01 September 2013

Sympathy for the Deadman's Hand

OK folks, I have a confession to make. This may shock and appal you, it may make me the black sheep of TNAMecca, but I need to come clean and be honest with you as I have always felt honesty is the best policy. So here it goes: I like the Aces and Eights. I like the gimmick, the storyline and even most of the guys in the group. I was hooked by the angle right from the beginning and am still very much into it. From what I read and hear most fans do not feel the same way I do, they feel the group has run its course (or never had a course to begin with) and should be put on the shelf. It's hard to argue with those fans when the ratings haven't been reflecting how I'm feeling about the Aces and Eights, and while I can understand some of the criticism the group gets, I do believe that a lot of it is for the wrong reasons. I feel that most fans aren't looking at the purpose the Aces and Eights serve in TNA and what other possibilities the group has. So let's put on my kutte, patch me in, and ride down the aisle and into the cage, as we show some sympathy for the deadman's hand.

Now I have to tell you: I am a BIG Sons of Anarchy fan, so I may be biased, but this gimmick is more than wrestlers dressed as bikers (again nothing new). The purpose of this gimmick is to try and reference pop culture; Sons of Anarchy is a very popular and critically acclaimed show, it also does very well in TNA's key demographic. SOA has proven to be a merchandising goldmine as well, with T-shirts, hats, glasses and even baby clothes being sold in the image of the faux biker gang. Alright, so the creative team has ripped off a popular TV show, at least it is a good TV show and I think a show that wrestling fans are more likely to watch, more so then let's say The Jersey Shore. Someone at TNA, whether it be Dave Lagana, Eric Bischoff or whoever, tried to take a popular brand and incorporate it into wrestling. TNA seems to have taken advantage of the merchandising as well; I always see many Aces and Eights t-shirts in the crowd and see many fans are dressed as members of the gang. I don't have exact numbers but it seems the merch is moving well and having a bad ass biker gang gimmick made that possible. I think using SOA formula has also made it possible to create some interesting storylines; the interplay between the members of the club and how they conduct business is what makes Aces and Eights intriguing to me.  D-Lo Brown being ousted as Vice-President and Mr. Anderson politicking to get his spot was something I haven't seen in a faction storyline before, hell, I even marked out when Doc lost the vote for V.P! I am further interested in how Tito Ortiz will play into this, considering Anderson (the VP) knew nothing about him being involved with the club, there seems to be a division among the group as it is becoming obvious that Bully Ray is using the group for his own gain only, very similar to Ron Perlman's character Clay Morrow on SOA.  While on the surface this just looks like another invasion angle, peel away the layers a little bit, it is in fact, much more.

I also feel like the Aces and Eights angle has given some new faces a place, and given some old faces a makeover. Now, are Garett Bischoff and Wes Brisco the new hot kids on the block tearing it up every week? Of course not, but they're on the roster nonetheless and TNA needed to do something with them, that's why putting them in the Aces and Eights was perfect; it gave them immediate identities. Imagine if Garett was still trying to be the hand slapping good guy who beat up his dad, or if Wes was trying to go on his own? Fans wouldn't give them the time of day, they would be channel changing material and at least with the Aces and Eights they serve a purpose, and aren't taking up more TV time than needed. Besides, it seems like they are the fall guys for the club, the guys that the babyfaces can beat up on. Lets look at Knux: how many would have wanted to see Mike Knox in TNA? Although Knox is a very underrated wrestler, I guarantee you he would've been might with the "here's another WWE reject" line. Aces and Eights give him a kind of protective coating, if you will, over the ex-WWE stink. Knux was introduced as the "arm-breaker" of then World Champion Austin Aries, way better debut then "Hey, here's Mike Knox, remember him?" Mr. Anderson has seen a revival in his character since joining the group, before he was a shell of who he used to be as Mr. Kennedy, the mic check thing got old and people weren't getting behind him the way they did when he first came to TNA. Sure he sold some merchandise but I think that had more to do with the "Pro Wrestling is Real" slogan (have that shirt by the way). His title reigns were flops and it seemed he had no direction. Enter the Aces and Eights, Anderson has a new swagger about him and is really working the crowd better than before with his promos, plus, his new found gimmick is a departure from his old WWE character and isn't that what TNA needs to do?  Differentiate itself from the WWE? I read it on the internet all the time, must be true. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how the group has given Bully Ray some back up and has helped make him more annoying than he was before (and I mean that in a good way) he now has a band of cronies behind him and no one can shut his mouth. I think most of the guys in the gang NEED the gang to help them in one way or the other and even though the critics may not see it, they are paying attention to some guys they may not have otherwise. My belief is that most of the hate on the group comes from the fact that none of these wrestlers are "internet darlings". Why would they be? They're heels and plus, it's pretty hard to do moonsaults and Japanese style kicks when you're wearing jeans and a leather vest. Besides, if these guys are supposed to be nothing more than a gang of thugs, why would they be good "wrestlers"... when was the last time a biker used a wristlock in a bar room brawl?

The Aces and Eights have also given TNA something they have often times lacked and that is REAL heels. TNA's audience tends to be a bit more savvy of a crowd, they cheer for who they know is good, heel or face which in turn makes most of the heels in TNA just babyfaces who cheat in their matches; Austin Aries and Bad Influence get a better pop than most of the faces on the roster; the Aces and Eights get booed, you know because they are bad guys. They insult the crowd, interfere in matches and don't do cool moves and big spots that get a pop. Some would say the group just "isn't over" but I point to Lockdown 2013 when Bully Ray won the World title as my proof. When was the last time the ring was pelted with so much garbage at a wrestling show because of an angle? Aces and Eights get real heat, the fans legitimately can't stand them, which is good for TNA. Some would say it's that "X-Pac heat" or "go away" heat, but  I think people want to boo the Aces and Eights because they are good at being the bad guys, otherwise fans probably just wouldn't react. Bully Ray is a big part of this as he is easily the best heel in wrestling and has brought the group to the next level and given them more of a purpose then just creating chaos. I've heard the critics blast TNA for having the group "lose too much to be effective" but how many times did fans complain when the nWo ran over the whole WCW roster saying that the heels were squashing the faces? Fans said the same thing about the Main Event Mafia in 2009. Wrestling has to go back to basics sometimes and the heroes need to get a win to keep people believing in them, otherwise the only people fans will get behind are the heels and we saw how well that worked out in WCW. It doesn't matter how many matches the Aces and Eights lose as they seem to always come out on top in the end while the losses still give fans a reason to get behind the faces.

Now I'm not saying there haven't been plot holes throughout this whole thing. I mean what happened to all those other members that were attacking the TNA roster when this first started? What exactly did Joseph Park find out when he got kidnapped? And why did Taz say "No" to Wes Brisco during Gut Check? But you have to admit, TNA has stuck with this storyline and seem to be seeing it all the way through. Fans and critics always complained (especially when Vince Russo was writing) that TNA rushed storylines dropping angles left, right and centre. The Aces and Eights angle has been going on for over a year and still remains fresh even with several changes to the lineup. Most say they want it to end at Bound for Glory this year and I would be ok with that, however, I feel if that happens TNA could be missing out on an opportunity. Imagine the Aces and Eights turn face? Maybe they turn on Bully Ray, vote him out as President and become a wild band of outlaw heroes (after Impact this week this could be a possibility). The Sons of Anarchy are the good guys on their show so it could happen. What do you guys think? Anyone else a closet Aces and Eights fan? How do they measure up against past factions in TNA? Let me know what you think. Till next time...

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