TNA is in the midst of something akin to an offseason right now until the company debuts on its new channel, POP TV. But until then, and really until they are on a different television network, we have to be patient until any real story lines or change of pace for the show occurs. Of course, if you are like me, I am enjoying the World Title Series immensely, and I am more than satisfied with the heavy MMA-style presentation until we do see the transfer to a new network, wherever that ends up being. Some episodes are better than others and have better focus or have partial storylines. But the best thing is the consistent quality wrestling has returned to the program.
As we enter into 2016, I would like to see a continuance of the sporty feel. In fact, I would like to see them go even further and head into PSSE territory—my pet project. However, TNA has some habits that I would more so hope they avoid or limit to a more appropriate level. Many of these cause some of the typical criticisms you hear from TNA Haters and contribute to its damaged reputation. These are the major flaws that seem to reoccur with the product, most which are pretty obvious to the dedicated TNA fan. They should be avoided to truly give TNA the restart it deserves. So here we go:
TNA has commitment issues. If it had a girlfriend, they would have let the perfect woman (or man, I do not know if TNA should be a he or she in the metaphor, take your pick) go because she did not put out enough or because he did not buy a big enough rock (See, I cannot even commit to a metaphorical gender.). That is how TNA is—impatience abounds.
We see a particular emphasis to the program for a period of time, usually around six months, and then, another reset occurs promising a whole new set of awesomeness. We move from a period of “Wrestling Matters” to sports entertainment where Magnus is the announcer of the three ring circus. Consistency has never been TNA’s strong suit; when the ratings remain stagnant, TNA freaks and changes up the existing paradigm. When things are going well, something always seems to get in the way. TNA will never improve in quality or ratings if this trend continues.
Solution: Patience and old-fashioned elbow grease. TNA saw a consistent, high quality product after Slammiversary 2014 for almost a year going into its run on Destination America. Week in and week out, TNA was putting on good to great shows in that period. Six months into that run, you began seeing some real acknowledgment from some fans; toward the end of it, things were finally catching on and you saw wrestling fans begin to say they would give TNA another chance. However, TNA either got complacent, distracted, overburdened, or lazy on the creative end as we carried into May 2015 and beyond. I am going to guess it was a mixture of all of that, as backstage events began to affect the quality of the show, stories seemed to get repetitive, and there was a lack of great wrestling and build to anything.
What it will take to turn the train around will be a major undertaking. As was seen with the last quality run they had is it will take time—more than any other factor—for wrestling fans to return to the product and new ones to come aboard. As we know, TNA has a lot of great things about it, but it is obvious it is the red-headed stepchild of the wrestling world and TNA continues to step on its own feet at times. So it will take a lot for those fans to acknowledge something truly special happening for our favorite wrestling product.
How long will it take? Years (That is plural.). It will take at least two to three years of high quality, good to great, shows for any sort of improvement from the base TNA has established over the years. The TV situation does not help, and hopefully, TNA found a solid and stable deal that will allow them to show what they are made of. It all starts with straight forward quality because there is no magic pill (except Viagra, but that is entirely unrelated.).
Major Announcement: Bigfoot
The Bigfoot in the subtitle above refers to the one TNA has ridden with bullet holes over the years. It is surprising it has not become infected. TNA likes to make big promises for big surprises and announcements and routinely under-delivers; it is commonplace now for fans to look at any TNA promise with a great deal of skepticism. There seems to be barely any foot left to shoot.
Us dedicated TNA fans are much too use to the planned big announcements or promised major surprises. Hell, the company is quite skilled at grabbing our attention and building the hype; it is just we have heard the song before; it has been on repeat for years. From August 1 Warning to Bully Ray’s big return(s), we see the same thing multiples of times. Every once in awhile, we get something real to chew on, like a new TV deal, but for every one of those, there are five Abysses breaking through the ring to help Magnus retain the world title. Every promise tends to wear thin now.
Solution: Let the product speak for itself and eliminate faux hype. Another turn-of-phrase for this would be “let it breathe.” If you have a foot you keep shooting repeatedly and you never change the bandages, it becomes infected and might fall off after awhile. Instead of trying the same thing repeatedly when it keeps yielding the same result, a different approach would seem to be better. Instead of big promises or mysteries or what have you, simply let things happen. We have all seen how effective a surprise run in of Bobby Roode to beat the shit out of MVP has worked in the past. Maybe employing that stratagem a lot more would yield better results.
This is an extension from the previous section. While TNA will need to produce high quality shows for years to come, it will do itself no favors by artificially raising expectations with hyperbolic language when there is a chance it will not deliver. TNA has this major tendency of doing this to garner short term boosts in ratings, and it is no surprise it works for an episode, perhaps two, but only to the detriment of long term gains in fan base and viewership.
High expectations should be gained from the quality of the show itself and times when “big announcements” are guaranteed to deliver, as in times of Kurt Angle coming to TNA or a new TV deal comes about. Letting things happen and maintaining quality creates natural hype that will feed the needs of fans. Do it through quality wrestling and maintaining story lines with forward momentum. TNA is not only competing against other wrestling companies and TV shows; it is competing against cord cutting and piracy. Stability should be much more important than short term gains.
The Nail that Sticks Out the Farthest
Well…I hear it gets hit the hardest. If you are not aware already, TNA has its own woodshed for horses—two in particular. They are the faction war and the corrupt authority figure, and frankly, I do not think there are much of them left. I have shed many-a-tear over these once special horses, whom have been beaten to an o…so bloody…pulp… *Takes a moment to breath, a singular tear falls down Wake’s cheek* (Artsy, right?).
It is obvious TNA fans, and really most wrestling fans, are jaded by these oft used tropes. Many times, it feels like we run a marathon until we find something that has not been overdone in recent year or feels a little fresher. Sometimes, fans can be harsh too, ready with the rotten tomatoes of stories wells’ past (Or you can use the bus metaphor if you do not like tomatoes. I prefer my sandwiches without them as well.). The well seems to have run dry on these overused narratives (See what I am doing here? I’m overusing clichéd metaphors now.). I guess no one is perfect; I had inklings for myself…wrong again.
Solution: Tap new wells or re-tap ones that have been given time to replenish. See, it is extremely easy for me to sit here on my laptop computer and write this for a fan column. I can understand how wrestlers, writers, executives, and creative minds in the wrestling business might find these suggestions, or in extreme cases “holier-than-thou” attitudes, old or annoying. I get it; I have worked customer service jobs that have similar issues from customers. It takes strong-willed people who have been in the game for a long time to accept criticism, sift through the junk, and take suggestions. One advantage creative minds in the wrestling industry have is the fans are ardent enough to tell you exactly what they want. The real difficult part is to take that and also create the things they do not know they want yet.
Again, wrestling shows have an arduous job when it comes to creativity. Wrestling’s rich history has tapped so many possibilities it seems everything has been tapped dry. But if the World Title Series has shown anything (Other than I personally really enjoy the sporty feel to wrestling, yup, snuck it in there), there is room for further innovations in the professional wrestling landscape. Another example is Lucha Underground and its take on filming and more hour-long-drama style. Even digging around the oldies-but-goodies bin shows it can work in the modern wrestling environment. Remember the disputed world title story right before AJ left; of course; it was used by the three biggest wrestling companies in the US around the same time, but it still made for intriguing TV at the time in late 2013. I have made my own suggestions, whether increasing the sporty vibe of the show to changing the face and heel formula. It is difficult to find those things, but the industry certainly needs a refresh.
For Name’s Sake
At times, TNA can be like a jukebox playing all the old hits or playing the most popular song that gets overplayed on the radio thousands of times. The company, maybe more so in the past than now, keeps playing “Don’t Stop Believing,” even though it might be in a country western bar sometimes (Do not ask me why “Don’t Stop Believing” is on the jukebox at a country western bar.). Those classic tunes have a special place in our hearts and bring that sense of nostalgia, but there is a time and place for everything. The tunes of the WWE and WCW are just like that.
WCW was great in the heyday of the 90’s and WWE is the big player in town, sure. They have name recognition, just like Journey, but perhaps the better time for them is now at weddings or high school dances and reunions (Do not get me wrong; I still want to hear it on the radio as well on occasion too.). In the past and even in the past year or so, TNA has become over-reliant on star power and associations with WWE to the point of hubris. This has been one of the oft criticisms placed on TNA, sometimes unfairly. But some of it really has been justified as many TNA Originals and young guns have been thrown under the bus in favor of the likes of bigger names or those with WWE associations. You know Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and others.
Solution: Let the new artists hone their craft and create some hits and let the established ones in their prime flow out with the thrashing, while bringing out the classics at appropriate times. If there is any bad habit that TNA is apt to fix sooner than others, it is this one. Sure, many of the most recent recruits have come from WWE/NXT runs; however, they also are some of the better recruits lately too. It is about who has the talent to contribute and deliver quality wrestling matches and stories, but those pushes should not be because of prior associations, if you catch my drift.
Yeah, Kurt Angle is one of those classic hits. But his hits are not overplayed; he just happens to keep producing new ones. So having a UK farewell tour is an appropriate play on TNA’s part; it should take advantage of the opportunity to feature some of the younger talent with the established veteran while also featuring some classic matchups along the way. A little bit of 4/4, throw in a waltz, and also please us with some killer improv solos (Warning: you must have a very rudimentary understanding of music to understand this joke; and no, I do not mean you know what “Stairway to Heaven” sounds like.).
TNA is on the cusp of creating some great stars, most obvious among them being EC3. We as fans beg TNA not to usurp this opportunity from them and pull that proverbial rug from underneath. There is an indication there will not be any major stars debuting on the first show on POP TV, and that has me hopeful on this one. Let the bands play and les us hear some good battles.
It can be fun to have your socks blown off, even though the physics of that are complicated. Sometimes a little shock therapy can be a good thing; too much though can make you become a vegetable. TNA has had a habit in the past of overdoing the surprises and outrageousness in the past, sometimes for the sake of just doing it. How many times can you have surprise returns of Matt Morgan and Hernandez in the same night, though? I have almost swallowed my own tongue at times when watching Impact.
Wrestling is obviously known to have a bit of a ridiculous nature to it; it is partly what makes professional wrestling what it is. TNA was sort of founded on throwing a bit of feces against the wall (It started with some great wrestling too, by the way.). Some of it sticks, but a lot falls to the floor. But I think TNA fans are not up for that strategy much anymore. I personally do not want to see the run in fests of Magnus’ title reign anymore and Abyss coming up from under the ring. I want quality storytelling and wrestling period. Do not get me wrong though; I do not mind the well scripted interference or surprise.
Solution: Well…the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Well scripted surprises and shocking moments should not be done away with entirely in professional wrestling. The modern day audience craves sensible storytelling, content that makes sense in the context of the show, and throwing a bit of the titillating subject matter and a dash of shock therapy in logical ways will not hurt. Umm…that is all I got to say on that one…. I know you expect more verbosity from me. But tough tiddlywinks (I have always wanted to end a column in that way.).