Truth With Consequences
Release Date: October 14th, 2018
Episode 2: Hulk Hogan In TNA
Recap by: Jeff Rush, PWPodcasts.com Assistant Editor
As a rule, Vince didn’t attend TNA’s after parties. He’s not a drinker, but he would sometimes go if they fell on a Monday since he was in the TNA Fantasy Football league. Other members of the league included Abyss, James Storm, Eric Young, and Rudy Charles. Jeff Jarrett ran the league and Vince says he was a terrible cheater. He insisted on hosting the draft, which based on his rules, also provided him with the first pick each year. He would also bring some of the biggest fantasy football minds in Nashville to his house, who would serve as consultants, essentially drafting Jeff’s team for him. Vince says it was a yearly ritual and was the best time of the year.
Jarrett had a reputation for being the last person at the after parties. When Kurt and Karen Angle joined the company, Karen began attending the parties and closing them down with Jeff. Kurt wasn’t into the parties and rarely attended. Rumors began spreading and soon Kurt caught wind. One night, Jeff called Vince around midnight and asked him to come to his room. Jeff had just had a confrontation with Kurt and was visibly rattled.
There were several meeting afterwards, as Kurt wanted to leave the company. He was eventually talked down. Vince says he was in a tough spot as he’d known Jeff for 20+ years, and was very good friends with Kurt.
Jeff gave Dixie Carter his word that there was nothing going on between he and Karen. Vince feels he should have owned up from the start. Vince says Dixie is not a difficult person to fool and notes that will come into play later in this story.
Jeff threw a party that was clearly being co-hosted by Karen Angle. Dixie was invited and was furious to learn of Jeff and Karen being together this way. Vince says all of Jeff’s friends in attendance knew about the relationship and says Dixie felt she was made to look like a fool.
Vince delves a bit deeper and says very early in the business relationship, Jarrett made a point to make Dixie feel inept, inferior and paranoid as a way of keeping her away from the wrestling side of the company. Dutch Mantell would plead with Jeff to “throw her a bone,” and Jeff never would.
As a result of the party, Dixie and Dean Broadhead, the company COO, sent Jeff home. She then sent Dutch and Jim Cornette home since they were close to Jeff. This left Vince and Matt Conway as the only two members of the booking team. He says Conway was only there as a stooge for Dixie.
Vince then says Jeff would routinely go behind his back and bury Vince to Dixie.
In the aftermath of Jeff’s suspension, she would call Vince constantly, as she didn’t know how to run a wrestling company. Her idea was to bring in Jim Ross. Russo thought this was a great idea. Ross paid a visit to the Carter compound and the family fell in love with him.
Vince had a great three-hour conversation with Ross over the phone. A short while later, he learned that things weren’t going to work out. He speculates the reason could have been money, but more so, he thinks Dixie may have talked her parents out of the move, fearing she would lose power, as Ross wanted complete control of the company as part of the agreement to bring him in.
Bringing In Hogan
A short while later, Hulk Hogan paid a visit to Universal Studios. He was put in the green room, which was usually reserved for Sting, Ric Flair, and Kurt Angle, to name a few.
Vince says just before Dixie was to meet Hogan, she was red in the face and shaking, she was so nervous. He knew Hogan was there to take Dixie’s money and, after being asked by Dixie eighteen times how her hair looked, he looked at Hogan as the lion and Dixie as the 50oz steak. This all proceeded the “serious negotiations” with Hogan.
Dixie held a company-wide meeting to welcome Hogan into the company. She had every man grow out a fu-manchu mustache and every woman wear a fake. Vince claims there are pictures of this out there. He wasn’t in attendance but was sent a photo that day.
Soon after, Dixie had Russo fly in to attend breakfast with her and Eric Bischoff. Vince says he was the same arrogant Bischoff he’d known in 2000, and that it began to feel like WCW all over again. He and Bischoff are “oil and water” and he didn’t know how it would work.
In 2002, when Russo nearly returned to the WWF, Hogan was there at the time and Russo asked Vince McMahon how he intended to handle the situation. Russo says McMahon told him he didn’t give a s**t about Hogan, that he wasn’t drawing him a dime and he would handle it. When Dixie put together this breakfast, which Hogan didn’t even attend, he says it became clear that she felt bringing Hogan in was going to make TNA bigger than WWE. It made him think back to McMahon’s thoughts on Hogan all those years earlier.
Dixie was leaning on Hogan to be her wrestling brains. His idea was to go head-to-head with Monday Night Raw.
Russo credits Dixie for sticking by him and not firing him, but then adds she saw him as her foundation and needed him. He says he doesn’t know why he didn’t quit.
Vince says there was a big part of him that wanted to make it right with Hogan. He says Hulk is the reason he was in the business in the first place. Bischoff set up a meeting between the three of them in a hotel in Florida. Russo says this was just how they’d left off in a trailer at Bash At The Beach. Vince feels that Hogan made it easy for him. He then says, while he can’t speak for Bischoff, Hogan genuinely wanted to make TNA a success. He very much believed in his abilities. Matt speculates that Bischoff probably felt the same way as Hulk, and Vince agrees.
Russo continues to speak glowingly about Hogan talking about how professional he was towards Vince in this meeting.
The Hogan Effect
Things didn’t get off to a good start. One by one, Hulk and Eric began bringing in old names from WWE. He says the additions of Jeff Hardy and RVD were great, but when Hogan’s old buddies began to arrive, it all went down hill. Matt talks about this for a bit and says the moment it took a turn for the worse for him was when the Nasty Boys arrived. Bischoff and Ed Ferrara had a blow up at a production meeting about this. Vince says he knows Bischoff thought it was an awful idea as well. He didn’t have a good reason for bringing in the Nasties and this was what Vince felt was the beginning of the end of Russo and Bischoff having any kind of positive working relationship to this day. Russo feels Brian Knobs is a great guy, but absolutely didn’t add to the wrestling product at this time.
Russo is all for being loyal to your friends, but in the end, this was business. He says he has lost many friends over the years for his unwillingness to bring them in if he felt they didn’t add to the product.
Bischoff’s priority when writing a show was whatever Hogan was doing and nothing more. Vince and Ed would write an episode and send it to Eric. It would be sent back to them covered in red marks, but with no suggestions of what to do differently. There was also no respect paid to the time Vince and Ed needed to do their job. Bischoff once left them hanging for days on a script rewrite before finally calling them into a meeting on Christmas Eve. Ferrara almost quit.
Hogan remained at home during these meetings. He was completely removed from the process.
Matt asks about the attempt to “sprinkle Hulk dust” on Abyss. Russo says Abyss was a really nice guy and loved the business and Hogan was drawn to him. It was Hogan’s idea to get behind him.
Hogan began wrestling a short time later, and Russo points out that he had major back issues.
Russo saw a concerted effort on Hogan’s part to elevate new talent, but says it was ultimately a mixed bag.
It was decided that Bobby Roode would defeat Kurt Angle and become TNA champion. They worked on this idea for some time and Roode was very excited. Then one day, Hogan came in and proposed a “what if” regarding not putting the title on Roode after all.
Hogan wanted AJ Styles to bleach his hair as part of his pairing with Ric Flair.
Steve Borden was going through a bad divorce around this time. Vince says he’s a complete professional, so when he called and said he had to miss a TV taping, he totally understood. Bischoff, on the other hand, wanted Sting immediately fired. Fortunately, Dixie loved Borden as much as Vince, so it would not come to pass. Russo feels this was simply a power play on Bischoff’s part.
Russo compares Sting’s professionalism to The Rock, saying he was always looking for a way to improve.
Kurt Angle was the top guy in the company at the time Hogan and Bischoff arrived. Along with Sting, Russo says Kurt is the person he admired the most.
Kurt and Sting arrived for the first show at noon and waited around all day for Bischoff and Hogan to arrive. When they finally did, Hogan decided he didn’t like the way their match was written. Russo blew up over this thinking it was incredibly disrespectful. He then got in a shouting match with Dixie, saying if they have to arrive at noon, Hogan and Bischoff should be there too.
Bret Hart was available. Russo wanted to bring him in as a GM type figure. Bischoff was on board. Dixie lord being the boss of all the big stars, so she was into it as well. They reached out to Bret Hart and he wanted to come in as well. All that was left was for Dixie and Bret to work out some financials, but then Hogan played his creative control card. He wanted nothing to do with Bret and refused to allow him in. Suddenly, Bischoff began telling Dixie all the reasons Bret shouldn’t be brought in, cutting down his appearance and disparaging his time in WCW. Bischoff never brought Hogan into the conversation. Russo says he was doing this as a way of making sure Dixie wasn’t upset with Hogan.
Dixie had to bring a lawyer in to mediate between Russo and Bischoff. Suddenly, Bischoff began divulging all the things Russo had said to him in private about Dixie. Dixie literally turned her chair to face Russo and the mediation between Bischoff and Vince suddenly became a conversation between Russo and Carter.
Vince maintains that everything he said to Bischoff in private he’d also said to Dixie. The issue she had was more about Russo saying them to Bischoff. Russo claims later reports that he cried during this meeting were complete bulls**t.
Ed Ferrara left shortly there after. Vince was left alone on the writing team. At this time, Russo reached out to Bruce Prichard. He says Bruce was his mentor and is a production genius. He was dealing with many issues at this point, including his wife having cancer and he knew Bruce needed the job. Prichard was then brought in.
We sidebar for a moment, as Vince discusses Paul Heyman, He’d had a handful of lengthy phone discussions with Paul and wanted to bring him in on creative. Dixie and Paul had a meeting and the next thing he knew, Dixie tells him she sent Paul to have a meeting with Spike TV executives. Alone. Vince doesn’t know what came out of the meeting, but 1. Paul didn’t end up working with the company. 2. Spike walked away deciding TNA needed an Executive Producer. That job would go to Eric Bischoff.
Vince knew Bruce was going to come in and work Dixie, just like Heyman had done briefly. Once he arrived, Vince says Bruce was constantly in her ear. Matt suggests that Bruce was very charming and was a refreshing break from what Dixie had been dealing with in regards to Hogan and Bischoff. Vince adds several times that Bruce is from Texas, just like Dixie and her family.
Bruce’s first week in the company, Vince was called into Dixie’s office. Bruce is sitting on the couch and Vince is told Bruce is now his boss.
Vince lays out the hierarchy, basically saying Bruce was now the filter between Vince and Bischoff. He adds, to Bruce’s credit, he was professional in this role. Bischoff would continue with the redlining and lack of suggestions, essentially saying both Vince, and now Bruce, didn’t know what they were doing. Eventually, Vince had enough and left the company.
At the TV tapings following the meeting where Bruce became Vince’s boss, Russo approached him and asked how he could do such a thing to him. Bruce deflected and said it was what Dixie wanted to do. Russo reminded him that it was Vince who brought him in. Russo then says that he created a spot for Bruce where one didn’t exist. This contradicts his claim at the start of this story that Vince was looking to fill the spot on the creative team left by the departing Ed Ferrara, so who knows?
Friendships In Wrestling
Vince points out that Bischoff, Prichard and Jarrett were all ingrained in the wrestling business at a very young age. The nature of the business they were brought up in was to gain power at all costs. Everything these three have ever done in the business was to get more money and power. He says they aren’t bad people, but the business made them this way.
To the contrary, Kurt Angle transitioned to pro wrestling from a different lifestyle at a later time in his life. Russo says he entered in a similar fashion. He says you have to recognize that every single thing that comes out of the mouth of a Hogan or Bischoff or Prichard has an agenda.
Vince talks about all the good times he had with Bruce from their time together in the WWF, going out to dinner and shows with their wives and had BBQ’s. He felt Bruce was a friend and genuinely liked him. He questions when you can get past “the wrestling bulls**t” and have friendship take a precedent, that it just doesn’t happen in wrestling.
Vince then says he was closer to Jeff Jarrett than anybody, but that in the end, he realized it was never a friendship. Vince feels Jeff used him when it benefitted him. When Russo was no longer in a position that benefitted Jeff, he was no longer Jeff’s friend. He seems to say bringing Bruce in was an attempt to prove that friendship could be stronger than political gain, in spite of being burned by Jarrett and others.
Russo goes back to a time he was working in the WWF and asked Vince McMahon if he gave a s**t about him on a personal level. He says McMahon’s exact response was “I love you, Vince. You have to love somebody when you work that closely with them.” In other words, yes, McMahon loved Russo, but only because they worked closely together. Russo walked away feeling Vince was phony and ingenuous.
To this day, Vince says he still loves Bruce and Jeff, but that there’s simply no getting past the wrestling bulls**t with either of them.
The End of the Hulk Era
Vince did everything he could to get Jarrett back in the company. He says Jeff hated Bischoff. Vince got them together with Dixie. Bischoff wanted to take Impact on the road, Jeff thought the company couldn’t afford it. Eventually, Dixie sided with Eric and Jeff was pissed off at Vince for some reason.
Russo says Jarrett was simply back as an on-air talent at this point, but he was trying to get him involved more.
Matt asks if Bischoff was basically the consigliere to Hogan, and Vince says absolutely. When they came in together, they had good intentions and felt they could make a difference. When it became evident that it wasn’t happening, Hulk bulled himself out of the situation and Bischoff ingrained himself more, looking to see what he could personally gain from the situation.
Matt mentions Hogan’s final appearance with the company. It concluded with Hogan walking out and Dixie’s arms wrapped around his legs. Russo was gone by then, but says he told her when she was bringing Hogan in to give him all the money he wanted but not the creative control, because in the end, they would make her look like a fool, and that’s just what happened.
Matt contends that what played out was basically a shoot.
Answers to Twitter questions
-Vince loves Hogan and blames Bischoff 100% for everything that happened at Bash At The Beach.
-Vince never heard Hogan make racist comments like he was later recorded saying. He felt Hogan would never get past it.
-Hogan referred to Jeff Hardy’s finisher as “the wanton.”
-There was never any talk of bringing Brutus Beefcake in to TNA.
-From a creative standpoint, Vince doesn’t feel Hogan and Bischoff did anything to kill TNA. He feels their desire to recreate the Monday night wars cost the company deeply.
Analysis: The show opened with Matt discussing people calling him out for “going soft” on Vince in the debut episode. Matt claimed he’s never going to dig in on his questioning just for the sake of doing so. If he feels a question has been answered to the best of it’s ability, he’s going to move on. I don’t see how a balance with Russo that allows this show to succeed could be found without that attitude.
The episode concluded with several more minutes of Matt and Vince discussing, basically, how they view criticism of the show and where they feel people are off base. I think if they continue to release episodes of this quality, they’ll be able to spend a lot less time on such things. From beginning to end, this show was a hit with me. From the talk of the TNA fantasy football league, to the surreal fu-manchu arrangement at Hogan’s welcoming meeting, to Vince’s side of how things unfolded with Bruce Prichard in the company, there were so many fascinating parts of this episode.
I didn’t find Russo’s demeanor this week to be nearly as abrasive as I did on the first episode. Either I’m getting used to it, or he’s toned it down a lot. Whatever the case, one thing seems pretty clear. I’m ready to hear Vince Russo talk about any of his experiences in wrestling other than his time in the dying days of WCW. Here’s to hoping TWC keeps delving beyond that level. Rating: 9/10
You can listen to Jeff along with PWPodcasts.com contributors Caitlin Lavelle and Joe Aguinaldo each week on The Pull Apart, a PWTorch VIP-exclusive podcast that breaks down the previous week in pro wrestling podcasts. To become a VIP member, visit PWTorch.com.