TNA – The easy target for your scorn
It’s pretty easy in today’s pro-wrestling industry to package all of your frustrations into a cardboard box and ship it off to Orlando, Florida, first class. For whatever reason, Total-Nonstop Action have an insane fear of success that makes almost everyone who watches it and then writes about it online either physically angry or incredibly happy and disappointed that they are the only people who found it enjoyable. I assume that the majority of these people are socially-inept psychopaths who hate Vince McMahon so much that they’ll drink piss just to avoid the evils of bottled water. You know the sort; they want George Bush out of office so badly that they’ll vote for the bland and equally-as-questionable John Kerry. There’s nothing about him that is remotely superior to Bush, other than the fact that he isn’t him. Sometimes, when reading the insane, straw-clutching pro-TNA arguments online, I ask myself whether these, pardon the generalisation, idiots are simply so against a world of nothing other than the WWE that they will fight for any cause, no matter how inferior or damaging to the wrestling business, just to give the evil wrestling-destroying McMahon competition.
It’s not only pretty easy; it’s almost too easy.
It’s too easy, for example, to compare the two products from an aesthetic viewpoint. Raw boasts immaculate production values, an awe-inspiring stage, jaw-dropping pyrotechnics, and videos that wouldn’t look out of place on the big screens of Hollywood. Never underestimate the power of visual appeasement. Sit your average every day guy in front of a TV screen and you’re more likely to attract him to WWE than you are to TNA on first impressions alone. I don’t know if David Sahadi has retired and left the company, or trekked his way barefooted across some desert in search of more pretentious Biblical passages to steal, but TNA have been putting out some utter shit lately, video-wise. Sometimes, I do wonder if Jeremy Borash is surgically attached to Microsoft Powerpoint, but an upgrade would be a step forward. Here’s some advice: try to steal more ex-WWE guys. They have an obvious talent for what they’re doing, more so than anyone else in the field (wrestling or MMA) and rather than spending money on bringing in Tomko to do nothing for a bit, why not hire someone to overhaul the production and spruce things up a little? Fire the director who likes to cut to a new shot every two seconds. Send the fireworks team off to sit on their own displays and come back once their embarrassing excuses of ‘technics has set them on fire. It’ll keep them out of your hair for at least half a year. Shout obscenities at whoever told Mike Tenay and Don West to SHOUT AT EVERYTHING THAT IS HAPPENING IN THE RING WITHOUT GIVING A SECOND UP TO LETTING THE ACTIONS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES, BECAUSE THIS ISN’T A RADIO SHOW AND WE’RE NOT ALL VISUALLY IMPAIRED. It’s simple and effective. Fire a wrestler with no use to the company (and you can take your pick – there’s enough of them) and bring in someone who will be nothing but a benefit to making you seem like a major league brand. For a 9pm Spike TV show, TNA are “perfectly fine”. But to compete with the WWE audience, who is used to what is now the standard for all shows, TNA need to pick it up big-time. I hate to break it to the die-hard wrestling fans who think that the action will sell itself; not if the director doesn’t know how to show it to you properly, it won’t. If nothing else, it’ll probably impress Spike too.
It’s too easy to line up all the Youtube bloggers who claim to hate the “sports entertainment” vision and then praise TNA in the same sentence, when TNA has been just as WWE-esque as the WWE themselves. It’s blatant hypocrisy to say you hate sports entertainment and then say TNA is about the wrestling, when it quite clearly isn’t. The Karen/Kurt split is wrestling, is it? The bush-league Lethal/Val wedding is wrestling? All the referee bumps and SWERVES~, they’re not the vision of WWE booking that you insist on dragging into the dirt? Of course not. TNA is “wrestling”, so let’s just ignore all the instances where they take the 1998 Attitude-era approach and overbook, or present old storylines that didn’t exactly work in the past and certainly won’t work in the new-age of legitimate fighting sports climbing in popularity across America. To say that TNA is wrestling means that you have to admit that WWE is also wrestling. For every cry that the Kurt Angle storyline is a feud leading to a pay-off match with AJ Styles, as is wrestling 101, I will return the pitch with Chris Jericho v Shawn Michaels: a smart, intriguing and slowly built feud leading to a pay-off and exercising character redevelopment within two of the three main components thus far (the third man being Lance Cade, for anyone who lost me for a second). So TNA took a risk and pushed Samoa Joe to the title? Stand up, CM Punk. If nothing else, the Punk reign was even more of a gutsy move because no one remotely saw it coming. In fact, the entire Raw title scene right now is consisting of fresh new faces – amongst Punk are Kofi Kingston with the Intercontinental title and the potential-drenched Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase team, complete with tag team titles. Like them or not, no one can accuse WWE of not trying something fresh. if it fails, it fails, but no one can say they’re not giving it a shot. I was going to give an example of a lousy WWE moment from this year, but there haven’t been too many in all fairness. Ok, I’ll submit the JBL/Cena car saga from this week’s Raw. A lousy end to a good show. Yeah, so WWE made a mistake. TNA would never do that, right? Except for that brutally shitty ending from the pay-per-view last week with Joe, Booker, Sting and Sharmell. Or the Deuces Wild tournament that put completely “random” (codeword for “so predictable, Stevie Wonder sent me the list two days before it was even announced via spoilers”) teams together, and then ended it with two established teams, completely rendering the concept pointless. Ask any booker with a clue about how wrestling works, and they’d tell you the same thing – that was some dumb shit, homie. Anything WWE fails at, TNA fails just as badly. And anything TNA is good at, WWE can do it too. There are a few things TNA can do better – high-flying X-division matches that make the crowd hot and gives them something different to the competition. But then WWE counters with it’s ability to put on really strong main event matches with real main event calibre stars. Not wrestlers, but stars; people who look, sound and feel like the real deal. Which you prefer is up to you. Personally, I’ll take a star doing minimal over a talented nobody killing himself for nothing, but that’s preference. But saying that you hate WWE for doing what TNA does is stupid. At least I hate TNA for doing what WWE does because they do it worse. If they did it better, I’d probably like it a lot more.
It’s too easy to slate their lack of star-making abilities. Kurt doesn’t draw money anymore, Joe is the most indecisive babyface ever (is he a bad-ass face, a whiny heel, a whiny face, a Nash-liking friend, a Nash-hating jerkbag, or just a big huggable fatty who loves pies a little too much?), and I couldn’t tell you who is higher on the card between Booker, Styles, Tomko, Morgan, Cage, Team 3D, Roode, Storm, LAX, etc. There’s no real hierarchy, because everything seems to be so even-stevens, which never works. The obvious path is to keep Joe as the killer face who just beats the living piss out of people for the sheer fun of doing so, and building heels who will not only be challenging, but actually remain as main event acts the following month. Once Booker is done with Joe, what’s the betting that he’ll be fourth match in on the PPV cards from then on? Why not make use of Sting and his extortionate contract by having him face a bunch of guys and winning every time? Have him beat lots of people up until people buy him as a legitimate threat to Joe, who himself has just destroyed everyone in his way? It makes two guys look like the best in the business, adds an air of unpredictability to the proceedings, and gives Joe more weight once he beats him. Whilst those two are fighting, bring Jeff Jarrett back to beat some people up, and once he looks like a threat, feed him to Joe too. Whilst that’s happening, rebuild Angle and have Joe beat him again, whilst someone else is building themselves up. Don’t just throw random guys in there, as if Joe vs. Anybody will sell on its own. It won’t. I expect that the Wrestlemania main event for next year will be John Cena vs. Batista, and it will sell PPV buys, regardless of match quality, because it’s the two biggest stars of the brand, as built up for the better part of three years, and they’ve never met one-on-one ever. TNA really only has Jarrett/Angle, Jarrett/Joe and Joe/Sting left as matches that people want to see, and there’s no way that Russo and his A.D.D will allow patience and logic to intervene with his rush-job of each of those programs. It doesn’t make stars, it doesn’t add to the product, and it just limits what TNA can do in the future. All Russo should do is look at what Eric Bischoff did with Sting in 1997. The guy didn’t utter one word all year. NOT.ONE.WORD! He didn’t speak, he didn’t wrestle, and he didn’t do anything except for single-handedly beat up members of the New World Order and point his bat at Hollywood Hogan until their big match was signed. This was a 12-16 month feud built slowly, and ending with the biggest pay-per-view buyrate that WCW ever did in it’s existence. Shocking, isn’t it? Sometimes, simple is best.
It is too easy. Which is why I’m not going to bitch about TNA in this column. Instead, I’m going to talk about…
*Reads editor memo*
Well, apparently I’ve gone over my word limit. Damn, and I had so much to say. Oh well, maybe next time I’ll provide the counter-balance to this argument. Since the TWI blog section seems so pro-TNA right now, maybe I’ll join in by ranting and raving about how bad The Great American Bash was, without even seeing it first.
Or maybe, and more likely, I’ll focus my attention on the cancer of pro wrestling: Vince Russo – why his supporters are douchebags who need to stop watching wrestling, why his WWF work is vastly overrated, and what TNA could do to further themselves without his swerves, racism and damn poles.
Yeah, that sounds much better.