One Man Hype Band - How I Became a Fan of IMPACT Wrestling
May 28, 2013 - 4:50:56 PM
^Thank you, Snowman^
“Allow me to reintroduce myself”
Welcome, one and all, to the very first edition of the One Man Hype Band. I could have waited until Thursday and dropped a “20-in-2 IMPACT Review” as if I had been here always, but I wanted to be a gentleman and first introduce you to myself and to IMPACT Wrestling as I see it today. I do understand there are many who see it much differently than I do, and that is fine. But this much is true: You can’t know about IMPACT or any other wrestling promotion by reading about it online. You have to not only watch it, but you have to watch it with an open mind.
So how did I become a fan of IMPACT Wrestling? The way most healthy relationships develop.
Like many, I have been a wrestling fan for a long time. 22 years, actually. And, of a truth, there have been times when I couldn’t stop watching, times when I could hardly watch, and many times it was simply in-between.
I am a fan of 80’s NWA, of WCW, of WWF during the Austin Era. I am a fan of long-term character development, of continuity in storytelling, and of a product that feels real to the point that I will take flubs and errors over overbooking any day.
That’s just me. What I like.
During the last thirteen years, up until this point, there hasn’t been one time that I was a fan in the same way I was growing up. There were times a wrestler caught my attention: Christian Cage in his first TNA run, Daniel Bryan as Heavyweight Champion, the arrival of Dean Ambrose, etc. But in all those circumstances I was watching to see one guy, despite a system I couldn’t buy into.
I’ve now bought into the IMPACT Wrestling booking system. I am a fan, and the strange thing is, even though I haven’t felt this way about a product in thirteen years, I’ve discovered I now feel exactly like I did as a child.
But again, I remind you, it did not happen over one night.
It began in late-2011 with the transition of Beer Money’s Bobby Roode and James Storm from tag to singles competition. Not only had this team gone single, but they had gone straight into the heavyweight title scene! That was nearly unprecedented, but what did it for me most was hearing them tell their story. The program between them struck me deeper than just the Beer Money story. It was evidence that, in IMPACT Wrestling, like days gone by, you take your story with you. These guys didn’t become new characters when they broke up, nor did they forget they had been tag team partners. Rather, the deep history they formed together has formed blood so bad between them that, despite a full year of one of the greatest rivalries this decade, they still have not settled the debt between them.
If Beer Money brought me back to watching TNA, the Bobby Roode title reign kept me.
Apologies to you Austin Aries fans, but I regularly call “The It-Factor” everything from “Best in the World” Bobby Roode to “Batman” Bobby Roode. Well, if Bobby Roode is Batman, who is Boy Wonder? You guessed it—Austin Aries. I first began this after Austin Aries defeated Bobby Roode for the world title and it seemed that most IWC fans and TNA seemed to prefer Austin Aries. So, as a defense mechanism, I began calling Bobby Roode as I saw him. Somebody once challenged me on this, and instead of going back and forth on differing opinions, I asked this: Bobby Roode and Austin Aries visit a costume shop for Halloween. There are only two costumes remaining: Batman and Robin. Which guy fits the Batman attire and which fits Robin?
The Bobby Roode title reign, which became the longest in the history of the company, is one I followed from day one until finish. I watched Bobby Roode transform from tag wrestler to star, and with every passing week that he was champion, he became more comfortable in the role and even in his wrestling skin. The man who many, including myself, see as TNA’s Cerebral Assassin, began to remind me of an 80’s Ric Flair. Not so much in personality. But in the way he dressed like a champ, acted like a champ, and held on to the belt, like a champ.
It is a testament to IMPACT Wrestling that I kept watching even after Bobby Roode dropped the heavyweight title. From the standpoint of fandom, I was not happy. Like many, I expected Bobby Roode to carry the title into Bound for Glory and defend it against James Storm. I believed their feud, as I said, to be one of the best in the last decade. I believed Bobby Roode putting over James Storm would not only have elevated the Cowboy, but it would have ensured that the main event scene belonged to Batman himself for years to come. By it not happening, by it not being for the belt, I feared the opposite: James Storm would bring down Bobby Roode and both men would descend somewhere between mid-carders and would-be world champions.
Some might argue that is exactly what did happen, but, like I said, it’s one thing to read about TNA and it’s something altogether different (better!) to watch.
Reading about it, you might get the idea that Bobby Roode has disappeared. But if you watch Bobby Roode and Austin Aries weekly, they have as much ambition as they’ve ever had. They make as much noise as they ever did. Even when they had the tag team titles, they referred to themselves as “Not the tag team champions but a team of world champions.”
Because, in IMPACT, stories continue to be told and history doesn’t forget itself.
What a difference it was for me when Bobby Roode dropped the belt and I continued to like the product as much and, later, even more. How different than when I clutched to the title reigns of Christian Cage or Daniel Bryan—knowing that when they lost their belts wrestling would again be lost to me. That’s what it’s like when you enjoy a wrestler but not the product.
And because I enjoyed TNA for the product, the storytelling, the real-feel backstage segments, the matches, and the character development, I was able to transition from Bobby Roode’s loss to the Aces and Eights. And let me tell you, I was an Aces and Eights enthusiast from day one. This is another miracle because I am glass-half-empty and always assume the worst. But something told me from the start it had to be Bully Ray. When I’d go online, readers were calling for things that I thought we used to stand against. They said, “Hurry the storyline!” and “There had better be a ‘big’ name!” I kept my silence for months even though I didn’t agree with a word I read.
Here’s how I knew it was Bully Ray as President: the look on his face when he hugged Brooke Hogan. Yeah, I know, insert joke here. But, listen: TNA has become masterful with, at all times, presenting two or three or ten possible options for what might happen. It is great for discussion and speculation. This, as much as anything, is why I watch and why you should too.
You never know what might happen. Invested fans are always guessing.
During the Aces and Eights program, people were predicting the President might be anybody from Eric Bischoff or Jeff Jarrett to Sting or Hulk Hogan. But I kept telling anybody who would listen it would be Bully Ray.
The look on his face when he hugged Brooke was never focused in on by the cameras or mentioned by the announcers, but several times I read the look on Bully’s face to mean, I’m-holding-my-breath-and-biding-my-time. I was damn sure I was seeing these looks, but once and awhile I wondered if maybe I was losing my mind. It’s all this inward guessing that made me a bigger fan, knowing how much I was investing and believing it would all pay off.
But there was another instance. Bully Ray’s best man, Tazz, joined Aces and Eights at the wedding between Brooke Hogan and Bully Ray. This was during the time I was watching IMPACT weekly but telling nobody I was doing so. The only person who knew was former Main Page Writer and CF Favorite, Mizfan. We would text back-and-forth throughout each show, kicking our opinions and experiences around. Now, as much as I’m glass-half-empty, Mizfan is glass-half-full.
While I was busy marking out at not only how Tazz joined (saying, ‘It’s hot in here,’ taking off his jacket, revealing the Aces logo first to the crowd, who reacted; then turning to the camera for full effect), but also marking because he joined, Mizfan was texting me decrying the segment.
But why did I love the Tazz turn so much?
Because I had been watching TNA for over a year and they had built major credit with me that every little detail matters. For years, I have refused to join my colleagues when they did WWE prediction columns because I believed that the ‘story’ in WWE had nothing to do with the outcome. I felt many times you could follow the story but it rarely led to a logical outcome. Gimmicks can change without notice in WWE and programs built for many months can end without resolution (Ryback/Shield/Punk). Entertainers in WWE can be one person in one skit and often another in the next. People act out of character, history is often forgotten, and things change rapidly.
But it hasn’t been that way in IMPACT wrestling for a while, and I banked everything on the little detail that not only did Bully look like he was playing a role and biding his time, but no way did his best man have the balls to stand next to him and wreck his wedding without Bully being a part.
I’ve got to close this column (though I could give you many more reasons). Long story short: TNA has built my confidence by doing the little details right. The Lockdown heel turn and the promo cut after will go down in history and, for my money, Bully Ray is the best heel in professional wrestling at this given moment.
Let me close by quickly giving you my top five reasons why you should watch IMPACT Wrestling at this moment in time.
The X-Division. Maybe you can say it’s not as good as it once was, but it’s nowhere near irrelevant at this point. Some people may not like that every match is now a 3-Way Dance. Fair enough. But, if I were betting, I’d say that will not last. And rather than dismiss it, I like that TNA is trying something fresh and always working to better their product. From that reasoning, let me be more specific as to why you should be watching right now. Kenny King v. Sabin v. Suicide. First off, Kenny King is one of the most well-rounded X-Division wrestlers in the history of the company. Finally, among few, here is an X-Division star who can get it done in the ring and on the microphone. He is young and brash and ambitious and claims the reason the X-Division has moved to 3-Way matches is because no one man is a challenge for the King. Line up all that brashness and pair it against a man who has been haunted and plagued by injury in the last two years and you get why Kenny King versus Sabin matters. Sabin is sober and mature at the moment and understands how quickly opportunity can disappear. But for every bit of soberness in Sabin, King is that drunk off early success. These two play off each other perfectly, and Suicide is the absolute perfect wild card for the match at Slammiversary on June 2nd. If that’s not enough, soon we are coming to the time in the year where the X-Division Champion has the right to hold on to his belt or relinquish it for a shot at the elusive TNA world title.
The tag team division or, more specifically, four men in the tag team division. First off, the Bad Influence, Christopher Daniels and Kaz. These two have, over time, molded into a team that can damn near finish each other’s sentences. From the leadership of Daniels, Kaz has grown into a far more entertaining individual. Make no mistake, however, the veteran Daniels is still leading the ship and leaving his mark upon the world of professional wrestling. Didn’t know an individual could leave his mark in the tag division? You must not be watching IMPACT Wrestling or listening to the amazing interview by LoPRadio with Christopher Daniels. The man blew my mind as he took us back to a time when the tag titles were not even defended on a TNA PPV; then he marked the date of how the Bad Influence came around and resurrected the tag team division. The only team that rivals Daniels and Kaz at this moment is the Team of World Champions, the Dirty Heels, Batman Bobby Roode and Austin Aries. That’s right! Four of the most gifted and ambitious wrestlers in the business have been conducting outright heel-on-heel violence against each other. That alone is worth the price of admission!
The evolution of AJ Styles. If you have heard that AJ Styles is nothing but Crow Sting –lite, you heard wrong. I liked that it had shades of Crow Sting versus Hollywood Hogan, for those who actually watch, you realize that TNA plays off history and the company happens to have access to both Sting and Hulk Hogan. Therefore, it was an amazing promo when Sting tried to reach out to AJ Styles to let him know, I’ve gone down a similar path. But those words, thanks partly to Kurt Angle, fell on deaf ears. Now, as of this past IMPACT, AJ Styles has taken a path I don’t think Crow Sting would have. In the exact same fashion that Bully Ray took the hammer to the leg of Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles did the same to TNA’s Kurt Angle, proving that AJ walks alone and, like the Dixie Chicks of old, ‘ain’t ready to make nice.’ Now we have an AJ Styles who has bucked the trend of brotherhood and riding together that Aces and Eights has set. AJ Styles has set a new trend: walking alone to the point that you alienate everybody. In a video TNA put out, AJ Styles revealed a new motto, which I will speak about in the future: Be One. For now, all we can say is AJ is an original, and, for that, he gets the prize of an original—a target on his back that everybody wants to aim for.
Bully Ray as the best heel in pro wrestling. Quickly, as I’ve covered this. Bully Ray has pissed off everybody in TNA and he’s done it because he can. Not only did he break the heart of Brooke Hogan to drive another wedge in the Hogan family, but now he has declared to her that he will always love her. Bully Ray is padding his resume. He beat Jeff Hardy in his own match (TLC) and he will now strive to defeat Sting in a match where, if Sting loses, he can never challenge for the title again. Bully Ray doesn’t just defeat you—he gathers material to hang over your head for the rest of your life. Nobody is safe. Ask Sting. Ask Hulk Hogan. Ask Brooke. Ask Joseph Park. Hardly have I seen a man with more authority in his voice and more willing to make the most of a late-career transformation. If you aren’t watching or you still call Bully Bubba, I hate for you how much you are missing right now.
The soon-coming Bound for Glory Series. This is the one that everybody I talk to is waiting for. With the heat on Bully Ray, this may well be the most impressive Bound for Glory Series in its three-year history. AJ Styles is the favorite, of course, but so was James Storm last year. Also lurking is big Matt Morgan, a man who has been overlooked ten too many times. This year, in an interesting turn, one Gut Check winner will get to compete in the BFGS. Add to that the one I’m looking forward to—what will the BFGS do to Bobby Roode and Austin Aries? They will no doubt wish each other goodwill but they will also secretly (or not so secretly) hope that anyone but the other wins the series. Already a continual thorn in the tag team of the Dirty Heels is the fact that Bobby Roode loves to brag about being the longest reigning TNA Champion and Austin Aries loves to remind Roode that it was [Aries] who ended that reign. Recently James Storm told Bobby Roode that nobody in the locker room believed Austin’s win had been a fluke. Add all this together and we may well see the BFGS produce a Bobby Roode-Austin Aries classic at this year’s Bound for Glory.
Something about stereotypes, or saying the same things over and over. It’s not good for you or pro wrestling. There are things we all genuinely disagree on. There are elements of WWE that I do not like, but they may be the very reasons someone else watches. It’s the same with IMPACT Wrestling. I like the arena, as I’m a fan of the old-school ramp used in WCW and ECW. But I also understand that those who are used to the production values of WWE may be put back by TNA, at least at first. I love the new 4-PPV structure as it allows many weeks of TV that are actually worthy of watching just for TV! I tire of every month knowing that the day after a PPV the champion will come out and a challenger will interrupt and the GM will interrupt and we will already be on our way to the next PPV. I like to see random two-week programs and guys like Bully having so many beefs that he doesn’t address them all each week. For others, they may find security in routine and may like for every moment to be building to the next PPV. I like that Sting is challenging for the world title, not because he should win it, but because the storytelling in TNA is beyond rewarding and I, as a viewer, know Sting is the one who sold Hulk Hogan on Bully Ray and thus created this mess. I also realize that Sting has given his heart, his soul, his blood, and ten years of his life to TNA. He could have gone elsewhere, had more fame, and made more money. To those who watch, they know what he means to the company and what the company means to him. He regularly gets some of the biggest pops on the show. You might be upset because a 54-year-old is challenging for the belt, but in TNA, he’s Sting, a legend, and we’re not so disrespectful as all that.
What is my point? There are some people who just won’t like anything about the company, and that is fine. But don’t hide behind old lines like somebody’s age or production value or something you’ve heard online or something you've gotten used to saying. It's rarely as simple as that. For those who enjoy some of the stars in IMPACT Wrestling, or who like stories that develop slowly, or like to guess and speculate and enjoy the suspense of well-told story, or for those who want character development and continuity and history, you should give TNA a chance.
That is what I’m here for. That is what I try to provide. I’ve done so every week since LockDown and will now be doing just that here.
Soon I will be presenting you with nominees for the ‘best of TNA 2013’ halfway mark. It’s a chance to vote, to participate, and to better acquaint yourself with IMPACT Wrestling. Also, weekly I will allow you to vote and decide the IMPACT MVP.
Beyond that I will soon have a podcast every Thursday on LoPRadio.
IMPACTherevolution by joining in and following on Twitter. Vote, discuss, speculate. It will many times be about TNA but not exclusively. Anything done well in pro wrestling is something I want to be part of.
And that, friends old and new, is my introduction.
See you somewhere in social media.