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Bookers with undeserved bad reps


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Thought this might be a fun topic.

 

Dusty Rhodes: Yes, Dusty killed Crockett by building around himself. Yes, Dusty killed towns by doing the same screwjob finish over and over. But I think Dusty's booking has been so criticized over the years that what he did well has been forgotten in some ways. This is a guy who went on TBS in 1985 with a roster full of guys, and very few had previous national exposure. Ric Flair, himself, Ole Anderson, Ivan Koloff ... that was really it. He got acts like Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, the Rock & Roll Express, and the Midnight Express over to a new audience. In Ricky Morton's shoot with Highspots, he even mentions that Tommy Rich tried to get a job working for Crockett and was turned down because Dusty was insistent on building around new stars. This led to a very successful 1985-1986 period. Spring and summer of 1986 when everything was really clicking was a super fun time to watch JCP. While it had mixed results as a money-drawing feud, Ricky Morton getting the best of Ric Flair in a few TV angles still feels fresh watching it nearly 25 years later. If anything hurt Dusty, it's that he stayed on too long. Most bookers have a shelf life about as long as Dusty was successful, and in most places, the booker would usually rotate at that point. The booker didn't rotate here, so by the summer of 1987, he was still coming up with occasional great ideas like War Games that drew huge on house shows, but the good ideas were fewer and farther between, and by fall, they were clearly in a decline. I'm not mentioning Dusty to say that most of the criticism he has gotten has not been deserved. My point is more that what he did well seems to have been somewhat forgotten over time.

 

Kevin Sullivan: The more Eric Bischoff reveals himself as an idiot that doesn't grasp some really basic pro wrestling concepts, the more I want to give credit to the guy who booked most of the boom period. Sullivan is another guy who has definite weaknesses as a booker: His stuff is sometimes overly contrived and confusing, he books to settle grudges, etc. But I still think of Kevin Sullivan as a terrific booker who at times just kept going too long. It's sometimes hard to decipher who should get credit for what worked in '89 since there were so many chefs in the kitchen, but Sullivan was one of them for whatever that's worth. Where I give Sullivan credit for the NWO is with applying the touches that obviously came from someone who understands wrestling. He did a great job slowly building the heat on guys like Hogan, Hall, and Nash, so when they did their first jobs, it was a big deal. He was also responsible for getting Lex Luger and Sting perhaps more over than they'd ever been in 1997. I do think Bischoff had the basic overall vision, but I give Sullivan credit for helping execute it in a way that worked in a wrestling setting. Of course, he's another guy who probably should have wrapped up around the end of 1997 and just kept going, and while his 2000 run was bad, Russo's second run was bad enough to make it look better than it deserved.

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The tricky thing about bookers is that almost anyone you can point to has had good runs and bad runs, and Internet discussion is so built around absolutes that the tendency is to put everyone in either one category or another. For most bookers who have had multiple runs, there are cases for them in both columns. Vince Russo is a strong exception to that.

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I think Russo's greatest talent was finding a character for a guy that he felt comfortable with and worked well at. Sean Morley wasn't a porn star and Charles Wright wasn't a pimp but somewhere inside them they had those characters and Russo helped bring them out. There were a lot of undercard WWF guys that benefited from him, but it seems like that talent left him after he left the WWF. I can't think of any character he's created since then that worked even half as good as Val, Godfather, Hardcore Holly or some of the other guys he helped. Not to say he had a perfect batting average at it even in the WWF tho, I mean I don't think Shawn Stasiak was ever comfortable being Meat, ditto with the Beaver Cleavage thing, but I would say at one point he was good at fitting character ideas to the people working them.

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Pat Patterson was the brain child of some of the most dramatic match layouts in wrestling history but he also nearly killed the company with his booking while Vince was on trial

 

It's head scratching to realize that a guy who created the Royal Rumble Match and coached Rock into being a mega star also came up with some of the worst gimmicks in wrestling history

 

I did this at TSM a few months ago and since it falls under this topic I'll do so again. Sullivan's (and Hogan's I guess) booking during later 94/early 95 WCW wasn't *that* bad. Him and Hogan booked rather logically in terms of one feud leading to another and everyone playing their roles to match the storyline. It's just that the wrestlers in the roles were wrong for the parts and went against the type of wrestling WCW fans lived by

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Pat Patterson was the brain child of some of the most dramatic match layouts in wrestling history but he also nearly killed the company with his booking while Vince was on trial

 

It's head scratching to realize that a guy who created the Royal Rumble Match and coached Rock into being a mega star also came up with some of the worst gimmicks in wrestling history

What are some particularly bad things Patterson was responsible for?

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I think Russo's greatest talent was finding a character for a guy that he felt comfortable with and worked well at. Sean Morley wasn't a porn star and Charles Wright wasn't a pimp but somewhere inside them they had those characters and Russo helped bring them out. There were a lot of undercard WWF guys that benefited from him, but it seems like that talent left him after he left the WWF. I can't think of any character he's created since then that worked even half as good as Val, Godfather, Hardcore Holly or some of the other guys he helped. Not to say he had a perfect batting average at it even in the WWF tho, I mean I don't think Shawn Stasiak was ever comfortable being Meat, ditto with the Beaver Cleavage thing, but I would say at one point he was good at fitting character ideas to the people working them.

I'd say that the Val Venis gimmick hurt Morley as much as it helped him, as the gimmick ran its course rather quickly. After it did, WWE would try to push him under new gimmicks (RTC, Chief Morely, etc.) and when they didn't get over, he'd be right back to being Val Venis again within a few months. Morley was a talented wrestler who deserved a better run, but never rose past the midcard in part because of the Val Venis gimmick. It definitely did help him gain recognition faster than he might have otherwise, but it also doomed him to never get past a certain level.
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I think Russo's greatest talent was finding a character for a guy that he felt comfortable with and worked well at. Sean Morley wasn't a porn star and Charles Wright wasn't a pimp but somewhere inside them they had those characters and Russo helped bring them out. There were a lot of undercard WWF guys that benefited from him, but it seems like that talent left him after he left the WWF. I can't think of any character he's created since then that worked even half as good as Val, Godfather, Hardcore Holly or some of the other guys he helped. Not to say he had a perfect batting average at it even in the WWF tho, I mean I don't think Shawn Stasiak was ever comfortable being Meat, ditto with the Beaver Cleavage thing, but I would say at one point he was good at fitting character ideas to the people working them.

I'd say that the Val Venis gimmick hurt Morley as much as it helped him, as the gimmick ran its course rather quickly. After it did, WWE would try to push him under new gimmicks (RTC, Chief Morely, etc.) and when they didn't get over, he'd be right back to being Val Venis again within a few months. Morley was a talented wrestler who deserved a better run, but never rose past the midcard in part because of the Val Venis gimmick. It definitely did help him gain recognition faster than he might have otherwise, but it also doomed him to never get past a certain level.

 

Val Venis was a rather shortlived gimmick, but why didn't anyone after Russo come up with anything better than generic RTC villain? Or Bischoff's assistant? I don't know if I would say that Val Venis doomed him, the fact that no one else in the company was creative enough to give him something he could pull off as well as he pulled off Val Venis is what doomed him. Issac Yankem and Fake Diesel were both horrible short lived gimmicks, but Glen Jacobs the performer must have impressed someone enough in working with those gimmicks that down the line they gave him the big push as Kane. It's unfortunate that there was never that next level gimmick change to push Morley over the top, but I can't fault Russo for that.
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Venis was fine as a serious upper midcard heel feuding with Rikishi in 2000, and he was fine as Bischoff's assistant a few years later. And while the RTC was booked to be petty, it actually did have potential to be successful based on Stevie Richards being a great promo and the siren ring entrance drawing good heat. His very short-lived tag team with Bob Holly in '02 was fine also. The problem was that they didn't stick with any direction they gave him very long.

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Venis was fine as a serious upper midcard heel feuding with Rikishi in 2000, and he was fine as Bischoff's assistant a few years later. And while the RTC was booked to be petty, it actually did have potential to be successful based on Stevie Richards being a great promo and the siren ring entrance drawing good heat. His very short-lived tag team with Bob Holly in '02 was fine also. The problem was that they didn't stick with any direction they gave him very long.

I didn't see him as Chief Morley because I wasn't watching at that time period, but I found him to just be very bland during his serious heel run. He just needed an extra something to make it work and they never quite found it. They tried by giving him Trish and then putting him in RTC after that, but none of it seemed to get him to that next level.

 

I think RTC was about as successful as it could have been, it definitely drew heat but it couldn't really go beyond the midcard and I don't know that it really could have lasted any longer than it did. They got some good TV segments out of it and a few matches to fill out a PPV, and I think that was about the extent of where it could go. I think if anyone got wasted coming out of that angle it wasn't Val, it was Stevie.

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Yeah, I still fondly remember that odd little Venis/Rikishi feud. Two comedy gimmicks suddenly stopped fucking around and engaged in one of the more physically violent feuds of the era. "Hey Fatu, is it okay if I smash you right in the fucking face with a monitor, as hard as I possibly can?" "Sure bro, as long as you let me splash you off the top of a goddamn cage."

 

How reliable is our info in terms of who booked what in the big companies? They always seem to have a committee with half a dozen guys on it, so how much of the WCW was Sullivan, and how much was the various others working at the same time?

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I enjoyed Val's short lived pushes more often than not. As silly as the whole Mr. Rocko angle was, Val made the most of out it, challenging big names trying to up his position, leading to a match with Austin. His late 2000 heel run with Trish as manager was good stuff. I quit watching WWE for a good eight months in 2003, but Chief Morely was one of the few bright spots for me toward the end of my watching, he was certainly more comfortable in the role that Commissioner/General Manager William Regal.

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I think Russo's greatest talent was finding a character for a guy that he felt comfortable with and worked well at. Sean Morley wasn't a porn star and Charles Wright wasn't a pimp but somewhere inside them they had those characters and Russo helped bring them out. There were a lot of undercard WWF guys that benefited from him, but it seems like that talent left him after he left the WWF. I can't think of any character he's created since then that worked even half as good as Val, Godfather, Hardcore Holly or some of the other guys he helped. Not to say he had a perfect batting average at it even in the WWF tho, I mean I don't think Shawn Stasiak was ever comfortable being Meat, ditto with the Beaver Cleavage thing, but I would say at one point he was good at fitting character ideas to the people working them.

I'd say that the Val Venis gimmick hurt Morley as much as it helped him, as the gimmick ran its course rather quickly. After it did, WWE would try to push him under new gimmicks (RTC, Chief Morely, etc.) and when they didn't get over, he'd be right back to being Val Venis again within a few months. Morley was a talented wrestler who deserved a better run, but never rose past the midcard in part because of the Val Venis gimmick. It definitely did help him gain recognition faster than he might have otherwise, but it also doomed him to never get past a certain level.

 

Val Venis was a rather shortlived gimmick, but why didn't anyone after Russo come up with anything better than generic RTC villain? Or Bischoff's assistant? I don't know if I would say that Val Venis doomed him, the fact that no one else in the company was creative enough to give him something he could pull off as well as he pulled off Val Venis is what doomed him. Issac Yankem and Fake Diesel were both horrible short lived gimmicks, but Glen Jacobs the performer must have impressed someone enough in working with those gimmicks that down the line they gave him the big push as Kane. It's unfortunate that there was never that next level gimmick change to push Morley over the top, but I can't fault Russo for that.

 

I completely agree with this. In particular, when JBL debuted in 2004, I couldn't get past my own notion that Morely would have been better in the role. We had already established that he was a political zealot (Chief Morely) with a self-righteous sense of morality (RTC) and for the first several months, every time I saw JBL on screen doing these self-righteous, clearly Republican promos, I thought about how much better Morely would have played the part. Once I got used to Bradshaw in the role I still thought about the possibility of the powers that be eventually coming up with some breakout gimmick like that for Morely, but clearly it was not meant to be. I was always a really big fan of the guy's work though, and always felt he had it in him to do more.

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Steering this back on topic, during the Attitude Era, it became pretty clear at what point Vince Russo was gaining power and Pat Patterson was losing it.

 

I've always believed that Russo's strength is coming up with an idea, but one of his biggest weaknesses is executing it so that it works in the context of pro wrestling. The latter is Patterson's strength, but he's not the guy to go to for ideas.

 

So we start with the match between Steve Austin and Dude Love in which Vince McMahon is the guest referee, Pat Patterson the guest ring announcer and Gerald Briscoe the guest timekeeper. Russo's idea is that Patterson will announce "rules not announced earlier" during the match, building to McMahon getting knocked out, Patterson and Briscoe then interfering and then Undertaker clears them out, leading to Austin's win.

 

Patterson thus takes the ideas and figures how to build up to them for maximum effect. Don't jump right into the moment you announce that the match is no DQ... make sure you build up some time for Austin and Foley to establish the basic storyline, before you add the next element. Each element is built to, thus the whole thing works.

 

Fast forward to the 1999 Royal Rumble, in which it's pretty clear Russo is running more of the show. Nothing is built to properly, there's too much dead time and the match, as a whole, doesn't work. Vince McMahon winning the Rumble really isn't the issue, it's that the path leading up to his win was poorly planned.

 

As far as some of the gimmicks Russo has put on talent, the real issue is how the characters evolve. You see Edge's character evolve better than Val's did initially, so Edge was able to rise past the gimmick first bestowed upon him. Val had some good material in the post-Russo era, but as was said, nothing lasted long with him. Personally, I would have kept him out of RTC and just left it as Stevie Richards working the mic, Godfather being the "convert" and Bull Buchanan being the bully. Once Val and Ivory were dropped in, it was overkill.

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There is a definite shift in TV style in 1998. I would say Summerslam was the dividing point, but I'm not sure if that's entirely correct. But the format and flow of a typical show was very, very Russo by October or November at the latest.

SummerSlam 98 was the apex on my WWF fandom. There was some stuff I didn't like with the new direction of course (for instance, the retarded use of Kaientai), but all in all the build to this show was terrific and it delivered. After, it was a painfull downward spiral, with the Survivor Series being the first extremely Russoesque show with zero good matches and all stories and swerves. The Royal Rumble 99 ended my relationship with WWF for ever. I stopped being a fan right there, never looked back since.

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