Bookers Need Big Stars - Most of the Time

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Branden Harvey
Posts: 116
Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:44 am

Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:43 am

Consider this... Vince Russo was a creative team member during the late 1990's for the WWF until he bolted for WCW during September 1999. Then, for the remainder of 1999 and for the middle section of 2000 when he returned to WCW after a brief firing, his creative mind seemed to add to WCW's collapse. He's been working for TNA Wrestling for a short while now and yet that promotion can't find sustained success.

What, did Vince Russo suddenly become stupid?

No, obviously not... He worked in an era when Steve Austin, the Rock, and Mick Foley caught absolute fire and he was able to reap the benefits.

Same thing goes for Eric Bischoff. He spent enough money during 1993-1995 to feed several 3rd world nations, thanks to Ted Turner's money, but through 1996 after accumulating enough talent (notably Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, and lying about their status with the WWF), suddenly, Eric Bischoff is a wrestling genius. Nevermind his mid 1990's WCW failures or even commanding the AWA Titanic into the iceberg.

Yet, Bischoff was a long enough leash through mid 1999, was allowed to return through late 2000, was allowed to be a character GM for RAW, and is now given the task of creatively turning TNA around. Did Eric Bischoff suddely lose his booking mind?

How about Stephanie McMahon? When Vince Russo left, she stepped up her creative role and she oversaw the incredible 2000 year. Then, the Invasion happened, 2002-2003 RAW happened, etc. Did she suddenly lose her creative marbles?

NO! The truth of the matter is that for Vince Russo during the late 1990's, he had Austin/Foley/Rock breaking out as stars and making Russo's job easier. But I'll tell you this much, look at Russo's midcard during the late 1990's. AWFUL! WWE during 1998-1999 had an incredibly weak midcard. Then, when Russo left for WCW, Stephanie basically took his role and thanks to incredible acquisitions of Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, the Dudley Boys, the Radicalz from WCW (Benoit, Malenko, Saturn, Guerrero), Tazz, and then getting the likes of Triple H, Hardy Boyz, and Edge/Christian to all peak at the same time... Holy cow, talk about luck!

Eric Bischoff blew millions during 1993-1995 on stars that didn't pan out, and even Hulk Hogan had some issues getting over with Southern fans during 1994-1995. It wasn't until Bischoff stole an invasion angle from Japan to become the genesis of the NWO and turning Hogan heel that it would all come together along with Hall and Nash hopping aboard as perfect talent acquisitions. Bischoff's raiding of ECW, Mexico, and Japan of talent was also key.

My point, folks, is that TALENT MATTERS. In my examples presented, Russo, Bischoff, and Stephanie each had their moments where they looked like booking geniuses and thus have cashed in the past decade from those times.

In each instance, however, they had HUGE starpower carrying their water. In the years where they lacked a strong roster of stars, obviously, their bad booking was exposed. Russo was an absolute DISASTER in WCW for both times he was there. Eric Bischoff's wheels came off in 1998 and multiple NWO rehashes later, he was out of the job. He can't do a damn thing, along with Russo, in TNA right now. With Stephanie, just look at the Invasion angle and then watch the awful 2002-2003 RAW period where we saw Jericho and Triple H fighting over a dog, Katie Vick, Goldberg's blunder, among other issues.

So THUS - When you bitch about today's storylines, myself included, realize that today's WWE lacks the impactful wrestling superstars that Vince Russo got to work with during the late 1990's, the deep roster Stephanie had in 2000, and the unique roster depth Bischoff had during 1996-1997. What do the current bookers have to work with? In fact, I'd argue that this: imagine the WWE without John Cena. It would be an absolute mess, as Cena's starpower has helped to mask a very so-so main event scene (especially with Edge's laughable 9 World Titles and Randy Orton's excessive 7 World titles).

Today's WWE creative team are probably trying, but many of the developmental territory wrestlers just don't have the pedigree of what Bischoff had during 1996-1997, what Russo had during 1997-1999, or what Stephanie started with in 2000. For anyone wondering why Cena is such a dominant character, you tell me WHO is worthy of his starpower on the WWE's roster right now?

In summary - Bookers need starpower to succeed, obviously. Their job is made easier when talents' inner abilities can overshadow the bad writing they're given.

THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS... Just a handful of bookers out there can overcome talent problems, and I strongly believe that TNA missed out on getting one (even though his demands were high). Paul Heyman is arguably the best at "polishing a turd". Just look at the roster of regular dudes he had after the WCW raid. Sandman and Tommy Dreamer were guys nobody even wanted to sniff, but Heyman booked them to succeed. Raven was a failure in 2 promotions before being rebooked to succeed in ECW. Al Snow bombed in the WWF but was made an instant star in ECW.

Other exceptions, I'd argue, would be Jim Cornette for his Smoky Mountain Wrestling days as well as Ohio Valley Wresting (though Vince McMahon disagreed with the booking style, and thus tried to undo what Cornette tried to teach OVW students). Ric Flair was damn good during 1989 and the first half of 1994, though I don't think he could do it now (too reliant on himself wrestling to get others over). Many were fans of Jerry Lawler's booking style, but he's been relegated to announcer for 15 years now within the WWE.

TNA is struggling mightily because they have ZERO superstars they can market to fans no matter what the booking is. AJ Styles and Samoa Joe aren't the guys to carry a promotion (yeah, I said it), and Kurt Angle isn't a top guy. Styles, Joe, and Angle should help add to the roster, but not be the top of it. Everyone else are running on their prior reputations of getting over. Seriously, a 50 year old Sting on your roster as a top guy?

That's why TNA needs Paul Heyman. Heyman would get stars over and make your midcard strong. He did it in ECW after the WCW raids and he ran an awesome Smackdown brand during 2002 through early 2004. His resume is there for the employment, but TNA wouldn't cave in to Heyman's excessive demands and probably realized they invested much into guys who were successful during previous periods of time (Bischoff, Russo, Hogan).

But until then, TNA has to PRAY that one of their guys gets naturally over on their own... Given the current creative forces, that's they only way they'll become successful as a promotion. Praying!

With the WWE, keep John Cena around and strong as long as you can until you can find a successor or successors. I do like that the WWE is pushing younger wrestlers via the Nexus and having 2 brands allows for opportunities to knock. But thus far, aside from a good rebirth from Randy Orton, nothing is sticking. 2010's Pay Per View buyrates have been embarrassing in comparison to previous years of these rough economic times.

But before you continue to hammer WWE's creative team, as I have as well, just remember... Talent makes the world go 'round... It happens in Sports as well... Tony Dungy joins a team with Peyton Manning on it... Mike Tomlin inherited Dick Lebeau and a loaded Steelers roster. However, Andy Reid seems to win with whomever revolves out of the door talent wise and someone like Bill Parcells has rebuilt teams. Talent is required on your roster unless you have the creative mind to "coach" or book them properly.

Long-ass post today, but it was an interesting thought process that I had while I was studtin for finals all day long...
word count: 1390

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