Thursday, February 28, 2013

Survival Tactix: T Minus One Week to Go....

With one last week of Impact before Lockdown, I think the post from the 3rd of this month was the prediction that won the day. Entitled "Lethal", I picked each member of Sting's entourage. I was wrong about the Aces. Dead wrong. Devon, Garett, Anderson, DOC, and Knox vs. Sting, Joe, Magnus, James Storm, and Eric Young SHOULD be a decent match, at least on paper. We all know SOMETHING'S going down that night. Exactly WHAT? THAT, folks, is the question of the day.

I have a few thoughts surrounding this week's Impact I'd like to share....

1. Is it just me or did anyone else see AJ Styles riding away from his house on a motorcycle as foreshadowing? AJ Styles as a member of the Aces and Eights? Maybe, but I'm not going to count on it until I get something more concrete to sink my teeth into.

2. Ivelisse Valez a.k.a. Sofia Cortez won her match in a way that would make Ken Shamrock proud with the guillotine choke. Do I congratulate her NOW? Truth be told, I think BOTH would make tremendous additions to the Knockouts Division and would add some diversity to the current palette of Knockouts on the roster. However, if TNA is only wanting to offer ONE contract, I say pick Valez as she stands a great chance of getting TV time quicker, potentially avoiding ANY time in the OVW purgatory that has held all but Christian York away from the full time roster.

3. I'm glad to see Kenny King winning the "All or Nothing" challenge put to him by RVD. Truth be told, TNA has needed to have a new champion in that department for some time and finally, they've put it together.

4. Rob Terry and Robbie E. are no more. It's about time. I hope this is the platform Terry can use to put him into a more productive path towards the World Title. Before anyone gets their pitchforks or shovels and attempts to use them in a manner OTHER than intended, I DID say "towards" the title. I DO NOT think Rob Terry is ready for that kind of push. I DO, however, believe a strong run with the TV Title would be worth watching.

5. The return of Eric Young is EXACTLY how I would have done it. Using "Showtime" was a nice touch, by the way. Anyone who watched him in his years with Team Canada HAD to have gotten a nice little kick out of that, as I did. My question NOW is what about ODB? Where does SHE fit into his return?

6. THIS was a truly wonderful outing by TNA this week and I expect nothing short of the same, with Bobby Roode on tap as well as the Gut Check Decision Segment and the Numbers Advantage Match for Lethal Lockdown. I also expect to see some kind of last minute revelation to hook those who've been following the product for the past year into ordering the PPV. MY guess is the pulling of one final mask before the PPV......the VP of the Aces and Eights. The president should wait until Lockdown before making him/herself known, but the VP would be a nice touch to finish off the night on the book end episode of the Impact Zone Era.

7. Chicago, I envy you. You get to see the fallout from the Texas brawl itself up close and in person, which is sure to be a nice little gathering. I also LOVE the idea of taking to the fanbase for ideas of where to go next. It certainly saves them from some of the WWE edging tactics to keep them out of certain markets. I look forward to see where this takes TNA as a national entity moving into the rest of the 2013 year.

And THAT about sums up all but one last thought, but I'll save that until tomorrow....until then.....

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Survival Tactix: Going Live.....

To those who initiated this little "Battlefield" pairing of columns, I want to stress that I DON'T criticize ANYONE for preferring one product over the other. I DO, however, insist on having balance in the perspective taken. WWE's fan following is to be commended if that preference is simply a matter of personal taste, which is irreplaceable and unique per every person out there. NOW, the fanboys who mistakenly believe there will NEVER come a time when WWE could potentially fall on hard times had better re-read the history books and do a little research as to how close they came to going under in the mid to late 90's. Having done all I set out to do, I really have little more to prove in combating a mindset that is divisive, at best, and pointless, at worst.

And so with that in mind, I want to move forward and address things coming. First, on the OFFICIAL Facebook page of a VERY disgruntled AJ Styles, the latest post reads: "Watch Impact this Thursday." That's it. Tell me THAT isn't intriguing. I've been saying that I believe AJ will have another run with the World Heavyweight Title as soon as this year, but the road to getting there begins this week. What's with the cryptic message? I get the sense that he won't come back quite the same man as the one who left. In fact, I doubt very much he'll be a face or a heel, but rather something a bit of each. I've seen him grow as a performer and it's fascinating to have a TNA Original give off a sense of mystery, particularly when it comes to him.

In OTHER TNA news, tomorrow night ALSO marks another Gut Check Challenge, this time with TWO potential members of the Knockouts Division. I have high hopes for both women as they are BOTH top notch performers in their own right. Ivelisse Valez, a former NXT contestant, who was released in the last spring cleaning WWE did of talent "clutter", as they have come to regard those they have little time for, will face off against the niece of The Barbarian of WCW and WWF fame, Lei'd Tapa. In most ironic fashion, I see TNA picking up Valez' contract as her FORMER persona, Sofia Cortez, was known as the "Anti-Diva"....aggressive strategy if they play it that way. Just for kicks, here's a pic of each.....

ALSO, the final member sound off for the Lethal Lockdown match. In other words, we'll see the revelation of WHO goes into the structure with Sting and Devon. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kurt Angle blindsided by the Bischoff/Brisco pairing. I ALSO look forward to see what kind of development we'll see from Matt Morgan and Joey Ryan as their ability to communicate has been dissolving quickly. My hope is that each man will be able to move forward as singles performers as Morgan's rise NEEDS to come sooner than later.

Another thing intriguing me right now is the ultimate goal of Aries and Roode attempting to hold all the gold at the same time. A noble goal, to be sure, but I DO have to question whether or not TNA officials OR those who are making the decision to GIVE both the ball to run with. I, for one, vote for the pairing as they, along with Daniels and Kazarian, are the BEST things happening right now in the world of Tag Team wrestling. Since WWE's division is now on life support, TNA has the perfect time to strike while the iron is HOT.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Survival Tactix: 5 Point Battleground...Part 2. My Turn....

There are few things I will concede to WWE these days, but it's a hard thing to truly dispute their longevity. The fact is, longevity will go a long way in the wrestling business, to be sure. However, that isn't where it begins and ends. The challenge laid down in the first 5 Points of the Battleground are THEIR opinions of why WWE is better than TNA. NOW, that said, "My Turn" isn't going to be a "5 Reasons TNA is Better" type of column, but rather it will illustrate where TNA is taking advantage of  WWE shortcomings. SO....let's jump right in....

1. Scouting.......

Most of this point is concerning the recruiting of women. WWE has a running history of doing atrocious scouting for Divas. Most of the problem is WHERE they scout. Allow me to illustrate....this week, WWE held a Diva Search event in Los Angeles. This was a CLOSED event to the public. Why? Because they had their scouting sources already invited. Were they representatives from the various independent wrestling federations across the map? Nope. How about from WWE's developmental program? Nope. So who's invited? Representatives from MODELING AGENCIES and their selections of the most beautiful athletic girls on their respective rosters.

Note: NEVER AGAIN will you find the caliber of Trish Stratus, Lita, Ivory, or Molly Holly if you scout for talent like THIS.

TNA scours the national independent WRESTLING scene, looking for their Knockouts. Taeler Hendrix, Madison Rayne, ODB, and Velvet Sky were all members of the indies and this week's upcoming Gut Check contestant is no different. Gut Check is TNA's greatest wellspring for new talent and, so far, TNA's talent judges have yet to be wrong in their picks.

2. Top Tier Positioning.....

TNA is building the single best main event tier in the business today. The sheer number of former champions is astounding and every one has deserved the honors of being there at least once. While James Storm SHOULD have been there longer, even HIS name on the list lends credence to the assessment. WWE would do well to take some notes from TNA's ability to find creative ways to build new champions in a quick way that doesn't feel rushed. With TNA giving fans the average of TWO brand new champions each year, WWE simply can't compete with that.

3. Constrictions.......

Another place TNA pulls rank is in the department of move bans. WWE has a list of moves, some of which were mainstays in the Cruiserweight Division that are banned for one reason or another. Much of the reasoning has to do with the amount of risk involved....fair enough. Guys like Paul London, Evan Bourne, and Billy Kidman have used the Shooting Star Press with fantastic results. I doubt, however, that it would surprise most to learn that the move is on a moderate ban because of a failed attempt at WWE's biggest show of the year about 10 years back. "Moderate ban"? To be more precise, the move MUST be demonstrated with ABSOLUTE precision in order for a superstar to be allowed to use it. TNA has absolutely NO bans on ANY maneuver, great or small....none.

4. PPV/ Storyline Building.....

TNA understands a very special something. They need to streamline for their OWN sake, but also for the sake of wrestling fans. This is an opportunity for TNA to get ahead. How? By freeing themselves from the shackles of having to sacrifice storyline depth for the sake of having to book a card each month. WWE would do well to pick THIS lesson up as well. Rather than WWE charging fans 35-40 dollars PER MONTH for a PPV that ISN'T one of the big four, if they were to charge their customary 45-55 dollars for one of the big four and half price for a PPV the rest of the months would give fans a break from the strain of a 35 dollar hit each month.

I've heard it all before about how "boring the Aces and Eights storyline has gotten", but how about giving SOME credit for TNA sticking to their guns and riding out the wave to the end? WWE has had THEIR share of ongoing storylines that truly needed some sprucing up, unless someone wants to tell me that Katie Vick was completely called for....or how about Zack Gowan's involvement with Sable? My point is, WWE is NOT immune to bad storylines OR to awful booking. So let's check THAT notion at the door.

5. Spring Cleaning......

Quite bluntly, TNA doesn't have a spring cleaning each year, contrasting WWE's revolving door of talents who continually move in and out of the company, making it EXTREMELY difficult for wrestling fans to truly invest in a character they may never see again. Remember Mordecai? How about Trevor Murdoch? Deuce and Domino? The list of disposable heroes is longer than Khali's wingspan in WWE.

I realize that TNA isn't perfect. In fact, some very critical players on TNA's roster have left, but of their own accord. While I wish it weren't the case, TNA's ability to showcase EVERYONE is still lacking, but I assure you, that won't always be the case. Just as I predicted a traveling roadshow, a more complete outlet IS coming, but as all things worth waiting for will take time. SOME feel compelled to talk about where TNA is NOW, but I PREFER to look at what TNA will BECOME. I know there are SOME who will say NEVER, but as a great many in this business have said....NEVER say NEVER.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Survival Tactix: 5 Point Battleground...Part 1: Fleshing Out Arguments.....

In THIS column, I have laid down a challenge....."Give me 5 Reasons WWE is Better Than TNA."

To be blunt, this SHOULD have been a 2-on-1 Handicap Battle, but since one man FAILED to give me 5 points, I will simply put the one man who gave his stance some thought on display here. SO, here is the post; verbatim, cut-and-pasted from the forum.....

5 things "they" have TNA don't! Lineage. Production Values. Quality Of Performers is out of your league, always will be as they have pulling power and untold finance! A massive world wide fan base that are in the tens of millions, many haven't even watched an episode of TNA. Your ever growing promotion talk is fair enough however, if WWE ever found themselves in serious trouble (which i doubt) any businessman in the world would pay to pick up the pieces and carry on, TNA would be hard pressed to find that same investor. The storylines are shocking, its cartoon bullshit, has been since 07, they brought back DX and made them fight cheer leaders for fuck sake... They know though, if there is a slump in ratings or the stories are slow, pay an EX star a million dollars too come back!!! Could dixie and co. Do that? Let me guess?!? You wouldn't need too! I prefer TNAs action but storylines are just as bad and i'v given over many ways i believe the product would be better. What do i know though? I just pay a subscription to watch the show, follow it on facebook, follow this page, follow it on twitter....

NOW, let's flesh this out and tackle each reason one by one.

1. Lineage.....

If there is ONE place TNA is a decided disadvantage, it's here. HOWEVER, when you consider the rise of TNA, there is little disputing their progress onto the wrestling landscape. In June of 2002, TNA was launched as a PPV ONLY formatted weekly show at 10 bucks per show. A little over two years later, they were given a weekly show on Spike TV at 1 hour each week. THIS deal will come into play later, so put your finger HERE and remember that SPIKE took on TNA as a partner. 

In any case, TNA launched their YouTube partnership in 2006, making them part of a segmented niche in the wrestling underground. That would change, however, when TNA went global, adding a large number of international outlets to various partnerships acquired in the previous years leading up to that point. In 2008, TNA made their first tour of the UK and was SO successful, those tours have happened each year since.

TNA has done in 10 years what it took WWE over 40 years to do. You want an ACCURATE comparison? Wait about 5-10 years and see where it goes.

2. Production Values......

I happen to disagree with that assessment. While it may not have the exact SAME glint as WWE, it IS on par with the product they were intended to be compared with. TNA is INTENDED to be compared to the product WWE put out from 1993-2008. BUT, if you're really insistent in saying that TNA is subpar from a production standpoint, have a look at the bankbook. Under the circumstances, I happen to be impressed with their progress thusfar. AND, when TNA makes their Impact Zone a traveling show, as they did a year back, the two shows have a similar feel. SO I fail to see where you draw the distinction.

3. Quality of Performers......

Wow....there are truly no words for my real opinion of THAT assessment. IF WWE's top 5 performers were polled by the viewing public at large and the top 5 TNA performers were polled as well, I think we'd see a real shocking thing....only ONE of WWE's top 5 performers is a main eventer consistently.

CM Punk
Daniel Bryan
Dean Ambrose
Antonio Cesaro

Why THOSE 5? Jericho, Triple H, and The Undertaker are ATTRACTIONS, not main eventers anymore, despite what WWE fanboys will try to have you believe. For TNA? All but one is a former World Title holder.......

AJ Styles
Austin Aries
Kurt Angle
Bobby Roode
Christopher Daniels

The best part? Only ONE is a former WWE guy. You REALLY want to tell me Austin Aries and CM Punk aren't on the same level? Right. I doubt VERY much you'll get many takers on that. PLUS, with so many moves on Vince McMahon's move ban list, it'd be a hard sell anyway as to whether or not WWE can REALLY compare to TNA's ranks.

4. Money.....

You can hand THIS assessment to the backs of Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, and the rest of the performers from the Attitude Era. Why? Because MOST of the excess WWF was enjoying from the Hogan Era in the 80's was spent TRYING to break past WCW in the years of the Monday Night War. Once WCW had gone under, WWE HAD no competition to share those profits with and, consequently, was able to pocket untold millions of dollars. 

There IS one point I WOULD contest....that there are DOZENS of investors out there who would put their hard earned dollars towards the saving of WWE from any dire straits WWE MIGHT ever face. Remember when I had you put your finger in the SPIKE TV agreement with TNA? HERE'S where WWE made a HUGE mistake. Check the archives....there was NEVER a difference or shift in ratings when WWE was with Spike TV from 2001-2004. THIS is a horrible misjudgment by a great MANY WWE fanboys. WWE broke their agreement with Spike early and, since Spike didn't have a wrestling show to fit in place, TNA was their ultimate revenge, giving rise to a new rival in, what is likely to be a renewal of a wrestling war reminiscent of WCW WITHOUT some of the politics that came with the fall. 

Additionally, since WWE profits funded TWO failed Senate runnings by former CEO Linda McMahon, there are FEW billionaire the caliber of Donald Trump, who is potentially slated to be inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame this year, by the way, who would throw in money to save Vince these days. 

5. "WWE rejects".......

Since 2002, TNA relied on the startup of their venture by using an influx of former WWE talents....some had been misused, others had been burned by their former employer, but all legitimately wanted to prove themselves on a stage that was willing to give them a shot to reach a potential they had been denied with WWE. Anderson, Christian, Ron Killings, Raven, and others were NEVER allowed to hit their strides BEFORE TNA. SOME were never given a gimmick that could work to their advantage in a singles run. Still others were sick of having to put fashion models through their paces AND make them into wrestlers when WWE CLEARLY has enough MONEY to afford to buy the contract of trainers who could do the job. 

NOW, before ANYONE goes and tries to say more than half of TNA's roster is former WWE performers, let me spoil it all and say that out of more than 50 performers ranging from commentators, ring announcers, and even characters not being currently used on screen, only 16 came from WWE. Sorry guys, but your assessment holds little water. From those 16, 13 are actual wrestlers. Let me ALSO remind you WWE fanboys that between 2008 and 2012, WWE released over 150 wrestlers from contract in their annual spring cleaning of "excessive" contracts they have no intention of ever promoting. Among THOSE ranks are talents like Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Melina, John Morrison, Anderson, Carlito, Chris Masters, and tag team pairings that helped hold down a workable Tag Team Division. Think about it. 150 people were told that they had a future and then, sometimes only weeks into their contract, they are released and then told they can not only NOT compete for a televised competitor, but that their persona has to be changed as well. For SOME, it's easy, but for others, not so much. 

Survival Tactix: Dissension......

This is the last I'll be referring to WWE is some time, at least in a way that isn't simply a passing comparison to what their product USED to be. Why? Simple. They just can't seem to leave well enough alone. They invited Glenn Beck to RAW. Beck refused. But he didn't just refuse, he went on a long rant ABOUT their fanbase and WWE has responded in kind. Just because Linda lost the Senate seat on the Republican ticket in their state not once, but TWICE in two campaigns that ate MILLIONS, if not more than a billion dollars' worth of WWE profits, they believe they need to be bitter about it? I thought we knew you better, Vince.

In any case, RAW has undergone an overhaul under orders made by Stephanie McMahon, who was reportedly LIVID over Beck's criticisms of the WWE product and the fanbase thereof. I don't blame her for being upset, but I DO blame her for WWE giving Beck more attention. Glenn said he wouldn't acknowledge WWE again on his show and, to date, he hasn't. WWE just HAS to have the last word, which seems more than a little petty, considering they should have OTHER priorities in mind, namely their biggest show of the year. I'm not a very political type of guy, but I DO consider myself an oddball conservative, meaning I AM a wrestling fan, but one who wasn't so much offended by the character as much as some. MY problem is that WWE made this personal, when it didn't have to be. Using the WWE product as a vehicle as a platform to launch a politically charged storyline against a segment of American culture simply doesn't work. Period.

SO....I have come to the point where WWE will scarcely get a mention from me UNLESS it refers to the product circa 1993-2009. I TRIED to warn you guys a couple of columns ago that the backlash will be pretty heavy-handed and dealt out in spades, but you just couldn't leave well enough alone. That said, I predict Jack Swagger will be gone within 6 months and the storyline failure will be blamed on his failure of the WWE Wellness Policy and NOT on the failure of WWE Creative to find a better direction for the Jack Swagger character than attacking a man who will never give you mention in any outlet he's invited to.

So with THAT, I turn my attentions BACK to the land where political upheaval can be put on the back burner......TNA. With ONLY live episodes on tap until Lockdown, it remains to be seen as to what will be done regarding the Number 1 Contender's Tourney, which I believe will be confronted on Impact this Thursday head-on. Magnus, Joe, James Storm, AND Money's Worth will undoubtedly have something to say concerning being cut out of the Lockdown main event by someone who never competed in the tourney in the first place. THIS could lead to the continuation of the tourney and the facing of the final combatant to FACE Bully Ray in the last round. Why? Because Hogan's the boss and Ray is his son-in-law. Facepalm.

THIS is my biggest gripe against the current climate in TNA right now. Hogan and the relationship between he, his daughter, and Bully Ray is starting to unravel and they are swinging a bat with a HUGE crack in it. The problem is that when THAT happens, SOMEONE is going to get hit with the pieces, and, most likely, not who they intended. Not only so, but when they hit the ball, it simply won't go as far as they intended. What does this mean? Allow me to explain......

When this whole ordeal began, there was a crack, namely Bully Ray. He was the guy nobody would think would even TRY a relationship with a member of the roster, let alone the VP of the Knockouts Division. TNA has tried to swing for the fences with the premise that Hogan isn't buying a change of heart in Bully Ray's character and dragging that out ALONGSIDE the Aces and Eights angle. NOW, even if it's revealed that Bully Ray is the PRESIDENT of the Aces and Eights, it won't salvage what has been lost in terms of steam. I'm now convinced he has a part to play, even an important one, and perhaps is even a member himself, but I don't believe it will be the kind of shocker it otherwise MIGHT have been. I draw your attention to the fact that TNA has intentionally kept Devon and Bully Ray in separate corners for the vast majority of the entire storyline. With occasional skirmishes here and there, they can keep up pretenses and, if Bully Ray is put on the side of Team TNA, which I believe he will be, he'll make the turn and reveal himself as the Vice President of the Aces and Eights.

TNA will then have TWO choices to make, and both involve Brooke Hogan.

1. Brooke has been played and remains a face figure, having nothing to do with Aces and Eights.


2. Brooke is the President of the Aces and Eights, thus creating yet another family feud.

For the sake of anyone who would choose to turn to TNA as a first time viewer in the coming months, I have no clue which is better. Why? Because if Brooke DOESN'T turn, there will never be a chance she'll be replaced as the Knockouts VP. If she DOES turn, we'll have HER in the top tier feud on TNA for the foreseeable future, BUT there's a chance TNA could let her go once it has run its course. Which would YOU choose? Either way, Brooke is around for AT LEAST 6 more months, and in a prominent place on the TNA storyline landscape.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Survival Tactix: The Final Overture....

Now that the tapings from the U.K. have run through, we can FINALLY discuss the last two weeks without any spoilers from least not ones that are always, any predictions that DO come true are just educated guesses from watching the patterns and seeing where they lead. SO, since I've got a few thoughts to share, I may as well get right down to it.....

1. Bully Ray is finally announced as the Number 1 Contender for the World Heavyweight Title. Wait just a second.....he didn't-he didn't compete in the tournament. This much I before we gripe about how Magnus or WHOEVER didn't get to win the chance to go on, I'd like to make a prediction right now.....we'll see a GREAT match if it goes down as planned. However, if anyone believes that Hardy is coming away with the belt from THIS, you're crazy. Now that his contract is under lock and key, there is now no longer a chance of Hardy defecting, not that he ever would.

2. Velvet Sky is the new Knockouts Champion.....she's had this coming for some time now. Welcome back, and here's your A feel good moment, if you ask me.....cue up the return of someone who CLAIMS to have nothing left to achieve in TNA, Angelina Love. If TNA still has it in them to bring back a few former Knockouts for their Women's Taped PPV Event, it might behoove them to include former champions like Angelina on that list. In the bringing back of a few former talents AND make overtures towards the acquisition of new ones, there might be a good chance of reviving the magic that lay beneath some of the pillars toppled.

3. Kenny King is on a slow boat right now and I can't, for the life of me, figure out why. In my humble opinion, when King left RVD to pick up a Carbon Footprint from Matt Morgan a month and a half ago, THAT would have been when I would have started to build that into something opportunity to have some legs attached to an RVD vs. King feud worth fighting for. His opportunist persona allowing RVD to get his head kicked in just to weaken the champ is EXACTLY what the X Division needs....some storyline to give backbone to the division.

4. Devon needs a challenger....I mean a REAL challenger. Someone he can look at and say "Sweet MERCY! Lemme out of here!" Joe hasn't been that. Neither was Robbie E. Now that Rob Terry is on his own again, HE might be a worthy challenger, but Devon, as charismatic as he is, NEEDS a foil to make the TV Title appear to have some life again. When HE'S holding the belt, the title scene falls apart and I can't really even put my finger on why that is, but it just is.

5. Jeff Hardy has been booked to look as unbeatable as John Cena. Let me make it simple....just because Hardy is TNA's merchandise mover DOESN'T mean he should be treated like WWE's cash cow. I will grant that he EARNED his spot back after Victory Road of 2011 and has been the picture of patient with TNA Creative in getting him back to the big dance, but the dance card has been filled and, unless there are plans to create a brand new start by having them dethrone the "unstoppable force" that is Jeff Hardy, he needs to stand aside and let the newbies have their shot now.

6. So Gut Check begins once more next month. Okay....let me stress something REALLY important for TNA to remember. Everyone on that list NEEDS to have a desire to be on the list to begin with, otherwise you have complications like that of this month. There is simply no reason for TNA to EVER have this kind of problem. Ever.

These are just a few random thoughts.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Survival Tactix: Fair Warning....

WWE has just released "The Best of WCW Monday Nitro" (Thank you, AnonymousCam). A question has been raised.....Could this be a warning to TNA, ROH, etc. that those who go up against the big dog in the yard are likely to find themselves in the same straits as WCW? Personally, I doubt it, but I DO think their tactic of bustling into smaller venues in attempts to keep ANY growing competition out is a bit provocative and aggressive for a company that won't even acknowledge they HAVE competition, don't you?

NOW, having said all of I believe WWE is gearing up for another war? Possibly. In recent weeks, the reins on The Rock and CM Punk's characters have been give a bit of slack and I can get behind that, BUT when the routine is old, it's old. The Cena/Rock rehash wasn't "Once in a Lifetime" as promised. Instead, we're looking at "TWICE" so far. SOME would call the rehash, the controversy of Zeb Coulter, and even the potential of The Undertaker's final match possibly happening this year as an attempt for WWE to get serious. I'm not convinced. The card, at last look was something like this......

Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar
Rock vs. Cena II
CM Punk vs. Undertaker

Those are simply the main events. Since the arrest of a newly returned AND pushed Jack Swagger, things are going to change. Simply put, Swagger, who was arrested for possession of an illegal substance (marajuana), and Driving Under the Influence, has lost that push ENTIRELY. Compoundly, all implications of his having a match at Wrestlemania have been dropped, meaning that for the first time in quite some time, the youth movement isn't being failed by the system fully.....rather, it's THEM failing the system. Far be it from me to NOT call things as I see them and state them here. WWE is doing SOMETHING right.

The Shield, Swagger, Del Rio, and a few others ARE getting a shot, but I DO wonder about the midcard. With the annual purging of the talent roster of all those deemed "rejects" by the top brass coming in the weeks following Wrestlemania, we MAY just see TNA's magic put to good use yet again. Funny how a little patience and listening to the talents for ideas and input will change the outcome of a character.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Survival Tactix: Playing With Fire.....

Zeb Coulter......

Vince, you've outdone yourself. There was a time in the 90's when you took a stab at the political landscape of the day and poked fun at an American Armed Forces character joining up with that of an Arab that was SUPPOSED to symbolize Iraq. This was something bold, and yet at the time, it was a mockery of something few people took seriously. Zeb Coulter.......I wish I had words to describe the sensation when I see him cut his promos.

One part appalled, one part pissed off, one part impressed, and one part confused. You couldn't have picked a worse time to put a conservative mockery on TV. If there was a time to go out of your way to piss someone off, this would not be that time. With political tensions already running higher as a divided nation under a leader who wants stricter gun control laws is getting a bit dodgy, you put together a character who looks not far from the "unibomber". This would NOT be how I'd go about moving forward, Vinnie. Modeling your creation after Ann Coulter wasn't in your best interest, either, as it's already gone under fire from some conservatives out there.

While I'm not the typical conservative and can appreciate some of the storytelling the character promises to deliver, I believe you underestimate just how far the backlash of this character will reach. If the viewing public in the reaches of TNA's home region weren't watching you before, you've polarized their view screen now. This isn't sour grapes, 'ol boy. This is simply a're poking a sleeping bear and the consequences could backfire in ways that would make the Mohammed Hassan storyline look like something Jim Henson's creature shop dreamed up.

This isn't even a warning for the sake of WWE, but for the character of Jack Swagger. The man beneath the Hassan character has never been the same since his storyline burial by the Undertaker and if careful planning isn't done, Jack Swagger will be every bit as untouchable as Elliot Ness.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Survival Tactix: Echoes.....

Destination X, July 8th, 2012-

Following the 4th match of the night, a figure cam down the ramp who had been absent since February of 2011. Jesse Sorenson, who had been injured in an X Division #1 Contenders' Match that night, walked down under his own power to thank the fans for their support in the months that followed the accident the left him paralyzed for weeks. He vowed vengeance on Zema Ion, wishing him a year in which the X Division Title would be in his possession when he finally DID return so he could claim his revenge and initiate "Option C" to stand at the top of the TNA mountain and reign as World Champion.

If sources I've been hearing are correct, Jesse is soon to be revealed as a member of the Aces and Eights, creating a great deal of difficulty for RVD, the current champion of the X Division. It just MIGHT be that a match between RVD and Zema Ion COULD take place in which RVD LOSES the title with help and then that help turns on Ion and takes that feud to conclusion. Sorenson has the ability in ring, the question will become.....can he get it done with a mic in hand?

Devon, Taz, Hogan, Ray, Anderson, Angle, Daniels, Aries, Roode.....every last one can help boost Sorenson into the volumes of great heel talkers of this day and, provided he's open to improving, I see NO reason why he COULDN'T ascend to the very top this year. If he is able to begin his quest by initiating a title change on behalf of Ion and then go directly to work, he COULD capture the belt and hold it until July, at which time he could then initiate a small feud with the GM of the company for not stating for the record what was to happen to the Aries-created "Option C" clause, allowing the X Division Champion the chance to challenge for the World Title going into Destination X. With the annual event now cancelled, this makes for a tantalizing story that ACHES to be told.

Does a member so new to the TNA roster DESERVE to be in the top tier so early in his career? I think there are few people who are better suited to answering THAT question than former TNA X Division Champion Kid Kash, who stated in an episode of TNA Today that the young Jesse reminded him of AJ Styles in his early days. From a man of HIS tenure, HIS experience, HIS unique vantage point in the wrestling business, I think I'll go along with an opinion like that. But anyone who STILL needs some convincing, have a look......

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Survival Tactix: Fallen.....

On multiple separate occasions, Christopher Daniels has been a main event contender for TNA. Unbreakable 2005, Turning Point 2009, Final Resolution 2009, and two weeks back were opportunities for TNA to do something special and give one of the longest running players on their roster his just desserts and allow him the chance to hold the World Heavyweight Championship. His opponents could have been AMAZING "Match of the Year" candidates from match name alone. Bobby Roode vs. Daniels, Austin Aries vs. Daniels, Jeff Hardy vs. Daniels, the list could go on and on. The point is, "The Fallen Angel" has done nearly everything else there is to do on the TNA roster.

In his bouts vs. Joe and Styles, he was brilliant. In fact, Unbreakable, in MY opinion, beat out EVERY other "Match of the Year" contenders on the ticket. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle was a dream match and both men were at the top of their game, but in the eyes of THIS columnist, Unbreakable of 2005's Triple Threat for the X Division Title took the honors by sheer high intensity and pacing. THIS was just another day at the office for the three contenders and I DO mean that. Joe, Styles, and Daniels proved they were capable of putting together a match that could HUGE wonders to the credibility of the TNA brand.

Could TNA bring Christopher Daniels all the way into the top tier without taking anything away from his poise? I'd like to think so. If they can have enough confidence in his abilities to PUT him in a match at the main event level, one would think they'd eventually have enough confidence in him to give him the biggest prize the promotion has to offer. With only a few year left on his career, TNA has limited time to do something more with him than simply give him lip service. In recent interviews, he has said he has PLENTY of time as he's still in prime shape.

With his last bout against the World Champ in the books, his heel tactics proved worthy of his spot as one of wrestling's best, but without the gold to prove any case, in honor of what COULD be a GREAT year for "The Fallen Angel", here's a bit of video to consider......

Survival Tactix: Mainstay.....

Turning Point 2011- AJ Styles vs. Bobby Roode for the World Heavyweight Title

That was the last time Styles as had his sights on the gold and THIS year's Bound for Glory will mark the first opportunity for him to challenge for the big belt again. This has been a long time waiting and, from every report I've read, TNA has the intention of bringing him full circle to become contender at the big event this year. This begs a couple of questions, though.....

1. Who will be holding the big gold once his time of waiting is over?
2. Could he contend sooner by utilizing the "Option C" clause in the X Division?

I'm of two minds on the idea of AJ Styles rejoining the X Division and winning the belt, only to trade it in for his World Title shot. If he does this, it will mean stealing an opportunity to bring back a heel or face Jesse Sorenson and capitalize on his return. If he WAITS, he may end up FACING that heel or face Sorenson anyway.

The way things seem to be looking right now, TNA wants Matt Morgan, Bully Ray, and AJ Styles in the main event mix for sure with Jeff Hardy, Magnus, and potentially Jesse Sorenson in contention for that big belt as contenders. Whether each is able to be featured as World Title holders remains to be seen, but TNA wouldn't have taken him off TV without the intention of the top brass making him a force to be reckoned with upon his return.

My suggestion? I say we have a look at what happens when Lockdown aftermath begins. If Styles returns as a face, I predict he'll combat a heel Jesse Sorenson and attempt to enforce "Option C. If Sorenson returns as a face, I predict a heel Styles return and that he'll feud in a long term program with his eventual Bound for Glory World Title opponent.

Either way, hardcore TNA fans will get to see a true "Face of the company" and those who try to say that TNA is only about pushing former WWE players can simply be silent and enjoy being wrong.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Survival Tactix: South.....

January, 2010- Hernandez and Matt Morgan part company.

Both men were slated to have a good year when Hernandez injured his shoulder, leading to TNA Creative pulling the plug on the pairing. The PLAN was for Hernandez to work in Mexico as a part of a PR campaign to rally support for the brand. As he allowed his injury to heal and trained for his return, TNA had the notion to push BOTH Hernandez AND Matt Morgan into the main event picture with Morgan as the top heel and Hernandez as the top heel, but the general feeling at the time was that Hernandez hadn't taken enough time to work on improving his in-ring persona.

Once his feud with Morgan was over, he returned to Mexico and didn't return until February, when the Mexican America was established shortly thereafter. Once Anarquia was released, it seemed as though TNA would again push the Mexican mainstay, but with an already underway Bound for Glory Series, he once again was held in a tag team tactician spot and has remained such to this day. SOME within the organization are wanting to re-push him to the top tier as a way to combat Alberto Del Rio, but they are REALLY wanting to push a Hispanic talent who can talk for himself and THAT has been a point of contention as he isn't a very effective microphone worker.

As far as I'M concerned, there is little to prevent TNA from giving him a spokesman to air what grievances and such to take him to the top of the card. Just let the actions and words of his spokesperson do the rest. For those who don't believe his Border Toss has merit, I give you THIS as an example of how nasty it can look.....

Simplicity in terms of execution, but it requires the kind of beast Super Mex is to pull it off. Both Sheamus and Hernandez have used this particular move, but where Sheamus' reminds me of the "Razor's Edge" finisher from Razor Ramon, Hernandez has a Kevin Nash powerbomb flair with a full release and some HUGE hang time, making for a more devastating move on the whole.

TNA has one problem with pulling the trigger NOW......the Tag Team Division. With he and Chavo helping tack down the Tag Team Division and keep the vitality going, you can be sure he'll be in that division as long as both are satisfied in that role. Once THAT time has come, look out, because a bigger title will be needed to keep Super Mex calm and without complaints.

Survival Tactix: Working....

TNA has a bit of a dilemma on their hands. In the weeks leading up to Lockdown, they may have to change their plans on having Bully Ray as the leading man going in to face Jeff Hardy for the title. As reported on various news sites, Bully has a torn quad which MAY force TNA to rethink him as the man to finally dethrone Hardy. As for who could replace him in so short a time? THAT truly IS something to explore. SO, let's explore......

James Storm......

After his little flash in the bucket feud with Bad Influence, he's just been lounging around, waiting to get his next shot, but nothing has been coming down the pike for the Cowboy. However, him getting a shot like that would be a bit premature, by MY way of thinking. Proper build and suitable fanfare has not yet been doled out for such a time. On the other hand, he IS winning his matches going forward in the current tourney, so who knows? I give him 15 % chance of taking the title shot.

Samoa Joe......

So many people have complained to TNA that he isn't getting the chance to shine as he did just a few years back. Keep in mind, though, that his "no contest" opponent from this past week hadn't arrived up until that time. Once he did, a great deal changed. Bad booking on the part of the creative team led by Vince Russo killed his credibility and the storyline that had held him as a threat for the years following. As a result, I DO see him winning against Angle here, but I very much doubt he'll advance to the golden round to face Hardy. I'll go with 10 % chances there.

Bobby Roode/Austin Aries.....
This pairing has me intrigued, along with their quest to win all the gold in TNA. I happen to LOVE every minute of it. Both are worthy of the accolades, both have enough talent to HOLD every belt as a pairing, and both have an equal shot of doing just that. I give them 20% chances apiece. Why 20%? Because I believe TNA has something ELSE up their sleeves. With the former Tag Champions continuing to feud with Money's Worth, I just don't entirely see a divided attention title win for either one.


He lost a bit of momentum against Samoa Joe for the TV Title, but if they put him against Joe in the quarterfinal, I believe we'll see him get the W to move on. Right now, TNA is looking for the next first time champion and, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Brit take his place. I give Magnus the highest percent left.....35% chances here.

If you've read the spoilers, it all makes sense for the tournament to take place ALONGSIDE Hogan's decision, particularly when you look at the situation with Ray. If TNA were to simply take Bully off the cards until Lockdown, he'd have been well enough to compete for a great match, but under the circumstances, I have my doubts. I think we'll see a shift coming out of the taping format on the February 28th and March 7th episode, the final show from the Impact Zone. This will ALSO be the final show leading into Lockdown and WILL finalize most everything on the card going in. That means we'll have a good idea of whether or not the tourney will be necessary or not.

Since the February 28th exits the UK Tapings schedule, I believe TNA should STILL keep the tourney going, moving the following matches into that week:

Joe vs. Angle
Magnus vs. James Storm
Aries vs. Roode

Since Magnus and Storm have already finished their matches, moving on doesn't seem like too big a deal. My impression is that Joe and Roode will be moving on into the following round and Magnus will get a bye week, meaning he'll face the winner of the Joe vs. Roode matchup, moving Magnus vs. Roode into the final round going into the March 7th live show. That show will see Magnus as the new contender and possibly a face-off between Ray and Magnus for that contenders shot, which Magnus will win, provided the quad tear hasn't been addressed. THUS, Magnus vs. Hardy at Lockdown.

I understand SOME will disagree with this, but take some notes here. TNA is TRYING to build new stars....TNA ORIGINAL stars. Of those stars who COULD be considered, only Magnus has the chance to DO something with this opportunity NOW. Everyone else in the contest is a former champion. Think about it. Magnus COULD be a good alternative to Bully Ray if the injury is too severe for him to fight through.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Survival Tactix: Better Than Ever....

Every once in a while, time will let you know when priorities need to be altered. A death in my family did just that. It forced me to set aside my keyboard, my news sources, my partnerships, and my readers and simply take some time to grieve and mourn the loss. Having kept this thing rolling for nearly 2 years now, a break is a hard thing to come by and, even with the incentive to just relax, I found myself restless, unable to fully rest my mind. That said, I figure it's best to allow myself to simply heal by doing what I've found helps speed the healing process most, write.....and not just to write, but to do so as a supporter of the most progressive promotion on the landscape right now. that I'm back and ready to roll on for the long haul, you're probably wondering what I've got in mind for this column. Well, I'm glad you asked. Of the many wrestlers WWE has allowed to slip away, Matt Morgan, in my humble opinion is the most devastating. Why? Because he never was given an opportunity to showcase his true worth. Have a look at this promotional package TNA ran in 2009. WWE NEVER allowed Morgan to look as menacing....

In 2009, TNA had begun to push the "DNA of TNA" towards the World Title, but in 2010, tragedy struck.....a torn pectoral muscle sidelined him for 6 weeks during the Bound for Glory Series. He had originally been primed to win the tourney AND the title at the Bound for Glory PPV itself up until that point. Upon his return, however, it became his time to wait his turn, now that Bobby Roode, James Storm, and Austin Aries had to be given their time and Jeff Hardy's full circle redemption had to get fitted into the annals of TNA history. NOW, it seems, TNA is ready to try again and bring Morgan back up the ranks and into the championship fray.

In MY opinion, Matt Morgan is the quickest big man in the business to day and the Carbon Footprint adds some much needed flair to a boring finishing move, making HIS version look like homicide personified. SO, this column is MY vote for Matt Morgan, 2013 World Champion.

The Defense Rests, Your Honor........

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Survival Tactix: WHAT?!

MAN! You take a day off and the world starts spinning out of control. The International Olympic Committee has decided to remove Wrestling from the 2020 Olympic docket. TNA, and their resident Olympian, Kurt Angle have had MUCH to say about the decision. Without going into too much detail, TNA has issued a challenge to WWE and other wrestling organizations to use whatever outlets they have at their disposal to help reverse the decision of the Olympic Committee. My response? I think it's a GREAT idea for TNA to be the first to speak out on this. Why? Because it sets a precedent.

Moving into OTHER news from within the organization, in a recent interview with Kazarian, he mentioned the possibility of there only being TWO cage matches on the Lockdown PPV. While I can appreciate the tweaking of certain matches to accommodate how the storyline will play out, in MY opinion, you CAN'T take the cage away from the PPV. Simple as that. Lockdown isn't LOCKDOWN without a cage to LOCK. Tell me I'm not alone on this.

With things as they are, TNA is on par to do some GREAT sales for the Chicago LIVE traveling show debut. Now that the lease on the Universal lot has been allowed to expire, TNA is now looking to make each new arena they come into their own Impact Zone. TNA has needed to make this change to their programming for some time and now is the best time for them to make their statement to the world that they ARE ready to stand as a national power AS WELL as an international one. Looking back, the first toying with the idea went as well as could be expected, considering the storylines on the docket at the time.

The show in Chicago is going to be good. Why? TNA will be landing there just DAYS from Lockdown and THAT, folks, is going to be a day of storyline advancement leading into one of the remaining 4 PPVs on TNA's ticket. From what I've heard about the sales, only the cheapest seats remain and since THAT'S the case, TNA will have to open up more for the selling. This is grand news for the first date on the TNA traveling showcase.

With continuing emphasis on Bully Ray as the son-in-law of Hulk Hogan and the husband of the VP of the Knockouts Division, it begs the question of whether or not he is the real deal or just another swerve from the writing table of a Vince Russo wannabe. I, for one, hope not. Why? Mostly because I abhor the thought of TNA reverting to tactics he favored. Swerves for the sake of swerving, twists where they made no sense, a face/heel turn without any reason......don't even think about bringing up 2010 with the Hogan/Bischoff regime's first attempts at a long term was pathetic. It was incredibly difficult to muddle through the grime to try and find SOMETHING worthwhile to make mention of. I DO, however, mention a few things that DID come from that time.....the Bound for Glory Series, which gave Bobby Roode and James Storm their rise to the top of the card, the reign of Matt Morgan as the sole bearer of the World Tag Team Titles, and the first run of Mr. Anderson as World Champion.

Nevermind the backward look at the misgivings of the current regime, what truly matters here is how the convergence of the Aces and Eights storyline with that of the relationship of Bully Ray and the Hogan family. With Bully Ray at the helm of this story, can there be any denial that someone new is getting a shot at the biggest title in TNA? As I've said many times before, TNA is building a terrific top tier that can't be beaten by any federation out there, INCLUDING WWE. Bully Ray, Jeff Hardy, Mr. Anderson, Bobby Roode, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Sting, James Storm, RVD, Austin Aries.....all former champions. For those who keep doggedly reminding the masses of the "WWE rejects" TNA has in the ranks, you'll note that Joe, Roode, Aries, Styles, and Storm in those numbers and with the inclusion of squandered talents WWE REFUSED to give a shot like Morgan, Anderson, even Elijah Burke before his parting ways with TNA, there have been a great many talents TNA has breathed new life into.

I don't intend to make this into any kind of rant on TNA's soapbox, but I DO intend to ask those masses who ran at the first sign of political upheaval from Hulk Hogan to give it another chance. Even WITH Hogan as the authority figure, the show isn't bad. It's been MUCH better know what I mean.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Survival Tactix: The State of TNA Address.......

Today, I would like to make a few observations, a few comments, and a few suggestions regarding where TNA is right now in their quest of becoming a commanding competitor of WWE. In this analysis, I plan on remaining as objective as I can and, in comparison with the bigger and longer running competition on the subject of each division. SO let's jump right in.....

Knockouts Division.....

This is a sore division because of how little time TNA has given to the division of late. With Tara, Gail Kim, Tessmacher, Velvet Sky, ODB, and Madison Rayne as the only Knockouts given time and Tara, in particular holding the majority of the limelight with Velvet Sky as the runner-up. My question is simple....WHERE IS TAELER HENDRIX?! When does SHE get a chance to DO something?

I LOVE Tessmacher. Her moves in ring, aside from the Torrie Wilson-esque "stink face, remind me of Lita, right down to the Litacanrana off the top rope. In MY opinion, though, Madison Rayne is the single most underutilized Knockout in the entire division. She is VERY talented as a heel and I think her leading the division in that way would put TNA's best foot forward on the heel side of things and, with Velvet Sky and Tessmacher leading the face side, you have a complete picture.....kinda. I won't even give you all my pet peeve with TNA's Knockout Tag Division....really....why beat a dead horse?

X Division.......

I DEFY ANYONE who tries to tell me that the X Division is suffering. Zema Ion, Christian York, RVD, Kenny King.....all GREAT performers. I realize this is only 4, but only a year ago, it was the EXACT SAME WAY. Back then, you had Ion, Sorenson, Aries, and Kid Kash and no one else to speak of. Having the X Division tourney helped a great deal and I fully expect to see something similar this year. Adding Rockstar Spud and even relegating Robbie E. could REALLY help the division.

Tag Team Division......

TNA has not had such a great division since the Motor City Machine Guns and Beer Money led their ranks. The Chavo/Hernandez and Aries/Roode pairings have been terrific and the Ryan/Morgan and Bad Influence has tied everything together. You CANNOT ask for a better collection of heroes and villains on the roster in tag team contention. With Ryan and Morgan potentially parting company and the Aries/Roode team taking their place, I can safely say the division is in GREAT hands.

TV Title Division.......

Samoa Joe, Devon, and the possibility of even Joey Ryan being added to the mix makes me much more confident that this division is going to climb back into the order of titles important to the show. Add in the potential of AJ Styles or Kurt Angle as possible contenders for THIS belt, and you have something special in waiting.

World Heavyweight Title Division.....

Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray are holding down the fort for the time being, but James Storm, Matt Morgan, and my prediction of the year as the breakout stars to come this year.....Magnus and the returning Jesse Sorenson, who will have a big part to play in the next chapter of TNA's forward movement. The grandest thing about TNA is that there are SO many former World Title holders, the World Title could be fought over by ANY one of them at ANY given time and it won't feel terribly rushed. That's the beauty of building the ENTIRE roster in as many ways as there are people to fill in empty spots.

The X Factors and Side Notes.......

The biggest X Factors going into this season of TNA history are going to be the Gut Check Contestants, in my opinion. TNA is going to hear an earfull from a great many upset fans if those who have earned a spot on the roster don't get their just dues. Hendrix, Silva, Shaw, and Bradley have yet to get a real chance to be in the spotlight and earn their stripes with the roster's finest. OVW is a great place for talents to train and refine their skill set, but without the opportunity to test their brass on the bigger stage, it's as useless as a computer to the Amish.

On another level, I'm very curious as to how things will finally play out once the Aces and Eights story has run its course. I have high hopes that those involved will have stories to find themselves in rather than languishing in the midcard. With TNA taking to the road beginning March 7th in Chicago, this is going to be the year of reckoning, with each member of the roster being put on high ready to be called up at a moment's notice.

Survival Tactix: Where is AJ?

If someone knew ANYTHING about the TNA product, they would bring up a few guys, but the one near the top of the list would be AJ Styles. But my question and the question I've been asked more than a few times is "Where IS AJ Styles?" And my response? A fair question that we can explore. So let's do some exploring.......

Just yesterday, Pro Wrestling Insider's website ran a Dixie Carter story, running down the announcements made during the Bellator Fighting event. A note unmentioned during that fight was the interaction between Carter and the long absent Styles. Little was said concerning if there was any exchange in dialogue, but she DID use the words "Cold, distant, and unapproachable," perhaps saying that no words were exchanged at all.

At least we know he's around, at least. But why not on TV? The reasoning here is quite simple. AJ Styles has been playing the face role for the time since Fortune split from Immortal and, to be quite blunt, he's had a tough time of it, to say the least. Being booked in arguably the worst storyline from 2012, AJ has taken the abuse from creative and they know it. SO, in response, they felt AJ needed a breath of fresh air. His promo was worth the price of admission and it did the job quite nicely. Upon his return, I believe we'll see a Styles more aggressive and with the hunger as in the days of old.

As for when he'll return? I wouldn't be a bit surprised if AJ returns at Lockdown, but I ALSO wouldn't be surprised if he waits until the Thursday following and makes a HUGE statement leading to the build for Slammiversary. Whatever the case, I doubt very much we'll see AJ Styles in a WRESTLING capacity until after Lockdown at the SOONEST. So long as TNA keeps mentioning his name on camera, I'm sure the fans won't be disappointed with what they see upon his return.

Survival Tactix: The Final Four.....TNA's March Madness....

SO, in spite of TNA putting the Gut Check Challenge voting on hold, I have decided to put to you MY Final Four list based upon the list TNA has compiled. These are all after voting has happened and, for the record, I believe these people need to be signed ON THE SPOT.

1. Lufisto......

She's done so much independent wrestling over her's time she found a top 2 promotion home. Her signing with TNA would give credibility to an already stellar Knockouts roster that could use a completely new face that DIDN'T come from WWE to earn her notoriety. As a consistent PWI Top 50 ranking member for the past number of years, Genevieve Goulet DESERVES a top wrestling promotion to put her on a bigger stage and showcase her properly.

2. Sami Callahan......

He's a good performer. I don't just mean in ring, either. The man can cut a promo like few on the list. To be completely honest, the sect of the TNA audience who wants something hardcore to come from the list are going to LOVE this guy. He can mix it up with the best of them. Seeing this guy showcase with the likes of RVD, Abyss, even Jeff Hardy would be a treat to most of the people demanding a more extreme style. Combine THAT with the ability to keep people watching his promos would only help aid in the movement of any storyline he finds himself in and you have, quite possibly one of the finest talents you'll find on the independent circuit. TNA needs to strike at offering him a contract as I'm told WWE has their eyes on a new crop of NXT stars and he's on the short list.

3. Chase Stevens.......

"He's been with TNA before." I know. But there's a few things I would like to point out to those of you who think he couldn't make a difference to the TNA roster. First, he IS a true TNA original and during his tenure, was never given the kind of singles run he COULD have been given. He's a good worker and could be polished and primed into a top talent in NO time. He's smart and, with the right character, he could remain in the top spot on the card for quite some time. Fact is, even if he returned in the getup seen in THIS photo from a few years back, he could put himself over as the returning new breed and lead a three man stable OR return to the Tag Team Division with someone like Robbie E. to reinvent E's persona into something workable. Point is, Chase Stevens is the only name on the list with a traceable TNA history to refer to and THAT is valuable.

4. Michael Facade.....

His promotional package TNA found was DYNAMITE! In fact, I'll go so far as to say that this guy would EXPLODE all over the X Division and breathe some much needed life into it. I love the look and even a tag team with he and Christian York would put even the most jaded of critics to shame and make them take notice. With so many great places for him to fit in, the man TNA's Gut Check list calls Michael Cochowiczq NEEDS to just sign the paper and jump up the ranks quickly. The iron HERE is hot and THIS is the best time to strike.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Survival Tactix: Vince.....Nervous Much?

If the news of WWE's attempts to derail TNA by occupying larger venues weren't enough, it turns out that SOME of those arenas either POST-July or IN PLACE of scheduled events will be run out of SMALLER arenas instead of those that WWE would normally occupy. As stated in the previous columns, if TNA simply stays out of WWE's way, the product will grow naturally and, perhaps, even stronger in the southern half of the country, particularly. I've made my rant already, so I won't go into any kind of commentary on this, but I will say that I have little doubt WWE's tactics won't hold together if people begin to actively support the alternative brand even more as a result.

In other news, it was announced last night, that Jeff Hardy has re-signed a new deal with TNA long term. This leads ME to believe that March 10th marks the last day of his reign as champion. Why? In a lot of cases when there is uncertainty among those in the top brass, particularly when it comes down to decisions regarding a major championship, those in authority like a stable place to put that title and if they feel it will keep a high profile talent around, they'll wait until the 11th hour for such a time as they can elevate someone into position to carry the load. THAT means, since they wanted to keep Jeff on the roster, so they keep the belt around his waist as long as they feel it will take to let him know they have faith in his ability to carry the brand. If he would have felt that he was NOT inclined to re-sign, my suspicion is that in the next couple of weeks, we would have seen a beatdown or two followed by an immediate removal of the belt onto a new champion.

I feel compelled to point out that since there are two more TAPED episodes of Impact before the surprises truly begin, it gets increasingly old hearing from the critics that Impact is going to lose the battle of brand superiority when the battle has yet to begin. Now that TNA is ramping everything up into February 28th, you in Chicago are in for a treat. March 3rd is going to be REALLY special due, in no small part, to the revelations and the veil being torn apart as we go into the place all good feuds find their reckoning, Lockdown.

Allow me to pause JUST for a second and say a few words regarding ANYONE who wants to talk about Gallows or Knox or Devon or any other member of Aces and Eights who were previously on WWE TV the last time they were seen. I want to make it abundantly clear that I KNOW, WE ALL KNOW they weren't main eventers in WWE. We all know they were bottom card wonders. We get it! Thank you for the reminder, but let me ask YOU a question, do you guys remember Nick Dinsmore? I am gonna guess most people would remember him best as a character named Eugene. REALLY talented guy, for those who want to know. Yet SOMEHOW, and I'm betting it had something to do with his character, he never escaped the undercard. How about Matt Morgan does anybody remember HIS last persona in WWE? A stuttering IDIOT! How do you overcome that kind of character? That's right, a complete overhaul.

Right now, Knox, Gallows, and Devon are in a new place and are in process of building a new persona and, for the moment, they are yet untested in that capacity. Will they ascend the card? It's a little early to tell that. They ARE muscle, though, and they CAN move in ring well enough to create a respectable match. Is it enough to make them main eventers? AGAIN, it's still too early in their tenure to tell. Why not wait until after the Aces and Eights story has run aground and gauge that kind of assessment AFTER the faction is disbanded? It seems only fair to me to allow the men to prove themselves on their OWN merits as opposed to that of the faction or of their PREVIOUS personas. Let's try to keep an open mind, people. I realize WWE did a great deal of damage to people's perception of what these guys are capable of becoming, but bear in mind they wouldn't have even BEEN in WWE's scouting report if they weren't talented enough to make the grade in the first place. Even I'LL admit that WWE has a decent scouting team when it comes to MALE wrestlers. Their FEMALE prospects leave much to be desired, but THAT is another topic for another time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Survival Tactix: Battleground.....

With WWE trying to tilt the playing field, TNA has their work cut out for them. My suggestion? Change the rules. If WWE wants to play this game as they did 20+ years ago, TNA has a few options.

1. WWE's schedule is ironclad. This means they are LOCKED into the schedule they already have planned. For example, right now, WWE is booked all the way out to July 30....meaning they are committed to their schedule and they can't escape that, at least not without sacrificing MILLIONS of dollars' worth in funds to paying customers who just want to see a show in their respective towns. TNA has a chance to outwit the fox by simply using THEIR schedule as the list of places to AVOID. WWE will be in Indiana and Connecticut in the time frame TNA begins their road tour. Keeping a full state between them will ensure they have a fighting chance. Additionally, when WWE makes THEIR trips overseas in April to Europe AND to Australia in July, it will give TNA the OPTIMAL opportunity to have free reign over any part of the States they wish to traverse.

2. Live and taped shows every other week is a good way to keep things interesting. It's a cheap hybrid and a good financially responsible way of achieving an end that satisfies everyone. By using that method, they can bide their time and do so in a way that may be slower, but is a much more sure plan than trying to go head to head in a battle that could lead to a head on collision with the big company in town. It DOES mean fewer towns will be able to house such a spectacle, but it ALSO means that of the  towns that remain, there is a greater chance of TNA having a successful turnout. Fact is, even IF WWE decides to change their taping schedule to coincide with TNA's LIVE broadcasts to Thursday, as some reports are suggesting, if TNA isn't even in the same STATE, the endeavor will be moot.

3. Make sure EVERY talent they need is signed. WWE can be ruthless when they want to be, and that means the Million Dollar Man's motto comes into play here. "Every man has a price." It's been suggested that Amazing Red was pulled from the "One Night Only" PPV TNA shot last month because he is either in negotiations or has signed a contract with WWE and he isn't the only one. On the short list of talents WWE has been scouting, Alex Shelley, whose contract has been long expired has been on the list for a while now. Men who are after the money in the business are looking in the right place. If there is one thing TNA does NOT need, it's friends turned rivals. the game of survival, Vince is a master, but I would NOT be so quick to dismiss an ally of TNA, who has been at the helm for a couple of years now. Despite critics and his enemies' assessments of his treatments of the TNA product, Eric Bischoff is battle hardened and has learned valuable lessons from his last bout with Vincent Kennedy McMahon. WCW's fall was NOT in vain and, I believe, that Lockdown will begin this quest for growth. This year is FAR more critical for TNA than any year previous and because of this, they must be cautious moving forward.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Survival Tactix: Unfriendly Competition.....

Fair warning; this is going to be a rant. I mild rant, but a rant nonetheless. WWE, who have always praised the value of competition in external outlets, may be deciding to go two-faced. How? I'm glad you asked. According to sources within WWE and various news outlets, there has been some talk of using TNA's travel schedule as a template and running shows on one of the brands in the same town. There is even talk of going in and enforcing exclusive appearance rights in major city arenas to bar TNA from running in arenas WWE is known to operate out of when they visit said town.

If it wasn't enough to bar TNA from arenas, WWE has also considered running events in the same towns as TNA on the same nights to further divide the audience, forcing people to choose which brand to purchase tickets to see.

For those curious, TNA has yet to garner a fan attendance ABOVE 5,500 in the US. My question to WWE is simple: What are YOU so worried about? I thought you VALUED the success competition brings? Historically, WWE HAS been known to throw around their brand exclusive clout to keep out competition before.

In the 80's and 90's, WWF played that card to keep WCW out of "their" arenas. One such place is the epicenter of WWE's most often played venue.....Madison Square Garden. WCW never held a single event in the storied arena, thanks in no small part to the deals signed by Vince. NOW, since TNA isn't WCW in terms of popularity, this is little threat for the here and now, BUT IF the Chicago tapings' numbers confirm what I suspect, WWE may have cause to enforce those underhanded tactics sooner than later.

My opinion on the subject is a bit torn. On one hand, TNA really isn't big enough of a promotion to be running in the larger venues to begin with, making WWE's concerns null and void. BUT if TNA's road schedule would happen to coincide with a WWE event and WWE INTENDED the two events to bump heads, I find it shameful, at best. If a man like 'ol J.R., who worked as an upper level personality for the big E, is saying on his blog that competition is good and the company writing his paychecks is found to be using the kind of tactics their anti-bullying campaign prohibits, it makes for a black smudge on the record of the biggest company on the block.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Survival Tactix: Booking Lockdown.....

TNA has 5 weeks to finalize the Lockdown card and, even though a month and a week seems like quite a while down the road, I think I've got at least SOME idea where everything is going. The current of the storylines seem to suggest an almost fully Aces and Eights vs. TNA card with members of the faction from top to bottom. (The last statement is barring the suggestion of Bully Ray OR Jeff Hardy being a member.) With that thought in mind, I'd like to run down my predictions, making a prediction WITHIN a prediction as well. SO, let's explore....

Devon vs. Magnus for the TV Title.....

This match makes sense to me because it's already happened. NOW, with interference, this match becomes something of a wash, UNLESS it takes place in a cage, as it would here. The structure bars any outside forces acting upon the outcome. That, folks, is the difference maker.

Jeff Hardy vs. Bully Ray for the World Heavyweight Title......

This is Bully Ray's time to shine. If not now, TNA is going to have a world of hurt to try and explain how Hardy is remaining on top, having fans compare Hardy to a certain WWE performer who always seems to land on top of the card as well. TNA has limited number of PPVs now to give first time world champions their day in the sun and THIS is TNA's time to pass the baton to the next man in line.

Velvet Sky vs. Tara for the Knockouts Title.......

Since the return of the former Knockout title holder, the fan feedback has been, for the most part, a positive report. Tara's squeeze presents the biggest potential risk to the possible title change happening as he's been the reason for the loss EVERY TIME the Knockouts Title has been on the line. Once again, though, with the cage as the ultimate leveler for the battlefield, it's sure to make the difference for the returning Sky to regain the gold.

RVD vs. Zema Ion for the X Division Title

Why Zema? Simple. TNA needs the time to build focus on the vengeance of the man who has been on the shelf for most of last year.....Jesse Sorenson. If Ion wins, the Aces and Eights could swarm him and, in the shuffle, Sorenson could be revealed, creating a good, if not GREAT return. "Option C" is still on the table, from my understanding, and if it isn't, due to the PPV schedule shift, it could be a talking point.

Bad Influence vs. Money's Worth for the Tag Team Titles......

Yeah,  I used my OWN name for them. In any case, I can see Daniels and Kazarian having a go at the Tag Team gold once more. Fact is, it'd be the best TAG TEAM clinic since Beer Money vs. Motor City Machine Guns. I truly believe that too. Kazarian, Daniels, Roode, and Aries all have TREMENDOUS chemistry with one another. This is going to be an AWESOME display. Give them 20-30 minutes and the place will ERUPT.

Kurt Angle vs. Wes Brisco.......

This story writes itself. Kurt gets Brisco the tryout. Brisco becomes the villain. Angle remains the face and we'll see how Wes carries himself for the duration.

Aces and Eights vs. Team TNA......Lethal Lockdown

I'm betting on the VP to be the team leader for the Aces with the BOSS being revealed at the finish. My pick for the VP is Jeff Jarrett with the ultimate boss being Dixie Carter. In any case, I'll pick DOC, Mike Knox, Chris Masters, and Mr. Anderson as the Aces roster. Samoa Joe, Eric Young, James Storm, and Sam Shaw fill out MY picks for Team TNA, led by Sting.

Sam Shaw MIGHT be a surprise to some, but this pick does TWO things for Shaw....

1. It gives him a good place on the roster by giving him the shot to work with the biggest storyline going right now.

2. It gives him the revenge he'd be looking for, having been attacked by the faction in his first week.

Who are the X Factors?

Christian York, Jay Bradley, Kenny King, and Crimson

Jay Bradley carries himself like a member of the Aces and Eights and has been beneath one of the masks, but it remains to be seen if he'll be revealed to be a member. Additionally, the rumors still swirl about Crimson being added to the numbers, but again, that has yet to be confirmed. Christian York has been pushed like MAD in the past couple of months, being booked strongly against the likes of RVD, Zema Ion, AND Kenny King. Speaking of King, there was talk of him teaming with King Mo when he FINALLY debuts for TNA in a wrestling capacity. So THERE are your X Factors for the PPV.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Survival Tactix: Lethal......

Once upon a time, TNA created a gimmick match that became a yearly event. Lethal Lockdown has been going strong since 2005 and, if you'd believe it, the man who introduced the annual elimination bout will be leading the charge as the Team TNA Captain this year. With Aces and Eights on the docket as the opposing team, Team TNA will contend with Sting and the rest of the entourage, as yet to be determined. Conceivably, Samoa Joe will be the first member to soldier up. As for the other members? It couldn't hurt to explore a few possibilities.....

James Storm.....

Since his most recent little feud with a Bad Influence, Mr. Storm has had little meaningful to do. That said, 'ol Jimmy could use the face time to earn back his credibility as a legitimate World Title contender after having lost his shot to Bobby Roode, ultimately leading to the formation of a new tag team, which I WILL talk about shortly. Point is, Storm needs to be on camera to make a statement and without Lethal Lockdown, he doesn't have that.

Eric Young.....

TNA is notorious for pulling swerves at the wrong times, but THIS TIME, I think we'll see a return completely absent of such swerves. Young, who fell victim to the faction when they hit his ankle with the hammer a couple months back, will be slated to return to ring action in the weeks shortly before the PPV....I'm betting his eyes will want some restitution on behalf of his ankle.

If TNA decides to stick to a four man team, you have Sting as the ring general and it rounds out the team. On the other hand, if they want another man to fill things out, my pick would be Magnus. He's already made his presence known and is close enough to the faction story, after last week's footage, to get himself involved in the match as the FIFTH man.

The Tag Team Division is striking coals right now, with Chavo/Hernandez, Bad Influence, and Morgan/Ryan, the addition of Roode and Aries as a Tag Team is something of beauty. It reminds me of the Angle/Benoit tag pairing from Smackdown all those years ago. With Ryan and Morgan possibly slipping out of the division and back into their respective agendas as singles performers, the trade-off seems fair. As for a name for Roode and Aries? I've picked my OWN name for them......

Money's Worth. They ARE your Money's Worth and you PAID to seem THEM, not the other way around. THAT'S how they could spin it. Aries called himself "Mr." Money's Worth back in April or so of last year shortly before Destination X's "Option C" innovation. Since Bobby Roode has it in him to claim the money side of the persona, it would make sense that "Money's Worth" be the hit single on their record.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Survival Tactix: Where the Sidewalk Ends.....

TNA finally gets to take the show on the road and their first stop? CM Punk's hometown, Chicago, which is a notoriously tough crowd. Those of you in Chicago, New York, Philly, you guys help set the tone for how well a federation's product will go over. Much love for the crowds of Chi-town. You can bet a good time will be had for those of you who are wanting to tackle the road with the guys and gals hailing from the Impact Zone.

The date will be March 7th, the Thursday AFTER Lockdown. Why is THAT significant? FINALLY all the members will be in place and demands will be made. I'll even go so far as to say the HUGE faction size will begin to dissipate, being left to about 10 once it all is said and done. Don't think I haven't considered the notion that the faction will be destroyed from within just as TNA had "moles" in their backyard. Also, the way TNA has been planning this all out, Kurt Angle vs. Wes Brisco, Team TNA vs. Aces and Eights, AND Bully Ray vs. Jeff Hardy are set to headline the card for Lockdown.

By the time Lockdown is over, we'll FINALLY get a pulled back look at the bigger picture and the leader's intentions behind the faction will be revealed. I don't know about everyone else, but I have had just about enough of the gang warfare in TNA for a while. Lethal Lockdown will be worth the price of admission and you can take THAT fact to the bank.

If things play out the way I hope they will, Bully Ray will become the one to dethrone Jeff Hardy. The match is sure to turn a few heads and, if Ray has ANY part to play in the revelation of the Leader of Aces and Eights, you can BET more than a few will have some choice words. I ask you, how can they lose in a rigged game?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Survival Tactix: Thrive....

So the decision is final. TNA goes on the road. The details are outlined something like this:
TNA will go on the road, running TWO shows per venue. This means every other week, Impact will be taped while the alternated week will run LIVE. If the show were a chapter book, in the first city the new format happens, TNA will tape chapter 2 and THEN run live with chapter 1. This format is nothing new.....

Back when WWE was running two shows PER BRAND, Sunday Night Heat would be taped on Mondays before RAW and then would air the Sunday following. In accordance with keeping to storylines, commentators would talk about events that happened on Heat in the past tense even though there was a week's worth of time passed between episodes. Velocity would run the same format, taping on Tuesdays ahead of Smackdown and airing Saturday evening.

Dixie Carter has made the announcement that this move is PERMANENT. Far from the experiment which was Monday Night Impact, this alternating LIVE format promises to be MUCH more successful as the live crowd feel ALWAYS brings an X Factor to the equation. Combine THAT with a wholly different crowd every other night and you have a formula that is as well tested as gravity.

By now, the revelation of Wes Brisco and Garett Bischoff has been made....not a bad pair of no means my FAVORITE revelation, but decent enough. Though the next three picks should be something special, my biggest hope is that the Leader of the pack plays out to be worth the outrageously long wait.