Tuesday, July 31, 2012

WarGames.....

I'm sure some of you wrestling historians out there saw the post and IMMEDIATELY clicked in anticipation of my saying that TNA would be revisiting the classic WCW style match. Well, I get the suspicion from another column writing colleague that TNA could be looking into doing something very similar for one of this year's PPVs. Would that be in TNA's best interest? I couldn't even begin to guess, but one thing is for sure, TNA could use another match style that they can call their own now that "King of the Mountain" has been MIA for quite some time. Lethal Lockdown and Ultimate X have been TNA's only mainstay contests and have only drawn moderately in recent years. It's time TNA had something else to call their own.

WWE has WCW's entire archive under their control and among them is WarGames. Older fans have been calling for its return for YEARS, but WWE, in their "infinite wisdom" have denied the implementation of the match style as it wasn't their creation. Additionally, why would they when they already have the Elimination Chamber that has worked so well for them? Granted the chamber was an Eric Bischoff creation, but WWE still sees it as a step in the right direction, even to name an entire PPV after the structure.

I say that if WWE isn't willing to put WarGames to use, TNA should. By using a different name and putting their own spin on the structure and title of the event, they could capitalize on this innovation from yesteryear. With the brand of talent in their roster ranks, this could light up the landscape of professional wrestling right now. I know of no finer collection of talents to compete in such a match OR better teachers to train them on how the matches are meant to play out in said structure. Sting, Hulk Hogan, Jeff Jarrett, and Eric Bischoff would be the perfect team to bring this event back into the limelight.

Bear in mind that this is only the speculation of one column writer, but I have been predicting a brand new match type from the mind of Eric Bischoff since his hiring and now seems about as good a time as any to bring it all about.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hardcore Justice.....

The next PPV on tap for TNA is Hardcore Justice, which seems appropriate considering the circumstances surrounding each major storyline. The tagline for the PPV reads "12 Tortured Souls in 3 Hardcore Matches...". Could this mean 3 Fatal Four Way matches? The scoring structure will have to be established well in advance so as not lost fans in the process of trying to build hype. No matter what the points distribution, though, you can be confident that TNA will put the best matches together combined with the rematch of Bobby Roode and Austin Aries.

There are signs of wearing down in the Knockouts Division with losses of Angelina Love and Velvet Sky to contract disputes. This comes on the heels of contract revisions being done once the most current contracts have run out. Is there enough money involved in the contracts to account for all the wear and tear done to their bodies and mentally? Is the job still fulfilling? I may be the only one saying this, but I don't want to see the same four Knockouts from week to week. Mickie James can afford to take some time away, as can Gail Kim. Both have had more than their share of time in front of the cameras and would do well to step into the Knockouts Tag Division or to simply drop off TV for a time and give fans a chance to miss them.

With the waxing and waning of the roster, TNA needs to find some solid ground in order to move forward in their quest to the number one spot in the wrestling world. Having said this, the idea is that we need to be thinking even further into the future than we are. Storylines are only a piece of the puzzle. Another factor is what will be selling in the future as a result of said storylines. For example, if the current plan is to put the World Heavyweight Title on Crimson in the next year, it would be a good idea to move him into that sphere on the card in the coming months and be sure to sign him to a long term contract to solidify his earning potential for the company.

Now, back to the PPV at hand. Tessmacher will quite probably be defending her belt against Gail Kim in yet another bout. My hope is that she'll retain and be able to move on to a brand new program involving a brand new contender for the belt. Zema Ion will assuredly be up for a program with whomever is on tap after this week's Impact.

I look VERY forward to the revitalized Tag Team Division led by Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez and the interesting team of Gunner and Kid Kash and the current champions Daniels and Kazarian. That's 4 teams that are now in the hunt for gold. This is where TNA has ALWAYS excelled, making their divisions look pretty decent regardless of how short-handed they are.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Funny or Die.....

I have no words. Truly. None. I will never be the same after seeing this video.

I never thought I could see something quite so funny. This is comedy gold. THIS is what it's like to be having fun outside of work. Take notes, WWE. Let your talents do stuff like this and things can only get better. Just for giggles, here's Eric Young, quite possibly the funniest pair of segments EVER.


And another.....

Seriously, this guy is the single funniest guy on the roster. I rarely laugh during Impact, but this had me crying. Santino NEVER makes me laugh.....EVER.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Impact Point.....

I muscled through RAW this week to find some good things happen on Impact. I knew my patience would pay off. So....Storm has been accused. An interesting twist....but we all know better. Among those in the masks was Chris Masters, which is better than nothing, I suppose. Sam Shaw or "Surfer Cena" as I'll now call him, got himself a contract. The guy is white bread if ever there was some. I do not see heel material here, folks. Just saying.

I've got a question....where ARE all these rookies? I mean, Alex Silva, Taeler Hendrix, what has TNA done with them? They get themselves on the payroll and then they sideline them? Am I missing something here? They DID hire them, did they not? Seems to me when you draft someone you play them early to get some experience under their belts sooner than later before the develop any sort of ring rust that's hard to shake.

I'm loving Joey Ryan's story. The YouTube channel....brilliant. I like it more than I ever did Zack Ryder's little show. I've predicted a couple of people as the leader of the Aces and Eights. Seems I was right about one of them....at least from what I'm hearing from behind the curtain. You guys keep tuning in....it'l become obvious in the next few weeks.

It was great to see Chavo. I am having a bit of difficulty believing Kid Kash has any kind of problems with him, though. I truly had to muscle through that segment. Two veterans should NEVER have to work that hard in a promo segment. Showed me that the guys doing the writing have some work to do and they had better get started sooner than later. Hernandez is just who I would have paired Chavo with out of the gate. THIS is the LAX I wanted to see from the beginning. I'd love to see another Hispanic join the group to round out the team and make it a small stable. Giving that kind of stable a face run would do good things for the Tag Team Division. Kid Kash and Gunner is a good pairing as a heel team as well. Good job TNA Creative for the vision. Now let's do some work on the scripts next time.

Sting was the GM I saw coming. Only around until Hogan has recovered. Okay. I can live with that little tidbit of info. It's nice to see someone in the locker room finally has assembled and organized to fend off the Aces and Eights.

Last, but not least....sad news. Velvet Sky has been released. TNA, if WWE picks up her contract, you'll have lost some of your momentum. Count on that. In the meantime, do some revisions on that contract she'd been negotiating for and give her what she asks for. She needs time off? Give her some space. She wants more ring time? I think Gail Kim or Mickie James can slide over a make some room for her. She wants to travel? Make her your ambassador. Velvet Sky sells. Period. She's the single-most popular search on the TNA roster and you let her go? This is a no-brainer. Get her back. And so ends another lesson in Survival Tactix.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fallout.....

As I expected, there was a bit of fallout from my assessment of RAW's 1000th show. I'd be apologizing if I knew I was the only one who felt the way I do. But, in fact, others felt the same as I. So Steve Austin was recovering from surgery and couldn't see himself coming to the ring with crutches....I've got a scenario that would have made everything worthwhile.

During the Punk/Cena match when The Rock came out and was given a GTS for his trouble, we hear the glass shatter and his music cue up and see Punk's face of shock as Steve Austin comes out on his ATV. He dismounts the ATV and grabs a mic. He tosses out a couple of lines about how Punk just did him a favor and puts a hand out and then gives him a stunner, grabs the mic and tells him that he likes to do his own dirty work. He gets back on his ATV and leaves. Minimal walking, he gets a possible angle with Punk, The Rock can still be involved with whoever is the champ come Rumble time, and everybody wins. But we didn't get that. Not even a satellite feed from the Rattlesnake from his ranch where he's recovering.

I love when WWE fans get riled, though. They love to criticize TNA for taking WWE talents and for not making their own stars and whatever the line of the day is, but at the end of the day TNA is leading the pack in terms of compelling storytelling and taking risks with untested talents. WWE used to do that often. Now, not so much. My point is simple, WWE made a very large mistake, as did Steve Austin by not making his presence known even via taped message. Simple as that. RAW WAS AUSTIN!!! Do not let anyone tell you anything different. From 1996 all the way until 2004, Steve Austin was THE guy to watch on Monday Nights....period.

All of the RAW talk aside, WWE is making some VERY bad choices right now and a reflection of this is that when Randy Orton returns this week from his 2nd violation of the Wellness Policy, he's going to be pushed hard. Why? The roster is already running lean on top tier FULL TIME talents. The solution to their problem in in front of them, but they are too content with their own numbers to fix the problems going on right now. The solution is to push more young talents to the top....take some more chances and let the next generation step into their place. Zack Ryder could have been huge.....but now his momentum is gone and it would take a huge story to bring everything back. He's just one of the dozens on that roster who could make some very nice strides for WWE if they would just hand the ball to them and let them run with it.

But this is the fallout, people. This is the product that WWE fans are swallowing right now and, in a lot of cases, are enjoying. My mind is resolute and my resolve is anchored with TNA, though. Tides are changing and it won't take long to find out just where people's attentions are drawn before summer's end.....and you can take that to the bank.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

RAW 1000

RAW 1000 reminded me why I love being a wrestling fan. Why? Because there were two things I loved in the entire 3 hour show. One was at the beginning, the other was at the end. Everything else was the status quo of WWE....was it nice to see the legends? Absolutely. I wish Lita was the head of the Knockouts Division. Do I believe it was the best showing for WWE? It was for the past 6 months, but it has run its course.

My favorite two parts of the entire show involved DX and TNA. WHAT!? How could both be involved in a WWE show? Well, the reunion of DX was pulled off PERFECTLY. I mean it. It was a one time thing. It involved a current WWE rising star and the legacy of the full blown D-Generation X squad, minus Chyna for obvious reasons. TNA didn't appear in person. Rather TNA was a chant on the lips of fans in the arena during the John Cena vs. CM Punk main event. Believe it, folks. That chant made me feel warm and fuzzy inside and it told me everything I needed to know about the direction of WWE.

The fans are beginning to see the mirrors. The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, HBK, the Undertaker, and the rest on tap tonight weren't enough to stifle a TNA chant from the crowd. RAW 1000 was nice, but it wasn't what it could have been....what it should have been. We have a main event for SummerSlam and for Royal Rumble of next year. Punk giving The Rock the GTS was a nice touch, but don't expect Rocky to rebuttal until maybe Survivor Series. Brock Lesnar only has two matches written into his contract and we're being given the opponent for match number one at SummerSlam....HHH.

Some glaring absences could have been noticed....the bulk of the Attitude Era's Tag Team Division and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I can explain the first absence, but the second has me baffled. The WWF teams that made up the greatest tag team division in memory aren't around anymore. Jeff Hardy and the Dudleys are in TNA, Matt Hardy is on the indy circuit, Edge is retired, and Christian was dethroned as a champion. As for Stone Cold being absent.....there is no excuse, he SHOULD have been there. WWE dropped a huge ball in not having him there in person to give a stunner and walking out. That was a T-Shirt, as I recall.....Come, Raise Hell, Leave.

So RAW has a new GM, The Undertaker and Kane are still brothers, more legends whoop down Heath Slater, and fans still hate on Cena. I think I covered the rest of the show. I rarely felt like it was anything other than a walk down memory lane through a tunnel. You can't see what's outside the tunnel, but you're pretty sure it's not as nice as the tunnel is. There was a time when RAW was my weekly fix and Impact would get me through until the following Monday......no longer. RAW this week made me remember, but it also made me thankful that there is an alternative that will deliver each time I watch.


Monday, July 23, 2012

What to Watch.....

I've had this idea brewing for quite some time. I may even give this a shot. Does anyone else want to do the same? That's right. I have been thinking about watching the 1000th episode of RAW tonight and then NOT watching the following week, just to see how far the ratings will tank. Since they don't really care how well they do except for the 1000th show, I think it'd be worth doing. This isn't to say I won't be watching Impact this week, because I DEFINITELY will.

In my times away from this column, I like to read what other writers and critics are saying about TNA and, in some cases, it gives me fuel to talk about here. One writer just makes me mad and I won't go into his name here, but he seems to do nothing but attempt to bury TNA in his columns and it drives me crazy sometimes. I respect that he has an opinion and he's welcome to that, but to pick and to pick and to pick just gets old. His arguments are dated, his opinions unfounded, and his knowledge of how things are supposed to work could be summed up in a can of alphabet soup.

In any case, my point is that despite people's attempts to derail TNA and their rise, the Nashville-based company is still coming along strong. Can't wait to see Chavo once again. It's been too long since he's been on American TV. Looking forward to what the Aces and 8's have in store for the show. It'd be nice to see the roster organize to fend them off. I'm guessing that it's coming, but until that time, it's hard telling where this thing is headed.

I also look forward to where the Joseph Park story is going. Developments there will be interesting to follow as well. This is the story TNA has needed to make Abyss matter again. For years, he's been a sort of second rate character, at least in my thinking, but the fact that he's been restrained and legally held back by Ray in the story makes me root for him once again.

As much as I hate to admit this....I'm even liking the Claire developments with AJ. Why? Because it's something different and it's a high profile story that involves two of the most celebrated opponents in TNA history. TNA was built on rivalries like AJ vs. Daniels. AJ vs. Petey Williams. AJ vs. Samoa Joe. AJ vs. Kurt Angle. But Daniels has always stood out to me because he and AJ came from the same place....Ring of Honor. In fact, they came to TNA together, giving their feud longevity. Yes, Joe came from there too, and he did enter the feud and gave TNA perhaps the greatest match in their history. Unbreakable 2005. Joe vs. Styles vs. Daniels for the X Division Title in the main event. The one and only time the X Division WAS the main event of the evening.

SO....this week I'll be watching all kinds of wrestling and from a range of different styles. I'll get the less action style of WWE and the more action of TNA. For the record, I'm stomaching RAW for you guys. So sit back and await the review that will be coming tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hindsight.....

Over the past few years, I have logged in nearly 1000 columns, almost half of which being here in defense of TNA and I have no signs of wear. You might ask why I do it. Why would I keep defending an organization that has yet to put up numbers in the ratings to truly rival WWE? In the last 10 years, the giant on the hill has been untouchable to the world, answering to virtually no one for the many errors and mishaps caused by those who answer to Vince McMahon.

Why do I do it? Because we're on the verge of something big. Something monumental is coming and I want to be a part of it. What, you might ask, is so important? A revolution. Thanks to outside companies like Ring of Honor, Chikara, PWG, and others, WWE is losing ground and nothing- not The Rock, not Stone Cold Steve Austin, not even the reformation of D-Generation X can do anything about it....not if they're only around for a night.

The revolution began when WWE started marketing their product to the kids again. Critics, up in arms, went in three directions. They either stopped watching altogether, started following the indies and TNA, or they muscled through the nonsense and stomached what they were being given, even enjoying their newly watered down product. TNA is doing some of the things WCW did. They are going live. They're introducing former WWE talents. They're even running an invasion angle to rival the nWo of old. And it's getting people talking.

That IS the point, right? When you don't reveal the facts right away and allow a story weeks, even months to mature and bloom, you draw people in. When you give the divisions time to showcase, you draw people in. When you are patient with the performers on your payroll and give them a reason to care about coming to work, it shows and people are drawn in. When you connect with your fans on a personal level, you draw people in. WWE isn't doing those things. TNA is.

TNA is expanding. The fans who tuned out when the PG Era began are starting to tune in to TNA and there is no gauge to show how much growth the fan base has done but to look at the turn out and buyrates of the top TNA PPVs. The numbers are going up. I'll go on record in saying that Bound for Glory will do numbers even higher than last year. The movie theater promotion did well enough for TNA and I believe this year will be no different as they announce a larger showing this year, now that their own Hall of Fame is going on display.

With the acquisition of Chavo Guerrero to the TNA roster, the revolution kicks off with style, experience, and a fast pace. Now would be the time to Cross the Line.....

Criticisms and Wandering.....

In a landscape where WWE's loyal critic column writers scoff and hurl pointed objects at TNA, I have become probably the only voice throwing something back.....at least in a public forum. Am I overly critical of WWE's product? I don't think I am. I know WWE's lineage and I know what they are capable of. Ladies and gentleman, what you are seeing right now is NOT the best they can do. Let the scoffers and hurlers do their worst, but TNA is putting out some of their better material in years. They are signing decent, even great talents. I would even go so far to say that this year's storyline set is the best in the past 5 years.

Would I like to see more viewers spike the ratings? Sure, but you can't judge quality by how many people are watching. When WCW was trouncing WWF, WWF was putting out the better show for a fair portion of the time. It only took longer for the public at large to get behind them and make that happen. Some have called the Aces and Eights storyline a rip-off of old storylines and that it's all been done before. Has anyone been watching wrestling in the past 10 years? It's ALL been done before....except for John Cena being a bad guy in the PG Era. The idea is to bring something original to the table with each storyline you attempt to repackage. Has a faction story been done before? Of course it has. But has it ever been left to wonder just how many people are actually involved? Nope. Not one time has it been left to question. When the Aces and Eights debuted, there were about 4 guys. When the next attack happened, there were closer to 11. Same story, 7 brand new players.....or are they?

Did WCW's nWo faction do beatdowns? Nearly every week for a long time.....but it never began that way and it didn't explode in size from the beginning. This new faction isn't the same, folks. It's turning into something different. It's still too early in the game to know exactly what we're looking at, but I think it's same to say that this is an old idea with a newer spin. There seems to be no pattern to their beatdowns and they are operating outside the borders of good and bad as Bobby Roode became the victim of a beatdown along with Austin Aries. I find the story a far cry more compelling than John Cena winning his first briefcase.

I want to believe WWE will cash out of this PG Era and ease back into a deeper, more rich product with long running programs and more fleshed out characters, but we're not getting any of that. Further, they seem content to allow great talents slip through the cracks and get by them without giving them enough of a test run to know what they are capable of doing for the product. Kharma made a statement in her debut and was quietly released when her return could have happened at any time. A Royal Rumble appearance was all she got out of her WWE experience. Some have gotten less, but it seems a shallow victory when you consider that they claimed to be bringing "legitimacy" back to WWE when they re-debuted Brock Lesnar....and then they let Kharma go.

The Bella Twins are gone, Kharma is gone, Kelly Kelly might be gone, that makes 4 Divas for all of you Math majors out there. 4 Divas from their roster is HUGE, people. Seems to me that it's time to hang up the boots for Natalya and Beth Phoenix because the Divas Division is on life support. I'm sick of the poor showing the two best divas are getting. I'm sick of the lack of showcase the undercard is getting. I'm sick of the World Title matches being second best thing on the card. I'm sick of so much talk and so little action. I'm sick of move bans, scripts, and the bait and switch. The worst part of it is that I'm not even watching the show.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Power Play.......

I only want to talk about two people in this column; one who makes his debut next week and one who is, even now, in negotiations with Dixie Carter. This is the culmination of a couple of predictions I made nearly a year back. But before we get into that, I have long term news that will make TNA fans VERY happy. Viacom and DirecTV have come to an agreement and Spike will be back online within a few days. THAT MEANS Impact will be back to full viewing capacity. And the good news just keeps coming....onto my two subjects.

1. Chavo Guerrero.....

Yes, you heard that right. Chavo has signed with TNA. All I can say about this development is that it's about time. They have needed another performer of his caliber for a while now. Could he be the mastermind behind the dead man's hand? A good question, to be sure. Whatever story his debut is involved with, bet on some good times ahead.

2. Chris Masters......He's been in negotiations, he's had at least one dark match to gauge where he will best fit. In the most recent news concerning him, negotiations between he and Dixie Carter have been going well and, it seems we'll be seeing him come across the airwaves for Impact in the weeks up and coming. Had Matt Morgan kept with TNA's plan, we might well have seen an unstoppable Tag Team force rivaling anything Team 3D might have done, but even his individual debut makes for an exciting prospect.

This is an exciting time to be a fan of TNA. The storylines are getting better, the roster is strong and deep enough to be put on display without more than a couple of people being benched at any given time, and their home is no longer in danger of going black again for those who enjoy DirecTV's service. This column is for all of you guys.....welcome back to the viewing public.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Benefactor.....

If history were to repeat itself, I would want it to do so right about now. Nearly 20 years ago, WCW was going through booking difficulties before finally ending up in the hands of Eric Bischoff, who made the suggestion to Ted Turner to switch channels from TBS to TNT  and from 5 'o clock in the evening on Saturday to Monday nights at 8. That decision made WCW's momentum shift into overdrive.

Ted Turner was WCW's benefactor, enabling them to have a home viewed by the grand majority of the cable-enabled world. Right now, TNA could use a benefactor with the same kind of reach in influence as a Ted Turner, but a negotiator like Eric Bischoff is nearly as good. Don't believe it? He did aid in negotiations between the heads of the Spike TV Network and got TNA a deal lasting until 2014. I'll grant that the television environment TNA is in seems far less stable than WCW from 20 years back, but since that is out of TNA's hands almost entirely, it also seems a moot point.

Spike TV served well as WWE's home from 2002 all the way until about 2008. Six years is quite a while and without incident, I might add. Unfortunately, the tides have been sweeping against TNA for quite some time, but time and time again, they have shown not only promise, but determination as well as the leading alternative to WWE. Spike was scorned by WWE, who decided to leave their network in favor of USA despite negotiations for them to stay on bored. It's not surprising to note that shortly after their departure, TNA was brought in as a replacement; a sort of middle finger to their former association with the larger and higher profited WWE.

Would a private investor have that same kind of influence as a Ted Turner? It's hard telling. Simply throwing money at a problem as specialized as a programming dispute between a carrier and a programming conglomerate seems pointless since even though it would cost money to begin with, the demands wouldn't go satisfied for long. If the momentary demands were satisfied, TNA would do well to shop their program to a new network whose lineup and affiliated networks within their ranks isn't in jeopardy by the powers that be demanding more from their carriers or the public at large.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The World of Speculation.....Bad Kharma....

The rumor mills have been on overdrive since a TMZ reporter gave the update on the status of the performer once known to TNA as Awesome Kong. The report stated that WWE had released Kharma from her contract. To further add to the speculations, she was removed from the active roster and put on the Alumni portion of WWE's website. In a new twist of things, WWE just a short time later switched her status on their website again, putting her right back on the active roster list.

IF WWE releases Kharma, it will reinforce my assessment of WWE's complete inability to utilize former TNA talent. I'll never understand what the upper echelons are thinking when they drop the ball in their use of talents from TNA. My list is only partial and from that list, only ONE has ever won a title of any kind. This list is narrowed to those who have never performed as part of their roster.

Monty Brown (Marcus Cor Von)
Lance Hoyt     (Vance Archer)
Kid Kash
Chris Harris    (Braden Walker)
Trinity

Now, this list doesn't count former WWE talent that TNA repackaged and improved like R-Truth or even Christian. Don't even dispute Christian. I know some out there will want to, but had Christian not signed with TNA, he would have made a meager living right where he is right now as a mid-card champion instead of the World Champion he has the capacity to be. TNA made a world class talent out of him and WWE knows it too. It also doesn't include CM Punk, who spent about 6 months on the TNA payroll.

It would be nice to thank the good folks of TNA for former talents by pushing them on a bigger stage, but that would mean giving TNA credit for something they created and we can't have that, can we?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Deep Pockets....

Below is a list of former superstars slated or rumored to appear for WWE's 1000th episode of Monday Night RAW:

The Rock
Shawn Michaels
Road Dogg Jesse James
Billy Gunn
Goldberg
X-Pac
Mick Foley
Steve Austin
Edge

Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? And if WWE didn't have any plans to showcase their other talents who have taken the place of all of the people on the list, it probably would be. And of all the names on the list, who is most likely to even have a match on the show? My guess is Goldberg in a squash match against Heath Slater. Don't get me wrong, it's a good....no.....it's a GREAT list, but it's not the same as it was back when they were selling out arenas.

Anyone want to see a full hour's worth of WWE pressing their social media campaigns on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook? Prepare yourself for that as RAW goes to three hours, about an hour of that time is going to be devoted to just that. Sick of Twitter on RAW? Get used to it and learn to like it. In the event anyone is thinking about lumping TNA into the same category, let me remind everyone that TNA's social media campaign is FAR more understated than WWE's. In fact, the vast majority of TNA's campaigns are done online with more often than not, simply a passing mention of their presence on Twitter, YouTube, OR Facebook on television.

I've been asking this for a while now and no one really has an answer for me....what kind of incentive does any wrestling fan have for watching the 1001th episode of RAW? You've seen the one time appearance list from the previous week, but why should I, as a wrestling fan, care about the 1001th episode when that list won't be there? Now, I may be wrong about every person on the list being a one time appearance, but I DO know I'm not off by much. WWE's marquis top tier isn't what it used to be and they only have themselves to blame for it.

The new breed of champions isn't the who's who of future Hall of Famers. I doubt Sheamus will break into that category, nor will Dolph Ziggler. Nothing against them personally, but the climate they are in is no longer a good barometer of what the wrestling culture wants out of a good product. Had WWE gotten them started with more renowned opponents to begin with, we may well have a different story on our hands, but as it stands.....not so much.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

History.....

The last time WWE faced competition of any kind, their format looked very similar to its current state and they were trounced mercilessly for nearly a year and a half in television ratings. TNA isn't WCW, but some of the same pieces are in place. In fact, more pieces are in place now than ever before. In an unfortunate twist of events, TNA is not able to enjoy the kind of success WCW had as of yet. The reasons are few, but strong.

Network Stability
TNA doesn't have the luxury of a Ted Turner to rely on or TNT as their network of choice, not that network is of utmost importance, but ready availability to said network is. With DirecTV's differences with Viacom, TNA's ascent to the top has become somewhat more complicated. Fans COULD switch their providers, and with MTV, Comedy Central, and other high profile channels being withheld from view by the dispute, some might do just that, but I'd bet the negotiations between both parties will clear up the viewing habits of the masses sooner than later. Nevertheless, this is a very large bump on the road to success.

Exodus
Angelina Love, Shannon Moore, Traci Brooks, Ric Flair, and Alex Shelley have jumped ship for other promotions and opportunities elsewhere. Their loss makes a dent in the roster and even though those who would look to keep the roster full are able to feel the loss of their presence. What TNA does NOT need right now is more holes in their divisions.

The Impact Zone
This is a Catch 22 in the most literal sense of the words. TNA needs money to travel out of the Impact Zone, but in order to make money, they need to travel. See the dilemma? The very instrument of TNA's survival also constrains their growth. The influx of money from what travel they DO do helps, but not enough to sustain them for the long haul. TNA is an entity that needs to grow out of their confines and their network woes only add to the complications they have in front of them.

TNA is facing a critical moment right now. They need to do one of two things.

1. Have their Viacom/DirecTV situation solved

OR

2. Move to a new network more accessible by the masses

Spike TV has been faithful to TNA over the years and many thanks go out to their executives who have given them the ball to run with, but this dispute needs to be resolved once and for all. USA hasn't experienced the same disputes as they relate to WWE's fans. If that WERE the case, TNA would be in the driver's seat and NOT in second place for long. TNT would be a good choice, as would any number of channels that have an action packed fan base. The point is, by putting themselves in a position where their network home won't be in jeopardy, TNA can flourish....but until that time.....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Plot Thickens......

So......AJ is the father of Claire's unborn child? Interesting development, to say the least. So much for the squeaky clean reputation of TNA's golden boy, eh? But there's more to the story than that, isn't there? We all know there is.

-Joseph Park was beaten and then came out of nowhere with a Black Hole Slam and began rocking back and forth like Abyss used to do in his early days. Coincidence? Family trait? Are we in the process of seeing a mirror character created before our eyes? I love this storyline as it's playing out and despite the fact that it's been running for a while, I'm confident in where it's going.

-The Bound for Glory Series this year is rolling pretty smoothly. I'm actually finding myself enjoying the way things are moving....steady with enough twists and turns to keep things interesting and competitive. I will say that I don't fully believe Joe will ascend to the top to finish off the tourney, but I also don't believe anyone is out of it just yet, except maybe those who have other things on their minds....AJ, Bully Ray.

-Last, but not least in my view, the Dead Man's Hand story. Two consecutive beatdowns in Sting's attendance to the Impact Zone. I like this story, but it begs 3 VERY important questions:

1. Who is involved in the beatdowns?
2. What is the motive?
3. How long can this story unfold?

The third question sets up the ultimate goal of TNA to have Hogan and Sting possibly team up for a match against the architects of the beatdowns, whomever they may be. We have Hardcore Justice and No Surrender on deck before Bound for Glory in October. That means 2 months before the final build towards whatever match they have in mind for this. When does TNA finally unveil the identities of the attackers and do we need to know EVERY member of the entourage? By my count, there were 6 men involved with the most current attack on Sting. That's DOUBLE the number of the first beatdown.

SO, we have ourselves one of two possible scenarios here.

1. We have one man who has hired his mercenaries and we don't need to know who they are.

2. We have one man who has brought an army with him and will reveal them to the world when he's ready.

My vote, for the record, is option #2. I would LOVE to see some fallout from this following Bound for Glory. It simply sets up the rest of the year for the kind of combustible feuds we, as wrestling fans thirst for in our product. But THAT is where TNA is doing their job well. They've written this out to where there can BE the speculation from fans and it gets people talking about what comes next. These top stories are what is making TNA something special right now. They are setting themselves apart from WWE in that none of the stories are directed towards WWE's target demographic.....at least not the CURRENT demographic.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting and remarks....

Each time I write something with strong opinions, I get the feeling someone will write something to rebuttal. "Blood in the Water" a couple columns ago made some waves. I've been called 'dead wrong' before. I've been argued with before. I have no problems with criticism in this forum. I welcome it, in fact. No decent human being is so set in their ways that they will not be swayed regardless of what the facts say or the opinions of people who know what the heck they're talking about to begin with. That being said, I'd like to make it perfectly clear. I was one of WWE's most faithful followers for a long time and wrote a great many columns before beginning this blog to that effect.

I was a fan when WWE's Tag Team Division gave us TLC Matches to look forward to. I was a fan when Lita, Victoria, Trish Stratus, Jazz, Ivory, and Molly Holly led the WOMEN'S Division. Yes, they were called Divas, but they were the Women's Division and they fought over a belt that DIDN'T look like a butterfly. I was a fan when Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels went to a dead even stalemate in a 30 minute Iron Man Match. I was a fan back when Jeff Hardy jumped off the top of the scaffolding onto Randy Orton through the stage.

I cheered for WWE when it mattered what the people wanted. There was a time when people could say that, in WWE, they shed blood, sweat, and tears, but those days passed when the PG Era began. I stood on my feet when Brock and Undertaker went through Hell in a Cell and Taker nearly passed out from blood loss. The days of storyline continuity are over in WWE. The days of a Women's Division to be proud of are over.

The thing that makes me angry when I think about WWE is that I KNOW they can do better than they are right now. I got to see some of the long running feuds between Vince and Stone Cold Steve Austin and the ones between HBK and Triple H. I got to see all of those tightly written and well oiled and worked storylines and then I see them mishandle something as simple as a white hot faction like the Nexus or even Cena vs. The Rock. I shake my head in bewilderment and I'm at a complete loss as to why it's so hard for their writers to put together a story and stick with it, writing in every twist and allowing it all to run to conclusion before ramping into something new.

I came to a point where I knew WWE wasn't going to deliver me a match that I HAD to see anymore. They had lost me as a fan of their product. I've watched highlights with the knowledge that for every decent segment, there was about two or three times as much garbage to wade through and that's a sad thing because there was a time when I would have been thrilled to hear RAW was going to a three hour format, but now I see a mistake in the direct vein of WCW and we all know where that ended.

Before anyone launches into TNA's current dilemma with their network being broadcast over DirecTV's airwaves, I would like to point out that WWE faced similar circumstances between 2004 and 2005 when they moved Smackdown around to 2 or three networks before finally arriving in a more permanent home. This hiccup is nothing to be concerned about just yet.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dishes and the Network.....

In news just announced today, DirecTV, one of the nation's biggest satellite providers may be dropping Spike TV from their basic packages along with a few other channels. This comes on the heels of complications with the Viacom affiliated networks. Unless some sort of agreement can be made, Spike and other channels directly affected will be cut from the packages in short order.

It's unclear what this development will mean to the network or how it functions as a result of the negotiating process, but you can bet it won't play out well for TNA. In response to the news, both Dixie Carter and Hulk Hogan have gone to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media outlets along with some of TNA's top stars to lead a fan campaign to convince DirecTV to continue carrying Spike TV.

To find out more about the Spike/DirecTV/Viacom situation and how TNA's fans can be proactive in the negotiation process, go to http://www.impactwrestling.com, check out TNA's official Facebook page, or jump onto the Impact Wrestling YouTube channel.

Blood in the Water.....

I've said it before. I've stated my distaste for Vince McMahon's new world, a world where children are the target for the programming. And with the man who single-handedly shipwrecked the Cruiserweight Division, Hornswoggle, being revealed as the Anonymous GM of Raw, it seems clear to me, WWE is bleeding. I once called them dead, but this is somehow worse. Why? because TNA is very much operating with momentum. Having come off of two straight winner PPVs and swaying critics right and left, the little company from Nashville is finally on the offensive.....and without firing a single shot at their rival.

Suddenly, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff aren't as useless as the critics have led some to believe as we see WWE continue to withhold their best for the hype of the 1000th episode of Monday Night RAW in a couple of weeks. A fellow blogging colleague made a good point just yesterday... what makes the episodes of RAW that follow the 1000th so special? He makes a good point. No one seems to be hyping the 1001st episode of RAW. With WWE emptying their pockets for the one time appearances of Mick Foley, The Rock, and a host of other former ongoing RAW talents, there is nothing to compel those not already watching RAW to give it a chance once the landmark episode has run its course. In fact, I'm completely satisfied simply watching highlights on YouTube with the full knowledge that I've denied WWE the satisfaction of giving them 3 hours of my time for the possibility of 6 minutes of enjoyment.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because there's blood in the water, folks. TNA hasn't been doing anything out of the ordinary. They've been focused on themselves and making their product better. That is what's making the difference here. They aren't focused on taking jabs at WWE anymore. Instead, they're keeping their eyes on the ball and putting on strong shows each week. This is the changing of the tides, guys. This is, quite possibly, the most critical moment in the history of TNA up to this point in time. TNA is pushing their newer talents. They're introducing new faces and making alliances with independent organizations and outside sources.

It was nice to see Diamond Dallas Page and Sid Vicious and even Doink the Clown, but I noticed something that I doubt the rest of the WWE Universe did. When each man came out of the curtain, there was a pause before the crowd reacted. Why? Because the audience consists of children who got their parents to buys tickets. When the legends came out, the kids had to ask who they were. THAT'S what's killing WWE. Nostalgia only works when you have people who know their history because they were there. A 10 or 12 year old kid has no clue who Sid Vicious was....or Diamond Dallas Page, for that matter. When you consider that, Doink the Clown isn't such a stretch. They may not have seen him before, but a clown goes over well with kids no matter which era you find yourself in.

There's blood in the water. TNA is turning into something far more dangerous to WWE. TNA has a champion who hasn't needed retraining to be put on display. In fact, not only is their World Champion an independent hero, their X Division Champion proved me wrong and could very well follow in the former champion's footsteps if TNA plays his cards right. Their solution to the summer month slump is working and it's making each match a must-win situation for the competitors involved in it. The top storylines are moving as they should be, with patience and enough twists to keep people engaged and invested. TNA is becoming the shark that the professional wrestling world has needed since the fall of WCW.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Where Everything Changes.....

Destination X has ended with the right men holding the titles that matter to the event. Yes, there was no Knockouts, Tag Team, Knockouts Tag Team, or TV Championship, but those divisions weren't the focus of the spotlight. Even so, however, I viewed the PPV as a success in the highest regard, where some of the best high spots were put on display by some of TNA and the world's finest ring tacticians and showmen.

A new era dawns this Thursday as Austin Aries now holds the World Heavyweight Championship. In battles that can only be described as brutal and epic, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Austin Aries, and Zema Ion all become champions of the night, having bested their opponents in hard fought victories. It was no mistake that TNA decided to put the X Division in a prominent place. Now, there can be no critic to argue that in the same way that ECW originals made One Night Stand their domain, Destination X has DOMINATED the landscape with the X Division.

WWE cast out Austin Aries as a contestant for Tough Enough, but ironically, he was just that tonight, winning under pretty rough circumstances. Samoa Joe was at negative points this time last year, but now, he holds the highest point total in the Bound for Glory Series. Zema Ion was only a blip on TNA's X Division radar a few months back, but now, he holds the X Division Championship. AJ Styles was losing ground as a contender in the TNA shifting sands, but tonight, he was the Last Man Standing.

A new era dawns this Thursday. Let the bells ring. All hail the Greatest Man That Ever Lived......

Day of Battle.....

Today is one that will be remembered. Today, the X Division gets the limelight. Today is the day of in ring battle. We'll get a few answers and then we'll have more questions. THAT is how running a good storyline goes. I'll admit, I jumped the gun in my prediction of the last man in the X Division Tournament. The point, however, is that I believe TNA could really use another spokesman like Austin Aries. Do I believe in the regulars? Doug Williams and Kid Kash are my short list at the moment. I don't, however, believe that the rest have the ability to carry that torch just yet.

I think we'll see an advancement in just about every major storyline tonight even though not every storied match is slated to take place. Even though Bully Ray vs. Joseph Park is set for Impact this week, I think we'll see some kind of advance to that. Gail Kim vs. Tessmacher is also set for this week's Impact, but I don't believe TNA will simply leave the Knockouts off the card.

TNA is also going to want to advance the two front running stories, in my opinion.....Aces and Eights (the dead man's hand), and the Claire/AJ/Daniels storyline. Bet on some new developments. These have all summer to mature and run their course. TNA is doing quite well in running things to the end and THAT, I believe is what is setting them apart in terms of consistent decency in their programming from week to week.

TNA needs to keep it up and I believe that on the day of battle....today....they will do just that, thanks to a few handy survival tactix.....

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Place Your Bets.....Destination X

As is the case with each month's PPV, I try to give my predictions for the winner of the respective matches on the card. That being said, this month is no exception, save for the obvious spotlight on the X Division being the theme. SO, without going into too many words let's have a look......

Christopher Daniels vs. AJ Styles.....Because it's AJ vs. Daniels and because it's Last Man Standing, I don't feel the need to tell any of you just how great this match is going to be. You already know both men can bring the goods to the party any day of the week. I, however, happen to believe that this match is going to be something special. Why? Because there's a summer long story riding on it. I'm going to go with AJ getting the upper hand, but not without a cost. There will be some kind of twist to make this more interesting.

Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe.....Every time these guys get together in the ring, good things happen. Simple as that. If they get a reasonable amount of time, we'll see a great match from the two of them. Even so, I'm going to go with Joe taking the win and a few more points in the win column.

Ultimate X....Since Destination X centers around the 8 Man Tourney leading up to the Ultimate X further into the card, I figured I would skip the steps towards the finish as no one really knows their opponent until Sunday anyway. My bets are going towards Sonjay Dutt. Why? Because it'd be compelling to see a former X Division great come back and win it for the first time. It would truly set the tone for what the PPV is all about.....a shot at making a statement.

Will we get to see Tessmacher vs. Gail Kim for the Knockouts Title? That much I don't know, but if we DO get to see that, I can see Brooke Tessmacher retaining the title for another month.

Austin Aries vs. Bobby Roode.....The X Division's secret weapon vs. the leader of the selfish generation. I love the matchup on paper almost as much as I've enjoyed seeing the two in ring facing off in the weeks leading up to this point. I would LOVE to see Aries win. Fact is, it could happen. It could end with Aries taking the belt and reveling in the festivities. Next month is Hardcore Justice and that means we've got the potential of a Hardcore Match for the World Title. IF Aries wins, I can see Roode going absolutely insane and destroying people the following week on Impact. In fact, that's my prediction.....Aries wins and begins a brand new era.

Destination X will deliver. That is something that never fails. The X Division, when put on display, does everything it takes to give fans what they paid for....fast paced, high flying, risk taking, high impact maneuvers designed to do damage and take an edge to pull down the belt. The X Division isn't about weight limits.....It's about NO LIMITS!

Challenges.....

The most difficult thing for a daily writer (or as daily as can be managed), is to keep things fresh and new without overstating or stating the same thing over and over. From time to time, it makes this column, in particular incredibly difficult to maintain. If a topic doesn't come readily to mind, I find myself wandering the net, scouring the forums and discussion boards and fan sites to try and scrape together something new to put here. I do thank you all for coming as it truly makes doing all of that worth the time and trouble.

I've been keeping close track of TNA's Bound for Glory Series standings and here's where everyone falls as of this moment.....

36 Points....James Storm
27 Points....Samoa Joe
21 Points....Jeff Hardy
20 Points....Kurt Angle
14 Points....Magnus
9   Points....Mr. Anderson
7   Points...Rob Van Dam
7   Points....Pope Dinero
5   Points....Daniels
0   Points....AJ Styles
0   Points....Robbie E.
0   Points....Bully Ray

Keeping in mind that the highest score going into No Surrender will determine the tournament seeding going into the PPV, TNA is doing much better at making this thing more unpredictable. With Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe, and Kurt Angle doing very well in the early goings, it puts a good spin on the rest of the series.

As was the case with last year's series, we have a couple of performers who have been too preoccupied with other stories to earn much in the way of points. Bully Ray and AJ Styles have yet to score and the explanation has been good enough to even forgive the lack. What seems so strange to me here, is that Joe is being given a decent push towards the top. I've been given the impression that upper management isn't as high on him as TNA fans are. Having gone from having negative points last year to 2nd place this year, though, is a welcome change. I look forward to seeing if TNA pulls the trigger on him at the top.

A couple of the top spots are a decent commentator's point seeing as Jeff has beaten James Storm once already in the series. I believe this talking point will come into play a bit later as they face off once again. I have said it once before and I believe it's worth saying once again, I have this hunch that Bobby Roode won't be holding the belt going into Bound for Glory this year. I also get the feeling James Storm won't be winning the series to rejoin the Roode/Storm feud that has some unfinished business. As for who WILL be holding the belt, I couldn't begin to guess.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Destination X.....

Seven combatants have been announced for the 8 Man Ultimate X Tournament. Why 7? The final entrant has yet to be named. Could this mean a return? A debut? My guess is that we'll see someone special enter TNA as the final man. Who wouldn't freak out if John Morrison came into the Impact Zone as the last guy? Who would be still sitting down if Petey Williams walked down the ramp after nearly 3 years?

While the X Division has the biggest spotlight, there are a few other matches on the card that are pretty high profile matches. Match of the Year contenders? Have a look at the card....

Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe
AJ Styles vs. Daniels in a Last Man Standing Match
Bully Ray vs. Joseph Park in a No Holds Barred Match
Austin Aries vs. Bobby Roode for the World Heavyweight Title

Anyone see some decent matches? You'd better believe it. Throw in 4 quarter final X Division qualifying matches and you've got a GREAT card. And you wonder about the 7 announced X Division competitors?

Douglas Williams
Zema Ion
Kid Kash
Sonjay Dutt
Kenny King
Rashad Cameron
Flip Casanova

I continue to mention that there is one name missing from the 8 man Tourney because TNA wants this year's Destination X to do some good numbers. Expect something new and different from this year's festivities and the aftermath leading into Hardcore Justice.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mixed Blessings......


Now that the break is over, we prepare for the next round of TNA's march to Bound for Glory......Destination X. I don't know about everyone else, but I am looking VERY forward to see what this years' annual X Division limelight experience will bring to the table for TNA.

In some less favorable news, Shannon Moore and Angelina Love have been granted their release from the TNA roster. While Moore and Love will be missed and leave a hole in the roster, it seems clear that TNA is doing their best to refill those spots via the Gut Check Challenge. Taeler Hendrix is a beautiful, talented addition to the Knockouts roster and the return of Sonjay Dutt MORE than makes up for the loss of Shannon Moore. 

This news leads me to my one and only criticism of the TNA product. Brooke Hogan needs to go. She can't act. She can't wrestle. She's been useless to the division as of yet. She doesn't even HAVE a character as a member of the management team. She isn't a face, she's not a heel. Do I believe she'll improve as her tenure with TNA grows? Doubtful. Do I think she'll pick up the wrestling craft? Not a chance in the world....at least not to any meaningful degree.

As for the X Division spotlight, I look for Sonjay Dutt, Rashad Cameron, possibly Zema Ion, and one final entrant to steal the entire show. Ultimate X NEEDS to be given the second largest amount of time on the card for the masses to believe that the X Division is being given the spotlight of the night. As far as the main event, I would be a bit stunned if Austin Aries didn't put up among the greatest matches in his career. 

Will he win the championship? Should he win the championship? I believe that, to once again establish Destination X as the X Division's "home turf" so to speak, the answer to both questions should be YES.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Value of X: Poised to Strike

I LOVE writing about the X Division. Truly. The fact of the matter is that I have probably written more about the X Division than about any other division in TNA. The thing about Destination X is that there are more debuts coming that are sure to be welcome. We've got Rashad Cameron and a returning Sonjay Dutt, complete with a brand new finisher. I've been told that next week we'll be seeing more X Division Championship hopefuls.

So THAT means Austin Aries isn't going to need the X Division to fall back on AND the X Division will continue to thrill the masses. Will Thursday be the day that the single most popular former X Champion returns to command the ranks once more? I've been pushing for his return since his release a few years back. This would be the perfect time to bring him back home. His finisher garners more hits on YouTube BY FAR than anyone else in TNA OR WWE. I can think of no one more suited to an upper tier feud upon his return than Maple Leaf Muscle.....the Canadian Destroyer himself, Petey Williams.

Think about it.....Petey Williams, Zema Ion, Sonjay Dutt, Kid Kash, Rashad Cameron, Kid Kash, and Chris Sabin in the same division. One word comes to mind.....amazing. Imagine potentials feuds for Williams should he have the X Title come this time next year......a Team Canada grudge feud with Bobby Roode, Petey vs. Jeff Hardy, Petey vs. RVD......it was a shame that his charisma was overlooked by the top brass in management. Nevertheless, whoever is on tap to be revealed this coming week is going to be a welcome addition to TNA's X Division. Are there any other potentials who could  hit the ground running here? Two others cross my mind.....

Joey Ryan and John Morrison. I know I'm not the only fan of both guys and the X Division could use the elevation that a superstar like Morrison could bring and the current airs moving Joey Ryan's story are compelling, to be blunt. I very much look forward to Thursday as the climate leading into Destination X is being driven appropriately towards the division TNA has had it's product praised for from the beginning.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mastermind.....

I've been thinking and do you know what TNA needs? A good guy who is smarter than any of the bad guys because he thinks like one. Imagine Bobby Roode but smarter and more cunning. I would love to see a guy like this get screwed by the bad guy and during his post match interview say something like this....

"(Insert heel name here), you put one over on me. Not many people do that. Why? Because I'm a patient man and your time is coming. You see, I've waited in the shadows; I've watched your rise and I've seen your fall. It didn't happen tonight, but it's coming and when it does, you'll wish you had just let things run their course. Looks like I've got some planning to do."

He continues to wrestle every week, but during matches with the heel, something out of the ordinary happens every time, causing him to lose. One stipulation, the face never sets foot in the Impact Zone at the same time. That's right, no run in's, no interference; just mind games. He might cause a pyro "accident" to scare the heel or his music might come on just as the heel is getting the advantage or someone else might try to get his attention from outside the ring. Whatever the case, the face always get the upper hand.

Sounds kinda like a heel, doesn't it? That's the appeal. It's the good guy who is good by virtue of taking bad guys out by being worse than they are. It's so easy to switch roles, too, which makes the writing of storylines easy. He would elevate face AND heel talents alike. Cerebral Assassin? FAR MORESO than Triple H. Dirtiest player? More than Ric Flair himself. Opportunist? More than Edge. It factor? I would say even more than Bobby Roode.

Where does he begin? Now THERE is an interesting question. My suggestion? Gut Check. Let him beat whoever TNA chooses to bring him up against. On the first try. If it were me, I'd make it someone TNA is pretty high on. Crimson, Bobby Roode, or Kazarian with a Daniels interference. Give fans a reason to root for him. He works on the villains and then becomes one himself eventually. It's a time honored story that you can use for years and it never really gets old....provided you can change things up each time it's presented.