Disclaimer: TNAMecca Co-Founder Chris Regal posted a POV column yesterday entitled, Memo to TNA: Wrestling has Evolved, You Should Too whose premise and content I disagree with and instead of retorting via a novel in a post, I figured well blimey (That's for you British Readers) I am back on the TNAMecca writing staff and can just do it POV Style.
Wrestling Didn't Need To Evolve, It Needs To Stay in the Tried and True Formula From YesterYear
I am not going to lie: currently my favorite wrestling fed I watch on a weekly basis is WWF Raw and Smackdown circa 2000 on the wwe network. I am binge watching WWF 2000 and I started from the episode The Rock held the show hostage with the rest of the WWF Superstars who would walk on HHH and Stephanie's Candy Ass show if they didn't reinstate Mick Foley now. Right now I am on the last Smackdown the wwe has posted on the network from that year that has any continuity to the rest of Smackdown's and that is the one before Backlash 2000. The matches on the shows are short, usually filled with run-ins and cheap finishes, HHH and Stephanie and Shane and Vince and Rock cut 20 minute promos every week, The Big Show and Rikishi are having dance off''s, Crash Holly is defending the Hardcore title weird places like at a Laundry Mat, Taka Michinoku is getting WWF Championship opportunities against HHH, Stephanie McMahon has actually taken a few bumps (and hilariously wears a "SMH" shirt as her wrestling gear which sums up my reaction when she is on TV in 2016), The Rock loses a scary amount of matches via shenanigans but yet the shows are all fucking awesome. And you want to know why???
It is because the entire roster intertwined with one another and storylines would progress continuously. The wrestling wasn't filled with super athletic spots but the matches are sound with the crowds into all the action because they care about the characters. Perfect example is an episode of Smackdown I just watched: Kurt Angle wants to pay the APA (Acolytes Protection Agency) to beat up the Big Show who is feuding with Kurt and the APA agree to help Kurt. Kurt says he will go get the money but before that happens, he critiques the APA and their place of business (Kurt can't help but be true to himself and the three I's) and pisses them off. Kurt then goes to the Boss Man and Bull Buchanan who agree to help Kurt and who also happen to be feuding with the APA at the same time stemming from the APA helping Rock against HHH while Boss Man and Buchanan were helping HHH fight Rock. As Kurt, Boss Man and Buchanan beat The Big Show down, the APA show up and help Big Show fight those three guys off and sets up the APA vs. Boss Man and Buchanan (This name is a bitch to spell) at the ppv. The wrestling here was non existent but the action was continuous, the vignettes progressed storylines, the characters stayed true to themselves and it built to two matches at the next ppv: Backlash 2000.
That's what wrestling needs to "evolve" into or in my eyes revert back too. Just have consistent characters whose motivations make sense and stay true to themselves with the stories being told on the show being consistent as well. WWE forgets you need storylines, knows zero about continuity (hello Authority) and the wrestlers are all cookie cutter and replaceable which means that despite the WWE having good wrestling on their shows (and the matches get time), the shows still suck. The actual wrestling is secondary to the stories being told so when the stories suck, the shows will suck no matter how good the wrestling is. I keep reading how the 2016 Royal Rumble match which I watched was really good wrestling wise but I can not get passed the uber retarded booking of Roman Reigns to the point I have written the match off as terrible because the story the WWE tried to sell us on blew chunks.
Chris cited what wrestling feds are doing that have evolved wrestling like LU, NJPW, NXT, Evolve, PWG and ROH. However NJPW, Evolve, PWG and ROH have always been wrestling first, storyline second feds for their entire history and most of them are still where they were when they started: feds to show wrestling acumen and try and get themselves noticed by WWE and (for a big part of the last 14 years) TNA enough to be signed by them and put on television. (NJPW is the exception here because they are a 40+ year old federation that has been THE fed in Japan for a lot of their existence) LU and NXT are newer brands but NXT is beloved for its old school approach which is what TNA needs to be and have been doing (Simple stories, consistent character motivations and everyone being connected to each other in storylines) and LU is a Mexican soap opera with wrestling in it. Chris cited that fans want athleticism and strong style wrestling but when athleticism leads to fans saying "What cool way will Kofi stop himself from being eliminated in the Rumble match before he actually gets eliminated because we know he will never actually win the match" instead of "Can Kofi Kingston win the Royal Rumble match" that is a problem. Steve Austin has stated on podcasts that guys are getting hurt because they are trying to do spots rather then wrestle matches that tells stories and that guys are trying to make it look so real that they are actually beating each other up legit to the point they get hurt.
TNA has decided to focus on storylines and characters with the wrestling secondary which is A-OK with me. If Impact builds stories like they have with the EC3 vs. Matt Hardy feud, Galloway vs. Angle 2, Angle vs. Lashley, The Wolves vs. Beer Money, The Wolves vs. The Decay, Gail vs. Jade etc. with the matches which set up these big showdowns not being all that great (wait a minute that's basically NXT and that's what WWF 2000 was which is arguably the best year WWE TV ever had quality wise) but the big matches deliver like EC3 vs Hardy LMS did, like Galloway vs. Angle 2 did, like The Wolves vs. The Decay should next week etc then that's fine. Its not about wrestling a stiff style or seeing what kind of crazy athletic move people can pull off on a weekly, its about building a story to its apex with a crowd rabid to see the two stars square off and them going out there and giving the crowd what they want. Rockstar Spud vs. EC3 last March did this perfectly. TNA does that consistently and this positive buzz the wrestling feds Chris cited will fall TNA's way. Then again I'm of the opinion that if you show someone an Impact broadcast and tell them its TNA, it will be deemed a mediocre or bad show because groupthink says TNA is bad m'kay. However if you show someone an Impact broadcast but tell them its an NXT show or an LU show, the show would get rave reviews because groupthink says NXT and LU is awesome.
To make a long POV short (apologies for some rambling by me), all you need to do to deliver a good episodic wrestling show is consistent characters with consistent motivations (most of the time because you need heel and face turns every now and then but if the turn works afterwards then we are back to my first line), consistent storylines, a roster where everyone is intertwined in stories together so no one person is stuck in no man's land with nothing to do (Which is easy to do with a smaller more condensed roster that TNA has now) and have your big matches deliver big when its time to deliver then your weekly wrestling show will be fine regardless if every match on the show is ***** or **.