Friday, November 30, 2012

The Long Haul.....

As stated in the previous column, there are changes coming and I mean BIG changes. Right now, the current product reminds me of WWE circa 2002-2008. I believe this to be a good thing for TNA. It bodes well for the organization to have a look that is reminiscent of their bigger competition in happier times. But that's not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is just what kinds of changes TNA has been employing as of recent AND what the cutting of PPVs could mean for the future of TNA as an entity.

As stated before, TNA wants to cut down the PPV number and Dixie has been vocal about doing so in part, because it costs too much money for not enough return. In short, TNA doesn't want to simply break even when it comes to the buyrates they bring in. They want to be able to thrive and under a 12 PPV system, it seems less likely to happen. TNA wants the fans to look at a PPV event as a special occurrence. With the major PPV events right now being Slammiversary, Bound for Glory, and Lockdown, there is talk of having a schedule built around each of the major PPVs.

Right now, there is a tremendous amount of energy devoted to long term booking spanning MONTHS in advance with only minor alterations being made on the fly. Do you know what that does? It makes the talents FAR more confident in the direction of the product because now there's a plan in place. SO, why bring the long term booking shtick up? Because under one possible scenario, TNA would cut a single PPV from each quarter and, in its place, put a TV Special. The following month would feature what I would call a "build up PPV" leading the month after into what I would call a "MAJOR PPV." For all you Math majors out there, that brings the grand total of PPVs down to 8.

Since Spike TV has been TREMENDOUSLY supportive of the TNA product, it MAY allow for this revised schedule to do one of two things.

1. Put out a second show. I know, I know....I keep bringing this up, but without 12 hours per year of PPV goodness to look forward to and with long term booking being in high emphasis, now would be a good time for this to happen. Fewer last minute matches on PPV cards, more matches on a weekly basis. Win-win.

2. Run a two hour show on a Sunday night in the middle of the month that would serve as a PPV slot. Putting on a special edition show once per quarter that ISN'T a PPV show could cut the cost a bit and, since the terms of their Spike agreement gives that kind of leeway, it would make sense as a logical and sensible way of cutting costs.

So what does the cutting of PPVs mean for TNA as a wrestling entity? Well, if you look at the downturn of WWE's product, it would be just as critical a question to ask them as well, but things are as they are and since the question is directed in TNA's direction, I will say this.....in 1993, Eric Bischoff gave WCW an overhaul. By cutting costs everywhere that wasn't necessary, the company began to turn from the dismal product that was suffering some pretty tough financial losses. Two years later, WCW turned a product for the first time in their history. By utilizing some of that frugal know-how and collaborations amongst some of the business' most successful minds, TNA is more likely to turn around with a vengeance, boasting larger numbers in their first upswing year since the regime came in.

Less is More is MORE!

There is SO much news swirling around TNA that it makes my head swim. In fact, because I HAVE to offer a bit of commentary concerning each piece of news, this is going to be done in two pieces. SO...I say let's jump in......

1. There is a return not only on the horizon, but GUARANTEED to happen by no later than January. I have been TOLD, in fact that the return will be in coming by possibly even Christmas this year. You all know I've been holding the possibility out there and, with photos of the TNA star removed AND replaced within a month's time made me believe that a deal had been hammered out. But, as it turns out, officials (namely Dixie), decided to sign the talent quietly so the return would come as greater shock. If you didn't want to be spoiled, you shouldn't have come here today. SO, without further ado, your return of the year......


Velvet Sky's return is slated to happen before year's end, and what a way to launch the Knockouts Division in the right direction! No word yet on how her return could look, whether heel or face, but my guess is that a face return could put TNA in a good place as far as the ratio goes.

2. In case there are those out there who didn't watch Impact this week, it was announced that Lockdown will be taking place in March in Texas. Why March? Dixie Carter has been vocal for a long time that TNA needs to cut back on the number of PPVs TNA puts out. Now, it seems, TNA may be on par to do just that. My model for cutting back MAY be on the table, BUT it also may be that there is simply a shuffle in order to establish some momentum in light of the Road to Wrestlemania. It's no secret that TNA has themselves at a decided disadvantage when put up against the 28 year old spectacle. HOWEVER, with WWE's ailing product, and the possibility of a lackluster Wrestlemania card this year, TNA might have a chance at gaining some ground on the battlefield.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What If? The Names You Never Considered.....

I've been watching old tape. I love doing that. Sometimes it gives me some perspective as to how to begin this column. Other times it brings a member of the roster back to my mind that I never before would have considered as a legitimate contender for a belt, position, or push. There are a few names on the CURRENT TNA roster who, if they were revealed as members of Aces and Eights, it would be a welcome surprise, at least to me. Let's have a look at a few.......

Kid Kash......

If you haven't watched TNA Today, shame on you. The show reminds me of WWE Confidential, which I miss terribly. In any case, the most recent episode of the show featured 10 minutes with Kash and, though I've always been a fan of the man, it gave me a much deeper respect. Not only so, but it made me convinced that it's possible for him to be revealed as a member of the faction. With 22 years of wrestling experience and a list of accolades numerous all over the world, he can carry a match, not to mention a microphone quite well. My best examples of his work are either in the opening days of TNA OR in the X Division competitions between he, Austin Aries, Zema Ion, and Jesse Sorenson from last year/early this year.

Chris Sabin.....

The man is still TECHNICALLY a member of the TNA roster. His injuries have been plaguing him to a startling degree in recent years, but since he's not been seen of such a long time and since it was Austin Aries who put him on the shelf, at least in storylines, it would make sense with him being the arm breaker. I've never really seen him as a heel, so this could be very refreshing and, if the faction twists into the face faction for the history books with their reasoning for being, as I've brought to the table before, it seems more possible now than it otherwise might have earlier.

If TNA decides to go back into their time machine and pluck a few people from the past to bring into the story and, ultimately back onto the roster, my first choices are Monty Brown, Chris Harris, and Lance Hoyt, with Hoyt being the most likely of the bunch. He has the look that could fit well into the motorcycle gang persona without much modification.

SO those are just a few names you may have never considered, but as I always say....watch the patterns and it'll all reveal itself.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Building on Sand vs. Building on The Rock....

At the risk of sounding overly biblical, I titled this column so because of some interesting news that has reached me from afar. From behind the scenes at WWE, I understand that some within the creative team were wanting to see CM Punk lose at Survivor Series. While those very people were vetoed by Vince, the reason is, let's face it, face palm. One believed reason for Vince's adamant refusal to allow Punk to drop the title to Ryback has to do with The Rock. It's been the running belief on The Rock's side of things that HE would be the one to snap the reign of CM Punk next month. Letting some ELSE do what he was slated to do would conjure up the kind of uncertainty concerning The Rock's relationship with WWE that Vince simply wants to avoid. Without mincing words.....WWE needs The Rock a WHOLE LOT more than The Rock needs WWE right now.

My question to the brass hats up north is simple. Why would you bother building your entire main event picture around a man who currently has no plans to stick around beyond Wrestlemania? Let's be clear, CM Punk or John Cena vs. The Rock is NOT the same as Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania X8 or No Way Out from 2003. The one feud WWE could POSSIBLY have that would compare is that of Steve Austin taking Cena or Punk to task. At least Austin vs. Punk has some dirt and story hooks to latch onto.

Likewise, The Undertaker, who had been initially silent concerning his participation in Wrestlemania this year, mostly due to nagging injuries, has been approached by WWE officials. Word is that he IS up for a high profile match at Wrestlemania. Does that mean a battle for "respect" that Punk likes to throw around with weight? Perhaps. Whatever the case, the build is slated to take place beginning at the Royal Rumble and work through into the Wrestlemania week and even perhaps the week after, just like clockwork. I give the man his dues, he's been a faithful worker and attraction for Vince and company for over 20 years now, but of late, his list of worthy opponents grows thin. And with talk surrounding the net of Austin possibly having "ONE MORE MATCH" left in him and The Rock in the on deck circle, you have three men without definitive plans. If this isn't the nail in the coffin for those calling for a return to the Attitude Era, I'm not sure what else qualifies.


Trial and Error....

In a land where ratings aren't the best way of determining how good a product is, they are ONE way of seeing how a cross section of the American population views it. That said, TNA deserves some credit for their work giving the greenest talents on their roster a chance to shine. However, the viewing American public was far less kind. TNA experienced a HUGE drop. In fact, a 0.77 rating. That, for those who are curious, is the lowest rating in 6 years. I don't think it's a reflection of business as usual, though. Some would shrug me off as making excuses because I love the product. If you read my column a few back, you know that's not true. My list of grievances may not be long, but they ARE rather large problems.

In any case, my explanation....I think I already covered that. That's right. I believe the lack of viewership comes from a lack of experience on the part of the Gut Check winners, with a great deal of the blame going to someone I've already gut checked, Garett Bischoff. The rating does show that his being revealed as the current member, ready to give a lesson to the young upstart was a HUGE disappointment. If I were a casual viewer, I wouldn't sit still and watch a bunch of know nothings try and keep up with those who only know marginally more. It'd be like watching the blind lead the blind.

The worst part of it, though, is that the Christian York match wasn't bad. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. The two men have quite a long history, as I've said before. I doubt very much that this week will be a repeat performance, but TNA HAS to step up their game and do something productive with this Bully Ray and Brooke situation before they run in to much larger problems. Compoundly, they also need to keep moving forward with the Aces and Eights OR with the Joseph Park character story. I've been saying for a while now that his character needs to begin making a transformation or undergo some kind of forward change to bring about an interesting return of Abyss.

I doubt there was ever a more dramatic misuse of the Abyss character than in the "power of the ring" story near the beginning of the Immortal timeline. I'm guessing that creative knows how members of their viewing public feel on that front. How could they not? But back to the issue at hand, Abyss is a character that is sorely needed to provide some link to times that feel they've moved past. If they can provide a good, solid story that brings back that character, people will get behind it....mark my words.

TNA deserves a lot of credit for trying things and being innovative in their approach, but in the land of trial and error, those who are critical of the brand to begin with aren't a very forgiving bunch and they see a shift from one thing to another and view it as desperation, even when it's not. WWE should hope to be so bold. I'm optimistic that TNA will pull through, as they always have so far.....now it's just a matter of how they move from here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Came, I Saw.....

So I watched the interview WWE fans wanted me to see.

This is what WWE wanted to show us. They can put together three rookies and formulate a small faction. I'll give it to them, they can carry an interview well enough. They can work as a unit. I will even go so far as to say they remind me of another small band from long ago.

I think there's a bit of competition here between the two wrestling organizations about who can put together the more compelling version of the same story. One reads like a novel, the other like a  morning paper comic. The A.D.D. storyline running of WWE skips to the end far quicker than is necessary. When I think of making a statement, I don't think of three guys working one guy over at the finish of a headlining match on one of the big four PPVs, I think about something a bit more colorful. Give it to the fans on national TV. Give the fans something to talk about. You just told us that you're here to right wrongs. You're maintaining justice and wearing pleather, gloves, and hair gel to do it. I applaud your candor. Unfortunately, when WWE skipped to the end, it resulted in the same behavior in two solid weeks, and on three separate occasions, aimed at the same guy. I grant that Sting was attacked twice in the beginning of the Aces and Eights saga, but when you compare what happened to Ryback at Survivor Series to that below....

It puts things into perspective. The difference is flair....showmanship....poise. I've heard people put the current little stable WWE has going right now atop the Aces and Eights. Since I've answered the critics and given my perspective on the matter, I won't delve into it once more, but there is a fundamental difference between a stable of three and a faction of many. The ultimate test of how successful a faction or stable, however, is....how many members have advanced beyond where they came in on the card? Let's have a look at a couple of factions.....

Evolution-
I was dying to bring this one up because WWE got it right with this one. Two of the four men walking in were already main event material. By the time the stable had run its course, every man was moreorless able to join the main event tier.

Fortune-
TNA's equivalent. It brought Bobby Roode and James Storm into the main event picture, but it ultimately left Daniels on the sidelines, with no real money feuds to count on. For the record, Styles doesn't count. Styles has been an upper tier guy for years now, with bouts of upper mid-card clouding his skies, but with the emphasis on him getting pinned at last month's PPV, I think we could be seeing something change for the better on his front.

Immortal-
This is another one I wanted to bring to the table because this was an example of what NOT to do with a bunch of guys. Allow me to set the scene. It was early 2011. Officials at Spike were pushing for TNA to bring back the Main Event Mafia to combat Immortal. Booker T, Kevin Nash, and Scott Steiner were on the verge of their contracts expiring. In spite of all efforts made by those at TNA, the three opted not to re-sign. The problem? By this time, officials had been led to believe that at least two of the three would re-sign, allowing them to still move forward with the plan. So, a vignette was filmed making overtures to that direction. When negotiations fell through and Booker T and Nash decided to go back to WWE to debut at the Royal Rumble, TNA was forced to do something to try and salvage the pieces and so they turned Fortune against the assembly. Ultimately, the members of Fortune did well enough, but Immortal became one of the least successful ventures TNA has ever attempted.

Main Event Mafia-
This was a hard one to grade because each man never really moved up or down the card per se. When the stable was put together, it was based around the typical complaints of WWE. The glass ceiling. The top guys who just didn't want to move out of the way and let the young bucks jump in and take the reins. It wasn't until AJ Styles won the Legends Title, which was later renamed the TV Title, that the faction began to die out and splinter back into the singles stars each were when they came into it.

My initial point in all of this is that TNA has made some tactical mistakes over the years and have come to a point where they've found a way to make a large faction not only possible, but thrive in the live atmosphere. There really is no comparing Aces and Eights to any faction or stable to come before as they can swarm like the nWo did and do so with greater dramatic flair, they can injure and maim worse than any faction before them, and save for those most recently unmasked, they are still anonymous, making them more dangerous than any other faction so far.

Eventually, TNA will have to make their demands known and their ultimate goal will have to be brought to the forefront, but for the moment, they can just let the momentum work in their favor as they begin to reveal characters one by one. Keep in mind, TNA fans, that with each member they unmask, they come closer to the finish of this chapter in the story. This has been the most success TNA has enjoyed with regards to critics being happy with the product. Now if they can only correct some of the grievances I mentioned in the last column, they can finish out the year with their heads held high.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Keeping Balance....

In this column, I try to provide some balance to the overly pro-WWE columns littering the professional wrestling website horizon. Because there are so few TNA columns out there that I've read, aside from those who take the love for the product to extremes I hope to never match. I like to think of myself as a realist in terms of the TNA show, presentation of their talents, backstage crew, and those in creative roles as well. That said, I realize I talk greatly about the PROS concerning the TNA product, but in THIS particular column, I'd like to address a few grievances I have.

1. Knockouts....
My beef with the Knockouts Division of late is that there isn't enough storyline to keep every Knockout on the roster moving. There are too many players riding the bench right now in the division and THAT is a problem. Why? There are TWO Knockouts titles. The Knockouts Tag Titles aren't getting ANY defense....AT ALL! I, for one, am getting sick of seeing ODB coming out with a title that looks cheaper each time she wears it. Without ANY kind of title defenses on THAT front, we find ourselves in the same place we were when I first brought it all up nearly a year ago. Retire the tag belts or defend them. Simple as that.

Compoundly, the leading title of the division is beginning to read like a who's who of WWE past. This is NOT a good sign for TNA. If they aren't willing to put their belt on someone who is of TNA origin in the coming months, you can bet we, as fans, are going to hear about it. Taeler Hendrix, Madison Rayne, Velvet Sky (who, from my last check, is still a part of the roster, though on leave), ODB, Sarita, and Rosita NEED to be cast back into the mix before the division starts to implode. Gail Kim, Tara, and Mickie James MUST be kept out of the running for a time. I realize that leaves only a couple to compete in between, but I believe the Earl Hebner story has run its course and it's time to put Taryn Tarrell into the ring as well. She did remarkably well in her run in the indies leading up to her being called into the TNA fold and I don't see her becoming a part of the performing roster as a conflict of interest. In fact, it COULD breathe some new life into it with a feud with Madison Rayne to begin her tenure. Even if the whole thing was only short term, it would give TNA a leaping pad to jump back into a more serious emphasis.

2. King of the Mountain....
This match has been a staple of TNA for a number of years, but since 2009, it hasn't been seen. If TNA wants to be on par and exceeding the product of their far larger counterpart, they need another staple to look forward to each year. WWE has TLC, the Elimination Chamber (by the way, Eric Bischoff says "you're welcome"), and Hell in a Cell. Right now TNA is riding on two things....the Bound for Glory Series, and Lockdown. While the Bound for Glory does a great job of moving future main event players up the card by putting those involved in a long term program, it leaves a big hole on the other side of the calendar. From about May or June until the PPV of August, No Surrender, the Bound for Glory does its work, but what happens from Turning Point in November until Lockdown in April? So far, nothing.

TNA NEEDS something at the end of the calendar year or at the beginning of the new year to shore up the momentum. From January to April, WWE is in their hot spot. The Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania DOMINATE the viewership during that time. IF TNA were to put something right in the center, at Victory Road or even Against All Odds, you could be absolutely certain the momentum swings in TNA's direction leading into Lockdown. The catch? TNA HAS to deliver solidly going into that event.

3. The X Division....
Some will say that the X Division is getting de-pushed, but I happen to disagree....at least partially. By putting RVD into the division, it adds a missing something to the mix. What IS missing is a good, solid storyline to bring the X Division back to prominence again. The X Title needs to be booked like the immediate second place belt, second ONLY to the World Title itself. My suggestion? Go back and watch footage of WWF's use of the Intercontinental Title during the Attitude Era and shortly before. I know the division has a different style of focus, BUT by removing the weight limit from the division and returning it to its "no limits" roots, it realigns the focus to account for whatever difference still remains and makes the belt more accessible for those of a less fast paced style.

Imagine James Storm winning the X Title. On the surface, it sounds a bit odd, but when you consider that one of his best opponents in recent years has been AJ Styles, the jump isn't so hard to make. By making one or two little changes to the X Division model, you can turn it into the side door, so to speak, leading DIRECTLY to the main event.

For those of you who aren't fans of a long winded column, I apologize. But to those who are soldiers as I am for the cause of a direct competitor to Vince's company, you're welcome.

Final Resolution pre-show.....

To start things off, let me first say thanks for every idea, comment, suggestion, critique, and analysis offered over the course of the past week. This site wouldn't run without that kind of nitrous boost from time to time. As stated before, this open invitation stands. If you have questions, comments, and the like, I'm happy to do whatever I can to answer fully and completely. Now that I've said my peace on that front, I'd like to address a couple of things before diving into Final Resolution news and such.

1. The Impact Zone.

I have talked at GREAT length about TNA's need to move out of the Impact Zone. As stated many times, the issue is money. Before I go any further, I don't want to give the impression that TNA is suffering financially, because it's simply not true. HOWEVER, in the interest of living within their means, the Impact Zone is the most financially responsible thing to do. Moreover, it allows TNA to do things like give you folks in the U.K. a chance to attend an event through their tours there. It ALSO allows further travel within the United States as well. For a second place wrestling promotion WITHOUT the financial backing of a Ted Turner to serve as a safety net, TNA is doing remarkably well, all things considered.  I will, agree with you all that a bigger arena IS in order. I happen to KNOW there are larger soundstages within the confines of the Universal Studios. The problem right now, is procuring access to said stages.

2. Wes Brisco.

If you've read my posts on the fan page, you already know that plans, apparently, have changed. The latest Gut Check Challenger, Brisco faced a man more green than he and made for one of the worst matches of the year. To those who are fans of the young Bischoff, I do apologize if I've offended, but his lack of experience and technical in ring prowess made Wes Brisco look awful. Brisco is USED to training with the subject of his first official program in TNA, Kurt Angle. Garett Bischoff isn't Kurt Angle and had no business being even IN a Gut Check Challenge if he's not prepared to CARRY a match on his own. Wes Brisco may be a phenomenal talent, but the showing he was given was not a fair one, to be sure. And while he may very well BE underneath one of the many masks in the faction dominating the TNA program these days, it's been rumored that he won't be a part of the final tally.

3. Brooke/Ray/Aries/Hulk......

I will say this one time and one time only. This story had better lead to something worthwhile or you'll find some very unhappy columnists lining the doorway of TNA's headquarters calling for their resignation. TNA is quite simply above this kind of storyline. Having said that, if both men ended up on the Genesis card as challengers for Jeff Hardy or whoever walks out of Final Resolution as champion, I'd be plenty pleased in ANY CASE, the only thing I can say right now with any confidence is just wait a couple of weeks for this to come into focus. It could very well just be Aries playing mind games with Hulk.

NOW.....Final Resolution is coming into full view and right now, we have

Mickie James vs. Tara for the Knockouts Title
Bobby Roode vs. Jeff Hardy for the World Title
AJ Styles vs. Daniels

On thing I will say that for FINAL RESOLUTION, a stipulation will HAVE to be made in the Styles and Daniels match. Why? Because this rivalry is TNA's HBK vs. Triple H or Austin vs. The Rock. It is almost as TNA as the 6 Sided Ring was. In years past, it didn't matter how many times Austin and The Rock went to battle, the build was always good. Daniels and Styles aren't in the same league, but they ARE more technical ring workers than EITHER. It would be the modern day variant of Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko or Jericho vs. Michaels. A decent rivalry that has spanned years and will likely go down as one of the better feuds of TNA's history.

I would be hard pressed to think of any other way for the finish of the World Title match to go than Jeff Hardy retaining. It seems to me that Roode losing would only mount the intensity toward another meeting down the road, maybe even a multiple man main event next month or at Against All Odds.

Those are my only thoughts so far, but stay tuned.....more will be on the way.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What If? Aces and Eights Edition.....

I'd like to give you all a bit of insight into the way I sometimes find myself writing topics here. I'll just be sitting around, chatting with a good friend and the ideas will flow from a sentence beginning with the words "Wouldn't it be cool if....". That's the honest truth. And this column, in particular, brings that idea into focus with a couple of notions.

What if Aces and Eights had a list of demands that were actually in line with what the fans have been asking for in the first place? The thought occurred to me this morning that we STILL have no clue what they want. If the faction's demands read like this?

-X Division time
-Knockouts Tag Title retirement
-The 6 Sided Ring
-The revelation and re-signing of Petey Williams

Can you imagine? And if this is coming from the mind of the TNA Founder, himself?! The fans would ERUPT. There would be Aces and Eights video games in the works. Believe it. This faction would potentially reach nWo heights in terms of popularity...without a doubt. If the true goal of Aces and Eights has been to restore TNA to a former era under the current look and glint of the product, there is simply no limit to the possibilities. The question is now HOW do they go about it?

1. Reveal the leader at Victory Road. It doesn't even matter if it's Jeff Jarrett or not. Have the leader challenge Hulk Hogan's finest at Lethal Lockdown. Until then, however, one match determines how deep the rabbit hole goes. The leader picks one man and Hogan picks one man for a match before the main event. IF Hogan's man wins, Aces and Eights dissolves. If the LEADER'S man wins, 6 Sides of Steel returns at Lockdown.

2. Leading up to that time, reveal one member at Genesis, another at Against All Odds. The Final Resolution PPV can focus on the leader warning the members to hold on to their identities. Make mask removal of utmost importance.

3. In the weeks leading up to Lockdown, put the following stipulations in place.....
- The full faction force is banned from ringside.
- The direction of TNA changes based on the winner of the Lethal Lockdown match. If Aces and Eights wins, the clock rolls back and Hogan leaves TNA.

It's what SOME of you want, the difference is that through some kind of shenanigans, the President of the Company MUST make a choice. The clock turns back, but the Leader of Aces and Eights and Hulk Hogan SHARE managerial duties.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Input/Output....Part 3. We Want YOU!

I've read quite a few wishlists and such from all over the place, not the least of which being from those on a certain TNA fan page and you all know who you are. The list you have suggested IS good....Abyss, Steiner, Petey Williams, Awesome Kong, among others. I would like to follow up that list with a few that NO ONE brought up. This is my Top 7 people I would like to see return from TNA's past that I have NEVER talked about before. SO, here they are, in no particular order.....

1. Matt Bentley.....
Kazarian's former tag team partner would be an asset. As cousin and one time training partner of Shawn Michaels, a return to TNA's X Division would be a welcome breath of fresh air as his experience would be invaluable.

2. Trinity.....
One of TNA's ORIGINAL Knockouts, Trinity would be a true throwback to TNA's past. I can tell, some of you have no idea who she was/is. As a former member of Raven's Gathering, she was in a
league of her own. In a twist of historical irony, her departure from TNA was to find an opportunity as a Diva. Her stint in WWE/ECW was short lived and without the fanfare she had hoped for. As a member of the ECW "Future Endeavors Club" alongside former TNA originals Monty Brown, Chris Harris, and Lance Hoyt, WWE proved that they are once again incapable of using a former TNA talent to their potential.








3. Sonny Siaki.....
In a perfect world, he would return. As a former X Division Champion, Siaki held the belt just once, but undoubtedly, he would be a welcome face to those who have been watching from the beginning. As tragedy happens, however, his return would only be as an on screen personality as opposed to a wrestling one. In an act of sacrifice, he donated one of his kidneys to his brother, who was dying, thus putting an end to his 10 year career inside the squared circle.

4. Dusty Rhodes.....
Yeah, he wasn't a wrestler or even a manager, but the former Minister of Authority was a member of TNA Creative for a couple of years leading into Jeff Hardy's first stint in TNA. It was a sad day, indeed, to see Rhodes once again in McMahon's court.

5. Serena Deeb......
The vast masses probably remember her from the Straight Edge Society. I, however, happen to remember that AFTER the Punk faction, she made an appearance in TNA as a contestant in Awesome Kong's 25,000 dollar challenge. It's my belief that if TNA wants to pursue a legitimate Knockouts Division with a deep roster on that side of the camp, her presence would be a valuable asset. A one time shot may not count on SOME people's list, but here, it does.

6. Jack Evans......
One of the former Team Canada members,  Evans made a short lived return this year to compete in the X Division. In my eyes, this should be a staple. His work was exemplary and deserved more ring time and screen time.....and a spot on the TNA permanent roster.

7. Judas Mesias.....
Some might be a bit surprised. Others have an idea of where I'm going already with this pick. Joseph Park. If there is a player I want to see have a part in turning the Joseph Park character into someone I actually care about seeing week to week, it's him. As the character son of Father Mitchell, he could usher Abyss back into the house with the character he made famous.

Double Standards and Replacements....

Just for a bit of clarification....how did WCW begin their downturn, according to WWE officials? The answer seems a bit self-defeating when you go back and watch "The Monday Night War".  J.R. and Vince McMahon told the camera that they were so focused in on how to make their own product better that they weren't really watching what WCW was doing.

In an earlier column, I revealed that Vince was given a copy of TNA's opening with voice over recapping of previous events. His response was that WWE could do it better and then they proceeded to copy the idea outright. What's worse, WWE is beginning to do exactly what WCW did in their dying years. Even now, WWE officials have been ASSIGNED to review tape from Ring of Honor and TNA and give report as to their contents to the creative staff heads.

You knew it HAD to happen. TNA made a POSSIBLE mistake. Brooke and Bully Ray? Bully Ray vs. A Double? Again? I won't lie to you. The idea made me laugh out loud. But you know what else occurred to me? This just MIGHT be the thing that takes Brooke from the Knockouts Division. That being said, I think I'll sit this one through and see how it plays out. It could be a train wreck. It could even be worse. But even though Brooke can't act and Bully Ray isn't making the best face in the world, I have it on good authority that this one will read like something straight out of the Attitude Era.

So who would serve as her replacement, should things run that direction? I've got my short list....have a look.

Traci Brooks-
She's been a part of the division for one. She had duties that related to the VP position for another. AND she has already been denied and that little story alone could be worth having her take the reins of the position.

Lita- Could she DO that? Doubtful. Her relationship with a certain long reigning WWE Champion (CM Punk) might be a bit of a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, it WOULD be a huge draw for the Knockouts Division.

The list of former WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS is long and storied, but my personal favorite HAS to be.....


Molly Holly-
As far as I'm concerned, there's no one women's performer more deserving of such an honor. Having been trained by one of the true great technical performers of all time, Dean Malenko, her in ring ability outranks Trish Stratus, in my humble opinion. And, if you have a look at the picture, she actually LOOKS the part. This is my number one choice.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Input/Output.....Part 2. WE WANT 6 SIDES!

In the last column, I covered booking and made a case to defend what TNA has done on that front. I still say if you want more of ANYTHING, contact TNA directly. They have a department for that kind of thing anyway. Their website has contact information for both internet traffic as well as paper mail traffic. I covered the X Division briefly as well. Today I want to cover a couple of topics MORE than one of you brought to the table.....the 6 Sided Ring.

You have NO IDEA how badly I wanted to hear you guys bring THAT to the table. THIS is something TNA needs to hear. The more noise, the more likely you are to get a response. Near the beginning of this blog's life, I wrote column calling for Hulk Hogan to do a storyline about the ring and his intentions of doing away with it as a part of Immortal's reign. Unfortunately, the column fell on deaf ears as very few people read it at the time.

Truth be told, I happen to LOVE the difference the 6 Sided Ring made to the look of the TV product as well. So many of you communicated the word IDENTITY attached to the ring. Truth be told, I couldn't agree with you all more. A large piece of TNA's identity was lost when the ring was changed. I CAN, however tell you all WHY it was changed.

When the announcement was made in 2009 that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were going to come into TNA, it made HUGE waves and those in a positive light. Some were critics of Bischoff and his work near the ending days of WCW (an unfair opinion, I might add), while others looked at Hulk Hogan as the "savior" of the company. It didn't take long for me to determine where this thing was headed.

Genesis 2010. I waited with anxious anticipation to see the lights and fireworks and such for TNA's first PPV of the year. When the cameras switched on and they focused in on the ring, I was IMMEDIATELY upset. Not only was the ring changed without notifying the fans, there was a stupid little drawbridge that spanned from the ring to the entrance. I. WAS. LIVID. I wrote the company as soon as I turned off the PPV that night.

The decision to change the ring was made with great controversy backstage. Guys like Jeff Jarrett were against the change because of that very word...IDENTITY. It was who TNA was, at least for the 6 years leading up to it. The belief at the time was that people in higher standing in the wrestling business world looked down on TNA because of their break from tradition. This wasn't necessarily coming from the new regime, either, though they revealed the school of thought. The running belief was that the innovation made the product look campy and less serious. Not so with fans and there was SOME backlash. Not enough fans were vocal enough to make contact with TNA officials to make the change back stick. As many of you will recall, the 6 Sided Ring DID make another appearance in 2011 at Destination X, but as I said, the change didn't stick around.

I happen to agree with a grand portion of the assembly that the 6 Sided Ring NEEDS to be a staple of the TNA product. NOW, with that being said, IF those in power wish to keep face and not bring down their hard work, I don't think it out of the realm of possibility to compromise. I suggest that TWO PPVs use the 6 Sided Ring......Lockdown and Destination X. The Six Sides of Steel flowed so well off the tongue and made the structure sound so much more menacing than what we have today. Destination X is pretty much self explanitory.

There was a chant on TV the week after Genesis that still rings in my head. I loved it. "WE WANT 6 SIDES!" TNA needs to hear that if you ever want to see their old staple return to prominence. TNA doesn't need a small flow of letters, either. They need to hear that in DROVES. There is a faction that believes TNA won't succeed if they break from the traditional ring shape. Those numbers need to be drowned out by the chant for an identity shift, back to who they were in the first place.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Input/Output.....Part 1.

I have every intention of making this open invitation a standing one. If you have ideas, questions, or comments...I say bring 'em all. The TNA Nation is hard at work, looking for new ways and old to make TNA into the company for the fans they began as. You guys have no idea how awesome it's been seeing the response to this invitation. Some of these ideas really could be their own column and choosing some is, in no way, devaluing another in my eyes.

I believe the toughest part of this inaugural column is just where to begin. I suppose the best place to begin is with the extremes. But do I go with a selection that believes TNA needs to fix everything or nothing? If you will bear with me, I think the best way to begin is to kick this one off with BOTH. If I'm to do this, I will reveal only first names as this blog reaches a larger audience that that simply on Facebook, where updates are given daily. SO...let's jump right in with the most basic of alterations by a gentleman I'll simply call David.....

The only way your gonna make TNA better is bring in good bookers who know what they are doing. Eric Bischoff, Dixie Carter, Bruce Prichard, and Hulk Hogan do not know how to run or book the business properly. If Bischoff did WCW would still be in business. If Carter did TNA wouldn't be having financial woes every now and then. If Prichard did he would never have needed Vince McMahon. Hogan should just stay away from the booking office period. Dixie dropped the ball by not bringing in someone like a Paul Heyman. Paul has his faults but he was/is good at what he does. Why not bring in Kevin Sullivan or ask Jim Cornette to come back in? Or better yet bring young, new blood to the table. Steve it's not about beating the WWE, it's all about bringing TNA to a new level, that it has yet to experience. You all had better wake up down there before TNA ends up in the WWE video library. Steve you know everything you all are doing isn't working. 

From Eric Bischoff to Paul Heyman is a far chasm to jump, considering BOTH men have "Rise and Fall" titles in WWE's video archive. Few would question Paul Heyman's storyline genius, but in spite of his wrestling storyline and booking prowess, his notions of how to "SAVE" TNA would have crippled them for a time. He wanted to fire everyone over 40. For some on TNA's roster, this could be a good thing, but when you consider that Christopher Daniels is 42 and can still go for miles in the ring, his notions concern me, to say the least. Shawn Michaels was 45 when he retired from WWE and could still perform circles around some of the younger talents there at the time. Would he fire Sting or Daniels in favor of seeing a Shawn Michaels on the card? Count on it.

Denying credit due to Eric Bischoff is a disservice to his stint in the opening days of the Monday Night War. Granted, his decision making as things wore on undid some of the progress made, but to say he wasn't instrumental is simply a poor understanding of the history. A man like Dusty Rhodes or Kevin Sullivan calling him a "Visionary" for "Being willing to listen" doesn't sound like the same man you have been referring to. NOW, had he not allowed Kevin Nash to book talents near the apex of WCW's run or had the new executives in charge when the Time/Warner/AOL merger happened been wrestling fans or had the nWo been allowed to die down and run their course, we may be looking at WCW owning WWE in THEIR library. Bischoff took his eye off the prize and it cost the WCW brand dearly.

That said, Jim Cornette has had countless chances to make something happen in his stints in OVW, WCW, WWE, TNA, and Ring of Honor and has made NO progress on ANY of these fronts. Am I saying that he wasn't entertaining? Not at all. He was. HOWEVER, his inability to work cooperatively with the top brass vision of each organization and give his all to see the progression through was his undoing. I happen to be a fan of Cornette, but if you can't play well with others, you have no place booking for a growing wrestling entity like TNA.

To confront criticisms concerning Bruce Pritchard, who I happen to respect in spite of his misgivings about the Knockouts Division, he doesn't ultimately make the decisions regarding that division. Does he have input? Yes. But those decisions travel further up the totem than he ranks. SO, if you want to see more of the Knockouts, write to TNA directly as I have done. Bruce Pritchard was Vince McMahon's right hand man for 22 years. From 2002 or so all the way to 2009, he did a great deal of the decision making that made Smackdown the success it was, from Brock Lesnar's stint there all the way into John Cena's rise to Superstardom. I'll be the first to say that Cena's act is old, but it wasn't the decision of Pritchard to push Cena as the unstoppable force.

In all of your assessment, we agree on one thing. Beating WWE doesn't solve the problem. Raising the bar does. TNA DOES need a few changes made and I concede that point, but those changes need not come at the booking side of things, save for the Knockouts Division. The fact is, right now TNA is on PWI's radar, which is a hard thing to accomplish. The reason is because of their more stable booking of the current product, which has been attributed to Bruce Pritchard, as it turns out.

I'd like to move on without necessarily giving a name or even a snippet of a comment, but rather to address something concerning the X Division. Right now, TNA has been experiencing some challenges with the division. Namely with injuries. Jesse Sorenson, Chris Sabin, Sonjay Dutt and others have fallen victim to the very pitfall that comes with the style of wrestling the X Division employs. By moving performers around and bringing in outside talents in to try and fill the space, they made SOME progress, but the void is certainly felt, as many of you communicated. I'd ask you all to send your thoughts and prayers to the performers working through injuries as well as those who are on injured reserve from the division. This is NOT TNA's wish to deny the fans of a fan favorite division, hence Destination X each year. There is progress to be made on that front, no doubt about that, but to do so, every man needs to be in their pinnacle of health.

I'd like to conclude this column for the day with some encouraging thoughts. A big thank you to AnneMarie for these thoughts....

hi :) great blog posts as always!
I'm not sure how relevant anything I'm saying is, but here is my opinion on TNA & the PG or No PG argument in response to your latest status!

I don't think TNA is broken, however, I would say that there is always room for improvement. TNA isn't as large of a production as WWE. But, TNA has better MARKETING. Just like any company or t.v. program, it's a business. They have a great product that appeals to a wide fan base. This is because they have good advertising, merch, deals, and VERY fan-friendly live events. I don't think they can rely solely on their live events though, but in reality I think that's how they're going to make their money. I think TNA needs to "step it up" in terms of their roster. They should stop "getting rid of" talent. There are top notch stars on the roster that the fans see on and off. Sometimes, not at all. They become phased out completely and then the fans are left wondering. That's one thing about TNA that I would fix. Give more push to the wrestlers that deserve the attention, especially the x-division. They should do away with poor storylines that lack the humor they're looking for, and push more storylines about rivalries. I do like that they have brought in Open Fight Night, and Title Thursdays, I think those are the most exciting to watch in my opinion. Those nights out of each month are definitely bringing in more ratings. 
As for the PG or No PG thing, I have 2 arguments. 
1. the night that Sting was attacked by the Aces & 8s. "Fake" or "Real", "Acting" or "Not Acting" .. the attack was pretty brutal when I saw it. The hammer thing to me came off as violent to watch, especially if there are small children in the audience or watching from home. The other side of this would then say that it's up to the parents then either not to bring them to see wrestling or restrict them from watching it on t.v. ... but that is just a matter of personal preference. Sure, wrestling is going to be a little violent every now and then, but that doesn't mean that it has to be distasteful. I don't think TNA is distasteful, but they should think more about what sorts of "images" are being projected to their audience. 
2. TNA is on the Spike network. It's geared primarily towards men. I would assume between adolescent age to older adults. The network has to gear their programming towards the target market that is watching. (Although, I'm a 21 yr old girl and I watch wrestling on that channel, as I'm sure other women do as well. So, the audience is mixed.)

From a business perspective, if the network wants to appeal to various audiences, keep it PG - that way it's pretty much generalized where everyone can watch at any age group or gender. Just because a show is PG doesn't mean it has to be super violent or raunchy, but at the same time it doesn't have to be super limited either. 
While I can't say much about WWE, I think TNA has been doing very well as of late with their show and brand. Despite rumors of whose coming and going, contracts, disputes, etc. those things are expected with any business. One thing that TNA has is a loyal fan base, as I'm sure WWE has as well. But I think TNA appeals to their fans in better ways. It's not just about the t.v. aspect (the product), it's about the fans (the consumer). If you gear the product towards your target consumers, you're not going to have a problem. That's TNA's strength. They care about what the fans think. If they focused on their brand too much, I don't think it would go anywhere.

~ AnneMarie Graham, Brooklyn, NY.
 :)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PG or Not?

Last month, Brad Maddox gave a low blow to Ryback, allowing CM Punk to retain the WWE Championship. On RAW shortly thereafter, Punk mocked a life threatening heart attack. On Sunday past at Survivor Series, he retained by employing brute force to eliminate Ryback from contention. His title reign has lasted for over a year now.

Far be it from me to make criticisms over HOW Punk retained his title for so long. It seems that WWE has a vested interest in the him. Good for him. His tactics outside of the PPV arena leave me shaking my head, however. In statements made at RAW, it was said that he gave fans a little bit of the Attitude Era and they hated him for it. I'll admit, the statement gave me pause. Is that true? Could WWE actually be caring about their product? You'd never know it by the presentation of their women's division or the lack of showcase for stars of smaller stature, but in the main event tier? There may be a case to suggest that.

Have they released the PG format as their guideline? Nope. This isn't saying that they can't work within those confines and still be successful on some note. But they can't shift AWAY from it. Why? The same reason it was a bad idea to shift TO the PG format. You risk alienating a portion of your viewing audience. Sure, it MIGHT bring back a few fans from that time span, but you lose the kids you just brought into your viewing sphere.

I was against the move for a great number of reasons, not the least of which being the creative freedom a higher rating allows. If you choose to tame the product down for a week or two, fine. You can do that and it'll make some more conservative fans happy. If the following week, you decide to ramp up the intensity and have a bloody segment to make those fans happy, you can do that as well. My point is, you are better able to have a happy balance when you aren't held back by restrictions on your product.

Right now, TNA is in a good place. They have a higher rating because they are reaching out to an older audience. Can they still reach a younger audience? I think so. WWE did during the era before the current product. Batista, Cena, Mysterio, Punk, Hardy, HBK, Triple H, and others lined the shelves with products and kids ate it up. I see WWE as a company losing steam, while TNA is picking up business. With the U.K. tour on the horizon, bringing a HUGE breath of fresh air with an energized fanbase, a truly organic feel, and a dynamic set of arenas to house the product during their stay, I think of TNA as better suited for moving ahead with success.

The Knockouts Title....

October 14, 2007- Bound for Glory of that year showcased the beginnings of one of TNA's premier titles...the Knockouts Title. In the month leading up to the PPV event, TNA's mobile service reported that TNA was in the market to start up a Women's Division. At the time, each Knockout on the roster had their place and was being featured in feuds and as valets with the men's tag teams of the time.

Salinas- Latin American Xchange
Jackie Moore- America's Most Wanted
Gail Kim- Jeff Jarrett's valet/ Petey Williams' valet

In the months leading up to Bound for Glory, Gail Kim made overtures to the higher-ups within the company about wanting to do more in TNA than simply be a valet....she wanted to wrestle. As the year wore on and other Knockouts were brought into the company, the notion of beginning a women's division began to appeal to more than one TNA official. With the headlining PPV coming into clearer focus, a decision was finally made.

Bound for Glory would feature a 10 Knockouts Gauntlet Match in which the winner would become the  very first TNA Women's Champion. What? No Knockouts Champion? Not at first. The Women's Championship was later renamed the "Knockouts" Championship the following year. Among those on the roster....

Roxxi Leveux
ODB
Velvet Sky (Talia Madison, at the time)
Angelina Love (Angel Williams at the time)
Salinas
Traci Brooks
Gail Kim
Jackie Moore
Christy Hemme
Awesome Kong

Since the first championship reign of Gail Kim, a grand list of amazing Knockouts have graced TNA's stage.

Taylor Wilde
Sarita
Rosita
Alissa Flash
Hamada
Daffney
Madison Rayne
Rhaka Khan
Lacey Von Erich

Truly a dynamic division TNA has created with a fine balance of veteran and independent talents vying to win a prestigious prize....the TNA Knockouts Championship.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Changes....

There are changes coming down the pike, ladies and gentlemen. The battle lines are beginning to be drawn and everything is starting to shuffle into place. In this column, I'll reveal some changes to each companies' approach to the future as well as one major change to this site. As I've said so many times before....Let's get to it.....

TNA:

TNA's Holiday blitz has kept their crews busy, as taped shows have been locked into place for this week and the week of Christmas for sure. There is a piece of good news in all that, though. TNA revealed that there is talk of a permanent move to a live format going into the new year. In fact, the first few shows of the new year will be live, leading their tour of the U.K. in January. This is a good sign for TNA and, if TNA continues their upward ratings trend, another new development is on the horizon.....a move from the Impact Zone.

That's right, the talk over town is that TNA is wanting, more than ever, to take TNA on the road in the coming year more often. As I said before, a good portion of the factors for not doing so is funding, but some of that backing comes from advertisers and, with a better television rating comes a more confident pushing of products from said companies with their funds and sponsorships. Another factor is show attendance. If TNA isn't able to support a live show from an arena across the country in excess of 5,000 people as they have in the U.K. and even in the southern states last year, there is no chance of them making a permanent move. This means fans will NEED to make their presence known if TNA is to make a bigger Impact on the national scene. This is a statement that fans will need to be making....that they are tired of what Vince has been putting out. WWE is NOT the only act in town, though they may play like they are.

Which leads me into WWE:

WWE withheld the release of workers for their product during the elections, but since Linda lost the second play for the Senate, business is returning to normal, with WWE releasing more talents in the coming year. I have asked this question before...why would you hire someone only to release them in a year's time? In business, the goal is to make a person feel useful as well as make money off of said person, is it not? If those two goals aren't met, and you find that the money isn't coming in from people paying to see and cheer for them, you fire the employee, right? WRONG! You do some research and find out what people want! Go to the forums! That's where the best critics are. These are hardcore fans of your product and they want to see you succeed. *sigh*

My point is that in order to truly succeed in getting fan support behind a person without letting the person have the reins to himself like a Steve Austin or a Dwayne Johnson is to get the fans involved. If you've ever wondered what has made TNA's day in the sun look as good as it has, it's Bischoff's inexhaustible joy in doing research. If Vince did even half of the research of Eric, WWE would be in a better place....believe that. Moving on.....

Some within WWE's top brass are concerned with the current state of their Diva's Division (a look of shock and awe). That said, they are looking to refill the division with current NXT talents. You all can't see me shaking my head. If there is one thing WWE has no clue about, it's rebuilding what worked for them during the Attitude Era. Back then, the WOMEN'S DIVISION was thriving. Just a side note: not every woman can take on the template of a Trish Stratus. Some are going to be Torrie Wilson types. I can see some of you have no clue where I just went. Trish and Torrie were both fitness models, BUT only one of them was actually noted for being a WRESTLER. Trish's desire to do more and actually perform WRESTLING matches made her a candidate for improvement. And improve she did, now being remembered as a Hall of Famer of the division.

I am stunned that WWE hasn't thought of utilizing their resident wrestling Diva, Natalya. As I made mention of before, she was never tagged into a Diva's tag match. Granted, it only lasted 2 and a half minutes, but even her presence would have kicked the quality up a few notches. FACT: Natalya deserves better. Go ahead and send her to TNA now, while there is still some dignity in the decision.

The tidbits COULD provide insight as to how each company looks to move forward, but only time will reveal just how successful the endeavors actually are. I leave you with one final change....to this site. In 11 days, I take on a partner. From columns past, I bring you guys another perspective other than my own. I'm not going to let off the gas, as I'm sure that's what it sounds like. I will STILL deliver you all a daily dose of opinion, fact, and news.

This column will be known as Survival Tactix and the new column will be known as The Rant From Ringside. I look forward to putting more bang into the visit you all honor this site with. This is my way of saying thank you. Moving forward is the goal here, as well.....

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More of the Same?

So WWE has taken the AJ Styles story beginning, editing from TNA's intros, and now the formation of a faction. Is there anyone out there still who wants to try telling me WWE isn't doing some copycat work? For those of you who have no clue where I get the faction statement, Survivor Series debuted the NXT members Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns. Anyone who doesn't know who these guys are....you're not the only ones. Since it's my duty to know such things, allow me to pull back the curtain a bit.

Dean Ambrose is actually independent performer Jon Moxley of Combat Zone and Dragon Gate USA fame. As a well rounded ring tactician, Ambrose of NXT has finally made his debut on WWE television's main roster after being put off for months.

Seth Rollins is actually Ring of Honor's own Tyler Black. With his place as the current NXT Champion, it'll be interesting to see how WWE handles their own minor league belt on the main roster.

Roman Reigns, not to be confused with Luther Reigns of the Ruthless Aggression Era, is the second generation product of one half of the Wild Samoans tag team from WWF past. With wrestling in his background as the brother of former Three Minute Warning alum, Rosey, WWE now employs him as the final of the three attackers on Ryback at last night's Survivor Series.

So now WWE has a faction. Why am I NOT surprised? Oh well. Looks like TNA is a bit more  of a threat to Vince than anyone thought. I love this period in wrestling history. Something new always seems to crop up. Vince McMahon is looking at TNA with more interest, having pulled from TNA's stack of old storylines.....following it all up with the overbooking, outside interference, and inside screwjobs TNA was known for during the time of Vince Russo as the head of the creative team. It's as if he's been re-employed with WWE. At least we know where the momentum will be shifting from now on....

Meanwhile, TNA will be featuring their newest members of the roster this week. Every Gut Check winner will be in action. Just to whet the appetites of the few who are on the fence for TNA this week.....

Taeler Hendrix vs. Tara
Alex Silva vs. Sam Shaw
Wes Brisco gets his Gut Check Challenge
AND
Christian York vs. Tune in to find out.....HA! I won't be giving out THAT match here. I will say, however, you won't want to miss.

Survivor Series.....

For those of you confused with the title of the column, I assure you, I will NOT be covering the WWE PPV for the evening. In fact, the column has nothing whatsoever to do with WWE. This is an analysis of the top tier in TNA. To clarify, events covering the past few weeks have twisted and turned the main event for the coming year. James Storm is no longer on the Final Resolution card, Austin Aries has been relegated from the main event, and AJ Styles has been put on the back burner. My questions are few....

Is the decision to make AJ Styles wait final?
Does James Storm still qualify for a title shot AFTER that given to Bobby Roode?
Is Austin Aries still feuding with Jeff Hardy after his second consecutive loss for the title?
Is there anyone else on the horizon to make challenges?

SO....beginning at the top of the list....I have difficulty believing Styles is finished with the top tier. I'll even go so far as to say that TNA has plans to give him a way out. This COULD be a blessing in disguise to one person....Christopher Daniels. I've been calling for him to get the ultimate "thank you" from Dixie and friends in the white tower in Nashville, but until now, the best way to go about it hadn't presented itself. I want to believe Final Resolution to be a good way to reintroduce Daniels and Aries in TNA instead of Ring of Honor. TNA has had a good habit of introducing someone new to the title scene each year for the past couple of years. I see no reason for them to break with that tradition. I do understand that Jeff Hardy is the champion right now, but I simply don't see it lasting beyond 3 months' time.

As far as James Storm is concerned, I see no reason whatsoever to continue denying Storm of his place as champion, but with Austin Aries, Jeff Hardy, Bobby Roode, Bully Ray eventually, Matt Morgan, among others biding their time, I don't know entirely who TNA has in mind to push on the coming year for certain. I don't believe Storm is out for more than a month or so, but his opportunities seem inexhaustible.

That said, I do NOT believe Styles is out of contention just yet either. There are unanswered questions on that front as well. More questions is good.....is means they're making me think. So as for the last question in the TOP list?

Matt Morgan- He's been promised a prominent place on the card and I see no great place than right at the top.

Jesse Sorenson- I FULLY believe he'll get a MONSTER push upon his return but he's GOTTA get some HUGE crowd support for the World Title. I DO think it's possible....in fact, I think he could be a pretty respectable champ, but he needs to be able to pick up his ability to either talk, or let someone else do the talking for him.

Bully Ray- I don't think TNA is done with him yet. No idea what they have in mind with this whole Brooke thing, but I hope it ends fast. It WON'T work....unless it gets Brooke fired, then I'm all for it.

Chris Masters- IF TNA reveals him as a part of Aces and Eights as I understand the plan currently is, he'll get in line soon enough for a title shot, maybe late next year if his work impresses.

Abyss- I HOPE TNA pulls this Joseph Park story into the station for fuel sometime soon. It is getting WAY too stagnant without enough movement. We NEED development here. IF they decide to make tracks in bringing the monster back, I don't think a World Title reign is out of the question.

These are just a few possible newcomers to the World Title show, but anything is possible in TNA. Without WWE's glass ceiling to worry about, the sky truly IS the limit for those able to achieve the main event.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Newcomers....

Far be it from me to sway any of you from doing what you want to do anyway, but next week, TNA features EVERY Gut Check Winner so far AND Wes Brisco as the Gut Check Contestant of the month. In previous columns I have asked where they are now. Now, it seems, we FINALLY get to see if they've made some modifications to their movesets or put together a finisher or made alliances.....everything I've asked for we get to see this coming week.

I would like to take yet another chance to thank you all for being loyal to this column. I bring it as daily as physically able and it is by your comments and questions that a good portion of this operates. I do ask one thing.....pass it on. If there is one thing I pride myself on, it's growth personally as a writer and an analyst of current goings-on in the professional wrestling sphere, but growth there is only as good as the audience who is able to see that progression. If you would be so kind, please share this with someone new.....someone who might need a little bit of convincing towards TNA from their WWE watching persona. I appreciate all the support.

SO....newcomers. Those of you who have read my analysis of Christian York will note that this development makes me VERY happy, to say the least. As far as I'm concerned, 3 weeks out of 4 with him as a part of Impact is a welcome change. Not to toot my own horn, but his first opponent is among my predictions.....and you'll LOVE the reveal.

And Taeler Hendrix, you all remember her, right? Her opponent doesn't disappoint either.
Taeler Hendrix
I could not be more proud of the TNA upper brass for putting the entire card for Open Fight Night together for such a time as this. Here's hoping for the trend to continue moving forward. Fresh faces ARE needed and the two lacking divisions NEED the help that those faces could bring.

Another piece of much desired news.....TNA has moved UP in ratings, for those of you who care about that sort of thing. This week, the rating went to 1.1, which is quite a viewing hike. Compare this to Smackdown's , which last week was at 1.4, and you have the beginning of something special....so much for distant second place anymore. In earlier columns as well as those from outside sources, all it takes is a good story, a debut, the reshuffling of current talents, or even the repackaging of an old concept and the wrestling environment begins to look just a little bit different to the casual wrestling fan. It seems that the combination of live broadcasts, debuts of new talents via Gut Check, a push of TNA and Ring of Honor made talents, the redemption of Jeff Hardy, and a consistently interesting storyline set have made TNA the company to watch this year.




Nine Minutes....

So my opponent went 9 minutes with his reviewing of TNA last night. I read his column and shook my head. There's just no talking to some people. SO....with my mind fully made up, I DID watch Smackdown tonight, but I WON'T be going back to the camp to see if Mr. Jay has anything to say about MY review.

Where to begin.....I know: 25 minutes. WWE featured SIX matches in 25 minutes. Out of those 25 minutes, Sin Cara's little bit of offense impressed me, and WWE's BLATANT exclusion of Natalya in the 6 Diva Tag Match did as well. Now, I don't mean her name wasn't called, but rather she was never tagged in. She dressed out, but never played....I'm impressed. If there was someone on the ENTIRE roster that would be best if not crossed, I would go with the last remnant of a legitimate Women's Division you still have, Vince. But since you see fit to allow a 2 and a half minute long tag match where she isn't even INSIDE the ring, you can just tell her we'll see her soon.

For those of you math majors out there, 56 minutes of EVERYTHING WWE featured on Smackdown that WASN'T a part of the wrestling portion consisted of a 19 minute opening promo from the two teams for Survivor Series, TONS of recaps and promos, and about 8 minutes of brawling. As I said before, Sin Cara had the single piece of offense that impressed me in the entire show. No, 5 RKO's did NOT impress me. That's right, over the course of one match and a brawl, Randy Orton RKO'ed 4 different people. Damien Sandow got his TWICE. I realize there are a ton of numbers here, but I want to make a point here.

A fair amount of the people who now watch WWE don't really care about match length or even about match quality per se; so long as it's not botched, they're happy. They're willing to sacrifice a bit of logic for a decent promo. R-Truth can cut a respectable promo, as can Miz and Foley and even Ziggler, but when it came to a match between Sandow, Ziggler, Orton, and Miz, the entire enterprise was about completely forgettable. For the record, Kane and Daniel Bryan made me want to saddle up and ride to Cleveland, baseball bat in hand and go to work. I'd take bets as to how many swings it'd take to knock that train back on the tracks.

I am SICK of the lazy writing, the flat characters, the glint and glamour of the ring and presentation used as a cover-up for the shoddy workmanship of a broken down product. Vince, I have no clue how you sleep at night. People came to see your product because they believe you can turn a broken wagon around and present something worth seeing, but with Smackdown, what once was a GREAT show that featured some the best up and rising talents in the company, it has been relegated to an experience I won't be repeating anytime soon.

Here's the things about critics....we know what we like. I happen to enjoy a logical storyline in which things happen as an effect to a cause. Bobby Roode now goes ahead of James Storm in line for a title shot because he was able to defeat him with the title shot on the line. This is NO different from Edge beating Mr. Anderson (Kennedy at the time) for his Money in the Bank briefcase. Do I have a problem what Storm losing out for so long? I'm beginning to. HOWEVER, I get the feeling TNA wants this kind of reaction, else they wouldn't bother, so I'm guessing there is a point to it.

We know what we like about the products we enjoy. My opponents like to bring up ratings and Hulk Hogan promos and whatever else is the gripe of the day when WWE can scarcely bring a HALF AN HOUR OF WRESTLING TO THE TABLE!

I have an idea, folks. I'd like to try something and I encourage you all to do the same.....take a break from WWE until New Years and see what happens. Watch only Ring of Honor or TNA during that time. That includes YouTube, guys. No cheating here. WWE DOES watch their own streams there, contrary to popular opinion. Give TNA some more viewers so they catch Smackdown and see how WWE reacts.....this is MY challenge to you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

One Isn't Enough?

If all of you would humor me for a moment....does it ruin a match for you if a wrestler hits his "finisher" and his opponent kicks out of it? Maybe I can answer the question for you? If anyone said "it depends upon the situation", you and I can share the same campfire. It seems to me that so much formula goes into the finish of a match these days. A performer hits a momentum shifting maneuver, then his/her finisher and then the cover for the win. That's what happens on TV, anyway. PPV, however, seems to be exempt from this time honored rule of the squared circle. Fact is, it doesn't even have to be among the WWE Four to warrant a break from the rule.

There are a couple of rules on finishers I'd like to point out that seem absolutely ridiculous to me...

1. An enemy is NOT allowed to use a weapon that belongs to you to win a match. If this is attempted, a kick out is mandatory.

2. An enemy is NOT allowed to use your finishing maneuver. If this is attempted, a kick out is mandatory.

3. Only on PPV are you allowed to kick out of an opponent's finisher as a way to shift momentum of the crowd.

4. If a first finisher attempt to end the match doesn't work and neither does a second, a third will DEFINITELY do the trick.

These are just a few of the rules that WWE has nearly always employed. No one uses Triple H's sledgehammer on HIM. You don't kick out of a Tombstone Piledriver. Jack Swagger isn't allowed to use the Ankle Lock in a match against Kurt Angle.

Forgive me for saying so, but these rules are absolutely STUPID! If I were to take a hammer blow to the head, even if it were my own, regardless what the rules state, the chances of my getting back up would be negligible at best. A finishing move CAN be used against the person who trademarked it. I happen to believe that if a finisher is successful, it can put down the innovator of it as well. How about THAT logic, huh?

There was a time when a decent ring tactician had two finishers; an impact finisher or a submission move or maybe even two impact moves. Does anyone know when that changed? For whatever reason, some, like the opponent I face, mistakenly believe TNA as the culprit behind the multiple use of a single finishing move. Not so. In fact, WWE was doing that in the Attitude Era. After years of doing this, however, some wrestlers broke the mold. Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Edge, and others began using more than one finishing move to end the match.

I say throw the "rulebook" in the garbage. Branch out and experiment with the formula a bit. This is probably the best time to do so. With each company on the wrestling scene still working at determining their own identity, I see no problem with tweaking how we, the fans, look at the construction of an effective match. My only request is minor: Use the rules as a guideline, not as a law.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

From the Beginning.....

It began on a fishing trip, if you'll believe it. Just a couple of guys, fishing poles, and some conversation about what comes next. WCW had closed their doors and merged with the enemy, as it were, and that summer defined all that would come next....

Jeff and Jerry Jarrett and Bob Ryder, who went out that day began to talk about a vision. Ryder had pitched the idea of a wrestling promotion that would need no television backing as a start-up, but would rather be broadcast live on PPV with a modest budget and demanding meager funding from fans. At a mere 10 dollars per week as the guideline, NWA-TNA had been conceptualized on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2001.

Over the course of the six months to follow, Jeff Jarrett would pitch the idea without a tape of a working format of any kind to PPV providers. Those now involved in the concept by this time would put together the funding and send out feelers to outside investors in the startup venture. His negotiations would pay off and on June 19 of 2002, TNA would showcase their very first PPV, but nothing would begin as planned.....

In a dark match, a wrestler named Cheex broke the top ring rope during the match. The two competitors finished the match, but with little time before the countdown of the show, an emergency ring crew worked to repair the ring in time. Audibles were sent to Mike Tenay and Don West, who were announcing that night and the format of the show HAD to be changed to give the ring repair team a chance to make the finishing touches before a 6 man tag team matchup was to take place. With NO time to spare, the ring crew ran off camera just as the opening pyro went off. Nevertheless, the decision had been made to switch the introduction of wrestling legends in attendance that night from after the tag to BEFORE the tag match as an opener to the show. Many in attendance would not be able to tell what had gone awry just minutes before.

In what would go down to be one of the best inaugural showings of an independent wrestling promotion, TNA would go on for 6 months before hitting a financial hiccup. In a mad flurry of emergency negotiations, a former neighbor of Jeff Jarrett would find their way back into the company of the TNA Founder. Dixie Carter, who only a couple of years before, lived next to Jeff Jarrett in a small suburb of Dallas, Texas had struck up a conversation briefly with Jarrett, not knowing what lay ahead in the years that would follow. When Carter and Jarrett were reacquainted, on going conversations revealed that her family might want to get involved in the business and, in the process, Dixie became the TNA President. In the next few months, Dixie, in true class, served as the primary make-up artist for the commentary team as well as the ring announcer at the time, Jeremy Borash.

Critics gave TNA 6 months to live at the time, then a year, then two years, then five, and now, with 10 years under their belt, the critics have stopped counting and with good reason. Slammiversary of this year served as a great big "Stone Cold" salute to those doubters who sought their ends in the early days of the Nashville based promotion. Now, with Impact broadcasting around the world and a lucrative cable contract lasting well into 2014, there is no doubt in the mind of this man that TNA in bound for bigger things.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Phenomenal.....

VIP Ink Publishing has signed AJ Styles to a book deal. The deal will include an autobiography chronicling the journey through the waters of TNA. Being one of only three performers to have performed for the company since the very first broadcast and still be a part, Styles is a multiple time Triple Crown Winner, having captured the World Heavyweight, X Division, and World Tag Titles, not to mention being the only TNA performer to have captured a reign with every male title ever sanctioned by TNA.

I, for one, look forward to reading this book just as I read books from Shawn Michaels, the Hardy Boyz. Lita, Mick Foley, and others over the years. As one of few books chronicling a journey through the number 2 company in the nation, this one should hop into a high ranking provided the public at large get behind one of TNA's golden champions.

In the coming days, I would like to take a look at a few pieces of TNA history. I'll cover some pivotal reigns, the first broadcast, which is a fascinating story, to say the least, and even come to the debut of the Knockouts Championship and the first champions.

The exciting part of this column is that the journey TNA has been on began as an innovation completely unlike anything ever done before......a wrestling entity without the aid of cable network backing.....with only a weekly PPV to move from one week to the next. I've given the timeline, but to have a look at the snapshots and landmarks, it really gives a bit of perspective to the prospect of Nashville's grassroots wrestling promotion on the rise.

In most recent news, a WWE official brought Vince McMahon a tape of Impact Wrestling in which background voiceovers narrated recap footage. Vince determined to use that idea stating that "WWE could do it better..." So much for TNA being nothing in the eyes of the giant on the hill. After having ripped off the Claire Lynch storyline, why not use editing tricks from TNA's playbook. After all, we're not catching up.....or are we? If TNA is good at anything, it's survival tactics, but they go further than that....I think the best word is AJ's, phenomenal.




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Timed Release.....

So TNA is going to be taped the next couple of weeks. Some would call that a step backwards. I happen to respect that decision GREATLY. With Thanksgiving coming up, TNA continued a time-honored tradition of giving their performers time to be with their families for that holiday. Further, from my understanding, TNA also plans to tape at least one week after Final Resolution for wrestlers to have Christmas as well.

I HAVE to ask....when was the last time WWE did this for their performers? With 11 hours of first run WWE programming, there simply isn't time for a holiday for WWE's finest. Sorry guys. Unless you want to lose your spot in the pecking order for a title shot, NO TURKEY FOR YOU!

Does that mean TNA is going to drop in ratings? Doubtful. If going live has made only marginal changes in their ratings, being taped for two weeks won't kill them. Besides, TNA still has something like four house shows in the two week schedule ahead. As a writer, I find it IMMENSELY important to not only report on what I hear, but ALSO what I see firsthand. That said, even if you decide to ruin the surprise and read ahead of the schedule....don't deny TNA a viewing as well.

If you DON'T want to ruin it and simply watch, I will only say that the next two weeks will prove interesting as I'm seeing TNA as a far better promoter of young talent after the events in the coming weeks.

Off Limits...

Nine weeks ago, WWE was forced to make changes to their Monday Night RAW broadcast as they very nearly lost one of their own at the commentary table. Jerry Lawler collapsed and, for the weeks that followed, thank God, he recuperated and regained his strength. This was a very serious matter, something sobering that says something very potent about how fleeting and fragile a life is.

Jim Ross is a broadcasting icon. His accolades are, without doubt, among the professional wrestling world's elite. He has been WWF/E's voice for decades and has no equal in the realm of play by play commentary. I, personally, hold him in high regard as the finest in his craft.

Up until today, I had no idea how far WWE had fallen. In a return segment, welcoming Lawler, CM Punk delivered a pipe bomb. No doubt those in the white tower in Stamford had the teeming masses in mind when they put it together. They wanted to incite some kind of venom in the eyes of their viewing public so they would call for CM Punk's demise.

Jerry Jarrett posted this on Facebook following the angle....

I watched WWE last night. Jerry Lawler was returning after surviving a life threatening heart attack. I sat watching the television with a feeling of pride that they were honoring the return of such a great wrestler. I sat thinking, "now this is real class". Just when I was appreciating the class WWE was showing, it ended suddendly with a juvenile cheap heat angle. I turned the television off and starting thinking about Linda McMahon's hard work and great expense running for the Senate. It is exactly this kind of programming that prevented her from becoming a Senator. Wrestling should have some limits and boundaries. If you offend great portions of the audience, it is a bad angle.

I mentioned Jim Ross a bit earlier....or did we forget? I have to kick myself for believing Jerry Lawler would be given a heroes welcome, being honored without being trivialized by the brass. With all the times Jim Ross has been humiliated, mocked, brutalized, and discarded from view, I thought WWE would have more class than that. Clearly, my position is that some boundaries shouldn't be crossed and what was done may not affect my decision for this Friday, but it WILL affect how I move forward with their product.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were the voices behind the greatest matches in WWF/E's history and I hold them in higher regard than those in their own camp? Am I missing something here? I'm sure this is just what they wanted me to write about, which is sad.....Shame on you, Vince. Just when I think you can sink no further than your current product as a whole, the bottom drops out. And you wonder why I tuned out......

Smackdown....

After having gone through EVERY single column I have written, I have to wonder if there is anything I have NOT said to bring to the TNA vs. WWE debate. I have talked about bad booking to shallow writing to nonsense shopping for Divas to "re-training" talents from the indies all the way to the glass ceiling and it comes to me that there are few things I enjoy anymore about WWE.

I don't faithfully watch ANYTHING WWE and rarely, if ever, catch a WWE PPV. Contrary to my opponent in the coming week, however, I am planning something unthinkable. In HIS next column, he plans on watching TNA on Thursday and giving a minute by minute rundown. He will ONLY watch as long as TNA delivers for HIM. That's right, he will be watching with his hyper-critical, self righteous, highbrowed, indignant glasses firmly locked into place.

*Tactix shakes his head* *sigh* Critics.

In response, I will watch Smackdown ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Does it have to meet all of my wrestling needs? No, and it probably won't either, but I WILL do it and come Saturday morning, I will review the show, giving BOTH sides of the coin. Why Smackdown, you ask? This week, like Impact, both will be taped and, the way I see it, both will be on even footing as TNA will be coming OUT of a PPV as WWE will be going INTO one. As a general rule, both companies like to turn out some of their best things leading into and out of PPVs....at least it was that way with the WWE I remember.

SO, now you all will be treated to something new. I won't lie to you, I am NOT looking forward to the show. That said, I AM looking forward to the task of reviewing the GOOD in WWE. How is that any different from the TNA critic? The simple understanding that in each of the two major companies offered on TV right now, there is a balance of good and bad. Though my impression of WWE puts one side of the balance further out of bounds from my personal taste, others might find TNA on similar grounds. I have no problem with that. What I DO have a problem with are critics who don't understand that balance. If you're going to enjoy HBK and his feud with Triple H, you HAVE to take the Katie Vick story as well. I know it sucks, but you don't have to enjoy it ALL. If you're going to enjoy the Aces and Eights, you HAVE to take the Claire Lynch story with a grain of salt.

I CAN'T stand John Cena. That's my reason for not reviewing RAW.  I think he's overplayed, overhyped, and oppressed as a performer. He works hard, but couldn't sell candy at a carnival if his life depended on it, let alone an injury. I won't even go into his personal life or his use of politics in WWE because it really could move into a column all its own. His problem as a worker isn't really his, though, it's Vince's. Cena is WWE's showhorse. No one can dispute that. His record of main event appearances alone proves that much.

I think another columnist gave some good insight into WWE when he said that they write their stories to elevate the faces and disprove the heels. Good always wins. That's how all the best children's stories end, isn't it? "And they lived happily ever after..." Don't misunderstand me, this isn't a criticism. It just plays to who the product is actually geared towards. Cena has come to represent on camera what is good and what is right. Fair play, following the rules, and , if necessary, bucking the system if there is an injustice seen. The problem is that by those very rules of conduct, there is one thing lost in the shuffle.....the bad guy.

"OH COME ON! What about CM Punk?!" What about him? Sure he's the bad guy right now. But in the eyes of Vince, he was the bad guy a year ago and even though face chants came his way, he wasn't booked as the face. Not when his repeated misuse and nonsensical title reign has been overlooked in the WWE PPV landscape, save for Hell in a Cell or when Cena is in the main event as well. WWE isn't building the company around CM Punk, regardless of how popular his clothes are.

So how is TNA built? Since the arrival of the Aces and Eights storyline, the lines of good and bad have been blurred a bit. Bully Ray, who once was booked as a top heel has been relegated to more of a tweener role, doing double duty as the feeling hits him. On some level, there is a good vs. evil power play happening, but quite often, the bad guy has won out for longer. Bobby Roode has been that guy for the year. His six month reign was as the bad guy victor and he headlined EVERY PPV during that time. Yes, he was dethroned, but not necessarily by a face. Austin Aries was a heel himself for the bulk of his tenure leading up to Destination X. He went tweener and returned heel once the belt was off his waist. There is no "Face of TNA"....there is no "Spokesman for the product". At least not in the way that John Cena is to WWE.

TNA is built from the HEEL up. Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, Bully Ray, Zema Ion to a lesser degree, Joey Ryan, even Crimson.....all heels. And why? Because it makes the heroes look good. It isn't about the good winning as much as the struggle to get there. Sting, Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, RVD, James Storm....all faces. When the faces are at the top of the mountain, the heels look good. TNA isn't built around one man....sorry Hogan. The point is that when TNA is at its best, both face and heel look like they belong to the feud.

THAT'S what interests me. Without a set rotation of guys who are able to challenge for the World Title, TNA is better able to move guys up and down the card as needed WITHOUT the performers looking like any less of a threat to the belt. WWE isn't able to make those changes as easily, at least not from what I have seen recently.

SO....here's to the challenge. I hope WWE is up to the task as I plan on viewing this Friday's show with high hopes and low expectations.