Jim Cornette And Vince Russo Return To War

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The decades-long ill-feeling between Vince Russo and Jim Cornette shows no sign of abating following a recent public spat on their podcasts and social media.

On the latest edition of his podcast The Jim Cornette Experience, the opinionated industry veteran dismissed Russo’s talk on other podcasts of the two getting together for the sake of charity to put their differences aside, grumbling:

You know that ain’t gonna happen ’cause we got nothing to talk about.”

Cornette instead challenged Russo to a legitimate fight, telling him:

If you give me a date, time and an address, I will meet you there and I will bring five grand in cash. As long as the rules are no cops, no guns, and no knives. And what happens, happens.

Cornette continued the tirade, ripping into Russo for, among other things, stabbing everybody in the back who he has ever worked with, killing careers with goofy gimmicks, and making the wrestling business into a joke.

Russo was unable to resist the bait and responded in turn by posting a video on his social media accounts. During the 12-minute rant he refused Cornette’s offer of a fight, mocking his “barn door wide ass”, “Kamala belly”, “Gumby-like arms” and “ripped chiseled stomach”, then arrogantly dismissed $5000 as “not a lot of money”.

Russo then sarcastically apologised to Cornette, stating:

First and foremost, I want to apologize for you blowing out your knees when you fell off that scaffold because you are a mark who didn’t know how to take a bump.

I want to apologize Jim for you putting Smoky Mountain Wrestling out of business.

I want to apologize Jim for you being fired from Ring of Honor for a public emotional outburst.

I want to apologize Jim for being fired from WWE for assaulting another employee.

I want to apologize Jim because I’m from New York.

I want to apologize Jim because in my entire life I was never fixin’ to do anything.

I want to apologize Jim that I don’t believe the Dukes of Hazard is a reality show.

I’d like to apologize that I never went on national television and dressed like the village idiot.

I want to apologize that I never asked a wrestler to chew on an Alka-Seltzer so it would appear like he’s foaming at the mouth.

I want to apologize that even the great Terry Funk didn’t get over when you had him come out of a box.

I want to apologize for setting ratings records at both the WWE and TNA and also raising the ratings at WCW the whole nine months that I was there. I sincerely apologize for that.

And last but not least, Jim, from the bottom of my heart, I apologize for both Dixie Carter and Vincent Kennedy McMahon for choosing me over you. Because at the end of the day, 18 years later, that is what this is all about. It sticks in your craw because no matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter what asinine promo you cut, it does not go away. From a creative standpoint, the numbers clearly dictate I was better than you, and I know that is hard for you to accept and I know that is hard for you to deal with so that is why from the bottom of my heart, I apologize, I am sorry, and I hope from this point on we can move forward.

We will not get into the personal spat part of things, which amounts to little more than handbags at dawn he-said-she-said playground level silliness, but some of Russo’s claims require some dissection.

Firstly, those living in glass houses should not throw stones. Having the gall to criticise Cornette’s famous scaffold bump when he doesn’t have a lick of wrestling experience himself (and no, booking yourself to play wrestler does not count) is one thing, but more importantly, let’s not forget who it was that penned Owen Hart’s Blue Blazer storyline in 1999. Unable to fathom how to get a real wrestler over, Russo made one of the finest technical grapplers on the planet descend from the rafters dressed as a superhero buffoon, resulting in him plummeting to his death when the stunt went wrong. I wonder if Russo considers him a “mark who didn’t know how to take a bump” too?

Russo’s claim that he set ratings records in WWE are fanciful. While he was head writer for Raw’s highest rated show (8.1 on May 10, 1999) it was far from the highest rated WWE TV show ever. That accolade belongs to The Main Event I in 1988 headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. The broadcast pulled a phenomenal 15.2 rating, which equated to an unheard of 33 million views.

Russo’s constant claims of having improved the Nitro rating during his WCW tenure are propped up by strawman logic too. Russo is always quick to point out that the ratings were 3.0 when he took over and 3.4 when he left. Well, that’s true, but little over one month earlier WCW was hitting 3.4’s and above regularly – the 3.0 was a dead rubber show in a holding pattern awaiting the new regime. And the 3.4 he drew was also the highest number he managed in his three months at the helm.

The key is, those ratings were on three hour shows, which average out to smaller numbers than the two hour broadcasts Russo was penning by the end. To put that into perspective, had Nitro been two hours the week before Russo took over, it would have pulled a 3.3 rating. So the difference is negligible.

Not only that, but in cutting the show to two hours, WCW lost out on a fortune of ad revenue. Ratings points are far less important than people – Russo in particular – think they are compared to concrete figures of actual revenue being generated (live attendance, merchandise, pay-per-view buy rates, ad revenue). Russo also fails to acknowledge that pay-per-view buy rates tanked when he was in charge. People might have been willing to watch his car crash booking for free, but they sure as hell weren’t paying for it. WCW’s biggest show of the year, Starrcade only managed a meagre 0.23 buy rate under Russo, down from a 1.15 the previous year.

Russo also defends his decision to put the WCW Title on actor David Arquette, justifying it based on the media they got off the back of the decision. But media coverage is only any use if it results in more eyes on the product. When Arquette won the belt, the next episode of Nitro fell from a 3.0 to a 2.5. Similarly, the pay-per-view where Arquette defended the title pulled a 0.14, down from a 0.25 the previous month. People turned off the show when Russo made that ridiculous call. And that’s before we even get into the small matter of the millions of dollars WCW hemorrhaged during his time at the top.

As far as we are concerned, this round goes to Cornette.

 

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Survivor Series ’99

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James Dixon: The last few versions of this show have been pretty monumental. The previous year was the “Deadly Game” tournament to crown a new WWF Champion, which The Rock won after a heel turn and a night where there was next to no wrestling worth shouting home about. The year before was the infamous Montreal Screwjob, about which enough has been written already. 1996 saw Sycho Sid dethrone WWF Champion Shawn Michaels to thunderous applause, while on the undercard Steve Austin and Bret Hart assembled a bona fide classic. 1995 and 1994 both saw title changes too, with Bret Hart winning the title from long time champion Diesel in ’95, having lost it to Bob Backlund in a very long and mostly boring bout in ’94. Plenty to live up to then, and this show will be remembered long into the future too, but for something stupid and idiotic rather than monumental…

 

SummerSlam ’99

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James Dixon: We are in Minnesota, home of one Jesse Ventura, and the Governor is the special guest referee for the triple-threat main event tonight. Ventura gets into a debate with Triple H about following the rules, to which Hunter reacts like a petulant, whiny child. That is the way he came across to me for the entirety of his heel run prior to winning the WWF Title for the first time, with him acting like he had some sort of God-given right to the gold. Frankly after some of his performances from 1995 through 1997, he is lucky he even kept his job.

Fully Loaded ’99

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Arnold Furious: Over the course of Volume 4 there has been a definite trend; the realisation that Attitude shows seemed great “in the moment”, but have little to no replay value. Most of the 1999 shows were littered with poor matches, wacky storylines and talking. This clearly got the better of my fellow reviewers as evidenced here. King of the Ring ’99 was supposed to be my last review for this book chronologically, and yet here we are. 1999; the year everyone doesn’t want to re-watch. This show is much like any other 1999 PPV. The main event is Austin-McMahon, or rather McMahon surrogate the Undertaker. HHH-Rock is on the undercard. What’s left of DX continue to have matches despite Triple H’s departure at WrestleMania three months earlier. The rest of the card is made up of title matches that hardly inspire. The one relatively surprising move came in Toronto the night before this PPV, where Edge beat Jeff Jarrett for the IC belt, his first major title in wrestling. It being a house show, no-one saw it coming. Edge wasn’t scheduled to have a title match until the night of the show. Ah, that wacky Vince Russo; throwing curveballs all the time. Given the proper build-up, Edge’s big title win could have been a defining moment in his career. We’re in Buffalo, New York. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. They bill the “end of an era” match where either Austin will get no more title shots or Vince McMahon will never appear on TV again. It’s a First Blood match and they make it interesting by having Austin bleed backstage on Heat. Roving reporter Michael Cole tries to accuse Vince of being behind the attack, which causes Shane McMahon to question who he is. Vince guarantees victory this evening.

King Of The Ring ’99

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Arnold Furious: When all the tapes had been claimed for this book I sat down to plan out my reviewing schedule and discovered, to my horror, that King of the Ring ’99 was on my list. Attempts to trade the tape, for literally anything else, proved futile. So here we are with King of the Ring ‘99. The WWF’s worst PPV of the year and indeed the whole Attitude era  (unless In Your House: DeGeneration X counts). It was bested in year end awards by the sensationally awful Heroes of Wrestling PPV (the one where Jake the Snake was hammered during the main event and every match sucked), so history only remembers this as the worst WWF show of 1999 rather than the worst PPV of the year. Although to be fair to the WWF, WCW probably rattled off two or three PPVs as bad or worse than this show in 1999.

 

We’re in Greensboro, North Carolina. This is the 7th annual King of the Ring PPV. The show was booked around Steve Austin battling the McMahons for control of the WWF. The event even has bad music. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. JR updates us on Heat and how Shane McMahon was “injured”. Ken Shamrock is the focus though; Steve Blackman’s attack on him has resulted in internal bleeding. Shammy liked his internal bleeding.

Backlash ’99

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Arnold Furious: This show comes right on the back of the WWF’s hugely underwhelming WrestleMania XV show, one I really detested. I think WMXV was the first big disappointment from the Attitude era. There had been other poor shows, but for a WrestleMania to not deliver in the midst of the biggest wrestling boom since the height of Hulkamania just seemed unacceptable to me. Eager to ensure Backlash didn’t fail, the WWF set about re-booking WrestleMania. They switched Mankind vs. Big Show into a Boiler Room Brawl, as opposed to the dull, straight-up match they had at ‘Mania, and gave Austin and Rock room to breath in their big rematch. 1999, arguably, only has three decent PPV events and Backlash is one of them. 1999’s event was the first Backlash PPV. It would continue on the schedules until 2009.

 

We’re in Providence, Rhode Island. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. The main event has recently been declared No Holds Barred, apart from Austin touching referee Shane McMahon, which is a DQ and results in a title change. Got that? Good.

 

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

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Arnold Furious: The WWF isn’t known for its class. There have been several dubious decisions by them over the years (including but not limited to; necrophilia, coffin surfing, miscarriages and faked death), but nobody ever seems to flag up their decision to name a 1999 PPV after the real-life murder of seven men. The actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place some 70 years earlier so perhaps the WWF could be guilty of either ignorance, not knowing what happened, or considering enough time had passed to make light of those events. Given that one of the S’s in “Massacre” is backwards on the edge of the video cassette; I’m going with the former. However, what better gangster for the WWF to name something after than Al Capone? As American as Vince and company, and often in trouble with the government, Capone was a figurehead for his respective career choice. Al Capone is The Gangster. Much like Vince McMahon is The Wrestling Promoter. Vince’s own Valentine’s Day Massacre was buying out his rivals and firing them live on TV. Perhaps the title is more appropriate than at first glance.

 

We’re in Memphis, Tennessee. Hosts are Michael Cole (unfortunately) and Jerry Lawler. The latter is over HUGE, thus proving he was Memphis wrestling to many people.

Royal Rumble ’99

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Arnold Furious: I’m going to level with you right now; 1999 is a terrible year for wrestling. Dreadful matches, silly angles and not a decent in-ring performer in sight until the arrival of ‘The Saviour’ Kurt Angle toward the end of the year. My dislike of the year is intensified by this damn video tape, which has degraded worse than any other tape I own. I have tapes 15-years older that are almost immaculate. This one is all scratchy and has horrible audio.

 

Backstage: Video Control gives us footage of Rumble participants. They discuss the $100,000 bounty on Steve Austin and Chyna coming in at #30, but nobody cuts a shouty promo. They’re almost shoots, like Jeff Jarrett casually talking about the Rumble being a special match in a neutral manner. They’re more like the kind of interviews you see on superstar DVD releases nowadays.

 

We’re in Anaheim, California. Hosts are Michael Cole (urgh) and Jerry Lawler. Jim Ross recently had a relapse of his Bell’s Palsy, giving us my least favourite commentator pairing outside of Mark Madden and Stevie Ray.

Rebellion 2000

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Arnold Furious: With these UK-exclusive PPVs the WWF essentially filmed a glorified house show and then charged Sky Box Office customers cash for it, while UK viewers were getting the major US shows for free. They did this over and over again. The only good thing about these shows is that they provide an interesting snapshot of a certain time. This one happens to fall in between Survivor Series 2000, where Steve Austin got a measure of revenge on Triple H for the hit and run attack the year prior, and Armageddon 2000, where all the WWF’s top tier guys fought in a Hell in a Cell for the WWF Title, with the title becoming more important than Austin’s need for revenge. According to the back cover of Rebellion 2000 it “set the stage for Armageddon 2000”. The only way that can be is if Undertaker vs. Chris Benoit on this show was considered a “decider” as to who would join the six-man main event at the show. The other four competitors, plus HHH, were the same guys in the main event here.

 

We’re in Sheffield, England. Hosts are Jim Ross and Tazz. Video Control takes us backstage to see Mick Foley and Debra arrive via black cab. The crowd is incredibly hot and greet us with a sea of signs.

No Mercy 2000

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Lee Maughan: From the Pepsi Arena in Albany, New York (the same building incidentally that hosted the 1992 Royal Rumble, and 2006’s New Year’s Revolution.) Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

 

The Dudley Boyz Tag Team Elimination Table Invitational
This is tornado rules with two teams in the ring at a time, and a new team enters when one team is eliminated by having a member of that team put through a table. Imagine sort of a Royal Rumble/Survivor Series hybrid. Too Cool are team #1, a pair of hip hop white guys, dancing down the aisle to some techno pop tune, table underarm like some sanitised Saturday morning cartoon incarnation of Public Enemy. They’re followed at #2 by a duo making their collective debut on a WWF pay-per-view (although they were actually teammates at last November’s Survivor Series), the thrown together Lo Down of D’Lo Brown and Chaz. The plain tracksuit bottoms they sport are incredibly lifeless, giving the team a distinctly jobberish look, and the lack of a singlet for D’Lo really exemplifies why he wore one for almost the entirety of his career. Not a good look for him at all. Unfortunately, this first “mini-match” of sorts has absolutely nothing going for it, then Chaz gets shoved off the top on a superplex attempt as D’Lo simultaneously misses a frog splash, both crashing through tables, and that’s it for them. Thanks for coming, guys.

Team #3 are Tazz and Raven, disappointingly enough. I say disappointingly because if you’ll recall, Raven only debuted in the WWF last month at Unforgiven, and already he’s been placed in a thrown-together team with Tazz, a guy who’s hardly been on a roll himself having just come off an announcer’s feud with Jerry Lawler, the team being presented as also rans in a throwaway gimmick match opener. Furthermore, Raven is already being systematically stripped of his identity, appearing here in a plain black t-shirt rather than a cool band shirt, and his jean shorts aren’t as ripped and tatty as they usually are. Before long, he’d be coming to the ring not to the suitably disaffected punk and grunge tunes that accompanied his ECW and WCW runs, but a Jim Johnston generic rock chugger complete with actual raven calls, and he was soon sporting a clean white shirt and black leather shorts like some kind of Bizarro World Raven. What a criminal misuse of talent that would prove to be, though according to Raven himself in a shoot interview years later, he had been told by a writer that Vince’s first words at one booking meeting upon hearing the news of his signing were “Who the fuck hired Raven!?” Jim Ross was the responsible party, by the way. The only reason I can find for Raven to have even been paired up with Tazz at this point is that they both had a connection to ECW, although they actually crossed paths very rarely in the land of Extreme. Still, as we’re in New York tonight and as either of these guys alone have more personality than D’Lo and Chaz combined, this portion of the match garners a much bigger reaction than the last, and is infinitely more interesting. The crowd also get more into it as Too Cool start breaking out their signature stuff, in particular Scotty 2 Hotty doing the Worm under a table, and a surprisingly vibrant “You fucked up!” chants kicks up when Grandmaster Sexay tries a sunset powerbomb to the floor, only to smash a ringside table to pieces with his feet. That Scotty eats a double superplex through a table moments later suggests they could have just gone home early or called an audible and explained that both members of the team needed to go through tables to be eliminated (especially in light of the fact that both members of Lo Down had suffered the same fate), but JR blathers around in an attempt to conjure up an explanation before settling somewhere along the lines of “it was an accident, so it doesn’t count”. So take note, footballers; Next time you score an own goal, just protest that it was only an accident and the boffins at FIFA will no doubt have your transgression stricken from the record!

The crowd absolutely explode with the arrival of team #4, the Dudley Boyz themselves in case you couldn’t guess, and that gets the “ECW!” chants going. Tazz quickly takes a Bubba Bomb and Raven is the lucky recipient of tonight’s Wazzup Drop, before Tazz makes a minor comeback with a T-Bone Tazzplex. “Minor” is certainly the key word there as the Dudleys immediately take back over, and D-Von puts Tazz through a table with a Dudleyville Jam. Our final team are of course Right to Censor, here represented by Bull Buchanan and the Goodfather. Bull wipes out the referee with a lariat, which given its accidental nature shouldn’t count, according to JR law, which should immediately tip you off to the finish. And indeed, Bubba Ray powerbombs Bull through the table, but Goodfather smashes Bubba in the head with a steel chair and lays him amidst the wreckage, dragging Bull out just in time for the referee to revive and call it for RTC. A second referee quickly arrives, explains the situation, and a quickie restart sees Goodfather go through a table courtesy of a 3D for the real finish. Taken as a series of individual matches as some may view them, these were all fairly sub-SmackDown! standard TV throwaways, but when viewed as a single narrative, which is the way the whole thing was actually booked, it’s not bad. No one segment particularly outstays its welcome, the shortness of some of the individual bouts is a help rather than a hindrance owing to the structure of the piece, and the whole thing builds in an increasingly exciting manner. Too Cool save their best spots for their second match, then the guys more associated with hardcore get involved, then comes the team the match was designed for, before it all ends with the big showdown against the annoying heel group, complete with a silly Dusty finish to keep RTC somewhat strong, whilst still giving the crowd what they want. I can’t really complain about any of that.
Final Rating: **½

 

– Out in the parking lot, Rikishi waits on the arrival of Steve Austin whilst slowly stroking his giant tool. It’s a sledgehammer. If you’ve ever heard the term “sledgehammer of plot”, this is the most literal interpretation of it. If you’ll recall when Austin returned at Unforgiven last month, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley presented him with his baseball cap from the night he was run over, and now Rikishi is walking around carrying the signature weapon of Triple H. Hmm, I wonder who could really have been behind that hit and run assault?

– Elsewhere, Trish, Test and Albert plan to let the tits fall where they may, which is the same strategy I employed the last time I got dragged along to the Little Black Book lap dancing club for a mate’s stag party.