Even the moment when he rose slowly from the underbelly of the Impact Zone's stage, marched to the ring draping old glory across his shoulders, stood face to face with a Samoa Joe that was setting the wrestling world on fire, and sent the place bonkers with one momentous headbutt, it felt like something a fan would have imagined or concocted in their minds. Or even on a message board, or fantasy column, written with the type of ease and zest to make it seem that it plays out just like imagined, where everything goes right. Feels right. And just comes together for TNA.
Only, this time it did. In my opinion, that was the biggest moment in TNA Wrestling. The company has had other big moments, but nothing felt like that moment, to me at least. Nothing ever reached the heights or captured that something that makes a moment - that had that special ingredient of which you just can't describe until you see it, or feel it. In those few minutes, that moment had that special something. That moment felt like the raw being and natural existence of what TNA was, is, and should always be.
Ten years later, it's pretty tough to wrap my mind around the fact that Kurt Angle and TNA will no longer be. The whole farewell deal, while it's been a lot of fun and handled correctly by TNA, still doesn't feel real. This is it for Kurt Angle in TNA. The biggest free agent this company has, and probably will ever have, will be exiting forever.
I won't even begin to attempt to capture Angle's career in TNA, or even what he means to the fabric and foundation of the company's last ten years. Whatever words I put before you won't do it justice. Especially, the depths of the impact (no pun intended, of course) you and I won't ever know from seeds planted behind the curtains or on the road to many others who have benefited from Angle's presence.
As always, there are the cliche'd "what ifs", as there always is in pro wrestling. Regardless, a part of me feels the farewell tour has been a nice and befitting full circle as Angle is now the sole "legend", so-to-speak, on the roster. The focus as the elder-statesmen revolves around only him, as well it should.
With Angle on the outs, it's now easy to look back. Actually, there is a part of me that continues to reflect as TNA's history amasses and now lengthens to that of being a rather substantial one in pro wrestling history.
I admit, I'm the guy that leans a bit to the left when it comes to mindset and philosophy of what I want specifically from TNA Wrestling. I've always believed the company needed to do everything it could to separate itself from the WWE and all else that came before it. Which is why I loved the entire concept of the X-Division, and it's ambiguous, stunt-devil, screw-you-old-school-methodical wrestling, sort of style. It's why I loved the six-sided ring. The King of the Mountain Match. Heck, even the KOTM title. Yes, I may be in the minority on this, but why do some insist on pro wrestling championships all have to be so standard and formulated these days?
Nonetheless, upon review of TNA's existence, once you get passed the obvious (the negative natured expectations of bringing up shortcomings and mistakes), TNA really has a rich history of names which have passed through it's doors. It actually has deep rooted connections to various historic lines as well.
Kurt Angle. Sting. AJ Styles. Hulk Hogan. Scott Hall. Kevin Nash. Eric Bischoff. Jeff Jarrett. Ken Shamrock. Bob Backlund. Ricky Steamboat. CM Punk. Sabu. Chris Candido. Psicosis. Masahiro Chono. Steve Corino. Jim Cornette. Christopher Daniels. Jim Duggan. Bobby Eaton. Diamond Dallas Page. Booker T. Scott Steiner. Rick Steiner. Animal. Ric Flair. Mick Foley. Francine. Shane Douglas. Sandman. Terry Funk. Rhino. Junvetud Guerrero. Chavo Guerrero. Chris Sabin. Desmond Wolfe aka Nigel McGuinness. Bobby Heenan. MVP. Low Ki. Curt Hennig. Kazuchika Okada. Hiroshi Tanahashi. Shinsuke Nakamura. Team 3D. Spike Dudley. The James Gang aka New Age Outlaws. Mickie James. Tommy Dreamer. Raven. Mike Awesome. Dusty Rhodes. Dustin Rhodes. Stevie Richards. Jackie Moore. The Great Muta. Jim Neidhart. Lex Luger. Randy Savage. Christian Cage. Samoa Joe. Too Cold Scorpio. Taz. Jay Lethal. Jake Roberts. Awesome Kong. Rob Van Dam. Tara. Taryn Terrell. Roddy Piper. Sean Waltman. Larry Zybysko. Jushin Thunder Liger. Tiger Mask.
And so many more whom I'm sure I couldn't remember to list above.
And of course, there were the celebrities such as Pac Man Jones, AJ Pierznski, Bart Scott, Toby Keith, Chris Rock, Brian Urlacher, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Rose, Tom Arnold, and of course, Jenna Morasca and Tito Ortiz.
Okay...maybe we'll scratch the last two. Those are just really, really bad memories.
Nonetheless, while TNA continues to carve out it's slice in pro wrestling, there is definitely a lineage of old school ties and history the company has, or at the very least, is connected to. I'm not exactly calling for TNA to push this heavily, but at times, it feels like the company doesn't embrace it enough or at all. After all, it is what makes TNA - good, bad, or indifferent.
TNA doesn't have to, nor shouldn't wait for the WWE, or any other company, to dictate "what really happened." Or even, for a former wrestler of theirs to appear elsewhere before showcasing their career within the TNA spectrum. There are plenty of good moments, appearances, and matches that can highlight and legitimize TNA as a company, without jeopardizing it's future or acknowledging it as a mistake, or a missed opportunity. There is SO much content there for them to work with.
For example, how about some featured bouts in a video package from Psicosis, Sean Waltman, and others from the X-Division of the past? Maybe just to help re-energize the importance and the legacy of the X-Division? Or even feature a few legends who have competed in a TNA ring? Credibility comes in many forms, and TNA's past isn't exactly as haunting and doom and gloom as many try to make it seem.
One idea I've envisioned for TNA is indeed a once-a-year event revolving around an Old School theme. It could be Slammiversary if need be, and quite honestly, it might be the best fit.
How about an older, simple set from the past? The old referee uniforms? Maybe, even the old logo? Let's have a night of a few old faces returning, a few video clips honoring the past of TNA, and maybe some mockery of the Aces and Eights. Okay, sorry. That's just a personal wish there...but heck, why not?
Maybe you can work in an angle or two to have a feel-good returning legend for one night? Again, just tossing ideas at the wall. But I do think this is one that can stick, with much needed refinement, of course.
All in all, this upcoming Tuesday, Angle will be done. D-O-N-E. Done. No matter how many times I type that, I still can't wrap my mind around it. However, more so, the official new era of TNA's newest generation will be left without their legend and safety net of the past ten years. Even the "originals" are no longer in a true place of long term investment.
The ball is now in the hands of EC3 and company. The torch has been passed. While the future is so very bright, and I'm excited for it, I'm hoping the company doesn't just let go of Kurt Angle like they have thus far with most of their past. To be honest, I am rather fearful of that. There really is one Kurt Angle. Only one, and he's one of the greatest to ever lace em' up. Instead, I hope they honor it, embrace it, and begin using it moving forward.
Because of the past, TNA realized they should always have six sides, and now, I hope they understand they will forever only have...one Angle.
Isn't the campaign slogan by the our own, TNAsylum Heel Cast, "Making the X-Division Great Again" absolutely terrific? Keep rockin' fellas.
Following up on my mid-column side-bar, how does one really justify making the KOTM title the Television championship, when TNA is only a Television product?
If there is any change the championship needs, should it not be a different appearance?
And shouldn't that be the last change to this poor title/championship which has endured quite the rough history?
Anyone else laugh when Matt Hardy emphasizes, "Iconic" in a rather annoying tone? It's a merely subtlety to the entire Matt Hardy re-brand that's been terrific.
When does TNA get credit for the garage sale-like make-over they've done with talents like Bobby Lashley, Tyrus, and Drew Galloway? Not to mention the never-seen-again heights for guys like Christian Cage, Bully Ray, and Matt Hardy?
And speaking of reclamation, what about the Decay? Holy smokes...kudos to creative.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I'm not sure why many dislike Grado...isn't a reaction - any reaction - the first check box in being an in-demand professional wrestler?
Are you also pumped they're letting the girls from the Dollhouse run with the ball rather than give them a pseudo-leader?
Isn't Big Damo, well, ummmm, very awkward, yet highly intriguing as well?
Haven't the emphasis on characters as well as the constant buildup for main events throughout the night an extremely big investment for fans to be engaged to the product?
Speaking of investments, aren't the latest rumors of TNA bringing on investors rather eye-brow raising?
Looking at the landscape of pro wrestling, isn't Impact currently (and consistently - yeah, that word!) the best product, right now?
As always, feedback is always appreciated below, and over in Twitterland at @DomePondering.