TNA is a company that does not shy away from telling its audience when it’s reinventing itself. While most wrestling promotions are content to make this process a gradual one that viewers don’t really notice, Florida based TNA makes a point of announcing even the smallest of changes. In the last eighteen months alone there have been four attempts at convincing the audience that an angle on one specific show will change TNA forever.
In the case of the of the “They” angle which culminated on October 10th 2010 (the writing team decided on this date just because it’s all tens, that is the level of baffling insanity they function on) and the March 3rd 2011 “game changing” iMPACT, neither stood a chance of having the effect they were hyped to. “They” turned out to be Hogan, Bischoff, Jeff Hardy and a bunch of jobbers forming what was probably intended as a wrestling version of the Illuminati but was more akin to the WWF’s JOB Squad. The March 3rd iMPACT had the shocking (and I use that term quite wrongly) revelation that TNA was now “owned” by Hulk Hogan, as well as the return of Sting, which had been hyped in videos so similar to those produced by WWE for the Undertaker’s return just a few weeks before it’s a wonder Vince McMahon didn’t sue.
On the other hand, the January 4th 2010 and May 19th 2011 editions of TNA’s Thursday night show stood a real chance of helping the company do what it wanted to: press the reset button.
The January 4th 2010 iMPACT featured the much publicised debuts of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. The show was main evented by a tremendous match between Kurt Angle and AJ Styles, but there was no attempt to elevate new acts or give new viewers just tuning in to see Hogan a reason to watch the following week. Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam both made surprise appearances, which may have received healthy reactions from the crowds but was a short sighted decision. Had they debuted separately over the following weeks with their first appearances hyped by videos packages beforehand, they would have benefitted TNA far more.
The May 19th edition of the newly titled IMPACT Wrestling was what Hogan, Bischoff and TNA President Dixie Carter have been striving for for months: a genuine chance to start from scratch and establish a new creative direction for the company. But when push came to shove they didn’t actually go through with it.
The new name came about (as is the case so often with TNA) as a result of something WWE did. In this instance it was Vince McMahon’s decision to change the name of his company from World Wrestling Entertainment to WWE and distance himself even further from the wrestling business. TNA’s reasoning is sound: by having the word wrestling in the name of their weekly show it will immediately become more obvious to the average person casually flicking through a television guide what their show is about.
But it will take far more than a renamed TV show, a new set, and some blue lighting to halt TNA’s plummet into oblivion. It’s all a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough on its own.
TNA should have done all it could to make it clear on May 19th that a new age was dawning in the company. The six-sided ring, which always allowed people to tell TNA and WWE apart at a glance, should have made a return. A big name, such as Goldberg, Monty Brown, Bret Hart, or Roddy Piper, should have made a surprise appearance on a short term deal. Talent the company has no plans for should have been released from their contracts and new wrestlers signed in their place, with a concerted effort to have a plan for everyone on the roster. Most importantly, the show should have clearly demonstrated a new creative direction that stressed wrestling over talking. That was the point of the rebranding after all.
None of that happened. On the plus side, it has been confirmed that the six-sided ring will appear at the Destination X pay-per-view on July 10th. While it’s not clear whether this will be a one night return or a permanent one it’s a step in the right direction. Similarly, rumours are circulating that Goldberg has been in talks with Spike TV. Personally I don’t think there’s much chance a deal will be reached, but if it is then he could add something to TNA’s product. It’s just a shame they couldn’t hold off on their rebranding stunt until they had something in place to show that they were a revitalised promotion.
Had Monty Brown or Chris Harris returned on May 19th and got into a scuffle with Sting, or perhaps even beaten him for the world championship, it would have shown that TNA was going to start putting greater emphasis on younger, home grown stars. It would have also stood a chance of getting people talking about the new TNA show. It would also have been a more effective way of reintroducing Chris Harris.
Why no new talent was introduced on the show is a mystery. Austin Aries or Kevin Steen (or both) could have been signed to add some much needed fresh blood to the X Division. TNA could easily have prepared videos to hype a debut at Slammiversary IX and begun airing them on May 19th. Not doing so just demonstrates how blasé they are about finding and introducing new talent to their roster.
The show was a golden opportunity to start rebuilding AJ Styles and Samoa Joe as the best wrestler in the world and the monster heel respectively. AJ could have cut an impassioned promo, ideally in the ring, about how he’s proud to represent TNA and be its most talented athletic wrestler, saying that he takes great pride in having the best match on every show. Joe could have trashed the fans for turning him into a joke character that runs around with a mask-wearing sidekick when he used to be an undefeated, unstoppable juggernaut. He could say that the moment he started pandering to the fans is the moment he started losing. These directions are simple to understand and relate to, and set the two best home grown talents up as natural rivals for a storyline in a few months time. These ideas are better than having AJ work a storyline with Tommy Dreamer or Joe win a brief face versus face squash match, which is what TNA decided to show.
The first episode of IMPACT Wrestling started with an in-ring promo from the Immortal faction. That’s hardly the ground breaking new direction fans had wanted and expected. We were told that IMPACT Wrestling was a show on which wrestling mattered, but saw no evidence that this was the case. It was the same product we’ve had for years.
Another blown opportunity. But don’t worry. I’m sure TNA will crudely construct another reboot angle in a few months time and we can all get out hopes up again. I just hope that when that happens they not tell us they’re all about wrestling. They need to show us instead.