Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Merits of the State of TNA......

I've decided to take a break from the norm and put the "Survival Tactix" mantle aside. Why? Because there are some positives I'd like to draw EVERYONE'S attention to. Now, let's assume that, as was rightly pointed out, the Carter family, who owns 70% of TNA's assets determines to sell their share of the TNA business and are therefore no longer liable for any losses sustained in the deal. Now that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff are effectively done with the company and the losses caused by the traveling schedule will be eliminated by the semi-permanent move back to the Impact Zone a few things are on the books for the future, which we ALL can agree are good things.

1. With the freed up monies, TNA officials are planning on bringing back some names in every division, emphasizing the Knockouts Division and the X Division AND the Tag Team Division. That fact alone has many talents relieved, with the knowledge that some cuts can, and likely will be withdrawn. Names like Taeler Hendrix, Ivelisse Valez, as well as a few from TNA past have been scouted and been put on a short list of returning and/or debuting names for the Knockouts Division.

2. To capitalize on a story I broke earlier last week concerning the possible return to the 6 Sided Ring, the seating plan was leaked online to get a feel of the kind of reaction of fans from forums and all forms of social media. With the overwhelmingly positive response, there are plans for TNA to return to the former ring, possibly as soon as next year sometime.

3. TNA's tour of the UK will STILL happen, as well as a great many house show dates back in their home base area in the southeast. Folks, what this move back to the Impact Zone means is that live Impact broadcasts will still happen and they will still move around, but they save money on the flip side by not having to tote around cameras and the full blown set for each tour date.

These are just a few things from the top of my head to bring to the forefront as a way to give this some positive light. In the coming days, I'll pull the curtain back and reveal some names as to who likely is on the return list. Some names have me VERY excited, I'll tell you that much. So stay tuned.....

TNA: Please Make an Offer.....

I've been asked more questions about this subject than about any other in the past few months.....

"Is it true that the Carters are looking to sell TNA Wrestling?"

Some people close to the situation tell me the answer is "Conditionally, yes."

"Conditionally?" you say. Yes, conditionally. This means that the OPTION of the acceptance of offers is only open to a select group of investors and no one else. SO, sorry Vince, you are NOT on that list of potential buyers. It's been stated that the Carter family do NOT want to open the bid to Vince McMahon as they believe steadfastly that competition in the wrestling market is healthy for the business as a whole and to that end, Vince isn't on the list.

Now before I hear any "I told you so's" or anything to that tune, some of the stress came from the rising costs TNA was bleeding out from the traveling schedule. Combine that with the MASSIVE cost Hulk Hogan demanded as well as Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey as producers. With those costs now being offset and the show traveling back to the Impact Zone, some of the timeline stresses are moving off. I have been saying that marketing has been the biggest problem for TNA for YEARS. Brand visibility and reputation has been TNA's achilles heel since they made the jump from weekly PPV to Spike TV and the ONLY chance TNA has of reaching the masses is to put a product out that people KNOW exists.

Let me also remind you all that ALL of this stuff is speculative and dependent upon a multitude of factors outside my scope, at the moment. If the Carter family WERE to actually sell the company, which again is not yet fully confirmed, the list of potential buyers has been set by the Carters and wouldn't happen if those who bought the show had intentions of letting it simply fade. That list is of wrestling minded investors and television people who could cross brand and actually give TNA a fighting chance at striking while the iron's hot. That could mean Spike TV officials, it could mean representatives from Sinclair, who now own rights to Ring of Honor. The point is, it's not going to be made public knowledge that the company is for sale and if that sale goes through, as a proviso to the deal, TNA will move forward. The contract TNA Wrestling is under with Spike TV lasts until 2015, so even if a sale occurs, unless the contract is broken, incurring a hefty penalty, we'll see TNA on Spike for some time.

As far as a parallel goes to WCW, the best example I can give is the sale of Jim Crockett Promotions to Ted Turner that CREATED WCW. If anything, TNA is in a BETTER position to succeed under a new group of business minded investors who have a more solid financial backing to front the start-up capital to kick into marketing and brand visibility.

So is it all true? If the research I've done and the people I've chatted with is any indication, MAYBE. I can say for sure that the next few months will solve a LOT of financial problems now that Eric Bischoff will be off payroll come January 1. There IS a name I intentionally left off this column up until now......Jeff Jarrett. What does Jeff Jarrett have to say about all of this? Jeff, as I understand it, is in the unique position of scouting buyers and selling the virtues of the brand. As a number 2 brand, and a strong one at that, TNA is in an interesting place in terms of how it looks in the brands available on the wrestling marketplace. The strong numbers as well as huge draws in the UK make TNA a sound business investment, provided it can be grown domestically as well. In any case, Jeff Jarrett, the founder of the brand, is determined to see the sale through IF it does, indeed, take place at all.

I want to draw attention to the FACT that TNA's sale is NOT confirmed, nor can it be verified until the Carter family name is no longer attached to it. SO, just as every rumor I post here is not confirmed until the debut or return is made, TNA being for sale is the same way.......UNCONFIRMED.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Survival Tactix: Parallels.....

.....so the question becomes how long until he makes his return? Are we talking months? The first PPV of the year?

Forgive me.....for once, I found myself in the middle of the column instead of the beginning. Let me explain my thought processes to begin as I have.

In September of 1993, WWF's Intercontinental Title was held by Shawn Michaels. In events surrounding that time, performance enhancing drugs were beginning to gain some visibility and gave professional wrestling a bad rap in the court of public opinion. To complicate matters, WWF suspended Michaels for allegedly testing positive for steroids, a charge he still disputes. Subsequently, Michaels quit, forcing the WWF of the day into the precarious position of having to cast a new belt for the promotion.

Within two months, in his absence, Razor Ramon won the newly cast title and began the storied rivalry with Michaels, who had rejoined the WWF by that time. Since HBK had never been defeated in ring for the belt, it was decided that Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels would face one another in a Ladder Match to determine the undisputed Intercontinental Champion. In a match that would go down in history as one of the greatest of all, Michaels lost to Razor Ramon at Wrestlemania X.

In August of 2011, CM Punk made a 7 minute long symphony of poetic prose at the top of the ramp a week before SummerSlam. He threatened to defend the belt he would go on to win in ROH or Japan, but only two short weeks later, he was back to working in ring at WWE live events and on TV, removing the white hot embers from the kiln prematurely, thus beginning a horrid downward spiral I've already covered in painstaking detail.

In a blending of the two storylines, AJ Styles has "left" TNA, taking the World Heavyweight Title with him. Since this story is the marriage of two storylines; one history would call monumental and the other suspect, it remains to be seen the result. Which is where this column began....so the question becomes how long until he makes his return? Are we talking months? The first PPV of the year?

One reason for the return of CM Punk is that WWE Creative felt the roster was too thin on face characters and so, after a not so highly publicized run in between Triple H and Punk at a Comic-Con, Punk returned to television the following week. Since TNA's roster doesn't have the depth as the WWE roster of 2011, the story differs, but only in the way of perspective. WWE HAD the personnel to fill the gaps, but in the revolving door of writers that came and went, the ball was dropped and it became apparent that WWE was in trouble because nothing had been lined up in the short term to account for the loss.

TNA is not WWE and during the past 3 years, Eric Bischoff and the Creative team had two separate plans written in advance. These plans were dependent upon Styles' willingness to re-sign with the company. Since he was willing to sign a short term extension leading into the first part of 2014, plan A went into action, seeing the return of Anderson to cost Bully Ray his rematch, allowing for Styles to follow through with plans that CM Punk was never able to make good on. In most recent news, TNA is looking to send AJ to AAA in Mexico, and to Japan, and defend the title elsewhere as Punk SHOULD have. As of yet, however, there is no timeline that has been revealed to when AJ Styles will return to challenge the newly "vacated" World Heavyweight Title holder.

What stipulations does TNA put on the Champion vs. Champion bout upon Styles' return? I, for one, am anxious for what the future holds for the coming months as it relates to that very question. To me, the blending of these two storylines, in particular, is something special. Why? Because it allows for a history to be rewritten in the equivalent language of a "what if?" scenario. Let's be blunt, Punk can't hang with Styles in ring, but this is where proper planning will allow Styles to shore up the edge Punk DOES have on mic.



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Survival Tactix: The Road Not Taken....Though it SHOULD HAVE Been....

During the 2011 "Summer of Punk", I wrote some pretty strong words for WWE's treatment of the return of CM Punk to television. I said that WWE dropped the ball by letting the story drop too quickly without allowing more time to pass before re-injecting him back into the active outplaying storyline of the day, and as a result, his one year long title reign became, for all intents and purposes, meaningless.

If he'd have been allowed to do all that he claimed he was capable of doing, (i.e. "defending the belt in Ring of Honor", or in Japan) we may have been spared the systematic burial of Punk by Triple H. It was somewhere between being beaten in a non-title bout BY Trips and being overshadowed by The Rock in his return to PPV in a tag team tandem with John Cena leading up to THEIR bout at Wrestlemania. From SummerSlam to Survivor Series, Punk was belittled, berated, and in all other ways discredited, despite holding the WWE Championship. He never defended the belt without help from Survivor Series all the way until his loss of the title to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, further mulling his title reign in mediocrity. But you know what? This column isn't about CM Punk and how things SHOULD have turned out for HIM.

Instead, TNA, contrary to SOME critics, has breathed something new into the storyline tailor-made for Punk; by allowing it to run to its natural conclusion. AJ Styles is now "no longer under contract" and, as a result, is on the free market as a CURRENT World Heavyweight Champion. The difference? He walked out and, the current plan in effect is to eventually face off a champion vs. champion bout in the coming months. By THAT, I mean MONTHS, not two weeks as was the case with CM Punk. In yet ANOTHER difference, there were 6 drafts of the Monday Night RAW heralding CM Punk's return and in EVERY case but ONE, Triple H ended up giving Punk a Pedigree, effectively BURYING his credibility. Take a guess who was at the helm of THAT piece of wrestling creativity. No such story exists on the horizon of Styles, who is being planned to actually defend the title potentially in EVOLVE-1 or New Japan, where TNA has some ties and can aid in regulating a continuation of that storyline.

In the case of AJ Styles, what is being set up, at least in MY mind is a showdown between Styles and another man TNA is trying to build into the main event, Magnus. His Bound for Glory match with Sting helped build at least SOME momentum to that end and, if my suspicions are justified, it will be HE who ends up breaking the reign of Styles in a career defining match, most likely also setting up a memorable feud that could last until Lockdown, if TNA plays their cards right. I would surmise that TNA plays this out somewhat as WWF did with the Intercontinental Title in the early 90's between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels. That feud lasted months as well, if memory serves and led to one of the most famous Ladder Matches in the history of Ladder Matches.

In regards to the Impact directly following the BFG PPV, we were looking at the continuation of several storylines that are necessary to run forward with the product and, as a result, I saw nothing wrong with there being a rest from some in ring action. While more than a few have written TNA off as a result, I still believe in the power of allowing at least some kind of organic storytelling in the outworking of some of the segments. To further illustrate, TNA has begun a campaign to aid in the creation and deepening of characters on the roster by encouraging them to send in footage of themselves in character on the road for later uploading to the various social media outlets (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). This initiative they are calling "Action Never Ends", meaning that each week, as a lead-in into the following weekly show, those media outlets will post those pieces of video and it will allow TNA Creative to dig in and help flesh out more complex characters.

Just to sidestep a bit, but professional wrestling NEEDS this right now. It needs the characters to be able to take a page from Zack Ryder, who reached out via YouTube to the general public and was able to bolster some support OUTSIDE the WWE Creative Team. In TNA's case, they have chosen to INITIATE the idea, instead of scolding the talents who utilize it, as WWE did in their colossal de-push of Ryder not long following his initial Intercontinental Title reign.

So to put a book end here, TNA's position, I offer, is far more positive in terms of where things could go from here. There are some GOOD options and, with time and some luck, we'll see a very nice conclusion that will lead to a re-newing of a long term contract for one of TNA's premier talents by showcasing him the way their competitors refused to do with one of their own.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Survival Tactix: Impact Revisited....

In the past 6 months, Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams, Suicide, and a few others made returns to TNA, some of which ended up remaining on the active roster ever since. As of this post, there have been rumors going around that claim TNA has plans to bring back even more, including a couple that may surprise the TNA fans, in particular. Additionally, there have been talks between another former WWE roster member within the past few months behind closed doors and it may involve more than just one in the deal, provided signatures can be procured on the dotted line.

In 2010, Matt Hardy joined TNA briefly, as a member of Immortal. In his stint, he cut a promo on James Storm, introducing a tag team partner for an upcoming PPV. His partner? "Wildcat" Chris Harris, who every TNA fan knows, was a part of America's Most Wanted, one of TNA's elite tag team tandems. What most people DON'T know, is that shortly after the PPV, Harris was in talks with TNA management about a return on a more permanent basis. He was told to get back into ring shape and then they would discuss the potential. Fast forward two years and the subject comes up once more. Is it possible that TNA brings back the "Wildcat" for another run?

During TNA's themed PPVs, one PPV featured the return of a World Cup Tournament of sorts, featuring 4 teams of performers, each with a Knockouts representative. Among them was a name who caused a great deal of short term stir after she was cut from her Gut Check Challenge. Her name? Ivelisse Valez. For that PPV, which airs in February of next year, she appears as a member of the Aces and Eights, actually gaining a victory over Mickie James. Her name has come up more than once in discussions over future Knockouts potentials since her Gut Check elimination and there are rumors that this One Night ONLY PPV was the beginning of more than just a one night stand with the company. Do they bring back the Knockout with a MMA background to a product influenced in that direction by Bellator?

Another familiar name shows up on the very same PPV that brought Ivelisse also appears on TNA's 10 Reunion PPV, making the notion of a One Night ONLY appearance more of a question than an answer. His name? Chase Stephens. It seems that TNA has been looking for ways to bring this guy back again and again, using his name as a draw during the fan vote laden Gut Check voting tourney, in which a name was chosen as the victor, but was never given a tryout on live television, as it turns out. But that notwithstanding, TNA has been laying out the carpet for Stephens to make a possible return and, with so many avenues by which they've given fans the option choose, it seems very possible we may see one of the most "Natural" returns so far.

As for the WWE roster members? In a recent interview, he told the interviewer that he's been in talks and that he wants to know what they have to say. TNA officials are interested, but not in him in his own right. Rather, his long time ring partner would become a part of the deal as well, making them both a very valuable commodity for the roster. Go ahead, have a look....

Melina and John Morrison. The Knockouts, as I stated many times before, needs some fresh faces and Melina is among the bright spots of WWE released talent who fits the bill as a possible asset to TNA's division. I realize that this would make a more lopsided division, heavy on former WWE talent, but with so few indy talents on the scene who are willing to test the waters with the number two wrestling fed out there in hopes of securing WWE aspirations, former WWE WRESTLING talents have been GOOD for TNA, historically speaking. Tara, Gail Kim, Mickie James, Brooke Adams, Taryn Tarrell; all have been big moneymakers for TNA's division, providing more than their share of entertaining matches and selling decently in terms of merchandise to boot. I see no reason why Melina would be any different on that note.

As far as Morrison is concerned, name one division a guy of his caliber would excel. How about the X Division. Putting his ring credibility in the ring against some of TNA's finest would be a great way for all talents involved to test their metal. Additionally, he has a great running history as a member of a tag team, making him an asset on that front as well. Bottom line: he'd be a great acquisition to add to TNA's roster as a tactician, a high flyer, and a tandem player.

Could there be others who might find their way back to TNA in the coming year? Without a doubt and some I have yet to cover, one of which made a decline earlier in the year, but may be more willing down the road. I'll keep THAT name to myself for the moment, but there IS more to come.....stay tuned....

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Survival Tactix: About that "Reset" Button....

Every so often, news outlets and reports will come out about TNA going back to reclaim bits and pieces of old times. For example, a few years back, a reporter caught up with Jeff Jarrett and Eric Young.....


This guys would NOT let go of the 6 Sided Ring for nearly 3 minutes. And, to be fair, Jeff Jarrett never gave him a reason to. If you read between the lines, it seemed clear, at least to me, that Jarrett wasn't pleased about the veering away from that bit of TNA history lost, and to be fair, neither was the common TNA fan when it was changed at Genesis of 2010.

 Fast forward to just yesterday and a bit of TNA news I found interesting concerning a TNA advertised event at the Kansas Expocentre for September of 2015 gives a seating chart that looks something like this....


Look familiar? If there comes a war with the way things are and the way things had been up to this point, we may be looking at the new arrangement for the coming calendar year. I've heard all kinds of things pointing to the return to the 6 Sided Ring as a way to stand out once again and the criticisms that kind of move could possibly bring, but the fact of the matter is that for 7 years, the 6 Sided Ring, like it or not WAS TNA. It was one of a few ways TNA stood out from every other wrestling promotion on the entirety of the wrestling landscape. 

I, for one, am ecstatic at even the POSSIBILITY of TNA reverting back to it because I believe there is merit in recapturing a piece of TNA's identity and embracing who they are as a company and what they are as a member of the wrestling community. But enough about my opinions of the ring. Suffice it to say that there, now, is some potential for TNA to generate some fan buzz because it's going to take a major storyline to bring TNA's ring staple back to the forefront after it being absent for nearly 4 years.

I've been calling it for a long time, but I don't think there's a way around it. Jeff Jarrett HAS to make a return to TV. Why? If there's even a shred of credibility to the news surrounding this Kansas Expocentre event, it means that sometime within the next year, the powers that be fall to a changing of the guard. Since I see no evidences that Dixie will remain as the figure of on screen power long term, the mantle HAS to fall to SOMEONE and, since there are no powers who could make that kind of Impact (pun intended) aside from Eric Bischoff, who has NO interest in returning to television as an on screen character, that leaves one man to do the job.......guess who?

This guy. The Founder. The King of the Mountain, himself. In fact, the rumors don't end with Kansas Expocentre's re-introduction of the 6 Sided Ring. There have been rumblings that could mark the return of the TNA exclusive gimmick matches like the "King of the Mountain" match or the Terrordome or the hardcore "House of Fun" matches, just to name a few. The general feeling is that TNA has lost their way in the shuffle towards a WWE battle, which may eventually find its way to fruition. If and when that day comes, there are those who believe it would be a mistake to try and take on the beast as a carbon copy of times gone by. Rather than that, according to those close to the situation, it's best to simply be who they are and let the chips fall where they may. Take it for what it's worth, but in MY view? This is some of the best news a TNA fan can hear.....TNA wants to just be themselves.....a finer concept cannot be found and not only as it relates to wrestling, but to the rest of life as well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Survival Tactix: The Answers....

Folks, I've been doing this blog as on the daily as physically possible for almost three years now, with nearly 850 columns here to credit, which is a milestone of sorts. In all that time, you know what bugs me? The people in forums who try to say that TNA needs to do this or that and then (and only then) they will be successful and be able to compete with WWE in THEIR yard. You know what I've seen in the time I've been writing here?

Vocal fans wanted to see TNA pick up some star power to enhance their product. Guess what TNA did? They signed Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Sting, Team 3D, Rhino, Raven and all kinds of other talents to try and bolster the numbers for them.

The fans asked for TNA to sign the top names in the indies. Guess what TNA did? They signed Austin Aries, Jay Lethal, Samoa Joe, and all kinds of other indy talents who were looking for a break into the big time to try and help bolster the numbers for them.

I've become convinced that some wrestling fans simply will NOT cheer for TNA. Now, I neither understand this assessment nor condone it, but it SEEMS like it's the case. For those of you wondering, yes; this is a bit of a rant. There are the fans who CLAIM they want TNA to succeed who won't watch, yet still think they can have an unbiased opinion of the product or that they can book the product better than those in power. Or those who "were old school fans" who watched back when they were putting on shows in the Asylum and believe TNA was better off then than they are now....really?!

I actually had someone respond to a column I wrote elsewhere who told me they stopped watching when it looked like TNA stopped looking like an indy promotion. With all due respect, good riddance to those who don't wish better for TNA's talents or their staffers. I, for one, WANT TNA to succeed and will continue to watch to that end. Do I enjoy EVERYTHING I see? Absolutely not, but do I take the good with the bad? I absolutely do.

I'm getting a little bit sick of the people who have a list of grievances for TNA as long as their arm for signing Hulk Hogan or not signing that person or for changing their format or whatever their gripe is for the day. For some, it's the perceived misuse of talents who "should be" in the top tier and for reasons beyond their understanding aren't. For others, it's that TNA books former WWE talents as top stars even when they were only mid-card talents at best. For some it's the Knockouts Division and the systematic dismantling of that portion of the roster. The list is long and expansive, but the spirit of the argument is the same. You want the perfect wrestling company without the trial and error of finding out what works. I get it....I really do.

I miss the 6 sided ring. I miss a few of the Knockouts. I miss some things that I felt were important, but here's the thing.....it can't stay the same forever. Simple as that. Right now, we're on the verge of a new era in TNA history that won't be led by the legends (Sting, Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, etc.), but by those who have been a part of TNA's legacy (AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, etc.). TNA is adjusting to not having some of these assets they've been accustomed to having the past few years as readily as they'd perhaps like. Angle is pretty much gearing up for a more part-time role; Sting is nearing the end of his in-ring career. These are major players on TNA's role sheet, folks.

You can call this blog a daily dose of TNA-based spin all you want and I don't apologize for "Crossing the Line" and not looking back. This is a company that relishes critics counting them out or done for that they're going out of business. Some seem hellbent on claiming that TNA is a failure. You want to dispute TNA's success? Fine, but bring something to the table better than "TNA's a joke" or "TNA's a third rate wrestling company" to the table. As far as THIS TNA fan is concerned, an 11 year run with more than half of it being run on a worldwide stage with well over a million AMERICANS viewing each week and AT LEAST as many in the UK alone, making it a higher rated show than WWE overseas is a great big "Stone Cold" salute to those who want to cast TNA aside as "third rate" because with numbers like that, the "joke" is on them.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Survival Tactix: Tales of Glory.....

So here we are, 24 hours beyond TNA's biggest PPV of the year and I now ask myself: Did they live up to the hype? Did we get our money's worth? Did TNA actually hit the reset button? Before I get into  whether or not they actually hit any kind of "reset" button, maybe we should tackle a few facts, shall we?

Every title changed hands. That's right, not one belt stayed with the man or woman that held it walking into the event. Chris Sabin, Bromans, Gail Kim, and AJ Styles each won their respective bouts and there was plenty of shenanigans to go round with the return of Abyss, the debut of Lei'D Tapa, and the tease of a screwjob for the main event that never actually materialized. So has anything changed? In my humble opinion, it's best to wait until Thursday to answer that question, but as far as the PPV itself?

The moment that sticks out to me and one I daresay may never come again is Kurt Angle's induction into the Hall of Fame. Kurt Angle had his very own "Jeff Hardy" apology moment where he gave fans his promise that from this day forth, he'll be working twice as hard to not let them down as he had in the recent past and declined his induction. Seriously. Some might call it false humility or whatever else, but it gave me a newfound respect for the man. That was a classy move to postpone his induction until such time as he felt it was earned.

Some may never forgive Jeff Hardy for Victory Road of 2011, and that's entirely up to those people, but Kurt Angle spent his past couple of months in rehabilitation very publicly, I might add. With those months behind him and a vow to keep, I only see bright horizons for the "American Hero". In his loss to Bobby Roode, he may have given Roode an added bonus as the new forefront heel since Bully Ray was dethroned by a vengeance-driven AJ Styles.

Does it hit the "reset" button? In a way, I suppose it does. It rewinds the clock back to the beginning of the Bully Ray heel persona and the last AJ Styles title reign, but it also gives me some hope that we'll see some closure to the era we've just come out of, or rather the era we MIGHT be coming out of as there are no guarantees that Hulk Hogan is gone for good as of this post.

What interests me about the way all of this played out is how AJ is in the EXACT storyline place that CM Punk was in 2011 during the "Summer of Punk" as it's now known as. The difference so far? He's been booked already to face Bully Ray in a rematch on Impact. But if he wins once again, what then? I have heard interesting rumors about Anderson's return to splinter the Aces and Eights by putting Bully Ray out of commission, allowing the AJ Styles saga to venture outside of TNA. The talk has gone so far as to suggest that he defends the TNA World Title in Japan for the EVOLVE-1 promotion or New Japan among other organizations just as CM Punk made threats to. THIS would put Styles in a class of one. In that way, he would have no peers, no comrades, no competition. His reign would instantly make his newest reign more legitimate than Punk's year long charade.

But how does it end if he loses the belt? That's a story I would LOVE to hear and see told on screen, but until such time as the belt is defended this last time against Bully Ray, we have to wait for now. I say the question once more though, just to give you guys something to think about.....what if?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Survival Tactix: Long Way Home.....

A long time ago, I took a drive one night. It was cold and it was dark that night and it was through a neighborhood I was completely unfamiliar with. To cut down a long story, a couple of wrong turns later, I found myself lost. With no clue how I arrived and no cell phone to speak of as it was dead, it became obvious I had no choice but to travel in one direction until I found my way out of town and only then was I able to turn myself around and find my way back into town from a different perspective. What I did during that time, may surprise you. I turned on my radio, found a set of tunes I liked, and began enjoying the ride, knowing home was just a matter of time.

How does this story relate? This organization I talk about here as often as I am able to find time to write about has wandered into unfamiliar territory (the road) and gotten themselves into an interesting position. What's more, they've determined to try and make their way back to a stationary locale and find their center once more. To me, that's admirable; it's true to life; it's home. There's something to be said for making the best of a situation that may be less than pleasing to the eye, or the pocketbook, as the case may be. Some (WWE) will never truly be able to find their way back to the place that made them the powerhouse they are today. Others, however, will get the chance to remember by looking at those who've stuck around to see home firsthand rather than venturing to find it themselves.

For TNA, this is the long road home. It marks the end of the great experiment and it marks the place where their long suffering will begin to pay off. How so? By venturing so far from their center, it's much easier to turn around and see themselves clearly. TNA isn't WWE. They aren't WCW. They aren't ECW. They aren't Ring of Honor. TNA is a company unto themselves. TNA is a company founded around the very idea I started this blog around. "Wouldn't it be cool if.....?"

"Wouldn't it be cool if a wrestling company didn't have to rely on a television spot to survive?"

"Wouldn't it be cool if a wrestling company didn't have to count on the World Title to make their roster stand out?"

"Wouldn't it be cool if a wrestling company didn't have to worry about bumping their heads on the censors in order to keep their endorsements?"

You get the idea. TNA begins a trip back to where it all began, taking a few lessons with them for the journey. I'm not necessarily saying they're going back to the Asylum, though it WOULD be cool to see it once again. In fact, I'm VERY doubtful we'll see it as they've been in talks with Universal Studios to make their return to the Impact Zone. I AM, however, saying that the company gets the chance to go back and make some things right. Not very many companies get that kind of chance, particularly when they view the road the way TNA has. I don't see the great experiment as a failure. Not in the least. I see TNA's traveling schedule the same way as I saw the Monday Night experiment.....something that they now understand they're not quite ready for yet. Is that a bad thing? Not to me.

TNA is caught between two places. Being too big for what they were and not big enough to make the jump into where WWE is swimming. The way I see it, there's only one thing left to do.....go bigger than the Impact Zone, but find a place to set down some roots and build up a bit more. There's nothing wrong with traveling, so long as there's enough funds to go around.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Survival Tactix: On Record....

When TNA determined to go live on the road as a statement of normalcy, I wrote that while I didn't think they were ready for it yet, I hoped for the best. I still believe they weren't ready, but now, they know more about their fanbase and their competition as well. This is valuable information, people. It gives TNA an idea of how far WWE is willing to go to stay ahead of their competition by a large margin. Heaven knows they don't want another WCW on their hands. I think it goes deeper than that, though. WWE is a much larger giant than they were back when they faced WCW and with that status comes a farther fall from grace should things go south.

Here's some more information I find interesting.....Stephanie McMahon has been converting her shares of WWE stock into a higher valued version and selling it on the open market. Why? Is WWE on the verge of losing endorsement deals that would make them less valuable? You can't blame a gal for hedging her bets, but even so, if her confidence in the WWE brand, in which she's a major shareholder, were ironclad, why unload so much at once? Unless she's planning on leaving the business behind, it makes little sense. How does Stephanie McMahon leaving WWE make a difference? Since 2002, when WWE began their brand extension, forcing their massive roster into two separate entities, their creative team had been led on the red brand, RAW, by Vince and Bruce Pritchard. The Smackdown brand was led by guess who? Stephanie and her own right hand man, Michael Hayes. While the bulk of Smackdown storylines was credited to Hayes from 2002 until 2003, in 2004, Steph decided to try her hand, hence the DISASTER that was Mr. America. It didn't end there, though. The awful Big Show booking, the demise of Sean o' Haire, and most of the rest of the year were spoiled because she accepted little input from outside sources. Once the brand split ran its course, including a third entity in ECW/WWE, Steph's job as Creative Head of the blue brand was less about determining the direction of the story and more about securing allies within the organization so she could successfully step away for a while in order to start a family.

This sidetrack may or may not be valuable, but what IS valuable is that WWE is in the process of restructuring, but their process has been CONTINUOUS, with writers POURING out as quickly as they can be replaced, most of which have been irreparably soured to the wrestling business as a result of WWE's strict adherence to their adopted PG format and their low tolerance for ignorance as it relates to a business the lion's share of said writers knew virtually nothing about. So now we know a little more about the nature of the beast....and how best to tackle them.

TNA's greatest strength, in my personal opinion, is the ability to create a good heel character. The brand is BUILT on it. If you want proof, look at the history. The heels have been the longest reigning champions, the most often featured on television, and the most prominent authoritarian figures in virtually every case. They've led more stables and wreaked more havoc than any babyface figures on the whole. From a heel perspective, a face character is as easy as stepping in the way of the said havoc and deflecting the damage or reflecting it. How is this important?

WWE is built around the faces. Want proof? Look at the Divas Division. Only AJ Lee is a legitimate heel character. Granted, with Triple H is authoritarian, it LOOKS as though there are few faces, but if you actually look at the roster, there are FAR more faces than heels and it's been this way for quite some time. WWE has difficulty allowing the heels to reign the roost for long because of the PG environment. There has to be a glimmer of hope to cling to.

TNA allowed the Aces and Eights to rule the upper tier for over a year. Why? Because it made sense. Because it gave them the time to build up their babyface count back to a number that was manageable to offset the onslaught. The Aces built Bully Ray into a legitimate main event character. Bully Ray, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, Jeff Jarrett, Eric Young, Petey Williams, Konnan, Daniels; all are exactly what I'm taking about when it comes to heels and prominence on screen. The champions had long reigns and held their respective division in place, giving the babyfaces someone and something to chase. THIS is where TNA's biggest asset is.

Some would claim it's the specialty divisions or the beauty or the Knockouts or whatever else, but their ability to assemble a cast of people who can fit into the role of the bad guy and create an atmosphere where the process of assuming the mantle of hero is as organic and flowing as the business itself, THAT'S what makes TNA something special.

Magnus is on the cusp of main eventing even as we speak. If he is able to capture the World Title this year, as I'm predicting he will, this will make TNA's 7th first time champion in 4 years. Chris Sabin, Bully Ray, Ken Anderson, Bobby Roode, James Storm, Austin Aries, That's a major accomplishment, folks. That means that Magnus would join a HOST of other former champions who, at any time, could be counted on to take up the ball and run with it. WWE could only hope for that kind of top tier.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Survival Tactix: The Open Road Experiment.....

I was tempted to give this a 20 Questions spin, but since this is more of an exploration into what has played out over the past year and change, I determined to just let the chips fall where they may. Before I launch in, I'd like to put a couple of little myths that have appeared on the forums to rest because they are, quite simply put, some of the most inaccurate of all the rest of the garbage out there.

1. Eric Bischoff didn't kill WCW. I'm not sure why I even bother correcting people anymore over a 20 year old long defunct promotion that tanked largely due to a merger that had no place for the allies of a wrestling promotion, even when it was generating huge numbers across the board. If there were four factors I could put in the drivers seat of the wreckage, they would go, in order......the AOL/Time Warner merger, Vince Russo, Kevin Nash, and the nWo.

2. Hulk Hogan did NOT kill TNA. This one is also in the category of the ridiculous as TNA hasn't closed their doors as of this post. Here's my take on the Hulk Hogan situation.....in the time he's been with the company, only after failing miserably in his revisions the first year did he realize how little he knew the fans of the brand. Granted, 2010 was among the worst of the worst in terms of sports entertainment, but Immortal proved to me, at least, that trying to force TNA into a WWE shaped box just wasn't going to work. Since 2010, TNA has done a good job of bouncing back and thinking forward, but the damage has been done and, though it's tough to convince the hardcore TNA purist fans that things have changed for the better, we all know it's true.

3. Streamlining is NOT the same as bleeding out. I have no clue where it came from that TNA was bleeding out and that being the primary reason for them cutting talent from their roster. True, traveling the road was expensive and continues to be expensive, but there are other factors to aid in the process that haven't been considered. When TNA first began running in new markets, WWE started snapping up contracts with small venues that TNA might have been able to run capacity crowds in, forcing them to either go bigger, which meant spending more OR rescheduling events and reworking the lines of travel. Since TNA has had to renegotiate some events in light of those tactics, it has forced TNA to start cutting members of the roster that haven't been being utilized and had no creative direction. While I understand the need to make a roster lean enough to be able to use every member, it remains to be seen how the endgame is to run.

Now that those nagging little details that really do relate to the subject at hand are out in the open, I'd like to do a little bit of, what I would call damage control and give a balanced perspective as to how this could be a whole lot worse.

Had WWE been more thorough in their edging or if Spike TV hadn't been willing to aid TNA with capital to work the traveling schedule and if Panda Energy had completely closed their financial tether, we may be seeing a farewell tour, but since none of those factors found a way to fruition, we're enjoying a bastion away from the nation of Vince to this very day. I won't try to sugar coat this. TNA needs money to function and it can't continue to remain on the traveling schedule on the long term, which is why they have been in talks with Universal to make their return to the Impact Zone. I don't view this as another failure. It was, just like Monday nights, an experiment. What have we learned? TNA can't stand on its own weight just yet. This isn't to say they never will, but right now, they need the help of Spike and the good people of Universal Studios to put their legs back under them.

What does this give them? How about a chance to push the clock back to 2009? How about a return to what got the talk going to begin with? Does bringing back some of the early days magic and fusing it with some of the long term planning learned from the current regime sound like a good idea? Because it certainly does to me. Imagine how different things might have gone if Christian, Monty Brown, Petey Williams, Senshi, and the host of others no longer with TNA had seen the benefits that Austin Aries has or Bobby Roode? We'd be looking at a different company right now, that much I can promise you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Survival Tactix: Bound for Glory IX.....

Nearly every year, Bound for Glory, Wrestlemania, and every other landmark PPV for every other wrestling company that is ABLE to DO PPV has their card pretty much in stone by this time. This year we have two episodes of Impact to set this whole thing up. Is this a good thing? Maybe. But could this be a very bad thing? Without doubt.

This week comes to us LIVE and the tapings for the lead in show to Bound for Glory fall on the same day, making it incredibly easy to infer where TNA plans to strike. I know how I would set things up OUTSIDE of the World Tag Team Title match and the World Heavyweight Title, but the rest of the card could play out COMPLETELY at the drop of a hat, to be honest.

In order to put together this card, we have to have the facts in order:

1. Aces and Eights ends at Bound for Glory. By that, I AM referring to the working order of the faction. This relates directly to the next fact on the list, as it gives a place for Bully Ray to land after Bound for Glory.

2. There are still 2 members of the TNA roster under negotiations; Ken Anderson and Mickie James. As of last week, Anderson, James and TNA officials had their sit down and it remains to be seen or heard what the final verdict is in those negotiations. BUT neither Anderson nor James has made a public upper tier appearance as of this post, meaning that both sides are interested in the negotiations process.

3. Hulk Hogan is also in negotiations. Granted, I'm not convinced his presence makes a single bit of difference to make up of this card, it is important to note nevertheless because it DOES have some bearing as to where TNA goes after the event is over.

So how does it go?

AJ vs. Bully Ray
Gunner/Storm vs. The winner of the pre-show match
Magnus vs. Sting
Austin Aries vs Manik vs. Chris Sabin vs. Jeff Hardy: Ultimate X

If TNA re-signs Mickie James, she's my pick to face ODB otherwise I think we'll end up with maybe Tessmacher to put the final nail in the coffin of failure for the Aces and Eights faction.

We'll see the return of Kurt Angle, but my understanding is that he's not going to wrestle this year's event.

That's 5 matches, but TNA's premier PPV usually runs with 7-8, so I'll guess at a match between Knux/Brisco/ Garret vs. Joe/Bradley/ and the return of Abyss

Since that and the Ultimate X Match will command could command an hour's worth of time, I believe the entire event will run to time and we'll see minimal filler videos, promos, and the like.

That's MY rundown as I see it, here's hoping they stick with the plan.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Survival Tactix: 20 Questions....5..

In spite of the virtual standstill in terms of news, I've got a question to pose. Of course, this once again comes on the heels of my reading yet another column. I think it best to preface this entire column by saying that most of the columnists I post reactions to here are actually those I have a great deal of respect for. The good people over at LordsofPain.net have a great site and, though I might not fully agree with some on their staff, they DO have a resident TNA columnist who does fine work.

Okay.....having said ALL that, MY question is more of a follow-up to an idea conveyed in a recent column posted just this past week.

Who does WWE hate more: Ring or Honor or TNA?

The tally marks I've laid out many times before concerning the sheer volume of talents who were TNA Originals and had no previous WWE ties is startling, to say the least. Lance Hoyt, Monty Brown, Chris Harris, and others had no prior Ring of Honor ties. For reasons I'm not entirely certain of, WWE ransacked their roster over the past couple of years, bringing in some of ROH's best. While CM Punk, who DID have some prior TNA ties, and Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) had moderate success, (NOTE: To anyone who wishes to dispute my assessment, I'm more than willing to oblige.) on the other hand, guys like Antonio Cesaro, Kaval, to name from the top of my head, have been almost criminally mistreated, serving as match fodder for guys like Santino Marella.

Returning to a comment noting "moderate success": In columns on this very site during the infamous "Summer of Punk" in 2011, I went to great lengths condemning WWE for their HORRIBLE booking of his year long title reign. Not only did he rarely get top billing during that time, when it came right down to it, be it a push from Alberto Del Rio, the pairing of John Cena and the Rock, or the debut of the Shield, Punk was almost always relegated as background noise. He was buried by Triple H for comments he was clearly given clearance to say live. Since then, he's simply not been the same.

Moving on to Daniel Bryan: From being suspended for using Attitude Era rules in a PG environment, to being a transitional champion, losing at Wrestlemania in 18 seconds, Daniel Bryan has been woefully mismanaged by WWE since he came in. The man can work a match with a dustmop and have you actually believing that the mop might win, but you'd never know it with what WWE gives him to work with. Yes, he's won titles. Yes, he's been given some exposure. YES! YES! YES! (Note of sarcasm) I can't even imagine his climb to the top of the ladder and finding himself for nearly a year in an anger management tag team role. I'd have packed my bags and left mentally. My going through the motions would only be the minimum standard. Simply put, I have NO clue why he stuck through it.

If the choice were placed before ME? I say WWE hates TNA far more. Why? Because at the end of the day, WWE has ALWAYS been quicker to release former TNA talents than they are those from ROH. Mistreated or not, the ROH guys are still employed. Lance Hoyt, Monty Brown, Chris Harris; none of them are....period.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Survival Tactix: The Reset Button.....

Bound For Glory is coming and the question on my mind more than any other is whether or not this year's event will push the reset button and take the company back 3 years before the regime took over the reins of the look and feel of the product. Slowly, but surely, pieces of the regime have fallen away and faded into the background. Bruce Pritchard, Ric Flair, RVD, Orlando Jordan, the Nasty Boys, Ken Anderson, and the list goes on of those Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff brought with them from WWE exile who are now either back with WWE or gone from TNA.

Furthermore, Jeff Jarrett has come back from his position as a potential scout, looking for more opportunities for TNA to expand their influence on either the world market or the local market to aid in the day to day riggers of the company. Is his presence welcome? I'd like to think so. His face on TV would be a welcome sight, that much is for sure. But how much would return if his presence were re-exerted? Would we be welcoming back the 6 Sided Ring? How about Don West? King of the Mountain matches? Just how much from TNA past would return if and when Jeff Jarrett's influence were plugged back in?

I think the thing that most intrigues me is the way the 6 Sided Ring was set to the side. It all happened in a week's time. It wasn't like there was a storyline where the switch took place, or a poll that allowed the fans to speak their mind, but rather it was done without the input of the fans, which was a true shame. I left a sour taste in the mouth of SOME (like me) fans. Those who had the problem argued that Hogan and Bischoff were tampering with a piece of TNA's identity and if they took that piece away, it would slowly begin to look like WWE-lite, which it kinda did for a while during 2010.

This is 2013, and everything would reset in the next two weeks once Hulk Hogan and Dixie Carter have finished their negotiations as to whether or not she is going to pay to keep him around. I like his position as GM, but I DON'T like some of the changes he's made and the hefty price tag he's been wringing out of the promotion without the kind of nitrous boost he heralded as he tooted his own horn coming into this thing.

Ethan, Lei'D Tapa, and others are beginning to debut, which kinda puts to rest the notion of TNA hurting for talent. Yes, their 45 member roster is a bit lean, but every member of the roster matters right now and is pretty critical for the running of the promotion at the this stage in the game. If TNA wishes to pull out of the funk they now find themselves in, I have a few last suggestions......

1. Start looking at life after Hogan.

Assume Hogan won't sign on the line if his monetary demands aren't met. Operate as if his signature wouldn't change the direction of the ship. Truth is, if Hogan wants to be HELPFUL, he'll fall in line with TNA's budget and not get hung up on his asking price. If he wants to put his own lifestyle over the well-being of the roster, he needs to go. Simple as that.

2. Examine life after Sting.

Let's face facts, Sting isn't going to stick around for much longer. His body may not be falling apart at the seams, but he can't go forever and his name value is limited. He has a similar price tag on his contract, but HE has made his contract worth every penny. Much respect for the painted one, but time is wearing short in his usefulness to the talent pool as a legitimate resume help. There was a time when beating Hulk Hogan made you the best in the world, but after Hogan's stride was hit, beating him only made you better at playing the game of politics. While Sting simply doesn't play politics, beating Sting doesn't do as much for the resume as it once did. Number 3 goes in tandem....

3. Begin planning Sting's farewell run.

Pull out the stops and look at who will be Sting's final opponent, setting them up to work the final curtain match even now. We need the foreshadowing to happen even now. Sting's contract expires near the beginning of 2014 and it HAS to be given some major gusto. Run everything you have to and make this thing the biggest story and make his final opponent a star as a result.

4. What does an extra million dollars help with?

Once Hogan and Sting are figures of the past, that's what you'll be looking at and it begs the question of how the budget would be affected by the extra influx of funds. Could that money go back in to give deserving talents a raise? How about to give marketing a breath of life? We're looking at the beginning of a new era and it still remains to be seen what things would change, but adding a million dollars to ANY place in TNA's budget is a good thing.

TNA HAS to hit the ground running here. If Hogan re-signs, some things are going to have to change, but if he DOESN'T? I'm hoping this reset button will bring back pieces of TNA's identity that were set aside in favor of assimilating to the WWE led sports entertainment culture. Step out there, TNA, with your OWN foot and be counted as something different. Go ahead, press the reset button. Everything will be fine.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Survival Tactix: Who is Ethan?


Let the speculation begin. Right? Who could Ethan POSSIBLY be? Could he be a repackaging of a talent already within the organization? How about a debut swerve? No clue. I WILL say this....TNA is VERY tight lipped these days about their debuts, in terms of whether or not we'll recognize them from elsewhere, but this time, I have a couple of theories.

1. MVP

He's said before that he's open to a TNA debut. Does "Ethan" sound like a name that would fit MVP's physique? Not especially, but if he can sell it, I'll buy it. The problem here is the same problem that all the people on this list will suffer, they'll have a hard time becoming relevant to the brand. MVP would be no different than some of the others who have been picked up a year or two too late.....unless we're looking at something COMPLETELY different.

2. John Morrison

THIS is the more likely candidate for the name Ethan. What do we do with him in terms of his first feud? That's the question I'd like to know the answer to before they ruin his debut before it happens.

3. Chris Masters

He COULD fit the bill and his improvements in ring have been significant since his departure from WWE (Wasted Workers Entertainment). It was a shame his debut couldn't have been a bit earlier in the whole Aces and Eights saga, but hindsight IS 20/20 after all.

If John Morrison comes into TNA, it's a safe bet that Melina will come with him and we'll get yet another veteran woman to help aid in the Knockouts Division. Is it a lock? Nope, but is it possible? Absolutely.