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.

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