17 November 2013

3 Tiers. 3 Topics.

Sometimes things here in the cage get messy. I've got all these ideas in my head of what I want to write about and sometimes I have trouble fleshing things out to make a full column. With all the recent developments in TNA I could choose many a topic this time 'round, but I just can't decide which one. Potential new signings? Lack of mid card feuds? Fan expectations? See, the voices in my head don't always agree, but now and again they have some good ideas and the idea they had this time was a three tiered cage! Not unlike the one WCW used for the movie Ready to Rumble (to be honest, I am shocked TNA didn't bust this one out during the Vince Russo era; more on him later). So let's dust off the top two tiers and place them on top of the cage and enter tier number one.

Tier 1- Potential new signings: Ex-WWE Talent vs. Indie Talent

A lot of TNA fans are really wanting to see the roster freshened up and I have to say I am one of them. Most I hear are longing for TNA to start signing some of the top independent talent that is available, especially since Chris Hero was released from his WWE contract this past week. Shelbin touched on this here in a great POV piece. He echoed the sentiments of many TNA fans out there who would like to see TNA bring in the young, up and coming talents from lesser known wrestling organizations. Names like Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards, Willie Mack, Roderick Strong, Tim Donst and others have been brought up.  The advantage to bringing in talents like these (and the aforementioned Chris Hero) is that they are fresh to the viewing audience who do not follow indies or ROH and could be presented as "new TNA stars" and could give the show a bad ass in ring product that we saw in 2005 when AJ Styles, Daniels and Samoa Joe were tearing it up. However, there is a flip side and that is, what if that talent doesn't connect with TNA's newer fans? There are some fans that jumped on the TNA bandwagon when they got on Spike TV and even some who came along with Hulk Hogan in 2010. When I have attended TNA live; now I have only been to two shows so forgive me if I'm off base; it seemed to me that most of the audience only knew the guys who were from the WWE of WCW, etc. Save for AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Abyss and other established TNA stars. It is easy to live in the "internet bubble" sometimes as a wrestling fan; I do it too. While Davey Richards may be the "best in the world" according to those in the Twitterverse I would argue that a lot of fans outside that bubble wouldn't even know who he was. TNA's crowd seems to lay somewhere in the middle of the "casual fan" and "hardcore fan" spectrum. You may please one half with these signings but the other half may be saying: "What?"

I also believe that TNA needn't stay away from any ex-WWE wrestlers. While a lot of TNA fans may have grown tired of seeing every released WWE wrestler popup on Impact and have been begging TNA to push their "own stars" some of that opinion may be short sighted. The problem with the ex-WWE talent wasn't that they were brought in and given a big push necessarily, I think the problem was that TNA didn't seem to have much of a direction for some of these guys. Booker T was a good example; Booker is one of my favorite wrestlers and no one was more excited to see him in TNA than me. But what did Booker do other than join the Main Event Mafia (where he was a background player for the most part)? There was a lot of potential for Booker T in TNA, none of it was realized. I'm not saying it was all TNA's fault; Booker seemed very unmotivated at times; it just seemed to me they signed him for the sake of signing him. THAT'S what TNA needs to avoid. Look at EC3, he was from WWE; albeit not an established star; but they gave him a new character, a "TNA identity", if you will. I see Bully Ray being the same way, once they dropped the Team 3D tag team he developed a whole new identity that is only associated with TNA. Hell, WWE has copied it with Ryback! There is plenty of name talent that WWE has let go over the years that TNA can grab as well not just indie guys. I see potential for a TNA run from John Hennigan (aka Morrison) and even Carlito, Chris Masters and others. TNA just has to be careful how they utilize them.

I think if the indie talents were to be brought in, it would be in TNA's best interest to give them new characters as well and not assume that every wrestling fan has heard of them.  Also maybe space out the debuts of these guys, but at the same time freshen them up. Maybe flip the script a little bit: if Roddy, Eddie and Davey come in, tag up Roddy and Eddie and push Davey as a single. All the while giving the fans time to get to know them. Chris Hero would need to be introduced as well, not everyone watches NXT (hell, I don't and I think I'm pretty die hard). Either way, I hope we see some fresh faces who can make an Impact soon (pun intended). Now, let's climb up to the middle tier.

Tier 2- Meet Me in the Middle

Has anybody heard the song "Meet me in the Middle" by a group called The Arrows? Great song, you should check it out, but I digress. I'm going to give a little insider information about TNAMecca and our coverage of Bound for Glory this year. No one wanted to write previews for the undercard matches, we had no trouble putting together previews for the top four matches, but when it came to the Knockouts title match and the tag team title match there really wasn't a lot of interest. With the awesome writers we have here on the site and how passionate we all are about TNA that's a pretty telling about the state of the undercard going into BFG. I volunteered to do the previews and was kicking myself afterwards as I sat there in front of the screen trying to come up with stuff to write about. I thought back to one of my favorite shows: Bound for Glory 2009. If you look at that card and the hype going into it you see that every match had some sort of story. I could've easily written about any of the matches on the card, they all had at least SOMETHING! I think Vince Russo was good at finding something for every character on the roster, whether it was Kurt Angle or Shark Boy, they had some sort of story you could sink your teeth into. Now, that being said there was a lot of garbage because of that very fact (anyone remember when Angelina Love was a zombie? I actually consider that one of my guilty pleasures), plus while Russo could come up with some decent storylines, he booked really dumb matches sometimes. However, after he went away, the undercard slowly disappeared, most of the guys who weren't part of the main event angles (aka the Aces and Eights) were shoved into the tag team division or put into meaningless matches on pay per view that were announced the day of the show. After seeing this I became a "Vince Russo Guy" (I want that on a T-shirt by the way) because I saw that at least he seemed to care about the mid card guys and wanted them to have something to do. Why not make the product entertaining all the way through? 

The flip side is that you may end up making Impact become a convoluted mess that it was at times, this is where I think Impact365 can come into play. By using other platforms to present your product, the undercard guys can get some attention and maybe develop some stories there. I hope that's how TNA will use this 24/7 thing. Until then, can we get "#IMAVINCERUSSOGUY" trending on Twitter? Ok, I kid. No I'm not kidding. SWERVE! Now, let's climb to the top!

Tier 3- Is it Us or Them?

One thing I love about social media and other platforms for sharing opinions on the internet (like TNAMecca comments section or message boards) is that I get to observe fan's reactions to events. I love to comb Twitter and other sites to see what the fans are saying and try to put my finger on the pulse of the wrestling fan. Wrestling fan culture is fascinating to me. Smart marks, casual fans, TNA fans, WWE fans, ROHBots, Puro marks, insiders. There are so many divisions of fans and they can all react to the same event or show in completely different ways and I like to stalk the boards, etc. to see what everyone is saying. I know I sound creepy but I look at it as being an exercise in social science and I will use this platform to break it down and give an overall view of what I think it really going on. 

One thing that caught my eye last week was Dixie Carter's announcement on Impact365 that a former World Champion was returning to TNA on Impact. Twitter was on fire with speculation: could it be Jeff Jarrett, Rhino, Christian Cage or Ken Shamrock?!  Then Dixie announced that Pacman Jones was who she was referring to. This left a lot of fans disappointed (including myself). However, did we do this to ourselves? I mean, Dixie only announced this on the internet, not on Impact. You can't really compare this to "August1Warning", as that was given a lot of hype and then was a big letdown. We, as fans tend to whip ourselves into a frenzy. Not once did Dixie tease any of the names that WE brought up. WE were the ones fantasy booking scenarios in which Jeff Jarrett could return or that maybe Cage was given a quiet release from WWE. I think back to 2011, right around Wrestlemania time, WWE began to air videos teasing an Undertaker return, however, fans thought that maybe Sting was coming in. Well, fans were all jacked up saying Taker vs. Sting at 'Mania. It didn't happen, it wasn't even close to happening. WWE never told us it was happening, again, WE did that. TNA even winked at us when they did the return videos for Sting. So do we set ourselves up for disappointment? Should we not get too excited about teases? Should promotions not hype things as much? Is the answer to go back to unannounced surprises to catch fans off guard? I don't know the answer to be honest, but I hope fans don't stop being excited for things. Excitement is good. It shows that we can still be passionate about wrestling. I'd hate to see every fan become a jaded smark or worse, not a fan at all.

Now, I'm at the top of the cage. I leave it to you, the readers of TNAMecca to take it home. Do you think TNA should only sign Indie talent? What about the mid card, is it lacking? And finally, what is your take on teases and hype in wrestling? Do you still get excited? Now, I'll take a flying leap off the cage as we fade to black. 'Till next time.

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