Saturday, December 28, 2013

Founders, Swerves, and Works.....

In a tweet just this past week, TNA founder Jeff Jarrett announced that he has resigned from the organization.

I'll let that sink in a bit.

Let's do a tally right now of the talents media outlets right now are reporting to be on the way out or unsecured in contracts.....

Jeff Hardy
Jeff Jarrett
AJ Styles
Sting

All are big names. HUGE to TNA, in fact. It almost seems like the company's about to fold in on itse--WAIT! Let's do some digging right now into the future of AJ Styles. A one night stint is coming up for him in Ring of Honor vs. Roderick Strong- two former TNA talents colliding in Ring of Honor. It sounds like a nice change of pace....at least if you're a ROH fan. But there IS something else that's come across the wire....AJ Styles' agent has been hurrying indy promoters to sign him while they can because talks between TNA and Styles broke wide open.

In regards to Jeff Jarrett, everyone is keeping VERY quiet....too quiet for me to believe there's nothing more to it. I've become increasingly suspicious of TNA's "releases" over the past two years or so. It was Devon's return as a member of the Aces and Eights that made me question everything since that time. And with Jarrett's resignation coming on the heels of the walkout by Jeff Hardy on last week's episode of Impact and the walkout of AJ Styles the week before.....I'm not buying that these recent developments aren't unrelated.

I've determined, in fact, that once TNA has gone overseas on their annual UK tour, we'll know how everything is going to pan out. If they come back and we see Jeff Hardy, my suspicions will have something to stand on, but if they return to the States and we don't see Jeff or evidence that Jeff is coming back....well....we'll see that side too.

I've been seeing one of two possible main events coming down the pike, provided that TNA's creative team shares the same vision: the first has Team Dixie vs. Team Jarrett at Lethal Lockdown while the other has a Dixie Carter-backed Magnus taking on a returning Jeff Jarrett-backed AJ Styles at Slammiversary. Any takers?

Team Dixie would consist of the Bro-mans, Spud, and EC3 and Team Jarrett would consist of Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, and Sting. Under this card, I would place either Kurt Angle or Gunner against Magnus in the World Title match. In any case, only time will reveal some answers.......

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

.....GONE?!

This letter was released by AJ Styles just yesterday.....



MY STATEMENT ON TNA CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS 12/16/13

Today for the first time in 11 years, AJ Styles awakes to find himself without a professional wrestling contract. I can't help but think how did I get here, what must I have done wrong, did I not deliver in the ring, etc. All of those are pertinent questions that any man or woman who finds himself or herself unemployed would ask. I have always prided myself in being the wrestler that stays away from the things in this business that could easily destroy myself, my family, my marriage, and even my career. A wrestler who goes above and beyond to give the fans what they paid to see. I move forward not bitter, but better for the blessings and memories that I have been a part of since TNA's inception.

When this contract renegotiation journey started several months ago, my wife and I began praying for God to close doors that needed to be closed and to open the doors that He wanted us to walk through. We asked him to prepare us for this journey and to help us to have the faith to be obedient to what He would have us to do. I am assured by the name Immanuel in Matthews 1:23 that I will never be alone. Hebrews 13.5, says He will never leave us or forsake us. There is a lot in this world that I am unsure of, especially in this moment, but there is one thing that I am certain. Contracts may expire, but the promise of Immanuel will never expire.

As my family and I move forward with my wrestling career, we will turn to Jabez's prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4:10.

Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from evil.

My family and I are both grateful for the platform that TNA has allowed me to experience. TNA has been a blessing to our family for many years. We have made many friendships and many more memories. While you may not be seeing AJ Styles in TNA, you can be sure that he will be traveling the world and delivering many more Phenomenal matches. Visit AJStyles.org for a complete list of bookings.

Sincerely,
AJ Styles P1
Photo: MY STATEMENT ON TNA CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS 12/16/13

Today for the first time in 11 years, AJ Styles awakes to find himself without a professional wrestling contract. I can't help but think how did I get here, what must I have done wrong, did I not deliver in the ring, etc. All of those are pertinent questions that any man or woman who finds himself or herself unemployed would ask. I have always prided myself in being the wrestler that stays away from the things in this business that could easily destroy myself, my family, my marriage, and even my career. A wrestler who goes above and beyond to give the fans what they paid to see. I move forward not bitter, but better for the blessings and memories that I have been a part of since TNA's inception. 

When this contract renegotiation journey started several months ago, my wife and I began praying for God to close doors that needed to be closed and to open the doors that He wanted us to walk through. We asked him to prepare us for this journey and to help us to have the faith to be obedient to what He would have us to do. I am assured by the name Immanuel in Matthews 1:23 that I will never be alone. Hebrews 13.5, says He will never leave us or forsake us. There is a lot in this world that I am unsure of, especially in this moment, but there is one thing that I am certain. Contracts may expire, but the promise of Immanuel will never expire. 

As my family and I move forward with my wrestling career, we will turn to Jabez's prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4:10. 

Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
and enlarge my territory, 
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from evil.

My family and I are both grateful for the platform that TNA has allowed me to experience. TNA has been a blessing to our family for many years. We have made many friendships and many more memories. While you may not be seeing AJ Styles in TNA, you can be sure that he will be traveling the world and delivering many more Phenomenal matches. Visit AJStyles.org for a complete list of bookings.

Sincerely,
AJ Styles P1
Sounds pretty real, doesn't it? If that didn't sound real enough, in the first part of 2014, AJ Styles is booked at over 10 different events. I've read all manner of posts on fanpages, forums, and networks from fans who threaten to stop watching TNA and one or two who've sworn off wrestling in general. If you're one of them, try and hang with me until the end.....you might be satisfied with what I bring to the table. A source reporting to WrestleZone claims that AJ Styles has, indeed, signed a new contract and that everything from the press release to the independent bookings is a part of a grand scheme to see a return to enormous fanfare in the coming months. It's been suggested that not only did Styles SIGN the contract, but that the contract itself was EXACTLY what he was asking for in terms of dates AND money involved. What remains to be seen, however, is one of the things on his request list....the reinstatement of Alex Shelley to the TNA roster. TNA is wanting 2014 to be a HUGE breakout year to rebound off of the final year of the Hogan/Bischoff regime, meaning the return of a number of talents like Madison Rayne recently and leading ultimately to Styles and Jeff Jarrett. This is only the tentative plan as of yet and could change on the Jarrett front, but with Dixie Carter as a heel authoritarian figure, it seems only a matter of time before TNA begins heralding the return of the Founder and his army going into Lockdown. My response? It's about time!

Another piece of news that sounds interesting to me is what TNA might have in store for Ethan Carter III. I make it no secret that I'm a fan so far. The build towards legitimate contenders has me curious. What I DO know from tapings results is that Carter pulled the pink slip case. Naturally, being a Carter, he won't get fired and will, instead, pursue a path towards the World Heavyweight Title. Now before I get too deep into this, let me first say that these plans, unless something changes, may end up a hot mess before it begins unless he starts facing off against some resume-worthy opponents. That being said, there are a number of notable opponents who are in the works for Ethan to try his hand against leading up to the culmination of the storyline. Do I agree with TNA's assessment of his abilities? I think he's growing as a performer as one should expect and, provided the path is believable, I see no reason why TNA needs to shy away from a World Title run this year. In my view, he's got a good look, he can cut a decent promo, and he's got a good moveset to work from in ring. I say why not?















Sunday, December 15, 2013

If TNA Can Survive This.....


So BEFORE I go into today's subject at hand, let's do a bit of TNA history recap, shall we?

Genesis 2010- TNA begins their trainwreck year with a PPV that only had one bright spot....the debut of Mr. Anderson. What makes THIS PPV bad right out of the gate? It's the first PPV WITHOUT the 6 Sided Ring, thus ending the era of the standout product in terms of visual presentation. Couple THAT with the ring bridge and you've got a hot wet mess that cuts down the useable outside-ring space and makes working around it a complication at best.

Victory Road 2011- We all know the story.....Jeff Hardy comes out and loses his World Heavyweight Championship after a 90 second match in one of the WORST PPV events in their history, putting a benchmark in the history books that rivals December to Dismember of 2006, which ended with fans chanting "We Want a Refund".

TNA lost HUGE credibility with their signing of Garet Bischoff and Brooke Hogan in 2010 and 2012 respectively and, with the release of Brooke this year and Garet's absence from television since the disbanding of the Aces and Eights, it might be possible HE would be done as well. What's important to note is that the political weight-throwing of Hogan and Bischoff in their tenures led to TNA taking on what might be considered even more dead weight. Now, before I go further, I will say I have praised the regime in the past for their virtues, and there were some, but this was not a shining pair of moments.

TNA allows Christopher Daniels' contract to lapse without renewal in 2010. Why do I keep bringing up things done during the era of the regime? Because it HAS to be made into a point. During this era, a BUNCH of TNA Original talents were allowed to see their own way to the door, but in spite of all that,  TNA simply didn't see a dip in their viewership, by and large.

In the era before Jeff Hardy's return to TNA from 2006-2009, TNA's ratings never changed. When Kurt Angle was missing from action this year and in the time before his arrival in the first place, ratings didn't jump or tank. Before Christian Cage or Sting, ratings weren't suffering. TNA has survived a virtually nonstop championship reign by Jeff Jarrett during the first year of their televised syndicated show on SpikeTV, PPV disasters, walkouts, no shows, and just about everything else that can go wrong on a wrestling promotion standpoint and yet, their viewership remains largely intact. Somebody EXPLAIN THIS TO ME!!!!

If TNA is the disaster that some critics claim, why is it still around? Right now, Smackdown and TNA aren't far off in terms of their respective ratings....so what's all the talk about TNA going down the tubes? Because they haven't come to terms with AJ Styles? Because they haven't resigned Jeff Hardy? Because Sting might be leaving? I am a VERY big fan of all three, but at the end of the day, TNA will manage to survive. Will there be something lacking in the product? Undoubtedly, but will it keep me from tuning in each week? Nope.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Bait and Switch......

What is the ultimate fake-out in wrestling history? Imagine Bash at the Beach of '96 when Hulk Hogan turns heel. Maybe it's the mad revelation that Vince is the guy behind Stephanie's abduction. What about Triple H faking the reunion of DeGeneration X? Could it be the revelation of how Bully Ray fooled TNA's brightest minds? What has never been done before? Hold your finger on this place in wrestling history and I have something just as good.....and the joke has every member of the IWC (internet wrestling community) as the punchline.

What does TNA going out of business look like? I've been asking this question for the past week after reading about the contract statuses of AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy. Styles and TNA "haven't" come to terms on a new contract. Hardy's contract is said to be up once January tapings have come to a close and end with a tag match with Sting and a heartfelt goodbye to the TNA fans. Another contract coming up with Sting.....where is this all going? What if the "Feast or Fired" case that creates the biggest loser happens to be James Storm? What if Daniels and Kazarian are next? Imagine Bobby Roode and Kurt Angle's impending feud leading to the "exit" of Kurt Angle.

So if it's true, you have Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, Sting, and James Storm gone. No one can dispute that THAT is a meaty chunk of TNA's merchandise-moving apparatus. How do you explain that? TNA is going out of business? TNA is the rigid board-like structure, unwilling to bend for AJ, but will bend over backwards for Hulk Hogan? TNA can't hold their heads above water so they've decided to fold? Really?! REALLY?! With all due respect to TNA's most vocal critics, you have GOT to be kidding me.

If I were writing this thing, TNA liquidating their holdings would just be the tip of the iceberg. Call it the ULTIMATE bait and switch.....and the IWC is eating it up like the hot wet mess it is and virtually no one is immune....even me as indicated by the last post here. Right now, there is a polarization I have NEVER seen before on forums the entire internet over. You've got members of Facebook fan sites calling Dixie Carter every horrible name in the book, comedians ripping the TNA brand to tatters, and it all boils down to one thing.....money.....or does it? One site claims that AJ Styles has been asking for a 15% increase in a new contract while TNA has been asking him to take a 20-25% pay CUT. Another point of contention is that AJ is asking for the return of Alex Shelley to the TNA roster. The same source claims that Jeff Hardy's contract was a two year OPTIONAL renewal that was allowed to lapse. Beyond that, Sting's contract is supposedly up in the coming months.  I ask again....where is this all going? Do you REALLY believe TNA is going under?

In the circulating issue of Sports Illustrated, SI interviews Dixie Carter and she reveals that TNA has been turning a PROFIT for the past 5 years. She never mentions how BIG a profit, but that their move back to the Impact Zone is largely a cost saving method that has a part to play in their expansion. TNA and Dixie Carter KNOW that spoilers are going to be coming out, but because the reports out there are SO jumbled, it would take a MIRACLE to actually fit the pieces together to form anything truly tangible to work off of. Fact is, tapings have been set all the way out to the January 9th episode. All that really remains is editing and maybe a couple of vignettes and maybe another emergency taping to shore up last minute details overlooked or missed during the MASSIVE taping-fest over the course of the past week. With as many years as TNA has had this season as their busiest, I have NEVER seen episodes taped for dates out so far. As it is, the norm is for TNA tapings to run until the opening of the New Year, but that the second week of January runs LIVE. What makes THIS year so special? Think about what this could mean.

What I would like to know is how TNA hits the reset button on THIS story? How do you turn the clock back and make the return of a BUNCH of top stars in the company something to be sure to watch? How LONG does it take to DETHRONE the "Authority" as WWE is calling their heel army right now? Think back to who it took to turn the tides in each of the past large heel stable stories. Who was the hinge pin? Sting. Sting was the guy who never believed Hulk Hogan as Immortal was being created. Sting was the guy who brought back the Main Event Mafia to do battle with the Aces and Eights. Sting was the guy who turned FACE to bring the Main Event Mafia down the FIRST time. What if he WASN'T the pin this time because he's "gone"? Who takes over then? Why not Jeff Jarrett? Is TNA's founder out of the question? Think about it, guys. Is it POSSIBLE?

The nature of the IWC beast is to reveal the "news" of the day and make speculations on where it's going and this site is not all that different. I speculate and I predict, but the predictions are only as good as the final decision TNA makes in regards to story archs and signings. I've made predictions that have been spot on....like AJ Styles winning the World Title at Bound for Glory or Magnus becoming the face of TNA as he has been in recent weeks in his ascent towards a run with the World Title.....I have also fallen a bit short with regards to details concerning the Aces and Eights or the third faction possibility. This business is fluid and changing and I make no apologies for being wrong as that was never the purpose for this column in the first place. If you were entertained, you got what you wanted, even if the prediction was wrong. These are opinions and predictions based on facts I've been given that can stand up to some scrutiny. The player behind all of AJ Styles' opponents outside of TNA doing all the negotiating wasn't Dixie, per se. It was Jarrett. What does that mean? I'm not even going answer that question....just leave you with the thought to consider......where is TNA going with this?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Expectations.....

Wrestling fans are wanting something these days. We're a fickle bunch and I don't mind lumping myself into the number, because I've been a critic just like everyone else. I admit to being more critical of WWE's product than I am on TNA, knowing full well that they have their own set of problems that they have to deal with. We want to suspend disbelief. We want a moment where we say to ourselves AND to the people watching it with us, "DUDE! Did you just see that!?" We'll rewind our DVRs just to see that amazing finish or catch the debut one more time just to let it all sink in......that's the spectacle we all love.

I happen to love all the things going on in TNA right now. I'm a fan of Ethan Carter III. I like heel Dixie more with each of the segments I've seen on YouTube. This initiative makes waiting for next week far more bearable without even having to watch a match. To me, it raises the stakes of every match, making each match more of a big deal when they come around on TV. I REALLY love how TNA is featuring AJ Styles in his absence under the guise of "Paid for by the friends of AJ". It's a good angle and I'm glad they've determined to take the battle out of the Impact Zone and around the world to emphasize how willing Styles is to prove he's the best in the world, literally. Japan, Mexico, UK; they've covered quite a bit of ground and I find that TNA's ability to foster good working relationships with other promotions around the globe leaves few stones unturned when it comes to posing decent match-ups for those within their company.

And yet the critics will scoff. The heels of the company are in full bloom and they've risen to the top once again, holding all of the "active" titles right now. Some of these members on the roster are giving the heel persona their first go around, while others are marching somewhere in the middle. What seems clear to me is that TNA is allowing reality to enter into segments (see Samoa Joe skipping over Kurt Angle with a beer at the funeral for Aces and Eights), meaning that they can acknowledge and laugh about his most recent admittance into rehab.

Fact is, there is only ONE concern I have for TNA at this point in the game. Securing their poster boy for the years to come. AJ Styles has yet to sign a full blown contract and it all comes down to money now, which at present, is no longer a concern for TNA as their funds have been freed up a great deal in the past few weeks. So why are we even having this conversation? Styles is a proven draw to TNA fans past and present. Period. You put the belt on him and he can carry it well. It's okay, Dixie, HE'S Mr. Money's Worth. Go ahead and cut the check and be done with the discussion. Don't allow the critics to speculate about money or the condition of the company based on your best highlight player's status.

Monday, December 2, 2013

If There Are Questions.....

Questions? I'm FULL of them. And the one that is striking me right now has to do with Ring of Honor and their alums who have been snatched up by WWE of recent. Of all the former recruits of Ring of Honor past and present, WWE has 4. Tyler Black, Claudio Castagnoli, CM Punk, and Bryan Danielson. Recently, however, Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards have entered the WWE Performance Center, though the duration remains to be seen. Their admittance comes on the heels of the intercession by William Regal on their behalf to Triple H, who had all but dismissed a second viewing from them.

So that COULD make 6, but Edwards and Richards have yet to be signed even to developmental. If this is of any consequence, TNA's numbers include 7 former alumni from Ring of Honor past. Keep in mind that Ring of Honor had a great deal to do with the success of TNA in general as they shared talents one with the other. In fact, more than 15 Ring of Honor alums have walked into a TNA ring at one point or another, and those numbers don't include former Knockouts like Mickie James, Taeler Hendrix, Traci Brooks, Trinity, and Becky Bayless (Cookie, the former valet for Robbie E.).

I find myself wondering how Ring of Honor fits into the grand scheme of pro wrestling as a spectacle; whether they would assimilate into a larger organization like WWE OR if they would sign a cooperative with a smaller promotion like TNA that would allow the sharing of talents and the potentially mutual benefit of cross promoting as a partner. In MY mind, a cooperative between TNA and Ring of Honor would be an exciting time in pro wrestling as it would put an end to the monopoly by giving talents more say in how they want to present their personas from one product to the other.

So does TNA have a chance at beckoning ROH stars to the second largest televised professional wrestling product to their brand if a cooperative isn't possible? I'd like to think so, but in all fairness, there really is no way to know conclusively until those chasms are created. In the history between the two organizations, somewhere along the lines, a rift was formed and so politically speaking, there might take some sorting of old baggage before forward progress can be done, but if there is cooperation on BOTH sides of the table, I think a deal could be pounded out and be worth its weight in gold for each, securing a better paycheck for performers in BOTH promotions.

I spent a great deal of time delving into WWE's opinions concerning ROH AND other independent promotions. Even as the distant third place promotion as Ring of Honor is, WWE still views them as an indy fed. Bearing in mind, however, that WWE's censoring of language, vices, and lifestyles of the performers and the personas they become is as strict in adherence as the travel schedule they keep, it stands to ask which looks better as a performer of principle. Do you go where the lifestyle could potentially remove the joy for the craft or do you go to a fed with a bit of a smaller paycheck and more freedom to exert your persona to its full potential?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Hierarchy of Titles.....

In the past 20 years, I've seen the hierarchy of WWE's and TNA's titles fluctuate almost as much as the stock market. In WWE, however, during the most simplistic era of title arrangement, the way things went was as follows:

RAW circa. 2002-2007-ish had the World Heavyweight Title as the big prize, followed by the Intercontinental Title. From there, it was the World Tag Team Titles and lastly, a specialty division; in the case of RAW, it was the Women's Division.

On Smackdown, the arrangement was very much the same; the WWE Title, the US Title, the WWE Tag Team Titles, and a specialty division, which was the Cruiserweight Title during the time.

I have no problem with the title strata looking like this, BUT it does do something that TNA was able to remedy: it made it very clear that there was a hierarchy in terms of which belt was the best one to hold. TNA gave the X Division Title belt a great deal of respect by enabling their "Option C" initiative, allowing for more freedom for smaller wrestlers to move up the card without having the "cheap win" element that WWE has employed for YEARS with the Money in the Bank briefcase. With the "Option C" initiative, the Champion ALWAYS knows who he's facing by the time Destination X comes around each year. This gives a sporting chance to the World Title holder by allowing a full blown match with some build going into it. The ONLY time I recall there being warning enough to make it worthwhile in WWE was when RVD made the challenge to John Cena at the very first One Night Stand PPV for the World Title. Nevermind that RVD held the WWE Title AND the fledgling WWE/ECW Title by the end of the night.

So I now move into the actual bulk of the subject matter of this column.....TNA's title hierarchy. I'd like to think it's a simple strata, but the truth is, it seems like there's some dispute over the importance of the TV Title depending upon who is running the creative team, but that wasn't always the case. TNA blew a HUGE opportunity with their belt hierarchy by not keeping the TV Title on the forefront when they had the chance to do so. In trying to establish the Aces and Eights as the dominant faction of the brand, they NEEDED to make the attempt to secure every belt, but they didn't. SO, it made the title meaningless, even when it was defended weekly. Why? I truly wish I had a way to answer that. On the other hand, I DO think there's a way to do some justice to each title belt without having to move around the roster very much to do so.

1. Establish the top tier. TNA ALREADY does a tremendous job of maintaining a consistently good top tier of talents to secure the product, so this doesn't entirely fit TNA for the most part, but this needs to be done in order to lay the ground work.

2. Establish those who are going to build into the top tier. This is what WWE's Intercontinental and US Title situation was put in place to do. Where TNA can capitalize is using BOTH the TV Title AND the X Division Title as the barometer. Those who are more apt to get into the top tier sooner might stand a better chance of getting exposure by utilizing the trade in value of the X Division Title. Those who might need some seasoning before entering into the top tier might gain value if they are given a lengthy reign as TV Champion, provided the title is treated in such a way that is fitting of a VALUABLE title in the first place. This brings me to number

3. Use the TV Title match as the main event ONCE per month on TV and NOT PPV. This gives that potential star some face time to garner fan support. If TNA is going to give exposure to their up a rising talents, the best way to do so is to mix the pot and put AT LEAST one resume-worthy veteran into the fray. A decent feud can make or break a potential top tier candidate. Let's assume that Ethan Carter is being built into the top tier eventually. By bringing him into a feud with the CURRENT TV Title holder, he would have INSTANT credibility just by having beaten him. Why? Because Abyss is holding that belt right now. Like him or not, Abyss IS a resume-worthy veteran who would help establish Carter as a valid title holder of a secondary title. The FEUD would help determine whether or not Carter would be a good fit for the World Title picture down the line.

Likewise, let's assume we want someone like a returning Petey Williams launched into the World Title picture quickly. We would simply put him into the mix shortly before Destination X and he would be on the fast track on that note. If the weight limits were removed, you could very easily put someone of the caliber of Jeff Hardy or even Kurt Angle into that category and catapult him into the main event with whoever cares to make the venture noteworthy and attention grabbing.

TNA is so much more flexible than WWE in terms of how a performer reaches the top tier and it's that fact that makes the hierarchy of titles more appealing to me, as a fan. Maybe we'll eventually see the return of the TV Title to television before year's end, but I'm not counting on it until there is a plan in place for them to give it some much needed attention, even in the short term.