Last week’s episode of Impact Wrestling saw Eric Young crowned as one-half of the Knockouts’ Tag Team Champions. With ODB as his partner, Eric Young can now officially be listed as one on the select few wrestlers in TNA that have held this coveted title.
It goes without saying that Young’s victory last Thursday was somewhat controversial among wrestling fans and loyal TNA supporters. Comments ranging from the violently opposed to apathetically indifferent swarmed the internet all last week as fans weighed in on the match and story line.
Arguably the second largest creative letdown of the show (the first being Garett Bischoff’s main event treatment) from the fans’ perspective, the noise surrounding this development has unfortunately died down three days later. This gives us an excellent opportunity to look at the angle and discuss it logically without all the emotion clouding our judgment.
As with anything involving fan reception, this angle has its pros and cons:
- Comedy Gimmick for Entertainment Purposes
- Reminder to Enjoy Product as a Fan (Are We Taking Wrestling TOO Seriously?)
- Further Devalues Titles for Future Purposes
- Slap In the Face of Women’s Wrestling
- The Unnecessary Burial of Gail Kim
- Recycling of Past Failed Angles (Cody Deaner: King of the Knockouts)
Any fan that has been keeping up with Impact Wrestling knows all too well the story of Eric Young’s tenure in TNA. For most of his career, Young served as a semi-serious/comic relief wrestler that was a fan-favorite in the same mold as a Grizzly Redwood, Eugene, Brooklyn Brawler, Stalker Ichikawa et al. In fact the only serious story line for Young I can recall was when he was the leader of the short-lived World Elite faction.
Other than that, pretty much everything Young has been involved in can’t be taken seriously no matter what light you view it under. So while at first it seemed unfathomable as to why TNA Creative would even dare put another women’s championship on a man, a second thought would reveal greater truth: we ain’t supposed to be takin’ this serious anyway!
That’s where being overly critical (as opposed to being analytical, which is something slightly different) of the product causes us to become jaded fans. A brief conversation with Shane Howard (shameless plug) and a video blog from a TNA fan led me to that conclusion; all fans have the tendency to view the product through a myopic set of rose-tinted glasses. While we would love to have a roster filled with wrestlers like Chris Benoit Davey Richards, Roderick Strong, Lance Storm and Dean Malenko, we occasionally need a Colt Cabana to provide us with solid wrestling mixed with a good dose of hilarity.
Despite popular opinion, there is strength in diversity.
Think about it for a second: the man who executes collar-and-elbow tie-ups with referees, tags in his opponents during matches, and pulls down his pants to “hulk up” wins a title and we’re instantly offended by the angle?
This was the same guy who claimed to be the TNA World Heavyweight Champion because he found the thrown away belt during Jeff Hardy’s ill-fated heel run as Immortal Champion.
Perhaps this victory was also needed to reduce the championship to its lowest point ever so its gradual disappearance won’t be noticed by fans. Face it: the Knockout’s tag titles have been worthless for a long time, almost as long as there’s been a Knockouts tag division. Placing one of those titles on Eric Young won’t do anything to add or detract from a legacy that hasn’t even been solidified yet.
Think of it as TNA’s way of putting a championship on Hornswoggle; what started off as anger gradually turned into “Hey, whatever happened to the Lightweight belt?”
The dark side of this angle, however, is far more damning than what it originally seemed. It is debatable whether the company plans on scrapping the set of titles, but given the “great strides” TNA has made in 10 years, why not hire more women – specifically women’s tag teams – to fill out the division?
TNA’s handling of the Knockouts division is praised consistently for their efforts in showcasing women’s wrestling, far more than anything the Divas put together and way more often than anything promoted by SHIMMER or WSU. It is somewhat hypocritical, then, for the company that is touted for giving a hoot about women’s wrestling to place a woman’s title on a man.
With all that raw talent ripe for the harvesting, and with the exceptional women already in the company, the best TNA could come up with involved Eric Young?
There is also something to be said about the fact that Gail Kim took the pin fall in the match instead of Madison Rayne. Gail Kim left the WWE for a second time in a flurry of controversy, noting in a few interviews that she was not happy with the WWE’s treatment of a female wrestler of her caliber, let alone their treatment of women’s wrestling in general.
More drama ensued when she complained that the WWE was legally blocking her from plying her craft elsewhere. Once cleared from these contractual obligations she arrived back into TNA to receive a notable push to the top, even though her character needed help from Madison Rayne to win matches against even the most pedestrian characters.
Instead of being booked as a women’s wrestler of exceptional stock, Kim was booked as a weak champion hiding behind Karen Jarrett’s power and authority. Fast forward and she’s taking the pin from Eric Young instead of Madison Rayne, who as TNA’s longest reigning Knockouts’ Champion, is and was about as harmful as wet toilet paper.
Such things have been done before; in 2009, Cody Deaner faced ODB in a match to determine the “true” Knockouts champion. Understanding the feud now runs contrary to the point here, that being TNA has tried the “man-with-a-woman’s championship” angle before. What had very little appeal two years ago has no appeal whatsoever today.
At some point all wrestling story lines and angles are recycled and re-delivered to fans from a fresh perspective and a new crew of writers. The thing that irks fans the most, however, is when bad story lines and angles get a do-over. The Cody Deaner thing didn’t work out well, so who green-lit the idea to try it again with Eric Young?
The fact of the situation is this: it works when a woman challenges a man for a title that’s sought after by other men. Fans pop when Awesome Kong/Kharma beats up a man; fans went berserk when Chyna beat Jeff Jarrett to become the Intercontinental Champion (so much irony…). Fans had a field day when Chyna, Beth Phoenix, and Kharma were entrants in the Royal Rumble.
But very few people, if any at all, believe it’s awesome for a man to go after a woman’s championship. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen (one commenter on a post on another site stated that “independent wrestling” has men in the women’s division…whatever that means), but it certainly doesn’t happen regularly in one of the top three companies here in the U.S.
Whether you view the story line as entertaining or offensive, the bottom line is we’ll still keep our ears tuned to the news on how this progresses over the next few weeks. With TNA’s 10th Anniversary Celebration looming right around the corner, we can only hope that the direction of the company grows by more leaps and bounds.
If this Eric Young title run is any indication, then we might as well wait another ten years for them to begin touring regularly.
Those are just my thoughts on the matter; what do you think about it?