by Martin Dixon
Appraising the competition?: TNA wrestling.
TNA wrestling has been in business longer than the original ECW, and arguably as long as WCW (post name change) Think about that for a second. For the past 11 years, TNA has been seen as the number two promotion in the United States, and as such is incredibly divisive, some love it, quite a few hate it, jokers like me take cheap shots but carry a grudging respect for it. But is TNA really all that bad? Is it really any good? And does TNA deserve it’s place as “the” alternative? So now, TNA faces it’s biggest challenge, far greater than any pseudo-biker gang, the glaring analysis of The Suicida Appraisal. Game on.
TNA’s roster is an embarrassment of riches, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Sting, Christopher Daniels & Kaz, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, AJ Styles, and many more when listed together, read like a who’s-who of wrestling talent. TNA has an incredible set of wrestlers to call upon, not since WCW in it’s heyday has a promotion had such an array of performers and that truly is TNA’s greatest asset.
Bully Ray. Regardless of the Aces & Eights story, Bully Ray has been a revelation since splitting from his Team 3D stablemate Devon. The man has been reborn, and at such a later stage of a career, that’s an impressive feat. Brash, outspoken, boorish, and delusional, The villainous incarnation of Ray is a true Heel, with a capital H, and is more than capable of being the top villain of the company.
In Britain, TNA also has the enviable position of being on free to air television, not the subscription Sky channels, this gives iMPACT! a greater chance of exposure, coupled with its host channel ChallengeTV seemingly being committed to TNA, this may arguably make TNA number one here.
It’s in rougher shape than it used to be, but the Knockouts division is still something to be lauded, the quality of the in ring action may have slipped in recent times, it is still a meaningful part of the show overall however, which is something WWE’s Diva’s division can’t claim all the time.
The Tag Division. In the past I may have described WWE’s doubles ranks as being akin to a mafia informant on his way to an appointment with a shallow grave in a secluded wood, but not so in TNA, tag wrestling is alive in Orlando and teams like Christopher Daniels & Kaz, and the recent pairing of Austin Aries & Bobby Roode prove that Tag wrestling can be a positive force in mainstream wrestling when presented right, and not as an afterthought.
Areas of Opportunity
Hulk Hogan. Sorry Hulkster, but nostalgia can only buy you so much goodwill. Whilst your presence has maybe given TNA a boost, the hiring and subsequent pushes of your friends & cronies was beyond the pale, and the involvement of your family is just the kind of nepotism that can seriously harm a promotion, I think TNA now would be better for your stepping away. No offence, I was a Hulkamaniac back in the day, but that was ever such a long time ago.
TNA has ways had a reputation of being a company full of “WWE rejects” and it’s hard to argue. Really hard in fact. Now having name talent is no bad thing, in fact it’s an asset as I suggested before, but TNA does seem to have a reverse Midas touch with newcomers, it’s so frequent that it’s scary. The company has this innate ability to strip any drawing power from a star within months of their arrival. That may have sounded harsh but here’s a question, If TNA announced Kurt Angle vs Jeff Hardy for it’s next pay per view, I doubt many would be compelled to order what could be called a “dream match” of sorts. Such has been the frequency of their encounters
TNA seems in a constant state of spinning it’s wheels, never gaining momentum, but not losing it either. When it comes to talent development, outside of a few very notable exceptions (Austin Aries and Bobby Roode, step forward), everyone just seems “there”. Storylines abound, but there’s a status quo in TNA that very rarely seems to alter. That’s a similar criticism that can be levelled at WWE too, but in TNA it seems so much more pronounced, even with an influx of new talent, time & care doesn’t seem to be being paid to make these arrivals seem like the next big thing. The great irony with Ace’s & Eights is that most of it’s members have become more anonymous since ditching the masks, save for Bully Ray & Mr Anderson.
Albert Einstein once remarked that the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. And speaking of TNA’s obsession with heel stables….
I jest of course, but we’ve had The Main Event Mafia, Fortune, Immortal and now Ace’s & Eights over the years. Now, I’m not against rehashing storylines, but this is a near annual occurrence in TNA, which is hugely off putting. Some aspects of Aces & Eights have been enjoyable, but the whole affair has been dragged on for so long, my enthusiasm has drained to near empty.
I can’t proclaim to know how TNA should proceed, and how it could gain the following and stature it needs to be truly be competition to WWE, because if I did I wouldn’t be writing this, I’d be beating down TNA management’s door. What I can do, is offer up what TNA could do to make me more invested in the show.
I never thought I’d write this, but Hogan, Sting, you’re time is up. As much respect as I have for you and all you’ve done for the business, your continued presence in TNA is becoming detrimental to the product, TNA has an excellent roster of talent, who at one time would have benefitted from an association with true legends, but what instead has occurred, either by design or circumstance, is that you have overshadowed those around you again. As I wrote about Wrestlemania, I’m okay with this as a temporary cash grab so to speak, but week in, week out, it devalues the rest of the talent, and that’s who’ll be left when you move on. Leave the world in a better state than when you entered it.
TNA needs a second show in the week. There I said it, preferably one centred around the X division, which at one time would have been number one on the Strengths list, but not right now. If TNA is genuine about being an alternative for WWE, then offer something unique to TNA. WWE has neither the will or ability to promote good Junior Heavyweight/Cruiserweight wrestling, and that’s just what TNA should be offering. Reach out to more independent workers in the US, try & rekindle that working relationship they had with New Japan Pro Wrestling, give me Prince Devitt vs AJ Styles or something like that. Be Unique. If you attempt to be a poor man’s WWE, that is what you will be.
TNA’s approach seems to be to look longingly at WWE and say “Let’s be the same but different” when I think they should just be saying “Let’s be different”. If this modern wrestling era should teach us anything it’s that there is almost no wrong way to present wrestling. Just because WWE was the survivor of the Monday Night Wars doesn’t mean that it’s the right way. Leave WWE style wrestling to WWE, how about we get some TNA style wrestling?
This is all just my opinion of course, everyone is entitled to their own, and if yours agrees or differs from mine and if you’d like to give me some feedback, I can be found on twitter @BunnySuicida so until next time people, remember to have fun with wrestling, however hard that may be at times.