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TNA Wrestling One Year Progress Report

Before March 2010 if you told me something was happening on TNA, I would have responded, “isn’t that that low rent wrestling on SPIKE that looks like a game show?” That’s probably because for eight long years I never once tuned into Jeff Jarrett‘s second-tier wrestling promotion, but was hooked with the impending publicity of the return of the Immortal Hulk Hogan and the return of live wrestling on Monday night.

I wanted this article to be about the dumb brilliance that was showcased on Impact from Fayetteville, NC and how it represented the little things that TNA Wrestling does right. Instead, we were treated to a taped, bumbling program with fleeting “celebrities,” predictable spots, and an overall product that was just, well…dumb.

Thursday was supposed to be the groundbreaking episode of Impact—the New York Jets’ Bart Scott, Jersey Shore cast member Angelina, and a surprise guest marked by an ominous 3.3.11 vignette to all make impacts on a rare non-Orlando taping of the show. Hours later, ESPN was dissecting Scott’s involvement in the hazardous profession, bevies of wrestling sites were talking about a now 52-year-old Sting winning the TNA title, and no one gave two cents about Angelina. I’m not sure if that last fact is a good or bad thing for the company.

[adinserter block=”2″] Plain and simple, the Angelina segment was atrocious. Angelina, along with Robbie E and Cookie, came out to confront the Beautiful People and gave this rambling, hackneyed diatribe about wanting to challenge current Jersey Shore member J Woww to a fight on Impact next week. Early reports said she was having cocktails before her segment, which is now totally believable considering she talked like she had never seen a microphone before.

The Bart Scott segments were interesting, but they inevitably succumb to shoddy writing in the Jeff Jarrett/Kurt Angle feud. While Scott didn’t say much, he did get to interact with guys like Hulk Hogan, Matt Hardy, and other members of Immortal, pulling off the whole “hired muscle” gig pretty well. It just sucks that the Jarrett vow ceremony was catatonically predictable…no, seriously, I actually dozed off and awoke to Sting in a bedazzled trench coat and red and white face paint.

In case your toddler couldn’t piece this out, Kurt Angle, being forced to walk his ex-wife Karen down the aisle, wasn’t going to stand for that nonsense one bit and totally smashed the cake and obliterated the ceremony set with an axe! Hold the phone, chief…Kurt seems like a reasonable, level-headed guy. You mean to tell me he was upset that he was being forced to walk his harlot of an ex-wife down the aisle, in a faux ceremony, to renew vows with a colleague he doesn’t care for?

I had someone tell me that TNA did something very similar with a wedding between Jay Lethal and ring attendant So Cal Val a couple of years ago. I guess this doesn’t surprise me the least bit—I mean, axe violence sells, right? Honestly, I wish Angle would have bided his time or played mind games with the couple, complete with the psychotic gaze of a scheming ex. I truly am sorry, Bart.

The rest of the show was riddled with sideshows and slow matches. Scott Steiner defeated Rob Terry, Hernandez and Matt Morgan ended in a count out while some MMA fighter tried his damnedest on commentary to say one thing insightful about the match, Gunner and Murphy were squashed by Beer Money for the tag titles, and Hulk Hogan dropped a line that had me do a double take and press that rewind button on the DVR.

During one of the 8,000 promos on the show, Hulk was talking to someone on the phone about the impending Jeff Hardy TNA title match against the mystery opponent later tonight. It was implied that he was talking to one of the TNA brass about SPIKE, and flat out said that big surprises don’t equal ratings, which in turn do not equal money.

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Uh, Hulk, how are those 10,000 PPV buys doing for you and Dixie Carter? How are the house shows, that at one point were drawing somewhere around 300 people, pulling in that cold, hard, green stuff?

These abysmal facts remind me that, while I still find certain aspects charming, the product as a whole alienates outside viewers, demeans younger talent, and still thinks it’s the 90’s and wrestling is the cash crop of the South. Listed are a few things I definitely think TNA should work on to boast those ratings and money things Hulk was so casually talking about.

TNA IMPACT SHOULD BE LIVE. Even if the early 2010 shows didn’t get great ratings, it takes a little while for new fans to get accustomed to your brand. Thursday should have been the last straw; for Hardy to drop the belt to Sting on a taped telecast is laughable and grounds for a new business model. TNA could still capitalize on their house shows if they tape live on Thursday, and then have next week’s Impact tape the following day. This means every other Impact would be live and they would still have two full weeks to tour, promote, and rest. These live shows are where the big turns, title changes, and new arrivals should happen.

YOU’RE NOT WWE, DON’T TRY TO BE. It’s fair to think that because TNA is second fiddle to WWE that they should be comparable, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The WWE is a global phenomenon that breaches the worlds of cinema, music, and mainstream sports. Vince McMahon brought his brand of entertainment to network television, gobbled up every territory and competitor, and created a monopoly Bill Gates could appreciate. For all intents and purposes, TNA is a taped, Universal Studios version of a violent Double Dare. Shows are taped in front of a studio audience and packaged back to us on cable. The wrestlers aren’t compensated well, and in some cases have to pay for their own flights and lodging.

I don’t have a problem with the independent feel of the company, but the truth is that TNA is financed by a large energy conglomerate, buys up aging wrestlers with name recognition, and valiantly strives for the “wrasslin” of WWE, when it should be trying to be it’s own brand with it’s own specialties (too bad the X Division is MIA). I bet if independent companies such as Chikara and Ring of Honor had the money TNA plays around with, they wouldn’t waste it on slugs like Matt Hardy and various reality show rejects.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD, DAMMIT. For some odd reason, TNA writes in that someone’s forehead will be busted open worse than a Christmas chestnut on a regular basis. Whether you call it blading or juicing, it should remain a thing of the past. If used sparingly, a guy gushing crimson can add an exciting, enthralling element to a match, representing the absolute brutality of worked feud. But when guys are cutting themselves up almost every show it’s just cheap and disgusting, and it was no more evident than in the Knockouts division when a wrestler named Roxxi tore open her forehead and wrestled Madison Rayne for a good seven minutes, drenched in blood. Come on, TNA, Sean Waltman and his Hepatitis C thinks that is vile.

TWO HOURS AIN’T CUTTIN’ IT. I’m not going to suggest bringing back Reaction in its previous format, but TNA really needs some more American air time. They have a supplemental show, Xplosion, but that’s only broadcast overseas and nothing really important ever happens on it, save for Eric Young banging his head and creating a new character with a couple of screws loose.

What I would suggest is to bring back a third hour, but disguise the exact time when the broadcast ends and the recap show begins. Too often main events are squished into ten minute forays of bad acting and predictable endings, when in reality Spike would stand to gain from extra programming that could see Impact last its normal two hours and five minutes or go for two and a half hours. Reaction can be a great promotion vehicle, but an hour of it every week was a bit grating. Which brings me to my next point…

[adinserter block=”1″]ANOTHER TNA PAY PER VIEW ALREADY?!. I don’t know if prices are universal, but Cox cable charges me $34.95 USD per TNA PPV…all twelve of them suckers. This is a lot to ask of fans who can barely follow the patchwork storylines crammed into three or four weeks of action. It’s embarrassing when Beer Money is out of teams to wrestle for the tag teams belts, so you have to have Ink Inc. come out on stage and in a mere two minutes of talking you have a match at the next PPV. People aren’t buying and I don’t blame them; either lower the price or only have six PPV events a year. I’m in favor of the latter—it allows for more complex storylines and genuine payoff for a fan to finally see which main event wrestler will come out on top. With the right promotion, timely rivalries, and specific dates, I believe TNA could achieve more buy rates for one PPV every two months than two throwaways every month.

While all of this is from a fan’s perspective, it should really hit home with TNA that guys like Scott Steiner are airing their grievances on Twitter with stuff like this: “On the road -did Tv tapings in Fayetteville NC on thursday-TNA needs to go live on Thursdays.”

For a company that is in grave need of much younger talent, it says a lot when an example of an entirely different problem is exposing the root of another.

Joe Leininger lives in Gainesville, FL and writes for The Playing Field and Destigeddon.

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