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Rumor and Reality: Thoughts on the TNA/Spike TV Relationship

SPIKE TV LOGODenial is quite possibly one of the worst expressions of belief that a person can use to convey their feelings on a particular subject.

I say this because denial is a coping mechanism, a way a person can deal with a truth or reality they can’t, for whatever reason, readily accept. The thing that makes denial so debilitating is the fact that it can take many forms; refusing to admit that a problem exists, deflecting attention and directing one’s focus towards a less significant problem or issue, casually dismissing the severity of the problem and overemphasizing the pros or “bright sides” of the topic at hand, or even jumping to a completely different and (sometimes slightly) unrelated problem that exist outside of the topic at hand are a few of the ways denial rears its categorically repugnant visage.

Denial affects everyone, and all people have at one point in time denied someone or something as a way of approaching or handling a problem or issue. It’s natural for humans to deny that certain things are happening and that certain things will happen; it’s how we cope with change, it’s how we defend our way of experiencing life as we know it, and it’s how we avoid acknowledging the fact that the longer we live the more things will not stay the same. Change is inevitable, and no matter how we defend ourselves against it to protect our way of life and how we see it, change cannot and will not be denied.

All this talk about denial comes about after the rumored news that Spike TV has chosen not to renew TNA Entertainment, LLC’s television deal after its expiration in October of this year. Needless to say the internet sharks jumped at the smell of TNA’s blood in the water, with fans and insiders alike ruthlessly launching their opinions on the rumor into the world wide interwebs. What’s interesting about these opinions is not the prevailing thought that TNA’s rumored loss of a television deal is a “good” thing for pro wrestling, but the rebuttal of and arguments against said prevailing thoughts. This is where the concept and expression of “denial” gets pretty damn intriguing.

For every hundred or so celebratory remark made at the rumored demise of TNA’s television deal with Spike TV, there has been at least one well-respected proponent or sound perspective supporting the promotion and its employees. The proponents and perspectives highlight the fact that if the rumors are true, tons of individuals will be affected financially and the pro wrestling business will suffer as a result of a lack of diverse televised products. Because of this very real situation for a substantial number of women and men, these same proponents and perspectives also wag an accusatory finger at naysayers for even reveling in the rumored news. In fact, the exact word used by some to describe this particular glorification of negativity was “sad,” as in it’s sad that some people would have the unmitigated gall to play the fiddle while TNA is seemingly mere moments away from merrily gallivanting into heavy traffic on Crash and Burn Avenue.

Ironically enough while we shouldn’t deny the blatantly obvious truth that preemptively reviling in TNA’s supposed misfortune is a tad bit devious, we should also be wary of focusing too much on such a grand exposition of schadenfreude as a means of deflecting attention from a very serious issue facing the promotion and its ramifications, assuming at some point the news will be verified or disavowed. The problem isn’t that some pro wrestling fans wallow in the muck of TNA’s failures; the problem is that TNA might have lost a television deal with one of the few notable North American television networks willing to broadcast pro wrestling.

Damn whether or not somebody’s laughing at this whole situation; what in the blue hell does this mean for TNA and for the business on the whole??? THAT’S the issue at hand, not how we feel about a few folks here and there pointing at a photo of Dixie Carter in their best Nelson Muntz impersonation.

hatersI don’t feel it’s “sad” that some have chosen to speak favorably of this rumor, as this type of response to bad news is typical of people in this country and perhaps even around the world (see: Bad News Barrett, the heel, as he’s cheered by fans). To speak of some pro wrestling fans as the only type of human being that glorifies the demise of a particular promotion or institution is misleading and only furthers the deluded notion that wrestling fans are some sort of sub-human mythical creature living under bridges, surviving off of Doritos and small woodland creatures. We’ve all been conditioned to celebrate bad things at the expense of denying the truth behind those incidents and occurrences.

Just as most wrestling fans don’t consider the talent and employees that could be affected by the potential loss of TNA’s television deal with Spike TV, most people don’t think far ahead enough to consider anything beyond their own noses. As North Americans we’ll celebrate our war victories in a given country without truly considering exactly why thousands or millions of people were killed on both sides of the skirmish. We’ll talk about our academic exceptionalism even though the average reading and comprehension level of our citizens is on a 4th grade level. I had someone call me just to say that they would lobby against the existence of my job, while in the same breath, acknowledged that rising unemployment was a serious issue in our country. For whatever reason, we all enjoy tap dancing over dead bodies just as much as we like birthday cake with ice cream or a nice frankfurter at a baseball game; that’s something that will not change anytime soon in the human experience, especially as we burn rubber down the road to rampant and unrestricted individualism.

While this rumor hangs precariously over TNA’s promotion and its product, should we really be more concerned with catcalls and heckling?

Following the buzzards in this regard is a futile attempt to direct our collective attention away from the real issue. We’re denying the reality that TNA has been thrashing against the tide of S**t’s Creek without a paddle for quite some time, and this recent rumor is just one more in a string of questionably (in)accurate rumors that point to much larger issues that in almost twelve years have yet to be truly rectified. It’s easy to acknowledge that “fans” have always “hated” TNA for indescribable reasons, and it’s easier to deny that there’s something that gives weight and credibility to some of those reasons. The longer we focus on promoting the insanity of commending negativity, the longer we deny ourselves the opportunity to really talk about what TNA has experienced and is experiencing.

If Spike TV has chosen not to renew TNA’s contract, it’s not solely because the suits at Spike TV “hate” TNA; rather it has something to do with all the internal dealings we are not (and should not be) privy to. One could assume that the ever steady ratings of TNA (which declined slightly upon Vince Russo’s exit from the company) were an issue, or that TNA’s inability to expand its audience beyond an average of 1.4 million people (when several of Spike TV’s home grown shows can provide similar or slightly lower numbers) might have made execs a little hesitant about moving forward with another deal.

Clearly that’s not an issue that’s more important than fans speaking poorly about TNA.

While we bring up the point that several hard-working wrestlers and TNA employees could be without steady paychecks from living their dreams and passions, why not bring up the fact that the promotion — which is believed to be (without any proof either way) making a “profit” — lowballed most, if not all, of its well-known stars on contract renewals, forcing them to make the decision to leave and wrestle elsewhere? If memory serves correctly, tons of fans were actually glad that stars like AJ Styles, Frankie Kazarian, and Chris Daniels were lowballed and blamed them for not kowtowing to the promotion’s brazenly apparent cost cutting measures.

Clearly that’s not an issue that’s more important than fans speaking poorly about TNA.

Let’s ignore the fact that after 12 years TNA is still attempting to solidify its identity, continues to rely on the popularity of defunct promotions or popular wrestlers from other promotions to keep the product relevant, and moves rather slowly when it comes to hiring and promoting hot free agents and talent that don’t reek of the indelible fragrance of other promotions in one way or another.

Let’s completely dismiss the fact that by her own admission, Dixie Carter’s reasoning for investing in TNA had more to do with revenue streams that it does the “art” of wrestling that so many fans wax poetically about. Taken directly from the SI.com article on Dixie Carter and TNA Wrestling, LLC:

When TNA was recommended to her as a client, her father encouraged her to take on the fledgling wrestling company. “Wrestling is big business,” Bob told his daughter. A few months later, with the company floundering and weeks away from shuttering its doors, Dixie would use her father’s own words to get him to invest in TNA.

“I remember calling my dad,” she said. “They’d never invested in anything that was non-strategic, much less this non-strategic, but I definitely had inherited my dad’s sale skills. I knew there was a reason there’s a Lowes across the street from every Home Depot or a McDonalds and a Burger King or an Avis and a Hertz. I saw how passionate this fanbase was. You had this one monster with over a billion-dollar cap and worldwide appeal with tons of potential revenue streams. Even if you just pick up 10 percent, you become a 100 million dollar company. From a business perspective, I just saw the potential.

Let’s shamelessly refuse to consider the threat of Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling (GFW) promotion, which is currently seeking a television deal conveniently at the same time as Spike TV supposedly opted not to renew TNA’s television contract. Let’s renounce the evidence that even if Spike TV has dropped TNA and its programming, the network and its earlier incarnations (TNN – The Nashville Network; TNN – The National Network; and The NEW TNN – The NEW National Network) has broadcast pro wrestling for almost 15 years and could very well continue to do so with GFW and without TNA:

  • ECW on TNN from August 1999 – October 2000
  • WWE RAW is WAR from September 2000 – September 2005
  • TNA iMPACT! from October 2005 – May 2011; TNA Impact Wrestling from May 2011 – October 2014 (???)

Let’s feed into the delusion that WWE and TNA are the only places wrestlers can go as we tacitly imply that wrestlers can’t find good work in indy promotions or fast growing companies like GFW or Ring of Honor Wrestling (ROH).

Of course none of these talking points are more important than dogging out fans who speak poorly about TNA.

I personally don’t want to see TNA fail, but discussing its misadventures and setbacks should not be seen as equivalent to succumbing to the addictive euphoria of watching as things appear to fall apart. That, however, is something completely different from doing a hat dance around a Dixie Carter effigy. While ultimately classless and downright tacky, the end of the world as TNA and its fans know it isn’t coming from the smarmy and snarky comments of keyboard warriors and armchair quarterbacks. The grand revelation of all of the promotion’s issues, TNA’s apocalypse if you will, is coming from the lips of Kevin Kay and Spike TV’s board of directors. Why not focus on that reality instead of woefully shaking our heads at “zOMGs and LOLs” here and there on the internet?

Those that do find some sort of ecstasy and climax in the rumors of Impact Wrestling’s Spike TV cancellation are merely doing what people have done since the beginning of time. Nero reportedly fiddled while Rome burned to the ground, and entire families took pictures around the “strange fruit” of lynched bodies hanging from trees. People even talk of WWE’s recent financial troubles almost as if they’re giddy that the massive company has once again stared down the twin barrels of bankruptcy and financial ruin, and some fans pretend like TNA is the only wrestling promotion that receives an inordinate amount of the IWC’s fiery ire (TNA fans who despise WWE, ROH, and take no notice whatsoever of GFW…we’re looking towards your direction…). Human beings will always talk s**t and find any reason under the sun to gloat when someone or something opposing their own interests faces adversity and difficulty.

When it comes to this situation between Spike TV and TNA Wrestling, LLC, our energy and attention would be better suited towards hoping that in the next three months more than just a television deal can be renewed. TNA as a company has the potential to be something greater than what it currently is; unfortunately, this unrealized or untapped potential is nothing more than wasted energy, and a new television deal to showcase the same old stuff they’ve been doing for years is a major concern that, in the long run, should be the second most important thing.

To TNA, it should be more important to grow the product beyond the safe confines of its steady and consistent demographic. To TNA, it should be more important develop more home grown talent instead of coasting off the fumes of other’s successes and experiences. To TNA, it should be more important to spend more time on developing and promoting their brand and less time catering to the MMA desires of its athletes or other promotions. To TNA, it should be more important to give fans a quality, well-rounded and expertly presented product than it is to allow fans to dictate what type of ring your employees will perform in because “it looks different” as if the identity of the promotion lies solely in what the damn ring looks like. To TNA, it should be more important to find and promote sponsors like Takis, Totino’s Bold, Diet Mountain Dew, Juicy Drop Pop, and Jackson Hewitt instead of relying on 5 Hour Energy and Spike TV’s financial support to fill in the gaps when necessary. To TNA, it should be WAY more important to figure out their taping schedule for the rest of the year now that Universal Studies is no longer their home, particularly since they also couldn’t afford to tour and tape over the long haul as they did last summer.

All of these things are way more important than whether or not someone is filled with joy over the rumors of Impact Wrestling’s cancellation.

We can’t allow the demon of denial to cloud our vision on what’s really happening here. When TNA gets its affairs in order, the same nagging problems, the same awesome action, and the same hyper-cynical critics will exist under the same sun and stars. There’s not much we can do to change the opinion of people on either side of the fence who are themselves unwilling to change, but at least we can collectively raise one another’s consciousness on what’s really important. Without a television deal, without even the hint of viable options outside of Spike TV, TNA would literally have to pull a rabbit out of its ass to remain a fixture in the business. There aren’t enough snarky comments in the world that can make that reality any less real, significant, or relevant than it already is on its own.

There ain’t no denying that reality at all.

 

Too Much Programming, Too Little Pacing

I’m chilling on the sabbath, watching One Piece. Ruminating on how I don’t like the pacing of the storytelling. @TheBryanWillett hit me up to remind me… wrestling is similarly paced. Lots of talking, lots of flashbacks, not enough action. I’ve been enjoying SmackDown lately for reasons I’ll get into later, but the main one is it is WRASSLIN with very little of what can make Raw drag.

I don’t understand why Raw is a three hour show with multiple three minute matches. Why most Raws begin with a 20 minute talking segment. Why as much as people swear the Divas don’t matter, but they get the simplest, and best storylines. Why when everyone can see a guy is money, they stop start everything in weeks or months. Why there are five televised hours of programming and if you pay attention, very little in the way of character development.

Roman Reigns is going to be pushed to the moon. And I kind of want that for him. Buuuuuuut… thinking from a business side… how much merch is a guy who doesn’t wear tshirts or arm bands or hats or anything like that going to sell? Not just John Cena… pretty much every top star is always WEARING their merch. Which conscious/unconsciously impresses on the fans “Hey that’s a cool shirt, or… at the very least, I want it so I can look like him”. That promo he cut on SmackDown was terrible. Roman Reigns does not need to be a clever wordsmith. I’ve been saying for months, the less he says or does the better. We, the people, have always loved a mystery. Wondering what’s on your mind as opposed to KNOWING… not much. And as he is being pushed… I’m asking myself questions like “who IS Roman Reigns?” Not as a person… but as a character. Because right now I just see a very good looking guy with a so so workrate and not much to latch on to. 

Look at John Cena. Hard to miss him with them bright ass shirts and arm bands. You know what he stands for, without him ever saying it, you can just read the merch he sells on every show he appears on. I was watching Aaron Rift’s NoDQ&A videos and he made a great point: John Cena sucks as a babyface because you very rarely see him get mad, or hurt. He’s made to look impervious to everything, and that’s why many can’t relate to him. I have watched Cena get beat to shit many times over the years. I have seen a couple of people lay hands on his father. And I haven’t seen much fire from him. Remember that time he looked all mad about Kane beating up Zack Ryder… before he himself would beat up Zack Ryder? Remember when he was fighting Dolph Ziggler over AJ, but he was curving her, then stopping Ziggler from cashing in MITB? Not really? It’s because the times he seems to show human emotion don’t make sense, and most of the time, he brushes everything off with lame jokes. I see Roman Reigns headed down the same exact path. But without the merch.

Why did Cena and Reigns let Dean Ambrose get beaten up by The Authority while they stood in the ring? Why is Dean Ambrose dead set on revenge against Seth Rollins… and Roman Reigns is presumably feuding with Randy Orton? I get that WWE is pushing them all separately, that The Shield is no more… but in a parallel, how often do you see John Cena ally himself with other people? It was interesting when you saw him with The Usos… but soon as his feud with The Wyatt Family was over, so was that on screen relationship. Relationships ARE a part of storytelling. Like I said… I see Roman Reigns becoming that new guy that doesn’t show too many effects from anything anyone does to him, and you’ll look up and he’s getting the same love/hate response from the audience Cena gets ever since his newness wore off. We’ll see.

I feel for Cesaro. I keep writing this and want it to stop being true: they don’t have any long term plan for that dude. He just keeps getting thrown with different people. Now he wants to be with The Authority. After like two months of not being a priority as a Heyman Guy, After several months of being mostly a jobber with Zeb Colter. And again… what about him are we supposed to buy? His robes that he wears to the ring? Who is Cesaro? He’s aligned all wrong. He was supposed to be a babyface a good half year ago. But he’s still stuck as a heel, at a time when most of the damb roster are heels. Lost in the shuffle like a motherfucker. Why are there like fiddy lebben hours of WWE programming a week and I can’t tell you who two of the top WWE stars of the present and future are?

You know what the top three storylines in WWE are right now? With the longest builds? Not Cena/Lesnar, which was made last week. Not Ambrose/Rollins, which has been ongoing for the last couple months. Not Reigns/Orton, which also has been building for a couple of months, since Evolution/Shield. It is AJ/Paige, going back to the night after Mania… and AJ took off for a couple of months. Naomi/Cameron, which has been festering on that reality show I don’t watch, and heated up over the last month on wrestling programming. And Stephanie McMahon/The Bella Twins, going all the way back to when she was working on killing Daniel Bryan. The Divas are allegedly the piss break portion of WWE programming… yet they’re getting the simplest, most human storylines. Two rivals who have gotten quick championship victories over each other, battling over supremacy. Two former partners whose comtempt grew as their familiarity did. An evil boss abusing her power to torment her employees. One quit, the other pays for continuing to cash them paychecks. My LEWD brethren try to talk down to me when I have the temerity to point out most of the men’s storylines lack logic and therefore do not resonate. Bitch, I just want to see SIMPLE reasons for people to not like each other and want to wrestle, that make sense. NONE of us would watch three hours of straight wrestling every week with NO story behind it. So how much is the action in the ring helped by us actually caring about the characters?

Which brings me back full circle to how John Cena would be more beloved if he sold his injuries more. Like when he came back from the triceps surgery and everyone attacked the arm. We would recieve him better if he took it more seriously when people verbally accost him. And now we get Roman Reigns calling Randy Orton a baby getting help from his daddy HHH. Meh. There’s an art to this wrasslin shit, man. 

WWE Top to Bottom: Ballad of The Midcarders

I’m watching SmackDown when I learn The Miz lost to Sheamus on Main Event after I started feeling good about his winning on Monday. This that ole bullshit. Also on Monday, Paul Heyman is apparently no longer going to be working with Cesaro. You can TOTALLY see how much they want him to matter, after he’s lost twice in a row to Kofi Kingston… and he didn’t really go anywhere or do anything in a VERY short run as a ‘Heyman Guy’. I just read on WrassleZone that Alicia Fox’s new gimmick that got people talking about her… dropped. WHY DOES WWE JUST KEEP INEXPLICABLY DROPPING THINGS!?!

I’ve been arguing with my LEWD brethren, unsuccessfully I might add… that Cesaro is being Dolph Ziggler’d. Then, while saying Cesaro is the future, they’re saying Dolph Ziggler has done nothing to deserve a top spot except wrestle really well. Um… you niggas know that describes Cesaro, right? In WWE Cesaro has not had ONE defining gimmick or cut a memorable promo. All he has done is wrestle well. And every few months or so, they take whatever he WAS doing, from him.

* Debuts as a pimp playa woman slayer who took Teddy Long’s girl. Wins US title. Drops both. Becomes a yodeling jabroni.

* Joins The Real Americans. Inexplicably the WWE Universe starts chanting ‘We The People’ and popping for Cesaro and his swing. Mostly does jobs, though.

* Wins The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Sides with Paul Heyman, who mostly talks about Brock Lesnar, leaves because Lesnar is coming back to win the title. Loses twice in a row to Kofi Kingston.

Because I’m petty… let’s review Dolph Ziggler’s career as Dolph Ziggler.

* Debuts as a douche who constantly introduced himself to people. That was the most memorable thing about him.

* Starts being managed by Vickie Guerrero. Wins the WHC for 11 minutes before losing it back to Edge. Begins a long stretch of being a jabroni.

* Feuds with Jack Swagger over being a client of Vickie Guerrero, which is resolved by them forming a jobber tag team. SEE A PARALLEL HERE!?!

* Stops being managed by Vickie. Does nothing interesting until he feuded with John Cena over AJ and the MITB. Leaves with both.

* Cashes in MITB then they take AJ from him. Jack Swagger concusses him then he loses the WHC and hasn’t been anything to write home about SINCE.

Yeah. WWE really takes care of its midcard/upper midcard.

I’m watching Chris Jericho versus Luke Harper, which reminds me Y2J came back and did a finisher on The Miz and walked right into a high level midcard feud with Bray Wyatt. Are we gonna call Miz’s interactions with Sheamus a high level midcard feud? You could… Sheamus is US champion. Former WWE champ and WHC. If I had the book… I would have Miz beat Sheamus in the IC title battle royal then unite the titles at SummerSlam. This seems like something they might do. Irony of ironies… the way Miz has always been booked reminds me of Jericho back when he unified the WWE title and WHC.

Jericho was an annoying heel who no one expected to beat The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in one night. In a parallel, no one expected Miz to beat Cena in a Mania main event, but he did because of The Rock. Listen. I get that heels cheat to win and take advantage of circumstances to get the upper hand. However… there is a difference between booking a heel as a dirty cheater and booking them as a pussy who only wins because he had help. Look at Randy Orton’s last title reign. The heat would have been on him if he low blows Bryan, pokes him in the eye, clocks him with the belt, etc. But all the heat was on The Authority, and Orton was nothing more than a puppet. Jericho only won the undisputed title because Booker T had issues with The Rock and Vince hated Stone Cold. Then Miz only beat Cena because The Rock had beef with him.

I would never ever ever under any circumstances say Y2J or Miz should ever be booked like a top superstar. Like a Cena or Hogan etc. What I am saying, is with certain guys you have little reason to believe in them as champion, and then they win the damn belt and never really look like a champion. Kind of like Daniel Bryan’s WHC reign. He spent that entire reign running from Big Show and Mark Henry. I don’t really know how he got over. He was jobbing like a motherfucker before he cashed in the MITB, then he never beat those grown men clean. Then he had to survive Santino in the Elimination Chamber. Then he dropped the title in 18 seconds. Fast forward to last year and he beat Cena the fuck up and pinned him clean. Stop right there and it’s night and day! He beat Orton… they booked him like Orton could do nothing about him. He beat HHH and Kane. Daniel Bryan is not 5’10 230, fam. He is booked like he is legit. And people still complained he was being buried when Orton was gifted the title all them times. LOL.

If somehow you lack reading comprehension skills, indubitably you aren’t reading this. If you is… then my point can be summed up with: I want to see guys get storylines and characters that make sense consistently. And when guys show potential to be upper midcard to main event, they should not lose to Kofi Kingston, trade wins all the time or only win by screwy finish.

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