TOP 10 EASIEST TALENTS TO PRODUCE (1995-2012) PART I

Between all three companies that I’ve had the privilege to make a living over my 22 years in the wrestling business, I have literally worked with close to 1,000 personalities. Being that I still carry such a “youthful” look and demeanor, many don’t realize how long I’ve been around—and some of the greats I had the absolute HONOR to work with. Let me rattle of a few off the top of my head just to give you some idea; Savage, DiBiase, Flair, Rhodes, Steiners, Lugar, Moolah, Medusa, Elizabeth, Pillman, Big Boss Man, Sid, Backlund, Paul Bearer, Undertaker, Strongbow, Lanza, Jerry Brisco, Patterson, Owen, British Bulldog, Warrior, Heartbreak Kid, Goldberg, Austin, Rock, New Age Outlaws, Angle, Sting, Jarrett, Simmons, Bundy, Jericho, Konan, Yoko, Mr. Fuji, “The Captain” Lou Albano, Arquette, DDP, Nash, Hall, Waltman, Hulkster, Triple H, Bischoff, Bret, Lawler, Jake, LOD, Chyna, Sable, Vachon, Rooster, Booker, Mick, Mankind, Dude Love, Cactus Jack, Raven, Dreamer, Taz, Dudley Boys, Cornette, Mantel, Heenan, Tenay, JR, Zybysko, Steamboat, Duggan, Funk, Mystero, Guerrara—-the list goes on, and on, and on, and those are just off the top of my head!!!

(Whoever I excluded—please forgive—you are all LEGENDS in my mind).

There have been very few talents over the past 20 years that I never got the chance to produce. The two that I think I would have enjoyed the most would be Randy Orton and John Cena. Just last night I watched the two of them OWN the ring with a mike, like only the true masters do. There is no doubt that those two mega-talents produce themselves—nobody can own those lines the way they do.

Producing talent is perhaps THE most important element of any wrestling show. Yeah—the writing is crucial—but if the talent doesn’t pull it off in a convincing matter—then it wouldn’t matter if Shakespeare himself was writing their verbiage. And without question, it is the producing that gets the most trying and taxing at times—even more so than the actual writing of the show. You see, whether you believe it, or not—the talent doesn’t always cooperate.

In many cases, this is due to the talent thinking that they know more than you—the writer–and in some instances—they do. Just look at the facts—on any given wrestling show the writer/producer may have to worry about the verbiage and direction of up to–and over–25 performers, while the individual wrestler only has to be concerned with one–himself, or herself. So, at times, this will lead to a “character” knowing his “character” better than the writer does, however those times are few and far between.

You see many performers are congested with a disease I like to call—“not being able to see the forest through the trees.” This deadly disease means that they are only seeing what’s immediately in front of them in the here and now; or tonight’s show. They’re failing to see the “big picture”, or the entire “vision”, so they only concern themselves, or in some cases—nit-pick, with what they are doing that night when in reality, that night is a very small piece of the puzzle.

So hopefully with that explanation, you now have a better understanding of a thankless job–that many feel they can do better.

But, as with anything else in life—you take the BAD with the GOOD.

There are dozens, and dozens of personalities I enjoyed working with over the years; so many fond memories of such “unique” individuals that I learned from everyday. Every one of them was a “genius” in their own right—at best I was just there to guide, direct and contribute. And even if many of those that I’m about to mention really “didn’t” need my contributions because they were pros and such GIANTS as human beings, they made me feel as if I was needed any way.

Hence—my top 10 list of talents that were the easiest and most enjoyable talents to produce.

Starting at 10:

(NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN MONTHS BEFORE OUR LOSS OF THE WARRIOR. MAY HE FOREVER REST IN PEACE)

10. WARRIOR

To this day, I still don’t know exactly what it was that “blessed” me in having a great relationship with the Warrior. And yes—you read that right—“BLESSED”.

Despite what you read about him, or what uneducated opinions you may have formed, Jim Hellwig was INDEED a GENIUS. This guy just lived in a galaxy that others couldn’t have survived in for a second!!! He was his own creature, in his own world, and that’s what made him UNIQUE. And, it was his uniqueness which caused others to get out the shovel and start burying him—because they simply didn’t understand. That’s what happens in wrestling. When you have a different mindset, and you’re on a different playing field, and you stay true to yourself—others will put more bullet holes in your back than even Sonny Corleone could have endured!!! You get labeled “a goof” because you’re just so much better than everybody else and that is their only way of justifying it.

In the short time I got to work with Warrior, let me make one thing clear—I NEVER PRODUCED HIM. NO ONE EVER PRODUCED HIM. You just asked him if he would please wind himself up and GO!!!! You couldn’t write for the Warrior—you wouldn’t even try. No one on this planet could communicate like him, or think like him, and that was his ULTIMATE gift. That is what put him so over with the fans. He was a polarizing figure, and still is to this day—regardless of how many DVDs the WWE put out trying o disparage his name. That is stupid—and cheap. There were only a handful of guys who made Vince McMahon more money than the Warrior—whether any one wants to admit that—or not.

9. PATTERSON & BRISCO

“BACK IN THE DAY”, I witnessed many epic individual battles involving Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson. Growing up on Long Island, of course I was more familiar with Pat Patterson and his run as the first ever WWWF IC Champion. What a monumental battle he won in Rio De Janerio on that magical and mysterious night when he captured that newly born title! But even being a thousand miles away, on a few occasions I had the privilege of experiencing the great Brisco Brothers; Jack and Jerry,two of the best God-Given wrestlers to ever grace a ring to this day. But, even with all those grappling accolades, nothing—I SAID NOTHING—compared to their acting chops while playing the part of Mr. McMahon’s cronies.

158448870_chyna-pat-patterson-gerald-brisco-8x10-photo-wwe-wwfYou know when somebody is SO GOOD that they don’t even realize HOW GOOD they are? That was Patterson and Brisco. These guys were comedic geniuses—PERIOD. Very few people in this business have brought me to tears when producing them—Eric Young comes to mind—but, I can’t tell you how many pre-tapes I was producing with Patterson and Brisco that I busted MYSELF because I was howling on the floor like a spastic hyena. To this day when I want to get out of my daily doldrums, I just go to the time and place where Patterson and Brisco were searching for the Undertaker in the bowels of some building—wearing mining helmets. That’s Abbott and Costello, people!!!

It was always the TRUE, TRUE veterans that just did what was written, and trusted you as the writer. It was a different generation—they were raised in a business where you didn’t ask any questions—you just did it. And, that was a huge part of the success of these ICONS after their ring careers—you wrote it—they did it—it was magic.

Side note—got to give 100% credit where credit is due. It was Vince McMahon who came up with one of the best lines I’ve ever heard in my career as a wrestling writer/producer”

“BRISCO BROTHER’S BODY SHOP—IT’S WORTH THE DRIVE!”

That is GOLD.

8. SHANE MCMAHON

Take nothing away from Vince at all here, if my list would have gone to 11—Vince would have made it, but his son Shane—a pure professional and joy to work with.

I can remember writing Shane’s very first promo—the first time he was ever on WWE TV. He was so nervous backstage, going over his lines with me to nausea. When I look back now I can really understand the pressure that he must have felt. Coming up in the shadow of his father, who has to rank as one of the greatest performers in the companies rich history. The whole time, however, I wasn’t the least bit concerned. Why? Because he was a McMahon and if you were around them long enough you knew that McMahons always deliver—ALWAYS.

On that memorable night—Shane just left me speechless—he was just THAT GOOD. It was just in his blood—plain and simple. He was about as “natural” as “natural” comes. I remember at that time we had so many great, great performers on our roster—and in my professional opinion—Shane was just as good as any of them, and I’m talking Vince, I’m talking Austin, I’m talking the Rock. Shane was a pro.

03_shane_mcmahon_01There is something to be said when the BOSSES SON goes out and says everything written on the format without asking a single question. The only time Shane got involved with the script—was when he had something better. To this day, the business misses Shane McMahon.

7. THE ROCK

No disrespect to anybody else, but there is one simple reason why The Rock is the biggest star in the history of professional wrestling—he’s simply smarter than everybody else. Rock knew how to “work” the “workers” without them having any idea they were being “worked”. He was just that brilliant.

While I worked with The Rock through his metamorphic rise, I never witnessed him even attempting to swim with the sharks—never. He wasn’t a politician, he didn’t have an agenda, he didn’t talk behind any bodies back, and he just concentrated on one thing—being the best he could possibly be.

I don’t even remember an instance where Rock ever raised his voice—not one. I don’t even remember the Rock saying he didn’t like something that I wrote—not once. What I do remember is the times Rock would call me over as a gentlemen and say, “Roody Poo—I love what you wrote—but what if we add this.” And I remember every time Rock being dead one—every time.

I’ve said this before—and I will say it again—we will NEVER see another one like him. He was just so “inhumanly” cool.

6.  STING

Just a true gentleman of the sport, Sting is one of the few that I dearly consider a friend.

If you know Steve Borden, you know that he just doesn’t have a mean, vicious, or vindictive bone in his body—not one. He is a true gentleman in every sense of the word, and that is exactly how he carries himself in every locker room that I’ve ever worked in with him. From a professional prospective, the thing I admire about Sting above all is his trust in you as a writer/producer to STILL take chances, to continue to reinvent himself even at this stage of his career.

Executing “Joker” Sting was pure brilliance on his part. He leaped out of his comfort zone, embraced the challenge, and put himself out there. He had everything to lose, and nothing to gain, but he trusted me in doing my job. If Steve felt that it was going to make TNA better by even 1/10 of a ratings point—then he was game.

A man’s man—a true ICON.

  • Jordan

    Who came up with the People’s Eyebrow? lol. Vince I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting your horn. But I always felt like the Rock’s character was at it’s best when you were writing the show. For some reason he stopped a lot of stuff after you left. I even remember him stopping the eyebrow by mid 2000 as well as the fancy shirts, deep voice, cocky attitude ect.

  • Jordan

    Who came up with the People’s Eyebrow? lol. Vince I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting your horn. But I always felt like the Rock’s character was at it’s best when you were writing the show. For some reason he stopped a lot of stuff after you left. I even remember him stopping the eyebrow by mid 2000 as well as the fancy shirts, deep voice, cocky attitude ect.

  • Jordan

    Who came up with the People’s Eyebrow? lol. Vince I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting your horn. But I always felt like the Rock’s character was at it’s best when you were writing the show. For some reason he stopped a lot of stuff after you left. I even remember him stopping the eyebrow by mid 2000 as well as the fancy shirts, deep voice, cocky attitude ect.

    • MoKopstick

      Mick Foley killed the Rock character, but indirectly made it great.

      The Rock went from awesome to booable and sappy not because he went Hollywood, nobody cares. Austin did movies and TV shows, no one cries about that. What happened was the Rock went John Cena soft. Started smiling more and being a nice guy, not his awesome character. Why the change? Mick Foley stated in an interview that he once gave a suggestion to the Rock that the Rock accepted: “Why don’t you be a little nicer?” Killed his character, made him booed, which made his Hogan WM match more fun and then gave him a real fun heel persona. So, it ended up fine, I guess.

      • James M. Fabiano

        Maybe this isn’t general “death” of character, but when he became more of a caricature of himself in 1999 was what ruined him for me. ALL his promos in this year were catchphrase Mad Libs. Made me look forward to the times he’d turn heel.

    • Vince Russo

      I’m about 99.9% that Rock came up with the “people’s Eyebrow” on his own. Rock came up with most of his own stuff. He was just that goPd.

    • Vince Russo

      I’m about 99.9% that Rock came up with the “people’s Eyebrow” on his own. Rock came up with most of his own stuff. He was just that goPd.

  • Stardog Champion

    Love the article Vinny Ru. The Ultimate Warrior was such a class act and smart man. Great wrestler and character embodied the Warrior. I thank Vince Russo for contributing in helping developed The Rock and Stone Cold character into one of the most entertaining act in the Attitude Era. I love The Rock and Stone Cold. I looked up to them when I was a kid. As a kid in elementary school, it felt cool imitating The Rock and Austin. When I was young watching the WWF back in the Attitude Era. I hated Shane McMahon. Now looking back I have grown to appreciate what he has done. The guy truly knows how to play his character and get the crowd to hate him. I wish Shane took over WWE, not big nose Triple H. Damn Russo…I wish you would go back to WWE or TNA to write again. Mainstream pro wrestling today is boring and SUCK ASS.

  • Stardog Champion

    Love the article Vinny Ru. The Ultimate Warrior was such a class act and smart man. Great wrestler and character embodied the Warrior. I thank Vince Russo for contributing in helping developed The Rock and Stone Cold character into one of the most entertaining act in the Attitude Era. I love The Rock and Stone Cold. I looked up to them when I was a kid. As a kid in elementary school, it felt cool imitating The Rock and Austin. When I was young watching the WWF back in the Attitude Era. I hated Shane McMahon. Now looking back I have grown to appreciate what he has done. The guy truly knows how to play his character and get the crowd to hate him. I wish Shane took over WWE, not big nose Triple H. Damn Russo…I wish you would go back to WWE or TNA to write again. Mainstream pro wrestling today is boring and SUCK ASS.

  • Stardog Champion

    Love the article Vinny Ru. The Ultimate Warrior was such a class act and smart man. Great wrestler and character embodied the Warrior. I thank Vince Russo for contributing in helping developed The Rock and Stone Cold character into one of the most entertaining act in the Attitude Era. I love The Rock and Stone Cold. I looked up to them when I was a kid. As a kid in elementary school, it felt cool imitating The Rock and Austin. When I was young watching the WWF back in the Attitude Era. I hated Shane McMahon. Now looking back I have grown to appreciate what he has done. The guy truly knows how to play his character and get the crowd to hate him. I wish Shane took over WWE, not big nose Triple H. Damn Russo…I wish you would go back to WWE or TNA to write again. Mainstream pro wrestling today is boring and SUCK ASS.

    • Michael Rubin

      love the article vince warrior never got the credit hed eserved until after he passed away, tragic, rock and austin were fantastic. hope oyu go back to tna your creativity is sorely missed

    • Michael Rubin

      love the article vince warrior never got the credit hed eserved until after he passed away, tragic, rock and austin were fantastic. hope oyu go back to tna your creativity is sorely missed

  • http://www.tnasylum.com/ Talon

    Joker Sting was one of my favorite characters from 2011. He really captured the character in his delivery.

  • James

    The Ultimate Warrior: Intense. Great character. RIP.
    Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco: Very entertaining as Mr. McMahon’s stooges. Two Legends.
    Shane McMahon: He is my favorite and in my opinion the greatest Non-Wrestler Wrestler of all time.
    The Rock: Best promo ever. Awesome wrestler. Awesome entertainer. What he did for John Cena at WrestleMania 29 was amazing. It shows how much he loves Professional Wrestling.
    Sting: One of my top five favorite Professional Wrestlers of all time. A true artist.

  • James

    The Ultimate Warrior: Intense. Great character. RIP.
    Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco: Very entertaining as Mr. McMahon’s stooges. Two Legends.
    Shane McMahon: He is my favorite and in my opinion the greatest Non-Wrestler Wrestler of all time.
    The Rock: Best promo ever. Awesome wrestler. Awesome entertainer. What he did for John Cena at WrestleMania 29 was amazing. It shows how much he loves Professional Wrestling.
    Sting: One of my top five favorite Professional Wrestlers of all time. A true artist.

  • The French Angel

    Enjoyed the Patterson and Brisco “stooges” gimmick. Great stuff.

    Sting’s Joker gimmick…I liked the beginning phases of it but it got too silly and over the top near the end.

  • The French Angel

    Enjoyed the Patterson and Brisco “stooges” gimmick. Great stuff.

    Sting’s Joker gimmick…I liked the beginning phases of it but it got too silly and over the top near the end.

  • The GOAT VI

    The Rock is the best ever

  • The GOAT VI

    The Rock is the best ever

  • Turnbuckle Magazine

    I am pleased to hear your statements about Warrior since you worked with him. My impression of Warrior was that he was a misunderstood genius in a hyper competitive industry where jealousy runs amok. While he certainly seemed to have his eccentricities, isn’t that true of all who see the world differently than the masses!

  • Turnbuckle Magazine

    I am pleased to hear your statements about Warrior since you worked with him. My impression of Warrior was that he was a misunderstood genius in a hyper competitive industry where jealousy runs amok. While he certainly seemed to have his eccentricities, isn’t that true of all who see the world differently than the masses!

  • The FBWA

    uneducated? lol Friend you are uneducated still to this day about the business and have no damn respect for it. how’s about you shut the hell up.

  • The FBWA

    uneducated? lol Friend you are uneducated still to this day about the business and have no damn respect for it. how’s about you shut the hell up.

  • P Williams fan

    Great article but can anyone link the Undertaker Stooges segment I can’t find it anywhere.

  • http://www.femalewrestlingchannel.com/ Johnny Ringo

    Working with the ladies is a blessing indeed, however, it is the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. Great list here. Rock has to be the one I personally admire the most.

  • vantheman77

    Love the Joker Sting. Ultimate Warrior is one of a kind.

  • Andrew Hippert

    Daniel, I think you’re being slightly harsh. I think Vince’s piece was likely written for substantive purposes as opposed to one that entirely comports with proper usage of the English language. Yes, as an attorney who dedicates the majority of my working day to reading and writing, I’ve also noticed certain of the same errors that you’ve identified…however, I was less offended, as such errors seemed to me likely to be a result of submitting his article in haste rather than incompetent writing. I realize that Vince is a polarizing figure, but I’ve found it far more enjoyable to look past an English language faux pas or two and rather focus on the content of the story.

  • Andrew Hippert

    Daniel, I think you’re being slightly harsh. I think Vince’s piece was likely written for substantive purposes as opposed to one that entirely comports with proper usage of the English language. Yes, as an attorney who dedicates the majority of my working day to reading and writing, I’ve also noticed certain of the same errors that you’ve identified…however, I was less offended, as such errors seemed to me likely to be a result of submitting his article in haste rather than incompetent writing. I realize that Vince is a polarizing figure, but I’ve found it far more enjoyable to look past an English language faux pas or two and rather focus on the content of the story.

  • Vince Russo

    Thanks, Andrew. Yes, I am writing the majority of this content myself, and trying to churn it out as fast as I can. It’s important to me that there is something new to read on a daily basis. So, if there are some errors—I apologize. I just think that it’s more important to get it out there quickly–even if that means I made some errors along the way. I’m not a copy editor—as soon as we can afford one we will hire one. Thanks for the back-up, Andrew.

  • Eric

    Vince, I have been a wrestling fan since the the 80′s yes I was extremely young then I am 32 now. To me this is probably the worst time in wrestling history,not because of PG but because it seems like no one truly cares. It has become way too much about the wrestling and the character development has been forgotten. They are trying to hard to go back to the good guy bad guy thing which was terrible in the past. Every time I think they are going to do something interesting they go in the exact opposite direction. I truly believe you know what is needed to compete against the WWE. You understand what the normal Joe wants out of wrestling. Why haven’t you tried to start your own promotion. This way you would have the freedom to truly entertain. Something new needs to happen, let the wrestlers be themselves and entertain. I would love another true invasion, one that changes wrestling for good. I envision Shane coming back telling his dad how boring everything is and create a situation in between PG and TV14. SOMETHING NEW PLEASE!!! I have so much more to say but I could never type it all here.