Tag Archives: TNA Creative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ImpactPoltergeist

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

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

  • #ItHappens

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

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


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

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

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

 

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

“I’ll Give You What For!” – A Method to the Madness

IGYWFOn Sunday, February 23, 2014, Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards defeated Robbie E and Jessie Godderz at a TNA Live Event to become the new TNA World Tag Team Champions.  Congratulations to Richards and Edwards on their title victory, their first title run in the company after debuting five weeks ago on IMPACT Wrestling.

I only have one question, an honest question that has very little to do with The Wolves’ victory or the numerous explanations that “justify” why they were thrust in the spotlight so soon in their stint in TNA Entertainment, LLC…

What the *&#! is up with the BroMans???

From our L.E.W.D. offices it seemed as if very few fans gave a good damn about the BroMans losing their titles during a live event match.  To be a bit more accurate, it seemed as if fans were thrilled that the Wolves—a supposedly more marketable and beloved team—knocked off the BroMans at a non-televised event.  Any chase or hunt (pun intended) that could have happened, and the tons of money that could have been made from it, all gone in the blink of an eye in Morgantown, West Virginia.

We get it; the BroMans are already two dance contests deep in being just another set of jobbers used in between thrilling matches on IMPACT Wrestling.  We’ve been given very few reasons to take them seriously as tag team champions, let alone as a tag team in the first place, and at best their 126-day reign was transitional, something to keep the tag team division relevant until a far more qualified tag team that wasn’t Bad Influence showed up.

Over time the pairing of Jessie “Mr. Pectacular” Godderz and Robbie E showed signs of growth, development and maturation that spoke highly of their depth as wrestlers and performers.  It also gave fans a reason to believe that TNA was truly beginning to develop a new era of TNA Wrestlers.  No one will ever…and I mean ever… speak of the BroMans in the same sentence as The Midnight Express, The Rockers, The Road Warriors, Demolition or the Four Horsemen (except for this one instance here), but they grew to be way more competent in the ring than anyone would’ve ever guessed.

To say it differently, these two as a tag team deserve way more credit than what they’re given.

The BroMans (Jesse Godderz on the left, and Robbie E on the right) followed by DJ Zema Ion. | Copyright © 2014 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved
The BroMans (Jessie Godderz on the left, and Robbie E on the right) followed by DJ Zema Ion. | Copyright © 2014 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved

This is why I’m particularly confused and slightly concerned about our reaction to the Wolves’ title victory this past Sunday.  There was so much talk and focus on the guys who won the match more so than the guys who lost, even though the guys that lost the titles put in their fair share of work when it came to adding prestige and value to the titles and the tag team division.

Say what we will about the BroMans, but they held the titles and defended them often in a division that only had enough tag teams to fit into a Geo Metro.  If TNA’s Tag Team Division could be personified as the Land of the Blind, the BroMans were effectively the cycloptic monarchs of all they surveyed, and it says something about the promotion and the division when challengers for the tag titles have to be imported to be competition for your champions.

All that being said, TNA is once again placed in the unenviable “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” position.  The BroMans had a terribly cheesy chickens**t gimmick that they turned into chicken salad, and just when the opportunity for fans to take them seriously popped up, they’re unceremoniously defeated for their titles and fans are instantly more interested in the two new non-TNA guys than the homegrown stars.  Lord knows that if a certain other promotion did something similar half the doggone IWC would be brandishing their torches and pitchforks before the end of this sentence.

I guess that’s the crux of my problem; despite having the titles for four months, despite growing to be a solid in-ring tag team, despite making the media rounds for the promotion, the BroMans get the bum’s rush for a five week old tag team.  The same thing happened during AJ Styles’ first run as TNA World Heavyweight Champion when he was defeated easily by Rob Van Dam, who had only been in the promotion for six weeks at the time.

If a conclusion must be drawn from these two instances, it could be that the promotion stays true to what has been the case for sports entertainment ever since the very first WrestleMania: a promotion will do what’s necessary in order to make money.  When thinking of it all from that perspective, it’s mere elementary to see and know that Rob Van Dam stood to get more revenue for the promotion than did AJ Styles, just as The Wolves stand to make a bigger splash for TNA than the BroMans.  That, regardless of whether we want to admit it or not, is truly depressing; it’s depressing because even when fans think we’re getting what we want, the bottom line always revolves around money.

It’s at times like these, particularly during TNA’s self-proclaimed #RealNewEra, that fans get to witness the rise of the next big thing in “the business.”  As easy as it is to blame the promotion for the title change, we also have to wonder whether or not Robbie and Jessie truly capitalized on the precious opportunity awarded them.  Taking all of their development into consideration, it’s pretty crappy that they weren’t even given the chance to lose the titles after a lengthy and fabulously constructed feud.

Not only that, but they were also defeated for their titles with two more taped episodes of IMPACT Wrestling from the UK ready to be aired  on television, meaning that these two taped episodes will show us whether or not this title change was predetermined well before the Wolves were even introduced to fans in proper fashion.  And if that’s the case, the whole element of surprise that’s coupled with the “anything can happen at a TNA Live Event” chatter is riddled with duplicitous half-truths…but I digress.

The focus of this piece revolves around Robbie E and Jessie Godderz, a tag team given a priceless opportunity to raise the stock of TNA’s tag team division and how they capitalized off of that opportunity.  We can only assume at this point that the spotlight pointed in their direction has slowly dimmed leaving them barely visible in the grand scheme of things; if there is any truth to the speculation surrounding their loss (I heard that the Wolves were more popular in Japan, and seeing as the big Wrestle-1 crossover is looming on the horizon, it would make sense for the more popular team—as opposed to the already established one—to defend the titles against one of Japan’s finest tag teams), these assumptions are generalizations sturdy enough to build a two story house on.  With James Storm currently in the beginning stages of a heel turn while holding a Feast or Fired briefcase for a future tag team title shot (which will inevitably be accompanied by a reconciliation with former tag team partner Robert Roode), there’s no reason in the wide World According to Garp for us to believe a program between the BroMans and the Wolves will grace our screens anytime after Lockdown in two weeks.   And let’s just be honest with one another…do any of you reaaallly want to see a month long feud between the BroMans and the Wolves?  Didn’t think so.

Mr. Christopher Lamb coined a phrase that succinctly describes my perception of the greatest asset of the Attitude Era: “professional competition.”  The Attitude Era wasn’t great because of the rampant nudity, vulgar language and extremely violent matches.  On the contrary, the Attitude Era was great (in part) due to rosters loaded with athletes who were not only passionate about their craft but also determined to be the best in their promotion and in the business.  These wrestlers would approach 9 out of 10 of their matches desiring to not only make their opponent look good, but also raise the bar to show the suits that they should be highly considered among their peers to be the one and only top dog in the promotion.  Very few of the stars were complacent and most of them made great use of the time they were given in the ring, be it forty-five seconds or forty-five minutes.  If there’s anything “wrong” with the current era of the business, it’s that too many stars show that fire inside of the ring and opt to use Twitter to vent their frustrations; that’s honestly just wasted energy.

In regards  to the BroMans, and with no malice or ill-intent towards their work and work ethic, it’s questionable whether they or their tag team cohorts have that same level of professional competition to give the TNA suits a valid reason to have their title change televised instead of taking place at a live event.  It’s one thing to want to give the fans a great show; it’s another thing to want to make TNA the best sports entertainment promotion in the world.  It’s a completely different thing to want to be the best at what you bring to the table and to empower those around you to want to do the same.  The difference between Grade A work and Grade C work can’t be found in terms of what was done correctly or incorrectly; the difference is found in how well one does what one does and then exceeds that level to an unfathomable degree.  The recent and “surprising” turn of events suggests that TNA felt very comfortable with passing the torch to the Wolves as a reward for the BroMans’ average work with the titles.

All of this could change in the upcoming weeks; I’ve read the spoilers and I’m aware of the unique situation both teams are placed in heading into Lockdown.  That being said, the BroMans are trekking to Miami as the former champions, and as of right now they are not slated for a rematch until after the show…unless the titles change hands again at another live event. 

At this point the only thing any fan can do is trust that the promotion knows what it’s doing and wait to see where the ride takes us.  For what its worth, I do still feel as if the BroMans got the raw end of the deal and hope that in the upcoming weeks their foppish chicanery turns into a serious quest to prove their mettle as one of TNA’s #RealNewEra home grown tag teams.

IMPACT Wrestling Review 1-30-14, a.k.a. “Same Ol’ Struggles”

MVP makes his triumphant return to TNA! | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
MVP makes his triumphant return to TNA! | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For what it’s worth, Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling wasn’t as disastrous as it has been or could have been.  Sure we here at L.E.W.D. give TNA more hell than what seems necessary, but as it was mentioned to me by a dear friend on Twitter, a broken clock is right two times a day.  Backhanded compliments aside, there’s no real reason to be crass when all is right in Dixieland.  The show was aight, as the young people say.

To say the show was “aight,” however, is not to excuse it from critique or constructive criticism.  While one can always nitpick and find reasons to be upset, there’s still the prevalence of unanswerable questions that can plague a product easily, hovering over the landscape like vultures waiting to feast on the carrion decaying below.  And believe you me there’s plenty of dead flesh to go around.

For starters, TNA has chosen to begin its #RealNewEra with a familiar face in pro wrestling history.  As we’re all well aware Montel Vontavius Porter—also known as MVP—was revealed as the company’s new investor.  We can all expect the “TNA is hiring former WWE wrestlers” accusation to follow, but there’s no siding with TNA when they continue to … well … hire former WWE wrestlers.  And here’s where the gift and curse of WWE steps into the arena.

A good number of fans hate the fact that the WWE machine takes indy wrestlers, strips them of the identities they crafted prior to joining the company, and gives them completely different (and sometimes terrible) gimmicks that change the character the diehard fans came to know and love.  Over a period of time, these gifted athletes athletes take these gimmicks and actually make them work.  Unfortunately for fans a wrestler becomes known for his or her most popular gimmick, the gimmick they crafted and honed, becomes just as much a part of them as their very own face; for fans it’s difficult and impossible to separate the character from the real person and their most popular gimmick from the company they utilized it in.

While it’s very true that MVP actually began his nationally televised wrestling career in TNA as Antonio Banks, his rise to notoriety happened as MVP in the WWE’s massive shadow; and even though MVP owns the rights to the name he used in WWE (hence why he can be referred to as MVP in TNA), and even though he’s spent a significant amount of time wrestling and making a name for himself in Japan, most fans will only remember him for the time he spent in World Wrestling Entertainment as Montel Vontavius Porter.  That’s a stigma that can’t be removed easily from a former WWE Superstar/Diva that has spent more than a cup of coffee on one of the main rosters.

On the flip side is the fact that there was no way TNA could’ve filled the new investor’s position with a name that fans weren’t familiar with.  MVP is a great choice, especially given his notoriety in Japan and TNA’s growing relationship with Japan’s Wrestle-1 promotion.  But what we’re seeing, what we’re getting is yet another power struggle storyline that is as intricately woven into the very fabric of the company as the “pro wrestling” they showcase regularly.

So once again the promotion is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation; fans are told that there’s a #RealNewEra that arrived with the two-part Genesis free pay-per-view, but here we are with a familiar face locked in another power struggle storyline with the company’s president while the asylum’s inmates meander through overbooked dusty finishes and gimmick matches. It seems that only the players have changed and the game is still very much the same.  All things being equal, TNA is still in its #ReconstructionEra more so than anything else, still working feverishly to fine tune its identity as they lurch forward into 2014; one month down, eleven more to go.

Here’s what stuck out to me while watching the show:

  • The Glasgow Crowd and Taking the Show On the Road
  • Samoa Joe Out for Blood
  • Samuel Shaw …
  • We’ve Got the Wrong Idea About Magnus
Hooray, Glasgow! | Photo courtesy of http://www.yachtsandyachting.com/news/138844.  © Christophe Favreau / www.christophefavreau.book.fr
Hooray, Glasgow! | Photo courtesy of http://www.yachtsandyachting.com/news/138844 © Christophe Favreau / http://www.christophefavreau.book.fr

The first stop on TNA’s UK tour was Glasgow, Scotland.  The annual UK tour is typically the highlight of the promotion’s year, as the UK fans tend to be more … shall we say excited … about TNA and its product than North American fans.

We all know why TNA was forced to bring IMPACT Wrestling back to Orlando, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the product comes off far more entertaining and exciting when the promotion visits its fans instead of having make merry jaunts down to Orlando.  It also helped them to have filmed the show in an arena that was larger than somebody’s backyard …

Kudos and thanks to the fans who gathered in the SSE Hydro in Glasgow for the first pro wrestling event in the arena since its completion in September 2013.  You guys were a welcome breath of fresh air from the tourists in Orlando who’d sit on their hands even if Jesus Christ returned in the middle of a Dixie Carter in-ring segment.

SamoaJoe2
Is Joe REALLY gonna kill you? | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

With Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, and Sting reportedly “gone” from TNA and IMPACT Wrestling, a void has been created for wrestlers eager to grasp the elusive brass ring of main event.  In some ways TNA has also suffered from the same problem that plagues other wrestling promotions, taking far too few steps in cultivating main event talent as time passes on.

Enter Samoa Joe.

Joe’s utilization as of late has been mostly underwhelming, but the absence of hard-hitting heavyweight star power has created a perfect situation for Joe to rise to the occasion, bringing a different type of intensity and seriousness to TNA’s main event scene.

The Samoa Joe character creates an intrigue for me that could not be seen with Magnus’ other opponents on his road to glory.  Magnus versus Jeff Hardy seemed flat, while Magnus versus AJ Styles seemed forced; Magnus versus Sting just honestly felt unnecessary.

But Magnus versus Samoa Joe—a pissed off and relentlessly vicious Samoa Joe at that—forces me to sit on the edge of my couch to watch how violent things could get.  Given how Magnus’ character is being defined (poorly in my estimation, but we’ll get to that later), I find myself wanting to see him escape the seemingly inevitable onslaught of kicks, body blows and submissions that Joe unmercifully barrages his opponents with.  To say it differently, it was easy to believe that Magnus could overcome anything thrown at him by Hardy, Styles and Sting.  Can Magnus overcome an onslaught from Samoa Joe … I want to see him accomplish this even though I have no doubt that he will eventually come out on top of this feud.

That’s the thing that makes pro wrestling and sports entertainment exciting for fans.  While MMA fans often go in on how “fake” pro wrestling is and how much more “real” MMA is, wrestling fans are less concerned with who wins the match and tend to be more concerned with how a particular athlete wins a match.  I’d compare the art of pro wrestling to the “sweet science” of boxing.  Any yahoo can throw a punch, but it takes an artist to know when to throw a particular punch with a certain amount of power and speed that creates those classic KOs or scorecard decisions that give us reason to cheer.

This isn’t to say the same art or science isn’t present or prevalent in MMA, I just personally get the feeling that MMA fights are simply two guys or gals trying to beat each other up.  It’s hard work, it’s taxing on the body and requires years of training and discipline that the rest of us cream puffs can’t even think about doing without having an asthma attack; the same is true for pro wrestling, and one doesn’t have to lust for blood in order to understand that the hows of a pinfall or submission are just as important, if not more, than the pinfall or submission itself.

I think about all of this when I imagine Joe being the man threatening Magnus’ reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion.  The Samoa Joe character has been stale for some time and hasn’t been involved in too many noteworthy feuds or matches, but taking the character back to basics and unleashing that fury on Magnus is must-see TV for TNA and its fans.  I have to give them kudos and credit for that.

TNA's Stranger Danger, Samuel Shaw | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
TNA’s Stranger Danger, Samuel Shaw | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I have very specific feelings about the Samuel Shaw character, feelings and thoughts that aren’t shared by most fans who enjoy the character and feel as if this type of character is great and refreshing in “the business” altogether.  The Shaw character is different and unique, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying his development is akin to winning $7,000 in a scratch off.

Most fans are all excited that Samuel Shaw is a take off from Patrick Bateman, the character made famous by Christian Bale’s stunning performance in the motion picture American Psycho, and not by Bret Easton Ellis’ classic and controversial 1991 novel.  After seeing the very first video introducing the repackaged Shaw character, I felt that the comparisons to American Psycho,  particularly the Christian Bale depiction of Patrick Bateman in the movie, were superficial at best.

To begin, we can’t ignore the fact that with his hair slicked back and to the side, Samuel Shaw kinda resembles Bale’s Patrick Bateman:

christian_bale_american_psycho_004 Next up, we see that Samuel Shaw’s apartment had a slightly modern, minimalist design similar to Patrick Bateman’s digs.

Other than that … the buck pretty much stops there.

Patrick Bateman, as depicted by Christian Bale in the film adaptation of American Psycho, was a wealthy yuppie investment banker living in 1980′s New York who, after engaging fellow yuppies in conversation about high fashion, business, and elitism, would exact his psychopathic fantasies on unsuspecting colleagues and hookers.  He was obsessed with his looks and his physique, he had a eerily vast knowledge of ’80s pop music and icons, and either wore expensive three piece business suits or trounced around naked as he killed his victims.  Not to mention that often times when he killed people he was loud and made quite a mess.

Excuse the following language, but how the f**k did Samuel Shaw exhibit any of that during his repackaged video???

If anything, and the word anything is highly stressed at this point, the Samuel Shaw character is a hybrid of Christian Bale’s depiction of Patrick Bateman and the Dexter Morgan character made extremely popular by Michael C. Hall’s performances in the Showtime TV series Dexter, which is also based off a series of novels by author Jeff Lindsay.

This is Dexter Morgan, and this is what he wears when he kills people (he's missing his gloves in this picture). SEEE the shocking resemblance here?
This is Dexter Morgan, and this is what he wears when he kills people (he’s missing his gloves in this picture). SEEE the shocking resemblance here? | Photo courtesy of Google.com

If you’ve seen the Dexter series, you’d immediately recognize some of Samuel Shaw’s traits and characteristics.  Blood splatter analyst by day and serial killer by night, Dexter Morgan has a dark history that gave birth to his insatiable desire to kill.

Taught at an early age to channel that thirst in a way beneficial to both him and society at large, Dexter uses investigative techniques and stealth to locate his targets (usually criminals who evaded the long arm of the law), kidnap them, and execute them all while making sure to cover all tracks that could lead to his own eventual arrest and execution.

The way Dexter incapacitates his targets is pretty awesome; after confirming that his intended target is truly guilty of committing an unsolved crime or was not truly brought to justice for committing a particularly gruesome crime, Dexter will make physical contact with the person under an alias in order to learn their habits and scope out a way to kidnap and murder them undetected.

Once he’s completed his reconnaissance, he infiltrates their location and puts them to sleep by using a specific drug delivered to their body using a hypodermic needle …

Yes … Dexter puts his victims to sleep before kidnapping them.  Oh, and he does so by wearing the nifty little outfit you see in the picture to the right of this paragraph … the outfit that looks oddly similar to the get up Samuel Shaw wears during his matches:


It is also worth noting that Dexter is typically calm, cool, and collected when making his kills.  Although prone to sudden outbursts of anger, Dexter typically keeps himself under control when out on a kill or even living his life as a father, widower, brother, and Miami Police Department consultant.

All this is to say that the Shaw character was probably inspired by several different sources, most of which have little to do with American Psycho.  It still remains to be seen if the Shaw character will make highly anticipated waves in TNA expected by some, but at least the promotion is stretching and flexing its creative juices by capitalizing on the creepy and unnerving characters that are more cerebral and calculated in their actions and demeanor.  I’d love to see more of the character, especially in the mid-card division which seems to be lacking direction and attention (hi, X-Division and TV Championship!), but right now the focus is squarely on the main event scene and ending the Hogan/Bischoff/Prichard Era storylines.

TNA World Heavyweight Champion Magnus | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
TNA World Heavyweight Champion Magnus | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I really despise the fact that Magnus is constantly referred to as the “paper champion.”  Logically, I also realize it is a way (as far as the “storyline” is concerned) for characters to taunt and get under the champion’s skin, a method in which they can psych out the champion and force him to make rash and foolish decisions as he attempts to legitimize his championship reign.

If we briefly recall the aforementioned thoughts on how a scripted match is won as opposed to whether or not a win is scripted, it’s the little things in a pro wrestling bout that can make or break an intended storyline or character’s development.  In regards to a “paper” champion, there’s a stark difference between Magnus being given his championship reign and Magnus being protected during his championship reign.  Magnus, for all intents and purposes, is being protected during his championship reign which calls for an entirely different type of heat than what he’s receiving as we’re conditioned to believe he never deserved the top spot at all.

It cannot be denied that Magnus’ climb up the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament ladder was riddled with suspicious fluke victories.  It cannot be denied that interference from Rockstar Spud lead to Magnus’ victory over Jeff Hardy to win the TNA World Heavyweight Title.  It can’t be denied that tons of wrestlers helped him defeat both AJ Styles and Sting, enabling him to retain his title and usher both men out of the company for the time being.

The interesting thing about pro wrestling is how we perceive a match or storyline, taking what we hear and see as the end all be all without attempting to understand what we know about what we have heard and seen.   For example: Ladder Matches and Steel Cage Matches are also No Disqualification Matches because authorities acknowledge the fact that wrestlers can use the same tool they need to win the match (the ladder and the cage) as a weapon.  If the combatants in a No DQ match cannot be disqualified, they are extremely susceptible  to outside interference, which is exactly what happened in Magnus’ match against Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship.  Hell, Magnus was also attacked in that same match!

When Rockstar Spud pushed Jeff Hardy off of the ladder on the ramp, his actions had more to do with not wanting Jeff Hardy to win more than their desire to see Magnus as the champ.  In the end, Magnus was able to climb the ladder and grasp the title when Jeff Hardy was not; as much as we can say that Magnus would’ve never won the title without their help, we have to remember that “anything goes” in a No DQ Match.  Utilizing help in a No DQ Match is just as “unethical” as smashing a man’s face against a steal cage or smacking him with a ladder.

When Magnus faced AJ Styles it was unbearable to see the Styles character portrayed as the face while Magnus was placed to be the heel defending his rightly earned title.  The AJ Styles character is the one that abdicated his position as champion by leaving the company; the AJ Styles character was the former champion stripped of his title, thus vacating the championship and legitimizing the tournament for that championship.  Yet here Styles is, goading the champion into a match that he (Styles) honestly didn’t deserve and shouldn’t have received by preying on Magnus’ inferiority complex as a competitor and a champion.  Once again, Styles accepts fighting the real champion in a No DQ Match, and fans are “furious” when outside interference occurs.  Exact same situation when Magnus faced and defeated Sting.

Let it be known that I may be one of the few people that like Magnus as champ, as he’s been hailed as the future of TNA since his debut some odd six years ago.  What I find peculiar about his reign is the underlying notion that he hasn’t truly earned his spot or the championship, that he was handed all of his opportunities while the other “hard-working, more deserving” wrestlers fell victim to Dixie Carter’s reign of terror that only manifested as such since she received more on-screen time.  He’s being depicted as a weak champion for sure, leading some of us fans to question whether or not this is good for the character and Nick Aldis’ TNA career.  One can only hope that this direction won’t damage Magnus’ credibility as a main event start.

Take WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan as an example.  A large contingent of fans would and could successfully argue that the way Bryan is being booked now is atrocious, particularly in light of Batista’s Royal Rumble win one week ago.  Many pundits have argued that Bryan is booked as being weak and his character is being buried or misused by WWE top brass and creative.  These accusations have led many to comment that if Bryan doesn’t headline WrestleMania 30 or fails to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion before WrestleMania 30, then all is lost for any hope in the character, the person Bryan Danielson, and the WWE for being something different than what his has historically been for over five decades.

Magnus is in a similar situation.  After cutting his teeth and paying his dues in TNA for some years, the way the character is now portrayed as champion is simply ridiculous.  The Dixieland/New Investor storyline has more weight and prominence than Magnus’ reign as champion, both AJ Styles and Sting were booked as super huge babyfaces on their way out of the company while Magnus was booked as a weak champion, and the magnitude of Magnus’ reign as champion has been dwarfed by the news of people leaving the company, the speculation of where they’ll end up next, and the importance and weight of a name well-known outside of TNA coming into TNA to “set things straight with such a crooked company.”  How does any of this make Magnus look like he deserves to be in the spot that he’s in, and what does it all say about this #RealNewEra where the younger stars are being primed to lead the company into the future?

Again, we can only wait and see how things unfold for Magnus and Nick Aldis.  I just feel like we’re getting a substandard push for Magnus, a push that could’ve started as something far more exciting and jaw-dropping than what it has been so far.  Seriously: Magnus was the first ever British World Heavyweight Champion in 100 years, and people were more flabbergasted about the two falls Jeff Hardy took in their Dixieland Match than they were about him winning the championship.

But alas, those are just my thoughts.  What are yours?

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…

jenna morasca
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

TNA_Turning_Point_2013
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:

wwe-raw-homecoming-dvd-wwf-region-free-a319
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

Unimpressed_01
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 – “Hulk Hogan, General Manager”

The word “compelling” is used often on this site, mostly to describe a must-see character that has ability or potential to easily pique the interests of fans.  Some characters are able to evoke fans’ interest without much effort, their motives and actions made to be irresistibly clear and  tantalizing to the viewing audience.  Other characters grab our attention for their depth, their many layers peeled before our eyes revealing a far more complex individual who relates to us more than we first imagined.

While some characters are far more interesting and intriguing than others, every now and then there’s always one character that stumbles into a situation that ultimately makes them compelling by default; that character, static and flaccid by design, immediately becomes dynamic and fascinating because the circumstances force them to become so.

Such a case can be made for IMPACT Wrestling‘s current general manager, Hulk Hogan.  Wrapped in the throes of the Aces & 8′s presence in TNA, Hulk Hogan is once again the linchpin of the company’s major storyline.

Hogan_01The Immortal One’s official stint as the man in charge (as opposed to the Immortal coup d’etat from 2010-2011) has been atrociously laughable from the start, even by general manager standards.  Not much has changed from this previously nuanced opinion here on L.E.W.D., but it must be reiterated that the longer Hogan stays in his position of authority, the more likely it is that there is something larger looming on the horizon.

As TNA supporters consistently praise the reality based format of IMPACT Wrestling, logic and reason dictate that Hogan’s ineptitude and questionable decision making skills will ultimately lead to his downfall.  Unless an intervention occurs that involves TNA President Dixie Carter (or an unlikely savior in the form of A.J. Styles), the company will be destroyed from the inside out, with Hulk Hogan fearlessly manning the sinking ship straight to hell; this, of course, is speaking strictly in terms of the Aces and 8′s storyline.

The subtle maturation of Hogan’s general manager character is provocative for one of two reasons: everything that makes the character tick and react is either intentional or unintentional.  While this is a very juvenile, black-and-white way to describe the character, the truth is that either the writers intended for Hogan to gradually reveal his incompetence or that same incompetence is an unexpected by-product of the Aces and 8′s storyline.  Either way there are distinct possibilities that can open up for IMPACT Wrestling moving forward.

Before looking a few of those distinct possibilities, recall Hogan’s actions from the past few episodes of IMPACT Wrestling.  Ever since Bully Ray won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and declared his allegiance to the Aces and 8s at the Lockdown pay per view, Hogan has blamed Sting for coercing him to place unquestioned trust into Bully Ray.  Hogan ignored his gut feelings about Bully Ray at the insistence of Sting and his daughter Brooke Hogan, both of whom pleaded with Hogan on several occasions to give the self-professed “Not-a-Nice-Guy” to prove his worth as a decent human being.

When things fell apart Hogan immediately focused his frustrations and anger towards Sting, refusing to even hold a decent conversation with him until their confrontation during Thursday night’s “Open Fight Night.”

During the confrontation Sting called Hogan out for avoiding him and failing to take responsibility for the poor decisions he made as the general manager regarding Bully Ray.  Sting pointed out that regardless of who told Hogan what, the final decision on everything was up to him.  This fact has been repeatedly pointed out on TNA television, from the many references to Hulk’s unrivaled ability to “always do what’s right for business” and his decision making process during Championship Thursdays, to the process in which he chose Bully Ray as the #1 Contender for Jeff Hardy’s TNA World Heavyweight Championship despite Ray’s complete absence in the matches to determine that same #1 Contender.

Undaunted by Sting’s comments, Hogan proceeded to assert his authority by kicking Sting out of his ring.  Tensions were high, causing Sting to challenge Hogan’s authority by staying in the ring and getting in the Immortal One’s face.  This prompted security to not only escort Sting from the ring, but also from the arena as well.  As a visibly (and justifiably) frustrated Sting left the building, TNA wrestler Matt Morgan taunted him by applauding and simply saying, “Yet again, another Hogan mistake.”

Morgan_01Morgan’s words spoke more truth than meets the eye.

The existence of the Aces and 8s club came about, according to Bully Ray, because of Hulk Hogan’s practices and policies as general manager.  With the exception of Taz, D’Lo Brown, Mike “Knux” Knox and DOC, the Aces and 8s members were all jilted and directly affected in some form or fashion by Hogan’s decision making process.

Once the Aces and 8s were able to gain unfettered access to the Impact Zone after winning their match at Bound for Glory 2012, a match that Hulk Hogan scheduled on a huge gamble.  Prior to that match Hogan did little and next to nothing to ensure that the group was denied access to the company’s events or televised shows.

Even when members of the production team attacked wrestlers, even when handfuls of faceless “prospects” ran around the tapings and the Impact Zone, there were no security checks in place and the contracted wrestlers and TNA employees were not questioned or scrutinized about their knowledge or possible connections with the club.  Simply put, the general manager was not doing his job to the best of his ability.

Wrestlers outside of the Aces and 8s, such as Matt Morgan and Austin Aries, openly complained about Hogan’s inability to run the company effectively by citing their own observations of his managerial skills.

It would also appear that these traits are not limited to Hulk Hogan, as his daughter Brooke has also slowly slipped away from her duties as the TNA Knockouts Executive and only returning to those duties recently.

These things do not include the rationale behind Hogan’s appointment as IMPACT Wrestling‘s General Manager, especially considering the hostile takeover Hogan masterminded with Eric Bischoff two to three years ago:


The point of it all is this: if Hogan is truly out of his league when it comes to being IMPACT Wrestling’s General Manager, why has he yet to come under any performance review or scrutiny from the president of the company or its board of directors?  At the moment these questions have no answers, but in an ironic twist of fate they create the circumstances under which Hogan’s character becomes an important figure to watch and invest in as the Aces and 8′s storyline continues to develop and evolve.

Hogan’s character is compelling because there is no logical or rational reason that explains why he’s still employed by TNA; at some point he has to answer to the accusations levied against him by the wrestlers and the Aces and 8s.

This brings us back to the two points made earlier: either Hogan’s character is intentionally inept for a much more intricate storyline or the character is simply what’s leftover from the Aces and 8′s rise to dominance in TNA.

Let’s assume that Hogan’s character is intentionally lacking, which would lead to some sort of competency hearing by a panel of directors or a closed door meeting with the president of the company.  Hogan’s methods could be found insufficient, reckless and damaging to the company, which would lead to his “release.”  This release would be the Aces and 8′s checkmate in their year long game of chess with TNA, forcing Dixie Carter to create a new strategy to rid the company of the club.  That strategy could involve utilizing A.J. Styles, which would place the focus on the company’s most recognizable star and shift attention away from Hogan for an unspecified amount of time.

With Hogan ousted , Carter could appoint a new character (or returning one, such as Jeff Jarrett) as General Manager, and thus begins a new year long storyline.

On the other hand let’s assume that Hogan’s character wasn’t purposefully designed to be inept.  Questions surrounding his worth as a general manager will go unanswered and Styles could still be courted as IMPACT Wrestling’s savior.  No one will bat an eyelash or think twice about Hogan’s effectiveness as the man in charge, and everything will continue down the path already plotted by the creative team.  The only fans that will suffer are the ones who will relentlessly point out Hogan’s horrendous job as general manager.

The difference between these two scenarios is the focus of the product; is it better to have Hogan depart from an on-screen role as to focus more attention on the younger stars of the company or to continue having him play a central and integral role in all of the major storylines?  Is Hogan better positioned to bring attention to the company in an on-screen role or as an off-screen consultant and ambassador?  Has TNA grown as a company to the point where they no longer need Hogan’s name or face on the marquee in order to draw fans and revenue?

Idealistically he’d be better suited at this point in time to allowing the company’s stars to shine on their own.  His presence doesn’t detract from the shows at all, but how much more time could have been given to the X-Division, Tag Team Division, Knockouts or Knockouts Tag Team Division if Hogan did not dominate screen time or major storylines?  Would Hogan’s diminished role allow for financial resources to be diverted from his contract and spent on hiring and debuting new stars to the company?

The answers to these questions remain to be seen, but all point back to the compelling character that is Hulk Hogan, General Manager.  Whether you think his character is screwing up each and every way he turns, or you don’t really care about him at all, he’s still the linchpin to the Aces and 8′s storyline and he’s still the central figure in pro wrestling and sports entertainment today.

If that’s not compelling, then everything else is just misspent time and energy.

“Now What Did We Learn…?” – Thoughts on TNA Lockdown 2013

Holy crap, say it ain't so!!!
Holy crap, say it ain’t so!!!

March 11, 2013…a day that shall live in infamy…at least until March 12, 2013.  Brace yourself, for the next bit of information will most assuredly knock your proverbial and literal socks off…

Someone from the L.E.W.D. has something mildly positive to say about TNA and IMPACT Wrestling

Believe it or not it TNA has gained a substantial amount of momentum from their latest pay per view escapade.  Even one of the plucky young analysts on this site has to admit that “The Little Company That Could” swung for the fences last night and knocked the 2013 edition of Lockdown clean out of the park.  In front of thousands of engaged and screaming fans San Antonio’s Alamodome, TNA delivered what can be viewed as the pay per view event that ushered in a new era for the company, an era that will ultimately (or at least hopefully) turn TNA into a household name as equally recognizable as Tussy or Anacin.

That isn’t just an opinion; that is a fact and a reality that even we here at L.E.W.D. have to face (begrudgingly so).

Candidly speaking, the wave of adulation and fan approval makes this Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling that much more important to watch.  It also places the company in the ever-so-stressful “do or die” situation, the point of no return where the entire company will have to fire on all cylinders at all times.  Having ended their leasing agreement with Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, TNA will no longer be able to rely on the comfort and safety of the Impact Zone to showcase their product.  It has been said that pressure brings the best out of us, and Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling will be must-see TV for that simple fact; it’s game time once again and there’s no hope for anyone in the company still stuck in the past.  However if last night’s pay per view is any indication then pro wrestling fans are in store for some interesting things between now and June.

Having now thoroughly patted the company on the back, there still remains one important question: do I want to buy this pay per view on DVD?

For the 2013 iteration of TNA’s Lockdown, the answer from this particular analyst is an emphaticpassionate, and heavily emphasized NO.

Everything that happened last night at Lockdown was no different from any other pay per view offering from the company; if you think that’s a lie or without merit, take a moment to read any review of the show and compare it to any other show TNA has done prior.  The matches were “solid,” the matches were “good;” it was “awesome” to see [insert wrestler's name here] do a spot off the top of the cage.  Kurt Angle had a great match.  That’s honestly TNA’s track record: “consistently” providing “solid” matches with “great” action and in-ring psychology.  What did they do different than anything they’ve done before in front of a “hot,” live crowd?

Oh that’s right…Bully Ray “turned” heel.  If that’s the only reason for justifiably purchasing the DVD, then by all means knock yourself out.  While you’re at it I’ve got a spectacular deal on some ocean front property in Oklahoma you may be interested in looking at.

There was absolutely nothing about the pay per view that was revolutionary, ground-breaking or worth spending between $16.18 and $44.95 on.  The matches, while “great,” were largely forgettable and the only…I reiterate, ONLY…thing that made the pay per view worth a damn was Bully Ray being revealed as the President of the Aces and 8′s and winning the World Heavyweight Title, in that order.

If that is a valid reason to celebrate the success of the pay per view then I will gladly do so on one condition: we all admit that pro wrestling fans are incompetent.

Cheering Fans = Success; Analysts Don’t.

"Yaaay!"
“Yaaay!”

Despite everything that happened last night TNA owes an incredible amount of gratitude for its diehard fans.  Regardless of our diatribes here and the salient and hate-filled rants of others, TNA fans will support their product no matter what.  That is an admirable trait and I would say that 100% of TNA’s success in the pro wrestling industry is due to its fans.    All that is to say no matter what disparaging remark is made about the company, their fans will maintain a concupiscent relationship with them.  Through good or bad, thick or thin, TNA fans will not be easily separated from their wedded bliss with the company.

Unfortunately this leads to the next lesson we learned last night…

(Some) Fans Don’t Pay Attention to Anything

oblivious The obvious star of Lockdown was Bully Ray, who provided fans with some much needed Aces and 8′s storyline progression.  Arguably TNA’s biggest star (at the moment and perhaps period), Bully has given the pro wrestling fan universe a reason to care about the promotion and to even create the buzz necessary to carry fans to Thursday night’s live IMPACT Wrestling show hailing from Chicago, Illinois; this was the momentum discussed earlier in the piece.

Three notable things to pay attention to as we sing the praises of Bully Ray and TNA’s Creative Team:

The actual match between Bully Ray and Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship was average, forgettable, and had a dusty finish highlighting a very predictable storyline development.

Bully Ray didn’t “turn” heel last night because he was never a babyface to begin with.

Throwing trash in a ring for a predictable storyline development seemed staged and asinine, and should not be used to determine whether or not a star has “legit heat.”

It is rather amusing to here see some comment at length on how awesome the pay per view was, based on Bully Ray’s perceived heel turn, when Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Hans Moleman all saw this train wreck coming a mile away.  I was very grateful for the fans that acknowledged this fact on Twitter last night; at least they admitted that the whole thing was predictable.

Once again, however, we’re venturing into that hypocritical gray area; that awkward place where all things great for the goose is discouraged for the gander.  Fans whine and complain weekly that certain angles and storylines are too predictable; yet here we all were presented with the second most conspicuous outcome of a match since anything featuring John Cena and the WWE Championship, and everything is perfectly fine.  In fact Bully Ray’s alignment with the Aces and 8′s is far more memorable and important in the grand scheme of things than the actual match he won in order to become the company’s new standard bearer.

While we’re at it take that into consideration for a moment…the World Heavyweight Champion of one’s favorite company is a man named Bully Ray, and fans are celebrating that.

Even more despicable than that is the notion that Bully was a babyface at one point.  This was a fact brought up by the Rt. Rev. Showtime last night, that Bully Ray has always been a heel.  The man even admitted to it last night by saying that he used the hapless (and senile) General Manager Hulk Hogan and his equally hapless (and far more clueless) daughter Brooke Hogan-Ray.  In my opinion, that’s where Ray’s heel heat emanates from…a real, seething hatred for a man that worked the system just to get the championship.  It appeared as if the fans in San Antonio picked up on that, but the fans illegally watching at home while tittering away on the internet gave Bully Ray the ol’ thumbs up.

Another point to remember is that Hogan was  right the entire time, which then leads us to question just how Brooke Hogan will deal with being married to the man that is the president of a gang that is attempting to ruin TNA (*cough cough nWo*).  I still honestly feel this reeks of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, but am willing to allow TNA to pull the trigger on that storyline before commenting on it here and now.

After a lackluster and mediocre match it seemed (to me) a little too convenient for fans to casually toss their trash in the ring.  Fact is we live in an era where risque fan made signs are confiscated at the gate, where the fans at the Impact Zone were labeled “cast members,” and where it’s honestly more profitable to present a PG pro wrestling product (seriously…look at TNA’s stuff and say with a straight face that’s it’s not PG).  The likelihood of fans being allowed to toss their refuse into the ring without repercussions seems improbably; not impossible, but likely not to happen.

As such it seems even more ridiculous to believe that trash-thrown-by-fans-is-equals-genuine-hate.  Following the pay per view a fan asked a rhetorical question, commenting on the last time fans threw trash in a ring.  I answered that rhetorical question by citing Jeff Hardy’s TNA heel turn in 2010* which, ironically enough, also led to his first TNA World Heavyweight Championship reign.  This isn’t implying or saying that Hardy didn’t have real heel heat at that time; what it is saying is that trash thrown in the ring cannot be used as a barometer genuine heel heat if the idea is that such an occurrence is rare.  At this point in the game the major barometer for true heel heat should be the deafening boos coming from the fans; that was an occurrence last night that didn’t get nearly as much press among fans as the trash thrown into the ring.

The point of the matter is this: fans ignored all of those things in order to celebrate the perceived magnitude of the Bully Ray’s actions.  That’s all well and good but it does very little to support the company’s claim of providing a solid pro wrestling based alternative to sports entertainment.  If anything that logic simply endorses a different type of sports entertainment that “kinda, sorta” feels and looks different than that offered by other promotions.  This would explain why the famous “I Want Wrestling,” “We Are Wrestling,” and “Wrestling Matters” taglines aren’t used anymore; the day a storyline brings TNA more notoriety than an actual match is the day TNA steps into its own when it comes to sports entertainment.  That day has already come and gone in TNA, but it was damn sure signed, sealed and delivered to us last night.

Then again…cheering fans equals success…

Bully Ray is the Best Thing Smokin’ In TNA (for the moment), and Mike Knox is now “Knux”

Photo © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Photo © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Bully Ray is easily the biggest thing in TNA’s pocket right now.  I would even venture to say that his run as TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion is about as important to the company as their signing of Kurt Angle seven years ago.  In all due respect Mark LoMonaco has worked his ass off in the business and has truly earned the right to carry the title.  It says a lot about how far the man has come as a wrestler when anyone can readily say that his name alone has brought credibility and new life to a storyline that has been dead since last year.  My hats off to Mr. LoMonaco and his victory last night.

The other thing that makes Bully Ray’s win so important is the possibility of a fight between him and AJ Styles at the June Slammiversary XI pay per view.  I won’t drag out the particulars here, but check out my last piece to see my thoughts on Styles’ character development.  With three months between now and the pay per view we can only pray that TNA builds a solid story and feud between Bully and Styles, eventually propping up the “Crow” Sting character the company will need to really stay in the game on the road.  That goes to say that Bully Ray could possibly be the champion that leads to Styles receiving the push and attention he could’ve received years and years ago.  

Then again, that would make Bully Ray a “transitional champion,” which would totally negate everything I just said about his run with the title…

TNA_DOC
“Wait…it’s ‘Knucks’? I’ve been calling him ‘Crandall’!”

And for those of you that didn’t catch it last night, Mike Knox’s new name in TNA is “Knux.”  During the Lethal Lockdown match (which was missing a ceiling…unless they changed that, too…) the commentators went way out of the way in making sure we knew that the man’s name was “Knux” and not “Knox.”

As a matter of fact I could very well be spelling it incorrectly.  If this is the case then my sincerest apologies go to “Knucks” and the other members of the Aces and 8′s Motorcycle Club.  I surely do not want to incur the wrath of “Knucks” and anyone associated with “Knucks.”

“Knucks, Knucks, Knucks, Knucks, Knucks.”  Sounds like Fozzie Bear just told another terrible joke.

So ends my thoughts on yesterday’s Lockdown pay per view.  What did YOU learn from the show?

*Note: I incorrectly stated to the fan last night that Jeff Hardy’s heel turn and the ensuing trash volley happened at the 2011 Victory Road pay per view.  Both events actually occurred at the 2010 Bound for Glory pay per view.  My apologies to that fan and to other fans for that mistake.