11 September 2014

In Retrospect: Summer of 2012

In this debut edition of In Retrospect, myself and BigDawg will go back and take a look at some of the key moments during the Summer of 2012. We'll start a little before what you would class as "Summertime", and go back to May 2012. TNA set the tone for the impending Summer by announcing that they would be taking Impact Wrestling LIVE each and every week during that time.  This was designed to celebrate moving Impact an hour early to 8PM EST, starting May 31st, 2012. This would be the first time since the failed Monday Night run that TNA had committed to going LIVE with Impact for a period of time. Let's get your thoughts first BigDawg, what did you think of TNA taking Impact LIVE for the Summer?

BigDawg: Well MisterTNA, I actually was a big proponent for TNA going LIVE every week.  I remember that there was a huge push for it from many TNA fans at that time on social media and other online outlets.  A lot of us tweeted Dixie Carter and others over and over again trying to convince her of the need for that change.  Since it had never been done for an extended period of time, it made sense to give "making it LIVE every week" a try.  The spoilers issue was right there at the forefront in the argument for and against the movement, and time has shown us that going LIVE made little to no difference in the ratings or actual shows themselves.  The company didn't necessarily take advantage like they should have with crazy surprises and/or progression.  Then there was the issue of a time slot change to be on an hour earlier (slightly before the LIVE change if I recall correctly), but in the end none of it mattered.  Strangely enough, the #ImpactLIVE hashtag began with this movement and had remained until only a month ago.  Hogan and Bischoff were big advocates for them to go LIVE and the logic of doing so made a lot of sense back then.  I don't think TNA could have done anything relatively feasible to really pop a rating with the change, so when that became more evident over time, it started to become somewhat disappointing and deflating.  However, some really cool things happened during that time frame still.  What stands out most to you during that time MisterTNA?

MisterTNA: For me, it was the energy that I remember fondly. At the time, there was an excitement within the TNA fan-base that had not been seen before, all thanks to a combination of Impact going LIVE and the product really delivering great matches and interesting angles/storylines. My only concern going into the LIVE run was the Impact Zone. At this point the crowd was really starting to become an issue, and I was worried that a LIVE Impact every week would burn them out even more to the point where they would be completely uninterested in what they were watching. Thankfully the energy around TNA rubbed off on them and they were great all Summer. While it didn't result in a viewership increase, I thought it made the show "can't miss" for TNA fans.  The "anything can happen" vibe made things interesting from my perspective, and the quality of the shows produced at that time makes me look back fondly at that Summer. I hope there comes a point in the future where TNA can do this again because I really felt it created a buzz around Impact. It forced everyone to up their game, and it resulted in some great times for the audience.

BigDawg: It definitely was a Summer to remember. In fact, I personally got in on some of the leftovers of that time by going to a LIVE show at the Impact Zone in Orlando directly after Bound For Glory of the same year. They weren't going LIVE every week at the that point like they did that Summer, but there definitely was still an energy and vibe about that era in the Impact Zone. Austin Aries winning the World Title was the first REAL surprise that TNA had delivered in a long time. Hulk Hogan gets a lot of hate, but remember that Hogan was very supportive of The Greatest Man That Ever Lived and endorsed him on camera at every turn. Aries could have been booked a lot more effectively, no doubt about that, but he still received a nice little World Title run. I can't imagine how great the crowd response could have been if he actually would have been in front of different road crowds every week as World Champ instead of the Impact Zone. The memory of Aries winning the title and holding that belt has made me desire another World Title run from him ever since. It was a bigger deal than Eric Young's recent title win and the IWC was really getting behind TNA at that time. Those were some fun days to be a fan.

MisterTNA: It was indeed. For months I was praying that Aries would get an opportunity, and I was so excited when he cut the post match promo at Slammiversary that ended up being the start of his quest to become TNA World Champion. Speaking of Slammiversary 2012, I feel that PPV was the real big kick-off to TNA's summer. From Aries' X Division title match with Samoa Joe, to the World Tag Team title match between AJ & Kurt vs Bad Influence. Hell even a last minute match with Hernandez facing Kid Kash, everything at Slammiversary clicked. I remember the excitement I felt the day of the show, reading a tweet from Dixie Carter saying that it would be the highest attended U.S. event in company history. Christian Cage returning for one night, the First Hall of Fame Inductee announcement and the line-up of great matches.  The last time I'd ever had such excitement and anticipation for a wrestling event was the January 4th Impact back in 2010. BigDawg, what did you think of Slammiversary 2012?  And what was your stand out moment from the show?

BigDawg: I thought Slammiversary 2012 was definitely a break-through type of PPV for the company.  The crowd was large, vocal and inspiring to the wrestlers, and their performances were buoyed by the awesome fans there in attendance. Dallas (Arlington) has proven twice now, in the same venue, that they are a location deserving of repeat PPV's or TV tapings in the future.  The opening Aries/Joe match gave the rest of the PPV the momentum that it needed to turn into something special for TNA fans to witness.  The AJ/Angle VS Bad Influence match was INSANE and serves now as a somewhat stinging reminder for why AJ Styles is a special performer in this industry.  That particular tag match was my personal favorite, although the heat that Bully Ray got from the crowd was amazing.  Ironically enough, in the same venue exactly 2 years later Bully and Devon got an amazing face reaction with an unbelievable "We Want Tables!" chant when they were announced for the 2014 TNA Hall Of Fame.  That shows you just how much respect pro-wrestling fans have for Team 3D and Bully Ray to be able to pull off 2 completely opposite, powerful reactions from the same local fan base.  Bobby Roode also got a nice rub from Sting with another win as the It Factor continued to dominate TNA at that time.  Unfortunately, TNA was still in the Impact Zone at that point for their TV tapings so the momentum became difficult to fully maintain after an amazing road PPV crowd like that.

MisterTNA: That was the only negative once the event had concluded; the fact we had to go from such a great crowd in Dallas back to the Impact Zone. Other than that (like this years Slammiversary), it really started a role of momentum that helped immensely for the rest of the summer.  It raised everyone's expectations because of the amount of quality matches on the show, yet TNA continued to meet expectations and deliver some fantastic matches on both PPV & Impact. The events at Slammiversary really set the stage for some exciting times for TNA, and they followed it up on the Post-Slammiversary Impact with 3 masked men attacking Sting during a "thank you" address.  We soon found out those men belonged to the group known as the Aces & 8's. Now for some the mention of the very name will make them sigh and be reminded of some bad times, however at this point in time, this angle was actually exciting.  Nobody expected their first attack.  Nobody expected the amount of men they would show up with in their next few appearances, and nobody was exactly sure who was under the masks. The unpredictably of the whole angle was a perfect fit for Impact's LIVE summer, and a solid reason why viewers couldn't miss Impact.  The speculation alone about where the angle could go from there brought excitement, and I was absolutely one of those fans who loved what the angle delivered in its formative months.

BigDawg: Ah yes, The Aces and Eights.  What a polarizing faction this was.  Most people hated them by the end of their run but some hated them from day one.  The concept was intriguing, the execution was flawed.  Some of the players involved should have been different.  That will be remembered as a Hogan/Bischoff gaff but honestly it wasn't as bad as some people might have you think.  It was definitely a roller coaster of high points and low points, but in the end it became so time-consuming and convoluted that people were begging for them to be finished (and rightfully so).  I was a big proponent for them at that time and I will totally own that.  If they came back at some point, I would still throw my Aces & 8's shirt on and go support them (as long as the right players were involved that is).  Obviously Garrett Bischoff has became the most disliked person on TNA's roster page, and with good reason.  Wes Brisco was a joke.  I really liked DOC, however, and I will not be dissuaded off of that opinion.  Knux has proven to be useful in his current role and I think DOC is much more talented than Knux.  I think Luke Gallows is going to come back to TNA at some point and I will welcome that day.  If Crimson had been healthier at the time, he could have been a better addition than those 2 much-hated young men I mentioned above.  Also, someone like Chris Masters could have been more effective in that role.  I could go on and on, but I will be happy with A's & 8's being done and over with for now.  Don't even get me started about the Joseph Park character and how that all turned out with Abyss.  You guys have heard enough about that subject from me in the last year, so I will spare you.

MisterTNA: You're right, at this time, we didn't know where the angle would go or who would be involved which made it exciting.  But by the time we got to the end, I must say I was very disappointed by it. It seemed to be that TNA knew it could blow up and be a huge war between the A&8's and TNA with the Aces having a solid roster of guys.  But TNA limited themselves to having just a faction with a capped number of players involved. I think this was a good example of starting something in one direction, then switching gears and taking it somewhere else.  Unfortunately where it was going at the outset was exciting, and where they switched it to just made it the same old, same old. There was something else that looked like it was going to be great but it fell off after a while during this summer period.  And then there was the re-launch of the X Division. The build up to and the Destination X PPV itself was a great way to bring the X Division back to the forefront, but after a while it fell back into the mid-card with no real direction. Lets talk about the positive side to it first BD.  What did you think of everything going into Destination X and the PPV itself?

BigDawg: Well it's interesting to note that Destination X 2012 was still an actual PPV instead of a free Spike TV event like it was last year and this year.  Austin Aries winning the World Title was the BIG highlight of the show but there were many entertaining and great matches.  I know there was a lot of resistance from fans with the repetitive Styles/Daniels feud at the time.  It was very polarizing as we had seen the 2 have so many matches over the years.  Their Last Man Standing match at this PPV proved to still be high-quality despite all of the criticism.  A star was also born with Zema Ion capturing the X-Division Title after multiple high-flying and dangerous matches led him to the finale.  Lots to like about this PPV as the entire show was about the actual wrestling and that's the way it should be for Destination X.  Austin Aries winning the World Title gave the TNA fans a lot of hope and created a feeling of "anything is possible" for the company.  I really liked where TNA stood at that point. 

MisterTNA: I never understood the criticism of them doing Styles vs Daniels at that show. Were the feud/matches between the two being overdone?  Yes, but every time they competed they delivered and they entertained, and that's exactly what they did that night.  The new stipulation helped them go in a different direction match-wise than they normally would, but it really gave the fans their money's worth (and that's saying something when the card was so good).  I thought on that night that a star was born in both Zema and in Kenny King.  Both really impressed me in Ultimate X, and while I knew it was Zema's time to get the title that night, King showed why he should be the next guy to hold the belt after Ion. Your exactly right with how you described Aries' win.  It was like they kicked a hole in the imaginary box around them and made it clear that there WERE "no limits" on what they could do creatively and as a company. At that time everybody thought that it was set in stone that Bobby Roode would hold the World Title until Bound For Glory and that James Storm would win the BFG Series and go on to beat Roode for the belt. Even after Aries beat Roode, they still thought that he'd lose it back to Roode and the end game would still be in play.  That decision showed that TNA, at that time, were willing to make big changes depending on the fans reactions and that they'd still get around that and deliver what they had planned originally as well.  It was pretty gutsy of them to do that; to give fans what they wanted.  It really made me respect them more for it.

BigDawg: The unpredictable nature of that time was a big positive.  As I look back now, however, I wish they would have started the complete youth movement/overhaul (that is currently happening now) at that time.  The show still had a lot of Hogan and Sting to it, which was fine, but those 2 had a definite expiration date of how long they'd be able to be in the spotlight because they just couldn't go in the ring anymore.  There's only so much talking that Sting and Hogan can do without it losing a portion of the audience eventually.  I do not begrudge TNA for holding on to both of them for so long, but look at how the WWE is embracing them both now.  The WWE fans love them, but when TNA was giving them tons of screen time on IMPACT, it was "Sting & Hogan, boring!.....YAWN".  Such hypocritical attitudes from these types of fans.  I prefer the current direction of TNA more than anything they've done in the past (and that's really saying something).  During this time frame that we've outlined, TNA was still finding their way and their identity.  There was also a lot of drama and ego-clashing going on backstage that bled onto the on-screen product.  Some great moments, some cringe-worthy moments.  Hopefully TNA has less cringe-worthy moments from "The Summer of 2014" on.  It seems as though the roster, production staff, promotion, and everyone else is more of a cohesive unit than ever before as we currently stand in 2014.

MisterTNA: I agree, if TNA had have truly began the "youth movement" at that time instead, the company would have had a lot of momentum that would have reflected in multiple areas due to their growth. When TNA were saying a while ago they had a lot of things planned for the Summer and that the product was really going to "raise its game", it was this time period I looked back at.  It made me believe that it wasn't just hype that would ultimately deliver nothing, but that they could really deliver some great content when they worked their asses off and put the effort in. While there was some not-so-great moments, I look back and I personally think that this was the best time period for TNA in the last 5 years. If TNA can take anything from this period of time, it's that a focus on great wrestling mixed with some intriguing storylines make for a very enjoyable product.  Focusing on making yourself different from everybody else is what will get people talking, not trying to be something you're not and should never become. This was a great period for TNA, and hopefully it will act as the measuring stick to beat when it comes to what TNA deliver in the Summer of 2014.  If TNA continues to use the philosophy they had at that time, I'm confident that this year we will be talking positively about the TNA product on a weekly basis.  

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