Friday 1 February 2013

Don't Blink

Don’t blink when you’re watching IMPACT Wrestling. So much happens so quickly that it’s easy to miss plot developments.

A perfect example is the recent booking of Mr Anderson. After not doing anything notable since failing to capture the vacant (and worthless) TNA television championship in September he returned to the company on the final broadcast of the year. For no discernible reason Aces and Eights offered him membership. Anderson accepted, seemingly swayed in his decision by two women who appeared from nowhere to cling onto his arms.

Just like that Anderson had returned to TV, become a heel, and joined a faction. Any viewer who had missed this episode of IMPACT, or even that one backstage segment, would have missed several weeks’ worth of progression.

No logical reason has been offered for Anderson joining A&E beyond the aforementioned women. It’s not that him joining the gang is a bad idea. If TNA’s booking team had nothing else lined up for him then it’s as good a use for him as anything else, and a far better use than paying him to sit at home. But it was a rushed job. For all the praise that’s been heaped on TNA regarding the pacing of their stories over the last year this demonstrates that they still haven’t mastered that area.

If Anderson’s move to the Aces clique was rushed then the A&E story in general is painfully slow. The bikers (that’s what they are remember) first showed up in TNA in June of last year. Seven months later we’re only just beginning to see members of the troupe revealed. We didn’t discover the identity of the first member for four months. While I agree that keeping people waiting for reveals is the best way of approaching things that was far too long.

As things stand right now we know the identity of seven members of the group. Of those seven names only six are active wrestlers. The non-wrestling member is Taz, a man who nobody was crying out to see elevated to anything even resembling a position of prominence. The reveals are proving a painfully slow process. It has sapped the initial interest in the group by simply being allowed to wallow in its own self-importance and hype for too long.

We know there’s still more to come from the Eights too. We still don’t know what their aim is or who’s in charge. At the current rate neither revelation is going to be made until at least late spring. Summer seems more likely.

Something else that falls firmly into the “blink and you’ll miss it” file: the whirlwind romance between Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan. On the surface this story appears worryingly similar to the Stephanie McMahon and Triple H marriage in the WWF back in 2000. A wrestler marries the boss’s daughter (Hogan’s not the boss but he is an on-screen authority figure, so same difference really) against the boss’s wishes.

"Finger Point of Doom, brother!"

It’s too early to know whether this will end with ‘Calfzilla’ turning heel but it wouldn’t be surprising. By marrying Brooke Bully has gotten a (kayfabe) power spot. With his “brother” Devon a member of Aces and Eights it’s all too easy to imagine a swerve turn that reveals that it was “a setup all along” and that the former Dudleys planned this entire ruse to grab power in the Land of Impact.

Or perhaps this is an altogether more subtle plot, one designed to be a parody of the real life marriage between Steph and Tripper. I doubt it though. Even TNA would find it hard to justify that particular brand of nonsense.

The marriage of Ray and Brooke has come about very quickly. Their relationship was only revealed in November. For them to be married two months later feels pretty quick (although in fairness it’s not the first time a wrestling wedding has happened fast). Just as bizarre is the speed with which Hulk Hogan has been won over by the idea of his daughter dating a wrestler, and one close to twenty years older than her to boot.

TNA may have long term plans that they’re sticking to. That’s great. It’s something the company has needed to get sorted for years. But just because you have long term plans doesn’t mean things need to play out over the long term. Knowing what’s going to happen several months in the future is good, but it doesn’t equate to having one storyline stretch out over years.

Long term booking can just as easily be a plan to shift through three or four major angles and storylines across a calendar year. TNA’s getting this right in having one story bleed into the next but their pacing is poor. Title reigns and pushes should be lasting for six months, not stories. It’s an approach that isolates casual viewers and bores regulars. Things are looking promising in TNA but there’s still work to be done.

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