The Crow's Nest - What's Missing From TNA Right Now?
Jan 23, 2014 - 8:10:00 PM
1) TNA's "They 2.0" Storyline (01/19/13)
2) What's Missing From TNA Right Now? (01/23/13)
1) TNA's "They 2.0" Storyline
***To warn you in advance, there will be spoilers in this column regarding next week's episode of Impact. If you don't want to know what happens, kindly back away from this page and return after 11:00 EST on Thursday. You have been warned.***
Well, it's another year, and I guess that means it's time for another TNA takeover storyline. From the Main Event Mafia to Immortal to the recently-deceased Aces & Eights, TNA seems to have a major love affair with heel stables coming in and causing chaos. Actually you could get even more specific and say that TNA seems to have a major love affair with heel stables causing chaos and then having Sting come in as some kind of hero. Actually, TNA just seems to love stables period.
Right now, the heel stable in charge is Team Dixie (or Dixieland, or whatever they want to be called) comprised of Dixie Carter, Magnus, EC3 and Rockstar Spud. Certainly not a stable that screams "intimidation" but they do have the benefit of having the company's owner on their side.
If you've been paying attention to the TNA news lately, you'll have noticed that a certain new tag team has officially signed with the company. Rather than pull a WWE and introduce them as two nobodies with new (probably stupid) names, TNA has done something interesting and introduced them as they are known on the indy scene: Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards. Rather than hide their indy accomplishments, TNA is acknowledging the popularity of the two.
But that's a topic for another column.
The reason I bring up their signing is because of a segment from last week's Impact. Dixie Carter met with Richards and Edwards backstage, talking about how excited she was that they had come to TNA. But when she mentioned their tryout match the following week, The Wolves informed her that they had already signed their TNA contracts, revealing a document to Dixie that mentioned a "new TNA investor".
By the end of the show, we also saw the creation of the next week's main event. Sting called Magnus out, challenging him to a title match, but in a rare move by TNA, they actually acknowledged the past storyline that saw Sting lose a match, subsequently losing the right to ever compete for the World Title again. Sting of course ends up talking him into accepting, but only under one condition: Sting had to put his contract on the line.
You'd think that this would end with the obvious outcome: Sting is victorious, saving TNA once again. But this was not the case, and due to a load of interference, Magnus retains his belt next week, thereby booting Sting from the company. Having not actually seen the video of this yet I don't know how it plays out, but it has led me to believe there are only two possible outcomes here:
Option 1, Sting is actually done with TNA and has decided not to extend his contract as he does every year. This would be interesting as it would be the most likely time for him to make his long-awaited WWE debut. It's too late for him to be the face of the 2014 Hall of Fame class (Ultimate Warrior, regardless of your personal opinion, is the bigger star of the two to WWE fans) but he could still get involved with another feud and build up hype for a DVD release. You have to imagine that WWE wants to capitalize on whatever popularity Sting has left and make the most out of their massive video library.
Or option #2, Sting returns with his own stable, including this "mystery investor", and proceeds to do battle with Dixieland until such a time as either he himself or one of his allies can dethrone Magnus, thereby saving TNA from the forces of evil.
While option 1 is certainly interesting in that I'd love for Sting to eventually end up there, I'm thinking #2 is more likely. You may remember my last column where I hypothesized that the recent departures in TNA (Jarrett, Styles, Hardy, Sting) were part of a big work. Well, I think this latest development certainly offers something to that theory.
Aside from Jarrett who's been absent from TV for some time, just take a look at how dramatic the televised departures of the other wrestlers have been. Hardy walks out after losing a match, citing frustration with Dixie Carter. AJ Styles leaves with the belt, returning a short while later, but losing to Magnus after getting absolutely beat down by Dixie's cronies, getting thrown from the company in the process. Sting calls Dixie and Magnus out last week for their shenanigans, only to lose a "title vs. career" match in much the same style that AJ Styles lost his title match. Either Dixie Carter wants to send a message that leaving TNA is really not an option without getting squashed on your way out, or this is all part of a work.
Jarrett's departure was far less public in that it wasn't on TV, but assuming this "work" theory is correct, I believe it was all done in an effort to screw with us, the IWC. The average TNA fan is going to be surprised by a Jarrett return, but someone who's plugged into the daily rumour mill is likely to see it coming from a mile away. So, rather than leave it up to chance, TNA decides to have him "quit".
I believe that these four men could possibly be returning as a new stable, including this "mystery investor". Sure, they could just go with Jarrett given his history, but I think this is a perfect chance for some mainstream promotion for TNA. Bring in a guy like Toby Keith who has actually appeared on TNA programming before and is a pretty well known name outside of wrestling. Keith was rumoured for a while to having expressed interest in buying TNA, and even more recently than that was rumoured to be discussing creating a whole new wrestling company with the help of Jeff Jarrett.
Also, for what it's worth, it was reported last week that Jarrett all of a sudden started following all of Keith's social media accounts.
TNA needs eyes on them, now more than ever. Their house shows used to draw pretty consistent crowds, but as recent reports are showing, that's no longer the case. New fans just aren't tuning into TNA, and existing fans are turning their backs due to a perceived lack of quality. Bringing in Toby Keith isn't going to all of a sudden draw 4.0 ratings, but it's a pretty easy way to spread the word that TNA is worth checking out. Toby Keith has almost 650,000 followers on Twitter, and almost 4.5 million on his official Facebook page. That's a lot of potential new fans.
So how should They 2.0 make their debut? Well obviously it wouldn't be next week, given that Sting hasn't "officially" left the company at this point. If this is how the storyline is going to play out, or even a BIT like this, TNA would be smart to wait at least a few weeks before the big reveal. Have this "mystery investor" screw with Dixie and Co. for a few weeks. He could sign some new names, make matches, reverse decisions involving Dixie's minions, basically anything to get Dixie riled up and ready for the payoff. If they can wait a couple months, Lockdown on March 9 would be the perfect time to make it happen.
Toby Keith isn't an essential part of this storyline, but he certainly would add something special to the whole thing. Jarrett could easily step into the "investor" role. Plus, as I have carefully been reminding myself, it all comes down to whether or not this is what TNA has planned. It could very well be that these 4 men have legitimately left the company and made an agreement to let TNA use their departures to further the Dixieland storyline. Maybe TNA is moving in a totally new direction and their plans don't involve guys like Hardy and Styles. Maybe Jarrett really decided to leave the company, despite moving into a bigger agent role not long before the departure was announced.
Personally I hope that TNA is doing something along the lines I've mentioned here. I've been a huge Magnus supporter for ages now, but he's still too green to be so quickly thrust into this kind of leading role. Don't get me wrong, he's more than capable of being a main event guy, but he's not "that guy" yet that can elevate a younger, up-and-comer to main event status. He needs to be feuding with veteran-types like Hardy or Styles to really establish his name. Giving him a couple of clean-ish victories over those guys would be huge to making people take his reign seriously, especially if it were in a TNA vs. "Outsider" type scenario. Not only is he fighting to defend his belt at that point, but he's fighting to defend his boss and company. Sure he's fighting on the "evil" side, but that's besides the point.
All I know is that TNA needs something big to happen right now. If these big names are all gone for good, the company is in a pretty rough situation as far as main event players goes. TNA has an extremely talented roster, but as always seems to be the case, I'm not sure they know how to use it all the time. My fingers are crossed, and I'm hoping for something big.
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2) What's Missing From TNA Right Now?
"More like what ISN'T missing from TNA right now, amirite?" - Most of you, right now.
It's true. You could argue that TNA is missing a lot of things right now. Competent leadership, real superstars, fans, money…the list could go on, and I'm sure you could provide an adequate argument for any of those things. The thing with most of those arguments is that any of those things could be reasonably expected to happen fairly quickly. Dixie could hand the reigns over to someone with a real mind for wrestling. They could sign a big name free agent (MVP, John Morrison, etc.) or push somebody that's already ready for that spot (AJ Styles, James Storm, Bully Ray again). They could sign a better TV deal with a bigger network than Spike and acquire more fans with the increased exposure. None of these things would immediately cause them to destroy WWE in the ratings (let's be real, that isn't happening any time soon) but they could reasonably be expected to make the overall product at least slightly better.
No, what TNA (and arguably professional wrestling in general) is missing that's causing real damage to their product is the lack of any real, believable feuds.
Think about the all-time great feuds. Austin/McMahon, Hart/Michaels, Hogan/Andre, Flair/Steamboat, Rock/Austin… You could even go more modern and look at feuds like Jericho/Michaels, Guerrero/Mysterio or Punk/Hardy. Hell, you could even look at the great tag team feuds like Hardyz/Edge & Christian/Dudleys. The point is, all of those feuds were believable to an extent, and (at least for the ones I was alive to see) it gave you that brief, beautiful moment of believing "well shit, maybe these guys really don't like each other". These were feuds that got you invested emotionally, taking your fandom to a whole different level.
When was the last time TNA had a truly great feud? You have to be a bit of a realist and admit that no TNA feud has ever bested one of those all-time greats mentioned above, simply because TNA has never had stars of that calibre before. At the same time though, TNA has had feuds in the past that grab peoples' attention. Maybe the matches were especially good, maybe they told a super compelling story, or maybe it ended with a fresh superstar standing tall over the vanquished veteran, ready to move into the main event and claim his own spot in the history books.
Kurt Angle vs. Jeff Jarrett is one of these memorable feuds. The real life heat (or heat that was once there) between these two guys over the whole Jarrett sleeping with Angle's now ex-wife thing added an element of real drama to every single interaction they had. It was everything that Edge and Matt Hardy should have had in their own "love triangle" feud, and then some. Every time they stepped foot in the ring, they delivered. It didn't matter what else was on the card, this match was going to steal the show.
Gail Kim and Awesome Kong (or Kharma, to you WWE fans) had possibly one of the greatest women's wrestling feuds in the last decade, launching TNA's official Knockouts division and making it into what was at one point a must-see part of any TNA show. Kong against pretty much anybody is an easy David vs. Goliath story, but her and Kim created an amazing and believable feud, so much so that to this day the main event of Impact that ended their feud is one of the highest rated segments in Impact history.
Or how about one of the great feuds/series that anyone who's even heard about TNA probably knows: Christopher Daniels vs. Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles. There's a reason that these three men appear in any conversation about the best matches in TNA history. There's an even better reason why, on most peoples' lists of greatest TNA matches you'll see, more than one time, these three men in a triple threat match. They worked so well together and put together some of the best matches TNA will ever see, and really helped to give birth to the X-Division, which also used to be must-see on any TNA card.
Now think about the rest of TNA's programming over the past couple of years. Do any feuds really jump out at you as "great"? Aces & Eights vs. TNA could have been great, largely due to the amazing Bully Ray, but we all saw how that worked out and now most of those guys involved are without a job. Roode vs. Storm SHOULD have been a great feud, given the history between the two as allies, but it just seemed to fizzle out before it even got started. Hogan/Immortal vs. TNA could have been great, but it quickly turned into a game of "how many of Hulk Hogan's friends can we fit on the roster".
There's been feuds that are good, don't get me wrong, but nothing that's going to make anybody say "HOLY SHIT ! YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS!" TNA doesn't have a truly believable blood feud going on right now, and they haven't for some time. They have feuds, but they work out so by-the-book that it's hard to take them seriously sometimes.
Take this new Dixieland stable. I have yet to be given a reason to care about anything that they do. The big turning point in Dixie Carter's character was the new edginess adopted by AJ Styles and the critical comments he made about her, but with Styles leaving the company there was never a pay-off. It was over way too quickly to turn into a believable feud, and it ruined what should have been a great moment for Magnus as his first World Title win seemed to be nothing more than a convenient way to take the belt from Styles. Styles could very well still return and deliver some solid matches with Magnus, but it would take a miracle to turn that into a truly great feud at this point.
TNA needs a great feud to put them back on the map. It's not something that can be accomplished overnight, and it's going to take a shit load of work on EVERYBODY'S part, but it's more than possible. TNA has so much talent on their roster, and many of their wrestlers easily have the potential to create great feuds. Maybe not on the level of the legendary ones that were mentioned earlier in this column, but great to the point where TNA is going to get talked about for the right reasons again.
The solution to TNA's problems isn't as easy as acquiring more money or a better TV deal. WCW had money AND a great TV deal and they still failed. TNA needs to build a legacy and give people a reason to believe in them again. There was a period not that long ago where even the most stubborn of TNA critics were (perhaps reluctantly) nodding their heads and saying "alright, somebody in Nashville knows what the hell they're doing." That success was not an overnight event, nor was its demise. It just got stale because they weren't doing anything innovative or particularly great. No major feud was going on that would immediately draw in a new or casual viewer. Look at the recent reports of dismal house show ticket sales and my point is proven again. TNA used to sell a consistent number of house show tickets, and the reviews from people who attended were almost always very positive. Regardless of what was going on on TV at the time, TNA knew how to cater to their house show crowds.
Now? What's the reason to want to go? I have no interest in seeing Rockstar Spud awkwardly make faces into the camera while Dixie tries to cut a heel/bitchy boss promo. Magnus is great, but he's not really involved in anything right now that would make me go out of my way to want to buy a ticket. The Knockouts division is, sadly, a joke. The X-Division is a mere shadow of its former self. Nobody gives a shit about the Television title, including the company judging by how rarely it's seen on TV. Simply put, TNA just seems to be floating on auto-pilot right now. I'm still enjoying the programming to some degree, but when WWE has a rapidly rising star like Daniel Bryan right now, TNA needs to do something to answer that.
No, I didn't say they had to match or beat it. They simply have to answer it. They need to establish a feud so that people have a reason to tune in every single week because they want to know what happens next. Right now, I could honestly care less if I watch Impact live on Thursdays or if I wait until Friday or the weekend to watch it recorded on my PVR. There was a time when, no matter what, I was on my ass in front of the TV every god damn Thursday, and so help me god if anybody got in my way.
The ship called TNA has a few leaks that need to be plugged, but at the end of the day they can probably sail along just fine for now. However, if they continue to fail at creating believable feuds that draw people in, that's going to be the mortar that sinks them. How can TNA prevent this from happening? Well that's a whole other discussion for another day. I'm going to continue to be a fan of TNA because, as frustrating as it can be, I'm loyal to the company. The day may come where I stop watching, and that's going to be a sad day for me. Regardless of how you feel about the TNA product I think we can all agree that it would be amazing for a true competitor to come on the scene, even just to provide a real alternative to watching WWE. Maybe make some people consider watching RAW on Mondays and Impact on Thursdays, maybe relegating Smackdown to occasional, maybe eventually regular weekend PVR status.
I really hope TNA manages to draw me in with a great feud again, because I miss feeling that sense of absolutely HAVING to watch Impact live every week, regardless of whether or not I had read the spoilers (if there were any). I truly believe that TNA's biggest problem isn't something as simple to identify as saying that they're signing too many ex-WWE guys. TNA's biggest problem is that their attempts at feuds aren't giving me a reason to truly care. Unless that problem is fixed, the company is going to continue to grow more stale by the week, and ultimately may fail.
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