As I sit down to write this, I've just finished listening to the OSDH Reaction podcast on TNAsylum and the points they brought up made me want to get a few things off my chest.
It's been a while since I've had (1) the time and (2) the motivation to write a text column because as many of you are probably aware, I haven't exactly been in love with the TNA product lately. Just being honest here. I'm not a big supporter of the current writing team. I think time has proven that John Gaburick is simply not up to the task of running creative. While he may be a talented production guru, that doesn't necessarily make a creative writer and in the case of Gaburick I just don't think it has.
And the others aren't helping the situation. I bare Dave Lagana and Matt Conway no ill will, but these men probably should have been replaced a long time ago as it becomes increasingly obvious how tapped out and devoid of fresh ideas they are. I don't know who else is helping to write the TV show these days -- Christy Hemme, Billy Corgin, who knows -- but IMO, anyone who's been contributing to the creative process for any real length of time needs to go, if for no other reason than they lack what it takes to move the needle forward in any significant manner. Let's face it, under the current regime, the ratings haven't exactly been trending upward and I think it's clear by now that they're not going to until these people are replaced with writers who actually know how to draw moths to a flame.
So with these same people writing the scripts, I was not terribly optimistic about the first IMPACT on PopTV. After the three month exercise in uninspired tedium that was the World Title Series, I wanted nothing more than for TNA deliver a great show with better pacing, actual storyline advancement and characters and promos, etc. And while I don't think they hit a home run with this show, they did deliver something that at least felt somewhat refreshing, though I admit my feelings may be colored by the sheer relief I felt that the World Title Series was finally done with and we could get back to the business of producing a show that's about more than just non-stop tournament matches and nothing else. Overall, I felt the show was pretty good. Not great, but I felt generous enough to give it a B+.
Anyway, here are my thoughts on the show in no particular order...
-The wrestling was acceptable IMO. None of the matches were amazing, but after the WTS, the match quality was the last thing on my mind. I was far more concerned with whether or not they were going to have their creative vision sorted out after having no less than three months to get themselves ready for this. And I won't say I was stunned by anything that happened in that regard, but at least they seemed to make the right decisions more often than not.
-The pacing was much improved. Due to the lack of anything that's not wrestling, the WTS shows became downright tedious at times. I like good wrestling as much as anyone, but when that's all your show is about, it becomes fatiguing pretty quickly. So I couldn't tell you how happy I was to have actual in-ring talking segments back, with engaging promos that sounded like there was actually some thought put into them. You sprinkle a bunch of these throughout the show to break up the wrestling, you add a little bit of comedy where it's appropriate and suddenly you've got a two hour show that doesn't feel like a four hour show. Imagine that.
-EC3 won back the world title he never should have lost, and thank the wrestling gods for that. This man is at the top of his game right now, he's proven all the naysayers wrong, he is TNA's top guy now. For the tournament to end any other way would have been ridiculous.
-No less important is that Matt Hardy did NOT win the world title. All due respect to him, but for the life of me, I do not understand TNA's love affair with Matt Hardy. They can try to brute force him into a top spot all they want, but it's never going to feel any less awkward. His best days in the ring are probably behind him and his performance in recent talking segments has made it abundantly clear that his promo skills and charisma are sorely lacking, especially when compared to EC3. And yet, for reasons that elude me, TNA continue to have Matt lurking around the world title picture despite multiple clean and decisive losses to the champion with no indication that this is going to stop. Don't get any bright ideas, TNA. It wouldn't be a good move, it just wouldn't.
Fortunately, TNA did the right thing and put the title back on their brightest homegrown star. The sad thing is that, with the WTS finals coming down to EC3 vs Matt Hardy, this essentially means that the company spent three months on a tournament that encompassed every single aspect of the product just so they could get to the same two guys in same exact place they were at back in October with nothing really having changed at all. If you didn't think the WTS had been a waste of time before, you probably do now.
-Mike Bennett (with Maria) is 'the Miracle.' I admit, I haven't seen much of Mike Bennett and ideally you'd want them to hype him up more than they did, but I thought this was a solid debut for a new talent. His promo was good, the crowd reacted to him, it looked like there was some effort on the production end put into how he was presented (though his music is pretty terrible) and overall, I thought he came off very well. Now it's up to the writers to stick the landing. I have zero desire to see Maria wrestle, but if these two are going to be a package deal with Bennett in the ring and Maria managing, TNA might have a good act on their hands.
-James Storm (sans Revolution gimmick) and Beer Money are back. Cool. Bobby Roode's current singles run was feeling kind of bland and Storm needed something to reintroduce his character with a bang; this kills two birds with one stone. Plus, TNA need some damn tag teams. Right now they have no tag team division, they have the Wolves and that's it. The Wolves need quality opponents that are on their level and if TNA weren't going to bring in anyone new, this was the best we could hope for.
However, I do hope that they won't blow their load with this feud immediately. IMO, Beer Money and the Wolves shouldn't even go near each other until Slammiversary. Have them feud with some of the makeshift teams that are coming together for a while. Build up to it. Don't waste it right out of the gate because then you're left with nothing to fall back on unless you plan on signing reDRagon or something.
-Stop jobbing out Bram so much. I know they can't exactly push him until he proves that he can stay out of trouble, but I wish TNA would make an effort to protect Bram more than they do since he has all the qualities you'd want in a future main eventer. Tag teaming with Eric Young seems like an appropriate spot for him right now; hopefully, EY will be a good influence on him.
-The X-division is (still) MIA. Is anyone really surprised? I'm not. And I'm not terribly fussed about it either because it's just more of the same old story. I didn't expect the X-division to have any presence on this show and it's hard to be disappointed when you have no expectations. Moving forward, I think the X-division will be continue to be treated exactly the same way it's been treated for quite some time now. TNA will trot it out once or twice a month when they need a spotfest to pop the crowd, and outside of the few weeks before and after Destination-X, the division and all the men in it up to and including its champion will continue to mean very little. If you think anything else is going to happen, you probably haven't been paying attention for the last year.
-The Knockouts miss Taryn and Brooke. The women who should have been the top heel and top face of this division respectively have left the company and that hurts. A lot. I understand that Taryn got married, found religion and wrestling just didn't work for her anymore, but Brooke never should have lost the title to Gail, never should have been allowed to leave and it's frankly embarrassing that TNA let that happen without making more of an effort to keep her happy.
-It really depresses me to have to say this, but TNA now need to revamp the Knockout division AGAIN. They've just lost the only two significant new female stars they bothered to develop and create in the last six years, which puts them right back at square one with the nostalgia act that Gail, Kong and the Beautiful People have become. They had something good going with the Dollhouse last year until they decided to have Gail single-handedly demolish them and now I have no idea what the plan is or if there's even a plan at all. Judging by what happened on this show, I suspect there isn't.
-So Awesome Kong is in the Dollhouse now even though they were the ones who cost her the Knockouts title in the first place. Will this be explained? Probably not. The writers never bothered to explain why Rebel was put on the shelf by the Dollhouse only to inexplicably join them the next time we saw her, so I'm not holding my breath on this one. But it probably needed to happen, though, since the Dollhouse needed something to give them a shot of credibility after the dismantling they received at the hands of Gail last summer.
But that doesn't do much to fix the problem, which is that TNA have now mashed every Knockout they have left (Maria doesn't count) into this one feud, and more than half the women involved are either as stale as they've been in years, flirting with retirement or campaigning to get signed by another company, and the rest have been buried to such an extent that they need to be completely rebuilt before the fans will even take them seriously again.
So needless to say, I wasn't pleased to see the Dollhouse not only lose their first match in this feud after being on the defensive for most of it, but to have it end with Jade getting pinned by Gail to add insult to injury. Jade is easily the most polished and strongest worker of the Dollhouse; more than anyone in this match, she needed to be protected, both so she can be rebuilt as a threat and to preserve an eventual singles feud with Gail, but instead, TNA thought that going in the opposite direction would be a better idea. It pains me to say it, but stuff like this is why I'm really beginning to resent Gail Kim. As much as I respect her, TNA are never going to create any new longterm female stars and genuinely progress this division when it exists solely to put Gail over and preserve a status quo that was established in 2007.
-Newsflash, TNA: Gail is not going to be around forever. Kong is not going to be around forever. The Beautiful People are not going to be around forever. These woman have been with you for ages now and they've all got a lot more miles behind them than in front of them. Their clocks are ticking whether you want to accept that or not. You need to sign new Knockouts, you need to prioritize the development of newer, younger female talent over your maddening desire to keep the old guard in the spotlight until they all die of old age and you need to do it now.
One day, that old guard is going to leave. Do you want to be prepared when that day comes or do you want to be caught with your pants down again? Pull your heads out of the sand, stop using Gail and co. as a crutch for the division and give it the attention it needs before the fans stop caring about it entirely.
All the talent you need is out there waiting. Over the last year or two you've given tryouts to any number of women who, by all accounts, not only impressed, but would be great people to rebuild this division with: Cherry Bomb, Veda Scott, Kay Lee Ray, Nikki Storm, Shanna, the Owens Twins, etc. Sign some of them ASAP and get to work, damn it.