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26 January 2014

The Youth Movement


"Out with the old; in with the new." That seems to be the phrase used lately to describe the talent changes in TNA recently. Over the last few months we have seen the departure of AJ Styles, who was arguably the face of TNA Wrestling. Along with him we have seen, at least onscreen, the departures of Jeff Hardy and Sting. Couple that with rumors of other TNA originals (Daniels, Kazarian, Samoa Joe) possibly leaving when their contracts come due, it seems like a lot the "old" TNA is on its way out. On the flip side, we have seen the development of a TNA "Brat Pack" with Magnus, Ethan Carter III, The Bro-Mans and Rockstar Spud. There is also the signing of Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards, known as the The Wolves and a repackaged Samuel Shaw. A lot of fans are screaming that there is a "Youth Movement" in TNA and a lot of the TNA faithful are saying that this will be what turns the company around and leads them into the future. Even going as far as to say that TNA doesn't need the names from the past anymore and the new talent can carry the load. Well, I'm on the fence (or on the cage rather) about whether or not this "Youth Movement" could work, so let's get in the cage and look at all the angles. Why it could work, why it may not fly and what is the best case scenario for TNA and the "Youth Movement". I'd better do it quick too as I can see them coming at me from a distance and they look ready to take over.

WHY IT COULD WORK

When you look at the core roster of TNA, you'll see that many of the names have been the same since 2006. Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Chris Sabin, Bully Ray, Kurt Angle, Sting, Daniels (in and out), Kazarian (in and out), Abyss, Eric Young and Cowboy James Storm have all been stalemates in TNA almost since the beginning. AJ Styles was the same and while many are mourning the loss of the "Phenomenal One" (me included) his leaving did open up some doors for some new talent to enter the fray. I'm not saying I want all of these names out of TNA, I just think if some folks were to move around things would be freshened up. A youth movement of sorts would allow for some new match-ups to be created simply because these guys would all be new. Plus, when you look at the ages of the wrestlers mentioned above, the average age is roughly 35/36, if you start pushing the youth movement now, you can have the next generation of TNA stars ready to take over. After seeing the reaction to The Wolves being signed by TNA and looking back at how hot Austin Aries was in 2011/2012, it's obvious to me that when TNA brings in new talent and actually gets behind them, they can take off.

Also, TNA is on a budget right now. I'm not going to go into why because we have all heard the reports, etc. It is what it is, so let's move on to what TNA can do. Younger talent tends to cost less money. If you can use the money that you would spend on one AJ Styles to get let's say two American Wolves, you'll have added to your roster without spending more money and possibly have gotten two stars for the price of one. That money is also being sunk into a long term investment and not to keep an older star around for one more year or two. This talent is young, hungry and ready to prove themselves on a bigger stage. They can't rest on their laurels and will be willing to put out for less money as the drive will still be there.

I used to be "with it". Now, what I'm with isn't "it" and what is "it" is strange and scary to me. I admit, I'm not as hip to new trends as I used to be. Well, I was never really HIP to new trends, I was just sort of aware of them. One market that I feel TNA has never tried to exploit was the youth market. It seems like TNA has always tried to go after a more mature wrestling fan and while that can be a money maker; a more youthful looking roster with "hipper" characters could draw in a new crowd, a young crowd, one that could grow up on TNA Wrestling. TNA is still a young company and they need to think about the future (naysayers would say "what future") and if you develop a young fanbase, they may remain fans for life. Young people are more likely to relate to someone who is younger and while this may alienate some of the TNA diehards who will hate some of these new characters, it can attract a new crowd, one that TNA has yet to go after aggressively.

WHY IT MAY NOT FLY

The most obvious problem with all the young talent being brought in all at once and being pushed to the moon, is what if that talent doesn't get over? It can take time for a new character to develop a rapport with fans and really, does TNA have the time to let things breathe? It feels like they need to hit home runs right now and fans may not have the patience needed to allow TNA to get its house in order. Wrestlers like Sting and Jeff Hardy have very big followings and bring lots of fans to TNA, if you replace them with EC3 and Rockstar Spud you could be alienating a good portion of your audience.

It also seems like fans can be fickle about who gets pushed and who doesn't. It is kind of a vicious cycle: fans cry for new talent to be pushed, promotion does and then it's the "wrong talent" and fans beg for the old ones again. Crimson was a good example of this. Here was a fresh face with a great look and potential but because he wasn't the "right" guy he never got a chance from the fans. I think the internet exploded when he defeated Samoa Joe. Perhaps Crimson wasn't quite ready for that spot yet, but you get the idea. TNA fans are very loyal to the "TNA originals" and when it seems like those guys are being put under for either an ex-WWE talent or an unknown they get offended. Could someone like Magnus suffer the same fate as Crimson? Will it be too much, too young, too fast? The guy was barely on TV three years ago and while TNA has put some time into him, is he ready to be the guy carrying the company with the World title? Some say he is not, comparing him to the likes of Jack Swagger, but I guess only time will tell. The talent is there no doubt, but the timing may not be right.

The other problem is that a lot of this young talent is still raw and unpolished. When you look back at TNA in 2005, guys like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels were well seasoned before they were in TNA. They just showcased their talents on TNA's platform and became the hot new stars. While talented in their own right, most of the new youth of TNA is not at the level, at least in the ring, that Joe and company were back then. Sure there is a lot of great young talent on the independents and everyone reading this I'm sure will list off a number of names they want to see on Impact. The biggest obstacle that TNA faces when it comes to this that a lot of the top independent talent is under contract to either ROH or Dragon Gate USA, or they are holding out for a WWE deal. This wasn't a problem in 2005. It seems more difficult to get that seasoned, but unknown talent now. Also, can the current crop of young wrestlers live up to the standard set by their predecessors? It's hard to picture EC3 and Magnus tearing the house down the way Joe and Styles did back in 2005. I'm not saying they can't, it just seems like their talent lies elsewhere than in the ring.

BEST CASE SCENARIO

The best case scenario for TNA is to really work at developing these new characters while still hanging on to the old guard while they can, and exploit them in order to help make the new talent. If you put the younger roster with the more experienced one long enough you would hope that they'll get better by osmosis. If the talent can't live up to 'in ring standards' set by the originals then maybe TNA focuses more on being a character driven show, it seems like it is sort going that way anyway. If you go back and watch the Attitude Era you'll see that the in ring product wasn't the best, but the characters and storylines were so good that no one seemed to mind. While these may be, as some have put it: "tough times for TNA" with all the departures, it could also be the beginning of a new generation and we may look back at this time as the transition period. However, right now the youth of the TNAtion is kicking down the doors of the cage and I got to bail!

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