Hulk Hogan let us all know on Twitter that he had some ‘out there’ ideas to revamp not only TNA but the industry itself. I don’t know how he finds time to hit Twitter with all the blowing up his phone does. Every week his phone has been blowing up with people wanting to be on TNA or his Twitter has been blowing up, you would think he gets his electronics from Acme. However, he is at least on the right path, TNA does need some changes. I think of the changes he made when he first came in, not really with the in ring action but with the dressing. He changed the ring, which if nothing else gave us something new to look at. They changed the style of the backstage promos, moving away from ‘We are wrestlers, thus do all our expository dialogue and dodgy dealings in front of this conveniently places camera’ to the perennial peeping tom camera we have now, something which I think is a huge improvement. Following Hogan came some great, almost unknown talent like Jesse Sorenson, Anthony Nese and Austin Aries (yes, I know he was in TNA before. Yes, I know he made his star in ROH. No, I don’t care what you say, at the time he came back he was unknown to most of the mainstream TNA fans. No matter what we think, internet fans are not the majority.) and beefed up the main event scene with RVD, Jeff Hardy and Mr Anderson. His time with TNA has also seen some great gimmicks as well. Jeff Hardy’s heel turn was a refreshing change to his usual character and I really found myself into Hardy until he went off the rails. Bobby Roode is another obvious one to highlight as a real breakout star of the Hogan era, not bursting onto the scene and burning out like so many have done before but gradually building a foundation to base his title run. Bully Ray has been the biggest shock, going from a typecast tag team wrestler to the best heel on the TNA roster in a short time.
Now, I can’t say how much influence Hogan had in all that. I can’t say how much influence Russo had in all that, but I can tell that somebodies influence has changed TNA for the better. I know people like to bash Russo, Hogan and Co and now that Russo is gone, we can look at the effect at a later date, but right now, TNA are in a rut again. Their ratings have stumbled again and their product seems to be spiralling a little bit, repeating the same old matches with little reason than for ratings. I’m no expert, far from it, but I’ve been mulling over some thoughts in my head, mainly prompted by people voicing their own opinions as fact on various other sites. There seems to be this idea that by getting rid of Hogan and Bischoff, putting AJ Styles in as the World Champion and making Samoa Joe a bad ass would fix everything. I’d point out that since Hogan and Bischoff came in TNA ratings have been up, AJ Styles has been World Champion before and does not fit the mould of ‘new blood’ that people have been asking for and Joe is currently a bad ass, but it seems pointless without elaborating.
(1) Move TNA away from the Impact Zone.
I’ve said this before, a few times, but the first thing TNA needs to do is get away from The Impact Zone and never come back. After 7-8 years of free shows, TNA has bled the audience dry of all interest and excitement about their shows. It’s been a vicious cycle for TNA really, and I don’t think people really sympathise with them enough over it. TNA, at the start, didn’t have a lot of interest, but had the money, so they promoted big shows and offered free admission for their TV tapings. This brought people in and got them really interested in the show. They have grown bigger and bigger each year, but have kept offering free shows. They added more expense with bigger stars, bigger PPV and TV production costs and never charged for TV tapings. Which means that they have less money to work with, which means they can’t afford to get out of the Impact Zone, which means they will stay their, knowing fans won’t pay for their TV tapings and will expect free tickets, so they give them to keep the fans up, stopping them from making enough money to get out of the Impact Zone, and the cycle goes on. I figure myself a realist when it comes to wrestling, so I know that if TNA are going to get on the road to tape TV, they need investment. I figure six months of taping costs covered up front is enough for TNA to get on the road, reap the live crowd benefits, which will improve the atmosphere on the TV shows, improving the product on the whole. That will get people interested in going to the shows, and increase TNA’s profit. Then, they can pay for more TV on the road, putting a positive cycle in place. It’s an expensive thing, but it will be a positive thing in the end.
Note: Most people advocate going to live TV, but that’s the worst idea. If anybody is a Botchamania fan here, you will know better than most how many times TNA screws it up a lot on the live shows. I’m watching Lockdown right now, the first match, and there has already been 4 mistakes. It’s hard being a wrestler, it’s an art form that takes years to perfect, but TNA have a few guys who don’t mix with live TV. Stay taped for now and they we will talk live TV later.
(2) Spring Cleaning!
TNA have got a decent sized roster, even they must see the need to cut talent. I’d say that the people that need to go can be broken up into 3 categories. First, there are those who are simply not good enough. Gunner needs to go, as does Garrett Bishcoff. Both are not great in the ring and lack any real charisma. Anarquia is another in that list, along with Crimson. Then, there are those that are past their best. That really falls more on the support guys. Earl Hebner needs to go, I can’t count the amount of times he drops the ball. Again, in the same Lockdown match, when Garrett has Daniels pinned, Hebner looks at the pin and walks past him, not counting, waiting for Eric to break it up. It’s that kind of sloppy support work that pulls down the whole match. Mike Tenay is another who needs to go. He’s got a great mind for wrestling, but he just isn’t a good play by play guy. Him and Taz are a awkward pairing that get distracted too quick and lack a good play by play guy. I’ve got a bit more to say on the commentary, so I won’t say it all now, but Tenay and Hebner have to move on. Then you have the controversial category; those who are no longer worth they price. This is the one I’m going to get the stick for. I’m talking about Abyss, Matt Morgan, Kazarian and The Pope. You can argue that they are still popular or can still perform in the ring at any level and I won’t dispute that, but there comes a point where the money you pay outweighs the benefit of using them. Abyss is the guy, for me, that has to go. He has done everything in TNA. He can’t push the limit on hardcore matches any further than he has already. He’s not in the world title scene and hasn’t been for a while. They uncovered his dark secret twice, turned him into a silent monster and a reformed gentle giant. They have done it all. There is nothing left for him to do that is worth it. The Chris Parks thing just isn’t doing anything for the product apart from wasting 90 seconds a week. Morgan has been pushed to the moon and back and still isn’t interesting or as over as he should be with the crowd. Kaz is the same as Abyss, the TNA crowd has seen just about everything he can offer. They know his moves, this style, his traits and his mannerisms so much that they turn off. I’ve watched him recently and it’s fair to say, nobody has been interested in what he has done to AJ. The Pope, while a big name, just hasn’t worked out the way they wanted it to and has been hit and miss. I don’t think it’s his fault, more the fault of the writers who gave him bad stories or non at all. The money it must cost them to use these guys could be spent elsewhere, on new fresh talent that might recharge the crowd and give them something new to watch. Personally, I would dare to go even further. As good as AJ is, he has done it all as well. There is nothing more he can do in TNA either. Take a risk, give him the blessing to move on and go somewhere else to make money and use that cash to bring some new blood in. There is plenty of talent out there who have built their own star but just need a bigger stage to truly break out into the mainstream. Wrestling is a business above all and when a commodity, even people, become a bad investment, you have to cut your losses and move on. Eventually, as cruel as it might seem, these things happen and the tough choices have to be made for the good of the company.
(3) New Blood!
Might seem daft to say this after advocating a talent cut, but some new matches are needed in TNA, and they are only going to get that with new wrestlers. The trick is to find the balance between new and old as so to keep the originality while bringing in people who can boost the audience. Chris Masters would be on the top of my list for old faces. He is still young and super talented at what he does. Some people seem to think that unless you can perform the 1001 holds Dean Malenko knows, you aren’t a good wrestler. Masters is a good powerhouse, who can put on a good physical style while keeping the basics strong. Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas are two other guys who I think TNA should really be chasing down. They have voiced their reluctance to join TNA before, but if I were there, I would be moving heaven and earth to get these two supremely talented guys on the books. Then, there are those who never got their real shot in the WWE. Paul Burchill is a solid talent and a versatile wrester. NWA World Heavyweight Champion (go watch NWA Hollywood!) Colt Cabana is a perennial favourite and has an unmatched ability to keep himself in the spotlight no matter what he is doing and would give TNA a big boost and David Smith, the young bulldog would add that ‘generation’ pedigree that comes with a wrestling family while giving them a solid worker who has a ton of potential. You can also look at your unknowns. Recent WrestlingTruth interviewee Adam Cole has a bright future, as does Mike Bennett in ROH. Shaun Ricker, Nick Madrid, Peter Avalon and The Tribe are great talents in NWA Hollywood that have all the tools to make the jump to a national stage. There is good reason that Magnus tells us on Twitter that Marty Scurll and Zack Saber Jr are two of the hottest UK stars at this point in time, because they are great in the ring and on the mic, a team who is more than capable of being on big time TV. Not forgetting the girls, you only need to look at Shimmer to see that girls like MsChif, Sara Del Ray and LuFisto are some of the best women in the business right now and could make make the jump in a heartbeat. TNA would probably have to lay down a good deal to get these guys away from where they are now, but the gain would be worth it. New stars bring a renewed interest in the product, to see if the talent sinks or swims. New gimmicks can reap rewards, but there are only so many times you can slap a new coat of paint on the same old donkey before you need to put your hand in your pocket and get yourself a new one.
(4) Change the commentary team.
I said briefly before that Taz and Tenay weren’t really working for me, and I will elaborate on that. I’ve said before here that those two don’t gel in way that is good for the show. There is no doubt they get along, but Tenay isn’t a good play by play guy and Taz, now off the chain of Vince McMahon, is taking full advantage of that freedom, saying whatever pops into his head. It’s funny a lot of the time, but Tenay doesn’t control the situation as he should, instead choosing to ramble along with Taz, spending 1-2 minutes talking between themselves about anything other than the match itself. It hampers the show because suddenly, you’re not listening to the commentary but tuning it out, and your basically sat watching a match without commentary, which sounds wrong on a TV show. That itself is a problem, but there is a bigger thing that TNA could change that they themselves exposed some time ago. Remember how Don West turned heel a while back, turning up to the booth drunk, blasting Tenay and giving us the other side of the argument, supporting the heels and justifying their every move. I’ve never listened to a commentary team more than I have at that point. Suddenly, both men had an opposing opinion, giving more insight into both sides of the story. You had Tenay telling us about how the face was only doing the right thing, how it was good and honourable while Don was explaining that it’s a cut-throat business and you have to what it takes to stay at the top. It was exciting to hear two guys disagree with each other at the booth. Some people often think that when you have one guy who sides with heels no matter what, it seems suspect, but wrestling has it’s own allowances, and a heel colour commentator is one of those things that you don’t bat an eyelid at. It doesn’t ruin any suspension of disbelief because you expect to have that side of things. It’s like having matches for a position of power or how the camera just happens to be there, catching everything, but the face never records the show and so is oblivious to what we have all just seen. When those things happen in wrestling, it’s just a part of the genre. Heels on the commentary team are something the industry has missed for so long and while the WWE continues to butcher their attempt with Michael Cole, TNA has a golden chance to really give us back a classic staple of a good wrestling promotion by putting a heel colour commentator back on TV.
(5) Music, music, music!
Bret Hart. Steve Austin. Hulk Hogan. I bet you could hear the songs in your head when I said their names. Let’s go deeper. Ken Shamrock. The Brood. D-Lo Brown. I bet you can remember those songs too. WWE has always provided it’s stars with the right theme music to really define them as superstars. Making an entrance is important to every wrestler. The Four Horsemen. Goldberg. The Wolfpac. Buff Bagwell’s music still gets in my head. WCW managed to get some great songs behind it’s guys. Then I think of TNA. I know Hogan’s music because it’s the N.W.O music. I know The Motor City Machine Guns music because I feel it captures them well. Jeff Hardy has a good entrance music, as does James Storm. Then, I think about the rest of the roster and it all becomes a bit bland. Nobody has anything that really makes them pop or gives them a presence on the ramp. RVD and Kurt Angle have the worst music, followed by AJ Styles current incarnation of his music (I wish they had kept it as it was in the original version). Matt Morgan’s music is dreadful and out of tune. Everybody else has a generic sounding theme. Even the Impact theme is bad. TNA needs to understand the value in good sound production. Music goes a long, long way in making somebody memorable. I would bet money that people could give me one line from The Oddities theme music. I know people could still pick out the themes of Owen Hart, The Ultimate Warrior, The Road Warriors, even Shane McMahon had a very catchy theme. It’s not the most obvious of things, but an easy way to expose how important it is would be to go and watch an ECW PPV from late 2000 until they shut. November to Remember 2000 is my main one. ECW home videos couldn’t use the unlicensed music that they used for their events without the threat of legal action, so they overdubbed some of the worst, generic music over the entrances and it ruined them. It was made even worse when New Jack, who plays his music over his matches, had an awful piece of music put over the top of his 15 minute match. It made me see just how important it is. Do what the WWE does, search for unknown bands who will allow you to use their music in exchange for publicity and a small fee and you will have access to a variety of creative minds making music that sounds different from each other, rather than having the same guy come up with music, which limits the creativity of the medium.
Like I said, I see myself as a realist. The ideas people throw about are in their rawest form, things like making Samoa Joe world champion again. I agree Joe was a great champion and I would love to see it again, but from now, it would take a full year to bring Joe up to the same level that Bobby Roode is on now. You can’t just flip a switch and get him over like that. It has to be build. In that time, there has to be something to get stuck into. TNA could make nearly all of those changes now if they had the investment. I know that the chance of those changes happening soon are slim because of the financial strain TNA is under at the moment and a big pile of money isn’t going to come out of nowhere. I know that these things aren’t going to happen and I’m not going to be totally incredulous about TNA’s status in the wrestling world. They are only just keeping on the level there are at and it one wrong move could easily cost them everything. They have to make their next move with thought and careful planning and I will support them as they do it the only way I can, by watching their shows each week. Remember to follow me on Twitter (@NoHopeForSome) and like the WrestlingTruth Facebook page and Twitter site (@wrestlingnews) to keep up with all the news and opinions from us. Have your say in the comments below and let us know what you think TNA should do next.
Category: Columns and Editorials |