By Dustin Hull
Last Saturday was the debut episode of Unlocked on Destination America. When I heard Dixie Carter describe Unlocked as a “Director’s Cut” version of Impact, I was greatly intrigued. And when they announced Mike Tenay would host, I was fully on board. I’m still invested in this concept for TNA’s new show, but I feel there are some key things that TNA should think about (and I feel they will) to get more people returning to the program weekly.
I enjoyed the first episode of Unlocked, but found myself thinking that this should lead into the new episode of Impact on Friday – Pont: Tenay has announced this will happen moving forward. A smart decision as the first episode was essentially a replay with some facts popping up, a touching Magnus interview, and the debut of the Top 5 Power Rankings. The foundation is great because the pop ups are an excellent way for Tenay to show off what we have all come to love from the Professor: his brain. They should utilize more of these points and even include some obscure facts about the talents involved in the segment. I’d like to see Tenay expand on which Florida promotions Joe, Low Ki, and MVP wrestled in, as referenced by MVP in his promo. Little bits can help further the enjoyment of the segment that many have already watched.
The exclusive interviews were a selling point for me, and the Magnus interview delivered what I was willing to buy. While it was a bit short, it gave depth to his character as a person outside of the television show while also tying it into his on-screen character. This interview could easily set up Magnus to return to his good guy status we all enjoyed while ascending in 2012/2013. Imagine having fans connect with Magnus on a personal/emotional level, and then Magnus helping whomever the BDC is bullying when they tape in the UK; essentially, the show linking that moment will make sense for both American and British audiences who are seeing it weeks apart.
I was a bit skeptical with the Power Rankings, I will admit. I had this idea that when the first list came out, I’d just roll my eyes as Kurt Angle was ranked #2 on the list. I was pleasantly surprised to see the ranking that Tenay came out with, and he had great reasoning behind where he placed each wrestler. It should be noted that Tenay had a Q&A on Twitter about the Power Rankings and I hope this continues. That fan interaction was fun and it will drive traffic to want to see how their lists compare.
I’d like to see Tenay expand on this. He could have taken EC3, explained his undefeated streak, and then Tenay could cut to the three biggest wins he feel gets EC3 to the #4 position. They could show a 4-5 min video package with archive footage of his wins over Sting, Angle, and Bully Ray. The Professor could give feedback about the background for the match as well as where the win lead him towards. I understand that it would result in some of the replay being cut, but I’m always a fan of Tenay giving us a history lesson and this would help the show stand alone.
Moving forward, I’d have Mike catching these guys post-match for instant reactions shown on Unlocked. As a kid I used to love watching the backstage interviews with Mean Gene or the instant reaction promos from WCW at the podium. Having the Roode vs. EY match finish on Unlocked, Tenay can throw it to an exclusive reaction from EY where Young cuts a simple promo promising more damage to come.
I also think the idea of Tenay having a talent call the match with him rather than using the Josh/Taz commentary would bring a lot to the “Director’s Cut” aspect of the show. Imagine hearing Tenay guiding the Hardys through their match with the Wolves. Tenay can have a conversation with Matt on his thoughts of seeing the Revolution in the balcony. He could ask Jeff what inspired him to take that walk of faith, or even questioning the two about their tag finisher and explaining it to the fans. I feel this would give the guys on the roster a chance to showcase their commentary skills and provides a major opportunity to add depth to the storyline, which I feel Unlocked should ultimately be used for.
The debut of Unlocked showed promise. While I felt that it was basically another replay show, Tenay shined brightly in this role, and the new content that was provided definitely stood out. However, I felt myself wanting more of those moments by the time it ended, which I’m sure you can all sense from this review. Much like with the live debut of Impact, there are a lot of things that I feel will grow over time if they focus on growing this show. With Mike Tenay at the helm, I feel they will do just that and they can make Unlocked a must-see show that helps fans get further invested into the Impact product. I must say, great job, Professor, and I have high hopes for what you do with this project.