Friday, August 30, 2013

Survival Tactix: Once Upon a Time....

In 2002, TNA was born. During those days, only one man on the roster embodies everything TNA has had to offer. AJ Styles. Over the course of the next decade, he answered the call over and over and over again; putting up the best match pair in the history of the company with two of the best in the business.....Unbreakable 2005 and Turning Point 2009. Once Hulk Hogan and company rolled into town, things began to change and I saw things emerge I loved and things I was repulsed by. As it turns out, so did he.....


So is he right? I'll admit, I've done my best to give the cast and crew of TNA the benefit of the doubt, but this promo is telling. In like manner to the 2011 "Summer of Punk" pipe bomb promo, there was an undoubtedly candid few minutes when I honestly didn't know when kayfabe ended and raw emotion began. There comes a time when the echelons needs to step back and re-evaluate where the ship is headed before things begin to spin out of control......this promo states a fact. The time is now. TNA was able to buy themselves some time by signing AJ Styles to a short term deal expiring the morning after Bound for Glory. The hopes of officials is that they can lock in a new contract before that time comes to a close.

Right now, I watch, I wait, I listen, and I continue to watch the patterns. I urge you all to do the same.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Survival Tactix: Devon Gone....aka Ace in the Hole.....

So now Devon is done with the television side of the business, or at least that's what the story says. As far as his actual status? The word is that he's taken the job that USED to fall to D-Lo Brown. And as for the one who pinned him? AJ Styles. I've been predicting Styles to win the World Title at Bound for Glory, but there is something looming on the horizon.....the end of his contract. Even as I pen this, both sides have entered into another round of negotiations in which it could come down to the wire. How can this be when he has been the single most loyal member of the roster, turning down every outside invitation that may have come along? To be blunt, TNA is still in the process of their restructuring and that process has seen the slimming down of the roster to an almost unprecedented level, bringing the roster to nearly a skeleton crew. What does this have to do with the contract? The only variable being measured in negotiations is money. I doubt TNA would let Styles get away from them, but it does raise the question of who they believe is worth the money to fund.

Things are getting a bit lean, but this is the direction they've needed to go from the beginning.....out onto the open road. So under the circumstances, it makes some sense that TNA would start releasing those who haven't been used in some time or aren't a part of the performance, creative, or production side of things and even consolidating certain roles in order to save valuable money. Here's how far cuts are going.....there is even talk within the organization of not resigning Hulk Hogan once his contract ends, meaning a possible return (as I predicted) of Jeff Jarrett. How is this good? Jarrett has a lot of sweat equity put into the product and has been good for the company in well placed spurts. How is this bad? I think that depends upon your perspective. If you subscribe to the view some hold, Hogan is expensive; too expensive for the amount of ground he has taken the product. He costs nearly half a million dollars of revenue from the company footing at least a portion of the capital TNA employs. On the other side of the coin, his name still sells. Copies of WWE games with his name in the marquis are still generating good buys. Toss in more legends like Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage and you have some serious name value in terms of wrestling historical figures.

Another thought that crossed my mind has to do with the Knockouts Division as a whole. Mercifully, every woman on the roster can put on a clinic, given the right opponent. It seems to me that TNA is setting up two potentials for Bound for Glory: Gail Kim and ODB. While Kim has more name value, ODB would, in my mind, benefit from the placement on the card more. Why? She's become something of a fan favorite. Her ability to take the moment and bend it to conform to her character is brilliant; which, I might add, is something sorely lacking in women's wrestling today. However, her placement over the years has, to my mind, been absolutely baffling. My hope is that she'll be able to garner enough backstage support from those in power to put her in a more favorable spot to close out the year.

At the suggestion of a friend, I watched the AJ Lee "pipe bomb" promo from RAW this week and my opinion differs a great deal from the talk over town, praising her poise and reveling in her delivery. My opinion? In 2011, CM Punk forced WWE officials to take notice of his abilities both on the microphone and in the ring, making him a sensation no one to date has been able to match in the WWE product. I found the AJ Lee three and a half minute long rant to be little more than a carbon copy of the original, tailor made for her role as a non-conformist. To be blunt, watching her give the verbal finger to the six divas in ring whilst they taunted impotently without the aid of a microphone themselves bored me to tears and encapsulated a piece of what's wrong with the giant these days.

From the smaller side of the fence, TNA is gearing up for another run and shedding some weight to be competitive. I empathize with those who were let go in the restructuring and I pray they find safe ground upon which to plant themselves and that their roots will take shape in time. As for those still under contract, I hope they're all ready for the whirlwind that awaits in the coming months.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Survival Tactix: PPV as a TV Series.....

Hardcore Justice. Destination X. No Surrender. TNA has pulled a fast one, folks. I couldn't have guessed they would take yet another old suggestion of mine and put it into practice....with a spin, of course. Near the first hundred column mark, I made a suggestion for TNA to drop HALF of their PPV's and go to TV specials to fill the empty space. They took the idea a step further and cut 8 PPVs and putting them into themed PPV taped specials AND put together a free PPV event on Spike as a way to give the show some more hype. How can I complain?

I LOVE the tactic, TNA, but the numbers, as consistently reasonable as they are, still aren't anywhere near what they need to be to qualify as a legitimate threat to the McMahon empire....not that I care. That ship has been sailing for quite some time now. In any case, when fans become flooded by WWE TV, it'll all begin to seep in....Vince has no idea where the STOP lever is. We USED to have 6 or so hours of WWE television to watch. Now you have Smackdown!, RAW, NXT, A.M. RAW, Saturday Slam, Main Event, PPV every month AND a Divas reality show, clocking the final total at a staggering 43 hours of first run WWE programming.....and THAT ISN'T including Webisodes of Backstage Fallout and the other web series on their YouTube channel and website. What is the point? Oversaturation.

Even the most dedicated of WWE fans has a limit to the amount of programming they will willingly ingest before they decide enough is enough. WWE is beginning to push the envelope once again. Good.....it's about time. The biggest problem with the product, though, is that there simply aren't enough main event players to carry the brand long term. Now that John Cena is out for a while, we may start to see some variety in the top tier line-up, but it is NOWHERE the size of what it once was even in the slowdown period 2002-2008. Yeah, I was a HUGE WWE fan back then. I went to the events, did everything I could to hit the PPVs at a local sports bar, and even forked out some money on the merch. There came a time, though, when it became too much and when WWE made the decision to go PG, it was over for me and I never looked back.

TNA's decision to take things in a different direction comes with promise as it is mildly reminiscent of WCW's Clash of the Champions events of the late 80's and early 90's. Could TNA garner more support with another show? A move to a different night? A more inclusive network package? A few more former WWE recruits to round out their roster? Perhaps, but what is more likely is that the support will have to come from enough fans branching out and pulling WWE fans out of their comfort zone to events or the challenge to step into a new product.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Survival Tactix: The Value of X.....

Because TNA built some of the best stories in the company around it and because it has waxed and waned in emphasis to accommodate influx from all over the board, I feel absolutely compelled to write about the X Division. I'll give TNA some credit on a great many things, but few things more than the renewed importance of the X Division since the introduction of "Option C". Austin Aries made a HUGE statement for TNA as a company, but also for himself as a performer, making him a marquis player on TNA's main stage. A couple of things have changed since that day, which is the subject of this column.

Before I launch into the subject of change, I'd like to make a little bit of a comparison of history, if I may.....think back to WWF on January 4, 1999. Two rivaling factions were feuding during that time....D-X and The Corporation. The Corporation had their champion in The Rock who would face off against a D-X-backed Mankind. In a match where both factions were present at ringside and interference was present as well, the heel Corporation faction was held at bay by the smaller D-X stable, at the time, who backed an outsider to the faction feud on center stage.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago to another faction feud.....The Aces and Eights and the smaller Main Event Mafia, who backed an outsider to the center stage feud....Chris Sabin. In like fashion, Sabin won the day, thanks in no small part to the MEM. His main event moment in the sun, to me, was a tribute to days gone by in wrestling history. Critics will call it a rehash, but I don't entirely agree. I have hope that his legacy won't be tarnished with the notion that he was simply a transitional champion, because his contributions to TNA simply don't conform to that description, at least to my mind. Which brings me to the changes......

Bully Ray once again at the helm of the World Title scene leads me to believe in the eventual return of AJ Styles to his rightful place in the main event at Bound for Glory. Tough as it may be to believe, Bully Ray's regaining of the World Title actually has me doubting my own prediction of Magnus being added to the main event. Why? My reasons are two-fold....

1. Magnus' story must be about the chase for the time being if he is going to be accepted into the title picture as a legitimate threat. We've seen it with a great many TNA mainstays; Bobby Roode being my favorite example. He chased after the title only to lose on the big stage and then used the momentum gained there to return to a much stronger heel character to win the belt and begin his own legacy. I predict a heel turn in his rise to the top of the card, where he'll actually make a very convincing champion.

2. AJ Styles is a fan favorite and TNA's very first homegrown talent to hold a prominent place no matter where he is on the card. Fans WANT him to win the whole thing and to represent the company as the face champion I believe he'll return to. If Magnus wins the BFG Series, it may lessen the limelight that TNA will want to put squarely upon one competitor at their premier spectacle PPV.

To end, I'd like to give props to the designer of the new X Division Title. It looks sleek and clean, without unnecessary frills or bling. It's a classy reintroduction of a belt that now matches the color of the brand, blue. In like manner, the rules introduced by Hulk Hogan made for an interesting diversion from the normal way of doing things, but as things sometimes do, they change.....people will talk and in true TNA style, Dixie Carter listened to the fans and removed the Triple Threat rules stipulation surrounding every X Division Title match in attempts to make the matches even more storyline driven.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Survival Tactix: When it Rains.....

It never fails that just when I determine to sit back and enjoy myself as a fan, backstage news hits me and rocks me back into reality. Several facts have been released in the past day or so. Perhaps it's best that I start from the top....

In another cost cutting move, mercy has granted us TNA fans a boon. Brooke Hogan has just been released from her contract. I've made it no secret my distain for TNA's choice to name her as the Knockouts VP in the first place, but this move actually surprised me. It leads me to believe that her contract was, not surprisingly, among the highest on the roster. I think they finally realized how little she was actually doing for the brand in her role and determined that the cost wasn't worth the novelty any longer.

In other Knockouts news, the word going around concerning Taryn Tarrell is that her absence isn't anything another 9 months can't cure. That's right. The bar setting Knockout, as it turns out, is expecting her first baby. I suppose I can't blame the powers that be for keeping her away from the limelight. Matches as great as her few with Gail Kim this year don't come without their fair share of scars and physicality like that won't help a pregnancy, to be sure. From this site, we wish Taryn congratulations, provided the rumors are confirmed. If they are NOT? We wish her a speedy return.

I'm sure EVERYONE is wondering what I have to say about Darren Young and his public "outing" as it were as a practicing homosexual. Placing my own personal biases aside, I think it was unnecessary for the revelation to have been made. Why? Because despite what some might have you believe, it makes little difference to the product as a whole. If a performer brings little to the table, it matters hopelessly little what direction his sexual preference swings. As for my biases? They are just that, my own and I don't apologize for them. Perhaps I lose some friends over it. Perhaps not. Whatever the case, I regard a performer the same across the board and leave preference of homo or hetero OUTSIDE the profession.




Sunday, August 11, 2013

Third Faction? Interesting.....

When I talked about a third faction running around in TNA, I WASN'T talking about Roode and Bad Influence, but it DOES count....technically. I had hoped that one of the three would pick up a first time championship before retirement comes around. My pick? Daniels. I would LOVE to see Christopher Daniels as the World Heavyweight Champion and, under the right set of circumstances, I think it could happen. HOWEVER, with a top tier pretty much congested with the war between the Aces and Eights and the Main Event Mafia, I just don't see it happening at Bound for Glory this year. I stand by Magnus and his rise into the top tier. His renewal of his contract with TNA says to me that big things are coming and that Bound for Glory's World Title match is going to be a huge first step, but the chase only BEGINS there.

Now, I realize that I'm rambling a bit, but when we're talking about the goings on in TNA at the moment, it's tough not to. Why? Because the plans are in flux. I'll use Taryn Tarrell as an example. For reasons unknown of yet, Tarrell never showed up to the last set of TNA tapings. The running understanding within the organization is that she won't be back for quite some time.....if ever. NOW, with that understanding and the fact that she had become a bit of a bar setting Knockouts competitor, it would be stupid NOT to mention that she'd been written into the Bound for Glory plans. TNA officials had planned on giving her a run with the Knockouts Title, but with her current state, clearly that is no longer the case.

Since the departure of Bruce Pritchard, Eric Bischoff has taken charge of TNA Creative. While Matt Conway and David Lagana still do the majority of the show's writing, Bischoff has taken the developments TNA and Spike have negotiated and incorporated them into the creative direction. So what now? A fair question. If I had to make a guess, I'd say we'll see one of two Knockouts make a return to television prominence, Velvet Sky or Miss Tessmacher. On the other hand, ODB has been featured recently, so who really knows? Right now, I'd say that TNA is testing the waters to find out what fans like best, so don't be surprised if you begin to see other Knockouts return.

To further complicate matters, D-Lo Brown, in a recent interview called what TNA is going through "growing pains". Agree? Disagree? I happen to agree, in large part due to the expanding of their borders of influence. By leaving the Impact Zone behind, they've become a more accessible product and easier to market. As for HOW they're marketing the product? That's another story. Let's just say they're working on that. In short, Bound for Glory promises to be a bigger deal this year than last year.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Survival Tactix: Hatred? REALLY!?

Had Ken Shamrock made an appearance, you may have seen TNA's Impact fanbase soar, but with the AJ Styles vs. Jeff Jarrett Hardcore Justice 2005 special guest enforcer Tito Ortiz? Not so much. To tell you the truth, I didn't mind anywhere NEAR as much as some in the internet wrestling community. Do I agree with the hard grading on the reveal? Partially, but when it comes to the show as a whole, I simply don't see it.  I mean, I've seen some BAD years in TNA history (2010 being in the number) but when I look at this year? I can't think of a more stable year in terms of storyline continuity other than maybe last year and the Knockouts Division wasn't doing as good in terms of bar setting.

Could the revelation of Tito Ortiz have been done better? Of course, but when I look at footage from Mr. Ortiz from not long ago, I can't say as I'm terribly disappointed. The man can cut a decent promo and probably didn't need a script for his little vignettes. As far as his ability to pull punches and take bumps? We'll see, but if Jackson can put himself in a decent place in a brawl portion of the storyline, I see no reason this can't work for Ortiz as well. Now bear in mind that this depends LARGELY upon how inclined he is to learn the craft for TNA's sake because if he's not willing to pick up every piece of advice and play his part to the letter, the fans will know it and TNA will pay dearly for a high costing mistake. HOWEVER, if Tito Ortiz IS willing to do what it takes and sell this deal like the promos, we may be looking at the best sleeper acquisition TNA has had so far. Only time will tell though and time ISN'T something to be wasted in trying to convince people you've made the right choice in blending MMA and professional wrestling.

Also, for those who have this peculiar idea that TNA is responsible for his being there, you couldn't be more wrong. Granted, they let him into the building and granted, he was on Impact, but TNA hasn't footed the bill for his appearances. Those bills fell on Spike TV. They believe that the blending of the two in certain places could bolster some viewing numbers for both shows. Are they right? I have no idea. I hope so, but historically, it hasn't been successful so far. If the one of the biggest names in wrestling history (Hulk Hogan) hasn't helped and the PR from major publications like Pro Wrestling Illustrated isn't helping, I think we're left with only one reason....brand preference. I've been searching for all kinds of reasons why people wouldn't watch TNA and that's the only thing I can come up with.

It explains the double standards, harsh grading on production, and the complete disregard for longevity in discussions and debates about which is the most balanced product on the wrestling market. I'm sure I come off as a huge mark, whose favor towards TNA completely disregards arguments with merit, but if you've read this column for any length of time, you know that NOT to be the case. I've written MANY columns, chastising my product of choice for seemingly "bonehead" decisions in regards to the releasing of talents, the use of other talents, and the general organization of the product, but by and large, I'm enjoying what I've been seeing out of the show each week and I have no major disputes or gripes of late. For the first time in a long while, I find myself just sitting back and being a fan rather than a critic. It's a good time for that as a TNA fan, at least in my view.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Rants From Ringside: Rampage vs. The Huntington Beach Bad Boy

First of all, I would like to take care of some business by thanking my good friend Tactix for supporting me over the past few weeks and months. He knows what has been going on in my life and not once has he hounded me about writing. For your friendship and your support Tactix, I will always be grateful.

Now, on to my thoughts about last night’s big August 1st reveal. It was announced last night that the August 1st Warning was in fact, Tito Ortiz. The moment I saw who it was one word popped into my head “brilliant.” Now, as Tactix spoke of before, this is definitely not the first time an MMA fighter has stepped into the ring. Tank Abbot, Ken Shamrock, Brock Lesnar and Dan “The Beast” Severn have all stepped into the pro wrestling “arena,” if you will. There is another professional wrestler that I would be remiss for not mentioning. This man is the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion and the only man to fight an MMA match with a luchador mask: Alberto Del Rio. Of course, he fought under the name Dos Caras Jr. Del Rio, real name Alberto Rodriguez, had a professional MMA record of 9 wins and 5 losses.

I will admit when I first found out about MMA fighters stepping into the world of professional wrestling, I was cautiously optimistic. Long before Tank Abbot or Ken Shamrock stepped foot into the ring I had seen footage of the blood sport called MMA. To be honest, I was hooked from the beginning. I don’t know if it is my fascination with violence, or just a sick need to see some cocky guy get his butt kicked every once in a while, but I knew as soon as I saw UFC 1 that this was going to be a sport that with a little modification that was going to blow up into something spectacular. Love him or hate him, Dana White along with the Fertitta brothers have definitely been the saviors of the sport.

The interesting thing about this whole melding of MMA and professional wrestling is, though it may be a fairly new concept in America; the Japanese have also been doing it successfully for quite some time. Antonio Inoki, used to own New Japan Pro Wrestling, was a wrestler himself, and then went on to promote shows like NJPW: Ultimate Crush that featured both professional wrestling matches and MMA matches on the same card. Manowaman is something of a legend in Japan. He first started his rise to fame in organizations like PRIDE and DREAM, two huge Japanese MMA organizations. Then he set his sights on the world of professional wrestling by defeating Necro Butcher in 2010 and it is believed that the fifth generation of Tiger Mask, a long time and very well loved professional wrestling character in Japan, is Manowaman. There are plenty more examples of MMA and professional wrestling bleeding over into each other in Japan, but those are the most well known.

But what does this mean for TNA? Why has TNA decided to bring King Mo, Rampage Jackson, and Tito Ortiz into the fringe all of the sudden? It’s clear they have some sort of partnership with Bellator MMA. At first, I thought maybe it was just a fluke when King Mo was first hired on to TNA. But then, Rampage Jackson was hired on and it was announced that at the next Bellator PPV his opponent was going to be none other than “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz.


Frankly, I love the idea that these two companies have come to some kind of agreement. I wouldn’t even mind if Ortiz and Rampage never stepped foot in an actual match, but it would make since for Ortiz to align himself with the Aces & Eights since the Main Event Mafia has Rampage on their side. I don’t know if King Mo, Tito Ortiz or Rampage Jackson will make that big of a splash in the world of professional wrestling, but I am certainly not against it at all and frankly the fact that Rampage and Ortiz have decided to start this journey, makes me like them a little more. 

Whether it helps the storyline move along, or just a ploy to advertise Bellator's biggest matches, frankly, I feel it's genius and I can't wait to see more. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Survival Tactix: TN-MMA?

The warning turned out to be, as suspected, Tito Ortiz. Okay, I'll give it a week or two to materialize into something worth watching if TNA has an ace to play. Do you know why? Simple....in the beginning there was Ken Shamrock as TNA's first World Heavyweight Champion. MMA Legend. Tank Abbott performed in the squared circle for a time. MMA Legend. Even though Brock Lesnar isn't an MMA legend, he DID bring wrestling fans into MMA for his WWE fame and has brought back some of the MMA fans back with him upon his return to WWE.

Since I already went into my feelings concerning the POTENTIAL of MMA fighters making the jump into TNA as a historical failure, I need not rehash. HOWEVER, there IS a way that everyone profits here. "How?!" you ask? Simple....it goes something like this...

Ken Shamrock WRESTLED for YEARS with WWF and for nearly a full year with TNA. There was no on-and-off teasing a wrestling match without ever stepping in for real or special guest enforcer spots as substitution. THAT made Ken Shamrock something different. THAT made Shamrock something special. At 48, Ken's done and he deserves the rest.

Triple H once said that MMA needed to "evolve" and incorporate character into the product. Basically, he was saying that MMA needed to become something a little bit of pro wrestling mixed with MMA, but not really resembling either. Oddly enough, he sits in his perch looking down over ONE MMA fighter in Brock Lesnar in his employ while Dixie Carter, perhaps more hastily has THREE in Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, and King Mo. Years ago, WWF made a mistake of epic proportions by incorporating a brawl involving Bart Gunn into one of their PPVs. With so little planning and so little effort, the event went belly up, even by the standards of the day. TNA could reverse those standards. I propose a match of submission rules filled the brim with reversals, and a long time limit featuring one fighter and one wrestler. Imagine a clinic between the current AJ Styles character and MMA fighter Eddie Alvarez. How about putting together Kurt Angle and Rampage Jackson? Why not Kenny King vs. King Mo?

It's easy to find defeat when you never step up to the plate and, so far, NONE of the MMA fighters have been tested against one of TNA's finest. Simply put, standing at the entrance ramp is easy for someone who never intends to get into the ring and do battle. But that's the point I'm trying to make...it CAN work, provided that all parties involved plan on doing their part FLAWLESSLY.