November 23, 2005
Vince Russo back in the spotlightNew book, radio show and promotion have him centre stage
By RYAN NATION - SLAM! Wrestling
With this month's release of Forgiven: One Man's Journey from Self-Glorification to Sanctification, SLAM! Wrestling recently caught up with Vince Russo via e-mail to discuss his book, new ministry and other projects.
"The major challenge was that once I became a Christian, I had to add a whole new dimension to the book -- one I hadn't planned on from the start," explained Russo on the editing process. "After I became saved, I added a running commentary throughout the book where the 'new' Vince comments on the 'old' Vince."
Russo further recalled how writing the book was a cleansing and therapeutic session for his soul: "I spoke from the heart, every word, especially about those who meant the most to me in my life. My grandparents, who have both passed, had a great influence on my life. I let feelings out concerning them that had built up inside of me for years. Many nights I cried over the very words that I was putting down on the pages.
"The most difficult things to write about were the things that hurt me the most," continued Russo. "Of course, the death of Owen Hart, the lack of time I gave to my family, the way my relationship ended with Vince McMahon -- those things were very hard to put into words. The easiest parts were the comedy. I had a huge smile on my face every time I spoke of Mick Foley."
The book's editor at ECW Press, Michael Holmes, explained his synopsis of the book: "Vince Russo's Forgiven offers a unique, behind-the scenes perspective. As an insider, but more importantly as a writer and not as a performer or true representative of a wrestling 'office,' Russo's take on one of the most intense and controversial periods of contemporary wrestling history is balanced. His assessment of what goes on in the corporate boardrooms, the locker rooms and the ring is remarkably fair-minded -- at once respectful and critical of all aspects of the industry."
Holmes further added, "And because Forgiven is so much more than just another book about wrestling -- because it's also a memoir about spiritual crisis, faith and self-respect -- it's not about burying anyone, or an author putting himself over. Vince Russo's harshest critic is Vince Russo, and it's his humility that makes Forgiven one of the most honest and insightful takes on the world of professional wrestling to date."
The subjects of how living inside "the wrestling bubble" and its influence of personal depression are also described throughout the manuscript.
According to Russo, "The wrestling world doesn't allow you to be who you really are. You have to play the game to whatever extent in order to fit in. I know I did until depression drove me to hating the person I was becoming. I've seen too many of the boys blame themselves for their downfalls or their own demise so to speak, but I don't think that's the case at all. They are forced to become a victim of their own circumstances in the wrestling business just in order to survive."
Jim Monsees and Bill Banks are two individuals Russo shares stories about in his book with Chapter 48, Riddle Me This, solely being dedicated to Banks. While both presently work in various production capacities (Monsees with WWE and Banks with TNA), Russo explained how friends can drift apart inside the world of sports entertainment.
"With life being what it is, unfortunately I haven't spoken to Jimmy and Bill in quite some time. I'm sure Jimmy is currently consumed with the WWE, while Bill currently has chosen to ignore my calls and e-mails. Bill is currently upset with me over something he might not be understanding clearly. I have tried to reach out to him on several occasions, but I guess at the current time he's not interested in speaking with me. Again, that's the drama of the wrestling business. At times you just get so caught up in it that you lose sight of 'the truth' and what really matters in life.
"At 44 years old, I have maybe a handful of people who I consider friends -- 'true' friends," continued Russo. "Bill and Jimmy will always be on that list; unfortunately, they have allowed 'the world' to get in the way of the brotherhood we once had. However, I will continue do everything in my power to rectify those friendships."
While some relationships have been strained, Russo has long since called a truce with his former writing partner Ed Ferrara.
"Ed and I have patched up a relationship that was more or less devastated by the wrestling business," added Russo. We both had to be away from it for a while to really understand what kind of a heart the other had. Today, my relationship with Ed is great ... I consider him a brother!"
While the book is well over 300 pages, Russo had to leave out a lot of content much to his chagrin: "I want to talk about WCW, and I want to talk about TNA -- there was just no room in this book. I hope to cover those subjects in books to come."
About the possibility of Vince McMahon reading his book, Russo stated, "Personally, I don't think he will read it, I think somebody may read it for him. Regardless, I'm sure there are some things he might take to heart, but I also think that he will know that I spoke the truth -- the same way I spoke the truth every second that I worked with him."
When questioned if he was prepared for criticisms of his book and newfound faith, Russo said, "There's nothing to prepare myself for. I'm very proud of the book -- very proud. To me, it was one of the most significant things I've ever done in my life. I also know that the book came from God's hand; he told me what to say and how to say it in order for me to get across what he did in my life. So what can I really say about those who have their comments? I understand in full what the book is all about and its importance. Nobody will ever be able to make that any less significant to me."
Terry Taylor, Director of Talent Relations for TNA, shared his history and current relationship with Russo.
"Vince Russo and I met under strange circumstances in 1999 and it didn't go well," Taylor told SLAM! Wrestling. "I was the lead writer for WCW and we had been beating the WWF in the Nielsen Ratings. The WWF writing was fantastic at the time and their show was, to put it bluntly, better than ours. It was just a matter of time before the word got out. I watched Raw and was amazed! I had never seen anything like it and like me; millions of people were drawn in. In January of 1999, I had a very rocky relationship with my boss and was burned out. These two factors led to me quitting WCW. As I drove out of the parking lot in Cleveland where Nitro was being shot, I called my wife and then Vince McMahon. McMahon hired me on the spot and said to be at his house tomorrow to help write Raw. I said, 'OK' and that was the beginning of my journey in the WWF's television production. As I sat at dining room table with Vince McMahon, two characters [Russo and Ferrara] walked into the room. If looks could kill, I'd have died twice with the stare Russo gave me. Vinnie doesn't have much of a poker face and I could see this might be a tougher transition than I thought.
"Eventually, Vinnie and I became best friends and I am grateful that today we still are," continued Taylor. "We both have been tested by life and have been saved by the Grace of God. We learned the truth of Christianity together and supported each other when others around us questioned our motives and faith. We've grown in our walks with the Lord and now we're not just friends -- we're Brothers in Christ. When things are rough, and yes they do get rough for believers, we lift each other up and depend on each other when times are tough. I am truly blessed that God put me in Vinnie's life and he in mine."
Earlier this year Russo announced the formation of Ring of Glory, which is a ministry that combines wrestling and evangelism.
"My long term goals with Ring of Glory are to just follow God's commands and look over the organization while he does his miracles with it," said Russo. "I'm just a steward of the project -- God guides it and it will be whatever he wants it to be."
According to Taylor, the purpose of Ring of Glory is "to do what the Bible instructs all believers to do -- spread the Gospel. The Gospel is the story of Christ's life and death and how it allows sinners to reconcile with God. Many people don't want to hear the Gospel, but some do. Some would never think of coming to a church. That's not even an option to them. So, how would the word get out to them? The platform of Professional Wrestling is HUGE! Very few people haven't heard of wrestling and even if they're not fans -- there is a curiosity factor.
"If we can get people who are hurting or have an emptiness in their lives to come to Ring of Glory and see the stories of the Bible played out in a wrestling format -- some may be saved," continued Taylor. "The Bible says 'believing comes from faith and faith from hearing...' which means one must hear the word to believe it. That's why God commands us to spread the Gospel, so people can hear it. For this reason, Ring of Glory invites everyone to come and bring their famiy and friends. If they just come just for the wrestling, they won't leave disappointed. But, if they come looking for something more -- it may be the exact thing for which they were searching."
In January, Pro Wrestling Torch editor Wade Keller sat down with Russo and Ferrara to record Ultimate Insiders Vol. 1-3. The three-disc DVD set chronicles their roles in wrestling through a series of in-depth interviews.
"They've been through some great times and some tough times together, and because of that there will always be a bond between them," continued Keller. "I think Ferrara really establishes that he was a vital part of the successful years, and seeks to differentiate himself from Russo when it came to ideas that didn't work."
Russo added, "It was so painful for me to do. The only reason I agreed to do it was that I was allowed to give my testimony, and I was able to spend some quality time with Ed."
Although he doesn't go out of his way to watch the current product, Russo did share his insight on the current creative setup of WWE: "There is no question that both Stephanie and Shane [McMahon] are both extremely intelligent and hard working; however, I never really saw a creative side to either. That's why I was kind of taken back when Vince put Steph in that spot [Head of Creative]. You HAVE to be creative to be in that position, the spot demands it. Personally, no disrespect to Steph at all, I just don't think that's her strong point -- just like the business side of the wrestling business wasn't mine."
Vince Russo's new live talk radio show, Forgiven, can be heard every Thursday from 9-10 p.m. (EST) where he discusses Christianity, life and wrestling. Fans are welcome to ask him questions about any subject through a live chat during the broadcast.
According to the owner and producer of Fan Talk Live, Chris Cash, "The response to Vince's show has been mixed, but for the most part it's been very well received. Vince has now come to the point where he understands that the majority of his listeners will be asking wrestling-related questions; however, Vince was wanting it to be more of an inspirational show at first. Now, he's okay with the fact that it may be more answering questions having to do with his time in the wrestling business, and that has turned the show around to be very interesting and informative."