This is part 2 of a column I wrote for the now-defunct TNAswerve.com a few months ago. I was spurred to write it by my growing frustration with how tired and repetitive the Knockout division (and roster) had become. I wasn't going to post it anywhere else but my blog, but after Brooke Tessmacher's title win at Slammiversary, it dawned on me that this still applied to the current landscape we find ourselves with.
Tessmacher being elevated to championship status on such a big show was the first real effort TNA has made to create a new home-grown female star (don't talk to me about the Extreme Expose thing) since their ill-concieved attempt to push Velvet Sky to the top last year. She's a relatively new character who hadn't held the title before and wasn't a star in another company first; to me, Tessmacher as the champion feels like a big breath of fresh air, and this is something I'd like to see continue with an infusion of new female talent from the indies.
I've made no secret of the fact that I think the Knockout roster as it exists right now has become very stale. The writers seem to have picked the women they like and have chosen to focus the division almost exclusively on them, leaving the others to gather dust backstage. The problem this creates is that the ones who actually get on television become overexposed that much quicker, while the ones who don't become irrelevant.
My thoughts on this situation are pretty simple: If the company has no desire to use some of these women anymore, they should let them go and replace them with new female talent they actually DO want to use.
Some fans may hate me for calling for their favorite Knockouts to get cut; I'd be sad to see some of them go too, but these women can't get their faces glimpsed on television anyway, so what are they really sticking around for? If they left, at least they'd be free to work for another company that might actually want to use them for something.
We're approaching a full year since Winter and Angelina have done a damn thing in TNA other than eat the pin in an occasional enhancement match; the writing is surely on the wall for them at this point. With management choosing to take the product in a more youthful direction, Tara's days may be numbered. And as much as I'm a big fan of Sarita, she and Rosita haven't been used for anything other than job fodder for the comic relief duo of Eric Young & ODB, and standing at ringside while their male counterparts in the mercifully dead Mexican America stable get embarrassed, so they're probably on the bubble by now as well.
The thought may be uncomfortable for a lot of people, but just imagine if the Knockouts who are no longer being used in any way that matters were let go and replaced by new Knockouts that the writers actually had plans for and wanted to feature regularly. Wouldn't that make this division feel a lot more fresh than it does right now? It's the Tessmacher effect, but amplified.
That's what this column is about. I'm going to take a look at the independent wrestling circuit and give you a sort of scouting report on which unsigned women out there might be good potential candidates to reinvigorate the Knockout division.
But before I begin, keep in mind, I'm going to be discussing women wrestlers who will be making waves in the future -- who may not be big deals yet, but whose stars I believe will be on the rise -- therefore, women who are the current queens of the indies (ex. Sara Del Rey, Mercedes Martinez et al.), you won't be seeing on this list. Something TNA has often had problems with is thinking long term, and that's what I want to address. This is about who's going to be great tomorrow, not who's great today.
I want to stress that I'm only giving my opinions here, highlighting specific women that stand out to me. I should also mention that this will only be about women TNA could potentially sign, so no one currently contracted to WWE or ROH.
And away we go...
|The Blossom Twins|
As I understand it, they had a tryout at some point in the past, so they're on TNA's radar, but from an advertising standpoint alone I'm kind of baffled that they haven't been signed already. I mean, come on... beautiful twin women wrestlers? Get them on a banner, put it on shoptna.com with the other Knockout banners and that thing would sell itself! I can't believe I'm saying this, but TNA should take a lesson from the WWE in this case. Used properly, identical twins can be a pretty nifty marketing tool, and if they just happened to be wearing the Knockout tag titles -- all the better.
They've been competing in the UK since late last year, but from what I've heard, they're due to return to OVW in the near future. Meanwhile, they've been trying to get their foot in the door via the Gutcheck angle, much like the next woman on this list.
WHY HER: Well, for starters, if we're talking about women with the right look for television, then look no further. With the Blossoms currently in the UK, Hendrix is the only woman in OVW right now who actually looks like a real star. She also stars in my dreams many a night, but that's not really relevant here. ;)
To elaborate, yes, Hendrix being drop dead gorgeous is what got my attention initially, but there's more to it than that. Hendrix is a wait-and-see at this point. She might become something great and she might not; it's too soon to tell. I've seen enough of her to believe she has star potential, but I'll admit that she's not as ready for TV as she could be just yet.
In many of her matches that I've watched, I see a lot of the same things happening -- she'll hit one move that looks really nice and impresses me, then she'll attempt something else and not quite nail it. It appears as if something is preventing her from clicking 100% in the ring right now. And yet, she's a former OVW women's champion, she competed on the old ROH HDNET show against Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze, and even holds a win over Awesome Kong (before she became WWE's Kharma), so a lot of people in the business seem to believe in her and treat her like she's going to be a big deal despite the difficulties she has in a few areas.
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Hendrix is a unique case on this list because I would classify her as a great candidate specifically for a TNA developmental deal (convenient, since she already wrestles for OVW). She's someone who has the tools necessary to be a star, who has potential as a worker, but seems to be having some trouble tapping into it. That's the main reason why I think putting her in the Gutcheck at this time would be a little premature, but it may end up happening regardless.
Maybe she's hit her ceiling and maybe she hasn't; I don't know yet. She's only been wrestling for a few years, so hopefully she can improve with more experience. And I really want to see her improve because the wrestling aspect is the only thing holding her back. If she can just iron out the kinks in her ringwork and become a little more polished as a wrestler, TNA could have a great find right under their noses.
|Jenny Rose |
(formerly Jamilia Craft)
WHY HER: This one is more of a hunch on my part. She's just someone I've got a feeling about. The first time I saw her was in an ROH match against Sara Del Rey, and I remember wishing they'd bring her back in the future because of how much promise she showed, considering how green she was at the time.
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Since then, she's lived, trained and competed in Japan, and debuted for WSU and SHIMMER in America, so she's been racking up an impressive list of credentials for one so young. I take this a good indicator that Rose is always looking to take that next step up the ladder in the business and isn't about to rest on her laurels like some women who seem content to peruse the same American companies and never really expand beyond that. Whether she ever gets signed or not, I believe Jenny Rose will be going places in the future and should be one to keep an eye on.
WHY HER: #1) Girls with glasses are sexy. #2) "It's Veda time!" is a fun, cooky catchphrase (even if it is on homage to Vader) that I could see moving merchandise. #3) Best. Ring gear. Ever.
I first noticed Veda in a Sparkle (SHIMMER pre-show match) posted on youtube by Dave Prazak. Despite being one of six women in the ring, she immediately stood out to me before the match even started; her personality practically jumped off the screen. I also liked what I saw once the match started and was even more impressed with her skills when I learned how young she was and how little time she'd actually been doing this.
Looking up her matches on youtube, I found that she apparently works as a heel quite a bit (at least in the matches I saw), which baffled me since she was such an entertaining face. With her size, look and personality, she seemed perfectly cast as a nerdy, underdog fan favorite -- I believe 'adorkable' is the technical term -- but surprisingly she plays a great snotty heel character as well. In a business where so many women are caught up in the idea of getting noticed by being sexy, it's really refreshing to see someone stand out by going the other way. Not that Veda isn't cute as hell, but she's attractive in a more wholesome way that could appeal to younger fans as well as adults.
Also, something that couldn't hurt her chances of getting noticed by TNA: She's friends with Dave Lagana. Just putting that out there.
WHY HER: Having been trained by Team 3D gives Leva a bit of an in with TNA. In fact, she worked a dark match at an iMPACT taping last year against Isis the Amazon. Said match was supposedly a tryout for Isis that thankfully resulted in nothing (seriously, Isis sucks). A fan video of said match made it online for a brief time, and while Isis was clearly meant to be the focus of the match, it was Leva who got over immediately with the iMPACT Zone fans while no one in the audience seemed to care about her opponent.
For a lot of the same reasons as Veda Scott, Leva Bates stands out from the pack by not doing what so many others are doing and appealing to a different set of fans. She makes people notice her and that's going to take her a long way.
|Kay Lee Ray|
WHY HER: The hair. She's got this Claire-Danes-in-My-So-Called-Life thing going on. Not only does it make her stand out from the pack, it's just plain hot.
A fast-rising star in Pro Wrestling EVE, KLR really put herself on the map at their recent No Man's Land iPPV, in which she was entered in a big tournament. She was apparently concussed in her first match and went on to compete twice more in the same night (heavily vomiting in between matches, according to the promoter) and only going to the hospital after the show was over. This girl is tough as hell and she's a fantastic wrestler too.
Aside from her daredevil ringstyle (which I've always loved when women wrestlers use) and really impressive athleticism for someone her size, I kept trying to figure out why I liked KLR so much, but I couldn't put my finger on it until the fine people at Divadirt spelled it out for me in a podcast. And then it hit me -- she's a young Mickie James. She has that same innate likability factor that just makes people want to get behind and root for her that Mickie has. The Lita comparisons are hard to deny as well.
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To my knowledge, she hasn't ventured over to wrestle in America yet, but if she ever does, I would strongly encourage TNA to give her a look because Kay Lee Ray is going to be a star sooner than later.
WHY HER: Two words: It factor.
I've long thought that somebody needed to sign Jen Blake and have become increasingly flabbergasted the more time passes without this happening. I remember reading online reports after her tryout that said she had backers in the company and the belief was that she would be signed sooner or later. So my question to TNA is what the hell is taking you so long? This woman is a star waiting to happen!
And that will be it. Thanks for joining me on this exploration of the potential future female talents of TNA. If I neglected to include one of your favorites on this list, you're more than welcome to complain to your friends and not bug me about it. Or, you know, write it in the comment section or something.