Thursday, October 20, 2011

TNA = Talking Nonstop by A........

....well, they aren't all a........'s, but 45 minutes after the beginning of Impact Wrestling, and that's mostly what we've had.  It'd be okay if it were compelling, and some of it is - Sting, Angle, and Storm are entertaining. But Hulk didn't pull it off for me tonight, and Bobby Roode still doesn't excite me, at least not his promos.  This is also the first time I have ever heard Dixie Carter speak.  She doesn't need to anymore. 

Oooo, Bischoff said 'balls'.  Again.  Wow, that's never happened before, now has it?  What is this, 1994?

Aw hell, a knockouts match.  I can't hit the fast forward button because I'm watching it live - have homemade bread in the oven.  Back to the World Series.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TNA is not an alternative product

The title of this post is not original.  As a former radio boss once told me, 99-percent of great ideas are stolen, and the title was sto..., errr, borrowed from a Tweet posted by the best wrestling announcer not calling matches right now, Joey Styles (well, the best announcer not calling matches until halfway through this week's Raw, anyway.)  It took me until the last week or so to discover for myself that Mr. Styles hit it on the nose harder than Ahmed Johnson used to legitimately punch people in the ring.

I didn't bother to investigate the source of Mr. Styles' Tweet - people who do that on Twitter are creepy, like stalkers or fans of Dr. Oz.  I wanted to find out for myself, as I had seen very little of the TNA product.  Jeff Jarrett's outfit had come along at a time when I had stopped watching wrestling on TV for the most part, and I had only heard some anecdotes passed along by my best friend and former PPV watching buddy Kevin Miller.

Many of our old heroes were either on the TNA roster - Kurt Angle, RVD, Jarrett, Sting, Hogan, and of course, the greatest of them all, The Nature Boy - or had been in the recent past - Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and the other greatest of them all, Mick Foley.  Kevin told me that, in his opinion, the WWE shows were unwatchable despite having the better athletes and, even though they were on the downside of their careers, the old boys of TNA were still somewhat compelling.  So, roughly two months ago, I watched my very first episode of Impact Wrestling.

By this time, however I had also started watching WWE programming regularly again thanks solely to CM Punk  After all, that Ghost Hunters episode he did was epic!  Actually, hearing about his rant and "suspension" piqued me, a one-time cult follower of the promos of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.  When I finally saw on YouTube the promo in which Punk was cut off in mid-rant, I was in the Crippler Cross Face and am not out yet, even though I'm pretty sure someone has tried to erase any evidence that move ever existed.  Now, I would have the chance to truly compare the WWE and TNA, and after watching both, the answer is clear.  One is a ribeye - not filet mignon, but still pretty tasty.  The other is the 6.99 sirloin special at Huddle House - nothing wrong with it, but you'd rather have the more tender cut of meat.  Four seconds of mic time by The Hulkster on Impact last week proved this.

The TNA product has some good things going for it.  Mike Tenay and Taz (Tazz? Tazzzzzzzzzz?  I won't say that too loudly, as even with a bad neck he could whip my a$$) are excellent at calling a match, probably better than any of the current WWE combos.  WWE announcers focus on advancing story lines more so than what's happening in the ring, and increasingly they are story lines that have nothing to do with the match they are calling.  While Michael Cole has improved his bad-guy announcer schtick, it doesn't work as well yet as Ross-Lawler, with Lawler as the heel.  That may change, as I am warming to Cole, particularly his chemistry with Booker T.  As of now, though, Tenay-Tazz are the superior team at handling match calls.

There are plenty of fine athletes at TNA as well.  50-something year old Sting can still get it done, as can Angle despite all his surgeries and personal issues.  Bobby Roode and James Storm had a fine match last week, as did Roode and AJ Styles the week before.  Bully Ray proves week in and week out that he is one of the greatest heels of all time, and I have no idea why Vince McMahon let him get away.  TNA does okay for talent considering it probably has a budget along the lines of Bunkhouse Buck's BBQ, as opposed to the four-star Chez Levesque.  What they lack in athletes and production value they could easily make up in story telling, but Hulk Hogan's four infamous seconds proved that TNA has yet to have learned that lesson..

The words came at the very end of the show, after Sting showed a "security camera" clip with Hulk and Eric Bischoff discussing how they had fooled the fans into believe Hogan was actually retiring after last week's Impact.  An incensed Hogan screams at Sting something to the effect of, "you wanna fight?  I'll fight you at Bound For Glory (the upcoming PPV), and if you win, you and Dixie Carter can have the company back!"  He then puts his hand over his own mouth as if he were Gary Coleman confessing to Mr. Drummond that he cheated on his math test.  And if you're tuning into the show for the first time, you're wondering why one of the Designing Women, who's been mentioned all of zero times in the show up until then, could take over the company with a Hulk loss to Sting. It was one of the worst executions of a wrestling story line I have ever seen.

It isn't that it's a bad idea for a story, but Vince McMahon would have dragged the scenario out for weeks, maybe even a couple months, squeezing out every drop of milk he could and throwing in a few twists and screw jobs before capping it just before a PPV.  Sure, WWE would be ripped for doing that as some are doing now for the walkout storyline, but while not everything WWE touches turns to Gold(dust), Vince has a whole lot more hits than misses under his championship belt (and that was not to imply that Goldust was a miss - I love Goldust!).

Take the walkout.  Imagine seeing Vince fired as COO, succeeded by Triple H, chaos, the walkout, and Triple H replaced by John Laurinaitis all in the same show.  That's pretty much what we saw with Hogan's four second meltdown last week.  I shouldn't only mention Hogan, as it isn't his fault.  The entire show has no story line discipline; things change almost from one week to the next with the exception of Bobby Roode's classic "ultimate good guy" buildup to his match with Kurt Angle.  That story has been handled pretty well.  Virtually every other story line is more chaotic than Ric Flair on a cross-country flight in 1984.

Raw and Smackdown are not perfect, and there are plenty of reasons to watch Impact Wrestling every week.  But any TNA folks who think they are the legitimate alternative to The Corporation, a la WCW in the old days, need to see a Headshrinker.  There will be much more to say on this topic down the road, but suffice it to say, Joey Styles nailed it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Four reasons the WWE Raw walkout is more compelling than "Occupy Wall St."

Much media attention has been given to the protests over lack of jobs and "corporate greed" labeled Occupy Wall Street.  Like the protest itself, some of this attention is legitimately warranted, while a lot of it is manufactured.  Garnering virtually no attention from the traditional media, however, was another protest over jobs, working conditions, and an unresponsive corporation; the "walkout" by the WWE Superstars at the end of this week's Monday Night Raw.  From what I have seen so far, the Wall Streeters could learn more than a few things from their brethren in the squared circle, so here are four reasons why I have paid more attention to the WWE walkout than to Occupy Wall Street.

4. Personalities.  Sure, there have been compelling stories from a handful of the Wall Street protests, but they have been few and far between the rants from the disjointed and incoherent, as well as some that are outright bigoted.  The WWE, on the other hand, employs some of the best talkers in the world.  How much more attention might the Wall Streeters receive if The Miz and R-Truth led a special version of their "You Suck" rap, if Mark Henry said he planned to put the president, Congress, and corporate CEO's into his Hall of Pain, or if The Rock threatened to turn the NASDAQ sideways and stick it straight up someone's candy a$$?  

3. Purpose.  What specifically prompted the Wall Street folks to gather in protest?  95-percent of them probably can't answer that question, and now that labor unions are starting to take over Occupy Wall Street, the answer will become even more muddied. (Why are the union folks protesting anyway?  Don't most of them have jobs already?)  The WWE Superstars, on the other hand, were united Monday on one, single grievance; unsafe working conditions.  Sure, referees have been getting smacked around for 40 years.  And yes, some of the wrestlers were complaining about attacks from other wrestlers - last I checked, that was in their job description.  And the first guy to walk out, Jerry "The King" Lawler, used to regularly throw fireballs into the faces of his opponents.  Okay, maybe there are some consistency issues, but they were united on Monday, dang it!

2. An actual corporate boss to hate.  If Occupy Wall Street really wanted to stare down a corporate boss, they would be in Washington - the folks there have caused a heck of a lot more problems than those on Wall Street.  It has to be difficult to galvanize support again a generic figure responsible for alleged "corporate greed."  The WWE, on the other hand, has plenty of bosses just waiting (and often wishing) to be hated.  Whether it is current COO Triple-H, the Vice President of, excuse me, EXECUTIVE Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis, or the former (and I suspect future) boss Mr. McMahon, there is always someone at the top in which to direct your enmity.  They may order you into Hell In A Cell afterward, but at least you have an outlet.

1. The commentators are better.  To whom would you rather listen?  The monotonous monotone Brian Williams lecturing us yet again on NBC about how our "politics are broken", even though it's (hat tip David Byrne) the same as it ever was?  How about the Fox or MSNBC hosts and their guests screaming at each other, "You're a facist!" "Well, you're a commie!"  "Well, you're a racist!"  "Oh yeah, you eat white asparagus!"  I would watch Occupy Wall Street daily if it featured Jim Ross ("What the hell?  The corporate boss is runnin' like a scalded dog!"), Booker T ("Awwwwwwww, you gotta be kiddin' me!"), Michael Cole ("In the immortal words of Booker T, what thuh....?") and The King ("Look JR, protesting puppies! Ah!")  I know, Lawler doesn't say that any more.  I miss the old King.