Impact Wrestling star and pro wrestling legend Sting appeared on ESPN on Thursday, in an interview with Robert Flores. He discussed his career, what keeps him in the business, and who he would like to face in his last match. As a fan for nearly thirty years, I have to say, it’s cool to see my sport being covered in the national media without it involving some sort of controversy.
Let’s be honest, the only time ESPN seems to care about the business is when a big time athlete crosses over for a special appearance, or, when a worker dies. It’s the sad truth, that the pro wrestling industry has never been looked at by anyone outside of it as being anything more than silly entertainment, the ‘male soap opera’ cliché that outsiders often use to describe it.
[adinserter block=”2″]Folks like myself are not considered legitimate sports fans, because no true athletic competition is actually taking place in the ring. Of course, critics of the business are usually the first to admit that a guy has to be in shape, and that it requires some real work to execute the moves. But, at the end of the day, that’s the only concession that non-fans make. I understand it, it does me no good to fight it, and as wrestling fans we have all felt the need to defend the sport we love from those who would maliciously attack it. But, to argue the point really gets us nowhere, so we let them have their say, content that we see the beauty of a well wrestled match, whether anyone else does or not.
Impact Wrestling, or TNA Wrestling, has been fighting for the same respect that we as fans have been looking for since the day they began. They are, by all rights, the new kid on the block, especially when compared to WWE. They feature new, fresh faces who could potentially be the future of the business. Gunner, a friend of mine who began his career as Phil Shatter in the National Wrestling Alliance, is one of those future stars. For the past several weeks, he has been getting a lot of spotlight, and because he is very good in the ring, he is making the best of it. For TNA to succeed and continue in the future, guys like Gunner have to be given the opportunity to grow.
The problem however, is that TNA seems to be in a rush to compete right now. Like David stepping up to face Goliath, TNA is attempting to stand up to a company a lot bigger, and a lot stronger, in WWE. By filling their roster with former WWE talent, and big names whose best years are behind them, the company is making somewhat of an obvious statement to fans. “We want to be number one, but we’re not ready.” This apparent recipe for success has not proved very fruitful thus far, as the ratings continue to either slide down, or stagnate.
Signing established talent is always a risky endeavor. A guy makes his name in another company, working with a gimmick that was either given to him, or that he helped create in some fashion, and he gets over with fans. Then, after his time is up with that promotion, he takes his face, his gear, and perhaps even his name, with him, in an effort to continue to make money off of what worked with his previous employer. Sometimes the move works, sometimes it doesn’t. Often times, it’s seen as a cheap move, to keep using the same type of gimmick, even though you’re in a new environment. After all, it’s a new company, it’s a new day, why not do something different?
Ken Anderson, the former TNA World Champion, was known as Ken Kennedy in WWE. When he came to TNA, he brought his catchphrase, his attitude, and even his music is directly similar to the one he used when working for Vince McMahon. The same can be said of Team 3D, Scott Steiner, and others, who basically took everything that made them famous, and changed only the banner that they wrestled under.
This is not necessarily a bad move, as not only do these guys want to continue to earn based on their individual drawing power and face recognition, but TNA wants to capitalize on it as well. It can work, it has worked in the past, and again, it does not always have to be a bad thing.
But, the way the workers in question see it and the way that fans see it are usually by two entirely different perspectives. Some fans look at TNA and say, uh-oh, here we go again, it’s another WCW. The comparison is often made, and arguably with good reason. The locker room is filled with talent who at one time were big names, the younger guys don’t seem to quite get the attention they used to, and all the emphasis is placed on competing with Vince McMahon. The problem is, if this approach did not ultimately work for WCW, then what makes the powers that be in TNA think it will work now?
[adinserter block=”1″]Among the TNA stars that are in the twilight of their careers, Sting is one of the best. All these years later, he can still bring it, though he has lost a step in the ring. He’s a smart guy, a good influence on the younger wrestlers, and as shown by the ESPN interview, he also serves another, perhaps more important, purpose. He is the best example of a goodwill ambassador the company has. He was well spoken, was very genuine in his responses, and did the one thing that Hulk Hogan has failed to do in the past: he put the company over instead of himself.
When Sting’s time in the ring is finally over, he should be used in this role. Establishing TNA’s name in the minds of the casual viewing audience, or perhaps to fans who do not watch their product, would go a long way to helping grow the company. Sting is a company man, and will do what’s right for the business, he’s proven it in the past. There is no reason to believe that he would not do it now.
Tom Clark, Bleacher Report Featured Columnist http://bleacherreport.com/users/316723-tom-clark http://twitter.com/#!/tomclarkbr firstname.lastname@example.org
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