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Posted in: The Green Room
The Green Room: Sorry Not Sorry- A Look At James Storm
By Leaf
Jul 17, 2014 - 9:00:00 PM




The Green Room:
Sorry Not Sorry- A Look At James Storm


I’ve had a few beers.

Today was my graduation. After three grueling years of studying, I can finally say that I have now received 2:1 Honours from my English and Creative Writing Bachelor of Arts course.

With that being said, you could forgive me if I didn’t write a column today. After all, my family knows how to drink.

Incidentally, so does the performer that has plagued my mind for several weeks.

To those who have read my first few columns on LordsOfPain, I would not blame you if you thought that I was a WWE guy through and through. That is far from the case as each week I also make sure to catch Impact Wrestling.

For every sudden title switch and questionable push within the federation, I have found myself truly embracing each segment that a fellow beer drinker has appeared in.

For that reason, I would like to shed some light on a man who has appeared in the darkest of lighting during the past few weeks. In fact, his combined screen time during the past three episodes of Impact totaled up to just eight minutes and eighteen seconds. Perhaps I would be more surprised had he not been on the losing end of his two major feuds ever since turning heel back in February.

So why is it that I’m more interested in one character’s actions than the guarantee of a raucous crowd from tonight’s tapings in New York City? Why is the next brief interaction between two men, interesting me more than the prospect of six sides returning for good? Why is it that I’m more interested in a frequent loser when the announcement of eight perfectly able and agile wrestlers in a X-Division title match sounds like it could be a winning combination?

I don’t know, but in this edition of The Green Room, I've already got us a couple of cold ones and I invite you to pull up a stool and join me as we look at why James Storm has been an entertaining fixture of Impact ever since his heel turn.


Appearance



Ask yourself this:

Who else has considerably altered their appearance this year following a face or heel turn? You may be able to think of an answer but there might not be too many choices that can be presented without an asterisk. In the WWE, Seth Rollins’ new attire is somewhat similar to his old style of clothing; The Miz wore suits in the past, only now has he added some shades in order to perfect his new Hollywood gimmick.

Over in TNA, James Storm was like a newly evolved man when he faced Gunner at Lockdown.

So why the change? Perhaps it was because both Gunner and Storm looked similar. It’s basic psychology 101 that when someone begins to despise another individual, they wish to shed any similar traits or looks that they may have.

Maybe it was a statement that the old Cowboy is dead. We weren’t meant to recognize the Cowboy because this individual was a brand new threat.

Either way, on that fateful night in March, the life had been drawn out of The Cowboy’s hair, forcing his caramel locks to give way to dead almost-black wires. Not only that, his traditional trunks, that were often emblazoned with a coloured logo, had gave way to some long monochrome tights.

My true take on it all is that James Storm wished to tarnish his own character’s image simply to draw a negative reaction. It was Jim Ross who popularized the phrase “bowling shoe ugly” and that’s exactly what James Storms’ character has become. Why should a bitter Cowboy appear to have made a real effort with his appearance? Why should he settle on wearing a pair of traditional wrestling trunks when he can throw on some tights that are more reminiscent of biker pants.

By no means am I really calling the Cowboy ugly here, but what I am saying is that Storm purposely abandoned the “soft” elements of his appearance. He purposely adapted his character to become less attractive by nature, in order to reflect the new darker actions of his gimmick.

The most impressive thing however is that the former TNA World Heavyweight Champion did not completely abandon his roots that night. He kept his hair long and his new tights still featured his own logo. There were elements to suggest that we were witnessing the Cowboy and that this was an evolution as opposed to a reboot.

This was still the beer drinker we once knew and loved, only this time, he had left for a new saloon.


Entrance



Another entertaining factor of this new and improved James Storm is the fact that he has one of the best entrances in all of wrestling right now. If you don’t believe me, allow me to dissect it.

Again, it was at Lockdown when the new entrance and music package for James Storm was premiered.

In the same vein as a fellow beer drinker, Steve Austin, the Cowboy now has his own introductory signature sound effect. Fittingly, we’re introduced to the sound of thunder. This storm-cloud not only represents the Cowboy’s name, it also signifies his bad intentions as opposed to his previous happier outlook on life.

I also cannot help but compare Storms’ former and current entrance videos. The previous video featured James Storm frolicking around his ranch during a bright afternoon. In his new entrance video, Storm is seen exiting a cemetery whilst the sky above him appears to be darker. It’s doubtful, given how clear the shot appears to be underneath the dusky filtering, that this shot was filmed at night. However, the sky certainly appears to be overcast with darkened clouds. This use of pathetic fallacy tells us exactly what we need to know. Storm’s new gloomy outlook is represented by the blackened sky above him.

The other notable difference between these videos is the eventual dismissal of Storm’s cowboy hat. The hat can be seen in the “Longnecks and Rednecks” titantron but it does not feature in the “Cut You Down” adaptation. A hat is a common stereotypical feature of a cowboy, and children of all ages associate cowboys with that simple image. What they may not associate with a cowboy is an act of grave-robbing, yet robbery (even of this nature) is a key feature of the western genre. Is that why James Storm is now pictured within the graveyard? He is still a cowboy, he just represents all of the negative connotations now.

There are some striking similarities, however, that make this change for the beer drinker particularly fascinating. In myself and zzzorf’s recent “Dissecting The Music: Voices” column, we talked about how important a motif is in a wrestler’s theme song. The guitar motif that flowed throughout "Longnecks and Rednecks" is featured within "Cut You Down". Not only that, this musical device actually opens the track immediately after the thunder-clap. This ties in with the idea that James Storm has simply evolved from his previous incarnation.

As for the choice of a modified version of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, a traditional folk song that Johnny Cash made his own in 2003, this song is a perfect fit for the scorned Cowboy; the song's subject matter is morbid and perhaps the most famous version of this song is Cash's country take. Dark and country? That sounds like the new James Storm to me. Furthermore, the song and the video form a perfect marriage due to the aforementioned clips of Storm walking in a graveyard. If James Storm believes that God will cut down his opponents, you will no doubt find them buried six feet under.

In the same essence that the current James Storm is just an awesome villainous modification of his previous face gimmick, the lyrics have been altered in several places to represent him. The line “Moonshine runner” is a direct reference to the lyric of “Moonshine sippin’” in his previous theme. Again, the old James Storm still exists in some form. In line with his new attitude, the following rhyme of “Hellbent Gunner” refers to the man who he was feuding with at the time of this theme's inception; he is the very man responsible for the heel turn: Gunner. Within two lines, the old and the new are juxtaposed together to present us with this wonderful confliction.

So folks, all of this happens before Storm even enters the ring. Let's not sell James Storm short as a performer though.

As one of the only true TNA Originals left on the roster, there must be a reason why he has been kept around all of these years and has been fortunate to experience 13 different title reigns at both solo and tag-team level. That’s because James Storm is a damn fine wrestler. You only have to watch his street fight with Bobby Roode at Bound For Glory 2012 for one example of his great in-ring work. Thankfully, more so than ever, he also has the character to boot.

In this final part, we are going to learn about a key detail that has helped us to experience this character to its full potential.


Pacing



This last section may sound a little strange in comparison to “appearance” and “entrance” but it is every bit as vital to Storms’ recent good work.

You see, above everything else, one thing that TNA has got right lately with several characters is the art of pacing. James Storm’s recent angle with Sanada is currently benefiting from this.

But it hasn’t always been this way in the company.

Just three months ago, Eric Young became the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. It was always a risk, putting the top belt of the company on a “comedy” wrestler, no matter how seriously they tried to portray him. Perhaps the fans would have invested more in Young’s reign and would have believed him to be a credible main eventer had TNA booked the following actions, that were all booked for the April 10th episode of Impact, over four weeks instead.

-Eric Young won a 10-Man Gauntlet Match to become the #1 Contender.
-Young sold an injury,
-He asked for his title shot early, in spite of the injury.
-EY defeated Magnus to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

The problem here was, if one person missed the show, they missed what could have been an entire month’s programming in one episode. Each point could have represented one week in a month-long story to further the rise of “Eric the underdog”.

Thankfully, for the Cowboy James Storm, TNA rarely subjects him to poor pacing.

On the June 26th edition of Impact, James Storm confronted Sanada and asked what would happen if he lost the X-Division Championship, how would the Great Muta react? It was a short but sweet segment that certainly created a lot of intrigue.

Then there was nothing.

In the third week, Storm confronted Sanada again just before his X-Division Championship clash with Austin Aries. He stressed about how important the X-Divsion Championship is, not just to Sanada himself, but to The Great Muta. He essentially described The Great Muta as being a puppet master to Sanada as if the championship represented gold-laden strings.

That is the beauty of it all, ladies and gentlemen. The first week’s segment allowed people to speculate about the Cowboy’s intentions. His absence in the second week was very true to life. I’m sure that there will have been some point in your very own workplace when you had wished to speak to somebody but during the hustle and bustle of the day’s activities, you were unable to approach them. This one week break between the segments was necessary to further increase the intrigue factor but to also help make the angle appear to be much more realistic.

Whilst many people debated how Eric Young was able to feasibly win the Championship due to his build, here, despite Storm’s character normally being a self-serving bastard, people seem willing to jump on board with this storyline of Storm potentially helping Sanada in a very twisted way because the break allows the story to appear unforced.

It’s not as if this is the only time that James Storm has benefited from fantastic pacing this year. He has been especially lucky. We only have to think back to his on-again off-again partnership with Gunner that eventually culminated in Storm’s undisputed heel turn. Whilst the two had bickered slightly for weeks, their problems were truly visible for all the world to see on the December 12th 2013 episode of Impact. Gunner managed to beat his partner Storm to a Feast or Fired case. They feuded for the case for quite some time before Storm seemingly forgave his partner at the end of January. Eventually, The Cowboy revealed his true colours on the February 20th 2014 episode of Impact when he cost his “partner” the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.

Let’s think about that. The former partners had a patchy relationship for over two months. Again, isn’t that true to life? I’m personally a fan of these slow-burn heel turns as I feel that they are more genuine. In real life, it’s hard to let a niggling issue take you from respecting a person to suddenly despising them within just a day or two. In wrestling, I want to see the armour of a knight rust away. In this case, it was getting gradually nearer to last orders for the Cowboy before he let Gunner know that it was indeed the Last Call.

Conclusively, as fantastic as Storm’s performances have been since the turn, a key factor of why it’s working is the pacing of the character. From gradually losing his positive traits over a two month period to keeping his conversations short, not-so-sweet, but irregular, the heel Cowboy knows that the world is his saloon but he also knows of its opening and closing times.


Branching Out


With all of this talk regarding Storm’s appearance, his entrance and how he’s been booked, I feel like even after 2300+ words, I still haven’t done James Storm enough justice.

Sure, all of these factors have provided the relentless bottle-smashing heel with the perfect platform to succeed, but I do feel the need to mention that Storm’s in-ring work during his feud with Gunner, his versatility in various segments with Mr. Anderson, and how he has maximized his minutes lately with Sanada, add up to James Storm having a very solid body of work ever since his heel turn.

He used to be sorry about your damn luck but now he’s an unapologetic son of a bitch.

So make no apologies, James Storm is the most developed character and maybe even the greatest thing in TNA today.

Sorry, not sorry.





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