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Friday Night Fandom: “WRESTLING Matters!”

This one's pretty self-explanatory. | Photo: www.TheHistoricInterwebs.com

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. | Photo: http://www.TheHistoricInterwebs.com

With WWE SmackDown literally beginning as I type, I must admit that the majority of my day was spent gleefully staring at the LED backlit display of my laptop.  My initial internet query early this morning sent me on a somewhat rigorous search for matches featuring Jessicka Havok, TNA’s newest soon-to-debut Knockout.  After watching two or three of her matches in the Women’s Extreme Wrestling promotion, I stumbled upon the 2007 King of Europe Cup … and needless to say I was set for the rest of the day.

We wrestling fans often stand high and mighty on our knowledge of “real wrestling,” all the while managing to avoid teetering precariously on the precipice of having to explain what “real wrestling” is.  Most diehard fans will readily admit that “real wrestling” tends to reside in organizations that focus more on the in-ring action than it does the promos and backstage vignettes/interviews that explain why said matches are taking place.  In that same spirit, “real wrestling” has simple storylines that aren’t necessarily campy don’t cater specifically and strictly to a young audience or demographic.  “Real wrestling” highlights the athleticism of the wrestlers, where “styles” aren’t relegated to a specific region or a particular promotion’s standards, and the wrestlers are characters that are controlled by the athletes portraying them and not by a boardroom of writers and executives.

For those fans who revel in “real wrestling,” Japanese wrestling, women-only wrestling promotions, and Mexico’s Lucha Libre wrestling tends to be the most appealing and sought after product.  In terms of the world’s two largest promotions, TNA is favored for their “wrestling” far more than WWE.  Ironically enough, ROH and their decidedly pure wrestling focused product is rarely mentioned among the internet’s “real wrestling” aficionados.

What strikes me personally as odd is the fact that we tend to relegate pro wrestling and “real wrestling” as being expressed only in the world’s more prominent organizations.  We can talk about AAA in Mexico; we can talk about Wrestle-1 and NJPW in Japan.  We can even rattle off the names of some of the more notable women’s wrestlers (while haphazardly mentioning the organizations they belong to).  We mention how TNA is light years ahead of WWE in terms of the wrestling product, and after that our load is pretty much blown.  Our conversation about “real wrestling” is exhausted and we smirk while awaiting the best smarky response that gives us a good enough reason to go off.

We pro wrestling fans must expand our palate beyond what’s easily accessible and reliably pleasing to our “real wrestling” sensibilities if we’re going to be true to this “real wrestling” perspective.  With so many promotions operating around the world, it’s honestly asinine to keep “real wrestling” in a nifty and convenient little box that excludes the various styles and athletes globetrotting our planet with nothing more than word of mouth as their main source of promotion.

Having said that I now offer for your viewing pleasure the 2007 King of Europe Cup, four and a half solid hours of “real wrestling” goodness.

kingofeuropeI’ll admit to having been in the dark about this series, not coming across it until well into my Jessicka Havok search.  The words “Europe Cup” immediately stood out to me, as I assumed (correctly) that the show hailed from the UK and would feature in some form the catch-as-catch-can style that I’m very fond of.  I wasn’t let down at all, and was pleasantly surprised to see so many familiar faces wrestling on behalf of several promotions from around the world.  The really cool part was seeing these familiar faces presented in a “before-they-were-superstars” fashion wrestling as youngsters not encumbered by the politics and restrictions of wrestling in U.S. promotions for the U.S. market.  Wrestlers like Davey Richards and Rhino (current TNA Wrestlers), Chris Hero (former ROH Wrestler and WWE NXT Wrestler Kassius Ohno), Claudio Castagnoli (current WWE Superstar Cesaro), Matt Sydal (former WWE Superstar Evan Bourne), Doug Williams (former TNA Wrestler), Go Shiozaki, Nigel McGuinness (former TNA Wrestler Desmond Wolfe and current ROH authority figure), and PAC (current WWE Superstar and NXT Champion Adrian Neville) are all featured in the King of Europe Cup doing what they do best … wrestling.

The beautiful thing of it all is that each of the aforementioned wrestlers, along with the other athletes appearing in the tournament, were able to mix and blend their different styles of wrestling in lengthy matches that told stories different than that offered by what we know and choose to watch regularly.  Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli face each other early in a clinic of technical wrestling featuring two wrestlers who were tag team partners and are very familiar with each other’s styles.  PAC wrestles a high-flying style that leads to an injury that has him admitted to a local hospital, only to be brutalized by the begrudgingly vicious lariats of Nigel McGuinness.  Go Shiozaki gave Davey Richards one hell of a row with his strong style wrestling, and Doug Williams showcased the brilliance of the catch-as-catch-can style throughout his stay in the tournament.

All of this glowing praise is to say that “real wrestling” isn’t just about being able to watch one ridiculously crazy move after another one or indulging in a product that is subtly different than a product we dislike; “real wrestling” is about being entertained by the story that’s told in the ring through the actions, mannerisms, and facial expression of the athletes that’s supplemented with the commentary from announcers and the stories precluding the matches themselves.  There are tons of promotions and archived videos that present the product in this fashion, and we’d be selling ourselves and the business short if we didn’t saturate ourselves with the product that exists outside of our comfort zones.

As such, for your viewing pleasure and what will ultimately be a shameless plug of British wrestling, catch this epic match between British wrestling legend Johnny Saint and David “Fit” Finlay:

After you’re done with that, check out this match featuring Uhaa Nation from the UK’s Pro Wrestling Kingdom promotion:

And after that, before biting your thumb at Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling promotion as some others have taken a cotton to doing, check out some footage from a few of their international partners: World Wrestling Professionals in South Africa (which, as it turns out, is touted as being the “biggest federation in the Southern Hemisphere), Westside Xtreme Wrestling out of Germany (mentioned also in the King of Europe Cup video from above), and Riot City Wrestling from Australia.

Have fun, and remember: wrestling matters.


One Day Later: IMPACT Wrestling On the Move!

Brace yourself...IMPACT Wrestling is moving to a new night near you! | Photo: www.HighTouchMoving.com

Brace yourself…IMPACT Wrestling is moving to a new night near you! | Photo: http://www.HighTouchMoving.com

 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 13, 2014) – The Aug. 7 episode of IMPACT WRESTLING, TNA’s flagship program airing Thursday nights at 9/8c on Spike TV, drew 1.6 million viewers (P2+, +3 Rating), the largest audience since mid-February of this year. The episode was also up against six nationally or regionally televised NFL pre-season games, the first of the NFL season.

Historically, IMPACT WRESTLING ratings are highest during Q1, however in Q3 2014, IMPACT WRESTLING has experienced a steady increase in total viewership and key demos that are exceeding ratings from Q1 2014, and rivaling Q1 ratings from previous years. To date, Q3 2014 ratings have attracted more viewers in the highly sought after Men 18-34 demo since Q1 2012, and the highest ratings for P2+, P 18-49 and Men 18-49 since Q1 2013.

This was the headline touted by associates and fans alike who boasted proudly of IMPACT Wrestling’s recent ratings success during the past month.  For at least one whole week, a wrestling fan would have to have been living under a rock to have not been privvy in some way, form, or fashion to this blockbuster news.  With so much negative press surrouding the company and the rumored demise of its television deal with Spike, it was quite spectacular to hear that TNA’s New York tapings were garnering more viewers than they have in the past five months, but also that they were absolutely smoking the stiff competition (FOOTBALL!!!) they faced on Thursday nights a 9PM Eastern, 8PM Central Standard Time.

And then this happened:

Photo: ImpactWrestling.com

Photo: ImpactWrestling.com

Speculation on both sides of the argument (pro-TNA or anti-TNA) ran rampant on why such a decision was made.  Some suggested that the mere thought of WWE moving its B-show Smackdown back to Thursday nights caused TNA to preemptively relocate their flagship program in order to avoid another sound thrashing from the world’s most prominent wrestling promotion, while others countered that the move is reflective of the recent ratings success and the possibility that Spike has indeed renewed the promotion’s contract.  Unfortunately at this time, neither one of those things can be proven as a fact or reality.

Through the very words of their president, TNA has given us some insight as to why this move is happening.  Per TNA President Dixie Carter via ImpactWrestling.com,

 “Moving IMPACT WRESTLING to Wednesday nights gives existing fans and new viewers an opportunity to enjoy both wrestling and live sports even more throughout the week.”

That makes sense; IMPACT Wrestling was moved to Wednesday nights so existing fans and new viewers (not fans; those are two different demographics, trust me) will have the opportunity or option to enjoy wrestling AND live sports … i.e. THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!!!  This is very considerate of the minds in charge at TNA headquarters; to actually think about fans and viewers in order to provide them with a product that allows them to watch both wrestling and football is something that TNA’s competition would probably never ever do.

But one can’t help but to point out the massive pink elephant in the room … if TNA enjoyed so much ratings success on Thursday nights, consideration be damned why in the hell are they moving the program to Wednesday nights?!?!

That’s just it: at this crucial moment in time where “negotiations are ongoing”*, TNA cannot stand to lose any viewers if they are lobbying, through United Talent Agency, to renew their deal with Spike or land a new deal with another network, especially if their leverage lies within the fact that they can get and maintain 1.6 million viewers (and not fans) per week between now and late September.  It would clearly be suicidal in regards to landing a new television deal to keep the show up against football and its much more rabid fan base.

The risk in this move, however, lies in whether or not the 1.6 million viewers from last Thursday’s episode of Impact Wrestling, and the 1.4 million viewers they get consistently, will make that move with IMPACT Wrestling from Thursday to Wednesday nights.  We always assume that people will make those types of moves easily, but we cannot assume or speak on the viewing habits of 1.4 – 1.6 million people; just because we may make that move doesn’t mean that all of us will be easily inclined to do so as well.

Also, given that one climactic moment from last week served as the hook for the episode, how sure are we that those same 1.6 million people tuned in last night and will also tune in next week without some sort of major or landmark hook?  TNA has to ride the momentum of last week’s show into next week on a completely different night, and I’m hopeful that the suits on their executive board know way more than us fans about the competition they face on Wednesday nights; let’s hope that those same 200,000 new viewers from last Thursday are not preoccupied with other shows or events on their Wednesday nights.

Quick comparison as an example: when WWE launched the WWE Network, they promised stock holders and tons of other folks that they expected to get 1 million subscribers by the end of the year in order to recoup the money dumped into the project.  It was only a month or so ago that they reached 700,000+ subscribers, also accounting for those that initially subscribed and eventually dropped the network.  With hundreds of thousands of hours of content on the Network, as well as the ability to view each monthly pay per view as a part of the $9.99 package, it shouldn’t have been a problem for WWE to land 1 million subscriptions seeing as their viewership for RAW alone always teeters between 3.5 and 4+ million viewers, good or bad episode.  Extra incentives and shameless plugging can’t get them to 1 million subscriptions; are we that positive that the viewers will just simply flock to Wednesday nights?  Fans will watch the show no matter what night it comes on, but viewers are fickle and one is justified in believing that TNA can expect at least 100,000 viewers to drop from the move alone.  The WWE Network subscription numbers show us that “fans” pale in comparison to “viewers,” and I for one am not too sure that all of IMPACT Wrestling’s “viewers” will readily shift to a new night and time in a week.

All in all TNA is once again stuck in a seemingly unenviable position: the move to Wednesdays frees them from facing the competition of live sporting events, but at the same time there’s no solid proof (that we’re privvy to) that says they will keep their numbers by moving to a new day.  It is confusing as a fan to celebrate the success of their first set of New York City tapings by moving the show to a whole ‘nother night.  But, it is what it is.  As was stated before, we can only hope the fans will follow along … because it just seems as if TNA can only go up from where they are now.

 

*Has anyone else noticed that when commenting on the situation between TNA and Spike, the only thing being said by anyone – including the wrestlers – is that “negotiations are continuing”?  I get that it’s standard given there situation, and even the most legal thing they can comment about it, but it just seems weird that they have to add that phrase “negotiations are continuing” verbatim to their responses about the future of the promotion instead of simply saying, “I have know idea of what you’re talking about.”  But I guess if they said that, THAT could be used against them by detractors as well.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t … 

 

 


IMPACT Wrestling Review 8.7.14, a.k.a. “Don’t Tease the Animals”

Remember folks, it's not fun to kick a person when they're down, and in 2014, corporations are people too. #BeAStar

Remember folks, it’s not fun to kick a person when they’re down, and in 2014, corporations are people too. #BeAStar

Well … what is there to be said about TNA Entertainment, LLC that hasn’t already been said …?

It was difficult reviewing this episode of IMPACT Wrestling because of … well … the obvious. Contrary to popular belief I do indeed make it a point to intentionally watch IMPACT each and every week, silently hoping each time I tune into Spike TV (HD channel 1145 with AT&T’s U-verse® service) I will find something strikingly awesome and energizing about the product. The problem is that rarely happens, and each disappointing viewing draws me one step closer to succumbing to the warm embrace of sheer insanity. Insanity, of course, is that invasive habit of repeating the same actions and expecting different results each time; what could possibly be more insane than watching a show weekly and expecting it to be different than what it is?

This is why it was difficult to review IMPACT given all that has (or hasn’t) occurred in the last week and a half. In order to enjoy the show for what it is, as opposed to watching it with an expectation that it’ll be more than that, I had to completely disregard everything I knew or thought I knew about the product and its stars. I had to ignore completely the fact that the show was taped some time ago and that I already knew what was going to happen because of the spoilers; I had to dismiss the hearsay about the promotion’s television deal with Spike. I had to pretend like I didn’t see the closing video package last week that prematurely promoted the end of Dixie Carter’s table dodging days, as well as overlook the angle’s astonishingly similarities to the storied Stone Cold Steve Austin/Vince McMahon rivalry that defined the Attitude Era. Simply put, in order to enjoy the show I had to literally approach it with my mind as clean and clear as a blank slate, reading and willing to absorb everything as it happened and fully appreciate the development of stories and characters as it happened in front of my eyes.

There within lies the problem; I can’t truthfully comment on whether or not the show was “good” based off of that criteria alone, specifically because this show – much like most episodes of IMPACT – featured “good” wrestling … and that’s something that TNA does more consistently than anything else. It is extremely rare when TNA will produce bad wrestling, and even rarer when they produce something that is smash-the-gas-pedal exciting from start to finish. So I apologize in advance for being the Negative Nancy that refuses to celebrate the mediocrity of an “okay” show highlighted by a man slamming his female boss through a table.

No one celebrates an “okay” show; if anything, people rush to their computers to tear apart shows that are simply okay, dismantling every single minute piece-by-piece, noting how certain stars are being further buried and how much more stale the product is becoming as time rushes forward. Every segment is heavily scrutinized, each minor slip up dissected with a fine-tooth comb, and minor inconsistencies magnified and palavered upon prominently on message boards, blogs, and Twitlonger tirades.

Pro wrestling fans long for non-stop action and excitement from beginning to end and it’s those types of shows that receive and should receive our praise, accolades, and adulation. Damn being drawn in for one or two segments here and there; we want the entire show to capture our attention and hold it for its duration. We want something that excites us, something that intrigues us profoundly, and an exhilarating exhibition of athleticism and logically engaging drama that forces us to literally stand up in our homes and scream along with the fans gathered in the arena.

Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling didn’t do any of that for me … at all. But that’s just my little ol’ opinion.

For ever sarcasm drenched comment made here there are at least ten proponents of the promotion who not only loved the show but can also provide you with the minute details on all the things that made the show awesome. Complimenting those thoughts are the legions of perspectives that can go on and on about how great and awesome the New York tapings have been for the company, the first of three sets of tapings scheduled to happen in the Hammerstein Ballroom of the Manhattan Center.

Perhaps the episodes feel fresh and great because they’ve moved away from the dull and lifeless tourists of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Maybe the brighter lights attract our attention a bit better than the dreary and dim lighting of the Impact Zone; perchance the simple and more focused storytelling captures our imagination differently than it has in episodes prior. It’s quite possible that the moral of the wrestlers has increased, comingling with the electricity of the live crowd and permeating through our television screens in an oddly positive Poltergeist-ish way. Who knows?

ImpactPoltergeist

What I witnessed and saw Thursday night was no different from the other IMPACT Wrestling broadcasts that were just as “good,” or “phenomenal.” It was an okay show that revolved around Dixie Carter going through a table, something that was revealed last week, discussed about this week (by Bully Ray and Dixie Carter), highly promoted Thursday night and executed at the end of the show. Fans are currently riding high on this singular moment, feeling that the Toss Your Boss moment will give the promotion enough momentum to convince Spike officials to renew their TV contract … but I’m not supposed to consider anything outside of the show, right?

Enough of that; here’s what stood out to me on the show:

  • #ItHappens

Let’s not kid each other and pretend that the episode was noteworthy for much else outside of Dixie Carter going through a table. There were other matches and the wrestlers did well in them, but the whole show – its feel and the execution of everything else in the show – all played third fiddle to highly publicized table spot. In terms of what happened tonight, Bully Ray made good on his promise and along with Dixie Carter provided a huge moment for fans that will go down in the promotion’s history books as one of those moments. The crowd literally erupted when Dixie went through the table, and Twitter was alive with tweets and excitement and the like as soon as “it” happened.

Okay, I’ll cheat just a bit.  #ItHappens did remind me of something I’ve seen before …


It cannot be denied that fans ate this moment up, but we have to wonder what’s next in regards to the Dixie Carter evil authority figure story. Where does she go from here, and where does Bully Ray go from here? There are tons of possibilities, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see exactly how the next chapter in the saga unfolds.  The major issue facing the promotion is that after such a major television moment, they’re going to have to top it with something as equally massive or ride the momentum of the moment until the next major pop comes along.

Well … there was a video package in the middle of the broadcast that talked about Team 3D facing The Hardyz in what was described as an epic match … but if it hasn’t happened, we can’t speculate on it.  With all that being said, however, Dixie Carter going through a table at the hands of Bully Ray during a time where men are being heavily scrutinized and sanctioned for promoting violence against women is one ballsy way to separate one’s company from its competition. *slow clap for TNA*

I’m sure that you’ve got far more interesting things to say about tonight’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling, so feel free to share those thoughts. But as for this particular blog and perspective, we can only look forward to next week’s episode to see just how earth-shattering the ramifications will be for Dixie Carter’s demise.  Feel free to leave your thoughts, because this is all I got.

 

*Honorable mention – Are we fine and dandy at the fact that Rycklon Stephens and Gene Snitsky were hired to work in the promotion for literally three weeks?  We’re cool with that?  Okie Doke.


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