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.
The 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.”
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.
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 emphatic, passionate, 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.
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
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”
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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’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.
When most people choose to eat popcorn, they eat it as a snack. I’m not sure many people sit down at the dinner table and prepare a steaming plate of popcorn as their choice meal for the evening. Also, many people don’t sit down at a restaurant and ask, “I didn’t see the price for the Popcorn Meal on the menu. I was hoping you could locate that for me!” If you meet a person that does either of these things, back away slowly, and run in the opposite direction as swiftly as possible.
This is the same mentality I take with TNA Addicts because they devour Popcorn Wrestling every week on TNA iMPACT. Total Non-Stop Anticipation is responsible for more ADHD outburst than a fireworks and laser/lights show in a room with tear away walls…wait…that IS the iMPACT Zone…
The Popcorn Wrestling that I’m referring to is the idea that a company can have a product that has a number of pop-up moments that are exhaled by the ADHD (IWC) wrestling fan base. Ultimately these Popcorn moments do not lead to anything.
After last night’s (1-17-13) episode of TNA iMPACT, I realized something very important. I am not conditioned to watch TNA due to my heightened level of analysis! TNA Addicts watch iMPACT in an episodic manner. They can celebrate every episode because that’s all they are looking for, a weekly fix.
I, along with many other members of the L.E.W.D. Crew, analyse the product for the value that it brings and the value that it provides for both the past and future product. Unfortunately, TNA does not present a product that is promising for either the past, present, or future.
SO…Last night, the wedding of Bully/Buh-Buh/Mark (he was referred to as all three last night) Ray and Brooke Hogan was to take place. The wedding went as a wedding is supposed to until it was time for the presiding official to declare them husband and wife. Tazz then proceeded to interrupt them with two points: 1. Nonsensical babbling about whether or not Bully Ray wanted to do this. 2. “Is it just me, or is it hot in here?” Then he removes his tux jacket to reveal that he was wearing an Aces & Eights vest…
This is where the separation between me and the TNA Addicts comes in. Beyond the fact that it provided a “Moment” that will be talked about in the collective basements of the 40 Addicts convulsing from their overdose of Anticipation, what good came from last night? (I’ll wait……………………………………………………….)
Let’s look at this in the three categories of time.
The biggest issue I have with this is that TNA and their Addicts have boasted about how their product is “Cutting Edge,” “Not the WWE” and “Pro Wrestling”…Now maybe I am just…NO!! For almost a month now, the show has been closed out with the “Worst GM in Wrestling” “The Infamous” Hulk Hogan, his ravaged daughter/”Knockout’s GM” Brooke, a suspended talent/”Best heel in the business” Bully/Buh-Buh/Mark Ray (Whom is now a face…), and a band of biker men that don’t have contracts or personalities but can cause chaos for the sake of chaos given that we still don’t know their motives. Pro Wrestling right?
The most recent episodes have featured the TNA Champion Jeff Hardy (carrying 2 belts) in the opening segments and maybe having a match preceding the dramatic close not involving said championship, thus making the main event the aforementioned debauchery!
Maybe I’m wrong…NO!!! That is Sports Entertainment be definition!
A moment…That’s all it was. (Thanks Da Infamous DiZ)
Tazz took off a jacket, became a public member of Aces & Eights, and this provided a brief moment of WTF. But as my good friend Mr. Quinn Gammon stated, there are 2 types of WTF’s. One is the expression of Shock and Awe, and the other is the expression of confusion and distaste. The problem with this “Moment” is that the percentages for the WTF had to be 40%/60%. This would mean that more than half of your live studio audience was confused as to what was going on, and why is the announcer guy joining the other team.
Mr. Ashley Morris brought up a great point as well in a conversation that Tazz is the “Human Suplex Machine” only to those who knew of him in his ECW days. He had a very short (unmemorable) stint as a wrestler in the WWE, so to the vast majority/casual fan, Tazz is no more than the announcer guy, and given that you can’t hear the announcers during a live recording, most of the Addicts in the arena, whom are regulars, will not be familiar to Tazz’s contribution to the product, therefore causing confusion as to why it is important for him to go to the “other side”.
Not much of one with this story…
What happens now? What value does the A’s & 8′s get with the addition of Tazz? They already have sponsored segments on the show anyways. They already have infinite access to the arena. If they can just learn how to wrestle in matches, they may actually make an impa…NO!!! They simply do not matter! We still do not know why they exist. Every other Hostile Takeover that has happened has had an immediately stated motive as to why they do what they do…except this one! That is not innovative or groundbreaking, that’s just STUPID!!!
Popcorn Wrestling is just something that I can not get into simply because I look at wrestling to be thorough entertainment. There is a big difference between whimsical and nonsensical. I will watch (and sometimes enjoy) the whimsical over the nonsensical any day. Don’t get me wrong, I love some good old-fashioned wrasslin’, but I like to deal with organization that don’t have an ongoing identity crisis!
What do you think?
Rt. Rev. Showtime
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The TNA X-Division is the new topic of discussion. What’s right, and what’s wrong with it all?
OK….We take a turn
for the worst to TNA. The Bound For Glory Series is the topic, and Mr. Quinn Gammon is ready to crunch some numbers.
I originally wrote this letter to TNA on August, 20th, 2009, and after a STELLAR (sarcasm) Sacrifice (aptly performed on Mother’s Day), I realized that things haven’t really changed that much… The stables have dissolved, but the problems still are lurking.
Here it is in it’s entirety. The letter was titled: A Proud TNA Fan!
Dear Dixie Carter and the TNA Staff,
My name is Zachary Banks, and I have been a fan of professional wrestling for over 20 years. I am only 25, so 20 years is what I can remember. I want to ask that you give me the chance to express myself about my thoughts on the product.
First, I want to apologize for lying about my pleasure in the product. I did that in hopes that you would actually read my letter. Please hear me out.
I remember the days of the big three companies that were running the pro-wrestling circuit. WWE, WCW, & ECW molded the industry to a point that TNA could even have the chance to be an organization. TNA has shown a lot of respect to that idea…maybe even too much respect. Having former WWE talent (whether they were mid-card or main event in the WWE) can aid the promotion of TNA, but to group them together and make them stronger than the original TNA talent is very nearsighted. You have a WWE shadow over the company that has swallowed all attention away from the talent that you once were known for harvesting. Even recently, regardless of if he wanted to move or not, taking Don West off of iMPACT to move him to merchandising only to be replaced by Taz further proves the fact that TNA is becoming a WWE retirement home.
Today the three are WWE, TNA, and ROH. DragonGate U.S.A. is growing in popularity, but it is hard to view them as one of the main stream organizations (not to mention, that ROH is still trying to get off of YouTube, so that gives you a scale of what is going).
Another of the problems is that TNA championships are not worth much these days and MEM is to thank for that as well. With MEM holding all the titles at once, it sets the precedent that the only way to be championship caliber in TNA is to have been a remote success in WWE, still setting WWE at the top of your show. One of the things that killed WCW was using the WWE name to ‘boost’ their ratings, and in turn, their usage boosted WWE ratings (ex. Oklahoma gimmick and premature announcement of Mick Foley winning the WWE Title before it happened just to name a couple).
TNA is slowly becoming an unofficial development brand for WWE. Look at Christian for example. He was in TNA and held the title in what I would like to consider the ladder days of TNA meaningful champions. He rose to the top very quickly and proved that he was a competitor that deserved the respect of the fans. But then TNA started making one of a series of mistakes. TNA belittled one of their biggest stars, and one of their originals in AJ Styles by having him dumbed down to being a flunky with Tyson Tomko. A move that obviously set back AJ’s career four to five years. Now he is jobbing to a guy that is what TNA wanted Tomko to be in the ‘Blueprint’ Matt Morgan. Using AJ Styles to put over Matt Morgan is like having a 5 year-old trying to teach a 3 year-old how to defeat a world-class chess player. If you want to put over a new wrestler, use the older talent to put him over, not the talent that has yet to reach their potential.
Goldberg, Sting, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, John Cena, The Rock, Stone Cold, RVD, Sabu, Terry Funk, Low-Ki, etc. are a few names of guys that were put on the top of their respective companies. Who has TNA used…I’ll wait… The storylines are more important than not only the belts, but the talent as well. It’s not about Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles or Matt Morgan, it’s about MEM vs. TNA. This is a signature of Vince Russo. The creation of random factions to raise conflict which in turn become more important than the wrestlers involved, and the titles that are at stake. People have stopped watching to find out who will be the next TNA champ, they are now watching to see when is TNA going to defeat MEM. In the attempts to bring back an nWo vs. WCW feel, TNA has erased any legacy that TNA could have built as its own company. The difference between the two scenarios is that WCW was well established and was on the heels of the WWE when nWo was produced. Also, when WCW kept adding WWE talent to the nWo, they put up well known and established WCW talent to combat this. Not to mention that the nWo was listed as a plague of the company and they spent a lot of their time trying to distant themselves from WCW and the way they worked and nWo became more of a brand and not a faction thus the WCW/nWo PPV era began.
I don’t mean to insult your wrestling knowledge with the history lesson, but I do mean to awaken thoughts through history by using history for its purpose to learn from it. I am not a person that is trying to bash your product, but I am a wrestling fan that hopes for an alternative to the WWE entertainment antics. There are people like Paul Hayman & Gene Sapolsky that are just a ton of talent and have the drive to bring a company like TNA out of the shadows of the WWE and into the forefront of the pro-wrestling world.
Anyone else see the parallels?
TNA had a couple of things trending Worldwide on Twitter…yet at the same time, Zack Ryder was trending Worldwide, without being on Television… TNA needs to step it up.
Valentine’s Day will be remembered for a lot of things. It’ll be remembered by some as they day they became engaged to the love of their life. It’ll be the remembered by others as the day Al Capone asserted his dominance over gang life in Chicago back in 1929.
But for all of us here at L.E.W.D., Valentine’s Day will be the day the IWC received the greatest gift ever offered.
In what many are considering a move that came about ten years too late, Vince Russo’s stellar work with TNA Wrestling/Impact Wrestling came to an end. The news was actually leaked over the weekend, but it wasn’t confirmed until Dixie Carter tweeted it sometime yesterday.
As of this writing, Ring Ka King writer Dave Lagana has taken over as the “Director of Creative Writing of TNA Wrestling,” with Bruce Prichard as his boss.
In these times of economic hardship, be it far from anyone to celebrate the dismissal of an employee from any company. We sincerely wish Vince Russo the best in all his future endeavors.
Meanwhile for all of those commentators who recently jumped on the “Fire Russo” bandwagon when Bruce Prichard took over as Head of Creative at TNA, I have a personal message to deliver…from me to you:
Okay, that was a little brash. Let’s try it again:
Hmm…that was awful too. Let’s just move along.
I was actually leaked this video from “a source inside TNA,” who stated that this was taken when Dixie Carter, Bruce Prichard, and Jeff Jarrett announced to the roster that Vince Russo was no longer working with the company.
If I could be serious for a moment, I personally take no joy in Russo’s departure from TNA. What I revel in is the fact that one year and nine months ago I crafted a rather lengthy piece detailing the difficulty of placing Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff in the same company for a THIRD TIME.
By taking quotes from Bischoff’s best-selling book, Controversy Creates Cash, and Russo’s second book, Rope Opera: How WCW Killed Vince Russo, I went to painstaking lengths to build a case against the idea of having Russo and Bischoff work together once again. It didn’t work out the first two times in WCW, and I was positive it wouldn’t work out a third time in TNA.
A good number of people read that particular Bleacher Report article, but most were very receptive of the information I gathered from those two books. A few commented that the piece was too long, but most seemed to honestly value the effort put into it and the insight provided by my commentary on both Russo and Bischoff’s perspectives.
But the point I made one year and nine months ago was also made during a time when a good number of fans were praising Bischoff and Hulk Hogan’s arrival in TNA. These fans were positive that brighter days were ahead for the company, just as much as I was positive that they were headed down a one-way street to Hell.
So today, as we look upon Russo’s TNA tenure with fond remembrance, I have an entirely new question to place before the faithful community that frequents this blog:
How much better could TNA have been today if something of this magnitude happened two years ago?
TNA will celebrate ten years of pro wrestling this June, and the best thing the company has managed to do is prove the naysayers wrong by lasting ten years. Other than that, TNA ‘s next biggest claim to fame is excelling in executing a series of hit-or-miss opportunities that made them THE revolutionary force in mediocrity.
But that wasn’t all Russo’s fault even though some rabid fans would have you believe that. Up until the arrival of Bischoff and Hogan in TNA on January 4, 2010, Russo along with Ed Ferrara and Matt Conway were perhaps responsible for most of what we saw on TNA television.
The X-Division rose to prominence under Russo’s watch. The Knockouts Division redefined women’s wrestling on a national level under Russo’s watch. The Tag Team Division rocked fans like no other all under Russo’s watch.
For whatever reason, however, fans only seemed to pick out Russo’s crap ideas and screamed for his blood for the five incomplete passes he made out of fourteen attempts. When Bischoff and Hogan came into the fold, everyone praised the high heavens even though two years later the company garnered the exact same ratings they were making prior to January 4, 2010.
Yet the cheese (in this sense, me) stood alone; with Hogan, Bischoff and Russo working in the same company, something had to give before TNA would implode on itself. Two years later, Russo ends up walking gracefully into the sunset and all seems well in Orlando, Florida. The problem with that is that Russo was never the problem to begin with.
Carter brought in Hogan and Bischoff to help change how the product was received and perceived by fans and potential financial backers outside of Panda Energy International. Bishoff remained super secretive about his role in the company, but it was speculated everywhere that he wasn’t directly involved with the creative direction. Instead, he gave his “input” on what was happening.
Hogan came along for the ride because he’s a recognizable name, as well as the slew of other wrestling veterans who found a cozy home in TNA. By the way, this tactic screams Eric Bischoff’s name; he did the exact same thing in WCW (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Mean Gene Okerlund, Curt Hennig, Rick Rude…do I really have to keep going?).
Bischoff was also responsible for creating TNA’s second show, ReAction, which lasted about as long as Eric Escobar did on Smackdown. For those of you who are confused by TNA’s insistence on giving away pay per view quality matches on free TV while charging $45 plus for funky pay per views…that’s all Eric Bischoff too (now you understand why I read books so damn much…it’s all in Controversy Creates Cash).
The average fan, however, ignores all of that and becomes primarily concerned with the product that’s showcased on television. Up until October of 2011, that responsibility weighed heavily on the shoulders of Vince Russo. So, while Eric Bischoff is finagling deals for the company and giving his “opinion” on the creative direction, Russo gets to run rampant with his ideas…or so we think.
Two quotes come to mind that I MUST point out right here. One comes from a Mick Foley interview after he left TNA in June 2011 in which Foley defends Russo and also puts the latter’s writing style into perspective:
”There’s a lot of people to please. [Russo's] version may not be the version that winds up making the air. At the same time, I’ve always said that Vince tries to tell too many stories. He has great ideas, but again, maybe we don’t need seven 87-yard touchdown runs in the same show. Maybe that one great run is something people will remember.”
“I think Vince has this great – his mind is a great source of wrestling stories, but I think you need that wrestling-centric force to oppose him, so that it doesn’t veer too much off the actual in-ring product.”
In other words, from Mick Foley’s own mouth as someone who actually worked in TNA, Vince Russo (a) had great wrestling stories, (b) had an obligation to please multiple people, (c) didn’t have anyone to filter through all of his “game-winning” pitches, and (d) took the blame for a bunch of stuff that hit the air and probably wasn’t his original idea to being with.
Here’s the second quote, taken from Bischoff’s book Controversy Creates Cash:
“I gave him a lot of room. Room, not rope—I didn’t want him to hang himself. I wanted him to prove himself right. I was hoping he’d show me something that would make me go, You know what? This guy does have a point of view that makes sense.
“So I sat back a lot. By May or June, I decided it wasn’t working. The stories remained dark, weren’t going anywhere, and weren’t connecting with the audience. [Brad] Siegel told me to put a bridle on Russo and his dark tones. So I began exerting more control.” (Bischoff, 340.)
It took one year and ten months for Bischoff to put a bridle on Vince Russo (*cough Bruce Prichard cough*) in TNA, and four months after that the man walks out the door.
People praised Prichard for the direction of the company’s product, but Russo was still largely responsible for writing it; if the 2007-08 Writers’ Strike didn’t prove anything else, it did show us that our favorite shows are NOTHING without the writers! This is why fans are dancing in the streets now that Dave “I Want Wrestling” Lagana is heading the writing for TNA.
Who knows? Maybe the product will soar to unseen heights with this change. Maybe the shows will be “great” from here on out; maybe TNA will finally get a ratings share point above 1.5 sometime this year.
While very plausible, I for one refuse to hold my breath…
Russo’s departure from TNA is nothing to celebrate, nor is Lagana’s coup of his vacated position. With ten years of operation under its belt, the company is still attempting to latch on to a solid direction and focus for its product.
In all honesty, the TNA we’ve grown to enjoy and celebrate is only 2 years old. The changes happening now should have occurred years ago, nine years ago in fact in 2003 when Hogan turned down a major story line offer from TNA. But they didn’t, and here we are today celebrating what essentially amounts to a red herring.
Russo is far from a victim, but he can be considered a martyr for TNA’s development as something more than just the #2 pro wrestling company. The company is shrouded in secrecy as a privately owned business, cynical fans are chastised routinely for speaking negatively about the product, and anything the company embarks in is viewed as something “huge” for the company.
Meanwhile, where is their WrestleMania? Where is TNA’s John Cena, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, or Chris Jericho? Where is their indoor attendance record setting event? Where are their Mike Tysons, Mickey Rourkes, Kelly Rowlands, Aretha Franklins, Bob Barkers??? Where’s the network, the film studio, the 100,000+ ppv buyrates? Where are the pencils, backpacks, lunchboxes? The Good Morning America and Jay Leno visits?
We should all prepare ourselves for whatever is poised to come with the company. I would say, however, don’t be surprised when the results we expect are not the ones we get. Russo was never ever the sole problem with the company, and while his departure can be viewed as a step towards the right direction, there are still eleven more steps to go in this particular rehab program.
Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, folks; we should take heed to look at the product beyond the tip of our nose to see where it’s really headed. It’s one thing to enjoy the writing and the wrestling purely as a fan, and even to rejoice when the TNA trucks roll into town.
But without the right minds driving the product, without the right visibility, and without moving the show out of a theme park sound stage in Orlando, then Russo’s departure is a Pyrrhic victory that solved absolutely nothing.