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Posts tagged “AJ Styles

“I’ll Give You What For!” – The Balls (or Ovaries) to Be Different

IGYWFThe current pro wrestling tension between TNA and WWE fans revolves around an ill-conceived concept of “originality.”  For whatever reason it has become very important for fans to claim ownership of a concept, storyline, character or idea on behalf of their favorite company.  Fans calculate these “original” ideas, creating a laundry list with hopes of triumphantly stating that one company is more “original” than the other.

The whole process of doing this is cumbersome and overrated.  There is very little “originality” coming from the three U.S. promotions that have television deals and to argue about it is to engage in a fool’s errand.  Truthfully speaking it’s just like arguing over the pros and cons of hanging toilet paper from the over or under position.

People by and large are resistant to change, and the more time goes on the more people desire for things to stay in one static state of dependability where they can remain comfortable as absurdly possible.  Pro wrestling and her fans are not excused from this plight, and in fact may be more susceptible to acquiescing to familiarity more often than not.

But in order for this capitalist consumer based society to continue trudging along the way, we the people have to “believe” that change is happening all around us.  We’re fed fairy tales about how things are getting better when, in reality, it’s pretty much the same mess with a fresh coat of paint.  The very same is true of pro wrestling; a company appears to be on the verge of making a cutting-edge change, but in reality fans are seeing the product moonwalk itself into stagnancy and mediocrity.  Things are only made worse by the fact that we’re all essentially arguing over which promotion is more mediocre than the other.

Real change, serious dynamic moves towards a better and brighter future, is one gigantic pain in the ass.  To enact change is to embark upon a journey that speaks against our desire to be comfortable, a long and tedious expedition that requires the discipline and intent to continue along the path until it ends and the desired results are attained.  That’s what true success is all about, creating a goal and working to bring that goal to fruition.  It the desired results from an intended goal are not realized, then an effort was not successful; end of story.

For any promotion to produce “original” content, their goals from the very beginning must contain an element of change that will not sit well with fans.  Change will alienate people; change will make diehard fans question the product or even turn away from it.  However, if the desired results are necessary, then—be it subtle or overt—change must happen and fans must be conditioned to accept the journey that comes along with adapting to that change.

Real change, however, decreases revenue and profit in the short term.  Real change, however, forces fans to think differently about the way they view the product and choose to support it.  Real change effects everyone, from the top down and bottom up.  Real change hurts, and with fans being as penny pinching as Ebenezer Scrooge, very few people have the testicular or ovarian fortitude to test the waters for fear of failure and alienating consumers who pad their pockets with cold hard cash.

As fans who invest in the product one way or another, let’s be real with each other and discuss what real change means for our favorite companies and how it affects us.  We have to be honest with ourselves: we don’t want real change.  If we did, we would’ve given up on both TNA and WWE years ago in favor of much more fulfilling and authentic pro wrestling.  But alas, our insatiable hunger for sports entertainment is as vicious as our desire for a fast food; we like crap, and we’re content with having more streamlined crap than anything of substance.  And that’s absolutely fine, but we’ve got to admit that’s where we are and that the real debate is on whether we prefer TNA’s crap over WWE’s crap.

To be fair TNA’s crap seems less refined than the mess peddled by WWE only because of the relative infancy in the business.  By comparison, TNA appears to produce a more “original” product than WWE because WWE has produced “original” content for fifty plus years.  That “original” programming has grown stale and is (truthfully speaking) held to a different standard than TNA because of its seniority.  To speak of TNA’s lovable “growing pains” is the nice way of speaking about the WWE’s lackluster and uninspired product.  Dress those comments as we may, it’s all still one big steaming pile of crap.

If both companies are producing crap and we’re content with arguing over who’s crap is more “original” than the other, how can either company truly be different?  How can either company justify bringing real change to the product if we’re too busy discussing or nuancing the ways they can refine their crap?  Simply put, it won’t happen because we’ve been conditioned to accept mediocrity as a norm.  To really push the boundaries of our imaginations, to really invest in a logical and consistent storyline that creates long term fidelity instead of short term satisfaction, is to say something profound to each promotion in a way that will justify changing the product for the betterment of the business overall.

Here’s a thought I’ve promoted over various social media outlets many times before, and I’m thoroughly convinced neither TNA nor WWE have the balls (or ovaries) to be different in this regard: why not create a major storyline with female wrestlers as the leads and showcase them in a main event spot during a pay per view?

Don’t let the hype and speculation fool you; as much as the SI.com article about TNA and Dixie Carter would have you believe that she’s entering a world dominated by men (which she is), Dixie Carter is also among female contemporaries with just as much power and swag (if not more) as she has.  Dixie Carter is in competition with Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Bonnie Hammer (president of USA Networks).  With McMahon-Levesque being made the “face” of her father’s promotion and touting that forty percent of the WWE’s audience is compromised of women, with Bonnie Hammer continuing to dominate cable network television, and with Dixie Carter stepping out into the fracas, now would be an optimal time for either organization to prove their mettle using such a storyline.

And it’s honestly not that hard a thing to do or accomplish.  Today’s society sees a movement to establish both equality and equity between genders; if the writers can craft a simple and compelling storyline, it shouldn’t matter who plays the part.  The only thing that will inevitably change is the way the protagonist in the story responds to the changing elements around them.  Replace AJ Styles and Magnus with Gail Kim and Brooke Tessmacher respectively; replace Randy Orton and John Cena with AJ Lee and Natalya.  Can we honestly say with a straight face that the storylines involving these women would diminish in quality because of their presence?

Of course there are several reasons as to why such a move would fail horribly; women’s wrestling is a niche market, a large swath of fans really don’t want to see a main event women’s angle, blah blah blah.  But with so many fans complaining of the industry’s lack of originality, wouldn’t it make more sense to push the envelope in this way?  Aren’t fans always complaining about the piss poor way women’s wrestling is treated here?  Wouldn’t you, loyal and true pro wrestling fan,  want to have the opportunity to brag about how your favorite wrestling promotion was the first to pioneer the industry with a successful major storyline involving women?

Nah … we want the same old crap.  We’d rather celebrate the insipid trailblazing of a women’s division that lacks direction and … well … women.  We’d rather sit idly by as the Total Divas are paraded incessantly before our eyes in an endless series of nonsensical matches and segments that are barely related to anything.  We’d rather be the first to complain and whine about how bad one promotion treats its female athletes, ignore how badly the other promotion is treating their women’s division, and utilize any time in between to take pee breaks.  Then we’ll simply turn around and blame the promotions for not doing things the way we’d like to see them, even though we already know deep within our hearts that we honestly don’t want to see either promotion veer too far away from what we know and love about them already.

This is why I say very few people have the balls (or ovaries) to do something different or to be different in pro wrestling.  We’re all slaves to familiarity, and a promotion won’t risk alienating investors and advertisers to placate our selfishness.  We’ll pay very good money to John Cena’s name in a main event marquee, but we won’t drop as nearly as much coin when Daniel Bryan is placed in the same situation.  Argue against that if you choose to, but it is a stone cold fact; he who sells the most merchandise will be justifiably placed in the forefront, and the needle won’t move for anyone else until we create the demand for such a star.  “They” don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to mess with that formula because we don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to be more than barking seals for what’s familiar and comfortable.

Yes it’s a ballsy move to create a network to showcase your vast library of pro wrestling history or continue to funnel money into a film studio that produces a steady stream of B-movies much to the delight of no one.  Yes it’s a ballsy move to go head-to-head with a promotion that has a stranglehold on the business and to continue to buck a system that grows more stifling and hostile with each passing year.  Creating the same type of product, mimicking the product of your competition, and refusing to put serious coin and consideration behind anti-typical wrestling superstar isn’t ballsy; it’s safe, it guarantees profit (be it large or small), and it conditions us all to go along with flow, believing we’re ultimately powerless to truly dictate what it is we like and want.

At the end of the day, the three major promotions aren’t all that different from one another when it comes to being “original.”  There are very few individuals at this point in the game who have the unmitigated gall to push boundaries or at least try to be different and original in presenting their pro wrestling product (thank God for CHIKARA, Japanese wrestling, DragonGateUSA, EVOLVE, SHIMMER, Shine and WSU).  But until we, the fans who pay money to see the action and drama displayed in between the ropes, expand our horizons and ask for something truly and deeply different instead of something superficially aesthetic, then all we’re going to get is what we’ve been getting … the same old mess.  If we get the same old mess, all we’re going to have is the same old pointless complaints and hollow accolades.

So the real question is, how many of us have the balls (or ovaries) to be different?


The TNA World Heavyweight Title Situation (WARNING: Includes Spoilers)

The following post consists of a recent lecture given at L.E.W.D. Headquarters by Mr. Ashley Morris.  This lecture was intended for the purposes of boosting morale and attempting to end arguments of perpetual mediocrity surrounding a current and most sensitive topic among wrestling fans.

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AJ Styles is not the TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

In fact he has not been the TNA World Heavyweight Champion or TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion since he “left” the promotion with the title on the October 25 edition of IMPACT Wrestling.

To further solidify Styles’ particular position with regards to his former employer, TNA Wrestling, LLC, the promotion’s president Dixie Carter stripped Styles of the title and also stated publicly that he had stolen her company’s intellectual property (i.e. the TNA World Heavyweight Championship belt).  She went more in depth with her feelings about her situation with AJ Styles via the questionably revolutionary #IMPACT365 video series.

Without a TNA World Heavyweight Champion (or title belt), Dixie was inspired to create a tournament to crown a new champion, a tournament in which homegrown TNA wrestler Magnus will eventually win.  Upon the date of Magnus’ coronation as the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion, AJ Styles will return to IMPACT Wrestling and issue a challenge to Magnus and make the arguable claim that he is the “true” TNA World Heavyweight Champion…a world traveled champion that defended an unsanctioned title in unsanctioned matches.

Magnus will force Dixie Carter to schedule a match between the two men, a match in which Magnus will prove (*snicker*) that he’s far more than the “paper champion” AJ Styles will purport him to be.  Magnus will defeat AJ Styles with some major outside interference from nine different wrestlers, and will be crowned TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

Here’s the million dollar question: will Magnus be the unified TNA World Heavyweight Champion, or will he be the undisputed TNA World Heavyweight Champion?

Like it or not, this man WILL BE your undisputed TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

Like it or not, this man WILL BE your undisputed TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

If fans think logically about this match, they can easily see that Magnus will become the undisputed TNA World Heavyweight Champion when he defeats AJ Styles.  Both men claim to be the rightful TNA World Heavyweight Champion, and technically speaking, Magnus is the only one making the truthful and correct claim.  AJ Styles “disputes” Magnus’ claim, and will effectively challenge him to prove the validity of his perspective via athletic competition.

AJ Styles, on the other hand, claims to be the true TNA World Heavyweight Championship because he was not defeated for said title.  His claim, however, can be “disputed” because he was stripped of his title as TNA World Heavyweight Champion by the promotion’s president, making the belt he possesses unsanctioned per the decree of the promotion’s president.  In an effort to further support the validity of his own claim, Magnus will place his title and championship on the line, thus forcing Styles to prove the validity of his claims and accusations.

Simply put, the match that will take place between Magnus and Styles is an epic battle that will crown an undisputed TNA World Heavyweight Champion, a champion where an argument cannot be made against his legitimacy to the throne.

There are no two titles that are to be “unified” when Magnus and Styles face each other…unless one is willing to admit that AJ Styles is not the true TNA World Heavyweight Champion and is merely placing his own personal unsanctioned title—the AJS World Heavyweight Title, as Dixie Carter stated via the #IMPACT365 video—on the line.

If this is the case, then Magnus is slated to become not only the TNA World Heavyweight Champion, but also the AJS World Heavyweight Champion.  If Magnus is both the TNA and AJS World Heavyweight Champion, TNA can rightfully be accused of unintentionally creating another title (and division) that was the unholy by-product of an angle that started with the Claire Lynch storyline; no self-respecting fan wants that to happen or admit that something like that actually happened, right?

Therefore, the bout that will take place between Magnus and AJ Styles will result in the crowning of the UNDISPUTED TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, please read the following spoiler taken from the latest set of IMPACT Wrestling taping results:

“Dixie brought out referee Brian Stiffler. Everyone was holding Sting back. Magnus made the pin. EC3 Magnus Spud and Dixie celebrated. Dixie grabbed a mic and presented to the fans ‘your undisputed TNA World Heavyweight Champion’ and they all left.” (Credit: Wrestling World News)


Just A Thought: The WWE and TNA Heavyweight Title Situations

It has been said that a picture is worth one thousand words.  Seeing as I really can’t wrap my thinking around my frustration with the heavyweight title scene in either TNA or WWE at this moment, I figured it’d be better to at least set the stage using pictures instead of words.

Shout out to Mr. Christopher Lamb for inspiring the follow simple, easy-to-understand graphics.  Disclaimer: HOWEVER you feel about either wrestling promotion—good, bad, or indifferent—please do not enter into ANY conversation regarding their storylines regarding their own heavyweight championships without EXPLICITLY highlighting the following points:

Unification_01Unification_02


IMPACT Wrestling Review 11-21-13, a.k.a. “Now It All Makes Sense”

i sowwyIs there a slight chance that certain fans and analysts tend to be a tad overly critical of Dixie Carter and her wrestling promotion Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, LLC?

Supporters of Dixie and TNA’s product have produced tons of articles and message board posts that analyze and pick apart the criticisms levied against the promotion, often coming to the conclusion that most claims designed to demean and demoralize the product are unsubstantiated and asinine at best.  More often than not the conclusion is that fans who “hate” TNA are just “marks” for World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.; these fans “hate” the quality and consistently solid wrestling and drama produced by TNA and dismiss it for the “crap” mass produced by the “stale and awful” sports entertainment promotion owned by Vince McMahon.

Is there any validity to these criticisms, however?  What is it about the promotion that makes it an easy target for punchlines, one-liners, rumors, speculation, and just all around bullying?  On one hand it could be said that it’s proudly professed position in the pro wrestling hierarchy (the 2nd largest pro wrestling promotion in the world) subjects it to fans’ barbs more so than any other promotion.  Then again the same could also be said of the number one promotion in the world…

Perhaps there is a distinct difference between “hatred” for the product and a genuinely logical argument questioning its practices and programming.  More so now than ever before in the history of things in this country there is a concentrated effort to placate the feelings of one another by avoiding overly harsh criticism unless it’s directed towards someone or something one cares very little about.  It’s like believing one’s child is a complete angel with few behavioral problems here and there, while everyone else remains lax with rearing their demon-spawned offspring.

The bottom line of it all, irregardless of which side of the TNA love/hate fence you sit on, is that people like what they like.  Everyone is entitled to have an opinion based off of their experiences and perception of life; the vicious back and forth between TNA supporters and detractors will continue until the end of time.  And while criticism launched against TNA may be unjustified and unnecessary more often than not, one would be hard-pressed to deny that the promotion has done some boneheaded s**t in the past eleven years with the same consistently solid locomotion that’s propelled them from obscurity to global recognition in such a short span of time…

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Lest we forget…

Again, it’s all about experience and perspective.  TNA and its president, Dixie Carter, are not all bad (though some would disagree; Hi Mr. Gammon!) and they do serve a particular purpose in the cosmos.  Whether one consistently congratulates or reprimands the product depends on their perspective on TNA’s place in the cosmos and their experience in understanding the context of that perspective.

Unfortunately for us pro wrestling/sports entertainment fans, TNA’s position in the cosmos is—and may always be—resting quietly in the massive eclipse produced by Vince McMahon’s WWE Death Star hovering ever so confidently in the spotlight.  In and of itself TNA succeeds at a particular thing: producing good to great pro wrestling (as professed in its mission statement in the corporate section of their website).  That good to great pro wrestling, however, will always be compared to that of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.  Such is the way of individuals living in a culture where there are “options” for almost everything.

This long philosophical diatribe was necessary for this particular review of IMPACT Wrestling because it sets the foundation for my upcoming commentary, some views that are sure to spark a debate somewhere that could take any given conversation about the show or the promotion to a level much more sophisticated than the standard “This show sucks/this show was great/TNA does all things better than dot-dot-dot” debate that’s more regular than baby bowel movements.

Personally speaking I found the Sports Illustrated.com feature article on Dixie Carter and TNA Wrestling, LLC more entertaining and enlightening than I did last night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling.  Congratulations are in order for Carter and her promotion being featured in Sports Illustrated.  In all sincerity if you haven’t read the piece, I would strongly suggest you do so after reading the piece you’re currently looking at.

What is there to say, however, when an article in Sports Entertainment provides more entertainment than the actual product it speaks of?  I wouldn’t go as far as others to say the show was “bad” (Hi Mr. Lamb!); what I will say that there was very little in the show that pulled me in and made me want to invest more attention and energy into what was happening.  Even the fact that it was the Turning Point themed episode of IMPACT Wrestling and the company’s return to a home base in Orlando made very little difference in my reception of the overall entertainment value of the show.

The Dixie Carter feature on Sports Illustrated.com, on the other hand, did make me want to invest more attention and energy into the promotion.  The feature article gave me new insight and information on Mrs. Carter-Salinas, and even explained in tons of ways why she has made some of the more seemingly ridiculous business decisions she’s made in her tenure as TNA President.  The feature article put into perspective for me why she, and by proxy her company, is truly an underdog in a profession dominated by old men; it also put into perspective why she isn’t an underdog when you consider the fact that she’s also competing for recognition alongside the equally wealthy and powerful Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Bonnie Hammer.

It’s incredibly bittersweet that an article about TNA makes me far more excited about investing in the company than the actual product itself.  It’s akin to celebrating the fact that TNA, a North American promotion, does better business internationally than it does domestically; the logic is backwards and in some weird, sick and twisted way we fans are expected to understand it and accept it as well.  C’est la vie.

Notwithstanding, there were a few things that piqued my interest when I watched the program:

  • I’m Confused: Free-Per-Views, One Lackluster Homecoming, and an Unscheduled Shark Boy Appearance #IMPACT365
  • What’s Great About the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament
  • The Degradation of Joseph Park, Esq.
  • The Demise of the Aces & Eights

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Last night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling was broadcast under the Turning Point theme, the idea being that this particular episode of IMPACT Wrestling would showcase pay-per-view quality matches that one could only witness if one had to actually pay to see it.  It’d be a glaring understatement to admit that this concept still confuses the hell out of me, and I’ll gladly accept being called a moron for not getting it as easily as my Ph.D. earning, TNA-loving friends.

What exactly makes these types of episodes different from a regular run-of-the-mill episode of IMPACT Wrestling?  Fewer backstage segments?  More backstage interviews with Jeremy Borash hyping an upcoming match?  Longer matches and less filler in between?  Aren’t those the same things accomplished regularly on TNA programming?

A part of all of this just feels like fans are supposed to get excited because we get to see a “pay-per-view” for “free.”  But if said “pay-per-view” comes on “free” TV, particularly in the middle of the week during the same time as a regularly scheduled episode of IMPACT Wrestling with very little differentiating it from any other Thursday night episode of the same program,…why are we amped about this again?

Let’s not forget this was TNA’s triumphant return to Orlando, Florida, a homecoming of sorts for the promotion.  A lot of fans remained torn over the decision to take IMPACT Wrestling off the road, but there was also a strong consensus that this was necessary for the promotion to maximize its revenue and continue business given the perceived/speculated failure of touring their prime time flagship programming.  All things considered the return to Orlando and a newly designed Impact Zone should’ve been celebrated if it were truly that important and significant of a move for the company.  Last night’s show was anything but that; the presentation of a company returning to its home base came off as business as usual.  Nothing special, nothing ordinary; it is what it is.  One would think the promotion would’ve wanted to capitalize off of this move especially since a it was presented as a magnificently great thing leading up to last night.

Just for one moment, think back to the WWE’s return to the USA Network in October 2005, which was arguably a big and dramatic deal for the promotion, the USA Network and fans alike.  The publicity for the return was ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS; I believe they’re planning on putting the episode on the upcoming RAW 20th Anniversary DVD box set that’s coming out in a few weeks, but hell…they already gave it a DVD of its own:

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The return to Orlando probably wasn’t seen as much of a big deal compared to pushing the Turning Point free-per-view last night, so to expect it to have been that plus more is probably reasonable but out of context of what the focus of the show was last night.  Clearly it wasn’t being back in one’s safety zone.

Another thing: why did everyone pretend like they had no clue who EC3′s “legendary” opponent would be even though there existed an Impact 365 video where Shark Boy quit his job and made it known that he was coming to Turning Point?  Maybe that was just some expertly crafted trolling similar to when Dixie Carter announced via Impact 365 videos that a former TNA Champion would be returning to the company and that it was actually Adam “Pacman” Jones.  Everybody thought it was hilarious and guffawed vociferously because they knew it was a joke…up until Pacman actually showed up on IMPACT Wrestling

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The way the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament is unfolding is quite impressive.  Although it could be argued that the gimmick stipulations added to the matches by the Wheel of Dixie are honestly unnecessary, they do not detract from the action and the story being told so much that the whole deal becomes easily convoluted.  Fans can get the feeling that the men in the tournament are serious about becoming the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion, each with their own reasons for doing so.  The other thing I like about the story being told on the whole is that other smaller stories are interwoven with the main goal of being the top dog in Dixie’s company.

"Darlin' it ain't no way you're gettin' on the Dixie Train with THAT!" | Photo © TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“Darlin’ there ain’t no way you’re gettin’ on the Dixie Train with THAT!” | Photo © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The on-screen Dixie Carter character is slowly making progress as well; sometimes she (the character and not Mrs. Carter-Salinas herself) comes off a little too sugary sweet and contrived, almost like the character is being forced.  The best protagonists and antagonists in pro wrestling are merely over exaggerations of the women and men who portray them in the ring and on the microphone.  For the character to work, Dixie has to “be herself,” but not to the point where she’s lampooning herself.  A trip to the Vickie Guerrero School of Excuse Me would do wonders for the character.

Besides all of that it was a pleasure to see the violence between James Storm and Robert Roode return to the same levels that made their feud enjoyable some time ago.  It was also refreshing to see Dixie confront Samoa Joe about comments he made last week regarding winning the tournament and having his first defense as champ to AJ Styles.  This minor development gives me hope that my prediction may actually come to fruition, and I’m personally interested in seeing whether I’m right or wrong.

It’s those types of things that pull fans into a product; to return to some points made earlier in the piece, the feeling of euphoria when one is proven right or wrong about a speculated guess is what keeps this particular analyst invested in TNA’s product each week.  It’s actually fun to be wrong on something, as the new direction is (at times) more intriguing than anything we could ever thing of.  Conversely, it’s always great to be “right” so you can gloat about it.  Nevertheless I still expect Magnus to walk away as the new champion, leading to an eventual confrontation with former TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles.  How Magnus gets to that point is sure to be one hell of a ride.

A match between Joseph Park and his brother Abyss was scheduled to take place last night.  From our lofty and spacious offices here at L.E.W.D. Headquarters, we saw a few fans here and there speculate on how the promotion planned on making this happen.  We all honestly had no clue but waited with bated breath to see how they planned on making this feasible.

Abyss never made it to the ring last night.  Instead of facing his brother, Joseph Park was confronted and verbally dissected by the duo of Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels, collectively known as Bad Influence.  Truthfully speaking it was a little unnerving to listen to Daniels and Kazarian bully the very likeable Joseph Park character (Be A Star, TNA).  From calling him a fat tub of mayonnaise to referring to his great grandfather as “Jurassic Park,” I couldn’t help but feel really sorry for the guy…between laughs, that is (the Jurassic Park thing was funny though…).

Daniels and Kazarian then (correctly) professed their hypothesis that the sight of blood makes Joe Park turn into Abyss; afterwards they proceeded to dump a ton of “blood” on Park, to which the latter responded by meekly leaving the ring as Bad Influence continued to demean him.  Holy s**t I felt reaaaaaaalllly bad for this guy…

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“Darlin’ there ain’t no way you’re gettin’ on the Dixie Train LIKE THAT!” | Photo © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lord knows where they plan on going with the Joseph Park character and the accompanying Abyss storyline, but this whole segment tugged on my emotional baggage in a way that IMPACT hadn’t done in quite some time.  There have been a slew  of sympathetic characters ever since the humble carny beginnings of pro wrestling; from Eugene to Zack Gowan, Mickey Whipwreck to Tommy Dreamer, and Cody Deaner to NXT’s Bailey…this is something we should be use to.   The lovable scamp of a character that gets tortured and manhandled by everyone else for no good reason…Hi Hornswoggle!

But the Carrie-esque mood involving Bad Influence and Joe Park took that whole sympathetic character to another level for me.  I may be the only one that feels like that, but it was just something about the way that Daniels and Kazarian (Daniels in particular) addressed Park that hurt my feelings…and I was just a fan watching the show!

The Joe Park character is one that, despite his lumbering awkwardness and impressively rotund physique, is quite loveable and innocent in a non-Spongebob-man-child way.  For all intents and purposes he’s a big dude that got an urge to wrestle after attempting to locate his “brother.”  Joe Park ain’t never bothered nobody without reason, and these two friendless, Varsity-team rejects are projecting their frustrations onto him.  Hey Bad Influence, blame your mediocrity on Los Stereotypicos and not Joe Park.  Speaking of which, where the hell are Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez?

Finally, after eighteen months (according to Mike Tenay) of terrorizing TNA and IMPACT Wrestling, the ungodly reign of the Aces and Eights came to a whimpering end when Ken Anderson defeated Bully Ray in the show’s main event.  The conclusion of this yearlong story was underwhelming, and I place the blame of that feeling on my own shoulders.  I should’ve never expected the conclusion of this thing to be obnoxiously big and over the top in the first place.

The entire Aces and Eights bit lost steam long ago, and with the massive budget cuts made by the promotion essentially neutering any efficacy achieved by the group, its demise was a death rattle that most fans were well prepared for prior to the first day of the month of November.  Leave it to me and only me to be the one to expect this domineering faction to at least exit stage left with more fanfare than it did.

It was somewhat poetic that the hammer used to catapult the group into prominence was also the same thing that drove the final nail in their coffin; it’s always been said that if one lives by the sword, one will die by the sword.  I guess the same applies to rubber hammers.

No more Aces and Eights...????

No more Aces and Eights…????

One can only guess where things go from this point as far as the former members of Aces and Eights are concerned.  Bully Ray, arguably one of the top breakout stars in the past few years, may or may not find prominence in the upper echelon of TNA stars now that the wind behind his bread-and-butter storyline (Bruce Pritchard) is no longer employed by TNA.  Ken Anderson and the Ken Anderson character seems lost and coasting in neutral within TNA, and Garett Bischoff and Knux are just…there. At least Brooke Tessmacher can return to the Knockouts Division full force; these other guys…there’s a lot left to the imagination as far as their roles are concerned.

As a fan we have to ask ourselves what do we expect to happen to these characters from now on; the silver lining is that if we leave that question and any preconceived expectations at the door, we may be pleasantly surprised by what the writers and promotion comes up with.  However if we were to view this situation in the same way we would for anyone in WWE, such as The Miz or Kofi Kingston (Hi Corbin!), we can’t really hold our breath for things to be “better” for these guys.  TNA doesn’t necessarily have the best track record either with putting their all behind building “superstars” as much as they do in showcasing “wrestlers.”  We’ll all just have to wait and see how this one turns out.

By the way, before we pull out the streamers and throw the ticker tape parade, Ken Anderson will “bury” the Aces & Eights next week on IMPACT Wrestling.  It’s never OVER until it’s over, folks.

Alas, those are just my thoughts; what do YOU think?


L.E.W.D. Booking 101 – “TNA World Heavyweight Champion vs. AJ Styles”

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Photo: © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All rights reserved.

Former TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles will defend his title in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday, November 3.  His opponent will be El Mesias, also known as Judas Mesias from his days in TNA.

The word “former” is used to describe Styles because earlier today it was announced via TNA’s new 24/7 initiative that the promotion’s president, Dixie Carter, has stripped Styles of the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.  As early as last week, however, it was also leaked (via spoilers) that Carter would utilize tonight’s Halloween episode of Impact Wrestling to announce a tournament to decide a new TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

As much as this storyline reeks of something done before, most fans welcome this news as a sign of exciting things to come within the promotion.  TNA has been beleaguered in recent weeks with more negative news than paternity tests on The Maury Show, so any bit of positivity for the company should be received with open arms and smiling faces … even at the expense of fuzzy logic.

AJ Styles defeated Bully Ray at TNA’s 2013 Bound for Glory pay per view to become the promotion’s new World Heavyweight Champion.  Styles successfully defended his title against the former champion on the October 24 episode of Impact Wrestling where, despite constant please and bribes from Dixie Carter, walked out of the company while still in possession of the championship belt.  It was during an in-ring interaction with Carter that Styles made it clearly known that he did not have a contract with TNA nor did he intend to sign a new one.

At that moment AJ Styles technically abdicated his position as TNA World Heavyweight Champion, thus vacating the title and giving Dixie Carter the go ahead to vacate said title … which she did today.

When Styles faces El Mesias this Sunday for Mexico’s AAA promotion, what exactly will he be defending?

The TNA World Heavyweight Championship is TNA’s most coveted title, an award given to the promotion’s top heavyweight wrestler.  Being TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion implies that you’ve faced and defeated competitors from all around the world on behalf of Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, LLC.  TNA recognizes you as their champion and allows you to defend their title in their name against competitors they deem worthy of having a shot at it.

If TNA no longer recognizes an individual as their world heavyweight champion, for whatever reason, that individual can no longer claim the right or authority to be the TNA World Heavyweight Champion; plain and simple.

The title currently held by AJ Styles means very little inside of TNA and even less outside of the promotion.  It is a symbol of his last reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion, but that’s about it.  Even more damning is the fact that AAA can’t recognize him as TNA World Heavyweight Champion within the Mexican promotion especially after it was announced by TNA President Dixie Carter that he was stripped of said title.

As far as the storyline goes from this point, AJ Styles will tour the world defending a title and championship devoid of all but sentimental meaning.  The title he possesses is no longer sanctioned by the promotion he no longer works for; AJ Styles will literally tour the globe to defend his own personal Global Championship.

Where could TNA possibly go with this storyline?

magnusDixie Carter will publicly announce the beginning of the tournament to crown a new TNA World Heavyweight Champion on tonight’s episode of Impact Wrestling.  This tournament could easily last a month, with Magnus eventually being crowned the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

AJ Styles returns after having several awesome matches and “title defenses” around the world, making a claim in TNA that he is still the TNA World Heavyweight Champ because he wasn’t defeated for the title.  His claim would be (and should be) immediately dismissed by the real TNA World Heavyweight Champion, who would possess the promotion’s only sanctioned World Heavyweight Championship.

Styles would claim that after defending his “title” against legendary stars around the globe, Magnus could never rightfully claim to be “the man” in TNA because, as the saying goes, he’s yet to defeat “the man.”  Styles would go on to insult Magnus by calling him a paper champion, a puppet of Dixie Carter that will get used and abused for years just as he did.  Styles would claim that Magnus’ only way of legitimizing himself and his legacy in TNA would be to prove that he can best the company’s de-facto face and a true world champion.

Magnus would have nothing to gain by wrestling Styles, so he refuses to wrestle him for some time.  To Magnus, bragging rights for defeating a former champ that left the company means nothing to a champ that climbed his way up the ranks and defeated TNA’s biggest names to gain recognition as their World Heavyweight Champion.  Magnus would refuse to face Styles because facing Styles, at this point in his career, would be beneath him.

Styles and Magnus would go back and forth in a war of words for a period of time before a third party steps in and forces them to face each other for the rights and privileges to be called TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion.  Magnus wins in a hard fought battle and becomes the “face” of TNA moving forward with renewed vigor.

That’s one way things could go; but alas, what do YOU think?

 


TNA Rumored to Be Up For Sale

If the rumors are true, no doubt Bob Carter'll get a decent return on his investment one way or another.

If the rumors are true, no doubt Bob Carter’ll get a decent return on his investment one way or another.

A particularly nasty rumor has recently surfaced regarding the future of Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, LLC.

Conveniently happening during Sunday night’s 2013 WWE Hell in a Cell pay per view, news leaked on renowned wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer report of the Carter family’s intent to sell TNA.  The news literally spread like wildfire, and by the conclusion of Hell in a Cell, several pundits, analysts, defenders and detractors were viciously sparring over whether or not the news was a fact or rumor.  Some individuals even went immediately to discredit Dave Meltzer and all sites reporting the rumor as “news.”

While a rumor of this ilk is not something new for TNA, it does seem odd for Dave Meltzer’s name to be unceremoniously attached to it.  Even more concerning is that in the midst of the speculation there is no substantial proof either way regarding the validity of the rumor.  There’s no concrete evidence that the Carter’s are looking to sell TNA, and there’s no concrete evidence stating that they aren’t interested in selling it either.

There is, however, evidence that would suggest that the company is far from being placed on the auction block.

Details were announced yesterday to nowhere near as much fanfare about TNA’s upcoming UK tour.  For the first time in its eleven year history TNA will tape two pay per views (One Night Specials) from the UK.  Also significant about this year’s tour is that the promotion will be filming for television during all four shows.  The UK market has always been presented as something to be nurtured and heavily supported by TNA, so news of this magnitude is a big deal for the promotion and her fans “across the pond” and here in the states.

The UK fans always come across as being completely engaged in and enthralled by the action presented by TNA, far more so than any American audiences they’ve appeared before.  One could easily look at this news and logically conclude that a company on the fringes of being sold would also not be in a place to push forward with such a momentous production in the UK tour.

But the UK tour alone is not enough to discredit the rumor of the Carter family’s intent to sell TNA.  The UK tour, if anything, only proves that the company is moving forward with plans of touring the United Kingdom, something that probably was already set in motion after the conclusion of the last UK tour.

Just because a business is up for sale doesn’t imply that the business halts production until the actual sale has occurred.

For example: if a man was to sell his only means of transportation, would he stop using that vehicle until someone purchased it?  How would he get to work or to the grocery store?  Why would he let the vehicle sit unused for an indefinite amount of time before someone comes along to purchase it?  Would he also neglect to maintain it until the perfect buyer comes along?  If so, will he be handing over a lemon to an unsuspecting buyer?

Corporations and businesses purchase other corporations and businesses all the time, often times going unnoticed by consumers by and large.  When structures and entities as such are purchased, the business continues until a re-branding or restructuring is complete.  There is a huge difference between a company going “out-of-business” and a company being “sold.”

Wachovia Bank didn’t go out of business; it was purchased by Wells Fargo.  Patrons continued to have their banking needs taken care of all while Wachovia branches across the nation were redesigned and re-branded as Wells Fargo locations.

Black Entertainment Television (also known as BET) didn’t go out of business when it was purchased by Viacom (the parent company of Spike TV, by the way) in 2001.  The network remained on air and programming made noticeable changes during its transition from a Black owned station to African-American themed MTV.

The rumor surrounds the Carter family’s intent to sell the company.  If they were going to shut down the promotion it would’ve already happened by now.  End of story.

However, if the family has yet to see a substantial return on the money they’ve invested in the company over the past eleven years and seeks to regain something from their investment, a much more fiscally agreeable decision would be to sell the company to an interested buyer.  This way the venture wouldn’t and couldn’t be seen as a complete failure, but rather as something that no longer fit in with the Carter family’s investment portfolio.

Take the sale of WCW to WWE in 2001 as another example.  Fans have it in their minds that the odds and ends of the sale took place the night Vince McMahon simultaneously broadcast himself and RAW on TNT and the USA Network.  The actual move to sell WCW began months earlier if not a year in advance when speculation surfaced that WCW was up for sale.

The promotion continued to produce shows while varies entities put in bids to buy the company, most of which ended up being rejected.  It is noted that when Jamie Kellner became the CEO and chairman of Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., negotiations began with Vince McMahon and the WWE on the purchase of WCW; this was after a deal with Fusient Media Ventures and Eric Bischoff went south.

All this is to say that at least for one whole year negotiations between several entities happened before the actual sale of WCW was finalized.    In that year, WCW did not cease to broadcast shows or produce a product; they merely went ahead with business as usual until the official announcement was made via Monday Night RAW and the last episode of WCW Monday Nitro.  Within that year, contracts were disputed, assets were appraised, debt was discussed, libraries and publishing rights were purchased, and so forth and so on.

It is too absurd or difficult to believe a similar process is occurring between TNA and some interested entities?

Perhaps it is but for various reasons…

There are fans that genuinely prefer TNA’s brand of pro wrestling which, in and of itself, provides a particularly unique form of amusement in the sports entertainment industry.  TNA is important to these fans because it is the type of quality pro wrestling desired in an industry flooded with what they deem to be crap.  TNA is analogous to eating a daily well-balanced diet as opposed to another promotion’s unhealthy fast food dietary habits.

These fans may also view TNA as the proverbial underdog in an industry lorded over by an evil and soulless, money driven corporation (which, of course, is one highly subjective opinion).  In one sense the fans live vicariously through the promotion’s successes and failures, willing TNA to continue to conquer hurdles in its quest to remain a fixture in the industry.  If TNA can make it and continues to succeed, they can draw inspiration and strength from the small company standing up to the machine.

Other fans view TNA necessary for competition, stating that having “alternatives” in the business is good for the business as a whole.  To these fans it isn’t all that necessary that TNA performs at a level comparable to the WWE, but rather that they exist and are supported to the point where it forces the WWE to get better due to the increased notoriety of TNA’s product.

It’s quite possible that the aforementioned fans view any news of TNA operating outside of its current form and structure as a failure, which isn’t true at all.  If anything TNA operating within its current form and structure is more of a failure than the sale of the company could be at this point.

One’s head would have to be buried completely in the sand to miss all of the restructuring TNA has done in the past few months.  No matter how we spin the news, the reality is that several decisions made within the promotion have left them with very few options to keep the product up and running.

They’ve had to scale back their touring schedule, take the show back off the road (something I believe wasn’t designed to be a long term plan from the very beginning), and release several wrestlers and company officials from their contracts.  Those are all measures companies take to cut costs, and companies cut costs when they’re not bringing in enough revenue to handle operating the company.

Despite our misguided belief as fans that money isn’t a significant factor, it is significant enough for TNA’s parent company to at least consider the option of selling the promotion if the promotion is not performing at an optimal level.

Fans can bicker back and forth for an eternity over the quality of the product and the millions of fans worldwide, but the bottom line is that it is quite possible those numbers aren’t translating into steady revenue streams.  The promotion wouldn’t have needed to fire anyone en masse or take their only flagship program off the road if they were truly bringing in more money than they were spending.

Selling the company ensures that a group or entity devoted to the product and pro wrestling can take the helm and revive this beleaguered promotion.  Potential investors could be unearthed and take the promotion to even greater heights if allowed to invest in TNA in ways the Carter family and Panda Energy, Inc. no longer can.  The sale of the company can be viewed as a great thing depending on how the situation is viewed.

Then again, this is still all speculation on behalf of one Dave Meltzer and tons of overzealously analytical fans.

No one outside of the company and its investors can say definitively whether or not Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, LLC is up for sale.  In the event that it is, we can only hope that the promotion doesn’t falls into the hands of an individual or corporation that wants to kill it off.

In the event that TNA isn’t for sale, we can only wait to see if they truly can rise above their challenges and conquer the fans’ hearts and dollars in ways they’ve yet to do.


That Bikini Model Song from “Adventure Time”

Also known as: “No, I do NOT like AJ Styles Right Now!”

Also known as: “Wait… What?”

Also known as: “I Heart Women and Anti-Heart TNA”

Saw what you will about Cartoon Network: they have something special – if not amazing – with the hit show Adventure Time.  Along with Regular Show, this show combines elements of bizarre, surreal, mystical, whimsical and the like into one coherent, if twisted, vision, and it’s epic.  The strange and comical adventures of Jake the Dog and Finn the Human are something to behold, and while I’m far from well versed in the show, I can say that I enjoy it immensely.  Hell, I envy the children of this generation, if only because they get to grow up watching awesome programming such as this (still, they don’t have Rocko’s Modern Life or Ren & Stimpy, so ha!).

Out of all the characters, I think I like Marceline the most, but that’s neither here nor there.  BMO is a close second, and that’s because he’s a living handheld video game console.  He talks in a soft, innocent voice and makes the adventures of the crew that much better.  In a recent episode called Shh!, which featured an interesting concept where Finn and Jake spoke only using cue cards they filled out in a thirty second time span, BMO told his compatriots that he was going to invite over a squad of bikini models to dance to a certain song, which he promptly played.  Oh, what a calming, gentle, happy song it was.  I’ll post it at the end of the piece: it’ll likely put you in a happy mood.

After the episode, I said I would look for the song.  More than a week later, I actually did, and I found it.  It’s from a band called Lake.  They’re a group of people that laugh together, make music together, eat snacks together and, I assume, enjoy quality surrealism in animated programs (ask me about my love for Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon one day).  The song is called No Wonder I, and it’s wonderfully indie.  It’s a bit of a love song, but the title along sticks to me.  Mostly because it borders on revelation.  Think about it: those times when you go through life or some event and say to yourself, “No wonder I (insert verb here) this way!”  When I listened to Weezer’s album Make Believe, I couldn’t understand why it got so much hate (a 0.4/10 rating on Pitchfork, which is rough even by THEIR standards), but after listening intently to Perfect Situation and considering where I started actually listening to them at (WITH Make Believe), I had an epiphany: “No wonder I think this way!”  As much as I like Perfect Situation it was pretty awkward lyrically, and the album was pretty A-B-A-B-A-B; and this is all after considering the incomprehensible standard they established with Pinkerton. 

“No wonder I (insert verb here) this way!” As you should already know, and have probably gleaned from rejected title number three, I still don’t like TNA, and one thing I dislike a lot is AJ Styles.  That’s not to say that I’m not a fan of Styles: he’s great.  But I don’t like his character’s direction right now.  The character is one thing, but the direction is another.

Case in point: last Thursday he was to be formally inducted into the gay orgy known as Aces and Eights.  He randomly assaulted some people, got boos from the crowd; hell, he even teetered between the three teams of Hickok’s Bane, Pro Wrestling’s Bane and, of course, the brilliant team of Christopher Daniels and Frank Kazarian.  To TNA’s cre… to TNA’s credi… to their cred… in spite of TNA’s incompetence (I can say that), Bad Influence is beyond entertaining on a weekly basis, and I like that.  Suspiciously, they seem to be two people who Aces and Eights don’t touch.  Interesting… I believe I said something similar about Mark Henry and the Shield

Anyway, AJ Styles came out to Bully Ray, Devon, Anderson, Dopey, Sleepy, Cranky, Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Zangief, Blanka, E. Honda, Full House, Step by Step, Home Improvement, Seinfeld, purple, green, red, and a host of others to be patched in.  First step: drink a beer.  AJ did.  No surprise, but it was the clearest damn beer I’ve ever seen (TNA has a habit of wasting beer on a weekly basis, I hope it’s cheap).  Then he put the vest on amidst boos from the crowd and taunting from one-time friend and perpetual poster boy for “Steroids for ‘Murica!” Kurt Angle.  I found this to be dumb too.  AJ put on the vest, effectively condemning his soul to a fate far worse than hell (hint: it’s an extended stay in TNA) and for some reason Kurt Angle found himself in the ring (I was busy doing something more important than watching the show to see how he got from the ramp to the ring) and the “biker” gang was beating on him.  They lifted him up and gave AJ Styles a hammer, a symbol of his “Totally Nefarious Actions” – yeah, someone actually said that – and a weapon to hit Kurt Angle with.  To be fair it looks like he actually hit Angle, and as Angle rolled out of the ring, AJ turned right back around and started assaulting the people who just patched him in.  And then he ran.

The crowd cheered.  The IWC was enthused.  I was left thinking, “What in the (expletive) did I just watch?!” 

Unlike many, I was left HIGHLY upset by the whole segment.  It came across as a waste of time.  AJ Styles is portrayed right now as a loner, a man in it for himself, ONLY himself, NOBODY but himself (unless you bring a crack whore into the mix) and lodged somewhere between old school Raven, old school Sting, and your favorite emo boy band now comprised of four or five confused prepubescent white boys from the same city-state.  With that in mind: One Direction sucks.  Ladies, I know you like the message, but it’s been done by more convincing musicians all the time.  Like Charles Hamilton!  He was on hard drugs when he did a song just like that, and it was wonderful!  Remember when Mel Gibson did that mov… I can see that this is going in the wrong direction fast.  Heh, get it?  “Wrong direction”? 

You’ll never understand my humor.  AJ Styles is Mr. Solo Dolo right now, and frankly I get confused when I see him go down a path just to jump right back to the central hub for every road he could take all over again.  He obviously doesn’t care about the eternal (and it feels eternal) conflict between TNA and TNA 1% (the Wile Bill Hickok ‘Murican Speakin’ Vernacula), and he obviously carries a continuing gripe with Bad Influence after they… did… something or the other.  I don’t know: it all lost validity when he wasn’t actually portrayed as unfaithful to his wife… with Dixie.  Now when it came to the crack whore, shades of a Patrice O’Neal routine on cheating came to mind.

In short, when it came to that segment with Styles and his more or less still valid induction into Aces and Eights, my only thought was, “He did all that for a beer and a hammer?!”  It lacked logic.  Sure, it was pretty comical for some, but it felt like a cop out to me.  The fans have been chanting “YOU SOLD OUT!” for the longest now, as if that’s ever made any sort of sense.  Exactly how did he sell out?  After getting his ass handed to him for the longest it appeared that he was joining up with a group that actually places value on their members.  Say what you will about gangs like these: they ask for loyalty, but other than that they function as a more-or-less violent family, and can you honestly say that AJ Styles, after dealing with accusations of cheating, paternity suits, a loss of any opportunity to acquire the TNA World Heavyweight Championship for a year, camera crews following him everywhere and still having to work for TNA, doesn’t DESERVE some peace of mind?!

TNA has four major powers right now.  One is TNA.  It’s the people who seem to flail around and try to make what they say and do worth something.  The second is TNA in biker jackets.  They’re the people who seem to flail around in biker jackets and try to make what they say and do worth something, while wearing biker jackets.  The third is Bad Influences.  They’re in a world all their own and they function just fine; TNA and TNA: Biker Edition don’t seem to really touch them and that’s a-ok in my book.  Granted, it does make me question the use of alcohol in the backstage area.  I know everyone isn’t a Jeff Hardy level of booze fiend (better than being a Matt Hardy level of lachrymose though) but that’s just unprofessional.

And now, the fourth power has come out to be AJ Styles.  The fans are pulling for him to be part of Team TNA.  Team TNA: Poker Deck Reissue, technically has him now.  Bad Influence doesn’t care at the end of the day, and if Daniels and Kazarian don’t care then I don’t see why I should either.

I guess I’m just astounded by a)the prophecy of my L.E.W.D. cohorts and b)the reactions of the fans.  My people said that the AJ Styles storyline would falter very quickly after he came back into the fray.  I don’t know if they agree or not, but they were right.  The fans offer nonsensical chants at understandable actions.  Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by powerhouses like the Dudley Boyz and Mr. Kennedy and Festus and the originator of ordinariness himself D’Lo Brown?  Sidenote: who is the Vice President now…?

It all comes down to how people react though, and if people are happy with how AJ Styles is raging against a machine with no purpose other than to rage against something, then hey, fine, more power to you and more power to him.  For me, though, it’s a half-baked path, at best. 

Oh well.  We always have Bad Influence and the duo of Aries and Roode, right? 

Hashtag: #NEVERFORGET!

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten the song.  Here it is, so you can listen to it while you watch Aries harass Hemme.


John Cena & A.J. Styles: Redemption versus Retribution

It was only a matter of time before  parallels were made between two of the industry’s most prominent and squeaky clean babyfaces.

It wouldn’t take much for any given fan—casual, hardcore, average or “extraordinary”—to recognize that both A.J. Styles and John Cena had terrible stints in their respective companies last year.  While 2011-2012 saw the rise of unlikely champions in several pro wrestling promotions (CM Punk, Austin Aries, Johnny Gargano, Eddie Kingston, Kevin Steen, Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce), it also saw Cena and Styles play diminished roles in companies that had at several times in the past ten years relied heavily on their presence and activity.

For A.J. Styles, 2012 was a year that saw him as a suffering protagonist accused of engaging in adulterous and illicit activities with a pregnant “crackhead.”  Once vindicated and redeemed, Styles then suffered a humiliating loss to his longtime on-screen friend-slash-rival, Christopher Daniels.

John Cena’s 2012 was mired by his bench-warming role in CM Punk’s historic yearlong WWE Championship reign.  After suffering a devastating loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII and surviving a brutal thrashing from Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012, Cena found a sliver of hope in winning the 2013 Royal Rumble, awarding him the chance to face his rival for the second time in a lifetime.

As different as both instances were from each other, the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters (as well as the individuals portraying them) are traveling on similar highways at this point in their professional wrestling careers.  Both characters have arguably suffered from severe stagnancy, a type of static complacency that resonated with few and nauseated most.  With Cena relegated to inconceivably winning unimportant matches and incessantly spewing promos like a southern Protestant preacher or pee-wee football coach, and Styles meandering around aimlessly in a god-forsaken storyline like Howdy Doody in a Martian whorehouse, each character was on the fast track to irrelevancy.

It would become necessary, at some point, for the creative writers in TNA and WWE to evolve the Cena and Styles characters beyond the straight-laced, doe-eyed do-gooders they’ve portrayed for most of their careers.

It is assumed that the natural evolution of a “good guy” character means that they should inevitably be turned heel, made into a callous and uncaring “bad guy” that is the exact anti-thesis of what they once stood for.  That often abused notion of duality, however, is what keeps most wrestling fans in their arena seats and not the plush and cushy creative director office chairs in a promotion’s front office.

Infamous wrestling guru Vince Russo once noted that he believed wrestling characters should mirror the “characters” of everyday life, noting that in life there were no completely “good” or “bad” people.  To Russo, all people were a mixture of both good and bad, and if wrestling characters were to remain relevant they would have to resonate in the hearts of consumers.  In other words, fans would cheer or boo people they felt were more like them (i.e. Stone Cold Steve Austin).

While Russo’s perception had it’s strengths and weaknesses, it raised a point that has surfaced in the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters.  For each character to remain relevant a slight adjustment was all that was needed to provide fans with fresh faces in the stale seas of mediocrity they navigated.

A.J. Styles’ character represents retaliation, a notion of justice that’s needed to right the wrongs inflicted upon an unsuspecting individual who had lived by a disciplined code of morals and ethics.  Styles’ character can be easily associated with the “Crow Sting” character from WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn (something I spoke of in this piece); he can also be associated with the biblical character Job, a righteous man that found himself caught in a bet of sorts between God and the Devil.

John Cena’s character represents redemption, a response to an injustice that has occurred at his own hands.  Cena’s character can be associated with Michael Vick more so than Donavon McNabb, as Cena’s downfall—the year he spent languishing in nothing in particular—was due to his own irresponsible behavior.

That being said one important question arises from these occurrences: which character has experienced the more compelling shift in evolution and priorities?

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

John Cena gets up close and personal with WWE Champion The Rock on the 3/25 edition of RAW. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

John Cena’s segment with The Rock on the March 25, 2013 edition of RAW was brilliant for several reasons, one of which was the brief glimpses of an arrogant, heelish John Cena that we haven’t seen since the rarely mentioned “Ruthless Aggression” Era.  Cena was contemptuous in his resolve, admitting that his loss to The Rock was due to one simple-minded act that left him on his back staring at the lights.  Cena was vehement in making it known that he defeated himself, which reveals to us a character that truly believes in the hype that has surrounded and dominated his career.

In that sense, the John Cena character is reminiscent of the real life Bret Hart, a man that honestly believes he is the end all, be all when it comes to professional wrestling.  The implication from the words that came from Cena’s own mouth is that The Rock never defeated him; John Cena defeated himself.

The only reason The Rock scored the pinfall was because John Cena slipped on the goal line, allowing Rock to take advantage of the fumble to score the game winning touchdown.  From this Cena contends that The Rock was never strong, talented or determined enough to truly beat Cena, that The Rock was still a Hollywood sell-out that doesn’t deserve to be in a wrestling ring.

This type of Cena is very different from the Cena that has openly admitted to losing to stars like CM Punk, Sheamus, and countless others.  This type of Cena is the All-Star Varsity Team Captain who goes unpunished for violating the privacy and personal space of a cheerleader, simply because “she was asking for it.”  This is the Cena that fans despise, that fans yearn and thirst to smack when they see him in the streets.

This is also the type of Cena that could snap when he loses to The Rock again, the type of Cena that could “injure” The Rock during his post-match celebration at WrestleMania XXIX.  The injury would sideline the WWE Champion and force the WWE Title to be vacated, thus allowing for a reinvigorated and more edgy John Cena to find his way back into the main event picture while embracing the jeers of the crowd.

A.J. Styles adopting a more unwashed look. | Photo courtesy of Google.com

A.J. Styles adopting a more unwashed look. | Photo courtesy of Google.com

A.J. Styles, on the other hand, returned to IMPACT Wrestling two weeks ago after a lengthy hiatus following his embarrassing loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012.  In the final moments of the match, Daniels utilized Styles’ own finishing maneuver, The Styles Clash, to gain the pinfall.

Prior to this match, Styles was the unlucky recipient of a pinfall loss in a triple threat match at Turning Point 2012 to determine the number one contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.  As a result, Styles was locked out of receiving a championship match until Bound for Glory 2013.

Dejected and absolutely humiliated by Daniels’ victory (ironically, a victory gained in the same manner that caused John Cena to lose his match to The Rock), Styles appeared on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling and gave a bitter soliloquy in the middle of the ring disguised as an address to the fans.

Styles’ words that day were surprising at most, but effective nevertheless in planting seeds for an A.J. Styles that fans had never seen before.

Styles’ inner thoughts and feelings were revealed for the entire wrestling audience to consider (and are loosely quoted as follows):

I don’t know where I’m is going or what the next step is. I’ve spent too much time being a corporate man and worrying about everyone else that I forgot about myself. (While taking off his Impact Wrestling shirt and hat) I’m tired of cleaning up TNA’s messes and doing the right thing. From now on, I’m going to be doing my own thing (Styles drops the microphone and leaves the ring).*

When the broken and disenfranchised wrestler returned to IMPACT Wrestling on the March 14 episode, he attacked the two men that were the source of his year long consternation (Daniels and Kazarian) and James Storm, the man that pinned him at Turning Point 2012.  These actions make him a social outcast, an outsider that has every justifiable reason in the book to walk around with a huge chip on his shoulder.

This A.J. Styles is a shell of the Phenomenal One that captured the hearts of fans for his years of dedication to TNA; this A.J. Styles is only concerned about what’s good for A.J. Styles because it seems that no one else really cares.  This A.J. Styles spits in the face of TNA’s beloved authority figures.  This A.J. Styles will climb to the top of TNA’s ladder of success just to throw it back into the faces of all his naysayers.

Ironically enough, this A.J. Styles is also the savior TNA will need to rid the company of the Aces and 8′s infestation come Bound for Glory 2013; unfortunately for TNA, he’ll be doing it for himself and not for the company.

So the question remains…which character is more compelling?  Which character would you be willing to pay money to see?

 


L.E.W.D. Booking 101 – “AJ Styles: D.T.A.”

A very profound thought struck me the other day concerning the current direction of AJ Styles and his character on IMPACT Wrestling.  In order to accurately express that thought here in L.E.W.D. Booking 101, I have to go back to a conversation that took place several years ago.

A photo of James in my car...back when I had that car.

A photo of James in my car…back when I had that car.

I have a very close friend named James* who can best be described as a casual fan of pro wrestling.  Although James doesn’t indulge in pro wrestling and sports entertainment as frequently as I do, he follows the product enough to have great and analytical conversations about wrestlers and promotions at any given time.  While James was (and still is) fond of WWE, he always favored WCW’s product more, especially during the mythic Attitude Era.  It was during this time that he reveled in the many antics of his favorite wrestler, the man they call Sting.  Even to this day he gets particularly giddy and filled with girlish glee when discussing Sting; his favorite iteration of the superstar is the “Crow” Sting, a character based off of the movie made famous by action star Brandon Lee.

Seriously; to this day, James can recite the creepy little kid monologue verbatim from the Sting’s theme at that time.

Many years after WWE’s purchase of WCW and several versions of Sting later, I asked James to explain to me his fascination with this dark and brooding Sting character.  More specifically I asked him to explain why so many other fans were absolutely in love with this Sting, let alone Sting in the first place.  To loosely paraphrase what he said (mostly because he won’t email me what he said):

The thing about it is this: when Hulk Hogan turned heel—and you gotta remember that Hulk Hogan was the epitome of all that was right in the world, “Eat your vitamins and say your prayers” and all that s**t—it completely messed everybody up!  The person that took it the hardest was Sting, because here was somebody who did the right thing his entire career, and the only other thing “right” in the universe was Hogan.

With Hogan joining the nWo, and half of WCW doing the same damn thing, Sting was absolutely mind-f***ed.  So Sting disappears and when he comes back, he’s literally dead to everything on the inside, and then he just proceeds to brood all over the damn place.  And that’s what made it cool, because even though it was a blatant rip off of The Crow, it made perfect sense because a lot of younger fans were feeling the same way because of Hogan’s heel turn.

And besides, that s**t was real cool too.

James’ words resonated in my mind the other day when I started thinking about TNA’s latest M.I.A. wrestler, AJ Styles.  One thing led to another, and before you know it I had this epiphany: AJ Styles will be TNA’s “Crow” Sting!

At this point you should brace yourselves, because the next comment coming from yours truly will surely shock and surprise you: out of all the things TNA has conveniently borrowed from other promotions, this character development for Styles is perhaps the best idea they’ve stolen come up with and will probably create the most compelling and interesting wrestler the company has ever had.

Don’t expect Styles to be phenomenal in the rafters of arenas around the country anytime soon.  It is also highly unlikely that the company will attempt to turn Styles into a mini-Sting like they attempted to transform him into Lil’ Naitch Ver. 2.5 when Ric Flair joined the company.  What is quite probable is the creation of a neat, tweener Styles character that will operate in the same spirit as “Crow” Sting so many years ago.  If my epiphany has any merit, Styles’ new character will be somewhat similar to the heel character that John Cena could have been two years ago.

This epiphany came about when I started to connect the dots between two posts about Styles on the most trusted TNA fan site on the internet.  The first post came on February 8 and was nestled quietly in a recap of a Dixie Carter interview during her appearance during a Bellator fight.  Apparently the TNA President had an encounter with Styles at the event, an encounter were Carter described Styles as being “cold, distant, and unapproachable.”  After careful consideration of this development, I couldn’t find myself to be “mad” or disgusted with Styles’ actions at all.

"Never forget..."

“Never forget…”

While Carter’s summation of Styles’ behavior seemed “unusual” (as described by the good folks at TNAsylum.com), one could not feel any iota of sympathy for her given Styles’ craptastic 2012 in TNA.

Without dredging up too many memories of the swerves and storylines that besmirched his year and his good name, we must remember how well Dixie defended Styles during the Claire Lynch debacle.  We must remember how she set her husband straight after leveling Styles with the King Mo One Hitter-Quitter.  We have to recall how Dixie used her executive powers and prowess to get to the bottom of Claire Lynch’s accusations against Styles in order to exonerate her company’s most decorated and beloved star.

Seeing as all of that stuff didn’t happen it would appear that Styles is somewhat justified in having such lukewarm feelings towards Dixie Carter.  Styles, after all, is easily the most recognizable TNA Original still with the company.  He gave his all for Jeff Jarrett and Dixie, yet neither offered their on-air unconditional support for him during his series of unfortunate events.  In fact if one wasn’t careful, one could easily get the impression that Dixie and her cronies cared very little for Styles during this period of his career; talk about a slap in the face.

The second post that caught my attention was a report on February 20 about a TNA producer’s tweet concerning Styles’ behavior.  The producer didn’t explicitly say how Styles behaved, but did comment that in five years he had never “had him act like he did today.”  The producer then went on to say that he was “disappointed.”  Is it just me or does it sound incredibly pompous of the producer to comment on how he would or would not have had Styles to behave?  It’s one thing to say that in five years you’ve never seen a person act in a particular way, but its also very telling to see someone comment that they never had someone act a certain way.

I sure the assumption is that once a vanilla babyface, always a vanilla babyface.  For the better part of his career in TNA Styles has played the one dimensional role of stellar athlete and upright model citizen/human being.  Styles plays this character well because it’s pretty much him in real life.  Everyone has their breaking point, however, and even the most model and upright human being has a breaking point.  He arguably reached that breaking point after his demeaning loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012; even after Styles announced to the world on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling that he was no longer a “company man,” this plucky TNA producer still found it disappointing that Styles behaved in an unmentionable fashion?

Photo © TNA Wrestling, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Photo © TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo © TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo © TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

If you’ve been subjected to a person behaving in a particular way, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to expect that behavior to be consistent and synonymous with the person.  If the person turns out to be a louse, it’s easy to dismiss them and wish them well in their future endeavors.  On the other hand if the person has proven to exhibit exemplary qualities, we have the tendency to abuse and/or neglect that person because no matter what happens we’ll expect them to continue to be “good” people.

The only person to come to Styles’ aid during his trials with Daniels and Kazarian was Kurt Angle.  Other than that, Styles was expected to man up and handle his situation on his lonesome, even though the harassment he endured from his coworkers was ridiculously ignored by management.  After putting up with that Styles was also locked out of challenging for the TNA World Heavyweight Title for one year, a crushing and heart-wrenching defeat that almost makes his presence in the company worthless for at least 365 days.  The fans moved on to Austin Aries, Robert Roode and Jeff Hardy; the only person that cared about AJ Styles, it seemed, was AJ Styles.  And even he neglected his own needs, wants and desires for the sake of the company and making Dixie Carter look like one million dollars.

From that perspective, how dare anyone expect Styles to behave a certain way or even tacitly imply and/or demand he behave a certain way any reason.  Being himself hadn’t gotten him very far since he lost the TNA World Heavyweight Title to Rob Van Dam in April 2010, so what good will the goody-two shoes bit do for him at this point?

After all that, what does any of it have to do with “Crow” Sting?  Simply put, the very man that Styles was should be long gone by now.  Having grown bitter and disillusioned with all that he knew to be right in the world, Styles’ character should evolve into a self-serving man justified by the inconsiderate actions of the institution that was once his life and livelihood.  He doesn’t have to be overly obnoxious in his disdain for the company (Aces & Eights), and he doesn’t have to be an Attitude Era-esque edgy and cool tweener either (Ken Anderson).

All Styles has to do is be himself minus the concern and care for being Dixie’s golden boy and the fans’ favorite athlete.  Styles has to become the wrestler that competes for the company’s top prize while maintaining an eff you attitude towards anyone or anything that represents the institution that snubbed him.  Styles shouldn’t perform for the fans, nor should he be the face of a company in need of a savior.  Styles does what Styles wants for Styles’ benefit.  This was essentially the same rubric for the evolution of Sting’s character in WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn and the creation of the nWo, except there were actual buzzards and crows involved.

Sting_03Sting’s descent into this depressing and unforgiving darkness revitalized the character and WCW.  In the same way that this dark and emo Sting resonated in the hearts of many fans, so too can this new AJ Styles character.  How many of TNA’s fans have been abused and taken for granted by their employers?  How many fans have felt betrayed by TNA’s sports entertainment-like approach in their product as of late?

If we can be narcissistic for one second, how cool would Styles look with new, darker gear?

This drastic character makeover for Styles couldn’t come at a better time in the company’s history.  With the very flat Aces & Eights storyline going nowhere fast (perhaps, in hindsight, purposefully so…) and their almost hostile takeover of the company, TNA needs a familiar face to help drag them out of the social group’s fun house of inequity.  With their show being taken on the road after the upcoming Lockdown pay per view, TNA needs a homegrown top star to build their franchise around, a top star that can make the same media rounds as John Cena while drawing interest towards the product instead of away from it.  With a concentrated effort to focus on building four pay per views out of the year, TNA needs a star that will increase buyrates at the mere mention of his name.

Personally speaking I would pay money to see a moody, grizzle-faced AJ Styles tan Jeff Hardy’s high-flying fanny six ways from Sunday for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.

Even thought I still believe my epiphany to be one unique to my own experience, I’m also sure that most fans have already speculated on Styles’ character development.  Whether you’ve considered this level of maturation for Styles or not, the reality is that change is coming for one of the company’s most prized wrestlers.  Do not be surprised to see Styles return to the scene as angry and bitter as Sting did in WCW many years ago; do not be surprised if he returns only to rage against the machine with his own agenda instead of defending TNA from the rising tide of the Aces & Eights domination.

Do be surprised if Styles turns out to be the leader of the Aces & Eights, because I for one am expecting this new wrestler to rely on his own abilities and to not trust anyone, anywhere at anytime.

But above all else, expect to be thoroughly surprised and pleased at wherever Styles and the creative heads take his character.  As long as the man isn’t inexplicably kidnapped or forced to wear a leather vest, the end will justify the means.

*Note: The moniker “James” was used in this piece because Adam didn’t want me to use his real name.


L.E.W.D. Booking 101 – Is This The “End” of Claire Lynch??? (Pt. 2)

For those of you just now joining our conversation, here’s Pt. 1 of our discussion on Claire Lynch.

I’ll admit that the title of this two-part post is a bit misleading, particularly because I’ve attempted to show how the story line doesn’t have anything to do with Claire Lynch really.

The real issue is that fans have associated the story line with Claire Lynch, thus believing that her hasty exit from IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! and TNA meant the end of the story.  From that perspective, yes Claire Lynch is good and gone from our television screens.

What remains is a bitter rivalry between AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, one that reaches way back into the early days of TNA Wrestling.  Kazarian simply adds a new face to a symbolically ancient feud between two off-screen buddies.

Why is any of this significant?  Without going into deep detail of the personal relationship between the two men, Daniels and Styles work well together in the ring because of their relationship outside of the ring.  It’s no different than the bromance between BFFs Triple H and Shawn Michaels.

Collectively speaking Styles and Daniels are one of TNA’s greatest assets when it comes their product and talent roster.  Both men are capable of having excellent matches, but they’re even more capable of having five-star matches with one another.  This isn’t saying that all of their matches have been MOTY candidates, but 9 times out of 10 you can count on them to put on one hell of a show at any given moment.

This also happens to be one of TNA’s greatest weaknesses.  The company relies heavily on these two, and when creative seemingly can’t come up with anything to do with either one of them individually, they just slap them together and let nature take its course.  This creates a major problem: what exactly do you do with Daniels and Styles when the honeymoon is over?  This problem is complicated further when you’ve slapped the tag team titles on Daniels and “The Other Guy.”

In three days Kazaniels, also known as the World Tag Team Champions of the World, will be celebrating the two month anniversary of their second reign as tag team champions.  From June 28th (when they won the titles) up until today, they’ve only defended the titles once: on the August 9th episode of IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! against the team of Garett Bischoff and Devon.

It’s ludicrous to believe that Kazaniels should be defending the titles every week, but consider the fact that TNA proudly promotes the “wrestling” side of its product more so than the “sports entertainment” aspects and fans can begin to make some important connections between points A and B of this story line.

The World Tag Team Champions of the World are/were wrapped up in the Claire Lynch portion of the AJ Styles “golden boy” story.  To place them in a significant feud with another tag team would complicate their involvement with Styles.  Therefore any title matches not involving AJ Styles would only be necessary for the sake of saying that the belts have been defended.

Here’s a real rib-tickler: who would Kazaniels defend the titles against?  There are very few, if any, established tag teams left in TNA right now.  So even if the WTTCOTW’s were not involved with Styles, who would they defend the titles against?  Hernandez y Guerrero?  Kid Kash and Gunner?  Magnus and Joe?

Idealistically Claire Lynch’s departure would free up the tag team champs, enabling them to get involved in a feud that value to the titles and prestige back to the division.  Hell, even the Aces and 8s could provide invigoration and new blood for the failing division.

That’s not going to happen though.  The tag champs are still involved in a story line with AJ Styles and adding two more individuals to the story line would unnecessarily complicate the already convoluted story line.  But the story line has ended, right?  That frees up AJ, Daniels and Kazarian for new story lines.  Wrong again; it’s anybody’s guess as to who will win the BFG Series now that the Aces and 8s story line has taken center stage.

Here are some facts we know: the top four men in the BFG Series are (from the top down) James Storm, Samoa Joe, Rob Van Dam, and AJ Styles.  The next four competitors with an immediate chance to rise above the red line of death are (from the top down) Kurt Angle, Bully Ray, Mr. Anderson, and Jeff Hardy.

The round robin portion of the BFG Series will end in two weeks on September 6th, and the four competitors above the red line of death will compete in a single elimination tournament at the No Surrender Pay Per View on September 9th.  The winner of that tournament will move on to become the number one contender to face the TNA World Heavyweight Champion at the Bound for Glory Pay Per View, which takes place on October 14th.

Austin Aries, the current TNA World Heavyweight Champion, was attacked by the Aces and 8s gang on last Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling LIVE!  Former champion Robert Roode has lost the right to challenge Austin Aries for that title after losing to him at the Hardcore Justice Pay Per View on August 12.

Here is a bit of speculation: Austin Aries may have suffered an injury that will keep him from competing, forcing him to vacate the title.  If he’s forced to vacate the title a series of matches may take place to crown a “new” champion in a main event match at No Surrender in two weeks.  Robert Roode could easily end up in the tournament and regain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, moving on to the Bound for Glory Pay Per View to face James Storm, the winner of the BFG Series and the superstar who has a major grudge to settle with Roode anyway.

Or…Robert Roode returns and demands that as the former champion and previous number one contender, he deserves the right to be crowned the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion.  Interim General Manager Sting, or General Manager Hogan, places him in matches to determine the new number one contender culminating in a championship match at No Surrender.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Austin Aries, still hell bent on regaining his title, will return more focused on seeking revenge against the Aces and 8s, taking him out of the title hunt for awhile.  Everyone else rallies once again against the scourge that is the Aces and 8s, including AJ Styles.  But AJ has been thoroughly humiliated by Kazaniels two times, when they accused him of having an affair with Dixie Carter and when they accused him of siring Claire Lynch’s unborn and fictional child.

Logically speaking Styles cannot simply walk away from this situation.  One week ago the man wrestled Daniels just to gain the right to have a paternity test to prove he wasn’t the father of the baby because he couldn’t remember whether or not he actually slept with Claire Lynch.  He avoided talking to Claire, was accused of running away from his responsibilities when he went to Australia to do a promotional tour for TNA.  The message from Claire’s attorney was cute and sweet, but it doesn’t explain AJ’s silence or confusion on the matter.  It also doesn’t solve the initial problem: Kazaniels dislike of Styles’ golden boy image.

And there’s the question: what do you do now with Styles and Kazaniels?

I got a great idea! Seeing as Kharma was released by the WWE, and her 90 no-compete clause could be coming up soon…you see where I’m going with this…

The answer is simple; you keep the story going between the three of them and conclude the drama at the Bound for Glory Pay Per View OR with another Wild Card Tournament beginning in December for the World Tag Team Championships.  Whatever the case may be, the feud between Kazaniels and Styles is not over and done with.  With no competition, Kazaniels can still work to prove that AJ Styles isn’t as clean cut as he makes himself to be.

Styles, on the other hand, needs at least one more episode of IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! or a Pay Per View match to put Kazaniels out of their misery to move on to bigger something else.  A really good way to stick it to the team would be to take the tag titles away from them again…much like he and Kurt Angle did at Slammiversary 2012; but that’s just wishful thinking.  Or is it?

My last thought is this: TNA can drag out a story line for at least one year, and the true beginning of the drama between Styles, Daniels and Kazarian had nothing to do with Claire Lynch.  With Lynch gone, the absurdity of the drama can be replaced with a more compelling and intriguing finish to the 500th iteration of Styles versus Daniels.  At this point we can only hope that things won’t get as worse as they already have.


L.E.W.D. Booking 101 – Is This The “End” of Claire Lynch??? (Pt. 1)

Thank. You. Wrestling. gods.

Thursday night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling Live! had very few redeeming qualities, but the one silver lining bordering that dark cloud was the presumed end to the disastrous story line involving the Claire Lynch character.

For those who didn’t see the show, the story line ended like this: AJ Styles gets a paternity test, Daniels and Kazarian come out and slander his name, Claire Lynch’s legal representation shows up and reads a notarized statement from Lynch that reveals that she was blackmailed by Daniels and Kazarian and forced to drug AJ and take compromising pictures with him and that she was never actually present, AJ’s name is vindicated, he attacks both Daniels and Kazarian, and the story ends.

For the few sick sadists who want a more thorough explanation, the following video is for you:

We shouldn’t pop bottles and revel in newspaper riddled ticker tape parades of mediocrity so soon, however; unfortunately for you and I, this story line is faaaaar from over.  Note the heavy emphasis on the word far back there.

“Oh I’m not done with you b****es yet … not by a long shot … .”

The problem with celebrating the “abortion” of this story line (shout out to Da Infamous DiZ for that zinger of ironic proportions) prematurely is that we can get wrapped up in the euphoria that comes with the random abrupt ending.  However, just because AJ Styles’ name has been cleared doesn’t mean we’ll hear the last of this epic and unnecessary waste of precious wrasslin’ time.

Consider these few thoughts before we jump into the topic:

  • The Claire Lynch story line officially started on July 10, 2011
  • Since the story line is at least 1 year old, does the disappearance of Claire Lynch mean that it’s over?
  • Daniels and Kazarian have literally not defended the Tag Team Titles since winning them for the second time.
  • Uhm…what the hell is up with AJ Styles’ character now?

Go back and watch the video starting at 00:37.  At that point Kazarian addresses AJ Styles from the ramp:

“Whoa whoa whoa, AJ shut up for Godsakes! [dramatic pause] After all this time … you expect us to believe that? [dramatic pause]  Even now, in the final hours, you’re still more concerned with protecting the AJ Styles brand than you are your own flesh and blood; AJ, you still care more about yourself than that damn demon seed you put in Claire’s womb.”

That line of dialogue from Kazarian wasn’t included in the segment for s**ts and giggles; Kazarian was reminding fans of the moment the feud started, which inevitably explains why the Claire Lynch blackmailing scandal happened in the first place.

The beef between “Kazaniels” (shout out to Mr. Gammon for that moniker) goes back to July 10, 2011, the date of TNA’s 2011 Destination X pay per view.  Styles defeated on-again-off-again friend/foe Christopher Daniels in a match, prompting the latter to badger the former for a rematch.

The two faced each other again on the September 1 episode of Impact Wrestling and Daniels, after picking up the victory, refused to shake hands with Styles.  For the next few weeks Daniels refused to give Styles a rematch, gloating over the victory and turning heel in the process.  The two finally faced off one more time at the October 16 Bound for Glory in an “I Quit” Match that Styles won.

Styles then went on to wrestle in a tournament for the TNA World Tag Team Championships with Frankie Kazarian, who also turned heel on Styles and abandoned the Phenomenal One during the final match of the series.  Kazarian then begrudgingly aligned himself with Daniels, who continued to taunt Styles.  Here’s the most important question: why did Daniels hate AJ so much?

Wait…I think it was because AJ was the golden boy of the company and got the spotlight when stars like Daniels and Kazarian played the background.  This is what we would refer to as foreshadowing.  Literally everything that Kazaniels did after this point was designed to besmirch and sully Styles’ reputation, ultimately proving that he wasn’t the “golden boy” he appeared to be.

More matches between the three and some others take place until it is revealed that the only reason Kazarian joined Daniels was to keep him from spilling the beans about a “secret” that would ruin Styles’ career.  That secret involved photos, video footage, and a taped phone message implying that Styles was having an affair with TNA President Dixie Carter.  Kazaniels vehemently believed that Styles’ prominence in the company was only because he was sleeping around with the president.  Carter’s husband, Serg Salinas, even makes a guest appearance on the show and levels AJ with one mighty right cross to the chin.

Raise your hand if you remember that part of the story line.

AJ – “What we gone do now, Dixie?” Dixie – “Shut up and pretend it’s a dream…”

From that point Claire Lynch is eventually brought into the story line and it is revealed that the supposed intimate moments between Dixie and AJ were actually instances where AJ and Dixie were attempting to help Claire battle through her substance abuse problems.  It’s also at this moment when a few fans noticed that Claire was pregnant; this too was a bit of foreshadowing.

Fast forward some more and Kazaniels begin insisting that AJ Styles is the father of Claire’s baby.  There’s some back and forth, blah blah blah, Dixie disappears from the picture and we finally get the resolution to it all this past Thursday night.  Or so we think…

TNA is known for its provocative, year-long storytelling; the original Immortal story line actually began way back in January 2010 when Hogan joined TNA and didn’t get revealed until one full year later.  The Claire Lynch drama evolved from the Dixie Carter drama, which evolved from…you guessed it…Kazaniels being upset at AJ’s high status and regard in the company.  The story line was never about Claire or Dixie, but rather about bringing AJ down a peg or two.

This is one reason why the story could continue without Claire, as she and her situation were only pawns in the grand scheme of things much like Dixie was.  Don’t think so?  Check out this interview with AJ Styles and pay attention to what he says about the story line, particularly how it would have “unexpected things we never would’ve thought AJ had done.”  As it turns out, AJ never did any of the things Kazaniels accused him of, so…how is it this story line interesting for fans again?

“Hmm…since you put it THAT way…”

It’s interesting because there’s more to it than we believe.  If the story line was never really about Claire then it can surely continue without her…

Click here for Pt. 2 of this series.


IMPACT Wrestling Review 8-16-12, a.k.a. “Dot dot dot, pause-blink, dot dot dot.”

Leave it to Gary the Intern to try to turn glaring negatives into positives…In other news, we’re now taking applications for interns…

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve reviewed a wrestling show and perhaps even longer since I critiqued an episode of TNA IMPACT! or Impact Wrestling LIVE!  This ought to be interesting…

Despite popular opinion, we here at L.E.W.D. Central try to be somewhat “unbiased” when flexing our analytical muscles on all things regarding sports entertainment and pro wrestling. That’s not saying we succeed at it more often than not, but at least we try; some folks don’t even do that…you know who I’m talking about…

However in the spirit of objectivity, I’ll attempt to do my best and remain fair with my critique of last night’s stellar exposition of that good ol’ fashioned wrasslin’ we love so much.  Again…heavy emphasis the word attempt here…

I can’t bring myself to talk poorly of this particular episode of IMPACT Wrestling LIVE!  On the other hand I can’t really say anything glaringly and over-enthusiastically  supportive of the episode.  IN FACT, I can’t even stay planted in the lukewarm, gray area of indifference and apathy either.  I do believe this is a first for me in my tumultuous relationship with the company; my feelings on the matter are indistinguishable.

Tonight’s episode on the whole was…unbelievable.  Yes, it was unbelievable.  That’s the perfect word to describe the previously indistinguishable feelings I have for the episode!

The episode was unbelievable in the sense that after several weeks of pleasuring fans with five-star shows and super-standard story lines, the creative and brilliant minds at TNA decided to reward it’s loyal viewers with one massive, mind-fluking (if you watched the show, you’ll catch the reference) menagerie of crap.  That’s right; the company under Bruce Pritchard’s glorious reign finally laid its first goose egg.

Unbelievable, right?!?!?  I KNOOOOOOOOWWWW!!!

The episode didn’t fall short because of the wrestling, as TNA will deliver eight times out of ten when it comes to match quality.  What stunk to holy hell was the quality of the story lines highlighted on the show.  With one slight exception in the very prominent “Aces and 8s” story line, everything else on the show, creatively speaking, fell about as flat as an open bottle of day-old soda.

Given that the show’s ratings haven’t been great since IMPACT Wrestling went live, started one hour earlier, and since Vince Russo left TNA, it will be interesting to see a) what this week’s rating turns out to be, b) how the company will salvage these stories, and c) if the focus of the product starts to slowly creep away from the World Heavyweight Title.  TNA has been riding a particularly high wave of momentum for almost three months now; it’d be a shame for us to find them with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel at this point in the game.  10 years in, this type of mess is bush league and beneath a company of its “caliber.”

Anywhoo, here are a few of the things that stood out to me:

  • Claire Lynch, Katie Vick, and YOU!
  • AJ’s Stipulation = *headdesk*
  • Taryn Terrell and Brooke Tessmacher: Didn’t See THAT ONE Coming
  • Aces and 8′s: PLEASE Thicken the Plot…PLEASE…

So wrong…so very very wrong…

Let’s cut the “holier-than-thou” stuff right here and right now; there are some story lines that have no business making it on the air, period.  The problem is that once one of those story lines squeaks past Standards and Practices, it eventually crosses the threshold of the point of no return, meaning that we’ve got to put up with the damn thing until its run its course.

I.E…Claire Lynch.

With each passing day more drama unfolds and it gets worse and worse and worse, and no matter how hard we pray or plead it just seems as if we’re being punished until this thing leaves on its own accord.  Remember that one kid that came to your house for a sleepover party but stayed like two extra days after all the other kids left?  This story line is that kid.

This whole Claire Lynch thing is inching towards Katie Vick territory, feeling and coming off as being as popular as a wet fart in church.  Most fans will easily agree that this thing should’ve been aborted long ago, perhaps right after the point where it was revealed that AJ didn’t Spinal Tap Dixie Carter.  But alas, the plucky “We want wrestling” minds in TNA decided to push forward and give us this…

Believe it or not it is possible for this story line to get worse.

These words (or a variation of them) actually crossed AJ Styles’ lips last night: “I’ll tell you what…you and me have a match tonight; if you win, I’ll admit that I’m the father of that child.  BUT, if I win, not only will I get the points, but I also get a paternity test.  How do you like THAT?!?!

You know…I don’t care about the logic of the story line or any obvious plot holes that might exist in it.  What really pushed me to the limit was the fact that this was a part of the big grand scheme.  Someone had to green light this idea and that’s what I find most insulting.  Claiming (or denying) to sire a child is one thing, as we’ve seen that type of drama between the ropes of a wrestling ring (i.e. Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, and Dominic).

What absolutely floored me was that AJ Styles uttered those words seriously because that’s the intended direction for his never-ending feud with Daniels and Kaz! Believe it or not, this whole mess has been dragging on for over 1 year!!!  Seriously; what started out as Daniels’ heel turn has now regressed to AJ Styles being the father of a drug addict’s baby…REALLY?!?!?!?!

Keep in mind that TNA Entertainment, L.L.C. is supposed to be the company where the focus is primarily on the “wrestling.”  Every time you pop on Twitter there are tons of fans praising IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! for the “wrestling” that the “wrestlers” “wrestle” between the hours of 8-10 PM, Eastern Standard Time.  With so many claiming “we want wrestling,” and for a company that proudly proclaims that “wrestling matters,” what in the sweet cream on an ice cream sandwich does the Claire Lynch baby mama drama have to do with anything?  For the life of me I can not think of TNA Entertainment, L.L.C. being a “wrestling” company when this mess reeks of “sports entertainment.”

And when was the last time those tag titles were defended?!?!?!

“Hey! Anybody seen the prestige that use to come with this thing?!?!?”

Since we’re on the subject of title defenses our attention is now focused squarely on the sorry state of the Knockouts Division.  As of late it’s difficult to remember the time when the Knockouts were known for their anti-Diva-ish performances in the company.  At one point even the most dense of fans could’ve easily made the case that TNA had the best women’s division on television in the United States; try defending this s**t now.

Madison Rayne won the belt from Ms. Tessmacher at Sunday’s Hardcore Justice Pay Per View, and even though the victory was tainted it was still a victory.  Fast forward four days to the live broadcast of TNA’s flagship show, and not only does Tessmacher defeat Rayne soundly (as she should’ve in the first place), but she also does so with Taryn Terrell serving as the guest referee.

For those of you that don’t remember (or don’t care), Taryn Terrell is WWE Superstar Drew McIntyre’s ex-wife.  She also use to be a WWE Diva.  And yes, her credentials must be stated in that particular order.

I’m never against new stars debuting for any company, as the fresh faces bring with them the hope of exciting match-ups and creative character development.  TNA had a golden opportunity to develop Ms. Terrell as an “IMPACT Wrestling Original,” someone with a clever name and gimmick that would really be remembered for her work as a TNA Professional Wrestler.  The plus was that very few people in the live audience knew who she was!

But no; she debuts to fanfare as if she were Debra Miceli returning to the ring and she does so as the prop in a clusterfluk of a match for a title that’s becoming as valuable as salt water taffy in Sub-Saharan Africa.  At least some folks are merciful enough to only make us sit through 43 seconds of this type of fluff.  It’s a sad day when the most memorable thing about the entire affair was when Brooke Hogan bust her ass on the the stage before the match even started or Taryn Terrell rose unsuccessfully from the ashes of mediocrity.

Once again…veering dangerously close to that “sports entertainment” area…

Here’s to hoping we don’t end up like this guy while waiting patiently for the exposition for this story line.

The BFG Series and the Aces and 8s are currently the two most prominent stories featured on IMPACT Wrestling LIVE!  I’ve got some thoughts about one star in the BFG Series, but that’s another blog post for another time.   As far as the Aces and 8s are concerned, I don’t have any major gripes with the progression of the story.

What I am anticipating is taking that story beyond a roving gang of miscreants attacking wrestlers at random.  I’d even argue that the men could remain masked for another month or so, but there has to be some sort of plot twist or complication that takes the effort in a different and unpredictable direction fans haven’t seen before.

Folks are already speculating about the identity of the mastermind of the group, but at this point they’re still a bunch of marauders interrupting matches; no other reason than to cause chaos for the sake of causing chaos.  While I’m very aware of the fact that there are individuals who simply want to see the world burn, I do not get that feeling about this group. They act and move with an agenda other than just causing chaos; that’s what Joey Ryan is for.

I’m looking to seeing more depth and development from this group soon.  If there is any truth to the rumors and speculation about the identity of the group’s members, then there has to exist some depth in order to compensate for the ambiguous identities of the “new” wrestlers that will debut without having the benefit of hiding behind masks.

But alas, those are just my thoughts.  What do YOU think…?!?!?!


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