Friday, November 28, 2014

Hitting the Reset

It sure has been an interesting time in TNA (I wish I could still call it Dixieland). So I thought I would ease my way back into the swing of things by giving my thoughts on the TNA product in recent months. I am going to take this division by division and give my take on why some of the more confusing things took place. But first, I'm going to start with the individual points which are separate from any division.

The Bully Absence

Apparently Bully Ray is gone from TNA. His contract expired around September and he signed a short-term extension to finish off the Tag Title Series and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Now, the "big story" that came out of Bound For Glory was that Team 3D sort of went into business for themselves and called out the Bullet Club of New Japan Pro Wrestling. I can see why they did that to maybe pop the Japanese crowd, but it may have caused a rift between 3D and TNA/Wrestle-1.

Also, the high price tag in this current era of cost-cutting may lead to TNA deciding that Bully isn't worth keeping anymore, but when you consider what this company has done with the money they have saved from their previous high cost departures, maybe losing another established star could lead to bigger and better things.

Over the last year we have seen the arrivals of The Wolves, Sanada, Bram, Tigre Uno, Havok, Rebel, Crazzy Steve, MVP, Brittany and Chris Melendez – not to mention the returns of Homicide, Low-Ki, Angelina Love, Rhino, Tommy Dreamer, Lashley and Matt Hardy. TNA also brought in Mahabali Shera, who I thought was very impressive in Ring Ka King (the last RKK champion) and has probably improved since.

If TNA can continue to exchange high profile stars for several talents that they can build their future around, I can't say that losing Bully Ray will be a bad decision in the long run. Can you imagine if TNA used that money to sign Shanna or the Canadian Ninjas (Portia Perez and Nicole Matthews) to the Knockouts roster, or hell, bring back the Young Bucks for the tag team division? The possibilities are endless and hopefully if that is the case, we will see some great new signings.

Switching It Up

The fate of Dixieland was forever changed and it led to some friction between EC3 and Rockstar Spud. After running down everyone he believed was responsible for Dixie going through a table, it was only a matter of time before EC3 turned that anger towards Spud. Now, I may be a bit upset at TNA for breaking up one of the more entertaining pairings in the company - and I know that I'm not alone in this - but I think it was time for a change.

The character of Rockstar Spud was never a true heel. He was brought in by Dixie and was loyal to the Carters, but his mannerisms were never those of a true heel. Spud's pairing with Eric Young was a good idea because it helped him get over as a babyface before the new series of British Boot Camp started. I bring this up as it will enable Spud to be a mentor to whoever ends up winning the competition and help them navigate the dangerous waters that he had to try and get through by himself. Also, as a Brit, I like the idea of having the heel Brits in Bram and Magnus and having a few babyface Brits as well, but maybe that's just a cultural bias.

Why make one star when you can make two

The Knockouts division is going through a state of renewal at the moment with Rebel becoming a full-time wrestler, Taryn Terrell  back in the mix, and of course the arrival of Havok. Over the last couple of months we have seen Havok beat Gail Kim for the Knockouts Title only to lose it a few weeks later in a three-way bout to Taryn Terrell. On the surface this looks like a cast iron way of ruining all the momentum Havok has gained since her debut. However, I see it as a way to make two stars instead of one, ala James Storm and Bobby Roode from 2011.

The important thing is that Havok was never pinned to lose the title, and it gives her a meaningful feud into next year should Gail actually leave TNA - which is very unlikely given how she has spoken about WWE in the past - so I can't blame TNA for trying to ensure that the Knockouts won't have to go through a quick re-write somewhere down the line. I wouldn't be surprised if, upon their debut on Destination America, Havok assaults Taryn backstage to take possession of the title, leaving Taryn as the champion in name only. Again, this is another decision that may be seen as a bad idea but could actually be best for TNA.

OMG, TNA remembered about Feast or Fired

To start off, I'm a big fan of the Feast or Fired concept. I think the maximum risk, maximum reward format helps elevate the titles because the wrestlers are willing to put everything on the line for the chance to get a World Title shot - and to a lesser extent the Tag Team and X-Division Title shots.

In 2014, we were treated to an absolutely amazing Tag Title series that helped cement The Wolves as one of the best tag teams in the business today, while also opening up an additional spot in the World Title picture as  Jeff Hardy has been given a new lease to try and win the Tag Team Titles along with bringing back Matt Hardy to TNA. [Side note: Jeff has never been a TNA Tag Team Champion and he may be itching to add the accolade to his resume.]

What came next, however, was James Storm recruiting Davey Richards for the Revolution and trying to drive a wedge between the Wolves. Although his attempts failed, Storm brought out Abyss as the newest member of the Revolution and together they cashed in the returning Feast or Fired case and beat the Wolves to win the titles.

This may seem like a lackluster way for the Wolves to lose the belts after coming off the highly competitive series but if Davey is going to need more time to fully recuperate from his injuries, then it's a better decision than letting the new emphasis on tag teams cool down while he finishes his rehabilitation. Besides, the Wolves' title reign had lasted for nearly 8 months since they regained the belts at the end of April, which is quite a long reign if you ask me.

Much ado about Joe

Samoa Joe has been doing an amazing job since regaining the X-Division Title for the 5th time. The matches have been hard-hitting and showcased what the X-Division can deliver when the wrestlers are used correctly. Unfortunately, Samoa Joe was forced to vacate the title after being injured in a tag match and we have a new champion in Low-Ki. Rumor has it that Joe's contract is expiring and the injury was a way to write him off TV should he leave the company. Now, I enjoy watching Joe wrestle and when he's motivated he puts on great matches, but sometimes he is out of shape and doesn't perform to the best of his ability. If his contract really is expiring, I can see why TNA may be reluctant to re-sign him given that his work rate is known to fluctuate - any business would act the same.

I also think that unless Joe returns and starts firing on all cylinders, maybe his best matches are behind him and TNA needs to consider the future of their product and not just keep someone around because they have been there for a long time. Either way, Low-Ki is the new X-Division Champion and is the perfect guy to carry on the X resurgence. To be honest, I thought Low-Ki was going to win the X-Division Title after Austin Aries vacated it before Destination X.

The Destroyer No More

The final point I'm going to cover is the World Title picture. To round out the rest of the title changes in Bethlehem, Bobby Roode conquered "The Destoyer" Lashley to regain the TNA World Title. Now, a lot of people weren't sold on Lashley winning the title in the first place, but it's clear that he has been the best booked monster heel champion in recent memory – and with his recent Bellator success, it only added more credibility to the TNA World Title.

My biggest gripe is that it leaves a serious gap in the heel roster for the main event scene. Unless they're priming EC3 for a main event role or moving Magnus back from teaming with Bram, the only name that springs to mind is MVP but he's already feuded with Roode for quite some time. I can picture Storm dropping the tag belts to the Hardys after a short run, or bringing back the Freebird rule and continuing his feud with Roode, only this time with the roles reversed. Personally, I would prefer TNA hold off on this feud until Roode has knocked off a few other contenders and then have Storm end his reign just before he breaks his own record.

Penny For Your Thoughts

If Gail Kim, Samoa Joe, Bully Ray and Lashley are possibly done with TNA, who would you bring in to replace them? The only caveat is that they should be someone who can realistically sign with TNA (i.e no CM Punk) but for every one you choose to let go, you can bring in two new wrestlers. If you had the power, where would you spend the money?

My Answer: I'm going to choose to let them all go, except for Gail Kim.

Lashley: Bring in Shanna and Mia Yim
Bully Ray: Bring in either the Young Bucks or ReDRagon
Samoa Joe: Bring in Ace Vetter (Trent Baretta) and Brian Cage