Sunday, September 29, 2013

Survival Tactix: Hulk Up- And Out?

Anyone who was watching last night knows about Hulk Hogan's choice given by Dixie Carter on Impact. What no one knows is actually how much truth is wrapped up into this storyline. With Hulk Hogan legitimately negotiating for his contract and AJ Styles being the consummate employee holding his employer to their word, fiction is mirroring reality, in a matter of speaking.

I happen to LOVE the current angle, despite any similarities it might have to what's going on in WWE right now. Truth is, I have absolutely NO clue what's going on other than a newly re-christened McMahon-Helmsley Era with an Evolution twist. I don't know the players anymore and, in all truth, I couldn't even begin to care less.

Could WWE finally have decided to shore up their losses and put the shambles of their product back on track? No clue. But what of TNA? With the possible departure of Hogan, where does that leave Eric Bischoff? In all truth, it's been his mind at the helm of most of TNA's driving force right now. I'd love to see him stick around, but with his ties to Hogan being legendary and his reality shows taking off, his outside ventures promise far more return than TNA is able to offer right now.

I've always had high hopes for TNA, hence this site, but under the current distress, it seems that something needs to be done in order to salvage what remains.....say a return to their identity?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Survival Tactix: 20 Questions.....4

Being a wrestling fan who also happens to try his hand at critique, marketing theory, and a working knowledge of wrestling trends, one little perk of writing this column is the easy access to secondary perspectives from the vast library of others doing the same. Once such columnist gave me this question as I read his column just today.....

True or False......

TNA is just one wrestler away from being able to truly compete with WWE.

Jeff Hardy
Kurt Angle
Hulk Hogan
Orlando Jordan
Ken Anderson
The Dudleys
Road Warrior Animal
The Steiners
Lex Luger
Randy Savage

This list is just a few names from the top of my head of former WWE talents who have made appearances in TNA over the years. Some came in the early years during their time in the Asylum, while others only made their debut in their tapings at Universal Studios. No matter what the time frame, the result has always been the visible change in the viewership.

TNA has tried pushing every envelope there is to push without crossing into sacrilege and the like and for all the technical wrestling talents (Kurt Angle), highlight reel talents (Jeff Hardy), rising names (Mr. KE-ANDERSON), and even legends (Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan), they have little to show for their efforts, which is troubling for some to digest.

But could it possibly be true? Could TNA catch lightning in a bottle by way of another acquisition? If TNA's track record is anything to go by, my answer is a loud, resounding, resolute NO. In spite of WWE's extensive roster numbers, there isn't any one member who could cross the line and make any bit of difference at all. If Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Sting couldn't bring the numbers up, not even the debut of The Undertaker or Kane would spark a spike (no pun intended) in the viewership in the long term.

TNA is the stronger company when it comes to long term planning, but right now, their exposure is so limited and WWE's fanbase is rabidly loyal. Going on the road has helped bring some name recognition to communities who may not have had the chance to catch a televised event in quite some time in their market. That much we can credit TNA officials for doing quite well....they know where they can draw and where they have trouble. I believe the numbers will come eventually, we TNA fans just need to be patient. Compared to WWE, TNA is a drop in the bucket in terms of life span. WCW was an entity long before they held those letters. TNA was not.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Survival Tactix: The First Five.....

This column is special. How so? Because it runs in the vein of something I try to do every year once or so. This is WWE vs. TNA and, for once, I have this feeling WWE might actually win a couple of matches I'd like to see right now.....

AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler......

Both men, right now, seem to be in similar places in their respective company homes. To be clear, there are few men on WWE's entire roster who could hang with Styles for the long haul, but I think Ziggler could actually hold his own. Would he win? I doubt it, but you can be sure the story told would be stellar.

AJ Lee vs. ODB

Why would I EVER want to see this? To me, this is a hysterical riot right out of the gate. When I think about Lee's "pipe bomb" promo on the Total Divas cast in ring, I think about how far in that Total Divas direction she actually is compared to ODB. Toss in her love interest for the week along with Eric Young as ODB's mate, and you have the recipe for comic gold.

The Shield and the Wyatts vs. The MEM and the Extraordinary Gentlemen's Organization....

You could say I stacked the deck, but honestly, who wouldn't want to see some good matches between some of the finest upstarts on WWE's roster against the homegrown talents of TNA? Just try to tell me this wouldn't be worth seeing.

John Cena vs. Bully Ray.....

Right now, Bully Ray is TNA's hottest commodity. Like him or not, his reinvention of his character has done all kinds of wonders for his career and that persona would be a tremendous foil for Cena and would maybe even put some energy back into his long dead self.

Triple H vs. Sting.....

Why THIS match? Because I know HHH could pull out a great match without much effort. Not only so, but both guys have served as authoritarian figures on their respective roles. With the current roles of each, Sting could remain a face and HHH a heel and there would STILL be a great build up to a match like that.

So those are my top 5 for the moment.....more to follow.....

Monday, September 23, 2013

Survival Tactix: Mystery Knockout.....

The title of this column partially explains this week's promo for Impact. ODB, Joseph Park, and Eric Young vs. Robbie E., Jesse Godders, and a mystery Knockout. If the current state of TNA's booking remains constant, this Knockout may end up challenging ODB for the Knockouts Title at Bound for Glory. But as for who it might be? I'd like to throw caution into the wind just for a while before giving my actual speculation. I suppose you could call this my wish list of potential opponents that realistically could make an appearance.

Since ODB has been playing the babyface part, it only makes sense to bring in a heel Knockout to challenge for the belt....that said, here are a few legitimate potentials.....

LuFisto.....She was on TNA's list of potentials for the Gut Check Challenge and had quite a number of supporters who were familiar with her work over the years in the indies who lent her votes, self included. If TNA could get HER under contract, we'd be seeing a true clinic at Bound for Glory.

Madison Rayne.....Yes, she was released from her contract and yes, she had a baby only a month or two ago, but if her training began in the weeks following and built slowly, she could very well be in ship shape come the PPV.

Taeler Hendrix......What if her release was a work? What if she was never actually released, but instead preyed upon the controversy and is instead being moved into position for some camera exposure? Stranger things have happened in TNA.

Ivelise Valez.....I've made it no secret that she SHOULD have been picked up instead of Lei'd Tapa in their round of Gut Check. Her MMA background would have made for a good addition to the roster, playing into a submission character, the first female in recent memory to have a reputation like that. Think back to the glory days of WWE's Women's Division. Trish wasn't a submission specialist, neither was Lita, or Molly Holly, or Gail Kim, or Ivory, or anyone else for that matter. In that way, Valez would have had no equal, but TNA let her get away......or did they?

As for actual predictions?

Lei'd Tapa.....This could be her actual in ring debut as a member of the roster. As a heel, it would allow her to set herself apart from the others by aligning with Tara's former entourage.

The Blossoms.....Why not? WWE has twins, why not TNA? I think it'd fit nicely, setting up for the switcheroo and the like in terms of in ring tactics.

Mickie James......If TNA and her have come to agreement, she is the most likely to sit in the top spot.

Velvet Sky.....She's been a decent heel before and it could happen again. I hope it wouldn't come at the expense of her relationship with Chris Sabin, but with everything else happening, few things would surprise me.

Gail Kim......TNA's resident heel at arms. Gail Kim has been a heel more than a face in her career and this alliance would fit in her character just fine,  provided that it gave her the title around her waist once more. Not to mention she's still under contract.

These are just a few, but I'm sure there are plenty more if one were to think of a logical outworking of story to explain a debut or return. Whatever, the case, this is a match I'm very much looking forward to.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Survival Tactix: Trouble in Dixie......

So the question right now is "What's with Dixie?" My question in response is "Which answer do you want?" If you're looking for the answer in the vast world of kayfabe, or storyline, then the answer seems pretty evident in the show, but for the sake of argument, I have no problem laying it all out......

Dixie has been enjoying the ride, making all kinds of appearances, shaking hands and the like with the fans of the show. Now, she has her most loyal employee, like some of the fans, questioning her love of the brand by bringing up what he claims as mistakes or slights? How dare he? She's jumped into the trenches too, after all, scrubbing chairs and cleaning floors with the grunts and stagehands. She's been just doing what's best to try and make the brand into something that more than just wrestling fans can get into. Who does this curtain jerker think he is?

And that's where this whole thing lies.....until this coming Thursday, when everything goes live. AJ Styles has plenty more to say and, the fact of the matter is, the question I'm REALLY going to answer is what's happening behind the scenes. Let's begin a few weeks back, when AJ Styles really began looking like he was going to end up in the final four in the Bound for Glory Series. His contract was coming up and there was plenty on the table to discuss, not the least of which being whether or not Styles was worth the money he was asking for. In the end, it came down to two things: Magnus is locked into a long term deal and AJ's payday from the PPV stipulation dealing with challenging for the title had to be addressed. This is how TNA booking seems to be working: wrapping up character storylines 6 months to a year in advance.

Now, TNA has time to work on how Magnus is going to fit into the World Title picture or how he's going to get there. With a fully loaded title picture already, there is plenty of ways to get him there, but they now have time. With AJ AND NOW, with Hulk Hogan, they had to do something. SO, fast forward two weeks and now Dixie is working on trying to mend a little rift in her relations with Hulk Hogan. What was wrong? Hulk was upset that Brooke was written out the way she was and that he wasn't consulted before letting her contract expire, possibly enabling him to negotiate on her behalf.

TNA Creative has a plan, though. They decided to scrap SOME of the plans and prepare for the worst, meaning that Hulk Hogan may NOT re-sign once his contract expires on October 1st. So they decided to take a page from Eric Bischoff and, incidently, CM Punk's playbook and work the controversy. Let AJ vent on camera and let's have a president and poster boy stand off. This does two things: it gives fans a break from the GM AND helps draw attentions away from his absence. It also makes a way for the potential return of Jeff Jarrett in some kind of on camera role. He's already begun helping with some of the day to day running of things and, at least in my mind, he's preparing for a return.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Survival Tactix: Bound for Gory.....

Yeah, you read that right, no typos here, folks. If TNA plays their cards like I get the feeling they will, Bully Ray vs. AJ Styles is going to be a mess....all over the ring. By that, I mean there may end up being a No Disqualification stipulation OR even put the entire match out of reach from the factions in a cage or street fight with banned factions rules. Whatever the case, it could end up with much blood on the canvas.

As for the rest of the card? Part of the Knockouts contest will have to do with what TNA officials decide to do with Mickie James' contract settlement. If they retain her contract and they can come to terms, we may see a rematch. On the other hand, if TNA really wants to bond itself to seeing the Aces and Eights come to ruin COMPLETELY, my guess is for Miss Tessmacher as the first title defense for ODB.

Bound for Glory is where TNA brings out their big hitters and I see none bigger than Abyss, who I believe TNA is going to bring back to put more faces into the mix. Could it involve Joseph Park? I suppose, but it doesn't HAVE to. There are so many ways Abyss could make his return, but whatever the case, it needs to happen soon for him to truly matter. Since his departure with the TV Title, much has happened and, since the title he holds has no real prestige anyway, he may as well leave the belt at home if and when he does return.

Concerning the Tag Team Titles.....
If I were in the lead booking position, I would book a three or four way tornado tag match between Chavo/Hernandez, The Extraordinary Gentlemen's Org., Gunner/Storm, and the Aces and Eights. I would even take it further and give the advantage to Daniels/Roode/Kaz and the belt to boot. By utilizing the Freebird Rule, by which any combination of members of the team can defend the title when it is to be defended. This stacks the card and fills up some much needed screen time.

The X Division Title is going to HAVE to be defended in a special way since it IS a special PPV and I see no better way than by using Ultimate X or a Ladder Match and finally put the weight limit to rest, allowing someone like Jay Bradley to actually compete on screen without looking like a total jobber. Kenny King is an obvious entrant, as is Petey Williams. I'd fill it out with Manik, Rockstar Spud, and even Robbie E, bringing every usable member of the roster to the table. Since TNA officials haven't released any details concerning Zema Ion's condition post surgery, it remains to be seen if he'll end up sticking around beyond Bound for Glory.

And that brings me to surprises of the night. How will Kurt Angle be featured beyond his induction? I think I'll go out on a limb and guess Magnus. I think that in order for Magnus to truly get over as a singles competitor, he HAS to get past Angle. Angle, even now, in the twilight of his career, is a good gauge for how a singles competitor will fare afterward. I'll even say that Jeff Hardy may find himself entangled in a feud with the resident Brit down the road, if not shortly.

Another question is whether or not we'll see any returns or debuts that haven't been posted or leaked on the net as of this post. I have high hopes that Jeff Jarrett will return and that his return will usher in a few throwbacks to bring some of the old time loyalists back around. Whatever the case, this year's Bound for Glory will be something to behold.....count on it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Survival Tactix: How Do You Like Me NOW?!

Some of you may have skipped out on my spoiler column, which is fine, but now that MOST have seen last night's battle of words, any thoughts? I've got more than a few, so strap in and hold on to something.....

Let me start with AJ Styles:
You did good, much passion, much bravado, but where in this mincing of words, was ANY mention of the TNA staple for nearly 7 years? Where is the 6 Sided Ring? I miss those X Division wrestlers as much, if not moreso, than the next guy, but if we're to miss the obvious, why not start there? You can talk about Williams, though he now, is under contract. You can talk for MILES about Lethal, and be right about every note. You can talk about Low-Ki, and have a compelling case. You can talk all night long about bringing in MMA guys and former WWE talents (like Christian, whom I'm guessing AJ was talking about most vividly), and anyone else in the mass of names without names and you'd be right on target. But why stop there?

It begins sounding like 2011, twisting the clock back, I remember a 7 minute long rant by a guy who was quickly swept under the proverbial rug and had, quite possibly one of the most forgettable long reigns in WWE history in no small part due to politics and retaliation. CM Punk came out and had his mic shut off as he went into his bullying portion of his talk and was never truly given a rebuttal. Dixie went that extra mile and GAVE AJ his foil, which brings me to Dixie.

While I can empathize with the sentiment, and I LOVE the raw emotion behind it, I can't agree with the whole "marginal" crack. As far as the last 5 Star Match? Look no further than Turning Point 2009, BEFORE the regime came in and took Daniels out of the main event and put him right back in the mid-card along with Joe. I DO love this new side to the Dixie Carter paradigm, which makes me COMPELLED to see where this is all going. Are you committed to providing a semi-permanent foil to his face character? You've done well so far in generating the kind of heat a heel needs, but are you thick-skinned enough to take the flack for the words in ring? Fans can be brutal. I'm not the kind of fan who can't separate character from person within and I get what you're doing. In fact, I pretty proud of you as this company's president, which is why I have little to say OTHER than if you want to play this out, don't shy away from the censors, embrace them. If hitting your head on the red line is too concerning, this endeavor will be for naught.

As for the segment as a whole:
Brilliant. I LOVE the AJ vs. Dixie word war and would gladly see a rematch in a week or two. Only one thing would I change.....KEEP HOGAN OUT! Unless he's willing to serve as collateral damage with a few shots of friendly fire from AJ with him being the guy who assassinated the 6 Sided Ring and forced some of TNA's finest into exile while collecting a bulkier paycheck and using his position to pander to his family and friend, giving THEM more to do than some of those in TNA's talent employ.

My advice? Run with it. If Hulk Hogan's contract REALLY DOES expire October 1st, as some sources are claiming, this would be the PERFECT kayfabe sendoff. If Dixie isn't prepared to take the heat, bring in someone who Jeff Jarrett. His personal experience with the process and ability to cut a decent heel promo could rein in PLENTY to do once Bound for Glory comes around October 20th. Like what? I'm glad you asked.

AJ Styles comes back out to the ring next week to demand that Dixie watch and listen. If Hulk Hogan's contract is extended, at least in the short term, this would explode like a firecracker in a confined space....have HIM come out to the ring and AJ get in HIS face as well, bringing out the Aces and Eights., where AJ ALSO confronts Bully Ray for the first time. The following week, Dixie starts the show with someone AJ knows VERY well who has a few words to say, bringing out Jeff Jarrett. This segment can go as long as they need it to in order to set the tone for the Bound for Glory title match.

Fast forward to the match itself. Bully Ray and AJ are in the ring and working their butts off and Jarrett comes out to try and fix the match for Bully Ray, who tries to capitalize. Enter Mr. Anderson to break up the fix, putting Bully Ray on the defensive, allowing for AJ to take the win. NOW, Anderson and AJ are targets for management AND the Aces and Eights respectively. This gives Anderson the place to land after Bound for Glory and it also allows AJ the position of power to keep this storyline moving forward into the next landmark date. Like I said, if Dixie isn't comfortable taking the heat herself, Jeff Jarrett is the most logical man to stand at her side and take the heat in her place. And he doesn't mind being the heel, having done so more than half the time he's been with the company.

Believe me, I haven't forgotten the ones on AJ's challenger list once the smoke clears from Bound for Glory, but THAT, folks, is for tomorrow.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Survival Tactix: Roots.....

Before launching into this HUGE topic going on in terms of TNA's traveling future, I'd like to run down the news ticker of late.......

- Former Knockout SoCal Val was arrested recently for Driving Under the Influence and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage. Her blood alcohol level was at .15. This comes on the heels of her departure from TNA a week or so before.

- Mickie James is in the process of negotiating a new contract with TNA as her current one expired just this week. It was reported by other sources that she was not interested in negotiating with officials, but those rumors were dispelled.

- TNA is in talks to have Hulk Hogan sign an extended contract at a lower rate, but with Hogan possibly wanting to make another WWE run, there is no way to know which direction the wind will blow as the year comes to a close.

So here's the long and short of TNA's situation: TNA's travel expenses are beginning to wear on their budget. So officials are once again looking to set down roots in one spot again in order to regroup and recover some losses. There has been talk of either Las Vegas or a return to Orlando for the future moving forward.

Why? Because in spite of all the traveling and the money spent on production and talent and creative storylines, TNA isn't drawing anywhere near what they've hoped they would. I wish it weren't so, but it's not like I can blame upper management for not doing enough. To complicate this effort in finding a new home base, WWE has expressed interest in having a physical Hall of Fame at Universal Studios just to keep TNA from returning, but Universal Studios has two problems......

1. They are demanding for WWE to tape one of their shows there and WWE demands exclusivity.
2. Universal enjoyed their deal with TNA and having them in their park added a continuous source of income that bolstered their bottom line.

Universal Studios doesn't want to alienate TNA in any way and TNA is exploring the idea of a return with their management.

Here's my take on the situation, TNA has had a good run and being on the road IS good for business, but the demands on their finances if they wish to remain steady in terms of growth are only going to get tougher. If TNA wishes to leave Panda's financial tether behind, they need to become a bit stronger, which I'm not so sure they are just yet. This has been a great run, but I think they need to find a place to roost for a while before venturing from the nest for good. I truly wish it weren't so and it's really hard to not blame WWE loyalists for not understanding just how good TNA is for WWE's product quality. It only gets better when WWE has competition to strive against. WWE's demand for exclusivity from Universal, their repeated attempts to keep TNA out of larger markets by using contracts from venues, their pompous statements (mostly from Triple H) about WWE not needing anything TNA has in their talent pool.....all that only tells ME that WWE DOES think of TNA as competition and they are working their hardest to make sure TNA never becomes a threat as WCW did.

People will always look at TNA as the better alternative to Ring of Honor in terms of visibility and a way to keep themselves relevant to the wrestling landscape and no matter who tries to tell you that Spike isn't helping, WWE was there for 6 years and enjoyed far greater success than they are having now on USA. The network isn't the problem, the loyal TNA fanbase isn't the problem. Even Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff aren't the problem, as some old school TNA purists may try to say. So what IS the problem? That, folks, may be the question of the year and one for another time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Survival Tactix: 20 Questions.......3.....

Since I've managed to leave myself more than enough numbers to keep this column trend of questions and scenarios alive for quite some time, I've decided to move in little 3-4 "20 Questions" column clusters separated by outside material and such in order to break up any tedious reading. You're welcome. So.....what's the question this time?

My question comes with a bit of background. A few months ago, I speculated that Sting may be on his last legs in the ring with TNA. This leads into all kinds of rumor mill ramblings concerning WWE that I have interest in covering yet again, but it DOES beg a does it all end? How does TNA part company with a staple of their product who has been present for nearly 10 years now? Who could bring Sting's final match to the masses? Does HE pick his opponent? Do they? I realize that those are more than one, but you must understand, the question of how it all is to end brings all the rest of the questions about.

Because we're talking about TNA, it would make sense for TNA to hand the mantle back to the man who left it in his hands to begin with, Jeff Jarrett. In 2006, Jarrett lost to Sting at Bound for Glory in a "must-win" situation. Sting revealed a new look and took the World Title and the reins as Jeff went home to "rethink" and to "reflect".  Jarrett's step back allowed for others to hold the World Title and for new champions to be created and built upon, allowing the product to grow. So does Sting hand the reins back to Jarrett?

In 2009, Sting faced AJ Styles in Irvine, California for the World Title at Bound for Glory, claiming that this would be his passing of the torch. When Styles won, did it actually change the course of TNA's history to follow? Not So does Sting drop his final loss to the "Phenomenal" one to make the "passing of the torch" stick?

Once Final Resolution comes around this year, Sting will have been with TNA actively for 9 years. If the four appearances in 2003 are to be counted, that makes a full blown decade, which is remarkable, in and of itself. Each year, Dixie Carter is somehow able to convince him to stick around for one more year, but with the release of other such "yearly renewal talents" like Tara and Brooke Hogan, it begs the question of whether or not he'll sign for one more year or he'll hang up his boots and bat in the TNA Hall of Fame for good. Now I don't place Sting in the same class as Tara, but TNA pays a reported half million dollars per year to keep him under contract- a pretty penny that dwarfs that which Tara pulled down during her years of service to the company.

When you look at the political atmosphere that comes about at the thought of Sting's retirement run, only a few names bubble to the surface: Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle. To me, there are no others on TNA's payroll who fit the bill, but I now open up the question to you....who deserves the honor of Sting's final match in TNA?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Survival Tactix: 20 Questions......2....

So here's the crux of today's column......2 weeks from now, TNA goes live once more and there will be  consequences to contend with, concerning the events of this coming weeks taped show. For those of you who don't want to be spoiled, feel free to skip this column, but for those of you who don't mind so much, you're welcome to follow me and explore something interesting.......

How does TNA use rumor and releases to create controversy and innovate something new from the ashes of Aces and Eights?

Let's face it, once Bound for Glory has gone into the books, Aces and Eights will be done and buried and you know what? I'm okay with that. It is running the course nWo SHOULD have. Eric Bischoff has learned his lesson and allowed the big stable to fade once and for all. I happen to like what was done and to date, this has been the most logically consistent storyline TNA has put out. For those of you who want to complain, Evolution lasted longer on WWE TV than Aces and Eights for TNA and I'll go on record and say that there was, quite simply, more to the Aces and Eights story than Evolution had going for it.

But that isn't the subject of this column. Next week, it's been teased that Dixie Carter is turning heel, which is something I'm dying to see. My question is far is Dixie willing to go to get some real heat from fans? Since TNA is the single best place in the wrestling world to find great heel characters in abundance (Bully Ray, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, etc.) it stands to reason that it won't be hard to find good coaches for Dixie to gain insight from and, if TNA is of the persuasion that Hulk Hogan needs to wind down his career with them, Dixie could turn out to be a good stand in until someone (Jeff Jarrett) comes in as a relief for the long term moving forward.

Can Dixie pull off a heel character? Will it overcompensate AJ Styles return to his babyface persona? Both are good questions and we'll have to see where it all goes once TNA goes live in two weeks. I think it'll be interesting to see how her perspective has changed since last year during the awful Claire storyline and how she plays off the next week Styles promo.

If Dixie Carter can use the rumors of financial "ruin" and the recent roster cuts to enhance an actual full blown heel persona, it'd be a nice touch to bring back those names as mystery opponents for future championship matches just to illustrate that she has the power to command who she wants whenever she wants people to jump. If she can do THAT, I'm all on board.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Survival Tactix: 20 Questions.....1.....

As usually is the case, I found myself wandering the vast wasteland of useless information (the internet) and came across a statement that chilled me. So much so, in fact, that it prompted me to pose a question to the entire wrestling world, or at least those in my sphere of influence. So here's the question......

True or False.....

John Cena has saved professional wrestling.

Now, before I dismiss this statement outright, I'd like to ask some probing questions concerning the landscape of the day AND look at some other thoughts to consider as they relate to answering this question one direction or the other.

1. When did John Cena catch fire?

Maybe the phrasing of the question is misleading, but the spirit of the question deals with when Cena actually got over with the fans. Some may agree, others may disagree, but my view of Cena's rise begins in the late months of 2002, when he debuted the look that he wears today minus the padlock/ chain pendant. Who "made" John Cena? What feud defined his character? To me, the winner of that title was the late Eddie Guerrero. Eddie made the perfect foil, playing a heel to begin with, but the likable heel, whereas Cena played the heel people loved to hate. He was brash and arrogant. He was the rapper who made short work out of freestyle promos, most of which would push the PG censors to their limits. He was innovative and used the persona well. Fans ate it up and the rest is history.

2. Was Cena the WWE's most promising star?

Not even close. Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, Big Show, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and The Undertaker were the anchors of the blue brand at the time and held their places on the card with prominence. In 2003, had WWE played their cards better, there were two other recruits who may have become every bit as big, if not bigger.....
Nathan Jones was a classic example of what happens when proper planning and execution are tied together and thrown out the nearest window. He was a monster persona, but his character seemed cunning as well, or at least that what the promos suggested, but when it came to his debut, he was tossed into the wind and expected to try and swim in deep water all at once. For some, that kind of tactic might have worked, but the needs of his character demanded more care than Vince would allow. Exit Nathan Jones.

Sean 'O Haire. His promos following this format were brilliant, but his progress was sabotaged right out of the gate. His first appearance in character was during a dare for Brian Kendrick to streak through the arena and his first AND LAST feud was a train wreck against Rikishi and involved Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka. Seriously. In my view, his ultimate foil would have been on RAW, not Smackdown, which is where he debuted. Shawn Michaels, a face Triple H, Kane, even Batista would have given him the traction he needed to last, but he was set at a disadvantage from day one. Exit Sean 'O Haire.

Do you see the point? John Cena was on the right brand and in the right place at the right time. WWE never picked up on their mistakes with those who may have been just as successful under the right conditions. You could call me biased, but I'd like to use the term realistic.

John Cena didn't save wrestling. The fact of the matter is simple. WWE was putting up higher numbers on Spike TV in 2002 than they are on USA now in 2013. Look it up. Smackdown was running close second, and there was no competition for a second place brand behind WWE. TNA wasn't even a blip on the radar and Ring of Honor was barely known about, except for die hard indy fans.

While John Cena has been a staple on WWE TV for over a decade now, it seems careless to overlook those WWE hadn't had the patience to work with or cultivate. But then that's Vince's business and who are we to argue? We just built the fanbase he enjoys, but "I'm not telling you anything you don't already know."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Survival Tactix: How to Say......

So it's finally happened for real this time....."good 'ol J.R" has been released from WWE. Find any professional wrestling fan on the street and ask them for the name of a wrestling commentator; 9 times out of 10 Jim Ross will be in the top 3. Back when I was still watching WWE television regularly, I simply couldn't imagine what Monday Night RAW would be like without Jim Ross and then, shortly thereafter, 'ol J.R was exiled from TV without so much as a poll asking what fans wanted to see.

I'll be completely transparent, I have no idea how to respond to this news. I celebrate and honor Jim Ross and his accolades, having called some of the greatest matches in my entire memory. It's very hard not to glare accusingly at Vince and company for their mistreatment of Ross over the years. It's also hard not to cry "foul" about his release over a minor controversy involving the a panel discussion promoting the release of WWE 2K14 and Ric Flair. What? You don't know about it? Well, allow me to elaborate...... reports that Ross and Flair were both drunk at the event, to the point where Ross forgot parts of his presentation, blaming his poise or lack thereof on his Bells Palsy. He later joked that the presentation was "sponsored by Grey Goose" Flair went so far off script that Paul Heyman just ripped it up. Ric Flair's lack of sound mind comes on the heels of losing his son to a drug overdose. It could be reasonably assumed that Ross was simply just being supportive by having a drink or two with an old friend as he and Flair go back decades.

My response? Though the appearance could have gone better, paints the off-script antics as a natural response to Reid Flair's premature death, leading me to believe that there is some sympathy for the loss and understanding being extended to them. I grant that this would have put some stress on Ross and Flair as representatives, but not to the degree that a release would warrant.

Vince McMahon had Ross removed from TV as the play-by-play announcer of RAW in favor of younger blood, completely dismissing the much larger older audience's vocal objections a couple of years back and it seemed, at least to me, that Jim Ross' years of productive use to the company were numbered. But I would like to raise a question.....what about TNA? While I doubt any offer TNA could make would appeal to Ross, the wrestling fan in me simply can't help but ask "what if?" Just hearing the voice of Monday Night RAW calling one AJ Styles match or the final match of Sting or even the fast pacing of an X Division matchup would be the capstone; the ultimate marriage between my childhood and the world of today.......think about it.

In the meantime, I'd like to take a moment to place two matches here in honor of a career well done....

The last match stands out as one of my personal favorites in recent history........

As a fan of J.R, I would like to take the opportunity to thank him for his years of making even the most mundane of matches seem like a main event. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Survival Tactix: Loving the Controversy......

The rest of this week I only want to talk about three things:

1. The claims that TNA is about to go under, using late payments to employees to justify the conclusion.

2. WWE released "J.R" Jim Ross.

and lastly

3. Introductions into a new series of columns called "20 Questions"


So here's the story as best I know it:

September 5th, Marc Middleton reported that backstage there were feelings that TNA might be going the way of ECW in that people were behind on pay and that it seemed as though the headship in Dixie Carter has not been focusing enough on making headway through obstacles TNA is beginning to face these days, siting one instance where Dixie attended an 'Ole Miss college football game instead of Impact tapings. I'd like to explore this in greater detail.....

I've stated before that Panda Energy, the company the Carter family (Dixie's parents) own and has fed funds into TNA for years now, helping TNA keep any losses to a bare minimum. Fact is, Panda Energy simply won't fail, meaning that even though certain monies hadn't been delivered to their rightful owners at the time, TNA is in NO danger of shutting their doors. Besides that, Spike TV holds a contract with TNA until 2015 AT THE EARLIEST.

Let's have a look at just a few of the revenue streams TNA has going for them at this moment:

- YouTube and subscriptions may not pay millions, but the volume of hits on PAY uploads does bring in extra funds to move around.

-On Demand......TNA's subscription service that allows access to all content from TNA past all the way until the present also brings in a profit that is worth mentioning.

- Ticket sales......This is a new one. Back when TNA was holding events in the Impact Zone, tickets could be procured at no extra cost to an admission to Universal Studios, where Impact was being taped until this year. Traveling has allowed TNA to garner some much needed funds from this new source.

- Advertising......Sponsors and advertising from sources like Direct Auto insurance and those who purchase airtime during TNA first run programming play an integral part in the revenue stream.

- Merchandise......I'm sure this is one most would bring up near the front, but fact is, TNA doesn't make most of their money from merchandising. Why would a company offer such low prices for their wares if that was their only source of income? Barring the prices of their replica belts, which cost FAR more than the average fan would ever spend, their "Brown Bag Special" that contains everything but the kitchen sink contains everything a fan would need to begin a collection for what may even appear to be a loss.

- Talent sharing.....AAA, NOAH, IWGP, and other outside organizations offer decent money to partner with TNA in sharing talents, coupling shows, and even showcasing each other's brand in small screen media. One example is Team 3D walking to a TNA ring wearing the IWGP Tag Team belts.

Just these streams of revenue alone are able to maintain TNA's current poise as a strong second place in the wrestling landscape. While back pay may be a thing the upper management need to be more diligent in correcting in the future, it certainly holds no bearing on whether TNA will be around in a year or two. In fact, if anything, TNA is trying to make cuts in order to finally cut the Panda Energy cord and try making every penny's profit on their own steam. Rest assured, this process isn't easy and requires every able bodied man and woman on the roster to dedicate themselves to more than a single year contract per negotiation sitting. Yes, Tara was a shame to lose, but she'd been operating on a year to year basis since joining a few years back.

Before making comments like "TNA is going under" or that they've been "run into the ground just like WCW", pay closer attention to where the money is coming from. The men and women behind the parent company are BILLIONAIRES and not likely to let their baby girl's pride and joy fail if she's that determined to see it through good times and bad. Simple as that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Survival Tactix: Wrestling and Sports Competition....

On forums across the net, I hear predictions about the potential of TNA losing ground to NFL games as far as ratings are concerned. What strikes me as interesting is that on a night that pitted Impact against the very first NFL game in the season, there was precious little change in viewership. If there is a link between NFL and the viewing of Impact or Monday Night RAW, it SHOULD be fairly easy to predict which weeks in the schedule would pose a sizable change.

In any case, historically, RAW has rarely been faced with significant dips due to NFL play Monday nights, at least not in the time span I spent most of my time viewing (2002-2009). In more recent years, may show something different, but those numbers would likely be attributed to the quality of the show, which despite what some fans believe, has become a shadow of its former "Attitude Era" self. That, however, isn't what this column is all about.

I DO have a few suggestions for TNA officials in the coming months.......

1. Stay the course.

Some TNA fans have given some heavy-handed criticism to the Aces and Eights storyline, inferring that WCW's nWo storyline was one of the only stories lasting as long. Does anyone remember which stable in WWE lasted from 2003 until 2005? That's right....Evolution. During that time, one feud consumed the bulk of Triple H's time.....Shawn Michaels. In fact, Shawn and HHH had more PPV bouts than any other pitting during that time. My suggestion is to simply put the story to rest without rushing its conclusion. Few things will cause more whiplash than ending a story without a place for the characters to land.

2. Secure talent.

AJ Styles is the premier TNA talent and securing his contract NEEDS to be priority one. Aside from his contract, making sure all talents are under contract beyond 2015 has to be high on the "to do" list. In my humble opinion, certain talents need to be approached about a long term return to the main roster. Case in point? Taeler Hendrix. Another name? Ivelise Valez. The idea HAS to be in rebuilding the Knockouts Division with more young talents that can perform at a consistently high level. The X Division is secure. The World Title picture is as strong as it's ever been. The number of promising upstarts is still reasonable.

3. Stand out.

Since TNA was so determined to assimilate into the wrestling mainstream by setting the 6 Sided Ring to the side, they now need to find another way to assume an identity OTHER than WWE-lite. I've said before that maintaining a good, consistent storyline that brings a cohesiveness to the brand is a good start, but it takes visibility, strong marketing, security for talent, and stable growth to truly build TNA into the kind of empire that COULD divide the wrestling audience the way WCW did during their peak. TNA is TV-14; WWE is PG. TNA has a workable Women's Division; WWE's simply does not. TNA has a specialty division that has merit, depth, and a meaningful place in the brand; WWE does not. What TNA lacks is a stage large enough to make some headway and for the loyalists to the WWE camp to give them a second look as a fan instead of a critic.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Survival Tactix: Championship Tier.....Part 2: Option C: Joe's Gonna Kill You.....

I've been reading a LOT about TNA and how it's beginning to look like they're getting ready to throw in the towel and call it a day and all that song and dance. To be fair, TNA has hit a very large hiccup in their financial footing and has been unloading a great deal of weight that has no in ring value to the product. While Tara DOESN'T fit into that category, to be clear, she doesn't have much time in ring left to offer TNA and they need performers who are willing to stick around for longer than one year at a time, which is how Tara has been setting up her negotiations for the past couple of years.

Here's where the subject of this column comes into view. Samoa Joe and Austin Aries. How do they relate to one another? Quite simply, each man brought something to the table that new and innovative and gave TNA an intrigue that lent credence to the brand. Samoa Joe came at just the right time and his Streak of unbeaten matches bore a striking similarity to the build up WCW gave Goldberg. Truth be told, Joe "fought" like his mother never loved him. Every move was crisp and devastating, creating a mystique that could not be avoided and got crowds shouting "Joe's Gonna Kill You" even at WWE events, prompting Vince McMahon to offer Joe a job. When he refused, Umaga was born as a hollow copy and, no disrespect to the man behind the character, a shameless jab who also was given a mock streak of his own. To be blunt, a thumb stab and the muscle buster AREN'T in the same ballpark and Umaga was never as versatile as Joe was built to be. So Samoa Joe thrived for a time. However, falling victim to the Goldberg Curse, Joe was relegated to the midcard and his influence in the top tier was never recaptured. My response? SHAME ON YOU, TNA!

Joes DESERVES to be fighting on the top tier because he's proven his worth on the big stage, having been a part of two of the highest rated matches in TNA history. But Joe isn't the only man this column is about and I've made no bones about my respect for another history maker.....the innovator of "Option C that allowed Chris Sabin to walk on the top for a few steps, Austin Aries. In his first run with TNA in the early goings of 2004, Austin Aries walked through the doors of TNA and became a fast favorite among the loyal viewing fanbase. When he departed shortly following the "Kevin Nash X Division Invitational Tournament, it seemed that it was for good, but in a stroke of good fortune for TNA fans, upper management heard the fans chant for him and it prompted them to make him and offer and, to the delight of all, he returned. During his absence from the TNA stage, his character in Ring of Honor was very much a picture of what we all bore witness to just a couple of years later in his return. The brash and arrogant champion also brought a refreshing cunning back to the picture, which was something missing for quite some time. In short, Austin Aries will always be a threat to whoever holds the World Title. Why? Because, in his view, he's "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Survival Tactix: Championship Tier...Part 1:AJ's Promo and Hogan's Decline

My focus in this column is simple. Emphasize the composition of TNA's Top Tier.  To that end, I use the following criterion: All champions MUST have had one believable World Title run. All champions MUST have earned their title without outside interference.

1. AJ Styles
2. Kurt Angle
3. Samoa Joe
4. Bobby Roode
5. Austin Aries
6. Sting
7. Jeff Hardy
8. Jeff Jarrett
9. Abyss

Under the set of circumstances outlined, I understand that there are some glaring absences, namely Bully Ray, James Storm, Mr. Anderson, and Chris Sabin, but if I am to be completely honest, out of the three, only Bully Ray could conceivably make the cut in spite of the rules of this column due to his ability to balance mic work with a solid in ring performance and a reign worth its weight. Before anyone determines to try and bring up RVD, anyone outside the organization I've disqualified from this column.

In the recent past, TNA has had a solid history of bringing two new champions to the top tier each year since the Hogan/ Bischoff influx. Additionally, there have been a good number of competitors who have been elevated to reach the top only to be sidelined by injury (Matt Morgan), contract negotiations (RVD), or sudden depush (Gunner). Whatever the case may have been, the Bound for Glory Series is directly responsible for aiding in the building of the top tier. While storylines a year in the making have had a great hand in naming the winner of the main event at Bound for Glory the past year, it brings to me an understanding that this year just might be no different, placing the number one name on the list in the winner's circle this year.

The promo cut last week was written by AJ Styles with all the passion and venom that could be mustered and it was clear that sometimes fiction mirrors reality. I have high hopes that we'll see a return of Jeff Jarrett and the decline of the Hogan Era moving forward. Why? Because in spite of Hogan's name value, in the past year in general and past few months specifically, TNA has been experiencing the brunt of the financial burdens his price tag brings as well as that of Brooke, whom I have said many times had no business to ever set foot on the ramp as anything more than a bystander. When Jeff Jarrett was in power, there was a sense of stability from a backroom perspective that can't be touched.....a cohesive force that bound the product together in spite of storyline inconsistencies.

Hulk Hogan had a good run in TNA. I mean that sincerely and I truly believe he tried his best to promote the product to the best of his ability, but with his price tag and the price tag he demanded for his daughter, Hogan put TNA in a difficult position and I think those in power had to make a hard choice for the sake of the many counting on them for their livelihood. Interestingly, I had no intention of this column morphing into a "good-bye" column counting down the months until the final day of Hulk Hogan's contract, but the promo cut by TNA's original fan favorite polarized me, forcing me to concede a point I've been resisting......TNA can no longer afford to keep Hulk Hogan AND move forward.