Vince Russo is one of the most divisive characters in the history of professional wrestling. And I don't mean "characters" as in "on-screen personas." Russo is a character from when he wakes up in the morning until he goes to sleep.
He was the creative (sometimes overly creative) force that drove the Attitude Era to new heights for the WWE. It was his brand of crash television that—when applied to professional wrestling—created pure gold. His hot temper, competitive fire and unrelenting creativity eventually burned bridges on his way out the door of the then-WWF and sent him packing to WCW for a few years that we'd all rather forget happened.
Russo, who has more or less been in exile from pro wrestling aside from a short stint with TNA, has become increasingly vocal on the state of the current WWE product. Having sat in the back and written the scripts, he knows what it takes and the players involved in the decision-making process.
Finally, he had enough and penned an open letter to Vince and Stephanie McMahon and Triple H that is posted on his website.
To put it bluntly, he absolutely nails it:
The job is not easy, I understand that, and nobody can be criticized for TRYING and giving their BEST EFFORT—nobody. But...the question I have to ask is: Is what we see every Monday Night honestly and truly your best effort? I just know that having worked with all three of you in the past, I don't think any of us would have been satisfied, or even ALLOWED last night's show to air in its final form. Are we seriously not better than that? What happened to our mantra during the Attitude Era when this week's show was going to be better than last weeks? Remember that, Vince?
This point was brought up by Russo himself during The Monday Night War on the WWE Network. He states that it was a running competition, not just between WWF and WCW, but between WWF writers and themselves to make each week better than the last. There was a sense of urgency and passion in the product that we do not see today.
On a weekly basis, WWE delivers filler segments by the handful. If you are a Network subscriber, go back and watch episodes of Raw from the Attitude Era or even the early 2000s. These were two-hour broadcasts packed with more substantive storytelling and plot development than any single episode of Raw has in years.
There were ongoing storylines that carried through the show via backstage segments that lasted no more than 10 seconds but offered a glimpse into the drama. Storylines overlapped as characters formed relationships and bonds that may or may not impact a specific show but developed backstory that could be utilized later.
There is no sense of long-term planning in the WWE. Characters start and stop, gain momentum and are shot down, and the only person consistently booked on the show is John Cena despite ever-growing discontent from live audiences.
Look—we all love wrestling, we are all HUGE fans of the WWE and in all truthfulness—WE WANT TO LIKE THE SHOW!!! But, you just make it so difficult. Asking anybody to sit through three hours of what you're currently putting on the air is not only asking too much...but, it's also unfair.
This may be the most upsetting part of the fan experience with the WWE. We know it's the biggest game in town. We know that the history and gravitas can only come from this company at this moment. We know that the best talent in the world is on the WWE roster and that if there is a super talented guy on the independent scene, he's likely going to get snatched up for NXT.
The roster right now is, as Russo says, "unbelievable." It's not unbelievable in the way the roster from 2002-2004 was stacked with the biggest stars from the biggest era in wrestling history, as the top names of WCW, ECW and the WWF Attitude Era all converged onto a single roster.
From a talent standpoint, it's the best it has been in years. The in-ring talent, the natural charisma, the loaded midcard is all there just waiting to erupt, but it can't because of company's dedication to make sure we only pay to see Cena while using what seemed like the entire three hours to promote the season debut of Total Divas.
"Vince, Stephanie, Triple H, YES we will always be here no matter what," Russo wrote. "We support you, and we support the WWE, but the truth is...we deserve better. And, deep down inside I know that you know that."
When we see great talent outside of the WWE, we want to see it make the jump to "the big leagues." We recognize that the company is the standard bearer. We—fans who read Bleacher Report, Pro Wrestling Insider, PWTorch or any of online wrestling news site—aren't going anywhere.
We are the ones who buy the WWE Network subscriptions. The WWE is putting its entire economic future in the basket of the Network that is driven by old-school, hardcore fans who want to see past pay-per-views, documentaries and other historical footage.
Then when we watch Raw, we are not represented. The fans of yesteryear who are wrestling fans first and foremost are ignored by the current product that is only interested in kids buying Cena merchandise.
WWE is essentially taunting its old fans, trying to get them to pay for what they used to love while force-feeding them "Growing Up Bella" segments that make us want to change the channel.
The guy holding the "I could be watching Nitro right now" sign at Raw on Monday night probably should've stayed home instead of paying to see the show live.