What’s up guys? Yeah, I know, I’m back again with this week’s from across the pond. It doesn’t seem like a week’s gone by already does it? Time apparently flies when you’re having fun though! Talking of fun, in the last 3 weeks or so, I’ve been really impressed with TNA Impact.
I’ve been guilty of reading spoilers in the past, which gave me an excuse not to watch it, but in the last 3 weeks or so, I’ve given it a chance and the show is actually really good right now. The storylines make sense, the matches are good and the booking of the matches is holding up well. As they head into their first live Impact of the summer on Thursday, the signs are encouraging. I’ll run through some of my concerns with TNA before getting to the good things that they’re doing right now.
This “Summer of Impact” that we’ve got ahead of us will be a huge test for TNA. It’s a chance for them to see whether or not their TV ratings are affected by taping 3/4 weeks of Impact in advance. When the announcement was made around 10 days ago, it made me think about something Hulk Hogan said on Twitter on 22nd April. He said that Impact going live would solve 75% of TNA’s issues. His comments reportedly brought a lot of heat on him and PWInsider reported that:
“There are people within TNA that are very frustrated with Hogan’s latest comments. They see it as another ridiculous statement made by someone who is out of touch with what TNA really needs to do, yet has a lot of say in the direction of the company. The feeling in TNA is that while going live would be great, they have much bigger issues to deal with.”
It seems to me, and this is just my opinion, that Hogan has been able to get what he wanted, and not for the first time. I’ve got strong opinions on TNA and while it might come across like I want them to fail, I don’t. I want them to succeed. A better overall wrestling product means that I’ve got more to write about and it’ll keep my interest going.
In my opinion, Hulk Hogan hasn’t made anywhere near the level of impact that TNA thought he would have. There’s been no noticeable change in TNA’s TV ratings, PPV buyrates or domestic house show numbers. I don’t believe that the “Hogan Experiment” has worked, but then again, it’s not my decision to keep him in the company. I can’t deny that Hogan has a tremendous amount of name value, but TNA doesn’t have a mainstream presence, so it’s been pretty ineffectual.
It’s long been thought that internet spoilers like the ones available here on PWMania.com, have an effect on TV ratings. There may be some truth in that, but if that were true, Smackdown’s ratings would probably be somewhere around the same as the Impact ratings. The truth is that they aren’t. TNA usually tapes 3 or 4 episodes of Impact the week after a pay-per-view and that’s when the spoilers get posted. I can understand that the first week’s ratings may be affected, but I don’t think it affects the following 2 or 3 weeks’ worth of ratings all that much. I mean come on, what wrestling fan is going to note down the results of three wrestling shows and keep them instead of watching the show? I don’t know of any…
The other concerning thing about TNA right now is the fact that they’ve hired Brooke Hogan as an “Executive of the Knockouts Division”. I’ll try to be objective here. Exactly what experience does Brooke Hogan have in the wrestling business? Sure, her father is the biggest wrestling star of all-time, but what has she ever done to be put in charge of TNA’s Knockouts Division.
Objectively, yeah, her reality shows on VH-1, with and without her dad, were pretty successful. Since then, her music, TV and film careers haven’t exactly flourished have they? I think that bringing Brooke in is an attempt by TNA to bring more “name value” to their brand and programming. The problem with that is that if her father can’t bring in more viewers, better ratings and more PPV buys, then how the hell is Brooke going to do that? She can’t. I don’t even think it’s possible for her to make any difference.
The whole point of TNA’s Knockouts Division is that it’s completely different from WWE’s Divas Division. The women who wrestle for TNA can actually go in the ring. Their roster includes the likes of Angelina Love, Velvet Sky, Mickie James, Brooke Tessmacher, Gail Kim, Madison Rayne and ODB. Every single one of those women is different from the other. It’s not the same “generic” models that WWE plumps for. The female wrestlers are sexy, but they can also wrestle. That’s the point. Some of them aren’t at the same level as the others, but the less experienced girls actually work to improve themselves.
Who is Brooke Hogan to tell someone like Mickie James or Gail Kim, both of whom are multi-time women’s champions, how to be more creative in the ring? Brooke’s never worked a match in her life, yet she’s got “control” of the division? It’s nonsense. If you’re going to have someone in charge of the division, make it someone who’s got experience of wrestling in the ring, someone like Lita or Trish Stratus. They’re women who have wrestled in front of thousands of people and who understand the business. Not a pop-star with a famous daddy. Seriously!!
For TNA to be taken seriously, they need to concentrate on growing their wrestling fan base. Their hard-core fans are pretty loyal, but they need to do something else to bring more in. The fans that watched WCW 10/15 years ago generally don’t watch wrestling anymore. TNA can either try to find a way to bring them in, or just forget about them. If TNA are ever to be anything more than second-rate, they shouldn’t bring in pop-stars to head up their Knockouts Division.
Now that we’ve got the current concerns of TNA out of the way, I want to focus on the things that they’re doing right and the reasons why I’m actually preferring their TV show to WWE right now. Their TV shows and PPVs have been consistently good of late. If you need any examples, check out the last two weeks of Impact Wrestling and their latest PPV, Sacrifice. They’ve been exceptionally good. It’s time for me to start giving credit where it’s due and some of TNA’s latest ideas have made a huge difference.
If you’ve not seen TNA recently, let me fill you in on the details. They recently announced that the TNA TV Title will be defended every week. I think that’s a great move. Midcard titles are rarely defended in wrestling these days and the fact that the TV Title is being showcased weekly brings a little more prestige to it.
I don’t know if it’s a one off or not, but for the first live Impact this Thursday, TNA are announcing one challenger on their website every day until Thursday and they’re giving the fans the chance to decide who gets the title shot. Again, credit where it’s due, that’s an innovative way to do something. It gives the fans a vested interest in the match, as well as a reason to care about what’s going on.
The next great idea they’ve had is the Gutcheck segment. Basically, it’s a chance for a wrestler that’s not signed to TNA to earn a contract depending on how they perform against a member of the roster. This past week on Impact, it was highly-rated indy wrestler Joey Ryan that got his opportunity to earn a deal. He took on X-Division Champion Austin Aries in one of the matches of the week in my opinion. Aries eventually won, but for me, Joey Ryan showed that he’s got more than enough ability to hang in the ring with someone of the calibre of Austin Aries. It’s a tremendous idea and it gives “unknown wrestlers” the chance to shine on the big stage.
Another thing that’s intriguing about Impact is the “Open Fight Night” concept. On Open Fight Night, any wrestler can challenge any champion for their title and they get a title match that night. This past week, Gail Kim & Madison Rayne challenged Mr & Mrs ODB (Eric Young and ODB) for the Knockouts Tag-Titles, Garrett Bischoff challenged Devon for the TV Title and AJ Styles took on Bobby Roode for the TNA World Championship. There weren’t any title changes, but it creates unpredictability. The fans can turn up on Open Fight Night, know that there’ll be a couple of title defences, and they may even see a title change hands. You never know. Wrestling’s all about being able to suspend disbelief, about creating that little bit of doubt in the minds of the fans, and with these ideas, TNA is doing a great job.
The last thing I wanted to talk about today is how TNA has managed to elevate members of their roster and in particular, two former tag-team wrestlers who have shot to the top of TNA. These men are arguably the best heels in wrestling right now. I’m talking about Bully Ray and Bobby Roode. If you’d told me a couple of years ago that Bully Ray would be one of the best singles wrestlers in TNA, I’d probably have p*ssed my pants laughing. That’s only because I didn’t believe that TNA would push him that hard. To his credit, Bully Ray has become a huge singles star. He’s great on the mic, he’s intimidating and you can tell that he’s a legitimate bad-ass.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Bobby Roode, after all, it pays to be Roode! He’s always had the ability, both in the ring and on the mic, but I couldn’t see him being given the opportunity to run with the ball. Then, when TNA f*cked him over at Bound for Glory last year, I thought that was it. I was wrong, and I’m happy to admit it. Two weeks later, Roode won the title from James Storm and he’s held it ever since. He’s beaten everyone that’s been put in front of him and he’s become the longest-reigning TNA World Champion in history. TNA has done an amazing job of booking Roode as a dominant heel champion and they deserve all the credit in the world.
Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, James Storm, Chris Daniels, Kazarian, Samoa Joe, Mr Anderson, Jeff Hardy and Magnus continue to shine whenever they’re given the opportunity and it helps the credibility of the champion to have to overcome opponents like them. You’ll notice that there’s one man I’ve left off this list and it’s deliberate. You know who I’m talking about. He’s A-Double. He’s The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. He’s Austin Aries.
For my money, right now, the two best wrestlers in the world are Austin Aries and Daniel Bryan. It’s that simple. It’s no coincidence that they’re both former ROH wrestlers and champions. Whilst Bryan has reached the top of WWE, Aries has yet to do the same in TNA, but I reckon that it’s only a matter of time. Aries has become a babyface almost overnight. He’s always been scintillating to watch in the ring and he’s one of very few wrestlers that are versatile. He combines high-flying offense with brawling and wrestling skills. He’s the total package. TNA could very well have another genuine superstar on their hands with Aries and I think he’ll be their World Champion in the next year. Can you imagine how good matches like Aries vs Angle, Aries vs Styles and Aries vs Hardy would be? I can and it excites the hell out of me.
TNA have done a hell of a lot of things right lately and if they keep their momentum going, there’s every chance that they’ll be able to slowly but surely increase their brand awareness, fanbase, TV ratings and PPV buyrates. If TNA’s “Summer of Impact” is a success, then that can only be a good thing for wrestling as a whole.
Well there we have it, my thoughts from across the pond for another week. As always, feel free to leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter. I’ll leave my handle at the bottom of the column. The Wrestling Throwback for this week is, for my money, up there as one of the best wrestling matches of last year. It’s an X-Division 4-Way match from Destination X featuring A-Double. Just sit back, put your feet up, relax, and enjoy it!
That’s it from me for another week, I’ll be back before Raw next Monday with the latest edition of “From Across the Pond”, but until then, just remember, when you hear the glass, it’s your ass!!