Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Survival Tactix: Exploring the Mystery.....

The video reveals absolutely nothing....just as it should. So we know Dave Batista ISN'T the man in from the footage, or so he claims. The focus of THIS column is NOT to find out who the mystery man is, but rather where he might fit into the current set of television storylines.

I've been hearing news that the mystery man might have hand in holding the Main Event Mafia at bay and further deepening the Aces and Eights/MEM feud. If that weren't enough, the names keep piling up as to the identity of this YouTube posting persona, adding Bobby Lashley and the newly Bellator signed Tito Ortiz to the list to hold Rampage Jackson an arms length from the conflict. When you consider that "making a living hurting people" could refer to MMA, it makes sense. BUT as I've stated before, without any kind of intent to use these guys as actual wrestlers with a moveset and a persona, it's almost as bad as shooting blanks.

Bellator and Spike and TNA seem to be joined at the hip, which is unfortunate as wrestling fans like me don't really tune in to watch MMA on a wrestling show, at least not in the traditional sense. I get that there is a money stream there and that the fanbase created by the MMA crowd COULD transition into watching TNA FAR quicker and easier than they could in the current WWE product, but assuming that this could solve all or even some of TNA's shortcomings is farfetched. If Bobby Lashley, Tito Ortiz, and King Mo couldn't make a lasting presence in TNA history, why would I expect the track record to change just because they say they "want justice"?

My point in all of this isn't to say that the man IS an MMA fighter or not, but rather to say that IF TNA has it in their minds to continue signing what I would call "token" names to the roster, they had better make sure they are worth the price for THEM and for us.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Survival Tactix: *WARNING*WARNING*

After I wrote the last column, I began to do some digging into the mysterious figure popping up on TNA's YouTube video. A few names kicked to the surface when I talked to sources. I'm giving each a likelihood factor. Why? Because every name that surfaced had moreorless credence depending upon where these rumors were coming from. SO, before I get ahead of myself, I say let's explore....

1. Low-Ki/Senshi/Kaval....Probability: High

Few X Division performers can match the intensity, the ferocity, or the in ring prowess of this guy. One thing I will, however, note: TNA rarely allowed him more than a few words on camera. A source I trust implicitly put this name on my list and I cannot ignore it. Would he be a good addition to the roster at THIS stage in the game? In my mind, it all depends upon how he makes his "impact". If the introduction story is right and his character has the integrated into the climate of what TNA has on the table, nothing will be off-limits.

2. Matt Morgan.....Probability: Low-moderate

I hate this guy's luck. Seriously. I have no clue how TNA hasn't made him the king at least once by now. He asked for his release, according to reports and rumor has it, he's WWE bound, but could it all be just rumor? Could this all be a ruse to draw everyone in while he's poised to make a comeback?

3. Jesse Sorenson....Probability: Moderate

You'll note that right now, it's starting to look like a trend is building. and it doesn't end there. In fact, only one name on the entire list is a name that HASN'T been in TNA before, but Jesse's story is something I have no clue how to put into words. Ever since Devon was "released" from his contract only to make his return as the first man unmasked in the Aces and Eights, I've grown wary of anyone claiming to have a score to settle. Few, however, have a more ready bone to pick than Jesse.

4. DOC.....Probability: Low-moderate

In recent creative team meetings before his release, TNA had plans to turn DOC face and aid in the final downfall of the organization. When his contract was allowed to expire, several sources interviewed him. His claim was always that he was leaving his options open. Cryptic, but also understandable.

5. Adam Pierce....Probability: Moderate

When neither man in his Gut Check round was hired on, the backlash was huge. A former NWA World Title holder, the man knows his stuff, but his actions weren't enough to sway the judges...or were they? His most recent Twitter post asks what is happening August 1st. Suspicious? Could be.

These are just a few names to come up as I've been digging. Believe me, more crop up each day as Thursday of the coming week draws nearer. Even Goldberg has been mentioned, but since his comments concerning TNA aren't very favorable, I've pretty much dismissed that little rumor as just that.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Survival Tactix: 4th Attempt....

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I tend to finish the things I begin, but this past couple of weeks has seen me begin a column only to erase it an begin anew the next day three times. Why? To be completely transparent, there's been so much happening that I can scarcely force myself to focus long enough to get my thoughts to page. What could be so pressing? Let's have a look.....

1. More releases.....
Bruce Pritchard, Tara, Jesse Sorenson, DOC, and D-Lo Brown add to the list of new departures from the company. Does it worry me? I'd be lying if I said this restructure hasn't been hard to watch, especially when some of the names leave me scratching my head, but when I consider what the ultimate goal is: to create a more stable platform upon which to build; some of the difficulty dissipates....SOME. I won't pretend it's been all rainbows and sunshine for me to see guys and gals being served their marching orders, but virtually all talents and backstage hands have been supportive of TNA in spite of their having been downsized. Virtually all have been open to the notion of making returns down the road, which is a new development of late, as Dixie has been more hands on in the process.

I'd like to take a break real quick to get something off my chest. I've made it clear here that I DO go to the forums and read all kinds of opinions from all walks of life and there have been TONS of Dixie haters who sling all kinds of accusations her way. "She has no business running a wrestling company when she doesn't know good from bad" or "Dixie is running the company into the ground" or whatever else is along that vein. Whatever people feel about her is their business, I get that.....but for a bunch of armchair critics who haven't carried their own mats to make harsh criticisms of a woman who is respected even by her competitors is more than a little bit presumptuous. She'll admit to bowing to more experienced men and women in the business to teach her some of what she doesn't know, but she's resolved with her decisions, picking up some good pointers about the business, and helping TNA to live within their means. To some, Hogan and Bischoff are the worst partners to have happen to TNA, but to others, they have brought TNA to a whole new level of success. I happen to fall into the latter camp, mainly because of the sense of continuity the new product brings to the wrestling landscape as a whole. Without diverting from my focus here, no promoter is more diligent in connecting to the fans, more approachable from a talent standpoint,  or more in the trenches getting their hands dirty than Dixie Carter. I don't think anyone in the entire wrestling business deserved another chance at building up a product more than Eric Bischoff. Not even Paul Heyman. In that regard, Dixie reached out a hand to the right guy. As far as Hogan is concerned, his presence may be taxing at times, but he still gets the crowds to pop, which does say something for his staying power. People can say all they want, but at the end of the day, Dixie Carter made the best choice available and we are all enjoying some of the fringe benefits of that in the product's traveling schedule. End rant.

2. Another message.....

I'll be honest, I haven't ANY idea who could be behind this newest vignette. Next week, we may see a new talent. Then again, we may see another return to further deepen the already rich Impact storyline moveset. Whatever the case, next week will prove interesting. I happen to love the mysterious vignettes from BOTH companies and the revelations that follow, mostly for the surprise factor. The millenium clock will remain at the peak of the great intros in wrestling history, but there is something to be said for a dark mysterious figure making threats that makes my mind race.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Survival Tactix: The Next Step.......

I've been hearing some people spreading some HUGE rumors. Concerning what? The most recent string of TNA roster members being either let go OR having their contracts allowed to expire without renewing. They've been saying that TNA is experiencing financial problems and that the company is dying. The rumors couldn't be less true. While there HAS been some scaling back of more expensive contracts, there is a more rational reason for the restructuring. Since the beginning, TNA has been receiving outside funding from Panda Energy, the company from which the Carter Family derived their fortune. Now that TNA is finally gaining some traction and getting more aid from sponsorship elsewhere, TNA is starting to remove the financial training wheels.

This is a pivotal time for TNA and requires some tweaking in terms of how contracts are being structured. That being said, you can bet that the General Manager, himself, and the Executive Producer will be asked to settle for less money in order to make the changes stick. Why? Because in order for Hogan and Bischoff to be compensated for the high price they asked, they made sure to sign their contracts through Panda Energy INSTEAD of TNA, who couldn't have paid the price on their own for both men. A side note; Ric Flair ALSO signed with Panda, stacking the bill OVER 1.5 million between the three men per year. Sting, on the other hand, was paid through TNA as the sole legend with high honors. The rest of the roster, without exception, can now be afforded their contracts as is through TNA. Under the new restructure, everyone wins eventually, but it all depends upon fan support and outside sponsorship and partnerships done in a smart and financially responsible way. In past years, Dixie Carter, Jeff Jarrett, and others in top positions have compared themselves to WCW and, more accurately an early incarnation of the franchise, in that they didn't want to grow too quickly and run themselves aground. SO, they've scaled down their vision a bit, trimmed their roster back, and made changes to be able to afford the contracts they've offered their talents. TNA is doing the right thing here, folks, and though I hate to see people lose jobs, the product is still doing well. How?

1. Attendance is up. This is good for one major reason: revenue from ticket AND merchandise sales. When people come to shows and support the brand, the company grows. When the company grows, good things come down the pike, namely that the wrestlers get paid better.

2. Storylines are good. Now that there is FINALLY a kind of cohesiveness and battle lines being drawn in regards to the Aces and Eights and the MEM, things are moving forward. In fact, there are still plans in the works to bring back a name most recently released to make a face turn and leave the Aces and Eights stable, leading to the ramp down of the group eventually.

3. Match quality has been graded up. With Taryn Tarrell and Gail Kim helping to set the bar for future Knockouts matches high, it can be readily assumed that most, if not all matches will follow suit. In like fashion, with Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, and the rest of the roster is telling their stories VERY well in their matches, making the product shine as a result and lending credence to the Bound for Glory Series as well as the rest of the creative direction as a whole.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Survival Tactix: Mafia on a Rampage?

When I heard that Rampage Jackson was going to be a member of the Main Event Mafia, I was apprehensive. When I heard that Chris Sabin was going to cash in the X Title, I was hopeful. When I heard that Magnus won the Joker's Wild Tourney, I was beside myself, stammering in amazement. When I heard that every part of that equation would come face to face with each other next week, I felt vindicated. Do you know why? Because the current shift in tides is only the beginning and I've been predicting this.....

In my eyes, Chris Sabin is a wild card. I'm going to give you two scenarios as to how this could go down.....

1. Chris Sabin wins and moves into the target position with someone brand new, namely the winner of the Bound for Glory Series and AJ Styles. This move puts TNA's stamp of approval on Sabin as a newly christened member of the main event tier, creating YET ANOTHER World Champion to sharpen their playing field.


2. Bully Ray retains, making him the likely World Champion to face Magnus AND AJ Styles at Bound for Glory this year. I've made no secret that this is the match I believe will come about and I still believe that.

As much as I would LOVE to believe Chris Sabin is going to win out this time, I just have trouble with that as it relates to Bully Ray's character, the circumstances surrounding the match, and the current momentum the Main Event Mafia has of late. They've been the perfect foil so far. This makes me skeptical.....I mean, Ray's capturing of the World Title was done by covert means (or not so covert, by some people's reckoning) and has been held by the stable and not necessarily the person from match to match. The influx of the MEM has muddied up the story a bit, but not enough to fully "cap" off the stable, at least not yet. I could see a left field lob with the Mafia unable to handle the Eights and AJ Styles coming from nowhere to aid another X Division colleague for the win and then turning on him once his hand is raised, but I have my doubts TNA would play it that way.

But let me stop right in my tracks and say why Chris Sabin as the World Heavyweight Champion would be a good thing....

Chris Sabin's story would read very much like that of Jesse Sorenson's, who was a question mark before finally opting out of the wrestling ring in favor of a role behind the scenes. After two ACL injuries back to back and nearly two years out of action, Sabin returns to a hero's welcome, but without his tag team counterpart, Alex Shelley, TNA would be unable to reunite the two. So TNA returns him to his roots, but in this new world, the X Title has more than just part time merits, but more global implications, so to speak. In the newly revamped division, the uphill battle finally returns him to the top of the summit to finally get his first EVER World Heavyweight Title shot. You just can't make up a story like that. So if he wins, here's what we, as fans will receive:

Chris Sabin and Magnus aren't strangers; they've faced off during the bright years of TNA's Tag Team past, where Magnus and Doug Williams were matched against the Motor City Machine Guns for a short time. In like fashion, Sabin and AJ Styles aren't strangers, having squared off MANY times as X Division competitors before Styles upped his focus into the World Title picture. Simply put, it remains to be seen how well the chemistry is formulated between the three, but a squaring off between Sabin, Styles, and Magnus would be one for the history books....and you can take that to the bank.

So next week, we'll see just how all the pieces to this story fit together. President Ray vs. Chris Sabin in a match for the World Heavyweight Title with the battleground to be determined for the Aces and Eights and the Main Event Mafia. If the Aces prevail, I believe we'll see the retaining of the belt, but if the Mafia comes out on top or if no Aces are in Bully's corner, I believe we'll see a brand new main eventer to headline the top PPV of TNA's brand.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Survival Tactix: Fear? Me? Nah....maybe...

Let me lay out TNA's situation for you all right here and now.....

TNA is reaching some limits. They've hit the catch-22 head-on and are in a bit of a pickle. Matt Morgan has been granted his release that he'd been asking for for a while. In his last contract negotiation, Morgan had asked for a World Title reign in his contract, but when the Aces and Eights story came to fruition, some plans had to be put on hold, including his reign. To TNA's credit, he HAD been featured prominently, at least at first, but when the tides began to turn and the story began to pick up steam, Matt Morgan's push began to wane. To tell you the truth, I really can't blame him for his feeling the way he clearly does.

So here we are.....TNA needs funds to be able to afford that elusive second show in order to feature those in their ranks BUT in order to MAKE the funds needed, they need to feature those same talents on their roster. Their solution? Retire two titles and free up some space. TNA gave this very explanation to interviewers following the decision. TNA now has the X Title, the World Tag Team Titles, the Knockouts Title, and the World Heavyweight Title; right back to basics. This, folks, is what I like to call "damage control".

We all need to face facts: running a biweekly traveling product is EXPENSIVE. TNA has limited resources, even from a revenue stream perspective. So HOW can we go about repairing the damage outside of releasing even more valuable talents? Let me be COMPLETELY clear, cutting the management structure is NOT going to be helpful under the current climate. I know SOME have been calling for Hogan and Bischoff's heads, but removing them now does two things....

1. It destabilizes TNA's product from a fundamental stand-point.
2. It forces TNA to put people into their places as replacements.

The thing about putting new managers and producers in place is that without a good grasp of where the product is heading AND under the duress quick changes in high standing could cause, TNA could suffer from a massive case of culture shock. My fear in TNA replacing Hogan and Bischoff too quickly is that they may end up with a far bigger problem than that which they currently possess.

Explaining exactly HOW TNA can rebound seems simple, at least to me: stay the course. Yes, we've seen some losses of talents. Yes, there isn't as much funds to go around, meaning management may have to tighten their belts to make room. Yes, some are growing weary of the impending battle lines being drawn from week to week, but if TNA is going to ultimately succeed, they need to maintain a sense of continuity, uninterrupted by a changing of the guard OR a sudden story shift to try and appease the talents in their employ. I agree that changes need to be made and they will be. When the Bound for Glory Series has run its course, we WILL see a new champion and the era of the factions will eventually come to a close, but as I've been saying for quite some time now, patience will be rewarded.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Survival Tactix: Yet to Come.....

I've been asked quite a number of times about the latest news concerning the release of several roster members and my opinions as it relates to them. As I understand the situation, the road schedule and such has taken their toll on TNA, forcing them to make some tough decisions as it relates to who comes along for the ride. Before I reveal the names, let me be clear that none of those released have been barred from the company and can be returned to action when TNA builds a head of steam, allowing for their contracts to be reacquired.

Madison Rayne, Christian York, Alex Silva, Lei'D Tapa, Joey Ryan, and Taeler Hendrix. To put some fairness to this whole situation, Mrs. Rayne's contract HAD expired and they simply opted not to renew for the time being. Since Rayne's pregnancy, her only ties to the company have been through the Knockouts blog posts she had been doing. I have, surprisingly, few problems with the releases under ONE proviso: Taeler Hendrix, Christian York, and Madison Rayne must be allowed to return when the current waves in the storylines pass.

In other news, I have been asking for it and I KNOW I'm not the only one......TNA has dropped the TV Title AND the Knockouts Tag Titles. Let's face the facts, folks....TNA has done maddeningly little with the titles since their inceptions respectively. Now that those belts are gone, for the time being anyway, they now can focus more fully upon the titles that remain.

I'll be completely transparent with you all, I honestly thought I'd have more to say about all of this. Why? Mostly because I was a bit taken aback by just how much had happened within a couple of days as I watched the developments break. I will say this, if any criticisms are to be had on TNA's side of the argument, let's have a look in WWE land, where they average the release of more than a dozen per year on the performers' side of things. I'm not saying it's not a shame that some of these talents are relegated to working the indies once more, but I AM saying that once TNA picks up some traction....some REAL traction- in the vein of a second TV show- THEN we can see longer term contracts pounded out.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Survival Tactix: Potentials.....

In the last column, we did some exploration on how TNA could improve their product and I made the assertion that there were a COUPLE of WWE performers who could make a difference in their own careers by making the jump. I'd like to point out three MEN and three WOMEN who would benefit from Crossing the Line. Let's have a look, shall we?

For the Men.....

1. Wade Barrett- I don't think I've seen a more pathetic misuse of talent since WWE relegated Kurt Angle to ECW. Since things went so well for Angle and since making the jump from Barrett to Angle isn't as big of a stretch as one might, at first glance, believe. I, for one, believe Barrett as a HEEL would  positively SOAR in TNA. Why? Because heels are TNA's specialty and, if Barrett is better in that role, I fail to see HOW he could possibly fall short. Austin Aries, Bully Ray, Bobby Roode, even Matt Morgan, who has been MIA for a time......all have benefitted from TNA's heel treatment.

2. Tyson Kidd- I have no clue how WWE sleeps at night in regards to their best wishes for the wedding of Kidd and Natalya this past weekend. Their repeated de-push of Kidd in nearly every regard has been, to my mind, unforgivable. I ask my favorite question here as well.....why? He has a kind of energy that I would liken to a TNA fan favorite....Petey Williams. If TNA's Team Canada had met WWE's Hart Dynasty, Tyson Kidd was the most athletic of the group, just as Williams was for TNA, not taking anything from the rest of the group. So why would Kidd benefit? Since TNA has been putting more emphasis on their Tag Team and X Divisions, Kidd would be right at home, at least at first.

3. Daniel Bryan- Without confusing anyone unfamiliar with his persona BEFORE WWE, the "American Dragon" was, and still is the greatest wrestler on WWE's current payroll. By the "greatest", I include CM Punk among those I deem inferior to his workrate. A case could be made for each side of this statement: "Daniel Bryan is the most undervalued performer on the WWE roster". On the one side, he HAS won a world title. On the other, however, he was used as a part of a tag team comedy routine immediately following. He HAS, in recent weeks, been putting on some of his best performances of his WWE tenure. On the other side, he was given a look that makes him nearly IMPOSSIBLE to take seriously. You see the dilemma? Imagine match-ups with Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, and others! There is no greater foil to put a talent like Bryan with than CM Punk on the WWE roster, but that match will run its course. In TNA, Daniel Bryan would flourish. In WWE, he will run out of ammunition....simple as that.

And as for the Women.......

1. Natalya- I happen to believe that WWE's era of wrestling Divas is coming to a close. THIS means that feds like SHIMMER and SHINE are in for a very potent influx of big name talent, wasted on the big stage. I shutter at the notion that she may never make the ultimate jump and Cross the Line into a place where those of the fairer gender can be spotlighted and highlighted in a way WWE CANNOT and WILL NOT match, at least in their current state. A program with her, granted, would feel a bit like a WWE reunion, but somehow brand new in this new stage.

2. Kaitlyn- I've made it no secret that she is at the top of my list of Divas I want to see make the transition to Knockout. So what is holding her back? Certainly not talent, in this writers' humble opinion. Her spear is brutal in a way I've never seen from a woman. It's a refreshing thing of a different kind to see that kind of power in a women's match, not that today's current Knockouts can't match it. I, for one, would LOVE to see a 10 minute bout between her and Tara, among others.

3. Beth Phoenix- I make my last pick here even though she isn't a part of the active roster....or the inactive one, for that matter. This kind of influx would make those who have been missing Awesome Kong perhaps give her a rest from their wish list. On the other hand, maybe her inclusion to the Knockouts roster MAY give them yet another reason to wish.....

Why not AJ Lee? Why not CM Punk? My list of reasons for NOT picking Punk is long and, I might add, for another time. Suffice it to say I NEVER want to see CM Punk in TNA again. As for Lee? Though her current run as both wrestler and valet has been moreorless successful, I believe her calling is from a valet or even managerial standpoint. Under those rules of engagement, WWE HAS to be her home, at least from my perspective. Agree? Disagree?

Survival Tactix: Spoken Well....

I've been listening very intently to every word and I think I'm hearing things being boiled into a few different channels.....acquisitions, writing, home, and marketing. I'd like to ask some questions, give a few answers, and put a bit of perspective behind these different areas and try to see if we can narrow it all down into something workable. So without ANY further ado......

TNA left the Impact Zone and it's been worth every moment of it. For those who call Florida home, it's nothing against you, but calling Universal Studios home made TNA stagnant and without a varying audience to rile in one direction or another, it made it very difficult for TNA to gain any head way. I bring this up not because I'm reading that SOME believe Spike TV is the problem. Allow me to stress something critical here.....up until WWE shafted Spike TV by leaving them high and dry with little notice, there was, quite frankly, NO other wrestling presence on the television landscape. WWE was putting up MUCH higher numbers on Spike, running from 2002 all the way until 2005 or so, when they returned to USA Network. To be fair, with a supporting cast of shows on USA of the caliber of Burn Notice, Monk, and others, it's easy to say that TNA is at a disadvantage, but when WWE was putting up HIGHER numbers back then than they are now, the argument begins to fall apart.

Spike TV has been a GREAT supporter of the TNA product and has put up capital for them to travel and promote a bit more. Granted, more could be done on that front, but with a consistently decent rating each week, it seems reasonable to assume that Spike isn't the what IS? Some of you mentioned leaving the smaller arenas, but the problem with that is two-fold. ONE....TNA isn't drawing enough fans to arenas to expand into the larger arenas WWE frequents. TWO.....WWE has been pulling rank and contract, putting pressure on the larger arenas AND squeezing into smaller arenas in big cities to keep TNA from becoming direct competition. How can TNA enter into competition with the big dog in the yard when they won't allow them into the yard to begin with?

Rob Van Dam left because he didn't believe he was being treated like a big deal. So also said Booker T. So also said Scott Steiner. Simply put, they were a drain on funds and I say good riddance. RVD surprised me when I read his rationale because I thought he was more professional than that. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice? Nope. Van Dam fits into the same category as Booker and Steiner as far as I'm concerned.....self serving, apathetic, opportunists who want to service themselves and force the young talents back down the card. From about early 2011 on, TNA has done a terrific job under the reign of the regime most claimed would destroy the brand. Instead, they've brought stability, freshness, and a larger tier of World Title contenders to pick from. Could they stand to pick up another former WWE free agent? That depends VERY MUCH upon whom we're talking about. If they want to be a part of the history of wrestling by helping to build an organization and aiding in the establishing of brand new stars? I'm all for it, bring them in. Otherwise, let them be.

I've talked at great length about WWE's method of writing, which often leads to complete or partial show re-writes the day of and, often even hours before going on air. TNA has taken to planning their storylines out up to 6 months in advance, leaving little to the day of other than minor talking point changes. TNA has taken a bit of the guesswork out of their product, which has been refreshing to me personally, but I do have to admit, there are sometimes points in the show where I wonder about how necessary certain promos were or segments. You want fresh storylines. The Aces and Eights storyline has breathed new life into the brand and, in terms of the way the story was told, they did a masterful job of spacing out the action to put plot points into their proper perspective. SOME argue that the current storyline is too much like the nWo. I'm proud of those who feel that way. Why? Even though I don't at all agree with the assessment, fans who believe that show themselves to be the brand of fans WWE covets.....the ones who were there when the Monday Night War was at its peak.....the ones who remember.

TNA is making SOME strides in their home market, but the fact remains.....TNA needs to do better in this area. Without enough ads and TV spots on competition's air time, there is NO WAY people who COULD tune in on Thursday WOULD do so unless they knew there was more out there than just the canned shows WWE is putting out right now.

So now to MY questions.....

-Is Brooke Hogan a factor in TNA's growth, whether in her absence or presence?
-If Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Sting, and Hulk Hogan didn't make a difference in ratings, who WOULD?