Wednesday 5 November 2014

On Point

I’ve said before that TNA needs to come up with its own identity and approach in order to stay in business and ultimately become a successful and profitable company, should they stay in business next year. Last time I touched on the subject (which was only a couple of months ago, clearly I have some sort of complex when it comes to directionless wrestling promotions) my suggestion was for TNA to channel the Attitude Era with a greater use of swerve turns, adult language and strong, well-defined characters. Today I’m going to suggest what could be considered the complete opposite of that approach.

A points system.

If you’re like me those words are probably some of the least inspiring you can see in relation to wrestling programming. When I hear a points system mentioned it conjures up images of seeing old WCW footage where they talked at length about a rankings system. It makes me think of ROH’s ill-fated (and stupidly-named) Pick Six. It makes me think of EVOLVE’s recent, indecipherable, overhaul. It makes me think of TNA’s previous foray into the area with the top ten contenders system. It makes me think of Jim Cornette.

None of these approaches (or the person) have ever appealed to me because I feel that wrestling has progressed beyond the league tables and associated analysis these approaches bring. That Ring of Honor dropped the Pick Six backs this thought up: it’s one of the few promotions in the world that has a fan base that would be accepting of a points system and yet they still opted not to use one.

Eddie and Davey could benefit from a structured show.
But then so could everyone on the roster.
So why am I suggesting TNA go with the approach? There are several reasons, but before I get to them I’ll propose the specifics of the system. For singles wrestlers it would run from the beginning to the end of the month, with every match on Impact earning them points. Three for a win by pinfall or submission; two for a win by disqualification, count out, knock out or referee decision; and nothing for a loss. Matches on house shows and Xplosion would not contribute to the tally, for booking simplicity and because by limiting points matches to Impact it makes things easier to follow for viewers. The inevitable points ties could be broken by a number one contenders match or, if the points thing really caught on (which it wouldn’t to the extent needed), a variety of criteria decided on by TNA, but it should probably include an overall points history, the points history of their various opponents, and perhaps match times. Mentioning “the quality of opposition” just reminds everyone (or me at least) that wrestling’s predetermined.

Meanwhile the tag division could lift its approach straight from CHIKARA. Any tandem is awarded a tag title match after they’ve gained three consecutive victories without suffering a loss. The Knockouts and X Divisions should remain unaffected because incorporating rules there would verge on overload. Plus too many points systems would devalue the world title system and be too much trouble to follow.

On the first episode of every month a management figure could announce the totals from the previous month, with the winner getting a world championship match the following week. They could also announce any tag title matches that are due. Sounds dry but it would only be one segment every month, and it could easily bleed into the traditional storyline-developing talky segment.
There are, as I’ve already said, several reasons this approach would be beneficial to TNA. It would be free to implement and would immediately separate TNA from both of their main competitors. It would make the majority of matches on their weekly flagship show mean something. It would create structure for their programming. It would fit nicely with the current practice of recording a block of TV shows in one go. It would provide an uncomplicated way of drawing people in with real sports-tinged plots. That’s going to appeal to people who want their wrestling to be closer to wrestling than entertainment without driving off those who like the latter.

Monthly defences. Get it done.
It would provide a simple way to get storylines started too. For example, Wrestler A loses to Wrestler B but wins every other match that month while Wrestler B loses every other one of their matches. Wrestler A is awarded a world title shot and wins. Wrestler B can then logically say they are deserving of a world title shot because they’ve pinned Wrestler A while nobody else has. It sets up a storyline for Wrestler B, trying to earn the title match he is logically entitled to, and a rivalry between Wrestlers A and B.

That’s just one example. There are other, better options. The point is that TNA would have a simple, logical structure that’s easy to pick up and generates angles, rivalries and stories.

There are drawbacks of course. It’s not going to be for everyone, and risks isolating some of the company’s existing viewers. It may bring in more to replace them, but that would take time and TNA’s viewing figures are not strong enough to risk a big dip. It’s also an approach that would require the creative team to plan things out ahead of time. If there’s a monthly title shot going to the guy with the most wins then they have to plan out who’s going to win, when, and how. They’d have to ensure guys they’re just filling air time with don’t win too often.

But necessitating added scrutiny to Impact scripts is a good thing. It would make the product better if it was accomplished and could make the show a far more compelling watch. Sadly this idea, like all the others I’ve proposed for TNA, is never going to happen. They’re happy being a knock off sports entertainment brand. That attitude is what’s gotten them into the trouble they’re currently in. But they’re not going to change, because change is too much effort for them.

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