The hardest decisions in pro-wrestling are always left to the bookers, those knowledgeable figures who know how to put everything together. Not only do bookers have to put together matches and storylines on any given night, but these decisions have to be weaved into a larger, more complex web of interconnected stories and narratives that define wrestling programming.
Because of that complexity, bookers sometimes make mistakes. In the past, even the greatest wrestling bookers ever have made terrible decisions that have cost them dearly. From changing the company’s direction too radically, to pushing the wrong person, to refusing to adapt to change, wrestling history is filled with notable mistakes.
But there are also numerous success stories. On some occasions, a wrestling booker made such a great decision that they reaped the rewards for years to come. The ten bookers discussed in the subsequent pages all took calculated risks and timed their decisions very carefully.
The results were overwhelmingly positive, so much so that you could consider these ten bookers’ decisions the best that they could’ve ever made.
Whether it was the decision to change a company’s direction, to adopt a new booking philosophy, or even picking a specific person to carry the company as Champion, all of these decisions benefited the bookers and their companies tremendously, both financially and in terms of programme quality.
The bookers of tomorrow should look at the decisions of yesterday to figure out where how to become more successful.
10. Vince Russo (WWF/E)
Best Decision: the shift towards ‘Crash TV’ and the Attitude Era
Easily one of the most polarizing figures in modern wrestling history, Vince Russo has seen both peaks and valleys in terms of his booking philosophy. It was Russo who began shifting WWE’s booking direction towards the ‘Crash TV’ style that emphasized multiple overlapping storylines, stables, and swerves at every corner.
Yes, the actual in-ring quality of the period fell somewhat dramatically, but under Russo’s booking, WWF experienced an explosion in popularity, guided by such interesting storylines as Austin-McMahon, Undertaker-Kane, and the rising stardom of Mankind, Triple H and the Rock.
However, what worked in WWF failed to save WCW. Russo’s ideas worked so well in WWF because he had to get ideas approved by Vince McMahon, who threw out some of his ideas when they were too egregious (and rightly so).
In WCW, Russo was head booker and was given free rein to make any decisions he wanted, which led to an over-emphasis of sorts on Crash TV. WCW’s mainly southern and more traditional audience didn’t approve of all these radical changes, shocking’ twists and references to ‘insider’ concepts, and preferred old school wrestling instead.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Russo was a bad booker as he brought the WWF considerable success by changing their booking style to fit his storyline ideas. It’s just that he, like every good booker and writer, needs someone else to provide sober second thought to make sure an idea really is as good as the booker says it is.