Welcome to the Roundtable. I, Rhett Davis, am your host for this most momentous occasion as the writers of Inside Pulse come together to recognize the greatest hits and misses of TNA on its ten years of existence. These Roundtables will occur over the next four weeks with different subjects for each week so stay tuned for the next installations and feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below. This week’s topics are ‘The Top 5 Biggest Failures and The Top 5 Biggest Successes of TNA.’
The Top 5 Biggest Failures of TNA
1) Misuse of their own talent
You have AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels and all manner of other talent that have been with you since day one, and can put on the best matches when they are motivated to do so. So what do you do? Put them in ridiculous angles, job them out to the latest WWE cast-off, make them such jokes people don’t care about them. They could have been seen as something different with guys like these on top. Instead, they are seen as WWE-lite.
2) Monday Night Wars v2.0
It was an interesting concept that, well, really failed. They had their one-off show which drew a strong enough rating to be given the ball in March of 2010. And they started off great with Rob Van Dam coming down and defeating Sting… and then getting the snot beaten out of him for a loooong, boring beat-down afterwards. Oh, and the main event was Hogan v Flair. In 2010. They bled, though, so that was… disgusting. But were TNA serious? In this time period I think we had the Abyss is Green Lantern thing with the magic ring, Eric Bischoff playing guitar, as well as fan voting/rankings that they ignored because it didn’t fit in with booking plans. So, no, it was like they did it to placate Spike, but then went out of their way to sabotage their own creation.
3) ECW v3.2
Look, ECW was a creature of its time, was not as great and wonderful as everyone makes it out to be, had some entertaining bits, and was really helped by the wonderful booking of Paul Heyman who knew how to hide his talents’ shortcomings while accentuating the positives. Fast forward 10 years since its demise, throw these out of shape, over the hill guys into a TNA ring and tell them to be ECW again was a mess waiting to happen. Didn’t anyone learn anything from WWE’s version of ECW? Well, looking at all the reports from this year’s Extreme Reunion, the answer is clearly, “No.”
4) WCW/WWE cast-offs retirement home
You know, there is often a really good reason why the WWE doesn’t take people or lets contracts expire. They may even shunt people into feeder promotions, or encourage them to go to Japan to work. But some people are seen as liabilities, be that in the ring or outside of it. Giving these people a chance to stay in the industry with no recourse for their actions is just asking for trouble.
5) Dixie Carter – on-air personality
The owner as on-screen personality has been done to death. But at least Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon have the charisma to pull it off. Dixie Carter is probably a lovely person. She is certainly big-hearted to support TNA for as long as she has. But she does not have that force of personality to try and replicate what we saw from the others. And the problem is, if they could have kept him as simply an on-screen character with no backstage power or pull, they had Eric Bischoff who could have filled in the role as de facto boss adequately. By making her the focus of the company, and showcasing her (sorry) boringness, it makes, by default, the rest of the company look boring.
Honorable Mention: Lack of publicity
This is something both WWE and TNA do, and WCW did – not acknowledge their on-air personalities’ other extracurricular activities. Apparently not publicizing Mick Foley’s Countdown To Lockdown was a reason he left. How about his appearance at Jon Stewart’s rally in Washington? And what about Angle’s movie appearances? Or Hogan on American Idol? But, like I said, this isn’t TNA exclusive.
1) Devaluing Samoa Joe to the point of irrelevance
2) Not making AJ Styles the biggest star in the company
3) Relying too heavily on Sting rather than making new stars
4) Not keeping the X Division, Tag Team, and Knockouts Divisions fresh, interesting, and relevant
5) Letting Dixie Carter be involved in storylines
1) Hiring Matt Morgan, Gunner, Ken Anderson, Crimson, Bobby Lashley, Matt Hardy, The Nasty Boys, Orlando Jordan, Val Venis, Triton, X, Rob Terry, Relik, Black Reign, Michael Shane, Anarquia, Bubba The Love Sponge, Shannon Moore, Chyna, Brooke Hogan, and everyone in the TNA Knockout Division. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
2) Losing (at one point or another) CM Punk, Homicide, Petey Williams, Alex Shelley, Jerry Lynn, Roderick Strong, Low-Ki, Christopher Daniels, Austin Aries, Kazarian, and Jay Lethal. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
3) Everything from January 4th 2010 that wasn’t AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle.
4) Everything that Samoa Joe has done since 2007.
5) I’m at 5 already? Damn, time to summarize: Reaction, Gutcheck, the WWE catering “incident”, Bobby Lashley’s exit, going live, UNSCRIPTED and UNPRODUCED, Pacman, whoever their latest MMA-crossover attempt is, Serge, nearly burning down the Impact Zone and having to evacuate on a live PPV, Karen Angle, every worked-shoot attempt since their inception, and not making Jeff Hardy pee into a cup anytime he goes anywhere for any reason.
1) Hiring Vince Russo – wrestling is like the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL – the same retreads keep getting opportunities, despite failing several times prior. Russo is a prime example of this – despite wearing out his welcome in the WWE and burning WCW to the ground, he was hired by TNA. Chaos ensued – and he’s unemployed again.
2) Bringing in Hogan and Bischoff – speaking of recreating the past…most wrestling fans except Dixie and Serge Carter know that Hogan is done. Sadly, they’re the ones writing the checks.
3) Kevin Nash running amok through the X-Division. This is what brought TNA to my attention in the first place – hearing about guys like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe having incredible matches. Then – Nash (another blast from the past) destroys it – and now the X-Division is a mockery of what it once was.
4) Samoa Joe – sigh. What could’ve and should’ve been.
5) Sting – he should be the company’s Undertaker. He should show up once or twice a year, give someone the rub and then disappear. Instead, he keeps getting inserted in the main event picture over and over again.
The Top 5 Biggest Successes of TNA
1) Hiring Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair
Yes, this was a success for one huge reason – the mainstream publicity. These are two of the very biggest names in professional wrestling ever, and whatever they do actually gets publicity. Don’t believe me? WWE comes to Australia at least once a year. If you follow wrestling, you know this, otherwise, who cares? The superstars never appear anywhere. When Hogan and Flair headlined an oldies reunion tour, they were on every news and magazine show in the country. And then when they went to TNA, it was TNA, not WWE, that got the publicity.
2) Spike TV deal
This was a success because it gave them the stability to not have to worry about where their home was, and saw them book longer term. For a while, anyway. But they had the luxury of that, knowing they could have pay-offs down the track.
3) 6-sided ring
I consider this a success because it was something different. It made them stand out. And it looked impressive. I wish personally they had stuck with it – sort of midway between the octagon of MMA and the traditional ring – but unfortunately the traditional mindset was brought into the company and so out went one of the few things to make TNA different.
4) Weekly PPVs
As a way to start a new company – $10 weekly PPVs, giving you 8 hours of product a month for the same price WWE was giving you 3 hours in one, $40 hit – it was a really good concept. And with some of the names appearing on these early shows, it was something that could well have worked. But unfortunately times were against them; I think this concept was just ahead of its time.
5) Success in the United Kingdom
Nothing to say here, just that one of their best successes has been how well they’ve broken into a saturated United Kingdom market.
Honorable Mention: X-Division
This was a good concept – combining cruiserweight action with no weight limit – that was eventually poorly executed by having Abyss win the thing and now having a weight limit.
1) Surviving 10 years
2) Getting on Spike TV / getting two hours in prime time
3) Successfully pushing Bobby Roode and James Storm to main event players
4) Turning Lockdown from a potential bad idea into one of their biggest events of the year
5) Samoa Joe from 2005-2008
1) Getting Kurt Angle and Sting – their future value may be questionable, but over time, I’d say they’ve been worth whatever they’ve gotten paid.
2) Austin Aries (they’ll find a way to mess this up, don’t worry.)
3) The year’s worth of amazing matches between AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels.
4) Everything that Samoa Joe did before 2007.
5) Somehow tapping into the niche audience (albeit decreasing) that will watch ANY wrestling on cable that isn’t WWE, an audience so passionate about NOT watching WWE that it will often EVEN defend TNA moves that they know to be outright bullshit. (Botched finishes, not paying performers enough that they need second jobs, sexual harassment lawsuits, not paying performers at all, abandoning injured performers, blatantly misleading press releases, etc).
1) AJ Styles – my favorite wrestler to watch. Sadly, his promos are another story.
2) Bubba Dudley – wow. Simply an amazing rejuvenation of someone’s career.
3) Beer Money – my favorite tag team since Edge and Christian. Everything they did was perfect – especially Storm’s motorized beer cooler.
4) Kurt Angle – really, shouldn’t he have died about four years ago? I wish I were joking – but the fact that Angle continues to produces such top-quality matches (the long terms effects to his health be damned) is amazing to me.
5) TNA’s finishing moves – from the Styles’ Clash to the Canadian Destroyer, TNA has introduced some amazing finishers into wrestling.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the Roundtables in the following weeks as we come together to discuss the biggest hits and misses of the first decade of TNA. Remember to feel free to discuss what you feel should be the five biggest mistakes and successes of TNA in their first decade in the comments section below.
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