TNA’s reputation took another hit last week when the promotion’s powers that be (ugh…bad memories of WCW in late 1999-2000) let go Jim Cornette, one of the best minds in the business—and one of the most entertaining TV wrestling performers ever—in favor of “writer” Vince Russo, the man who perhaps best represents the final nail in the coffin for WCW.
It doesn’t take a genius or even Dixie Carter (or even Stacy Carter) to see that Russo and Cornette go together like Jim Herd and Ric Flair, so yes, one had to go. But keeping Russo?
While certainly creative, Russo has no basic understanding of the way pro wrestling should work. Most notable: his reign of terror in WCW produced illogical, chaotic, god-awful booking never before seen. (Yes, including George Gulas’s improbable march toward Harley Race’s NWA World title in the late ’70s.) Even worse, he made himself and what seemed like about 20 other unqualified guys (including one C-list Hollywood actor) World champion in a span of six months on his way to completely alienating WCW’s already-dying fan base.
With the exceptions of WWF’s Sable and WCW’s Master P and Dennis Rodman (and about a half-dozen other morons who Eric Bischoff signed with Ted Turner’s money), Russo might be the least talented person ever to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in the wrestling business. He’s a former WWF Magazine hack who somehow lucked into a creative position and proceeded to book, admittedly, some great angles in the much-revered Attitude era, but only when he had Vince McMahon & Co. to reel in some of his most outlandish ideas and keep his “edgy” ass in check. Having a crew of the last of the polished territory guys (Steve Austin, Mick Foley, the Undertaker, etc.) and the gifted Rock at his disposal certainly helped. Unfortunately, this brief run of success with the Former Federation still has some in the business convinced of his supposed booking genius.
Cornette has a superior grasp of wrestling psychology after years as a fan of Memphis wrestling, one of the most creative territories in the business during the ’70s and ’80s, and later working with bookers like Jerry Jarrett, Jerry Lawler, Bill Watts and Dusty Rhodes. He worked his ass off for years learning his craft before he was even considered for a job helping Ric Flair book WCW. (For more on Cornette’s slow ascension to booking assistant, click here.)
During his recent Q&A session at the NWA Wrestling Legends Fan Fest in Charlotte, Cornette was overwhelmed with chants from the audience encouraging him to take the book in TNA. He downplayed the suggestion at the time, but appeared to have a sly smile on his face, like perhaps he knew something that we didn’t. Maybe he still does. Cornette is being uncharacteristically calm about his departure from TNA, possibly leaving the door open for a return when Russo eventually falls flat on his face. He tells In Your Head Radio that he’d “absolutely” return under the right circumstances. Reportedly, Carter wants him back on board if he can be “100% with the creative direction.”
Jim also denies there was a backstage incident or shouting match with Russo that led to his dismissal, which almost disappoints me, quite frankly. Cornette obviously doesn’t want/need any more headaches after years of working with the likes of Herd, Vince and Kevin Dunn over the years, so he’s walking away quietly, which doesn’t quite suit the Louisville Slugger we all know and love. Something tells me he’s got something up his sleeve.
For TNA’s sake and the future of this business, I hope so.