July 13, 2007
Mike Abitabile

The Devil’s Advocate:

One of my astute readers recently sent me an email asking for my opinion on a very valid point. Tom McCarthy feels that the wrestling media and fans give TNA a free pass on a lot of their booking, and feels that, if WWE had done the same, the wrestling media and fans would have a field day with how horrible it is. Personally, I would agree with this and would like to say thank you to Tom for the basis of this week’s article.

I must preface this article with a simple confession. I don’t actually watch TNA because I am not home when it airs. (I was a TNA viewer starting at the Fox Sports Net era, up until they went to Spike. I liked the wrestling, I liked the X-Division and I really liked AJ Styles). However, I do keep up with it by reading the results from various sites and try to stay up with their business decisions. And, based on reader feedback I have received, this is not a problem as one is allowed to have a valid opinion about a product they don’t watch, as long as they keep up with it by reading about it.

WWE is held to a higher standard by the wrestling media and the fans, and rightfully so. This is because of WWE’s rich history, their seemingly infinite resources and the depth of their organization. Nonetheless, that still doesn’t mean TNA should be exempt from valid criticisms and even touted as an alternative for WWE. There are many similarities between the two organizations, despite the fact that TNA tries to brand itself with phrases like “We Are Wrestling,” which is a direct attack on WWE. At least when the NWA used a similar slogan 20 years ago to combat WWE’s cartoon driven characters and textbook-based, short matches, they were actually not using cartoon characters and letting their wrestlers wrestle. This is in sharp contrast to TNA, where Black Machismo is running wild, Shark Boy thinks he is “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and television matches last three minutes. (To be fair, pay-per-view matches usually go longer, but from what I have read recently, the overall match development has been declining).

Additionally, many of the booking decisions are politically based, just like in WWE (just ask Samoa Joe). In WWE, everything under the sun is Triple H’s fault. In TNA, everything under the sun is Jeff Jarrett’s fault, or at least it used to be. I am not sure if people feel comfortable blaming him for problems anymore. What Jeff Jarrett and his children have gone through, I would not wish on my worst enemy. My only issue was with how it was handled. As soon as anything is mentioned on television or on a company web site, it becomes part of a storyline, even if it is real. At first, the unfortunate passing of his wife was not mentioned, but at the Slammiversary pay-per-view, an emotional video package and interview was shown with Jeff Jarrett discussing his loss. I am not personally saying it was meant to show Jeff’s human side and allow for fans to back off of the criticisms they have of him, but I will admit that possibility does exist. My initial instinct was to see if they continued using this in storylines before I concluded on it, and so far they haven’t so I really do believe it was something that was more for Jeff as a person than a character. All I am trying to get at is, if WWE did this, people would look for ulterior motives, even if they don’t exist.

Then there is the booking of iMPACT! If a wrestling fan with some inside knowledge was watching the show and wasn’t sure who was on the TNA booking team, they’d have to be stupid not to entertain the possibility that Vince Russo was writing what they were watching. Short matches. Overbooking. Inconclusive finishes. Everyone has to have a persona. The destruction of a lightweight division. Stop me if I am wrong on any of these. And, am I talking about WCW circa 2000, or current day TNA? Dixie Carter has said in the past that Vince Russo is only a small part of the booking team, and criticism shouldn’t rest on his shoulders alone. But, as a fan that used to watch TNA, before he came back in, I’ve concluded that either Russo is running the show, or the whole booking team is drinking his Kool-Aid. My point is, it wasn’t always like this, even on iMPACT! where there is only one hour of television time. If they do get the second hour, I hope they can spread things out, but even that would just be a small step in the right direction.

I recently read a quote from Eric Bischoff expressing his thoughts on TNA (here):

"They have not done anything yet and I don't even know any of those people except maybe Jeff Jarrett and a handful of talent working there. I don't know anyone behind the (scenes). I don't know Dixie Carter. If she showed up in my driveway, I wouldn't recognize her. I don't know anyone over there. I don't know who's doing what. I really don't care. So it's nothing personal here. I'd like to see them succeed…But the truth is, from what I've seen of their product, no one there really gets it. They're a small independent company that's been getting a 1.0 rating for the last five years. ..They keep trying to pull rabbits out of their hat with talent. 'Oh we're gonna bring in Sting and that's gonna turn the business around! ' Well, they brought in Sting, who's obviously a great talent, and guess what? Nothing happened. And then 'We're gonna bring in Christian Cage. It's a big surprise. He's hot in WWE and we got him and it's gonna turn things around.' Guess what? Nothing happened. Then 'We're gonna bring in Kurt Angle and he's the real deal. Things are gonna turn around!' Guess what? Nothing happened. Nothing's ever gonna happen until they get it."

And, I agree. Hovering around 1.0, going up to 1.1, 1.2, is a nice step. But with the talent they have, they should be at or around 2.0 by now. And yet, no one says that, they just praise them for going up a tenth of a point. Small increases would be nice with their original roster, and had they not taken Christian and Angle and gotten Sting. More should be expected. They are underperforming, at best. Then there was the recent hour-long TNA Title match on iMPACT! consisting of Kurt Angle defending his title against Christian Cage and Rhino. Everyone threw praise at it, like Mike Johnson (here), so I went out of my way to watch it. When they were actually wrestling, it was a good match. But that would only be somewhere between 15-20 minutes. The rest of the match was completely overbooked. There were run-ins and constant interference, right in front of the referee’s eyes, no less. There was Christian getting attacked by Abyss and taken out of the match while they fought backstage for what seemed like forever, as no officials attempted to break it up, and no disqualification call for the interference. There was a parade of wrestlers coming to the ring and interfering, again, right in front of the referee, such as Sting, Chris Harris, Christopher Daniels and James Storm and again, no disqualification. If WWE pulled this, all you’d hear is cries of overbooking. Instead, people loved it. I don’t get it.

At least when I read Wade Keller’s recaps of TNA pay-per-views, he seems to give them a hard time. Unfortunately, unlike with WWE shows, once the pay-per-view is over, so is his complaining.

Over at PWInsider, Richard Trionfo attends many TNA television tapings and pay-per-views then posts his thoughts the next day. There are many times he can find positives by either digging deeper into character development, or just stretching. An example (here):

I thought Christian’s promo was good especially with him being so confident about what he did for TNA only to be afraid of the mention of Abyss’s name or the playing of his music. That dichotomy of Christian’s character when exhibited in his promos makes them better.

It is very obvious that he is a TNA fan first and foremost, because, when he recaps Raw and Smackdown! with the same treatment, it usually consists of a simplified complaint, and he doesn’t try to find reasons to make something work either, such as (here):

While I really enjoyed the Flair/Finlay match, shouldn’t Hornswoggle’s interference in the match have warranted a disqualification? When you consider that Cole suggested a thumb to the eye to be enough for a disqualification, blatant outside interference should cause a disqualification.

So I guess most of that outside interference I talked about above in the TNA title match was not a problem? Finally, I was amused by this from Mike Johnson (here):

If you get the chance, check out the TNA Today video for 7/11, which features a pretty funny cliffhanger where Don West (literally) gets called to the principal's office for "making the TNA Deal of the Day" so cheap. It may come off as campy and goofy to some, but for some reason, West and Jeremy Borash do such a silly job hamming it all up, I can't help but to laugh.

If WWE did the same thing, would he laugh or call it campy and goofy?

Again, WWE should be held to a higher standard. This would explain why the likes of Wade Keller continue to harp all week long about their mistakes while just letting TNA get away with it. But this isn’t fair. Everyone wants TNA to succeed because of the competition it will cause WWE, which will therefore help the entire industry. I get it. But if they are making the same mistakes people feel the WWE makes, don’t be hypocritical. Bottom line: in my opinion, TNA is not wrestling, they are not the new face of professional wrestling, and they aren’t an alternative. And, like Eric Bischoff said, until they realize it, nothing’s going to change.

Feedback is always welcome at figurefanatic@gmail.com or you can visit my blog here.

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