Thursday, June 4, 2015

Some Words About TNA's Looming Cancellation

Note: This is a transcript of a segment featured in Episode #41 of the DTM-Cast, uploaded June 5th. It has been edited slightly for better readability.

So as of late, there's been murmurings of the possible cancellation of TNA programming - again - in regards to Destination America opting out of supporting the series and so there exists the possibility that come September, TNA will be off the air and will have to find a new home... again. Now, at the time of writing/recording, TNA themselves have not addressed the issue. They've sent word regarding false reports and threatening to pursue legal action, but beyond that, they've not addressed the issue as of this writing/recording. So there is a very good possibility that by the time you're listening to this, Dixie Carter or whoever at TNA will address this issue that honestly needs to be addressed because the longer they stay silent on the issue... more often than not, silence speaks volumes. If these reports are untrue, then just say it. Clear this up. Don't pussyfoot around the issue.

So... let me chime in here and I will be frank; I am hesitant to comment on this because there is that contingency of TNA fanbase that is so stuck up and so hyper-sensitive to any semblance of criticism that if the slightest knock is made towards TNA - regardless of intention - they would throw a fit. It's basically the equivalent of a fanbase of a popular internet personality; you knock their heroes, they will hound you.

And so, I say this with not a hint of malice or hatred or whatever negative connotation you could think up... but I say that as someone who had seen this company start up by doing weekly PPVs in 2002. I got the first NWA-TNA PPV where Ken Shamrock won a battle royal to be NWA World Champion. I followed through that run of PPVs until money issues prevented me from doing so and back in those days... there were warts and snafus, but at the time, I thought that if they played their cards right, they could have been a viable alternative to WWE and WWE, especially in that 2002-2003 stretch, was painful to watch, with the possible exception of Smackdown.

And that's the thing that had been the constant descriptor for TNA in my mind; in that, if they played their cards right, they could've been a viable alternative to WWE. Key words being "could have been."

And at one time, I believed that. And there was every reason to believe that. There's the common adage of TNA being the kind of company who would sign any of WWE's sloppy seconds first chance they got, but on rare occasions, they were able to give some of those former WWE guys new life. Dudley Boyz left WWE for TNA, changed their name to Team 3D, and got a good long second wind out of it, especially Ray, who went from Bubba to Brother to Bully and got to be top dog in TNA for a good while. And he's a former World Heavyweight Champion on top of that... pretty sweet deal. There was Christian Cage who was there for a couple years, but got a couple NWA World Title reigns out of it and was made to be a bigger deal than he ever was in WWE prior and arguably since. And of course, there was Kurt Angle. Quite possibly the biggest deal that TNA made back in 2006 and to this day, one of the mainstays of TNA. That, along with the crop of young talent from the various independent promotions and some of its own homegrown talent, should've been the push TNA needed to really expand on its presence.

And it went back to that statement made; if they would've played their cards right, they could've been a viable alternative to WWE... and for a time, they almost were. They had the talent, they had the tools, they had a unique identity, they had something that WWE was lacking at the time. They easily could've made that happened... if they played their cards right.

But the thing is... they didn't play their cards right. Because despite moments of potential, they made some pretty foolish decisions. Decisions that reminded people of another wrestling organization that used to have the talent and tools and potential to be a viable alternative to WWE and then that organization made a bunch of stupid decisions and well... that organization is nothing more than a distant memory. A cautionary tale for those wrestling promoters to learn from, so that they wouldn't make the same mistakes... a cautionary tale that TNA clearly didn't learn anything from.

For every X-Division match that wasn't about weight limits but no limits, there was the masturbating midget in a garbage can. 

For every highly-regard three way between Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels to blow the roof off the Impact Zone, there was Samoa Joe getting kidnapped by ninjas

For every highly-regarded tag-team in TNA comprising the Young Bucks, America's Most Wanted, the Motor City Machine Guns, and Beer Money to name a few, there was the Johnsons... guys dressed like penises, and there was the Voodoo Kin Mafia and their desperate pleas to goad their former employers at a fight... and then years later, they were hired back by WWE, got a tag-title run and a Wrestlemania pay day, so good for them.

For every enjoyable skit of Kevin Nash versus the X-Division - yeah, those bits he did with Alex Shelley were hilarious - we got Mick Foley having a match with a Rocky Balboa cut-out; a sight so embarrassing that the Keys On A Pole match that Foley would have with Kurt Angle seemed like Hell In A Cell in comparison... stretching I'm sure.

For every Kurt Angle action short where Angle was in a Connecticut bar beating on poor lookalikes of WWE Superstars, which made the old WCW mini-movies and Billionaire Ted skits look like Citizen Kane by comparison, there's the idiotic feud over WWE Hall of Fame rings... which I always felt was stupid and made TNA look extremely bush league when the most valuable commodity in TNA isn't the TNA World Title, but a couple of Hall of Fame rings from another wrestling organization.

For every memorable moment such as Macho Man Randy Savage's last-ever wrestling appearance on the national stage, or the TNA debuts of Christian Cage or Kurt Angle or Samoa Joe's incredible year-and-a-half unstoppable run (no pun intended) and subquent World Title victory down the line, or any former WWE guy whose first TNA appearance involves running down their former employer and claim that TNA is the place where Wrestling Matters... trademark, we have comedy boxing matches with Screech from Saved By The Bell. We have MMA matches ending in DQs that the crowd would shit on. We get Sharmel vs. Jenna Morasca, whose only positive contribution was giving birth to one of the most commonly used wrestling memes on the internet.

And then there's the little bits that stand out far more than the few shining moments that puts the company in a less than flattering light. There's Black Reign. There's the Claire Lynch story that was cut short because the girl playing Claire Lynch quit because people found out she worked at Popeye's. There's the PPV main event that saw Jeff Hardy stoned out of his mind and jobbed out to Sting in a short amount of time. There's Adam Pacman Jones winning the tag-team titles without doing a single damn thing because he WASN'T ALLOWED TO WRESTLE for contractual reasons... I mean, shit, even David Arquette took a couple bumps when he won the WCW title.

And then there are the money issues, where some lower-to-midcard TNA wrestlers and knockouts have to take second jobs because the TNA paychecks were so low since money was being spent on bringing in ex-WWE guys for a couple shows before never being seen again. There's the questionable decisions in spending exorbitant amounts of money to bring in big names with big promises and nothing coming of it. The questionable decisions to stick with creative figures who've had only fleeting moments of success outweighed by their inability to replicate that success elsewhere. The questionable decision in moving to Monday Nights in a vain attempt to replicate the competitive atmosphere that existed in the mid-to-late 1990s between WWF and WCW, only to return to their then-usual Thursday night slot due to dwindling returns.

And then... well, the list goes on and on... such a list can even be found online.

I haven't been watching TNA as of late. Even though I had a link on the blog for a short while that allowed Canadian viewers to watch past episodes of Impact before the deal with The Fight Network came through, I probably saw one episode of Impact. Maybe two? But other than that, I never really followed TNA beyond reading some recaps online. Quite honestly, I never had much of an inclination to watch TNA even after the horrific Hogan era came to an end. In a way, it's the same way I felt about WCW during its final run. I'd check out a couple Nitros here and there - maybe a PPV or two - but beyond that, I pretty much lost interest in WCW... especially once word of the thing being on sale came around, I just stuck with WWF from that point on. Same deal with TNA. I'd check an episode or two, but once I got the WWE Network, I just stuck with NXT, which served as that viable alternative to the main WWE product that people had been looking for... a strange notion considering NXT is supposed to be the developmental territory for WWE.

Hell, I've gotten the opportunity to check out a couple episodes of that Lucha Underground, which is a really well-done show that has a totally different feel from the other wrestling shows and offer something distinct and unique that gives it an identity of its own. And just recently, The Fight Network started showing episodes of Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore promotion and I found myself following that show as well on a regular basis, despite the lesser production values and some editing bits that I honestly didn't care, but that wasn't enough to detract me from the overall product because even that show felt somewhat different yet also familiar. So that's another show I've been digging. And, of course, there's Jeff Jarrett's upcoming Global Force Wrestling promotion, which I'm mildly curious about.

TNA had the potential and the opportunity to be that... and instead, they pretty much squandered that potential. Every time I would tune in to expect greatness, I'd be sorely disappointed by what they had to offer. Every time I was promised something that was focused on wrestling rather than sports entertainment, I'd get a show that not only screamed sports entertainment, but also felt like a company trying to out-WWE WWE. This was a promotion that had all the tools and all the cards to be that alternative to WWE and it played those cards poorly.

The end result... what was once a promising upstart wrestling organization with an unique identity and an unique position in serving as that middle ground between the high-impact independents and the high-production sensationalism of WWE became a shallow shell of itself; raped, pillaged, and plundered by individuals brought in to help the company reach higher ground, who instead stripped the company for all it's worth in a vain attempt to remold it into something it was never meant to be. What was once a wrestling promotion with a moderate presence and notability that played host to some great wrestling matches and moments is now a walking corpse of an organization whose greatest accomplishments these days is that they get to live another year.

To give a more personal touch on this, there used to be a time when TNA DVDs and TNA merchandise would be solid at various outlets. Nowadays, the only semblance of TNA DVDs being sold is at flea markets and garage sales for dirt cheap, if not practically given away. There used to be a time when people have heard of TNA and spoke rather positively of it. An acquaintance of mine would go so much as to watch TNA exclusively after Ric Flair's so-called retirement match against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24... said acquaintance would give up on TNA after watching Ric Flair and Sting hobble through a match several years later and flat out restrict his wrestling viewings to Youtube and the oddball compilation disc that would come out. Mention TNA a few years and you'd get a variety of opinions and murmurings. Mention TNA today and either nobody's heard of it or the few that have heard of it would ask, "They still around? I thought they died ages ago."

And so given all that, if TNA were to survive another year - and I truly hope they do, because, again, I've no malice towards the promotion; I'd very much want to see them stick around and strive. And if they do live to see another year, then good for them. But at this junction, I think it's safe to say that any chance of TNA being a viable alternative to WWE or even being the second-biggest wrestling promotion on the national level has long since sailed. That's not happening. WWE, even with all their issues and problems, are way too big for any one organization to compete at their level. And even with that set aside, TNA isn't the only cat in the litterbox. There are other brands, other promotions that are at the disposal of the consumer, whether it'd be through television, PPV, on-demand, or online services.

And I really hate to say this because you have to feel for all the folks who work there and I know I might get it in the chin, but... if TNA were to go under, nothing of value would be lost. Because whatever value TNA had throughout its decade-plus long history had slowly dwindled to nothing. Whatever potential and promise TNA had throughout its existence has been flushed down the proverbial toilet. Much like latter-day WCW, a lot of that core contingent of wrestlers who could pull off great matches and had the potential to be big stars ended up finding success elsewhere.

And it's a bit of a poignant moment that at the same time reports of Destination America cancelling TNA programming leaked out, Samoa Joe was making his WWE debut on that night's NXT special, no doubt looking to make a major splash in that developmental territory. He could've been making that splash in TNA. He could've made that splash a hell of a lot earlier and been one of TNA's biggest stars. The same could be said for AJ Styles, often considered the mainstay of Total Nonstop Action. And where is he at? Reigning supreme in New Japan Pro Wrestling as two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Would've been nice if he had been reigning supreme in TNA... oh well.

In any event, whatever happens in the near future, here's hoping that TNA pulls through. Wish them all the best. And... yeah, that was long-winded. Moving right along.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it real and keep it clean.