company was deeply rooted in the belief that wrestling came first, that the story was a way to get to the match, not the reason to buy the show.

No matter what he did, none of Russo's angles went over well with NWA: TNA's target audience. It couldn't decide if it wanted to stay a family-oriented business or go all-out with Russo's attitude.

For all of his talent, Russo was only able to work with other people once. But even when he worked for Vince McMahon, it was clear he didn't have the final say. He had freedom, but McMahon's ego kept Russo in check.

WWE had announced early in the summer that Russo had been hired to serve as a consultant. But that was before NWA: TNA came a-calling. He backed out of that deal to work for the Jarretts.

He has no one to keep him in check. And now he has no option.

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