Sunday, June 30, 2013

Survival Tactix: Newbies.....

And then there were four.....

Sting, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Magnus, and "Rampage" interesting combination, is it not? So why am I not convinced that this will work? Could it have something to do with the stare down between Angle and Jackson not even a month ago? Surely not. If there was a better place for Jackson than the Aces, I can't think of it. The mole in their ranks would make for an interesting plot twist and would most assuredly put Angle and Jackson together in the ring as opponents. Go ahead and deny it.

Magnus in the ranks has me intrigued, having never won a World Title, but with him as a leader in the ranks of the BFG Series, I still believe him as the front runner to win the whole tourney. Again, I didn't say he'd win the title, just the series leading up to it. I still think the series victor stands in line, waiting for one man......

I still believe AJ Styles will be the one to remove the strap from the clutches of the villain and bring the story that has been in the making for 7 months so far, full circle. Why do I pick Styles? Let's look at some history.....

Bound for Glory Series 2011- Bobby Roode won the tourney to face Kurt Angle for the World Title. Though he lost as a face favorite, he made arguably the greatest heel turn of the year in turning on the new title holder and created the feud of the following year with James Storm. Before anyone jumps in and calls this an example of bad booking, I think it best to first admit that Roode holding the World Title was the best decision TNA made despite him not winning at the show of the year, which they rectified only two weeks later.

Victory Road 2011- Jeff Hardy embarrassed himself and the TNA brand by nearly falling over himself on the way to the ring, forcing officials to end his match against Sting in 90 seconds. Over the course of the year following that, Hardy made a very public apology and was given one final chance to redeem himself. In the months to follow, Hardy put up exemplary performances against Angle, Jarrett, Roode, and earned back the respect of the TNA officials and many of the fans he slighted by his actions. That respect turned full circle when he was given the honor of winning the tourney and, eventually, the World Title once again at Bound for Glory 2012.

Turning Point 2012- AJ Styles, along with Bobby Roode and James Storm fought for a number one contenders' spot at Final Resolution. This is the match that brought about the Lone Wolf and the one that, in my opinion, brings Styles into contention for the World Title without ever having to fire a single shot. The stipulation clearly stated that the loser wouldn't be able to challenge for the World Title until Bound for Glory 2013, which will be upon us soon enough. Basing an opinion solely around the history of booking is inconsistent, at best, but in this case, I believe TNA wishes to do right by the fans and stick to the brand of booking that works best and there isn't a single fan of the TNA product who DOESN'T believe AJ Styles to be the living and breathing embodiment of the product as a whole and the safest place to put their money.....period.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Survival Tactix: Suicidal Tendencies.....

Austin Aries, the man who brought "Option C" to TNA's front row, removed the mask this week on Impact. When TJ Perkins was attacked backstage, Bully Ray and the Aces and Eights went on the offensive to try and uncover the identity of the man who assumed the mask of Suicide. Since the "Suicide" character was never given to just one man, as Hulk Hogan mistakenly claimed, Aries' win and, as it turns out, the title shot to follow, are valid.

For those of you who are new to the Suicide character, allow me to to introduce you properly.....

In September of 2008, Midway games released TNA's first licensed video game, for which the Suicide character was created. One interesting fact, I was not aware of, at the time- this was the only character not only created by Midway Games, but to have their way in establishing his backstory. His backstory, quite simply, isn't important because all anyone really cares about is his character on TV.

Let's rush the story a bit for the sake of simplicity. Christopher Daniels had been released from TNA and was working for Ring of Honor during the opening run of the Suicide character. Because he was still under contract with Ring of Honor and he was looking to make a return to TNA, the company was able to work with him under the condition that he could do both in his winding down days with ROH so long as he was never seen on camera working for TNA. SO, Christopher Daniels was the first to don the Suicide mask. The longest holder of the Suicide mask was Daniels' current tag partner, Frankie Kazarian. To finish off the legacy leading into TJ Perkins, Kiyoshi, who once competed in the Eric Young led World Elite stable.

So this is the history leading up to this year. TNA had been doing their homework, trying to get a feel for who fans were interested in seeing return to the company with their themed PPVs. Suicide, Petey Williams, and Judas Mesias, among others made the list. For those who are unaware, Perkins is no stranger to TNA, having competed under the mask of another persona, Puma. So when TNA decided to revamp their X Division's new look, they decided to bring back Suicide and they called in a favor to Mr. Perkins, who was obliged to lend a hand.

Now that you're acquainted with the man called Suicide and now that the mystique of not knowing who Suicide was is now gone, I'm left with a question that may not soon be answered. Is the character going to be retired?

Suicide isn't the only thing on my plate to talk about. It would seem that TNA may have FINALLY done something else I've been predicting. They may have actually RETIRED the Knockouts Tag Team Titles. Since no teams were created the day of ODB and Eric Young's stripping of the belts, and since there was never the announcement made that they were VACANT, I can only assume that FINALLY, we never have to worry about the inconsistencies of the belt's defense. Now if only they'd defend the Television Title as often as was promised in the beginning......

So now Austin Aries has once again put himself into the World Title picture, and at a moment's notice to boot. While some may take issue with the way the story was executed, I think it was played out in a smart, forward thinking way that suits the Austin Aries persona. Fact is, I have NO problem with a former foil for Bully Ray rearing his head in the shadow of the Bound for Glory Series. Here's where things begin to get interesting, as far as I'm concerned. Why? Because I now can see ANOTHER opportunity for Aries coming down the the next member of the Main Event Mafia. If TNA was looking to create friction between the Aces and Eights and the Mafia, THIS would be great start to do just that. Bring out the Mafia during the July bout during the Destination X special on Impact. It's that simple.....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Survival Tactix: Woven and Spun....

We've got a few things to talk about in this column, so without delay, let's have a look at the agenda....

- WWE's writer woes
- TNA's RVD relations
- The two prominent TNA stories....

So without tarrying any longer, I say let's launch right in.....

Over the course of the past year, WWE has fired or accepted the resignation of 6 writers I can confirm, but there may be others I cannot. This leads me to conclude one of two things. Either Vince and company are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to work for OR the writers weren't prepared for the riggers of the weekly grind. I happen to believe that the explanation is that BOTH are the case. Stephanie Levesque (McMahon) is NOTORIOUSLY difficult to work for, dismissing any and all ideas she deems unworthy of pursuing. Couple that with Triple H's duties as the Chief Operations Officer and a Vince McMahon who has been long out of touch with his audience and is resistant to retirement and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to the hiring process.

Most of the writers who've walked through the doors of the Titan Tower have had NOTHING whatsoever to do with the world of wrestling.....sorry....sports entertainment. That said, it baffles me and others in the internet wrestling community that these members of WWE Creative ever made it to the door in the first place. While it makes sense to me that these members would be the cause of many of the distorted histories and storylines now commonplace in the WWE Universe, it stands to beg one question.....why would I WANT to even apply for work with the juggernaut knowing what I do about those they've released?

Moving on....RVD, in an interview just this week, put down TNA's ability to promote the product he was a part of for the past couple of years. Let's be real here....TNA doesn't promote themselves as well as they could. This has NEVER been a secret. I'm not saying that RVD's point doesn't have merit, but to use that as a dig at TNA's product as it relates to his impending WWE return seems petty. Let me be blunt with everyone here.....if you're a wrestling fan, you KNOW there's more to the professional wrestling world than just WWE. What you think of TNA's product is beside the point. If promoting their product has to take a backseat to match quality or the pushing of new talents to elevate the quality of the product as a whole, people will talk and, in turn, viewers will follow.

Concerning the two major stories in Impact:
I've already given my take on the Aces and Eights story AND the Bound for Glory Series, but a side note to the Aces and Eights story....Brooke Hogan's place in this has yet to be established. Personally, I couldn't care less. Why? If this story is what it takes to get her OUT, I'll be overjoyed. Seriously. I want her GONE from my TV and I'll endure whatever it takes as far as the product is concerned to see that her exit is rushed and I could care less if they even explain her absence. *WHEW!* End rant.

The last little note deals with what happens with Team TNA. Is TNA going to keep the Hogan led stable? A little spoiler note is that Samoa Joe is another member of the Main Event Mafia. I'm telling you guys, Angle laid waste to my hopes for this brand new Main Event Mafia. I get that Angle is an original member and Joe had a little bit part in that storyline, but if their plan is to bring back ANY of the rest, I'm entirely against it. Why? Kevin Nash has no place in TNA. There's simply no room left for him to be relevant. The same goes for Scott Steiner. If I never see him wrestle for a major promotion again, I won't lose any sleep over it. That said, I very much want to see this newly reformed Mafia recruit a couple of young and hungry bucks to aid in the quest to take back TNA from the goons. Matt Morgan, Magnus, even Jay Bradley would be a welcome sight to behold if the cards are played out right. The point of all this is that I just don't want to see this become another rehash of old history and worse, a reviving of a team of veterans with very obvious weak links.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Survival Tactix: Surprises.....

Okay....Angle surprised me. I mean....I truly didn't see that one coming, though I probably should have. I suppose if you "get down to brass tacks and you carry the one over the common denominator", I probably should have counted on Angle saddling up with the MEM revamp. One thing DID bother me, though.....One guy cleared an entire room of Aces and Eights. guy. JUST ONE! If THAT'S all it took, why not do that earlier? Wait a sec....they tried that....with the SAME GUY and they rendered him unconscious. Why should I believe it now? Well, MAYBE they weren't ready for an attack. MAYBE Angle played a little bit of slight of hand and snagged a baseball bat. MAYBE he even grabbed the staple ball peen hammer. The point is, the room being cleared by one man bothered me. Nevermind that it was Kurt could have been Steve Austin and I STILL wouldn't have believed it at first.

Kurt Angle's addition to the mix DOES change everything about my predictions, though. I truly don't want to see Angle as a part of this. Why? Because I want a three tiered war. I really do. I want to see something brand new for TNA and not just something that works as a novelty because it's a throwback to an interesting time. If the Mafia was going to re-form, why not bring together the young members of the top tier who've reached the peak? Make Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, AJ Styles, and a young upstart like Matt Morgan your family. Keep Angle running with the pack of Team TNA. But, if TNA really wants to continue running this on a two faction basis, I should WRITE it as a two faction story and not one designed around three.

While I was angry at the revelation of Kurt Angle as a member of the new Mafia, it DOES make some sense. He was in the first one, why not? Let's not forget Rampage Jackson and he have a date in the coming months, though. Angle won't be able to run the distance with this thing, or will he? If the TNA Creative Team DOES stick with a three faction story, as I've been writing this thing as, Jackson could go one of two ways....a. he goes with Aces or Team TNA OR b. he comes into it all alone.

Impending feuds and current ones are a tricky thing because the balance has to be kept in terms of which characters pursue which feuds at the expense of other ones. You see the problem? Teasing Angle vs. Jackson COULD mean a faceoff at Bound for Glory, but it ALSO could mean that it waits for a blockbuster episode of Impact near the end of the year. Who knows? Either way, Jackson and Angle waits for later while this portion of the story plays out. The Main Event Mafia is back....kinda....and the "family" is growing. Angle and Sting now recruit their team of elitists and AJ Styles, because of Angle's membership, won't become a part, which is a sad thing, to say the least.

So who joins the MEM now? I have no idea. Seriously. I don't know. I guess I, too, will have to wait and see.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Survival Tactix: Defense.....

You know what I love about WWE marks? The defensiveness. And it isn't just the defensiveness that makes me smile, it's the little digs they try to get in about "Hogan and Bischoff destroying the company by bringing in WWE rejects." Seriously, I love it. You know why? Because MOST of those same people have viewed less than 10 hours of TNA during the entirety of Hulk Hogan's tenure. That may sound like a bunch of time to the uninformed, but when you consider that WWE has just under 40 hours of first run programming going PER MONTH, 10 hours over the course of nearly 4 YEARS is just a drop in the bucket.

I know, I know, I've said that the argument is getting old, and it is, but the volume of proofs to the contrary is so thick, the people who bring that argument to the table have more in common with a 5 year old trying to talk reason into his parent for getting another cookie to go with dinner than with a rational debate. They'll talk about ratings and they'll talk about this or that and they'll bring up TNA's love of factions (forgetting completely about DX, The Corporation, Evolution, The Shield, The Nexus, The Corre......) and even claim that TNA continually uses the same performers in the top tier every year. I shake my head and let them rant and rave and sing the praises of the big E before they let ME have breath.

I bring up WWE's love of a small top tier, WWE's PG direction, continual rewrites of live shows, story inconsistencies, the lack of direction for supposed superstar assets, the sheer number of released talents in the past 5 years, and that's only in the first breath. I then bring the WWE double standard to the table....this usually gets the marks a little warm under the collar. I bring factions back into play and remind them of DX, whose restoration over the years has happened in large part for the fans, but I ALSO bring up The Nexus and The Corre for more recent examples and The Shield and "Heyman guys" and even the little mini-stable of Vicki's minions as the most current examples of WWE's tendency to do the very thing they claim TNA is exclusive to doing.

Before I've finished, I've managed to create such a case that a couple have even started watching TNA and often, on a consistent basis. Believe me, I'm not getting paid for this by Dixie and company, but I AM a firm believer in getting a few facts straight before coming to the table looking for battle, particularly when the reputation of a company worth watching is at stake. Is it all really worth it in the end? Maybe, maybe not....but when you consider the FACT that competition is GOOD for the business we ALL enjoy, making a case to balance the playing field is ABSOLUTELY necessary to break the chains of people locked into their own force of habit. THAT is how TNA is going to gain traction quicker. Storylines, characters, acquisitions, and even consistency can only go so far....sooner or later, wrestling fans are going to have to change their way of thinking about the business and about competition IN PRACTICE to comply with what they believe IN THEORY. And THAT, folks, is my defense.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Survival Tactix: RVD to Christian.....

It has been announced today that RVD will be returning to WWE. Why? Personally, I couldn't care less. Why? Because it isn't going to help them...or him, for that matter. With RVD in TNA, he could be in a position where fighting for the World Heavyweight Title wouldn't be a stretch; where inserting him into any story on the current landscape would be completely possible. In WWE, however, you're looking at an enhancement talent. Sure, he has some name value as one of the original "Heyman guys", but outside of that, he's just another cog in the watch.

Yeah, I suppose I'm being a bit biased, but let's look at Christian's reversion back to WWE from his break with TNA. TNA gave Christian his first big title run. They gave him the reins and he ran with it, establishing himself as one of the most under-appreciated performers on WWE's talent roster that TNA actually gave credibility to. Christian thrived. His return to WWE has been marred with the curse of bad booking and short term programs with lesser men. A world title run that lasted 2 days is insulting. Simple as that. Vince simply doesn't see him the way the bulk of TNA's viewing audience a decent change from the typical run of the mill show.

TNA may not have given RVD a DVD, but they DID give one to Christian. RVD was given one by WWE....I own a copy of it, but it's doubtful Christian will ever receive such an honor.

SO....where is this all going? RVD left WWE for an easier schedule and is returning to WWE, presumably because he was able to negotiate a contract on the short term for more money and a similar amount of working dates as other established veterans. Will it bring back viewers? Maybe on the short term, and they'll probably cheer him on, too. But they did the same thing for Ric Flair and Christian too. Oh how fickle today's wrestling fan can be.....

Survival Tactix: Ex-change for a 10......

It's been FOREVER since I've done this, but a recent episode of WrestleTalk TV forced my hand to pen this out. Why? Because it's worth talking about. If TNA and WWE were to hold an Inter-promotional Draft, which 5 performers would I choose to switch shows? Here's the catch.....because there HAS to be some kind of rule of order to this kind of wrestler can return to a place they've been a member of the roster of before. Hence, Kurt Angle stays in TNA and C.M. Punk stays in WWE. Why the rule, you ask? Because putting Gail Kim or Mickie James back into WWE won't fix ANYTHING, to be perfectly blunt. New rivalries, new feuds, new alliances.....that's what this whole thing is about.

From TNA to WWE:

Before I launch into this portion, let me first say that because I have little to no faith in the way WWE books former TNA talents, I have little incentive to pick anyone from TNA that will help WWE in any way, but barring that from the equation, in order to make things fair, I'm picking talents who COULD benefit WWE if a proper chance were given them to reach their potential (circa. WWE 2002-2008).

1. Robbie E.
He's young enough to adjust to a new gimmick if WWE decides to and if not, he can team with Ryder to revamp the Tag Team Division.

2. Crimson- My reasoning here is simple. I think WWE could use some more edgy looking characters and, frankly, he fits the bill. He could use some polish, but working with someone like Randy Orton or even The Undertaker (provided he's healthy) could help smooth the rough edges.

3. James Storm- Here's where I'll probably lose some people, but hear me out. Storm is among my favorite TNA performers, but his character seems lost and without a direction. Sending him into enemy territory might allow WWE to remember better days when Austin and McMahon were raising Cain for the bulk of the '90's. I think it's time WWE embraced the very attitude that brought them to where they are today.

4. Sam Shaw- Because he hasn't established himself and because he seems genuinely determined to hold his own in this business and because he's not doing anything right now, I see now reason for him to stick to the roster. If John Cena had a surfer counterpart, this would be that guy. I could totally see WWE putting the two of them side by side and having a massive coronary out of sheer excitement.

5. Rockstar Spud- Let's be real for just a minute. He's not been featured on Impact in FOREVER. Why not someone like Taeler Hendrix? Because I've got OTHER plans for the women in TNA and an influx is a part of that plan. Plus, WWE could use another hand in the lightweight department to serve as foils to their best light-heavyweight superstars like Rey Mysterio, among others.

From WWE to TNA:

1. AJ Lee- She's got genuine talent with a microphone and could use some polish on her in ring work, but TNA has the best of both worlds and could teach her a great deal about how best to work their magic.

2. Daniel Bryan- If there was any other man who could fill out a dream match of a lifetime like Bryan, I'm not sure I can think of them. Joe vs. Styles vs. Daniels vs. Bryan vs. Angle vs. Aries pretty much would blow the earth up out of sheer awesome.

3. Kaitlyn- A revamp of the Knockouts Tag Division could see an alliance between Velvet Sky and Kaitlyn and THAT is something worth seeing. I, for one, would LOVE to see how these two interact to really have an idea as to how the chemistry would work. Would they be good friends or better enemies?

4. Natalya- To fill out the Knockouts Division, I say bring in the last remnant of WWE CREDIBLE champions to bring a top last name into the fold. Feuds with Tara, James, and Tessmacher would be refreshing, but feuds with Velvet Sky and Taeler Hendrix would be interesting, to say the least.

5. Wade Barrett- Out of everyone else in the entire WWE roster, THIS is the guy I want to see pushed more than the rest. Why? Because he's better than they're giving him credit for. In fact, his pushes have been squandered quicker than the prodigal's inheritance every time they bring him back from wherever he goes. Barrett could be someone VERY big, but WWE seems content to allow him to stagnate without cause and he would mean good things to TNA, make no mistake.

Times are changing in WWE, I have no doubt, but from everything I've seen so far, it's not for the better. In fact, it's become downright boring, which is why something like this could truly benefit all parties involved. Would it ever happen? Doubtful. Would it be amazing if did? Without a doubt.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Survival Tactix: The New Breed.....

One "champion" asked a question concerning who may end up being on TNA's 'push' list this year. As most people who watch TNA on a consistent basis know, TNA always has a pet project or two they determine to move up the card as the Bound for Glory Series moves ahead. The first year saw Matt Morgan as the favorite up until he found himself on the injured reserve near the middle of the series and TNA management decided to create two new stars out of a fan favorite tag tandem, Beer Money.

One year later was the redemption of Jeff Hardy and the rise of Bully Ray, but it ALSO created Austin Aries as a member of the top tier. So this year, the 12 combatants have been chosen and we can now have a look at who could emerge the champion, but ALSO who could could be TNA's newest project, which aren't necessarily the same thing. SO, I say let's explore.....

Joseph Park- While I'm no longer sold on the Park character, I AM sold on them finally pulling the trigger on bringing back Abyss on a more consistent basis. Humanizing him, for want of a better word, has been nice and has breathed a special something into his story, but there needs to be some closure in the coming months. THAT'S why I believe Mr. Park is the front runner in my book to hold a prominent place coming out of the series. Will he WIN? I doubt it, but will he have a prominent place on television? Absolutely.

AJ Styles- This one is pretty obvious. Why? If you've been watching, he's become the smart, shrewd character we always knew he could be; only looking out for number one. With the Final Resolution/ Bound for Glory Championship Title match clause from 2012 still fresh, it stands to reason that Styles will lead the pack early and will potentially win the series. HOWEVER, winning the series doesn't seem necessary, so I'll predict him NOT winning the whole thing and still entering into the main event slot at Bound for Glory.

Magnus- This guy is my dark horse pick to win the whole thing. Why? Because he's been building towards his ascension for the past year. The last beatdown he found himself in at the hands of the Aces leads me to believe that TNA has something special in store for him. Will we see a World Title reign this year from him? Unfortunately, I doubt it. Not to fret, though....I DO see him winning the big belt sometime around early 2014. This year WILL be a big year for Magnus, nevertheless, because we'll see TNA building him up by giving him convincing wins against former champions and establishing him as a legitimate threat to the world title holder.

So where do I see the World Heavyweight Championship heading? The very same way I see the Television Title and control of TNA being established: Triple Threat.

Magnus vs. Bully Ray vs. AJ Styles

Since no firm details were given upon HOW a challenge could be issued, the way I see it, AJ Styles could challenge for the title without winning the BFG Series. How? I'm glad you asked.

I pick AJ vs. Magnus in the finals with Magnus pulling out all the stops for a great victory. HOWEVER, I see a BIG brawl to finish out the night between the new MEM, the Aces and Eights, and Team TNA with a full locker room in the ring, pulling everything towards the feud that will finish out the year.

Now there IS another question that's reached me recently...."What about Crimson?" Truth is, I have no idea. Since he was "sent home" by TNA, maybe much has changed in his opinion of another talent I DID select for the Mafia, Crimson's former tag partner, Matt Morgan. Crimson's push ended with the return of James Storm last year, but it was his feud with Morgan that established him as a presence. I happen to like the guy, but I DOUBT very much that he'll be in the renewed Main Event Mafia UNLESS Matt Morgan is absent. If Morgan is out, I have little doubt that Crimson will make himself useful.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Survival Tactix: Prey.....

In TNA, there are predators and prey. My question for today is....which one's which? When Sting was beaten down and TNA's locker room made no attempts to aid, it made me wonder......what now? SO, when the painted one came out and announced a new Main Event Mafia, it made me question a couple of things. Who could be a part of such a thing? Would my initial picks work under the new banner? If so, what would this new banner look like? Would the members of this new club have strong alliances or would we be looking at a group of lone wolves? Here is the conclusion I have come to......

The new Main Event Mafia will be consisted of people who hold an ego enough to hold their own. It'll be made of about five guys who I BELIEVE will turn the tides and put BOTH Team TNA AND the Aces and Eights out to pasture. Here are my NEW picks under the Main Event Mafia:

AJ Styles- He's the obvious first pick to me as he's been the lone wolf and could use the backup a new and revitalized faction could offer.

Matt Morgan- He was passed up by Hogan and has been generally left out of the storyline picture up to this point. What better way to insert him into it than being right in the thick of the biggest story TNA has right now?

Austin Aries- Right now, Bobby Roode is going into the BFG Series looking like a million bucks. If Roode's going to be involved in a world title chase for the next couple of months, it seems that Aries could use something to do, this NOT saying he's not a top contender, but he would do better in another direction. Enter the MEM. If you're wanting a hungry former world title holder who is harboring intentions for returning to the main event scene, why not have him a join a club after its namesake?

Jeff Jarrett- The revelation of Jarrett in this renewed faction CANNOT happen until there is some kind of confirmation that a CONFRONTATION is going to happen either at Bound for Glory OR until such a time as it makes sense to bring him in as an equalizer.

So these are MY new picks. Like them or not, these guys strike me as the most logical names on TNA's roster who can function as a unit AND as individuals. Under a new MEM banner, you'd be looking at a three way battle that looks something like this......

Sting, Austin Aries, Matt Morgan, and AJ Styles
Magnus, Samoa Joe, Daniels, and Kazarian
Anderson, Devon, DOC, and Knux

As for where the remaining members of the Aces and Eights are? So far as I can see, Ray will be busy and in waiting for a new challenger to emerge from Destination X or Bound for Glory. Bischoff and Brisco I see making a chase for the Tag Team belts. And now that D-Lo is no longer a part of the group, I have to wonder who will take up his mantle. TNA MAY decide to simply drop the vacancy, but I've got suspicions that we may be surprised at the final member of the Aces if and when that person is revealed.

If the confrontation happens at Bound for Glory, Angle, Bully Ray, and Jeff Hardy will be busy elsewhere and will, for that reason, be absent from the bout. NOW, I can hear a faint question from the back....."Didn't Sting FIRE Jeff Jarrett in the storyline  the last time we saw him?" Yep, that he did. But for this whole thing to come together in a way that makes it all believable, let's put together the explanation that Jeff didn't realize he was getting himself into until it was too late to back out and by then, there was nothing he could do but play the part.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Survival Tactix: 800+.....

For those of you who've been keeping up with this column, I owe you all a great debt. It's not easy to keep a column going as long as this has been, so thank you. This marks 800 columns and I'm still running strong. SO, the question I'm wondering is what to talk I go into more depth concerning the impending Main Event Mafia reunion? After all, the Main Event Mafia was arguably the biggest thing going for TNA in the year leading up to the regime taking the reins. But for now, the answer is no.

No....instead, I'd like to have a look at what could happen when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff decide enough is enough. I've heard everything under the sun about how they're killing TNA or that they've wasted the product with pushing certain guys over others or that they're sabotaging the show to give Hulk more face time on goes on and on and on. Frankly, it getting old, people. I may not like how much time Hogan has on the show, but he IS the General Manager and there is NO difference between his time on screen and what time Teddy Long spent on Smackdown or Bischoff spent on RAW a decade ago. In fact, he's around less time than most promos on RAW last these days.

In ANY case, I'm not wanting a debate, but rather to take a look at who remains when Bischoff and Hogan decide to get off the TNA train. To the best of my knowledge, no creative team member is planning on leaving, which leaves the question of who takes the reins? Sorry folks, I haven't been contacted by the upper management team, not that it wouldn't be an HONOR to sit at the table and dream up storylines. How cool would THAT be, right? But the list is short, peeps.

Jeff Jarrett- He's the logical choice to step in and take over once more, but I daresay he wouldn't be an on camera figure for the bulk of his time. Why? Because he will HAVE to have a more balanced perspective than he has in the past. During his time as the lead guy, he held the belt most of the time, making for a VERY small top tier while everyone else seemed like more of an afterthought. Not the best way to run an organization when you want people to sit up and take notice. The regime helped bring some of the homegrown talents into the top tier and he will be expected to help continue the trend of pushing the trend into the future.

Bruce Pritchard- Here's the fact of the matter, he won't take the lead role even though he probably could. Bruce needs the ear of the boss, whoever that might be, but taking the ball and running with it wouldn't serve the product as well as someone else might. His understanding of the business is great and I defy ANYONE who would say otherwise. Having served as Vince McMahon's right-hand man for MOST of the Ruthless Aggression and Brand Extension Eras has served him well, being a large factor in the rise of Benoit, Orton, Batista and Lesnar to the top tier of their respective brands. But I don't see him holding a lead role moving forward.

Dusty Rhodes- Having served as a member of the board for a time, Rhodes was a heavy factor for Jeff Hardy ever signing with TNA in the first place. I would LOVE to see a return of the "American Dream" to the Impact Zone, even in a backstage role. His fingerprint on the brand was old school, but refreshing because he understood how to build champions. His influence helped Ron Killings, AJ Styles, and others into their respective reigns. Few understand how the business works better than Dusty Rhodes and few could outdo his influence in creating careers for hopefuls.

Outside of these three, I see no names on the landscape who could do the product justice. Not Jim Cornette, Paul Heyman, or anyone else could give TNA the kind of boost they've seen the past 2 years now. The only advice I could give to a new reinholder is to "stay the course". TNA is on a sharp incline in terms of their quality and I simply don't see how they could get anyone else other than these three men to keep their eyes on the ball. Call me crazy, but I call myself realistic.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Survival Tactix: Trading Power.....

I've spent an EXHAUSTIVE amount of time looking into all of the former TNA talents on the free market, trying to determine the actual likelihood of them making a debut with WWE, as some people claim. Here are just a few I've found so far......

1. Alex Shelley- This one is near and dear to a lot of TNA fans as he represents one part of a tag team unit much celebrated, the Motor City Machine Guns. As I've stated before in earlier columns, Shelley had been in discussions with WWE for a time, but his negotiations broke down when he was determined to NOT be featured in their minor leagues and placed into the main roster. TNA has intentions, from what I'm told, to seek an audience with Shelley and negotiate a return to Impact, but timing is critical so as not for him to get lost in the shuffle of new and mainstay talents.

2. Amazing Red- His story is similar to Shelley as he was courted by Vince and company to bolster a pet project for the impending WWE Network. There were/are plans to put together an exclusive division for the network filled with cruiserweights, but since plans for the network itself seem to be in a continuing state of flux, it's anyone's guess as to whether or not he'll ever debut for the big E.

3. RVD- This one has been a more recent rumor of late since his profile was removed from the TNA roster page some time ago. HOWEVER, within the past week, his name was placed back, possibly indicating that he's negotiated a new contract, but again, without confirmation from Van Dam, it's hard to establish this as fact. WWE had made overtures for a return, but his demands for a light schedule didn't sit well with higher-ups in the organization.

4. Angelina Love- When TNA released Love from her contract a while back, it was largely speculated that WWE would pick up her contract without delay, but when that didn't happen, rumors began circulating amongst TNA fans that she'd make a return eventually. While it's possible we may see a Beautiful People reunion, it won't be for some time.

5. Awesome Kong- When Kong was released from WWE, she was interviewed and asked if she would consider a return to TNA. Her response was doubtful, but I attribute that to her interaction with the Hogan/Bubba the Love Sponge debacle. If Hogan were no longer a part of the organization and she felt it was safe for a return, it's possible we'll see her, but the timetable would HAVE to be 2014 forward.

These names are the most recent and well known names to date, but there have been others swirling in mystery as to what their eventual timetable might be for a debut or return to TNA or WWE, including Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Melina, Lance Hoyt, and Chris Masters. Time changes much and the revolving doors of WWE are FAR bigger than that of TNA so don't count those as the only potentials to debut or return just yet.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Survival Tactix: Barrage.....

Be warned, this column will contain spoilers from next weeks' tapings......SO if you simply wish to watch and see what happens, feel free to wait until AFTER next week to read further. Otherwise, keep reading.....

At next week's tapings, Sting calls for the return of a stable LONG absent from TNA television. The Main Event Mafia. I'll admit, I'm COMPLETELY baffled. Steiner wants nothing to do with TNA. Booker T is under contract with WWE. Kevin Nash isn't interested in a return, or that's the impression he's given. Kurt Angle is going to be busy with the newest acquisition for the foreseeable future. So is THIS the answer to the mysterious third stable I've been predicting? Could be.....

With Matt Morgan outside the dirty dozen qualified members of the BFG Series, he COULD stand to have a prominent place on the TNA landscape. So who's made it IN?

Austin Aries
Bobby Roode
Christopher Daniels
Jeff Hardy
Samoa Joe
Joseph Park
Mr. Anderson

And there is a case to be made for DOC and AJ Styles.

Over the course of the Bound for Glory Series, it will be interesting to see just how many members of Team TNA actually remain. Bully Ray claimed that he's destroyed every hero TNA has left. Magnus, Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, and James Storm were calculated as members of Team TNA's squad, BUT the Bound for Glory Series changes a great many things and the little storyline developing between Angle and Jackson gives Jeff Hardy an in to Team TNA. If it turns out that Jackson is actually on no side and is only peripheral fodder or "filler" on the card, I will be incredibly disappointed.

But right now, I'm not seeing it quite that way. I believe "Rampage" has a part to play in the endgame as it relates to the war coming, whether it be for one faction or another. I'll go further and say that the Aces and Eights will be gaining another recruit, further deepening the story and putting the end either AT or shortly BEFORE Genesis. Angle will return to Team TNA and take his place, leaving the shadows to stand back and watch for a time.

However, once the newly reformed "Main Event Mafia" is reassembled, we'll see a three way face-off to rival ANYTHING that has come before it. If anyone tries to convince me that TNA isn't serious about playing the game at the highest level, they'd better be able to bear the burden of proof.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Survival Tactix: The Third Wheel.....

In response to Team TNA's absence in his post match beatdown at the hands of the Aces and Eights, Sting had something to say.....

"Sunday I was left to fight alone.....Message received."

You have Sting and AJ Styles so far....combine this with an MIA Matt Morgan and you have MY recipe for the beginnings of the third faction. What DOESN'T quite add up is how "Rampage" fits into the picture. Does TNA try and weasel him into the Aces and Eights drama or does he tie up Kurt Angle's dance card?

If the current story set follows suit with TNA's running pattern, this alliance won't come next week, but rather in the WEEKS to follow. What will be interesting to see is the ultimate endgame of the third faction once it comes to fruition. The best part of this whole thing is how multi-faceted it is, with each week, the story twists and turns, making much of history, which is CRITICAL. Why? Because without some kind of continuity, everything falls apart and you have nothing to look forward to...kinda like how WWE is doing things right now.

So after this week, I'm left with a few questions.....

-Is Brooke in the middle of a turn?
-If the third faction sets up to destroy both Team TNA AND Aces and Eights, who will be left standing?
-Does AJ have a "higher power" to answer to?

I've been asked how I felt about the ending. Personally, I don't care one way or the other about how it happens, but if the drama between Bully Ray and Brooke is dwelt upon for too long, it'll turn my attentions. Whether she remains a face character or heel doesn't matter, bearing in mind that the longest we'll have to cope with it is 4-6 months, which in the current regime's way of playing the cards. I happen to like to story pacing, punctuations, and the's more potent than anything out there right now.

Here's the long and short of the matter, we're getting the bulk of the roster on TV each week, each member is playing a valuable part in maintaining the current storyline points on the docket, and they're keeping with their own can't improve that. I'm wanting to see Brooke shown the door and the Aces and Eights disbanded, but I'm holding that those events are coming in time. So my advice? Patience, young grasshopper.....patience.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Survival Tactix: For the Unbelievers....

There was a time when it seemed like I was the only columnist to prime the trumpets for TNA, but those days are changing. now features three columns devoted to the weekly series where they used to only showcase one. In fact, even, who I will go on record as calling the single most WWE-biased independent website on the net, has had a couple of very good feature columns in the recent past concerning the state of TNA moving forward. What's all this about? I guess I would call this a day of celebration because FINALLY people are beginning to talk about TNA in a different light.

Taryn Tarrell and Gail Kim FORCED the Knockouts Division into a brand new bracket of quality Sunday and THAT is something to be proud of. With Sting no longer able to challenge for the World Title, just as I predicted, we can try to reassemble Team TNA and prepare to move into the event that promises to make some waves...the Bound for Glory Series. This innovation, which has been BRILLIANT for TNA as a way to engage fans going into a season that historically is a bit sparse for innovative content in the past decade or so, has become a beacon; a bastion of stability for TNA the past three years and running.

I don't need to go into the purpose of the Bound for Glory Series, but I WILL say that there are a few bright spots I would like to highlight:

1. Jay Bradley- I've been saying it for a while now that THIS GUY has a brilliant head on his shoulders and can deliver a convincing promo as well as a clothesline that looks like something from Bradshaw's better days. Bradley marks the first time Gut Check collides with the big time. This year, Jay Bradley will test his brass against some of TNA's finest and we, as fans, will ultimately play a HUGE part in whether or not he climbs the rankings. Why? Because the past three years, TNA Creative has played their cards, for the most part, with the fans. The bigger the reactions and investment fans put behind a character, the better that performer tends to do in the Series.

2. AJ Styles- Does AJ enter the tourney at all or does he simply make his challenge known outside of the BFGS once the winner is determined? OR does he enter, lose, and THEN challenge for the belt in a three way dance at Bound for Glory? This one will DEFINITELY be something special to watch in the coming weeks as the finalists are determined. Additionally, his feud with Kurt Angle may not be over even though Angle won Sunday. Take notes, WWE. THIS is how you slow burn a story to blossom in a pleasant way.

3. Bully Ray- I realize he'll be operating outside the brackets for the tourney, but knowing that he'll be waiting for whoever DOES win the title, presumably, makes this years' Bound for Glory Series that much more special. I had Ray pegged to win the title in the first place, but HERE'S where I think Matt Morgan needs to find plain sight and very much in the top couple in line to challenge for the title.

4. Sting- How does TNA play their highlight attraction without putting him at the top of the food chain for a title shot? By playing on his anger that Team TNA abandoned him at Slammiverary. I've been predicting the third faction weighing heavily on what I thought would happen at Slammiversary, which makes things easier now that Sting ISN'T the champion now. It loses a certain something I can't put my finger on if he had taken the belt.

5. Brooke Hogan- In the coming weeks, I believe we'll see something critical happen as it relates to Brooke and how she relates to the rest of the Impact Wrestling family. It could be a dramatic heel turn; it could be that she decides she's had enough and quits, washing her hands of the entire marriage and everything related to it. That would very much put things into a bit of a tailspin.

6. The Mystery Acquistion- If Rampage Jackson IS the signee, we'll see where it goes this summer, but if he ISN'T, we have something BRAND NEW to look forward to that MAY promise to be even bigger for everybody involved. Either way, this year TNA has taken their game up yet another notch, which brings solid promise for the future months.

I find myself in a much more comfortable place in calling TNA the promotion of the year for 2013 in this first half of the year, having made HUGE strides in the right direction. Whether that reputation holds steady for the remaining part of the year remains to be seen, but I hold out high hopes, as usual.

Survival Tactix: TNA on a Rampage.....

Slammiversary is in the books and it was a TREMENDOUS outing for the TNA crew, scoring high marks across the board and proving that THEY are the future of the sports entertainment industry, not their over-priced, glint and glamour, low substance counterpart. If you have a spare 3 hours to set aside, do yourself the favor and give it a view even if you know how the story plays out.

NOW, for the BIG news and believe me when I say it's big. Quentin "Rampage" Jackson has signed with TNA. Let that sink in for a minute. B.A Baracus has just signed with TNA. When I first started speculating about who could join TNA and give them some legitimacy, another MMA fighter joining the ranks never occurred to me, but Jackson has more than just MMA to lean on, thankfully.

Before I go too deep into the "overjoy" mode, I think it best to qualify this deal in terms that may shed some light on the reasons for him joining. First things first, he isn't exclusive to TNA, but rather to the partnership between TNA, Spike TV, and Bellator MMA, which leads into the next point. TNA will be devastated by the signing of "Rampage" if Bellator requires more of him than he is physically able to offer. King Mo has yet to have an in ring debut, though he was touted as a big signing last year and Jackson has a great deal to prove if he's going to be successful in the ring instead of the cage. Some simply can't make the transition from MMA to professional wrestling.

I've heard SO much controversy concerning this signing on Facebook and elsewhere, criticizing TNA for "another bonehead decision", but I don't buy it. Simply put, I'm not convinced that "Rampage" Jackson is the signee Dixie Carter was talking about. Sure, he might bring in viewers for a time and MAYBE, just maybe spike (no pun intended) the ratings, but I'M guessing we'll see someone who'll be in TNA's corner primarily and MAYBE even as soon as Thursday night.

So why the secrecy? Why the cloak and dagger veiled shadow work? TNA has a great deal to gain on the momentum Slammiversary gave them and THIS signing could tip the scales and give them a favorable shift on two fronts. On one side, it changes the focus of the show and puts him or her into the limelight right away, making Aces and Eights an afterthought for a moment. On the other side, the mystery signee will hopefully have the name value to make the critics sit up and take notice.

Lots of people are wanting to see a bombshell. They are simply tired of being spoon fed whatever is in Vince's mind that people want these days. Since, in their minds, Vince hasn't been in touch with the fans for a while now, it's high time he ate a little bit of humble pie. I happen to be in that camp, as it turns out and I, for one, would LOVE to see it be someone one of their main eventers currently.

The sad part in all of this is that, for once, I DON'T want it to be someone like Chris Jericho. Why? To put a fine point on this fact, he doesn't have enough gas left in his tank to make a difference in the long run. If we were talking about this about the time Angle made the jump, we'd be having a VERY different conversation. But whoever it turns out being, my bet is that Rampage Jackson is going to need some backup and the backup will be in the physical form of TNA's newest acquisition. Why? because it's the safest way to pull the trigger without the whole thing blowing up in their faces. All I can say is to watch the patterns here, people.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Survival Tactix: Bowing Out....

I'd like to take the time to give some honor and homage to a Hall of Famer who deserves some kudos for his contributions to TNA for going on 7 years now. Since Final Resolution 2006, Sting has been TNA's greatest attraction. While WWE clings to The Undertaker with an iron grip for one match per year, TNA has been the more fortunate to have a more physically solid legend in their stables. I don't want anyone to misunderstand me what I just said. Sting works FAR more than Taker and TNA is getting the lion's share from the deal, whereas WWE is throwing money into a hole in the ground, hoping for more than Mark Calloway is able to provide for those funds.

What TNA is going to have to come to terms with, however, is that Sting can't keep going forever, despite what his most die-hard fans may say. I've been a huge fan for YEARS and even I have to acknowledge that TNA's most valuable legend is moving into the twilight of his in-ring career. In my humble opinion, his last run in front of the mainstream has been a nice change, seeing him reinvent his character in interesting ways. I think Sting's farewell run will be among the finest in recent wrestling history as it will run parallel to the top story, perhaps even sharing a main event spot at the top of a MAJOR TNA PPV event.

My question is simple does TNA say good bye to Sting? I honestly thought he was going to retire in 2009 at Bound for Glory, when the "torch was passed" to AJ Styles in the main event, but in a twist, he resigned for another year and then another and then.....well, you get the idea. Depending upon how Sting wants to work, his farewell tour could begin in a couple of ways, one of which could happen Sunday. Sting losing his title match would be HUGE for Bully Ray, cementing him as TNA's best heel, while the Icon could wind down his ring work in a more managerial role, taking on his GM role of 2011-2012 to allow Hogan to also phase out.

If TNA wishes to completely phase Sting out of the product, I think he could still benefit the product in the managerial role, but outside of that, it truly does need to wind down. TNA's dilemma is going to be finding Sting's last opponent. Does Mr. Borden select the candidate from the current locker room or does TNA scour the landscape and make an offer to an outside source? I'm betting that TNA will give Sting the retirement opponent of his choice. If I was a betting man, I would say that the final match will be the most emotional story, match, AND moment of the year when it does come and those in attendance OR watching live will be incredibly grateful to have witnessed it live. As The Undertaker's last match will be a landmark in the history of WWE, so will Sting's final match in TNA.....the legacy of an Icon.

Survival Tactix: BIG.....

I've covered the possibility of Randy Orton jumping from the PG ship to TNA, but if Mr. Orton ISN'T the "big name" to sign with TNA, who ELSE could make it worthwhile? Keeping to the adherence to youth, is there anyone else that TNA could sign that could still make a difference for a few years? I say let's explore a bit.....

1. Shelton Benjamin- In my eyes, after Orton, he'd be the one I'm most inclined to pick from the vast free agent pool of former WWE talent. Fact is, his time in Ring of Honor with Charlie Haas gave him some time to mature as a performer AND punctuates his time AWAY from WWE. I think this is to his credit as it has helped break him of the WWE style of ring work, which was, by and large, filled with rest holds, cliche spots, and predictable placement of transition moves. Does it live up to the "big" statement from Ms. Carter? I'll give that a 75% yes vote.

2. MVP- This is another rumor from the mill. Nevermind that a push for him was about two years too late back when he was first released from WWE. In MY opinion, the fact that he left the United States to pursue work in Japan may have actually HURT his credibility as mainstream fans and those borderline indy fans wouldn't have been able to enjoy his work unless they had access to New Japan's wrestling library online via streaming, etc. NOW, had he stayed in the States and gone the way of the "Gold Standard", we may be having a VERY different conversation so I'll give you BOTH scenarios.
Pre-Japan- 75-80% yes; Post-Japan- 40-50% yes.

I'm going to break here to say a couple of things. First things first, I NEVER believe a person who denies signing with a company who is asked point blank. Simple as that. SO, when MVP or Batista were asked if they signed with TNA and they denied, I put ABSOLUTELY no stock in a negative answer. Secondly, when it comes to big announcements, unless we're talking about someone with the name value of a Batista or a Bill Goldberg or even Randy Orton, it can almost simply be assumed that we're going to be talking about a upper-midcard talent who was either canned mid-push or was never given the push he deserved even though fans called for it. So even RVD right now doesn't quite qualify to me as a "BIG" signing even though he's held big gold in WWE and TNA. Moving on.......

3. Awesome Kong- Before I see hands in the audience saying that she would never go back after the Hulk Hogan/Bubba the Love Sponge debacle, let's assume for a moment that the storyline is coming to exit Hogan from the equation and look at it from the best possible angle. Would Kong qualify as a "BIG" signing? In my eyes and in the eyes of those who hold to TNA's heritage, I say yes, without question. SO, I say 100% yes

4. Lance Hoyt- In his last stint with TNA before he was relegated back to the Tag Team Division, he had the chance to compete in the "Fight for the Right" tourney, where he very nearly earned a bye to the final round. Unfortunately, once the Rock and Rave nonsense card was played, his credibility tanked. My reason for him being on the list to begin with is that he IS a free agent, he's still young enough to give a few more years, and he holds a special place in TNA history and is versatile enough to make a HUGE splash in a return. 80% yes.

To pause once more, another question nagging at me has been concerning outside sports personalities. I use Monty Brown as a classic example of someone who made a name for himself in TNA, despite never winning the big belt. Could someone like Tim Tebow or Brandon Jacobs come into TNA and create an even bigger spot? Stranger things HAVE happened. With how little game time Tebow sees, I wouldn't discount him completely. Jacobs has already appeared on Impact once before, chokeslamming Bully Ray in his final appearance. Like I said, stranger things HAVE happened.

5. Beth Phoenix- Can anyone imagine the waves a former Diva the caliber of Ms. Phoenix would cause? This is still under the idea of expanding the possibilities OUTSIDE of the World Title. She's been undervalued, underutilized, and utterly mistreated in her closing years with WWE and THAT was simply criminal to fans of her work. Beth Phoenix is DEFINITELY among the top female prospects I could think to put on this list. 100% yes.

This is my top 5 candidates beyond Randy Orton, but so many other people have been released from contracts in the past few years, young talents who are looking for a fresh start. TNA is in the business of freshening careers and these could benefit greatly from that kind of treatment. But bear in mind there are others......