Thursday 9 June 2011

Slammiversary IX preview

How on Earth has TNA been in business for nine years? While the company has never been a financial success a few years ago it could at least be said that it offered an entertaining product for wrestling fans tired with the WWE product. That’s no longer the case: TNA’s main event scene is loaded with WWE cast-offs while genuine talent like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, the Motor City Machine Guns and countless others struggle to make the mid-card watchable. WWE’s product isn’t much better but at least they turn a profit and manage the occasional moment of enjoyment.

On Sunday TNA will present Slammiversary IX, a pay-per-view that ostensibly celebrates nine years of the company’s existence. Will the announced card do justice to the promotion’s almost decade long history? I don’t expect it will. Do they have the talent under contract to promote a show that does? Absolutely.

The main trouble with Slammiversary IX is that it’s filled with matches that look awful on paper. Scott Steiner and Matt Morgan have tangled on TNA shows before and the results have not been pleasant. Last time I checked both men were babyfaces, which makes this match an even tougher one to pull off: face versus face matches tend to work best with smaller men working a more technical match.

Then there’s the AJ Styles v Bully Ray Last Man Standing match. Instead of seeing Ray as the tag team wrestler he always has been and always will be TNA have decided to award him with a spot in Immortal and a fairly hefty singles push. He will never be capable of making a valuable contribution to TNA unless paired with D-Von or working in an agent role. He certainly shouldn’t be wrestling the promotion’s best worker at one of their most high profile shows of the year. Styles deserves so much better than this match.

Samoa Joe is another guy who deserves better. A match with Crimson is a waste of his talents. There was a time when Joe could have become the face of TNA, but they threw that potential away and started using him as Just Another Guy. Crimson is incredibly green and I can’t see this match being anything more than mediocre.

The X Division title match between Kazarian and champion Abyss features a size difference too pronounced to do the division justice. Does anyone else think that the entire Bischoff v the X Division story is a colossal waste of time? The X Division wrestlers don’t need a feud with a heel authority figure to spearhead the division’s resurgence, all they need is more time to wrestle. Kazarian should be going into the show as champion (instead of the lumbering amalgamation of Kane and Mick Foley, Abyss) and defending against Brian Kendrick. If those two had fifteen minutes they could easily produce the best match of the show. I’d love it if Bischoff’s involvement in the division was dropped but I won’t hold my breath.

Of the four remaining matches three look good. The British Invasion v James Storm and Alex Shelley (substituting for Robert Roode, written off TV with a fake injury) should be excellent. It’s possible the Brits will take the titles, allowing Roode to return to TV and blame Storm for the loss, putting an end to the team. A big singles push is said to be in the works for Roode. If that’s true I think it’s a smart move: Beer Money have done everything they can as a team and Roode has potential to be a valuable singles star.

 The Knockouts’ title match between champion Mickie James and challenger Angeline Love exists almost entirely to further the Winter, Love and Velvet Sky storyline. In spite of the nonsense the four women are talented enough to provide an enjoyable match. If we’re lucky it will lead to a Winter and Angelina Love v Mickie James and Velvet Sky match at Destination X in July.

The most likely bout to earn match of the night honours is Jeff Jarrett v Kurt Angle. They have consistently worked excellent contests with one another and I don’t see any reason that should change here. The only bad thing is that they have been wrestling each other for what seems like years. I’m ready for both to move on to new feuds. Thankfully that seems likely (at least for a while) as the winner of this match will challenge for the TNA World title at Destination X. The booking has the potential to get dangerously close to “over-scripted nonsense” with the pointless additional stipulation of Angle’s Olympic gold medal going to the winner too. I think Jarrett and Angle will make it work though: as I said, they’ve not let us down yet.

The match could really go either way, but the fact that the medal’s on the line makes me think Jarrett will get the win. It will give him one more thing to brag about and provide an excuse for at least one more match between the two (I suspect that TNA will have the two men enter new storylines for a month or two and then come back together to feud for the title).

Finally, there’s TNA champion Sting defending against Mr Anderson. This match does nothing to excite me and I imagine the majority of North American fans expected to pay for the event will agree. The build has seen Anderson become a full blown heel by wearing outfits Sting would have worn twenty years ago and beating up Disco Inferno. That this is how TNA wants to hype their pay-per-view tells you all you need to know about why they’re failing. The match will be average and nothing more. Sting will probably win.

Nine years of TNA has brought us a lot of good wrestling, but the vast majority of it occurred between 2004 and 2007. If the company continues on its current creative path they may not last another nine months, let alone nine years.

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