LIVE BAIT: TNA HAS A CHANCE AT A PRODUCTIVE SUMMER
By Justin Henry
Not even the news of Brooke Hogan (whom comedian Louis CK once referred to as “Hulk Hogan’s grown-up cum”) signing on with Total Nonstop Action can temper the possibilities that lie ahead.
Tonight will be the last time for an imprecise period (known now simply as “the summer”) that TNA Impact Wrestling will be taped in advance. Beginning May 31, Impact will go live on Thursday nights, a welcome change in the eyes of many.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if TNA is finally going to turn the corner and make the most of its previously-squandered opportunities. Grant you, many optimists have paid that lip service before in regards to wrestling’s #2 promotion, and that’s led to the duffers of TNA’s creative wing failing to live up.
But finally, after what seems like an eternity of waiting for one of those 1000 monkeys at those 1000 keyboards to pound out a Shakespearian sentence, TNA has strung together some viable competence lately.
Much of the recent wave of optimism seems to stem from Sacrifice on May 13, a show that, much like most prior TNA PPV offerings, seems to get overshadowed, dismissed as another three-hour ghost that will be vaporized away into the trap of forgotten wresting history. I mean, if you’ve seen one TNA PPV, you’ve seen them all, right? A million run-ins, pointless gimmick matches, nonsensical turns, and a bunch of WWE and WCW washouts clogging the pipeline.
Sacrifice, however, was different. You had well-regarded young stars going over in World Champion Robert Roode (in a solid ladder match over Rob Van Dam) and X Division Champion Austin Aries (by submission over the rejuvenated Bully Ray), both in really good matches. There was also a tremendous wrestling exhibition between Kurt Angle and AJ Styles, which didn’t quite rival the CM Punk-Daniel Bryan epic showcase, but was nonetheless a wrestling clinic worth checking out.
Impact that week was also one of the better episodes in a while, focusing heavily on wrestling and the TNA World Heavyweight Title. 4 matches were held to determine possible contenders for Roode’s bounty, and they all delivered from a “quality TV match” standpoint. Bully went over RVD, Jeff Hardy squeaked one out over Mr. Anderson (after Anderson upended him at the PPV), Kurt Angle won out over old rival Samoa Joe, and AJ Styles was the last man standing in a battle royal.
Compared to WWE Raw, which is as unfocused as Courtney Love doing trigonometry these days, TNA seems to have a plan in place, and a means of showing off every valuable member of their roster. With Russo long gone, the company has been awash with a sense of renewal and meaning, one that it hasn’t had since the Asylum days, when Jeff Jarrett’s ego was reined in from time to time.
They even parted ways with Ric Flair, after wasting two years letting the penniless drunkard run amok on their shows with his dignity receding faster than his hairline.
Even Hulk Hogan, whom I’m more content to see render himself physically useless after stretching the truth until finally snaps and concusses him into a vegetative state, didn’t look out of place on Impact. He promoted the roster and their matches with his trademark showmanship, and he made the roster look important, without overshadowing a single person.
The wrestlers all focusing on the World Title, which is generally defended in main events? Check. A roster that’s thinning out on burned-out Hall of Famers in favor of young-and-hungry talents that give TNA a fresher edge? Check. Demonstration of the capability of putting on quality events? Check. A solid vision for the future in lieu of booking on a napkin on the fly? Check.
Is TNA actually getting good at this game?
Or is WWE just so full of their own bloated ego and self-congratulation that we’re happy if an alternative shows the slightest hint of competence?
Regardless, we sit a mere 168 hours away from TNA’s second attempt at feeding their free show live to a large audience, many of them remembering all the empty promises and unfulfilled potential and same-old-same-old that plagued the company in their previous climbs.
Inevitably, some will give TNA a second chance, especially with Brooke Hogan, among others, hitting the road on a media blitz for Impact Wrestling. Some may be harder to sway, but I will say this as a frequent critic of an oftentimes baffling product: when I rip something, it’s because I wish it was better. My mockery of TNA isn’t from the depths of myself that wishes to see the company die, skull and crossbones, condemned in its own filth. Not at all.
I mock TNA because I WISH it was better. I want a company that will challenge WWE, shove them off the perch, dare them to get up and fight, and smack them right across the mouth as they get their feet set. Barring UFC’s lopsided dominance of the PPV market, no one has stood toe to toe with Vince McMahon since 1999, when WCW’s free-fall commenced. Since 2001, when Vinnie Mac helped the remnants of “The Big Boys” into their casket, he’s found himself less inclined to make great wrestling.
Why do you think Vince is so quick now to venture into movies, special interest groups, and politics? Because he’s conquered wrestling; he wants something new to conquer. And as he fails at conquering those mediums, he’ll keep trying to win at wrestling’s expense, because to Hell with wrestling; he already beat that.
Or did he?
It’s been ten years. It’s time for TNA to quit jerking around and finally make a fist-first lunge at Vince McMahon’s glassier-over-time jaw. They swung in 2010, and they missed, but it’s not 2010 anymore. There’s a new vision, a new hope, a new approach, and most of all, a new chance.
It’s time for TNA to take that chance, and hit the home run that they’ve always had it in them to hit.
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