15 September 2014

Evaluating The Menagerie

It's not a secret that I was one of the biggest advocates for The Menagerie, before and during their initial arrival to TNA.  Over time it has been proven that Crazzy Steve and Rebel definitely have there own set of fans and admirers, and frankly they've outshone and overshadowed The Freak and the repackaged Knux significantly.  The group currently seems to be in a major holding pattern after little to no progression has occurred for them in the last 3 plus months.  Remember when this faction debuted at the IMPACT Zone in May?  Most people were open-minded and willing to give them a chance.  They seemed to be unique and entertaining, while at the same time, every heterosexual male wrestling fan was drooling over Rebel.  Generally, they were fairly well received upon their debut and the storyline of Knux needing to raise money for his Dad's carnival seemed like a decent hook.  Fast-forward to today and the audience has become very polarized in regards to The Menagerie.  It seems as though people either hate them and wish them to go away, or they are endeared to them and wish to see more of the group.  I'm one of the few that fall somewhere in the middle.

There is a consensus opinion amongst most fans that The Menagerie has not lived up to the expectations that we all laid out for them.  We had an exclusive TNAMecca report back in February where we informed you that Knux would be returning to TNA with a gorgeous new valet.   Nobody had a clue that eventually a faction would be formed, as we all assumed it would simply be a Knux return during the time that TNA started airing the original vignettes in March.  The back story of his family's carnival business and a past relationship with Rebel provided some depth of character for the previously persona-less big man.  At the Sacrifice PPV in April, a vignette aired where Rebel and Knux discussed bringing The Freak and Crazzy Steve along with them.  We'll probably never know if this was the plan all along or if an audible was called to make it into a faction.  Regardless, in a subsequent episode of IMPACT, we got a masked Rob Terry playing the "carnival strongman" and a demented clown named Crazzy Steve.  To some, it's been entertaining ever since.  To some, they seem to be the bane of your existence.    

I won't pretend that The Menagerie hasn't had it's own set of issues.  Remember when their theme music used to play for the entire duration of their time on camera from the moment they walked out until their post-match celebration?  That was the first thing that became a divisive issue amongst TNA fans.  While the continuous theme music gimmick wasn't completely ground-breaking, it did add to the chaotic nature that was being portrayed.  After they left the IZ, that never happened again (probably due to the negative feedback).  The stilt walkers were a nice visual in their initial appearances, but I'm guessing that their existence was a by-product of the last run at Universal Studios as they had access to those kind of performers at the theme park.  Fate began to take hold when they traveled to a road show at Slammiversary in Dallas, as one of them caused such a commotion and interruption backstage after taking a nasty fall that the entire PPV was halted for a couple minutes.  They did appear at the first round of Bethlehem tapings but I doubt they will be a part of the faction going forward as the focus on the group lessens.  Then there was the issue of Rob Terry losing his mask in his first in-ring action as The Freak.  Thankfully they got him a mask that actually stays on his face better now, but Terry's character isn't really a character at all.  It's just him in a mask doing the same generic big man moves that he's always done.  The little hope that some had for Rob ever evolving and turning into something more has to be completely terminated at this point.  His time as The Freak appears to be a way to have him serve out his contract in limbo.

There has recently been a huge chunk of time where The Menagerie's only in-ring IMPACT competitor was Crazzy Steve.  I'm not sure if this was an intentional way to lessen their influence on the show and shorten (or eliminate their long entrance) or if TNA Management sees him as the only shining star that has staying power or what.  I personally like Steve and I think he has the most potential of any of the 4 members.  Does he screw around a lot during his matches?  Yes, that's what clowns do.  Is it a great fit for the X-Division?  Probably not, but because of time constraints and a lack of smaller competitors outside of that division, that's where he ended up.  He definitely has been over with the live crowds, everywhere he's been.  If you look up Crazzy Steve's indy matches on YouTube, it's obvious that he is capable of really competing in X-Division-style matches.  My hope is that if Crazzy Steve remains on the roster in the future, that they'll allow him to showcase his wrestling skills more.  We've seen glimpses of it (like last Wednesday's match) but mostly he does comedy stuff and slows down the pace, which can be very distracting and disconcerting to a portion of the audience.  Even if The Menagerie disbands, I feel like Crazzy Steve will remain and evolve as a singles competitor. 

The other member that I can see sticking around if and when The Menagerie folds is Rebel.  Yes she is green wrestling-wise, but nobody said she has to be a full-time wrestler right now.  After her appearance in the 6-person tag match last week, it's safe to say she needs some more training and experience before she'll get any type of KnockOuts singles match.  She still can serve as a valet and on-screen persona in the mean-time as she has gathered a nice fan following online.  It would have been awesome to have her fire dancing included on IMPACT, but because of fire hazard restrictions it never came to fruition.  Nobody knows what her ceiling will be but she definitely has sex appeal that you can't teach.  It would have been interesting to see how things would have played out if it would have ended up being just her and Knux as a couple.  Would she have had a more prominent role similar to a Sable/Marc Mero dynamic with Rebel eventually evolving into a star and leaving Knux behind?  It's obvious that Rebel won't be able to currently compete wrestling-wise with the KnockOuts, so how much longer can she remain as TNA's token eye candy?

I don't think it makes sense for TNA to dump The Menagerie completely out of the blue; it needs to be a logical transition after investing so much time in them.  Does their longevity seem somewhat grim right now?  Yes, it does.  For a long time, I've been clamoring for The Menagerie to go evil and menacing.  When we were all speculating about what this group might look like before they debuted, a portion of us wanted this to turn into a dark carnival.  The writers may have had similar intentions at one time also, but now Storm's group has capitalized on that aura in a more effective way than The Menagerie could have ever exuded.  So that direction is something that cannot be explored at this point.  That brings us to another element that could have came in to play here.  Father James Mitchell seemed to be a good fit for this group, and I swear his voice was used backstage to introduce them to the crowd at one time.  As cool as it would have been to have Mitchell get involved, there simply is no room on the show for 2 separate wicked, villainous factions.  Storm's group has naturally usurped what The Menagerie could have been and they've done it in a more effective and long-term manner.  I had visions of The Menagerie playing a concurrent role to the new season of American Horror Story: Freak Show on FX coming out in October, but alas it was not meant to be.

Can anything save them?  I have given it a lot of thought over the last month, and I honestly do not know.  I don't think they can continue to be the comedy-type group that they have portrayed so far (as that will have an expiration date), but what other direction can they really go?  I don't see a long-term future for Knux or The Freak.  Their time is limited and thus so is the faction as a whole.  I really see Crazzy Steve and Rebel remaining in TNA as they are affordable and have value.  So does the transition of breaking up this four-some begin this week at the Bethlehem tapings?  Do we ever get to see the storyline progress to the point where the man they owe money to makes an appearance?  Something needs to happen to change the dynamic of their involvement in the show, but not at the expense of taking up multiple segments leading into Bound For Glory.  Unless something drastic and unexpected happens, The Menagerie's time seems to be running out.  It's another case of a TNA faction that showed a lot of promise but never really maximized its potential.  I don't see them being around in 2015, which is personally sad for me since I had such high hopes for them at one time.  So you tell me: Does this group end soon (by the end of the year)?  If so, how does it end?  Do any of the members remain?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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