Eight Reasons Why We USED to Watch TNABy Drowgoddess · · 6 Comments
Hey, everybody! I’m back! Expect more articles soon, as there’s plenty of ammunition these days. Extra credit to anyone who understands the history reference.
Eric Bischoff has recently chosen to promote the on-line video stylings of a few mouth-breathing, window-licking examples of why Charles Darwin was wrong. No one who gleefully cheers direct chair shots to the head as a good reason to watch a particular pro wrestling show is truly a fan of pro wrestling, nor should the comments of any such person be given any consideration. In the hope of countering the shameful inanity spouted in these video clips (I’m not going to dignify them with direct links), listing eight good reasons to watch TNA was the original plan here. It would be fantastic to do so, but the sad fact is that eight good reasons to watch TNA simply no longer exist. If Eric Bischoff and Dixie Carter are such fans of internet feedback, and are truly concerned about the abysmal ratings of their televised product, they both need to look to a more recent past than the one that they continue to forcefeed to the few remaining poor saps who actually tune in to watch “Impact” on Monday nights. The things that made TNA stand out as a true alternative, and made it a unique creature, are gone. While it’s true that some of these points were in decline long before January 4 of 2010, under the Hogan/Bischoff regime, they have all but vanished. As food for thought, here are eight reasons why we USED to watch TNA.
1. The X-Division
You know that this had to be first on the list. It was once treated as a very significant part of the TNA picture. Wrestlers from the X-Division have described it in interviews as a hybrid style, where every form of wrestling from all over the world could meet. It was high octane action unlike anything else seen on pro wrestling programming. Fans loved it because they were “jonesing for something different.” Notice that nowhere in these descriptions are any variation of the words “mindless spot monkeys.” Every match involving wrestlers who utilize a fast-paced, athletic style is not automatically devoid of the things that make a great wrestling match. Watch the Ultimate X match for the X-Division title from “Final Resolution” 2005, with Petey Williams defending against Chris Sabin and AJ Styles. Psychology, storytelling, emotional connections, a red-hot live crowd that was on their feet from beginning to end, everything that a true wrestling fan could possibly want was in this match. The main event of the “Impact” just prior to this pay-per-view? Christopher Daniels versus Chris Sabin to determine the third man in the ppv title match, and it went almost fifteen minutes, with a clean ending. The X-Division Champion was almost as important as the World Heavyweight Champion, and in some cases (depending on who the champion was), even more so. The Samoa Joe/Christopher Daniels/AJ Styles feud for the X-Division title was some of the best wrestling ever. Sure, even that eventually got old when everyone else in the X-Division was completely shut out, but it was still fantastic stuff. Compare that to the X-Division matches now.
Doug Williams’s recent run as X-Division champion could have been fantastic. A technical grappler champion who despised and disdained the more high-flying athletes in the division? Gold! Imagine the feuds with Jay Lethal, Homicide, a babyface Brian Kendrick, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, or even Kazarian. Shelley and Williams in a promo war would have been the proverbial license to print money! Instead, we got Jeff Hardy’s personality-challenged friend, Shannon Moore. Now Williams is no longer the champion, so it’s a moot point. Ladder matches and multiple-man tag team matches thrown out with no build. Title matches on free tv with no attention given and a few short minutes in which to work. The division and the title mean nothing to most fans anymore because both have been so horribly devalued by TNA’s management. Quintilius Varus, give me back my X-Division!
2. A proper Tag Team division
This used to be a huge difference between TNA and WWE. TNA not only had legitimate tag teams that could go, said teams were allowed to do so and were given prominent attention. America’s Most Wanted. The Naturals. Triple X. Team Canada. Team 3D eventually entered the picture. LAX. Beer Money. The Rock and Rave Infection. The British Invasion. My personal favorites, the Motor City Machine Guns. Even Lethal Consequences. These were all real tag teams who wrestled like real tag teams, and were allowed to have good matches on both tv and ppv. What happened? Now we get six-man and eight-man tag matches constantly. We get randomly thrown-together pairings of two main event or semi-main event guys, like the team of Hernandez and Matt Morgan. Jeff Hardy and RVD are another example. Real tag teams are practically non-existent on TNA programming now. Sure, Matt Morgan has a great gimmick going now. I really like it, and it’s fantastic for him. Did Beer Money and the Motor City Machine Guns have to be completely destroyed and bitchified in order to get Morgan over? No, not really. True tag team wrestling is its own unique art form, and TNA used to know what to do with it. Now, they don’t. Quintilius Varus, give me back my tag team division!
3. The Knockouts division
When the Knockouts division started, it was about women who could actually wrestle, even if they just so happened to be hot. Gail Kim and Awesome Kong were the focal points of the division, and the Knockouts consistently drew the highest-rated segments of “Impact.” Being the Knockouts champion actually meant something. The Beautiful People were weak in the ring, but Angelina Love was a solid worker. Roxxi, Daffney, Hamada, Sarita, Tara, and eventually Taylor Wilde all proved that there was a place for women in wrestling outside of stripping and eye candy. This doesn’t deny their hotness, it simply adds to it. By all accounts, Lacey Von Erich was set to be fired by TNA after her public trash-talking of the temporarily-departed Angelina Love, her reportedly lousy backstage attitude, and general uselessness. Once Hogan takes over, he announces that the Knockouts can’t work, and scales back their presence considerably. Lacey Von Erich, who was on Hogan’s disastrous Australia tour, not only keeps her job, but becomes a focal point of the company. Quintilius Varus, give me back my Knockouts division!
4. International talent brought in regularly and effectively used
Hector Garza. LA Park. Tanahashi. Jushin Liger. Volador. Masato Yoshino. Naruki Doi. These are just some of the international talent who have worked, however briefly, in TNA. This could have been a huge selling point for the company. Rather than pushing a completely non-Spanish-speaking Hernandez as the next Rey Mysterio for the Latino community, imagine using established Mexican stars who could bring massive followings to the table. That’s the excuse for bringing in American washed-up big names to drain the budget dry, after all. Is a big fuss ever made about international talent anymore? No. Would you even know if one were in the company? No. Quintilius Varus, give me back my international talent!
5. Matches lasting longer than three minutes
Regular matches not involving titles or main eventers would often run between seven and fifteen minutes, once upon a time. Look back at TNA matches from the 2004-2006 period. Sure, every match doesn’t need to be that way, but the bulk of the non-Kurt Angle singles matches in TNA are near-squashes of two to three minutes. Even tag team and six- or eight-man matches are stunningly short. And for what? So that Hogan, Bischoff, Anderson, Flair, and The Band can talk more. Quintilius Varus, give me back my longer matches!
6. Serious push of homegrown talent
Some of TNA’s biggest potential stars made their names in Ring of Honor, so while they may not be completely original talent, they at least weren’t ex-WWE and WCW guys. ROH didn’t have tv then, so TNA would have been the first big exposure that most of these wrestlers had. I remember when I first started watching TNA in 2004. I had no idea who anyone was, but was blown away by what I saw them do, and made a point of finding out who they were. AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Petey Williams, Sonjay Dutt, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Abyss (the true Monster version), Homicide, and Kazarian could and should be household names by now. None of them are “the future” of wrestling, they’ve all been the present of wrestling for the better part of a decade. The argument that “These guys don’t draw, and nobody knows who they are, so we have to bring in big names from other places,” is absolute rubbish. The job of any wrestling promotion is to PROMOTE the talent that it has! MAKE the audience know who your guys are! TNA has rarely shown any aptitude for this. Both Austin Aries and Low Ki were with TNA, and both left. True, their circumstances were different, but what wrestling promoter in her right mind would allow those two to slip away? Now, Daniels is gone, and Orlando Jordan has signed a multi-year deal. Now, the second that someone is released from WWE, the first comment made is some version of “When will he/she turn up in TNA?” Now, the wrestlers who have spent the bulk of their careers in TNA are vastly outnumbered by the ones that WWE just didn’t want anymore. If TNA had or would properly build and promote its own talent, it wouldn’t NEED saving by the Hogans, Jeff Hardys, Rob Van Dams, Kevin Nashes, Scott Halls, Stings, Mick Foleys, Kurt Angles, and so on.
Bischoff and Hogan love to talk about certain talent not being over and never drawing any money. How is someone supposed to try and get himself over when he’s never allowed to perform in front of anyone, or get any sort of tv time or promo time? It’s like punishing a dog for relieving himself on the carpet when you’ve never trained him not to. Quintilius Varus, give me back my homegrown talent!
7. Storylines based around competition or titles
There are good and compelling storylines that do not revolve around competition and titles. These work best when used sparingly. It makes them more powerful and effective. TNA used to focus on guys simply wanting to be a champion. Holding a title, proving that you were better than the other guy, that was the whole point of wrestling at all. If you look back far enough, the entire reason that the Ultimate X match exists is because of a storyline about competition. A heel X-Division champion, Chris Sabin, repeatedly interfered in Number One Contender matches involving babyface challengers Kazarian and Matt Bentley. Tired of confusion over the title scene, TNA officials created the Ultimate X match so that a clear champion could finally be determined. It’s simple, it’s believable, and it worked. Quintilius Varus, give me back my storylines!
8. The six-sided ring
The hip and trendy thing to do quickly became bashing those who pitched a fit over the removal of TNA’s signature six-sided ring. “It looks like a proper wrestling show now.” “The six-sided ring was so dumb, they should have gotten rid of it long ago!” “Why are you getting so worked up over it, it doesn’t matter.” It mattered a great deal. Why should TNA look like every other wrestling company in North America? Why should they give up the very thing around which they had built their entire brand identity (such as it was) for the first six years of its existence? The design of the six-sided ring changed the way matches were wrestled, particularly tag team matches, caged matches, and specialty matches, like Ultimate X. It would have been one thing if the entire company of TNA had gradually decided that they wanted to switch to a traditional four-sided ring, but that isn’t what happened. Hogan and Bischoff didn’t like it, so it went away. Now there is absolutely nothing visual to make TNA different from any other wrestling company. Quintilius Varus, give me back my six-sided ring!
Bischoff and Carter probably won’t read this. If they do, they won’t understand it or they’ll ignore it. That’s not said out of hatefulness, it’s simply a given at this point that nobody in a position of power in TNA has the slightest clue as to what paying audiences (outside of the Impact Zone) want to see, what TNA’s true strengths as a company are and how those strengths could actually be used to create an alternative to WWE, or how to do anything that isn’t focused on getting Hogan and his friends over so that they can bleed the company dry and move on to their next “thing.” As the saying goes, there are none so blind as those who cannot see. Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and Dixie Carter, give me back my TNA!
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